OHE September 7, 1997

From: Gene Robinson (gene@lava.net)
As the summer hiking season draws to an end, I'm still haunted by memories of the KST between Kipapa and Schofield, especially the windward sections carved right into the side of the mountain. How did they do it? Who planned the layout of the trail? Who did the work? The standard answer seems to be "the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930's."

I needed to take my kids to the Hawaii State Library this weekend, which gave me a good excuse to run down to the basement and check out the Honolulu Advertiser and Star-Bulletin archives for articles about the construction of the KST. There's a topical index that covers the 1930's and 1940's in one slim volume, which made me pessimistic right from the start. Sure enough, when I looked for articles under Ko'olau Summit Trail, there were none. There were a lot of articles about a "Ko'olau Boys Home," though, and Ko'olau the leper!

Next, I looked under "hikers" and found a lot of articles about, you guessed it, LOST hikers. It's amazing to see how many people over the past fifty years have been lost, and usually found, in the Oahu mountains. There was an interesting article about a family "lost" on Ka'ala in the 1930's and found the next day, and lots of people who fell to their deaths from all over the Waianae and Koolau ranges. For someone with a morbid compulsive nature, you could probably come up with a Top Ten Death Sites on Oahu hiking trails by going through the archive microfilms and checking out the details. Wing? Paka-lolo? Any takers?

Finally, by looking up Civilian Conservation Corps, I found some relevant information, but not much. There was an article in the Star Bulletin in April 1934 about an ECW camp at Schofield Barracks. What the initials ECW stand for was not explained (I guess everyone in 1934 knew what the ECW was, like the NBA in 1997), but it must have been part of the CCC. The ECW camp on Oahu was at Schofield Barracks, and the camp superintendent was R.C.Bayless. The young men in the camp were working at that time on Kulepeamoa, Anahulu ridge and Poamoho trails. The article gave me the impression that most of the trails already existed in 1934, but were being widened to "horse-trail" width of about four feet. The field supervisor of the Poamoho trail work was Mr. Buster Quinn.

The most interesting bit of trail trivia I learned was that the workers planted ti leaf plants along the downhill edges of the trails cut into the sides of cliffs so that the roots would strengthen the trail and "...the bushy tops [would] prevent the height dizziness that some people feel looking down a sheer slope." : )

So I failed my mission to find out more about the origins of the KST. Was it part of war preparation efforts and therefore kept quiet? Or is its origin more recent than the 1933-1942 time of the CCC? I saw a reference to an article about the Schofield trail being lengthened over two miles to the Ko'olau ridge in about 1946-7, so I guess the KST could have been built after that date.

Anybody know how to find out more? Does HTMC have old archives that might solve the mystery?

Reply From: Mike Uslan (killah@off-road.com)

I grew up in Aiea, away from KST but remember that parts of Aiea Loop Trail connected to Camp Smith, and that it was once more road than trail. I always imagined the Koolaus before WWII were a vast network of military trails and roads. I also remember a the topo maps still for sale today show Halawa Ridge as having a road to the summit at one time. Its still on the map. Theres also a very strange "cave" on the way to Camp Smith off of the Aiea Loop trail. Maybe and old ammo cache?

The Paalaa Uka Pupukea Rd used to access the North Kooalus was built in the very early part of this century.

I was not alive but from reading about WWII this Island was very much preparing for a real invasion. I guarantee the Koolaus have more history than just the KST. I think the history you seek might be found kept by some retired Army soldier who might remember. Just my thoughts.

From: Gene Robinson (gene@lava.net)

Thanks, Mike. Speaking of strange caves and the military, ever heard the rumor about the tunnel that supposedly connects Barber's Point and Pearl Harbor? I know someone who swears you can drive the whole way underground.

Oops. Now the feds are going to be monitoring OHE-L.

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