OHE November 21, 1998

Date: Sat, 21 Nov 1998 19:50:44 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Puu Kaua, 21NOV98

With gloomy weather conditions making the latter half of the week a feet-dragging experience, it made me skeptical about the chances of clear views on today's hike to Puu Kaua (elev. 3,127 feet). However, I had been looking forward for several weeks to the chance of hiking to Oahu's fourth highest peak (yes, fourth - despite what it says in the "HGO").

At 9:00 AM, the nine of us met at the Hawaii Country Club about 2.5 miles north of Village Park on Kunia Road. Participating in today's adventure were hike-leader Stuart Ball, HTMC-TCer Kris "Wild Machete" Korliss, OHE-L's own Bill Warren, television-celebs Don & Janice, Ursala, Wayne, and one other person. The Nature Conservancy, which manages the preservation efforts and trail access for Campbell Estate land along the base of the Waianaes, restricts the amount of hikers allowed to trudge through the native vegetation. Thus, the HTMC gathered a small number for this outing to reduce the impact on the area.

Because of the ominous clouds draping the Koolaus, none of us were willing to risk a muddy, slimy drive through the dirt roads to return from the trailhead. The walk from the country club added about 350 feet in elevation and about 1.5 miles to the climb. The overcast skies made the warm-up walk pleasant, all the while Puu Kaua, a stubby mound of a peak atop the broad shoulders of the southern Waianae Mountains, stood proudly in our view. Conversation kept our sticky, red-dirted footsteps light all the way to the entrance of the Conservancy's domain: the Honouliuli Forest Reserve.

Akin to the Waianae-Kaala trail, this well-cleared path is an honest, straightforward climb which begins as a gentle incline on a tree-fallen 4WD path, passes into a gulch, steepens toward the middle, levels out on a ridge, then proceeds even steeper than before during the final ascent. After the 4WD path comes a brief traverse (to the left) on the wide grade of the Honouliuli Contour Trail until reaching a streambed. From then on begins the steeper, pulse-quickening grade from which the ridgeline distinctly emerges. During moments of breath-catching, I listened to the sweet silence of the tropical asp and guava forest. The occasional crackle of falling leaves with every whisper of the wind snapped me out of those thought-cleansing spells, returning me to my upward journey.

As light filtered through the trees, I realized I was within a half-mile of the summit. I gasped as I turned about to see the spectacular views before me. I continued through the narrowing ridge, focusing my gaze to each side at the marvelous walls of green coating the valleys' dead-ends. The anticipation of the views from the top kept my pulse pumping, even though the grade had levelled out. However, this was short-lived as I quickly reached the "toe" of Puu Kaua.

The last few hundred feet resembled a short version of the last half to Mauna Kaala - but without hand or footholds! Newly moistened by rain showers passing through the area during the week, the final moments became a scramble through the muddy grass. There were barely any exposed roots, footstep emplacements, or cables, with the exception of a 10-foot length of thin rope spongy to the pull. But the grade wasn't quite as "vertical" as the ladder-like section of Waianae-Kaala, but did require a bit of hands-and-feet climbing.

I peaked out the 2,400-foot climb at about 11:30 AM about five minutes behind the rest, while speed-hikers Janice and Don hit the puu a little more than a half-hour prior. As expected, the views were great! Three of the island's shores could be seen from this vantage point, from Ewa Beach to North Shore and the pearl beaches of Waianae. The motley, guava-like colors of the checkerboard-patterned central plains offset the greens of the windward Waianae mountains and the parched browns of Lualualei Valley. I watched the little cars emerge from Kolekole Pass and wrap around Puu Kailio - I wondered which one of those buildings down there contained the Navy's nuclear arsenal. Unfortuantely, moist conditions in the distance made visibility less than 20 miles, so the Koolaus through Diamond Head were visible but faded in a shroud of white mist. Shooting off a couple rounds of panoramic and regular photos, I settled down with the rest of the group for some chow: lau-lau! Nothing like some Hawaiian food on a Hawaiian mountain.

The group shuffled down shortly after noon, giving me an opportunity to rap with Stuart. We discussed a bunch of club topics, trails, and tidbits, passing a beehive and not even noticing it. Janice stopped us to point it out as we hiked back up to the honeycombed spot. It was pretty neat - I'd never seen one before. Toward the base of the trail, we all gathered for some chit-chat about the macadamia nuts and coffee beans there. We sampled a couple of raw mac-nuts which, as I found out, have a texture and taste analagous to coconut! Interesting...

Overcast skies were still abound, though the cottony blanket layer was thinner than before. Once more, it made our return romp through the pineapple fields alive with conversation. As I reflect back on the hike, it's definitely one of my favorites... Excellent trail, great weather, awesome view, terrific company, good food (*grin*)... perfect hike.


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