Talk Story with Thomas Yoza
HTMC Talk Story #18
May 28, 2023
The Essential Questions
Favorite hike: I don’t have a favorite. They’re all like my kids.
What’s in your pack: Tools- hand pruners, small sickle and hand saw; Food- Alternate between pop tarts and trail mix, Tang; When weed whacking- Fuel, spare parts and tools, and I wear my spiked tabis because you have to have some grip when you are maneuvering around with only one free hand and the weed whacker
When did you first start hiking?
I used to live in Kamilonui Valley in Hawaii Kai. I went up the mountain there all the time when I was a kid. So I’ve been hiking all my life.
Do you remember when you joined the club and why?
I was kind of forced to join. I am a lifetime member of the Sierra Club, and I did a lot of trail building for them. I was also a hike leader. At one point, they were working with Na Ala Hele to build trails, starting with the Maunawili Demonstration Trail. We also worked on Hawaii Loa, Kuliouou, and Maunawili Falls. June and I did a lot with them. In fact, a lot of people that came to the Sierra Club were HTMC members. Anyway, when the state ran out of money, I started helping HTMC. People told me not to hike with HTMC because they get lost. In the Sierra Club, there is a leader and a sweep, and you only go as fast as the slowest person. In HTMC, everyone goes at their own pace. The first time I hiked with them, I think it was Waimano, people were gone so fast. I got halfway up the trail and people were coming down already. On another hike, Hawaii Loa, Stuart Ball was the leader, and he mentioned that the trail was overgrown. So while everyone else zoomed up to the summit, I started clearing in the back. He said I needed to contact Mabel because what I was looking for was the trail clearing crew. Kost’s (another member) wife, Gina, who I worked with in Sierra Club, also told me about Mabel. So around 1994, I joined up with the clearing crew along with June and Bill. But I wasn’t a member of the club yet. Then in 1998, when Justin was membership chair, there was talk about only members being able to do some clearings. I decided to join. You needed two people from the club to vouch for you then, so Dayle and Jay were my sponsors. I became a lifetime member.
Can you think of a memorable HTMC experience?
There are a lot because I have been a part of a few searches and rescues. For example, the year after I joined, in 1999, two Danish women got lost in Kahana Valley. They went off trail and were near Ohulehule. After a Sunday trail clearing of Nakoa trail, Kenji, Tom, Jim, Naomi, and I decided to go looking for them. We climbed past a flat section and yelled for them. At one point, I actually heard someone yell back. The girls were coming back down after having been in the area for days. Kenji had one of those big old phones to call for help, we were in radio contact with Mabel in the parking lot, and we used a space blanket to attract the helicopter. They were actually making an announcement that they were going to call off the search in the park, and the helicopter was going back when we called. They got helicoptered out, and we hiked back. Read more about this story here
I was also part of the search for John Parsons. He was a hiker who went missing on the Waimalu Ditch trail. We searched when he first went missing, but it wasn’t until a bunch of us went to help with a hiker we thought had gone missing from a club hike (it turned out he was at home and had left his car in the neighborhood), that we came across a hunter waiting for his missing dog to return. The hunter told Mabel that he had found John Parsons’ ID and a femur. He said it was way up in the valley. So I went back up the next weekend. In one of the stream areas, I found a skull. I found other things later, too, but the police said I could stop looking because they had enough at that point to make an ID. In all, I went searching 25 times. Read more about this story here
I have been part of more searches and found other people on trail. Before we used to have more time to go out and look for people as a crew. I still take time to go and search for anything I can find to help with other missing hikers sometimes.
Where else have you hiked?
Halape, Kalalau, Trail clearing crew trips to neighbor islands on Memorial Day weekend
Why is HTMC important to you?
As a retired guy, there’s no more goals for me to shoot for. Work and financial things are pau. I don’t have kids. So everything is sort of centered around trail clearing.
Do you have any concerns about the future of hiking here?
Trail access is a big one. Everyone should be able to access and share the outdoors. Before I was hiking more, I used to do a lot of biking. I weed whacked and led rides for the Hawaii Biking League. We did a perimeter ride around the island and warm up rides from point to point that would change every week so that you knew how the whole ride was going to go. For a while, I was volunteering with Charlotte and working on controlling plants before OISC was even officially formed. We helped get rid of invasive plants. It is important for everyone to be able to work on and enjoy our trails.
Oh…and we also need more young people for trail clearing!
NOTE: This interview really was a talk story time as it was done on a lovely Sunday after a trail clearing. The whole group listened, asked questions, and added tidbits of information here and there. Some stories and words have been moved around to make things clear for reading. Hopefully I got the information and general feeling of the conversation correct, though. Thanks, Thomas, for being so awesome, and thanks to the group for letting me use the pau hana time.