|Rainy Day at Pauoa Flats|
|Pu'u Ohia in the Pouring Rain|
When I woke up at around 6:30 Tuesday I saw that he'd emailed at 4:30 anyway saying it was raining in the other side of the island. He had decided to go back to bed. After getting very little in the way of longer trails done over the last couple weeks I wasn't really excited about doing another short waterfall hike but by 9:00 it looked like that or nothing so I got my stuff together planning to do a short walk to Hamama Falls in Waihe'e Valley. There was also the "Kahana Ditch Trail" that Nate Yuen had written about on Hawaiian Forest so I emailed myself a link to it in case that looked promising.
Surprisingly, as I left Kailua and made my way into Kaneohe the weather looked pretty nice. Plan C was hastily forming in my head as another trail I've been wanting to do looked like it might be a possibility- The Papali Ridge Trail. I'd heard of this one from Leslie Merril while on the Stairway a few weeks before. I'd been looking for some alternate trails off the the KST from La'ie to Pauao in case we had to cut the trip short for some reason and he'd mentioned it as a possibility. A Google search had revealed a little information about it but not much. Driving past Kualoa Ranch I elected to continue to Hau'ula to at least scout the loop section that would get me to the Papali Ridge Trail. Following Stuart Ball's instructions I parked at the beach park and walked up Homestead Road to a yellow gate. Going around the gate I skipped the first trail which is the other loop trail and continued along a heavily gratified wall to the Ma'akua Trail sign and start of the Hau'ula-Papali Loop.
|Hau'ula from the switchback section of the loop trail.|
Immediately I crossed a dry stream bed and started on a Na Ala Hele maintained trail through introduced forest. A short way in I passed some old formed concrete and some pipes I guess were part of an old water system.
The trail became a series of switchbacks until reaching a covered picnic table then a small bench at a scenic outlook where the loop section begins. I'd already passed two separate groups of people by now and there was a couple sitting on the bench. Pretty busy traffic for a Tuesday morning! Looking at my map I elected to take the right turn which I figured would be the shortest route to the start of the Papali Trail. I continued to gain elevation until reaching the crest of Papali Ridge where the loop trail then drops down into the next valley for the return section of the bench. With no recent write-ups about the trail I'd been concerned that it may not be in very good shape but the junction looked pretty good so I crossed my fingers and headed up what I assumed was the start of the Papali Ridge Trail.
Making my way up the still very defined and clear trail I continued to gain elevation at a decent rate. The introduced forest vanished and was replaced by a rich native one filled with endemic plants. Early on there was Lama with it's Christmas light bulb fruit, some ohia with very tightly packed leaves, and some beautiful akoko.
One of the akokos was about 5 feet tall and was being swallowed by a passion fruit vine. I only delayed the inevitable but I stopped to trim some of the vines away and cutting myself in the process.
|The big green leaves are the passion fruit vine and the smaller belong to the Akoko|
|Ant with white mealy bug on Bidens sp.|
|Bidens campylotheca subsp. campylotheca (Ko'oko'olau)|
Leaving the ants behind the trail continued high about Ma'akua Valley on the right. The drop off was steep but there was a ton of vegetation and exposure to a disastrous fall was pretty limited. Eventually the trail's grade increased to the point where someone had installed a white cable to assist with the climb. The trail itself was still easily identified and clear. There were fairly fresh tracks in the mud and someone had dropped their sunflower seeds on the trail which I had picked up and put in my pocket only to drop at some point later as well.
Steadily making my way mauka towards the Ko'olau Summit, there was another white cable to climb, then later one a rope to descend. Finally one last climb to what I called Pu'u Views because it was the highest point in the trail and afforded the best views of the scenery. As an added bonus there was a beautiful Koli'i in bloom mere feet below the pu'u and a very interesting looking Kanawao in flower with blue and green flowers. I took off my pack and sat down for a while to enjoy it all.
|First look at the Castle Trail|
The first thing that struck me about the Castle Trail was that while it looked so much like a CCC trail, it seemed a little narrower. Could have been my imagination or just the effect of the passing years on the original grade. Whatever the case, the initial sections were in great shape and it was a welcome change to be on a graded trail after the trials and tribulations of the Papali Ridge Trail. A short way down I found a dead mongoose just laying in the middle of the trail.
|First view of Kaluanui Stream as the trail descends|
Beyond the stream crossing a short way I passed the remains of an old tent. I'm not sure if it's the same one but various reports dating back at least to the 1990's mention an abandoned campsite near the stream. Leaving the stream behind the trail's condition deteriorated a little with some areas but was passable with little difficulty. The sun had moved mauka so when I arrived at "The Notch" where the trail breaks through the ridge into Punaluu Valley it was about 3:40pm. I paused there to take a few pictures and take in the breathtaking views of Windward O'ahu.
Leaving the notch I still didn't really have a clear understanding of how the trail was laid out. I headed makai on the path that had been cut into the side of the valley so many years ago. At times the vegetation closed in obscuring the views but for the most part Punaluu Valley was laid out below to enjoy. After contouring for about a half mile makai the trail switchbacked to mauka.
|Castle Trail above Punaluu Valley|
|Last of the native forest|
The trail continued to hug the valley wall but eventually I found myself on a long straight spur that was like and expressway to the valley below. After passing a couple Koa trees which marked the end of the native forest, the trail entered a strawberry guava zone. The downhill grade wasn't knee poundingly bad so I actually ran to make up some time and believe me running is practically an annual event for me There was little in the way of views along this segment aside from the blur of strawberry guava whizzing by.
As I neared the end of the trail there was some poured concrete on the left side of the trail much like that on the Hau'uala loop then I broke out near two "No Trespassing" signs. Too late for that, perhaps they should post those up at the top of the trail too.
|Castle Trail Head Punaluu Valley|
Approaching the paved road I passed a nursery and was stopped by a white Jeep. Inside were two tourists looking for Sacred Falls. After talking with them I passed three viscous dogs before finally arriving at the highway at a few minutes before 5:45pm.
The moon had risen and as the darkness began to descend I figured it would be much more fun to walk back the Hau'ula along the beach instead of the busy highway. I fired up Google Navigation just for fun to track my progress back to Hau'ula.
I was really enjoying the deserted beach under the light of the moon up until the point I ran out of beach. I scrambled across some very slippery rocks and sliced my hand open on something. It's a small wound but what it lacked in size it made up for in pain. Across the rocks I continued along the beach with the roar of the surf breaking on the reef. About three quarters of the way I retreated to walk along the highway to cross bridges over various streams emptying into the ocean. Fooling around with pictures and stopping to check out the sites meant I finally arrived at the Jeep at about 6:50pm. I was both shocked and pleased to find that, despite the drug deals going on in the restrooms nearby, nobody had decided to smash a window.
|Somewhere between Punaluu and Hau'ula|
|Auriculella diaphana (Kalawahine Trail)|
More pictures from this trail, the rainy day on the Honolulu Mauka Trail System, and others I've done can be viewed on Flickr. Aloha and thanks for reading!