Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Sunrise of the Year! Koko Crater - December 31, 2011


Last year I ended 2010 with a hike up Koko Crater.  This morning Sommer and I dragged ourselves up Kohelepelepe (Koko Crater or Pu`u Mai) to welcome the last sunrise of 2011. We pushed off from the parking lot under the cover of darkness. Surprisingly, the trail was quite busy considering it was still pitch black! Last week there was only a handful of people on the tracks before sunrise, today there were dozens.


For some reason going up the tracks was much more difficult than usual. Last week it only took 45 minutes to summit. Today it took over an hour! By the time we neared the summit we no longer needed our flashlights and could finish the tracks under the pre-dawn morning light.



There was at least two dozen people at Pu`u Mai, I counted at least four camera filming the sunrise as well. Sommer and I climbed to the top of the metal grating at the summit, but the morning dew made the grating extremely slippery. We had to slide down to get off for fear of falling in front of the other hikers assembled at the top. There was one couple watching their laptop on a landing at the summit.


After a short wait, the sun peaked above the clouds on the horizon.



The sun slowly lit the Ka`iwi Coast.



Soon we made our way down to the tracks. Before heading down I took Sommer into the bunker under Pu`u Mai.



It was absolutely pitch black in the bunker with no light leaking in from the tall ventilation shaft.




Sommer did not like being in the complete darkness and confined space, so we only spent a few moments in bunker before heading back.


We quickly made our way down the tracks. What a great way to start the weekend and end another year!

Rest of the pics:

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mariner's Ridge - December 26, 2011

Update:  The pricks at Kamehameha Schools have since closed off this hike from the public.  A fence has been erected at the trailhead and residents have been instructed to call the cops on trespassers.


Sommer offered to go hiking with me the day after Christmas!  I had to quickly jump on the offer before she came to her senses.  We decided on Mariner's Ridge, a hike we haven't done since the summer of 2007.

We started off from the trail head just as the sun was rising above the horizon to start another day.


Despite being overcast and windy, the trail remained dry during our trip to the summit.


About 3/4 of the way to the top Sommer and I took a short pit stop at a rest/camping area that had been set up in a clearing just off the trail. The area looks to be dedicated to the Navy SEALs (I'm assuming it's not dedicated to seals the animals). There were several plaques, American flags and two benches in the clearing.


Sommer snacked on some Granny B's pink cookies that her sister sent her for Christmas!


Within minutes we topped off at the Mariner's Ridge terminus over looking Waimanalo and Kailua.


I set up my tripod and DSLR to take some video.


I was able to make this time-lapse of the view from the summit.

After a brief time on the Ko`olau crest we turned and returned the we came, enjoying the short hike back to civilization.

Rest of the pictures here:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve Koko Crater Sunrise


Dragged myself up the Koko Crater railway for a beautiful sunrise this Christmas Eve! With the sun rising at 7:05 am I pushed off from the parking lot at the bottom of Koko Crater at 5:30 am. Last time I hiked up Koko Crater for a sunrise I was all alone on the mountain. Not so this morning. There were a couple brave people already making their way down the tracks while I was heading up...both without flashlights or any other means to light the steep steps below! When I reached the top of Kohelepelepe (Pu`u Mai) there was already a small crowd of early morning gathers waiting for the sunrise. There was also a couple guys smoking cigarettes and welcoming the day with a couple Bud Lights!

I set up shop and started filming the horizon and waited for the sun to rise over Molokai.




The horizon was cloudy, as usual, and a few minutes after the scheduled sunrise, rays of brilliance started piercing the gray.



The clouds made for a spectacular sunrise!



Another sunrise time-lapse:

Before heading down the tracks I checked out the oft overlooked massive bunker under Pu`u Mai. At the top of the tracks there is a small door and entry way down a long tunnel to a very large and tall two room bunker sitting under the summit.


It is pitch black in the bunker. If you don't have a flashlight DO NOT attempt to explore. The ground is covered in discarded planks of wood and corrugated metal. You will harm yourself if you attempt to enter the bunker without a source of light.

As I approached the entry to the bunker, some guy asked where I was going. I asked if he'd ever been inside the bunker. He hadn't. I told him lets go. he didn't have a flashlight so we used my headlamp to light the way.

I didn't take any pictures of inside the bunker, it was too dark, but this is what the entrance looks like from the access tunnel.



Inside the largest of the bunker rooms there is a ladder that climbs at least 40-50 feet up a narrowing shaft to this structure at the summit.


The ladder looks original and a fall from the higher levels of the ladder would most likely be fatal. After a few moments inside the bunker we made our way topside and I made my way down the tracks.

It seemed like the misty morning kept many hikers away. The tracks were a lot less crowded than usual for a Saturday morning.



Rest of the pictures here:

p.s. - Happy Birthday, Pohai!

Diamond Head - December 17, 2011


Having not hiked in a couple of weeks I was getting antsy to get out this past Saturday. Sommer and I were having a Christmas party with some friends and I had to be up early to prepare a turducken for the party. I decided to head up Diamond Head and check out the new bypass trail the State recently opened.

Diamond Head doesn't open until 6 am. I got there at around 5:45 am, and there was a line of cars and tour buses waiting at the tunnel for the gates to open.


There was a mass of people walking into the crater as well, with easily 100-200 people crowded around the entry kiosk, waiting to pay to get into the park. I have never seen Diamond Head as crowded as I did that morning! Hiking under the darkness of the pre-dawn morning (the sun doesn't rise until 7 am) the crowd was suffocating! There was a solid line of people stretching nearly the entire length of the trail, from top to bottom! It was frustrating because there was simply no room to move past the crowds of early morning adventurers. Finally some fitness lady was forcing her way past the throng, and I simply followed in her wake and made my way past the cruising tourists.

