I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Honolulu, Day 3: Diamond Head & Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail

We were far more successful in getting out of bed this morning, set an alarm and everything.  We actually made it out of the hotel before 9:00 am.  However, this was not early enough to avoid a full parking lot at Diamond Head, even if it was a Tuesday.  At about 9:15, on the drive up, there were a lot of people parking at the bottom and walking the road up to the crater.  The $5.00 parking charge was fine by us so we drove up and used their "waiting" line.  After you pay at the gate there is a line up you can join off to the right until a parking space frees up.  A woman was standing on a step ladder/stool watching for departing vehicles and directing cars in the line to the first open space.  The estimated wait time when we paid was about 20 minutes but I would be surprised if we waited more than 10.

I would have to describe this visit as more pilgrimage than hike.  The early part of the walk is on a reasonably wide sidewalk so you have some room to maneuver around people and stick to your own pace. But, before too long, you are forced to follow along in a single file behind a string of people.  Think steadily moving rush hour traffic with no better options.  The history of the site is interesting and according to the information pamphlet the set up has been roughly the same since 1908.  A series of switchbacks and stairs ultimately leads you to the old Fire Control Station.

Due to the immense number of people it was difficult to stop and take pictures.  I would have been interrupting the already slowish progression up the inside of the crater.  After the switchbacks you head up 74 stairs (I did not count - the information pamphlet says so) into a 225 foot tunnel after which you head up another 99 stairs to three sets of spiral stairs.  The final set of spiral stairs is closed so you head into the observation station and can peer out of the slits in the structure.  Then you half step, half crawl out of the observation area onto a walkway.  I can tell you that having a backpack on your back made coming out more difficult.  It required a lot more use of those muscles used in a squat exercise which are not my top choice.

The tunnel, which was supposed to be lit, was not and at 225 feet with a curve it is long enough to be pitch black.  On the way up you are walking on the right and can hold the hand rail, plus enough other people had their cell phone lights on.  On the way down you are walking next to a rough tunnel wall with no hand holds and I could not see a damn thing.  My husband turned on his cell phone light so we could make it through without slamming into the wall, tripping over our feet, or walking into the people in front of us. The spiral stairs were not quite as dark but challenging in their own right.  Again, according to the pamphlet, these are supposed to be lit but I guess it added a sense of adventure to the pilgrimage.  I am glad we did this hike in the morning as it was already quite warm and we were shaded for much of the switchbacks.  The views from the top, both outside and inside the crater, are well worth it.

I have inserted a few pictures from Diamond Head below.  We spent about an hour and half here although you could spend longer reading the interpretive signs, having a picnic lunch, etc. Following these pictures I will go on with the second hike of the day which was much less busy, more challenging, and had much more natural beauty.  A better place for a picnic lunch in my opinion.

The Fire Control Station built 1908-1910. It was camouflaged with rubble embedded in concrete.

Looking into the crater from the top. Centre of back wall is the tunnel we drove in through.

Looking West to Honolulu and beyond from the top lookout.

The set of 99 stairs

About 15 minutes away from the madness that is Diamond Head we started a hike called the Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail.  Another recommendation from my friend that was spot on.  We started the trail at about 11:00, made it to the picnic shelter about 45 minutes later where we had a break and ate some lunch.  About 25 minutes more took us to the top where we had the rest of our lunch while enjoying incredible views.  It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get back to the car from the top with a few stops for me to take pictures.  Round trip the hike is almost 6.5km (4 miles) and you go up and come down the same way.  I tend to prefer loop trails so you are not seeing the same scenery in and out but I cannot complain about this one.

We did see other hikers but they were few and well spaced out.  Some looked as if this was a standard routine for them but most were checking the trail out for the first time.  Without exception everyone we spoke to said they loved the hike and it was worth the effort.  I took a lot of pictures on this hike so I will start putting them in and elaborate as I go.

The trail head at the end of a residential cul-de-sac. In the distance you can see a couple of signs.  You keep right at these although the Open Hunting sign gave us a second thought at first.  I presume open season on jungle animals rather than tourists.

Roots and rocks are typical of the first couple of switchbacks.  After a few back and forths the majority is hard packed dirt overlaid with a lot of pine needles in some areas.

The first open view point on the way up.

This picture and the next give you a sense of the thickness of the pine needles covering the ground.  The second picture almost gives the impression of a sandy beach.

This part of the hike was neat.  You walk through trees only like these for quite some time and then after this open space all of a sudden nature flicks a switch and there are only the type of trees you see in the picture below.

This is the condition of the trail that is typical for the bit that comes after the picnic shelter.  Just FYI this is not a picnic shelter typical of some British Columbia provincial park.  This is an old, partly broken, grafitti covered shelter with two large, beaten up picnic tables underneath.

I love the flowers I find when I am out hiking.  I have no idea what these are called but the purple one above reminded me of heliotrope and the bottom one reminded me of an orchid.  Both were beautiful and were found after we came above the tree line.  Nature flicked another switch and we went from forest to a shrub and fern covered hilltop with flowers lining the trail.  The colours were much brighter and of course the sight lines opened up so the views were awesome.

That is Diamond Head in the distance.

This is looking at Koko Head (nearest the water) and Koko Crater (inland).  Both of these were formed the same way as Diamond Head.

Above the tree line.  Most of this section of trail is comprised of stairs.  They are of differing heights and some have holes behind them so it is hard to get a rhythm going on the way up or down.

Looking farther North.  We drove this section of coast on our road trip the day before.  A much different perspective from up here!

Looking straight out from the top.

So there you have it.  The weather was perfect for these hikes as it was cloudy but warm for most of the day.  Being under the trees for the majority of this hike means that you would likely avoid a sunburn anyway but without the clouds it would have been much hotter.  As it was I sweat through my shirt on the way up so got a little chilly at the top and was glad to have my sweater.  By the time we headed down I was thoroughly blow dried.  I would definitely recommend this hike.

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