Kuliou'ou Ridge
Pu'uma'eli'eli P300

Thu, Dec 22, 2016

With: Cheryl Macaraeg

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2


Puu Okona

With more rain in the forecast I chose to hike up the Kuli'ou'ou Ridge, one of the easier ridge hikes up to Ko'olau Summit. It starts in Kuli'ou'ou Valley, one of the eastern suburbs of Honolulu. The trail is only two miles in length, another 1/3mi longer if you go past the trail's end to Puu Okona. The trailhead is not as obvious as I thought. I turned Google Maps off once I got to Kuliouou Rd, thinking I'd find it at its upper end. I found what looked like a trailhead and even walked up the gated road about 50ft before I thought to check my electronics again. Turns out the TH is at the end of Kalaau Pl, a nearby sidestreet - doh! The ridge and valley trails use the same trailhead, splitting shortly up the trail. The ridge trail then begins a series of switchbacks, climbing about 700ft through forest in less than a mile. After reaching the ridge, the trail heads north, past an overlook bench and a shelter with picnic tables. The last half mile of the trail features a series of thigh-burning steps, rising in several series to the Ko'olau Summit. In wet conditions like I found today, the steps are pooled with water, muddy and not a little treacherous. The good news is the boards that form the steps have some sort of non-slip coating and I used these almost exclusively to avoid the mud and water. At the top there are signs imploring folks to turn around due to the dangerous cliffs that await just beyond. And they ARE a bit dangerous, too, but that didn't stop me (or the other folks I saw at the top later) from getting a look at the poor views to be had. In keeping with the Ko'olau tradition, clouds sweep up and over the summit and make views rather scarce. At least it wasn't raining at the moment. The summit of Puu Okona could almost be seen to the north, 1/3mi away, for a fleeting moment before clouds occluded it once again. The Ko'olau Summit Trail that traverses the crest of the range is in pretty good shape for the hike over to the summit, not as overgrown as other sections I'd been on recently. But the exposure in places was quite extreme, an easy death fall off the east side only inches from parts of the trail. I went VERY slowly along the ridge with the wind blowing about 15mph with gusts somewhat higher. I found my way to the highpoint without finding much there of interest. In better conditions there's probably a nice view off the north side to Waimanola. I returned to the trail's end to find a guy using a selfie stick to take video of himself in the fog with no views. I wanted to ask what he could possibly do with such a video, but I didn't have a chance. He and his friend looked at me with my boots and pants painted in mud, rainjacket and gloves looking much the same, wondering where I'd come from. "Whoa, this dude just came up a different way. He must be a professional." I couldn't help but chuckle and didn't want to ruin the illusion by telling him I'd come up the same way as the two of them. On the way down, I found views opening up a little bit more but still not terribly clear. I came across quite a few other parties on their way up, most of them asking how much further they had to go. One group of 4 young African-Americans had hiked up less than half way and were surprised when I told them they still had a ways to go. Looking at my GPSr, I offered, "You haven't quite gone a mile yet and it's two miles to the summit." This didn't go over well with one of them in particular, (in a southern drawl) "What?! You mean to tell me that wasn't even a mile we done?" Guess I wasn't the bearer of happy news today. I finished up before noon and the was happy the rain held off the entire hike.

Puu Maelieli

I drove back to Kaaawa and picked up my wife for what I told her was the easiest hike on Oahu, a one-mile hike to the top of Puu Maelieli, the highpoint of Heeia State Park just north of Kaneohe. I had read about this easy hike online a few days earlier and at just over 700ft in elevation, how hard could it be? Plenty, it turns out. The trailhead is rather obscure, one walks along SR83 from Hui Iwa St about 100yds to the end of the guard rail before finding a dirt path leading away from the highway and into the jungle. It had rained plenty here over the past 24hrs, leaving a mudfest I wasn't expecting and the wife wasn't all that excited about. She had brought a new pair of hiking shoes to Hawaii and being filipino, takes her shoes somewhat seriously. Oh, the mud and the joy we found. The worst part starts almost immediately, a steep, slick section of very wide trail - probably made wider with each rainstorm as the hikers scramble over the vegetation at the side of the trail looking for something to get a foot purchased on and a tree branch to grab onto. She was a good sport though, not complaining once. Most of the hike is through forest without views, but we stopped briefly at a couple openings along the trail that offer views to the east overlooking Kaneohe Bay and the Marine Corp base across the water at Mokapu Point. The trail passes through a tangle of trees that require one to duck regularly (or in my case, fail to duck and smack your head on an immovable branch), before climbing more steeply up to the summit. A few ropes act as handrails on the steeper parts. There is an old-style Hawaiian benchmark, though the pole with four metal fins was lying askew. Just in front of it was a large sign announcing the summit and a brief history of the folklore surrounding it. Just beyond the summit the trail continues, passing a buried WWII pillbox before opening up to a concrete platform overlooking the coast north to south. Soon after arriving we got a somewhat frantic text from our daughter who was at the San Jose airport, about to fly solo for the first time in her life. Her plane to LAX was two hours late and it looked likely that she would miss her connection for her LAX->HNL flight. We got on the phone with American Airlines several times before finally rescheduling her flight for the following day. It would save her from being stranded in LAX overnight (the next available flight out of LAX was not until 7pm the next day). If she was 18yrs of age they'd put her up in an LA hotel overnight, but three months short of that she was out of luck. Better to head back home and try again the next day - ah, the joys of holiday travel. After Our 45min digression we were ready to head back down just as a group of 5-6 local teenagers were coming up, several of them barefoot. Most impressive. We did not make it down to the bottom without falling on our butts a few times, but luckily the only injury was to pride. Time to hit up the Huli Huli Chicken van on the way back to Kaaawa...


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