Talk Story with Joe Bussen
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Joined HTMC: 1970s
Favorite hike (currently): Castle, Poamoho, and any stretch of the Wai’anae or Ko’olau summit ridges and their lateral connecting trails
Favorite trail food: Lenders’ Bagel with peanut butter…and more
Favorite hiking book: Stuart Ball’s Native Paths to Volunteer Trails: Hiking and Trail Building on O’ahu
Interviewed by email: 20 January 2022, edited by Hawkins Biggins, John Braum, Susan Vesel
Do you remember WHEN you joined HTMC?
Ruby and I married in June of ’68; we both taught summer school at Iolani, living in her on campus apartment. We found the HTMC hikes listed in the newspaper. Our very first hike: Makapuu Tom-Tom. (Forty years later, in ’08, we did it for the last time). We had no canteens; I used the Missouri spelunking practice and bought four baby bottles to carry water. The inverted nipple makes a water tight seal. Probably did a couple more, then, after three nights in Haleakala with Ruby’s cousin and husband, we were off to St. Louis, where I had a teaching job. Ruby found a math position for a year, then switched to computer programming/systems analysis.
In 1970, we moved to Honolulu; I taught physics and other sciences at Kailua HS and Ruby worked for Dillingham Corp. I started hiking weekly with the club. I think Janice (Nako) Piburn was one who signed for me, attesting to my “good moral character”, as was required in those days! Ruby soon found herself pregnant, working hard, and took a break from hiking.
Silver Piliwale (then about 69) sort of adopted me and Walter Brown; he called us “The Three Wondrous”. English was his second language, he grew up speaking Hawaiian on the Big Island. We did a lot of club hikes, but often branched off on our own. Silver led us above Manoa Falls, scrambling up a very steep grassy slope to the left to Pauoa Flats; I’ve never been so scared in my life! On Sunday we started in the back of Pauoa (Silver could always persuade the last farmer to let us park and enter the woods) up to Konahuanui, right on the Ko’olau Summit to Aw?waloa (Olympus), then back on Wa’ahila Ridge (where we had staged cars). The next week, in Wa’ahila, right on the summit ridge, out Wai’alae Iki. We went up Tripler Ridge and down the Haiku stairs. I had a squarish canvas canteen on each hip, five liters total, and I would go through all of it.
Do you have a FAVORITE TRAIL or area of O’ahu?
Castle Trail was the highlight of the year for many of us. Two thirds of the way up, the trail drops down to cross Kaluanui Stream (above “Sacred Falls”) where there is an area big enough to camp.
The Three Wondrous plus Joyce Davis and Geraldine Cline did that one weekend. Silver used a home-made net (using native shrubs and vines) to catch opae, and cooked them in the big cast iron pan that he carried up there.
More generally, any stretch of the Waianae or Koolau summit ridges, and their lateral connecting trails were favorites. One great club hike was up Hapapa (behind the big green reflector), right on the Wai’anae ridgeline, down Kanehoa (adjacent to Kolekole Pass), and finishing the loop on the Honouliuli Contour Trail.
Poamoho was another high-light of the HTMC year; when DLNR built a cabin near the top, and another closer to Kahuku, these became prized overnight accommodations. Did many trips with my Kailua HS and Moanalua HS students. Valleys are great too; the swimming pool in Kawainui is incomparable. I led the HTMC hike there when we had 90 participants signed in.
What is your FAVORITE HIKING FOOD?
I used to take a Lenders’ Bagel with peanut butter and some trail mix or “gorp”. The bagels are very solid and firm. In recent years, Ruby and I would visit a 7-11 on the way and get sushi rolls. Now octogenarian lunch is just half an apple and some walnuts and almonds.
…and your FAVORITE BOOK about hiking?
Native Paths to Volunteer Trails: Hiking and Trail Building on O’ahu, by Stuart Ball, 2012. All hikers are familiar with Stuart’s wonderful guide books to O’ahu and Statewide, each in at least two editions. For a while I kept running into hikers with the guide book in hand. Native Paths is a marvelous carefully researched history of trail use, building, and development going back well over 200 years.
Is there a MEMORABLE HTMC HIKE experience that you would like to share?
On the Hidden Valley (Kahekili) hike a hiker had a heart problem and could not continue or return. I forget his name, but he and his nurse wife always wore white and drove a big white Caddy, Cell phones were just coming into use, and the club had a couple boxy phones for the leader to carry. A call brought the HFD helicopter. Young fireman Seto-Mook (same name as recent Fire Chief, probably his father) came zipping down a rope to assess the victim, and sent the helo down to Swanzy to rig a basket. We used our machetes to clear an area, and they plucked him out and sent him to Castle Hospital.
