OHE November 11, 1999 (Three Corners)



Date: Thu, 11 Nov 1999 15:57:49 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Three Corners via Dillingham Ranch

I thought Pat Rorie was going to write about this but since he didn't, here goes.

This past Sunday (11/7), I joined Pat to help prep the route along the Makua Valley rim trail fence to a point called Three Corners for an upcoming (11/14) HTMC hike. Greg Kingsley was also with us as was Lester Ohara, who drove to Peacock Flats via the firebreak road from the Kaena Point Tracking Station.

Shoving off around 9 a.m., Pat, Greg, and I started from Farrington Highway and hiked up the narrow paved road that leads to Peacock Flats. There are no restrictions for hiking this road, so those who have an interest in checking out the area, head out there by all means.

Misty, cold conditions prevailed as we marched our way up and while the coolness helped to keep us from overheating during the ~2-mile, 1,400 ft. elevation gain road segment, we were deprived of views of the Mokuleia coastline and mauka views of the Waianae Range. Three mountain bikers rode cautiously past us down the rain-slickened road, feathering their brakes as they did. "I hope their brakes are in good order," I thought, knowing how steep the road is and what a strain it puts on bike brakes, even on a dry day.

Unlike the bikers, our task involved ascending rather than the opposite, so we huffed on, knowing we were near Peacock Flats when pine trees appeared to our left in the cloudy mist. From our cars, the hike to Peacock Flats took about an hour. The sign-in log in the hunter/hiker mailbox was not there, having been replaced by discarded soda cans. Sheesh, what lummox would do that?

No one was camping at Peacock Flats when we went by but some fresh looking tire tracks on the dirt road indicated someone had been around in the last couple hours. In a few minutes, we'd find out that one set of tracks belonged to Lester's truck.

Beyond the Flats, the dirt road extends mauka for about a half to three-quarters of a mile and at the road's terminal point, the Mokuleia Trail begins. Parked at the trailhead was Lester's truck as well as a Jeep Cherokee belonging to, as we'd find out later, a couple of hunters. It was still clouded-in and drizzling when Pat and I arrived at the trailhead (Greg was trailing behind and we wouldn't see him again till 5:30). Pat and I spent fifteen minutes at the trailhead talking to Lester, who had arrived more than an hour earlier and had hiked up to the Mokuleia campsite and then the lookout above it before backtracking to his vehicle.

After our chat, the three of us headed up the trail to the campsite, the clouds and drizzle not relenting in the least. I stopped to examine a couple kopiko trees along the trail in search of tree snails but found none. I had seen snails in these same trees on past hikes and wondered what happened to them. Hopefully, they were still there but just hidden somewhere out of sight. We also met the hunters, clad in camo fatigues and bright orange vests, exchanging howzits as we passed one another.

At the campsite, we noticed the small shelter had a roof catchment system added to it, with the 50-gallon barrel used as a storage container filled to overflowing. In my mind, I had visions of similarly fashioned shelters in the Koolaus, which would make backpacking the crest much easier, water attainment difficulties up there being as they are.

Lester, Pat, and I decided to eat lunch in the shelter even though it was still early (11:15), reasoning it'd be better to eat out of the rain then as opposed to in the rain on the trail at noon. We also thought it'd give Greg a chance to catch up (we found out later he was feeling tired after grabbing just a few hours of sleep the night before).

After lunch, Lester decided he'd head back down to his truck and drive home. If he ran into Greg, Lester would pass word that Pat and I would be working our way up the rim trail to Three Corners and then returning to the campsite when we had finished.

At 11:45, Pat and I departed the shelter and ascended the short connector trail to the Makua Rim Trail. Except for a couple of short bypasses, the trail follows the fenceline erected by the military and state to protect Makua's native plant species, including endangered ones, from rampaging feral goats and pigs. While the fence's presence is justified, it still is an eyesore.

Initially, the vegetation overgrowth along the fenceline trail wasn't too intrusive. In fact, such was the case most of the way. However, a few stretches were blocked/obscured extensively, mostly by buffalo grass and/or uluhe, and Pat and I spent more time opening up these sections, enduring blustery, rain-soaked conditions as we labored.

