Wednesday, January 2, 2013

12-29-2012: KST (Waikane [Ka`aumakua] to Poamoho)

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

Happy New Year!  We've survived the great apocalypse and the world keeps turning, as it has been for the past 4 billions years.  With 2013 in full swing, I would like to bring you the last hike of 2012 and what a hike to close out the year.  I am ever so slowly inching my way towards my personal goal of completing the Ko`olau summit in it's entirely.  On December 29th, a beautiful gem of the Ko`olau Summit Trail has been added to my collection.  It's said to be one of the best stretches of trail on the island and perhaps the best segment on the Ko`olaus.  If one had just one chance to do a summit walk, then choose this one.

The initial itinerary was to start in Waikane Valley Road and hike the Pu'u Ka`aumakua Trail, where it eventually merges with the KST.  From there, we would head northward along the summit trail towards Pauao Ridge.  Pauao was recently opened up by several trail clearing crews this past summer so we were to use it to head back down into Kahana Valley.  Chenay Borja, Gerwin Canoneo, and Andrew Wilhite would join me for this excursion.

At around 5:30am we pushed off into the darkness on the long road walk.  I remember last time we were on this road, we've encountered a pack of dogs and it was the same case this time around.  This time, they were not as alarmed by our presence, unlike last time, and we quickly made our way through them without incident.  Daylight started coming upon us shortly after we got on the actual Waikane Trail and began the long winding trail to intersect the KST.  We got to the lookout where the trail begins to contour on the north side of the spur ridge heading up to Pu'u Ka`aumakua and decided to check out a side trail that heads makai down the spur.  About 50ft, we came across another clearing with a splendid view of Ohulehule and Kanehoalani.  Directly behind us, Chenay noticed a cross at the top of a small hill and proceeded to climb it to investigate.  Looks like it was recently erected with "Henry" enscribed on it.  A last name also has been written but we couldn't make out the spelling.  Look at the summit crest, it was completely devoid of all clouds.  Despite having absolutely no trade wind, as we got closer to the summit trail, thick clouds began forming as a result of the warm sea breezes being warmed by the sun and rushing up and over the cool windward pali.  Just like water condensing on my cold lens, it was the same for the mountains.

We reached the junction with the KST at around 10am.  The clouds completely engulfed us but fortunately not enough to rain.  I pulled out my phone and checked the weather report on the NOAA website.  Not a green speck anywhere on the island or other islands.  I assumed the clouds would burn up quickly as the sun warms the Ko`olaus.  I noticed my lens was no longer fogged up.  It would be the same for the mountains.  About 10 minutes later, a break in the clouds revealed the windward expanse below and a view of Ohulehule, Pu'u O Kila, and Kahana Valley was had.  Unfortunately, the clouds shrouded the view once again.  We began to get discouraged if we were going to do the whole summit walk in the clouds.  It didn't take long to get that answer.  After about 5 minutes into the summit walk northward towards Poamoho, the clouds made a grand departure from the summit crest for good and the magic of the hike began!

We pushed onward, enjoying the incredible views to windward.  The trail contours almost exclusively to the windward pali, but every now and then, the trail does head to leeward.  When it does though, an incredible view to leeward as far as the Wai`anae Mountains can be had.  Although it can get overgrown on these leeward sections, the contour does not last long and quickly does it head back to the windward side.  Since the weather called for light sea breezes in the absence of tradewinds, I opted for comfort over shields and wore shorts.  While the overgrown conditions were not as bad as let's say, Waikane to Waiahole Uka, my exposed legs would take a beating by the time this hike was pau (done).  I highly recommend pants for any Ko`olau summit traverse.

After a half mile or so, we came across a grassy clearing, with a grassy hill.  There was a trail coming in from leeward and figured it was the Schofield/Waikane Trail.  We rested here for a bit, taking in the awe of what was around us.

Beyond Schofield Trail, the clouds dropped back down on us and stayed with us but not for long.  Even when the clouds are socking the summit, it makes for a mysterious walk.  Chenay posed by some trees, even climbing one.  Quickly the clouds lifted and we were treated to more epic views!  We could make out the KST etching it's way into the windward side all the way to Pauao Ridge.

The trail never got too terribly overgrown and was in remarkable shape.  There are 2 or 3 landslides that covers the KST but are easily passed.  The last one requires a minor scramble but nothing too difficult.  Just watch your step because there's a huge drop to windward behind you on this scramble!  Looking back where we came from, we could see the KST tracing back to Pu'u Ka`aumakua.  Views are what it was all about!  Chenay had a solar panel charger that she won on Instagram and was using it to charge her phone.  I should get me one of these!

