Friday, March 23, 2012

Poamoho Fail and Kionaole Road Family Hike

February 20, 2012

This was supposed to be a fantastic day where we'd hike the Poamoho Trail to the Ko'olau Summit Trail then head to Pauao Ridge and back to finish that segment then return to Poamoho and exit via Papali Ridge to complete the KST from Pupukea to Waikane.  I'd secured a coveted permit on a federal holiday since both II and I don't get weekends off.  The matter of transportation was solved when my Mom offered to bring her sister and they'd go to the Poamoho Summit then back and drive out.  Everything was set for success!

Mauka Girl snoozes while I get my gear together for our adventure.
However, when 20th rolled around the weather looked less than perfect.  I anxiously checked the weather station at the trail installed and maintained by hiking legend Cory Yap of Aloha from 808 and the nearby Wheeler Army Airfield (HHI) forecast the night before and several times during the night hoping that things would improve.  Determined to take advantage of this opportunity, we piled into the Jeep at about 0600 and headed to Helemano.  The dark clouds and drizzling rains were discouraging but we made our way up the muddy road that leads into the Ewa Forest Reserve.  There's no way we'd have been able to make it up the road without four wheel drive in the mud but the the Jeep Grand Cherokee's Quadra Drive and Vari-Lok differential systems made the drive effortless.  (Take that "grocery getter" jokes!)  Since my mom's sister who was visiting from out of town would be driving out I gave her the wheel so she could  get used to the Jeep and the road.  Finally we arrived at the end of the road and the start of my favorite trail on O'ahu.

Da Crew
Now I should point out that the Jeep looks pretty fancy with it's chrome wheels and chrome tow hooks but it's 10 years old now and being the third car it's got a few "issues".  One of which is the rear tire that had a slow leak in it.  I eyed it suspiciously before we set out not wanting to leave my poor mother and her sister stranded on a dirt road in O'ahu's back country.  I was feeling about 99% sure about it making it down the road safely after inspecting it.

With some reservations, we started up the trail and almost immediately found ourselves surrounded by native forest.

As we made our way through the initial segments that contour effortlessly up towards the summit the sun seemed to peak out under some of the clouds luring us further.

II and I were released to push ahead leaving my mom and aunt free to cruise behind.  I'm pretty sure heaven looks a lot like Poamoho Trail.  A nice graded trail lined with ohia and other natives that leads to a wild adventurous trail through the most beautiful scenery on O'ahu beyond.

II were making great time on the smooth trail but coming around a corner I got a voice mail from my Mom's phone.  It was already about 10 minutes old and I struggled to find a place to catch a signal so I could retrieve it.  Concerned it was a medical problem considering my mom's recent aneurism, I dropped my pack and left II to run back to find them.  Sure enough there had been a minor injury that meant my mom and aunt would be returning to the Jeep. They generously volunteered to sit in the car and wait for us to get to the summit and let them know if we were continuing out Papali, but we pulled the plug on the whole operation.  I hate to bring work into it but all of the training both II and I have had in risk management had both of us concerned.  In aviation, a chain of events, often called the error chain, refers to the concept that many contributing factors typically lead to an accident, rather than one single event. The number of small problems we were facing already had the potential to multiply into a bad situation.  It seemed like were were just pushing too hard with the weather, the leaky tire, the bad road conditions, and the minor injury.  It was becoming more and more risky to proceed.   Not to mention that I'm not going to leave my Mom and Aunt sitting in my Jeep waiting for us!

As we headed back to the Jeep a rain shower seemed to confirm the weather wasn't going to get any better.

Arriving back where we'd parked, the water flowed like a small stream down the road making for the nastiest mud ever.  Not nasty like the beautiful gooey dark mud that I loved to take my old Chevy Blazer through, but staining, clinging, red dirt mud that is nightmarish to get off your car and God help you if this stuff gets on any fabric that's not dark colored!

Nature's permanent marker.
We made the long drive back out of the forest reserve and back to Kailua where II departed back to town.  My mom and aunt also said their goodbyes and headed back to their house a mile down the road.

I was pretty bummed about the whole thing, especially since it was going to be months before I got another opportunity to go back to Poamoho.  However, when I got home my wife and her friend Marian decided to do a short family hike up in the little network of trails at the base of the Pali.  All was not lost!

After parking we headed up the paved road to a water tank before veering left onto a well worn muddy trail that leads to a power line.  Unfortunately that power line kind of got in the way of the view of the east ridge of the Pali that leads to Lanihuli!  The vantage point did provide a clean shot of the Pali Puka though.

As we made our way though the introduced forest, the kids were having a blast while my wife and Marian chatted away.  I busied myself taking pictures of the kids and helping herd them in the right direction.

The gang made it's way up over the old, old, Pali Road with it's lava rock paving and then took a left turn along a contour trail heading east.

We ran across another family who eyed me curiously as I was still wearing all my gear from the failed Poamoho trip.  No doubt I was the most overdressed and equipped on this trail that day.

With three kids we opted to take a trail that would go down towards a large transmission tower and then to the paved Old Pali Road.  I spotted a nice Ohia blooming which was a nice change from the weedy surroundings.

Descending through some Hala trees required some careful footing for the younger members of the party.  We paired and assisted the kids down the crumbly hill.

The trail gave way to a road used to service the power lines and the group fanned out again.

Marian (far left) brought their parrot with them for the trail.  The only hiking parrot I know.

From this point we could see our exit route, old Kionaole Road, below.  Both moms went on high alert to keep straying keiki away from the steep drop.  Kionaole Road was closed sometime in the late 1970's or early 1980's because it was dangerously narrow, curvy, and there were some really horrific crimes committed in this dark secluded place. As the small number of residents along the road dwindled it only got worse so the government just shut it down.  Retired HPD officer Gary A. Dias summed up the problems on Kionaole Road in his book Honolulu cop: reflections on a career with HPD with this description, "...the real-life horrors occurred there over the years cemented its image as a place you avoided- because if you went there, something bad happened."  It's a very interesting read and the chapter is available free on Google Books.

The dirt road also provided a great vantage point to see the cloud covered hanging valley of Lanihuli.  Someday I really need to get into that valley!

We worked our way down to the old road below and began the walk back to where we started.  Along the way I showed the kids some sleeping grass which is always a kid pleaser.

As disappointing as the day started it all worked out in the end as I got to spend some quality time with family and friends enjoying Kailua's beautiful back yard.

 More pictures from the Poamoho Failure and Family Hike- Kionaole Road, as well as pictures from other trails I've done, can be viewed on Flickr.  Aloha and mahalo for reading!


  1. Are you using a UV or haze type filter on your camera? The colors just pop out and have great contrast. Else, it could be the normal clear Hawaiian air?

  2. Thanks to both of you for the nice comments about the photos. I have to give Nikon most of the credit though. Frank, I use a UV filter but it's mainly there to keep the lens from getting scratched. The colors are from the settings I programed the D90 to use. The current trend in photography seems to be to use a brighter exposure but I think that bleaches out pictures. I use a darker exposure because I like the rich colors I think it gives the shots. Mahalo again!