OHE May 24, 1999 (Pauao Ridge)

Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 00:04:58 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Pauao Ridge

Sunday dawn. I'm up earlier than usual to prepare for the day's trail clearing outing. A quick check of the sky reveals a mass of clouds hovering around the Koolaus from Lanihuli to Keahiakahoe. The grass in my front yard is damp, no doubt from light overnight rain.

I prepare a sandwich for lunch, pack four liters of water, gather my gear, and motor off a bit past 6:30. I rendezvous in Kaneohe with Jay Feldman, and Jay drives us to Waikele McDonald's, where we meet Pat Rorie, Ralph Valentino, Chris Atkinson, and Mabel Kekina at 7 a.m.

We load our things into Mabel's maroon Isuzu Trooper, and she drives us past Wahiawa to the head of the Poamoho Trail. The road leading to the trailhead has been recently bulldozed, but some sections aren't packed down and are mucky, and the Trooper fishtails a bit at the worst spots.

Another vehicle is at the trailhead when we arrive there, and its occupants are about to do some target shooting. The thing is they have set up their targets--six or seven half-gallon plastic milk containers--right at the trailhead. Mabel talks to the guys about the danger of target practice at that spot, and they agree to relocate.

Meanwhile, Jay, Pat, Ralph, Chris, and I make final checks of our gear, and when Mabel returns from lecturing the gun guys, we thank her for the ride and bid her farewell. "If all goes well, we'll see you this afternoon," I say. Jay laughs nervously at my remark. It's 8:06 a.m. by Jay's watch.

The sky is still cloudy when we begin hiking. This isn't so tragic since the coolness helps us hike at a rapid clip without overheating. Weather forecasts call for mostly sunny skies for the day; plus, trade winds are supposed to replace the Kona conditions of the past several days. Knowing this, I remain optimistic.

A few minutes up the trail, we try to spot the pu'u we hiked to during last Sunday's Kaukonahua Stream outing. Pat and I think we've pinpointed it, but we find no clear sign of a trail descending from Poamoho down to the stream. Admittedly, we don't look closely for a descending trail since our main objective is to summit Poamoho quickly.

And we do, reaching the Cline memorial at the end of the trail an hour after launching. To prepare for the impending Koolau Summit Trail mudbath and the subsequent vegetation onslaught when we begin clearing, I put on long pants, something I rarely do when hiking or doing trail maintenance. Experience tells me to cover up today. Ralph shares some li hing mango, which I gobble down.

We resume hiking at 9:15, plodding through the infamous mud of the KST. "Don't fight it," Pat suggests to Jay when he sees him dancing around mudholes instead mushing right through them. Clouds obscure views to windward. Meanwhile, Pat brings our attention to many trailside lobelia.

In ten minutes, we arrive at the fairly new Poamoho Cabin and spend some time examining its interior. Two double-decker bunks occupy the cabin's back wall. A shuttered window next to the front door opens to the north. There is ample room for six to eight to sleep on the floor of the cabin. A couple could even sleep on the porch.

Leaving the cabin behind, we continue south on the KST, which soon makes a transition to the windward-facing slope of the pali. Like a charm, the clouds dissipate and spread before us are the green amphitheaters of Punaluu and Kahana Valleys. Seeing this, cheers erupt from our group. Pat points out the sloping shoulder of Pauao Ridge, which we'll descend to Kahana, clearing as we do. In collaboration, a throng of HTMC colleagues are working from the bottom-up, and we hope to meet them as expediently as possible, trail conditions and our energy dictating how soon.

Before reaching the point where we'll leave the summit trail to begin descending, we startle a black pig that must have weighed over 100 pounds. As we yell "pua'a!!" the porker bulldozes through the brush and disappears over a low leeward-facing hill.

