OHE KST Backpack 2000, Day 2
Tue, 30 May 2000 10:07:17 -1000 From: "Dayle K. Turner"
Subject: HTMC KST Backpack 2000 (Day 2) We were up at 6 a.m. after a night camped in the clearing on the edge of the Kawailoa marsh (this marsh is actually the headwater of Kamananui Stream, which eventually empties into the ocean at Waimea Bay). Actually, a few of us arose earlier since the light of day made its appearance at 5:30. The skies around us were tinted reddish-pink, and while looking heavenward at the orange sherbet clouds, I recalled a saying my grandfather taught me when I was a young boy--"Red skies at night, sailors' delight. Red skies at morning, sailors take warning." And while the nine in our group weren't sailors, we easily could have been given the strong gusts that made spinnakers out of our packs as we trodded along the KST on this day. As I mentioned in part 1, I slept in my hiking clothes, so all I had to do to suit up for the day's march was to slip into my Montrail Vitesse shoes, zip on my gaiters, slap on my gloves, hoist on my pack, grab my hiking poles, and I was set. For breakfast, I ate a protein bar and a can of deviled ham. Most of the other folks ate add-hot-water type meals. John, meanwhile, ate more of his gruel, Henry his MREs, and Ed his fresh fruits. Because the leg from Kawailoa to Poamoho is the toughest of the three segments, I was eager to get everyone going early enough to allow for the maximum amount of daylight hiking time. As it turned out, everyone completed the leg with plenty of time to spare, but prudence for this segment was nonetheless warranted because of its length and ruggedness. At just past 7 a.m., Henry, Ed, and I set off southeast on the KST, accompanied by misty clouds and blustery wind gusts that would stay with us all day. As we left, I looked over at the wood platform pu'u to see if the trio of backpackers were stirring and getting ready to go. As it turned out, they weren't ready to go and we wouldn't see them again until they appeared on last night's TV news being interviewed after being rescued from somewhere along the Castle Trail yesterday (see the May 30 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser for details or go to the Hon Adv website at http://honoluluadvertiser.com/localnews16.html A few minutes after leaving Kawailoa, Tom and I conducted a radio test--loud and clear. At 7:30, Tom radioed to let me know that the rest of our group had departed Kawailoa. Tom acted as sweep, and in addition to keeping an eye out on our group, he kept watch for the backpacking trio, but never saw them at any point on the trail. The first significant landmark beyond Kawailoa is the clearing where the Kahuku Cabin once stood. We'd heard reports that all debris from cabin had been removed; while most of the trash at the site is gone, a stack of boards and some cement foundation blocks remain. Just before the cabin, Ed noticed some spent bullet casings on the ground. Hunters this deep in the mountains? I speculated that if hunters do frequent this area, they did so via a spur from Kaipapau Gulch since approaches via the Laie Trail or other known routes would be too lengthy. After the cabin site, in a few minutes we passed through a narrow cut in the ridge and emerged at a dramatic overlook of upper Kaipapau. This section, where the trail has been cut into the side of a sheer mountain wall, is spectacular, almost surreal. It was here that I really felt removed from civilization. While hiking through this section, we reached a point where a landslide has left a seven to eight foot gap in the trail. Fortunately, it's possible to hop down into the gap and scale its far side to continue on. After the Kaipapau overlook, the trail transitions to leeward and begins to climb steadily. Partway up this climb, a huge boulder is situated next to the trail. Last year, Mark Short and I took a break at this boulder two hours out of Kawailoa. This year, Ed, Henry, and I reached this same boulder in half an hour less, undoubtedly due to the less copious mud we had to muck through along the way. We took a break at the boulder, and I radioed Tom to let him know that we were moving at a good clip due to decent conditions, by KST standards. Continuing to climb after the boulder break, we encountered some of the worst conditions of the day and had to deal with thickets of clidemia, eroded and slipped sections of trail, and increased muddiness underfoot. But using an expression of Pat's to characterize what we needed to do, we gritted our teeth and plowed forward. Once past that gauntlet, I turned to Ed and Henry and said we'd probably gone through the worst of what we'd encounter all day. Well, I was incorrect, for we ran into even thicker tangles a bit ahead. When the trail transitioned to windward, we were blasted by the wind and in some instances by horizontal rain. My colleagues registered no complaints, and I respect them for that. At times, views opened up to leeward, and in the distance we could see the Waianae range and its crown, Mount Kaala. Spread before us was the massive undeveloped valley where the headwaters of Kawainui Stream lay. Sensing that we could use a rest break, I had us plop down at a nondescript leeward section out of the wind. Just as I was about to sit down, I looked ahead and noticed a landslide that appeared to have obliterated the trail. A closer inspection revealed that it indeed was a landslide but it was an old one and it still could be hiked. A relief. A time check indicated we were 2.5 hours out of Kawailoa. Based on the four hours we needed last year to reach the next significant junction--Castle--we were still 1.5 hours from that point. However, I knew our pace was quicker this time, and lo and behold, we reached Castle at 10:15, which equated to a 3 hour, 10 min. hike time from Kawailoa, nearly an hour faster than last summer. Again, I attribute this to less mud but also to the strength of Ed and Henry, a couple of strong guys. The KST, it seems, was not its usual troublesome, terroristic self this time around. No complaints from us. We took a 20 minute break at Castle during which we wondered about Roger, who had plans to come up Castle on this day and then head over with us to Poamoho. White-out, wind-whipped conditions continued, and after our break, I asked Henry and Ed to be especially observant as we hiked since the upcoming sections of the KST were where me might go off course because of the low clouds, the jumbled, rolling nature of the terrain and the sudden turns the trail takes. They nodded in agreement. As we moved forward, I periodically called out stuff like "Here we come. Get out of the way" to alert pigs that we were in the area. The last thing I wanted was to be attacked by a porker that we surprised, so I hoped a verbal ruckus would help to indicate our presence. As far as pigs went, we didn't see any during the trip. In fact, I didn't notice any fresh signs (diggings, tracks, scat) until the final mile before Poamoho. Perhaps the recent drought on Oahu has forced na pua'a to head to lower ground to seek water. We left Castle around 10:40 and hoped to reach the junction with the Peahinaia trail by noon. A few minutes past Castle, we passed a clearing on the right that appeared to be the site of an old cabin. Very little remains except some boards on the ground. Stuart later told me that there was a cabin along the summit in the area of the Castle junction and perhaps this was it. Windy, near white-out conditions continued as we hiked. Since we couldn't see very far in any direction, we didn't notice the exclosure fence near Castle except at one point when we spotted a fenceline corner through the misty white about 20 meters to the right of the trail. Beyond that, two places stick out in my memory: a small hollow where we crossed over from one segment of ridge to another and a grassy, wind-blasted bowl where there is a waterfall notch (and potential water source) to the left. Just past noon, we reached another large grassy bowl with metal landing mats on the ground. I recognized this right off and knew that the junction with Peahinaia was on the far side of the bowl. Low clouds and mist rocketed through the bowl, propelled by 25-35 mph trades, and we did not linger in the area. Pat wrote about camping in this bowl area with an Army environmental team; his write-up is at http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/March00/3-8.html Henry, Ed, and I hunkered down behind some bushes at the Peahinaia junction for lunch. During that time, I radioed Tom to let him know where we were. He reported that the others in our group were stopped at Castle for lunch. He also reported that they'd met Roger at Castle, and he was fine. Good news. Tom also told me that John wasn't his usually energetic go-get-em self, had stopped earlier to eat, and had fallen back a bit. Knowing that John has a tendency to go off track on the trail, Tom put up ribbons at potentially confusing points to assist John, who eventually caught up and made it to Poamoho okay. In fact, our group of nine, plus a new addition (Roger), all made it okay to Poamoho, the first group rolling in at 1:30. While Ed and Henry went down to the stream to get water, I dropped my pack by the Cline Memorial and headed over to the Poamoho cabin to check if anyone was there. As I rounded the bend in the trail where I could look down at the cabin, I whooped out. A whoop in reply was fired back. But the whoop came from the little lake/marsh area in the gully to the lee of the cabin. I was surprised that someone was down there and disappointed, thinking that these folks were staying in the cabin. Continuing on, I arrived at the cabin a few minutes later and found it unlocked (as usual) with no signs of occupancy. I radioed Henry and then Thomas, but had no contact, likely because of the topographical obstructions (hills). I hiked quickly back to the Cline Memorial and on the way was able to raise Henry on the radio to let him know that he and Ed could head over to the cabin since no one was there. Soon afterward, I passed Ed and Henry along the trail on the way to the cabin. I spent the next couple hours relaxing at the summit pu'u above the memorial. While doing so, the clouds lifted to reveal the spread of Punaluu, Kahana, Waikane, and a whole bunch of the windward coast. Our club was hiking in Kahana on this day (Pu'u o Kila), but I'd have needed binoculars to hope to see anyone. Alas, I was binocular-less. I tried radioing Thomas and initially had no success. To my surprise, I received a radio reply from Mike Algiers, hiking with Helene Sroat and friends at the summit of the Koolaus above Kuliouou. That's about 20 miles as the apapane bird flies, pretty impressive for radios with an advertised