|Left to right- Pete Clines, August Smith, and Duc Ong|
With permission from Exteme Hiking Hawaii
|Parking prior to residential area|
|Huge water tank|
|Hunter check-in station|
Sounds simple enough right? I had a boss who'd issue instructions like that years ago when I did some landscaping work. We'd pull up to a job and he'd say, "Okay guys, just dig those out, clean up all that brush, cut those down, then pop these plants in here, there, there, and these there, here, there and there." He'd just described about 10 hours of labor in one run-on sentence. Then he'd mysteriously disappear to do "estimates". These trail instructions gave me flashbacks!
|Stroll down the road...|
Be forewarned, the danger starts the second you enter Kahana Valley. Driving slowly past the first house I was immediately accosted by a very big and very angry guy asking me if I could read. I assured him that I could. He asked if I'd seen the sign. Well, there were a couple so I had to ask which one. After a game of question and answer I finally figured out he was angry because he thought I was driving too fast. He "advised" me to tell my construction worker friends to slow down on his road and to show some respect. Sigh... I carefully diffused the situation by explaining that I had the same problem on my street with people speeding and that I completely understood where he was coming from. The angry guy eventually got friendlier as we talked and we parted on good terms with a round of apologies on both sides. My advice? Don't pass that first house going very fast because he's a big guy!
After his transformation from angry guy to nice guy, he'd told me where the best place to park for the trail was. You follow the road up the valley until the residential area starts. Do not enter the residential area with your car. There's a handicap stall on the left side which I parked next to. From here you walk up through the residential neighborhood until you reach a hunter check-in station where you follow the road to the right. It wanders uphill and then downhill through a mostly introduced forest to a water tank. On the left is the Nakoa Trail and on the right is the trail that would take me to Pauao Ridge.
Until you gain the crest of the ridge this trail is uphill except for one small meadow so enjoy that when you get to it. I was struck by the bizarre combination of hala trees and hapu'u ferns that the trail climbs through. They just seemed like such an odd combination. Continuing to gain elevation, I reached a rope section that topped out to the Pauao Ridge and took my first break to check out the view of the valley below.
|Atop Pauao Ridge looking into Kahana Valley|
|Upper section of the trail up to the ridge|
|Freshly mowed trail|
The ridge starts out nice and easy and then starts to undulate up and down. There are a few steep areas and I remember at least one thin strap aid and one old rope aid early on. The views of the valley on the left and right are great but then I had to spend a lot of time watching where my feet were going because the trail is untamed in a lot of areas. Typically, as the elevation increased so did the concentration and variety of native and endemic plants. All the usual suspects can be found along the trail like kanawao, akia, kopiko, koa, ohia, maile, ohe mauka, and of course uluhe! At one point I looked up and saw the biggest ohia tree I've seen on O'ahu. It had to be like 4 stories tall!
Huge Ohia trunk and the best shot I could get of it from the ridge.
The views continued to impress when I wasn't watching my feet and while the rolling ridges were starting to wear down my enthusiasm, the closer I got to the Ko'olaus the better the view of the windward sections of the Ko'olau Summit Trail, KST, were. That's all the motivation I needed to pound out the last of the roller coaster ridge and get to the real business of the day, the climb up to the KST junction.
|Looking back from the ridge|
|Crumbly climb section|
|The final segment|
|Giant naupaka kuahiwi|
|Naupaka kauhiwi's trunk|
It's a bit unceremonious when you finally finish the long climb up to just land on the KST but there's a really neat old sign that someone attached a little figure to to make up for that. I took out my permanent marker and filled in the letters to freshen it up a little. From this junction the KST stretches east to Schofield-Waikane and west to Poamoho.
I agonized over just heading towards Poamoho and enjoying a fairly clear day at the summit but there was just no way I could conjure up a ride in town and get back to my car in Kahana Valley at a reasonable time. Another consideration was that I didn't have a permit for Poamoho either. I figured I deserved a few minutes to rest and just take in the fantastic view of windward O'ahu.
|Looking down Pauao Ridge with Kahana Valley on the right and Punalu'u Valley on the left.|
|Looking east towards Waikane|
|Neat Ohia with huge air roots.|
|One of the rope sections|
|Creepy "Man in the Mountain" trailside.|
|Koa throne. Good place to take a break!|
Pauao Ridge is a great trail that shows a lot of promise. The upper reaches are pretty wild still but if enough people put their feet on it that will tame it down a lot. I was tired as hell when I started and beat to death when I finished- the ups and downs were killers for me and the final climb is a long one. It's hot back there too! A lot of the time your boxed in by vegetation or on the backside of a ridge with no air flow. I wish I'd had extra water and more sleep!
As advertised, this opens up a few possibilities for some new and different day hikes and maybe even some overnight stuff. I'd probably not want to do this with a big pack because of all the trees that you have to work through but it wouldn't be impossible, just irritating. A huge mahalo to Pete Clines, August Smith, and Duc Ong for spending days of hard work to break this one back open.
|Ohe mauka fruit|
More pictures of this trail and others I've done can be seen on Flickr. Aloha and mahalo for reading!
|Doggy and XJ tracks!|