OHE July 4, 1998 (c)

Date: Sat, 4 Jul 1998 21:45:59 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kealia-Kuaokala loop

In his most recent write-up, Wing chided me for wimpy car camping yesterday, and while what I did wasn't nearly as strenuous and challenging as what he and Paka did, I still logged some interesting hiking time.

After work yesterday (7/3 Friday), I met Bill Melemai, his son Willie, and Bill's nephew Keoni at the parking lot of where I work (LCC). From there, I loaded my gear in Bill's recently-acquired Jeep Laredo 4x4, and we were off for the hills above Yokohama Bay and the Kaena Point Missile Tracking Station.

After checking in at the Tracking Station gate (free permits available from the state at the Kalanimoku Building downtown), we were off for Peacock Flats, where 30 other folks had already headed, according to the gate sentry. Light rain and clouds were present when we reached the tracking station grounds at the ridge crest and this weather scenario continued throughout the late afternoon and evening. The wetness created muddy and slick conditions on the dirt road leading to Peacock Flats but Bill's Jeep was easily up to the task.

When we reached the junction where the main road met the short connecting road to the Kuaokala Trail and the Makua Valley rim, we decided to look for a campsite nearby instead of continuing on to Peacock Flats. After all, with 30 others already there, the Flats would likely be a circus rather than a peaceful weekend get-away in the mountains. And if we wanted a circus, we could have camped at a beach park.

We finally decided on a campsite along the Kuaokala short connecting road at a small grassy clearing about 40 yards from the rim of Makua Valley. There were a couple available sites overlooking the valley but these were muddy and more exposed to the wind.

As we were setting up camp in the mist and clouds, a group of four hikers approached us after just completing the rim section of the Kuaokala Trail. Come to find out, I had met the same foursome a couple months back while hiking Waimano. And one of them was a guy named Paki who I'd played basketball with in the past. Even more of a coincidence was that Bill knew the elder couple, whose daughter had played volleyball with/against Bill's daughter, Alohi. Small world.

Despite the wind and drizzle, Bill, Willie, Keoni, and I enjoyed a fine propane-stove-cooked meal of stew, green beans, potatoes, ramen, rolls, hotdogs, hot chocolate, and s'mores. Better yet, our tents and rainflys functioned as they were supposed to and we enjoyed a restful night in our warm, dry shelters. Man, I love to camp.

Independence Day morning greeted us with mostly clear skies and much drier conditions. Bill had brought along mountain bikes for himself, Willie, and Keoni. I was supposed to bring one of my own but decided not to at the 11th hour.

After eating breakfast (ramen, cocoa, juice), breaking camp, and packing up all our gear, we set out for some backroad exploration. I set out on foot on the Mokuleia firebreak road in the direction of Peacock Flats, departing our campsite at 9:30. After prepping the bikes, Bill, Willie, and Keoni wheeled off down the road section of the Kealia Trail at 9:55.

Our plan was to do a loop and to meet somewhere along the way. A good deal of the route was virgin territory for us, and we all looked forward to finding out what went where.

About 20 minutes after leaving our campsite, I arrived at a junction on the fire break road, making note of several U.S. Army 5-gallon water containers left at the roadside there. From the fire break road, I veered left on a lesser-used road that headed makai down a ridge toward Mokuleia. I had passed this junction many times while hiking or driving and always was curious about where it went. Well, today I'd find out.

The hike down the road was quite nice, with excellent views of the Mokuleia coastline below. There were several rutty, steep sections along the way that would challenge off-road enthusiasts but for the most part the road was in good shape and not blocked by landslides or fallen trees or vegetation.

In a grove or ironwoods, I reached a junction where I veered left and down. To the right, the road continued to contour in the Waialua direction . I put a double ribbon at this junction for the benefit of my mountain-biking companions when they reached this point.

Continuing along the road, I passed a pleasant meadow on the right with a nice vista of the coast. This would be a great campsite!

Not far after the meadow, I reached another junction. Here I went left toward Kealia (the road straight ahead apparently continued to contour toward in the Waialua direction). I also marked this junction with a ribbon on a small guava tree. The Kaena quad topo map indicates a camp of some sort at this junction. I didn't notice any structures but a water pipe was situated along the road in this area and the pipe continued a good distance, even crossing the road at one point.

After a short contour toward Kealia, the road swung mauka to descend toward the back of a large ravine. At about the one-hour mark, I met Bill, Willie, and Keoni pushing their bikes toward me up a steep section of the road. They described a couple crashes that happened on the descent of the the road section of Kealia, which is steep and slick in several places (I'd experience that steepness soon).

After bidding them farewell, I continued on along the road they'd just biked, eventually reaching the back of the ravine and crossing a rocky section where the road traversed an intermitent stream (dry today). Someone had filled in a rutted segment of the road with stones, probably a 4x4 driver who needed to do that to get his/her vehicle across.

Once past the back of the ravine, I began climbing, moving makai now, to ascend out of the ravine. This was a pleasant, cool section of mostly ironwoods. At about the 1.5-hour mark, I reached the Kealia trail road section where I turned left to head back up to our campsite (to the right about 5-10 minutes away was the top of the Kealia switchbacks).

The ascent of the steep road (very steep at times) took about 30 minutes, and as I huffed my way along I could understand how Bill and the kids had some difficulty negotiating these hills of slippery hard-packed clay. Near the top, I even located a short bypass trail that allowed me to avoid a section of the road that switched-back.

By 11:30 I had returned to the campsite near the Makua Valley rim and soon thereafter Bill and the kids joined me there after biking the loop the opposite way (Keoni, only 10, had some difficulty biking the steeper sections of the road which led to a slower pace).

After reuniting, we all agreed the loop was an excellent one and we plan on doing it again and continuing to explore the sections of these lower dirt roads that we bypassed today.

Notes: the section we hiked/biked today would add a nice variation to the Kealia hike. That is, one could start at the Dillingham Airfield, ascend the switchbacks, and continue up the dirt road to the Makua Valley rim. From the rim, instead of backtracking the same way, continue along the Fire break road toward Peacock Flats until reaching a junction approximately 20 hiking minutes away (I should mention there is a brown sign with a yellow arrow at that point). Heading left and down at the junction and using the route I just described, one should arrive back at Kealia in about an hour.

Try it and let me know how it goes.


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