OHE May 3, 1999 (Castle-Kaluanui)

Date: Mon, 3 May 1999 14:42:22 -1000
From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>
Subject: kaluanui/castle


Sorry I could not join the intrepid trail clearers on the Waikane Trail Sunday. We were returning from a trip a little farther up the Windward Coast. I'm looking forward to Waikane this Saturday, however.

Last Thursday, April 29, our small band headed up the Hauula Papali Loop Trail and continued from its mauka-most point up Papali Ridge. At a prominent knoll (which has a great snack spot) another 45 minutes or so along, some of our group who were only able to do the dayhike turned back. Our now-smaller tribe continued on up Papali, traversing a significant dip in the ridge, a number of humps, and a steep push along the back of Papali Valley. Crossing behind Papali's twin valley, Punaiki, we then joined the Kamapua'a Trail coming up from the Nipple (Pu'u Waiahilahila) and followed that up to the junction with the Castle Trail. We then descended Castle into upper Kaluanui Valley and finally emerged beside the substantial stream. The entire trip took from 10:20 am to 5:00 pm, as we moved at a moderate backpack-laden pace. The weather this first day was dry and often sunny or lightly overcast, though it became increasingly overcast as we climbed higher.

We set up camp at the small site beside the stream near the disintegrating lean-to. That somewhat sloping site holds two, maybe three tents. There's a pool right there with a nice five-foot-deep hole. Regarding pests, we saw zero mosquitoes, but lots of pig tracks, clidemia, and strawberry guava. The night brought only a little rain.

On our second day we hiked upstream in the morning. I'd envisioned only a short hike, but the valley got lovlier and lovlier as we proceeded and it was difficult to turn around. Within about ten minutes from our site, we found a somewhat larger pool adjacent to a little island in the stream. Campsite potential there; we felt that it had been used for that purpose in the past. The strawberry guava thinned out after only about a quarter mile and we found ourselves in almost completely native plants: Dubautia, loulu, Hibiscus, ho'awa, hame, Cyrtandra (at least two types), and lobelioids. Also olomea, naupaka, Tetraplasandra, 'ahakea, manono, labordia, ko'oko'olau, 'akia, 'ohi'a lehua, and 'ohi'a ha. Good news: There were whole hillsides grey with dead Clidemia stalks. We surmised that some biological control has been working well up there; perhaps it's a fungus released by DLNR, but we're not sure. Damselflies and the occasional huge native dragonfly (black with a blue spot) accompanied us. Their larvae were abundant on the floor of the stream. We made it up to a fork in the stream at about 2100' (just below the 'E' in the word 'SACRED' on the topo) and then headed back for lunch.

Did Hawaiians live in this valley, at this altitude? Did they at least visit the valley to collect plants or birds? I have no idea, but it was not hard to imagine it. My guess is that upper Kaluanui is the largest high-altitude stream on Oahu, the highest valley of a size that might have been habitable. There is ample water, the stream is meandering even at that altitude, and the valley floor is pretty wide in places. Do any of you know anything about the subject? Are there other similar areas on Oahu?

In contrast to hypothetical ancient agrarians, sloppy and inconsiderate moderns had left their trash in the vicinity of our campsite. Moderns, but not exact contemporaries. We found no real antiques, or anything that could be precisely dated, but there was a Pepsi *bottle*, for example. The kind with writing molded into the glass. When did they quit making those? Fifteen years ago? There were lots of cans, a wine bottle, a few pots, a tarp, a foam mattress for heaven's sake. These things were scattered around in areas now thick with strawberry guava, so I'm guessing that when Castle was open and in better repair, fair numbers of people would go up there to hang out.

That afternoon we struggled up the Castle Trail to the gateway looking down over Punalu'u. Here's a serious understatement: Castle is in bad need of a good clearing. We did not descend into Punalu'u, but the whole trail from Kaluanui Valley on up to the summit is in serious disarray. Our clearing efforts on the Castle Trail in the valley could hardly make a dent in the clidemia, guava, and uluhe.

