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Backpacking the Ko'olau Summit Trail

2011KSTPoamuaCabinGroup After months of preparing gear, testing equipment and dropping some stash the Memorial Day weekend finally arrived. Me and a couple HURT runners have made it a tradition to backpack the length of the Ko'olau Summit Trail (KST). It starts at Pupukea and ends at Kipapa trail. The Kipapa section is legally closed so will exit thru Waikane valley via Waikane trail. This year making the trip would be Ernest Tay (ET), Jim Masterson, the Fishman and me Gordon Lau dubbed the "Captain" since I was leading the way and always writing in my captains log.

Through past experiances with the KST we were all packing pretty light for a three day jaunt. Ernest had the heaviest pack since he was carrying about six liters of water. The morning of the first at Pupukea was beautiful. Cool and no rain. As we went further and climbed higher the weather started to change and it got windy and misty. The wind would stay with us for the whole trek. We bashed thru guava and uluhe fern past the Kahuku and Malaekahana trails and finally arrived at the Laie trail in the late afternoon. A short while later we reached the Kawailoa campsite. Hiking the KST is extremely slow at times. Maybe a mile an hour at best. Pitching our tents in the gusty winds was a chore.

We filtered our water from a nearby stream and made dinner. Freeze-dried meals and Ramen is the choice for KST backpackers. My favorite is the freeze-dried Lasagna! Just as the sun started to set it started to drizzle and get cold. Everyone settled in for the night. I didn't get much sleep that cold, wet and super windy night. I was glad when the sun started to light up the sky on Sunday morning. It was still cold and misty when we packed up and left Kawailoa. I had a good laugh when I came across a ribbon on the KST put up by Tom Yoza of the Hawaii Trail and Mountain Club wishing us good luck. He had come up Laie trail a week before to clear some of the trail for us. Mahalo Thomas!

The leg between Kawailoa and Poamoho is my favorite. It passes thru O'ahus pristine forest and bogs. Very close to the Hawaii hundreds of years ago. The KST thru Puu Kaainapuaa and the old Kahuku cabin area was very muddy but fully passible. When we reached the awesome lookout at the back of Kaipapau gulch we took a break from the cold and wet conditions. We shared Granola bars, trail mix and Jim's dried fish jerky.

After a short break we set out again on the windy exposed section above Kaipapau. This is where things got interesting! At this point Jim took the lead and I told him to hurry and get to the leeward side of the KST to get out of the rain and wind. Just as we got to the leeward side of the ridge and out of the wind Jim stops dead in his tracks. He turns to me and says theres a pig laying down on the trail! I peer over his shoulder and sure enough a pig is sleeping smack in the middle of the trail. We back up some and I give a few loud shouts but the pig doesn't move. My next plan is to move back further and maybe throw a rock on the sleeping porker. But before I can tell Jim to backup Jim yells "he's coming"! The pua'a is not a small one, at least a 100 pounds and pissed off that we woke him up.He rushes me and Jim grunting and with mouth wide open! I yell at the pig and he veers off past us and pass Fish and Ernest who didn't know what was going on! As the pig passed by I noticed he had no ears on his head! Thats why he didn't hear us try to wake him up. I never laughed so much that day!

The KST to the Castle trail was heavily overgrown and probably the worst section we went thru. We did lose the trail for a while. From Castle trail we passed the Army fenceline, Pe'ahinaia, the Cline memorial and our next campsite at the Poamoho cabin. I knew we would be warm and comfortable that night. We all had a laugh when my old hammock I brought to lounge on gave way and I fell on my ass! As said, the night was very comfortable. ( Sorry guys for the snoring) Our last day would take us thru the more scenic parts of the KST where the trail is cut out of the sheer walls of the Ko'olau mountain. We left the cabin and started our last leg of the trek. We took it slow as this was the dangerous part of the KST also. After passing Pauao ridge and the Schofield terminus we got to the top of the Waikane trail. From here we would leave the KST and head down Waikane trail to Kamehameha Hwy where my daughter, Katrina would pick us up.

I congratulated the guys for completing another cross KST hike and we started down Waikane. I was not looking forward to this section of Waikane. There are several sections where the trail has eroded and you have to walk on narrow ledges with sheer drops of hundreds of feet! We all past this creepy section safely and head steadily down hill. The weather changes drastically and it gets warmer and warmer. At this point Ernest has slowed up alot due to his knee and ankle injuries. He's a tough guy makes it to the dirt road and the long march out to Kam. Hwy. We reach the highway with Katrina waiting for us with a cooler of cold drinks. We have already made plans for next years backpack. This trip was very enjoyable due to the terrific guys I went with. They share the same love for the outdoors and backpacking and the challenges the KST presents as I do.

A big mahalo nui loa to my bruddahs Jim, Ernest and Fishman for another awesome backpack. Mahalo Ke Akua!.............

Gordon Lau Jr



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a few of us want to tackle this route. ive been to poamoho summit and to the cabin. hiked ma'akua ridge to the summit. i live in pupukea and went to the summit view and know the trail head. had a few questions about what landmarks to look for at kawailoa.

bryan phillips


Great story Gordon and fellow crazies, great photo too! My name is Brent Jackson and my wife and I just moved here from San Diego. Looking to run the HURT 100 this coming January but first things first, wanted to meet up with a few of you perhaps for a Saturday morning run? Not to mention make a few friends in the H.U.R.T.

My email is senatorjax@hotmail.com and cell is 808-265-3709. I probably can't make every single Saturday morning long run but will do my best! Mahalo for inclusion into this great community known as the HURT.



Mahalo Gordon for including us in your adventure! Sounded like it was a very challenging and yet fun three day trek!


Yowzer, what an adventure ! Glad you nuts made it back alive, without being ravaged by the mad piggy.


Gordon, you've known all these years how I've wanted to join you on this annual adventure...
well, all except for the fact that you guys are nuts and this trek is TOTALLY hardcore ! You make it sound like it's a Sunday stroll in the woods with the family. This is one serious 3 day, TOUGH,
jaunt ! Great job guys, you are my heroes. "The earless Porker"

Doug Baker

Interesting adventure - especially the part about the angry pig with no ears! Thanks for sharing.


Great recount Gordon! Thanks! I would love to see more pictures!


Having been up there before with you Gordon I know to multiply your words and phrases by about a hundred fold to get to the real story. Mentioning the mud on the KST means it was above calf deep, getting off trail in a place where one never quite knows where one is, is more than a bit disconcerting, and traversing slick muddy ridge lines is nasty. A great KST adventure!


great story Gordon, & crew... thanks for sharing the adventure... This is what it's all about. Makes me want to get out there. Now. Where are my trail shoes....?!?


you guys are what it's all about....

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