OHE KST Day 5 (6/99)

Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 19:39:09 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Koolau Summit Trail, Day 5

"We're Livin' It Up At the Hotel Poamoho, Such a Lovely Place..."

Day 5: Castle Trail Junction to Poamoho Cabin

Friday, June 4, 1999

Meat and potatoes! That's what the past few days of the Koolau Summit Trail were and the time and effort was about to pay dividends: it was time for dessert. And how sweet it was, as she freed us from the shallow foothills atop her zenith into open territory, spectacular vistas of land, ocean, and sky. But this wouldn't be for a few hours.

Emerging from a fulfilling day of relaxation and serenity, summoning an inner peace as close to a personal nirvana as possible, we packed up tent and gear and gave the small campsite a final look. Arms outstretched, I yawned my way into the morning as my tattered quasi-poncho flapped in the gentle breeze. Since my rain jacket was in such disrepair, swaying like a shredded loulu palm frond, I decided to wear the matching rain pants. Ten steps into the uluhe and the green pants were already mud-sloshed and ripped.

We briefly ascended and continued our way on top of the mountains. As with most of the trip, I was baffled by terrain encountered. Whereas I had been on and seen various crest sections in the southern Koolaus and all along the Waianaes, this was nothing of what I expected. Instead of a defined, razor-sharp ridgeline, the graded trail along the northern Koolau summit contoured around or through a jumbled assortment of low hills and rolling slopes. With the exception of the occasional scenic point and the close proximity to the clouds overhead, one we wouldn't have the slightest clue of the trail's altitude. It was undoubtedly a pleasant surprise to do every climb without the need to grasp onto trees and shrubs.

Pale clouds ominously lurked overhead, sometimes dipping down enough to reduce visibility to about 1,000-yards. Though they weren't threatening us with thundershowers, they did float a gentle spray onto the terrain every now and then. While footsteps pushed through the juicy mud, I kept myself amused with tracing what seemed to be a single pig's tracks moving in the same southerly direction. I surmised they were no more than a few hours old, having originated close to our humble little base camp. Perhaps the tracks were fresh enough to be from a pig scurrying away from our talking and tramping.

Entering to the right of an open, bowl-shaped area, we spotted the person-sized, solar-powered weather station standing silently on the far embankment. By now, the groping plants had consumed large sums of my rain pants, leaving me part of a leg, two shredded pieces, and a waistband. The vegetation had sized down into thigh-high shrubs and hedges while sparse grassy spots interrupted the lengthy muddy sections. A few minutes later, we sighted the acreage cordoned off by a healthy length of fencing - the same barrier that had Pat Rorie up in arms. About 15-yards from the trail, we took a moment to investigate one corner of it, next to a large roll of the same fencing. Like Pat, we didn't see anything extraordinary as we peered into this quiet refuge, assumed it was the protected shelter of some unique plant or snail, and jogged back to the trail.

A product of late morning sunlight, the cloud layer receded into the heavens as bright rays punched through its weakened integrity. Reaching a large grassy area at the waterfall notch beyond Kaluanui Valley's hind section, we set our packs down and took a moment to bask in the sunlight. I made a quick inspection of the grassy, fifty-yard long notch, returned, and gathered my water filtration materials into a daypack. Several shallow water holes were scattered about the handsome ravine, but I had found the clearest one all the way at the end. Just beyond the waterfall's chute at a miniscule ledge about nine feet down past the edge was a small stash of crystalline rainwater. And beyond this sloped square-foot ledge was a nearly twenty-foot drop into a horde of rocks and clay. We had plenty of water left in our packs, but I wanted to nab another liter or two just to be safe. I gingerly climbed down from the ravine's edge and perched within the windswept, three-foot wide, curved tear duct in the mountain. I adjusted myself to get as low as possible, then trolled the filter's tube into the waterhole which was now about three feet below me. Comfortably wedged into the chute, I began pumping out two liters of fresh water. All the while, I was enthralled by an absolutely stunning view! Here, at about 2,800-feet in elevation, was a magnificent angle upon the grandiose windward valleys and ridges of Punaluu and lower Kahana.

Filtration completed, I packed up and handed the goods to my partner waiting above. I added this stunt to my "what in the heck were you doing" list after a rather interesting (or heart-pounding, whichever one would like to look upon it) five minutes to scramble up this clay, air-blasted waterfall section. Packs, plus extra water, on our backs once more, we set off.

The leg to the Peahinaia Ridge junction proceeded without much ado. Of course, mud-holes, clidemia, and uluhe dominated the topic of our painful exclamations and grouchy grumbles. As the grade momentarily flattened into another large grassy saddle area, I noted what looked to be tire indentations left by a large wheeled vehicle, probably a heavy-lift helicopter.

