Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mo'ole Valley Progress

A day in Mo'ole
Over the last week I made 3 more visits to Mo'ole Valley.  The first was the most successful as I mapped and marked my way up though several tough discoveries.  On subsequent visits my forward progress has been dismal.  I gained maybe 20 yards over the next two trips up the valley but have managed to hack a decent trail with tons and tons of ribbons along what I believe is mostly the old trail.  I think I may have incorporated some pig trails into the route along the way though.  My hiking partner has made one venture up into the valley as well.  On that trip we did a bunch of clearing opening up vegetation along the trail side.   I'm battered, bruised, I've lost two pairs of pants and one toenail along the way.  Rather than attempt to reconstruct the trip from memory here I'll simply post the points I have collected on Back Country Navigator for Android.

I have not given up and I think my next move is to hit the Lanihuli Trail and try and fight my way down into the valley from above.  I'm hoping that maybe there's a clue on Alewa Ridge somewhere as to the route down.  Once in the valley I can make my way out.  Near the point labeled "False Hope" a bunch of faded pink ribbons were found leading the ridge.  I'm not sure this fits with the description of the trail which mentions about a 20 minutes trip from the top of the trail to Lanihuli's summit.  I suspect the ridge leading to topside is near the last waypoint labeled "Possible Ridges".

Click here for a larger, readable image

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Lost Trail to Lanihuli

Another defeat by Mo'ole Valley today but I'm inching closer to finding what I'm going to call the "Lost Trail to Lanihuli".  I'm sure there are a lot of people running around who know this thing like the back of their hand but to someone who's never been in there it's pure chaos.  Slowly I'm sorting through the pig, hunter, and hiker trails of this secluded valley nestled just one ridge ewa of Nu'uanu.

Trespassing begins here
My day began late for a whole bunch of reasons but I didn't arrive at the Old Pali Road (ewa side) until around 10 a.m.  I had intended to park on the other side of the Pali by the hunter check in station but a police officer was stationed there for some road work being done.  I had to drive all the way down into Nu'uanu do a U turn and head back to the Pali Lookout.  I parked near the gate in a spot just big enough for the Jeep and headed out onto the shoulder of the Pali Highway.  Moving as quickly as possible I made my way to the concrete ditch.  Because I'm pretty sure this area is off limits, I jumped down into the ditch to stay out of sight of the cop across the highway.   Slipping under the chain link fence, I entered the forest.

The old water system
There's a confusing number of trails here but I knew what I was looking for.  Working though the network of trails I arrived at the old ditch and began following it staying along the bank.  Maybe 20 minutes later I arrived at the water tunnel where I retrieved my flashlight from my bag entered into the blackness.  I don't like this place much, it's freaky being there by yourself, underground, and in the darkness.  The little speck of light at the end can't come quickly enough.  The entire time I was in there my brain kept conjuring up new things torture me with from the natural, like earthquakes or maybe a flash flood, to the supernatural.  Pushing those thoughts aside, I continued through the old water tunnel which gets smaller at the other end due to years of sediment being washed in. 
The tunnel

Safely though the tunnel my next challenge was to try and find the old trail that roughly 10 years ago the Hawaii Trail and Mountain Club had done.  Dayle Turner, I believe, pioneered this route but I don't think many folks do it anymore.  My first order of business was to cross the small waterfall ahead.  No problem.  The second waterfall isn't much further at it's a big one.  I spotted a black rope and followed it.  Every so often I'd catch sight of an old orange or pink ribbon.  Some were easy to spot, others were coated in lichen or moss making them very difficult to spot.  It took me hours to make my way up the valley.  I was constantly loosing the old trail and between the camouflage ribbons and the new growth it was horrible trying to figure out where to go.  There must be a HUGE population of pigs here judging by the wallows and the number of pig trails.  I'd pound through the brush only to have been on an imagined trail.  I'd have to back track and try and regroup.  A lot of the trail is along the hills above the stream meaning there is some climbing to do too.  Unfortunately, I ended up doing a lot of fruitless climbing searching for trail.
Trying to sort through this sucks.  The waterfalls block progress via the stream.
The first waterfall looking and the second picture is looking down from the only left bypass waterfall

