The view from the summit of the Poamoho Ridge Trail is spectacular. In fact, the view from Poamoho is probably my favorite view on the island along with Lanihuli. But I am getting ahead of myself. The long walk to the actual trailhead of the Poamoho Ridge Trail was a journey in itself.
Poamoho Ridge Trail is a hike that Team Exploration: Hawaii had planned for almost a month. The trail is hidden within the Ewa Forrest Reserve in Wahiawa. Access to the trailhead requires a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources – Division of Forestry and Wildlife. You can find the application on the Na Ala Hele Trail & Access website. Note that the permit must be submitted at least 10 days before you plan to hike and is only valid for holidays and weekends. With that said, we submitted our permit request very late. With only three days before our planned hike, we decided to cross our fingers and hand deliver our application to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife located in Makiki Valley. The lady in charge of assigning the hiking permits was very accommodating. She explained to me that she would make an exception this time, but to not expect it next time. I agreed and was very happy (and relieved) to have received a permit with only 3 days notice. The hike was on.
Verteran’s Day 2011 started for me at 6:00am. After some preparation, Joel and I drove off to Manoa to pick up Marvin. We arrived at Hyde Manor at around 7:00am. As Marvin walked out of his front door, we noticed his dirt laden shorts. When asked about this, he noted that those were now his official hiking shorts since he could no longer remove the dirt stains. With the dirty shorts explained, we jetted toward the H1 freeway. President Medvedev of Russia was reported to arrive within 15 minutes for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and therefore the freeway, both east and west bound, would soon be shut down. Fortunately for us, we made it out of Honolulu before the freeway came to a complete halt. While on the freeway, we did notice two military officials donning rifles atop one of the overpasses. Anti-terrorist snipers?
After picking up breakfast and some trail food from the Wahiawa Foodland, we set off for Poamoho Hele Loa Road. This is the access road that leads you to the trailhead of the Poamoho Ridge Trail. And this is where the permit comes into play. Na Ala Hele only allows a certain number of people on the trail on any given day. There are three locked gates whose lock access codes are provided on the permit. A 4X4 vehicle is also necessary when accessing the road. Fortunately for us, Joel kindly agreed to shuttle us using his Toyota 4Runner. After wrongly driving through the military gate (I can’t believe the guard allowed us through), we turned around and noticed the first Poamoho access gate just before the military guard shack. At around 8:15am, I stepped out of the car into the red mud and proceeded to unlock the first gate. The only problem was that the gate would not unlock. We played around with it for a bit and then assumed that we were given the wrong access code. We fiddled around a bit before realizing that the lock needed to be pushed upward before it would unlock. Boom – we were now in.
We didn’t think that the access road would be very bad, but my goodness the mud was deep and very slick. We drove very slowly on the access road. Occasionally, we’d skid and glide on the road. At one point, we reached a hill that we had difficulty getting over. Joel would get stuck moving forward and would only be able to reverse. Luckily, we ran into some very kind hunters that noticed that we were in a pickle. They stopped and waited while we tried to get over the hill. Eventually, one of them came over and asked if we were okay. He gave us some tips on how they maneuvered over the slick hill and luckily their tips worked for us. We could only go so far on the 6-mile access road. Eventually, we stopped just after the third gate and parked about 3.3 miles in. This would require us to walk 2.7 miles before reaching the trailhead.
With the car parked at around 9:45am, we stepped out of the 4Runner and got our things together. And then it started to pour. Joel and I donned our rain jackets, while Marvin braved the elements. Our trek to the Poamoho trailhead was a seemingly long one and was made longer when Joel thought he had dropped his iPhone along the way. He disappeared behind us as Marvin and I trekked on without noticing. When we did notice that he was gone I tried to call him but then realized that I had his phone in my pocket. Oh my, what a way to start our hike (and we weren’t even on the official trail yet). Marvin and I reversed track and then eventually met back up with Joel. I handed him his phone and we finally made our way to the trailhead. On the way to the trailhead, Joel decided to mention the Wahiawa Green Lady . That bastard. Throughout the rest of the hike I was on edge expecting the Green Lady to jump out of a bush at any given time.
We reached the official Poamoho trailhead at around 11:00am. We had wasted so much time messing with the gate and walking the access road. I was a bit bummed that it was already late morning. I wasn’t sure that we would even have enough time to finish the trail. With that in mind, we proceeded pass the trailhead.
It had been raining for the past few days, so it was reasonable that the trail would be muddy. I didn’t realize that it would be this muddy. At times, I would fall into mud holes that were calf deep. By the end of the hike, my pants would be caked in brown wet mud up to the knees.
The elevation gain on this trail is not even noticeable. It’s like you’re walking on flat land the entire way. No rock climbing or huge hills to navigate. However, the slick mud adds a level of difficulty and frustration that you don’t get on dry trails. The mud will indeed slow you down. I had read one account of the Poamoho Trail on Dayle Turner’s website, written by Mike Uslan, who mentioned that it took his family (including a 9 year old girl), 1.5 hours to reach the summit of the Poamoho Trail. It took us nearly twice as long. I blame the mud.
Along the trail, you will reach a few landmarks. The first will be a bench next to a Na Ala Hele locked toolbox. Look beyond the valley and you will get a partial view of Scholfield Barracks with the Waianae Range in the background. Beyond that you will encounter two man-made metal bridges built over tiny streams running down the side of the ridge. Beyond the second bridge will be a second resting bench. This second bench is notable because of the solar device that exist to the back of it. Pass this second resting bench and you will reach a third bridge followed by a false summit. At the false summit you will see two signs indicating the end of the maintained trail. The signs will also suggest that you do not continue beyond that point. Of course, if you want to reach the unbelievable views of the Poamoho summit then you will need to continue on. The trail was actually quite maintained when we were there. At no point does it hug the ridge so much that you feel you will fall over (of course, this is subjective). The trail was fairly wide compared to some of the other trails that we have been on.
Beyond the signs I would estimate that it would be about 1.5 miles to the Poamoho summit. It probably took us about an hour from the end of the maintained trail signs to the summit. On the last leg of the trip we kept our eyes peeled for native Hawaiian snails, however, we didn’t spot any. Bummer.
At around 2:15pm and what seemed like endless walking, we finally turned a corner and saw Marvin waiting for us at the Geraldine Cline Memorial. The memorial is located just before the Poamoho Summit. We ran up that last hill to meet up with Marvin and after a quick look at the memorial, I rushed up eager to sees the fruits of our labor. The view from the summit was magnificent. Kahana Valley was in clear view, and just beyond that you could see the ocean and beaches of the Windward side. I remember saying “WOW!” out loud and then exclaiming that this view might be the best view on the island – even better than Lanihuli.
The summit of Poamoho was very, very windy. This made photography very difficult. It also made capturing any kind of timelapse using a tripod near impossible. Super Bummer. However, I was determined not to leave without OWLing. I found (or should I say Marvin found) a nice ledge off of the summit for me to OWL on. And I OWLed. I OWLed to my hearts content. It was amazing. The wind was blowing through my hair as I looked beyond the Kahana Valley floor and Pu’u Ohulehule toward Makapu’u. For a few seconds, everything in the world was perfect.
After relishing in the views of the Poamoho summit, we decided to hike the 0.5 miles to the Poamoho cabin. We decided that this would be a nice spot for us to relax for a few minutes and eat our lunch. It was also 2:40pm so this would be just a quick break. I examined the cabin while Marvin and Joel examined the cabin log book. The cabin itself was quite nice, with built-in wooden bunks and even a few supplies like water, duct tape, and even mouthwash. After lunch, Marvin quickly swept the cabin floor of the rat poop and then we dashed out, hoping to reach civilization before the sunset.
The trek out of Poamoho was just as muddy as the trek in. However, at each landmark, we would note how much faster our pace was. In the the end, it would take us a total of about 3 hours to make it back to the 4Runner. And although we had made it to the trailhead before sunset, we still had the 2.7 mile walk on the access road back to the 4Runner. The sun was going down very fast and eventually we were walking in darkness. It’s a good thing I had my headlamp. With the thoughts of the Wahiawa Green Lady in my mind (thank you Joel), we quickly rushed to the car and reached it at 6:30pm. I will note that about 1000 ft. from the car we experienced something quite creepy, but I will save that for the footnotes .
Once we reached the car, both Joel and I were super relived. Marvin was there waiting for us with his headlamp. The three of us proceeded to remove our muddy hiking boots. The drive back on the access road seemed liked such a long and creepy journey. I hated the fact that I had to step out of our vehicle to open those gates. I hated it so much that I dragged Marvin along each time. I wasn’t taking any chances of experiencing another creepy moment. With the last gate passed and Team Exploration: Hawaii on the paved main road, we all released a sigh of relief. It was a good thing that all of the stalls, errors, and misfortunes happened at the start of the journey and not at the end while in the dark. The Wahiawa Green Lady must have hitched a ride with another group of hikers.
Total Distance: 12.4 miles roundtrip.
Total Time: 8 hours and 15 minutes (including a 15 minute summit break and 15 minute cabin break); 5 hours from 4Runner to Poamoho Cabin, and 3 hours and 15 minutes from Poamoho Cabin to 4Runner.
Poamoho Ridge Trail Tips:
- Expect rain. Poamoho Ridge is notorious for being very wet. You’ll be thankful that you brought a rain jacket with you.
- I suggest wearing long socks and long pants to keep from have mud-caked legs.
- If you plan to drive through the access road then be sure that you have a vehicle rugged enough to handle the long, bumpy, and potentially slick and muddy road.
- Ideally, Poamoho Ridge Trail should be done when it hasn’t been raining for a few days. However, this is difficult to plan since permits must be required 10 days prior to the planned hike.
Directions to the trailhead are found on the permit. Acquire the permit and you’ll acquire the necessary directions.
1. The Wahiawa Green Lady: The story of the green lady is that of a woman who would visit the gulch of Wahiawa, which also contains the botanical gardens of Wahiawa, with her children. One day while visiting, one of her children became lost and was never found. The story goes that she still wanders the gulch looking for her child, or children, and will take any child that she comes across in the gulch. There have been several reports of seeing a green woman covered in moss or mold wandering the gulch. Others say that the green woman closely resembles that of a Japanese mythological creature called the kappa. This creature is said to resemble a turtle-like humanoid that steals children to feast upon. The last known sighting was said to have happened in the mid to late 1980s. In modern times, children and teenagers dare each other to run across the bridge that runs over the gulch at night. Most speculators say that this story was made up to keep children from wandering into the gulch by themselves [via Wikipedia].
2. About 1000 ft. from the 4Runner we heard what seemed like a women’s voice calling out to us, “hey you.” At the time, Joel was with and insisted that he heard a man’s voice. In any case, I freaked and began to sprint toward the 4Runner. Joel yelled for me to stop running. And so I stopped and walked at a very brisk pace instead. I rationalized that it must have been a cat, even though my logic suggested that a lone cat would not be out there in the woods alone. And then I rationalized that it was some hunter playing a trick on us, however, we never saw another vehicle on the way out. Creepy. So creepy.