Pu'u Kepau'ula
Kamaile'unu Ridge P750

Wed, Jan 4, 2017
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With rainy weather returning to Oahu, we headed to the drier, leeward side of the island, Ryan to try his hand at more fishing, Dad doing what he always does - hike. The highpoint of Kamaile'unu Ridge is the fourth highest summit on Oahu, the ridge a strikingly defined feature separating Makaha Valley from Wai'anae Valley. Because it's on the leeward side, the vegetation is drier and sparser, a nice change after three days of battling the mud in the Ko'olau Range. There is a well-marked trail along the ridge, with pink flaggings to the point of distraction and sadly, the well-intentioned but boneheadedly fail spraypaint on rocks. Sigh. The lower portion of the ridge also has an array of graffiti which from the looks of it marks this section as a local teen party spot.

Ryan dropped me off on Maiu'u Rd at the base of the West Ridge around 9:30a. Again, because his phone didn't survive the swim in salt water, we had to make an old-fashioned arrangement without texting capability. I guessed that it would take me 5-7hrs, giving him 5hrs of free use of the Jeep. After that he'd leave the Jeep at the 7-11 down the road along with a note where to find him. It was not surprising to hear dogs barking when I got out of the jeep, but the odd thing was the barking was coming from up the ridge. I told Ryan to hold up a minute before taking off, in case my hike became the shortest one of the month. I spotted 3-4 dogs of medium build about 50yds up the ridge right where I planned to hike. I looked at Ryan who pointed to a large stick lying on the side of the road and commented, "Take that with you." And so I did. The dogs turned out to be feral and from the looks of it probably the same litter. Someone left bowls of water along the roadway and probably feeds them too. The dogs barked and snarled as I started up the ridge towards them, but were cowards in the end and slunk off down the trail as soon as they could get by me. That was pretty much all the excitement for the day.

The trail turned out to be far better than I had expected based on the ridge just to the north that I hiked four days earlier. As mentioned, the trail on today's ridge was well-marked and left no route-finding issues. I could understand marking the trail when it deviates from the ridge to bypass difficulties (and there are several of these points), but why on earth does one feel the need to mark a trail following up a sharp ridgeline? Some things I will never fully understand. The hike is a good one despite this, with constant views to Makaha Valley off the left side and Wai'anae Valley to the right. After gaining 1,000ft the ridge levels off for a short distance before resuming it's climb, rising another 1,600ft to Puu Kepau'ula. Trees begin to populate the northwest side of the ridge and there are stands along the ridge itself that provide some respite from the sun overhead. The trees had been trimmed recently along the trail, making things easier than they might be otherwise. I made good time, climbing to Puu Kepau'ula in less than two hours and then to the ridge highpoint in an other 45min. I followed the continuing trail a short distance past the highpoint where there is a good view overlooking the Wai'anae Range and Island highpoint of Ka'ala. Nearer in, I checked out the line of the ridge as it grows increasingly complex on its way to Pu'u Kawiwi and then up higher where the ridge connects with the main Wai'anae crest. I could see a green length of webbing halfway to Puu Kawiwi along a section of exceptionally rocky ridge. Others had obviously gone that way, and though it was only another 1/3mi away, I decided to head back rather than get into something I might not be prepared for - more research would be needed on this one.

I returned back to the highpoint and then back along the ridge via the same route I'd come. There might be ways to make a loop of this one, but the return would be through one of the hot valleys along a not-so-scenic piece of pavement. The cooler breeze and better views were to be had along the ridge and with most of it downhill it was a more relaxed return as well. I finished up half an hour before the earliest time I had given Ryan, giving me time to get a Super Big Gulp from the 7-11 and rest up at the beach across the highway. Ryan showed up a little earlier than planned, so I didn't have long to wait. We had a date with Mike's Hulihuli Chicken truck planned back in Kaneohe, so we wasted little time getting back to the windward side of the island...


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