OHE November 24, 1998

Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 00:35:42 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Makapuu/Tom-Tom, 22NOV98

With the sunrise's rays bouncing through the palm fronds and vertical valleys of Waimanalo, the HTMC Trail Clearers gathered for its weekly maintenance expedition. This Sunday's plan: the exciting ridgewalk of Makapuu/Tom-Tom. In attendance were (in no particular order): Dayle Turner, Ralph Valentino, Kim & Judy Roy, Arnold Fujioka, Grant & Georgina Oka, Lynn Agena, June Miyasato, Jim Pushaw, Bill Gorst, John Hall, Ken Suzuki, Jason Sunada, Wilfred Kawano, and Jay Feldman. Originally from Hawaii, Reno-resident/OHE-L member "KAULAROCK" joined us, too.

After a speedy delivery to the Makapuu Lookout, courtesy of Ralph and Truck's T-C courier service, the gang loosely coagulated into a mild-mannered exodus across the highway. It is interesting to note that this "valley" (between Makapuu Head and the Koolau Mountains) was once called Kealakipapa - "paved roadway"(1) - and may have been the site of an old Hawaiian communication path ("Maunalua Trail") which kept the Waimanalo and (what is now known as) Hawaii Kai "ahupuaa"-sections in touch(2). The trail, which is evidenced to have been used in 1822 or earlier(3), eventually became the route of Kalanianaole Highway.

And so began the ascent to the first hump along the big "toe" of the Koolau Range. The incline from the "trailhead" (elev. 140 feet) was an arid, rock-scattered, moonfield of browns, grays, dust, and lichen. The number of footpaths subsided as our altitude increased until we all had shuffled into a single-file rock hop. The huge mass of air wrapping around the rounded Koolau edge nearly had me shivering my pack off. I tacked and jibed upward into the windy sky.

The drive to the first significant peak (elev. 733 feet) eased out about the halfway point, followed by a friendly saddle and rise to the second pu'u (elev. 909 feet). The ridgeline was just taking its narrowing form as we left Makapuu behind. Our non-stop push was interrupted only by a picture-taking opportunity with the holed rock formation called "Kaulanaakaiole" - the name of a legendary rat which was slain there (4). Curiously, it overlooks "Keawaakaiole" (translated "rat's seaport"): a rock hidden just below the ocean's surface off Makapuu (5). Soon enough we were back to the foot-shuffling over craggy, porous rock and into a 300-foot descent. Dayle was in great form and headed up the next pu'u by the time we had reached the top of the rock "stairs". The saddle, touched by shoulder-high, crispy shrubs, was followed by a 600-foot steep ascent, occasionally requiring a four-point scramble. I noted Kim's spiderman-like whoosh up the ridge.

We gathered at the top, just short of the trio of "1251-foot" benchmarks, for a hydration break, some conversation, a session of camera-clicking, and lots of laughs. The view was gorgeous, the colors so rich and deep: the blues, the browns. Even the normally-dry upper reaches of Kalama and Maunalua Valleys were alive with greens, invigorated by the past week's showers. Luckily, the overcast skies resisted the cursing hand of the sun's rays as we trekked off the peak onto a relatively level section at the summit of Kamehame Ridge. There, we passed through the plentiful evidence of modern Oahu society: a paved private road, hang-glider ramps, a four-building concrete lodge, VHF and microwave antenna arrays, equipment shacks, and other structures. Our large group encountered (or startled) a couple of hang-gliding enthusiasts, chatted, and returned on our way.

After a 100-yard ascending roadwalk that ended at an abandoned MIM-14 Nike Missile site (elev. 1,380 feet). We ducked through a hole in the barbed-wire-topped chain-link fence, then proceeded up three flights of stairs interrupted by the occasional stripped, 20-foot-high, "T"-shaped platform, air-conditioned, radio-antenna shack, and mobile office trailer. Skipping through the forehead-high grass, we left the scattered figments of "civilization" behind only to be stopped by a sudden 200-foot drop into a saddle. Though I took pictures, Dayle already has one posted on his webpage at http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/pics/chasm.jpg - appropriately titled "Chasm". As the gusting winds buffeted my every move, I became judicious with the confidence I afforded each footstep. I didn't hesitate to trade a quick pace for a safer, crab-crawl approach to the dusty rocks on the descent.

