OHE May 5, 1999 (Ainapo--Pt. 2)

Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 14:29:22 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@mailhost.k12.hi.us>
Subject: The Ainapo Challenge - Part 2

Part 2 - "A Leisurely Stroll to the Halewai Cabin"

Arose at 6 a.m. on Satuday, May 1 (lei day), to the sound of my watch alarm. Stumbled into the bathroom to shave and brush teeth, my right calf extremely sore from the run the previous afternoon. Gene and I switched places and I changed into hiking attire as well as stuffed my Kelty backpack to almost overflowing. At 6:34 a.m. Gene gave me another half pill of diamox which I downed with some tang.

By 7:07 a.m. the two of us were packed and ready to go and departed the Ohia Wing lounge of Volcano House. Overcast skies and a chill in the air greeted us as we tramped down to Rte 11 (Hawaii Belt Road) hoping to hitch a ride to the start of Ainapo (lit. "darkened land" not "dark land" as I mistakenly typed in the prologue) Road 14 miles south of HVNP. About one hundred vehicles passed without stopping between 7:10 and 8:40 a.m. and I commented to Gene that we should have brought Mark Short along to help. "Mark must have used up all the hitch hiking good luck during his recent trip" I continued.

Frustrated by our inability to gain transport, Gene and I walked back to the HVNP fee collection booth to get advice from the Ranger. The wahine failed to impart any incredible wisdom but did cheer us up. Meanwhile, the clouds dispersed revealing blue sky.

Upon returning to the shoulder of Rte 11, our fortune continued to improve when a haole dude in an old, light blue four door sedan pulled over and offered us a ride at 9 a.m. Gene carried on a conversation with the man as he drove us toward Ainapo Road and found out that he had relocated to Hawaii in '77 from one of the Dakotas. Thirteen minutes later between mile markers 40 and 41 the dude pulled over and we exited the vehicle.

After retrieving our packs, Gene and I thanked him for the lift and entered an open, green, grassy, flat ranchland praire (elev. 2,600 ft). By now the day was an absolutely gorgeous one with lots of sunshine and a gentle sea breeze at our backs. At a spot on Ainapo Road near a corral, Gene stopped to take a GPS reading. While waiting, I scanned the territory ahead recognizing a large forest of silver oak with their attractive yellow flowers, Mauna Loa in the background our ultimate goal. As we tramped along the dirt road at a deliberate pace, I noticed small guava trees growing on both sides of the thoroughfare. Behind us, in the distance, various black cinder cones in the desert of lava. The road took us into the forest and eventually ohia with cherry red flowers and koa trees began appearing among the oak.

Surrounded by tall eucalyptus with cattle grazing nearby, the green Ainapo Ranch House became the first landmark we encountered at 10:30 a.m. and 3,700 ft. The aroma of the trees filled the air, and the gentle refreshing breeze and singing birds made for a very pleasant stroll. Beyond the ranch house upslope the number of silver oak thinned replaced by native forest including tall ohia, uluhe ferns and pukiawe. Enjoyed a fairly level stretch about 1 mile in length, the imposing flanks of Mauna Loa dead ahead and much more detailed. The sound of bees buzzing in the native forest caught my ear, and I appreciated the contrast of red ohia blossoms against the deep blue sky. Gene and I startled a black cow and her calf in the level section and reached the 4,700 ft elevation mark at 11:55 a.m.

Fifteen minutes later at the top of a rise the two of us approached the Kapapala forest reserve boundary bordered by a firebreak road/fence and spotted a mouflon sheep to the west. We watched it scurry away then proceeded through a gate into the forest reserve. Further ahead, the road went west for a significant distance then returned to its mauka heading. Koa trees with light green moss growing on the branches highlighted this segment.

At 1:16 p.m. (5,650 ft elevation and eight miles from the Rte 11/Ainapo Road junction) Gene and I arrived at the Ainapo trailhead and promptly sat down to have lunch. During the break clouds moved in leaving only a few small patches of blue overhead. We started up the Ainapo Trail at 1:54 p.m. and traveled over pahoehoe lava through pristine native forest with occasional sunny periods.

Note: Pahoehoe lava is the smooth, solid kind (like walking on a side walk). A'a, on the other hand, is similar to walking on a pile of rocks (unstable footing), each step shifts and it is sharp and jagged. An ankle sprain, tripping or falling are very real possibilities.

Initially, a gradual climb ensued but as we passed through a fern grotto (not uluhe) the angle of ascent increased. At 2:53 p.m. and 6,500 ft the two of us took another break. Following a gradual ascent we resumed steeper climbing, a chill in the air. Gene brought to my attention the appearance of the first "baked potatoes" (pieces of a'a lava rapped in aluminum foil used to mark the trail) atop a few of the ahu along the footpath.

Completed the three mile stretch from the trailhead to the Halewai Cabin at 3:42 p.m. (elev. 7,750 ft). Gene and I immediately entered the shelter and removed our heavy packs. The sun came out so we returned to the outdoors and took photos of the structure. Soon after, Dr. Robinson jogged around the area to keep the lactic acid in his legs from building up. Meanwhile, I relaxed at the table on one of the stools inside the cabin.

