Thursday, June 10, 2010

Castle Trail

The HTMC is hiking the Castle Trail this weekend (Sunday 6/13). It's a members-only hike and with only a limited number of hikers allowed. The limit is very likely a result of a requirement of the landowners, the Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, who probably are concerned about environmental impact and liability. In any case, it is good for the hiking community that KS/BE is allowing access to Castle as well as other trails, such as Kawainui, Kawai Iki and Opaeula, that are on KSBE properties.

I have hiked Castle a number of times, the first being back in the early 80s when I really wasn't into hiking at all. On that occasion, I joined two friends, Bob Benham and Guy Kaulukukui, who both worked for KSBE at the time and hence were able to get access.

During that hike of Castle, I remember a particularly dicey section where we had to inch across an exposed waterfall section of the old switchbacks. At the time, I thought that was the craziest thing I had ever done in my life.

I also remember only carrying a liter of water and drinking water out of the stream that the trail crosses what up in the mountains above Punaluu. At the time, I reasoned that the water had to be pure since no animals who could foul the water could exist this high up in the Koolaus. Of course, years later I found out how incorrect I was and that indeed there were lots of animals who live up that high (and higher) and they had no problem fouling the water.

Fortunately, I survived that drink-from-the-stream episode and lived to hike another day, which included other days in the years that followed hiking on the Castle Trail which is mentioned favorably in Stuart Ball's The Hikers Guide to Oahu.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


This hike took place back in June 2001 and involved three trails: Malaekahana Ridge, Koolau Summit Trail and Kahuku Ridge. The whole thing had to be at least 12 miles but it could have been as much as 15. Whatever it was, we all had a sweaty, muddy workout. Ken Suzuki even said the plants along the Kahuku Trail are better compared to sister ridges, Laie and Malaekahana.

The hike started at the Laie ballpark on Poohaili Street, the trailhead for the Laie Trail hike. The first phase was a romp along a dirt road that passed the Laie trailhead and crossed a (dry) stream. There are several side roads on the left and right leading to farms. One concern along this stretch is harassment by dogs. A couple barked and growled as we went by in the a.m. but no dog hassles took place in the p.m., at least when I went by.

Not long after the stream crossing, we headed mauka on another dirt road.
This road eventually becomes eroded and rutted and then transitions
into the Malaekahana Trail, which we headed up. About an hour from the
cars, we passed the junction with the trail heading down to Malaekahana
Stream and continued mauka up the ridge. The trail beyond the junction
was overgrown but still passable.

Eventually, the ridge trail angles left, goes over several humps, and
arrives at a junction at a low saddle, now very well ribboned. This is
about 2 to 3 hours from the cars, depending how fast one goes. It was
there we left the ridge trail (heading right) to begin a segment we
called "The Shortcut to the KST," a longtime brain-child of Bill Gorst.
This route drops down to a little stream, passes some paperbark trees,
winds around some low ridges and ravines, crosses little streams at least
twice more, and eventually gains the summit trail about a half mile (as
the mynah flies) north of the KST/Malaekahana junction. It takes about
half an hour.

Once on the KST, our loop headed right (north) toward the Pupukea summit
hilltop, where the terminus of the Kahuku trail resides. The KST segment
was muddy in many places (to be expected) and about 2/3rds was
well-cleared. Count on at least an hour to get this part done.

At the base of the Pupukea summit hilltop is a signed junction. Today's
correct choice was to head up to the right (heading straight ahead would
take one around the hilltop and on to Pupukea). Near the top of the hill
was another signed junction. This is where the Kahuku trail begins/ends.

Getting back to the cars from this location will take approx 3-4
hours. We did it by heading down the Kahuku trail, which is a typical
uluhe-ohia ridge higher up. This part is very obvious and marked well.
After the uluhe abates, the trail transitions into the guava zone. The
corridor thru the guava is generally distinct and well-marked when the way
becomes less clear. After the guava zone, the trail becomes drier, more
eroded, and populated by vegetation like ironwoods, some pines, and
christmas berry, with some guava thrown in to keep things from
getting too easy/pleasant.

