OHE July 23, 1999 (Lower Waahila)

Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 20:41:32 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Lower Waahila

Tomorrow is the mother of all super hikes (Waimalu/Waiau) and feeling a need for some pre-hike aerobic work to limber myself, I headed up to St. Louis Heights to log some trail time. I was in the area this afternoon because I had to administer a final exam at UH-Manoa for my summer program students. Directly from the classroom at Webster Hall, I trotted over to my vehicle on Maile Way and drove to the Wa'ahila Trailhead via University Avenue, Dole Street, St. Louis Drive, Peter Street, and Ruth Place.

It was raining lightly at Wa'ahila State Park when I arrived at 3:45. As I sat in my vehicle, wondering if nixing the hike and heading home might be a better idea, the thought occurred that I could hike down Wa'ahila ridge instead of up. I'd never been on lower Wa'ahila before, but I recall OHE members, namely Jarrod Kinoshita and la Wingo, saying they had, so I knew a trail was there. Plus I recalled seeing mountain bikers zipping down a trail in the forest below the Wa'ahila park parking lot and was therefore armed with more evidence that a do-able route was available.

Thus, a plan was conceived.

I did a quick change from work togs to hiking attire in the parking lot, not bothering to walk up to the restroom since the parking area was deserted and the drizzly weather made it unlikely anyone would be driving up soon.

The quick change pau, on went a pair of Reebok cleated shoes. I grabbed my hiking poles, shouldered my pack, and headed down a wide trail through a forest of pines. Wide is the operative word for the trail--truck-width wide, at least for a quarter mile.

It was also muddy. Not the typical gooey summit mud. More like the stuff we encountered at Waiawa, with muck that cakes on the bottom of shoes. At one point, the amount of crud plastered to my cleats added 6 to 8 pounds per foot. The mass was huge, comical, as a matter of fact. But my trusty poles kept me mobile and balanced, and I had fun scampering down the trail like a downhill skier negotiating moguls. Call me Franz Klammer of the Koolaus. :-)

The main trail remained obvious, is well-traveled, and appears to be a favorite of mountain bikers, some who've spent considerable time cutting trees and stumps to make the trail safer and wider. I spotted a bunch of crossing and side trails and I would explore a couple of these on the return leg.

One significant junction was next to a power pole along the trail (I continued straight ahead down the ridge here) and bit further down was another junction. At the latter, I went left and after descending a couple moderately steep (and muddy) slopes, I emerged on a concrete road by a large water tank. I spent a couple minutes trying to knock as much caked mud as possible from my cleats, and then headed down the road, thinking I'd follow it to its start point on Dole Street near what used to be UH family housing (not sure what's there now).

Before getting that far, however, I noticed a trail climbing a slope on the right (this was a couple minutes down from where I reached the road). Never a fan of walking on a road when a trail is available, up the path I headed. This trail was probably created by mountain bikers, and it was clear that saw work was done to fell trees and cut stumps, mostly koa haole. The route switchbacked a couple-three times and then regained the crest of the ridge.

Once at the crest, I decided to head makai to descend the spine instead of heading back up to the park (I'd only been hiking about 30 minutes and wanted a longer workout). The makai-ward trail I hiked was less used than anything I'd been on today, but it was no problem at all. I surmised that mountain bikers probably didn't use this trail since it became more rocky and less-bike-friendly the lower it descended.

While hiking along, I passed the Wa'ahila benchmark on the right. As I mentioned, the terrain became more rocky and the vegetation transitioned from small trees to scrub, dryland vegetation like the kind found near Koko Crater or in the lower-elevation Waianae range.

Instead of hiking the ridge all the way to Dole Street, I stopped a few minutes makai of the benchmark and then reversed field to begin the huff-n-puff ascent back to Wa'ahila State Park.

When I returned to the Power Pole junction, I headed right instead taking the trail I'd come down earlier. A couple of strides into this trail, I encountered a homeless man, carrying a shoulder bag and some plastic garbage bags, presumably filled with his belongings. He was friendly enough, saying hello as I hiked by. Earlier, I had spotted an encampment, and this may have been his. Perhaps the rainy weather compelled him to seek drier accommodations for the approaching evening.

Whatever the case, I was glad I took this diversion because this trail turned out to be more interesting than the one I'd descended earlier. Along one segment, I had a pleasant view across a small gulch and then I found myself walking along a graded trail past towering eucalyptus trees.

The graded path, on the Koko Head-facing side of the ridge about 30 meters below its crest, eventually veered right away from the ridge. In my mind, I saw myself emerging at the end of Ruth Place at the front gate of the park. To my surprise, however, I walked out onto Quincy Place, the cul de sac just below Ruth Place. From Quincy, I walked out to Peter Street, then up to Ruth, and then up to my vehicle. Total hike time: 1.5 hours.

I like the idea of finding something new, especially in an area where I didn't anticipate discovering trails I hadn't hiked before. Plus, there are some side trails still to be explored and I'm sure I'll return to do that and to log more workout time.


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