On Saturday, September 27, my hiking partner Laredo Murray and I got together to go hiking. We were supposed to meet up with HTMC member and hike coordinator Steve Poor. We were late arriving at the meeting place across from Waikane Valley Road so he took off. He later told me that it looked like it would probably rain on us (Steve doesn't like to hike in the rain).
The goal for the day was to ascend Mount Ohulehule's south west ridge. I had been told that it was the easiest way to the summit. The climb was steady and steep but no cables were required.
After final preps Laredo and I started up Waikane Valley Road at 10:37 a.m. We reached the black gate on the right side of the road which has a sign on it which reads "no trespassing, no biking, no hiking..." and went thru a small opening on its right side. The two of us walked at a brisk pace along the dirt/muddy road past many derelict vehicles. Can't wait until the City & County of Honolulu purchases the land and removes them !
We reached the last gate on the right before the road ascends to a point high above the valley floor. We decided not to enter the valley and attempt the south west ridge for two reasons. First, the distance to the ridge was far and unless there was a trail to get us there it would have taken a significant amount of time and effort just to get to the beginning of the ridge. The other reason was the weather. Showers were imminent and the summit socked in.
Continuing on the road we reached one of the Waiahole Ditch intakes at 11:41a.m. and stopped for a rest. From what I've been told and have observed the Waiahole Ditch System is a series of tunnels running thru the base of the Ko'olau Mountain Range between Waiahole and Kahana Valleys which collects and distributes water to farmers on both the windward and leeward sides of Oahu. There has been quite a fuss lately as to how much the leeward farmers should get. A trail was constucted to help build the ditch system and maintain it. However, it became such a chore to keep the trail open that a few years ago the ditch workers decided to abandon the trail and travel inside the ditch itself to get around. Laredo and I made a close inspection of the intake as the water flowed rapidly thru the ditch. A few weeks earlier Laredo had told me of his desire for us to travel thru it one day. I wasn't too wild about the idea.
At 11:50 a.m. we started up the Waiahole Ditch Trail. Laredo took a short cut climbing steeply while I went along the normal route. A few minutes later I found him sitting waiting for me after I had negotiated a group of fallen trees jammed together which block the trail at a certain point. It is a tricky place to get by because of the slickness of the trunks. On our way up the ditch trail Laredo and I walked over stretches which had cobble stones and were atleast 7 feet wide. Mules once traveled along this trail. But most of the time we were navigating thru or under fallen trees and over soil slippage and mini-landslides. What a shame that this wonderful piece of work has fallen into such disarray ! At 12:08 a hard rain began to fall on us. Laredo put his rain coat on but I did not since I had failed to bring mine. Because of the heat the rain was very refreshing.
The two of us arrived at the true Waikane saddle at 12:22. We recognized the start of the Waikane Trail and in unison with smiles on our faces said "Waikane" to each other. Laredo and I could not help but remember our 3 hour struggle up the Waikane Trail to the Ko'olau Summit thru thick overgrowth on April 5 of this year. I wanted to put in an hour of trail clearing on Waikane but Laredo would not have tollerated it esp. since it was raining. Waikane is one of my favorite trails and hopefully before the year is out Dr. Pete Caldwell and others will join me in an attempt to keep it open. The problem is that it takes atleast an hour and a half just to get to the trailhead.
The rain stopped and the low level clouds dissipated.
Pressing on Laredo and I started up the Pu'u Koiele Trail which eventually leads to the north west ridge of Ohulehule. "Perhaps we could reach the summit from that ridge and come down the south west ridge weather permitting" I thought to myself. HTMC legend John Hall had advised me the night before to go down the south west ridge because there was a landslide which required a rope to get past it. I had a ten foot cable in my pack for just such an occasion. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that someone had done some maintenance to the trail including the sawing of guava trees and clearing of uluhe fern. The views of Waikane Valley below and of the saddle behind were beautiful. Unfortunately after climbing the first pu'u on the way to Pu'u Koiele the trail turned right and down toward the valley below. It came to an abrupt end soon after. Laredo and I tried to continue on the ridge toward Pu'u Koiele but the thick roadblock of uluhe fern stopped us dead in our tracks. I took out my bolo knife and started cutting but I just didn't have it in me to put in the two or three hours of bushwacking that it would have taken to cross the ridge.
I was starting to get frustrated. In my mind I was saying to myself,"We are not going to turn back ! We are going to accomplish something today !".
The two of us backtracked along the ridge and at 1:18 I talked Laredo into going down the continuation of the Waiahole Ditch Trail. We encountered more of the same problems as before - fallen trees, soil slippage, mini-landslides but atleast I didn't have to bushwack. Ducking under trees was a pain however. The trail descended gradually toward the floor of Kahana Valley along Pu'u Koiele ridge. I stopped briefly to study the Ko'olau Mountain Range. I recognized the sheer wall of an intermittent waterfall which the Waikane Trail passes as well as the Ko'olau Summit Trail leading to Kipapa cut beautifully into the top of the mountain. Further ahead Laredo pointed out a very unusual tree which had short stems filled with green fruit growing all along its trunk. Many of the fruit had fallen on to the trail and were black in color.
Next came a switchback in the trail followed by a curve to the right which took us from Pu'u Koiele ridge to a location not far from the base of the Ko'olaus. I noticed fresh pua'a rootings in the soil along the trail. Not one or two days old but fresh (minutes old) as if pua'a had just been there ! It was kind of spookie. I began speaking loudly as we continued so that we would not have any confrontations with wild boar.
