Talk Story with Steve Brown
CLICK HERE for the PDF version
This month, we asked multi-talented, long-time HTMC volunteer Steve Brown to recount some of his most memorable moments with the club. We hope you will enjoy these as much as we did!
– HTMC Newsletter Committee
WHEN and WHY did you join HTMC?
I joined the club in the 70’s. Don’t remember the exact date. I was always impressed with the club, and its reputation as the premiere hiking club on Oahu, which made me want to join. I hiked Schofield-Waikane with the club and the satisfaction I had upon successfully completing it, and not being too exhausted afterwards, prompted me to join. I remember being on the bus and seeing a gnarly looking guy with an HTMC patch – it might have been Kost Pankiwskyj. It made me want to join this group of on-the-edge hikers.
You’ve served as HTMC president, board member, trails committee chair, and long-time HIKE COORDINATOR. How did you get started volunteering?
For a while I was just going on the hikes, but then one day I got a call from Mary Booth on the schedule committee, asking me if I wanted to lead Waialae Nui. I accepted, and eventually joined the schedule committee, and ended up taking over the trails committee when Dick Booth retired. I set up a database and programs, which enabled better information to be provided to the schedule committee for making their decisions about which hikes to schedule, and who to ask to lead them. Historical information was maintained about the hikes, including date, leader, members-only and public hikes, and the number of member and guest hikers. I also handled obtaining permissions as required for most hikes, and maintained good relations with landowners and government agencies.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Steve stepped down from his role on the Trails and Schedule Committee in March 2021. You can read Stuart Ball’s tribute to Steve’s many years of service on the HTMC website.]
PLEASE share some of your favorite HTMC memorable moments!
Kahana Valley Hike with Joe Bussen & Dick Booth
Joe Bussen and I were trail clearing for his upcoming Kahana Valley hike. We were supposed to meet Dick Booth at the trailhead, but he never showed up. So Joe and I hiked and marked the trail. Joe is colorblind, and so we couldn’t use red ribbons to mark the trail. We used some other color, perhaps blue.
We finished the trail and when I got home, I called Dick Booth to find out what happened to him. He said that he was a little late, but hiked the trail anyway. Someone had put up blue ribbons, and he took them all down and replaced them with red ribbons.
Lulumahu Falls with John Hall
One time John Hall was leading the Lulumahu Falls hike, using the route that passes through the abandoned palace. The route beyond the palace is somewhat iffy in places, as I well knew–having led the hike once and briefly brought the group on an incorrect trail that required a backtrack and reset.
John got off the usual route at one point and he stopped, with the group waiting behind him. He pulled out his compass, consulted it briefly, and said “We’re going that way”, pointing off into the underbrush. We soon connected with the proper trail.
Mae Yokoyama and the Moanalua Valley Hike
The club led a hike to Moanalua Valley, and one of the participants was Mae Yokoyama. On the way out when she returned to the valley trail, instead of turning left to exit the valley, she turned right, and headed farther into the valley. The hike leader had to wait for her to finally emerge from the trail (hours later than the rest of the group). The hike leaders were informed of this, and would cringe whenever she showed up at the palace to do another hike with us.
Kuaokala – my first hike with HTMC
My first hike with HTMC was Kuaokala, led by Dick Davis on November 11, 1978. But he didn’t take the route that was currently being used by the club. Instead we started from Farrington Hwy and hiked up a gulch, which made it considerably longer. This was also my first hike with Joann Browne, who was quite a hiker. One of her accomplishments was hiking the Koolau Summit Trail with Silver Piliwale.
Historic HTMC Treasure Hunts
Dick Booth led many Treasure Hunts, which were real adventures. After he retired, I followed in his footsteps with a few. They may have been more fun for the person setting them up than for the participants. This was before the days of widespread GPS usage. The procedure was to pick a suitable site, then spend a lot of time hiking the area, and determining clue locations that could be easily described and taking extensive notes.
There were usually 3 or 4 clue sites. The group participating in the event would be split into 3 or 4 teams, which would visit the clue sites in differing sequences, so the clues had to be written to lead the teams from site to site (quite a number of different clues). Dick’s method, which I followed, was to write the clues in the form of a poem, and then encrypt them. I loved seeing the faces of the participants when faced with a clue that was complete jibberish!
The encryption usually involved an offset of a couple letters in the alphabet, and was easy to solve, once that was discovered. Both Dick and I would change the encryption scheme half-way through, which made it a little more interesting. The team that found all the clues, successfully translated them, and returned them to the leader at the trailhead was declared the winning team, although the treasure was always shared with all the participants. In Dick’s era, the treasure was frequently watermelon.
I remember once that Charlotte Yamane saw me heading off into the woods a few weeks before a scheduled Treasure Hunt, and thereby knew the general location, a fact which she gleefully shared with me. For one of Dick’s events, I was the only one at the palace who knew where the Kalauao trailhead was, so Dick had to inform the other participants. On this same event, our team was hiking rapidly down the Aiea Loop Trail, when a member of another team passed us going the other direction and said, “No, it’s not down there. You’re going the wrong way.” When we stopped and started to turn around, he laughed and said, “Don’t listen to me, I’m on the other team!”
