OHE July 18, 1999 (Kaau)

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 20:38:58 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Kaau Crater, 18JUL99

A healthy turnout showed up for today's HTMC trail maintenance outing, making our bunch well-stocked with an assortment of loppers, machetes, and other cutting instruments, and lots of enthusiasm. Under the direction of trail boss Mabel Kekina, were Jim Pushaw, Thomas Yoza, Ken Suzuki, Nathan Yuen, Carmen Craig, Grant Oka & daughter Georgina, Carole K. Moon, June Miyamoto, Lynn Agena, Chris Atkinson & friend Chris, Kim & Judy Roy, Ralph Valentino & son Michael, and club hike leader John Hoover. Also present were another three HTM members: Clayton, Slow-Jim, and Wayne. With the controversial Buddhist temple as the backdrop, we proceeded up Waiomao Street via truck. Ralph Valentino provided his services yet again, shuttling hikers from parking spots to trailhead, saving us the trouble of walking. Moreso it relaxed the potential of clogging up the narrow road to the anguish of a certain resident and the possibility of car thieves in such a low-visibility locale just beyond the houses.

Today's mission was to clear the waterfall route to Kaau Crater, the exit route down the eastern ridge, and a side trip along the crater's western rim to the crest. I was eager to ascend the popular waterfall, as a trip of about three weeks ago included only a descent of the same route. Being part of the second group to arrive at the trailhead (elev. 560 feet), I hiked post haste through the canopied forest speckled with fragrant groves of wilting ginger blooms. An immediate stream crossing provided the signs that the rainy night prior had charged the waters of Kaau Crater. The stream had a brown tinge as we would later discover that a landslide was causing it.

Prior to meeting up with the first group, I followed a quick ascent bypassing a portion of the trail. Marking it with pink ribbon, I investigated it, found it to be a useless diversion, and backtracked the regular trail to remove said pink ribbon. In the process, Carmen had followed the ribbon and fell victim to the same inconvenient route. Situation rectified, we crossed the stream once more and dashed off along the trail, eventually linking with the first congregation of clearers.

From then on, it was hack-to-the-top, with the occasional stare at a plant, such as the pretty flowers of the yellow iris. I sneaked to the front of the line and joined "Send the Roy!" Kim & Judy, Chris Atkinson, and "Indiana" Nathan and Jim Pushhhh-awww as ram-rod. Thinning out the clumps of clidemia and thimbleberry, the palm grass required a few more whacks per plant but soon fell victim to machete and sickle. Kim Roy showed off his lightweight loppers, snipping off a rather thick, approximately 1.5-inch-diameter trunk belonging to a certain clidemia hedge. The pleasant aura of Waiomao Stream filled the valley and our ears with song.

Short of a mile into the valley between Kaau Crater and Mauumae (Puu Lanipo) Ridge, the first small pool (elev. 1,000-feet) and 30-foot waterfall came to view. The strong flow from her streamy parents had turned her into a gorgeous waterworks of dancing leaves, glittering rocks, sparkling spray, and misty wind. While the others banked right from a welded water tunnel entrance toward the pool, Jim and I continued the muddy rope-assisted climb to view the beauty from above. We called out to the others as we stood (safely) a few feet aft of the chute. Due to the overnight showers, the water level had risen significantly since my last visit and the stream was breaking free of the cupped, freckled mossy rocks and was spilling over on each side. We gingerly crossed over and continued the series of waterfalls, as the need for clearing began to peter out into an occasional whack here and there for the purpose moreso of an aesthetic nature.

With the group in tow and loosely spaced out throughout the ascent, the first of us turned left (northwest) onto the true ascent toward Kaau Crater as everything up till now was virtually just a traverse into deeper valley sections (northeast). It should be noted that the younger Valentino held strong and was making significant progress in keeping up with the first pack - good job! We noted a minor landslide on the left which had obvious signs of a recent occurrence. We would later find it paled, in comparison, by a mother landslide nearer the top.

We bypassed the vertical section of 12-foot-high rock I battled barefoot with on the previous visit. The bypass is simply a wide curve starting/ending to the right slightly before and ahead of the rock. Much easier!

Closing in on the top, a lengthy cascading section of stream dominated the climb. About halfway up this portion, a rather shallow yet extensive landslide had filled in the trail on the right side, covering up about 75% of the stream's path. Probably a result of soil weakening along the steep slope under the bouts of those overnight showers, it made for a startling sight. Partially buried, upside-down guava trees, their branches seemingly reaching out in distress, and shattered limbs of trees and hedges, ripped or soiled beyond recognition, comprised the leafy brush holding up the left-side mounds of gritty soil. The right side was just a big lump of earth. We surmised that the landslide was large enough to have momentarily plugged up the cascade. Of course, a week or two from now, the stream will wash away the onslaught of mud, filter out the rocks, and add them to the collection of detritus [thanks, Randy!] within the pools below. The good news: at least "yesterday" wasn't today.

