Kauai's Canyons. Waimea, Olokele, Loli Waialae, Koaie, Poomau, Iliiliula, more.

Unfinished Business(Kaluahaulu Ridge and more).

In September 2005, we decided to return to Waialae Camp and explore the area to its east. Our research indicated the possibility of several eastward ridge routes between the Waialae and Loli drainages.

In March 2005, we'd (Bill and I) gone eyeball to eyeball with Kaluahaulu Ridge and blinked, beating a hasty retreat back to Waialae Camp. We decided to take the hard road and descend into Waimea Canyon via the Kukui Trail and tackle K-Ridge from the bottom up.

This time, I studied the route both in the computer and from the vantage point of the Waimea Canyon Overlook which affords an excellent view of the entire climb out of the Canyon.

Kaluahaulu Ridge Trail from Waimea Canyon Overlook.

View east across Waimea Canyon to Kaluahaulu Ridge. The "Red Hill" at Kaluahaulu Ridge dwarfs the one on the Kalalau Trail.

On passing Wikiwiki Camp, we noted that the compost toilet was still tipped over. We tried to pause at Kaluahaulu Camp but had to flee the mosquitoes. Perhaps Mosquito Camp would be a more apt name.

We started straight up, until we latched onto a flagged route and followed it to its end in the middle of a tangle of lantana and other semi-carnivorous weeds. We rock scrambled up to the ridge crest (it may be easier to ignore the flags and follow the lower route as on the topo).

At this point, our recon from the viewpoint was helpful as we could look ahead and almost trace out the route all the way up. From here, the main difficulty was picking the correct ridge between the deeply eroded gullies. The map shows switchbacks but they've long eroded away. We went straight up. It's steep, but with care, you can avoid getting diverted to either side by the gullies and their mini-box canyons (a few stretches thread through brush).

After reaching the top, just reverse our earlier description. The main nuisance was the racket from the choppers going up Waialae Canyon to see the waterfall. However, unlike in March, with an occasional exception most appeared to be in compliance with the regulations, going around the west end of the ridge before going north up the canyon. Now if they would just install mufflers...

Helicopter ridge hopping Kaluahaulu Ridge.

What part of "Minimum altitude of 500 feet" do they not understand? Nine a.m., September 12, 2005. This purple chopper hops the ridge at I'd estimate, less than a hundred feet. The Waimea Canyon Overlook is a little right of center, 3.43 miles away. The prominent peak left of center is Puu Ka Pele, 3662 feet. The photo was taken at about 3513 Feet

Waialae Stream close to Waialae Camp in moderate flow conditions.

We were surprised to find Waialae stream running high as we'd hiking under sunlight for almost all day. We sat down, contemplated the water and mortality and waited for it to drop. After it did (about an inch) we said WTF and waded across. It was only mid-thigh and much safer than our crossing of Koaie Stream in March. Typical Waialae Camp, deserted and beautiful.

Next morning, we had two choices. Try to follow the ridge east from the camp or go about a mile south on the trail toward Waimea and pick up the ridge south of the next drainage that'd been traveled by birdmen(and girls) as recently as 2002.

Finding nothing obvious near the cabin, we went south on the trail, crossed the drainage and reached the ridge top, while looking for trail sign to our left. Just past the ridge crest we spotted several ponchos or tarps wedged into trees above a small dump. Hunter sign! We headed east up ridge and as the ridge narrowed encountered more hunter sign (beer cans) and found a trail headed east that matched (initially) the path followed by the birdmen. Hunter sign soon led us to a Hunter's wallow, (distinguishable from a pig wallow by the whiskey bottles festooning the nearby bushes, blue tarps overhead and the huge midden.)

Hunter's camp near Waialae Camp

"Take only meat, leave only garbage"

The trail became vague from here (perhaps owning to the large number of empty whiskey bottles) and we entered a lethal bog, a blend of tall grass and blackberry vines. (I'm convinced that the impenetrable "Great Thorn Forest" referred to by Lord Greystoke in his famed African memoirs (v 10, Tarzan and the Ant Men) surrounding the land of the Ant Men is actually blackberries.)

But suddenly the trail resurrected itself (perchance the morass has a sobering effect). Gradually, as we approached Loli Bog, the source of the mighty Loli river, the trail trended northward, away from the route followed by the birdmen, cutting the corner and eventually traced exactly the Old Waialeale Trail

It's an excellent trail, chain sawed since Iniki, and in better shape than most of the Mohihi Waialae Trail (past Koaie Camp at least).

Alas, it didn't last. We traversed onto a narrow ridge with uluhe obliterating the slopes on either side. We missed the cutoff down to the Waialae Stream gage, but tried heading downslope, hoping to pick up the trail below the uluhe. We went eye to eye with the uluhe. With great effort, much trashing around, throwing ourselves on the ferns, walking on each other's backs, cursing, sweating, we covered several yards. (It's a little known fact that Pal-ul-don is actually surrounded by uluhe fern). We blinked and headed back from whence we'd come.

Approaching the boggy area, I had a brainstorm. Rather than thrash through the blackberry patch from hell, we'd beeline to the right of the patch (only a hundred yards or so). It worked great until, a quarter mile from the hunter's camp, we stood the edge of a uluhe clogged ravine. We backtracked and with a minimum loss of blood, pushed back through the tangle to the camp. The remainder of the return to Waialae Camp was uneventful. Later, closely studying the map, we realized that the blackberry bog was actually the head of the ravine. Looping south of the morass would probably work but don't blame me if it don't.

Waialae Cabin near Waimea Canyon on Kauai.
Little publicized Waialae Cabin (aka Cowboy Flats) was built by the CCC in the thirties and until the sixties, the USGS used it as their camp enroute to monitor the rain and streamflow gauges on the way to Waialeale. Today it is usually deserted but slowly decaying. There's a compost toilet(albeit upright) nearby. Surrounded by meadows and ridges, it's a great spot and the only "wilderness" campground in the Alakai.

Map of trail southeast of Waialae Cabin.

The next day, the descent down Kaluahaulu was too hot and humid for long pants, gloves, long sleeved shirts after we dropped into the canyon. We suffered a thousand slices, but eventually reached the floor of the Valley of Mosquitoes.(Future reference: spraying Cutter's onto scratched leg causes exquisite pain!) Only took two hours to climb out. Reached the car by 3:30. MacDonald's by 4:15.

On reflection, in March, if we'd continued down the ridge, we'd had major difficulty reaching the bottom before dark. Retreat can be bitter but essential medicine, something to remember in the Alakai.

Descent down Kaluahaulu Ridge into Waimea Canyon

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