|Early section of the Aiea Ridge Trail. Even got a little rainbow in this one.|
The clouds were hanging well below the summit of the mountains and didn't look like they were going to be be moving on anytime soon. We discussed it and decided we'd continue to Pu'u Kawipo'o. As we continued upwards the plant life around us got better and better. My attitude about the trail improved with all the great stuff we were passing and by the time we arrived at the top of the pu'u I was ready to go! At the top of Kawipo'o the clouds retreated for a few precious minutes and we got the last views we'd be treated with for a long time.
|Halawa Valley from Pu'u Kawipo'o|
|Complete cloud cover|
From Pu'u Kawipoo on Aiea Ridge Trail has an amazing selection of endemic and native plant life. What really stands out is the number of Ohe Mauka and Lehua Papa trail side. The lehua papa along the upper reaches of the trail grows as both a small tree about four feet high and as a prostrate shrub the looks like a ground cover.
Ohe mauka is related to Ivy and this particular form, Tetraplasandra oahuensis, is fairly common in the Ko'olaus but especially numerous in this area. The end of summer seems to be it's blooming season so it's candalabra flower spikes were tipped with it's tiny white flowers.
Continuing to the summit we passed the big tower and the electrical lines to finally reach the summit. For a very brief moment we were teased with a glimpse of what must be a spectacular view of Kaneohe below. I was barely able to get my camera out to catch the fleeting scenery below.
For some crazy reason, we elected to continue down the summit to Halawa. I'm really not sure what we were thinking because it was already about noon when we started and the visibility was still just a couple hundred feet meaning I'd have to rely somewhat on my Droid and Backcountry Navigator app to get us across the unmarked ridge to Halawa. We struck out onto the Ko'olau Summit the trail which almost immediately got down to business. The terrible drops on the left side of us were masked by the reduced visibility but there is a whole lot of exposure as the trail climbed and descended steeply along the edge of the ridge. To honest, I was really wondering what we'd gotten ourselves into.
|II is on ridge back|
|First big climb of the day|
|Descending the wrong ridge.|
The only bright spot in the detour was that I got a couple of nice Kanawao bloom pictures.
Thankfully the enclosure looks pretty pig proof so these great little plants should be safe for now as long as no two legged creatures jump the fence and crush any of the tiny new plants coming up. They remind me of cartoonish palm trees and I'd bet they'd sell millions of them if they'd grow outside their clouded summit habitat. Luckily I'd brought my 200mm lens so I was able to get one decent shot of them.
Leaving the Cyanea behind, we continued towards our next stop, the old OMEGA station stairs and storage shed.
This has been been on my list of things to visit. When I saw the outline of the old handrails in the clouds my speed probably tripled. I wandered about checking the stairs, the shed, and plant life while I waited for my partner to catch back up. His condition was deteriorating pretty quickly and his speed down to less than half normal.
We left following "Hidden" stairs and a cable towards Halawa and as we reached their end he wanted to throw in the towel and spend the night at the shed. I knew we were close to the end of the Halawa Trail and told him there was no way in hell I was spending the night up there. Even with the shelter of the shed it would be freezing cold once it got dark plus we were soaking wet from being in the clouds.
Leaving the shed behind us we continued on the various cables, ladders, and catwalks that once were used to service the cables that stretched across Haiku Valley. Unlike the stairway these have received no maintenance at all since the transmitter station was shut down. Be careful!
|Hiking across the "other" stairway|
|Running on empty|
We moved on and with him trailing, I reached the third thing I'd been dying to get too, an old geodetic marker. I don't know why but I like these things and ever since I'd laid eyes on it about eight months ago from the Stairway to Heaven, I'd wanted to get to it. The picture to the left was taken on that beautiful clear morning. I'm a kinda crazy like that in case you haven't figured that out yet.
My elation was not shared by my partner who was literally dying at this point. Turns out he hadn't eaten anything at all and was out of gas! We took a break and he ate a Cliff Bar.
|I'm way too excited about this.|
I took this shot approaching the Halawa Ridge Trail terminus to show how beautifully that trail is cut into the side of the ridge. Some serious man hours went into that!
|Halawa Ridge Trail|
Agonizingly we descended off Halawa Ridge Trail onto the powerline road. II needed a break so I tried a couple freehand night shots with my D90 and the point and shoot.
|II sitting near the powerlines. The red splash is the light from his headlamp.|
|The Transition Trail- clearly marked MAHALO!!!|
|Halawa Gauging Station- O'dark-thirty|
So, what did we do wrong? A couple things. First, the last time we'd tried to do this we'd aborted at the top of Aiea because of visibility. While we weren't in pouring rain this time tackling a fairly long and unmarked route when you can't see anything is a bad idea. Looking back on it that was a really stupid move! Even though it worked the whole time, I have had trouble in the past with my Droid getting a good GPS signal when it's really cloudy out. Had I not had my phone with me I think would could have run into a whole lot of trouble with no guidance and not being able to see. After all, we did take a wrong turn even with the navigation available.
Second, not eating anything. II didn't eat anything despite the fact he had food with him. It took a little while but after the Cliff Bar he picked back up. Got to keep some gas in your tank!
I made a couple other bad moves. First, I bought all kinds of extra batteries for my phone and I didn't have a single extra with me. Stupid! Plus, my kids have absconded with my flashlights so all I had was a ultra small keychain sized LED with me. It would have worked but that's supposed to be a back up not a primary!
All is well that ends well though, I just got off the phone with II and his car didn't get towed out of the park. Our first taste of the western Ko'olau summit has left me hungry for more!
More pictures from this trail and others I've done are can be viewed on Flickr. Aloha and mahalo for reading.