Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Aiea Ridge in the Rain

Back on June 21 we were planning on doing the KSRT from Aiea to Halawa.  We met at the end of Honolulu Board of Water Supply's Xeriscape garden on Iwaena Street in Halawa Valley around 6am and headed to Keaiwa Heiau State Park at the top of Aiea Heights Drive.  Already we were running into a huge problem, rain and clouds.  Even the initial parts of the Aiea Loop Trial were soaked and getting worse as we splashed our way to the junction with the Aiea Ridge Trail.

Once we reached the junction with the ridge trail, the rain had turned to a drizzle and the skies blued suckering us into continuing like the fools we are.  Luckily I had planned ahead and put my wallet and my phone in zip lock baggies and had a larger plastic bag for my D90 and lenses because my backpack was soaking through.
Aiea Loop Trail
Aiea Ridge Trail
 The rain's relenting brightened our spirits a little as we made our way to Pu'u Kaiwipo'o which is just a large flat-topped hill on the ridge.  There is a long series of ups and downs along the way with some sections having ropes for assistance.  The final climb is fairly long and when we topped out the rain and clouds had moved back in.  Still, we pressed on under the crazy hope that the clouds would lift by the time we reached the summit.
Pu'u Kaiwipo'o shrouded in clouds

Things were going from bad to worse as the trail itself became a stream of water.  By now everything I owned that wasn't in a plastic bag was soaked.  My hiking partner II's phone shorted out with all the dampness and although he tried to dry it out later it was fried for good.  Aiea Ridge:  1, II:   0!
Aiea Ridge Trail/Stream

Ohe mauka's flower
Looking for a silver lining in not having any view whatsoever to look at, I focused on the plants we were passing by.  Aiea Ridge has an amazing collection of endemic plants right along the trail.  All the usual plants like ohia, koa, uluhe, ect were there but what stood out were the number of ohe mauka trees!  Tetraplasandra oahuensis isn't endangered but in the eastern Ko'olaus it isn't this common.  I gave up counting them as their numbers increased the higher we got. I also got my first opportunity for a close up look at one of the its flowers.

As we climbed through the cloudy ridges another favorite showed up in huge numbers- lehua papa.  This endemic form of ohia grows only along the upper reaches of the Ko'olau mountains and can be found no where else.  Metrosideros rugosa has deeply veined and stiff leaves and grows as a small tree or shrub.  It's flowers are always red but I do know of a certain individual that is pink.  If you like lehua papa Aiea ridge is a great place to see some fabulous examples. 

Lehua papa, tree, leaves, and flower
We pressed on towards the summit but the rain picked up as we reached the big clearing right before the last power line and the final section to the summit.   There was no way we were going to take off into uncharted summit territory for the crossing to Halawa in the pouring rain with visiblity so bad we couldn't even see the powerline tower from the clearing.

After about 6 miles it really sucks to turn around but we knew we were probably done for way back when we started so at least it wasn't a shock!  Heading back down was slippery and muddy but nothing changed.  The rain hammered us until we neared the Aiea Loop Junction when it slowed to a drizzle again.   We were also shocked to see that there had been a sizable landslide taking out a little chunk of the trial while we'd been hiking.  Looking at the size of the trees and limbs that had been damaged it must have been quite a sight to see!

I simply don't have the time to do many not so great videos but here are a couple clips of things along the way.  Raw and uncut:

Clouds rolling in at Pu'u Kaiwipo'o

Passing through the Hapu'u fern section

Checking out the landslide

While we may not have finished what we set out to accomplish that day, it was still a great experience...
Aloha and mahalo for reading.  More pictures of this trail and others I've done can be viewed at Flickr.

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