Kipapa-Manana At Last: Part 2
Morning came to our campsite and also brought clouds and intermittent light rain showers. What happened? According to the script, it was supposed to be clear and sunny. Laredo fueled up for the day with a major MRE breakfast topped off with some more "food" just for good measure. Patrick packed up quickly and sat there quietly contemplating our damp situation while the rest of us finished eating and throwing a lot of wet gear into our packs. We squished out of camp a little after eight and headed south.
Following initially Paka-lolo's pink ribbons from yesterday, we soon moved on into virgin territory and were negotiating the next dip and hump on the ridge. A short time later, Dayle suddenly encountered an unexpected obstacle in the form of a serious equipment failure: He blew out the top button on his well-traveled pants. Imagine trying to make progress and keep from sliding down the pali while having your your pants head for your knees. Fortunately Gene had some spare line which Laredo, the designated St. Bernard (still carrying some 151) proceeded to use to make the necessary repairs.
We soon reached peak 2750 which turned out to be marked with a pipe on the grassy windy summit. We knew it was relatively all downhill to the gap from there, and we were hopeful to drop below the cloud layer at some point as we descended. In another 30 minutes or so, we topped a small rise on the ridge and were treated to the welcome sight of glimpses of Waiahole Valley as the clouds began to break up. Out came the camera as the views got better and better. We could see the road leading up to Waiahole Camp and best of all our next goal which was the low point above the head of Waiawa Valley.
Gene and Laredo charged ahead followed by Patrick with his ribbons while Dayle and I brought up the rear. I stopped for awhile to take some pictures of the first group as they made their way above the precipice of the Waiahole pali. Forging ahead, we got into the Koolau Crest bushwhack routine which meant following carefully the path of least resistance along the edge most of the time. I scanned the pali face for lobelia plants which seem to favor the wind and moisture of that environment. At the same time, it reinforced the need to proceed with caution because in most places, it would be a long slide/roll before coming to a stop to say the least. Fortunately most of the route had good handholds provided by the hardy uki or native sedge plant along with ohia, some lapalapa, and unfortunately the everpresent clidemia. Also of course, we kept the Koolau Crest maxim in mind: If you're going to fall, fall to leeward!
Around noon, Dayle and I were close to the gap and encountered the first of a number of old blue ribbons placed by ??? They weren't 20 years old for sure so someone had preceeded us in recent years. Bottoming out at the Waiawa gap, the leeward side was heavily vegetated but relatively gentle as predicted from the contour map. Camping there as we had originally planned would have been a bit of a struggle but water was probably available a short distance away in the headwaters of Waiawa stream if we had needed it. Laredo, Gene, and Patrick were already pushing up the steeper southern side. I took advantage of the time needed for a film change to take in the spectacular views. We even had a short visit from the sun which added to the wild beauty of the scene.
Luncheon was served at peak 2530 on the ridge. We feasted on Power bars and various other leftovers washed down with Gatorade. My wife suggested trying some pita bread plus a spicy humus spread which traveled well and proved to be a tasty alternative to the usual fare. Assessing the situation, it appeared that the toughest part of the route was probably behind us as further ahead the ridge broadened out on the leeward side especially near the "corner" before turning south again toward the Manana trail terminus. Still given the length of that exit route, it looked like a good chance for flashlights again before we reached the trailhead.
Laredo, Gene, and Patrick zoomed ahead and soon were just distant figures on the ridge. We suspected that Gene had another dinner date and was not goi ng to smell the flowers much once he hit the Manana trail. We maneuvered along over more ups and downs, and the broad summit area drew closer. Suddenly we spotted a beautiful blooming lobelia around 15 feet down from the edge. It not only had a single purplish spike of flowers but also was sporting a bright pink ribbon as well! It was a trematolobelia singularis plant which is a relatively rare lobelia that is found occasionally in such windswept pali locations. Leave it to Paka-lolo to risk life and limb to bring it to our attention!
We soon reached some open, grassy sections which had campsite and helicopter landing possibilities written all over them. I took some more GPS readings while admiring views of our next objective, the Manana ridge, now appearing through a gap to the southwest. As we enjoyed the freedom of simply walking for a change as opposed to concentrating on each step near the edge, I noticed several small water-containing natural mud and rock basins on the grassy slope. Dayle and I looked at each other and came to the same conclusion: Time to fill'er up! Add a couple of iodine tablets plus a little Gatorade, and we were in fine shape for the rest of the way. As a back-up also, Dayle had hauled up a gallon and a half which was stashed and waiting at the top of the Manana trail.
Soon we rounded the corner taking one last look at the magnificent view of the great sweep of the Waiahole pali over to the Kipapa summit and points north. A short time later, we were taking our final crossover break looking downward at the narrow ridge leading up from the low point below the Manana summit. We spotted Gene waving at us from the top and another figure nearby. One last stetch to go! Around 35 minutes later, I was high-fiving Dayle as he pulled up to the familiar grassy summit with a big smile. Waiting for us were the water containers (2 out of three still full) plus a note from the intrepid ribbonman, Paka-lolo.
We sat for awhile gazing at the late afternoon light slanting across the pali to the north and the shadows of clouds over the Kaneohe Bay reefs. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing sight as we reflected on the adventures of the crossover.We knew there was no rush now as we were going to be going down by flashlight again anyway. Dayle hitched up his pants, and we headed down around 4:45 PM. At this point, the goal was to avoid mishaps on the slippery,muddy upper section of the trail and to try and get down as far as the helipad before we ran out of daylight.
As anyone familiar with the Manana trail knows, it is a classic rollercoaster route especially the upper sections which have several somewhat steep short descents. Sitting down and sliding at times never felt so good except for having to stand up again. I shot another roll of film looking upward at the golden late afternoon light bathing the upper slopes and some silhouettes of Dayle descending ahead as the sun began to dip toward the Waianaes.
We arrived at the hilltop helipad shortly after dark. Each uphill section at this point had been tough physically and psychologically especially when we realized it wasn't actually the elusive helipad yet. So we were more than happy to flop down and stretch out under the stars for awhile and enjoy the last of our food and tank up one more time. The others were out for sure by now. Those guys could really fly on the downward legs, and we laughed about our June Schofield descent when Patrick assured us he was going to stay "relatively " close as in an hour or two away. Besides slowing down to flag a route, we decided perhaps a female hiking companion might slow our friend down a little.
Beginning to feel a little cold, we saddled up after a 30-minute break and were soon swallowed up in the forest accompanied by the loud singsong of crickets. In a short time, we were on the freeway section of the trail and headed toward Komo Mai.The last portion before the road leads through a eucalyptus forest and by flashlight would be a challenge if unfamiliar with the route. However Dayle especially knew the way having just recently descended after the recent water cache hike. Joking about cruising na pua'a, we reached the road and creaked through the gate around 10:15 PM spotting the welcome sight of Dayle's car.
We hit a nearby 7-11 just before closing. Dayle went for the ultimate Big Gulp : two 44 oz. drinks, "Where you guys been, hunting?" asked the wahine who took pity on us and let us in. Dayle, setting a new fashion trend with slippers and a piece of uluhe between his toes, told her we had spent the weekend out in the mountains which was pretty obvious considering the way we looked and probably smelled.
We drove on down the hill luxuriating in the feeling of going somewhere without having to walk. Dayle commented that he might consider hiking again in a couple of weeks. I felt the same way but knew with a day or two to heal that I might have a change of heart. We would have many long-lasting memories and stories to tell from this trip. One thing was for sure: I could now finally drive home from Waipahu toward Honolulu after work and look up at the Waiawa gap knowing that yes, we had been there at last!