This is about a trail and a subsequent road on the east side of Mauna Kea. Today, we call the Waimea end (and up Mauna Kea) the Mānā Road and the Saddle Road side of this road we call the Keanakolu Road,. At least part of this trail/road was called Laumai‘a Trail.
Here is some of the background about the need for mauka access in this area of the Island of Hawai‘i, as well as some history on the trails/roads there.
Although the canoe was a principal means of travel in ancient Hawai`i, extensive cross-country trail networks enabled gathering of food and water and harvesting of materials for shelter, clothing, medicine, religious observances and other necessities for survival.
Trails and roads connected the coast with the uplands, probably easing travel through the upland forests. Boundary Commission records document numerous trails from the coast to the upper edge of the forest.
Most trails seem to have followed ahupua‘a boundaries (although this could be a factor of the Commission’s purpose, which was to define boundaries). (Tuggle)
Early accounts date back to the 1500s, at the time that ‘Umi-a-Līloa fell into a disagreement with the chief of Hilo over a whale
tooth (ivory) pendant. Traveling from Waipi‘o, across Mauna Kea, ‘Umi and his warriors camped in the uplands of Kaūmana.
Samuel Kamakau wrote that ‘Umi-a-Līloa “conferred with his chiefs and his father’s old war leaders. It was decided to make war on the chiefs of Hilo and to go without delay by way of Mauna Kea.”
“From back of Ka‘umana they were to descend to Hilo. It was shorter to go by way of the mountain to the trail of Poli‘ahu and Poli‘ahu’s spring at the top of Mauna Kea, and then down toward Hilo. It was an ancient trail used by those of Hamakua, Kohala, and Waimea to go to Hilo.”
“They made ready to go with their fighting parties to Mauna Kea, descended back of Hilo, and encamped just above the stream of Waianuenue without the knowledge of Hilo’s people that war was coming from the upland. Hilo’s chiefs were unprepared.” (Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs)
In the period leading up to the mid-1800s, travel to Mauna Kea was done on foot along a system of trails that crossed the mountain lands.
Native ala hele (trails), which had been used for centuries and often provided the “path of least resistance,” to travel around and across the island, proved inadequate for the new methods of travel with horses, wagons and team animals.
By 1847, Kamehameha III had instructed island governors to undertake the survey of routes and construction of new roads, which became known as the Alanui Aupuni (Government Roads). Construction was to be paid for through taxation and “labor days” of the residents of the lands through which the roads would pass. (ASM)
In 1862, the Commission of Boundaries (Boundary Commission) was established in the Hawaiian Kingdom to legally set the boundaries of all the ahupua‘a that had been awarded as a part of the Māhele.
Subsequently, in 1874, the Commissioners of Boundaries were authorized to certify the boundaries for lands brought before them. The primary informants for the boundary descriptions were old native residents of the lands, many of which had also been claimants for kuleana during the Māhele. (ASM)
An informant, Kalaualoha, stated that “in olden times the birdcatchers used to go up the Honohina and Pīhā roads, they could not go up Nanue as the road was so bad.”
“The canoe road of Nanue ran to mauka of Kaahiwa [Ka‘ahina stream], there it ended. But the roads on Honohina and Pīhā ran way mauka.” (Koa logs were selected, prepared in the forest and then hauled down canoe roads.) (Tuggle)
Puuhaula’s testimony for Pāpa‘ikou stated that “the old Alakahi road ran up the boundary to Palauolelo and was said to be the boundary between Makahanaloa and Papaikou.”
Coastal-inland travel in all likelihood extended beyond the limits of any particular ahupua‘a. But McEldowney suggests that paths in the upper subalpine region were not defined; rather, travelers followed “prominent landmarks rather than set or distinct trails.” (Tuggle)
It was not until the second half of the 1800s that specific routes up the mountain were established, probably related to the building and use of ranch establishments at ‘Umikoa (Kukaiau Ranch) and Humu‘ula (Humuula Sheep Station) as base camps.
A major cross-island trail crossed the upper edge of the Hakalau Forest area. In the 19th century, it was called the Laumai‘a road, but it likely originated in earlier times. The present Keanakolu Road probably roughly follows the Laumai‘a alignment. (Tuggle)
Cordy describes a trail on the east flank of Mauna Kea that connected Kohala, Waimea, and Hāmākua with Hilo. This could be the trail that was used by the high chief ‘Umi in his conquest of Hilo. (Kamakau, Tuggle)
“It was shorter to go by way of the mountain [Mauna Kea] to the trail of Poli‘ahu and Poli‘ahu’s spring at the top of Mauna Kea, and then down toward Hilo. It was an ancient trail used by those of Hamakua, Kohala, and Waimea to go to Hilo.”
Nineteenth century accounts document travel between Kawaihae and Hilo using a mountain route, although the specific alignment of the road may have varied somewhat from the earlier traditional trail.
Although this road probably follows the general alignment of earlier routes, there was a different path for what was alternatively referred to as the Laumai‘a road, the Laumai‘a-Hopuwai road, the Laumai‘a-Hope-a trail, or the connection to the Mānā (Waimea) road. (Tuggle)
The Kalai‘eha-Laumai‘a Trail, was paved with stones in the late 1800s to facilitate transportation of goods around the mountain. (ASM) (Kalai‘eha is the large pu‘u (cinder cone) near Saddle Road on DHHL property, Hilo side of the Mauna Kea Access Road.)
Formal surveys of the Hilo-Kalai‘eha-Waimea government road via Waiki‘i (the early Saddle Road) were begun in 1862. The Kalai‘eha-Waiki‘i alignment remained basically the same until after the outbreak of World War II, and the paving of the “Saddle Road” in the 1940s.
In the area from Kilohana (on the north side of the present-day Girl Scout Camp) to Waiki‘i proper, the route is almost as it was finally laid out in 1869 (overlaying one of the ancient trails through the area), except for widening.
The Kalai‘eha-Hilo section of the route remained basically as constructed in 1869, but because of the dense forest vegetation and the difficulty encountered in traveling through the region, the route received little maintenance and use by travelers other than those on foot or horseback, generally on their way to one of the ranch stations or the summit of Mauna Kea. (Kumu Pono)
The Waimea-Mānā-Kula‘imano-Hilo route along the upper forest line of Hāmākua and Hilo, was developed in 1854, with subsequent modifications in 1877, and again in the 1890s, as a part of the Humu‘ula Sheep Station operation.
Further modifications to the Kalai‘eha-Keanakolu-Mānā route were made as a part of the tenure of Parker Ranch-Humu‘ula Sheep Station, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and Territorial Forestry tenure of the land. (Kumu Pono)
Access along the eastern side of Mauna Kea was by the old Waimea-Laumai‘a road, which was greatly improved by the CCC; “a truck trail has been cleared along the old horse trails on this mountain so that now one may negotiate the trip completely around Mauna Kea at the general elevation of 7,000 feet in an automobile.” (Judd, Tuggle)
In the 1930s, the CCC, under the direction of L Bill Bryan, undertook improvements on the mountain roads, particularly the section between Kalai‘eha and Keanakolu.
In 1942, following the outbreak of World War II, the US Army began realignment and improvements of the route that became known as the Saddle Road. Territorial ownership of the road was assumed on June 30, 1947. (Kumu Pono)
Construction on the Alanui Aupuni from coastal Kona to the saddle lands was actually begun in 1849, and ten miles of the road, completed by 1850. The route was cut off by the lava flow of 1859, and all but abandoned by public use; though it remained in use by ranchers and those traveling between Kona, the saddle region, and Waimea until the early 1900s. (Kumu Pono)