Posts Tagged ‘hawaii hiking’

Koko Head Crater Trail Hike – Nature’s Stairmaster

November 1, 2009

A sudden increase in the amount of Koko Head trail “tweets” and “status updates” lately prompted me to rearrange the sched – just a tad – and dig up some old images to pen this article. Who knows? After I’m pau, maybe I can jump on the ol’ bandwagon and send out a sweet tweet myself.

Back in April, Mark and Noele (friends of wifey and I), wanted to do something outdoorsy. An easy hike perhaps. Growing up in Hawaii Kai, I suggested the Koko Head Crater trail hike (pu’u ma’i), figuring stairs and a straight path shouldn’t be too bad for the three out-of-towners. Right? 😛

At first glance, the beginning of the trail is a bit tricky to find. You have to make your way through a hidden, mini trail behind the left field fence of the Mustang/Pony league baseball field.

Path to the trail head starts behind the baseball fields
Path to the trail head starts behind the baseball fields

Walking up towards the Koko Head Crater trail head
Walking up towards the Koko Head Crater trail head

That eventually leads to a paved road, which is the end of Koko Head Park Road, I believe.

Noele and Mark, the happy couple, on the way to the Koko Head Crater trailhead
Noele and Mark, the happy couple, on the way to the Koko Head Crater trailhead

Follow that, and you’ll get to the grassy portion that leads to the trailhead…

Still with lots of energy
Still with lots of energy

… which leads to the beginning of the infamous Koko Head “steps”…

They have no idea what's ahead of them *grin*
They have no idea what’s ahead of them *grin*

Posers
Posers

Do you think they got their tickets for the gun show?
Do you think they got their tickets for the gun show?

Believe me, this energy will not last. There are approximately 1,100 “steps” on the trail so before long, the four of us will be sporting very different looks on our faces…

The “steps” are actually part of an abandoned railroad track that was once used by the military to transport supplies to a lookout shelter at the top.

"Steps" on Koko Head Trail hike
“Steps” on Koko Head Trail hike

Continuing a bit more, the energy will drain, but you’ll start to get a good view of your surroundings…

Noele drained, Mark still ok, and wifey somewhere in between.
Noele drained, Mark still ok, and wifey somewhere in between.

Looking southeast, the shooting range that caused the controversial closing of this trail comes into sight.

Koko Head Shooting Complex
Koko Head Shooting Complex

To the Northwest, you’ll see the beauty that is Hawaii Kai. 🙂

View of Hawaii Kai
View of Hawaii Kai

Continuing on, yet more energy is expended, but you’ll find solace in knowing that you’re about halfway there.

Noele resting, Mark losing it, and a peace sign from yours truly
Noele resting, Mark losing it, and a peace sign from yours truly

The view looking back
The view looking back

How do we know we’re about halfway? The dreaded bridge. Dun-dun DUN!

Bridge-like portion of the Koko Head Trail Hike
Bridge-like portion of the Koko Head Trail Hike

Yup yup, that’s no illusion. The bottom drops out from under the “steps” and forms a bridge-like path in the middle of the trail.

Some sure-footed hikers choose to walk over it, while others (of the fraidy cat kind) opt to crawl.

Me making fun of wifey
Me making fun of wifey

Noele taking the safer route next to Mark
Noele taking the safer route next to Mark

Ed’s Tip: For those who’d like to avoid the bridge altogether, there is actually a makeshift path that goes around the bridge to the right (left on the way down).

Once you conquer the bridge (dun-dun DUN!), it’s much of the same, but steeper.

View from about 3/4 of the way up...
View from about 3/4 of the way up…

When you’re up this high, your views to the left and right change quite a bit.

The Koko Head Shooting complex is now just a mere speck.
The Koko Head Shooting complex is now just a mere speck.

Your view of Hawaii Kai is partially obstructed by shrubbery.
Your view of Hawaii Kai is partially obstructed by shrubbery.

One final look behind…

Looking down at about the 85% mark on Koko Head trail
Looking down at about the 85% mark on Koko Head trail

… and ahead…

I see the light!
I see the light!

… tell us that we’re almost there!

Time to make one final push to the summit! You can dooooo eeeet!

The gang gets reenergized after catching a glimpse of the summit.
The gang gets reenergized after catching a glimpse of the summit.