By the time I hit the narrow saddle low-point, the group had turned into a loosely scattered ridgeline of hikers, both ahead and behind. Passing Kamiloiki Valley on the left, the trail came to the 280-foot steep climb to the lunch pu'u.

Lunchspot was in a softly-carpeted ironwood grove (elev. 1,320 feet) perched high above the southern Waimanalo homesteads. In fact, it can be clearly seen from Kalanianaole Hwy as you look upon the bare ridge and find a huge clump of pine-needled trees leaning toward Kaupo* Beach. Jay Feldman responded to a camping comment I made by saying a hammock strung up between two of the closely-necked trees would suffice. I returned to my lunch, marvelling the sights before me. The speedy clouds casted ominous shadows onto the shallow, cyan floor of Waimanalo Bay, gliding like huge sea monsters, quietly slipping beneath the banks of Kaiona Beach Park.

Some in our group decided to take a shortcut into Waimanalo and avoid an additional saddle before the Tom-Tom Trail. Dayle, Arnold, Ralph, Lynn, and Jason banked right off the ridge from our lunchspot onto Kaupo Cliffs - the summit "trailhead" of the recent Super-Hike #3. I quietly worried as I watched them dispatch onto the perilously steep descent, fearing what such a gnarly drop could cause. Most of them had done the "super-hike" ascent, but recent rainy conditions and the greater risk made me nervous for their welfare. As Dayle mentioned in his write-up, all went well... for which we're all thankful (and relieved!). As I continued with the trail, I heard yells and saw some of the group pointing out a pair of goats trotting away from just beneath Dayle's ridge-trampling.

The rest of us followed the confused mind of this Koolau giant, skirting leeward of most wind-blown boulders while scooting up and down the ridge a few more times. A picture of this, too, is available at Dayle's site at http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/pics/puuokona.jpg. Passing some telephone/powerline poles along the ridge and Kamilonui Valley on the left, we ascended to a 1,160-foot peak marking the top of the "Tom-Tom" ridge into the Waimanalo Forest Reserve. While most of us had done this trail before, the first-timers (including myself) grunted at the sight of the very steep ridgeline which didn't flatten out for about 900 feet. Nevertheless, we all tackled the descent which, actually, wasn't as precipitous as the nasty "Chasm" saddle of an hour or two ago.

The ridge mellowed out into the forest and continued less steeply for another 200 feet. We all gathered in the canopied forest toward the base of the ridge, within earshot of neighborhood kids, construction, and yapping pets. Heading toward the nearest street, we intercepted the Kaupo Cliffs participants and emerged together into the curious stares of musing residents. Ten minutes later and refreshments at 7-11 and the clubhouse did real well as a hike-topper!

You can bet I'll do this trail again!

*Note: The name "Kaupo" is actually "Koanapou", in reference to the small fishing village of magical healer and fisherman Kapoi who had taken residence in the area. It was written that because of his adultery, he (and most of the village) were annihilated due to the smallpox epedemic on or about 1853. The village stood on a stubby peninsula where Sea Life Park is today. Kaupo Beach Park is just down the road (toward Kailua) from the actual village site. (1)(5)


1 McAllister, J. Gilbert, "Archaelogy of Oahu", 1933
2 Coulter, John Wesley, "A Gazetteer of the Territory of Hawaii", 1935
3 Chamberlain, Levi, "Trip Around Oahu", 1826
4 Kaui, S. M., "Pikoiakaalala: Ke Au Okoa", 1866
5 Alona, Charles "Oahu Place Names", 1939

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