Monday, May 31, 2010

Bill Summers--Kalalau Trail Redeemer

For a number of years, I volunteered with the trail maintenance crew of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club. The crew’s mission is to clear and maintain trails used by the club for its weekly outings. Almost without exception, the crew is out on Sundays working on some trail in either the Koolau or Waianae Mountains. Hats off to these hardworking folks.

Speaking of volunteers, I just found out about the good work of Bill Summers (pictured left), who, after arriving on Kauai in 2007, has done literally tons of work on the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast of the garden isle. And he has done this on his own dime, depleting his life savings and even being ticketed by a state conservation officer.  Jonathan Ley --  photo credit

Summers is still at work.  There are photos of his work here.  And more about him and his work here.  Hats off to Bill Summers.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dupont/DePonte Trail on Oahu

"Honesty's the best policy" is a saying we're all familiar with.
Dr. Wing Ng calls Kamaileunu an "honest trail" because from start to terminus there is no concealed agenda: one climbs steadily with no appreciable drops. The antithesis of Kamaileunu is Manana, which taunts hikers with as many downs as ups. Like Manana, Schofield falls in the "dishonest" category, for its rollercoaster progression will kick one's tail ascending or descending.

Back in 2002, Pat Rorie and I, not in the mood for treachery, hiked what may be the most honest trail on Oahu: De Ponte (also referred to as Dupont). The route begins on a cane field road adjacent to Waialua High School and ends after a 4,000-foot vertical ascent gain at the summit of Mount Kaala, the apex of Oahu.

Stuart Ball tells us that Dupont (or De Ponte--recall a recent post quoting a *Honolulu Magazine* article) is a classic climb. He also says that the horror stories about the dangers of the trail are overstated. On both counts, he's correct.

Although not a cupcake, De Ponte isn't overly perilous. Previous hikers have strung an array of cables at steep and rocky sections of the trail (in some cases, the cables are overkill). And yes there are dike sections to traverse but these aren't of the Kalena- or Manamana-esque ilk. I suppose my view may be colored somewhat because De Ponte was dry and relatively windless today. Throw in some brisk trades on the dikes and some mud on the steeper sections and the hike would have been much tougher and tiring and potentially more dangerous.

Photo credit -- Jason Sunada
And it was plenty rugged and tiring as is, primarily because of its "honest" nature that had us climbing from the get-go to the end. We needed 3.5 hours to hike the 5.5 miles from our parking spot along Farrington Highway near the high school to the lookout spot by one of the huge soccer balls (FAA radar site) at Kaala's summit.

I can't say I enjoyed the ascent (sweating like a melting popsicle and listening to one's heart racing like a snare drum gets old after a while), but the miles and time moved by with reasonable quickness. We also were fortunate not to be stopped by anyone from Waialua Sugar or the macadamia farm or the horse ranch while going up or down. And although we saw scat of wild goats and pigs, we saw no signs of the scat makers. Further down, we did pass penned up goats, some wild pea fowl and later some horses resting under a copse of java plum. And the scratchy blackberry was present but not in huge quantities so we did not suffer any major flora abuse.

Thee trail passes through some lovely dryland forest and some exquisite native Hawaiian cloud forest near the summit. As inept as Pat and I are at identifying plantlife, we were able to recognize some trailside lobelia, lapalapa, and the more common koa and ohia. Hopefully, someone like Brandon Stone, Ken Suzuki, or Kost Pankiwskyj will hike the trail and provide a more detailed flora report.

Weather-wise, Pat and I had good fortune because a socked-in summit became a cloudless summit when we reached it, and during our one-hour lunch break we were treated to excellent views of the Oahu central plain and the distant Koolaus, the latter pelted by rain from dark gray clouds.

For me, the descent went much quicker and with less pain than I anticipated. Usually, a dry trail means a hard trail and a hard trail means pounding on feet and knees which means ouch to the 100th degree. But padded insoles, a pair of surprisingly comfortable Nike Sharks cleated shoes, and three aspirins popped down after lunch made the 5.5-mile descent quite nice. We left the summit at 1:30 and reached my vehicle at 4:00, ending an interesting day in the Waianae range.

For the record, this was Pat's third trip up DePonte and my first. And despite the long, tiring ascent, I'll do it again someday.

Honest, I will. :-)


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Puu Maelieli with the Sierra Club

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 30, 2010, the Oahu chapter of the Sierra Club will be conducting an outing on the Pu'u Maelieli Trail in Kahaluu.   It is a foothill/ridge hike and is 3 miles roundtrip.

This is a photography hike and the pace will be slow as a result.

The trail climbs to an old WWII pillbox with a good view of Kaneohe Bay and the Koolau Mountains.
For info, contact Stan Oka 429-9814, Clyde Kobashigawa 262-6092, John Shimogawa 227-9925

Friday, May 28, 2010


On Sunday (5/30/10) the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club will be hiking the Poamoho Trail, which is located in the Koolau Mountains out past Wahiawa.  The legendary John Hall will be coordinating the hike, which is a by-reservation outing (and all spots are filled).  According to club records, Poamoho was first hiked by HTMC  on July 14, 1935.  The hike involves a lengthy drive on dirt roads to reach the trailhead.  The actual trail itself is about three miles one-way to the crest of the Koolau Range overlooking Punaluu and Kahana Valleys.

The trail is graded (i.e. cut in the ridgeline) hence it is fairly easy to navigate.  The hike to the top might be accomplished in about an hour for speed hikers. Add 30 minutes for those hiking at a more relaxed pace.  Be ready to get muddy and wet.

Near the top is the Cline Memorial (pictured here), put there for HTMC member Geraldine Cline, who was tragically killed in an auto accident many years ago (no, not on the trail). There is even a memorial fund in memory of Cline.  

Also at the top is the Koolau Summit Trail which can be hiked northward to Pupukea and southward to Kipapa.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kaupo Cliffs Trail-- Waimanalo, Hawaii

I did this hike back on Election Day in 2002 with Jay Feldman and Scott Villiger. Here is the write-up.

On the day that Hawaii will vote in its first wahine governor, Jay Feldman, Scott Villiger, and I elect to go hiking in the Waimanalo end of the Ko'olaus. We meet at 9:30 at the HTMC clubhouse in 'Nalo, then hash around some options for our outing, the top two being a circumnavigation of Koko Crater--my first choice--or a Kaupo Cliffs/TomTom combo, which Jay prefers. I actually like the Kaupo option but do not like the potential hassle we sometimes have from the guy who lives in the last house on the left on the street we use to access the trail. However, after some wrangling about transportation logistics and an assist from Man Friday, who says he'll help with the pre-hike drop-off, I relent and say okay to a Kaupo ascent, much to the delight of Jay, whose car we use to ferry us to our starting point on Manawaiola Street.

Thanks to MF's help, Jay, Scott, and I are dropped off at the end of the street and into the bushes of the vacant lot we go with no hassles from the guy in the last house on the left. In a minute, Scott and I are in a forest of koa haole, with Jay trailing behind us. Right off, we hit a snag when Scott and I veer left in the brush and Jay veers right to begin heading up the TomTom trail, thinking that is the plan. Meanwhile, Scott and I, not knowing where Jay has headed off to, wait in the forest for him. Fortunately, Jay and Scott have walkie-talkies, so we are able to summon Jay back to our position. After a couple minutes and a couple of whoops to home in on our locations in the thick forest, we all are back together again on our way to Kaupo Cliffs.

The "trail" over to the start of the climb up Kaupo isn't much of a trail. Instead, it's often just a meander thru a forest of knee-high grass, koa haole, some splotches of hau, and plenty of old rock terraces and walls. Remembering past hikes, I know that a key landmark is a fence line of old barbed wire that runs from mauka to makai, so that is the target. Once we hit the fence line, we turn mauka and began climbing, reaching, in a couple of minutes, an open area with a view back toward the ocean.

I start snapping some pics at this point with yet another disposable camera, and by hike's end I have shot the whole roll, 27 pics in all.

From the fence line ridge, we contour around the back of a steep ravine on a shelf that looks pretty gnarly from a distance but is quite safe when hiked upon. A very thin rope is available for grabbing if needed for a semi-exposed section, but in reality if a slip occurs, the rope isn't going to prevent the Big Spill.

After the contour, no spills having occurred, we begin climbing again, having switched over to a spur ridge more makai of the fence line ridge we have begun on. This climb is quite spectacular, most of it being on an open ridge with steep drops on both sides. At a couple points, the climbs are up and over some bouldery, exposed segments but the foot- and handholds are ample and generally stable. I take a bunch of pics along the way.

