Gordon Lau leads a Great Saturday Training Session

Gordon maps out an adventure….one way or the other.

Gordon Lau got the highest praises from all for his planning and implementation of last Saturday’s training run. It was an adventure through new and uncharted (for most of the HURT crowd) areas around Ka’ahele and Waimano.

It would be hard to elaborate the full extent of the run as right from the start the large group numbering perhaps 15 divided up into the very fast, the fast and the ‘not so fast’.

We had a lot of newcommers to Saturday training and some returns.  It was great to see so many people out there!

As those of you know the early stage of Ka’ahele is up the dirt access road, and never particularly enjoyable, but Gordon found a trail off to the left and not far up the road we were moving through overhanging iron wood on a nicely twisting track. When we broke out of the trail we found ourselves far up the road with the unpleasant deeply rutted areas of high embankments far behind us.

It was at this point that the fast crowd blew on ahead. With Pete, Greg, Steve, Gil, Carl and Colin and a number of others burning up the trail. Farther back Cheryl and PJ led a crowd composed of more welcome new comers, with Rex and I, who were both nursing sciatica problems, bringing up the rear.

This run goes straight up the right ridge to the top. No need to take the left, and false ridge before the grove. Just keep going up, bearing left in the grove, and running up past the power towers. But don’t forget to stop and enjoy the spectacular views; after all this is the trail of the coming ‘Run with a View’ to be held on May 13. And the vista’s are great! From one ridge there is the outline of Leahi on the eastern horizon, and on another you can see west all the way across the Ewa plain to Pu’u Makakilo; the great battle fields of the war between Kalanikupule and Kaeokulani laying at your feet. And just south and below lays the more recent battlefield of Pearl Harbor, with the Arizona Monument and the Mighty Mo almost close enough to reach out and touch. A lot of island history can be seen if you take the time to let it play in your head as you view the scene.

When you get to the top, and move past the giant stump of an old Koa tree you will find the trail dropping off and moving down the western ridge. Right there, where the Ewa plain lays at your feet, and you are tempted to bust loose and charge down the mountain slope you need to hold up and take the trail that breaks to your right. If you have ever run Ka’ahele. You will know this trail. It’s the one that has always beckoned, the one that heads into the green valleys of the upper Ka’ahele and Waimano regions, the deepest regions of Oahu that appear still untouched by modern man. Well we finally got to take that trail, and move inland into the lush lands of those mysterious valleys.

Gordon was waiting for the slower crowd up there, a bit bored with standing around and frustrated that he had lost control of the fast boys who he seemed to feel were sure to let their feet do their thinking and go the wrong way. He led us down this beautiful trail about a quarter of a mile or so. Those back valleys are a wonderful site!. You feel as if you could have been transported back to a time when Honolulu was just the name of a great stone where tribute was collected and Ford Island was known by its birth name of Moku Umeume; a fun place where guys and girls occasionally played interesting games of night hide and seek. A time when trips into the upland valleys called for chants requesting safe passage and small gifts to the gods and spirits of the valleys. Which, for those of you who wish to honor such things, might be a nice idea as you make the turn and face the beauty of the island’s still verdant heart. A crisp kukui nut leaf or a ti leaf wrapped a well picked stone will do. A moment of silent meditation and respect will suffice. Just the time it takes to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty and peace of the land around you is what counts. Who knows, as we found out, you may just need a guiding spirit along the way.

We made our way along the high ridge for about a quarter to a half a mile before we came to a trail that dropped down one of the many minor ridges that lay covered in bracken fern. As most of you know this stuff can be nasty. The thorns and sharp edges of broken trailers can tear up one’s legs in a just few meters. The cuts can be so clean that it is a while before you even know how ragged your legs have become. But the trail has recently been cleared, and Gordon came back through last week and recut the bad areas. I can not say enough for the work he and Ed did in this respect. It made the decent down the ridge not only possible but an enjoyable experience.

The trail down the ridge drops off to the right reaching out to another major ridge that marks the eastern side of the Waimano Ahupua’a. Somewhere along there we hit an old plantation road and the run along the ridge became kind of down hill romp. It was a lot of fun. It ran through some awesome areas that had long ago been planted in trees, which after sixty or eighty years have now created great beams and arching vaulted ceilings of a breathtaking cathedral of light that sparks with high shimmering windows all glittering in the early morning sun. The trail winds down though this amazing edifice over a broad root stairway. At the bottom in what feels like a large ante room created by the lower bows of high trees we again found Gordon waiting for us; the guide who stood ready to open up the door to next level of the adventure. This time his frustrations were all the more evident and he explained that the forward group had, in all likelihood continued down the ridge track. We, on the other hand, were going down the marked trail that led into Waimano Valley.

I realize that it may seem a bit far fetched to read how each section of this trail is so stunning and enjoyable, but believe me that is the case. The trail down into Waimano is along an old jeep track and is relatively easy. It is now scattered with loose rock falls and seeps and the hau trees hang down low over the path in many places demanding some care. But it is a fun run. I kept looking up to see Kat and Rex moving fast over the clearer portions of trail. The feeling of Waimano is a lot like parts of the Maunawili trail, as opposed to the darker temperament of either Nu’uanu or the lower Pali. It’s a bright place with some enchanting vista’s of groves of giant forest monkeypod on the far side of the valley, the air filled with the singing of thousands of birds flitting through their branches.