Frustration set in as I picked my way through the valley.  I knew I was on the right track when I found an old rope and a newer rope hanging from the side of a waterfall.  It was actually a pretty tough climb on a slippery wet slope to reach the next level of the stream.  More frustration.  Where the hell is this trail?!  Up a side waterfall I spotted an old ribbon.  I climbed up the waterfall and trashed around some more.  Extension cord!  Climbing up via the old orange cord put me onto a trail contouring the side of the valley.  I spotted some orange ribbons encouraging forward but lost them a couple times as well resulting in more searching.  Did I mention my pants ripped?  Huge crotch blow out climbing some pig trail. 
I loved this one... it's pretty and, more importantly, the trail is obvious to the right of it (not pictured)

I just never knew when I should head up or down.  Eventually another small waterfall section with another rope.  I'm glad it was there because it's slippery as heck.  Even with the rope it wasn't a piece of cake.  I continued up the valley until I reached my last orange ribbon.  I thrashed my way up another waterfall for about 30 minutes praying it was the route up to Lanihuli.  Nope.  Sigh, back to the valley.  It was now 2 p.m. and I had to go to a party that night.  I was hot, irritated, frustrated, and my pants were split wide open.  With a massive sigh of regret, I tucked my tail between my legs and headed back the way I came.  Even going back was confusing.  The trial seemed easier to follow going back down with my new hard fought knowledge but at times I was left guessing.  .  Going back I took what seemed to be an entirely different route but somehow ended up at the black rope of the second waterfall.  I'll chalk that up to good luck.  Back into the creepy tunnel, along the ditch, and then to the Pali Highway.  I tried to cover the front of my pants but I'm sure most of the passing drivers thought I was flashing them.  Around 3:30 I was back at the Jeep- defeated again.

One of the reasons I'd really like to get this one figured out is that I love Lanihuli but using the Na Pueo Bypass Trail and the Kapalama Loop Trail are just long.  There are a couple more places I'd like to explore here and this would be a fantastic route to use for that.  Today it took me four hours to accomplish one way what I did in about an hour and change on the way back.

If anyone can help me any information about this trail I'd appreciate it.  Most importantly, I'd really like to know when it leaves the valley and heads up to the Lanihuli Trail on Alewa Ridge  I have a bad feeling that that part is going to be very badly overgrown with uluhe and may be difficult to find from the valley below.

Not many pictures from this one, sorry.

Aloha and thanks for reading.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pu'u Kalena

Another hastily selected trail on Tuesday because of cloudy and rainy conditions in the Ko'olau's led us to Pu'u Kalena.  The hype on the internet had me envisioning razor thin ridges but I figured we were up to the challenge.  First order of business was finding the trail head, located at Schofield Barracks in central O'ahu.  The last time I was at Schofield was somewhere around '87 back in ROTC spring camp.  Surprisingly, all you need to get onto an army base is insurance, a diver's license, and registration.  The guard asked me where I was going and I mumbled something about Kalena Trail and he shrugged his shoulders and handed me a pass.  Cool!  They'd never let you on Hickam or Pearl this way.

Parking Lot
Don't loose your head...
Translation:  Good times ahead!
Wrong Trail
I met with my partner, II, who'd already got his pass and we headed up to Kolekole.  Along the way we passed the various firing ranges where I'd got to shoot my first rifle, the M60, and my second, the M16 way back in the day.  Spring camp was awesome back then.  Okay, back to the trail before I get sidetracked.  Parking just prior to the gate that controls access to the Kolekole Pass road we immediately headed into the brush and onto the wrong trail.  We passed a sign begging us to turn back which we ignored and headed past a creepy rock which supposedly was used as an aid in decapitating people back in the old days.  When we arrived at a relay station I decided it was time to do a little research.  Yep, wrong trail.  We turned back to the cars, crossed the road, and headed up the dirt road that would take us to the trail we were supposed to be on.
THIS is the Kalena Trail Head

Initially the trail just follows an old dirt road until you reach a washed out section of colorful crumbly rock.  There's really no trail here, just make your way upwards to the apex and you'll find the trail that will take you through a forest of introduced formosan koa.  Right away it becomes clear that this will be a long, tough, and brutal climb to the summit of O'ahu's second highest peak.

I guess this is it...

