OHE June 14, 1999 (Ohulehule)

Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 13:37:44 -1000
From: Nathan Yuen (nyuen@lava.net>
Subject: The Peaks of Koolauloa

(a copy of this has been posted to the newsgroup "soc.culture.hawaii")

Yesterday, about 30 of us in the HTMC trail-maintenance crew cleared the trail that climbs to the summit of Pu'u Ohulehule, that massive 2,265 foot pyramid-shaped peak on the windward-side of Oahu that sits on the boundary between the districts of Koolaupoko and Koolauloa.

Sitting near a projection of land that forms the northern boundary of Kaneohe Bay, Ohulehule is a steep mountain from which four ridges emanate and divide the land into wild greenswept valleys. The most impressive ridge radiating from the summit is Pu'u Kanehoalani which projects itself impressively high into the air with an incredibly jagged ridgeline overlooking the offshore Island of Mokoli'i (Chinaman's Hat) and divides the valley of Hakipu'u from Ka'a'awa. The next largest ridge is Pu'u Manamana, which looms massively over coastline and separates Ka'a'awa from Kahana. The other ridges are Pu'u Pueo a small ridge that divides Hakipu'u from Waikane, and the Waikane Saddle which connects Ohulehule to the spine of the Koolau mountain range and separates Waikane from Kahana. In order to reach the summit of Ohulehule, we climbed up to the Waikane Saddle from Kahana Valley, which provides the safest and easiest ascent up the imposing mountain-side.

It was a beautiful day with the sun shining brightly through clear blue skies. Starting from the trailhead in Kahana State Park, we crossed the stream several times and chopped inkwood and rosy apple sapplings that infringed the margins of the trail. As we trudged up through a large grove of hala trees (screwpine), we admired the way the long leaves with spikes along their edges spiraled up the central stem. We also speculated that the sheer abundance of hala trees indicated that lauhala weavers once populated Kahana Valley. Continuing onward, we hacked away at uluhe ferns that threatened to choke the trail. The deeper we penetrated the valley, the thicker and higher the uluhe grew in impressive mounds that billowed over the landscape.

As we reached the back of Kahana Valley, the grade of the incline gradually increased making the ascent increasingly challenging with every step. And the higher we climbed, the more the heat and windless conditions exhausted us. So I was pleased when I reached the "Sphinx", a rock formation on the saddle, which is a harbinger of good news--the top of the saddle is near. Mustering the energy to continue upward, I was just tickled to reach the Waikane Saddle and to see several ohia lehua covered with vibrant red blossoms and a rare hoawa just loaded with fruits that are strangely enough shaped like walnuts.

Resting for a while to drink water and regain energy, I admired how the bright sun illuminated the myriad textured shades of green within valleys of Kahana, Ka'a'awa, and Waikane. What a spectacular sight! Continuing upward, I began the most arduous part of the climb--the steep assault of Ohulehule. Pulling myself up with the aid of the surrounding vegetation, I made my way up to the most dangerous section where cables and ropes have been strung. I was very pleased that unlike the last time we scaled Ohulehule, the mountain-side was relatively dry. When conditions are wet and muddy, the climb is slick and much more difficult, draining and dangerous. But since the mountain-side was quite dry, the climb was relatively easy.

After conquering the final rope section, I was just elated that the object of our the travail came into view! The summit of Ohulehule! And we could not have picked a more propitious time to be ontop! The sun was shining brightly and the air was crystal clear! On the makai (ocean facing side), we admired how the deep dark blue waters of the Pacific Ocean blended into the fantastic shades of aquamarine, azure, and teal amidst the fractal pattern of fringing coral reefs, golden sand beaches along the shore, and sandbars within the bay. It was also neat to see the many tiny off-shore islands of Mokoli'i (Chinaman's Hat), Moku O Loe (Coconut Island), Kapapa, Moku Manu, Moku Lua, and Manana (Rabbit Island) off in the distance. Just when we thought it could get no better, we noticed way off on the horizon that the islands of Lana'i, Moloka'i, and Mau'i were in view! Unprecedented!

As we admired the fantastic view of the peaks emanating from Ohulehule, I could not help but focus-in on the jagged peaks of Kanehoalani and recall that according to Hawaiian tradition, somewhere deep within the bowels of Kanehoalani is an entrance to a secret burial cave that is connected to an extensive subterranean world--Pohukaina. Stories exist that the secret underground passages of Pohukaina contain pools of water which are fed by streams. So extensive is the underground world of Pohukaina that a number of entrances are reported to exist in Kahuku, Waipahu, Moanalua and Kalihi!

Anyway... after gawking at the postcard perfect views and devouring our lunches, we began the descent of Ohulehule to return the way we had come. Given that it was an exceedingly sunny, hot, and windless day, we were motivated to scramble down the mountain as quickly as possible to Kahana Stream. Wasting no time at all, many of us tore down the trail and jumped in the water to cool-off in the refreshing waters. We even watched some of the more adventurous in the group leap-off a rope tied to a tree overlooking the water and somersaulting in mid-air!

As we made our way out to the trailhead and relaxed over refreshments, we reflected over the events of the day. The verdict was unanimous--it was an incredible day to be at the summit of Pu'u Ohulehule!

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