I went on my first trail-clearing hike last weekend. (Hence, the weed wacker you see in the photo above.)
The hike took us into a remote part of Oahu.
Hiking the Kawai’iki Trail with the Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club. North Oahu, Hawaii.
At the end, a swimming hole.
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Not only was this my first trail-clearing hike, this was my first time hiking with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club (HTMC). The club has been around for over a hundred years and they organize a hike every weekend.
One of the benefits of hiking with the HTMC is that they can get access to a lot of trails that are typically off-limits or behind locked gates. The Kawai’iki Trail is one such trail. It takes you several miles deep into a valley on the West side of the Koolau mountains. All on restricted land.
On this day the HTMC’s goal was to clear the overgrown parts of the trail and mark it with ribbons for an upcoming hike on February 12.
HTMC hikes begin with announcements. This hike would be different than others in that everyone would have to drive in as a group and drive out as a group so that we could get through the locked gates together.
It rained a bit in the morning but most of our hike was sunny.
The hike organizer unlocked the first gate for us and the caravan of cars drove through.
The military uses part of this land for training.
This five mile drive to the trailhead was one of the coolest parts of the hike. Your on a dirt road half the time so if it’s been raining, you’ll need a 4×4. The road was in good condition on this day and my sedan held up just fine.
We passed through some scenic farm land.
The second gate was unlocked for us by the hike leader.
Potholes are a plenty on this road so with a car like mine, you’ll have to zigzag your way along the road.
And then a brand new shiny paved road appears out of nowhere.
It takes you down into the valley.
You’ll cross the stream first in your car. You can see though that if the water is flowing, this road would become impassable.
Close to the Kawai’iki trail trailhead, there’s a turnout where you can park.
The crew took a while to gear up. Everyone had either a machete, ax, loppers, a weed wacker or a hedge trimmer. Except me that is. But while I didn’t have any tools myself, I did point out some shrubs that needed clearing a couple times.
The trail starts at a dirt road that stems off the paved road.
Right away you’ll see some great valley views. I’ve never seen this part of the island. Our path would take us straight ahead. But in the valley to the right of us, there was another stream that could be explored.
At this fork we went left and the clearing of the Kawai’iki trail began.
The trail immediately descends into the valley.
Thimbleberries were all over the place. They taste like a mild raspberry. Very yummy.
Let the weed wacking begin.
Pete, August and Lei start choppin’.
While the Kawai’iki trail was in pretty great condition, relative to other trails I’ve done, it did need some trimming.
We’re approaching the bottom of the valley now.
You’ll cross a bridge that holds a huge pipe.
Further down, you’ll hit another bridge that you can use to cross the stream.
There is a low route too.
Following Pete, we then took a shortcut in the trail though a drainage tunnel. You also have the option of following the trail around the tunnel.
At the start of the tunnel the water was ankle deep. At the end, it was waist high. And there were spiders everywhere. It was pretty cool actually.
Getting out of the tunnel felt like a prison escape.
Kai watches Lei climb out of the hole.
You can see here that this is part of the dam that blocks off Kawai’iki Stream.
Once out of the tunnel, Pete, Chenay and August lead us down stream toward the swimming hole.
But first it the crew did more work making a nice clear trail.
Views looking up out of the valley.
Of course it would be possible to simply follow the side of the stream but the crew cut a trail off the stream so that you can hike safely even if the water is flowing heavily.
You’ll cross the stream several times.
This huge swimming hole marked the ending point for the HTMC’s Kawai’iki Trail. We sat here and ate lunch. Some swam. And, I got to hear some crazy hiking and camping stories from the seasoned hiking crew I was in the company of. It was awesome.
Looking past the swimming hole, you can see that the stream continues on and on.
The hike leader tied these three ribbons to mark the end of the trail for their next hike.
And then it was time to turn around and make our way out of the valley.
Coming back we could take advantage of the newly trimmed trail.
We skipped the tunnel and bridge on the return hike.
Coming back out of the valley we took a breather and enjoyed the view.
I love how these valley walls look.
We were headed toward the road.
Nate, Chenay, Pete, August and another fellow HTMC hiker exiting out of the Kawai’iki trail.
We packed up and made the scenic drive back to to Haleiwa.
The Kawai’iki Trail was a mellow hike. Just what I needed after taking a few months off from hiking.
Remember you can only do this trail if you can get the keys to the two locked gates and permission to be on this private property. Typically that means you’ll want to hike with the HTMC or Sierra Club. When you hike with the HTMC, you all meet up together at the start of the hike, but once on the trail everyone splits up an you can go at your own pace. For Sierra Club hikes you’ll be hiking together as a group the entire time.