Monday, October 24, 2011

Nu'uanu's Forbidden Fruits

October 24, 2011

Getting off work...
Honestly, much of what happened Monday is pretty fuzzy.  I've been working an extra shift for the last month or so that takes me down to one off day a week.  Added to that,  I got a little too crazy last week with the trail selections and I really didn't get any time off at all.  Baron Yamamoto, waterfall connoisseur extraordinaire, had originally invited me to do the La'ie 18 but lucky for me he changed the venue to Luakaha, Lulumahu, and Mo'ole Valley instead.

I got off the mid shift at a little past 6am and headed for the Pali Highway and old Pali Road junction to wait for Baron who would arrive at 8.  I fell asleep in the car but woke up cold a while later so I retrieved a jacket from the back of the Jeep.  I didn't care one bit that the cops were there giving someone a ticket and ignored the officer's looks while I got back into the front of the Jeep and went back to sleep.  Amazingly, I woke up right as Baron pulled into the park.  I brushed off my sleepiness and grabbed my stuff to follow him to two waterfalls I've never made time to visit.  I'd predicted rain and left my Nikon at home so the pictures from this one don't do the various falls justice!
Lulumahu Falls
Luakaha Falls

Lulumahu falls was up first.  Following him through a giant hole in the fence we moved quickly through a network of trails in this forbidden territory.  He bounced up a stream bed while I floated in a zombie like trance behind trying to absorb the scenery whizzing past.  After a very short hike we made it to the beautiful Lulumahu waterfall.

We didn't stay long and quickly returned to the Old Pali Road for a visit to Luakaha Falls.  Speeding through the bamboo and over an old pipe we arrived at the top of the falls.  Too slippery to descend that day, we contoured around the back and down the mauka side of the valley to the falls below.  This falls is on private property so we tried to keep a low profile  not wanting to annoy the property owner.  We took a few pictures of the falls and headed back along the old irrigation ditch and upstream back to the Pali Highway. 

Baron kindly offered to spare me the trip into Mo'ole Valley as I'm sure it was fairly obvious I was like the walking dead but when I found out he had taken the day off to go hiking that changed everything.  I hope I wasn't too bossy when I announced "We're going." but no way I was going to be responsible for wasting someone's perfectly good vacation day!

It was a nice change to enter Mo'ole the way everyone else does, I have my own route.  Following the path we reached an intersection with the trail I use and proceeded along the ditch to the tunnel and into the valley.  Despite the considerable rain the day before, the water wasn't flowing too much.

First Falls- photo by Baron Yamamoto
Up the black rope and to the second falls we went.  A few pictures later we took the trail back to the landslide area.  Here it was interesting to compare notes because he went to the left where I'd cut a small trail along a ledge way back when I first cleared the valley.  That ends in a rather steep climb so I showed him what I believe is the old route makai across the bottom of the slide area.  Back on the upper trail we made our way to Third Falls.  I call it that because it's number three in the line up and when it's pumping back there it has three waterfalls.    While we were checking out the falls he pointed at a tree which I've never really paid attention to.  It was a 50-60 foot Ahihi, Metrosideros tremuloides, tree.  I'd never noticed it before but the valley was filled with these.

Second Falls- photo by Baron Yamamoto


Continuing up past it we made our way to Left Falls.  Baron called it the sinister falls because it's pretty dark with the heavy tree cover and even the rock there seems blacker than other places in the valley.  Apparently he gets a bad vibe from the spot.  He commented how the two names complemented each other as back in the old days people considered things from the left as evil.  "The bad guy always enters from stage left" Baron said.  Good call!

Fourth Falls AKA Left Falls - photo by Baron Yamamoto

Up on the left contour I named the falls for (it's the only one with a left bypass) we made our way to waterfall number five which I call Double Rope Falls because there are two ropes to climb past it.

