OHE November 13, 1998

Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 01:13:57 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Opaeula - Kawaiiki Streams, 07NOV98

The evening skies fell to the grasp of the night, its ranks an orderly formation of orange and purple hues. Green, rolling hills and gray, knobby clouds were awash in a clash of colors emblazened by the retreating sun, quenched by the advancing stars. It was under this awesome display that Pat and I drove to the Palama Uka campsite the Friday of 06NOV98, following Dayle Turner, Bill, and Willy Melemai. We rendezvoused with Kim and Judy Roy and the famous hiker-scribe Stuart Ball, set up "shop" with our tents, and stashed our supplies as night collected the remaining stragglers of light. As soon as darkness enveloped us, the Army's maneauvers began with helicopter overflights of CH-47s, Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk transports, and Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior combat scouts. A couple of nearby ridges in the surrounding areas were being used for L-Z practice and our innocent gathering received one or two investigative fly-bys.

This made for an exciting beginning of the two hikes we did the next day. Daybreak brought the gang, to include late-night arrivals Lester, June, and Carole, to the trailhead in good spirits. Passing from dusty 4WD road to dirt footpath, we broke right, southbound at the junction, off the stumpy ridge. (The start of the Kawaiiki Trail was the continuation along this ridge.) A quick series of steep switchbacks, glazed over with fallen guava leaves and mashed fruit, sent us howling through the hordes of swarming fruit-flies. I got a bit nervous as Pat repeatedly screamed "GNATS! GNATS! GNATS!" in a mad rush behind me. I laughed it off while Kim Roy, ahead, commented that he was clearing the air for the rest of us with deep inhalations of insect. Hope he had that dental floss handy!

We "walked the plank" over the babbling brook within the algae-gooped Opaeula Ditch and continued on a trail which leveled out into a gently ascending contour through the tree-canopied forest. At one point, we bumped into a group of disturbed hunters armed with only their dogs (and knives, perhaps). I hoped they realized that if we didn't scare their pigs away, the Army assualt helicopters buzzing the valley should have made slim pickings of the bacon catch. Curiously, one of the dogs began a friendly pursuit of our Judy, who gently shooed it away. Continuing through a few stream crossings, our band collected at the terminus: a deep waterhole surrounded to one side by a 40-foot dirt wall.

With water canteens retired, most of us continued on a quick jaunt to the gaging station a bit further upstream. After breaking through the forest and spotting the find, we backtracked to a 4WD road which ascended one of the many fingers of this complex topography. The USGS map suggests that this 4WD road, which leads from a main road to "Bryan's Mountain Home", was used by workers to access both the gaging station and the Opaeula trail segment to the stream intakes which divert waters into the Opaeula Ditch. However, we were using it as a bypass from the stream crossings as we gained elevation over the valley. We side-tracked off the road, dropped back down to a dammed area we had seen before, and did a single crossing before beginning our ascent once more - our next destination: Kawaiiki Stream.

About twenty minutes later, we emerged onto an expansive plateau of which we could see from the former 4WD-road ascent. It was perfect for a game of tackle rock-in-your-side football, but we weren't in the mood. We took a few moments to rehydrate as we watched an Army Boeing CH-47 "Chinook" double-rotor heavy-lift helicopter perform a take-off about 75 yards away. As soon as it retreated ahead of us into the sky, we marched ahead through the wheat-like stalks of yellow grass. I took a few moments to panoramic-shoot the entire Waianae Range in the distance. I could see a couple of military personnel tents amidst the trees and white concrete blocks scattered in the field.

Drawing to the northwestern quadrant of this plateau, we descended till we connected with the Kawaiiki Trail. We were still relatively high, overlooking the Kawaiiki valley, as the trail was perched on the ridgeline of a shrubby finger. What followed next was a standard in-and-out of gullies as the contour grade descended toward the stream. Clidemia and hau lead the overgrowth pack and heavily invaded the footpath, through years of neglect and lack of any clearing work. As is our rule, we always have our cutting implements at hand and were at work hacking the brush away for a speedier exit later. Unforunately, June suffered a nasty slice to her left thumb as a consequence of this, but quick attention by Bill secured her wound. We didn't know the extent of the damage until later that night.

As we closed in on the stream's domain, the dry-climate brush turned wet and guavas became dominant. At one point we diverted part of the trail due to a blockage at the switchback "elbow". I later found our crafty machete work rescinded on the return trip. Two flume crossings and we soon found our destination - a dammed Kawaiiki Stream.

Again, after a relaxing break, we packed up to continue on. Several decided to return to camp while Dayle, Pat, Bill, Stuart, and myself headed further upstream in search of a swimming spot. About fifteen minutes of plowing through ginger and muddy footsteps, we reached a length of stream in which the water's flow kept stagnation at bay, its depth adequate enough for a good dipping. All of us, except for Pat who was excited by the prospect of doing another hike (hike #3) right after this one, battered ourselves in the cool mountain waters. Refreshing!

The return was uneventful, thankfully, as we inclined back to base-camp. Stuart went in chase of Bill and Dayle who tried some additional exploring of the Opaeula Ditch Trail. Pat skipped off to the Kawainui Trail in the hopes of returning by sun-down. I decided to retire to camp and head for a shower.


I chose to use the open-air shower stalls nearby, per the recommendations of Carole and Judy. Luckily, there happened to be water available, though it was lacking the previous night. Going about my business, one of the helicopters participating in the round-the-clock helo operations decided to buzz right over the camp and circle it, specifically the shower stall I was in. So there I stood, glaring at the pilot, irritated by the interruption, wondering if he or the Chinook crew was getting any enjoyment or jollies out of this. I later figured that they had probably seen Judy or Carole earlier and were coming back for second-peeks. However, no sooner after he was gone and I had returned to my business when the gushing water turned to a trickle, then ceased. I had no choice but to hobble away, soapy, with shampoo suds in my eyes. Luckily, I had a camp shower filled up back at the tent-site!

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