Alas, the graffiti art of Sergeant “Mok” greets us as we take our final step.

Artwork at the top of Koko Head trail - A welcome sight
Artwork at the top of Koko Head trail – A welcome sight

With several shaded areas here, this would be a good opportunity to get out of the sun and catch your breath, drink some fluids or hurl up your breakfast. I won’t name any names. *grin*

Good place to catch your breath in the shade
Good place to catch your breath in the shade

Ed’s Tip: don’t be fooled into thinking that that was “it”… Once you catch your breath, follow the somewhat hidden trail that wraps around to the right to discover an immaculate view of the other side of Koko Head. What a beautiful sight from about 1208 feet above sea level!

View from the top of Koko Head
View from the top of Koko Head

View from the top of Koko Head, overlooking part of Sandy Beach and the Hawaii Kai Golf Course.
View from the top of Koko Head, overlooking part of Sandy Beach and the Hawaii Kai Golf Course.

Ed’s Tip: As the winds are very strong up here, it’s a nice place to cool off, but watch your footing and be careful at the same time.

Here, you’ll also find an abandoned military shelter, which makes for a great place to rest…

Mark, Noele and wifey taking a snack break next to the shelter
Mark, Noele and wifey taking a snack break next to the shelter

… as well as take a group photo from on top of.

Group photo from atop the shelter. Yes, it's either REALLY bright or we all need a tan. We'll just say it's really bright! ;)
Group photo from atop the shelter. Yes, it’s either REALLY bright or we all need a tan. We’ll just say it’s really bright! 😉

Going down is a breeze. Depending on the step and the length of your leg (and your knees and your athleticism 😛 ), you could literally jog/run down the stairs.

Wifey, Noele and Mark playing it safe
Wifey, Noele and Mark playing it safe

Ed’s Tip: I would recommend leaning on the side of caution and taking a nice, leisure pace. Sure, you’re excited to be pau and want to get going sooner than later, but if you run down the stairs, your momentum will really take you and it becomes difficult to stop.

Before long, we’re already at the halfway point of the bridge (dun-dun-DUN!). The ladies decided to “cheat” and take the side path. 8)

The side path around the bridge
The side path around the bridge

Mark shows us how we manly men roll.

Mark coming down over the bridge on the Koko Head trail
Mark coming down over the bridge on the Koko Head trail

Several hundred, quick steps later…

Almost at the bottom!
Almost at the bottom!

… we approach the end.

Mark celebrates with his Heisman pose
Mark celebrates with his Heisman pose

Back on solid ground, we find a shady area to catch our breath again.

Noele, myself and wifey catching our breath (and blowing our noses) at the bottom of Koko Head trail
Noele, myself and wifey catching our breath (and blowing our noses) at the bottom of Koko Head trail

Some deal with it better than others…

Mark and Noele wondering what the heck just happened
Mark and Noele wondering what the heck just happened

Once recovered, we did what any other akamai local does after a workout to refresh: Shave Ice! Good thing Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snacks (the one that Barack Obama made famous) is at nearby Koko Marina Shopping Center.

Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snacks sign
Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snacks sign

Best buds Noele and wifey are all smiles in anticipation of their shave ice.
Best buds Noele and wifey are all smiles in anticipation of their shave ice.

Mark and Noele literally attacking their shave ice
Mark and Noele literally attacking their shave ice

My work of art before it got destroyed
My work of art before it got destroyed

“What a refreshing way to end our day of stairwell hell!”

If you didn’t notice, that right there, was a sweet tweet. 8)

Diamond Head Is Forever

January 1, 2008

Bye bye 2007, Hellooooo 2008! If you were anything like the rest of us, you probably made a New Year’s resolution of getting back in shape. Well, lucky for you, World-Wide-Ed’s got ‘cho back! We’re going to start off the year right by taking a break from all the eating and instead, going on a little hike up one of Oahu’s landmark treasures: Diamond Head.

Diamond Head State Monument Sign
Diamond Head State Monument Sign

Diamond Head, also known as Le`ahi, is believed to have been created about 300,000 years ago during a single brief eruption of the southeastern end of the Ko`olau Range. Since the winds were blowing the volcanic ash towards the west during the eruption, the southwestern rim is the highest point, forming its now famous shape.