Did you have any memorable neighbor island experiences with HTMC or other groups?
In the 70’s we did HTMC trips to Haleakal? (Maui), Kalalau (Kauai), above Halawa Valley (Moloka’i), and Halape (Big Island)–this last may have been in a later decade. The Haleakal? trip, in ’71 I think, was particularly memorable. Jaggy Prasad was our leader. The Three Wondrous plus Zillah Young (choral director at Kamehameha Schools) and Bernice Kaohelaulii formed a sub-group to exit down Kaupo Gap on the fourth day. Another Kaohelaulii, Ed was in the main group. Some readers are more familiar with Annette Kaohelaulii, very active with Sierra Club, married to another of the Niihau born siblings.
The cabins were only available in a very peculiar order. First night in Holua, so plenty of time for a side excursion across Ko’olau Gap to visit the Wailau hunters cabin. Second night at Paliku. To get to Kapalaoa the third night is only 4 miles, so we climbed up Lau’ulu Trail (2000′), along the rim (right past the top of what I later learned about, Crystal Cave Trail, to the top of Hanakauhi (8900′) on the edge of Ko’olau Gap, then right down the long long slope and cross country to rejoin the trail system.
Removing my contact lenses at Kapalaoa after many hours in zero humidity, I managed to tear my left cornea. Did the four miles to the top of Kaupo Trail, then eight down, while shielding my eye with my hand or a bandanna. Fortunately, healed ok.
I went to the top of Mauna Loa with the Sierra Club. Our leader, Glenn Bauer, knew where to climb down into a rock cleft and break the ice to dip out water in our “Sierra” cups.
In recent years, Solemates, with lots of membership overlap with HTMC, has done many trips to the neighbor islands, with particularly good hiking in Kokee on Kauai.
Do you have a special affinity for one NEIGHBOR ISLAND destination?
In 1968, the summer we were married, Ruby planned the usual three night excursion for two couples—my introduction to a magical place I would visit dozens of times over exactly 50 years. Our 50th anniversary trip, with kids and grandkids, was in 2018.
Over the years I took high schoolers, college kids from my Geography 101 class, lots of hiking friends. Perhaps my favorite spot in all of Hawaii is on the rim up behind Kapalaoa Cabin, where there is a small heiau and some rock enclosures (sleeping shelters). Some of my Hawaiian students particularly appreciated the mana of this place.
In the late ’70s, a UH research group climbed Crystal Cave Trail and dropped down 2000′ to a pristine study area. One of the undergrads, Tonnie Casey, discovered a new species (and new genus) of Hawaiian Honeycreeper, the Po’ouli. Today, No Entry to this Scientific Research Reserve is very strictly enforced, with big fines for violators, but things were looser for a while. Sheila Conant (UH Prof) took me, Bob Pyle, and Maile Stemmerman down there. Bob was with the Weather Service, but his real love was birding; his wife, Leilani was active with HTMC at one time. To break the first day into two, we hiked to Paliku and tented. The winds that night crumpled my tent poles. We persisted, up Lau’ulu and down to the study area. We did not see a poo uli, but we saw two Maui parrotbills and many crested honeycreepers. We exited down Crystal Cave Trail and back out Halemauu Trail. Later I did a solo trip to the same place, using Crystal Cave Trail both ways.
Have you hiked with HTMC members or others ON THE U.S. MAINLAND?
When I retired 25 years ago, I started “section hiking” the Appalachian Trail. My first section was in the middle, but then I did 350 to 50 miles sections each summer. There’s a reason for the order of those numbers; the state of my knees governed my progress. From Springer Mtn. In Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine is about 2140 miles. I did about 80%, up to Hanover, NH. After my knees were replaced, my summer trips shifted to outside the US.
Ruby and I joined Solemates, with many HTMCers, on a half dozen hiking trips to the Pacific Northwest, especially Oregon.
Ruby and I have done a number of Road Scholar (formerly Elder Hostel) hiking trips. Richard McMahon joined us for one to west Texas, the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park. The latter, in a bowl of the Chisos Mountain, is really beautiful.
Jeanne Furukawa spearheaded a trip to Yosemite a few years ago; great hiking, though a little chilly in our tent cabins.
Outside the US, for a dozen or so summers we have been doing hiking forays in Europe, some with British groups HFHolidays and Ramblers, some on our own. Richard McMahon was usually the organizer, and at times included one or another of his children, Ruby, Judy Marshall, Loren and Yukie Anthony, Jim and Lynn Haas, George Shoemaker, and Peggy Foster. I have done some solo trips; sometimes Ruby joins me/us for the last week or so; she didn’t like to be away from her garden and her cats; her longest trip was two weeks; I /we might do three or four.
