Pu'u Ka'ohelo
Kilohana
Pu'u Lua

Fri, Jan 3, 2020

With: Tom Becht
Iris Ma

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

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We headed to the south and west sides of the island to minimize the amount of forecasted rain today. We spent the morning playing golf at Kukuiolono Park, a public 9-hole course with $15 green fees, ridiculously cheap for Hawaii. None of us were particularly good at the sport, but we had a grand time, laughing our way around the course, trying to keep just ahead of the actual golfers that were following us. After playing the course, we headed back to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park for some hiking. The main event was a hike through the Alakai Swamp, but we managed a few easy summits before and after, finishing up after sunset for another full day.

Pu'u Ka'ohelo

After turning off the highway at Kokee SP headquarters onto Mohihi Rd, we found this bonus summit on our way to the Alakai Swamp Trail. The Pu'u Ka'ohelo and Berry Flat Trails make a loop north of the road that we used to get close to the summit. We turned off the trail after less than a quarter mile to make our way cross-country for a few hundred yards through dense forest to the summit marked on the peakbagger app. There seemed to be no real summit here, but that didn't deter us. A thin use trail helped some, but what really helped was the short distance. The summit was a complete dud, but it took us only 30min roundtrip.

Kilohana

Kilohana Vista is found at the end of the 3.5mi Alakai Swamp Trail, one of the maintained trails in Kokee State Park. I had done this trail at least once before and found it a great introduction to the unique swamp/forest biome found in the highest elevations on Kauai, one of the wettest places on earth. A boardwalk has been laid down for more than 2mi of the distance, covering the wettest and muddiest places. It has been repaired at various times and is in a constant state of falling apart, the inevitable result of exposure to so much rain. The trail starts off as dry and grassy, turning to boardwalk after 3/4mi. There is some downfall found, but most of the route has been cleared. The only trail junction is encountered around the halfway point, with the Pihea Trail going to the lookout we'd visited a few days earlier. Soon after, the trail begins a steep decline down stepped boardwalk to a stream crossing, then climbs up to the wetter part of the trail. We would spend a little over three hours on the trek, one of the most unusual hikes found on the islands and strikingly beautiful in its own unique way. We had sunny conditions at the start but were soon walking through a fog and then light rain by the time we got to the vista. There were no vistas today due to the wall of clouds blowing over from the north, but that didn't discourage us at all - the wet is a large part of the charm. We left the trail in an attempt to located the benchmark, but it seems to be located out over the abyss. We speculated that the benchmark may have been swept away in landside off the steep north escarpment some years ago as the current trail does not match the topo map where it is shown going directly to the benchmark at the edge of the plateau. In any case, we did our best and called it good. A very enjoyable trek with minimal mud play today.

Pu'u Lua

This turned out to be one of the more interesting summts we'd found so far on the island. It is located adjacent to the Lua Reservoir on the west side of Hwy550. A short, muddy spur road leads from the highway to a large parking area on the west side of the reservoir. A sign indicated the reservoir was closed to trout fishing for the season. A locked gate heading north goes to the base of Pu'u Lua. From there, it's a surprisingly steep cross-country climb up the south side of the mountain to reach the summit. There is very little rock, mostly vegetation and dirt, the latter in various stages of decomposition. We had a short cliff band about 15ft high to get through, made possible only by using a few handy shrubs and small trees to grab onto. We found a benchmark and minimal views at the summit, but it provided us with the only real challenge for the day - a surprisingly good little summit. It was sunset by the time we got back to the car, about 45min roundtrip for the effort.

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