Pu'u Manamana - May 25, 2009

Yesterday didn’t start off well. I woke up at about 5:45am, packed up my hiking gear, left Mililani at 6:30am, picked up Daniel in Wahiawa, and met up with Justin and Kulani at Kulani’s house in Haleiwa. From Kulani’s house, we would shuttle in my car past the North Shore all the way to Kahana, but once on the road, I realized that I forgot the most important item for hiking: shoes. The guys joked that I should do the hike in just my socks. Daniel suggested I just do the hike like an ancient Hawaiian and go barefoot. Yeah, right. Pu’u Manamana is definitely not the type of trail to emulate an ancient Hawaiian.

Since I set up the hiking excursion, there was no way I was canceling one of the most dangerous trails on the island for my three friends on the account of my forgetfulness. So I assured them that we’d make it to the trailhead before 9:30am, but I would first have to backtrack to Mililani to get my shoes. What a hassle! Once at Mililani, I realized I had forgotten my cell phone on Kulani’s couch back in Haleiwa. I deserved a serious ass-whooping for my careless mistakes.

The drive along the H-3 proved that the weather was going to be hot and muggy, with clouds forming over the Ko’olau Mountain Range. In addition, Memorial Day was in full effect as we passed the cemetery at the Valley of the Temples; traffic on Kahekili Highway was horrible.

We reached the trailhead and headed upslope at around 9:15am. It wasn’t even half an hour into the hike and we were sweating bricks already. Three tourists drafting us were aiming for the side trail to the Crouching Lion, but they didn’t see the junction and ended up following us all the way up the steep ridge of Pu’u O Mahie Ridge. They eventually turned around at the narrow spots, and they also lacked sufficient amounts of water to hike onward.

Remember how I said things didn’t start off well? Things got worse. After huffing and puffing up Pu’u O Mahie Ridge, I realized that I forgot the small towel I use to wipe and dry my sweaty face. I bring a small towel on every hike, and for some reason, I left it in my car. I also realized I forgot the battery for my Nikon D40. This meant that I had to lug around a bulky camera in my bag that was of no use; it was just extra weight. I did have a compact Canon digital camera, which was fully capable of snapping stills and capturing video. I opted to only take video. I was kind of glad I didn’t have to take photos this time. The last time I did this hike was exactly one year ago (May 25th 2008 – how ironic – I didn’t even plan to do that), and I snapped some amazing photos. Shooting video this time made for a different experience.

Kulani and Justin were having a blast on the narrow sections. They were even running on the narrow trail, those crazy bastards. Daniel took it in stride, for it was his first experience on a trail like Pu’u Manamana. You ready for Kalena now, Daniel?

I managed to get good footage before we reached the forest section of the hike. Plus, it started to rain, so I had to put the camera away anyway. When I last did Manamana with my friend Matt, we hiked to the “Turnover” clearing and headed back the way we came because we couldn’t find the junction that headed back down to make the hike a loop. I don’t know how the hell we missed the junction because this time I spotted it easily just before the “Turnover.”

During our descent, it began to rain harder. The trail was very muddy and slippery at this point, especially on the rocky and rooty portions of the trail; however, there were lots of stumps and branches to hold on to, making for a good upper body workout. About halfway down, the ridge narrowed to about a foot wide; this part of the ridge was probably one of the narrowest ridges I’ve ever seen, but the drops to each side weren’t huge, though falling would prove painful.

The four mile loop took us exactly five hours to complete. We drove to Swanzy Beach Park in Ka’a’awa to wash the stink off of us at the park’s showers. Also, a bar of soap was conveniently available for us to use. Feeling fresh, triumphant, and deserving of some kind of reward, we headed directly across the street to the Ka’a’awa 7-Eleven to buy ourselves each a Mickey’s Ice 40-ounce bottle of beer. I’ve never had a 40-ounce that tasted so good.

Kulani's moneyshot of Kahana Bay. (photo: K. Segawa)

Daniel, scrambling up Pu'u O Mahie Ridge. (photo: K. Segawa)

Justin, climbing over a rock face. (photo: K. Segawa)

Kulani knew that a foot shot was required on this hike. (photo: K. Segawa)

Here's a picture of me checking out the narrow ridge. (photo: K. Segawa)



Lanihuli - May 17, 2009

First off, I'd like to give Daniel a pat on the back for being good company on all the hikes we've been tackling so far, especially the one we did this past Sunday. Like my hiking companion Shanoah on the Dupont Trail, Daniel managed to sneak in only three hours of sleep after hours of spear fishing and drinking enough beers to keep a man in bed for the day. I commend what you did this past Sunday. You're nuts.