One of the more exciting sections of the climb involves a left-side contour to skirt around a vertical outcrop on the ridge. A long section of fixed rope, pitons, and cables is available to help prevent a Big Spill into a steep ravine.

Making use of the climbing aids, we execute the contour without a problem and then once on the ridgeline again, we climb a couple minutes more to an ironwood grove where we sit down to rest and talk story. During this respite, Jay shares some candy and almonds with us while we hunker down.

After the 15-minute break, we rise again to continue the ascent to the summit. We make our way thru the upper end of the ironwood grove, which Jay notes is a perfect place to string up a hammock and read a book, and then continue up a steep but broad slope with fairly decent footing. After climbing this way for ten minutes, the straight-up climbing becomes impossibly steep. At this point, we slab to the right, following a long fixed rope, which delivers us to an adjacent spur ridge. At that point, Scott spots a bunch of goats scrambling in the trees on the farside of a ravine to our right. At many points during our climb, we have seen evidence of the goat's presence via their black, pellety scat, so the sighting isn't a surprise.
Having executed the rope-assisted rightward slab, the major exposure sections are behind us and from then on we climb in relative safety thru another ironwood grove then up the final section of the ridgeline past or over a couple of rock outcrops. We acquire the summit very near the ironwood grove where we traditionally lunch during the Makapu'u-TomTom hike. A good climb completed safely.

From there, we hike along the summit, heading for the top of the TomTom trail. En route, we pause briefly at the Kamiloiki Ridge trail terminus in a shady grove of ironwoods and continuing on we pass the head of Kamilonui Valley. Beyond that, at the higher of two pu'us with powerline poles atop them, we reach the apex of the TomTom trail. A huge metal powerline pole with the word "FAT" spray-painted on it, marks the summit now. I take a pic of Jay and Scott next to the pole.

After resting and enjoying the wonderfully clear views atop the TomTom summit for a few minutes, we descend back to Waimanalo. While exiting in the grassy lot on Manawaiola, we see the man in the last house on the left. He is in his yard, cell phone in hand, with an angry look on his face. Is he calling the cops? We do not wait to find out and continue by somberly without pause.

Nothing comes of this but on the walk back to the clubhouse, Jay, Scott and I talk about how favorable it will be to talk story and make peace with this man, who may have some false impressions of us hikers. In fact, we may have false impressions of him. We agree that Mabel, with her grandmotherly looks and disarming ways, is an appropriate candidate to approach this man. We shall see.

When we reach Kalanianaole, we stop to buy lettuce from some nice folks at a roadside stand. An elderly tutu wahine at the stand, while eyeing us suspiciously, asks what we have been doing. When we say "hiking," her eyes soften and she smiles, replying, "Ahh, good exercise."
We smile in agreement, and each of us with a bag of fresh lettuce in hand, we tromp off back to the clubhouse for some cold drinks and snacks.

A good hike on a good day with good friends. I hope to have some pics up in a day or two.
With a new wahine governor to lead Hawaii for the coming four years, it's back to the grindstone tomorrow.

I hope you all are having a nice Election Day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kealia Big Loop 2/17/2001

Yesterday morning (2/17), I hiked up the Kealia Trail to meet friends
backpacking their way from the Kaena tracking station to Peacock Flats
and/or the Mokuleia campsite. I figured to get a workout out of the
deal. I got that plus some unanticipated adventure.

I launched from the parking lot by the Dillingham airfield control tower
at 9:30, feeling relaxed and energetic after the hour drive from
Kaneohe. The switchbacks up the pali were overgrown, perhaps a
consequence of the budget/personnel shortcomings of Na Ala Hele.

Once I reached the ridgeline, I kept moving up the dirt road, a steady
unrelenting, and at times steep climb up to the rim of Makua Valley. With
a nice view into the controversial valley, I paused to rest and scan the
rim trail for any signs of my friends. Heading away from me to the left
appeared to be Pat Rorie.

I continued alone along the Mokuleia firebreak road toward Peacock Flats
and after fifteen minutes I came upon other hikers at a
junction with a lesser used road that descends a ridge to connect to a
lower 4x4 road.

I continued ahead of the three and ten minutes later came upon other hikers resting at a junction with a road that climbed a
slope to the right. The righthand road ascended to an overlook above the
abandoned Nike Tracking Station and connected with the Makua Rim
Trail. The Mokuleia firebreak road, the other option at the junction,
winds in and out of a series of gulches to eventually connect
with the paved road leading to Peacock Flats and up to the abandoned Nike

I headed up the righthand road and took a short rest at the overlook, and then hiked
along the rim trail, bound for the Mokuleia campsite. When I reached the
switchback section of the rim trail, I noticed lobelia plantings some folks
had done during a recent service trip.

At a beautiful overlook of Makua, we came upon Nathan and Justin, both
lugging heavy packs (Justin's was VERY heavy). I hiked with them, still
bound for the Mokuleia campsite. We passed sections of trail cleared very
nicely by Pat last weekend and later stopped to examine the twin pines
that mark the junction with the Piko Trail. Nathan and I looked
for a sign affixed to the tree but found none.

We stopped for lunch at the final hilltop before the junction with the
trail leading down to the campsite, and I happily and hungrily chowed down
on vienna sausage and a powerbar and glugged down a liter of
water. During lunch, Nathan and I chatted about techniques for cleaning and drying
camelback bladders, an undertaking I usually neglect and that Nathan
regularly tends to.

A bit before 1, I said goodbye to my friends and headed
off. After descending, I passed through the campsite and headed down the
trail toward Peacock Flats.

A few minutes later, I arrived at the Flats and spent time resting there.

Just past 2:00, I headed out of the Flats. Initially, my plan was to climb the paved road up to the old Nike
site, then drop back down to the fire break road and continue on to
Kealia. However, not enthused about the ascent up to the Nike site, I
opted for Plan B, which was to follow the fire break road and then veer
makai down an old jeep road which eventually would hook up with Kealia
just mauka of the top of the switchbacks.

After ten minutes of hiking along the firebreak road, I arrived at what I
thought was the junction with the old jeep road heading makai. So
makai-ward I headed. After a minute or so, I realized that what I was
descending was a trail rather than an old road but, using an
all-roads-lead-to-Rome analogy, I figured that all makai-heading trails in
this area lead to the lower jeep road complex.

How wrong I was.

I kept descending the non-road, spurred on by the presence of a well-used
path and an occasional old ribbon or cut branch. "Hunters must use this
trail," I reasoned, and as such they surely must have found a way to
connect with the old road and/or an adjacent ridge that will lead to the
old road.

After a half mile of descending, what had been a trail became less
distinct. In fact, the trail all but ended when I reached a 30-foot
dropoff. I found a way on the right to skirt the dropoff and continued
down the grassy, trail-less ridge. Further down was another dropoff which
I again skirted to the right.

The prudent thing to have done was to end the charade that this ridge was
going to lead me to the old road or a connecting trail. But stubborness,
ego, and a sense of adventure egged me on. Plus it would make for a good
story to write about.

Off in the distance, I could see that the ridge would eventually level out
in a broad expense of rolling hills and then flatten out at a large
banana farm. Already in my mind I was preparing my verbal defense when
confronted by owners/workers of the farm. "I'm a poor lost hiker," was
one possible spew. "I parachuted from a plane and was blown by the wind
into the mountain," was spew two.

Also as I was descending, thoughts of falling, hurting myself, and waiting
for rescue popped into my head. I visualized Tom Yoza meticulously
scouring the every ravine in the area weekend after weekend until finding
just the tatters of my red shirt and the blue lanyard with assorted
doo-dads I wear around my neck. I also had visions of a pack of huge
pua'a grinding my body as I lay helpless and injured (go see the movie
*Hannibal* and you may have similar visions).

Well, I didn't fall nor was I devoured, but I did have to spend a good
hour wading and swimming through thick buffalo grass until I caught a
break and came upon an ancient road that runs across the base of the
mountain (a review of the Kaena quad topo indicates that I was on
what is labeled as the "Peacock Flats Trail"). Now overgrown with
chest-high grass, the road was still apparent and I moved much more easily
by following its tread. Finding this meant was that I wouldn't have to
cut through the banana farm and if I was lucky, I'd be able to make it all
the way back to the Dillingham Airfield without having to pass through a
farm or ranch or homestead.

