OHE July 5, 1999 (Aiea Ridge)

Date: Mon, 5 Jul 1999 21:59:30 -1000
From: Nathan Yuen (nyuen@lava.net>
Subject: Aiea Ridge Trail

Yesterday, a skeleton crew of 12 cleared the Aiea Ridge Trail which veers off the popular Aiea Loop Trail and leads to the Koolau Summit. Many of our compadres were backbacking on the summit of Haleakala on Maui, so the turnout was much smaller than usual. Included were Mabel Kekina, John Hall, Bill Gorst, Carmen Craig, Jim Pushaw, Grant Oka, Georgina Oka, Dick Beaton, Harold, Jason Sunada, and Lester Ohara.

As we started the hike on the Aiea Loop Trail, we commented on what a beautiful day it was. The sun was shining brightly with no clouds shrouding the summit. And there was a nice breeze which made hiking conditions ideal under the full brunt of the sun.

Within half-an-hour, we reached the point in the loop trail where the ridge trail veers off and leads along Aiea Ridge to the summit. Stopping a bit at the lookout point which overlooks the H-3 highway, we wielded our machetes and commenced hacking mode. Fortunately the trail was already in good condition so little real work was required. As we hiked along the ridgeline, we admired several large stately koa trees with incredibly gnarled, crooked, and bent trunks through which we had to squeeze. We also admired many beautiful ohia lehua which were in full blown with vibrant crimson blossoms and the unusual half-flowers of naupaka kuahiwi which emitted a delicately sweet fragrance.

The Aiea Ridge Trail is an ungraded trail that is about 6 miles in length (each way). As a result, we followed the "roller coaster" action of the ridge which goes up and down, up and down, up and down for quite some distance. After reaching the section of the trail that switches over to a neighboring ridge and contours along it's side, we encountered a large stand of lovely deep green pala'a ferns which grew along the margins of the trail. As we pushed onward, the contour slowly regains the ridgeline and continues upwards to the top of a pu'u which serves as a helicopter landing pad.

We were pleased when we reached the helicopter landing pad, because the summit is within close striking distance. As we made on way forward, the character of the ridge changes dramatically as the vegetation is windblown and remains close to the ground. I was just tickled to find quite a number of ohelu berries right along the trail growing very close to the ground and could not resist picking a few to plop in my mouth. What a great little snack! After crossing a couple of narrow sections with drop-offs on either side, we began the final climb to the Koolau Summit.

As we made our way up to the summit, the clear blue skies promised a great view. And what a great sight! The very top of Aiea Ridge provides a perfect vantage point from which to view the jagged cliffs of Kanehoalani which forms the northern boundary of Kaneohe Bay and the lovely offshore island of Mokoli'i (Chinaman's Hat). And when we peered off in the horizon towards the east, we could see the islands of Moloka'i, Lana'i, and Maui! With great enthusiam, we let out a few whoops to attract the attention of our compadres on the summit of Haleakala--but alas... no whoops were heard in return. :-)

After devouring our lunches, we retreated from the summit and began the 6 mile trek back out to our cars. As I admired the a fabulous view of Puuloa (Peal Harbor), I could not help but recall that in the distant past, prior to the dredging of Pearl Harbor and the diversion of streams and ground water from Aiea, Kalauao, Waimalu, Waimano, Manana, etc. that the waters flowed freely into Pearl Harbor creating an incredibly productive brackish estuary. So productive were these waters that they were the source of an unusual phenomenon. Every year in October (or November), mullet would congregate in huge teeming shoals in a migration to the other side of O'ahu! From Pearl Harbor, the mullet would slowly migrate eastward from inlet to inlet along the southern coast of Oahu until they reached Makapuu whereupon then would turn around the point to continue the migration up the windward coast. Then in March (or April) when they would reach Laie (or Malaekahana), they would inexplicably turn around and return to Pearl Harbor the way they had come. What sight it must have been to see the waters turn black with their teeming numbers! But I digress...

Anyway... since it was the 4th of July, many of us were eager to return to our vehicles to partake in the festivities. So many of us took-off from the summit as quickly as we could to descend the way we had come. When we reached our cars, we discovered that thieves had broken into a number of our vehicles! Those of us who were unlucky enough to park east of Jason's Sunada's car (which has a car alarm) had their locks punctured! We speculate that the thieves fled when they triggered Jason's alarm sparing those who were parked to the west of his car. Fortunately nothing of real value was taken, but many of us will have deal with the hassle of broken locks. Since next week's trail-maintenance will be to Kalauao and we will be parking at the same location, we thought it best to report the incident to the police and the park caretakers. Hopefully we will not suffer the same fate next week.

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