The trail climbed steadily until we joined a ridge.  Making a left turn at the ridgeline the trail continued up towards the first peak of the trail.  Along the way there's a somewhat narrow section with a steep drop on the right and a painful drop into some christmas berry on the left.  I didn't think it was that bad at all.  My partner II has a healthy fear of heights and he remained upright here as well.  Just before the peak there is a small climb.   I relied upon the numerous hand and foot holds to get me up.  This has to be the section that all the fuss is about.  Honestly, I was expecting far, far, far, more.  This wasn't the nerve tingling ridge walk I'd been promised in the articles I'd read.  Don't get me wrong, there's some real potential for disaster if you slip but the dire warnings I'd read about crawling had me prepared to break out in a cold sweat as I traversed a sketchy, crumbly ridge with 1000' drops on either side of me.  I was actually little disappointed.  This part is actually worse going down than up in my humble opinion.

A Look Back
Pulu Kalio
Topping out we made a left following the ridge.  There's another ridge section with larger drops on both sides here but it's way wider than your body, I'd say sidewalk sized, so again it wasn't bad at all.  The drops here are bigger but the width made me comfortable.   I honestly had no idea which peak was Kalena when we started the trail.  Once we hit the first peak my maps app on my phone coupled with the geography gelled when I saw the view.  Basically we followed a series of ridges and peaks until we topped out to Kalena.  The views just kept improving as we continued.  Both the Waianae side and the central O'ahu views are awesome.  After the second section we made a small climb with a crappy old rope (I wouldn't use it) to a juniper tree.  After the tree there are no narrow sections left that aren't heavily vegetated.
Here's where the route becomes clear.
Naval Magazine Lualualei
Half way?
Looking across the saddle to Kalena
The trail widens out to a tame ridge trail for a while and after a while makes a hard right turn heading down hill.  My memory is a little fuzzy but I think this where someone build a nice little wooden bench.  I tested it out for a while to cool off.  I'm not using any kind of scientific method when I say this but I'd call the bench about the half way point.

Continuing down we had to negotiate a large fallen tree across the trail.  Near the bottom we passed though a very dry looking saddle.   I really enjoyed this dry saddle and it's ohia.   There were quite a few blooms to enjoy.  This is the very last chance you'll have to stroll leisurely along the ridge because the final brutal assault on Kalena resumes at the base.

Very symmetric ohia in the dry section

The trail resumed climbing steeply again into a mixed native and introduced forest.  I spotted a massive kāwaʻu tree.  My phone serves as a scale of the huge trunk on this monster.

There's a brief boggy ridge section filled with natives until the very last short but steep climb up to the summit of Kalena.  Another first for me in this area of the trail, a cloud forest with moss covered Lehua Ahihi, metrosideros tremuloides.  All the others I've seen are dominated by standard issue metrosideros polymorpha.
Lehua Ahihi cloud forest
 Finally the relentless climb ended and the summit of Kalena was reached!
Pu'u Kalena Summit
There's a military boundary maker here and some nice views of Waianae and Ka'ala.  I signed the guest book hanging from an ohia tree for both of us.   I haven't mentioned it yet but all day we'd heard continuous machine gun fire coming up from the ranges below.  Because we were closer it was pretty loud and echoed off the mountains.    I listened and thought I could hear the cows down in Waianae valley but can't say for sure.  After enjoying a snack it was time to head back down.

O'ahu's highest peak, Ka'ala viewed  from the second highest.

 The guest log and a huge ohia trunk coated in moss.

Waianae from the summit
Poor little rabbit.
The return leg was more of the same except all the climbs were now descents.  The  direction a trail is traveled often plays a big role in the difficulty and this one is no exception.  Retracing our steps we made our way back to the steepest section of the trail.  I passed upright but II elected to drop down on all fours.  The slight down hill grade of the ridge section did make it a little more interesting and we were both worn down from the trail.  He crawled a couple feet and then transitioned to a walking.  Heading down the ridge we missed the turn back into the formosan koa area so we had to back track.  We climbed back up the ridge and I hung a couple more pink ribbons at the junction because it seemed easy to miss.  A little way down the trail I heard some grunting coming for a few yards down the ridge and did my best hunting dog bark.  The pua'a scattered like mini bulldozers into the brush.  So far this technique is working but I worry some day an angry momma pig will come crashing towards me instead!

The rest of the trail was uneventful and we arrived safely at our cars with just a couple minor scrapes.

