OHE March 22, 1999 (Pu'u Kaua et al)

Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 10:25:51 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@mailhost.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Pu'u Kaua Options

Saturday, March 20, was a pretty lousy day for hiking on Oahu (gusty trades 20 to 35 mph, frequent passing showers, clouds inundating both major mountain ranges). Most hikers would have stayed home or done something else but Laredo and I aren't like most hikers. The day provided an excellent opportunity to scratch off some less important items from our hiking agenda.

We met at the new Moanalua library in Salt Lake and car pooled in the Pat-mobile to Kunia to check out the Waianae summit crest from Pu'u Kaua to Kanehoa among other things. Although my vehicle is equipped with four-wheel-drive, Laredo and I experienced some fish tail action while traveling on the muddy pineapple road in route to the trailhead. Noticed a couple of other vehicles parked nearby during the final approach.

Following final preps the two of us entered the woods at 10:40 a.m. Within fifteen minutes we arrived at the junction with the Honouliuli contour trail and went right (north) to check out the graded footpath to see what kind of shape it was in and to discover how far/long it would take to get to the ridge leading to the Kanehoa peak.

Laredo and I hiked for about an hour encountering a group of young people led by a woman from the nature conservancy (they were busy gathering native koa seeds for a reforestation project). Fortunately, Laredo did not utter any words which would incriminate us (we did not have permission to be in the area - so what else is new!). The low cloud cover/fog and the tall trees below the trail made it difficult to evaluate our progress. We kept looking for the green backboard which is close to the Kanehoa Trailhead but could only make out the Wheeler landing strip and pineapple fields. It appeared that we were atleast two ridges away from our goal when we decided to turn around. Despite four blowdowns and an increase in vegetation encroaching upon the footpath, the Honouliuli Trail is in fairly good shape between the Kaua Trail and our turn around point, a distance of approximately 2.5 miles.

About noon Laredo and I began backtracking toward Kaua. Shortly before 1 p.m. we departed the contour trail and ascended, steeply at times, bound for the summit of Pu'u Kaua. We pushed hard for the top feeling our leg muscles burn and our lungs gasp for air from the work out.

At 1:38 p.m. the two of us reached the summit (elev. 3,127 ft - the fourth highest peak on Oahu) and sat down in a clearing made recently by some campers to consume lunch. Views were just about nonexistant but the spot afforded protection from the strong gusts.

Energized and rested, Laredo and I tramped along the crest toward Kanehoa around 2 p.m. A swath existed thru uluhe and we folled it until arriving at a steep drop-off. The steep descent did not block further progress but a rope would have been helpful to get beyond it. The main reason we decided to head back to the summit at that point wasn't due to the drop-off, rain or high winds but because of the plethora of native vegetation along the crest. It didn't make sense to obliterate some of the flora for the sake of exploration.

Having regained the summit of Kaua, the two of us headed toward Palikea at 2:10 p.m. with the desire to complete the Kaua loop as described in "Hiker's Guide". Laredo and I experienced "the excitement of getting there" fueled by the gusty trade winds and rain drops which stung our faces as we carefully negotiated the open, rocky crest of the Waianae Range. Recognized the Wahiawa Plain lit up briefly by the sun and a small section of Lualualei Valley on the leeward side of the crest. Otherwise, the clouds continued to block any significant vistas.

Descended very steeply at a marked junction (blue ribbon tied around a rock) back into the forest. Initially, a narrow swath exists accompanied by a few ribbons tied periodically to trees on the downward leg but then the "trail" all but disappears. I told Laredo that we should gradually veer left as we made our way down looking for the path of least resistance. For the most part, this strategy worked although we did end up in a gully or two before taking a side ridge to the Honouliuli contour which brought us back to the Kaua Trail.

Emerged from the woods at 3:20 p.m. and survived the nerve racking thrill ride along the muddy pineapple road to Kunia Road.

With so much time left in the day, Laredo and I headed for Schofield Barracks East Range to check off another item on the list-of-things-to-do. >From Kunia Road we turned right onto Wilikina Drive (Rte 99) then made another right onto Kamehameha Hwy. Across from the Wheeler air base main gate at a traffic light we accomplished a left onto Higgins Road and eventually passed the NCO Academy on the left. Upon entering the Army's East Range the pat-mobile crossed a bride which fords a pair of lovely man-made waterfalls. At a junction we veered right and descended slightly. The dirt/gravel road took us to the entrance to the Waikakalaua Tunnel.

Laredo and I had intended on exploring the abandoned World War II aircraft assembly point on foot but the entrance was wide enough for the pat-mobile to enter so in we went! While in transit during one stretch I turned off the lights and we experienced total darkness! Whoa! Spooky!

After touring the tunnel I drove us back to Kamehameha Hwy and onto H-2. We headed for Aliamanu Crater and a date with another abandoned military structure, the old underground command center located amongst the military housing. On previous occasions I visited the area with others using the cloak of darkness but this time we would take our chances in the daylight. I will not disclose the route to the opening because the command center is Diggy's baby. Last year he was nice enough to take a group of OHE-L'ers inside the first time so I'll respect his desire to keep the exact location a secret.

Using flashlights, Laredo and I explored the many rooms and long corridors of this fascinating man-made structure. The two of us got to and from the "trailhead" without any problem due to the fact that I have the military look (haole, clean cut, extremely short hair, slightly muscular). Of course, Laredo's red hair didn't exactly fit in! It is best to go at night, however (less likely to be spotted and its scarier!).

The two of us returned to my vehicle after 6 p.m. and I drove Laredo to his truck in the library parking lot.

== Paka

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