My sights have been set on Pu’u Lanihuli since I first did the Kamanaiki Ridge trail back in May 29th, 2009. Almost one year has passed, and Daniel and I accomplished the difficult trek in hot and muggy conditions. The terminus of the Kamanaiki trail sits under a large ohia tree on a broad grassy area. An obvious trail beyond this grassy area climbs to Lanihuli. So I did some research and found out that hiking to Lanihuli from Kamanaiki past the grassy area can and has been done, but it is a long, unmaintained route. Knowing this, I put the hike on hold.

Just recently, the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club had a trail clearing scheduled for – you guessed it – Pu’u Lanihuli. This was my opportunity and advantage to hike the 2,700 foot pu’u in great trail condition, but where was the trailhead, and would the club be clearing the route from Kamanaiki? I came to find out -- after reading internet write-ups dating back to over a decade ago – that there are three other routes to Lanihuli other than Kamanaiki Ridge, all of which are on private property. Because the trails lie on privately owned land, I’ll have to keep the trailhead a secret, for there are signs everywhere in the initial part of the hike that clearly states no one should be there.

Daniel and I got off to an 8am start. We parked at a cul-de-sac and headed to a locked gate that had to be climbed. Past this gate, a fence came into view with overhanging barbwire. A faint trail followed the fence line momentarily, leading us deeper into a forest of Eucalyptus trees. At the fence’s end, we finally spot a ribbon. A short inspection of the ribbon indicated that it was brand new (very pink); a very pink ribbon meant it was tied just recently by the club; it also meant that we were on the right track to Lanihuli.

The initial trail section is so well-trodden and defined that it’s hard to believe the trail exists on private property; it’s obvious that people use the trail all the time. We even passed a small campsite under a forest of ironwoods. After the campsite, the ridge narrows considerably, passing a long, beautiful stretch of Cook pines. The trail reminded me of a greener Kamanaiki, with its long, gradual climbs, and its menacing dips: enough to work up a heavy sweat. A couple exposed spots along the ridge offered us nice views of Konahuanui and Nu’uanu Valley. It was at these vantage points that we could also see Lanihuli in the distance, and good grief, was it far away.

We pushed further, eventually reaching the first stretch of uluhe ferns. A little under an hour, we reached a bamboo grove to our left and a “T” junction. The left junction is the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Trail; the right junction headed mauka towards Lanihuli.

The ridge beyond the junction is a rollercoaster. Hill after hill, drop after drop, we were beginning to think that this was going to be a repeat of the brutal Red Hill Ridge Trail we did two weeks ago. The weather was very hot with little wind. The presence of vog wasn’t a welcoming sight either, for hiking during light “kona wind” days are the worst.

At about an hour-and-a-half in, we reached a section of the trail that dropped steeply to what is the narrowest part of the hike. Crossing this dike section wasn’t as scary as we thought because the trail now contours to the right of the scariest part. Before the contour trail was in place, one would have to walk on a half-a-foot wide dike with a massive vertical drop to the left and a more conservative drop to the right. I watched as Daniel cross this section from afar, hoping to get a few shots of him with my camera. While waiting, I heard rustling in vegetation behind me. I heard a low grunt and immediately stuck out my four-foot long bamboo stick that I snagged from the aforementioned bamboo grove. I was in war-stance – attack mode, if you will, but for what? Was I about to gouge the hell out of this pig’s eyeballs? I got so startled that I careened off the southeast side of the ridge into heavy brush. What a panty. Emerging from the brush above was – to my relief – a Caucasian hiker that was hiking alone.

“I thought you were a pig,” I yelled.

“No, brah. You would have known if I was one pig,” the lone hiker said with a pidgin-English accent.

We exchanged a few words, and he was off. The guy blazed it on the last steep climb to the top of Lanihuli like it was a stroll in the park. He had come from the Kapalama trailhead.

