Saturday, December 6, 2008

Another day of the great outdoors

Today's mission: Koko Crater.

A few weeks ago, when we finished up Chinaman's Hat, Bernadette made a joke that since she saw me conquer that challenge that she was going to invite me on more of her crazy outdoor adventures. I laughed. I shouldn't have, because at about 11:00 this morning I found myself standing at the foot of a beast of a hill, looking up the 1,207 feet I was about to hike. Oh, happy day.

It was a fearsome foursome: Bernadette, a co-worker of hers, Zac and me. We headed out with the sun beating down on us and little to no wind. No shade either. My kingdom for an elm tree! The trail is the remnants of an old railroad line going up the hill, the ties resulting in rather inadequate steps. (Not a railroad for a passenger train - I'd guess instead for carts for moving supplies and such. Kind of like the things that Indiana Jones raced around in in The Temple of Doom. At least that's what I was imagining in my mind.)

I'm not going to lie - it was tough. I got winded, frequently. I got a little light headed and a little dizzy (from the heat I'd wager). After about the half-way point it became a challenge of endurance. Five steps, rest. Ten. Rest. Eight. Rest. Glance down the moutain, up the mountain. Too close to turn back. Five more. Rest. Twelve. Sit down. Get up. Too damn close. Six more. Rest. C'mon, seven more. And so on and so on and so on.

One of the cool things about the climb is the people you run into along the way. The people coming down offer encouragement, you return the favor when you're descending. Everyone has to rest, even on the way down, so you chat with others that are taking a moment to catch their breath: How many times have you done this one? Have you done Chinaman's Hat? Where else have you been? When you get to the top, climb on the metal stuff - it's stronger than it looks and gives the best view.

And it is an amazing feeling when you get to the top. The view is incredible. My camera (which I remembered to bring this time!) doesn't do it justice, since there was a little haze in the air. It's pretty amazing. We stayed up there for awhile, chatted with people, and then headed down the mountain.

I'm probably not going to be able to walk tomorrow, but I feel pretty good right now. Here's some photos of the day:

Here's the beast. If you look closely, you can see a faint line running to the summit starting near the light pole on the left. That is the trail.

Here's Zac, just about to start up the hill. Mountain. Whatever. How big does it have to be to be a mountain? It felt like a mountain. Anyhow, you can see here the railroad ties that make up steps. About 20 feet further down the trail the metal rails start showing up. I'm not exactly sure why the railroad is there. It appears that at the top there might have been some sort of military outpost at some point. Observation point I'd guess. Little concrete bunkers. Also at the top is a old, rusted out motor that apparently pulled the railcars up the tracks to the top of the crater. The tracks go right up the side of the hill in a perfectly straight line, with no concern as to grade. Shame on them for not designing it with hikers (60 years later) in mind.

This was a 'fun' part. The bridge. It's not very high, granted, only about 10-15 feet above the "ground". But it's a rail road, with nice, big, wide empty spaces to see down through, making it a little disorienting. The steepness is considerable. Also the ties are not parallel with the "ground" so you don't feel confident walking on it. At least, Bernadette and I didn't. I was having flashes of "Stand By Me" and I just couldn't bring myself to walk upright over it. So I scampered up the incline using the rail as a hand, er, rail, and essentially walked on all fours to get across it. I'm all about substance, not style.

Made it to the top. Here we are looking down at Hanauma Bay, home of good snorkeling. It looks so small from here. Probably because I'm 1,000 feet up. Let's turn a little to my right:

This is looking back towards Diamond Head and Honolulu. Care to zoom in? Let's!

There's Diamond Head to the top left and Honolulu is that collection of white-ish buildings towards the top right. I assure you that you probably can't afford any of the houses anywhere in this photo.

Koko crater. It's bowl shape apparently has caused it to having some interesting flora and fauna contained within it. There are paths down there to walk, but I hear that they're relatively flat. What's the point in that?

I am woman. Grrr.

Taking our time. The smiles mask the tired, aching, burning going on in our quads.

And now we have to go down. Sigh. I'm too old for this. Or at the very least my knees aren't going to be happy.

I'm getting so close to the bottom. So very close. You can't tell in this photo, because it's a still shot, but at this point my legs were jelly and pretty wobbly. If I stumbled at this point I would have resigned myself to my fate and just rolled down the hill the rest of the way.

Success! Be glad that your computer doesn't have smell-o-vision, because I was pretty sweaty and gross at this point. But I felt good and I'm sure somehow the entire ordeal benefited my health. I wish ice cream benefited my health that much. I'm sure tomorrow I won't be able to stand up from a seated position, but I'm glad I did it. Zac says he wants to do this climb once or twice a month.


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