One memorable segment was wire-mat hill, a pu'u with a steep descent with chainlink wire underfoot (erosion control?) and metal stakes anchoring the wire placed every ten feet or so. A slip there will result in a nasty fall punctuated by metal stake impalement, so we took our time descending. Fortunately, the fence is at hand to grab onto, the multitude of bent links indicating others before us had used it for just this purpose.

Beyond wire-mat hill, we encountered a section badly overgrown with buffalo grass and opened this up as best we could. A bit further on, we found a ten-foot section of the fence that had been trampled down, whether by man or beast we couldn't determine. "The door to the supermarket is wide open," I proclaimed, in reference to the access pigs and goats will have to Makua until the fence is fixed. Pat said he'd contact someone from the state so that repairs could be made.

Uluhe has a big presence near the trail's end and pig damage is also extensive. We worked hard to clear back the former and shook our heads when examining the latter. We even found one part of the fence that pigs had dug under.

With white-out conditions unabated, we arrived at Three Corners at 2:00. With unobscured views, as is usually the case up there, we'd see the spread of Makua and Makaha Valleys as well as the magnificent dikes leading over to the Ohikilolo pyramidal peak. On Sunday, the clouds allowed us none of this, however. The views will have to wait for another time, I told myself.

Sitting in the rain and cold isn't the most fun thing to do, but Pat and I figured we owed ourselves a rest. So we rested, trying to pay little mind to the unrelenting ka makani and ka u'a. Knowing we still had a fairly lengthy return leg ahead, I refueled, drinking water even though I wasn't thirsty and gobbling down a power bar because I was hungry (rarely am I not).

Pat took some time to chop open a small lunch spot for club hikers even at my urging to "let 'em sit in the bushes." He also tied the traditional three ribbons to the fence at the junction of Three Corners, indicating this was the terminal spot of the hike.

All that done, we began the return trip, Pat in the lead and still doing some spot clearing, and I behind, tired and with machete safely stowed in my pack. One thing I was glad I'd brought along were my two hiking poles, for these helped me climb and descend the string of hills on the way back to the campsite.

The return trip to the campsite took about an hour. However, instead of heading down through Peacock Flats, we continued in the Waialua direction on the Mokuleia Trail. When we reached the small stream, Pat spotted a couple of pigs making their way up the small gully the stream is in. I yelled out to try to startle the porkers but ended up startling Pat instead.

Just below the trail on the far side of the stream is a fenced-in area to protect some large lobelia specimens. Beyond that, the trail climbs along the side of a large ridge to exit the gully and at the head of the second turn in the path is the junction with the middle ridge we'd descend to get back to the paved access road. Pat put a double ribbon on a tree on the left side of the trail to mark the spot. Hopefully, the ribbons will still be there come Sunday for the club hike.

I'd never hiked the middle ridge before and the trail on it looks fairly well used. Someone, perhaps from the DLNR, has done chainsaw work on the ridge. More than halfway down the ridge, we encountered a sign, indicating the start/end point of the Pahole Natural Area Reserve (NAR). Hiking is allowed, it reads, but hikers must take care to remove seeds from alien plant species from their person before entering (we were exiting so this didn't apply to us). Just makai of the sign is a tattered barbed-wire fence, with enough room to duck under.

A bit further down, we bailed the ridge to the right, with Pat putting up ribbons to help folks find the way down to the gulch. After meandering down the slope, the "trail" we marked eventually reached a rocky streambed, which we followed makai until emerging on the access road.

We needed another half hour to walk back to Farrington Highway to our cars and waiting there for us was Greg, who told us about his bout with sleepiness. It was past 5:30 when we arrived, and we spent some time enjoying the now clear views of the ridge area we had just returned from. While we would have enjoyed having clear conditions when we were up there, we were glad we did what we set out to do and had returned without injury or incident.

Pat had drinks and snacks for us and as we partook of these, our friend Laredo Murray (aka Rainbowman) stopped by. He'd spent the day dirt biking out past Camp Erdman with his son and was heading home when he saw us parked along the highway. For the record, both father and son had dyed-red hair, Laredo with a traditional cut and his son a mohawk. Ahh, the company we keep.

Steve Poor, substituting for Pat, who is off island on a backpack trip (Halape), will lead the (members-only) club hike to Three Corners this Sunday, using the same route Pat and I took. May there be clear views and high overcast skies for all who take part.

Hope all of you had a pleasant Veteran's Day holiday.

Hike on,

--DKT


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