Laredo and I discovered the first of six major ditch intakes as we proceeded along the ditch trail. There was an opening in one part of the intake and we could feel a cool breeze blowing out of it. Laredo climbed thru the opening for a closer look.
After satisfying our curiousity the two of us continued along the trail as it contoured in the back of Kahana Valley. It was difficult to figure out where we were in the valley because of thick vegetation and an overhanging canopy.
The second ditch intake was very similar to the first but the third had a beautiful steep waterfall below it similar to the one in Waiahole Valley along the Kuolani-Waianu Trail. I observed what looked like a series of waterfalls in the distance originating from the Ko'olau Mountain Range which fed the fourth intake.
Every once in a while the trail would contour around a ridge which jutted out toward the valley allowing for better views. The views were not only enjoyable but they allowed us to figure out where we were. At one such view spot Laredo and I recognized a green helipad with a large yellow dot in the middle. Just before reaching it we discovered two tall loulu trees with the fifth ditch intake to the right of them. In front of the ditch were two green buildings. The first had solar panals on top and the second had yellow rain jackets and firefighter boots hanging in the back. A tall antenna structure stood in front of the green buildings.
We finished checking out the area and went on with our hike. It was just before 3 p.m. Not far from the green buildings was the stacked remains of another building. Laredo brought to my attention the fact that it had a multilevel foundation. As we began to move away from it closer to the helipad a huge pua'a appeared 30 yards away right in the middle of the trail. Laredo started running back toward me looking for a tree to climb. I stood perfectly still. The boar did not have any tusks so it was probably a female. Her ears perked up as if she was glad to see us ! "Go on now" I told her and she turned around and ran away. Laredo then began to chase the pua'a but I admonished him to stop.
Shortly thereafter the two of us reached the helipad and sat down on it to rest and enjoy some snacks. To the right as we looked out toward the valley in front of us was Pu'u Koiele ridge.
As the ditch trail continued to wind around the back of the valley I started looking for the ridge which has the Kahana Valley Trail on it. Suddenly another pua'a smaller than the first shot out of the vegetation ahead of us and ran down the trail ! Laredo and I periodically observed tall paperbark trees on the perimeter of the trail with large chunks missing at the base. The males do this with their tusks to mark their territory. The higher up the indentation the larger the boar ! Time was beginning to become a problem (it was past 4 p.m. and neither of us had brought a flashlight). The last thing I wanted was to get stuck in the dark in the back of Kahana Valley. Once evening set in the pua'a would awaken from their slumber or return to their homes along the trail and eat Laredo and I alive !!!
At approx. 4:30 along a relatively open stretch we traveled underneath massive Pu'u Pauao which towered high above. I felt like I was on the Maunawili Demonstration Trail. It had a very similar look to it. Rain began to fall again but only for a brief time.
The two of us reached the sixth and final ditch intake and the trail ended. We continued to contour along an extention of the trail thru lots of Ginger. Most of them were in bloom (the white flowers smelled so good !). Further on, however, the trail ended and we had to bushwack. Laredo discovered a hunter trail and we followed it. Ribbons marked the route. Once again the trail ended and we were forced to make our own way down thru a stream bed and then up the side of the next ridge. It was a little past 5 p.m. and I was getting very anxious. Laredo stopped to rest and make some adjustments to his fanny pack so I took the ram-rod. I came across yet another hunter trail and the two of us followed it as it contoured. We could see Pu'u Piei just to the left, Pu'u Koiele ridge to the right and Pu'u Manamana (not the true Manamana) almost straight ahead in the distance.
Finally at 5:10 p.m. we reached the junction with the Kahana Valley Trail. Laredo accidentally snapped off the branch of the tree with the ribbons on it. I tied a new orange one to a different branch as he took the lead. We followed mostly blue ribbons thru the uluhe. Some of the trees along the route had red spray paint on them marking the way. At one point Laredo went the wrong direction so I took the lead. We reached Kahana stream and after crossing it followed HTMC orange/red ribbons. It was my goal to reach the watertank before dark. As Laredo and I moved quickly along the trail we noticed the stream below moving rapidly with some white water visible. We also observed and were thankful for improvements in the trail itself where small landslides once existed.
The two of us reached the watertank at 6:02 p.m. and after twenty minutes of road walking arrived at the hunter/hiker check-in box. With little delay we continued moving toward Kam. Hwy., arrived there at 6:43 p.m. and sat down inside a covered bus stop. Laredo called his wife shortly thereafter and she picked us up at 7:23 p.m.
Notes: From a 1970 map of TRAILS, HUNTING, & PARK AREAS ISLAND OF OAHU I quote the following,"36 OHULEHULE - This trail begins where Waikane Trail No. 35 starts. At the Kahana Saddle at 0.6 mile it turns to follow the ridgeline right. This scenic, oftentimes knife-like, and sometimes slippery ridge passes Puu Koiele at 1,683 ft. in elevation to reach Puu Ohulehule at 2,265 ft. A spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding area is possible from this point. The loop route then drops down the ridge towards Waikane Stream and follows the valley down 0.7 mile before joining Waikane Camp road and back to Kam Highway. 3.5 miles".
== Paka-lolo (Paka = Pat; lolo = feeble minded which is what it takes to do some of the crazy hikes on Oahu)