Hipstamic is a strangely satisfying analog-inspired app for the iPhone. This series of posts aims to place the focus a bit more on the photos rather than the words. In Volume 4, we feature a collection of Hipstamatic photos taken during a recent hike through Papali Uka Ridge and the Forbidden Castle Trail. For a complete write-up of the hike, please check out this post. To check out the rest of this series, click here.
All posts tagged Hauula
Note: Access to the Castle Trail has been restricted since construction started on it in 1906 and closed to recreational hikers since 1923 (Ball, 2012). The land that the Castle Trail is on is owned by the Bishop Estate. Neither the Bishop Estate or the State of Hawaii have any plans to open the trail to the general public. It is illegal to hike this trail and to do so would be cause for citation or arrest. There is also a risk of falling boulders, landslides, falling off a cliff, and drowning. As such, all accounts here are fictional. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Adobe Photoshop is a wonderful piece of software that allows one to superimpose another into a photo making it seem as if they were somewhere when if fact they were not. This is an account of what would have happened IF we had actually decided to hike this trail.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hike with Stuart Ball, author of The Hikers Guide to Oahu. He led a group of hikers from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club (HTMC) on a hike up to Puu O Hulu, on the Waianae Coast. During the hike, I had the chance to ask Stuart a wealth of different questions. One of the questions that I posed to him was in regards to his favorite hike on the island. His definitive answer was: The Castle Trail. Prior to this, the Castle Trail had been on my long list of must-do hikes on the island. Access issues and community resistance had kept me away. But now, Stuart peaked my interest. My ears pointed upward as if I was a starving dog with a piece of meat being waved in front of me.
Coincidentally, the day after my conversational hike with Stuart Ball up Puu O Hulu, I received a message from Marvin Chandra. Marvin was a regular blogger here at Exploration: Hawaii. We’d fallen out of touch, and had rarely spoken since March of 2012. He had mentioned some things from his hike the day before, but then he asked if I wanted to do the Castle Trail with him the following week. Weird, I thought to myself. What are the chances? I took this as a sign that now was the perfect time to tackle this mythical trail.
The route that we chose to take was the same route that Ball had suggested to me. We would start by making our way through the state maintained Maakua Ridge Trail, eventually connecting with a junction that would bring us up Papali Uka Ridge, and then we would make our way down Castle Trail. With Marvin’s previous experience on the trail and some tips from other hikers, we estimated the hike to be in the ballpark of eight to ten hours. We would be in for a relatively long day, a mini-grinder, so to speak.
The last time I was in this area was over a year ago when I did the Hauula Loop Trail with Joel and Marvin. Since then, I’ve done many trails throughout the island, but never had the chance to return to do the second half of what Stuart Ball calls the Hauula-Papali Loop Trail. I finally found the time to finish the larger portion of Ball’s double loop, but unlike last time, I would be doing the hike solo.
Hauula, which means “red hau,” is a small community in the Koʻolauloa District of Oahu. The trail is located in a seemingly rural neighborhood, compared to the more popular east side trails. With that said, be careful in regards to where you choose to park. The risk for theft is considered to be high in this area, however, I myself have not had any issues. Park with consideration and make sure you don’t upset anyone. There are also a lot of loose dogs that run around the neighborhood.
Note: Sacred Falls Park and Sacred Falls trail has been closed since May 1999. The State of Hawaii has no plans to re-open the park. It is illegal to hike this trail and to do so would be cause for citation or arrest. There is also a risk of falling boulders, landslides, and drowning. As such, all accounts here are fictional. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Adobe Photoshop is a wonderful piece of software that allows one to superimpose another into a photo making it seem as if they were somewhere when if fact they were not. Got it?
Before the tragedy of 1999, Sacred Falls was one of the top tourist attractions for those visiting the island of Oahu. This all changed the month before I graduated high school, Mother’s Day 1999, when eight people were killed and 50 more were injured from a massive landslide. At its height, the popular trail and waterfall received up to 55,000 visitors annually. Since 1999, the park and the waterfall trail has been closed to visitors and hopeful waterfall seekers. In 2003, the State of Hawaii reached an $8.56 million settlement with those injured and the families of the victims. Regardless, Sacred Falls continues to flow and thrill-seekers continue to visit her.
Accessing Sacred Falls is not difficult. In fact, if you grew up in Hawaii then you probably know of its exact location and may have visited it prior to the 1999 tragedy. Odds are that if you visited Oahu before the tragedy then you too might be familiar with the falls as well. You would simply need to jump on Kamehameha Highway and drive toward Punaluu. It’s useful to use the Kim Taylor Reece Gallery (53-866 Kamehameha Hwy) in Hau’ula as a landmark. You will need to find parking along the residential roads. Once you’ve found an ideal parking spot, back track on foot toward Punaluu, crossing a white wooden bridge (the bridge is on the mauka, or mountain side, of the road). Shortly, you will reach a rusted yellow metal gate. Beyond the gate looks to be a park, however, there is no signage at this particular park. You’ve reached Sacred Falls Park. It will be eerily empty.
At 55,000 annual visitors, Sacred Falls trail received roughly 150 daily visitors – many of whom were tourists. With that said, the trail itself to the falls is not a difficult one. In terms of terrain, it’s similar to the Manoa Falls trail (fairly wide with little elevation gain) but longer and with a couple of stream crossings. Don’t let the Manoa Falls comparison fool you, though. The Sacred Falls trail can be quite dangerous. You should definitely not even consider this trail if it has been raining recently, simply because of the stream crossings that need to be completed. Also, the valley will narrow considerably once you are deep in the valley. To be stuck in the stream while the water is raging would be very bad. And let’s not forget, there’s always the danger of you getting cited for trespassing. There are rumors that residents near the park will call the police if they see people entering the park. Other people have said that sometimes there is an officer/state official waiting along the trail to issue citations. I did mention above that the park has been officially closed since 1999, right?
Ko’loa Gulch is an 8 mile roundtrip waterfall hike that leads to a massive waterfall (or 2 if you have time) in back of this Hau’ula valley on the windward side of the island. While long, the hike is not difficult as there are no strenuous inclines or declines save for the very beginning of the trail. Caution is warranted as flash floods would be extremely dangerous at certain portions of the hike and one must be careful of falling rocks as well. It is still a fairly tiring hike but delivers an excellent waterfall for those who make it to the end.
This was another hike set up by OHA. Quyen chose this hike while Laredo led us. Only 3 of us signed up, as the recommendation of felt bottom shoes and crampons may have scared away potential hikers. Like La’ie, a permit is required for this trail. Stuart Ball tells us how to get there:
At Punchbowl St. get on Lunalilo Fwy (H-1) heading ‘ewa (west). Take Likelike Hwy (exit 20A, Rte 63 north) up Kalihi Valley through the Wilson Tunnel. The highway forks. Keep right for Kahekili Hwy (Rte 83 west). Kahekili Hwy becomes Kamehameha Hwy (still Rte 83), which continues up the windward coast. Drive through Ka‘a‘awa and Punalu‘u to Hau‘ula. Pass Hau‘ula Beach Park on the right and Hau‘ula Shopping Center on the left. On the right look for Kokololio Beach Park with its long rock wall. Turn right into the lot there and park at the far end.
Continue along Kamehameha Hwy on foot. Pass mile marker 20 and cross a small culvert marked by yellow poles. Almost immediately turn left on a dirt road across from house number 55-147. Another dirt road comes in on the right through a gate. Continue straight, along a short row of ironwood trees.
Ball, Stuart M., Jr. (2000-09-01). The Hikers Guide to the O’ahu, Rev. Ed. (Kindle Locations 3966-3980). Latitude 20. Kindle Edition.
Right before making a left onto the trail from the dirt road, we encountered some dogs. While they seemed fairly mean, Laredo was able to subdue them with some dog whispering.
Pu’u O Kila sits in the back of Kahana Valley and is connected to and is shadowed by Pu’u Ohulehule with just one peak separating them (Koiele). The climb to the peak is steep and often times overgrown. There is some danger as there are many narrow, brittle, and steep ridge sections. Overall, it is an easier climb than Ohulehule but still requires great effort and care to summit.
This was a hike set up by O’ahu Hikers and Adventurers and was led by Laredo Muredo and Quyen Nguyen. We were additionally joined by Ken, Pat and John. Laredo (aka Da Rainbow Man, LaRambo) is best known for being the weekday security guard at Stairway to Heaven (Haiku stairs). He has also recently completed the whole Ko’olau Summit Trail (KST) from Makapu’u to Pupukea after completing the Kalihi Saddle. He had originally completed all portions of the KST over 10 years ago but required only the Kalihi Saddle to finish.
The trail starts in Kahana Valley on the Nokoa trail just as Ohulehule. Although where one starts on the Nokoa trail differs. Directions to Kahana Valley trail from Stuart Ball:
At Punchbowl St. get on Lunalilo Fwy (H-1) heading ‘ewa (west).
Take Likelike Hwy (exit 20A, Rte 63 north) up Kalihi Valley through the Wilson Tunnel.
The highway forks. Keep right for Kahekili Hwy (Rte 83 west).
Kahekili becomes Kamehameha Hwy (still Rte 83), which continues up the windward coast. Drive through the villages of Kahalu‘u and Waiāhole to Ka‘a‘awa.
Pass the Crouching Lion Inn on the left.
The road curves left to go around Kahana Bay.
Cross Kahana Stream on two bridges.
By a large palm grove turn left into Kahana Valley State Park.
Pass the green Orientation Center on the right.
It has rest rooms and drinking water.
A shelf by the front door contains park brochures and trail maps.
Drive another 0.5 mile into the valley on the paved road.
Ball, Stuart M., Jr. (2000-09-01). The Hikers Guide to the O’ahu, Rev. Ed. (Kindle Locations 3548-3560). Latitude 20. Kindle Edition.