The old road/PFT eventually ended its traverse along the base of the
mountain and began climbing up along the side of a ravine toward the top
of the pali. No, I certainly didn't want to go back up again, so I hopped
over a barbed-wire fence and waded through high grass to make my way
toward lower ground.

I weaved through waist-high grass in a forest of haole koa and then
happened upon another old jeep road. This road soon ended at a
barbed-wire fenceline, which I hopped to continue my wade and weave. My
next objective was to make my way under a string of powerlines, thinking a
swath or road of some sort would be under it. I made it to the powerlines
okay but found nada swath or road.

Still determined to find my way out of the mess, I continued to angle
toward lower ground and in the general direction of the airfield until,
voila, I stood on a slope looking down on a large paved expanse that
probably once was an old landing strip for planes. I made my way down to
the old strip and followed it toward Dillingham Airfield.

The old air strip led to a well-used (military?) jeep road that led me to
the road that runs along the mauka side of the current airfield. I
followed the road to the hangars adjacent to the control tower and then
arrived at my car. It was 4:30, 2.5 hours after I'd left Peacock Flats
and only a half hour longer than I thought I'd need if I had hiked the
route I'd had planned in my mind.

The adventure was a nice tradeoff for the extra 30 minutes. In
retrospect, if I had a map with me I'd not have turned off the fire break
road to head down the ridge when I did. That being the case, I wouldn't
have stumbled (literally) upon the old Peacock Flats trail and hike back
to the airfield as I did. This adventure, it seems, was born out of being
mapless. And by the end of the day I had completed a loop of about ten
miles, never once having to retrace my steps. A nice hike.

Kaunala Trail out on Oahu's North Shore

My wife and I lead hikes for the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club and the last hike we led (4/10/10) was on the Kaunala Trail in the hills above Waimea Bay on Oahu's north shore. About 40 people turned out for the hike, which was captured in words and pics by Richard Bailey and Nathan Yuen. The pic at left, in fact, was taken by Rich and in it are my wife and I hiking on a section of Kaunala.  Mahalo, Rich.

One of the new features of this hike is a newly paved road in the mountains.  Apparently, the military found it necessary to pave the formerly dirt road to make negotiation of the mountains easier for its vehicles.

For specifics about Kaunala, I wrote more about it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Manana Trail--Pearl City, Hawaii

I did this hike back in 2002. The photo at left was taken in 2010 and credit goes to Doug Baker for it. Here is the write-up about Manana.

Manana is one of those demon trails that whipped me when I first began hiking. I remember that first attempt when I aspired to reach the summit, only to turn back, stricken with huge blisters on my heels, exhausted, on the verge of near collapse in the heat and humidity of that summer day, humbled and humiliated, promising myself I'd try again. It comes as no surprise that Manana kicked my butt that first time, for it is a tough five miles of ups and downs, eroded slopes, occasional narrow segments, low-grassed windswept meadows, overgrown sections of uluhe, and mushy bogs.

I kept my promise to myself, and a month or two after that first failed try, I made it to the top. In the years that followed, I've hiked Manana other times, mostly for maintenance work with the Trail and Mountain Club but occasionally on my own to test lungs and legs and heart.

This morning I hiked the trail for the latter, arriving at the Komo Mai Drive trailhead a few minutes before eight. While many on Oahu still lay in bed, I readied myself to hike, taking off my slippers and putting on wool socks, New Balance trail runners, and gaiters. In my pack were food and three and a half liters of water. Feeling energetic, I set off, pausing for a minute to sign my name on the register in the hunter/hiker check-in mailbox by the trailhead. I noticed that four others had already signed in, probably hunters since parked nearby were three trucks with the recognizable hunter accessory--metal rack/cages in the bed.

The weather forecast for the day indicated humidity and rain were likely. While I have no aversion to humid, rainy hiking, I prefer a dry trail and cool conditions. While today was never cool, I've hiked in steamier and more scorching circumstances. And while the trail wasn't totally dry, it was far from a mudbath.

The first section of Manana passes along a paved road leading to a water tank. During this initial stage, I focused on establishing a rhythm while tuning in to the feeling in my legs, to my breathing, and to any discernible tweaks I felt. I've recently been experiencing pain in my left shoulder, perhaps a rotator cuff malady or maybe a tendon pull or something else, for the shoulder is a complex joint and problems with it are sometimes difficult to diagnose, or so I've been told by those who know such things. A dull ache was still present this morning when I began hiking, and I hoped the activity would flush blood into the area, helping it to heal or dulling the pain or doing something beneficial. I also realized that I could do something to cause more damage.

Hopeful that I wouldn't do anything to make the shoulder worse, I moved in good rhythm through the first two miles of the trail, passing a couple of brown & yellow directional arrows signs, the down-trail to Waimano Pool, a sign for mountain bikers about an upcoming dismount zone, a lone male hiker stopped to inspect a plant, and a picnic shelter, complete with table and identifying sign, #15 to be exact.

Rhythm-maintaining short, quick steps were what I concentrated on as I faced the first significant climb of the morning. I dubbed this 2.5-mile hill because midway up the grade is the marker, actually the halfway point of the route if--and it's a big if--the 5-mile marker at the summit is to accurate.

Mauka of 2.5-mile hill, as I crested out another pu'u, there was sound of running water coming from the gulch to the west. Scanning for the source of the sound, I spotted a small waterfall and flowing stream, things I'd seen just once before on Manana, and that was on a rainy day and not a clear, warm one like today. I deduced that it must have rained here the night before or maybe in the early morning hours.

The pu'u used as a helipad is, if I recall correctly, between markers 3 & 3.5. Today, I stopped to rest and refuel at the pu'u, a place I once camped with my friend Bill Melemai. That campout was something to remember, for a military chopper--its interior and exterior lights off--hovered 100 feet over us for a couple of minutes on that dark night. We surmised the crew was on a training run and using see-in-the-dark gear, and we hoped the chopper wasn't trying to land and aborted because of our presence there. We never were sure what was up with it.

From the helipad to the summit, the trail became damper and mildly overgrown but nowhere was the path totally obscured. In fact, I had no problem seeing where I was putting my feet. More big hills stood in the way during the summit push, and I kept plugging away at these, trying to maintain the rhythm I'd established from the start. Meanwhile, the nagging little ache in my shoulder never worsened but it never went away either. I just had to deal with it.

Between markers 4 and 4.5, the final approach to the summit comes into view. I was surprised that clouds hadn't covered up the crest by now. Maybe just maybe I'd luck out and top out and have a view of the windward side.

No such luck, however. I arrived at the summit, establishing a strange standoff with a huge bank of clouds damming up just to windward. I had no view of the windward coast, but everything to leeward was open and visible, for the clouds just hung on the windward side of the crest, stopping right there.

It was too early for lunch, so after a few minutes to rest and to call my sweetheart Jacqueline, who made me promise to be careful while she dined on orange juice and waffles at some faraway Zippy's, I re-shouldered my pack, grabbed my hiking pole, and headed down the mountain with the goal of eating lunch at the helipad pu'u.

The return leg to the helipad went without a problem, but since it was still too early for lunch, I decided to continue hiking and stop at the best available spot when noontime arrived. On my way, I came upon an older couple resting along the trail. With a sandwich in one hand, the wife had in her other the Oahu trail bible (i.e. Stuart's book), and upon seeing me she asked how far it was to the helipad. I gave her an estimate of a half hour, and she thanked me.

Noontime arrived as I reached the top of hill 2.5, and I found a flat, shaded spot to sit down to eat my cottage/tuna/curry glop. Though I wasn't ravenously hungry as I often am during midday hiking lunchstops, I still managed to eat all the food I'd packed. Feeling dehydrated, I drank a liter and a half of water, all that remained in my platypus container. I probably had a half liter or so left in my algae-laced camelback (yum!),

After a fifteen-minute lunch stop, I was on my feet again to finish the hike, the day still sunny and muggy with no hint of pending rain. I hiked the remainder of the trail, still keeping a good rhythm and passing a couple local 20-somethings just makai of the picnic shelter, a group of four who just completed the climb of cardiac hill from Waimano Pool, and a group of local teenagers who'd been picking up trash along the first mile. After hiking alone for several hours, I was glad to see all these folks.