Located at a KST windward section, Pauao Ridge (its high point is 2,680 feet above sea level) is marked by a single red ribbon. I tie a triple pink ribbon to bring more attention to this junction, and after readying ourselves, we begin the descent, Pat taking the ramrod, a spot he'll maintain until we meet our ascending colleagues. It is a couple minutes past 10 a.m. "We're doing good," says Pat of the time we've needed to reach the descent point.

As is usually the case with a virgin or rarely-hiked ridge, the ground underfoot is loose and slippery in spots. On occasion, we tread on dead vegetation or fallen trees, and during one of these times Ralph says, "I'll be glad to be hiking on dirt again." Soon enough we are, and we continue descending steeply, clearing back clidemia and uluhe on the way. At a couple points, we can see south and notice the Waikane Trail etched into the massive mountainside below Pu'u Kaaumakua. We realize we had a part in keeping that trail open, and we're proud.

While we descend, stretched out before us is the length of Pauao Ridge which extends to Pu'u Piei and beyond to Kam Hwy by Kahana Bay. We scan downslope for any sign of our bottom-up colleagues, and on several occasions we whoop out, listen to the echo from the valley below, and then for a return shout. Nothing.

At no point do we need ropes to descend. Vegetation handholds are plentiful, footholds are generally decent, and when these are lacking, we simply execute controlled slides to drop down a pitch. While good for handholds, the vegetation also offers security from steep dropoffs left and right, and I never feel endangered while heading down. Jay and I tie ribbons at times, these being of the "feel-good" variety since going astray on the upper ridge is improbable.

When we reach a point where the angle of descent eases a bit, we stop to look back at the ridge we've just come down. It's steeper than we realized, and Chris and I marvel that we've made it down without need of ropes. But looks are deceptive, and we know that coming down (or going up) can be done. Hopefully, when the club hikes this ridge in a couple of weeks, some of the most intrepid will push through to the summit. Pat indicates that he'll do the club hike and encourage a group to continue south on the KST and descend Waikane.

Around 11, we spot something moving far downridge. Our yells are returned. We spot more movement, and this turns out to be our colleagues working their way toward us. Can we meet up before noon? We're hopeful we can.

As things turn out, the top-down team meets the bottom-up team around 12:15. We retreat downslope for a few minutes and settle down on a level portion of the ridge to eat lunch. A ton of people are there, and those I remember seeing are Thomas, Yoza, Ken Suzuki, Nathan Yuen, Kim & Judy Roy, Larry Oswald, Kris Corliss, Jim Pushaw, his daughter Kristy, Kristy's friend, Jason Sunada, Greg Kingsley, Carmen Craig, June Miyasato, Lynn Masuyama, Lynn Agena, Georgina Oka, Naomi Nasu, Charlotte Yamane, Volker Hildebrandt, and Bill Gorst. Mahalo to them for clearing the ridge well.

As usual, lunch is a fun time, and an array of stories are shared as are various kinds of snack treats. This respite is pau by 1:00, and thereafter we make our way leisurely down the newly opened trail. Most of us descend a spur to the Kahana Valley trail while a small group continues makai on the ridge to descend a more makai-ward spur to the water tank at the end of the paved Board of Water Supply road.

We're back at the assembled clutch of vehicles by 3:30, with some folks opting to take a dip in the swimming hole below the dam in Kahana Stream. As she always does, Mabel is there with delicious treats and cool drinks for us. Afterward, Nathan drives Jay back to Waikele. Lynn Agena does the same for Pat and Chris. Judy & Kim drop Ralph off at his home in Nuuanu, and Bill takes me back to Kaneohe.

Sunday dusk. I've cleaned the mud off shoes and gear, showered, and eaten a delicious meal of chicken luau, rice, and salmon. As night falls, I jot down some notes about things to include for this write-up, and I fall asleep while watching "Independence Day" on TV.

I'm up in time to catch the end of ID, and when it's pau, I sit down at my computer to hack out this piece. It's almost midnight now, and I'll send this off to OHE-L, and head off to bed.

Safe trails to all,

--DKT (who thinks he'll take a day off from hiking on Monday)

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