Diamond Head got its name in the late 1700 when the Western explorers visited it and mistook the calcite crystals in the rocks on the slope of the crater for diamonds. Previous to that, it is said that Hi`iaka, sister of the fire goddess Pele, named it Le`ahi because the summit resembled the forehead (lae) of the `ahi fish.

The rich history behind this gorgeous range led it to be recognized as a National Natural Landmark in 1968. Today millions of tourists and locals alike, enjoy both the legendary view from afar, as well as the breathtaking view from atop the summit, culminating its 0.8 mile historic trail hike.

We start our journey by driving into the State Monument off of Diamond Head Road (optionally, you can find street parking nearby and walk in). Not long into the drive off Diamond Head Road, you’ll approach the Kahala Tunnel,

Kahala Tunnel on the way to Diamond Head State Monument
Kahala Tunnel on the way to Diamond Head State Monument

which you’ll drive through to get to a clearing…

Sign to Diamond Head Park
Sign to Diamond Head Park

that directs you to the parking lot area.

(Note! – The admission fee is $1 per person on foot or $5 per non-commercial vehicle. If you’re looking to save some paper, consider walking it from Diamond Head Road as suggested earlier. If you’re looking to save your energy for the hike itself, drive on in. You may have to wait in line for a stall, but the wait usually isn’t too long).

At the admission’s gate or Information Center, be sure to pick up the green brochure before you hike the trail. There is a handy map, some history of the park and tips on having a safe hike. It will be an even better idea if you download it ahead of time here from the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Hawaii State Parks web site.

Speaking of the map, let’s show it to you here. We’ll try to follow the 12 Points of Interest (endearingly renamed by me to POI) listed in the brochure with the images I took. Should be fun times, let’s see what happens…

Diamond Head Trail Map courtesy of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks
Diamond Head Trail Map courtesy of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks

Just past the comfort station, POI1 (Point of Interest #1) is the Trailhead Kiosk and described as follows: the trailhead at the parking lot is on the crater floor. Elevation of 200 feet (61 m).

Trailhead Kiosk
Trailhead Kiosk

The brisk 0.8 mile one way climb to the summit is said to take about an hour to an hour and a half. This is usually in the scorching heat, and not always on a paved path, so be sure to bring water, good footwear, and lather yourself up with sun tan lotion. Some other trail notes to adhere by:

Trail Notes sign
Trail Notes sign

This leads us to POI2: the Concrete Walkway – the concrete portion of the trail was recently installed to reduce trail erosion. The former pistol ranges are marked by earthen berms visible along the lower section of the trail.

Concrete Walkway
Concrete Walkway

Once the concrete walkway turns to dirt,

Concrete walkway turning to dirt

you’re well on your way. POI3 consists of a multiple switchback trail that zigzags its way up the interior slope. Historically, it was designed for mules that hauled materials up the trail for the construction of Fire Control Station Diamond Head located at the summit. Following are some neat shots I took from POI3: The dirt trail conforms to the 1908 trail alignment and consists of numerous switchbacks up the steep interior slope.

Scenes from the switchback trail
Scenes from the switchback trail

Scenes from the switchback trail - Stay on Trial sign
Scenes from the switchback trail – Stay on Trial sign

Scenes from the switchback trail - Looking up towards the lookout
Scenes from the switchback trail – Looking up towards the lookout

Scenes from the switchback trail - You know I had to do it!
Scenes from the switchback trail – You know I had to do it!

Scenes from the switchback trail
Scenes from the switchback trail

Scenes from the switchback trail - Looking back from the lookout.
Scenes from the switchback trail – Looking back from the lookout.

Upon completion of the zigzagging portion of the trail, you’ll hit POI4: the Concrete Landing/Lookout. This foundation held a winch and cable to lift materials from the crater floor to a point on the trail.

Enjoying the view from the lookout
Enjoying the view from the lookout

Don’t get too relaxed! The toughest gluteus maximus workout is yet to come with two daunting stair sets, the first of which is 74 steps and POI5: Steep stairway of 74 concrete steps leading into the first tunnel.

