Yesterday, Thursday, Sept. 4, I departed work bound for Moanalua Valley. Now its true that I was just in there this past Sunday but just before the trail clearing crew departed the park that day Ken Suzuki pointed out a side ridge to the left of the park as one faces the Koolaus. He said that no one had done it. With this in mind I had to check it out !
Drove to the back of Moanalua Valley and parked outside the park (I didn't want my car to get locked in if I came out kinda late ! hehehehehe ! :^) ). Changed clothes in the mens room and headed for the trailhead to the right of the basketball court at 4:35 p.m.
Noticed a red ribbon on a tree in the beginning of the forest as I followed a distinct trail up the side ridge. Ascended somewhat steeply past guava and eucalyptus trees looking for other red ribbons. Most of the time the trail went up the side ridge. Only briefly did it contour. After gaining altitude the trail contoured and descended. I followed it until it didn't look like it was going to go up any more. I doubled back and found the place where it ascended steeply up and over a rock outcrop (face). I used the roots and branches of a tree nearby and a cable which was provided to go beyond this area. Continued to ascend somewhat steeply. Climbed up and over another rock outcrop with the use of white and tan cables. After ascending thru loose dirt and dead leaves I climbed up and over still another small rock outcrop. Further ahead I went to the right of a 4th rock outcrop. Soon after I emerged from the woods onto a dirt road.
I turned right and hiked along the road. It had a nasty rut in the middle of it. Stopped and sat down in the shade of a 4 headed Norfolk Island pine tree at 5 p.m. After resting briefly I got up and continued walking on the road under 6 sets of power lines. Somewhere along this stretch I joined the main ridge - Red Hill Ridge. I noticed another side ridge on the right connecting with the main ridge in the distance. Observed itchy buffalo grass to the right of the road which reminded me of the Heleakala-Palikea traverse which took place just three days earlier. The road passed thru an ironwood grove before the last two sets of powerlines.
It was a beautiful afternoon with a nice breeze, lots of sunshine and puffy white clouds above. I enjoyed nice views of Pearl Harbor and the Waianae Range to the west.
Reached the end of the road and started tying orange ribbon to trees at key spots along the trail. Next I entered a guava forest. The trail became narrow as I moved thru the guava. Some of the branches protruded into it striking my body but none hit me in the face. Where was Wing Ng with his hungry loppers when I needed him ?! :)
The trail opened up again and I went past a massive landslide to the right. It appeared that the slide took place long ago because the area was badly eroded. Noticed quite a few ohia trees with their cherry red flowers. The ridge was very level thru this section.
Entered another guava forest and eventually encountered uluhe fern. It appeared that someone had been maintaining the trail in this area because I saw evidence of this (cut brown uluhe branches laying on the sides of the trail).
After a stretch of guava/uluhe combo the trail opened up with a long stretch of uluhe fern. This time the fern clogged the trail. At times I had to push or cut my way thru. My legs got scratched. Long pants are definately required from this point on.
After some up and down action (nothing steep) I descended gradually to a small Norfolk Island pine grove. Went past a massive pine tree. It was nice to get a break from the uluhe.
Pressing on I went thru more guava and stayed on the left side of the ridge as one faces the Koolaus. I recognized fresh rooting in the soil. A pua'a haven esp. from Calvin Zane and his fellow hunters who invade Moanalua Valley every Saturday. Just to make sure none were around I yelled out, "I'm coming ! Better move away !".
Next I ascended toward a large grove of Norfolk Island pines which almost completely cover a knob on the ridge. One can see the area very clearly from Moanalua Valley. Once I reached the pines at 6:07 p.m. I lost the trail briefly. There was plenty of room to manuever but I wanted to stay on the established route. After I found the trail again I tied orange ribbons to indicate where it was. The area under the pines was wonderful but because of time constraints I couldn't enjoy it for very long. Found and enjoyed a nice view spot within the grove of Moanalua Valley below and Tripler Ridge across the valley.
Continued along the trail until I was beyond the large Norfolk Island pine grove. At 6:10 I noticed a significant dip in the ridge ahead so I stopped and enjoyed the gorgeous views. To the far right was Lanihuli. Just slightly to the right was the Moanalua Valley saddle, the building with the microwave dishes on top located at the Haiku Stairs summit, the twin peaks in the back of Moanalua Valley along the Koolau Summit ridge (the one on the left being Pu'u Keahi a kahoe), the middle ridge. The Aiea Ridge saddle, contour sections of the Halawa Ridge Trail and the Koolau Summit ridge were clearly visible on the left. White clouds hovered just above the summit.
At 6:20 p.m. I started heading back to the park. While working my way thru one of the guava forests I heard a dog to my left which frightened me. I sternly called out for it to "go on" and it did. After the sun had set and as darkness was setting in I could see the beautiful cresent moon with Venus to the left of it. Halawa prison was in the distance to the right down in the valley.
It got dark as I headed very rapidly down the side ridge (not pitch dark). However, I lost the trail so I went straight down (shades of the Pu'u Kaua pau hana hike except I didn't have my flashlight this time !). Emerged from the woods near the basketball court and breathed a sigh of relief at 7:11 p.m.
Notes: If you've done Aiea Ridge, Halawa Ridge, and Tripler Ridge try this trail for a change of pace. The part I did is fairly level (does not have a lot of ups and downs). I look forward to completing this hike soon and perhaps turning it into a loop with Moanalua Valley Trail or Halawa Ridge in a style similar to Kulepeamoa and Wailupe Middle Ridge.
That ridge was one major ridge in the Koolau with already something like a trail on it that is almost never done. Stuart Ball said that there is a side trail that goes up to it from deep inside Moanalua Valley that he did once, and then he came down the Pali to Moanalua saddle that is the Club hike. He said that the descent could use a cable, and so, eh, exciting!
Let's do it some day!