Some of us have had bad hiking days. Kurt had his on Ohulehule and it was my turn yesterday on Kaua. Read on and please don't rub it in ! If you don't have time to read this narrative it can be summarized in the following sentence...
I got lost in the woods and it got dark !Finished work yesterday (7/8) at 4 p.m. and while I was in the parking lot getting ready to leave I looked at my list of hikes trying to figure out where to go since it was such a nice afternoon and the sun was scheduled to set at 7:16 p.m.
I didn't find one to do from my list so I opened Ball's terrific first book and went down the table of contents. Pu'u Kaua got my attention since its near my home and I haven't done it yet. I remembered OHE member Art Neilson having done it not long ago so I chose that one.
Arrived home, took care of some things and headed toward Kunia Road between 4:50 and 5 p.m. Turned left off of Kunia onto the pineapple road at 5:04 after passing the Hawaii Country Club. Followed Ball's instructions and arrived in front of the trail head at 5:13.
Got my stuff together and started down the trail at 5:23. Traveled thru an interesting forest which was damaged by hurricane 'Iwa but has since recovered nicely. Some of the highlights of the forest were a section of the trail which went thru a small grove of norfolk island pines with large bolders on the right as you ascend. The scent of either Christmas berry or guava could be detected further up. The trail was well worn.
Reached the junction with the Honouliuli Contour Trail 15 minutes after I departed the car and went left. It wasn't long until I departed the contour trail and began going mostly straight up sometimes steeply. I found myself gasping for air as I worked my way up the ridge. As I gained serious altitude the views began to open up. I stopped briefly to catch my breath and look around.
Pressing on the ascent continued thru native flora. Slick dirt and slippery rocks had to be carefully negotiated.
Reached the top of Pu'u Kaua (elev. 3,127 ft) at 6:13. The summit is convered by the itchy grass.
The views from the top are among the best on the island. To the leeward Lualualei and Waianae Valley can be seen. The sun light reflecting off of the ocean off the Waianae coast was beautiful and the way it lit up the Waianae Range was wonderful. Pu'u Kalena and Mt. Ka'ala which was socked in were visible off in the distance to the north along the summit ridge. The sunset can be seen but I wasn't going to wait around for that. The Ko'olaus were majorly socked in until you reach Pupukea area. The north shore and Wahiawa plain stood out as well. Pearl Harbor with its many locks, Diamond Head and populus Honolulu were also visible. Large, dark clouds were slightly above and coming right at me !
After only 10 minutes I decided to move on since I had a time limit. A thought went thru my head at this point "shouldn't you go back the way you came since you only have about 1 hour to finish ?!". Once again I ignored wisdom from common sense. Big mistake !!!
Turned left along the summit ridge of the Waianae Range and passed thru a section of solid uluhe fern. The trail was discernable however.
As I began descending steeply on the open, narrow ridge I noticed some excellent view spots which look across at Palikea and down on the beautiful undeveloped valley behind Nanakuli. It contains some nice gulches.
When the ridge leveled off I began looking for the way down studying Ball's route description several times. The wind was very gusty and chilly as I continued searching and ridge walking.
Just before 7 p.m. I found the trail that descends steeply down into the forest (phew !). The trail was obvious and ribbons marked the route but I didn't see it until I was just above it.
After making good progress descending I lost the trail. The route description says something about going left off of a side ridge and descending into a gully. Darkness was beginning to move in and so was panic. I continued to go down the side ridge at a much quicker pace. I had to stop and pull myself together. "Hey! Don't panic! You know which way you need to go! You have a flashlight!".
I continued to descend after my pep talk but at a slower rate and busted out my flashlight although it wasn't necessary yet. Going left I marvelled at some of the giant bolders that are located along the side of the mountain range. I reached a dry stream bed and followed it for a while looking left for the ridge I had ascended earlier in the afternoon. Eventually I climbed up and out of the gulch using the flashlight. A blue ribbon was discovered but it did not indicate that I was on a trail. I continued to go down and to the left. It wasn't long until I discovered another blue ribbon but what really helped was the smell of the berry or guava on the ground. I remembered the scent from a section of the trail I had done on my way up. Walking up and slightly to the right I found the trail ! Soon after I was moving along the Honouliuli Contour Trail and then down the trail that leads to the pineapple fields where my car was parked.
At 7:58 I emerged from the forest and at 8 departed for Kunia Road. I had to follow the dirt tracks which the car had made on the way in in order to get out. Just before I reached Kunia Road I stopped and looked back toward Kaua and saw the crescent moon above her.
We haven't done the loop quite some years since Nature Conservancy took over and said that hikers would disturb the snails on the loop trail. The left turn has always been un-obvious and ribbons were relied upon. Indeed that left turn spot shifted back and forth a bit historically. Surprising that you even could find the connection eventually; your nose has good sense:)
Those snails Wing mentioned must be the ones Dayle and I saw when we hiked that part of the loop (I believe it was about a year ago, perhaps a bit longer). They're tiny, white tree snails about the size of your thumb tip or perhaps a bit smaller. Good thing I brought my good camera and got a pretty good picture of it. It was stuck on a guava tree so it's a good thing Dayle pointed it out to me or else I would've missed it!