OHE March 5, 2000 (Pu'u o Hulu--Kuliouou)

Date: Sun, 5 Mar 2000 20:20:34 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu)
Subject: West-East Twinbill

With some time on my hands and some energy to burn, I was able to hike on Oahu's west and east ends yesterday (Sat, 3/4). The first hike was Pu'u o Hulu with the HTMC. I first hiked o Hulu back in Jan. 98, also with the club [ www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Jan98/1-31.html ] and was looking forward to a return trek and also a chance to hike on the Waianae side since I don't regularly get out that way. I especially enjoy the drive out to the Waianae Coast, especially when I go past Kahe Point and all those ridges and puus come into view.

Prior to the hike, we rendezvoused at 8:45 in Nanakuli in back of Nanakuli McDonald's and in front of the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. Fred Dodge, a physician at the WCCHC, was the coordinator of the outing and he got an assist from Stuart Ball, who met folks out at Iolani Palace and directed them to the Nanakuli meeting point. Twenty-four hikers signed up for the outing, and among the folks I remember seeing were Steve Poor, his wife and daughter, Justin Ohara, Carole Wood, Peter Kempf, Evelia Torres, and Ed Gilman.

Fred had us head to Kaukama Road, about a two-mile drive from McDonald's and the first street Makaha-side of Pu'u o Hulu. There are actually two o Hulus--Kai (the one closest to the ocean) and Uka (the inland one), and the outing Fred had planned for us had us first climb to Pu'u o Hulu Kai.

From Kaukama, we scrambled steeply up a slope, crossed a concrete culvert, and then resumed steady ascending up the rocky ridge. About halfway up, there was a 10-foot rockface to negotiate and after climbing it I hung out there to help some other folks scale it. I recognized the tell-tale what-the-hell-is-that? look on some people's faces as they eyed the rockface, and I gave assurances that if a lumbering lummox like me could get up the rock, so too could they.

After assisting some folks, I resumed the ascent. After the 10-foot face, a more imposing one loomed upridge of it, but the trail swung left to contour along the base of the larger face and after 100 meters, the path headed upward again to beeline to the summit of o Hulu Kai (elev. 856 ft.)

Waiting at one of the bunkers there were Ed, Justin, and another hiker. Just behind me was a female hiker, who I found out later is an unemployed art teacher recently transplanted from Oregon. At the summit bunker, we spent a few minutes resting, talking story, and enjoying the panoramic views. The sight of the richly-blue, placidly-flat ocean below was especially mesmorizing. Inland we could see o Hulu Uka, massive Lualualei Valley to the left, and the cloudless Waianae summit crest.

From the summit of o Hulu Kai, we descended steadily along the dry, rock, open ridge, scrambling to the left or right of a few rockfaces as we hiked along. At one point, I spotted two hikers in the distance making their way toward us after cresting out on o Hulu Uka. These two were Peter and Evelia, well known as two of the speediest hikers in the club.

When we reached the saddle by the watertank, Peter and Evelia arrived there simultaneously. Not enthused about reascending the ridge to o Hulu Kai, Peter told us he and Evelia were going to scramble down to the Lualualei side of the saddle and walk (or run?) back to their cars on Kaukama once down on level ground. The art teacher female expressed an interest in this venture and, as far as I know, accompanied Peter and Evelia.

Meanwhile, Justin, Ed, and I continued on toward the high point of o Hulu Uka, reaching there in 10 to 15 minutes from the saddle. We rested for a few minutes at that vantage point, taking in the view of the back of Lualualei and massive Pu'u Heleakala, directly mauka of us. At one point, we heard a pig squealing in terror from a farm on the Lualualei side. A pua'a destined for an imu? Probably.

We retraced our steps back to the watertank saddle and then began ascending toward o Hulu Kai. About halfway between the saddle and Kai, we began encountering other hikers from our group descending toward the saddle. It was interesting to stop and chat with folks as we met them. Because it was such a warm day, few seemed interested in hiking all the way to Uka, and most mentioned they were going to hike down the watertank road that snakes down to the Nanakuli side of the ridge and bottoms out on Hakimo Road.

As Ed, Justin, and I neared the summit of Kai, we met a female hiker, formerly from Hong Kong, who had decided to forgo the descent to the saddle after doing half of it. She was hiking with a friend who went no further than the summit of o Hulu Kai ("She was scared," said the Hong Kong wahine).

