OHE July 17, 1998

Date: Fri, 17 Jul 1998 07:51:19 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: A Trip to Kaena

Translated to English, "Ka'ena" means "the heat," and the temps were up at Oahu's westernmost point when I hiked in the area a couple days ago. My outing began at 7:30 a.m. from the small gravel lot fronting the Ka'ena Point Satellite Tracking Station guardhouse along Farrington Highway by Yokohama Bay out past Makua Valley. I could have parked a half mile further down the highway where the paved highway ended, but I thought my vehicle would be safer by the guardhouse (as it turned out, it was).

The early start on a weekday happened because I had to meet a group of high school students from the summer program I teach in for a science field trip out to the Point. They were to be bussed out to the end of the Farrington Highway on the Mokule'ia side, where they'd be briefed by state-employed Ka'ena "Ambassador" Reuben Mateo, and then hike the 2.5 miles to the point.

Instead of meeting them on the Mokule'ia side, I decided that some additional exercise would be beneficial, hence the launch from the Yokohama end. Actually, the distance to the point from the Yokohama end-of-the-road is about the same as from road's end Mokule'ia, but I figured to continue hiking on toward Mokule'ia after reaching the point until I encountered the students, other teachers, and Reuben somewhere along the trail.

The hike along the initial section of the unimproved road from Yokohama was beautiful and pleasant, since I was striding along in the shade of the massive cliffside to my right and with the placid ocean 30 yards to my left. The trail is actually a rocky 4x4 road that still entertains some truck traffic, based on the tire tracks I saw and the four groups of fisherman and their vehicles I passed on the way. A mile out to sea, a pair of fishing boats bobbed in the choppy, azure water. Closer to shore, white-feathered seabirds dive-bombed for prey. Nice.

I felt surprisingly good while I hiked, surprising since I hadn't exercised on Monday and Tuesday and also since I rarely hike on weekday mornings. But there must be something invigorating about being up and about at oceanside while breathing clean, crisp morning air. And after passing the last group of fishermen, I was hiking alone, something I like to do now and again.

After negotiating the lone tricky section of the trail, a collapsed section of the road where motorized vehicles can proceed no further (someone has affixed a rope there to assist hikers and mountain bikers), I reached the sign indicating the start of the Ka'ena Point Natural Area Reserve (NAR). At that locale, I greeted two mid-20ish haole guys who were resting in the shade of a large rock outcropping with their large backpacks sitting on the ground next to them.

It was 8:15, the time the students and other teachers were supposed to arrive at their start point, so I figured I'd hike east along the coast until encountering them heading toward me from Mokule'ia.

As it turned out, I traveled the entire distance to the Mokule'ia end-of-the-road where the students were assembled in front of their bus while being briefed by the science teacher, Eric Kenner, and Reuben. Since the added miles and exercise were good for me, the bus delay worked out well.

Upon arriving at the bus and three dozen assembled students, I was greeted by Eric. "Good deal. Mr. Turner is here," announced Eric to the teenaged entourage. "He will lead you to Ka'ena Point. Nobody get in front of him."

Gee, thanks, Eric. :-)

Fortunately, Ka'ena hadn't heated up yet (it was just past 9) and the five-mile leg from Yokohama hadn't exhausted me, so I didn't feel a need to rest. So onward to the Point we headed at a brisk hiking tempo. A handful of the more gung-ho kids were able to hold the pace, including a quad of three girls and a guy who played "Truth or Dare" while romping along. They even asked me if I'd like to play, but, of course, as a college instructor with a distinguished image to uphold, I declined, thanking them for their thoughtfulness nonetheless.

Admittedly, listening and watching them play the game while we hiked made the two-mile distance to the boulder/gate spot seem short. And, as might be expected from rascal teenagers, I was the focus of several "dares," receiving a hug, a contrived compliment about my teaching, among other things.

The two-mile leg to the end of the drivable part of the 4x4 road took us just over 30 minutes, with the students at the back of the pack needing about 10 more minutes to arrive. Waiting for us at the boulder blockcade and gate were Reuben and Daniel Au, the Hawaiian studies teacher, who'd driven out together in Reuben's state truck.

Once everyone had arrived, Reuben asked everyone to stay on established trails and Eric briefed the students about the plant survey they'd be conducting out at the point. Accordingly, each student had to be able to identify 10 native specific native plants, including 'ohai, naupaka kahakai, 'ilima papa, naio, pa'u o Hi'iaka, ma'o, 'akoko, hinahina, pohinahina, and nehe. I was amazed at how well the students were able to distinguish the various species from one another, and my plant-spotting skill moved up a notch as a result of tagging along. Good deal.

A hundred yards beyond the boulder blockade is a sandstone formation makai of the trail called leina a ka'uhane, literally the "leaping place of ghosts." According to Daniel, a Leilehua High teacher and Hawaiian culture expert, ancient Hawaiians believed when they died, their spirits came here for an attempted leap to Po, the land of spirits and 'aumakua. Po is thought to be a night place and since the sun sets daily (hence night begins) in the west, the location of the leina a ka'uhane on the west side of island made sense to Hawaiians (and all of the islands are said to have a similar leaping-off point). Daniel said he had heard of people who had witnessed sparks flying from the sandstone while they were passing by at night. A chicken skin experience for the passers-by and for us while we listened to Daniel, no doubt.

Daniel also told us about other legends associated with Ka'ena and nearby landmarks. One involved the god Maui, who attempted to consolidate the islands into a single land mass by dragging them together with his magic rope. While trying to pull Oahu and Kauai together, part of Kauai broke off, landing just offshore of Ka'ena Point. That land fragment still exists today and is called Pohaku o Kaua'i (lit. rock of Kaua'i).

The plant survey went well, with the kids working diligently despite the hot and windswept conditions near the lighthouse area at the point. While the kids did their work, I spent some time talking with Reuben, finding out more about his duties as ambassador of the area and his recent work in other areas of Oahu, including the Ko'olau Summit Trail by the terminus of the Kawailoa Trail.

By 1, the students had completed their work, eaten lunch, and packed up for the return trip back to the bus at the Mokule'ia end of Farrington Highway (they'd take a short swim break on the way). Meanwhile, it was time for me to head back to my vehicle on the Yokohama side, and I again enjoyed the solitary hike back.

My feet were a bit sore during the final 30 minutes, but in the end I was happy to have had the chance to log some trail mileage--10 miles in all, and some time learning about Hawaiian plants and folklore.


Return to OHE top | Return to Oahu Hike Tales | Email Dayle