74 Step Staircase - View from below
74 Step Staircase – View from below

74 Step Staircase - View from above
74 Step Staircase – View from above

Scary isn’t it? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Once you burn your legs for those 74 steps and pass through the POI6 tunnel – Passage through a lighted 225-foot long, narrow tunnel,

225 foot long tunnel separating the two staircases.
225 foot long tunnel separating the two staircases.

you’re faced with 99 additional big ones at POI7: Second stairway consisting of 99 steep steps. The cross-beams above the stairway supported camouflaging.

99 Step Staircase
99 Step Staircase

99 Step Staircase
99 Step Staircase

99 Step Staircase - Elevation 703.556 feet
99 Step Staircase – Elevation 703.556 feet

99 Step Staircase - Looking down
99 Step Staircase – Looking down

(Note!: After the tunnel separating the two staircases, turn left to take in another lookout point not mentioned in the brochure. This will also give you a good place to take a break before taking on the 99 step behemoth.)

My second cousin Teppei enjoying the view as well as the break between steps.
My second cousin Teppei enjoying the view as well as the break between steps.

You’ve done it! One hundred and seventy three steps of glory! We’ve GOT to be close to the summit eh? Well, not quite. At the top of the 99 stepper, we hit the POI8 tunnel – At the top of the stairs is the entry to the lowest level of Fire Control Station Diamond Head which housed the observation equipment for Fort DeRussy at Waikiki.

Teppei happy to be done with the stairs... for now!
Teppei happy to be done with the stairs… for now!

Just when you thought you were safe from stairs for the rest of your life, you’ll hit a spiral staircase originally used by the Fire Control Station, which is also POI9: This lighted spiral staircase accessed the 4 levels of the Fire Control Station. Go up to the third level where the mounts for the observation equipment are still present.

Spiral Staircase
Spiral Staircase

When you get to the third floor, you’ll approach POI10 to exit the crater: Exit to the exterior of the crater through slits once covered with metal shutters.

Exiting the crater
Exiting the crater

Note the rock and concrete that camouflage the structure on the seaward side.

Note the rock and concrete that camouflage the structure on the seaward side.

As you work your way along the crater path, POI11 comes a-callin’. Something you haven’t seen in quite some time… MORE STAIRS! Don’t fret, this is the last you’ll see until you hit the summit: The 54 metal stairs replaced the ladder to the summit in the 1970s for hiker safety.

54 metal stairs to the summit
54 metal stairs to the summit.

Alas, you’ve made it to the summit of Oahu’s answer to Nepal’s Mt. Everest: Mount Diamond Head. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back. But before you get too excited, you may want to brace yourself for the cockroach-like crowd up top. Agoraphobics/Claustrophobics/Demophobics/Enochlophobics/Ochlophobics, consider yourselves warned.

The crowd at Diamond Head's Summit
The crowd at Diamond Head’s Summit

Once you make your way through the crowd, you’ll get to our final Point of Interest, POI12: The Observation Station – The summit of the crater and the uppermost level of the Fire Control Station are at an elevation of 761 feet (232 m). Bunkers along the crater rim were built in 1915.

With its panoramic view from Koko Head to Waianae, the summit of Diamond Head was once the ideal site for the coastal defense of Oahu and, as such, was purchased by the Federal Government in 1904 and designated for military use.

East view
East view

Today, we can enjoy this beautiful panoramic view, as citizens, thanks to the Division of State Parks from the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

South view
South view

West View
West View

North of Crazy View
North of Crazy View
(Teppei and I showing how happy we were to have made it)

Mahalo to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, DLNR’s Public Information Officer Deborah Ward and the Division of State Parks’ Diamond Head Park Coordinator Yara Lamadrid-Rose. They would like to let everyone know that the park will be open for regular park hours (6AM-6PM) on New Year’s Day, so why not fulfill your New Year’s resolution from day 1 and start the new year right?

Diamond Head Summit Trail
4200 Diamond Head Rd, Honolulu, HI 96816 (map)
(808) 587-0285
Open daily 6AM-6PM
$1 Per Person, $5 Per Vehicle

For further information, contact:
Department of Land & Natural Resources Division of State Parks
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 310
(P.O. Box 621)
Honolulu, HI. 96809
Phone: (808) 587-0300

We made it! (and you can too...)
We made it! (and you can too…)