Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1-09-2011: Makapu'u to Mariner's Ridge

                                                           Head north--- Thru hiking the Ko'olaus?

***NOTICE: Mariner's Ridge is CLOSED and ENFORCED by KSBE.  Do not attempt to hike the Mariner's Ridge Trail.  Doing so will be trespassing and can be subject to action by KSBE.***

So the year is 2011 and with my hike counter set back to zero, I've decided to start the opening ceremony with a nice stroll on the mountains.  Anticipating a good start for the New Year, the Ohana was having a camp out at Malaekahana Bay to welcome 2 guests visiting from the Philippines.  That outing would start on Friday and last up until Sunday, the day of this hike.  Ironically, I had a visitor (Neelesh Fernandes) myself from Michigan out here on a business trip (job interview and potentially moving to O'ahu) and he wanted to spend some time with me so I've organized a hike with the Oahu Hikers & Adventurers and planned a route that would start us at the Makapu'u Lookout (not the lighthouse trail), cross Kalanianaole Highway and pick up a trail that heads up the foothills, forming the "Big Toe" of the Ko'olau summit ridge.  I've done this route before up to Kamehame Ridge and then back to my car in 2008.  Funny thing is, I've had to postpone this hike twice due to priority on True Manamana and later on, the left fork of Bear Claw Ridge.  The third time is a charm....  or so I thought.

The overnight stay at Malaekahana was wonderful as always and on Saturday morning, I paddled out into the bay to catch the surf, small ones at that.  Unfortunately I ended up straining a neck muscle which locked my neck up, forbidding me to look up and to the right.  Great!  How was I going to hike tomorrow with this?  Had it not been for my visitor, I would have definitely backed out on this hike but since he was departing for the mainland the next day, I decided to ride this one out with medication and will power.

I woke up the next morning at around 6am and immediately took Motrin and Tylenol to ease the pain and give me limited neck mobility.  I proceeded to town to pick up Neel and then continued on to the end Kaluanui Rd to pick up some people who staged their cars at the Mariner's Ridge end of today's hike.  We got to the Makapu'u Lookout at around 8 and we shoved off along with Leslie, Michael, and the rest of the crew.

The ridge is initially broad and the trail is not discernable, but we just stayed close to the crest of the now rising Ko'olau summit ridge.  A little higher up, we caught the first views of Sea Life Park, the two islands of Mānana and Kaohikaipu, and the bluer than blue ocean that fill everything in between!  It's these views that set this hike apart from any other hike, we are high off the ground and yet very close to the coastline.

Further on we went, the grade of the trail changing from a gradual climb to a gentle roller coaster.  In the distance was a massive 909ft pu'u and at this point, the pain in my neck was brutal.  Apparently the dosage was not enough so I asked Neel if I can and should take another set of capsules.  Neel is a Doctor in residency currently.  I don't know the exact field but it's something in the rehab and sports medicine.  With the doctor in da house, this would prove beneficial as he began performing a series of stretching excercises with my neck.  The excercises worked and with another dosage of pain medication, the pain subsided to a more tolerable level.  By now, our hiking group has formed a sizeable gap between us, but always waited for us to catch up.

Continuing on, we passed a puka that over looks Kalanianaole Highway.  However don't try to go through the puka.  There's an immediate drop dead ahead that takes you down to said highway!  We stopped and rested here to take pictures.

The 909ft pu'u was next and we huffed and puffed our way to the top, being wary of the big drop to our right.  Apparently some hikers have fell off and took the big plunge down below in the past.  Whether if they survived or not is not known.  Once at the top, there was some abandoned? buildings and a road that leads down Kamehame Ridge, named after the Kamehame Rd. itself that goes all the way to the summit crest and to the launch point of hang gliders.  This was also the spot where I got to before turning around back in 2008 so from this point on is all new territory.  We hiked by some bystanders, perhaps waiting for the hang glider instructors and equipment.  Once past the 2nd platform, the trail hung left and we found ourselves on an old paved road with a fence up ahead.  I stopped here again and lay down on my pack and rest my neck.

