OHE May 28, 1998

Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 21:26:50 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Mokauea-Kapalama

After spending most of the day lounging around at home (I'm on vacation), I decided a workout hike was in order to balance the calorie consumption/burn scale somewhat. Yesterday, my buddy Bill Melemai and I spent a couple of hours in the late afternoon doing some saw and machete work on the Kapalama Loop Trail. We also ran into some access problems with Kamehameha security afterward, of which I won't elaborate except to say all ended well after a confusing interrogation.

Anyway, wanting to continue to do some work on that same trail but looking to avoid hassles, I figured I'd try a different access route than through Kamehameha Schools. About a year ago, Mae Moriwaki mentioned hiking with friends on a route that started at DeCorte Playground, a small community park on Perry Street in lower Kalihi Valley. Behind DeCorte is a ridge that eventually intersects with the main Kapalama Ridge that continues all the way to Lanihuli and also which the Kapalama Loop trail is situated.

I arrived at DeCorte at 4 and while I put on my Nike Sharks (footwear ala Paka-lolo), I watched a bunch of local teens playing pickup basketball at the park (every missed shot accompanied by "F*#K"). Wearing gaiters, a puka orange shirt, a boonie hat, Sharks, and carrying a machete, I obviously looked out of place in the 'hood and the stares from the teens confirmed this. But even with superior numbers, they must have thought it unwise to hassle a big dude brandishing a sharp weapon, so I hiked past them without incident.

I didn't spot any obvious trail on the slope behind the courts so I just climbed the first likely route. After a bit of scrambling and some minor bush-bashing, in less than five minutes I had reached the ridge's crest, about 300 feet elevation, give or take. Before heading mauka, I put two pink ribbons to mark the spot so I'd know where to turn down on the return trip.

Actually, I was hoping I wouldn't have to return the same way, thinking that I'd eventually hook up with Bill, who told me he'd be driving up to Kamehameha again today to continue to work on the loop trail. If I did meet Bill, I'd hike out to the trailhead at Kamehameha and catch a ride back to Perry Street.

The trudge up this ridge, which I'll call Mokauea since the topo map shows a benchmark with this name near its base, was a gradual uphill grind. The trail didn't appear to be used heavily but the route was discernible enough though generally ribbonless. From an open pu'u, down to the right I could see the main Kamehameha Schools access road as it switchbacked to climb to Kapalama Heights. Further up across the way was a large building that once was the high school cafeteria where I ate many a meal (we were fed well at Kamehameha).

With memories of shepherd's pie (awesome stuff) and apple cobbler (the best frosting ever) filling my thoughts, upward I marched, most of the way through face-high ironwoods. Fortunately, this stuff isn't scratchy but being repeatedly brushed in the eye with ironwood needles can be irritating. The trail passes a couple interesting boulder formations and the fenceline (complete with American flags) of a property owner on the Kalihi Valley side of the ridge. I also walked past a lean-to someone had constructed out of ironwood branches and a couple of faint trails heading to the left to the Kalihi Valley side.

After 30 minutes, I was beyond the point of any homes in the dell between Mokauea and Kamanaiki. Consequently, the going became quieter and devoid of barking dogs, crowing roosters, revving car motors and yelling kids. It's funny how walking alone in the forest changes when the sounds of civilization aren't there anymore. A bit eerie.

Because I've had some bad luck with fauna in the bush recently (recall the Malaekahana rat attack and the shrieking mystery animals of Waimano), I made sure to make my presence obvious while hiking today, saying stuff like "I'm here, pua'a" or "Coming through, Porky." Once in awhile I'd also let out a loud whoop to alert Bill of my presence if he were in hearing range. While the former noise-making worked (no pua'a encounters), the latter brought no return whoops from my buddy.

As I moved higher up the ridge, I could see my position relative to Kamanaiki Ridge to the left and Kapalama Ridge to the right. I was surprised at how far mauka I had proceeded after an hour of hiking. At about the 1400-foot point, the ridge swung noticeably to the right as it approached its union with Kapalama main. It was here where I first encountered uluhe but a noticeable swath existed through it or else the trail contoured around it.

A memorable landmark was a leaf-covered slope populated by tall trees, perhaps a kind of eucalyptus but I can't be sure. Near the top of this slope was what appeared to be a contour trail to the right. A pig trail? Part of the Kapalama loop complex? Can't be sure.

After skirting around the top of this slope, I broke out into the open where I could see the final approach to Kapalama main (10-15 minutes away, perhaps). It was 5:15 by this time and not wanting to chance being caught out in the dark, I decided to head back instead of push on. I let loose with several bellowing whoops for Bill but heard no reply. I put a long ribbon to mark the spot and began the return trip.

On the way down, I added more ribbons to the handful I had affixed on the ascent, and in about 40 minutes, I was at the double-ribbons. Instead of bush-bashing as I had done at the start, I continued makai along the ridge, hoping to find a used route down to DeCorte. And 20 yards beyond my ribbons I found it. On the way down, I startled a small pua'a which went sprinting off makai through the brush. Within earshot of the pua'a were the sounds of teens playing basketball (different teens, same vocab). Maybe the pig hung out there because it liked to listen to kids swearing.

In any case, I emerged from the bushes at DeCorte, machete in hand, sweat-soaked, a bit dirty, and probably looking like someone not to mess with. As it turned out, the kids, more intent with harassing and swearing at each other, paid me no mind. So aboard my Cherokee I went and homeward to Kaneohe I drove.

With an earlier start, I'll have to return to complete the ridge to Kapalama main and perhaps continue upridge to another junction with Kamanaiki. A big loop, perhaps? Maybe.

--DKT Return to OHE top | Return to Oahu Hike Tales | Email Dayle