I was also glad to see my vehicle at the end of Komo Mai, for after slipping out of the dirty gaiters, socks, and shoes, I was back in my slippers and back in the vehicle for the 30-minute ride home to Kaneohe where waiting for me were a shower, a meal, and an afternoon of watching the UH Warriors win the NCAA volleyball title on TV.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lanihuli Trail Access

Just got word last week that access to the Lanihuli trail is (temporarily?) available.  Here is the skinny from someone who lives near the access point:
At the top of Alewa Drive, there's a separate gate on the Kamehameha School property side adjacent to the Board of Water Supply gate. For unknown reasons, the gate has been unlocked for a couple of weeks -much easier access than jumping the fence there or down at the end of Kalikimaka Street. Could change any day but for anyone interested, easy access right now.
Lanihuli has been accessed by other start-points other than the end of Alewa Drive including
The Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club also conducts hikes (members only) to Lanihuli, the most recent outing there being on May 24, 2009.

Photo credit:  Steve Rohrmayr (aka Waianae Steve)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pu'u Manamana

One of the most dangerous trails on Oahu is Pu'u Manamana.  The first time I tried it, I lost my nerve and turned back.  The second time, with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, went better and I completed the hike.  After that, I have hiked Manamana a number of times without mishap.

I have also written a detailed hike description of the Pu'u Manamana hike elsewhere.  Check it out.

The photo at left provides some perspective of what this trail is like--spooky yet spectacular.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Schofield Trail -- 6/23/2002

Wahiawa, the home of the Mules, red dirt, military installations, folks of
many different ethnicities, and the best banana pie on Oahu. Wahiawa,
the land of many avenues--Kilani, Walker, Glen, Makani, Muliwai, Cypress,
Neal, and Kuahiwi, to name a handful. And, of course, in wet, wild
Wahiawa, the longest of all is church-lined California Avenue, where many
of us converge one summer morning, at a time earlier than the norm, at a
gravel parking area near its end, to prepare for a day of brisk winds, of
high clouds, of labor. To the mountains we go.

A briefing from a diminutive, silver-haired dynamo of a general begins
the day and from her we hear the plans for this day and for future days.
After the talk, there is a short drive to stage cars in the rear of
Army Rangers HQ at East Range, Wahiawa, and that done, we march on, up a
dirt road, graveled and graded in recent times, thus ridding it of
truck-eating ruts, boot-sucking mudholes, skin-scratching thick grass and
other such unpleasantness. We, members of the brigade, chat as we
march--talking in ranks being allowed in this people's army--some
choosing to move and gab at double-time and some at a less hurried pace.

Soon enough, after climbing a seemingly endless series of hills, we reach
one with a brown sign with yellow letters. "Schofield-Waikane Trail" it

"We are here," I say to the battalion mailman, who we also call Man
of Feld, or simply Jay.

"Thirty minutes," is the report from the mailman, the time to march the
road of hills to this point.

Ahead of us is Nathan, one of the speedy double-timers, who allows us to
catch up when he stops to lay saw to branch of a tree that has fallen
across the path. I watch for a minute as Nathan saws furiously, then I
push on past him, saying, "See you later," later being three hours and
several miles up the mountain trail.

Alone now, I decide to break ranks and go forward, shuffling across a
small plank bridge that looks slippery but is not, past brushy sections
normally kept uncluttered by Na Ala Hele weed whackers, past a junction
with a pair of green arrow signs, one pointing mauka, saying, "Summit"
and then past the remnants of a campfire, still warm to the touch but
with no firemakers seen nor heard. The mystery of the makers of the
fire, like many others encountered, is unsolved.

After the junction, the parade of hills begins, some hills steeper and
longer than others, some with better footing than others, some more brushy
than others, some plain prettier than others. Inevitably, once atop a
hill, available is a view of coming attractions, which sometimes is
another hill, or a narrow corridor between ohia and koa, or a muddy patch,
or a pitch with hard-packed clay steps. The trail is graded, but
certainly not of the gentle ilk of Waimano, nor with a long, sustained
wide shelf of Maunawili Demo, nor of the muddy wildness of the KST.
Schofield-Waikane, despite its hills, is generally pleasant. "One of the
best sections of native forest on the island," says the great John Hall.

I push on, not listening to the sounds of the mountain as I should, not
hearing the fade-in-fade-out whistling of crickets, the playful warbling
whistles of native birds I can only guess the names of, the low-rumbling
whooshing of wind on treetops.

I amble on, flopping on my face at one point because of a short lapse in
concentration, and I chastise myself for inattentiveness, wiping off mud
from knees and shins then continuing on to pass a PVC pipe in the ground,
the marker signifying where Na Ala Hele stops clearing and where the trail
becomes more rutted and rough, though not bad at all and not nearly as
overgrown as feared. The way, in fact, is quite nice, and I proceed with
good pace, driving hard to make the summit before clouds cover its crown,
robbing views from a tired hiker and the rest of the people's army.

Deep in the mountains now, I tread along a section of narrow ridgeline,
passing an area of flattened vegetation, big enough for one small tent,
then another. "The campsite of the fire makers?" I wonder. Yet another
mystery. Unsolved yet again.

As the summit nears, I grow impatient and hurry, and with the haste
comes missteps and slips. I again chastise myself. "You know better," I
scold myself. And I do know better.

After I wind around a final turn, a brisk wind slaps me in the face and
moments later, I stride onto a saddle at the summit of the Koolaus. A huge
valley--Kahana--is a couple thousand feet below, with a massive Sphynx-ish
peak, Ohulehule, nestled in its na'au. Ka makani is strong here.
Jacketless and devoid of much of the internal insulation of two years
ago, I am chilled to the core by the steady whipping wind. Hoping to
warm up, I settle down near the edge, staring out at the green and
blue vista spread from left to right. Today's midmorning feed is an
energy bar, a protein bar, and a liter of water, and after consuming the
fuel, I try to raise good friend, Tom Yoza, on the walkie-talkie. He
is at home in Kahalu'u recovering from pneumonia and my thoughts and the
thoughts of others in this people's army are with him.

Cold and with no one for company, I do not feel compelled to linger at the
summit saddle, so after just ten minutes I shoulder my pack, grab my
hiking pole and machete and head back down the mountain.

Remembering the marching orders from the diminutive general, I put machete
to use, felling uluhe and clidemia where needed. At times I use feet and
legs and hips and elemu: crushing, and stamping and stomping work just as
well. When I reach a turn in the trail, I stop laboring for a minute to
gaze down the mountain ridge, seeing all the way to wet and wild Wahiawa,
and in the more immediate distance, spotting members of the people's army
advancing toward the windy summit I've just left.

An hour after leaving the summit, I meet the first member of the people's
army, Nathan the double-timing sawman, and over the next half hour I
encounter others, some hiking in small platoons, some traveling alone,
all carrying weapons of vegetation annihilation. "How far from the top?"
they ask.

"Twenty minutes," I say.

"Are there views?"

"Yes, views," I reply.

And after the small talk, we continue on, they for the summit, and I down
the mountain toward the home of the Mules and the best pie in the land.

I meet others advancing up the trail, and these others decide enough is
enough and they say they will go no further. So we settle down in uluhe
with a view, since the time is right, for the midday meal. As I gobble
my glop, I chat with (veteran) Bill Gorst, who seems to thrive on just
nuts and fruit. Also with us for chow are June and Lynn, other
infantryfolks in this people's army.

I complain about aching legs, partly a result of the earlier flop, and
after my meal is done, I head off, alone again, destination Wahiawa. By
this point, the trail has been opened to a reasonable width by the troops
of this people's army, so my weapon is holstered and I shift into

After a few minutes and a few hills, I meet a resting & happy group of the
people's army. They are in good spirits and talk of future campaigns in
places like Mauna Loa and Wonderland, the former where lava eats soles
off shoes and the latter where bears eat unwary hikers out of their
shoes. Or so it is said.

