I climbed up the Godek-Jaskulski Trail to the summit, scrambled along the spine of the Koʻolau Mountains, and descended the Kulanaʻahane Trail to loop back where I started.

When August Smith and Duc Ong told me of their plans to circumnavigate Moanalua Valley I was torn. I wanted to join them but had a dinner party at 7 pm.  So I decided to join them for just part of the way.  I would descend the Kulanaʻahane Trail while they continued on to Keahiakahoe and Tripler Ridge to complete the circuit.

We met at 7 AM just outside Moanaula Valley Neighborhood Park at the very end of Ala Aolani St.  We parked outside the gate just in case we returned after the park was locked.  We then pushed-off on the old carriage road where lauʻae ferns (Phymatosorus grossus) thrive under the shade of hau trees (Hibiscus tileaceous).

We hiked for several miles on the road until we reached the Kulanaʻahane trailhead. After hiking the Kulanaʻahane trail to the water tank we veered off onto the Godek-Jaskulsky trail. Waianae Steve marked the junction with one of his distinctive gatorade bottle caps. We ascended a side ridge through strawberry guava trees and climbed up slopes covered with uluhe. The ridge narrows to under a foot wide at spots and climbs to the top of the massive ridge that forms the western boundary of Moanalua Valley.

Click on photo to enlarge

We continued climbing towards the summit over a series of hills which gave us sweeping views of Moanalua Valley and the southern part of Oʻahu.

We continued towards the back of the ridge and climbed a number of peaks to make our way to the Koʻolau Summit. 

We saw a number ʻōhiʻa lehua trees (Metrosideros polymorpha) with vibrant red pom-pom flowers and chartreuse leaf rosettes as we hiked up the ridge.

Click on photo to enlarge

When we reached the Koʻolau Summit Ridge, we looked over to the windward side of the island to see Kāneʻohe Bay and Mokapu Peninsula.  We could see the graceful curve of H-3 through Haiku Valley and Kāneʻohe Marine Corps Station.

The most difficult part of this hike was scrambling along the edge of the Koʻolau Mountains overlooking H-3.  We descended the Moanalua Saddle and made our way along some steep, eroded, and exposed edges with considerable drop-offs.  We took our time on the most dangerous sections and passed them without incident.

Several downhill sections were exceedingly steep and would have been difficult to traverse had it not been for a broad landing at the base that enabled me to do a controlled slide to the bottom.

August and I were preoccupied photographing native plants and the view so Duc got quite a ways ahead of us.

Click on photo to enlarge

When we reached the Kulanaʻahane Trail, we had a complete view of H-3 in Haiku Valley — what a cool sight! 

After bidding farewell to August and Duc who were about to face the hardest and most dangerous part of the adventure — the climb up to Keahiakahoe — I veered off the Koʻolau Summit Ridge to descend the Kulanaʻahane Trail which is known for its koʻokoʻolau (Bidens sp.).

The cool thing about Koʻokoʻolau is that they have compound flowers whose centers are made up of small flowers.

After descending the ʻuluhe covered ridge I reached a dry stream bed.  With no really big Kona winter storms hitting Oʻahu so far this winter, rainfall has been down and many streams are dry.

But there were still a few pools with water in the otherwise dry stream bed. The trail winded through hau trees and crossed the mostly dry stream bed multiple times.

After reaching the old carriage road I saw a number of Chinese ground orchids (Phaius tankervilliae) which are native to tropical Asia, from central China through India and Malaysia.

While hiking out the valley to my car, I reflected on the great time I had on the Moanalua Saddle seeing the spectacular views and cool native plants.  While at my dinner party, I was pleased to receive a text from August at 7 PM that they completed their circuit of Moanalua Valley! A LONG and TOUGH 12 hours!  Awesome accomplishment!

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Sites of Oahu by Elizabeth Sterling and Catherine Summers, Bishop Museum Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1978

Native Hawaiian Plants, University of Hawaii, Department of Botany

Plants of Hawaii, Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk