OHE July 11, 1999 (Upper Waimalu)

Date: Sun, 11 Jul 1999 21:43:21 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Waiau/Waimalu TM 

As we often do on Sundays, a bunch of us from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club headed into the mountains to do some trail work in preparation for an upcoming club outing. Our objective today was to make ready the route, at least part of it, for the July 24 Super Hike that will begin and end at Onikiniki Street in upper Pearl Ridge. In between, participants will head up the Waimalu Ditch Trail, continue up the middle ridge of Waimalu to the Koolau summit, head northwest along the summit, descend the trail on Waiau Ridge, and return to Waimalu Valley via a spur we opened up today, and then to the trailhead via the Ditch Trail. Advertised as 15 miles, the outing should be a rugged affair, perhaps the toughest Super Hike yet. Pat Rorie and I will co-lead it.

Club members on the list interested in joining us on 7/24 can email me since several spots, of the 15 total for the outing, still remain. As Pat likes to say, take the challenge!

In our group of ten today were Dusty Klein, Thomas Yoza, Nathan Yuen, Ken Suzuki, Ralph Valentino, Jim Pushaw, Brandon Stone, Kay Lynch, Pat, and I. We staged cars at Onikiniki (drive up Kaonohi Street to its end and turn right on the last cul de sac) and then carpooled a couple miles over to the Kaahumanu Street trailhead of the Waiau Trail (other access points are on Hapaki Street and at Royal Summit (end of Kaamilo Street). At the outset, the weather looked threatening, with gray clouds and some rain upslope, but the day ended up a quite pleasant one, with plenty of sun and nice, cooling breezes.

With no clearing to do, we powered up Waiau, admiring the long-term dedicated work of Bob Silva and the efforts of the HTMC crew from a not-long-ago maintenance outing. Before Silva's improved trail ended, we chatted briefly with a gun-toting hunter but saw no one else the rest of the day.

Hiking at a good clip, we needed about 90 minutes to reach the Big Dip. Actually, we veered right off the Waiau Trail just makai of the Dip (where Wing took his well-documented chopper ride) and descended a spur down to Waimalu Valley. While there were old ribbons on this spur, signs of a trail were minimal, non-existent for the most part, and we used machetes to clear a passable path to the valley floor, Jim doing good work as ramrod. Meanwhile, Ken, Brandon, and Kay talked-the-talk regarding native flora on the way down. I recall Ken pointing out a small vine (can't recollect the name) he says is one of the few poisonous native plants.

Once we had descended to the base of the spur (highlighted by a spectacular involuntary baseball slide by yours truly), we found ourselves in a small ravine populated by ginger and fruit-laden mountain apple trees. Although I passed on picking some fruit, most of the others couldn't resist and munched on mountain apples plucked from reachable branches.

We had to do some poking around but we were able to find our way to the extension of the ditch trail right before it makes its tenth and final crossing of Waimalu Stream at the base of the valley's middle ridge. We put up ample ribbons and marked the junction well. On Super Hike day, club hikers will be reminded to cross the stream at the junction to head up the middle ridge instead of heading left, which leads to the spur up to Waiau Ridge.

The initial climb up the middle ridge is steep, handhold-deprived, mostly composed of uluhe, but otherwise in fairly decent shape thanks to recent volunteer work done by Wing. Beyond where Wing stopped work, the ridge leveled out a bit but the swath that once existed was only occasionally and minimally discernible. Fortunately, the vegetation (mostly uluhe) wasn't high nor thick, so pushing ahead wasn't much of problem. The absence of a swath makes it obvious that few people, if any at all, hike this ridge. The long approach, the multiple stream crossings, and the taxing climb up the middle ridge clearly lack appeal for Joe Hiker on Oahu.

We stopped to eat lunch at 12:15 and, after a 45 minute break, continued clearing upridge for an additional 30 minutes before turning around. The surrounding ridges and the summit crest were cloud-free and we stopped to scope out landmarks we recognized, in particular points along Aiea Ridge to the southeast.

Where we turned back (at about the 1,200 foot level), the uluhe started to thin and was replaced by other native flora that tended not to choke the ridgetop. Even at that, the rest of trail won't be in the freeway state club hikers are accustomed to; however, those in today's group agreed since it's a super hike, and the participants are some of the club's most able, they should be able to deal with the less-than-clear trail.

For reference purposes, the terminus of Waimalu ridge is at elevation 2,570 and the distance from the Onikiniki trailhead is six to seven miles, with ten stream crossings to be completed (eleven if the ford of Little Waimalu Stream is counted). Once at the summit, the rollercoaster crossover to Waiau on the crest is a mile, give or take, and the descent of Waiau to the spur down to Waimalu Valley is ~2.5 miles.

Like we did up Waiau in the morning, we powered down the ditch trail on our way out, with Ralph, Nathan, and Pat setting a scorching pace. We did stop to rest and snack a couple of times but when we were hiking, the tempo was quick and no-nonsense.

We reached Onikiniki at 4 p.m. and we kicked back to enjoy refreshments (soft drinks and chips), to talk story, and to look at Thomas's Haleakala pictures (nice shots). Afterward, I drove Pat, Ralph, and Ken back to their vehicles at the end of Kaahumanu, and then headed home, content and tired after another fruitful and adventurous Sunday in the Koolaus.

Thanks to those who turned out today to lend a hand.

Safe hiking,


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