Schofield-Waikane Trail

Summary:  We all have our Moby Dick.  For me, it’s been two trails, the Poamoho Ridge Trail and the Schofield-Waikane Trail.  Both caught my eye early this year, when I saw on the State of Hawaii Trail and Access Program website Na Ala hele that each required special permits (one permit from the State for Poamoho, but one from the US Army at Schofield and then one from the State for access to the Schofield-Waikane Trail).  Special permits to go on a trail?  They must be special trails.  Six weeks ago, with a couple of Army buddies, I had the good fortune of heading up the Poamoho Ridge Trail, but I had to wait until today before I could take a stab at Schofield-Waikane Trail.

When I contacted the Na Ala Hele crew about the status of the trail, I asked if anyone had been up there recently.  With the dual permit requirement, I wondered just how often people ventured up there, but I also wondered just how often any of the volunteer s had been up there in order to do trail maintenance.  I was hoping to glean some good intel ahead of time, so we’d better understand what we were getting into.  Their answer?  Honest, and worth it’s weight in gold.  The key nugget was this: “it’s a complicated permit, a long hot walk to an overgrown trail. In other words, it’s currently not the Poamoho experience you may be looking for…but you can legally hike it.”  I’ve been up Poamoho, ladies and gentlemen, and let me tell you — this is no Poamoho.

The Good:  It’s dead quiet on this trail.  Running through the Army training areas is a bit uneventful, but even that boring ol’ tank trail has some awesome views.  And once you get to the trail itself, the views may well knock you over the edge.  They are awesome.  I could plant a chair along this trail, and stay a week.  And I am guessing that the low numbers of visitors has something to do with the fantastic foliage being matched with a wonderful lack of human presence; we came across just one piece of trash on this trip, when we’ve damn near filled our packs with trash on other trails.  Also, this is a wet trail; be ready for ferns, and be ready to be soaked, as you’re going to bust brush on the way.  I loved it; the sun was out, but between the moisture, the occasional drops from the sky, and the sections of trail in the shade, we kept cool and kept moving.


The Bad:  OMG, you have to actually plan to go up this trail.  You can’t just wake up one morning and decided to head up there.  It’s something you have to think of a few weeks ago; the Army permit can take a day or two, and the State permit has to be submitted a week or ten days in advance of when you want to go (and after you have the paperwork from the Army).  Granted, the permit process is amazingly easy, and moved along by the nicest of people, but I am sure that there is someone who will read this who will actually think to themselves that this is a bad thing, having to apply for a permit.  For me, I see it as just part of the process.  Permits in hand, you also have to call in to the US Army’s Range Control before you start your trip (and have to take a cell phone with you), as well as call back in when you get in off of the trail.

The Ugly:  The trail does indeed go to pot maybe 3.5 miles in.  I think Schofield-Waikane Trail would be a great trail to hike.  Notice that I didn’t say that it’s a great hiking trail, or that it’d be a great hike.  It would be a great trail to hike. The route, with its long stretch of tank trail, has only a relatively short section of perhaps a mile and a half that is run-able trail; before that is the tank trail, and after that is trail with tough footing.  This is not a trail for running to the top of the Ko`olau range, but it certainly is a rail for putting in a quiet 10km run on a nice weekend morning.  If you’re going to hike it, wear pants; raspberry plants can be mean to people.

Type of route:  Tank trail, then trail running
Good to run in the rain? It’d be OK to run in the rain.

Length:  Probably 14 miles to the summit and back.  We did about 9.5 miles round trip, but if you’re going to run, plan on doing a 10km.

Options for the route: Um…. keep going father than we did?  No, there are no other side trails from this one.


Elevation change on the run: Starts at around 1300 feet, summits closer to 2800 I think.  We stopped at ~2000 feet.
Water used: ~2 liters.

Where to start:  California Ave at Nonohe St, in Wahiawa.  I asked about parking at the NCO Academy, and running through the training areas (I am, after all, an Army guy).  The answer?  A resounding NO!
Where to park: Same
Point your car’s GPS towards: 21.508306° -157.986457°  2568 Nonohe St, Wahiawa, HI 96786

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? Nope
Toilets? Nope
Medical care? Nope
Ranger / park folks? Range control.  But you won’t see them, you’ll just talk to them on the phone.  If you actually see them…. yeah, that probably wouldn’t be good, because they’d probably have MP’s with them.
Picnic areas? Nope
A place to change afterwards? Nope.  Deck change, in front of someone’s house.