About 90 minutes from the summit, there is a junction with what appears to
be an old jeep road. We went right at that point, leaving the Kahuku
trail, which continues straight down the ridge, very broad at
this point. The old road arrives at another junction in a forest of
ironwoods. The correct way at that point is to head right to begin
descending to Malaekahana Stream. Ribbons mark the way, which eventually
gets steep and proceeds down a swath thru uluhe, then a large eroded
patch, and then puts one in the side fork of the (dry) stream. The side
fork quickly leads to a junction with the main (babbling) stream. At that
point, there is ribboned trail that gets the old ticker a-pumping by
climbing steeply to the ridgetop of the south side of Malaekahana Stream.

Once the ridgetop is gained, the trail heads mauka for a short spell, then
swings to the left thru a forest of guava and ironwoods. This area is well
marked. The trail reaches a barbed-wire fenceline, which is followed for
a bit and then ducked under at a ribboned point. A road covered
with horse manure heads makai to mauka (head makai). Heading as such will
lead to a large antenna tower. Near the tower is an indistinct (but
ribboned well today) path that heads to the right. This path leads to a
gate and the start/end of a dirt road. Go thru the gate (make sure to
secure the gate with the attached rope) and proceed down the road.

This road will lead to a junction with the dirt road leading to
Malaekahana that was walked on earlier. The conclusion of the hike is the
dirt road amble back to the Laie ballpark.

Some notes about the hike:

Several folks ran out of water en route. This is at least a three-liter
hike, especially in the summer months.

Walkie-talkies were useful in helping us keep track of who was where. For
those who don't have a walkie-talkie, consider purchasing one.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Marriage, Hiking, and Life

While I haven't read the book Solemates: Lessons On Life, Love, and Marriage From the Appalachian Trail, it sounds like an interesting read.  Maybe someday I'll write a book similar to it and call it Solemates: Lessons On Life, Love, and Marriage From the Trails of Hawaii.

Well, today is my wife and I's 6th wedding anniversary (the picture to the left is us above Poomau Canyon [Kokee] on Kauai).  As I reflect on the years I've been married, I can say that they've been good years on the whole.  Yes, there've been lots of trials and challenges along the way but I can say that I love my wife and I love being married to her.  While it is true that I am hiking a lot less than I was in my pre-married days, I have no regrets.   

Hiking, as it turns out, has played an interesting part in my life.  I met Jacque in 1993.  Up to that point, I had hiked very little, perhaps less than ten times in the 30+ years of my life.    Interestingly, Jacque suggested a hike with a local hiking club (HTMC) as a date during my early courtship of her.  I liked the idea and we decided on a Saturday hike with club on the Hauula-Papali trails.  If you discount the suffering I endured on the climbs on these supposedly novice trails and also the fact that I led us astray at one point on the hike, we had a good experience that day

Such a good time did we have that we had other hiking "dates," one of them being a backpacking trip up Mauna Loa, which I blogged about recently.

Little did I realize that that date with my future wife would lead to LOTS of hiking thereafter (the pic to the right is us on a ridge in Kalihi Valley).  So much so that we became members of HTMC and even lead hikes for the club till this day.

Right now, my wife and I are engaged in an urban hiking expedition, with the goal of hiking around Oahu (via roads) in stages for a total of 120+ miles.  We have completed the section from Kaneohe to Haleiwa, from Pearl City to Kaneohe, and from Hawaii Kai to Nuuanu.  What remains is the West side (Waianae Coast) and Mokuleia to Pearl City.  We hope to complete all that by the end of summer 2010.

