Dawn over Mount Waialale

Loki's Excellent Adventure
Kawaikini Goes to the Dogs

Click on to see twenty-two high resolution photos of this great adventure.

Well, after a long time of wanting to but not doing it, my dog Loki (with myself tagging along) finally clambered to the top of Mt. Waialeale. We managed it just last weekend, 22/23 Feb. '08. Getting there was made possible in no small part by the accounts posted on the Waialeale website by those who'd gone before, and those pink ribbons were indispensable. In the months before, I'd made several day hikes along the Mohihi-Waialae trail to scout the route, missing the arrow the first time and continuing on for two hours before concluding that something was amiss. I didn't spot it on the way out either. Eventually locating it later on, we (dog and I) followed the less beaten path to Sincock's Bog and the traffic cone, returning home that day somewhat triumphant with that little discovery. Loki gazes across the Blue Hole It appeared on the map that at that point one is more than half way to the goal of standing at the precipice of that fabled mountaintop - ha-ha! The next trek was intended for the top, but upon reaching the bog I was unsure of from where to press on. Either the afore-mentioned accounts were a bit hazy on the subject, or I hadn't read them thoroughly enough, but I was stymied. Actually, when standing near the cone, the top (or near top) appears to be visible in the distance a little off to the right and above the treetops at the far end of the enclosed area - which ought to be a fair indication of which direction to follow in search of the rest of the route. However, I decided to follow the edge of the fenceline, heading left at first, then rounding a corner and shortly reaching another, from which, alas, there emanated a line of new-looking pink ribbons - but leading in the opposite direction to that shining apex one pines for. One curious feature of this stumbled upon route - apart from a thin, gray thread which accompanied the 'flags' the entire way - was that the jungle had hardly been beaten back, cut, or cleared, merely extensively marked. Made by some trail-blazing contortionist I suspect! Anyway, against one's better judgement we struggled through (what seemed like) two miles of tangled, green hell. It was up, over, and down gully, ridge, and ravine - with a rather pretty stream along the way - until we were poised at the edge of - Wainiha Valley. The 'trail' ended quite a distance 'above' the well-known Kilohana overlook. Oaths and curses formed the dailogue I had with myself the long the way back to the car, though Loki couldn't have cared less where we'd ended up - it was all the same to him, and fun to boot. The next attempt would have to wait 'til the next dry period, which turned out to be some months later.

On this last trip we'd decided (not the royal 'We', but Loki and I) to bring map and compass, and check the entire perimeter of Sincock's Bog for the continuation of the route to Waialeale that had to be there - somewhere. Oh, by the way, after returning from this hike and reviewing updated accounts on the website, which mention the disappearance of the arrow, I can happily announce that it's still in it's old position, but had been obscured (by accident or design) with a log astride it. I removed the obfuscation - perhaps, to someone's chagrin.

Iliiliula Gorge narrows as it nears Kawaikini. It was midday when we reached the problematic bog, but logic and good sense ruled that day. After noting that the direction of the visible goal was roughly in line with the far end of the fenced-in clearing, we entered it and tramped across the squishy field, coming to an orange access gate which couldn't be spotted from the cone, and along the treeline some distance from it was a bright pink ribbon. But, promising to be thorough, I walked along the northern side of the fence line checking for more trail markers, and found some! These were of the older-looking blue, orange and pink variety. However, I decided to discount them, as the newer pink flag beyond the gate offered a more direct approach. It turned out to be a happy decision. The trail is very well marked and appeared to have been recently traversed; running parallel to and sometimes converging with (what must be) the original, older blue and orange marked course. Still, it was too congested for comfort, so I unsheathed the machete and began to hack away at the undergrowth. This slows down one's progress appreciably, but is a boon on the trip back and on subsequent forays thereafter. Hope no one's upset by this, it merely makes the hump less onerous and is definitely no highway through Kauai's wildes.

