Koloa Gulch - July 19, 2008

You can't complain when a trail offers a ridge and stream walk that ends at a two waterfalls. The only complaint would have to be the length of this hike. At eight miles round trip, Koloa Gulch is one long trek that reaches far into the Ko'olau Mountain Range. The hike requires a permit from Hawaii Reserves in Laie because the trail crosses over private property; I obtained the permit a day before the hike.

Kulani was the only person to sweat out the gulch trail with me. The trailhead is located just after The Polynesian Culture Center in Laie. It starts off with a gradual hill climb to a ridge that eventually descends slowly into Koloa Gulch. The slow descent reaches Koloa Stream. Initially, the stream was dry, and we were both pelted by hoards of mosquitoes. As we advanced deeper into the gulch the stream started to show signs of water.

We crossed Koloa Stream well over twenty five times, counting each and every crossing along the way. Counting was especially important on the way back just in case we happened to miss the junction to get back on the ridge. The constant weaving in and out of the stream truly tested our hiking judgement, yet it is very hard to get lost being that you are surrounded on both sides by mountain walls; however, there is a fork near the end of the stream. The right junction leads to where Kulani and I ended at; the left junction leads to another waterfall, but I've heard it isn't as great as the waterfalls we ended at.

Four miles and three-and-a-half hours later, the mountain walls closed in, and Kulani and I finally reached the waterfalls. A small eight-foot waterfall with a swimming pool sits below a beautiful 100-foot waterfall with another swimming pool. The water felt great after the long hike, and the pools were deep enough for Kulani to bomb some suicides. I suck at suicides.

If you're great at suicides, take this hike. It's long, but the reward is a lush 100-foot waterfall nestled deep in the middle of nowhere. The hike is not at all strenuous; however, the rocks in the stream are very slippery, and there are parts where huge boulders covered with moss must be climbed.

Someone's gotta cut that grass.

On the ridge.

The beginning of a long walk up Koloa Stream.

This is where the stream splits. We took the right fork.

Cool picture. Kulani's head is blurry. This isn't the last waterfall, by the way.

Here's the end of the hike. The rope on the left side of this waterfall helps to reach the larger waterfall above and to the right.

100-foot waterfall. (photo: K. Segawa)


Dupont Trail - July 11, 2008

First, I'd like everyone to give Shanoah a big round of applause for hiking eleven miles with me to the highest mountain of Oahu today with only three hours of sleep under his belt and a small hangover to boot. I told him to prepare himself the night before, but being the idiot he is, he didn't listen to me. Last night he had his fair share of beers, came home, and stayed up till about 4am, only to wake up three hours later to get ready for one long ass hike. Three hours of sleep after a night of drinking followed by an eight hour hike? I don't even think you could pay me to do that.

And so the story begins, with everything a hike can offer. The Dupont trail is one of the oldest trails on Oahu, and it is one of the few trails that start near sea level. The trail climbs Oahu's highest mountain, Mount Ka'ala, and it delivers a grueling 4,000 foot elevation gain starting at Waialua High School on the North Shore. Permission is said to be obtained before trekking Dupont, but after hearing countless stories of people doing it without permission I decided to give it a go.

The hike begins on a private road that shoots straight toward Ka'ala past a resevior and cropland. Once the paved road ends, a gate adorned with "No Hiking" signs must be climbed to advance onto a dirt road. Past this gate is private property owned by Kamananui Macadamia Orchard where a slew of cattle graze and roam the area. Shanoah and I were actually chased by a huge male cattle with horns. We sprinted up the dirt road a good distance until we felt safe. The story of another cattle encounter will come later. The dirt road was hell. Peacock feathers and cattle and horse feces littered the trail. The road climbed gradually and wasn't very steep, but it did give us a major workout. The road eventually narrowed to a trail that pushed through a section that was burnt by the huge 7,000 acre brush fire in 2007. The green vegetation contrasted by the burnt trees was actually nice.

Soon after, the trail descends to the start of the ridge that is to be climbed all the way to the top. The initial ascent up the ridge is steep and eroded in spots. The trail gets even steeper as you advance higher and higher. There were a lot of ripe strawberry guavas along the beginning ridge. Shanoah opted to starve; I chose to eat -- alot. The strawberry guava tasted like candy. Shanoah, you missed out.

The trail became exceptionally narrow with huge drops on both sides after the groves of strawberry guava. One section of the ridge drops near vertical for about thirty feet, with ropes to aid the descent. From here the trail is all uphill with steep scrambling involved. Do not expect to have clean hands once you reach the top. There are a lot of ropes to hold on to, but most of the ropes aren't needed for the climb up; most of the ropes are for the trip back down.