Rewards in the area:  There’s a porn store in Wahiawa, if that counts.

You’d run this route when?  You’ve run everything else and you can plan a weekend to do it.  When you’ve raced a half-marathon the day before.

My rating:  8

Music:  None.  Don’t spoil this run with headphones.

Weather / Trail warnings (here) / Permits (here)  I ended up mailing in the request to the US Army, and they scanned and emailed back to me their approval.  I faxed that to the State, who mailed me a lovely, embossed permit package to take along on the trip.

More reading: here and here and here. Flickr: here. More photos: here and here.   State Park Info: here and here and here

The Big Schofield Loop

Summary: Nursing a sore Achille’s tendon, I made a rare daytime run around Schofield Battacks, Oahu, HI, on what I lovingly refer to as The Big Loop.  Starting at Richardson Pool, adjacent to the Division Headquarters for the 25th Infantry Division, I ran past the Nehelani Club to Lyman Road.  From there, I ran to the Lyman Gate, then the main / Foote gate, before heading to the McNair / back gate.  From there, it’s over to McMahon Road and out for a loop near Area X / the ranges.  After that, it’s back towards the Shoppette, and the long climb up Timble Road to Kolekole Pass.  Coming back down, I peeled off of Timble and back onto Lyman, ran past the cemetery, before making the left to return by the Nehelani Club to Richardson pool.  At 15.85 miles, it’s about as long as I’ve been able to stretch running a loop on Schofield Barracks.

The Good: Schofield Barracks, rich in history and spectacularly beautiful, is a wonder place to run, and this route covers just about everything on the base except the main drag leading to the PX, Commissary, and headquarters for the 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning).   It also includes a run up Kolekole pass, a staple for just about any runner on Schofield Barracks.  Much of the route is on paved roads that are in good shape, especially the climb up Kolekole pass.  There are a few stores on base and along the route, allowing for easy resupply of food or drink — a critical requirement given the length of the run, the elevation change and climb up Kolekole, and the role the sun can play  when away from the canopy shape afforded on long stretches of this run.

The Bad: The sun can be brutal.  While this is a fine run to do on a moon-lit night, it can be rough if not dangerous to try this when the tropic sun is beating down upon you.  Long stretches, especially out towards Area X, can leave you drained of fluids and at risk for heat related injuries.  Also, some stretches of the road are cracked, scarred with potholes or their repair, or offer little to no shoulder before dropping off to uneven ground; ankle and foot injuries can be a serious risk.

The Ugly: None.  My own regret is that the base stopped — long ago, by the way — their annual run over KoleKole Pass, across the Navy base on the other side and on to the Pacific Ocean.  That would be an awesome half marathon run, one that, in this post 9/11 world, I doubt we’ll see return.

Type of route: Paved road and some sidewalk.
Good to run in the rain? Great to run in the rain.

Length:  ~16 miles.

Options for the route: You can make it shorter.  If you’re willing to abandon the loop aspect of this run, you could also run through the main area of post, adding some more miles.

Elevation change on the run: 900 feet, up to 1700 feet or so .
Water used: About 5 liters.  I could have / would have used more.

Where to startRichardson Pool.
Where to park: Same (Google Maps)
Point your car’s GPS towards: Burr Street at Cadet Sheridan Road, Schofield Barracks, HI 96786

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? Yep.  All over the place.  At the pool, at various facilities along the way (like the gym), and at the shoppettes.
Toilets? Ditto.
Medical care? The finest the Army has to offer.
Ranger / park folks? Military Police (insert Park Ranger vs MP joke).
Picnic areas? Hmmmm.  Yes, at the pool.  And at a few other parks around the area.  Bowen Park is my favorite (here).
A place to change afterwards? Richardson Pool.

Rewards in the area:  The museum.  It’s fat-free, too.

You’d run this route when?  It’s dark out, and maybe rainy.

My rating:  7.  It’d score better, but on a hot day, this run is brutal.