Soon enough, leaving the resting and happy group to themselves, I continue
Wahiawa-bound down the mountain path, alone yet again. I pass the PVC
pipe in the ground, pausing to tie a pink ribbon to it, then commence the
parade of hills, this time in reverse order, and when fatigue starts to
overcome me, I transition into a calm zen state, my face appearing as if
I'm ready for sleep, or so I've been told. Sweating but in a zen calm, I
arrive at the green arrows junction and the mysterious fire pit, then
surmount a couple more hills. Then the short bridge. Then the final climb
to the brown sign with yellow letters. And then the regraded and graveled
dirt road which if double-timed puts wild and wet Wahiawa twenty minutes

So I double-time, not really for any reason but to put the dreaded road
behind me as quickly as possible, and in the predicted twenty, I am done,
having returned to the Army Rangers HQ at East Range, Wahiawa, the home of
the Mules, military installations, folks of many different ethnicities,
and the best banana pie on Oahu. Over the next hour, others from the
people's army arrive, and we greet and congratulate each other for yet
another battle waged and won.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Butch the Koolau Bear

Contributed by Norm Roberts on 12/3/1997

While on the Ka'a'wa Valley Hike last August, there came a point at which the grazing cattle turned as one and stared menacingly at us as we passed nearby. One of the hikers expressed relief that there were no large, wild animals in Hawaii. What old timer could resist a straight line like that! "But there have been," I said. "There used to be a black bear that roamed both sides of the Koolaus from Maunawili to Pupukea and back to Moanalua."

My statement was greeted with expressions of polite, sheer, and stark disbelief. "Isn't that just a legend?" I was asked.

"It probably is now," I replied.

"Is he still around?" asked another hiker.

"Probably not. Bears live 20 to 25 years, and he was last seen in 1970."

"Did they ever find his body?" asked a particularly skeptical hiker.

"No," I replied, "but there are lots of reports of sightings and bear signs, most by reliable observers."

The subject dropped because by this time we were starting up "that hill."

For some time, I've been attempting to locate as much information as is easily available about Butch and his adventures. There ought to be a story there. Maybe there already is. I think I have seen a children's book about a little lost bear in Hawaii. It would probably have come out twenty or more years ago after a feature article on Butch appeared in the Advertiser.

The bear facts are as follows:

Sometime around the Ides of March and St. Patrick's day in 1956, Butch, an eighteen month old American Black Bear cub pulled up his stake and escaped from Al "Whitey" Jensen's animal farm in Heeia Kea, near Kaneohe.

Jensen boarded animals used for entertainment and other commercial purposes, and there were usually a variety of exotic (to Hawaii) trained animals at his farm. He had recently acquired two bear cubs, Butch and Sis. He and his trainer Jim Woods had been working with the cubs. Butch, apparently, learned fast. Both Jensen and Woods commented on the bear's intelligence.
The bears were secured by a chain attached to a stake and to a chain collar around their necks. These collars had an extra link, secured by a master snap link, to allow for expansion as the animals grew larger. Butch and Sis got on very well according to Trainer Jim Woods.
But something happened, and one night Butch broke loose from his stake and took off into the bush, trailing his chain from his collar.

Apparently Jensen was not terribly concerned. He expected Butch to come back to a regular food supply, female companionship, and regular grooming. No animal trailing a six foot or longer chain could get very far. The chain was bound to snag on a root or get caught in the rocks. The bear's freedom wouldn't last very long.

According to the newspaper reports, Butch did not stray very far from Jensen's farm. He came around at night looking for something to eat, cleverly eluding all the ingenious traps Jensen and Woods had set to catch him. There were signs that he had visited Sis on several occasions. The female bear evidently wasn't interested in a life in the wild because she made no attempt to escape to join Butch.

The bear had been free for six months before the story got reported in the papers. Then for the next year there appeared regular accounts of Butch's activities and his owner's attempts to recapture him. These articles are written in a whimsical style, poking good natured fun at the humans and expressing admiration for Butch.

At one time there were 150 men from Schofield, the Army's Search and Rescue Force, and two helicopters searching the area for Butch. According to the newspaper accounts M/Sgt Allen C. Wheeler and his men ran across the bear several times, but Butch always eluded them. Sgt. Wheeler said, "He's too slippery for us. There are too many places to hide. The area is thick. We could pass right by him and never know it."

At this time there were large numbers of wild dogs all over Oahu. According to Sgt Wheeler, they would hear the dogs barking, go to the location, and there would be Butch.

None of the newspaper articles make any mention of anybody seeing Butch's collar or the chain attatched to it. This fact makes me think that Butch must have got the chain caught early on, and by clawing at the snap link, eventually got it open, expanding the collar, which he then slipped out of.

During the fall of 1956 Jensen and Woods hit upon the bright idea of staking Sis out in the area where Butch was roaming. They figured Butch would come to Sis and they'd trap him. It didn't work. Butch was too intelligent to be taken in by a chained female.

About this time Woods reported that as Butch grew, the chain collar would gradually cause his death. The chain would get tight, rub the neck raw which would then get infected and the infection would kill him. Other experts thought that the tight collar would eventually strangle the bear.

By December 1956 the papers reported that Butch had not been seen for five weeks. There was speculation that he was already dead because of the tight collar. By January 1957 the search for Butch ceased. Bob Krauss reported in his column the difficulties the search teams encountered.

Quoting Sgt Wheeler, he wrote, "We have too much help. Pig hunters and their dogs just chase him into another area and we have to start all over again. It's a real jungle there, swamp, high grass, trees, bamboo, guavas." Jensen stated that volunteer civillian hikers had come out scared. "We need experienced people or someone will get lost."

A member of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club was quoted as saying that the area was spooky and easy to get lost in. I'm not familiar with the area, but I'm not at all surprised that the bear easily eluded the searchers, many of whom were probably reluctant and others just plain ignorant.

None of the accounts reveal what the searchers expected to do when they finally cornered the bear. Jensen and Woods probably had a plan. In an interview Jensen indicated that Butch knew them and once he was cornered, they could get him.

Krauss's column was the only article that expressed a decided lack of sympathy for Butch. Wrote Krauss, who admitted he was no animal lover, "I'm wondering if it might not be time to quit chuckling over Butch as a symbol of a revolt against civilization. Maybe it would be kinder to shoot him and get it over with. Up to now chasing Butch has been described as a sort of combination Snipe hunt and a Sunday school picnic; I'm afraid it's just the opposite. The area in which he operates is jungle: guava, grass 12 feet high, lantana, swamp, nearly impenetrable bamboo forest. You're lucky to come back out at all, much less with Butch."

But before you can shoot a bear, you have to see him; and you have to see him long enough to get him in your rifle sights and pull the trigger. And you want to be sure you can get off a second shot just in case the first one doesn't get him. I don't think anybody caught more than a glimpse of Butch's back or tail as he slipped into thicker growth. In my experience bears are not seen unless they want to be seen. And if the Search and Rescue people, whose business it is to find what they go looking for, couldn't get close to him, who could?

March 9, 1957, the Advertiser reported that residents of Palolo had heard bear-like growls, and dogs gave chase to an animal that had attacked a garbage can. Mrs Jean Sasaki of a Palolo Ave. address said dogs chased the animal to the crest of the hill on the Ewa side of Palolo Valley. No one actually saw the animal, but Mrs. Sasaki said it did not sound like a dog or a pig. She reported that for a week the animal had been in the area, but this was the first time it had come so far down the valley.

On May 15, 1957, William M. Shields of a Kailua address reported that at 10 a.m. he saw Butch on the Maunawili side of the Kailua cut off road, a quarter mile on the Kailua side of the junction with Pali Road. I'm not sure just where this location might be. I didn't arrive until 1958 and didn't get around much until later. Maybe an older timer than I can tell where Shields saw Butch, perched on a bluff above Kailua cut off, watching the cars go by.
The area is described as brush land with guava trees, and Norfalk pine, not as dense as the area he had previously roamed. Evidently Butch was on the move.

Butch was supplementing his diet of guavas, roots, grubs, and whatnot with raiding the Kaneohe dump and an occasional garbage can. When interviewed about this time Owner Jensen said, "If he's been eating well, he could be 125 pounds by now. Any other bear would have been sleeping in somebody's bedroom by now, but not this one. He's shy, extremely clever, and capable of taking care of himself." He added that Butch was worth $2000 because of his training. "It's too bad," Jensen said, "He's a terrific animal. It's too bad."

There are no more newspaper reports of Butch until December 12, 1960. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Gus P. Lass, Jr. said that three weeks previously he and 40 companions saw a black bear in the Koolau mountains. "He was walking along a stream, minding his own business, and eating guavas. 500 yards away. Four feet high, walking on all fours. In good health."

It's the 500 yards bit that bothers me here. That's over a third of a mile. I know marine gunnery sergeants are pretty capable people, but to identify a bear at that distance and estimate his height with any accuracy is pushing the envelope. No mention is made of binoculars, but with the unaided eye, not even Daniel Boone nor my Uncle Charlie could make a positive identification.

