The trail in question was the Waimalu Ditch Trail. When I thought of the word “ditch,” I imagined a concrete canal nestled in some valley filled with starving mosquitoes and the foul stench of stagnant water. But I always envision a trail to be the way I think it turns out, and I’m always way off. The Waimalu Ditch Trail actually turned out to be a fun little loop hike; it was so fun, in fact, that I want to go back and explore the valley a little more.
The Waimalu Ditch trailhead is easy to find. From Moanalua Road (the same road that heads to Pearlridge Shopping Center), turn mauka (mountain) on Kaonohi Street, and follow the street all the way to the top until you reach Onikiniki Place. Just before the gated community, park somewhere along Onikiniki. The trail begins on the left side of the gate.
At the very start of the trail, a small plaque can be seen fixated on a tree. The plaque is posted for lost Australian hiker named John Parsons; he was lost on the trail in September 2008. His body/remains have yet to found.
Past the plaque is a very well-defined trail. The trail immediately splits. Stay to the left. A descent will resume on what veteran HTMC hikers call The Dogshit Trail. What a brilliant name! There was dogshit everywhere! Our eyes were keen to hop and skip where ever it was needed.
After a short ways the trail will split again. Going left will take you down to the stream; going straight will take you to a junction that climbs ridiculous steep to Waimalu Middle Ridge, which his actually the return route of the loop. Doing the loop in a counterclockwise direction is not recommended. Take the clockwise direction like we did; it is a lot easier.
The trail contours comfortably for almost an hour. It even heads makai (seaward) for a few minutes to edge around Waimalu Middle Ridge. (*A critical junction to remember is where the first sight of uluhe ferns starts. Walk a ways, passing a wall of uluhe on your right, until it tapers to a grassy area. Up ahead the trail makes an obvious and gradual descent. While looking toward the Ko’olau summit, turn in the direction of four-o’clock. A faint, grassy trail will manifest itself, and ribbons will soon come into view. Remember this junction to make the hike a loop; the aforementioned trail climbs steeply to Waimalu Middle Ridge and heads back to the start of the hike.)
We proceeded straight to our first sight of the stream. It was flowing quite nicely, and the water was extremely clear. We crossed the stream a number of times, passing some nice swimming holes along the way. We also encountered a group of hunters that caught a nice size boar.
At a certain point we reached a tree marked with three ribbons indicating the end of the trail. Further progress was possible, but after asking the hunters how far the trail went on, they told us that it goes on for another ten minutes and just closes up. So we turned around and headed back toward the junction that heads up to Waimalu Middle Ridge.
The climb up to gain the crest of the middle ridge reminded me of the hike up to “Three Poles” in Waianae Valley: steep, tiring, and not suited for a novice hiker. After twenty minutes of ascending, we finally reached the crest of Waimalu Middle Ridge. Turning left can bring one all the way to the Ko’olau summit; turning right, which is what we did, brings one back to the trailhead.
The trail along the ridge was choked with uluhe. Scraping and bleeding on our legs followed suit, and we soon reached a junction that took us extremely steep down the left side of the ridge. As far as I’m concerned, there was virtually no trail. All we could follow were ribbons. After falling and getting dirty, we finally reach the bottom and followed an obvious path back to The Dogshit Trail.
The populous area of Waimalu, Pearl City, and Aiea is a little discouraging. I never thought that above these cities was a lush area full of valleys and streams. From the trail looking toward the Ko’olau summit, there are three ridges: one to the left, one in the middle, and one to the right; all of which I’m pretty sure can be hiked all the way to the summit. I’ll have to check out these ridge options sometime in the future. The trail took me, Kevin, and Daniel a little over five hours to complete, and it was a hell of a workout. We descended a ridge, contoured a ridge, climbed over it, and then climbed back up a ridge. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful trail, and it is definitely one I wouldn’t mind doing again.
Pools along the stream: