Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Extreme Hike Oahu: The Pali Puka

Looking back at the Pali Lookout
  When researching secret hikes here in Oahu I stumbled upon a few stories about the Pali puka. "Puka" is the Hawaiian word for 'hole'. The Pali puka is a natural hole in the ridge near the Nuuanu Pali lookout. This lookout is the dividing point between the windward and the leeward side of Oahu. There is a low pass here in the Koolau range making it the traditional path for hikers crossing the cliffs. It also makes for a great starting point for a trail leading up to the ridge line, but it is not for the faint of heart.
  The ridge trail can lead all the way to Makapu'u on Oahu's eastern point or west to the fabled 'stairway to heaven', thousands of stairs leading up to an old abandoned coast guard station on the ridge. The puka lies along the ridge path to the west. If the trail is muddy my suggestion is to turn around. It gets very steep, and some parts of the trail bring you within inches of a thousand foot vertical cliff face. Luckily the strong wind that is a constant along these cliffs blows you away from the precipice. This is reassuring until you reach the points where the trail becomes a knife's edge, and you find yourself skirting the precipice on both sides!

Looking down into Kaneohe and Kailua
The view along the trail is worth all of the bottled up fear. Kaneohe Bay sparkles in light blue reflections and the very lush windward coast spans out into distant ridge lines. The sheer vertical cliffs stand in stark contrast to the sloping valleys and ridges of the leeward side.

Window to the Windward Side
Another hiker finds the 'puka'
  The puka itself is like a window to the windward side. It would be impossible to look through it towards the leeward side without the power of flight or perhaps dangling a thousand feet up on some very sturdy ropes. I was happy to have checked another one of Oahu's secrets off my list, but my curiosity once again got the better of me and I decided to trek on to see what was around the next bend.

Check and check. Dai Mar at the Pali Puka
The ridge trail heading west
View to the West
  After the puka the trail dips down just a bit into the shade of the first knife-like peak seen below. A few handily placed lines help me past some eroded parts of the trail before I come to the end of the trail...or so I thought at first glance. After a quick scan up I find to my enjoyment that the trail here go up a 65 or 70 degree incline marked by different lines dangling from trees far above. Without the lines helping me up I never would have made it. It was a tremendous upper body workout, but I didn't realize until the next day what a thigh burner it would be as well. As I summited past the knife peak I could see for the first time the ridge line trail heading west along the different peaks off into the clouds. Someday I will be back to go the distance. But the setting sun and dinner cut my time short. I think I will sleep well tonight.

Landscape Photos of Hawaii: Dai Mar Tamarack photography
Skirting the Precipice


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