The last climb to the summit is like is like any other Ko’olau hike: steep and exhausting. There was one false peak, and soon after, we reached the summit at 11:30am. The lunch spot is a small, flat, grassy area; while eating our musubi’s, Daniel and I were almost sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. The views on this day weren’t as breathtaking as it could have been. Haze from the vog blanketed the view below, and dark rain clouds began forming to the southeast, warning us that a long stay at the summit would not be a good idea. To the right of the summit, about half-an-hour away, was another higher peak, with an obvious trail leading to it. To the left was a view of Pu’u Kahuauli, the terminus of the Bowman Trail. 2,000 feet straight down was the H-3 freeway, with views of Kualoa and Chinaman’s Hat, Kaneohe Bay, Kailua, Lanikai, part of Waimanalo, and part of Mount Olomana. After a forty-five minute rest, we headed back down.

An hour into our descent, it began to rain very hard; however, by this time we were in relatively safe territory near the Cook pines. If we had been closer to the summit, we would have been in trouble on the steep rope aided hills on the way back. We also spotted the junction with Kamaniki Ridge on the way back. The trail is very faint, obscure, and marked by a light blue cloth. The trail is in a tangled grove of Sydney blue gum and guava trees, all of which lie directly on top of the trail.

There are spots along the ridge where ropes are in place to help climb up and down the steep hill sections. Before reaching the summit, the view along the ridge of Pu’u Kahuauli and Kalihi Valley is beautiful, but that did not last long given the weather conditions. The trail is a hell of a workout, and it’s probably one I’ll never do again (there are better Ko’olau ridge hike than Lanihuli), but I would have to say that the initial ridge section of Cook pines is one of the more beautiful sections of any Ko’olau ridge I’ve experience. If you find the trailhead, try it. You’ll lose three pounds of water weight when you’re finished.

Initial ridge portion of the hike thru Cook pines.

Hello Honolulu.


Here's Daniel looking at how far we have to go to the peak of Lanihuli.

Nu'uanu Valley and the twin peaks of Konahuanui to the right.

Weed whacked to hell. Nice job by the HTMC.

photo: D. Napoleon

Looking into Kalihi Valley. The left portion of the peak is Pu'u Kahuauli, the apex of the Bowman Trail. How's that jagged saddle? I heard there's a trail on there.

Getting closer.

Here's Daniel on the narrow section. Not that bad. Just don't slip.

Here's a picture of me on the steep drop before the narrow part of the hike; Daniel is taking this picture past the dike. This is where I almost fell because I saw that hiker behind me and I thought he was pig. If you click on the picture, you can actually see him about 15 feet above me. This section is pretty nuts. Long ropes and super steep. (photo: D. Napoleon)

Getting ready for the final climb.

Looking towards the northeast. In the picture is Pu'u Kahuauli, Kaneohe and its bay, and the H-3.

Dark rain clouds forming above our head.

And here's something new for the blog: video! I'm going to make it a point to shoot some video along the way on future hikes. I made a YouTube account for the blog. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/user/islandtrails
This is video Daniel shot from the summit.


Piliwale Ridge (Trail Scout) - May 8, 2009

Today’s solo hiking session scared the shit out of me. I think it was because I was (#1) hiking alone, (#2) hiking in the rain, and (#3) scouting the treacherous Piliwale Ridge trail: three elements that do not mix well with one of Oahu’s most dangerous ridge hikes. I have to admit that this is the most dangerous ridge hike I have ever seen. The trail has everything that makes a hike frightening, and I didn’t even make it to what seemed to be the scariest parts up ahead.

The start of the Piliwale Ridge trail can be accessed from walking about twenty minutes from the Pali Highway side of the Maunawili Demonstration Trail. After the twenty minute stroll, there is an obvious, well-trodden trail on the right. After ascending gradually, the trail becomes steeper. The cars on the Pali Highway began to look like Micro Machines, and after only about twenty minutes of ascending, I could see that I was almost as high as Olomana’s first peak, which loomed in the distance to the east.

As I huffed and puffed, higher and I higher I went, the trail disappearing and reappearing through heavy brush along the ever narrowing ridge. There was so much brush along some sections of the ridge that I had to actually duck-walk with my head in between my knees under branches and other tangled vegetation. Rain pelted down on me as well, but I had my handy Merrell rain jacket and Deuter backpack equipped with a rain cover to keep me and my pack’s contents dry.

