Ohikilolo was one of the few remaining "Gem" hikes left for me to do on Oahu.
Because the Army uses Makua Valley for target practice I have been unable to attempt what Ball describes as "the most difficult hike in this book".
Called Schofield Pub Relations early last week and found out that no exercises were scheduled for July 4 so my hiking partner Laredo and I decided to give it a go.
We met at Neil Blaisdell Park in Pearl City and departed for Schofield Barracks at 8:51. We wanted to drive down the Kolekole Pass Road since it was open to the general public that day. Neither of us had been that way before.
After enjoying the marvelous mountain views along Kolekole we departed Lualualei and headed toward Makua. We got to the beach and thought it best to park next to other vehicles rather than where Ball says to park in his astonishingly great first book.
The time was 10:17 as we walked back toward Farrington Hwy. We followed Ball's initial instructions and found ourselves in tall grass stumbling over rocks hidden below. We managed to reach the chain-link fence without injury and Laredo took the lead as we made our way up the ridge the best way we could. There was no decernable trail at this point. When we reached the top of the ridge I took the lead and noticed a white string which marked the route. Unfortunately the string kept getting tangled around my ankles creating a nuisance. It was hot as was expected but a gentle trade wind could be felt. We stopped briefly to rest and look at Makua Valley stretched out before us and Ko'iahi Gulch to the right off in the distance.
Continuing on I lead the way as we climbed steadily along the crest of the ridge. Most of the time the trail could be seen thru the incredibly dry grass but the string helped if we got side-tracked.
Next we climbed steeply up the ridge as it juts out toward the ocean being careful not to trip on the loose rock. Turning left to follow its edge we began to traverse a series of three humps. After descending steeply we began to climb gradually. It was at this point that we came upon a five foot tall galvanized steel fence which for the most part goes right down the middle of the trail. We proclaimed it "Fence to Heaven". One hour had passed since we departed the car.
Moving along the fence mostly on the Makua Valley side Laredo and I passed thru a rocky section. Laredo stayed along the fence while I walked over a narrow rock dike. The ascent was tough but we were blessed with a nice breeze and clouds blocked the sun giving us shade although it was a mostly sunny day.
Further ahead we noticed an increase in the amount of vegetation on the Makua Valley side esp. when we passed a silk oak. Continuing to ascend Laredo and I found ourselves crossing over the fence every once in a while if one side got to narrow.
When we reached a large side ridge on the Ohikilolo Valley side followed by a gulch we saw atleast 30 goats below us moving single file on the side of the ridge we were on. We proclaimed the area "Goat City". We also saw four goats on the Makua Valley side but they quickly moved away from our location.
The fence contoured the ridge and once again Laredo stayed with it while I went up and over the peak. We could now look down into beautiful Ko'iahi Gulch which was filled with a large group of trees (see page 6 top photo of the photo section in Ball's first book).
Pressing on we moved thru a less-rocky section and then by two eroded sections of the trail. For some reason as we approached one of the eroded sections Laredo and I decided to leave the fence and contour along the Ohikilolo Valley side. This almost lead to disaster because we found ourselves scrambling up the side of the ridge along very loose dirt and crumbly rock. One slip and it would have been difficult to stop from sliding down into Ohikilolo Valley ! We agreed to stay along the fence in this section on the way back.
As we hiked past a level bare section of the trail we looked down on a wide spectacular water fall shoot which was bone-dry and another gulch on the Makua Valley side.
Laredo and I went thru a forest and noticed a lone twin norfolk island pine at the end of it.
After descending briefly we climbed steeply to the top of a triangular peak (elev. 3,052 ft). The fence came to an end before our final ascent up the peak. It was 1:15 when we arrived at the top.
The views were outstanding easily among the best on the island. We could see massive Mt. Ka'ala with its chess board shaped summit and the rest of the Waianae Range. The large undeveloped area of Makaha Valley below Mt. Ka'ala and the north shore were also outstanding. Makua Valley with its incredible cliffs and different shades of green caught our attention as well. We snapped photos of each other and of the surrounding topography.
At 2:02 we started down the peak toward Makua Beach. I wanted to stay longer but Laredo had to get back home so that he could set off fireworks.
On our way down the ridge we saw a small group of black goats on the Makua Valley side just ahead of us. When we arrived above where they had been we were astonished to discover that their previous location was on a very steep section of the ridge. "How were they able to stand there and move away so easily ?" I asked Laredo.
When we reached the end of the ridge near the chain-link fence which marks the start of the hike we moved a short distance beyond the ridge toward the ocean. This made it easier to get to the fence. Once we got to the fence we climbed between it and the ridge. Next we followed the fence until it took us to an opening across from the entrance to Makua Beach. The grass along that part of the fence is very short. Go that way in the beginning of the hike because its much easier than Ball's instructions.
We got back to the car at 4:43 and after congratulating each other departed for Neil Blaisdell Park.
Notes: Although the fence is a terrible eye-sore and gets in the way it does make this hike easier and safer. Put on gloves when you get to the section where the fence begins or else you might cut your hand when you grab it like I did. Don't fall into the rut of always following the fence. Sometimes it leaves the trail. Be prepared to cross the fence several times. The purpose of the fence is to protect the native vegetation from being consumed by the goats. Laredo and I thought this to be bogus because we saw goats on the Makua Valley side.
Bring plenty of water. I drank three of four liters that I brought although in the shade with a nice breeze most of the day. Finally, check out Grant Tokumi's terrific photos and narratives. Double click on Ohikilolo.