The new bypass trail avoids the LONG stairs and the claustrophobic spiral stairway sections inside the bunker complex. It makes for a very pleasant walk up some stairs along the inside of the crater wall. I really like the new path, it's much more enjoyable and scenic than drudging through the bunker complex.

Diamond Head offers the best views of Waikiki, which are even better in dark.



I swear the trail was the most crowded I've ever seen.




Soon the sun started to approach the horizon and things lightened up.


The new bypass also has a lower lookout on the south/koko head side of the crater rim.


Pictures of the bypass from the parking lot.



Rest of the pics:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Halawa Ridge

November 26, 2011

Last year Kai and I hiked Halawa Ridge. It was our first major hike. It was long and at the time it was the limit of our capacity.  We really felt like Halawa Ridge had pushed us to the edge of what we could do.

This past year Kai and I have been hiking a lot more and I wanted to measure the progress we've made in the last year and a half. Kai and Chas had the rare treat of having a baby sitter for Olena and Ana the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so we decided to head up the long winding trail on Halawa Ridge.

We started in the darkness of the early morning at the end of Iwaena Street in Halawa Valley. We wanted to park at the end of the street but some early morning drug users parked at the end of the road forced us to park about a quarter mile down the road in a more heavily populated area.


Under the cover of darkness we made our way past the Xeriscape Garden and over the nearly dry Halawa stream.




Past the stream bed and through some old lava rock walled terraces we passed under the H-3 and onto the service road. From the service road you can head straight across the road to the main trail that heads steeply up the side of the ridge to gain the crest of Halawa Ridge. The trail up to the top of the ridge is steep and draining. A very hard way to start a 7 mile trek. I had read on Dave's "Not So Great Hiking Blog" about another trail to the ridge crest just past bridge No. 4. Dave and others have mentioned that the trail at bridge No. 4 is much easier than well used side trail that we had used last year. So, we headed up the service road to find this alternate route. Unfortunately we never found the alternate route at bridge 4. So, after looking for an hour or so for the route, we decided to head back and take the traditional route up to the Halawa ridge crest.



The trail to the gain the crest had changed since last time. About two-thirds of the way to the top the trail veers right away from a steep rock face and instead switch backs up to the top. This new route made the trail to the top much easier. Thank you whoever forged and roped the new route!

Once we gained the crest we followed the worn dirt road to the Halawa Barrel and the start of the Halawa ridge trail.


The trail was in wonderful shape. Our bodies were in much better shape, too. The miles seemed to breeze by. Within no time, it seemed, we were at my favorite part of the trail.


The Halawa Ridge trail is a graded trail that contours the ridge line, making for a relatively level and pleasant hike. About two or three miles into the trail the south Halawa Valley narrows to a beautiful uluhe and ohia section. The trail is covered in grass and makes for one of the most beautiful sections of trail I've ever been on.






Kai even took some time to honor his idol, Saint Tebow.


For the two-thirds of Halawa ridge the trail contours mainly on the southern side of the ridge, blocking the noise and view of the H-3. Every once in a while the trail would open up to Halawa Valley and the H-3, but for the most part stays on the pristine south side of the ridge.






After hiking for about 5 miles mainly on the south side of the ridge, the trail crosses over to the north side of the ridge. On the north side you are exposed to the H-3 and sweeping views of central O`ahu and the Waianae mountain range. Today we were also exposed to blasting winds and light rain on the north facing trail.



Once the trail crosses over to the north side it becomes more aggressive as it carves its way in the side of the ridge and climbs to the Ko`olau crest.

The last big push to the end of the trail at the low saddle on the ridge.

Soon after the cross-over a section of the trail has been washed out and requires a short bypass up and over the washed out section.





The ungraded bypass helped me appreciate the graded nature of the Halawa ridge trail. At the top of the bypass was a large and deep pool of mud that had to jumped over or bypassed it self!


The upper section of the trail become more rugged and much more wet. Although the trail is muddy it remains for the most part even and graded right to the terminus.



Soon you find that the H-3 is far behind you and most likely far below you.




As we neared the summit the clouds closed in around the Ko`olau and the wind really whipped up in a frenzy!


Trail cut into the side of the ridge.




Before we knew it we were right at the end of the trail!

Final approach to the trail terminus.


Looking back on the final stretch of trail from the end of the hike.

Five hours after pushing off from Halawa Valley we had reached the trail terminus!


We had planned on continuing up past the terminus to the North Haiku "Hidden" Stairs, but conditions deteriorated as we neared the terminus. Rain was now heavily falling and the wind was gusting at over 80 miles an hour! Kai scouted out the ridge to the summit geo-marker but after ascending a short section of the ridge decided not to go on. We'll have to leave the North Haiku Stairs for another day and another adventure (maybe a Aiea Ridge to Halawa Ridge cross-over?).


After a short pit stop and some picture taking we made our way back to the Halawa Valley the way we had come.







The hike back to civilization was much more enjoyable than last year. This time we stashed multiple water bottles along the trail and we had more than enough water to complete the trek (I took 10L of liquid just for me!).



On the way back Kai spotted a native bird perched on one of the trees close to the trail. I didn't have my telephoto lens so I had to creep up close to get a picture. Sadly it flew away before I could snap a picture. We think it may have been the thought to be extinct Oahu Alauahio, but after some research I think it was more likely the Oahu Amakihi

Once back at the car we were tired, cold and wet, but happy! It was a great hike and a great time!


Video of our hike:

Here's the video of our epic hike up Halawa Ridge last year:

Rest of the pictures:

GPS track: