Sunday, August 22, 2010

Moanalua Valley to Tripler Ridge -- LastKoho

From the Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts Archives
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2001 16:38:17 -1000
From: LastKoho (
Subject: Violators will be Prosecuted

Sitting at the computer all weekend (hopelessly trying to resolve a file access problem), I finally decide, late on Sunday afternoon, that I need to get out of the house.

With the intention of finding the trailhead at Monanalua Valley, I jump in the car and hop onto H1, exiting at Red Hill and following Ala Aolani Street to its end. From the car I walk to the back of the Moanalua Neighborhood Park and approach a fence that has a big white sign attached to it. The sign warns that access to the valley road without permission from the Damon Estate is restricted, that violators will be prosecuted. The words are clear but the gate is open.

With dual forces working within and without, I stroll light-footed through the fence and down the old carriage road and under a huge monkeypod tree hosting some equally huge pothos. While a northern cardinal sings in the distance, ahead I spot two people -- man and wife, I presume -- just off the trail. They must see me but they continue to examine the forest, not moving a muscle or saying a word as I pass at arm's length. Semi-kindred spirits, I speculate: they have read and wandered beyond the same sign as I have and are now frozen, worried that I might know their secret.

I hike forward a bit more, if only to allow the uncomfortable pair to move on. But, in turn, I am snared: Ahead two people sit on one of the many bridges that traverse the dry stream, and they are looking directly at me. There's nothing else to do but walk forward and smile in as natural a manner as I'm able. They smile back as I stiffly veer right and cross the stream on the road. I feel compelled under their watch to continue along the trail -- and that's just what I do, passing lots of hau (from within the tangle two white-rumped shamas vigorously mark their territory through a series of songs) and, farther along, koa haole and strawberry guava trees as the road more or less loses its canopy cover.

It's not too much later that I feel a small amount of dread as I spot more hikers, a mother and her two children. They are heading makai, toward the trailhead. Passing, the children smile and I force a smile back. The mother, a few yards behind the kids, averts her eyes. I figure that Mom is, like me, a Monanalua wanna-be. And I decide that this is not fun, seeing my ringer-self reflected in others.

I walk forward a few sluggish paces, looking right. I had read on the OHE web site about a path in this vicinity that climbs the valley wall. A quick peek --- and then I'll head back to the car. I move into the brush and spot a flag tied to a branch, and then, curious, head up through uluhe, with things getting steep fast as I grab and pull-on the smooth-barked trunks of the guava trees. I stop for a moment to rest and, looking up, see a series of colorful trail flags that continue to lead the way.

And then I have a brilliant idea. I decide to top-out and escape the valley via the Tripler Trail that follows the ridge above. Tripler, a hike I've never been on, is, I had read, open to the public (notwithstanding parking restrictions at its trailhead). No more ambivalent feelings and uncomfortable encounters with other hikers, I'll take the ridge trail back to its starting point and then walk down to the pink hospital not too far below and call my wife for a ride to my car. That's the idea.

So up the valley wall I go, and after about twenty minutes, the well-flagged climb ends at an imperfect oval of dirt. To the left is yet another flag, one that I reflexively follow, heading mauka. I figure that I must be on a tributary, a path that will connect to the main trail at a junction where I can turn back makai. I hike the ridge for five minutes, more flags marking the way, down and up and then down.

There's no junction. And I am heading toward the summit -- not the way I want to go at 5:00 P.M.
I stop and wonder: Did the trail at the top of the valley-climb also travel right? Was I so pleased by the flags that I let them lead me astray?

I decide to turn back and, if necessary, descend to Moanalua Valley and walk to the car -- again as hiking contraband.

Retracing my steps, I soon reach the valley-climb turnoff and the imperfect oval of dirt, and, sure enough, I now see that I could have easily gone right, toward the trailhead -- not just left, toward the summit. I am and have been for the last ten to fifteen minutes on the veritable Tripler Trail, not a conjured tributary.

I now hurry along, trail-legitimate, on course, pleased with the quiet path. At least for the moment. Suddenly, there's a violent commotion. Something jumps and crashes through the brush just behind the trees and I hear a snort and a grunt. I have startled a pig (or some other animal) -- and it, in turn, has scared the hell out of me. We both dart forward on parallel courses. I clap my hands and shout "hey-hey-hey," concocting this behavior on the fly in the vain hope that it will trick the little piggy into believing that there are lots of us and we are not pleased with those who trespass our turf, that violators will be prosecuted. I also consider -- all in a flash -- a worst-case scenario, how it might work out in hand-to-hoof combat. Will I be summarily slaughtered by a territorially ticked-off swine? What a way to go -- main entrée in a reverse luau. But in a few moments it's over. I hear only my own heavy breathing and fast-paced footsteps, no more sounds from the other side of the trees.

I slow my pace, shake my head, and, in time, settle down and carry on. I soon reach a bare hill, where I stop and soak in the views before walking through uluhe and passing a huge Cook pine. The trail is narrow but pronounced and yet, ironically, there is not one trail marker along the way. I glide down through a dark tunnel of guava and somewhere in the thicket a shama throws a fit, firing out an impressive arsenal of calls and clicks.

I eventually reach a paved road. And shortly I see a group of people, three men, two women, and two children. When they catch sight of me, they turn abruptly, almost in unison, and move down the hill. I follow for a bit, keeping my distance, and then they just stop. They are wooden, the kids at their mothers' sides as one of the men points in a phony way toward tiny Aloha Stadium in the distance. It's only when I am right on top of them that I receive two turns of the head and one grave nod hello -- the others continue to look off. I pass; and five or so minutes later, at the end of the road, through a gate, I look up and see a huge Damon Estate sign announcing in black and white that this area -- the area I've just come from -- is restricted, no access, that violators will be prosecuted.

Not my day.

I walk through army housing, reach Tripler Hospital, find a pay phone and call Mrs. Koho. I try, unsuccessfully, to explain why I need a lift, and she agrees to pick me up, ultimately driving back to Moanalua Park where I jump into my car and roll toward home.


Today I called Moanalua Gardens, inquiring, of course, about permission to hike in the valley. A man on the other end of the line told me that with two (or fewer) people hiking there was "no problem," meaning there was no need, ironically enough, to come over and sign a waiver (larger groups, they want to know about, especially with children). I was also told that hiking was not allowed on Saturday because pig hunters had been hired to work that day.