At some point along the ridge, a few very large boulders stood in the way of my progress, but I could see the trail contoured around to the right. Soon after more duck-walking, I reached another boulder section. This time, the boulder section was nearly vertical, with no contour trails on the right or left (both sides harbored sizeable drops), and usually at sections like this on other trails there would be ropes to aid the climb. Not here. So I did some talking to myself, giving reassurance that I would survive this section when the ever present danger of falling was clear and completely obvious. What made it worse was that the boulder I had to scale was very wet from the rain. The exposed boulder also lacked trees and foot and hand holds, which made the climb up and over sketchy as ever. If someone saw me from the highway, they would’ve thought I was the dumbest person on the face of the planet. Again, I talked, and talked, and talked to myself, found my footing, and finally made it up and over. I looked down and told myself, “Shit, that’s going to be fun going down.”

The ridge then dropped almost vertically about fifteen feet or so. This section was “the notch” that I had read about. Again, I saw no ropes, but going down to the left side of the ridge didn’t seem that bad. What looked really bad was the rest of the ridge after “the notch.” The ridge rises almost vertical, and it looks very rocky with barely any vegetation to hold onto to help aid the ascent up. Not only that, but the drops on both sides of the ridge were mental and -- to put it bluntly -- really fucked up looking! A fall would definitely not injure, it would kill, especially on the right side; the left side of the ridge is more vegetated. I could see some heavy showers approaching from the east, which was definitely not a good sign, so I snapped a few quick pictures and headed back down the ridge. Heading back down was just as nuts as going up. That boulder section I was talking about grabbed my nuts and stuffed it in my throat. But I somehow survived it in reverse and made my way back down, slowly but surely. I reached my car at 5:25pm; hiking to “the notch” and back to my car took a little under two-and-a-half hours.

The views at “the notch” are breathtaking, especially on top of the second boulder section. Looking toward the ocean you can see Mount Olomana. To the left, looking toward the ocean is Kaneohe; to the right are views of the massive, vertical ridges of the Ko’olau Mountain Range. Today, the Ko’olau Mountain Range was completely covered in clouds. The hike to “the notch” is quick, steep, and dangerous. The ascent is a cross between hiking to Olomana’s first peak and hiking Pu’u Piei with out the lauhala. Everything after “the notch” is completely mind-boggling, and I don’t know how anyone has made it to the top. The pictures do it no justice; you have to see it in person to believe it. I didn’t descend “the notch,” but maybe, just maybe, the rest of the ridge does not look as bad as it does from “the notch.” It looks like a lot of ropes would be needed past the dip in the ridge, and I didn’t see any. If anyone has done the entire trail and is reading this, let me know if you would want to do it again; I would feel a lot better to have someone who has done it that can lead the way to the top of Konahuanui. I’ll probably hike the trail on a sunnier day. Right now the trail looks too gnarly for my sanity. Sorry for the lack of pictures; rain sucks.


Red Hill Ridge/Godek-Jaskulski Loop - May 2, 2009

If taking a “death march” to the top of the Ko’olau Mountains is your cup of tea, then the west ridge of Moanalua Valley will suit you well. I could ramble on and on about how extremely taxing this trail was, but I’ll just sum it up in one word: painful. Painful reason number one: the endless amounts of uluhe ferns scrape at your legs for almost the entire hike. Daniel and I frothed at the idea of having shin guards. Long pants would work as a shield from getting tattooed by uluhe, but if the trail is hot (like it was yesterday), long pants would be the source of uncomfortable perspiration below the waist. (We wore shorts by way.) Painful reason number two: like I previously mentioned, it was miserably hot. Even though the trail offers shade throughout a large portion of the hike, the air was like an oven with the absence of winds. Painful reason number three: the trail has more ups and downs than any other trail I’ve been on. The climbs aren’t long, it’s just that when one hill is climbed, the trail drops back down, contradicting the previous climb. However, the view at the summit is surprisingly worth it.