Unfortunately, once we arrived at the overlook down into Punalu'u, we were socked in and it was starting to rain. We took a brief look at the gateway (noticing Kent Bien's business card stuck into a mossy rock wall!) and then followed a little sidetrail near the gateway up into a separate hanging valley that looks like it was once part of the Kaluanui watershed. Now, it appears, the water from that little valley escapes through the waterfall notch that Pat Rorie mentioned recently, down the cliffs into Punalu'u. We also saw Pat's "flat grassy area." Had the weather been better, a walk up that valley would have been great. We returned to camp soaked, pumped water in the rain, and then bathed in the chilly pool. Hot tea warmed us up, we ate well, and, against all probability, the weather cleared and the full moon shone all night in a remarkably clear sky.

At 10:00 the next day, the third, we hiked back up Castle to the Kamapua'a junction and plunged into the nasty foliage lining the trail up to the summit. Mud, clidemia, mud, clidemia, uluhe, mud. Contour trails really have to be maintained to be passable. But no complaints, really. The weather was pretty good, overcast, some rain at the summit, but no wind to speak of. Not too chilly. It took us one hour from the campsite to the Kamapua'a junction (we were clearing on the way) and another hour forty-five to the summit, at a botanical pace. About ten minutes from the summit, under a loulu just off the trail to the left, we found a black garbage bag filled with containers. We didn't open it, but I figured that it was someone's water stash. Pat and Gene, was that left over from your trek last year? That metal stake and PVC pipe up at the summit which Pat mentioned are both about five feet tall! (I was looking for a little peg in the ground.) The summit trail, at least in the vicinity of the junction, was much more distinct than Castle.

After the battle to get up the trail and the rain at the top, we didn't have the gumption to continue along the summit to the fenced area, Pat. Sorry, maybe next time. We marked Castle with frequent pink ribbons. There was at least one spot where we got drawn off the main trail onto a pig trail that looked at least as clear. That's not a good area to be guessing, so we tried to clarify things. There were great views on the way down once the rain let up. We saw an interesting plant with orange 3/8" d. fruit not far from the junction, probably a Cyrtandra. Also saw a flowering lobeliod (perhaps a Clermontia) and another with large pale orange fruit. Lots of alani, loulu, mint (prob. Phyllostegia), Ilex, 'uki, olapa, Bobea, Dubautia, naupaka, ohelo, Hedyotis, 'ohi'a lehua, 'ohi'a ha, Tetraplasandra, labordia, lobelioids (prob. Trematolobelia), and a tiny-leaved Bidens right at the Kamapua'a junction. Above 2600', the little valleys were a joy, with a low carpet of native plants and a rolling character that contrasted sharply with the steep-sided valleys father makai.

Got back to camp by 3:45 pm, went through the routine again (brrrr--the water was cold but we were clean!) and pigged out, trying to use up our food so we wouldn't have to carry it out. I'm now using a homemade alcohol stove that weighs about 1/2 oz. It's made from the bases of two aluminum soda cans and works every bit as well as my MSR Whisperlite (which weighs something like a pound). A 16 oz. bottle of denatured alcohol was enough for the whole trip, breakfast, lunch (day two), and dinner, and lots of herbal tea. Two cups boils in about 7-8 minutes in my titanium pot. By this time the campsite is getting pretty muddy, but we'd learned to cope, with ti leaf placemats and the like.

On day four we got going about 8:45, made it up to the Kamapua'a junction at 9:35, arrived at the Papali junction at 1120, snacked and moved on at 11:40, got to the "snack spot" on Papali Ridge by 1:20, ate a little again, left at 1:20, and made it all the way to the Papali Loop trailhead by 2:20. We were totally socked in, solid white mist, until the Papali junction, but it was merely overcast and sometimes sunny after that. The way was very muddy in the upper reaches, but got much dryer down below.

I have every intention of doing this trip at least once a year. I know of no place like it on our island. We may have lucked out on the weather, for we only got a little rain. Perhaps I'd feel less enthusiastic if we'd had solid rain for two or three days. But as it is, I feel like I've had a taste of Paradise and I want more.


Reply From: Wing C Ng (wing@lava.net>

Informed opinion says: Wade Johnson came down Castle and then took a wrong turn somewhere and fell down a waterfall or something. So it is an extremely good idea to mark Castle with ribbons, LOTS of it. Even better to clear the whole thing, but I've never seen it cleared all the way, even back in the 80s when the Club did the dayhike. It is surprising that it still exists after all these (70 ? ) years of its existence. What a pity.


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