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8/22/09 - Powerline Road and Forest North of Saddle Road, 20 Mile Area

Posted Sunday 23rd August 2009 at 03:38 by bkrownd
Updated Sunday 23rd August 2009 at 10:07 by bkrownd
The forecast misled me today. It looked like a dry forecast, and I thought that I was going to FINALLY get to attempt to cross the 1984 lava to the big forest beyond. I was excited! Unfortunately the low chance of precipitation actually meant fog and blowing mist instead of dry. It doesn't count as precipitation in the forecast if you're actually inside the cloud. :/ Well, it did get me up nice and early - I started down Powerline Road just after 6AM dawn. I also learned that for the real 1984 lava crossing I really need to get going a couple hours earlier, so that I leave the road ASAP and start crossing the hard part at dawn. That means I need to leave home about 3AM to do the Big Trek properly. (Really I should overnight in the car at the start of Powerline Road, but there are occasionally "bad crowds" on Saddle Road at night.)

There were at least 3 groups of hunters out this morning. There were many hunters out Friday as well. I discussed Saddle trails with one, trying to get more info. I need to find somebody who's been going out there for a long time to quiz for info on trails and traffic on the Saddle - many of the forests are too thick to penetrate without a cut trail.

Well, this was my first outing on Powerline Road in a month. With the fog and blowing mist I did few bird counts. Kolea were rousing from their night on the lava field when I started out at dawn. Counts of the most common birds were low, as is usual in the summer. However, they were still more abundant than they are down in the big forest around the 19 mile marker. 'Oma'o and 'elepaio were plentiful in the places where I usually find them. I saw a house finch at either end of Powerline Road.

In the last kipuka I did two counts as I was checking on rare plants on either side of the road, picking up an 'akepa (wheedly voice) in the first and 2+ creepers (with their sweet "weet"s and white chins) in the second. As the creeper and I exchanged "weet"s the 'amakihi joined in with their hoarse little voices, which was a nice reminder of the difference. One of the hunter's dogs scared up hidden kalij pheasants for me during the counts in the last kipuka. There were no other unusual or rare birds.

By the time I got to the last kipuka the mist was regularly becoming drizzle. I decided I wasn't going to be able to venture off the road today, and with the kipuka full of hunters I decided to just check on my rare plants and go back to a kipuka nearer Saddle Road. The big koli'i was as grand as ever. No sign of flower buds yet. I was anxious as I approached my little haha plants with the hunting dog crashing around the understory, but I was vastly relieved to find that they had finally been fenced this month! That was the best birthday present I could hope for. Hope they survive to make thousands of little hahas.

I got back to the car about noon and went down Saddle Road looking for a forest where I could take shelter from the drizzle. I stopped just below where Kaumana Trail crosses Saddle Road, and went across the lava field into a part of the forest I've never visited before. This is a mile up from where I've been exploring the last couple of weeks, and it is a very different forest! The understory is thick with tangled masses of 'uluhe, 'ohelo and pukiawe. After an abortive attempt at penetrating the forest, I settled for following the edge of the forest along the lava flow, which has a narrow corridor that isn't too tangled. The drizzle was keeping the birds quiet. There was a steady supply of 'oma'o and an i'iwi nearby, with regular transits by groups of 2-4 'apapane, 'amakihi and Japanese white-eye. There was one 'elepaio as I first entered the forest.

The most interesting thing I found as I followed the edge of the forest was a small colony of small ho'awa trees. I don't find many ho'awa in windward forests, and this is just the second colony I've found on the Saddle. I spotted a tiny seedling first, whose dull wrinkly leaves caught my eye. I am used to seeing the seedlings since we plant so many of them. I found 3 small healthy trees and 2 seedlings in 350 meters. One tree had a few seed pods growing. Unfortunately rats and mice eat most ho'awa seeds, which look like black Corn-Nuts. They were also eaten by the 'alala. I am uncertain whether the ho'awa population is holding steady or declining. They are numerous in some parts of the island such as Kona and Ka'u, but they're one of the least common trees in the windward forests I regularly explore.

Another interesting bit of flora was the best population of large oreobolus tussocks I've found yet. These very attractive little native sedges form low and tidy green and brown cushions up to a foot in diameter, and their numerous seed-bearing stalks look like matches with the seed as the match head. They were just growing randomly on the forest floor, or occasionally even on fallen wood.

I bailed out at 4PM as the drizzle became steadier because I had to cross the lava field to get back to Saddle Road and didn't want to wait for dark or heavier weather.
Total Comments 2

Comments

Old
When I was there in spring, I climbed up on top of the 1984 lava flow to see what was beyond. I gave a thought to exploring over there before deciding it would be a hard walk over the lava and then I wouldn't have much time to spend on the other side before coming back.

Is Powerline Road the closest access to that forest? If so, it must get very few visitors and would be an amazing place to explore. If one were trying to rediscover 'o'u, wouldn't that be the place to look?
Posted Monday 24th August 2009 at 16:42 by emupilot emupilot is offline
Old
bkrownd's Avatar
Where Powerline Road meets Stainback Highway would be the shortest access, across the 1942 lava. I'm sure anyone doing research over there goes in from there or one of the forest trails in Kulani. My car wouldn't make it down upper Stainback Highway, so it isn't an option for me.
Posted Monday 24th August 2009 at 20:01 by bkrownd bkrownd is offline
 
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