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.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Backpacking Mauna Loa

A week or so before Thanksgiving 1994, I received an email message from Guy Kaulukukui, a good friend and like me, a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools,  a private K-12 institution for children of Hawaiian ancestry. Always one to seek out challenges of some kind, Guy had a new one he wanted me to consider: a hike to the top of Mauna Loa on the Big Island. To help spark my interest, Guy said that he'd send me a couple of pieces he read about the hike via snail mail.

After receiving and reading these pieces--"Cairns," a chapter from Peter Adler's  Beyond Paradise, and "Ten Views of Mauna Loa," a chapter from The Burning Island by Pamela Frierson--I knew reaching the ML summit was something I wanted to do. We set a tentative hike date for early August.

In the next several months, we went about gathering as much information as we could about the hike. Guy, at the time in the midst of completing his PH.D dissertation (economics) at the University of Kansas, obtained info about the weather conditions, about the permits we'd need, and about altitude sickness. 

Fortunately, our work proved fruitful, for we netted helpful information that made the hike more manageable. Kennan Ferguson, Joe Dellinger, Gerard Fryer, Kevin Herring, and Lisa Peterson responded to my plea for info about hiking Mauna Loa and were especially helpful, providing us with answers to our questions and recanting their journeys up the "Long Mountain."

In addition to info-gathering, Guy and I began preparing ourselves for the tough physical challenge Mauna Loa would present. Accordingly, I made adjustments to my diet, cutting out a large percentage of fat in it, and embarked on a rigorous routine of hiking, walking, and jogging. I also asked my girlfriend Jacque if she were interested in joining us. She said she was. So it would be the three of us.

In June, Guy returned to Oahu after successfully completing and defending his dissertation. At that point, we had decided on July 30th as the date to begin our hike and a tentative itinerary for the journey. We also enlisted the help of another Kamehameha grad, Alapaki Nahale-a, who agreed to drive us to the trailhead and to pick us up after the completion of our hike. In addition, Guy's aunt, Eleanor Kenney, was kind enough to offer us the use of her Nissan pickup as our transport vehicle and her home in Hilo as a place to rest and spend the night after we had completed the hike.

In the weeks preceding our departure for the Big Island, Guy contacted the rangers at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, who told him that we had to pick up our trail permits no earlier than 24 hours before we were to begin our hike [trail permits insure one a bunk in the Red Hill and Summit cabins].

Although assured by the rangers that we should have no problem obtaining permits for our intended departure date, Guy decided that we shouldn't risk a snafu and decided to leave on the early-bird flight from Honolulu to Hilo on Saturday 7/29 and head directly to the HVNP visitor center before it opened at 7:45 a.m. We also received some news that concerned us. The rangers informed us that while a limited amount of water was available at the summit cabin, no H2O could be found at the Red Hill cabin because of a breakdown in the catchment system. The result: we'd haul a bunch of water, which at eight pounds a gallon would increase the weight of our packs considerably.

As planned, Guy left early on the 29th, and he and his aunt drove the 25 miles to HVNP Visitor's Center and obtained our trail permits with no problem. Meanwhile, Jacque and I left Oahu at around noon and arrived in Hilo after a 40-minute flight. Guy met us at the airport and after eating lunch, we picked up some odds and ends, including canisters of propane that the airlines would not allow in our luggage, and tested out the cellular phone I had brought along. All went well.

We left Hilo for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and thanks to Guy's aunt, who made the arrangements for us, spent the night in a comfortable cabin at Kilauea Military Camp. Alapaki, who'd drive us to the trailhead the next morning, arrived with his wife Shelby at around 7:30 Saturday night. 

Guy, Jacque, and I--what with the task we were about to undertake--were noticeably nervous that night. I probably slept no more than four hours, awakening every so often and questioning my ability to endure the hours tramping through the rough terrain. Guy and Jacque also reported being restless and not getting much sleep.

By 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 30, we were all up and about and readying our gear and ourselves for the departure. By 6 a.m. we had dressed, stuffed our backpacks in the most orderly fashion possible [my pack--filled with three gallons of water--probably weighed between 50 and 60 pounds], and eaten what little breakfast our apprehensive insides would allow.

After a winding 10-mile drive up Mauna Loa Strip road that ends at the 6,662 foot elevation level, we unloaded our gear, shouldered our packs, tested the cellular phone (it worked!!), took some pre-hike photos, bid Alapaki farewell, and were off on the first phase of our hike to the summit of Mauna Loa (elev. 13,667 ft.). Our objective that day was to reach Red Hill cabin, 7.5 miles distant and 3,500 feet in elevation higher than our starting point.

The first hour of hiking took us through ancient lava flows now populated by thickets of 'ohelo, 'ohia and a host of other plants. To help us keep track of where we were and how quickly or slowly we were proceeding, we referred to Lisa Peterson's "Mauna Loa Trail Guide", an informative 20-page booklet available at most public libraries.

