I awoke at 4:30 to check the weather in the Ko'olaus and even in the darkness I could see that it was going to be a cloudy day. After some email exchanges with my hiking partner II we decided to scrap our planned outing and find another trail after the sun rose. After considering a host of options we decided on an easy one right next to my house, Pu'u Papa'a that I'd done back in November of 2009.
Pu'u Papa'a is the peak overlooking the Nu'upia fishponds mauka of Mokapu Peninsula. From the rocky peak of Pu'u Papa'a continuing towards the mountains is the ridge known as Mahinui. Some confusion exists over it's name because in 1971 somebody thought it should be renamed Oneawa Hills which may be a tribute to the name of the 'ili 'aina that included the hillside so long ago.
Mahinui Ridge is connected to the often hiked Olomana and it's other two peaks through legend. In ancient times the land from Makapu'u to Kualoa was the home of a giant warrior named Olomana. A warrior from Kauai name Palila challenged Olomana to battle and defeated the giant splitting him in two. One half is as the peak that bears his name and the other half becoming the hill known as Mahinui (Great Champion).
We parked a car on Kaneohe Bay Drive and walked back towards Kailua until we reached the fragrant Aikahi Gardens town homes. I say fragrant because anyone who lives here in Kailua knows that the poo plant is right across the street and it's sweet scent drifts relentlessly across the road. Walking around a chain link fence we reversed course towards Kaneohe again to the end of the town home complex and stepped off the pavement onto an old slightly overgrown road.
The road became a path until we reached the intersection with the service road used to maintain the various antenna on the top of the ridge. We climbed steeply up along a chain link fence though haole koa and dried guinea and molasses grass. I was surprised to see the tattered and decaying condition of the ribbons I'd hung on my first trip up the ridge. They almost looked like they were biodegradable.
At the end of the first climb segment we reached on old cut up utility pole near a newer composite one. The views were already getting good and we'd just started.
Heading east long the ridge we passed some old aviation obstruction lighting to reach a relay station. Not sure who owns it but the sign on the pole next to us warned of high frequency radio fields. Since I already have two kids and don't plan on more I proceeded passed the sign to take some pictures of the field below. I noticed the first shrine of the day, a candle in a circle of rocks with both a fake flower and the remains of real flowers.
We departed the concrete block station to continue east using the ladder to help us make the transition down.
Our path led past three rocks of various sizes and one more weird shrine. Reaching a large rocky outcropping we then contoured to the adjacent ridge that comes up from the Aikahi side. We then headed down that ridge to visit the Battery Commander Station of Battery 405, also known as Battery DeMerrit.
The first clue one would have to the presence of something here is a large flat metal sheet mounted on some scaffolding. I've wondered for years and finally I've determined the purpose of this feature, it's an old microwave relay antenna. However, previously the roof of the Battery Commander's Station held a SCR-296A fire control radar antenna disguised by a wooden facade to look like a water tank that looked similar to this one in Alaska.
|SCR-296A fire control radar antenna at Zeto Point on Adak Island, Alaska. Courtesy of the Kodiak Military History Museum|
Making our way down the ridge we caught sight of the old water tank which had a few kids on it "decorating" it with some spray paint. Rumor has it that when the 8 inch guns of Battery DeMerrit were test fired the concussion cracked the tank and it was abandoned in place.
Past the remains of a dead Keawe tree is the entrance to the Battery Commander's Station (BCS) where the commander directed fire of Demerrit's guns.
The BCS consists of two rooms with steel doors of the same type used in the battery below. The anterior room functioned as the radar operator's room and was designed to be sealed in case of gas attack while the other room had the typical slit style views with steel doors that would both secure the station and provide some protection from incoming fire.
All the equipment is long gone but the picture below gives you and idea of what it may have looked like during World War II. If you've got spare time and bandwidth, this operation manual makes for some interesting reading.
|Interior of SCR-296 Radar operations hut at Ulatka Head, Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Courtesy of the Kodiak Military History Museum|
As we climbed the ridge we past the feeble attempt of what must have been an effort to grow some pakalolo. Kids these days.... ha ha!
Arriving at the double decked bunkers at the summit. One is Base End Station designator B3 S3 and the other Triangulation Station Papa'a.
We paused to check out some of the views from the top of the emplacements at the summit.
|II about to top out.|
|The old seaplane hangars at Kaneohe MCAS. The ramps where PBY's would exit the water and taxi up to the apron are still there.|
|Check out the view!|
The cool breeze and awesome views made it hard to leave but eventually we continued towards the myriad of antenna just behind the Fire Control Station. The first thing of note was the old geodetic marker for Pu'u Papa'a and the small lava rock platform where the larger marker was held. I found it lying in the dirt next to the platform so I reinstalled it in the pipe.
|Kawainui Marsh and Kailua Town meet at the Levee|