OHE July 16, 1999 (Waikane)



Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 07:31:09 -1000
From: R. Jackson (ranjack@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Waikane Valley 7/10/99

While many of you romped around on the ridges of Olomana, as we had orignially planned to do as well, Kathleen and I made a last minute decision to head back over to Waikane Valley. The weather looked great for visiting the Pupukea Summit Trail (aka KST) - some cloud cover to sheild from the heat, but a cloud level high enough to provide good viewing in all directions.

We arrived at the Kam Highway turn-off to Waikane Valley at 8am. The road is distinguished by the "Ka Mauna O Oliveta Church" sign and a battered King Kamehameha points you in the right direction. A quick recon mission revealed that the gate to the upper valley was open, but we decided to park along the main highway just the same. Even when closed, the gate (which lies just past the old church at the end of the residential area) probably won't be locked as there are no occupied homes beyond it anymore. The road seems to get regular use from a variety of people, and though the sign says "private property" I don't believe access is currently being regulated by anyone. Along the way, the road does get quite muddy in places and today probably requires 4 wheels. Driving up the road to the final locked gate would eliminate about 2 out of 3 road walking miles.

Today, we will hike those 3 road miles. The route is actually quite enjoyable if you are not in a hurry. Along the way I thought about the many times I have hiked this road in the past. I first started exploring this area around 30 years ago as a teenager when I would hitchhike out to the Waikane turn-off. Walking in, about a half mile from the highway, you will reach a fork in the road. Years ago, I seem to recall taking the left road at this point, where an old gate lies rusting on the ground, but this way is not a through road. The left road does lead up to beautiful views of the surrounding area which lies at the foot of the magnificent Pu'u Ohulehule and the Mo'o Kapu O Haloa ridge. This area was at one time motocross heaven, but no more. There is an old trail that starts near the watershed boundary, contouring around the back of the valley, that runs from this upper area to the old Waikane Camp.

Today, the easy access to the upper valley follows the right road which drops down to pass the former homes and farms of the valley residents who used to strictly regulate access to the area. No one lives in this part of the valley any longer, the reason being that the military (KMCAS) has over the years taken over much of the property. Land has been condemned and confiscated and the residents have been compelled to relocate out near the highway or elsewhere. Currently, there is a parcel of land for sale in the valley and my understanding is that the owners fear additional condemnation without compensation by the military will take place. Sell it before you loose it? Buyer beware! I have to wonder where the Sierra Club, and others, are when this kind of thing goes on - vast tracts of beautiful countryside (that no doubt contain abundant native growth) have been lost beneath the shadow of Ohulehule. Fear-inducing military signs, fences, and gates now prohibit entry to areas where, I have heard, boxes of ammo and assorted ordnances lie waiting to lay waste to the carefree visitor. Oh well - it must be easier, less expensive, and more gratifying for environmental groups to go about intimidating independent hikers than to take on the admittedly enormous challenge of a military industrial complex battle (ouch - and this coming from someone who got his B.S. degree in environmental studies!).

Anyways, the road continues up the valley for about 2 miles where it is blocked by a locked Waiahole Water Company gate. Years ago there was no gate here. Instead there was a concrete culvert, still visible, which has been filled in. The grate for the culvert would be removed to prevent vehicles from proceeding, but we had a couple of planks in hidden in the underbrush so that we could drive the volkswagen beetle over and up to the trailhead. At about 3 miles you will arrive at a stone wall where the Waikane Camp used to be - it was long gone even 30 years ago. This camp housed the workers who built and maintained this local section of the now-controversial ditch tunnel that runs from Kahana Valley to Waiahole Valley, through the Koolaus to Millilani, and on over to the foot of the Waianae Range.

Just past the camp a spur from the road heads left to where the water diversion tunnel can be seen and the old trail to Kahana Valley over the Waikane saddle switchbacks up and around from the left. It has been about 27 years since I have last been in this area and I have to say that most of it looks the same, except for the canopy trees that are are now absolutely HUGE. From here it is about a half-mile to the Waikane saddle and a little over two miles to the summit of the Koolaus. The trail to the saddle, and on through to Kahana, was paved in stone to facilitate the ditch workers and their beasts-of-burden. 30 years ago it was still a freeway and the way was wide open with most of the stone path still visible and intact. Today, little of the stone path remains as it has been obliterated by guava trees, other vegetation, assorted detritus, landslides, washouts, and the roots and remnants of those giant trees. This trail to the saddle does remain readily passable, however, in part due to the efforts of members of the HTMC.

We arrived at the Waikane saddle around 10am to clear views of Waikane valley, points south-east including Olomana, Pu'u Ohulehule, and the far reaches of Kahana valley behind us as we stood upon this grassy outlook of the Pali Ku ridge. From here the main trail continues down into the wilderness of Kahana valley. Alternate options include continuing along Pali Ku to Pu'u Koiele, and then along the westerly ridge of Ohulehule to it's summit. This trail appears to get sporadic use. My old map shows (and describes) a loop route that switchbacks down from the summit between and across the southerly ridges of Ohulehule into Waikane valley and connects back with the Waikane road near (just below) the upper locked gate (through the military controlled land, no doubt). There are sheer cliffs at critical points on most of the steep ridges of Ohulehule's south face. It must be doable but I could not see any visible evidence of that old trail.

Of course, Kathleen and I were here to take the Waikane trail option that contours is way upward to the KST, now visible in the distance at the terminus of the Schofield trail. I recall the Scofield-Waikane trail as being much more overgrown than it is now, but not by uluhe or guava. There used to be some uluhe, but nowhere near as pervasive as it is today. The Waikane trail was recently cleared by members of the HTMC and it is in remarkably good shape as it winds its way around the back of Kahana valley offering simply stunning views along its entire length. This section of trail is much as I remember it, though the last open-air section does not seem quite as dangerous. I think the landslides up there have actually widened the trail in a few places. Upon reaching the junction with the summit trail, marked by rusting metal stakes, my old impression that there is no place else like this on earth is reconfirmed.

The sheer dropoffs provide for unrestricted viewing of the four valleys of Punalu'u, Kahana, Ka'a'awa, and Waikane. It all seems so remote and untouched - remarkable for Oahu. In stark contrast to the lush greens of the valleys are the blues and whites of the ocean in the distance. The peaks and ridges of Ohulehule, Manamana create unique cloud formations in this area. Unlike the steady upward wind along much of the Koolau summit, you will see coulds swirl around and open up to reveal deep blue skies - this does seem to be one of the sunnier areas of the KST. We arrived at the summit just in time for lunch, at around noon. We walked the summit trail in both the Kipapa and Schofield directions to take in the broad western vistas that ran from Pearl Harbor to Kaena Point & the north shore. Kathleen lay down to rest and catch some sun rays while I went the rest of the way over to grassy landing at the Schofield terminus and down that trail a bit to see if my favorite camping spot was still there. Yes it was, just as I remember it.

It was a wonderful way to spend a day - we saw no one else on the trail on this Saturday. It took 4 hours of leisurly hiking for us to get to the summit trail from the highway - a distance of about 5.5 miles. We were out in 2.5 hours and back at the car at 4:30pm. We then headed over to Kualoa Park, just down the road, to shower off, relax on the beach, and look back up Waikane valley to where we had spent most of our day. We will one day return to hike this trail again!

Randy & Kathleen Jackson


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