Baron at Double Rope Falls
Next we entered a small series of slick flume-like falls to reach what I call The Pool.  By far the biggest pool with a nice two tier waterfall of the valley, I consider it the best place to take a break.  Baron found his old ribbon from a previous visit and prepared to depart the valley.  He mentioned he'd never been beyond this point.  Considering Baron had taken the day off to show me two other falls there was no way I was going to not at least take him up the valley a little further.  "We're going!"  I announced.  Poor Baron had been trying to cut me slack too!
The Pool
Moving past the Pool and up the stream a short distance we arrived at another waterfall I've kept to myself.  I call it The Flume.  This one is a multi-tiered waterfall back up the valley I think it's the most interesting of them.  With a little landscaping this would be a very zen like place.  There's some strawberry guava that blocks the upper falls section from view that I've thought more than once about taking out.  Baron, now enthused with this new falls immediately wanted to climb up and check out the pool.  Someone else has placed a yellow rope up the falls recently with a warning that it's not secured so first he, then I, proceeded up to check out the pool at the base of the largest falls.

Baron bouncing up The Flume while I claw my way up behind him.

Baron in the cutout midway up The Flume

This was a first for me as the trail I cleared bypasses this falls completely.  Cautiously we made our way up the tiers to a small pool where we snapped a few more pictures and wondered how crazy this spot got during heavy rains.

After inspecting the cutout in the rock we descended back down the falls and headed back out of the valley.  I was home before the kids were from school and after unpacking my stuff and eating a little poke for dinner I went to bed and slept for over twelve hours.

It was great to do the valley with someone who has such a huge appreciation for waterfalls and to swap information with such a knowledgeable hiker.  Mahalo Baron for taking the day off to show me around a few of Nu'uanu Valley's forbidden falls!

More pictures from this trail and others I've done can be viewed on Flickr.  Aloha and mahalo for reading!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

KST- Pupukea to Kahuku Ridge

October 18, 2011

After the success of finding the old Kahuku Ridge Trail and a route to it from La'ie the failure of not completing the trail was still stinging almost a month later.  On that hot Monday in the hills above Kahuku I'd simply burned out all my energy.  To top it off I was was coming down with a cold too.  As it turns out, turning around was absolutely the right decision even though I'd been kicking myself ever since I'd made it.

Still intent on completing the old trail I had formulated a new plan.  Instead of retracing my steps we elected to incorporate the Ko'olau Summit Trail's Pupukea segment.  Knowing the way out both from memory and with the way-points in my smart phone, I felt pretty comfortable attacking Kahuku from the junction with the KST. 

Paperbark forest
After leaving a car at the La'ie Field we headed up to Pupukea and parked near the Boy Scout Camp.  We started up the Army's road at about 8:30 am after I had taken a couple pictures of a feral hen cruising the road.  The signs warning us that we were entering the US Army's Kahuku Range we were mere decorations as we climbed over the yellow gate.  Nobody else seems to care either because there was a lady walking her retriever and a guy jogging beyond the gate.  As we had before on our Pupukea to La'ie adventure, we followed the paved road passing a covered picnic table and then a second metal gate.  The views from the road were still amazing as we passed through a mixture of endemic and introduced forests. 

Along the way I climbed a small embankment to take a couple pictures of the beautiful views of central O'ahu and the North Shore area.

Looking southwest towards Kawailoa
Mt Ka'ala
I also noticed a couple halapepe, a relative of the agave tree (think tequila!), just off to the sides of the road I'd missed last time.

We walked for about an hour until reaching the trail head marked only by that single pink ribbon tied to a sign.

 The old dirt road gave way to the narrow trail as we wound our way up to the junction where we could continue the KST or take a detour to a scenic landing zone.  Having been there before, we opted to just continue on the KST.

The Ko'olau Summit Trail
Along the way we stopped every so often to check out the fantastic scenery.  We soon passed what I'd labeled "Pig Heaven" where the pua'a have routed up a big area right before Pu'u Hina.  Minutes later we topped out to Hina and the small cleared area with views of Kahuku below.

Pu'u Hina Summit
Looking down on Kahuku
Just beyond lay the junction with the Kahuku Ridge Trail so after a short break we continued up the summit trail towards it.  With a little help from Back Country Navigator we spotted two old faded ribbons marking a junction.  This was it!

Kahuku Ridge Trail Junction with the Ko'olau Summit Trail.
The mighty Ko'olau Volcano's northern flank.

