OHE July 18, 1999 (Olona Valley via Kaaawa Valley)



Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 23:28:31 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Olona Valley via Kaaawa Valley

A couple months ago, I posted a 1927 narrative about an ascent to Olona Valley via Kaaawa Valley (Olona Valley is also known as Hidden Valley). Written by Charles S. Judd, that piece is at http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/May99/5-17.html for those interested. One of the hikers in the tale was James Placidus Morgan of the family clan that owns Kualoa Ranch, which holds land in Hakipu'u, in the area adjacent to Kualoa Beach Park and in Kaaawa Valley a bit further down the road.

Today, several of us were fortunate enough to have a chance to hike the much of the same route described in the 1927 narrative. We were the guests of Andrew Morgan, the grandson of J.P. Morgan. Andrew and his family live in a home off of Kamehameha Highway at the entrance of Kaaawa Valley, and we met him there at 8:00 this morning to begin the hike. Others in the party were Pat Rorie, Jason Sunada, Jay Feldman, Laredo Murray (green and red hair today), and someone I'll refer to as AWH (Anonymous Wahine Hiker) since she asked me not to mention her real identity for reasons I won't disclose. Andrew, no slouch in the mountains, also hiked with us.

Before we assembled at Andrew's residence, AWH staged her vehicle on Kamehameha Highway near Trout Farm Road since we had ambitions of coming down the cemetery ridge from Turnover, the standard descent route of the Pu'u Manamana trail. If we successfully negotiated our proposed circuit, we'd complete a semi-loop and use the AWH-mobile to transport us back the couple miles to Andrew's place.

After checking our gear (I was carrying 4 liters of water and drank it all by hike's end), we set off on foot on a jeep road that headed back into the valley from Andrew's yard. As we would for most of the day, we hiked at a leisurely pace, talking story and admiring the spacious valley, in particular the majestic fluted dikes and spires of Mo'o Kapu o Haloa Ridge to the left, atop which sits Pu'u Kanehoalani.

At one point, we passed the famous fallen tree from the movie *Jurassic Park* (a sign marks this spot). Jason remarked that he expected a herd of dinosaurs to go scampering past us at any moment. We later passed the house used in the defunct TV show *Birds of Paradise* and Pat mentioned that some scenes from the movie *Mighty Joe Young* were also filmed in the valley. Of course, during our walk and at other points on the outing, Pat paid homage to his favorite peak, Pu'u Ohulehule, a standout landmark at the back of the valley.

After about ten minutes, we veered off on a road that angled toward the right side of the valley to the spur we'd ascend. AWH and Andrew had done this spur before, and both promised no ultra-dangerous spots on the way up. AWH mentioned the possibility of loose rocks and cautioned us to be attentive while we ascended.

Before reaching the spur, we entered a fenced-off meadow filled with dozens of mooing cows. With Andrew in the lead, we hiked through the meadow, with the herd moving aside to form a corridor through its midst, akin to what happened when Moses parted the Red Sea. Although several cows postured aggresively, we passed through unharmed. The pungent aroma of cow dung reminded us to watch where we stepped.

Under partly cloudy but clearing skies, we hiked steadily upslope to the upper edge of the meadow, took a short break, and then continued on a fairly distinct trail through clumps of Christmas berry and other scrub vegetation until we reached the crest of the spur we'd use as an ascent route to the rim of the north side of the valley.

We rested again, noting an unusual "stone man" rock formation on the spur mauka of the one we were on (this same formation is mentioned in the 1927 narrative). We also spotted several goats on the spur makai of ours, and Laredo, Jay, and I talked about what kind of rifle would be needed to down one of these animals from our position several hundred meters away. Jason and AWH shared mini binoculars for anyone who wanted to scan the goats or other sights in the valley. Jason announced an altimeter reading of ~600 feet.

Feeling more energetic after the break, we continued up the sometimes narrow spur, taking the best line through lama and Christmas berry trees. While most of us had machetes, we did only minimal chopping on the way up, perhaps to save energy for later and perhaps to keep our hands free for balance and for grabbing roots and branches as we climbed. As stated earlier by AWH, loose rocks were present, and everyone did a good job pointing them out to those behind. The most troublesome rocks were pushed over the side, with some of the larger ones booming down the steep ravines left and right with sobering drama.

We stopped for another break at the top of "The Pyramid," a prominent feature of the spur (and also mentioned in the 1927 write-up). To note our progress, Jason made a second altimeter check, reporting an elevation of ~1,200 feet (I wasn't paying attention to the time so I can't report how long we were taking to ascend). We noted that the Ko'olau summit crest was mostly clear and that participants on the day's club hike (Aiea Ridge) and trail maintenance outing (Ka'au Crater) would be enjoying nice views.

Above the pyramid, we arrived at the "impasse" rock formation. While the '27 narrative indicated the correct line was over the top, we found a safe bypass contour on the left, with ample trees for footholds, handholds, and security. Thereafter, we continued to climb steeply, negotiating slopes with eroded sections without a problem.

Just before reaching the crest of the north rim of the valley, we arrived at the first of a ton of uluhe we'd encounter during the outing. A good swath existed for 20 meters and then petered out into nothing. Accordingly, machetes for cutting and bodies as battering rams helped us reach the top (elevation ~1,700 ft.). I think it was about 11 when we topped out and eager for a view, we pushed through to the left along the ridgecrest for 15-20 meters until we could see down into Olona (Hidden) Valley. Surprisingly, the ridge of the far side of Olona seemed very near. AWH asked if we wanted to descend into the valley or continue left along the ridge. The stated preference was to stay up on the ridge since the vegetation in the valley looking forbodingly dense.

Little did we realize that the vegetation on the ridgetop was as dense, and this quickly was apparent just a few minutes into our initial thrust. But plenty of time did we have, along with a strong, experienced crew of hikers to rotate into the ramrod to chop and push through. And although we moved along slowly, we persevered and made progress. As I've noted in the past, my flora-recognition ability is sub-par compared to the skills of Ken Suzuki and Kost Pankiwskyj. And while AWH is very knowledgeable, I was either too tired or too consumed with clearing a path to ask questions. Let's say there was plenty of uluhe on the ridge. I also saw the standard fare of maile, lapalapa, and ohia. There were other native species, I'm sure. Clidemia has a fairly strong presence in this remote locale.

Rotating ramrods every 10 to 15 minutes, we followed the rollercoaster topography of the ridgetop, which narrowed in a few places but, on the whole, wasn't that perilous. The dropoff to the left was sizable (don't fall that way) but usually the slope to the right (Olona Valley-side) was less perilous.

At noon, we plopped down to eat under a sizable ohia tree. For lunch, I ate some sushi, drank a liter of water, and took three aspirins. Afterward, in the shade of the ohia and with a relaxing breeze wafting over the ridgetop, I lay down for a short catnap as the folks who hadn't ramrodded yet set off to continue the push-through effort. Pat, Laredo, Jason and I hung back for awhile since we knew that we'd likely catch up quickly to the ramrods since the massive overgrowth would slow their progress to a tad above a crawl.

Sure enough, despite leaving the lunchspot 15 to 20 minutes after the others, we four lingerers caught up to the leaders in about five minutes. Not long after we had regrouped, a plan to cut over to the right to an adjacent spur was suggested and agreed to. We hacked through clidemia, passed a pig's den on the left, slid down into a slippery intermittent streamlet, and then ascended its far bank through clidemia and then overhead uluhe to get to the crest of the next spur. Up the spur we pushed, reaching the crest of Pu'u Manamana ridge about a quarter mile mauka of Turnover at about 1:15.

We had hoped that a swath or old trail of some sort would exist on Manamana-extended (AWH told us that HTMC legend Al Miller had opened up a trail on this ridge when he had a goal of reaching true Manamana). However, although the going was better than what we'd faced along the north rim of Kaaawa Valley, we found no old cuttings, no ribbons, and no other signs that anyone had hiked this section in some time.

Along the way, we enjoyed views down into Kahana Valley, noting the routes we'd recently hiked to get to Pu'u o Kila and Pu'u Koiele. After going up and over two to three small pu'u, we reached Turnover (elev. 2,076) a little before 2:00, shouts of "All Right!" or "We're Here!" announcing this fact.

We mulled over descent options and decided that heading down the ridge to Trout Farm Road (we also call this Cemetery Ridge since there's a graveyard at its base) was the fastest, and thus the favored route. Pat and Laredo charged down ahead of us, and from Turnover, I never saw them again until we emerged on Kam Highway across from Trout Farm Road. As it often is, the ridge was muddy, but my hiking pole saved me from flops on several occasions and also helped to alleviate some of the jarring that is to be expected on the steep 1.5-mile descent to the cemetery. On the way down, Jason pointed out paragliders, at least six, soaring along the ridge (Piei) on the farside of Kahana.

We all were out around 3:30, and after ironing out some post-hike transport details, we were ferried back to Andrew's residence.

Thanks to Andrew for allowing us to hike on Kualoa Ranch property in Kaaawa Valley; to AWH for setting up the hike with Andrew; to Jay, AWH, and Andrew's wife for posthike transport; to Jay for posthike refreshments; to all in our hiking group for good company; and to those adventurous hikers of the 1920s for providing the inspiration for the outing.

I must mention that Andrew gave us the green light to write-up today's hike but he asked us to mention that Kaaawa Valley is private property and hiking in it and on other land holdings of Kualoa Ranch is by permission-only.

Safe hiking,

--DKT


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