two-mile range. Not long afterward, I made contact with Dusty Klein at his home in Kaneohe. He was only a mere 12-miles away. :-) I also was able to eventually raise Thomas, and even though he was much nearer in distance to me than Mike or Dusty, he was blocked off by intervening ridges and hills along the summit. From that wind-whipped pu'u, I also called my girlfriend Jackie via cell phone to let her know I was okay. She recently underwent surgery to remove damaged cartilage in her right knee and is recovering quickly and well. Just as I ended my conversation with Jackie, Roger rolled in along the KST. We shook hands and he sat down on the hilltop to rest and talk story a bit. He's recovering quite well after suffering back and neck injuries after being hit by a car while bicycling. Hiking up Castle and along the KST is part of his rehab. What a man. After talking story with me for a while, Roger headed down to the stream to set up camp. He'd come up Poamoho the weekend before to stage water and his tent at the campsite next to the stream. He said he'd make camp by the stream. Not long after Roger left, Stuart and Lynne arrived. They, too, headed down to the campsite by the stream. Soon afterward, the three late-20-ish local folks (2 guys and a gal) emerged on the KST from the direction of the cabin. It turns out they were the ones who'd returned my whoop when I'd gone over to check on the cabin. They were very friendly and inquisitive about our trek. I found out they'd spent Saturday night in the cabin and had bushwacked down to the lake/marsh area near the cabin as a dayhike. I also found out they were carrying/using Stuart's book, a resource they'd lugged with them on many other hikes on the island. They were thrilled when they found out Stuart was in our group, and on their way down Poamoho, they stopped at the campsite by the stream to talk to him. Just as the local threesome was preparing to head down Poamoho, a husband/wife backpacking couple strode up to the summit hilltop. Come to find out they intended to camp at the very spot we were sitting and have been doing so "for the past 20 years," according to the husband, a local attorney who told me he had helped the HTMC with property issues related to our Waimanalo clubhouse. Not long after the couple arrived, the rest of our group rolled into the Poamoho, including Larry, Chris, Thomas, and John. We bid the couple a good campout, and our group headed down to the stream to get water. The hike from the summit to stream takes only a few minutes and when we got there we saw two tents, one belonging to Stuart and Lynn and one to Roger, set up at the nearby clearing. Water acquisition took 15-20 minutes. I used a SafeWater filter while the others used more traditional types made by MSR or PUR. Having gotten the water we'd need for the night and the next day's final leg, John and I commenced the 15-minute hike to the cabin, with Kris and Larry following us not long later. Thomas, more of a hiking/camping purist than I, decided to pitch his tarp at the campsite with Stuart, Lynn, and Roger. The KST from the Cline Memorial to the cabin is in top shape, thanks to the efforts of a crew from the HTMC (for details, see Carmen's write-up at http://www2.hawaii.edu/~turner/ohe/Nov99/11-6.html). The cabin brought some warm, dry relief from the cold, muddy conditions we'd faced during the hike from Kawailoa that day. There are four unpadded bunks in the structure and these were occupied by Ed, John, Kris, and Larry. Henry and I slept on the floor, and I chose a spot near the door to allow for easy access to the outdoors for middle-of-the-night potty visits. Actually, there is no potty to speak of at the cabin. Instead, one must do his/her business in the bushes, behind trees, or wherever, hopefully with a small trowel or shovel in hand to bury said business. From what I've heard, the state intentionally did not put water catchment and toilet facilities at the cabin to discourage folks from multi-day occupancy. One helpful feature of the cabin is a dustpan and broom, donated and lugged up the mountain structure by HTMC members Fred Boll and Richard McMahon. The pan and broom have "HTMC" written on them. Mahalo to Fred and Richard and to who ever else assisted them. For dinner, I feasted on a can of luncheon meat/spam, paniolo-style i.e. sans fork or spoon or plate. Instead I cut chunks out with my pocket knife and feasted as such. Throw in some crunchy sunflower seeds and a couple liters of Crystal Light strawberry drink made from filtered and iodined Poamoho stream water and I was content. John, a hardcore vegetarian, had more of his gruel, Henry his MRE, Ed his rehydrated teriyaki chicken, and Larry and Kris their add-hot-water to meal, and everyone else seemed equally content. For entertainment, Kris busted out a deck of cards. She and John talked about playing rummy, but I was in dreamland before I found out if they ever did. It rained briefly several times during the night. And since the cabin is in a protected gully, we were spared from major wind blasts, which wasn't the case for our friends camped out by the stream, who reported being buffeted a bit by ka makani overnight. Thanks to John's thermometer, we found out the temps dropped to the low-60s/upper 50s during the night, a bit of a restless one for me. Next: Day 3--Along the windward pali and down into Waikane. --DKT