I also look forward to another year of happily married life with the woman of my dreams.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Aiea Hiking with the HTMC on National Trails Day

Tomorrow (6/5/10 Saturday) is my wife and I's sixth wedding anniversary.  On 6/5/04 at 3:21 in the afternoon, we were married at the chapel on the campus of the Kamehameha Schools, my alma mater.  Happy anniversary to us!

Tomorrow also is National Trails Day.  In tribute to the day, the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club will be conducting three (count 'em) hikes tomorrow, all in the mountains above Aiea.

The options, from longest/most difficult to shortest/easiest include
  1. Aiea Ridge trail (12 miles)
  2. Aiea Loop trail (4.5 miles)
  3. Aiea bisectional trail (3 miles)
Meeting time tomorrow is 8 a.m. up at the upper trailhead in Keaiwa State Park.

Dunno if the missus and I will be hiking with the club, but we do plan on celebrating our 6th!  BTW, the pic you see of my wife and I on this blog is taken at the upper trailhead aforementioned.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Makiki-Tantalus Loop

One of my favorite workout hikes is the Makiki-Tantalus Loop which is actually a circuit of several trails including Moleka, Makiki Valley, Kanealole, Nahuina, Maunalaha, Kalawahine, and Manoa Cliffs.  Sound confusing?  Well it is, that is until you have gone out and done it.  After that, no problem.

The hike starts at the Nature Center in Makiki where there is a bathroom and water.  Parking is down the road from the Nature Center in a gravel lot on the left. 

Since this is a loop, it can be done in the clockwise direction (starting with the Kanealole Trail) or counterclockwise (starting with the Maunalaha Trail).  The latter option gets the pulse climbing more quickly because of the climbing commences right away and with greater steepness.  Most times, I prefer to get the hard stuff out of the way right off the bat.

The Maunalaha Trail climbs up a dry, rocky, tree-covered ridge (see photo at right) to arrive a big junction with a sign and a bench.   To do the big loop (about 7 miles), proceed up to the right on the Makiki Valley Trail and not long after that, head left on the Moleka Trail.  There are not many views along this part of the hike.  The views will come later.

Eventually, the Moleka Trail ends at a crossing of Round Top Drive.  Directly across Round Top is the start of the Manoa Cliffs Trail.  The cliffy part of the trail doesn't start right away but in about 5 to 10 minutes it will.

Much of the cliff trail isn't really cliffy but there will be some nice views down into Manoa Valley along the way.  The trail in this direction climbs gradually to make its way around Tantalus mountain.  along the way at a sometimes windy lookout, there is a rest bench.  I use this bench as a benchmark for my conditioning.  If I can reach the bench from the Nature Center (via Maunalaha) in an hour, I'm moving at a good pace for me.  The downhill part of the Manoa Cliff trail begins at a metal gate, which marks the entrance of an inclosed area to protect native plants.

Upon exiting the inclosed area, head left on the continuation of the Cliffs Trail.  Do note that straight ahead after exiting the inclosure is the Pauoa Flats Trail, which leads to the Nuuanu Lookout, Konahuanui, and the Aihualama Trail down into Manoa Valley.  But since we're doing the loop, we'll scratch that part, but if you feel so inclined, go for it. Just remember your landmarks.

The cliffs trail switches back several times to descend to the Kalawahine Trail.  At that junction, head left and follow Kalawahine as it contours on the Ewa-facing side of Tantalus.  The Kalawahine Trail ends at Tantalus Drive.  To continue the loop, proceed straight ahead on Tantalus Drive for about 60-70 meters.  On the left will be the Nahuina Trail which is accessed by hopping over a metal guardrail along Tantalus Drive.

Nahuina descends in switchbacks to a junction with the Makiki Valley Trail.  At that junction, head left to continue the descent to the valley bottom.  In a few minutes, the MVT will reach yet again another junction (this hike is big on junctions!).   At that point, head right down the Kanealole Trail which ends at the Nature Center.

On good days (for me), I've done this loop in two hours.  I will admit that I jog part of the flat and downhill sections of most of the route. 

