I joined the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club (HTMC) for the unveiling of the new Kaunala-ʻEhukai Trail in the recently created Pupukea-Paumalu State Park Reserve on the North Shore of Oʻahu.

Thanks to the North Shore Community Land Trust and its partners — the Trust for Public Land, US Army, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, State of Hawaiʻi, and City and County of Honolulu, who purchased the Pupukea-Paumalu parcel for $7.95 million, the newly forged 6-mile Kaunala-ʻEhukai Trail is publicly open for hiking!

Few clouds hovered over the Waiʻanae Mountains on February 13, 2011, as I drove to the hike on the North Shore but a curious layer of vog hugged the earth and spread out over the landscape.  The plan was to meet at Sunset Beach Elementary School — where our hike would end — and car pool to the end of Pupukea Road by the Boy Scout Camp — where our hike would start.

While rendezvousing at the end of Pupukea Road, we learned from hike leader Kris Corliss that the Pupukea-Paumalu parcel was slated for luxury residential development until the North Shore community fought the development and organized themselves to purchase the land.  In addition to public funds from federal, state, and city sources, private moneys were raised which included a donation from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club.

Our plan was to start on the regular Kaunala Trail and to veer-off the trail along a ridge to enter the Pupukea Paumalu State Park Reserve. Kris warned that the parcel is crisscrossed with a network of trails, bike paths, and 4WD roads, many of them maintained and marked by mountain bikers, and used by horseback riders. 

Since this maze of interconnected trails are all marked with different colored ribbons, a special ribbon had to used to mark the new Kaunala-ʻEhukai Trail to the sea — a diagonally stripped pink and white ribbon.

Not long after we reached the Kaunala trailhead sign — probably no more than 100 yeards — we veered-off the Kaunala Trail, and made our way down a ridge whose trees were burnt in a fire — all marked with the special stripped ribbon.

After making our way through the charred and blackened vegetation, we followed a ridge on which electrical towers had been installed.  Included in the group of over 30 hikers was rainbowman Laredo Muredo, known for his colorful personality, who dyed his hair pink for Valentine’s Day.

One of the more interesting things we saw in a forest of ironwood trees were small newly sprouted mushrooms no more than half-an-inch across on horse dung along the trail.

Continuing through the forest of ironwood trees, we reached the edge of a bluff that overlooks the satellite facility at Paumalu, which is part of the network of ground stations around the globe that track the Intelsat family of satellites.

When we reached two old World War II bunkers built on the 400-foot high bluff that overlooks the North Shore, we stopped to admire the view.  The bunkers overlook the world’s most famous surfing beaches — Pipeline, Rocky Point, and Sunset Beach.

Despite the vog — which made lighting conditions less than ideal — we enjoyed the view and saw several whales breaching off shore.  We spent quite some time catching up with each other, enjoying each others company, and eating lunch.  Grace Gabriel was all smiles as she ate her banana and told us about her great new job offer.

The Kaunala-Ehukai Trail was pioneered by Kris Corliss and Larry Oswald with the assistance of Richard McMahon, Fred Boll, (all long time HTMC members) and Jim Haas.  Since a network of trails already existed in the area, only about a mile needed to be cleared and much of the effort entailed determining the proper set of paths to take along the confusing maze of trails.

After finishing lunch, we continued on our way down to the coast following the diagonally stripped pink and white ribbons through yet another forest of ironwood trees.

We saw multiple placards on the trees put there by mountain bikers to mark the system of trails they created that crisscross the property.  These trails appear to be marked mostly by yellow ribbons.

One of the more unexpected sights was a cave at the foot of a rock outcrop that was partially covered in banyan roots.  We could not resist exploring inside the shallow cave before continuing on.

After losing several hundred feet of elevation through fields of tall grasses and haole koa trees, we made our way down the winding trail to Sunset Beach Elementary School — the end of our hike — where we had parked our cars earlier in the morning.

While removing our shoes and packs, we reflected on the great time we had hiking on the Kaunala-ʻEhukai Trail for the very first time.  With a growing list of trails that have been blocked from public access, it’s nice to reverse the trend and add a new trail to club’s repertoire of hikes.  What a great new trail!

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Coastal Bluff on O’ahu’s North Shore Protected

Kaunala to the Sea, Richard McMahon, HTMC Newsletter, Oct 2010

North Shore Community Land Trust

Pupukea-Paumalu Acquisition