OHE November 17, 1997

Date: Mon, 17 Nov 1997 10:46:58 -1000
From: "Arthur W. Neilson III" (aneilson@usa.net>
Subject: Castle-Waihilahila

Castle to Waihilahila - Saturday, 11/15/97

Mike Adams and I drove up Kahekili hwy Saturday morning to the sweet sounds of Jimi Hendrix. We were headed for a 10:00 rendezvous with Pat Rorie and Steve Poor at the Punaluu Beach Park. I was finally going to do the *Castle Trail*. Awesome!! I'd always wanted to do this trail of legend, especially after reading Stuart's description of it as "The finest hike on the island". We arrived early and explored the backroads in Punaluu valley searching for a possible trailhead for around 15 min, then headed back to the park.

As we approached the park, we spotted Pat and Steve. We waved and exchanged excited greetings like "Right on!" and "Awesome!". We all were obviously pumped about the hike. I left my truck off to the mauka side of the highway and we all piled into Pat's beater to drive to the trailhead. We parked near the start of a muddy dirt road leading into the valley and quietly left the car to start our journey. The road leads through some private land and we didn't want to disturb the residents.

After about 5 minutes on the road, we encountered a sign which gave a phone number to call to obtain permission for hunting/hiking. We kept moving on. Mike was in the lead and signalled that a vehicle was coming towards us, so we moved to the roadside as a small pickup truck pulled up. Pat spoke briefly with the man and he allowed us to proceed on our mission unhindered. We all expressed our Mahalos for his kindness.

Onwards we went, reaching the trailhead some 10 minutes later. At a rather inconspicuous spot on the roadside Pat made a sharp right turn and headed uphill ... we were on our way! The trail headed gradually uphill towards the west wall of Punaluu Valley, crossing what looked like an old overgrown 4x4 road in 2 spots. After approx 20 min we reached the start of the Castle switchbacks, by this time the trail had become more overgrown and Pat was constantly trimming and cutting to improve the route. Steve and Mike took the lead and got around 15 minutes ahead of Pat and I. Pat wanted to travel a bit slower so he could spend more time clearing the trail. We reached the spot where the old trail becomes completely overgrown with Uluhe and located the new trail blazing straight up the hill. It reconnected with the old trail, then 10 minutes later it petered out again and we headed directly up the ridge trail finally reaching a gap at the top above a dried up waterfall.

The views from the trail ascending valley are phenomenal. We could clearly see the whole of Punaluu Valley (except for the hidden back end visible from the Poamoho summit), Pu'u Piei, Manamana, Ohulehule, Kahana and the beautiful Koolau summit. What a fine view of these undeveloped areas!!

We took a break here, snapping photos of a cool lobeliad while Steve hunted for the trail in the boggy area just ahead. Steve had a time agenda, he had to meet his wife at 5:00. Pat showed us where the trail turned off in the boggy area, opened it up a bit with his trusty machete and ribboned it. Pat and Steve then moved off at high speed while Mike and I stuck together and followed behind. Steve needed Pat to get him to the Castle-Waihilahila junction so he could head down and be back in town by 5:00. Steve knew the Waihilahila trail but was unfamiliar with the Castle trail.

The section of Castle we were on contoured in and out of a bunch of gulches working its way around a bowl shaped area above Sacred Falls. The stream was clearly visible below, meandering in and out of the gulches much like the trail we were on. This stream feeds Sacred Falls, home of the Hawaiian pig-god Kamapua'a. We encountered fire-rescue ribbons tied to trees along the way, left over from the search for lost hiker Wade Johnson last year. We even ran across a small lean-to with some black tarp on it and empty cans under it, right before the stream crossing. Mike began to worry as he spotted Pat and Steve quite far away on the other hill. The trail seemed to be going away from where he was. I explained to Mike that the trail was contour and followed the lay of the land. He was still worried but kept moving on. There were numerous turn-offs and pig trails, I can see how easy it would be to get lost up there especially if it was socked in with clouds and raining!

