Crouching Lion Loop - February 26, 2009

Basil and I did a short little loop hike to the Crouching Lion in Ka'a'awa today. The short jaunt followed the beginning of the Pu'u Manamana trail, eventually turning left off of the Manamana trail halfway up the ridge. Althought the hike was short, there were some scary spots around the Crouching Lion. The drops were vertical and not for those who are scared of heights. From the Crouching Lion we followed the trail to another lower peak towards the ocean. The wind was consistently strong, and I didn't break much of a sweat for the hour-and-a-half we were on the trail. To make the hike a loop, we took a steep trail that descended to Ma'akua Village. Once we reached Ma'akua Village, we walked back about a half-mile to our car parked at the Kahana Valley bus stop. The hike is great for a short outing with someone visiting from elsewhere, for the trail probably totals only a mile. Plus, there are nice views to take in with a camera.

Basil, on the Manamana trail.

Taking this left junction brings you to the Crouching Lion rock feature which can be seen in the left side of the picture.

Shaka brah! Mean da lion.

Under the lion. I don't think Basil has a brain. That drop in front of him is huge.

Climbing down to reach the lower peak.

Here's the steep trail we decided to take to make it a loop.

Nice view coming down the steep trail that leads to Ma'akua Village.


Kamaileunu - February 22, 2009

The massive mountain ridges on the west side of Oahu have always intrigued me. Hiking never interested me as a child, but bodyboarding west side spots such as Tumboland and Makaha while growing up was -- and still is -- a favorite past time of mine. I would've never thought that hiking would then become a major outlet to the great outdoors for me. I also would've never thought I would climb the giant ridge that separates Makaha Valley and Waianae Valley -- a ridge that I used to stare at while waiting for a wave in the lineup at Makaha. But hike that ridge I did, and now I'm paying for it, dearly: stiff legs, toasted skin -- the normal side effects of a west side hike.

Kamaileunu Ridge may very well be the most grueling hike on the island of Oahu, and it's without a doubt an expert hiking trail. The annual hot and dry atmosphere on this side of Oahu makes this ridge a bitch to hike, and I definitely would not recommend tackling this trail during the summer; it is definitely a winter hike. The trail harbors many living species: wild mountain goats, bird-sized dragonfly, and a certain type of bird/pheasant to name a few. After passing a slew of false peaks -- with barely any shade along the way -- the ridge finally tops out at around 3,200 feet with unbelievable views in every direction. However, successfully reaching the peak requires narrow ridge hiking, lung-busting climbs, and no fear of heights. I had no idea before the hike, but Kamaileunu has some of the most extreme sections I've ever encountered other than Pu'u Hapapa. On the steep sections where rock climbing is required, there are no ropes, and I didn't spot one single rope on the trail.

My friends Basil, Chase, and Neal built up the courage to try out this rugged hike with me. We got off to an 8:15am start. To get to the trail we took a right on Ala Akau Street. Ala Akau Street is located right across Waianae High School. We parked right before Ala Akau Street swings right (directly across Kamaile Elementary School). Across Ala Akau Street is a well-defined dirt road. The road contours along the school fence. After passing the school, the dirt road passes a few houses on the left and eventually connects to a paved road named Kaulawaha Street. We turned right on Kaulawaha, walked to its end until another road connected. We turned right. We continued straight and found the trail right below an abandoned metal irrigation ditch. We briefly pushed through some grass and climbed over the irrigation ditch and searched for ribbons.

The trail contours along the Makaha Valley (left) side of the ridge for a bit and eventually crests above an ancient Hawaiian heiau. The ridge is very rocky here, as is most of the hike, and steep climbs with the use of all four limbs are required at times.

After the steep climb, the ridge levels out in a grassy trail. It was here that we all joked that the hike should be nicknamed "The Goat Shit Trail." Goat shit pebbles littered the trail all the way to the summit, and Chase even got a chance to take some pictures of some goats along the way with his 200mm zoom lens. Those goats are crazy. They were in some of the most sketchy parts off the ridge line, running at full speed down hills that were almost vertical. Some hiking shoe companies should invest some money into making the tread on hiking shoes similar to the hoofs of goats. I'd buy em.

