OHE November 30, 1998

Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 07:09:25 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Pu'u Ka'aumakua

Arguably one of the best view spots on the Oahu, Pu'u Ka'aumakua (lit. "the family god", elev. 2,680 ft) is the distinct hilltop on the Ko'olau summit crest which towers high above Waikane Valley.

With no daytime Thanksgiving committments and mostly sunny skies predicted, I drove the pat-mobile up the windward coast parking on the shoulder of Kamehameha Hwy across from Waikane Valley Road.

Following final preps I continued on foot at 8:02 a.m. Encountered a young local guy while on Waikane Valley Road and we talked story for a few minutes. He mentioned that a group of hikers from Wahiawa had recently come out and that he had driven all the way to the flume (Waiahole Ditch) in the back of the valley. With prior knowledge that Keith Palmer (Sierra Club conservation) and friend had also recently hiked the Waikane contour Trail, I was hopeful that a swath existed along the footpath.

Upon reaching the dirt road which leads to the Waiahole Ditch, much to my surprise I found a wide open gate. I thought about going back, getting my car and driving in but the possibility of finding the gate locked in the afternoon changed my mind.

Patiently endured the three mile road walk to the Waiahole Ditch Trailhead noting the absence of derelict vehicles (according to April Coloretti of Councilmember Holmes' office, the City and County of Honolulu has recently acquired 500 acres of land in Waikane Valley from Azabu of Japan - the intent being to create a nature preserve). In the shadow of Mount Ohulehule, the final mostly canopied mile included a locked gate fronting Amfac property. Paused on several occasions to study the very, very steep area of the southeast ridge of Ohulehule.

At 9:04 a.m. I arrived at the flume and a minute later commenced tramping along a portion of the Waiahole Ditch Trail (a graded contour footpath stretching from Waiahole to Kahana Valleys built to assist in the construction and maintenance of the Waiahole Ditch). Most of the trail I used has been damaged by landslides and blow downs. However, a few sections are still intact covered with cobblestones which mules traveled on long ago. On November 9th of last year, Peter Caldwell, Don Fox and myself invested quality time clearing most of the fallen trees using hand saws to make the footpath easier to negotiate. I noted only two new blow downs (guava trees) in route to the Waikane Saddle (also known as the Kahana Saddle in years past) neither of which created a serious obstacle.

Emerged from the Ditch Trail at 9:42 a.m., climbed to the top of the Waikane Saddle and enjoyed the terrific views of the surrounding topography including massive Mount Ohulehule dead ahead, lush Waikane Valley below and to the right, and Kaneohe Bay in the distance.

Began heading up the 1.5 mile Waikane contour Trail at 9:55 a.m. The first section wasn't too bad but beyond the first of two major landslides (which Dayle and I worked on in July of last year and includes some large trees/limbs in the mix), a clidemia thicket existed and the grade became very narrow (balance and footing were a constant concern). However, I observed an obvious swath through the pesky weed as I tollerated the branches protruding near my face. Paused at a nice lookout of Ohulehule where the trail bent sharply and jutted out toward Kahana Valley to recover from the clidemia gauntlet.

Next came a stretch of ginger plants which choked the trail but revealed signs of recent traffic. Ducked under a low bridge formed by a fallen tree and tramped along the base of a fifty foot black vertical wall covered with moisture.

Reached another sharp bend which jutted out toward Kahana but tree limbs/leaves obscured the vista. Dropped into and climbed out of a four foot deep sink hole. Carefully passed thru the second major landslide and tollerated another segment of clidemia on the way to a prominent gully featuring a dry stream bed. Due to the recent human traffic and the ongoing drought on Oahu, the vegetation did not totally encompass the trail (and the hiker) as in the past. Ascended gradually away from the gully and noticed a large Chinese banyon tree bordering the footpath which perfectly preserved a five foot section of the trail.

Halted briefly at yet another lookout then proceeded to the classic view spot where Al Miller took the picture containted in the photo section of Ball's "Hiker's Guide" (last page, bottom photo). The description is incorrect. It should read "Pu'u 'Ohulehule. Waikane Hike. (Photo by Albert Miller.)". Recognized more and more loulu palms including the tall thin tree variety both above and below the trail.

Pressing on, I experienced the breathtaking yet sometimes nerve racking stretch of trail cut beautifully out of the steep southern wall of Kahana Valley. Breathtaking because of the upclose view of the sheer walls forming the Ko'olau summit ridge. Nerve racking due to vegetation (overgrowth) or the condition of the trail (deteriorated) which pushed me to the brink of 1000 foot dropoffs!

Eventually, the footpath improved considerably as it approached the Ko'olau Summit Trail (KST) and I arrived at the rusty metal stake signifying the Waikane/KST junction at 11:14 a.m. From there I turned south and ascended the KST toward Kipapa disappearing behind the leeward side of the summit ridge. Pushed thru the mostly overgrown leeward stretch above three ravines encountering three minor landslides until I came to a lone sick looking loulu palm. Ascended steeply to the broad summit of Ka'aumakua sitting down to rest at 11:44 a.m.

Despite the gusty trades which brought about chilly conditions, I enjoyed the awesome panorama for over an hour and a half. To windward and dead ahead, Mount Ohulehule (elev. 2,265 ft) dominated the sights with Kanehoalani (1,900 ft) peaking over Ohulehule's shoulder. The massive ridge containing the peaks Turnover (2,027 ft) and Manamana also stood out with the sun occasionally shining on Pu'u Pauao (2,400 ft). Also visible to the north, the Schofield-Waikane topping out point (2,360 ft). Other peaks worth mentioning include Pu'u Piei (1,740 ft), Pu'u Koiele (1,683 ft), Pu'u O'Kila (1,530 ft). Four undeveloped valleys discernible from Ka'aumakua were Punalu'u, upper and lower Kahana, the front part of Ka'a'awa, and Waikane directly below. Still more geographical sites visible from the peak were Kahana Bay, Kaneohe Bay with its sandbar and different shades of blue and green, Waimanalo Bay in the distance along with Mokolii Island (Chinaman's Hat), Coconut Island, the Mokulua Islands, Rabbit Island as well as Pu'u Ma'eli'eli, the Mokapu Peninsula, Kawaewae Ridge, triple peaked Olomana, Kaiwa Ridge and Makapu'u Point in the distance.

To leeward spanning from left to right (south to north) included the south shore; Kipapa Ridge with its tall Norfolk Island Pines periodically dotting the ridge line; Pearl Harbor; the Ewa Plane; the Waianae Range from Makakilo to Mokuleia featuring the peaks Palikea (3,098 ft), Kaua (3,127 ft), Kanehoa (2,778 ft), Hapapa (2,883 ft), Ku Makali'i, Kalena (3,504 ft), Ka'ala (4,025 ft); the Wahiawa Plane; and the north shore. Directly below, the convoluted topography of an upper leeward valley.

To summarize, a smorgasbord of geographical features on the island of Oahu.

A nice variety of native flora also existed on the broad summit including six lobeliad plants, and a few lapalapa trees.

Very reluctantly departed Ka'aumakua at 1:16 p.m. However, because of its improved condition, I did not dread descending the Waikane contour Trail. On the way down along the lower section I did some trail maintenance and arrived at the Waikane Saddle at 3:22 p.m. A couple of rain showers accompanied me as I retraced my steps along the Waiahole Ditch Trail and the dirt road. Entered my car at 4:46 p.m. and went into post hike mode soon after.

== Paka

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