Pu'u Pueo

Sat, Dec 21, 2019
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Ryan's training had him scheduled for a 16mi run today, but he wasn't looking forward to running out 8mi and then returning the same stretch of road. I offered to drive him to the north end of Farrington Hwy, a distance of 12mi that would allow him to make most of his run a one-way affair. He jumped at the idea and drove with me in the morning to the trailhead for Ka'ena Point, where the west side of Oahu meets the northside on a lonely stretch of old road/trail. I wanted to pay a visit to a minor summit, the 900-foot Pu'u Pueo, that has a military radar installation parked at the top. I didn't know if there was a trail heading up the ridgeline from Ka'ena Point, but figured it would be worth exploring. The first two miles and change are on the old road that now serve as a trail. Though guidebooks will tell you the route is no longer driveable, that isn't exactly true. Though the route is rough and narrow, there are tire tracks to show that folks still venture out there with their vehicles and there were no signs or gates preventing you from doing so. You can't make it all the way to Ka'ena Point, however, for three reasons. The first obstacle comes shortly before mile 2 where an abandoned passenger car is found blocking the road. At mile two there is a washout that would effectively keep you from getting further even if you managed to get around the car. And lastly, there is a fence around the albatross nesting area at the point. I did see several groups hiking out past the fence. I'm not sure if that's kosher or not, but I didn't go out there myself. Instead, I climbed up from the washout to find the trail that originates at the end of the pavement on the north side of the island. Just after rounding the ridgeline, there is a break in the brush where I found the start of a decent use trail that winds its way up the ridgeline, almost exactly as I'd hoped. It goes past several old concrete platforms and abandoned structures, including an old graffiti-riddled pillbox around 600ft up the ridge. The trail thins as it nears the radar installation, eventually disappearing, but the cross-country is easy enough and I managed to reach the fence about an hour and twenty minutes' effort. I snapped a photo inside and a few outside the fence, noting a car parked at the far end but nobody outside. I was on the backside where it's unlikely to find personnel, but I didn't hang around to see if anyone would wander outside. I went back via pretty much the same route, taking an hour for the return. While I had seen only a single trail runner when I had started out around 8:10a, there were several dozen folks hiking down the trail towards the point upon my return, and the parking lot was busy with vehicles that had appeared since I'd started out. The flat hike along the coast wasn't terribly memorable with muddy potholes to avoid and mostly views of rock-strewn coastline. There was a blowhole I heard but didn't see, and a small arch along the way. The use trail going up the ridge was very good and worth the effort to go out that way. If one approaches from the North Shore, the flat portion of the hike is much shorter.


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