When I'd quit last time I figured it was about a half a mile from the junction.  Further, I speculated that because it was still early we'd be done with this trail quickly.  Wrong! Although it appears at some time the old trail got some considerable use in the past judging by the rutted path it was quite clear that it rarely saw any use now.  The uluhe was manageable for a while but as we pushed our way down it got tougher and tougher.  Soon we found ourselves mired in the overhead ferns. 
A bit over a tenth of a mile down there was a steeper section where a rope would have been handy but wasn't required.  A short way beyond  we reached a small peak I dubbed Pu'u Pua'a because it was clear the pigs visited it frequently with their routing up the dirt.  Almost immediatly after leaving Pu'u Pua'a I made a wrong turn in the deep uluhe following the ridge to the right along what must have been a pig trail.  After maybe 20 or 30 yards down hill I realized my mistake and shouted for II to stop to spare him from having to decscend down to find out he had to climb back up.

After retracing our steps we were able to find the trail to the left and were back on track.  The ridge zig zags back and forth in the upper sections and although we periodically spotted old ribbons many were coated in moss or hidden by the ferns.  On an Ohia tree I spotted three ribbons.  Weird considering that usually means the end of a trail and we were not at a spot I'd consider a finish from either up or down the ridge. 

 We continued down the ridge lined with ohia and filled with uluhe.  The level of difficulty was largely dependant on the depth of uluhe and the amount of breeze we got to cool us on a typical hot sunny day.  Along the way I noted some red fuzz on a branch.  That seemed a little strange until a short while later I ran across a red cloth ribbon.

By the time we reached Point Failure where I'd given up last time we'd already had enough of Kahuku Ridge's uluhe choked trail.  However, I knew that things would improve shortly and soon enough we were picking up speed as the swath I'd created on the previous trip eased our passage.

 We passed the big halapepe and the small stand of ho'awa and descended a short saddle.  The trail began to open up a bit more as we reached the middle of the ridge which I suspect still gets used by hunters.

 The next segment of the trail was a long stretch of strawberry guava.  The path to take is quite clear except, inexplicably, at two points where it just melts into the  dense stand of the invasive guava.  
Strawberry guava
Twice along this section of the trail we spotted pua'a poo.  I know you're wishing I'd taken a picture of it, and, you're in luck!  I did.  The strawberry guava next to the pig poop and the seeds in it illustrate one way the guava is spread and has become such a pest.
Pig poop.
Our next marker was the large lichen covered rock in the middle of an iron wood tree grove.   Here the trail becomes a little obscure under all the needles but by continuing downhill we were able to find it pretty easily.  
A short time later we arrived at a grove of Cook Pines where I suspect the trail started years ago from a road that led up from Kahuku.  We passed through the stand and crossed an eroded section to a large meadow.

The Cook Pine grove and eroded section
Here the trail becomes very difficult to follow.  The meadow is filled with christmas berry, java plum, and even some ohia.  Despite having a track in my phone from my last visit, it still took us about 10 minutes to find the path through the meadow.  Established on the meandering trail again it wasn't long before we reached the small section that required us to crawl under some low hanging christmas berry.

Passing through some more iron wood we reached the badly eroded section of the old road that runs the crest of Kakuku Ridge.  Shortly there after it wound it's way down to the stream and then the Army road with the yellow gate that defines the Army's Kahuku Range.  We followed the mishmash of roads, horse trails, and foot paths I'd strung together last time back to the Jeep at La'ie.  Success! 

We headed back to Pupukea Road to retrieve II's car in the evening sun.  Upon arrival at the end of the road near the Boy Scout Camp I noted the number of cars parked along the road.  Apparently the Army's private road is quite popular for dog walking, bike riding, and jogging in addition to hiking!
II safely delivered to his car, I departed and on a whim took a left turn into the Pu'u O Mahuka Heiau State Monument.  After negotiating the seemingly endless series of speed bumps,  I arrived at the heiau to find myself alone.  I wandered around the ruins trying to imagine what it once looked like before heading over to a small outlook to take a couple pictures of the sun sinking towards the horizon.  After a few more shots I returned to the Jeep for the long ride back to Kailua.  Kahuku Ridge Trail complete, my only regret of the day was that I forgot to bring any ribbon to mark the trail!

Golden rays over Ka'ena Point
Sunset at over Waimea Bay
With a little work to open it back up, Kahuku Ridge Trail would be a fun one to combine with either nearby La'ie or Malaekahana but in order to do so one should really find and use the old route off the Malaekahana Trail instead of the one I used which probably crosses all kinds of private property.


More pictures from this trail and others I've done can been viewed at Flickr.  Aloha and thanks for reading!