On the way down Kolekole road I spotted something unusual- a black rabbit on the side of the road.  I stopped and tried to coax it close enough to catch it but it wouldn't let me get close enough.  After five minutes I gave up.  Poor little guy, obviously it was a pet a some point.  A short time later I spotted a small group of pigs along the side of the road which bolted into the brush.  All and all a great day on a great trail!  That rabbit would have been a nice addition to the family though!

I shot lots of video but this week is crazy and I'm running out of patience with my computer.  I'll try and get something together later.

Aloha and thanks for reading, as always, more pictures of this trail and others I've done can be seen at Flickr.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Koko Crater via Tracks

Yesterday's Pu'u Kalena  (write up done, still fighting with video) had scratched my hiking itch for the week but when Mrs. XJ suggested we climb Koko Crater I jumped at the opportunity.  One does not question or hesitate when she offers to do a trail because it's a rare opportunity.  Maybe she's starting to come around after the last two easy trails at Mokapu'u?  Regardless, I immediately agreed and after dropping off the kids at school we headed to Hawaii Kai.

Here's where the fun starts
A little over a year ago I'd done Koko Crater Rim but this was to be my first trip up the old tracks used to ferry supplies to the former radar site at the summit which was placed into service in 1942.  Most people assume that this was simply a war time radar but it was in operation until 1966.  The facility housed one of the two critical radar antenna  for the Hawaiian Air Defense Control Center.  The FAA also operated and maintained a microwave relay station here.  This site has a couple pictures of the old buildings at the foot of the crater taken in 1999.  The web site is a little sketchy so hit reload if it fails and it usually comes up. 

We parked at Koko Head Regional Park and headed for the base of the tracks.  I could tell Mrs. XJ was having second thoughts as we approached the bottom of the old rails but she continued onward.  There's no tricks on the trail, it's all laid out for you to see.
1048 steps to go!
This trail is BUSY.  I can't imagine what this place is like on a weekend considering the number of people here on a Wednesday morning.  Locals and tourists all sweat their way to the top.  This looks like it get's even more traffic than Kaiwa Ridge in Lanikai.  About midway up there's a section where the tracks are elevated to cross a small gully.  Mrs. XJ is deathly afraid of heights but toughed it out on the tracks instead of taking the bypass trail on the way up.  There was a moment when she froze up a little but she got passed it.

The Koko Head Shooting Complex is just off to the side of the trail.  Like yesterday, gunfire filled the air.  This sounded a lot tamer though and it looked like it was mostly on the police side of the range.  The soft little pops of their pistols was nothing compared to the heavy machine gun fire at Schofield.  Every so often you could hear a ricochet's whine as a bullet found a rock down range.

Start of the trail after the tracks

The last part of the tracks is the most brutal and you could see it taking it's toll on everyone.  We certainly didn't set any speed records on the way up!  At the end of the tracks there are some concrete buildings that were associated with the radar.  A short trail leads to the summit and the grated platform that once housed the radar antenna.

Upon reaching the summit we enjoyed the great views of the Hawaii Kai area.  Looking east into the crater is the botanical gardens, to the south Hanauma Bay, and west is Diamond Head.

It was scorching hot  but the breeze kept us cool.  I was getting fried in the sun though after spending two days in it.  My neck was starting to get really burnt.  I really need to wear some sunscreen.   We lingered and I posed for more goofy photos.  We had a quick bite to eat, Mrs. XJ a musubi and I a ham and cheese sandwich, then headed back down the trail.

About the top of the tracks.  The wide angle masks the steepness.
Koko Marina and Hawaii Kai
Hanauma Bay
Mrs. XJ updates her Facebook Status
Looking down into Koko Crater
The descent from Koko Crater isn't quite as easy as it looks.  The spacing of the ties isn't always consistent and my technique was to "run" down them.  Not really easy on the knees but it was fast and efficent.  Mrs. XJ opted for the crab technique.  At the "bridge" she took the bypass not liking the down hill grade and the large voids between the ties.

The trip down was much quicker and on the way out I spotted a kiawe-banyan tree.  I have a feeling the banyan will win eventually.  Arriving back at the car safely we completed the hike.  I learned two things from this trail.  First, I should really wear sunscreen because I'm completely fried, and second, after being married for over a decade Mrs. XJ can still surprise me...

Aloha and thanks for reading!