Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wayde's World SPCA Hiking for Homes at Mariner's Ridge

The entire family joined Wayde's World's hike to support SPCA.  It was just luck that I'm on vacation since I'm usually at work on the weekends.  We arrived well before the 0900 start time and waited for our friends Ali and Marion to arrive with their beautiful daughter Aiona and of course their two German Shepards Xena and Bear.

After a short briefing by Wayde we headed up the trail. Since Mariner's Ridge is pretty short I won't bore anyone with my usual excruciatingly long writeup- just post a few of the pictures.  I did finally get to hook up with Will and Baron!  Great seeing you guys!

Wayde (florecent green shirt and hat far left) gathering up the troops
The family
Break time
My view from the trail.
Best friends holding hands.
Mariner's Terminus

Always so tempting...
Our crew at the top
Kailua / Nalo View

Will and Baron!
Best group picture we could get with 3 dogs and 3 children and a 10 second timer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hōʻaumoe o ka wao akua

I've been negligent in keeping up with the blog, that's obvious from the lack of posts in over a month.  I haven't been slacking on my trails, only in posting and writing them up.  I've actually got Halawa Ridge all written up I just got tired of fighting blogger to get the pictures where I want them.  Aiea Ridge, Moanalua, and a couple others are still waiting.  Anyway, I'll try and get those trails written up and posted or at least some pictures up on the blog soon.  Moving on to the current post...

First, the title of my post is probably wrong.  I don't speak Hawaiian so while the words are right, the order may be incorrect.  It should mean something about passing the night in the realm of the gods which is what the Hawaiians called the clouded peaks of the Ko'olaus.  Anyone who's spent any time there will understand why.  The tops of the Ko'olaus are a magical and mysterious place but all my time has been spent there during daylight hours and often with other people.  While hiking alone is frowned upon, I enjoy being alone with my thoughts surrounded by the fantastic plant and animals that inhabit the summit and ridges of my favorite mountain range.   I was hoping that something, although I wasn't sure what, would be gained from spending a night alone at the top of one of my favorite peaks, the second highest in the Ko'olaus, Lanihuli.
Pu'u Lanihuli- Second highest peak in the Ko'olau and one of my favorite places to be.
At sometime around one thirty in the afternoon I stepped out of my wife's Honda along the Old Pali Road and shouldered my ridiculously overweight pack.  After a kiss goodbye, I headed down along the highway to my entrance into the woods and the ditch I'd be following.  Without incident, I passed the familiar surroundings to the tunnel which today was mostly dry.  Emerging into my favorite valley I stopped for a quick break.  I was lugging around 5 liters of water plus my gear so my pack was heavier than the one I'd taken into Kalalau Valley last year!  This hike would be shorter but much steeper and far more complicated.  After catching my breath I proceeded up the valley past all my familiar spots.  I wanted to summit Lanihuli about 6pm so I was in no hurry whatsoever.

There are a couple sections that I climbed via the assistance of ropes, both old and new, to bypass larger waterfalls.  I stopped for a longer break to soak in the view of one of my favorite spots on the island.  There is a small population of Metrosideros macropus, a kind of ohia endemic to O'ahu, that I checked for blooms with no luck.  I regrouped and headed up the valley towards the spur ridge I'd reopened months before.   (I completely discourage anyone from taking this route as it's difficult, scratchy, and muddy.)  The steep climb was much more challenging with the added weight but I managed to arrived at the ridge above just a little muddier and a whole lot sweatier than when I'd started.   A short time latr, I passed my alternate campsite I  planned to use if the summit looked bad but aside from cloudiness, it looked like I could continue to the top.

Disappearing into the ohia
I still had all kinds of time to summit so my forward speed really started to suffer as I enjoyed the scenery and examined whatever caught my interest.  My slow pace payed off when I spotted something pretty unusual for the area, a Jackson's chameleon disappearing through an ohia.  They're not too quick so I was able to coax it onto my glove for a photo shoot.  It didn't have any horns so I'm assuming it's a female.  After a couple pictures I returned it to the ohia and watched it effortlessly glide through the branches.  An amazingly well adapted creature, it's no wonder it's been successful here after it's introduction sometime in the 1970's.
She's not happy...

The final assault up to the summit is a good climb on a normal day but was brutal carrying all the extra weight.  Finally I topped out to a cloudy summit and examined my two preplanned tent sites... one next to a ti plant and the other under some ohia.  Both were shielded from the gusty winds but the ohia site meant additional protection from the elements so I opted for it.  Right away I could see that it was going to be problematic because my tent would just fit in the small space meaning setting it up would be tough.  First I had to clear the footprint of my tent and I made sure to check the plants I'd be disturbing.  Thankfully it was just some thimbleberry and clidemia which is no loss.  I laid out my military  surplus poncho as tarp and began to set up the tent.  My first problem was I had to climb around the ohia bush to get to the back side to install the pegs.  That meant a couple trips on along the very edge of the 1000' plus drop into the valley below.  Carefully the tasks were completed and the tent erected with no damage to the moss coated ohias.
My tent is tucked just behind the pink ribbons and my shirt is laid out on the off chance it might dry.