The west ridge of Moanalua Valley is known as Red Hill Ridge. Two members of the Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club, the late Chuck Godek and the late Erwin Jaskulski, pioneered a route that started from Moanalua Valley Park behind the basketball courts. After gaining the ridge crest, the trail would head mauka past a pine grove, cross a saddle with a narrow dike section, and reach a signed junction that turns right and descends steeply to the Old Damon Estate Road, forming a loop the Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club named the Godek-Jaskulski Ridge Loop.

The trail behind the basketball court is not the route we took to gain the ridge crest. Instead, Daniel and I headed for a route known as The Bamboo Trail. From what I’ve read, The Bamboo Trail is not recommended because it is very steep. The start of The Bamboo Trail is very obscure. Initially, there are no ribbons indicating the trail exists, so keeping your eyes peeled for the junction is very important or you will find yourself crossing the fifth bridge in a matter of minutes. From the parking lot, we headed past the gate onto the Old Damon Estate Road. Cross three bridges. Approach the fourth bridge. A massive grove of bamboo comes into view on the left. Cross the fourth bridge. The Bamboo Trail is hidden on the left about 30 yards after the bridge. Daniel and I actually left one guava stick and one bamboo stick erected out of the ground to mark the beginning of the route. Push through some bamboo leaves. From here the trail is well defined with ribbons marking the very steep route uphill.

After an hour of steep climbing, we finally reached a ridge crest. The ridge we were on wasn’t Red Hill Ridge. The ridge we were trekking paralleled Red Hill Ridge to the right and was extremely choked with uluhe ferns. At times, the ridge trail that we were trying to follow would disappear in the thick brush of uluhe. Sporadic pushes through pig trails were an occasional option. Up ahead, we noticed that the ridges would soon connect at a grove of Cook pines.

Once at the pines, we were relieved at the sight of many ribbons indicating the trail along Red Hill Ridge. In addition, the trail was clear and well defined because of the work of the Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club trail clearing this past Sunday. After climbing a hill post-Cook pines, we reached the saddle. The ridge narrowed to a mere foot! The drops on both sides weren’t huge, but some parts were vertical, and falling would prove a serious injury or even death; however, the vegetation on both sides of the narrow ridge hid the actual danger of the narrow section.

Soon after, we reached a shaded area and a signed junction that headed east and back to the Old Damon Estate Road. Instead of heading back down to the valley road, Daniel and I headed for the Ko’olau summit. Hill after hill, climb after climb, false peak after false peak: the route to the summit was brutal, and the uluhe ferns lined the trail all the way to the summit, making progress slow and painful. The trail to the summit was so brutal, in fact, that before the last false peak, Daniel was feeling the symptoms of heat exhaustion. His stomach was turning and his head was pulsing with aches. Plus, our hydration packs were emptying to alarming proportions. My three liter hydration pack was less than half full, and I had no water to refill it; Daniel’s hydration pack was empty, forcing him to use his last liter-and-a-half bottle of water. After the last false peak, the trail dipped considerably. This was not an inviting sight, for we had been seeing this descent-to-ascent scenario so many times that we actually thought it to be the last, but it wasn’t. I pushed ahead, the summit ever so close, with Daniel welling up the will to draft me slowly, but surely.

Finally after five-and-a-half hours of hiking, we reached the summit at 1:30pm, exhausted. From the signed junction, it took us two hours to summit. We plopped our asses down on the broad, flat summit and took an amazing view that I have not seen out of all the “town hikes” I've done. The H-3 freeway was stretched out below us with the Pearl City bound commuters going into the tunnel and the Kaneohe bound commuters coming out of the tunnel. Straight ahead were Haiku Valley and a view of the whole of Kailua. Mokapu Point could be seen as well. The route up to the radio dish from the Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) looked very intimidating (haven’t done it yet). To the right, the peak of Keahi a Kahoe, a hike that I did in the summer of 2008, was shrouded in mist, yet the clouds occasionally lifted for us to see the 2,860 foot peak. To the left, a not-so-far higher peak was the actual terminus of the Red Hill Ridge hike (I think), but the view from our vantage point seemed to be not much different from the view at the close pu’u (hill). Beyond the aforementioned pu’u was another higher peak that was completely covered in clouds; I’m pretty sure that that massive peak is the apex of the Halawa Trail. At 2pm, we headed back down to experience the rollercoaster-ridge in reverse.

