Wiliwilinui Ridge
Peak 2,620ft P300

Fri, Dec 23, 2016
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I was in Oahu on vacation with the family, five days into a 20-day stay on the island. For the fifth day I made a trek to the Ko'olau Summit, using yet another trail on one of the many ridges found on the leeward side of the range. One might get the impression that I must simply love wallowing in mud, getting wet and climbing to summits with no views, but there was method to this madness - I wanted to collect as many of the Ko'oalau summits as I could before my daughter arrived. She was the only one who expressed any actual excitement about hiking with me (though my wife has been a good sport on a few occasions already) and I wanted to get the tougher ones out of the way so we could enjoy more touristy hikes combined with touristy drives around Oahu. She was supposed to arrive the previous day, but American Airlines has suffered weather and other problems in the past few days and passed those on to their customers. So with another day sans daughter, I headed to another Honolulu neighborhood to hike the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail, less than 2.5mi in length with 2,000ft of gain. A fairly easy hike by Ko'olau standards as I found this trail better than the others I'd been on already. Getting to it was pretty easy as there are road signs directing one to the TH as one drives up Laukahi St from SR72. The upper portion of the road goes through a newish, high-end neighborhood and one must first pass muster with the guard on duty at the checkpoint. Luckily it's not that exclusive and I simply had to show ID and tell him I planned to hike. He handed me a placard to put in my window and sent me on my way. The trailhead is found at the highest point on Okoa St and unlike some of the other ridge THs, they have parking right there, no need to inconvenience the neighbors by parking in front of their homes.

The trail itself is one of the better ones in terms of trail maintenance. That's not to say it wasn't a complete mudfest - it was, but the trail is generally wide and not overgrown, even in the upper sections. The mud begins after the first half mile of trail and continues on and off for the remainder of the hike. I danced around it only as a way to keep my boots semi-dry as long as possible, knowing they would once again become saturated before I got back. 45min into the hike and about half an hour from the Ko'olau Summit, the cruising part of the trail ends and the stairs begin. There's even a bike rack to park your bike, not that anyone would have been able to ride through the mud today to reach it. The stairs were installed by volunteers with the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club. A sign here asks you to wipe your boots on the brush pad installed at the foot of the stairs. Nice idea to help keep out invasive seeds, but if you don't change out the brushes periodically they become clogged with mud and debris and do little good. I wiped my muddy boots on the muddy brushes anyway. The stairs begin gaining altitude quickly and you can feel it in your thighs soon enough. No complaint though, as they are WAY easier than a slippery slope with a sketchy rope to depend on. In fact, there were several such handlines installed even with the steps, not really necessary, but nice to know they're there in a pinch. Part way up the stairs I came across a local couple resting on their way up. This was their first trip up the trail too. We talked briefly and they wondered how much longer the trail was. I checked the GPSr and told them half a mile which seemed to hearten them (in fact it would be a little less than that since I was heading to Peak 2,620ft, past the end of the trail). Continuing up, I passed by a rusting telecom installation which I had though might be the top but that was a minute further on where there is a small view bench, wet and without views today. A pair of signs implore one to go no further due to dangerous cliffs. Peak 2,620ft, invisible through the clouds, lay only an eighth of a mile to the south. Past the signs I went. It was very wet and overgrown here, and what parts of my boots, socks and feet that had so far managed to evade the dampness were soon awash with wet and mud in my now squishy boots. My pants got a soaking pushing through the brush and my gloves, too, became a sopping mess. The traverse over to the peak along the Ko'olau Summit Trail was not as bad as the previous day, and though there was slick, muddy backsliding, it did not have the same excessive exposure. Maybe that was because I couldn't actually see the exposure like the previous day when weather conditions weren't quite so bad. Anyway, I had only a short distance to go to experience standing atop Peak 2,620ft without finding much to recommend it.

When I returned to the end of the Wiliwilinui Trail, I found the couple had arrived and wondering what had happened to me. I had considered that they might have thought I plunged off the milky white abyss and we all had a bit of a laugh. I explained where I had gone and of course made no recommendation that they follow it. They were relieved to know they'd reached the crest. Back down I went. The return went much faster thanks to gravity as I made good time down the stairs. I was no longer dancing around the muddy spots either now that I had collected as much of the brown stuff as my boots possibly could. I began running across other parties on their way up, some with young kids in tow. With mud pretty much all over me by now, they would look at me and then their own nearly clean shoes. "Is it really that muddy up there?" Yes, it is. I wished them all well and suggested maybe things would improve for them (they wouldn't, of course). I made a brief detour to visit the highpoint LoJ defines as Wiliwilinui Ridge, a short but excessively steep climb through koa forest that was managed by grabbing one small tree trunk after another to pull myself up. The trees also obscured any chance of views. While I was looking around at nothing in particular, my phone rang. An automated message let me know that my daughter's flight out of San Jose would be delayed by almost an hour and a half. This would give her just over 30min to get from one terminal to another at LAX to catch her flight to Honolulu. I got on the phone and played with various responses on the annoying voice messaging system before getting a live operator. I explained my continuing trouble with the AA system not letting my daughter check in online because the status keeps showing as "Ticket Pending". I had called three other times over the past 12hrs and was told, "Ok, I've fixed it, just wait 30min for the sytem to catch up." All to no avail. This guy knew what he was talking about and after putting me on hold briefly, explained why this time it would be different and how he corrected it. And so he did. Not all AA representatives are useless after all. Still, it would be a close call on the flight connection. As I was hanging up after about 15min, I wondered if anyone walking by on the trail not far below might have heard what must seem like a bizarre conversation to be taking place off-trail somewhere up on the knoll above them. Then again, if they were under 30 they'd probably take it as normal. It was 11:40a when I returned to the TH, the shortest hiking day I'd had yet on Oahu at under 3hrs. Time to do more laundry...

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