Pauao Ridge was getting near.  The KST wraps around it's ridge spur and continues to Poamoho.  With that thought in my head, I began to contemplate with myself if we were to stick with our original plan and head down Pauao, or continue onward towards Poamoho.  We staged a car in Kahana Valley but none at the Poamoho trail head.  That would mean walking down 6 miles of road.  The weather was epic throughout the day and shows no signs of clouding up anytime soon.  It was about 2pm when we came across the sign and ribbons marking the terminus of Pauao Ridge.  I ventured slightly downward to check out it's profile.  It looked akin to Waiahole Uka.  I then went around the bend and my jaw nearly dropped.  The KST was clearly visible and it was so distinct that it must have been blasted recently by trail clearers.  I went back to the others and suggested that we continued onward towards Poamoho.  Compared to Pauao, this looked more inviting.  After a votation, the plan was to head down Poamoho Trail and walk the entire 6 miles of dirt road back to Wahiawa.  As we made our way we noticed how ridiculously wide the trail got!  This stretch of trail was a blast!  We were all smiles as we went full speed ahead on what could have been mistakened as a bike trail!  "Looks like a scene from 'The Hobbit'!"

We came across a grassy meadow and rested here.  I was shoving a ham sandwich down my throat when Gerwin pointed something flying near the summit.  I glanced over my shoulder and saw nothing.  Then he exclaimed again and I dropped my lunch and headed to the edge of the pali.  Sure enough, a paraglider was flying effortlessly above us.  I jumped up and down and waved my hands at him.  He saw us and he proceeded to get closer to us.  He then started doing circles above our meadow spot and probably got within 50ft of us.  "He's going to land!" yelled Gerwin.  Then I heard a call from the guy.  "What are you guys doing here?!"  "Hiking to Poamoho!" I replied.  After doing some more maneuvers, he gained altitude and went back over the windward side.  I ran back to the edge of the pali and saw him making his way to Poamoho and quickly disappeared out of sight.  What a treat!

The trail went leeward but not before it cut through a large notch to regain the windward contour.  We posed for some photos on this notch and continued on our way.  This place was so special that I didn't want to leave this stretch of trail.  Off in the distance, I could make out some fences forming a perimeter on a hill.  It must be the Poamoho terminus as I recalled this fence line the last time I was on Poamoho, some 3 years ago.  A short while later, we came across the Poamoho Cabin, all newly built and complete with a water catchment system!  There was water in it so as of this date, there is fresh water in the cabin.  We signed the log book and posed for a photo.  The time was about a little after 3pm.  We knew we had 6 miles of unnecessary road walking to do so we had to double time it.  Just past the cabin I looked leeward and spotted a swampy lake.  One of these days, I'm going to get a closer look at it.  Another half mile and the vegetation opened up to a very large grassy meadow with the Clines Memorial on it.  We made it to Poamoho!  The time was about 4pm.

The sun was beginning to set towards the Wai`anae Mountains and our attention shifted to the long 9 mile (6 miles of dirt road and 3 miles of Poamoho Trail) hike back to civilization.  The Poamoho Trail is a pleasant walk and while it dragged somewhat, we made it to the trailhead and the start of the road just after sunset.  We began our longest walk ever on the road and came across a truck!  Would be nice to get a ride down.  We knew if we had walked the entire road, we probably wouldn't be back until after 11pm or so.  We walked past the truck for another 500ft until we saw a group of hunters!  They asked if we were serious about walking down the road and we nodded.  It was then the final piece of this epic adventure was upon us.  They offered us a ride in their truck that we passed a while ago and they even gave us some tamales to wolf down.  Nom, nom, nom we went.  Vroom, vroom, vroom went the truck.  I glanced back at the red tail lights piercing the pitch black road behind us.  "That would have sucked if we had to walk down this blasted road!"  I gazed at the sky and while it was no Kalapana starscape, it was still beautiful.  We could see the military installation at the top of Mt. Ka`ala aglow with lights and soon the lights of civilization was near.  Past 2 gates and then the final gate, we were back at the main road.  The time was a little before 7pm.  Success!

I want to thank those hunters for giving us a ride back down!  We are grateful for you guys!  I'm sorry I've forgotten your names!  We hope you can find this page and see why we were there at that time of the evening!  Mahalo nui loa!

This was yet another epic Ko`olau summit adventure!


  1. fair weather for a beautiful gem photo ops
    timely trail guardianship
    treated to a close encounter from above
    trip on a trackers tamale truck
    da mana with this excursion