We finally reached the Waihilahila junction at 3:00 and hooked back up with Pat. Steve was long gone, on his mission to meet his wife at 5:00. Mike and I took a break drank a beer and relaxed for 15 - 20 min. I asked Pat about the lean-to and he said a HTMC old timer had lead search and rescue teams up in the area looking for Wade Johnson. The HTMC'er had built the lean-to by criss-crossing guava branches to form a wall then had attached some old black tarp to it. Pretty effective shelter, evidently to protect him from curious pigs and rain. The views here were teriffic, we could see Hauula/Maakua North of us with Kahuku and the white windmills barely visible in the distance. South we could see all the way to Makapuu Point and Rabbit Island as well as many points in between - Kaneohe bay, the Mokolua's and many more ...

We decided we didn't have time to make it to the summit and back from the junction, so we turned our heads makai and headed down Waihilahila ridge, Maakua to our left and Sacred falls to our right. The ridge was as overgroun as the rest of the trail had been, I had many scratches on my legs and arms from the jungle-like trail. Mike and I were proceeding with caution downhill, carefully negotiating obstacles in our path while Pat fairly flew ahead of us.

As we descended, Mike and I noticed a white helicopter buzzing around, it started to head towards us and I told Mike not to wave as they may think we needed help. A few minutes later we saw a red helicopter hovering over the Sacred Falls bowl area we had traversed an hour earlier. It was hovering, frozed in one spot for several minutes then took off. Both mike and I speculated that someone else might be doing Castle and may have gotten into trouble.

Mike exclaimed "Look where Pat is!" Pat was 2 humps ahead of us on the ridge, then three, then four. As Mike and I tried to catch up without twisting an ankle or knee. Mike was very concerned about the time as the sunset was supposed to be around 5:48PM and it was now 4:45. Finally the trail became less slippery, drier and better cleared. I began moving at top speed much to Mike's satisfaction. We buzzed over 4 or 5 humps in the ridge in 35-40 min and hooked up with Pat patiently waiting at the "nipple" point in the trail where it turns and descends into Scard Falls Valley.

It was quite late and it looked like it would be totally dark in 30 min. or so. We took a short break and Mike shared his Mountain Dew with me while Pat explained that Waihilahila in Hawaiian means "exposed with embarrasment" ... hence the nipple. The large rock formation on top of this pyramid shaped hill did indeed look like it's name!

"Time to go if we want to rach the valley floor before dark" said Pat and off we went down a steep rocky trail aided by a knotted clothes-line. Mike and Pat descended faster than I, they were in the trees at the foot of the mountain in 20 minutes while I took 40 min or so. About 3/4 of the way down it got so dark I couldn't see so I fired up my headlamp. Neither Pat or Mike had flashlights, they evidently were able to see in the dark more or less. I hooked back up with them in the trees and we followed the trail out to a dirt road which lead out of the valley.

Finally reaching the highway, we walked south along the roadside in 30 min time to my truck parked back at Punaluu across from the beach park. The moon rose when we were almost back in Punaluu, it looked like a big orange pill rising up off the edge of the earth. Mike commented to me how cool the psychedelic moon looked, and we found Pat about 100 yards further on sitting on the sand watching that moon.

Another fantastic hike! We took off our shoes and piled into my truck, exhausted, scratched and sore - with big smiles on our faces. What an awesome experience, I am once again pushing the limits of my endurance hiking with Pat Rorie and Mike. What an accomplishment, I haven't pushed myself this hard since I tore my ACL and had reconstructive surgery on my knee last year right around this time. Thanks Pat for the great adventure!

I drove Pat to his car parked at the trailhead in Punaluu Valley, and we all said our goodbyes to end this marvelous trek we had begun 8 hours earlier. I'm already looking forwards to the next one ... Waianae valley up over Kaala and down Dupont? Poamoho-Castle? Whatever it is it'll be a blast.


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