OHE March 6, 2000 (Kalauao Loop)

Date: Mon, 6 Mar 2000 10:14:46 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us)
Subject: kalauao loop/ohe

On Saturday Charlotte and Jay accompanied me on an exploration I'd been wanting to do for quite awhile. We made it atop the ridge that separates upper Kalauao Valley from the southmost branch of upper Waimalu Valley. We started at about 8:30 am at the higher terminus of the Aiea Loop Trail and quickly made it to the mauka end of the loop. From there, we followed the Aiea Ridge Trail for another hour or so, up to the 1925' pu'u. The turnoff is obscure and I have to look carefully for it every time. One tipoff is the good view from that point of a massive shoulder, a 200' near-vertical drop as the ridge to the north heads mauka.

The trail was still quite clear even though I hadn't been there for around eight months. I saw no signs that anyone else had been down the trail either, though there were traces of hunters in the streambed even at that high elevation. This is the trail, by the way, that some HTMC trail clearers ascended last year (?). There's a holei tree about 40' to the left of the trail down the spur and another near the bottom. The descent is roughly 800', but it goes fast. Maybe that's just another way of saying that it's steep. Down in the streambed we saw hibicus galore, plus papala kepau, olona, ahakea, and Cyrtandra. What we did not see one drop of was water! Not surprising, given that this February was our driest on record. On my first trip into this area the stream was also dry, and we had to travel about an hour upstream, taking the left fork after a half-hour, in order to find water.

Our plan was to go upstream for a short distance and then climb up the opposite ridge, which is fairly low in that vicinity--only about 150' at its minimum. At a convenient-looking spot we started up and soon found ourselves entangled in 'ie'ie and other hindrances. The slope became more and more vertical, and we were simultaneously trying to avoid a rockface on our left and a steep-sided bowl on our right. In this area we saw a grove of 'ala'a (Pouteria) and numerous lobeliads, more than I've ever seen in one place, probably Cyanea angustifolia. During this time we got our only shower of the day.

Because I was hiking with two such intelligent and experienced people, I somehow wound up in front during this ascent. I played Spiderman for perhaps a half-hour. Eventually I came to a point where I wondered if we were going to be able to continue. There seemed to be no alternative but a climb up a vertical 10' rockface with a few 'ie'ie to hang onto. I waited for Charlotte to catch up to me and she scrambled up with no problem. What could I do but follow, grunting all the way. Jay came after and we found ourselves on the back of a much more congenial spur. We continued up toward the ridgetop with Jay leading the way and in about 15 minutes made it to a wonderful lunchspot--in the sun now--at 12:30 pm.

Orienting ourselves was difficult, but we eventually figured out that we had climbed up to a pu'u between the massive shoulder on our makai side (Charlotte went makai along the ridge by herself during lunch to confirm this) and the deep saddle on our mauka side, which we could see clearly from our mauka-facing lunchspot. Ahead of us, then, we could see impressive Pu'u Kawipo'o, which is a sort of false summit for the Aiea Ridge Trail. On its left was a ridge rising between two forks of Kalauao Stream. Scanning to the left was the mauka continuation of the ridge we were seated on, followed by the southmost fork of Waimalu Valley, a Waimalu middle ridge wanna-be, and then *the* Waimalu Middle Ridge that many of us have hiked. What a view! It was mostly sunny at that point and only the highest points on the middle ridges of Waimalu were socked in. On "our" ridge ahead of us we picked out a distinctive rounded 1800' knoll, which lies just below a 1200' marker on the topo map, and a smaller bump closer to us which we decided to head for after lunch and from which we would descend to the stream.

Off we went again for what we thought would be a much easier journey, but, alas, there was a lot of 'ie'ie along the ridge to the smaller bump. First we had to make a fairly steep descent as we moved mauka along the ridge, maybe 200', followed by a gentler ascent to the bump. Jay actually contoured around the bump and over to the spur heading down into Kalauao, which saved us some work, and then down we went along a moderately steep, moderately difficult route. On return trips, this is the way we will access the ridge between Kalauao and Waimalu. When we again came to the streambed at 2:15 pm, all traces of the light shower had evaporated and there was nothing but dry rocks and dust. We rested and snacked and pondered our exit choices. Should we climb back up the 800' spur to the Aiea Ridge Trail or should we follow the streambed out? Within a mere five minutes we were back at the point where we had originally left the streambed, and in another five minutes we were back at the junction with our route down from Aiea Ridge.

The streambed route won, and we alternated between the trails on the banks and walking in the streambed, since the footing was perfect. We passed several deep pools--sans water--and good camping sites. There was hibiscus all the way, along with some papala kepau, whose sticky pods I stopped to photograph, and a bit of papala. Mostly mountain apple and guava, however. At 4:00 pm we reached the sun rocks, where we stopped for another snack. How sorry I was that no water flowed through the grooves of that flat stone platform! I showed Jay and Charlotte the trail up the opposite slope which Kay and I had taken to the top of Onikiniki Ridge.

On we went, and I soon walked obliviously past the ascender to the Loop Trail. By the time I reached the tall palms I knew we'd gone too far, so we backtracked for five or ten minutes and found our way. That turnoff is very obscure, so we placed some ribbons on the trail. Only then did I notice the rock wrapped with rotting ti, sitting on a boulder beside the trail, which someone had used as a similar reminder.

We decided not to ascend the usual club route via Pu'u Uau, but to continue along the contour trail that dips into three or four gullies before heading straight up a spur to one of the powerlines near the start of the trail. By 5:30 we were back at the cars. We'd had a long day and, aside from the first half-mile of the loop trail, had not retraced our steps. Now we have a direct route from the Aiea Loop Trail, along the Aiea Ridge Trail, down into Kalauao, and up onto the ridge overlooking upper Waimalu. Do I hear you saying, "Why?" Hmmm...I enjoy this type of poking about for one thing, but I also envision multi-day trips to explore upper Kalauao and Waimalu. Now we have a relatively easy way to get there.

Many thanks to my companions. I noticed something curious about their responses to the various challenges of the day. When things were generally flat and clear and easy, they would gripe in the most mournful way about climbing the smallest slope. But the harder things got, the sunnier their dispositions. After we had made it up the steep and congested climb to our lunchspot and I was expecting them to push me off the pu'u, they said, "We *like* this kind of hike!" What perfect hiking partners. When all was said and done, I guess they really did consider it a piece of cake.


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