Music:  Whatever Jody is calling.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required — well, not really)

More reading: here and here. Flickr: here and here. More photos: here

Poamoho Hele Loa and the Poamoho Ridge Trail

Summary: Poamoho Ridge Trail is a 3.5 or so mile ascent up the ridge to the top of the Koʻolau Range, after a 6.5 mile trip up the Poamoho Hele Loa Road.  The trip requires a special permit from the State, as the route crosses land belonging to the Dole Plantation, the US Military, and the State itself.  The road itself is very well suited for running, and two-thirds of the ridge trail can easily be run as well; the last portion of the ridge trail is unmaintained, and is better suited for walking / hiking, but it still well worth it.  With the permit requirement (and limit to five permits per weekend day), this is not just a wonderful route, it’s also one that is quiet and a place to go with a small group knowing you won’t see many (if any) others.  From the trail-head, the route is about 18 miles round trip and rises from 1100 feet elevation to 2600 feet.

Background (me and this trail):  I first started toying with the idea of running this route when I first started to spend some time on the Na Ala Hele website, which is about the State trail system.  It’s listed as a state hiking trail, but a few things caught my attention.  Like the need for a permit.  That it goes through the forest.  That it’s only periodically maintained.  That the Poamoho Hele Loa is 4×4 only.  I knew that those were just sirens calling to me, but that to others, they’d be a turn off — you have to plan ahead to go run this?  You can’t just get up and go on a whim?  Just running the ridge trail would be a 10km run (or maybe hike), but running the whole thing would be about 20 miles — who does that?  Well, I do, I thought.  I knew I should not run the route alone (few others on it, isolated, ridges with cliffs, unmaintained, etc), but I wasn’t sure I could talk others into doing this with me.  I hope this post is ammunition for others to talk their friends into doing this with them.

The Good:  This 20 mile run has three parts:  road, 2 miles of lower trail, and 1 mile of upper trail.  The road is great running.  It’s a good ascent, with the road taking you up about half the elevation of the ridge, and it’s well maintained, making it easy to run.  It’s not good, it’s great.  No one is going to try and run any real length of Maunawili while three-across; you can do that here.  The ridge trail is 3 miles long, and the first two aren’t good, they’re great, too — nice and wide, solid shoulders, great views, plenty of trees providing shade.  Even running on a day of sprinkles after a night of rail, we didn’t have slippage issues during those first 2+ miles of the lower trail.  And yes, it is as isolated as I had expected, and hoped; we saw one set of hunters just once (there were two sets out), and one group of hikers (they drove up the road to hike the last part), but other than that, we had the mountain and trail to ourselves.  And probably the nicest surprise was, as a military member, parking at the gym on the Helemano Military Reservation, and having a great gym at which to clean up after the run.  And one last thing — the permit.  It’s free, and can be done by mail or fax — which is awesome.

The Bad:  Cows loose on the trail.  I have cow and bull issues, I know, but there were some (4) that were out and about, and giving us the stink-eye.  We paused and waited, and they moved on.  Also bad for running is the last mile or so of the trail; it’s not suitable for running, for the most part.  After 9 miles to get there, though, it’s totally worth it to hoof it up that last mile, both to get to the top and to take in the views.   Oh, and you’re going to get dirty.  There’s no two ways about that – running or hiking.  For me, that’s fine — par for the course, really — but if you’re not expecting it, you’ll be surprised.

The Ugly:  If the sun is out in full force, this’d be a cooker of a run.  On a cloudy day, we all drained our camelbaks; I can only imagine what it’d be like on a hot, sunny day.

Type of route:  Dirt road and trail
Good to run in the rain? Yes, if you’re already comfortable with that.

Length:  about 18.5 from trailhead to the top and back; it’s 20, from the gym.

Options for the route:  Nope.

Elevation change on the run:  1100 feet to 2600 feet.  Mostly gradual, not too many steep areas.
Water used:  The full 3 liters.

Where to start:  When you get your permit, they’ll tell you that.
Where to park:   You can park near the trail head, or near the gym (like we did).  Or, you can drive the road and just run the trail.
Point your car’s GPS towards:  Wait and see.

My Google Earth file: here
My Garmin file: here

Facilities
Water? Nope
Toilets? Nope
Medical care? Nope.  Cell phone coverage all the way up, though.
Ranger / park folks? Nope.
Picnic areas? Nope
A place to change afterwards? We did, at the gym.