Dangerous climbs resumed after the level section. The trail narrowed, and climbing over rock faces with drops on both sides were the norm. I'm not one to be scared of heights, but this trail made me dizzy. Super steep climbing went on for a long ways until the ridge lost its dry, black color. The ridge now started to take on the same color as Pu'u Kalena and Pu'u Hapapa: a rocky beige color. After more steep climbs, we reached a peak that gave us a good look at the rest of the trail ahead. From this peak the trail dropped to a small saddle of ironwoods and eventually contoured along the ridge on the Waianae Valley (right) side. The trek beyond seemed too lengthy for Neal and Basil, so they decided to rest where they were for a while and head back to the car while Chase and I headed for the apex of the hike.

Hiking the saddle garnered the first sign of shade the trail had to offer. Within the ironwoods Chase and I found remnants of what seem to be a sleeping bag torn to shreds. We assumed this was the work of the goats, for goats -- I've heard -- eat literally everything.

There are many variations to the trail after the ironwood saddle. A fence line briefly comes into view on the ridge crest, hindering progress along the ridge crest. Ribbons mark the trail pretty well, but there are so many that it's really easy to go astray. Some ribbons redirect you to the narrow ridge crest after the fence, and some ribbons lead you around the narrow ridge crest, eventually regaining the ridge at a certain point. We were lead around well below the ridge crest.

The contour trail is somewhat irritating. It was probably because it was hot, and Chase and I hate an uneven trail. But the trail regained the ridge crest and we found ourselves on our last stretch to the summit. The ridge was relatively wide toward the summit, and it was not steep, relatively speaking. But the drops on both sides of the ridge were gigantic: over 3,000 feet down on the left was Makaha Valley; likewise, on the right, was Waianae Valley. And when I say gigantic, I mean royally gigantic! One slip, and it's a few seconds of free-falling and then death.

Chase and I topped out at the summit around 12:30pm: about four hours of hiking. If we hadn't stopped and taken so much pictures along the way, I'm pretty sure we would've hit the summit in three hours. The views toward Mount Ka'ala were blocked because of clouds and rain, but we could see over surrounding ridges to the left, right, and toward the ocean. We could even see the Ko'olau Mountain Range! The breeze was cool as we ate leftover Zippy's chicken I had packed in a plastic bag and gulped down our small bottles of water. The breeze was so cool, in fact, that hypothermia would've set in if we stayed longer at the summit, so we decided to head down after only about twenty minutes.

From the summit, Chase and I opted for the ridge line until we hit the fence. Ribbons were marked perfectly, and finding our way was a cinch. However, going down the steep climbs that we hiked up in the beginning was hell on Earth. As I'm writing this, everything below my waist is in pain.

With the grueling descent behind us, we reached the car at exactly 4pm: seven hours and forty-five minutes on the trail. We picked up Basil and Neal near the beach. They looked fresh and revitalized from a cool dip they took in the ocean, while Chase and I reeked of sweat. We reminisced about our first west side hiking experience on the drive home -- goat shit stuck underneath our shoes, how some sections of the hike dropped our throats to our feet -- but we were really, really fortunate to hike the trail on what I assume was the best weather conditions any hiker could ask for. Light drizzles, the abundance of clouds, the occasional sun showing its face through the clouds, and the cool tradewinds were a blessing. Any other deviation with the weather would have had us scarred with third degree burns from the sun and and an empty hydration pack. The king of dry, Oahu ridges, Kamaileunu, has finally been accomplished, and by the looks -- and feeling -- of it, I won't be doing another hike on this side of the island for quite some time. Maybe next winter.

Almost to the end of the dirt road. (photo: C. Maglangit)

Heading towards the trailhead.

Contouring the left side of the ridge.

Neal, climbing.

The level section, with clouds and rain in the distance.

Looking back toward the ocean. Neal in the red shirt, Basil in the white.

Last part of the level section. Beyond this is where the scary parts begin.

The ridge narrowed considerably.

We even found some goat bones along the way.


Oh boy. Don't slip, Basil.

As narrow and as scary as it gets.

Basil, showing you how to deal with gnarly sections like this one. How's the drops on both sides!

Definitely needed a foot shot on this hike.

Basil, edging around a rock dike.

More steep climbing.

And more.