As the top nears, the trail turns into concrete steps, passing a run-down shelter, two small radars, and eventually meeting the paved road that the military uses to gain access to the huge "golf ball" radar that sits atop Mount Ka'ala. After five hours of hiking we finally reached the top and followed the paved road to the fenceline that blocks access to the radar. As we approached the radar installation we found that there were around ten military personnel who didn't mind that we bordered outside of the fenceline to get a better view. The views from the top are pretty cool; the North Shore and South Shore can be seen, with the Ko'olau Mountain Range straight ahead to the east. The view also spans from Kahuku to Diamond Head and every town in between. Maile town on the West Shore can be seen as well, but the view is somewhat obscured by Ka'ala's vegetation. Ka'ala has a massive flat area; a whole town could be built up there, but the Air Force owns it. Shanoah actually asked the military personnel if we could catch a ride; they told us they were not authorized to give rides to hikers. So five-and-half miles up meant five-and-half miles down.

Shanoah and I began our descent down the ridge around 3pm. The descent was a hell of a lot faster than coming up -- only about an hour descent. We reached the dirt road around 4pm and was immediately startled by the sound of a calf. It chased us for a bit back up the dirt road. We each grabbed two rocks because we knew that the calf was close to its mother or father. We kept walking on the road cautiously and finally met a section of the trail where around eight cattle were grazing, three of which were males, and they did not look happy to see us. Shanoah and I veered left off the trail in some brush, with rocks in hand, ready to strike. I even busted out my knife. After figuring out a few failed strategies as to how we were to get around the herd, we knew that the only way to end our stakeout and get pass them was to just walk on the road where they were cruising. We waited for a few of the cattle to head uphill and gathered ourselves to cross the path of one male and one female. The cattle stared us down as we passed, but they didn't do anything. I've never had an adrenaline rush like that before. I look back on it now and it's pretty funny when you think about what we experienced. Two guys hiding in the bushes from cattle, ready with rocks. Comedy.

The Dupont Trail is hard. Most of it is on a hot dirt road filled with angry cattle, and because of that I probably won't do this hike for a very, very, very long time. If you have the time, do it. It's the longest of two trails that climbs the highest peak on Oahu; the other trail starts from Waianae Valley. Once you reach the orchard and pasture, try to keep yourself unnoticed. There are cattle everywhere, and they know that you're there. Shanoah had his video camera and shot some footage of the hike that I will post later on YouTube. But for now here are some pictures from the hike.

Mount Ka'ala straight ahead.

Dirt road through cattle pastures.

Burnt trees along the trail.

This is where the trail began to narrow. You can barely see Shanoah near the middle of the picture standing on the ridge.

Looking back at how far we hiked.

The 30 foot drop.

Looking back at the drop.

From here it was all scrambling.

Run-down shelter next to two radars.

Half clouds, half clear.

End of the trail.

Following the paved road leads to the big "golf ball" radar.



Looking over to the West Side from the ridge trail.

Deep ravine.

View from the top of Mount Ka'ala.

North Shore to the left, South Shore to the right.

North Shore.


Hau'ula-Papali Loop - June 29, 2008

The Hau'ula Loop trail was the first hike I ever did, and the last time I completed it was with my friend Basil. Today I went back with the intent of hiking the Papali Loop trail that starts just after the Hau'ula Loop trailhead. The Papali Loop is a bit easier than the Hau'ula Loop, but it is a little longer -- not by much, though. The trail is quite shady throughout the hike and relatively easy to follow. I somehow lost the trail at the streambed toward the end of the loop, but I immediately picked it up after spotting some ribbons. After I finished the Papali Loop I decided to do the Hau'ula Loop; Papali wasn't that much of a workout. The Hau'ula Loop felt a lot longer the last time I did it, but it is very short. It's a perfect hike for beginners. The initial switchbacks give the body a nice huff-and-puff, but it's over before you know it. The most beautiful part of the Hau'ula Loop trail is the descent through a forest of Cook pines. The shady, breezy section crosses Waipilopilo Gulch back to the trailhead. It's without a doubt the best groomed section of any state trail I have done. With six miles of hiking behind me and a sweat-soaked shirt, I jumped back into my car, rinsed off at Hau'ula Beach park, and headed home.
Papali Loop trail:

State trails are just begging to get sued. This rock face will fall some day. The trail passes right beneath it. This section reminded me of the Kealia trail, another state trail that has a dangerous rock face just waiting to smash some bodies.

The loop can be done either way. I went counterclockwise.

Hau'ula Loop trail:

Here's the junction to the Hau'ula Uka Ridge trail. Second time up here and I didn't get to do this one. Maybe I'll do it on my third hike on the Hau'ula Loop.

Kaipapa'u Gulch.

Cook pines.

Love this part.

I think that's Pu'u Manamana in the distance. Can't believe I climbed that thing.