OHE March 23, 2000 (Castle via Papali)

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 09:53:39 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@k12.hi.us)
Subject: Papali-Waiahilahila-Castle

Many people have done this combo, and with the Sacred Falls area closed to the public, its about the only reasonable way to hike what's left of the Castle Trail.

Opting not to participate in the super hike, I headed out to Hau'ula on the windward side of O'ahu this past Saturday (March 18) to visit a unique region. I parked near the intersection of Kamehameha Hwy and Hau'ula Homestead Rd., and proceeded on foot via Hau'ula Homestead at 9:31 a.m. The weather? Gusty trades 15 to 30 mph brought passing showers and fogged in conditions in the afternoon.

Rather than submit the normal type of write-up for this trek (Brandon Stone and Dayle Turner have posted such narratives in the past year or so), I'll primarily use Stuart Ball's style as a change of pace. Comments will be enclosed in brackets. Pick it up on page 166 of Ball's "Hikers Guide to O'ahu".

"After a short straightaway, reach a second junction (map point D). Bear left and down on the Papali-Ma'akua Ridge Trail." A brown Na Ala Hele trail sign marks the spot. "(To the right the road leads to the Ma'akua Gulch Trail" which is closed to the public due to the Sacred Falls tragedy).

"Almost immediately, cross Ma'akua Stream and climb the embankment on the far side. Work right and then left through a hau grove. Climb gradually up the side of a ridge on" twelve switchbacks. Highlights are as follows: Below #8: a covered picnic table. At #8: a bench with a nice view of the Hau'ula coast featuring La'ie Point. [At the final switchback I passed a local man and a handful of playful keiki. The Hau'ula-Papali loop is certainly an ideal keiki hike but not Papali Ridge-Waiahilahila Ridge-Castle. :-)]

"Continue the ascent along the side of the ridge." [Hala trees border the footpath, and a large beautiful grove of Norfolk Island pines is visible to the west across the gulch. On this stretch I passed another local dude and his haole female companion carrying their baby going in the opposite direction.]

"Reach the ridge line and climb gradually along it under an arch of [formosan koa] trees." [This segment is wide enough to drive a car on - typical State trail.]

My route description starts here. It certainly can't compare to what Stuart Ball would write so bear with me.

Reach a junction. Stay on the ridge line. (The wider more obvious trail descends along the left side of the ridge into Papali Gulch). [I sat down at the junction at 10:15 a.m. to put on gators.]

Ascend gradually through guava and formosan koa.

The ridge levels off briefly, and then exhibits classic but gentle rollercoaster action through uluhe; in general, gaining elevation. [The hiker begins to encounter a good variety of native flora including pukiawe, ohi'a lehua, moa, lapalapa. Further ahead, the views open up on both sides of the ridge.]

Reach the top of the first of three humps on the ridge. [Up to this point on Papali Ridge, a decent swath existed through the uluhe. Due to the recent lack of rain and hunter use?]

Descend gradually to a saddle, and then ascend steadily to the apex of the second hump. [I spotted pretty violet wild orchids along the trail, and, looking makai, enjoyed the superb view of the La'ie/Hau'ula coast.]

Reach the top of the second hump. Descend, steeply at times, to a saddle between the second and third humps.

Cross the level saddle. [The uluhe was more intrusive on this stretch.]

Climb steeply out of the saddle to the top of the third hump. As Papali Ridge bends left, commence the steady ascent to the intersection with Waiahilahila Ridge. (Upper Ma'akua Gulch and its waterfalls are visible below on the right.) [I could perceive native birds singing. Cool!]

At a junction where Papali Ridge splits, bear right.

Reach the junction with Waiahilahila Ridge. (To the left [makai] the Waiahilahila Ridge and Nipple Trails lead to the Sacred Falls area which is closed to the public due to the tragedy that took place there in May of 1999). [I arrived at the intersection of Papali and Waiahilahila at 11:42:30 a.m.]

Turn right on the Waiahilahila Ridge Trail and head mauka. (Take in the sweeping views of the windward coast from Kahuku to Crouching Lion.) [I recognized the spectacular windward section of the Ko'olau Summit Trail above Kaipapa'u Gulch, but uluhe encroached upon the Waiahilahila Trail due to the fact that HTM hasn't cleared the footpath since May 31, 1998.]

Ascend gradually to a hump in the ridge. Reach a junction at the top of the hump. (To the right a side trail leads to an outstanding overlook of upper waterfalls in Ma'akua Gulch.)

Descend briefly as Waiahilahila Ridge bends to the left, and then climb gradually to another hump. [For the most part, the trail was dry (no mud) making for excellent traction. Of course it didn't hurt that I had cleated shoes on.]

Pass a grove of loulu palms with their large corrugated leaves on the left. The ridge levels off and bends right to resume its mauka course en route to a third hump. [I became socked in at this point on the hike, and noticed a wealth of native flora on both sides of the ridge.]

Ascend steeply to the top of a third hump. [The cloud bank moved through - views of the coast restored.] Endure mild rollercoaster action.

Descend the left slope of the ridge to avoid a vertical dropoff directly ahead.