Besides, I don't think there are many places where you can get that field of vision. The next day's follow up article presents some different facts. This time it's ten marines and the distance is 2000 feet. The animal is described as about the size of a large dog. Frankly, it's getting difficult to tell what the marines saw or thought they saw. Or did the reporter scramble his notes. Or did anybody care anymore about the facts?

Harry Whitten, long time Star Bulletin reporter on nature and the environment wrote up an interview with Al Jensen as a followup. Jensen said, "If he's alive and behaving himself, as he seems to have, I'd favor leaving him alone to become a legend. Won't do any harm if you leave him alone. Wild bears aren't dangerous. It's the tame ones that are dangerous. A wild bear won't come to you; he'll always try to get away. He may live to 20, 25 years if left alone."

At this time Jensen still had Sis, the female bear. He speculated that while bears wander around a lot, they are apt to stay in one area if there is food and water. Jensen said he wouldn't try to catch Butch unless there were more sightings to pinpoint the area. "If we couldn't catch him in '56, it won't be any easier now."

And so Butch became a legend in his own time. There are no more news stories about him for ten years, but during this period sightings were frequently reported to the police and the newspapers. A hunter reported finding bear tracks in Waimalu Valley which he photographed. A hiker reported seeing a bear above Aiea. This same hiker reported seeing Butch on the Pupukea Summit trail.

Honolulu Zoo Director Paul Breeze [1960] speculated that Butch was probably dead, if not from the collar, then probably pig hunters had dispatched and eaten him and kept quiet about it. "I like the idea of a bear in the woods." Breeze said in an interview. "In fact, I tell that to people. But it really isn't very likely any more."

And then in November, 1970, James Malcolm, from Schofield, while hiking the Waimano Trail with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, said he saw a bear about thirty feet down the trail from him. Malcolm came from New Hampshire and could be expected to know a bear when he saw one. He said the bear would have been five and a half feet tall if he had stood up. They looked at each other briefly whereupon the bear went up the mountain, as they are supposed to do, according to the nursery song. Malcolm hurried along the trail to catch up with the other hikers.

When I read the account in the Star Bulletin that evening, I announced to my boys (aged ten and eight at that time) that come Saturday, we would go looking for bear tracks. Neither seemed very excited about it. [When I asked number one son the other day if he remembered the hunt, he said, "No." So much for corroboration, but I remember quite distinctly.]

We started out about seven in the morning and hiked the Waimano Trail from the entrance. At the point described by Malcolm in the newspaper article I found where something had gone up the hill, but there was nothing that I could call a bear track in evidence. Nor did I really expect to find any. We hiked on to the dam where we had a swim, cooked our lunch, relaxed, had another swim, and then hiked out.

After a period of heavy rain the following spring [1971], we hiked to the dam one Saturday morning. It took us about three hours to get there. In those days before the dam washed out, there was a little sand beach at the far end of the pond, and it was here on that day, I found what I am pretty certain were bear tracks.

Beyond the sand beach in the campsite area I discovered a rotting log that had been torn apart. Some distance beyond was a kukui tree that had some pretty convincing claw marks. While I admit that an enterprising Boy Scout could have set the scene with a plaster cast and wire "claws," I like to think that Butch had passed that way. My sons were more interested in swimming than bear track hunting so instead of looking for more tracks, we hiked back home.
The last newspaper article about Butch appeared in the Advertiser on July 2, 1975. It is essentially a summary article based on previously published articles. There had been no reports of Butch since Malcolm's in 1970. It was about ninteen and a half years since Butch had escaped. He had been eighteen months old at the time. If he was still alive, he was a lonely old bear. In all probability he had been long dead.

Zoo Director Jack Throp [1975] speculated that a number of reported sightings had probably been wild pigs. If you only heard something moving through the brush or merely caught a glimpse of something black disappearing into a thicket, you couldn't really be sure what you'd seen or heard. And even a mongooses can make a lot of noise when they don't think there's anything around to bother them.

This account is mostly based on old newspaper reports which give the outline of the story with the names and dates. There are probably more details to be found in police blotters and officer's reports. There are most likely permit applications on file wherever the official city/county records are kept, and the state archives would have some information.

It would be nice to interview people who lived in Heeia Kea at the time, the people who engaged in the searches, and people who have claimed to have sighted Butch over the years. There must be a huge fund of oral tradition here if you could find people who would talk. There's the real problem; most people don't talk. They don't want the noteriety; they don't want to be contradicted; they no like make "A."

The psychologists tell us we see what we want to see. A bear in the Koolaus? Nonsense! It's just a legend, right?

Yeah, right.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bear Claw Ridge -- 4/1/2001

[photo credit -- Jason Sunada]

I dislike hiking in streambeds and along narrow ridges with rotten rock. As things turned out, I did both today probably because I'm a hardheaded son of a gun. Or maybe I did it because it was April Fool's Day, and I'm the king of fools. Today, the TM gang was slated to work on the Kipapa Trail in cooperation with the feds, but that outing was cancelled at the 11th hour. So, in place of Kipapa, Mabel requested that the crew hike/work on the Pu'u o Kona route for an upcoming club hike. 

So a bunch of us showed up at the end of Kalaau Place in Kuliouou Valley this morning to do our thing. I'd hiked the o Kona route last Saturday and reported to Mabel that not much work was needed on it. Given that, the day was designated more one for hiking than for labor. No complaints from me in that regard. 

The assembled throng dispersed hither and yon. Some folks went up the direct route to Kuliouou Ridge. Some went up the middle ridge via the end of Papahehi Place. I went with a group of folks up the valley trail that led to the waterfall trail that led up to Kuliouou West by an airplane wreck near the summit. The valley/waterfall group had a good workout. 

We all made it up to Kuliouou West in good stead, after a romp thru a dry stream (which, as mentioned earlier, I dislike) and a huff-n-puffer of a climb.  Our group summited, rested awhile, then began clearing the trail along the crest toward Pu'u o Kona (not much work to be done).

Once at o Kona (elev 2200), we took a look at Bear Claw Ridge, the massive spur that extends down to Waimanalo. Many of us have looked at this ridge from the summit and from Waimanalo, wondering if we'd muster the nerve to ever attempt it. Well today a few of mustered up some muster. 

After some rationalizing and feet dragging, we took the plunge. I went down a side spur and then bashed and slashed left into a wide, heavily vegetated ravine that was a mess of 'ie'ie and strangling plants. Ed later followed my basic line of torture. Meanwhile, Jason damned the torpedos and went down the direct ridge, and Peter edged after him. My way was safer but required more energy expenditure. Jason's way was direct but more exposed. It was pick your poison.

I eventually made my way thru the vegetation stranglehold, while being urged on and peppered with advice via walkie-talkie from comrades watching my progress up on the summit ridge. After hearing from Jason that the main ridge was "okay" (a relative term in the HTMC), I clawed my way very steeply thru 'ie'ie and buffalo grass to regain the main ridge where Jason had stopped to wait for me. 

At this point, Peter had decided to head back up and Ed was still battling the tangling flora (Ed later gained the main ridge and then headed back to the summit). So Jason and I slowly and carefully continued makai down the Bear Claw. We moved gingerly down some steep, crumbly slopes that obviously were negotiable and edged to the right of a couple of pinnacle rock formations. While edging, I had to move extra carefully because of my wide and heavy bulk ("walk lightly" was my mantra). 

Many of the rocks along the ridge, some boulder-sized, were rotten and ready to dislodge under the weight or tug of an unwary hiker. Fortunately, Jason and I are experienced enough to know what and how much to grab, lean on, and put weight on to avoid a big plunge. We passed to the left of a large ironwood tree and the ridge narrowed right after it. We crept along the thin, rocky ridge and then jumped down on the right. In the process, I dislodged a piece of the mountain. Looking at the ridge I'd destroyed, Jason said, "I hope we'll be able to climb back up." I hoped so, too. 

Not far after that, we arrived at a place where the main ridge narrowed and veered to the left and a broader side spur split off down to the right, with a broad, vegetated ravine between the two. The main ridge dropped to a vertical rockface of 8 to 10 feet. On the other hand, the right spur could be descended without aids. While I watched from above, Jason descended the right spur ten feet then did a left slabbing contour to get over to the main ridge, bypassing the 8-10 foot rockface. 

While I continued to watch (I'd decided not to go any further), Jason went down the main ridge a bit more then came back, saying he felt a little nervous. In a way, it was good to hear him say this because I was plenty nervous. Nervousness loves company, it seems. 