The ridge still climbed steeply, but it wasn't as dry as it was previously.

And here's the saddle. The summit is about 45 minutes to an hour away from here.

Here's that shredded sleeping bag. Looks yummy, if you're a goat.

Chase, climbing down to the saddle.

Here's Chase contouring around the ridge crest. It's possible to walk on the crest, but we decided to walk below it.

Looking back at the ridge.

And here's the last ridge section. Look at the huge 3,000 foot drops on both sides. Do not fall, Chase.

And here's Chase at the peak, four hours from the trailhead. Phew!

Here's looking towards Waianae and Nanakuli.

And here's looking back at the ridge we just hiked.

Basil's pictures:

Chase's pictures:

If anyone knows what kind of bird this is, let me know, please.

The load of goats cruising in the shade well below the ridge. There's gotta be more than 20 down there.

Chase's camera is unreal. Here's more goats cruising on the Waianae side of the ridge.

Good times. But what the hell is Basil and Neal doing. Brah, you guys are weirdos. Remind me never to take you on a hike again.


Hau'ula Uka Ridge - February 15, 2009

It was a really nice day for a hike so I headed solo to Hau'ula to attempt a hike I've been wanting to do for quite some time now. Hau'ula Uka Ridge starts at the apex of the Hau'ula Loop state trail. Hau'ula Loop can be hiked either way: counter-clockwise or clockwise. Today I opted for the clockwise direction. The loop trail is a great hike for beginners. Depending on how much time is spent taking in the views at the top, the loop trail can be completed in less than an hour-and-a-half. It is a great trail for beginners, and it is, in fact, the first trail I ever hiked. For a longer outing, the Hau'ula Uka Ridge junction would be a better and easily accessible option. At the Kaipapa'u Gulch overlook, there is an obvious trail to the left; this trail is the lesser used Hau'ula Uku Ridge trail.

Two days ago the National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for the island of Oahu. Strong easterly tradewinds were on tap for this weekend, and the winds were a blessing for today's hike. I woke to clear blue skies and an orange sun. I arrived at the Hau'ula Loop trailhead around 9am. It took me about tweny minutes to reach the top of Hau'ula Loop. After a short rest, I grabbed my camera and headed upridge.

Initially, the trail was in good shape. The ridge ascent was gradual, passing paper bark trees, strawberry guava trees, ironwoods, and uluhe ferns, with the cool breeze keeping my sweat at bay. But as I climbed higher and trekked deeper, I could see that the trail had not been cleared for quite some time. Sections of the trail were choked with uluhe ferns. The trail was there, but it was hard to follow. Plus, the trail was muddy from the recent rains, so the going was slow and slippery.

The ridge is awesome: not narrow, not steep (for as far as I went), and the scenery is lush and green. However, the overgrown state of the trail hindered me from pushing further. I found myself slogging through shoulder-high uluhe ferns, and from my turnaround point, advancement beyond where I was looked painful considering how much scratches on my legs I had endured courtesy of the previous stretches of uluhe. I headed back down at my turnaround point at 10:45am.

If the Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club schedules a trail clearing for Hau'ula Uka Ridge in the future, I'll be sure to try the trail again. For now, the ridge will be an empty check box on my hike list. I estimate I went about one-third of a mile upridge until I turned around. I came back down Hau'ula Loop, passing the Cook pines section, and passing a couple junctions along the way. I took a junction leading makai (ocean) and ended at a lookout over Hau'ula town with Laie Point and Goat Island in the distance. After a brief rest, I headed back, only to find another junction that jolted my curiousity. This trail also headed makai, but it was going steeply downhill. After a while the trail disappeared, so I had to strenuously backtrack uphill. I eventually reached the true Hau'ula Loop trail and reached my car at 11:40am.

Hau'ula Uka Ridge trailhead at the top of the Hau'ula Loop trail.

The trail eventually was overgrown with uluhe ferns.

Not sure if the peak in the distance was my destination, but the quality of the trail hindered me from even going that far.

Looking back towards the ocean.

Going uphill in uluhe.

And here's where I turned around. Beyond this point I could see that the trail was just overloaded with vegetation. Got a weed whacker?

Here's the view looking back at my turnaround point, the trail in the shadow.