Without much ado, Chris, Kim, Jim, and I crossed the landslide to the right side and about fifteen minutes later completed the trip onto the waterfall chute (elev. 1,520 feet): the short spout to the stout pitcher of Kaau Crater. Again, without pause, we banked right from the chute, which is a V-shaped corridor enclosed by trees and overhead brush. A few minutes later, we crossed onto and took note of the trail section perched just above the slope and aforementioned landslide. As we were the first hikers (that we knew of) into this spot, we proceeded lightly and with caution.

A waterlogged Kaau Crater basin blushed green with plantlife as views opened up for our ascending party. Taking a pause at a small grassy spot were Chris, Jim, and Kim, so I grabbed a head-start up the narrow ridgeline. Continuing up the eastern rim was huff-and-puff, stop-and-go work for me, but I tried to maintain a relatively constant rhythm up the 900-foot ascent. The gradient was steep, but a manageable angle and composition common to most trails' final ascents to the Koolau crest: occasionally requiring a four-point dash for stability. At no time did it climax into a technical, vertical climb, but cleats did take my footing onto placements I wouldn't have tried with my regular hiking boots. In addition, ropes added a bit of security through the loose clay on eroded spots.

About fifteen to twenty minutes later, Chris had closed within 20-yards of my trudging by the time I topped out at the summit of Palikea (elev. 2,400-feet). Behind Chris filtered in Jim, Kim, and Thomas. Chris Atkinson stayed further behind on the rim to watch over little Valentino. We spent a moment upon the clear pu'u, absorbing the crisp views of Kailua and Olomana to the north and an unbelievably cloud-free Konahuanui to the west. Jim commented that the triple-peaks of steadfast Olomana looked tame from this angle - and ironically so! Mauumae Ridge's Kainawaaunui and Puu Lanipo towered to the east with the KSSK repeater station's antenna "waving" from about Wiliwilinui Ridge. Yet, the time was only 11:15 and Mabel's rules clearly required us to keep our mitts off our lunches for another 45 minutes. So, off to the next lunch spot we went, machetes flaring left and right as we opened up the crest trail a bit more.

Descending the 200-feet off Palikea, we briefly rose to pass the eastern powerline tower, then continued toward the western of the pair. Along the way, I pointed out the Maunawili Demonstration Trail (Koolaupoko) winding in and out of the gullies below and briefed Chris on the legend of Kaau Crater. I also saw my first blooming ieie's. Arriving at the lunchspot at an undisclosed (ahem) time, we broke for lunch. Li hing mango, mustard pretzels, and Jolly Rancher candies were handed about, each a la Mr. Yuen - thanks, Nathan! After arriving, Carmen passed around her frozen grapes.

As I collected some orchid varieties teeming about the steel tower's pylons, the rest of the trail clearers began to appear. A few minutes later, Jim, Nathan, Thomas, both Chris's, and I set off and continued clearing the crest before diverting left onto the crater's western rim. Clumps of vibrant, youthful clidemia lined the trail of uluhe, most proudly bearing a cache of hairy seed-pods. Most of the clearing down this section, in addition to a simple widening effort, was an attack on this clidemia.

In good time, we reached the miniscule saddle which comes within twenty feet of the swamp, then ascended to the first powerline tower. Along the grassy section just past the twisted rods and welded brackets, we met up with Mabel, Carole, Slow-Joe, and Ken. Instead of negotiating the waterfall section, they had ascended the ridge to Kaau Crater which is normally considered the return route. After spending a few minutes with them, talking story and gathering information on what to expect, we continued clearing along the lower rim. Probably because of quick pace, we reached the "T"-junction almost immediately. (To the left, the trail returns to the V-notch spout.)

A tame grade for the descent, we chopped and swung at the clidemia and uluhe. Nathan pointed out some plants and botanical facts, showing me how a koa tree mutates from juvenile to adult form. Quite interesting - even gathered a sample or two to show Blossom!

A series of switchbacks (and a possible-marijuana irrigation pipe) later, we were back on the main trail within the valley. Thomas counted five crossings from that point to the trailhead. The last crossing had us frolicking in the water, cleaning off the caked-on mud and sweat.

Post-hike conversation and pupus were welcomed as the first of the remaining of the crew emerged about twenty to thirty minutes later. Thanks to Jim and Mabel for drinks, chips, and her always-excellent desserts.

Happy Hiking!


Note: The club's hike will include a trek to the crest above Kaau Crater, but the route will not include the eastern rim. Thus, it will not be a complete circumnavigation of the crater.

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