Ascend to the top of yet another hump in the ridge. (Note the lovely line of loulu palms on the left). [Fogged in again until emerging onto the steep west wall of Punalu'u Valley.]

The ridge levels off again and broadens, continue mauka. [Recognized groups of crimson ohi'a lehua flowers, several common lobeliads, and lapalapa trees during this segment.]

As the broad section ends, endure the final, mild rollercoaster action.

Descend gradually to a saddle and reach the junction with the Castle Trail. Turn left onto the Castle Trail and contour along the slope. If you find yourself contouring along the right side of Waiahilahila Ridge, backtrack to the junction and get on the Castle Trail.

Reach a superb overlook of Kaluanui Valley. A short distance ahead, switch back once and contour below the overlook, gradually losing elevation toward the floor of the valley.

Work into and out of a series of small gullies, carefully negotiating the slick dormant stream beds found in each of them.

Pass through a narrow defile on the right. Gently flowing Kaluanui Stream appears on the left well below the footpath.

Descend to the valley floor via two switchbacks and ford tranquil Kaluanui Stream. [I reached the stream at 1:59 p.m. and sat down on a large rock to hydrate. I considered swimming naked in one of the deeper pools, but, upon closer inspection, recognized a number of baby prawns on one of the rocks below the surface and concluded that momma was probably close by waiting for a tender human okole to sink her pincers into! Twenty minutes later, I resumed the journey.]

Reach a flat grassy campsite ringed with stands of guava.

Leaving the campsite behind, contour above Kaluanui Stream. [A heavy passing shower began to fall, so I stopped taking notes until at a point not far from the marvelous overlook of Punalu'u Valley. Between the campsite and the overlook is an abundance of beautiful native trees below Castle. However, parts of this section of the trail are not very pleasant, filled with clidemia or blocked by blow downs.]

Pass through a narrow defile on the left. Lush, verdant Punalu'u Valley is 2000 feet below. We're going down there?! How? Pu'u Piei is the broad peak across the valley and the sharp peak on the right in the distance is Pu'u Ohulehule.

Contour along the steep west wall of Punalu'u Valley.

Reach a junction. Turn right and descend, steeply at times, on a spur ridge to bypass most of the other switchbacks which are either overgrown or damaged by landslides. (Straight ahead the final switchback continues but becomes choked with uluhe ferns). [Due to time constraints and mental fatique, I quit taking notes altogether.]

On the way down the spur ridge, I explored a couple of the middle switchbacks as they intersect the ridge, and wondered to myself if it would be worth obtaining a copy of the original Castle Trail to survey the present condition of the entire footpath (I remember Kost Pankiwskyj telling me that a massive landslide in the 1980's wiped out atleast one or two of the main switchbacks).

En route to the valley floor moving away from the steep west wall, I removed my loppers from my pack and pruned guava branches protruding into the trail. I reached the trailhead on Punalu'u Valley Road at 5:25 p.m., and paused for a moment to reflect on Castle's sad state of affairs.

The walk out of Punalu'u Valley went without harassment, but I had an ace up my sleeve figuratively speaking just in case. All I had to do if confronted was utter the name of the famous woman hiker - "Do you know Charlotte Yamane? She's my friend.". Not only would I have been allowed to depart in peace but probably given a ride back to my car in Hau'ula and an invitation to the luau that night as well! :-) The stroll to Kamehameha Hwy took about half an hour, and then I waited patiently for da bus (aka Wingo Ng's big yellow taxi). While loitering at the bus stop, I gazed at the white sand beach behind me and the impressive flanks jutting out from the steep west wall of Punalu'u Valley.

At 6:12 p.m. the bus arrived and five minutes later the driver dropped me off not far from the pat-mobile.


A copious amount of native flora populate Papali and Waiahilahila Ridges; therefore, tread lightly when visiting this region without picking or otherwise damaging the vegetation.

Stuart Ball writes "Castle is the finest hike on the island. The trail climbs the steep west wall of Punalu'u Valley by a series of spectacular switchbacks. The route then crosses Kaluanui Stream well above Sacred Falls and continues to the top of the Ko'olau Range and the junction with the Ko'olau Summit Trail."* With all due respect to Stuart, Castle, in its present condition, no longer qualifies as the finest hike on O'ahu.


* Ball, Jr., Stuart M. THE HIKERS GUIDE TO O'AHU. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1993.

== Paka

Reply From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us)


Thanks for the writeup. I want to go back up there for several days later this summer. Last year we visited at the very end of April, staying into May. In order to see the flora in a different stage of development, I'm thinking it might be good to go a month or two later. Access could be up Papali or down from the KST. Anyway you do it, it's tough, which is why I'm always preaching the lightweight backpacking gospel.

If you're interested, please let me know now because the group will be limited and it will take some time to coordinate schedules, work out logistics, etc. This is not a through-hike, but more like a trip to Kalalau; the point is to enjoy the place once we get there. There are side valleys up there, for instance, that deserve a good, leisurely look.

You, dear readers, are among the few people in the world with the means and the opportunity to enjoy this unique part of our island. Do you also have the motivation?


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