OHE March 23, 1998 (b)

Date: Mon, 23 Mar 1998 00:12:25 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Nihoa Gulch with the HTMC

I headed to the North Shore today to assist Steve Poor with the HTMC members-only hike called Nihoa Gulch. We met initially at 9:15 in the parking lot by the Dillingham Airfield control tower. After a briefing by Steve, we carpooled to the lot across from Camp Erdman where we started the 6-mile loop hike. I caught a ride in OHE-L member Dick Beaton's truck. Mahalo for the lift, Dick.

After a final briefing by Steve, fifteen club members, including Dr. Wing Ng, began the hike at 9:30 under overcast skies and with a cool nip in the air. The trail passed a set of cabins/huts on the right and then proceeded into a forest of koa haole. At a junction in the forest, we headed right and began an 1,100-foot climb (the trail to the left leads to Nihoa Gulch and a series of dry waterfalls). We followed a well-marked and well-cleared path (mahalo to Mabel Kekina and the HTMC trail clearing gang for their fine work) as it contoured upslope along the base of a huge rockface. In about 15 minutes, we reached a windy overlook that we climbed to with the aid of a cable (a rickety wooden ladder was once used as an ascent aid here but has been tossed aside because of its marginal dependability).

We continued upslope, switching back on occasion but generally moving left to right up the mountainside. Thanks to a plethora of small trees and other vegetation, we were never in any dangerously exposed positions while climbing. Underfoot, the ground was generally crumbly and eroded and the ascent would have been trickier if rain had hit at the time or the night prior. In a few places where handholds were lacking, tan cables with loops were available for assistance.

In about 45 minutes, we had worked our way to the right side of the ridgeline to another overlook with excellent views of the Mokuleia coastline and of the adjacent mountainside where we spotted a couple of rock climbers attempting an ascent. After a short rest, we continued upslope for the final 15 minute climb to the crest of the mountainside.

At the pre-hike briefing, Steve had mentioned that an ironwood grove at the top of the ridge would be a nice place for lunch, but since we reached this point so early (10:30), no one stopped to eat there. Instead, we tramped onward, climbing gently on a broad ridge for 15 minutes until we reached a jeep road.

The road walk segment took two hours to complete. During this time, Wing, Steve, a couple other gentlemen (can't recall their names) and I cruised along at a leisurely pace, talking story and enjoying the jaunt in the mountains. Meanwhile, the others pushed ahead more rapidly. Steve, a Kahuku High history teacher, was particularly interested in looking for pepeiao, an edible type of fungus, and also the various fern species along the way. He wanted to share information about these with his students.

For those planning to do this hike, remember to head left and down at the signed junction with Ke'eke'e Road. After dropping into Ke'eke'e Gulch and climbing makai out of it, a bluff with an overlook of the ocean will be reached. At this bluff, a rutted, overgrown jeep road descends makai downslope while the main road heads right and up. Either option will lead to the Mokuleia firebreak road that is part of the Kealia trail. The downhill route is slightly longer (by about 5 minutes) but is more tree-covered and pleasant.

At just past 12:30, we arrived at the top of the Kealia switchbacks (point C in Ball's book [p. 214]) and hiked downslope for a few minutes until we reached a spot where we scrambled 10 yards above the trail to a slope with a nice view of the shoreline. Here, Wing, Steve, the two gentleman and I stopped to eat lunch. About 800 feet below, we could see members of our group emerging from the koa haole forest and heading to their cars by the Dillingham control tower where we had assembled in the morning. We also watched planes landing and taking off from the airfield and several gliders swooping but a couple hundred feet from where we sat. Rain, a precious commodity on Oahu in recent weeks, massed in white sheets a mile offshore and also over the Koolaus in the Pupukea area. Good-sized waves roared landward, whipping the ocean a frothy white in the process. Super views!

We ended our lunch break at 1:15 and continued down the switchbacks. On our way out, we passed a dozen or so people heading topside. We also checked out a 1934 "CCC" (Civilian Conservation Corps) engraving on a trailside rockface and stopped to examine some wild tobacco plants growing along the trail. Just before 2:00, we arrived at our vehicles by the control tower. Everyone else had completed the hike and had headed home by then, save for Mike Algiers, who had waited around to return something to Steve. Mike also gave me some pictures he had taken on a several previous hikes (a prior hike up Nihoa, Olympus to Konahuanui, Pu'u o Hulu). Mahalo to him for the pics.

In all, even with the long road walk, this was a great hike, and thanks to the cool, overcast conditions, I drank less than half the water in my 100 oz. camelback reservoir. I'll certainly do this trek again.


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