Jason, having decided to descend the main ridge no further, reslabbed back to the righthand side spur, descended that for a bit, then came back up to where I was. From this position, we were at the ~1800 ft level (altimeter watch check) and about 100 meters mauka of the ironwood grove that marks the point where the two claws of the ridge split steeply downward to the Waimanalo foothills below. It was around noon and time for lunch, but we both agreed not to eat until we had returned to the summit since somehow food would probably be unenjoyable with thoughts in our heads of the dicey climb still looming.

Moreover, clouds started massing along the summit ridge, an indicator that rain might soon follow. Precipitation plus steep eroded slopes equal bad news, so even moreso were we motivated to return to the summit without delay. After discussing crossing over the ravine to our left to ascend a spur on that side, we decided to stick with the main ridge, which we carefully made our way up. When we reached the narrow section by the ironwood tree, Jason slabbed left past the tree while I used its branches like a ladder to regain the ridgetop (thank heaven for strong branches), bypassing the narrow neck we'd hopped down (and I damaged) earlier. 

We then ascended the steep, eroded hill we'd come down earlier, did a twister contortionist routine thru a thicket of christmas berry (I did a bit of chopping there), then climbed steeply and carefully up a narrow hogback to the summit. Safety. Yes. Breathing proverbial sighs of relief, we turned south to hike along the summit to the clearing at the top of the state trail, pausing on occasion to look back at profiles of Bear Claw. 

We ate lunch at the top of the state trail with Peter and Ed, who waited for us there. After lunch, we headed down the state trail, admiring the new stairs we'd worked on last Saturday, and eventually arrived back on Kalaau Place. 

Notes: We found no ribbons or old cuts on Bear Claw today. It seems that no one has done this recently. We also left no ribbons. On my way home, I drove the Waimanalo backroads to take a good look at Bear Claw from below. Both claws appear do-able. In fact, we know that Al Miller, John Hall, Fred Durst, and others have done Bear Claw. John, who was in attendance today, told me he last did it about 30 years ago but can't recall if he went up on the left or right. He did remember that the climb required no cables/ropes and that access in Waimanalo wasn't problem. In typical HTM fashion, he described the climb as "not too bad." Miller, who has done it more recently, says the right claw is THE WAY to go and that cables are required in several spots. Will it be right or left? Hmmm... 

A week ago Monday, Ed and Roger Breton completed the section between the Moanalua Saddle and Keahiakahoe. This was a daring, dangerous undertaking since it involved an ascent of a very narrow ridgeline much of it over rotten rock. Nice job to those two.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kawiwi Waianae Kai -- 11/18/2000

I wrote this post on 18 Nov 
2000 17:06:46
(Photo by Peter Clines taken
in 2010) 
Five club members--Richard Fernandez, Roger Breton, Justin Ohara, Dave Waller, and Peter Kempf--joined me today for the 11th Super Hike conducted by the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club. While Super Hike X (Wahiawa Nui) covered the most distance (~17-18 miles), today's outing covered the least--maybe six or seven altogether. However, portions of today's hike were more hazardous than any part of the previous ten, and I can happily report that all of us made it up and around our course without casualty. I also will report that I will end my coordinatorship of HTMC super hikes after Number XX, which will be after the first quarter of 2003. I'm sure a willing and able member of the club will carry forth thereafter since there is no lack of gung-ho types in HTMC. New blood will be a good thing. 

We started hiking at the end of Waianae Valley Road by the hunters' check-in at 8:25. Around the halfway point up the single-lane Board of Water Supply Road, we headed left on a trail through haole koa. This section was generally overgrown, and the waist-high grass we waded through was wet from overnight rain. But we hiked in good spirits and commented how the cool conditions were welcome, particularly in upper Waianae Valley which often is muggy and hot. 

After about twenty minutes of grass-wading, we began climbing steeply and emerged on open ridge. At that point we enjoyed a nice view of the spread of the valley and also of the massive bulk of Kaala, which was cloaked in clouds. I was concerned about rain since wet conditions on parts of the ridge we had to traverse would make the going extremely hazardous. Fortunately, when the rains did hit later in the day, we had completed the most dangerous segments. 

In my pre-hike briefing, I mentioned the hazard of falling rocks raining down on trailing hikers. And in many ways the small size of our group today was beneficial since more folks would have multiplied the chances of rock falls. As it was with our small contingent, rocks became dislodged inadvertantly several times, but thanks to attentiveness and good communication ("Watch out, rock!" or "I'm climbing directly below you"), we completed the steep climb to Kawiwi without mishap. 

From cars to summit, the group completed the Kawiwi ascent in under two hours. However, I didn't let them rest at the peak more than ten minutes because I wanted to complete the dangerous dike crossing to No-Name Peak before rain hit. This crossing, as others who have done it will likely attest, is much more hazardous than the worst sections of Manamana or Kalena. And that's given dry conditions. In rainy weather, certain parts can become life-threatening, which was the reason for my eagerness to complete the crossing today before the weather turned bad, a very likely possibility based on the gray masses of clouds swirling around the summit of Kaala. 

Making our way carefully, we hiked across, up, over, around, and through rocks, trees, notches, and the like. At times, we did balancing acts on razor thin ridges. At times, we contoured to the left or right of the ridge crest to avoid cliffy sections or steep drops. At times, we slid down chutes in the rocks. At times we climbed up and over cracks and rocky ledges. It was challenging but we all made it across okay. 

When we reached the ironwood grove on the ridge, I announced that the worst was behind us. "The rest of the way to No-Name Peak will be like a sidewalk," I said. Well, it wasn't quite sidewalk-like and we still had to do some hand-over-hand climbing, prompting Roger at several points to ask, "So where's the sidewalk?" 

We completed the climb to No-Name Peak at 11:40 and decided to eat lunch and rest there instead of at Three Poles, our previously-stated goal for our noon meal. It was at No-Name Peak that we all decided to pass on a climb to Kaala today since doing so would involve a steep, slick ascent to a summit with no views (and views are something we look forward to). 

I should also mention that the hike was advertised in the club schedule as including a descent to somewhere on Oahu's North Shore, but I decided to nix that option to simplify pre-hike transportation logistics. 

We had an enjoyable lunch and afterward descended the brushy trail along the ridge to the junction with the Waianae Kai Trail. On the way, I briefly investigated the trail that descends into Makaha Valley (this trail is on the topo map). I hope to head down this at some future date to explore upper Makaha, a goldmine of native Hawaiian plants, according to Ken Suzuki, a man who knows his plants.

It was at the junction that we decided to forgo continuing to Three Poles and instead head down the makai-ward Waianae Kai Trail. By this time, a gentle drizzle had commenced. The descent went well, however, despite the wet conditions. 

Once we reached the bottom of our descent ridge, we opted to follow a rough trail in a narrow ravine until we reached a junction marked by a jack fruit tree. I had never taken this route before and enjoyed hiking along new territory. Initially, there were no ribbons in the ravine, but the further down we went, ribbons began appearing in greater frequency. 

Arriving at the jack fruit tree, we paused to examine it and to take a rest. Justin told us the fruits on the tree were still immature (the fruits at this stage resemble breadfruit), and that fully grown jack fruit are much larger than the ones we saw today.
For more about jack fruit, see 

From the jack fruit tree, we were just a five-minute hike from the end of the Board of Water Supply Road. When we arrived at the road, we met a (bird) hunter there. He asked if we'd seen any game birds. Nope, but we heard chukars in the forest below while up on the ridge, we said. Where had we come from? he inquired. He looked slightly stunned when we pointed out our route. Plenty of goats up there, we said. Listening to our remark, he didn't seem vaguely interested in ungulates. 

Saying farewell to the hunter, we six headed down the road and in about twenty minutes we were back at our cars by the hunter check-in. Justin, as he regularly does, offered up posthike refreshments, which we enjoyed and thanked him for. After not too long, we boarded our vehicles and headed homeward. 

Other kine stuff:
--Richard snapped many photos with his digital camera. I hope he will post these on the web for us to see. He has a nice website with pics posted at
--Some of the cheapest gas on Oahu can be had at a couple of gas stations in Nanakuli ($1.76 per gallon for reg unleaded). Not one to pass up a good deal, I topped off my tank on the way home. 

