OHE July 6, 1998

Date: Mon, 6 Jul 1998 07:51:04 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: East Range Exploration

While Wing was stomping around in his new cleated mud-beaters out Pupukea way, a handful of us did some exploring in the Mililani Mauka/East Range/Wahiawa area yesterday (7/5 Sunday).

Normally on Sundays we do trail clearing for the HTMC but with most of the gang off to Kokee, Kauai for a service trip, those of us who didn't jet off to the Garden Isle had a day off from machete swinging and saw wielding.

Lester Ohara, a Mililani resident who's done a bunch of exploring in the central Oahu hills, was our guide yesterday. Also along were Dusty and Sandy Klein, their neighbor Lynn, Pat Rorie, Nathan Yuen, Lynn Agena, Ralph Valentino, and I.

We met at 8 on Kuaoa Street at the upper part of Mililani Mauka and from there Lester transported us to the trailhead along a muddy road beyond where the paved road ends (a collection of abandoned water heaters marks this spot). Lester wanted to keep the locale of the starting point under wraps and asked us not to clear or mark the point where we entered the bushes.

After a few seconds of pushing through, we found ourselves descending on an old jeep road toward Waikakalaua Stream. One part of the road ends at a stand of bamboo on the bank of the stream, and after a brief exploratory jaunt (actually we were lost), Lester put us back on course by having us backtrack up the road briefly and then head makai on a trail/old road along the south bank of the stream.

Along Waikakalaua, the topo map actually shows this old road, which either was bulldozed by the pineapple company, since fields were formerly located in what is now Mililani Mauka, or by the Army, since the stream is also bordered by the military's East Range.

After passing a towering copse of bamboo across the stream, we crossed Waikakalaua just mauka of a pool Stuart Ball describes in his book on page 91. Recent rains made the pool less than the beautiful stead Stuart mentions, so we didn't linger there. Instead, we climbed a trail to ascend out of Waikakalaua Gulch and in a couple minutes we were on a rooty, dirt road just outside the old tunnel complex the military used to construct aircraft in WWII.

Of course we took an obligatory walk through the tunnels, using the flashlights Lester asked us to bring along. Many others had traversed the portals prior to us, with an array of spray-painted names and written momentos plastered on the tunnel walls as evidence.

At the mauka end of the tunnels, we turned left to slop our way up a steep, muddy slope (a road to the right headed makai to return to the NCO Academy and Kam Hwy. fronting Wheeler Air Force Base).

Once we gained the ridgetop, we continued mauka on a well-tramped trail. This ridge goes on and on in a gentle rollercoaster pattern. A topo map check (Waipahu and Hauula quads) reveals that its distant end point is Pu'u Kaaumakua, just south of the Schofield Trail terminus on the Koolau Summit.

And the ridgetop trail as far as we went yesterday was quite distinct, appearing to be used with regularity by the military--base on the occasional MRE trash and hacked-out campsites in the uluhe we passed) and hunters (periodic trash in plastic bags in trees).

About 11, Dusty, Sandy, and neighbor Lynn bid the rest of us farewell and headed back for the cars. Meanwhile, the remaining group continued mauka for more exploration on the ridge until 11:45.

In all, from the Waikakalaua Tunnels, we probably pushed upridge about 1.5 to 2 hours, stopping to eat lunch at a pu'u where we had a view of the gulch between our ridge and the Schofield Trail ridge to the north. A mile mauka, we could see a section of the Schofield Trail etched into the ridgetop facing us. Native vegetation grew in healthy profusion along our ridge, with koa, naupaka, and sandalwood especially prevalent. South of us was the Mililani Mauka ridge, which extends to the Koolau crest at a point about a half mile south of Kaaumakua, according to the topo map.

Ralph, Pat, and I talked of returning in the future to make a push for the Koolau summit on the ridge we were on (Kaaumakua Ridge?). It'd be interesting to see how far the military and/or hunters have extended the trail. Everyone also agreed that the club should consider hiking routes in the area, since many interesting options exist.

After lunch, we backtracked along the ridge to a point we will hence know as caterpillar junction (ask Ralph why it's named such if interested). This place is at a spot where the ridge is rooty and populated by paperbark trees, and, as it turns out, at least one caterpillar. :-)

At this junction, a trail appeared to head downslope (north) to the south fork of Kaukonahua Stream (the north fork of the stream is accessed from a well-known route stemming from the Schofield Trail). We decided to check out the south-fork option, at the very least to see what the stream looked like.

The semi-steep descent took about 5 minutes and we crossed Kaukonahua just mauka of a large, deep pool. There was mention of taking a swim but no swimmers materialized from the group, so we pressed on up a steep uluhe slope on a trail that climbed north out of the gulch to an old road.

Instead of following the old road, which contoured mauka to makai along the south-facing side of the ridge, we continued to ascend a trail straight up the ridge, passing a bench made of lashed-together eucalyptus branches. As the top neared, clumps of razor- and barbed-wire were stretched across the ridge, forcing us to carefully pick our way along the final yards to avoid being slashed.

At the ridgetop was a dirt road that, according to Lester, headed mauka to the head of the Schofield Trail and makai back to East Range (the topo map labels this road as the Wintera Trail). A VW Bug with its windows down was parked where we topped out. Where the Bug's driver was we never determined.

We followed the road makai, waving to a bunch of local folks heading mauka in three 4x4 vehicles. We passed areas with obstacle courses the Army uses to train troops. We also visited the site of the Ku Tree Reservoir that at one time held an enormous amount of water but now is virtually dry. In the reservoir is a massive gauging station, seemingly equal in height to Aloha Tower. Water marks on the side of the station showed us how high the level of the reservoir once was. Impressive.

From the reservoir, Lester gave Pat, Nathan and I directions for hiking to the end of California Ave. where Pat had left his car in the morning (I had met him there and we drove over to Mililani Mauka in my vehicle). To get there, we had to hike across a rock dam fronting the reservoir, ascend out of a gulch with the aid of ropes, cross a grassy field that served as a helicopter landing zone, and follow a dirt road mauka until reaching a junction with another road that would take us past an Army Ranger training center and then to the large water tanks marking the end of California Avenue. Along the way, Pat pointed out a nice waterfall in a steep gulch to the right. Near the waterfall, we spotted the wreckage of a vehicle someone had driven off the side of the road.

Lester, Lynn Agena, and Ralph hiked back to Mililani Mauka by a route that took them past the Waikakalaua Tunnels, across Waikakalaua Stream, and then on the same old dirt road we had descended in the a.m.

As it turned out, Nathan, Paka, and I reached the Pat-mobile without incident, and after a pit stop at Wahiawa Taco Bell, we arrived at our starting point at Mililani Mauka at about the same time as Lester, Ralph, and Lynn.

As is our usual custom after a hike or trail clearing, we talked story and enjoyed refreshments before heading home, ending another fine day in the mountains.


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