At some point along the trail to the signed junction, I started to feel uneasy just like Daniel felt on the way to the summit. My water level was waning, and I kept taking small sips in hopes to keep my occasional dizziness at bay. Also, my head ached like a mother****er, and my stomach felt queasy. Daniel and I took lots of breaks on our way to the junction as well. At about 3:30pm, we finally reached the signed junction that indicated the route directly to the valley floor: a sight for sore eyes and a sight for our sore lower extremities.

The route down to the valley floor was steep, hard on the knees and feet, but very beautiful. There is one short, narrow section along the descent, and to me, it was the scariest part of the hike; the drop to the left was pretty damn mental. The trail then follows Moanalua Stream intermittently, and then crosses it and reaches the Old Damon Estate Road. Although it was flat, the valley road was a painful one hour walk (>2 miles?). We reached our car at exactly 5:30pm: nine-and-a-half hours of hiking.

I probably will never do this trail again, especially to the summit. I might (big MIGHT) do the Godek-Jaskulski Loop again, but it would have to be during the winter or on a cloudy, overcast day. If any of you plan to take The Bamboo Trail, I would highly suggest finding a sturdy bamboo stick or two to use as trekking poles. That is, of course, if you already have a trekking pole. I found a perfect pair of bamboo sticks and Daniel found a solid guava stick; those helped us a lot along the steep Bamboo Trail and the steep hills on the way to the summit. As for pictures, I snapped a bunch a little past the valley road junction on the way to the summit, but I realized I had misplaced my lens cap while taking pictures before a steep rope section, so I don’t have much pictures on the way to the summit because I put my camera in my backpack. Plus, it was so uncomfortably hot, I was happy to have the freedom of not having a camera to lug around. Fortunately, on the way back down, Daniel found my lens cap lying directly in the middle of the trail: so lucky. Daniel snapped some pictures on the way to the summit, so I have those posted below, too.

Daniel claimed this hike as one of the hardest things he’s ever done in his life; I’d have to agree. Out of all the trails I’ve done, Red Hill Ridge is up there with Kamaileunu and Dupont. This eleven mile hike will definitely go down as one of those one-time ridges. Do it again? Godek-Jaskulski Loop? Maybe. Summit? Hell no to the death march.

On the Old Damon Estate Road. (photo: D. Napoleon)

The Bamboo Trail.

Breaking out of the bamboo grove into a steep, open, exposed section.

Where's the trail?

More overgrown uluhe. (photo: D. Napoleon)

The grove of Cook pines can be seen in upper left hand portion of the photo.

And more uluhe.

Finally at the Cook pines.

The saddle with the narrow dike.

Yup. Pretty damn narrow.

Pictured here is the signed junction that indicates that route back to the Old Damon Estate Road, completing the Godek-Jaskulski Loop. We headed past this junction for the summit. From here, the summit is about two hours away. This junction would be our return route.

View of the H-3.

This is the last push to the summit. Pictured here is Daniel pushing through scratchy uluhe. I'm snapping this photo with his disposable camera at the top of the last false peak.

What a view!

Taken with Daniel's digital camera, the only picture we have of the descent trail to the valley floor. Notice how good the condition of the trail is because of the recent trail clearing.

Daniel's pictures:

Looking toward the Ko'olau summit. (photo: D. Napoleon)

Beautiful view looking south. (photo: D. Napoleon)

Aiea Loop Trail - May 1, 2009

I finally got the chance to do one of the most popular trails on the island: Aiea Loop Trail. There’s not much to say about the hike except that it takes you through nice sections at the top of Aiea Heights Drive. The H-3 Freeway even comes into view about halfway through. The hike is a little over four miles and does not require any steep climbs. Come to think of it, the trail actually never ascends, making it a perfect beginner and/or family hike.

I had a nice little stroll until I came to a fork towards the end of the hike. Instead of taking the right fork, I took the left fork. This led me to someone’s backyard at the top of Halawa Heights. I would’ve backtracked, but I had to work at 2:30pm, and it was already 1:30pm. So I called my pops to taxi me from the top of Halawa Heights Drive to the Aiea Loop trailhead. So yeah, I got lost on the most popular trail on Oahu. Boo to me. At least I made it to work on time.

First 15 minutes of walking takes you to this viewpoint with a bench.

The H-3.

Going back.