--Roger reported that he did a backpack trip on the KST a few weeks ago. He covered the section from Pupukea to Poamoho in a day! Because of bad weather, he aborted his plan to continue to Kipapa and points beyond and instead came out via Poamoho.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Piliwale Ridge --9/16/2000 --Jason Sunada

The following post was written by Jason Sunada on Thurs, 21 Sep 2000. The photo at left is the worst section of Piliwale Ridge.Here is Jason's post:

Last Friday afternoon (9/15/00) was so nice that I started thinking I should hike somewhere on Saturday before the HTM Clubhouse Appreciation Night pizza dinner. Briefly considered beating Dayle and Co. (didn't know he had e-mailed his intentions that afternoon) to Lulumahu Ridge and its K1 summit (the taller of the Konahuanui twin peaks and formerly known as K2). He had mentioned exploring this ridge after his upper Nuuanu to Pali Lookout bushwhack the previous week. But that would likely be too long and rugged. And the parking's not too safe. Then mulled over various stream/waterfall hikes. However, with my birthday approaching (it came and went) I wanted to try something more. Piliwale Ridge came to mind. I did it twice before in the mid to late 80's and in the early 90's (should have kept a hike log). A few years ago I joined Stuart Ball to check out this ridge to the old HTM Club lunch spot (the grassy shelf). The trail above the Maunawili Contour was very overgrown and scratchy. When we topped out on the grassy shelf I was feeling uneasy with the big drop offs and no plants nearby for security. Across the dip in the ridge (which I considered the most dangerous part) the rock looked more eroded [due to (recent?) use]. It "didn't look too good" but the cable was still there (seen the second but not the first time).

Saturday morning was too cloudy deep in the valley for a stream hike so I settled on Piliwale Ridge -- if not to complete it, at least to check it out. Nothing was prepped the night before so I lost time getting ready, debating whether to bring the Camelbak. On the drive over the sky transitioned from sunny in town to very cloudy on the windward side causing some concern. Noticed Tom Yoza's yellow Scout parked at the hairpin turn and wondered what he was up to: mountain biking, more trailclearing, searching for missing hikers again? Because of high potential for break-ins why would he want to park there?

Parked on Lopaka Way in a beautiful Maunawili neighborhood and started up the water tank road at 9:05 am. The trail above the water tank was clear and appeared well used. Reached the junction with the Maunawili Contour in less than 20 minutes. Checked that no one was around then continued up the ridge. Within seconds noticed sunglasses (dark blue frame) laying on the trail. Further ahead the trail was very clear with nothing scratchy and also appeared well used. The sun shined more often so I sometimes waited for clouds to cover it before breaking out in the open. Looked down at the hairpin turn for Tom's vehicle but couldn't see it. Either trees blocked it or he had finished his bike ride already and left. I later learned they (his bike gang?) rendezvoused there then drove near the middle part of the Maunawili Contour to clear the trail.

Got to the grassy shelf before the dip feeling fine. Wondered what lunatic would leap across to the rock below. Noticed the cable across the dip. The ridge looked "not too bad." Dropped down on the left to the dip then climbed up with the cable nearby in case I slipped. For some reason (no recent erosion, more grass/greenery?) I didn't realize this was the most dangerous part and continued on. While on a narrow area I noticed my left trailshoe laces undone. Dohhh. Made a mental note to double check laces before dicey spots. Saw another cable (part of two cables in series). Contoured left around it then got back on the ridgeline above it. Saturday night I mentioned two areas with cables (three cables total). Now I'm not sure. May have been three areas (four cables total). Definitely remember seeing a black one (first cable by dip?) and a gray one.

Anyway, above the cables I reached a wider rocky face where I couldn't go straight up. At first glance the right side looked too sheer so I spent 15 minutes contouring a couple steps left then trying unsuccessfully to step and grab my way up, pondering between attempts. Gave up, backtracked to the ridgeline and sat down, relieved but disappointed to be turning back. Ate three pretzels and some li hing guava, enjoyed the great view and wondered if I could come down safely (safety was on my mind throughout this hike). While taking my partially frozen iced tea from my bag something fell out. Looked down and saw my umbrella, fortunately just a few feet below on the ridgeline. Figured I'd pick it up on the way down after checking the other side of the rocky face. Found a path so I retrieved my umbrella then continued up. All along I kept wondering why the trail seemed so much harder than the time I previously checked it out with Stuart. Maybe I had already passed the bad spots. Topped out at the next point (or the following one) and could see I was home free. "Safer," wider ridge with plenty of plants to grab. Think was around 11:30 am. Still looked like a long way to go with the summit clouded in. The trail had been nice and dry but above about 2600 ft the ground became moister with some stepping and sliding. It again appeared well used with some significant clearings (Pat and Laredo's top down exploration?) making the going easier than previous times.

Recognized ohia, maile, i'e i'e, kahili ginger (!, many in bloom with yellow flowers), lapalapa, uli grass, other shorter/thinner blade grasses, uluhe, clidemia, another pest plant with prominently-veined leaves bigger and smoother than clidemia leaves. Also strawberry guava and fiddlewood on the lower ridge. Unfortunately, didn't spend any time looking off trail for lobelias, etc. (not that I would know). Reached the summit trail at 11:55 am (still clouded in). Plucked a little purple flower and stuck it in some moss at chest level to mark the junction and continued left trying not to step in the putrid, watery mud.

Summitted K1 at 12:05 pm at the grassy lunch spot of the June 25 trailclearing (I was in the group that didn't go down Manoa Middle). Recalled taking one hour from the grassy shelf the first time up and being real surprised because Ski Pole had said it takes 4 hours (maybe he was mistaken or setting ropes). Reset altimeter watch (was reading couple hundred feet low). Thought I heard faint voices so I walked toward the K2 side where the summit narrows again. Realized was the buzz of bees or something whizzing overhead from the windward side. On the way up I had been debating which way to go down (originally planned to be home by 2 pm). K2-Aihualama and get picked up at Paradise Park (2-1/2 hrs). K2-Nuuanu-Nuuanu Pali Drive-Pali Hwy-Pali Lookout-Old Pali-Road-Maunawili Contour-Lower Piliwale Ridge to water tank (5-1/2 to 6 hrs? Much less for Pat). Decided the same way down would be fastest. Also remembered previously having concerns returning the same way but being pleasantly surprised. Called home to leave a message that I got to the top and would return the same way but would need at least 2 hrs back to the car.

Started back at 12:10 pm. Reached the Piliwale junction in 5 minutes. Saw my feel good flower in the moss. Then realized any hiker would naturally continue down Piliwale Ridge because the trail to Pali Lookout was obscure. (I once mistakenly went part way down Piliwale Ridge in a whiteout when intending to check the ridge to the Lookout.) The clouds opened some and I could see buses and cars at the Lookout. Continued quickly down. Didn't tie ribbons coming up so I sometimes had to stop and search where I came up or just went down a different route (Pat and Laredo's?). Got tangled periodically in maile, i'e i'e runners, and a vine with large, light green leaves. Passed the various patches of Kahili Ginger where I stopped to take altimeter readings. They're growing between 300-500 feet below the summit of K1. Emptied my bladder (Camelbak, that is). Glad I brought it -- great on narrow ridges. With a slight left thigh muscle ache (due to dehydration?) and shoulder ache (slipped and held on) I stopped to drink, refill the Camelbak (only half-liter water and some iced tea left), and take two ibuprofen caplets. Also felt a little weak and ate half an energy bar, enjoying sweeping views with Olomana straight ahead. Continuing down, I saw an old, L-shaped backpack frame below the highest cable on the right. Thought of Greg Kingsley's famous orange backpack. Only the aluminum frame lay there. No pack, no straps, no waistbelt. Hadn't noticed it on the way up.

Continued down, unintentionally dislodging a couple rocks. Followed the ridgeline along the cable previously bypassed on the way up. Got down to the dip and back up to the grassy shelf. Relaxed and breathed a big sigh of relief! Continuing to the Maunawili Contour seemed to take a long time. The sunglasses were still there. Passed a jogger heading up the concrete water tank road. Didn't see him heading back down so I assumed he went up to the Maunawili Contour. Changed out of my dirty pants and gaiters and got back to my car at 2:10 pm (3 hrs up, 2 hrs down). A very satisfying day in the mountains.

[Note: Sorry for the poor trail details which I attribute to my impaired memory (just ain't there sometimes) and safety anxieties.]

[Warning Note: Mid-ridge is steep and dangerous with loose rocks and big drop offs. Do not rely on existing cables.