The further along the trek we proceeded, the sparser the vegetation became. At around the 8,300 elevation level, one of the last ohia trees stands majestically from a lava outcropping. Perhaps only ten feet high, the tree is distinct nevertheless and from a distance resembles a Japanese bonsai plant. Ahead of us lay mile after mile of lava fields and dominating the horizon was the imposing summit mound of Mauna Loa bathed in yellowish brown by the steadily climbing sun.

We settled into a routine that had us hiking for 25 minutes, and resting 5. At that pace, we were progressing at about a mile and a quarter per hour, which was a reasonable rate considering the increasing elevation and the debilitating weight of our packs. As we were to discover, we were lugging way too much water, for the reports of zero water at Red Hill proved to be false.

The hike to Pu'u Ulaula (Red Hill) was a rugged one, and Jacque--all 4'11, 115-pounds of her--suffered the most because she was hauling a pack about a third of her weight. I, too, hurt and my shoulders ached from the weight of my pack digging into my trapezius muscles. As the day progressed, the temperatures rose, and the elevation increased, our rest breaks became longer and more frequent.

During our climb, we passed seven hikers heading back to Strip Road: a father and daughter who had overnighted at Red Hill, three mid-20-ish Canadians chaps who had gone to the summit, and two other haole hiking buddies who had departed from that summit that morning. All were tired, in good spirits, and reported good weather upslope. Seeing and chatting with them encouraged us.

At around 2:00 p.m., we were about half a mile from the our first day's objective. Unfortunately, the final ascent up Red Hill to the Cabin is a brutal one and we painfully trudged upward at a dreadfully slow pace I referred to as the Mauna Loa Shuffle. Suddenly, we were confronted with the sign "PUU ULAULA REST HOUSE elevation 10,035 feet." A hundred feet away was the cabin itself. (Pic of Jacque at left). Constructed in 1915 by a company of predominantly Black soldiers, the cabin is an eight-bunk abode complete with a front porch, picnic table, kitchen area, water tank (empty), a two-hole pit toilet, and a magnificent panoramic view of most of the Big Island.

A single hiker, a 20-something haole chap conducting scientific experiments for the State, was at the cabin when we arrived; however, he was just taking a short break there after descending from the summit. He told us about spending a night hunkered down in Jagger's cave at the 13,000 foot level. After 30 minutes of chitchat, he was off to the trailhead at the end of Strip Road.

And so it was just the three of us. Jacque staggered into one of the bunks and wrapped herself in her sleeping bag and napped for a couple of hours. After some initial exploring, Guy and I followed suit.

At around six, we prepared dinner--Jacque and I sharing a surprisingly delicious add-hot-water-to-cook beef stroganoff dish and some bagels. Guy wolfed down a Rice-A-Roni meal. After dinner, I ran another test of the cellular phone and was able to reach numbers in Hilo and even my mom several hundred miles away in Kaneohe on Oahu. This was good news, for we were uncertain whether the phone would work from such a high elevation.

At around 7 p.m., the sun disappeared behind Mauna Loa's massive crest and the temperature dropped to the 50s. Soon thereafter, Mars appeared on horizon and stars began to emerge. By 8 p.m. the afterglow of the sun in the western sky had disappeared and the Milky Way was spread across the heavens. Guy said that the Big Dipper never had appeared so prominently to him before that night. The three of us, energized by our naps, our meals, and our euphoria about arriving at our first stepping-stone, stood bundled up outside the cabin mesmerized by the awesome heavenly display.

By 8:30 we decided to bunk down, and we all looked forward to a restful night since we had planned to layover the next day at Red Hill to acclimate. However, something completely unexpected happened at a few minutes after nine: two hikers, a husband and wife from England, burst through the cabin door in the pitch black. Apparently, they had departed from Strip Road at around two that afternoon but had been slowed because the wife had developed altitude sickness. As a consequence, they had spent the last two hours hiking through the treacherous lava fields with just flashlights!! Amazing. After unloading their packs and preparing a quick meal, the two new cabin mates slid into two of the five remaining bunks and settled down for the night. 

The next morning, Guy and I arose at around 5 and ascended the hill behind the cabin to get some photos of the sunrise. Even that early, the sun was beginning to light up the eastern sky and the cloud tops were tinted with a warm orangish hue. Below the cotton-textured clouds and many miles away from us, the lights of Hilo twinkled invitingly and the vents of Kilauea puffed clouds of steam skyward in the nippy 40 degree morning air.

Just before six, the sun peaked over the clouds and the lava fields upslope began taking form and color. Across the wide saddle to the north stood Mauna Loa's sister mountain, Mauna Kea, adorned by the mushroom-like observatories at its crest and an array of cinder cones on its flank. To the southwest was the powerful presence of the Mauna Loa summit, which we would attempt to reach the next day. 

