Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wailupe Kului Ridge -- 6/12/2002

A Flag for Kaimi
I have four nieces and two nephews, the oldest being twenty and the youngest five. None have shown indications of becoming hikers, but there is plenty of time to develop that interest, if they so choose. What's clear to them is that their uncle has an affinity for the mountains, or, as one of them has put it, "for getting sweaty, stinky, and dirty."

Today, I hiked a loop in Wailupe Valley and the most significant thing about the outing was that I was able to fulfill a request made by the youngest of the bunch, my nephew, Nestor Kaimi Na'auao Fernandez, 6. Our family calls him Ka'imi, which translates to "The Discoverer." Well, the Discoverer is the only child of my sister Mona and her husband Nes, and during May the three of them flew in from San Francisco, where they live, for a two-week visit here.

I went hiking several times during their stay, and as I left home to drive to a trailhead, Kaimi invariably would ask what I was going to do and where I was going. Invariably, I'd answer, "hiking" and "to the top of a mountain," which netted an "Okay" and a wave from the young one.

The morning that Kaimi, my sister, and her husband were to head back to San Fran, my young nephew asked me to do something for him. "I want you to put a flag on top of the mountain," he said. I'm not sure where he got that idea, perhaps from a movie he saw or from an episode of National Geographic Explorer on TV. But I said I'd do it, and today I lived up to my promise.

I met some friends at the mauka terminus of Hao Street in Wailupe Valley at 9:00 a.m. and soon thereafter we began hiking along the trail at street's end. After ten minutes or so, we reached a junction by a boulder, "a very significant rock" said Wing Ng, one of the friends on hand. We followed a trail that headed to the right at the junction, and a few minutes later we were crossing a dry stream and had arrived at yet another junction. The friends continued straight ahead at the junction, heading for the crest of Kului Ridge via a route Wing calls 1-2-3 (why he calls it that, I don't know). I, with my flag-placing mission in mind, headed left alone to climb the HTMC route we call the Middle Ridge or Wailupe Middle.

The club has just cleared and hiked the Middle Ridge route in the past month, so it is wide open. Additionally, a period of relatively rainless weather in that period has made for a dry trail underfoot. The climb of the Middle Ridge is never overly steep, with no significant downs, and I was feeling in good shape, so I moved along steadily.

At the summit, I stopped to rest, drink some water, and eat a protein bar. The weather was clear and beautiful, and the views of Waimanalo and the ocean beyond it were clear and beautiful as well.

After ten minutes of resting, I arose and headed south toward Koko Head on the rough trail along the summit. Though overgrown, the trail, with one significant down and one significant up, was easy to follow, and, like the climb of Wailupe Middle, mudfree. In fifteen minutes, I found myself atop a pu'u that marks the summit of Kului Ridge and without delay I began down the ridge trail. After 50 to
60 meters, right as the ridge trail was about to descend quite steeply, I stopped, dropped my pack, and fished out the object of my mission. The object, of course, was the flag I'd promised to place at the top of the mountain. And that I did, affixing the pennant to a tree branch in plain view of any hiker passing by. I'll admit that the flag really isn't a flag and it isn't overly large. But it's a reasonable facsimile of a
flag, and those who want to see it will have to find their way to Kului Ridge to see what I mean.

Of course, the flag might be gone by then, having been blown away by the wind or removed by someone thinking it's an eyesore or piece of trash.

However, on this day, it's a flag, placed there at the request of a part-Hawaiian, part Filipino six-year-old, who may not even remember the request nor care that the request has now been fulfilled nor care that it was affixed atop a ridge in the Koolaus by his uncle, who for reasons of his own understanding, saluted it, smiled, and then continued on his way to trail's end, ready for another hike, with mission or without, whatever and whenever that might be.