Though warm, I enjoyed the time out there, for I hadn't been to Kaena for about 30 years. On my previous visit (I must have been 6 or 7 at the time), I remember checking out the tidepools at the Point while my dad blasted bottles for target practice with his .22 rifle. Those same tide pools are out there, at least they look the same as I remember them.
I talked story for a couple minutes with Ruben Mateo, the guy known as the ambassador of Kaena Point. He cruises around in the area, making sure folks don't tear up the dune system and vegetation or disturb the seabirds who nest in the area. Ruben carried a rifle, which he uses to shoot feral cats that inhabit Kaena proper and attack birds and their nests.
One highlight of the hike was that my car didn't get ripped off, a concern when a vehicle is left unattended out in the area past Makaha. (The line from the old Makaha Son's classic comes to mind, "No matter if you lock your doors, da boys going still score"). Da boys must have had the day off on Friday. Amen.
We pedaled to the end of Meheula Parkway, passed the watertanks on the right, and continued along a single lane paved road for maybe a half mile until we reached a junction.
Just as Mike described, a (dirt) road leads mauka while the paved road veers right (makai). The dirt road leads to an open gate with "No Trespassing" signs. Normally, we aren't deterred by such signs but we weren't in the mood to be yelled at so we turned back to check out the makai road.
Like Mike reported, a locked gate blocks further progress along the paved road. However, one can continue via a trail around the fenceline located on the right. The dumping site Mike said he saw is beyond the gate further along the road. Unfortunately, time was against us and we did not continue on beyond the gate to check out the environmental carnage. Another time.
On the way out, we encountered a rifle-carrying hunter hiking along looking for his four dogs. Apparently, his canine corps bolted into the brush after a pig and he was searching from them. He looked bummed, almost like a parent who lost his kids. We wished him well and pedaled off toward Mililani Mauka on a dirt road different from the one we had used earlier.
We soon reached the paved road again right by the watertanks. Instead of pedaling back down Meheula Parkway, we turned left past the tanks and followed the paved road access road downhill to a locked gate right where Konaku and Alakaina Streets meet. We had to climb over the gate and pass the bikes over. The pushed down wire on the top of the gate told us we probably weren't the first to do this (and undoubtedly not the last) :-)
After that, I hopped in my car and headed out to Pupukea (lit. "white shell") to join the HTMC gang for some maintenance work on the Kaunala Trail. The drive from Kaneohe to Pupukea took just under 45 minutes via Likelike, H-1, H-2 through Wahiawa and then Kam Highway (the return trip along the windward coast afterward took me half an hour longer).
I got to the end of Pupukea Road by the Boy Scout camp just before 8am. Trail boss Mabel Kekina "volunteered" me and my vehicle to drive a handful of folks to the trailhead along the dirt/packed coral military road. Mabel and another woman, Bitsy, both with 4x4s, would also act as shuttle drivers. Normally, vehicular access past the Boy Scout camp is stopped by a locked gate, but our trail gang has an ace-in-the-hole in Bill Gorst, a state employee with some clout, and more importantly, the key to this gate (and others--Kahana Valley, Waianae Valley, to name a couple).
So a dozen trail clearers were off in the three vehicles, gray skies overhead. The plan was to drive along the road to a point just past where the Koolau Summit trail begins and drop off half of the group (I wasn't keeping track of the distance on my odometer, but I'd estimate it to be about 2 miles along the road). That group would begin clearing the Kaunala-extended trail while the others would be ferried back in the vehicles to work on the trail starting from the other end.
Well, before we could put that plan into effect, we ran into some problems. We passed the junction where the summit trail begins then reached a point where the road levels out. Thereafter, the road descends quite steeply and becomes severely rutted. To make matters worse, past rains had washed away much of the coral gravel in sections, exposing some hard-packed clay--nasty stuff when dry and even worse when wet.
Well, it was raining when we began our descent of this hill. As I started to head downward, I hesitated, hitting my brakes before I committed. I knew momentum would carry me down this hill (that is, if I could avoid the ruts). But did my Cherokee have the guts to get back up? Big time doubts flashed in my mind. But I proceeded, not wanting to appear like a wimp.
Okay, so down I went for about 50 yards. Then I hit the brakes again when I saw Mabel in her Isuzu Trooper fishtailing and nearly sliding into a deadly looking rut. While momentum helped her through, I thought better of continuing. So I signaled the driver behind me that I was going to reverse back up the hill (or attempt to). Only thing is, my 2WD wimp-mobile couldn't handle. Tire-spin city. And the road is narrow in this section so turning around wasn't an option.
To assist, my passengers (Naomi Nasu, Lita Komura, Jay Feldman) got out and began chopping branches of ironwood trees that lined the road to use for traction on the more slippery parts.
Reverse attempt #2. More tire-spin city.
Meanwhile, Mabel had turned her vehicle around at the bottom of the slope and was attempting to drive back up the rutty, slippery hill she had just gone down. Well, she was doing okay, fishtailing a bit, straddling a deep rut, when that deadly hard (and now wet) clay did her in. Her driver's side tires slid into the rut and then BOOM, her vehicle bottomed out. Stuck fast--all four wheels spinning without touching the ground. Bad, bad news.
So here we were, me unable to reverse and Mabel, about 60-70 yards further downslope, in a worse way. The saving grace for me was the last vehicle in the convoy (Bitsy's Mitsubishi 4x4). She was able to tow me up the hill, almost effortlessly hauling my wimpmobile through some semi-nasty ruts. Okay, so I was out of the woods, as it were.
The saving grace for Mabel was the manpower and resourcefulness of everyone there. Using jacks, tree branches, and piles of rocks gathered from the roadside, after about an hour, we were able to free Mabel's vehicle from its bottomed-out predicament (she was in such a bad spot on the hill that we thought that even Bitsy's 4x4 would have gotten stuck if it attempted to get near where Mabel's vehicle was). Now free, Mabel was able to reverse, reposition her vehicle to straddle the rut, and power her way up the hill. Cheers and high fives all around.
As for the Kaunala Trail, we did get to it. After two hours of machete assault, we opened it up quite nicely so that's it's a freeway now. Go and check it out if you're out in the North Shore area.
Aloha and hike safe, gang, (and send in those hike/trail reports),