Finally, dessert! As we pressed on toward the junction with Poamoho Ridge, the KST emerged into the windward side along a wonderful walkway carved into the near-vertical wall. Truly a masterpiece! Both clidemia and native overgrowth managed to sabotage some of the ease, but none of the excitement thus presented by the gorgeous views. As we shuffled up the graded path, careful to place our feet before shifting our gaze, we felt romanced by sights and sounds of Punaluu Valley 2,000-feet below. Beyond Kahana Valley, the visibility afforded us plain view of the windward coast all the way to Makapuu Point!

We were momentarily returned to the leeward side upon reaching the junction with Poamoho Trail. We got to see the frequently mentioned Cline Memorial, standing on a rise just above eye-level. Vandalism was apparent and the only words remaining were on a side-facing plaque promoting "protect the land" idea in English and Hawaiian. Several burnt sticks littered the area fronting the stone tribute. I surely hoped that no one was using it as a fireplace.

We took a moment to lean into the steady wind and munch on a semi-lunch: power bar for me, granola bar for her. Gleefully, we trekked about fifteen more minutes on the KST before coming in sight of a near-white cabin tucked away in a hillside rash of vegetation. It was the newly constructed Poamoho Cabin - the same one I'd been hearing of all these months. Like two kids spotting a candy store, we waddled as quickly as possible through the muddy swath, beat our boots against a concrete slab, then scampered up the wooden stairs. The smell of freshly installed wood greeted us as we opened the front door. Complete with a twin-shuttered window, it had four wooden bunks built into the rear wall. The corrugated sheet metal sides were attached to the wooden floor and framework. The porch and supports, too, were of wooden construction. Surprisingly, the furniture-less interior was big enough to suspend a disco ball in and invite twenty people for a party. Slightly behind a rounded section of the hill, the locale was shrouded from the windy onslaught.

Our goods retrieved for the overnight stay, we hydrated, then set out to find water for the remaining 24-hours of our journey. All along, I had expected to find a water catchment system installed since the previous cabin had one. The rooftop seemed ready to accept one except its drainage pipe led straight into the ground instead of a tank. Apparently, the old catchment system went out with the previous cabin when it was cleared out to make way for this new creation. Nearby, there was a bound set of siding and other material positioned next to an old foundation - perhaps destined to become the next water collection system. For now, we dispatched into the brush to seek out a small brook or waterhole, as we had noted several deep mud holes on the nearby section of KST. We were in luck, for a small pool of clear water was nestled under a thicket of bushes approximately fifteen yards off the beaten path. In need of a water supply for topping off as well as for an ample dinner, we collected four liters.

On the way back, there was a small, door-sized clearing through the vegetation in this small saddle between summit humps - a portal to the same stunning vistas of the windward coast as we had seen earlier. Once again captured by its hypnotic beauty, we stood silently in awe before lush Punaluu and Kahana for a little over an hour! We marveled at a pair of daredevil birds as they twice plunged a thousand (or more) feet from summit in a few seconds. How thankful we were for spending an extra day, if only to slowly appreciate and absorb this tropical splendor. We laughingly tossed around the idea around of returning to spend a day in a hammock perched near this vantage point.

With sunset closing in, we reluctantly returned to the cabin from the windward marvel. We grabbed some supplies and climbed up a nearby spur along the ridge to a flat perch several feet in elevation above the cabin's rooftop. Draping my tarp onto the small grassy spot, we sat before the leeward view with legs dangling into the uluhe below. The dusk breeze rising above Punaluu Valley was beginning to chill us from behind, so I warmed up two mugs of amaretto cappuccino. We quietly watched the sun descending into the distant clouds off Kaena Point, throughout which was the dance of deep yellow rays glancing off the darkening peaks. As the evening temperatures engulfed the island, a misty haze lurked within the leeward valleys, splitting the receding light into hues of brown, orange, and pink. A truly enchanting evening to be our last on KST.

When the stars sparkled above, complementing the distant glittering of Wahiawa, Wheeler AAF, and Waialua, we retired to the cabin. In a sort of celebratory dinner (and to lighten our load), we prepared a feast of beans & cheese, miso ramen, and topped it off with a delicious helping of blueberry cheesecake. With warm cocoa in hand, we toasted the last night away. I closed the window, blew out my little candle lantern, zipped up my sleeping bag, and fell asleep till morning light.

On the next episode of Real World - Honolulu:

Day 6: Courting the Glorious Punaluu and Kahana Valleys

Happy Hiking!


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