Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hawaii Loa Ridge

March 1, 2011 Hawaii Loa Ridge

It's been a busy week.  I've been fighting off the latest disease our son has brought home from preschool and things have just been a little hectic so instead of getting up at 4:30am I slept in today.  I fully intended to explore Nu'uanu or head back to Mo'ole to do a little more investigating today but my hiking partner emailed and asked if we could do a short hike.  I though about dragging him up Lanihuli to see if we could find that route down to Nu'uanu but I didn't feel up to the challenge today nor did I think we'd have time.  Neither of us are all that excited about the KST from Mariner's Ridge to Kuliouou we didn't get to do last week so we ruled that out.  Yesterday I'd been reading another blog, Studia Mirabilium, about the endemic plants of Hawaii Loa Ridge and decide it would be quick and easy hike with some good scenery and plants along the way.  I thought about tacking on a transition to Wiliwilinui but, as we'd regret later,  we decided to keep it simple.

We met at Kahala Mall at around 10:30 and headed up to the exclusive and expensive Hawaii Loa subdivision.  After signing a waiver and being told repeatedly that everything was private property and to not stray from the road for any reason but to head directly to the trail head by the security guard, we arrived at the trail head.  A nice parking lot with 10 stalls and a gated community... no need to worry about my car being broken into.
Initial section... hot and dry.

Hala pepe

The initial sections of Hawaii Loa are fairly dry.  A loose gravel and dirt trail through some ulei and a whole lot of strawberry guava makes up the first third of this trail.  If you keep your eyes open though there are a couple of interesting plants along the way like halapepe, ilima, ulhei, aalii and akoko.  For a long time the trail is mostly level or has very gentle ups and downs.   Further along the trail enters a very large and well established area dominated by strawberry guava.  Here the gentle ups and downs are replaced with a more aggressive grade.  Every so often a koa tree will appear.  The trail is heavily rooted here and after a climb you descend down to leave the dense stands of strawberry guava the trail opens up and you enter the native forest.

Almost immediately there's iliahi, lama, kopiko, alani, and others.  The trail tames again and you get your first look at the climb ahead.  The Na Ala Hele folks have installed a ton of "stairs" to assist you as you begin the steep climb up to the Ko'olau summit but there are some areas where erosion control measures haven't been taken or they've been defeated by the elements leaving deep ruts in the trail.

There are more than a couple of ropes along this section for assistance.  There are also some intriguing faint side trails leading off the trail and I suspect they are to rarer plants along the ridge.  I investigated one or two for a few feet but decided to stick to the ridge trail.  After a long climb and a lot of stairs I topped out at the terminus and took a couple quick shots of the view.  The KST trail was too irresistable so I dropped my pack and headed east just for a quick taste of the Ko'olau Summit.
Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail Terminus
Kailua View

Hawaiian Airlines' first airplane
I absolutely love the tops of the Ko'olaus.  Here the views are always spectacular and the plant life is always amazing.  I paused to check out some lehua papa and a large stand of lapalapa fluttering in the breeze.  I only went a hundred feet or so and turned back in time for my partner to arrive at the end.  As we enjoyed the breeze and the five star views of the windward side the unmistakable sound of a radial engine announced the arrival of an airplane below.  I wasn't sure of the make or model but there's a really cool story behind this particular airplane- this is Hawaiian Airlines' first aircraft, a Bellanca CH-300 Pacemaker.  By first airplane I don't mean the first kind of airplane they flew, I mean this IS the first airplane they ever flew when they opened as Inter Island Airways.  Mahalo to the guys in the tower for identifying this one!  More info and the story of how Hawaiian found it and brought it back to Hawaii for their 80th anniversary  here.  Sorry, back to the trail...  We decided that this would be our last round trip ridge hike and we lamented not dropping a car off at Wiliwilinui first.  Oh well, next time.  I couldn't help at take a couple whacks and some of the clidemia growing at the summit before we headed back down.
View heading down.  Koko Head on the left and Diamond Head on the right.
Ohia ha
Today we sampled a couple Ohia Ha berries.  I've seen them many times before and I knew they were edible but they were reported as anywhere from bland to tart and nobody I know of snacks on them.  I got lucky with the first one and it tasted like a mountain apple.  Spurred on by my initial fortune I ate another which was not quite as good, then another which was pretty nasty.  My hiking partner had the same experience.  I guess if I was starving maybe I'd eat them but I think I'll be passing from now on.

The trip back down the trail was pretty quick and uneventful. Every once in a while my toe gave me just a tiny reminder that it really wasn't back to 100% on the down hill sections when it pressed against the front of my boot.  We got a little sprinkle of rain and the wind kicked up a bit which was nice in the drier sections of the trail below.  I wasn't wearing a watch but I'm guessing we did the round trip in right around five hours.   Honestly, I feel like I've been wimping out the last couple of weeks neither the Nu'uanu / Mo'ole or the Makapu'u to Mariner's Ridge stuff has been too challenging.  It's time to kick it up a notch... no more excuses!
Last shot of the day

As advertised this trail is full of endemic plants.  Check out that blog I linked if you're interest in the plants- it includes their locations on the trail.

More pictures of this trail and others I've done are can be viewed  Flickr.  Aloha and thanks for reading.

Ohia Ha

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