When we reached the floor of Waimano valley, we again found Gordon waiting for us. It was a beautiful area. The stream was wide, and clear. The trees were high up on the slope and the banks of the stream were clear of low brush giving the area a park-like feel. Gordon could tell by the foot prints that some of the forward crowd had made it down to the valley floor trail, but had then chosen to cross the stream and head mauka along on the valley floor trail, while we would be going makai.. He gave us instructions on what the next leg would entail, and headed up valley to catch the other group. I think there were four or five of us who would liked to have gone with Gordon, but when he started up valley he was moving so fast that we didn’t have the chance to even cross the stream before he was out of sight. I’ve run with Gordon, and I can occasionally keep him behind me, but it was obvious that he was on a mission—there would be no keeping up with him.

The Waimano valley has long been a water source for lower level agriculture. There are signs that both Hawaiians and planters built and maintained auwai along the valley walls which channeled water down into the valley. The planter built works are still quite evident, with numerous tunnels, and much of the auwai or cannels still quite capable of functioning. The trail runs along the old maintenance paths and tracks of this water system. I would imagine that parts of it date back beyond the planters and were built and maintained by the Hawaiian clans that lived in the Waimano area. The channel is quite an engineering work and at points you can look out to the west and find yourself quite high-up on the eastern wall of the valley. The path is easy, with the only problem being occasional low hanging branches. There are however a few points where the water system tunnels through out-croppings and we had to climb around. But for the most part it’s an easy run down slope through pleasant areas with occasional great vista’s.

Near the bottom of the valley the path becomes well traveled and we started to run into day hikers heading up valley. There is a point where the path splits with an upper and lower Waimano valley trail being delineated. Gordon, who had caught up with us led us along the upper track. A mile or so down we ran into the fence of Waimano school complex and followed that down to a point where Gordon had hidden his abundant stash.

On the return trip Gordon took us up along the fence line of the School complex to the high ridge. This was not a particularly pleasant venture. The eastern slope has served as a dumping site for decades of school maintenance staff and there is an abundant amount of crap that may someday have some archeological value to it. Right now its just nasty. The buildings on the other side of the fence are not much better, and I kept feeling we were passing through a long abandoned installation where everyone had died due to some strange bacteriological experiment gone haywire leaving only a few squeaky machines alive to make weird noises. But finally the trail breaks onto the upper access road and passed some water tanks. From there on up it is just fine.

As we moved up the road Gordon moved farther ahead of us, and at some point he fell into a pace that none of us could match, and we lost sight of him. He had evidently told us to stay on the track and not follow the ribbons. I didn’t hear him. Anyway the group moved off the track at a major turn in the track and we found ourselves on a ridge line following a trail marked by orange ribbons which slowly began heading down along a ridge. It didn’t feel right, but it was marked. To her credit PJ was vocal about sorting it out before we continued. But by then we were trapped into it. It was a Menehune trail, and I knew that we had to follow it or we’d be out of luck. So I took the lead and plunged down the steep slopes of the valley through increasingly thick growths of strawberry guava. When I got down to the bottom and found the stream I could tell the area was obviously enchanted. The water was flowing uphill, east was suddenly west, and the trail markers ended at the foot of mud cliff. Even the pigs seemed to have gotten lost there for their tracks led nowhere in particular.

On one side I could hear the gang coming down, complaining about the steep path, with PJ yelling at me to ‘stop for damn sakes’, and on the other I could hear the menehune shrieking with laughter over how lost they had gotten us. I can tell you it was a relief to hear that. (Not PJ, the menehune.) Once they have tricked you, and had their fun, it is usually ok to go on your own way. It can, however, be dangerous not giving them their well earned fun, as they never forgive you and are sure to put something in your way you are sure to trip over. So when the group all got down, and the giggling and sheiks had abated, I agreed with what PJ had been saying all along and we carefully headed back up the way we had come down.

As Cheryl said, the way out of the valley offered great training! We did the steep climb almost as fast as we had done the drop down into the valley. We back tracked all the way to the jeep road. There it was quickly evident we had gone wrong when the road had taken a hairpin 180 and we had fallen for the little rascals false trail markers and continued straight off the edge of the ridge. We moved up the road and found Gordon not a quarter of a mile along. He was laying back on some logs and resting. He just shook his head in amazement and mutter something about what ‘follow the road’ meant. It was no use trying to explain the machinations of the Menehune tricksters to Gordon.

It took us another two hours to get back to the cars. About an hour and half of that was back up the valley ridge trail; a grand climb. By then my hip had loosened up and I was in climb mode. I bugged Cheryl all the way up staying close and making all the irritating noises I could dream up. It was another great work-out! The last half-hour was the easy decent of the Ka’ahele Ridge back to the cars. I did that with Tom, who told me about his Boston Marathon a few weeks ago.

When we got back to the loop we found a few of the faster crowd waiting for us. They had, as Gordon had expected, continued down the ridge (that we had eventually come up) to the water tanks, and returned. It had taken them about 3 hours while our adventure had taken us about five. The last one out of the trail head was Pete, who said that after he had run the first loop with the ‘joggers’ he thought we were all supposed to do a second loop. Since all the other young fast guys had pussied out according to Pete, he headed back up alone, and finished his second loop not 10 minutes after we managed to complete our first! Congrats Pete on that radical second loop!

Once again it was a great day thanks to the care and planning of Gordon Lau. It took a lot of work and sweat on his part to get us there, and the misadventures of the various gangs just added to the fun. It’s a trail everyone should plan on running. Just remember that the Menehune have gotten hold of whole bunch of orange tape and are going to try and lead you off into the heart of darkness if you are not careful.

If you want a taste of the run remember that the RUN WITH A VIEW will be held on May 13. It covers a lot of early stages of the paths I just described, offers some great up hill treks of its own and definitely has some truly awesome views that you must stop to enjoy no matter how serious a runner you might claim to be. Remember, no sense go if you nevah stop an see where it is you went.

Aloha, Muench