Fenced in Bogette turned up in short order and, after refering to map and compass, we crossed over another access gate and once again trudged along an open, sodden field in an easterly direction 'til a similar gate greeted us on t'other side; the pink ribbon marked trail continuing off to the right of it. Not long thereafter, we happened upon yet another fence line which was unexpected, as I couldn't recall reading about it in the accounts online. It didn't surround low-lying bog but rather tangled jungle as found all 'round the outside. A bit flustered, but determined to keep moving as it must've been sometime after 2:00 pm by then, we simply followed it off to the right with fingers crossed, and at the third corner came to the hoped for ribbon and what I believe is referred to as 'Start Hell'. Though long and convoluted, this stretch of trail with the daunting label is much facilitated by the profusion of markers, which stand out even in failing light. Still, it was a slog with flailing blade in hand, and - recalling the experience of the previous attempt - I wondered if all this toil would just result in a marvellous view of Wainiha from a different angle. We'd been slowly working our way north along a wooded ridge in the waning daylight, when at last, the sought-after and unmistakeable outline of the summit was visible some distance to the right of us. Night was closing in by then however, and we hunkered down at a convenient open grassy spot with a good view of the sky and the terrain on either side of the ridge. There were no clouds, and everything was bathed in the bright, silvery light of the three-quarter moon that night. It was fairly quiet and still but for the occasional breeze causing the ohia boughs to tremble. Sleep came fast to Loki, but was rather fitful for myself, 'til the early morning hours.

After rousing ourselves to renewed effort in reaching the apex, the gray light of morn - with the moon still overhead - revealed that the route turned right and led down the ridge from the plot where we'd slept, leading directly toward our goal. Estimating just a half hour to the brink, it was two and a half hour schlepp 'fore the dense foliage opened up appreciably as an indicator of close proximity to the island's rooftop. Wainiha was visible on the left, then Olokele to the right, followed by the fence near the top (broken in a number of places, its no obstacle to any foraging hog). View north from Kawaikini. It had taken us three hours to cut our way to the summit, led by those excellent pink flags, unabated 'til the very edge. It was a splendid, clear, sunny morn, and we ranged from the desultory collection of rain guages on the northern side, heading south along the dun-colored slopes and gullies near the edge (where we encountered a black, shaggy, four-legged denizen) toward a strange, flat topped hill (it must be a natural formation, but looks a lot like a heiau), and finally, Kawaikini peak. There are three peaks on that corner, two of which are close in distance and height, and separated by a ravine. The third is set apart and definitely not as high, but triangular in outline and rather prominent when viewed on a clear day from the eastern and southern shores of the island. Cell phone signal really is strong at the top, and after making several calls, and lunching, Loki and I withdrew at noon as clouds began to form.

Magnificent view out the entrance to the Blue Hole

Though it seemed to take forever (even becoming confused and backtracking at one point, losing half an hour) we were by the cone at Sincock's Bog by 5:00 pm, and across Koaie Gorge on the near side sometime after 7:00. The rest of the way was by the light of headlamp, through mist and fog, taking note of landmarks along the way leading to the trailhead, like the mile markers, certain dips and fern-clogged sections, the USPS guage, and bench on the hilltop. Then there's the long decent, the dark stand of redwoods, Mohihi Stream, the footbridge, and viola! The time was 9:30 pm. Loki was a great companion, and very game, but it would've been even better with one or two fellow hikers along. Glad to have tried and finally made it though, and looking forward to the next time. I'm also sending some pics of the trip..............Ta-ta.

Steven Souza
VT8 comments

Proposed Summit Fence

The proposed new fenceline has changed the dynamics of the route to the summit. The six plus hour bushwhack across the former Purgatory Gap has been reduced to about an hour. With the exception of the first few hundred yards where the fenceline would drop south of the District Border and touch "Bog X", the pink flagged and partially cleared route closely follows the Forest Reserve Boundary between Waimea and Hanalei Districts, clearly shown on the USGS topos.

Even the western end, where it heads NE from Sincock's Bog toward the Wainiha Pali looks to be an excellent dayhike and warm-up for a summit run.