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6/18/09 - Upper Waiakea Forest Reserve, Diagonal Northeast Trail (1 Viewer)

Today was very wet, and even a bit windy at times. I was really beat in the morning from not sleeping enough recently, and didn't get up to the forest until nearly 2 PM! I almost turned around on the way up because the rainfall was so heavy halfway up Stainback Highway, but fortunately inertia was firmly in control and I made it to my destination. It was just a steady sprinkle up around 3500-4000 feet.

I chose the diagonal northeast trail off the North side of Stainback Highway because I haven't been down there in a while and wanted to check on the rare plants I monitor. When I arrived at the first rich cluster of plants I regularly check, my heart sank. One of the groups of hunters in the area creates a huge swath of destruction when they go through the forest, needlessly cutting a 6 foot wide avenue through the native understory. They made a new trail that started right in the middle of the cluster of rare plants, and it's one of the worst and most destructive yet! Native understory was smashed, numerous understory trees were cut down or stripped of their bark, and most needless of all they even chopped or kicked down dozens of large tree ferns! You really have to work hard with the machete to cut down a foot-diameter tree fern trunk! I was furious. I've run into several people on this trail and I suspect I know who's responsible, but there's nothing that can be done without having them pose for photos while in the act.

I followed the avenue of death for a little ways to check the plants in the area. The damage was mostly absorbed by common species. Ferns and tree ferns, kanawao, stenogyne and maile vines, understory trees such as manono. The soil surface was churned up and is now ripe for weed invasion and pig rooting. Fortunately by some miracle they missed most of the rare plants. The haha, pilo kea, olona, 'oha wai and phyllostegia were intact. They drove their death trail right past my beloved colony of rare haha, and I cringed as I approached it, until I found that the trail just missed them. Fortunately I was able to find all the rare plants I know about unharmed, but the scale of the gratuitous destruction in one of the most diverse and pristine native forests on the island still makes my hair burn! One of the worst outcomes is that these trails could funnel pigs right to the rare plants that were sheltered by this forest's thicker understory.

I'm not sure how to take a photo which really gives any sense of the scale of the destruction. The few I tried to take are difficult to interpret since everything just ends up looking like a jumble of vegetation.

Along one of the older trails I checked the embelia for flowers. (none) I went further down the diagonal northeast road, until I came to a strawberry guava infestation. I worked away at it, which briefly took my mind off removing certain people's limbs with my machete. I removed almost all but the stumps by sunset, and headed back to Hilo at dark.

The steady rain and wind meant that 'apapane and Japanese white-eye were very scarce. 'Elepaio and 'oma'o were numerous, as usual. There was also one northern cardinal.



New member
On vacations to Hawaii I have done some hiking/birding in the areas you describe. When I try to track your routes, I'm handicapped a bit because the topo map I use - a scalable .DRG map of the entire Big Island - does not name minor roads (which seem to be shown on the map, just not named). Could you recommend a map (or maps) that does road names or designations? Hopefully covering forest and 4WD type roads. I do have an overlay of transects on the windward sides of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, so that bit of route info is covered. Also, would a book of Hawaiian place names be helpful? (You sometimes refer to named gulches, ravines,...). If so, which would you recommend?

Finally, what anti-moisture precautions do you take with your camera/lenses? Frogman bags with silica gel? Had any water/camera problems?

Thanks for your help,
Chuck Mohr
Idaho Falls, ID


Well-known member
Finding a good map for this purpose is difficult. Many of the "roads" I describe are just bulldozed access roads for powerlines, tree plantations, nerve gas factories, prisons, ranches, and who knows what else. Many have been abandoned by their original purpose for decades and are in various stages of being overgrown. Some of these are shown on some maps and not others. I use the Bier map, but it doesn't show or label everything that's out there, and it doesn't indicate which roads are private or passable. I'm not sure DeLorme has. I find some of them by chance, and others from obvious disturbance in the satellite images. The high resolution topo map is as good as any. Some of the names I give trails and roads are just made up for lack of anything else to call them, such as the name of the road/trail for this entry.

The state may have more interesting maps somewhere. The maps DOFAW makes as a guide to hunting areas, for instance.

Gulch names are probably best to get from a topo map. Again, I don't what the DeLorme map has. A map showing the 'ahupua'a (historical subdistricts) may also be helpful. The Bier map has some of them, but I can't remember in detail.

I don't really give much detail about the locations I talk about in these entries because the various conservation organizations really don't want to attract casual traffic, collectors or vandals to these areas. I'd like to post my own maps of all this stuff, but I don't for that reason.

I just carry my camera around casually, trying to prevent direct rain on the lens barrel as much as possible. I carry some gallon ziplocks for if it gets really outrageously rainy, and try to remember to take camera and lenses out of my pack at the end of the day. One time I forgot a lens in a ziplock for a few days and it was eaten by fungus. I'm sure they'll all get fungus eventually, but will probably be replaced for some other reason by then. Everything has been dropped, knocked or fallen on quite a lot.

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