For a shorter (1-hour) option, the Makiki Valley Loop is a good choice.  The variation on the route I described would be to head leftward instead of straight and up at the big junction to continue on the Makiki Valley Trail.  Then at the junction with the Kanealole Trail, head down to return to the Nature Center.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail

Most of us who live in Hawaii or have an interest in the islands are familiar with the TV shows Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-O. Remember scenes from a high vantage point with Rabbit Island and the Waimanalo coast in the background? If you were wondering, those scenes were filmed at the Makapuu Lighthouse overlook, a site accessible via a 45 minute walk from Kalanianaole Highway.
After years of driving from Honolulu to my windward side home in Kaneohe, I finally decided in the summer of 1994 to check out what lay beyond that gated roadway at the bottom of the long hill on the Hawaii Kai Golf Course side. What had taken a lifelong Oahu resident so long to explore this place? Probably like many others, I had a notion that access to the road beyond the gate was not allowed. Even though more times than not I saw cars parked along the roadway fronting the gate indicating that people were tramping around up there, I categorized these folks as trespassers who'd placed themselves at the mercy of the law, car thieves, or both.

I'm not sure if overhearing a conversation about the hike prompted me to venture forth; however, one midsummer morning I was on the road to Waimanalo and after a 20 minute drive from Kaneohe was parking at the Hawaii Kai Golf Course (I was more leery of car thieves than the law). By the way, you need not park at the golf course to do the hike. Parking along the fairly wide shoulder along Kalanianaole is fine.

Plan on a 15 minute walk to the gate if you park at the golf course. From there, simply follow the paved road that contours along the ridge in the direction opposite of your ultimate destination. The climb is gradual and soon enough you'll find yourself rounding the corner of the ridge where you'll have your first magnificent view of the azure Pacific from atop steep and rugged sea cliffs. However, the hike does not end there.

Continue up the road, this time heading in the direction of Rabbit Island. In some spots, the road skirts perilously close to the side of the steep pali. While walking along these places, I had visions of some olden day lighthouse keeper teaching his son or daughter to drive--certainly not a place to err.,p.
The ultimate reward of the hike is at the end of the road at a windswept lookout point high above Makapuu Beach and Rabbit Island. While I stood there and gazed seaward, visions of Tom Selleck, Jack Lord and television cameras and lights popped into my mind. In retrospect, I even recall episodes of Bodies in Motion, the aerobics show featuring Gil Janklowitz, being shot there. In fact, Makapuu point has been occupied or visited by many others before me: a couple generations of lighthouse keepers and their families, a group of Hawaiians who claimed family rights to the aina (land) there, scores of local fisherman who venture down the steep cliffs to take advantage of fruitful fishing grounds, armies of teens armed with beer and spray paint (graffiti abounds), and many others.

Along with Lord, Selleck, Janklowitz and a miscellany of siteseers, vagabonds and just plain folk, Dayle Turner can be counted among the many who have traveled up the Makapuu Lighthouse road.

I should mention that it is possible to hike from the road to the ocean. While walking up the road from the highway, look for the place where the concrete pillars begin (this is on the section of the road that overlooks the ocean and is heading in the direction of the lighthouse). Right at the first pillar, a trail descends the steep, rocky slope. The trail is readily apparent and if you think you have drifted off the path, look back upslope for arrows spraypainted onto the rocks.The descent to the ocean takes 10-15 minutes and at the bottom are some nice tide pools and a blowhole that puffs geysers of ocean water to the rhythm of incoming swells.

Once at the oceanside, it is possible to head right along the shoreline (toward Sandy Beach) to get to a cave and beyond. I've never gone beyond the cave, but others have told me it is possible to hike along the rocky shelf to reach Pele's Chair, the rock formation by the ocean in the Allan Davis area that is part of the Makapuu Shoreline Loop. Monitor the wave action if you decide to do this. Getting swept into the ocean in this area could mean curtains.