Thursday, September 6, 2012

Puu Ohulehule via NW ridge

Tucked away in the back of Kahana valley is what could possibly be my favorite hike on the island.  Puu Ohulehule.  The hike from Kahana valley up the Northwest ridge of Puu Ohulehule is one of my favorites for a few reasons.  It is a fairly easy hike that doesn't take excessively long and the entire trail is beautiful and fun, from start to finish, beginning with a gorgeous swimming hole and some nice stream crossings and culminating with a nice climb to the amazing summit that is Puu Ohulehule.  The view from the summit is one of my all time favorites here on the island of Oahu.

On this particular day, my wife and I made the drive over the H-3 towards Kahana around 8am.  We had a time limit set on our day since she would have to work at 4pm that evening.  The drive down the coastline into Kahana was it's usual, peaceful and beautiful ride.  The skies were clear and Puu Ohulehule had no coulds anywhere in sight of it's pyramidal peak.  We knew we were gonna be in for a good day.

After the long drive we finally reached Kahana bay, where we took a left mountainside, and headed into Kahana valley state park.  We passed the visitor center and continued down the gravel road until just before the houses emerged, where we came to a open gate with a pullout for cars on the right side of the street.  We quickly parked our car and excitedly took off up the gravel road.  The entire walk up the gravel road I kept stopping to look up at the pyramidal peak that we would soon be sitting on top of.  About five or ten minutes into the gravel road, we reached a hunter check-in station with a board board and some pictures explaining about the valley.  At this point we veered left and continued down the gravel road where about a minute later we were arrived at a beautiful swimming hole on Kahana stream.  No matter how many times I visit this place, it never gets old or boring.  Once we reached the stream we took a few pictures and then crossed to the other side and continued on the trail to our left.  Not even a minute later we came to a signed Nakoa junction where we again turned left.  Almost immediately after this we hit a junction where we turned right and were met promptly by our second stream crossing.  If one isn't careful you can miss the junction going right and can end up continuing straight, ending up further upstream than you want to be and heading towards the ocean instead of the back of the valley.  After this junction we headed into some lush forest and the trail became very easy to follow the rest of the way.

We would eventually pop out into a clearing with views of Puu Ohulehule directly in front of us at this point.  We dropped back down to the stream and then made our way back up a hill, finally reaching the ridgeline shortly after.  The trail was incredibly well maintained and nearly impossible to get lost on, beside the one junction at the very beginning.  Once we had reached the ridgeline we began slowly climbing, steeply up the ridge.  As we got higher the grade of ascent lessened and the ridge evened out for a bit.  At no point was the ridge even remotely narrow or dangerous.  All though I was a little tired from the jaunt up the ridge, I took this time to relax and catch a breather before the final push to the summit.  I could see the ridge heading steeply up the right side of the pyramidal peak.  We finally reached that juncture and began the very steep climb with the aid of many ropes.  It was one steep climb after the next.  At points it felt as though we were nearly vertical and without the ropes to aid us the climb would have been pretty tough.  While I didn't see much danger in the climb, those with a fear of heights or exposure, will most likely dread this part and coming down will probably be even worse, so I wouldn't recommend this hike for those people.  With every climb, the ridge seemed to get steeper and steeper.  Finally we reached a tiny clearing and were on a somewhat flat surface.  We grabbed a few sips of water and made a quick final push to the actual summit, across what was now a fairly level ridge.  Within a few minutes we had reached the summit of Puu Ohulehule.  The crappy part was that there were no views due to all the high vegetation.  We headed to our right and downhill for about 15 seconds to a clearing where we were greeted by one of the most spectacular summit views one could imagine.  We soaked in the clear skies and the magnificent views while we ate a powerbar and sipped on some water.  Knowing that we were strapped for time we didn't spend as much time as we would have liked but we were still thrilled with the outcome.

We made our way down shortly after and set a fast pace, making it back to Kahana stream around 1:30.  I swung off the rope swing and played in the stream until my wife finally made me get out and dry off so we could get to the car and head for home.  I was estatic that the hike hadn't taken as long as we thought, saving us plenty of time to stop off the side of the highway at a rope swing that we like to swing on, right on the beach.  After swinging and playing in the beach we took one last marveling view of the ocean and the beautiful hawaiian day that had been set out before us.  We made it back to our car with plenty of time for one last stop before heading home.  We hit 7-eleven and grabbed our ceremonial post hike slurpees before arriving home with just enough time for my wife to shower and get to work.  What a great day it was.

Puu Ohulehule from the start of the trail
1st stream crossing
2nd stream crossing
Taking a left after the 2nd stream crossing and heading back onto the trail
\View of two talking apes
Breaking out and about to reach the ridgeline of Puu Ohulehule
Looking back at Puu piei and Kahana valley

 Starting the steep climb


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