Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1-11-2011: Bear Claw (Right Fork)

With Makapu'u to Mariner's Ridge being the first hike of the year, it only made sense to do the 1st "mental" hike of the year and since I haven't done the right fork yet, this was the perfect choice.  Even prior to Makapu'u - Mariner's, I've had right fork in my sights as far back as December of 2010.  However what makes right fork so difficult to get to is the fact that one has to do all sorts of "T-things" just to get to it.  Unlike left fork, which one can slip through some fields to reach the water tank, right fork is virtually sealed by all sorts of property like a wall with no easy way in.  I had help from directions which I've acquired from a member of the HTMC.  So with these directions in hand, I thought to myself that it would be EZ PZ to get to right fork.

Originally the plan was to go on the 12th (Wednesday), but heavy rain was forecasted, along with a flash flood watch, starting Wednesday and lasting up to the weekend so I decided to move it up one day to Tuesday, the calm before the storm and what a picture perfect day to do it.  There was virtually not a single cloud over the entire island this day so it was perfect to hike just about anywhere.  The crew for today would be Randy, Michael, Howard, and myself.  Randy and Howard have each done Left Fork and also True Manamana while this would be Michael's first "off the beaten path" hike.

We all met up at the Kuli'ou'ou Trailhead and staged cars there.  After we reached the same area in Waimanalo and parked at the same spot, we headed right along a road.  When we got to a long driveway, the first thing that struck me the most was the amount of rooster crowing.  There had to be at least over 100 roosters for all of the crowing that was happening simultaneously morphed into one continuous sound, akin to the annoying vuvuzela sound that was heard at the 2010 World Cup.  We tried to look for key landmarks that were mentioned in the directions given to me but alas we couldn't find anything that matched the descriptions.  However on the GPS, our location was pretty close to the start of the right fork.  However we couldn't find a way to advance forward, that is until we saw a fenced gate that we could perhaps hop over.  Beyond the fence was some kind of dirt road or trail that headed in the direction that we wanted to progress.  As we were about to hop the fence, Michael discovered that the gate was only locked by a few metal wires that was merely twisted.  With a simple twist, we opened the gate and slipped into what appeared to be a chicken farm.  After closing the gate and twisting the wires back into it's "locked" position, we continued on the old 4x4 road when suddenly some dogs began barking furiously at us.  We actually didn't see the dogs but they were close.  Afraid that the owner/s have been alarmed of a comotion, we veered off to the right into some tall grass, away from the area where the chicken coops were at.  We decided to continue our forward progress by climbing through the foliage.

A short distance later, the vegetation opened up and much to our dismay, we were standing in a field full of trees that were in numerous rows.  At this point, our adrenaline skyrocketed and we made a mad dash across this field into another embankment that went up into the woods.  Back in our comfort zone, Randy took the ramrod and we continued on in the forest, but this time the forest was here to stay and the vegetation started getting thick.  I checked my GPS again and noticed that we had veered off to the right of right fork.  Heading back to the left, we plowed through the tall grass and came upon a powerline.  I recognized this powerline as it was the same set of powerlines that cuts a large swath through the base of the Ko'olaus, intersecting both left and right forks.  We were close!

We continued our gradual shift to the left, but at the same time, we climbed upward.  I could tell we were making progress because the sound of the roosters was now behind us.  About maybe 100ft up, we came across a trail.  Thinking that this was the established right fork trail, we scouted both ways, but both headed back down.  Disappointed, but not discouraged, we continued our upward climb and soon another trail came into view, but this trail was very wide.  Randy scouted the trail ahead and soon discovered that we were at the crest of the ridge with the ridge sloping downward on both sides.  At last, we found the trail and we resumed our climb on a discernable trail.

After a short while, we got our first view and we were amazed on how much elevation we have gained just trying to find the trail.  Up ahead was our first set of rock faces.  However unlike left fork, whos rock faces were rather short in continuity, these rock faces kept going up and maintained it's near vertical grade for quite a long time.  One has to be wary of the hiker in front of him because the rocks easily crumbled with each step, sending pieces to the hiker below.  Up, up, up we went and finally did we get over them and we were treated to another view.  Over to our left, we could make out left fork and it's water tank below.

There was one thing that right forked lacked that left fork was full of, those Koa trees!  Right fork was relatively more open and exposed and we did not have to fight those low growing trees that much, albeit some small areas, especially near where left and right fork meet.

We came across the next rockface to be climbed and this one was the scary one for this day.  One was required to slab over to the left to a small protrusion, but with a mighty step just to get to it.  From here you could either utilize the old cable on the right and heave your way up the steep and smooth rock.  Or you could head left and grab hold to some sturdy tree branches to bypass the smooth section of the rockface.  Foot placement is critical here.  There were probably only three good footholds, all requiring stretching your legs far to get to each of them while the rest is upperbody strength.  Randy was the first to get to the top and secured a rope to supplement the old cable.  Next was Howard, than me, and finally Michael.  We all made it over without incident.

After a few more climbs up smaller rockfaces, the Koa trees returned in full force.  I looked over to my left and I could see left fork was extremely close so I knew that this area of trees was a signal that the junction was very near.  Sure enough, we spotted the same two ribbons that we spotted from left fork and a short while later, came to the Ironwood tree that is a little past a small clearing just after the junction.  We were back in familiar territory and I began to feel more comfortable with the climb.  Randy and Howard decided to keep climbing while Michael and I opted to take a short break here.

About 5 minutes later, the two of us saddled up and continued our trek through a narrow dike formation with "Mario Mushroom", a rock outcrop that is shaped like a mushroom from Mario Bros.  Further up we climbed smaller rock faces and reached a small level section.  From here we could see that Randy and Howard were already booking it and were already nearing the final climb to Pu'u O Kona.  Another 30 minutes passed and we saw that they were on the final climb and then the summit!  Michael and I soon reached the "True Manamana" section, a narrow ridgeline that is completely overgrown by scratch brushes and small trees and we were soon on the final ascent.  Since I had no shovel with me this time, I decided to use a screwdriver for leverage.  The ascent was much easier the 2nd time around and soon enough, we rejoined Randy and Howard at the summit!  The time was around 11am.

After a short break, we crossed on over to the Kuli'ou'ou State Freeway Trail and descended the anticlimatic switchbacks and we were at our cars at around noon.  We all proceeded to Keneke's for our post hike refreshments and soon retrieved Randy's car at the Bear Claw starting point.

We all agreed that right fork was more difficult than left fork and slightly steeper.  We also agreed that looking at Bear Claw from Waimanalo side has a resemblance of a T-Rex claw.  However, there's a point in the climb, about halfway between left/right junction and the summit, that if you look back down, the ridge actually really does take on an appearance of a bear claw!  Jeremy Kreis and I had a discussion one night on Facebook that the people who named it Bear Claw must have named it from a top down perspective!


No comments:

Post a Comment