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
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.