Kapa’ele’ele


This morning we headed out to do the Kapa’ele’ele trail in Kaa’awa at the Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park it was supposed to be a 1.2 mile loop.  The state park is designated as a “living park” so there are people who have homes here so be respectful.  Here is some history on the lands. 

“Cultural Background
Kahana was a thriving fishing and farming community prior to Western contact. Those living in Kahana had an abundance of fresh water and fertile soil on the valley floor to cultivate kalo (taro), the staple crop. The loçi (ponded fields of kalo) were irrigated by ‘auwai (ditches) that diverted water from the streams to the fields. Kahana Bay provided a wealth of fish and shellfish.

In the 19th Century, following the unification of the Hawaiian Islands by Kamehameha I, the population rapidly declined as a result of Western contact and the introduction of foreign diseases. Sugar cane cultivation and the use of the valley as a WWII jungle warfare training site, have altered the natural and cultural environment of Kahana.

The Living Park
The primary purpose of this park is to nurture and foster native Hawaiian cultural traditions and the cultural landscape of rural windward O’ahu. Established as a “living park”, there are thirty-one families living in the ahupu’ça of Kahana. These families assist with interpretive programs that share the Hawaiian values and lifestyle. If you have a group interested in a cultural program at the park, please call 237-7766.”                    -www.hawaiistateparks.org

The parking is at a small community building just after you enter the park area.  You will see bathrooms there as well.  The trail head is at the same location as the Nakoa trail only the Nakoa trail is down a different road.  I didn’t track the distance with my phone today because it was a bit wet and raining we started so I figured my phone was better off in the car.                                   

The start of the trail is well-marked and starts along a grassy area that is wide enough for a car.  Soon there is a sign pointing to the trail which then leads through a muddy path with roots everywhere.  The roots are actually helpful for footing as it can be a little tricky.  The trail is definitely kid friendly since it’s so short. 

Probably the most interesting thing about the hike is the historic places to see.   The first is the sight the trail is named for the Kapa’ele’ele fishing shrine.  Although there really isn’t much left of it except a few typically black rocks that you see at Heiau’s around the island.  You can see a bit of a formation but over the years I’m sure it has changed. 

“A ko‘a is a shrine dedicated to fishing. Hawaiians made offerings here to ensure bountiful harvests of the akule fish (Bigeye scad). The offering was often the first fish caught. The akule is an important food fish that schools in Kahana Bay in large numbers. This ko‘a is a rectangular alignment of boulders that is open toward the sea.

The name Kapa‘ele‘ele literally means “black cloth”. Kapa is Hawaiian cloth made from the bark of the wauke tree (paper mulberry). The name of the ko‘a may be a reference to a god or a specific ritual associated with offering given here.”         

-www.hawaiistateparks.org

The map shows the fish lookout called Keaniani Kilo and we didn’t find it.  We did find a nice bench with a view but according to the map that wasn’t Keaniani Kilo. 

“This spot served as a lookout (kilo) for fishermen. From here, the kilo i‘a (fish watcher) could spy schools of akule fish which would sparkle as the sun reflected off of them like a mirror (aniani). He would then direct a group of waiting fishermen in canoes via a set of signals using a pole with a flag of white kapa. The fishermen would then surround the school of fish with their nets, and villagers of all ages would gather on the shore to hukilau (pull in the nets). The catch was then divided equally between all participants. Additionally, a malihini (guest) share was set aside for any passers by or visitors who were watching, an early example of what is today known as the “Aloha spirit”.”     -www.hawaiistateparks.org

Up to the point of the shrine the trail is pretty well-defined and easy to follow.  After that…good luck.  I know there is a Pu’u (peak) trail that branches off and I hadn’t planned on doing that since we had the kids with us.  After the shrine we didn’t find any ribbons and there were several trails converging on one location.  We first went straight ahead and the trail nearly disappeared.  Then we backtracked and went up a hill into a grove of ironwood trees and lost the trail again.  What we did see was homeless camps.

I think I have mentioned before that homelessness is a problem here.  A lot of the homeless have jobs but simply don’t make enough to eat and have a place to live.  Because the park is Hawaiian historical lands they normally are left alone.  Similar to the way people look the other way up on the north shore or down near Makaha.  We were respectful and didn’t take pictures or get close to the camps.  I don’t know if anyone was in the shelters or not. 

 

We finally decided to follow a trail down the hill that we thought may help us complete the loop.  We proceeded down a hill and into a valley where we could see that there were steps put there by someone so we must be on the right track right?   Honestly, we don’t know if we did the trail right or not since it was not marked.  We came down the hill and were close to Kam Hwy.  We stayed in the woods and we looked for a path back but didn’t find one.  Finally we decided to just do the rest of the hike along the road. 

As I described it’s not a well-marked trail after just a short distance.  If you come to the area the only thing to see is the view from above the water looking down on the bay.  We all left the hike feeling like we missed out on something or maybe it was never really there.  If we had kept climbing up the ridge we probably would have found the trail leading to the Pu’u.  But, we didn’t so if you go in and find the trail leave the rest of us dummies some ribbons would ya?


Kaaawa on Dwellable
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