When the four of us reached the bunker at the high point of Kai, we sat down there to rest. I hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I dug out a can of Vienna sausage from my pack and in less than five minutes the sausages were devoured. Meanwhile, Justin and the Hong Kong wahine engaged in a discussion about a variety of fruits.

After the rest/lunch stop, we began heading down the ridge toward Kaukama. Not far downridge of the summit bunker, we spotted newly placed ribbons heading off to the right. In his prehike briefing, Fred had mentioned an old jeep road as a possible descent route in place of the steep ridge from Kaukama we had ascended earlier. Maybe this was it.

The ribbons indeed marked a switchback trail that may at one time been a jeep road/mule trail used by the military to access the ridgetop bunkers. The route was obscure and overgrown with dry grass and parched/dead kiawe and haole koa. But we didn't have much trouble following it. The uppermost switchback contoured mauka for maybe an eighth of a mile before changing direction to swing makai.

On one of the lower switchbacks, we lost the route. At that point, we spotted Stuart through the grass and dead trees jotting notes (for addition to a revised version of his book?) about 50 meters below our position, and we pushed our way through shin-high grass to get to where he stood.

When we reached Stuart, he told us others from the group had come down this way and had already departed. Stuart pointed the direction we needed to head, and resuming along the old road/trail, in about five minutes we emerged on Kaukama Road between street light poles 10 and 11. This location is roughly 100 meters mauka of the place we had gone up to start the hike. The switchback route, though overgrown and longer than the direct route to Kai, avoids the rockface climb.

From Nanakuli, I headed back toward Pearl City, where I stopped at Diner's Waimalu for lunch (roast pork and tossed salad). Right by Diner's is City Mill and I dropped in there to purchase some trail marking ribbon and a new pair of gloves (the orange ones with plastic dimples) for hiking and trail clearing (my current pair is riddled with pukas).

I gave some thought to heading home to take a nap, but because it was still early (2:00) and since I felt okay, I decided to drive out to Kuliouou Valley to check on part of the route for a hike I'll coordinate on 3/18. I arrived at Kalaau Place at 2:30 and grabbed one of the rolls of ribbon I just bought, one hiking pole, and my pack and headed off.

I signed the log in the check-in mailbox at the trailhead and noted about a dozen other entries in the log for the day. I hiked up the Kuliouou Valley Trail, passing the signed junction with the ridge trail in about five minutes. It appears that Na Ala Hele has down some maintenance work on the valley trail recently, based on the signs of weed-whacking and sawed trees I saw.

To my surprise, I encountered a group of 8-10 hikers resting in a clearing under some kukui trees about 30 minutes in. A woman from the group asked where I was headed, and I explained my objective to put up some ribbons further up the valley. Not far after seeing the group, I met a young couple heading makai down the trail. "Is this the way to get up to the ridge?" asked the female. I explained where they had missed the turn to head up to the ridge, and the couple looked at each other with that see-we-should-have-turned-there gaze.

Eventually, the trail entered the stream and continued for a while until reaching a fork. Where I felt these would help, I put up ribbons, especially up the left fork, which led to a dry waterfall chute and then to a rough trail on the right of the chute that climbs steeply to the west ridge of Kuliouou (the state trail is on the east ridge).

I marked the start of the rough trail and went no further. I noted on my altimeter watch that the elevation at this spot was 1,020 feet, an elevation gain of nearly 700 feet from the trailhead on Kalaau Place. Another 1/3 of a mile and 1,200 feet of elevation gain is required to reach the crest of Kuliouou West, a stiff ascent and a nice test of lung and leg power. But I had done enough for the day, and back down the valley trail I went.

About 15 minutes into the return leg, I met a hiking trio--two wahines and a guy heading mauka. Seeing me in my sweaty state, they asked where I'd been. I explained what I'd done and why, and they expressed interest in joining the club for some outings. I told them they'd be welcomed.

When I reached the check-in mailbox, I signed out. While doing so, I noticed that a half dozen entries were made in the log in the two hours I was up in the valley. One name was a former student of mine. :-) Kuliouou was a busy venue on this day, for sure.

Feeling a need for hydration, I stopped at the Texaco Foodmart in Hawaii Kai to purchase a cold drink and then enjoyed a relaxing drive home to Kaneohe via Kalanianaole Highway past Sandy Beach, Makapuu, and Waimanalo.

It was a good day.


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