We hiked in England (Lake District (I climbed Mt. Scafell, highest in England), Hadrian’s Wall), France near Mt. Blanc, several times in Switzerland, Austria, northern Italy. Also Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Iceland. The Tyrol region, where Italy, Switzerland, and Austria come together, is my favorite, especially in the Dolomites.
And of course, there was the recent visit to New Zealand. Thanks, Jeanne, and Larry!
Why is HTMC important to you?
It is important for what it does. Imagine where the hiking community would be without HTMC, getting landowner permits, hiking the trails year in and year out. Perhaps even more important is the work of the trail maintenance crew, without whose efforts trails can be completely lost. The social connections and friendships made with like-minded hikers is icing on the cake.
Joe & Ruby Bussen
Ruby was born in NV; her father worked for the Kennicott Copper Co. They somehow avoided being interred in Manzanar or Tule Lake as many of their neighbors in “Japtown” (as it was called in McGill, NV) were, and escaped back to Maui as soon as the war ended. Ruby was a math major at Drake and got her masters at the U.of Chicago. Since she couldn’t afford to go home for five years, she found summer employment in the nascent computer industry, getting NDEA grants to work at a Navy base in FL, at Edwards AFB in CA, and Argonne Labs in IL.
Joe grew up in Decatur, IL, got his BS in physics at St. Mary’s University (TX) and masters at Notre Dame.
In 1967 the physics teacher from St. Louis and the math teacher from Iolani attended a summer institute for science and math teachers at Stanford. In 1968 Joe and Ruby were married, both taught summer school at Iolani, hiked with HTMC, hiked in Haleakala, moved to suburban St. Louis, where they both taught. The following year, Ruby left teaching to do computer programming for Ralston Purina.
In 1970, the Bussens moved to Hawaii. Ruby worked for Dillingham Corp., Kentron (military contractor), and the Population Institute at the East-West Center. Joe taught at Kailua and Moanalua HSs. Ruby left the EW Center to start her own business, MicroDyne Computer Systems, Inc, selling hardware, software, and support to physicians’ practices. After 25 years in the classroom, Joe became a Vice-Principal, Principal, and Personnel Specialist.
Ruby & Joe Bussen Legendary New Years Day Potluck Soup Recipes
- When did you start hosting the New Year’s potlucks at your house? What inspired them?
I think it was January of ’09. When Ruby was growing up on Maui, it was customary in the Japanese-American households to have an “open house” on New Year’s Day, with families visiting back and forth, and a lot of food preparation the night before. The soups are all Ruby’s modern innovation.
Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
Use a 12 quart pot
Saute in 3 Tablespoons of oil until tender
4 medium carrots, 4 stalks of celery, 2 medium onions,
2 medium green peppers – all chopped
Add, bring to a boil, reduce head to medium and cook 20 minutes
½ cup pasley, 2 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, 3 Tsp garlic powder, 3 tsp italian
seasoning, 6 bay leaves, “Better than Bouillon seasoned vegetable base” (Foodland or Don
Quixote) use 4T to start, 10 cups of water
Add and cook 10 minutes
2 medium zucchini chopped, 1 ½ cup uncooked macaroni
Add and heat through
2 15 oz cans of kidney beans undrained
I throw in celery tops, watercress ends and other stuff that will add flavor
Taste and add more bullion cubes if taste flat
3 4.5 oz Louisiana Crawfish-man’s Gumbo Mix purchased online from www.cajunwholesale.com Do Not order from Amazon, their price is high. At some point call customer service and Toni will help you get a good shipping rate.
2.5-3 lbs portuguese Sausage (Costco)
2 2 lb bags frozen peeled and deveined shrimp 21-26 count (Costco)
1 3 ½ lb bag frozen boneless-skinless chicken thighs (Tyson, I believe)
3 10 oz bottles fresh chilled oysters (Foodland, Safeway – need to ask if not displayed
16 quart pot
Prep ahead of time
Cube portuguese sausages
Thaw then cube chicken
Start defrosting shrimp 2 days ahead (on day of drain)
Remove oysters from the bottle and cut each oyster in 3. Return to fridge
Chope vegetables and garlic
On day of
Dissolve gumbo mix in 3-4 quarts of water and set aside
Put sausage in pot, turn heat on and start browning. Turn over then add chicken
Remove to bowl which chicken is almost done
Add butter, garlic and vegetables. Cook till vegetables start to limp
Add gumbo mix/water and bring to a boil while mixing frequently with roux spoon
Add water so total is about 10 quarts
Add back meat and vegetables. Bring to boil and stir frequently
Add shrimp simmer 20 minutes
Add oysters and simmer another 5 minutes – STIR FREQUENTLY so gumbo does not burn
Feel free to improvise i.e more/less water, shrimp, etc