The luxurious Halewai Shelter, constructed in March of 1994, is a small 'A' frame building equipped with a solar powered compost toilet (the solar panel is on the roof), a south facing porch, and a separate room with a small window adjacent to the porch containing the toilet. The main room (15 feet by 18 feet) has a large window facing Mauna Loa (native trees and the nearby hill block the view). Both the toilet room and main room contain a small light (twelve volt batteries supply the current). The one in the main room is located in the middle of the ceiling. Three two person bunk beds (mattresses on each bunk, sleeping bags on each mattress) and two cots are available for sleeping. The floor of the main room is green in color, the walls and ceiling white. The ceiling is ten feet above the floor and a vanity mirror (two feet long, one foot wide) leans against the wall opposite the window above hooks screwed into the wall used for hanging clothes. Also, six wooden stools are piled up neatly beside a six foot long, four foot wide table (formica top). Quality workmanship went into building the shelter, bunks, and table.

A set of five wooden steps leads to the porch and a green picnic table exists a few feet in front of the stairs, a small fire pit above the picnic table. The steps and porch are green in color while the building exterior is a shade of dark brown. A piece of wood is mounted above the porch and carved into it are the words "Ainapo Trail Shelter". Blocks of cement support the structure and the white roof is grooved. A water catchment system transports moisture from the roof to a large tan container in back of the shelter (almost full during our stay). A "chimney" originating from the toilet room juts out of the roof near the five feet long, two feet wide, five inch deep solar panal. A separate, smaller dark brown building below the cabin comes equipped with a shower and I noticed an old wooden CCC shelter covered by a rusty tin roof to the right of the lower building. On the inside of the front cover of the log book (Vol. 2) I read "The Ainapo Trail Shelter at Halewai - It is built on the site of a campsite constructed by the civilian conservation corps in the 1930's".

Once Gene returned from his run, I set out to explore the surrounding territory. Enjoyed nice views downslope and discovered a helipad. Next, I did a day hike above the cabin as the Ainapo Trail continues through old pahoehoe and native forest. After about a quarter of a mile, the terrain changes abruptly to a'a with much less vegetation. Eventually, I turned around and headed back to the shelter but I had achieved the purpose of the day hike - to get a feel for what lie ahead. Spotted two sheep upslope during the return leg and entered the cabin a few minutes beyond 6 p.m.

Between 6 and 7 p.m. dinner preparation and consumption took place. I dined on Mountain House lasagna, salad, and an apple while Gene ate Caribbean stew or beans. Both of us drank a cup of hot cocoa and I also downed a bottle of tang. The completely clear sky sponsored excellent star action that night with Orion's Belt, Venus (esp. bright), the Big Dipper, Hokulani (Hawaii's star), Spika, and Gemini dominating the heavens. Later, Gene and I experienced the best of both worlds when an awesome nearly full moon rise took place! It looked like a giant orange ball.

Gene recited a few of the interesting stories from the log book and then made an entry himself before retiring for the evening at 8:25 p.m. At 9 p.m. I penned a short paragraph describing the shelter:

"Nestled among one of Hawaii's most pristine native forests, the Halewai Shelter is one of Hawaii's best kept secrets. Described in Stuart Ball's BACKPACKERS GUIDE TO HAWAI'I as luxurious, I couldn't agree more. Very nice!"

I ventured out of the cabin into the still, cool, crisp night for the final time at 9:30 p.m., the abundant moon light illuminating the pristine native forest very beautifully as well as a thick white cloud bank on the same level as the shelter dead ahead in the distance. Flossed and brushed teeth by moon light then reentered the shelter and noticed that the temperature inside was 52 degrees fahrenheit. Reluctantly hit the sack at 10:10 p.m.

Notes: A DLNR Na Ala Hele pamphlet states...

"CULTURAL HISTORY: The Ainapo Trail, from Kapapala to Moku'aweoweo, the summit caldera, was pioneered by prehistoric Hawaiians. Probably most early ascents were made to honor Pele since no adz quarry is known to exist on or near the summit of Mauna Loa.

Archibald Menzies, the surgeon of the Vancouver expedition, is the first European known to have ascended to Moku'aweoweo. For this reason the trail is sometimes referred to as the Menzies trail. With the permission and assistance of Kamehameha, he made the ascent in February of 1794.

Until 1915, when the Mauna Loa trail was built, Ainapo trail was the preferred route to the summit. From 1870 horses and mules were used along this route. In 1913 the men of Kapapala Ranch modified it (and probably realigned portions) to create a bridle path.

In 1914, volcanologist Thomas A. Jagger, traveled the Ainapo trail to observe an eruption at the summit. His experiences on the route prompted him to lobby for construction of the Mauna Loa trail.

Since then the Ainapo trail gradually fell into disuse, portions of it becoming "lost" until Forestry and Wildlife crews reestablished the route under the auspices of the Na Ala Hele program in 1993."

During Gene's research of Ainapo, the Doctor thought that he had discovered a Chinese immigrant named Lop Sum Ng among the members of Menzies first successful ascent. Upon further scrutiny, it turned out to be false information. Sorry Wing! :-)

== Paka

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