From the Kukui trailhead, a little left of Waialae Falls, you can spot a grassy ridge poking out into the Canyon. Atop it is a small tree or clump of trees. It promised to be an excellent viewpoint and the topo map even showed a trail leading out to the end of the narrow ridge.
After the steep climb up K-Ridge's several Red Hills, the ridge roller coasts to the east, becoming more vegetated and shortly before the last rise we got this inviting view of the point.
We thrashed around in the brush for a bit and finally came across a primitive trail leading out to point 3614. It was a neat track, at one point we walked atop a dike, ignoring the airy, drop to the east. Ahead, we could see light and soon we stepped out onto the grassy top of the ridge. And clearly see the clump of trees I'd gazed at in so many photos. It was not what we expected.
An enclosure that the hunters will accept.
The new Waialae Wilderness Park.
A hint of how Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali Coast, and the red scars looked before the introduction of cattle and goats. Certainly before Cook, there'd been a lot less red and more green in the canyon.
Looking straight across the gorge, are horizontal tracings on the grass slopes.
It shows just how much the goats have devastated Kauai. This pattern can be observed at the end of any of the Na Pali overlook trails, Waimea Canyon overlooks. These areas are utterly inaccessible except to goats. Hunting has little impact on most Kauai Wilderness. Because of the ruggedness, hunters can only harvest the overflow into the accessible areas.
Yet, Waimea Canyon remains an incredible spot.
To the east of the ridge, the upper Waialae Stream winds down from Waialae Cabin. The green banks are stripped clean of trees, undoubted the work of floods and debris flows.
But swing around about 120 degrees right, and everything has changed. Now the stream is 2000 feet lower flowing through arid terrain. A lot must happen as it takes the bend.
Far off, Pihea at the end of the Pihea trail looking down into Kalalau
Koholuamanu Cabin, where Knudsen and others overnighted on the way to Waialeale, is visible from many points around Kokee. Head east on it's ridge and don't get off and it'll lead you to the Blue Hole. Owned by minor, local royalty.
Waimea Town and the Pacific in the distance. Waimea Canyon in the middle distance. Utter devastation in the foreground. As you descend across and down the red clay and pass abandoned fence lines, you realize that the canyon today has changed totally since the coming of Cook. Transformed but still a rugged beauty.
It's been a few months since the last fatal crash of a tour helicopter so it wasn't surprising to see them back at their antics, buzzing the ridge tops. One came within about a hundred feet of us. The screen capture is from a short tape I took with a Casio Digital as a chopper nips over the ridge behind us at less than fifty feet.
Some choppers stayed high and legal, but others, perhaps the ones with the side letters allowing them to descend to 500 feet, ignored the regs. They'd enter the gorge far below us, make a climbing, left 360 turn, then dive toward the ridge, zooming up and over at the last second, then pushing down for a some negative G.
What most folks don't know is that choppers can glide (they call it auto-rotation but glide it is) and they should be operating within a safe distance of a suitable landing spot in the event of an engine failure (most only got one engine folks). So can they be approaching rapidly rising terrain, lose the engine, do a one-eighty turn and auto-rotate to a safe spot in the gorge? If they're inside the gorge at low altitude, can they auto-rotate to a safe landing?
Yeah, right. According to the FAA, "the preponderance of (in Hawaii) accidents involve weather factors and engine shutdowns with the pilot having insufficient time to recover or no place to land."
In other words, the pilots have chosen to fly into low visibily or into unrecoverable positions.
The tragedy is, that if the tour operators would stay at 1500 feet as required by the SFAR 71 (with no side letters), it'd mean less wear and tear on the equipment, fewer accidents, lower insurance rates, less noise, lower environment impact and I doubt they'd lose a single fare. If tourists want thrills let them go to Disneyland.