OHE May 20, 1999 (Papali-Castle)

Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 07:05:56 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Papali-Castle

Chris Atkinson, Jay Feldman, Jason Sunada, Charlotte Yamane, her nephew Jay, Kirby Young, and I spent six hours hiking in the mountains above Hauula yesterday. The skies were overcast at times, clear and sunny at others, and the winds were moderate 10-15 mph trades. Overall, the outing went well.

We began hiking at 9:45 and our initial access point was the Papali Loop Trail which begins at the end of Hauula Homestead Road. Charlotte knows the people who live in a house right next to the Papali Trail, and she obtained permission for us to park in front of the house and gain access to the loop from its backyard. This saved us a few minutes of hiking and allowed us to leave our cars in a safe location. Mahalo to Charlotte and her friends for that luxury.

After hopping a rock wall from the yard to the trail, we began to ascend. Papali switches back several times to gain elevation, and while climbing, we passed a recently built picnic shelter, the same as the ones situated on Manana, Waimano, Waianae Kai, and other trails. Thanks go to the Boy Scouts, Na Ala Hele, and whoever helped to build these.

At a junction in the trail, we headed right to continue on the loop in a counterclockwise direction. Ten minutes later, at the highest point of Papali, we veered right from the loop trail to climb a ridge (I'll call it Papali Extended) that eventually intersects with Waiahilahila Ridge, also referred to as the Nipple Trail or Kamapua'a by the HTMC. Pat Rorie recently posted a write-up about a trek he did up Papali Extended (PE) as did Brandon Stone.

Though a bit brushy, the footpath on PE was easy to follow. This past weekend's rains weren't enough to counteract the lengthy dry spell we've had, so the footing was fairly good along the way. The climb to the junction with Waiahilahila was a good workout, with a steady ascent over a series of nobs on the ridge putting lungs and legs to the test. Near the top, the ridge dropped down to a saddle, and we endured a final climb to the junction. Plenty of native plants lined the trail, and Charlotte commented that whoever did clearing work was careful not to hack them.

Once we reached the Nipple Trail, we continued mauka along it, our goal being the Castle Trail. We had hoped to reach the junction with Castle by noon, but after ascertaining our position and progress, we scaled back that plan, stopping to rest and eat lunch along the Nipple Trail at a pu'u situated just before the ridge makes a distinct leftward swing. While we hiked to our lunchspot, a red helicopter hovered in the area above Sacred Falls. Seeing it, we expressed our hope that its crew wouldn't spot us and order us from the mountain. Either the chopper crew didn't see our party or if they did, they didn't bother us. Good deal in either case.

We spent a relaxing thirty minutes for lunch, and the conversation focused on hikes (what else?) of various kinds. Jason, for example, talked about an aborted attempt he made with friends to descend from the north rim of Haleakala to the Hana Highway between Keanae and Hana, and Charlotte reminisced about hikes she'd done in the Hauula-Mauka area with HTMC daredevil Al Miller. Great stuff from two accomplished hikers. Famished, I devoured my Gardenburger and pickle sandwich while listening with great interest to the stories. Seeing how hungry I was, Charlotte offered me some extra sushi she had.

We were up and moving again by 12:30, and after more rollercoaster hiking we reached the heavily ribboned junction with Castle by 1:15. At a panoramic pu'u not far before the junction, we stopped for a short rest, noticing a section of Castle etched into a facing ridge right before the trail arrives at a notch overlooking Punaluu Valley. I've been up the Nipple trail several times but yesterday's trip was the clearest visibility I've experienced. The upper Sacred Falls/Kaluanui wilderness is impressive, and we were just specks in this massive natural arena.

Castle to the stream crossing was in nice shape, thanks to the recent work of Brandon and friends. The trail was only mildly muddy, and we made good time to Kaluanui Stream, needing only about 20 minutes.

There are two dramatic points on the descent of Castle. The first is when the trail makes the transition from a sheltered ravine into the gulch where Kaluanui Stream lies. From a quiet, windless trudge, one suddenly emerges in a realm alive with the sound of flowing water and the caress of sweet trade winds. The stream sits a hundred feet below and the trail contours high above it for a bit before dropping gradually via switchbacks to its bank. A great moment.

We spent twenty minutes relaxing by the stream. Charlotte collected cuttings of native hibiscus for home garden plantings; Chris took a dip in a small pool; Jay Feldman explored a bit upstream; meanwhile, the rest of us kicked back on the rocks. At one point, some ominous clouds rolled by overhead, and we took that as our cue to get moving.

Having roused ourselves, we paused briefly at the campsite on the far side of the stream, and Charlotte mentioned that back in the early 80s, she led an HTMC backpack campout up Castle to this spot with about 30 folks in attendance.

Makai of the stream, Castle was much brushier than the mauka segment, but we pushed through without mishap. In about twenty minutes, we arrived at the second dramatic spot on Castle: the point where it emerges through a notch to an overlook high above Punaluu Valley. This overlook is a "wow" location, and Jay suggested we should call this Centipede Notch because of Chris's close encounter with a 100-legged buggah while we rested there.

From the notch, Castle is cut into the steep Punaluu-facing side of the mountain, similar to how the Waikane Trail was honed into the Kahana-facing wall of the pali. After about a quarter mile, Castle becomes impossibly overgrown, and we abandoned it to descend a steep spur extending right to left toward the floor of Punaluu Valley.

Non-muddy conditions prevailed on the descent of the spur, which made this leg fairly routine. About halfway down, we joined the Castle switchbacks again, using pink and/or blue ribbons to guide us. Most of the switchbacks still in use are on the right side of the spur with one on the left. Most of this segment is badly overgrown with uluhe and clidemia, and crumbled rocks and stones pepper the path, making foot placement and balance a challenge. A few tree blowdowns and small landslides also mar the trail. This steady degradation is a pity, and I foresee Castle being lost to nature if work isn't done in the next few years.

Right before Castle met the valley road, we stopped to regroup so we could walk out together. Hikers without permission have been confronted in the valley, so we thought hiking out en masse would be preferable if such a confrontation took place. By our lucky stars, a truck drove by just as we were about to drop down from the trail to the valley road. The driver and his passenger didn't see us, to our relief. A bit further down the road, another truck turned into a side road 100 feet in front of us. This time, the driver surely spotted us but for reasons unknown he continued on his way without a word. We lucked out again.

Confrontation-free, we emerged at 4 p.m. onto paved Green Valley Road where Charlotte's nephew Jay had left his truck in the morning. We jumped into his vehicle and motored over to Hauula Homestead Road where the rest of our cars were. Once back at our vehicles, Jay Feldman shared some drinks and pretzels with us, and after a half hour of kicking back, we bid each other farewell and headed home.

** As a sidenote, Jay, Charlotte, and Bill Gorst have established a ritual of hiking on Wednesdays. Next week, I'll be joining them for an ascent of Lanihuli via Mo'ole Ridge. Anyone wanting to come along can email me for specific details.

Safe hiking,


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