The English couple was up early and quietly packed their things so as not to disturb Jaque, who spent most of that morning sleeping. By 8 a.m. the couple, experienced alpine hikers who had scaled many of the mountains of Europe, were off for the 11.5 mile ascent to the summit cabin. Before leaving, the Brits told us to expect a party of twelve Boy Scouts that day. We wished them well, and from a vantage point above the cabin, followed their progress up the mountain for 30 minutes before they disappeared from view.

Monday morning was used for picture-taking, exploring, a day hike, and finding water, which we were told could be found in a catchment system set up in a small sink hole near the cabin. The cabin's water catchment set-up, a series of rain gutters on the roof, was not functioning correctly so the water tank next to the cabin was empty.

By early afternoon, our pictures and water were secured and our exploring and one-hour day hike were completed, so we settled in and waited for the arrival of the Boy Scouts, who began arriving in small groups at around 2:30 p.m.

There were actually eight Scouts--all either Iolani students or grads--and four adult leaders/chaperons. Guy, Jacque and I chuckled at the ragtag group, especially at the leaders, three of whom had to have their packs carried up to Red Hill by the teenaged scouts. While Guy and I were chagrined at the loss of tranquility, Jacque was overjoyed at the company and assumed the role of unofficial cabin hostess, helping the tired hikers with their packs and directing them to the important points of interest.

That night was a restless one for us. With twelve people sardined into an eight-bunk cabin and thoughts of the difficult climb to the summit the next day, sleep didn't come easy for Jacque, Guy and I.

We arose at 4:30 the next morning and surrendered our bunks to the scouts who had spent the night in their sleeping bags on the floor. By 6:00 we had dressed, packed and eaten breakfast and were on our way for the summit. We had anticipated progressing at about a mile an hour so we wanted to leave early to give ourselves as much daylight as possible to reach the summit cabin 11.5 miles away.

The hike to the top was surprisingly easier than the trek to Red Hill, perhaps because our packs were lighter (mine was about 20 pounds less) and we had a chance to acclimate. Easier does not mean the journey was a cupcake--far from it. The trail was long and traversing the lava-dominant terrain can wear on one's resolve. 

Our spirits ebbed and flowed. At one time, we rejoiced after finding that we were ascending at a much better clip than the mile-an-hour pace we had thought we would proceed at; at other times, we snapped at one another about the length of our breaks and how many more miles we had to traverse.

All this notwithstanding, the lava along the way was amazing. Along with the standard black pahoehoe and a'a, lava tinted with gold, silver, red, green, orange, purple hues were at our feet as we ascended Mauna Loa's massive flank. For 2/3 of the trip, Mauna Kea stood off to our right. However, as we neared the summit, our world consisted of lava fields and blue sky, for we were at such a great height that ocean and other landforms were beyond our field of sight.

After about 8.5 hours of hiking, we had covered 9.5 miles were standing at the edge of North Pit at the 13,000 foot elevation level. From that point, with the Summit Cabin two miles away, we decided to ascertain our physical conditions. While Guy and I were fine, Jacque was experiencing headaches, nausea, and swelling in her feet and hands--all signs of altitude sickness. 

Concerned about Jacque, instead of spending the night at the cabin, we opted to descend to the Mauna Loa Weather Observatory at the 11,000 foot level, a trip of about four miles. Before leaving, we used the cellular phone to contact Alapaki to pick us up at the Observatory.

In a little less than two hours, we arrived at the Observatory and waited, waited, and waited. We became concerned because as night approached, the temperatures were dropping into the 40's and Jacque, weakened by the effects of altitude sickness, was beginning to display effects of hypothermia. Fortunately, the two scientists working at the Observatory kindly consented to let Jacque into a heated trailer that serves as their lab/headquarters.

At around 8 p.m., Alapaki and his uncle, a Big Island county worker, arrived at the Observatory in a large pickup truck. They were delayed by a couple of hours because the truck they initially had left in had broken down about 10 miles up the Saddle Road.

In an hour and a half, we were in Hilo after a harrowing 19- mile ride down the narrow Observatory road and the equally nerve- wracking 20+ mile descent down Saddle Road. Back at sea level, Jacque recovered quickly although her appetite was non-existent. We spent a restful night at Guy's aunt's house in Hilo after taking long warm showers, devouring takeout Chinese food, and rehashing our adventure to whoever would listen.

I'll hike Mauna Loa again--perhaps not soon but at least once more nonetheless. We may not have made it to the cabin or to the true summit, but standing at North Pit that afternoon--all three of us--marked the realization of a dream that had been born seven months prior. Without a doubt, our lives are different now, for the ascent of Mauna Loa gives us a new perspective of who we are and what we can achieve.

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.