OHE June 10, 1999 (Keaau-Ohikilolo)

Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 07:53:41 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Keaau with the Wednesday gang

Yesterday morning, Mark Short, Jay Feldman, Bill Gorst, Charlotte Yamane, and I carpooled out to Makaha to hike up to Pu'u Keaau, which sits on the ridge on the Kaena-side of Makaha Valley. If our energy was ample and the weather cooperative, we'd continue on upridge to Ohikilolo. Because I had a 6:15 basketball game in Kaneohe, I asked that we set a turnaround time of 1:30 and that everyone be back at my vehicle by 5 p.m. All agreed, and we set off at a quarter past nine. The night before, Wing called me to say he would join us, but when he didn't show up when we started, we took it that he decided not to hike.

Having always seen it open, I was surprised that the gate leading into the First Hawaiian Bank rec area was locked, but since our plan was to ascend Keaau ridge via the hunting area adjacent to the rec center, we stuck with the agenda to start there, hopping over the fence and walking up the access road.

Just past the rec center entrance driveway, a dirt & gravel road continues straight ahead into a forest of koa haole. Signs along the road announce that the immediate area is a no-hunting zone and that weapons shouldn't be discharged. I hoped that no one would stop us or turn us away, and as it turned out, no one did, coming or going.

Just past a hunter's check-in mailbox, we veered right, following a distinct cattle path heading off through the forest. Eventually the path led to a barbed-wire fenceline. Searching a bit, we found a narrow but passable opening in the fence, which we went through.

Continuing to follow cattle paths, we ascended the side of a spur, making our way past prickly dryland vegetation and numerous cow pies. A gentle breeze greeted us when we reached the crest of the spur. The always savvy Charlotte tied an orange ribbon at this spot and I wrapped a length of bungie cord I found around a small shrub to remind us that this was where we should veer off the spur when we returned in the afternoon.

We continued on up the spur for about fifteen minutes, scrambling upslope to the right to gain a higher and more prominent spur that eventually would ascend directly to Pu'u Keaau. From atop the higher spur, we could see down into the adjacent gully, shimmering green from recent rains. The ocean off the Keaau coast looked cool and inviting. Now and then, we heard goats rattling off to our right and left. And although we had no close encounters, we saw, heard, and smelled goats for the better part of the day.

Because of the humidity and relatively gentle winds, I sweated buckets during the ascent to Keaau, a fact that made me doubt I could make it all the way to Ohikilolo. So warm was it that at several points Mark hiked shirtless to stay as cool as possible. Despite the sweating, I felt energetic, something I attribute to power gel ($0.95 at Longs) and powerbars I consumed and a fiberglass hiking staff I used for support and balance.

Negotiating a series of rocky sections and hilltops, Mark and I reached Pu'u Keaau (elev. 2,650) in about two hours and rested there while waiting for Charlotte, Bill, and Jay, moving upslope at a more relaxed pace about 20-30 minutes back. Several dozen dragon flies wafted about on the ocean-facing side of the pu'u, by far the most of these insects I'd ever seen at once.

I was ready to call it quits at Keaau, but Mark was eager to press on. A couple minutes after he set off, I continued hiking, enjoying the level segment of the ridgeline made more pleasant by a network of goat trails that contoured around small nobs and hilltops. Ribbons tied to stones pointed to contour points at several junctures. Overcast conditions continued and the higher elevation brought on cooler temperatures.

We found out later that Charlotte, Jay, and Bill stopped to eat lunch at Keaau when they reached it and hiked no further upridge. Later, when I saw them at the car, I told them they had missed a wonderful segment of the hike by not continuing on. The views down into Makaha Valley and across to Kamaileunu Ridge beyond Keaau are quite nice and the hiking isn't treacherous.

After 15 to 20 minutes of level progression, the ridge dropped to a saddle, forested by Formosan koa and occasional Christmas berry. While moving down the saddle, off to the right we saw a large herd of black goats, baaa-ing a Makaha serenade. Every now and then, large cannon booms from Schofield echoed in upper Makaha, spooking the animals. From the farside of the saddle, a steep, sweaty scramble through more Formosan koa and Christmas berry brought Mark and I to an eroded hilltop. Just beyond it we stopped to take a break. It was around 1 p.m.

There is an airplane wreckage in this area, but I didn't stop to examine it because the stipulated turnaround time (1:30) was near. We lost momentum when we gingerly contoured on goat trails on the right side of the unnamed peak instead of going right over the top as we should have (we went over the top on the return leg). While contouring, I spotted pink ribbons (Pat left these on a previous trip) in the Christmas berry thicket 100 feet below. Although Mark and I were in precarious positions while contouring higher up, we were glad we didn't have to endure the vegetation gauntlet.

Eventually, we gained the ridgeline near the apex of the unnamed peak and continued along without a problem. On the backside of the peak, the ridge narrowed a bit. Trailing behind, I watched a pair of goats scamper away about 100 feet in front of Mark. Meanwhile, gray clouds rolled in bringing slight drizzles with them.

At that point, Ohikilolo Ridge and its noted pyramidal peak loomed large and with great drama. I could see the fenceline atop the ridge but couldn't tell if it continued over the pyramid peak and beyond. Just before Keaau Ridge dipped down to a spectacular dike, I sat down to eat lunch, drink water, and rest. It was 1:25. Meanwhile, Mark hiked on ahead. When he stopped to look at me at my position about 80-90 meters back, I motioned for him to continue on to summit Ohikilolo, figuring he could top out and make up the time on the return leg because he can hike at a good clip.

He continued on for a few minutes but retreated at the base of the final climb to Ohikilolo ridge because of the turnaround time and because he thought making the final scramble up to Ohikilolo wouldn't be worth doing today since he would have to backtrack without pause and not get to savor the fine views from the pyramidal peak. I felt bad for him since he'd never been to Ohikilolo and because my upcoming evening engagement was the reason for the early turn-back.

We both agreed with an earlier start and/or without an early afternoon turnaround deadline, we'll complete this hike another time. It's a challenging ascent, no doubt, with vertical gains of close to 4,000 feet all told when the ups and downs are factored in. If all checks out, the HTMC powers-that-be may schedule a club outing on this route in the future.

The return leg went well thanks to the hiking pole (highly recommended to reduce impacts on muscles and joints) and some aspirin I popped after lunch. Mark and I saw more goats and heard some pigs squealing loudly in upper Ohikilolo Valley. Stopping a couple times for short breaks on the way back, we eventually arrived at my vehicle on Farrington Highway, completing the return trip in a little over three hours. Charlotte, Jay, and Bill had been waiting for us there about an hour.

We were back in Kaneohe by 6 p.m. and I made it over to Kaneohe District Park in time for the 6:15 tipoff of my b-ball game (we lost). :-( However, there'll be other games just as there will be other days to hike the tough but scenic route to Ohikilolo via Keaau.

Hike on,


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