OHE September 19, 1998 (b)

Date: Sat, 19 Sep 1998 23:49:27 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Ohikilolo

Pat Rorie and I headed out to Oahu's west side today to hike Ohikilolo, a trail I'd never done before and, if the current landowners don't relent, one I may never do again.

We were originally slated to visit Pat's beloved Pu'u Ohulehule with Randy Jackson, who is visiting Oahu for a week. Randy, however, bowed out because of other commitments, so Pat and I decided to pass on Ohulehule and hike Ohikilolo instead.

We drove out Makua Valley way in Pat's new vehicle (Honda CRV), and set off at just past 9 a.m. Pat was apprehensive about leaving his vehicle along Farrington Highway, and I tried to encourage him that it'd be okay. In addition, a couple of busloads of off-duty military personnel were in the area doing some volunteer trash pick-up along the highway and the shoreline area makai of it, so their presence also eased Paka's nervousness about vehicle break-in.

The military has erected a fence, primarily for goat control, that runs from Farrington Highway up and along the ridge to the base of the pyramidal peak that marks the end of the Ohikilolo hike. This distance is about 3.5 miles, representing a ton of work, time, and material. The fence, I should add, is both a nuisance and a safety-enhancer--a nuisance because one has to hop over it at various points to hike along the safest and least obstructed route, and a safety-enhancer because the fence is an everpresent handhold source and security blanket, especially helpful on the narrow, exposed sections. In essence, the fence is akin to a 3.5-mile rope from the trail's beginning to end.

We needed just over three hours to reach the top of the pyramidal peak. On the way, we saw many goats, most on the Ohikilolo (right) side of the ridge, and some on the Makua side. If the fence is supposed to keep the goats out of Makua--home to some rare species of native flora--then it's not doing its job presently. Perhaps plans to finish the fenceline and to conduct an eradication hunt in Makua are in the works. Let's hope so.

For almost the entire hike, we trudged on an open ridge almost completely devoid of shade. Fortunately, save for the first and last half hour, we hiked under a sky of high clouds accompanied by gentle 5 to 10 mph trade winds. Pat and I agreed we couldn't have scripted better conditions to hike this rugged ridge.

In addition to the open ridge, there were some steep dropoffs and exposed sections to deal with. But the ever present fence came into play, offering handholds and security when needed. Take away the fence and some segments of the ridge become more gnarly. As is, the entire hike isn't overly dangerous.

But it's a rugged son-of-a-gun. Stuart Ball calls Ohikilolo "the most difficult hike in (his) book." He's right. Ohikilolo calls for a gain of 3,000 vertical feet over a rocky (read: joint-jarring), shadeless, sometimes dangerous ridge. And the return leg, although downhill, is no party, with knees and feet paying a heavy price.

But with pain comes pleasure, with views all along the way, including the beautiful sight of Ko'iahi Gulch to the left about halfway to the top, and the wonderful panorama at the apex of the pyramidal peak at the end. Pat and I spent 45 minutes at the terminal peak, enjoying the sight of cloudfree aircraft carrier-shaped Mount Kaala and the ridge extension from it that included No-Name Peak, Kawiwi, and Kamaileunu. Waialua, Haleiwa, Pupukea, and points beyond were also visible as was the massive expanses of Makaha Valley to the right and upper Makua to the left. Beautiful.

I snapped some photos on the return leg; hopefully, these will turn out well. I also descended deliberately, not wanting to sprain an ankle or fall because of haste and inattention. This equated to a homeward leg about 30 minutes faster than the ascent. To our surprise and dismay, when we reached Pat's car, we were confronted by an HPD officer, the owner (Mr. Silva) of Makua/Ohikilolo Ranch, and a couple of beefy ranch hands of Silva.

We were informed that we had trespassed during the hike and were let off with a warning. Apparently, Mr. Silva owns the parcel to the ridgeline on the Ohikilolo side and is concerned about liability. He's apparently had problems with illegal hunting on his land, including incidents where potshots were taken at his cattle. He seemed more tolerant after finding out we were hikers not hunters, but Pat's offer to sign a waiver of liability, akin to what folks sign before HTMC hikes, was quickly shot down.

What does all this mean? First, I'll never again hike Ohikilolo the way we did it today without permission. Second, I'd suggest others follow suit. We know it's possible to get to the Ohikilolo terminus via an ascent of Keaau Ridge, and that alternative apparently is on state-owned land. It'd be a shame if access to Ohikilolo Ridge is forever denied, for the route, although rugged, is a gem


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