Helicopter Rescue in Kahana Valley
Don Holmes was a hiker from Canada on the Kahana Valley hike I was leading. He fell and broke his leg, and had to be airlifted out of the valley. I stayed with him until the helicopter arrived. I contacted him to see how he was doing, and we stayed in touch after he returned to Canada.
Sure-footed Chuck Godek
Stuart and I were at the end of Kaluanui Ridge trail, watching someone hike along the Koolau crest towards us. We were very impressed with the way he was moving rapidly and sure-footedly along the crest. The hiker turned out to be Chuck Godek.
The “Go for it” injury in Koloa Gulch
The club was hiking Koloa Gulch, and I was with a group of visitors. We had reminded them of the danger of slippery rocks, but at one point the visitor right behind me asked what he should do – step down into the water, or attempt to jump to the next rock. I (stupidly) told him, “Go for it.” Yup, he slipped and smashed his shin into a rock. Luckily it was just a minor injury.
Hiking is the best way to stay fit!
One hiker told me that he spends a lot of time exercising and weight lifting, but nothing provides a physical workout comparable to hiking with the club.
Kanehoa-Hapapa trail clearing til 3am
On May 24, 1981, Bob Silva, Frances Louie, Dave Mato, Bonnie Kolsom and I were clearing the Kanehoa-Hapapa trail in preparation for the club’s hike the following Sunday. The route is up the Kanehoa ridge to the Waianae crest, right along the crest to the Hapapa ridge, descending this ridge to the Honouliuli Contour Trail, then right again on this trail to reconnect with the Kanehoa ridge, and then left on that ridge down to the pineapple fields. Our progress was slow, and we reached the contour trail at 5:30. It was suggested that we hike down to Schofield Barracks from there, and try to find a way back to our cars, but the decision was made to continue the route along the contour trail. The trail was very overgrown with lots of clidemia. It got dark and our progress was very slow. Luckily we had a small flashlight. At 9pm we called a rest stop, but after about 3 hours, we became chilled. We pressed on and eventually emerged from the trail at 3AM. We then headed over to Anna Miller’s for breakfast!
Waianae Ramble & Dick Booth’s ribbon escapade
Dick Booth was leading one of his favorite hikes, Waianae Ramble. He hadn’t a chance to ribbon the trail before the hike, and didn’t have much ribbon with him, so he was in the front ribboning with increasingly smaller lengths of ribbon. Someone suggested that we have the last person remove the ribbons, and pass them up the line to Dick.
Iolani Palace bumper car!
Back when we were meeting at the palace, some HTMC members’ cars would queue up on Sundays at the stop light at Vineyard Boulevard, having taken the eastbound Punchbowl exit off the H1. I was in the queue, and was surprised when the car behind me gently bumped my car. I looked in the rear-view mirror, and it was Dick Booth in his old Volkswagen!
Back when I was hiking, my favorite hikes were Puu Kaua and Koloa Gulch.
TAMFU: Trail and Mountain Foul Up
Dick Booth had a saying that he would trot out occasionally, at appropriate moments. It was “TAMFU”, which stood for Trail and Mountain Foul Up. This was of course a variation of SNAFU, a military expression meaning situation normal, all fouled up.
Schedule Committee Fellowship
One of the highlights of my time with HTMC was the Schedule Committee. I was a member of the committee for many years, starting with the group that included Thelma Grieg, Dick Booth, Mary Booth, Joyce Tomlinson, and Jim Yuen. The fellowship that we shared and the work that we provided to the benefit of the cub was very satisfying. We would share food and drink and jokes, and became good friends.
Do you have any thoughts about the FUTURE OF HIKING in Hawai’i?
According to the club’s original charter we were supposed to promote the enjoyment of hiking in Hawaii, but with the increased popularity of hiking, there are just too many people on the trails. Perhaps we should reconsider our original objective. Hiking is such a wonderful activity in so many ways: exercise; fellowship; enjoyment of the wilderness. But the sheer volume of hikers on the trails, and the inconsiderate actions of some members of the hiking community provide a negative aspect for other hikers and for the communities at the trailheads, to say nothing of the unprepared hikers who go beyond their capabilities and need to be rescued.
It’s a shame that we are losing access to so many trails. The club has always been conscientious about getting permissions from landowners for our hikes, whereas many other individuals don’t bother. As a result, when landowners determine that there’s a problem of some sort, and need to restrict hiking, their only course of action is to deny permission to us, whereas the other renegades are unaffected, and continue to hike.
A while ago, when requesting permission from the Army to hike to Puu Kalena, as we had been doing for many years, their response was, “That isn’t a trail.”
Steve came to Hawaii in 1968, having not done any significant hiking on the mainland. He started hiking with the club in 1978 and soon became an HTMC hike leader and Schedule Committee member. In addition to leading more than 100 hikes, he developed a database that stored information about the hikes and the hike leaders that made the work of HTMC committees much easier.