OHE October 11, 1999 (Makapuu-TomTom)

Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1999 12:11:21 -1000
From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Makapuu/Tom-Tom Excitement (Trail-Clearing)

What was to be a typical trail-clearing for me was to be the day I'd earn my trail clearing merit badge on the sleeve and tunic of my shirt.

This past Sunday's trail-clearing gang headed out to the Makapuu/Tom-Tom Trail which starts mauka of the Makapuu Lookout. As most of the crew's regulars were exploring the joys of backpacking near Kualoa, we were left with a skeleton crew plus a few Sunday recruits. Among those on-hand were: Jim Pushaw, Jason Sunada, Lynne Masuyama, Stuart Ball, Grant Oka, Steve Becker, Pete Sofman, Jay Feldman, Thomas Yoza, Dayle Turner, and Dick & Brenda Cowen.

The day started rather late for us as we alighted from transportation from the HTMC clubhouse to the trailhead (provided by Pete Sofman and Thomas Yoza) into some loud country music blaring from a nearby car (tourist?). We quickly assumed the left-right shuffle up the arid slope as a couple of bicyclists stopped and intently watched our ascent. One of my favorite trails for the views throughout the journey, I was not disappointed by the astounding scenes of sparkling ocean blues, coastal greens, and the precipitous gray and browns of the cliffs we approached. The cool breeze made the ascent all the more pleasurable.

After completing the first major ascent, Jason and I temporarily camped out in the shade of the puu's backside as the morning sun was out in full form at that moment. Our fellow hikers trampled by over the craggy rocks and gritty gravel as we sat before the wondrous views in conversation With an overcast setting in, the two of us followed in tow of Grant, all of us snipping and clipping the crispy outstretched limbs laying in wait to scathe an ankle or shin.

As the cliff remains sun-baked and wind-swept, vegetative overgrowth has never been a problem and our venture was neared completion relatively early. We reached the old Nike facility, taking some time to veer off into the four large barracks. The floor was unusually slippery this time, probably due to slimy moss in the damp hallways. It was apparent that our paint-balling community has been frequenting this abandoned lot of structures: an excellent idea (for them), actually.

A hop over the chained gate and a walk up the (closed) asphalt road, we reached the top of the Nike site: home of the abandoned detection radar platforms. We used to be able to poke through a large hole in the fence and skitter up a flight of steps past one of the platforms. However, that fence has since been repaired by the current occupants of the area (cellular/telco, cable, etc.) and we had to veer back onto the ridgeline to get through. Thankfully, the barbed-wire extension of the cliff-bound fence doesn't extend far enough to impose a safety threat while skirting the fence terminus. We were soon through the mess of radio shacks and portable offices and back on the trail.

The precipitous drop (the most "exciting" part of the whole trail) wasn't as blood-curdling this time as it was on my last trek there, but a few first-timers felt the same exhiliaration I did that year ago. The rest of the trail-clearing gang was perched at the other side of this saddle, just before the ironwood grove. Jim and I found an awesome camp spot for a tent at the base of the saddle.

Despite are slow pace, lunch was still rather severely early. Nonetheless, we took our time to enjoy the gorgeous views of Rabbit Island. Later, as the bulk of our hiking compadres departed, I headed into the ironwoods to find a comfy spot to relax in the company of Grant, Jim, Jason, Stuart, and Steve. This time, my gaze turned to the splendor of Puu O Kona to Ulupau Head.

Continuing on our trip, Jason and Jim split from our party to descend Kaupo Cliffs. As I figured that was too risky for me, I decided to follow the "safer" route with Grant, Stuart, and Steve.

About thirty minutes from the ironwoods, as we approached the low point of the wide saddle as head of Kamilonui Valley (AKA "Marconi Pass"), we took an up/down approach to a large pile of boulders instead of the customary around-to-the-left path. At the top of the heap, Grant trickled his way down the pali (Waimanalo) side of the rock face without incident. I picked my trip down the 10-foot rock face just as any other trail feature I've down. This will soon become the most exciting part of any trail I've ever done!

About halfway down, with my left foot firmly placed on an outcropped rock, I placed one hand on a rock about head-high and aimed my right foot for another foothold. Keep in mind there's nothing around me - no branches, no vegetation, nothing but view. As I shifted to the right, the large rock (the size of my body) I was using as hand-support became dislodged. As one would expect this with the typical crumbling rock found all over the island, this, however, was the hard, balsaltic stuff that doesn't break apart without hammer and chisel - usually. In slow motion, of course, the rock peeled out, leaned toward me, and I was in trouble. It clipped my chin while the thought raced through my mind: I've gotta get out of its way! The rock and I bounded off the ridge. Somehow, I rolled right, slammed my backside onto the narrow ledge-for-a-trail, then began to slide down the steep cliff (thank goodness it wasn't a 90-degree gradient cliff!). I heard Grant yell, "Greg!!" as I leaned back as well as I could, trying to jam my waistpack and backpack against the crumbling earth, my hands trying to snag whatever shrub or crag came to them. And somehow... I stopped before coasting within a foot or two of a 20-30 foot drop-off.

All this took a few seconds, of course!

With a rather nice view of the slope and Waimanalo between my feet, I heard Grant's relief that I stopped. I yelled back, "Whoa, I'm not safe yet!" as I realized the wrong movement would send me for an immediate joyride to said drop-off. I eased myself as gingerly as possible, resisting the urge to scramble back to the trail. Grant swung down to give me a hand. Presto, no problem... was back up and on my feet, dripping blood a little. Stuart and Steve elected to backtrack and go the (what was called by a member of our party a few minutes prior) "girly" way. I laughed to myself as I figured I had already removed the danger. As I cleaned up with my first aid kit, Stuart reached Grant and I, came over, slapped me on the back and said "glad to see you!". I don't know if there's ever been a more appropriate time to say those same words!

Ironically, Georgina (Grant's daughter) and I opted to take the "girly" path on this exact rock last year (despite Grant's encouragment of the more "manly" route)! She was, unfortunately, not around to save me again!

Compared to that, the rest of the hike was uneventful. Though I was far from being shaken up (that fact still worries me), I took things a bit slower as my ankles were a tad overextended from the rock and roll. I think the reason, moreso, for my pace was that I was trying to figure out how I didn't fly off the mountain like that rock. Hey, I'm counting my blessings (but it would be nice to know how I got out of that one)!

A welcomed sight, Mabel and Thomas were waiting with refreshments and vehicles in the Waimanalo Hawaiian Homelands. Jason and Jim emerged from the woods shortly after we did and we all headed back to the clubhouse for the post-hike gathering.

Oh, and about me... I figured I'd stop by the E-R and have a doctor check out the wound just in case. I got patched up with three stitches. It pales in comparison to the 9-stitcher we had on Schofield-Waikane!

Happy (and safe) hiking!


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