This hike was an unforgettable experience, and I’m not sure how I feel about it just yet.
My roommate, Nathan Knapke, and I decided to go hiking and take some cool photos at a peak called Puu O Kona. The peak connects to the left side of the Kuliouou Ridge and loops back down to where the Kuliouou Ridge trail starts.
We packed our camera gear, a tripod and a few bottles of water and drove to Kalaau Place. Since the trailhead starts at the end of a neighborhood cul de sac, we didn’t have to worry too much about my car being broken into. But you can never be too careful.
The hike up to Kuliouou Ridge was relatively easy, and we gained about 2,000 feet in elevation in roughly half an hour. The scenery around the trail changed quite often. It was cool to see how one moment we were walking through a thick trail with a bunch of roots sprouting from the ground and the next we were in a broad, flattened pine needle trail in an ironwood forest.
Eventually we came to a set of stairs that led up to this rocky cliff – we reached the end of the Kuliouou Ridge. The view was spectacular, and as we stopped to drink water and soak in the view we also took out our cameras and began snapping photos.
In reality, we had only finished a third of our overall hike. After taking photos we packed our gear and began hiking West along the ridge line to Puu O Kona.
Kuliouou Ridge is listed as an intermediate hike, according to http://www.unrealhawaii.com, though it felt relatively easy. When Nate and I started hiking along the ridge, the difficulty level increased.
With the hike to Puu O Kona listed as an advanced hike, there was little room for error as we made our way along the ridge. The trail along the ridge was at times only a foot wide as the our bodies swayed from the wind.
Reaching the halfway point to the Puu O Kona summit, we faced a huge climb to the top of one peak. There were no ropes and no footing for support, so in order to climb up we had to dig our hands in any available dirt and hope our upper body strength propelled us upward before our feet lost their grip on the incline. Once we reached the top, we were relieved. We were almost there.
It took us a total of two and a half hours to reach the summit of Puu O Kona, and it was worth it. On the top you can see the entire eastern side of Oahu, and we were high enough to touch the clouds as they passed by. Something that makes Puu O Kona different than a lot of other hikes is the top is filled with an abundance of vegetation and an open grassy area. It would make the perfect place to have a picnic. After taking a bunch of photos, we continued on and headed back down to where we started.
Another thing about this hike is that it loops back down the mountains to where we originally started so we didn’t have to go back down the trail from Kuliouou Ridge.
Making our way back down wasn’t difficult and, in fact, we ran through half of it because the trail was pretty defined. I think this is where we messed up.
Looking down the mountain about a thousand feet, we could see the service road where we thought the trail was supposed to lead us. But we couldn’t find a trail that led down the mountain, and we were frustrated. There are sayings that describe how head strong Marines are, and that’s what we were. Since we couldn’t find a trail that led us down to the service road, we decided to make our own, and we started climbing through seven-to-eight foot tall vegetation make our way down.
Since we couldn’t really tell where we were stepping or see too far ahead, we were trotting into the unknown and often stumbled. The vegetation scratched our legs pretty good, and we were exhausted from taking a couple of steps and then falling four or five feet unexpectedly. But like all things, the brush finally came to an end and we saw the service road at the end of the hike just 20 feet ahead of us. We made it.
This hike was definitely a hard one, but that’s because Nate and I lost the trail on our way back down from Puu O Kona. We probably ran past it at some point.
Anyone choosing to do this hike should be an experienced hiker. Be sure to pack a lot of water, and get ready to enjoy five hours of varying environments, a good workout and amazing views.