Rewards in the area:  3 taco plate at Just Tacos in Mililani (map).  It was about $50 for the three of us to each have this, but man did it hit the spot.

You’d run this route when….  you love running on this island, and you have friends just are as crazy as you.  When you’ve already run most all of the other Na Ala Hele trails, and decide that, really, you need to try and run them all.  When you need a run that will push you a little farther than normal.

My rating:  10.  I would run this again today.

Music:  None.  Won’t need it, probably won’t want it.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (required)

More reading: here and here and here Flickr: here More photos: here and here Videos: here and here Na Ala Hele site: here

KoleKole Pass

Summary: Kolekole Pass is a well known running route, but one that today sees many fewer runners than it once did.  In this post-9/11 world, access to Schofield Barracks, Lualualei Naval Reservation, and this historic road is restricted.  While it has historically been best known as shortcut across the Wai’anae range, these days it is a nice, quiet, and steep place to run.

The Good:  There’s little traffic on this road.  In fact, at during some parts of the day, there’s no through traffic at all, with only military vehicles heading to and from various ranges.  And it’s a nice little climb; the grade is steep enough to strain the legs, but not so severe as to bring you to your knees.  Also, the road is well maintained, and the side grass is regularly cut and cared for; for an out-of-the-way little side road, it’s in remarkably good shape.  Lastly, the road up has both great shade and a wonderful breeze, keeping the temp down during the hardest of times.  Time it right, and you can duck right into the showers at Richardson pool to clean up, before swimming a few laps.

The Bad:  Run what you brung; there’s no water along the way, no fountains, and a single porta-potty (that is actually pretty clean and regularly serviced).  While there are cars that transit the road pass, there are also large military trucks and commercial trucks; all of them do drive slow and are very good about making way for runners (and soldiers on ruck marches, etc).

The Ugly:Well, it’s not really that ugly, but there’s really nothing on the side of the road.  There are sidewalks for a good part of the way up through the military sections of Schofield Barracks, but that ends with the last of the motor pools.  From there on out, you’re running on the edge of the road; it shouldn’t be an issue.

Type of route: Road
Good to run in the rain? Fantastic to run in the rain.

Length: 9.5 miles, from the Inn, up Trimble to the pass, and back down Lymen Road and the cemetery.

Options for the route:I’d love to tell you that there’s still an option to run over the pass, down the other side and on to the ocean.  In the old days, the military use to have organized run to do just that.  I have not heard of it being done recently, or of plans to let anyone do it (though, if a guard would ever give me the chance, I’d surely do it).  Also, there’s a longer (11.5 mile) route that loops more to the northern point of the post, before looping around and back to Trimble.

Elevation change on the run:I’m not really sure (I’ve been running up there without my Garmin) .
Water used:   None.  That being said, I should add that I run in the morning, and I often run in the rain in the morning.  It would be easy to go through 2 liters running up the pass and back, if not three liters of water.

Where to start: The Inn at Schofield Barracks
Where to parkHere (library parking lot, across the street)
Point your car’s GPS towards:  The Inn.

My Google Maps link: here
My Garmin file: None

Facilities
Water? Not on the route
Toilets? One posta-potty along the way
Medical care? Oh, yes.  Get injured, and just about everyone stops to ask what’s wrong.  Army docs are plentiful, and all are quick to call for an ambulance.
Ranger / park folks? Nope, not in a traditional sense.  The closest thing is probably the Tropic Lightning Museum.
Picnic areas? Yes, at Bowen Field and also adjacent to both Richardson Pool and the Inn.
A place to change afterwards? Yes — Richardson pool (0600-0900 during the week, but weekends it opens at 1100).

Rewards in the area:  There’s a Baskin-Robbins over at the PX, but really, there’s no super-secret bonus for running up this route.

You’d run this route when….it’s raining and the run is coming up.  Or when you’re wanting a harder 10 mile run; this hill is a very good one.

My rating:  8.  I really like this one.  It’s not all that picturesque in some parts, but running across the post and up the hill is a great, great thing.

Music: Military cadence.  No matter what time you run this, no matter the day of the week that you run it, you’re going to pass soldiers coming or going from the pass.

Weather / Trail warnings (no) / Permits (not required)

More reading: here and here and here Flickr: here and hereMore photos: here.   State Park Info: none