OHE November 4, 1998

Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 00:08:35 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Old Pali Road - Likeke Trail, 03NOV98

Election Day (03NOV98) provided ample time away from the usual grind to try a trail I've had my mind set on for quite a while. I teamed up with some friends/fellow university students to venture out on the connected trails of Old Pali Road and Likeke.

After staging a car near the Likeke trailhead (on Likelike Hwy), I used the drive to the Pali Lookout to scope out our upcoming trek. Overnight rains had revived a run-off waterfall in one of the gullies along the windward face of the Koolaus. I made a mental note to find this on our way down the Old Pali Road.

After a brief stop to gaze at the touristic sights and recognize the site's historical significance, we set off down the beaten asphalt, slick with the cool, gel layer of moss and algae. The weedy clumps of overgrowth didn't disguise the fact that this was once a well-travelled thoroughfare. The views were equally spectacular as the lookout's, especially as the triple-peaked Olomana loomed ahead as we rounded the bend.

Research shows the Old Pali Road was first started (Nuuanu side) in 1830 and improved and officially opened for horseback riders on June 28, 1845. $37,500 later, on January 6, 1898, the Pali Road was linked from Nuuanu Pali to the windward foothills as a "highway". It was then that workers unearthed approximately 800 human skulls: remnants from Kamehameha's victory. The bones were buried in the same location by means of a dynamite explosion.

About halfway down, I spotted the waterfall I had seen from Pali Highway forming a thick gush beneath the viaduct. Investigation revealed a quaint, little valley perched above the abandoned road. It was tucked nicely into the face of the Koolau Range like a footstep to K2 (Konahuanui peak #2). We decided to detour and explore the murmuring stream within. After ten minutes of rock-hopping, we reached a pair of smaller waterfalls, each 40 feet in height but with differing character. After marvelling both, we headed back to the road while I placed markers along the "path of least resistance" (for future hikers). Waters from these falls flow as an unnamed stream to Hoomaluhia Reservoir in Kaneohe.

We continued our descent, ducked under bustling Pali Highway, and continued down the asphalt road until we reached the hidden steps to the trail entrance to the "final" waterfall. After a brief rise and descent into a shallow valley, we found the little cascading jem where the falling waters rippled and glittered over a pitch-black lava-rock slide. This was the terminus of both Stuart Ball's "Old Pali Road" trail and the "Likeke" trail.

After a short water break, we headed down the Likeke Trail. What came next was a wonderful contour trail (averaging smooth 100-foot up's and down's, in and out of several gullies). It took us through a gentle jungle filled with a series of vegetation phases, including guave groves, bamboo groves, uluhe thickets, ankle-high grassy clearings, awapuhi patches, hau tangles, and sweet-smelling hala groves. The trail followed a relatively stable contour through the lowlands at the base of Lanihuli. Views were mostly of the majestic Koolaus above while the grand vegetation obscured lateral views.

A couple whacks of the machete cleared a grassy "sofa" for us to lunch at one of the trail's few totally open spots affording a panoramic view of Kualoa to the third peak of Olomana. The rest of the 2.5-mile trail needed some hefty machete work - in many areas the path wasn't discernable. I had a workout blunting my implement while clearing the way through the vegetation. I added a bunch of pink markers to help the next unsure hiker. The yellow markers weren't distinct enough to see through the plant-life and fallen trees made quick disposal of others.

To add a little excitement to our jaunt through the wilderness, I heard a mysterious jostling in the brush as we neared the Likeke trailhead. There was no alternate way past the noise and I hoped to scare away any overly plump, tusk-bearing animals foraging for discarded morsels. I signaled the crew to stay put and set ahead with a careful pace to investigate. Armed with just my machete (and a knife in its holster), I approached the ripping racket and quivering weed tips. I spotted an escape branch on a nearby tree just in case. Getting closer in proximity, I was about to issue loud "whoops" and a cacaphony of foot-stomps and bush-banging when suddenly a man's head appeared with a rather startled gaze at my drawn machete. I smiled, yelled an "all-clear" signal to my partners, and engaged in light-hearted conversation with the guy. He had a camera in hand and said he was taking pictures. Of what??? There was no view there, no significant plant. My guess was he was seeking relief, instead, and we went merrily on our way.

Overall, this was an excellent adventure! The pace was simple and steady. The everchanging stages of vegetation provided visual candy as well as sweet-smelling fragrances. Thimbleberries and ginger blossoms, for those interested, had ripened into succulent and sweet fruit. Overcast skies kept warm temperatures at bay. Grassy clearings may provide for a nice campout spot. Amazingly, we didn't bump into anyone between the Old Pali Road and the Likeke trailhead (except the bushy photographer).

Carpe Diem!



Sterling, E. & Summers, C. "Sites of Oahu", Bishop Museum Press. Honolulu, 1978

Ball, S., "The Hikers Guide to O'ahu", Univ. of Hawaii Press. Honolulu, 1993

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