Once we reached the fence, we hung right and came upon a concrete slab that can be climbed through an old rusty fence, the metal poles only standing.  We caught up to the faster pace hikers who were climbing up an old sentry lookout tower.  Despite my aching neck, my curiousity got the best of me and I climbed up the ladder to get a better vantage point.  Further on, we reached the bulk of the abandoned man made complex.  It appears that this is the remains of an old Nike Missle Site that was used during World War II.

Beyond the complex, the trail headed downward into a saddle with a blue cable.  We decided to affix an additional rope to suppliment this cable.  While the ropes/cables are most definitely not required for the descent, it's good to have them to provide a sense of security as the backdrop of the shoreline can be a bit intimidating to some hikers.

The trail then headed for a lone grove of Ironwood Trees that is clearly visible if you are driving on Kalanianaole Highway.  We took our next break in this grove, providing much needed shade.  Looking back the way we came from, we noticed another group of hikers descending the blue cable section.  One of us mentioned that this could very well be the rest of our group who apparently may have shown up late.  (There was some confusion in the meetup time.)  Whether if this was indeed our group was never known. (Did anyone confirm that this group was part of ours?)  Going down the backside of this ironwood grove was tricky.  The "pinecones" that carpeted the trail acted like rollers or wheels, sending the unsuspecting hiker for a wild ride!  I came up with a strategy to stoop down and slide on these pinecones in a controlled descent.

Shortly after getting through the next saddle or two, we came upon a small peak with a large white powerline pole.  This would mark the topping out point of the Tom-Tom Trail that heads down a spur to Waimanalo Town below.  This route also takes you to the HTMC clubhouse!  Looking ahead, we could see the rest of the Ko'olau spine snake towards the west and then pivot to the northwest on the spot where the terminus of Bear Claw Ridge and Pu'u O Kona is located.

Continuing on further, the trail drops a bit into another small patch of Ironwood trees.  I was familiar with these trees and then I looked off to my left and there was a cleared trail coming in from Hawai'i Kai.  Turns out this spot marks the terminus of the Kamiloiki Trail.  While the rest of the group booked it going towards Mariner's Ridge, Neel, Eddie, and I decided to chit chat a bit here and to rest my neck once again.  Looking back, we noticed the "mystery" group heading down Tom-Tom Trail.

A little while later, the three of us lost the trail and somehow found ourselves heading makai (seaward) and not on the summit trail.  Fortunately I was able to realize this before we headed too far astray and we backtracked quickly, realizing we veered left off a sharp curve that heads back towards the crest.  There was an orange ribbon but it was faded out and we didn't see it.  Too bad I didn't have my spool of ribbon on me on this day.

After a few more ups and downs we reached the Mariner's Ridge summit.  A few of them decided against resting at the summit and to power down Mariner's Ridge.  This would be the last time I would see any of them, as Neel and I decided to take a longer than usual break to rest my crippled neck.

After a 30 minute walk, we reached Kaluanui Pl. and Michael was there with 2 gatorades waiting for us, a much needed refreshment!  As we chugged away on our drinks, Michael drove us back to Makapu'u Lookout and Neel has completed his first true ridge hike in Hawai'i.  The only other hikes he did prior to this one was 1 and 2 years ago, Diamond Head and Haiku Stairs respectively!

And for those wondering, Neel was indeed accepted into his new followship here in Hawaii and will be moving here sometime during the summer.  I give him big props for a life changing deal!  As for me, I'm never ever hiking with a strained neck muscle!  It really doesn't make for any fun at all!  On the bright side, I can finally say I've hiked the entire Ko'olau summit ridge from Konahuanui to Makapu'u!



  1. Great write up. It's going to be at least another week before my hiking partner's knee is better and Makapu'u to Kuliouou is our next trip. This is so helpful!

  2. Great to read and see your exploits! I used to run that ridge 3 times a week and loved it!! Watching the video reminded me of the several areas where ... one slip and bye bye. Be careful and keep writing.