\POSTED: 1 May 2005 - 4:00pm HST

Sierra Club rescues North Shore trail

View of Hanalei Bay on Kauai from Okolehao Trail. Photo by Jane Schmitt

by The Garden Island published 30 April 2005

A clearer view: With awesome views of Hanalei Bay and beyond, it is hard to imagine how the Okolehao Trail nearly ceased to exist. Members of the Sierra Club Kaua`i chapter pitched in to adopt and repair the trail after Hurricane `Iniki almost sent one of the few North Shore trails into extinction.

When a hurricane nearly knocked one of the most scenic North Shore hiking trails off the map, it looked like a nearly hopeless situation for dedicated hikers.
After the hurricane, rebuilding recreational facilities, especially isolated ones crossing both state and federal lands, took a back seat to rebuilding people's homes, lives and businesses.

But this story has a happy ending.

The Okolehau Trail, a 2.25-mile trail that begins at the China Ditch off the Hanalei River in Hanalei Valley and the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge and ends at a peak 1,200 feet up in the state Halele`a Forest Reserve.

Hurricane `Iniki, though, blew trees across the trail, and state Department of Land and Natural Resources crews stopped maintaining the trail with its sweeping view of the bay, valley and waterfalls.

Funds for clearing the trail evaporated after the hurricane, and it took a memorandum of agreement between federal, state and Sierra Club officials to allow Kaua`i Sierra Club members to gain access to the trail to work to reopen it.

Over a period of eight years, during which time Kaua`i Sierra Club members lugged chain saws, gas cans, and other equipment up the steep trail, and hauled debris, branches and other materials back down, the trail began to reappear.

Sierra Club outings volunteer Kathy Valier, who still leads many of the North Shore and Eastside Sierra Club hikes, became concerned that one of the few trails on the North Shore would fade into obscurity.

She suggested Sierra Club Kaua`i members adopt it, which they did, for eight years.

Volunteers worked hard over the years to clear the trail, hauling weed whackers and gas cans up the 1,200-foot climb to clear vegetation and fallen trees from the trail.