Once you are parked just outside the residential area, walk through the neighborhood until you reach a hunter check-in station. Go right and you will continue along a long paved road until you meet a fence. Near the fence, there will be a sign for the Nokoa trail on your left. Start on this trail and you will find yourself on a straightforward trek to a set of stone bunkers. As you arrive at the bunkers, find some ribbons on the right side. If you go left, you will continue along the Nokoa trail and eventually exit the Nokoa trail.
From here, Laredo took a shortcut to the O Kila ridge and I didn’t keep good record of how the trail followed. But here is a guide from a more competent blogger from after you pass the bunkers:
You will soon reach a thick bamboo grove at the edge of the stream. Cross the shallow stream. Continue along the trail, again keeping an eye out for ribbons. The stream will immediately come into view on the right. Cross again to a narrow strip leading toward the left side of the stream. Walk along the boulders and pick up a trail coming out of the stream. Walk a short ways and take a left. This left is the start of the ridge heading to the top of Pu’u O Kila
The single most limiting factor (in my opinion) when it comes to hiking in Hawaii is the weather. More specifically, rain. And if you know me then you know that I am not a fan of rain. Despite recent lofty plans to complete some epic hikes, Team Exploration: Hawaii had to modify their schedule in order to cooperate with the cloudy skies and occasional showers that Oahu has been experiencing over the last couple of days. With that said, our planned hikes that involved multiple summits on the Ko’olau range as well as an attempt at completing the treacherous Kalena had to be scrapped.
Going back and forth between a couple of hiking options, we settled on the Hau’ula Loop Trail which is located at the end of Hau’ula Homestead Road. For those unfamiliar with Hau’ula, it is a small and rural community in the Koʻolauloa District on Oahu just before Lai’e.
The trailhead is located at the end of Hau’ula Homestead Road beyond the metal yellow gate. Parking is limited here so your best bet is to park somewhere along Kamehameha Highway . Stuart Ball’s book recommends parking in front of the Hau’ula Congressional Church, however, we did notice a No Parking sign. We ended up parking on that dirt lot in front of the church closest to the 7-11. We left the car there, hoped it would still be there when we got back, and then headed toward the trail.
The trail itself was very well maintained, which makes sense since it is a state regulated trail. Walk past the metal yellow gate and you will come to a sign indicating the start of the Hau’ula Trail. To the left is what looks like another trail and we actually though that we would exit the loop from there, but we didn’t so I am not too sure where that particular trail leads. Follow the signed trail on the right and you eventually reach a junction with a sign that gives you the option to go left or right. Turning right will lead you to the Hau’ula Loop Trail. If you go left, you will begin the Papali Loop Trail . We chose to go right.
As we headed right, we began to notice the steady incline and multiple switchbacks. There actually are a ton of switchbacks on this trail, which is good on the knees because of the very steady (not steep) incline. There are no real steep spots on this trail other than the short dirt slope that you will need to climb to reach the peak of the trail. It took us about an hour to reach the peak of the Hau’ula Loop Trail. At the top of the peak you get a nice view of the Ko’olau Range and you also get a partial view of Lai’e – think lots of mountain and some ocean.
The views from the top of the trail weren’t that spectacular, however, the journey to the peak did make up for it. As you walk through the Hau’ula Trail you feel as if you’ve been transported to a far away jungle. The vegetation was lush green and the breeze was nice and cool. The trail was a bit wet, but not overly so. Just be mindful of slippery rocks on the few occasions that you will need to cross them.
On the way back I also got excited because I spotted some birds that peaked my interested. I’ve been itching to photograph birds that are endemic to Hawaii. However, although the moment was exciting, these brids were not endemic. The birds that we saw were Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea) and they were introduced from East Asia (Thanks Matt for verifying this).
There are a few things that make the Hau’ula Loop Trail special. First, it’s a short hike that is great for those with children. In fact, the only other people that we ran into on the trail was a group of kids (around the ages of 6-10) being led by some adults. The kids were even able to climb the not-so-difficult dirt slope to the peak of the hike. Speaking of the peak, this leads me to the second reason why this hike is special. The peak is filled with strawberry guava, which makes for an excellent mid-hike treat. The trail also has other fruits such as mountain apple (though we didn’t find any of this day), guava, and lilikoi. Finally, it has been said that when it’s raining on Oahu, Hau’ula Loop Trail is a perfect place to hike. And on the day that we hiked Hau’ula, this was indeed true.
For comparison purposes, I would say that Hau’ula Loop Trail is an easier hike than Mariner’s Ridge Trail. Although the view from the Hau’ula peak is not as spectacular as Mariner’s Ridge, the hike itself is very beautiful (unlike the very dry Mariner’s Ridge trail).
Hau’ula Loop Trail Tips:
- Bring along some mosquito repellant. Hau’ula is a wet trail and mosquitos love wet trail.
- Don’t park on Hau’ula Homestead Road, instead park along Kamehameha Highway. As always when there are no official hiking parking lots, you park at your own risk.
- A bottle of water will be enough for this trail. There is no real need to pack a camelback for this one.
- The trail peak doesn’t really make for a great lunch spot. I’d recommend having lunch elsewhere, like the Giovanni Shrimp Truck in Kahuku.