March 1, 2011 Hawaii Loa Ridge
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.|
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|
|Hawaiian Airlines' first airplane|
|View heading down. Koko Head on the left and Diamond Head on the right.|
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!
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.