OHE November 16, 1999 (Puna Coast--Day 2)

Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 12:56:42 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Puna Coast Adventure, Day 2

Day 2: Layover along the Puna Coast
Halape Iki Campsite
Friday, November 12, 1999

There are generally two types of backpacking themes depending on the goals of the traveller. The first kind's best qualities are the excellent views and features en route, but often lacks a camp site you really want to remain at for any length of time. The Koolau Summit Trail is an example of this type, as the joys from it come primarily from the multiple vistas observed while traversing the heads of several valleys and gulches, and the flora along the way. But its windy, trail-side manner is often not the most comfortable or inviting of lounging locales.

The trip to Halape is the other kind. Though the journey offers the splendid views of Hawaii's cliffs and coastline, it's the destination which makes the adventure so alluring. A place of solitude, Halape is isolated by white-sand shores peppered with stretches of fallen boulders, rocky slopes, miles of open ocean and vast fields of obsidian mounds. It is a place where the rule and regulation of the urban-jungle society melts away - and one can be a kid again. It's a place lacking steel and concrete; the most prominent sign of civilization being a rock-and-wood shelter, a spigoted vat for water catchment, and a hole-in-the-ground for a bathroom. About a quarter-mile to the west, Halape Iki, a cove with a quaint shelter of palm and milo trees, is the end-of-the-road of sorts as the coastline's flatness, thereafter, narrows into a long, steep stretch of surf-tossed boulders.

I heard my fellow hikers stirring in their tents as the morning rays glanced off lazy palm fronds, powdery white sands, and the waking surf fronting our hideaway. Breakfast was quickly underway: oatmeal and granola for me, while others were a little more adventurous, like Judy and her pancakes. Immediately after, I found a nifty spot behind the stargazing rock to sit and relax. Everyone started filtering in to enjoy the shade and gentle breeze at this spot, taking in the coastal views. The steep slopes of Puu Kapukapu to our right (north) were spread with a thick layer of dirt, pebbles, rocks, and boulders like chunky peanut-butter. These rockslides, just barely frozen into the slopes of Kapukapu, are fingerprints of disasterous geologic shake-ups in the past. In fact, the white sticks upright along the Halape beach are palm tree remnants of a lethal tidal wave in November 1975, caused by an earthquake.

Judy mentioned that she felt a slight tremor during the night.

After staring at the serenity of the locale for quite some time, I grabbed a coconut from a nearby tree and, with the aid of a rock with a protruding sharp end, began husking it. Judy added another coconut to the jumble of hands involved with the operation until, finally, the delicious juice and thick white meat was passed around.. As we munched away, discussing our plans for the day, in the midst of this superb setting, I commented about the rough life we were having.

Reuben felt it was too late in the morning to go fishing. He had gotten up before dawn, but the appeal of a warm sleeping bag was too great for him to rise to a morning fishing mission. However, he invited me to go opihi-picking with him. After bidding farewell to the home-bound Debbie Uchida, who set off to hike back up the Hilina Pali Trail, I set off with Reuben to the steep boulder-lined section just west of the campsite. The rest of the gang headed east to seek out brackish-water swim pools hidden in the lava-field cracks.

Prior to this day, I had eaten opihi on rare occasion - but never fresh-off-the-rocks. In fact, the last time I enjoyed this delicacy was after a big guy standing guard over the bowl at some buffet line plopped three, small, sickly pieces onto my plate. In essence, this was a new experience for me - I had never had so many at one time, let alone picked them or tasted them fresh!

The operation is relatively simple: slide your knife or tool between the limpit and rock as quickly as possible, time the waves, and never turn your back to the ocean. When disturbed, these little creatures batten down the hatches and cling to the smooth rocks (which they prefer) for dear life. Trying to pry one off after they've sucked themselves tight can be futile at best while wasting your time in the path of an approaching swell. Timing the waves is the most exciting part of it, as the larger opihi tend to be out of the convenient reach of previous harvesters. Of course, an eye need always be kept on the temper of the ocean, for she never stops watching you.

We skirted the pounding ocean past a steep section of boulder rubble, collecting the large opihi's. I noticed how precariously loose the pile of mountain pieces was: huge rocks barely held together by whatever friction and weight was doing against the ocean's unrelenting wrath. After an hour or so, soaked with ocean water, we returned to camp with our bounty. The catch was a healthy-sized one, most of them at least an inch-and-a-half - a few were about 2 1/2"!

I think our fellow campers detected the opihi shucking, shoyu, onions, and pepper as they started filtering back to the campsite. We put a large stash aside for later, as we figured they'd come back in the afternoon, but we were happy to add the rest to the mix. So, for lunch, we all dined on fresh opihi poke. We estimated a gathering of about 1/2 gallon (valued at about $65 back home). The great thing is, we left so many back there on the rocks - plenty for the next harvesters.

After our ocean feast, the lot of us split up to either sleep out the afternoon or lose oneself in a beachfront reverie. Reuben and I headed out to a rock just off the little beach with his fishing pole in hand. He showed me some of his tricks, then let me try my hand at some casting. Within five minutes, my first bite grabbed and took off with the hook. The next bite made off with half the lure. Ah, but lucky number three snagged an exciting fight which had both he and I shouting and jumping up and down with childish glee. The outcome could be seen as a brilliant flash in the water as I brought it to the surface. It was a beautiful rainbow Papio (Jack) weighing in at nearly three pounds, according to Reuben.

The ironic thing? Other than a few times when I was a kid catching small Puffers in Hawaii Kai, this was my first time fishing! I'm hooked!

I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the cove near Reuben's fishing spot as he tried his luck with the open ocean on the other side. I thought about the catch and our wonderous bounty from the ocean, did some soul-searching, and enjoyed the surroundings while floating around in the warm water.

With the day coming to a close, I went to the Halape shelter to refill my water supplies. While there, I inspected the lua (bathroom) - when Stuart Ball says "open-air pit toilet", he surely meant "open-air"! What is essentially a platform over a large, enclosed waste-pit, it has a seat, 3-foot high rock walls, and one heck of a view!! I've got to say that this has to be one of the best views I've ever had while "communing" with nature!

Upon return, dinner was the order of the moment. Carole had already gutted the fish so Reuben and I prepared the meat on a shore-side rock. A little olive oil from Reuben, my pepper, and Judy's salt... and everyone had a delicious addition to their reconstituted bags of food.

I commented how rough life is...

Again, star-gazing followed up our nightly activities. This time, I was armed with warm socks, long pants, and my cap for warmth. We spotted several meteors streaking high in the sky - the space debris being a part of the Leonid Shower. It was so tempting to fall asleep out on that rock.

I don't know how long we stayed out that last night in Halape Iki - I didn't bring a watch. But then again, with such beautiful scenery and after such a wonderful day, who could care what time it was! Another "rough" day in pristine Hawaii - with so many memories made!

Next: Hike to and Layover at Keauhou

Happy Hiking! Greg

CREDITS: "The Backpackers Guide to Hawaii", Stuart Ball. University of Hawaii Press, 1996

"Hawaiian Hiking Trails", Craig Chisholm. Fernglen Press, 1991

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