Eating dinner staring into the clouds
My next order of business was getting changed.  My sweat soaked clothes weren't going to do me any good when the sun set and it started to cool.  I changed my shirt first and put it out to dry knowing it never would with all the moisture in the air.  I left my muddy pants on as I knew I'd be sitting in the mud and moving around for a while.  I set up a kitchen area and prepared my dinner- an over 500 calorie freeze dried  Бефстроганов Befstróganov aka beef stroganoff meal in a pouch.  I'd packed away some coffee singles but spotted some of the green tea with pomegranate that had been in my pack since Kalalau over a year before.  I can't get that brand anymore and figured it should be okay so after dumping the boiling water in the stroganoff I tossed the tea bag in the remaining water.  10 minutes later I sat down on the edge of the ridge to eat my dinner watching the clouds swirl by and the light continue to fade.  It wasn't too cold yet but the warm dinner certainly was a treat.  I took a couple shots of the fading sites and changed into my other pair of pants to keep things in the tent as clean as possible.  I'd already made a few phone calls to my wife earlier but made my last call to her at just after 9pm.  

Here's a short video tour of camp...

Arrival at the summit
Arrival at summit
Once settled in my small tent, I took care of arranging my pack and my gear.  My boots were tucked under the rain flat outside, my machete lay just outside the entrance, and my bag would serve as my very hard pillow.  On impulse a few days before I'd bought a LED lantern that hung outside like a tiny street light and I also had a "tent utility light" that was equipped with a clip to hang inside my tent.  Too bad the tent had no place to hang it!  

Jack and Coke
I'd carried a celebratory treat that I pulled from my bag- a can of Coke Zero and a flask of Jack Daniels.  Looking at my two favorite ingredients, I didn't really feel inclined to indulge so I repacked them away.  Next up I wanted to try something new- writing!  In the age of computers, texting, email, etc. it's not often that I find myself actually writing anything.  I pulled out a small notebook and wrote down a few thoughts about the day.  After two small pages my hand hurt and I had to use the spell check on my phone twice.  After my entry, I turned of the LED lantern outside and snapped a quick shot out the door of the tent, before zipping myself in for the night.

Last shot of the night- 8:57pm.  The clouds have rolled in.
 Now in for the night, my next order of business was to get into my jungle bag and get comfortable.  The uneven ground and my lack of a soft pillow made it tough but I eventually managed to find the right position.  I turned out the utility light and listened to the wind rattle the tent and the ohias sheltering me.  My mind drifted to thoughts about landslides, pigs, the mo'o people, and whatever other dangers real or imaginary I could face but I pushed them aside and went to sleep.

Whoa, I look like $hit!
I awoke at exactly 0344.  I know because I checked my phone when the agony of the hard uneven ground overcame my ability to sleep.  I shifted around and faded in and out of sleep until after 6am when I gave up.  I took a self portrait and was amazed at how terrible I looked.  Opening up the tent, I could see there would be no sunrise because the summit was completely socked in.

Gear stowed ready to leave.
With little to do and my only deadline being a pick up at around 12:30 there wasn't much of a rush.  However, I figured I'd get on with breaking down the tent, changing back into my hiking clothes and making sure I cleaned up my campsite.  I had to take one more trip along the edge of the cliff to get the stakes at the back side but other than that it was uneventful.  I'd brought breakfast and although tempting I didn't bother to make any coffee.  I ate a couple oat bars and prepared by bag for the journey down.

Thieving kopiko tree!
The alternate camp site.
Going down I moved at slow pace because there really wasn't any reason to hurry or I'd just be sitting on the side of the highway.  The clouds continued well down the mountain and I was treated to some really great misty ridge when I broke out.  I stopped at the alternate camp site and took a break enjoying the views before dropping down into the valley below.  About 2/3rds of the way down I realized my sunglasses were missing.  I dropped my pack, climbed back up to the ridge and to the alternate campsite where I'd last seen them.  Slowly making my way back I was relived to see they'd snagged on a kopiko tree when I'd passed under it.  Ray Bans safely back around my neck, I headed back down to my pack.

The rest of my journey out was uneventful but again the climbing sections were tougher with a heavy pack.   Once I cleared the forest and arrived at the road I was greeted by a crew patching potholes with asphalt.  They barely shot me a second glance but the two police officers helping block traffic in their cars eyed me suspiciously.  Thankfully they remained comfortably in their cruisers and only waved back when I shot them a big smile and a shaka.  Arriving at the designated pickup point I only had to wait about 10 minutes before I was picked up by Mrs. XJ.  My timing was almost perfect!

I was hoping for a hug and a kiss but she said I smelled horrible, like a moldy-mountain-dog.  She promised once I took a shower I'd get one.

I have no doubt I'll never forget my night in the wao akua.  Spending one night there did little to dent its mystery.  Maybe it was my kindness to the chameleon or maybe just luck but thankfully the mo'o people didn't get me... this time!

Some of my favorite plants along the way:
I love this miniature form of ohia!  Metrosideros polymorpha
Kanawao- Broussaisia arguta
'Olapa- Cheirodendron trigynum
'Ohe mauka
Salmon colored lehua

Please, do not follow my poor example of hiking alone and spending a night alone in the Ko'olaus.  It can be quite cold even in the summer months and there is a lot of potential for something bad to happen to you.   Remain on official trails and obtain permission from land owners or permitting from State, Federal, or City and County agencies.  

More pictures of this trail and others I've done are are availible on Flickr.  Aloha and thanks for reading.

Finish line!