Saturday, April 26, 2014

11-12-2013: Waiʻanae Summit Trail - Kealia to KPSTS

CAUTION: The Waiʻanae Mountain Range is located on properties owned by the U.S. government, the U.S. military of all branches, the state of Hawaiʻi via departments, and private owners. The mountain ridges and valleys are also home to a delicate and vast array of native plants, animals, and insects. Please take care not to disturb them or their native habitats and always seek permission to access these lands. Always do your research prior to setting out. And finally, once you are out there, always minimize your impact to the environment and of course, be safe.

Kalani and I hiked the section of the WST between Kealia and the Kaʻena Point Satellite Tracking Station.  In a previous hike, another group and I were hoping to cover the KPSTS in it's entirely from Kaʻena Point to Kealia but we were caught by the Air Force guys operating the station and were escorted down.  In order to continue the segment hike of the Waiʻanae Mountains, it mean't having to return to KPSTS.  I didn't like the idea of having to return to a restricted area.  So the plan today was to skirt the boundary of the installation, turn around, and head back to Kealia.  However, I had a flight that evening so time would pressure us on this day.

We began at 8am up the Kealia Trail.  The morning sun was already starting to get strong and weather called for partly cloudy skies and a light trade.  We took a short break at the picnic table just above the switchbacks.  Beyond on the dirt road, we came across three local guys in a white truck.  After exchanging pleasantries, they asked us if we came up from Dillingham Airfield and if there was a way to drive their truck down to a point in Waialua from where we were standing at the moment.  I pointed out that the road does head makai but I didn't know the exact location as I've only hiked up via the hiking trail.  We said our goodbyes and continued on our way towards the summit.

Shortly before topping out at the Makua Valley overlook, we came across a junction with a sign pointing in the direction of KPSTS.  We've figured this would be the route to take, but since Kalani has never been to the terminus before, we would skip this for now.  At around 10am, we were at the top and could see the valley below.  I scanned the summit ridge to the northwest and noticed another group of hikers coming in our direction.  I wondered if they came from KPSTS on the crest.  After exchanging waves, we headed back down to the signed junction.  We'll just follow the dirt road all the way to the facility.  

Little that we knew, this would end up being a much longer walk than the crest.  However, we were treated to some fine views of the North Shore on some portions of the road.  On the leeward facing side, we noticed how far the road takes us windward to the summit crest and how winding it was.  I glanced at the time and was starting to get concerned with my flight that evening.  Judging by the distance of this road, I wasn't liking the idea of heading back.  Looks like it's going to be plan b and intentionally getting the escort from KPSTS.

As we got closer, we could easily make out the white "golfballs".  We were getting close.  We soon heard a motorized vehicle.  Thinking it was military, we dashed off into the bushes.  Turns out it was a United States Department of Agriculture vehicle.  Apparently the driver saw us dart off the road and stopped to ask what we were doing and what our intentions were.  He said that the installation was about a mile up ahead and that it was restricted to hikers.  We acknowledged and he motored off in the Kealia direction.  We proceeded ahead and it wasn't long before we came upon the boundary of the installation.

Stop here, turn around, and head back the way we came?  Or push on and seek the nearest guard?  We opted for the latter and made our first steps onto KPSTS.  It didn't take long before I realized that we reached the exact location where we got picked up last time.  Around 100ft and we would have made the crossing without having to get the escort the first time, avoiding an unnecessary return here.  Nevertheless, we were here, our journey complete for this stretch.  There was a worker standing near a building so we walked there and raised him.  He was an older looking fellow.  After formalities about being on premises were stated and contacting an MP to escort us down to Keawaula Beach (Yoks), he was quite amazed on how we were section hiking the Waiʻanaes.  He said before the station was even built, he would hike around the hills here back in the day.  He was sadden that now the station was built, no longer could we hike around here now.

As we continued to converse with the worker, two uniformed Air Force guys in a truck rolled up and took us down.  They were hikers themselves and were intrigued about our intentions on the Waiʻanaes.  The drive down was incredible.  The views of Keawaula Beach down below is rarely seen.  They dropped us at Farrington Hwy., near the main gate, exchanged goodbyes, and off they went towards town, apparently their shift over.

I called Jerry in Ewa Beach to pick us up (Mahalo nui!).  While we waited, Kalani went to venture around the beach while I plopped down in a grassy area near the restrooms and looked back up at the white golf balls high above.

"Finally..", I whispered to myself and drifted off to sleep.

Video coming soon!

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