Monday, August 16, 2010

Aiea Ridge -- LastKoho

From the Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts archives

Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2001 21:42:43 -1000
From: LastKoho (
Subject: Tendered is the Hike

Sunday morning, a little tired after a late night, I drift to the kitchen where I make a cup of coffee and sit down and open the newspaper. My wife, in the living room, is alternately watching the TV and glancing at a booklet of Longs coupons. And then she looks over at me and says, "Well?"

I say, "Well, what?"

Conversation killed.

I sip from my cup and turn a page of the paper. A minute later, caffeine kicking-in, antennae emerging, I raise my head and look near the door and see two stuffed backpacks on the floor, propped against the wall, ready to go.

I point. "What's that all about?"

My wife says, "What's what all about?"

The negotiations commence. Implicitly, I have some leverage. Since my wife -- through the act of pre-packing -- has already indicated a desire to hit a trail, the particular trail hit should be mine to choose. As such, it only takes a small amount of haggling to settle on a specific hike, Aiea Ridge. But another issue arises: Do we hike to the end of the path? Details surface: We will be getting a somewhat late start, probably not arriving at the trailhead sooner than 10:00 A.M. Given this, can we safely and comfortably reach the summit and get back to the car before the sun goes down? Don't know. Therefore, the following deal is struck: "Both parties agree to not hike summit-way after 2:00 P.M. Both parties agree to only hike trailhead-way after 2:00 P.M." With sunset slated for about half past six, this should allow us to beat steady hiker Darkness to the car.

Still, in the back of my mind, I speculate that if I am anywhere near the summit at around two or two- thirty or two forty-five it will be difficult not to succumb to that gladiator / conquer and tame / ego building / bragging rights / we've come too far to turn back now / not getting any younger / it's always faster coming down / we have flashlights anyway / I really want to see that lapalapa tree feeling or some combination thereof (assuming we are injury free) and that negotiations will recommence trailside. But perhaps time won't be an issue and there won't be a need to renegotiate. That would be best. So I pull myself together, skipping breakfast, and get out the door and into the car and merge onto H1 and across 78 before jumping off the highway and turning up Aiea Heights Drive.

A few minutes before ten, car parked, we set off along the wide and civilly graded Aiea Loop trail, which comprises the first mile or so of the hike. We pass gum, guava, bamboo, paperbark, and swamp mahogany trees --- and then turn left and step up a slight grade and arrive at the intersection of Lace Fern and Steep Drop-Off, confluence of loop, valley, and ridge trails.

We stop and take a swig of water, lift our socks, zip up our gaiters. Then, moving again, we swing right, past ti and lantana and fern.

Suddenly, the scenery changes. The dark forest we've just left (off the loop trail) sported lots of tall eucalyptus, a high, majestic canopy, a wide path. But now, in contrast, there are lots of ohia and koa, a low, intimate canopy, a narrow path, benign greenery.

I half-turn to my wife. "Wow. Fast change." I swing my arm. "Like a whole 'nother trail."

My wife says, "It is another trail."

Right. So it is.

We walk amid uluhe, ie'ie, pukiawe, and audio irony. I mean, we hear more than the birds in the distance and the wind in the trees -- we hear cars, cars streaming along the mighty H3, the mighty H3 that snakes its way through Halawa Valley far below. It's get-away-from-it-all scenery with a cityscape voice-over.
I turn again. "Sounds like our living room."


We pass a furry fiddlehead and step around a tree, turn left behind a hump. We stop, hear nothing but birds. And then we see four apapanes flying over Kalauao Valley. We follow in the same general direction, the trail becoming a little more overgrown not far from where we begin a not-so-easy ascent to Pu'u Kaiwipo'o. Along the way there's a pleasant interlude: After an aggressive incline, resting behind a cluster of ohias, a natural blind, we see two more apapanes land in a tree within thirty feet of us. The birds hop from branch to branch for a minute or so before I shuffle my feet and scare them away.

Two-plus hours on the trail and, not without some effort, we reach the top of Kaiwipo'o, a sizeable helipad. We drink water and, looking both ewa and diamond head, count the ridges fanning out from the Ko'olau spine. I turn toward the summit. Clouds slide here and there, and a dark utility tower stands guard in the distance. Five minutes, and we continue on, stepping across a few mildly narrow sections, squishing through mud among fairly thick vegetation, leaning into a few blasts of wind as we ascend and descend one small knob after another.

We top-out at another helipad, this one even bigger than the previous plateau. From here we can see a healthy slice of windward Oahu. And it's only 1:25; but I am suddenly, inexplicably, exhausted. I half wish it were two o'clock, turnaround time -- the hell with any more negotiations or ego building or bragging rights. I look at my wife and she looks at me. I wait for her to say something but she says nothing. So I start walking, say, "I guess we go this way."

We descend, curving slightly left, soon reaching the base of the utility tower. At last, my wife can't help but wonder, aloud, how much longer it is to the summit.

I stop. "Don't know. Maybe we should just call it off right here."

Perhaps thinking I was kidding, perhaps surprised by my lethargy, perhaps seized by a conquer and tame / ego building / bragging rights / we've come too far to turn back now feeling, my wife replies, "Oh, let's just keep going."

Right. A deal's a deal.

We climb a little rise and walk past an open grassy area and, just like that, reach the summit overlook. It's 1:35 P.M.

We are instantly energized and relaxed, snapping pictures of the land below and the sea beyond as wisps of cloud rush urgently up and over the lip of the pali. Clusters of toy houses lie far below in Ahuimanu. Beyond and a little to the right is the green of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park and farther out still, across Kahekili Highway, very tiny, the monolithic blue-green roofs of the Temple Valley Shopping Plaza.

I'm hungry. And just behind the crest, where a small collection of ohia and lapalapa trees shelter us from the gusts, we sit and share a lunch of water, boiled eggs, cream crackers, raisons, a power bar, oranges. Then I lie down, hear the leaves of the lapalapa flutter and watch a dragonfly -- veering every which way in the air -- vainly, comically try to negotiate the swirling wind.

Thirty minutes pass before we pack up and leave. Walking at an easy pace, we spot a small mud-colored frog leaping awkwardly across the steep path in front of us. A little later, we stop and watch a grove of wind-swept loulu stand tough on the valley wall below. Later still, we bend to examine the bright green, forked wawae'iole growing trailside.

Again to Puu Kaiwipo'o and then down and across the saddle. The wind calms and the trail softens -- becomes more pronounced, less severe in its ups and downs -- and I feel as good as I have all day, marching slowly through the cozy forest. In time, we swing left, past fern and lantana and ti, and after a break at the Loop junction, we stroll along the wide path, listening to the birds - shamas, a northern cardinal, waxbills, bulbuls - as they call out and begin to settle for the evening. Finally, trailhead. No other cars are in the upper parking lot and we sit and take off our boots. A light breeze, quiet -- night falls like a feather. We stand, get in the car, and, with me behind the wheel, roll toward home.