Ka'inamanu
Makaha Ridge
Hikimoe Ridge
Ha'ele'ele Ridge

Sun, Jan 5, 2020

With: Tom Becht
Iris Ma

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX

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Our last full day on Kauai had us a bit conflicted. We had planned to do the Tunnel Trail on the east side of the island, featuring a mile-long water diversion tunnel that had been carved between two drainages. It had rained a good deal in Lihue overnight and the forecast had more in store and it seemed it would be a whole lot of mud for the privilege of stumbling hunchbacked though a wet tunnel by headlamp for half an hour or more. In the end we decided to skip that one and headed back to Waimea Canyon/Kokee State Parks to hike the Awa'awapuhi Trail. Afterwards we did some gratuitous peakbagging to a selection of minor summits found on LoJ that amused us for the rest of the afternoon.

Awa'awapuhi Trail

This is one of two major trails on the west side of the highway in Koke'e State Park. The other is the Nu'alolo Trail starting just south of the Visitor Center, but has been closed now for a few years (though I've heard folks still use it). The Awa'awapuhi Trailhead is about 1.5mi up the road from the Visitor Center and continues to be as popular as when I first hiked it in the 1980s. The trail is about 3.5mi each way to its end at an overlook on the ridgeline between the Awa'awapuhi and Nu'alolo Valleys on the Napali Coast. Though there had been little rain on this side of the island the past week, the trail was terribly muddy in places, mostly in the beginning. Despite this, it makes for a very fine hike through forest, ferns and occasional vistas before reaching the end where the reward is an almost unreal view looking steeply down to the two valleys on either side. One can descend the ridge a few hundred yards further for even better views. We stopped near the end of this, having the place to ours elves while we took a break for snacks. One could hear goats bleating on the cliffs far below and a small mouse came looking for handouts - lots of non-native plants and animals in these parts. The chickens are of course introduced, but so are most of other birds that inhabit the island. There is a connector trail between the Awa'awapuhi and Nu'alolo Trails, found around the 3.0mi mark. This trail was closed back in the day but has been reopened and can be used to visit the lookout at the end of the Nu'alolo Trail. It was going to be a bigger undertaking than we wanted to spend time on, so we left this section untrammeled. We returned to the jeep by 1:45p, taking about 3.5hrs on the roundtrip effort at a leisurely pace.

Ka'inamanu

Less than half a mile north of the Awa'awapuhu TH is the TH for Honopu Ridge, a trail that appears to no longer be mainained by the State Park, but still very useable. There is a small turnout where the road bends and a large tree has fallen over the start of the trail. Poke through the tree branches or around the left side and you can easily find the trail. Ka'inamnu is a named highpoint with minimal prominence found off the trail about half a mile from the TH. When we were about 450ft east of this summit we left the trail, initially following a use trail through very dense uluhe ferns. This led in a short distance to a rat trap installed at the base of a tree, but did not help us get further. We then began a slow thrash through heavy ferns, myself leading (and doing most of the work, mind you) and the others following, rather amused by my determination. We eventually found our way to the top of this little knoll where we found a few summit rocks to rest upon (about the only firm ground we'd seen for several hundred feet) and provide some views looking northwest. Iris also found an orange flagging which turned out to be very helpful. It was one of half a dozen we noted showing a faint trail through the ferns heading south off the summit, making for a much easier exit than our ascent route. It dropped us right onto the Honopu Ridge Trail which we then followed back to the start. With more time we might have taken the trail west to its end, probably at a nice overlook spot.

Makaha Ridge

Paved Makaha Ridge Rd runs west from the highway to the Pacific Missle Range Facility on a bluff overlooking the Napali Coast. The point indicated on LoJ for Makaha Ridge is located near the midpoint of this road, just a few hundred feet from it. No ferns on this one, but there is somewhat thick forest with lots of downfall to work through for a summit with zero views.

Hikimoe Ridge

Found a few miles to the south, Hikimoe Ridge can be reached by a muddy hunter road off the main highway. The area around the summit has been cleared of invasive eucalyptus trees and replanted with native o'hia trees in their place. It made for easy walking to reach this otherwise uninteresting summitHa'ele'ele Ridge This last LoJ "summit" is found along another hunter road further south. A locked gate prevented us from driving within a few hundred feet of the point, but we had only about 3/4mi to hike each way. It made for a nice, late afternoon stroll, followed by a short bit of cross-country through forest downfall to reach another point with no views. And with that, we pretty much wrapped up our Kauai visit. On our return to Lihue, we would stop once again at the Kauai Island Brewery & Grill - purported to be the westernmost brewery in the world, a claim that might actually be true...

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