Koko Head is a popular and well frequented hike on the East side of Oahu. The abandoned railroad tracks, which are now the official trail, run straight up the flanks of the extinguished volcanic crater. Locals and tourist alike flock to this hike to attempt to conquer its peak. I have done a lot of hikes around the world, but none of them drain as fast as Koko Head does. Being the “out of the box” thinker that I am, I decided the regular trail was too simple. So I found and alternate route. We would begin on the eastern flank of Koko Head (facing Molokai), hike around the rim, then come down the regular trail on the southern side of the mountain.
So I wrangled up some friends to partake in this novel hike. Most people I take hiking have learned to be ready for anything when I tell them that I have no clue where we are going, or that the hike is based off of some sketchy blog I read… (unlike this very reliable stream of information you are reading right now).
This side was a bit more steep than anticipated, especially since we were off the beaten trail and did not have the nice steps that the official trail to the summit boasted of.
Luckily, the rocks were very grippy on our shoes, so traction was not much of an issue. However, the fear of heights could become slightly unnerving at times. I was very proud of the group. Nobody complained, faked an injury, or quit to dip out on us once we started the hike.
I had lived on Oahu for nearly 7 years and hiked Koko Head loads of times, but this was the first time I had found this trail. I was so stoked to be able to share it with my buds.
After packing my camera and rejoining the group on the “trail” I had a lot of catching up to do. I began running up the hill to get to them, and that lasted about 3 seconds. My legs quickly began to stiffen up from the build up of lactic acid and I could feel that I cramp was immanent. I didn’t want to alarm the rest of the group, so I set down to stretch, but pretended like I was just taking pictures hahaha.
I was not the clearest day, but we had a gray view of the eastern-most coastline of Oahu, with its precipitous cliffs. In the distance is Hanauma Bay, a Marine Protected Area. I will have to go there some other time and show you guys some pictures of how beautiful it is. Hanauma Bay was also once a volcanic crater, but after years of pounding surf, weathering and erosion, one side of the crater collapsed allowing seawater to rush in, thus creating the beautiful crescent shaped embayment.
Everything on the rim was very dry and rocky. What’s so amazing about Hawaii though, is that it’s nothing like what they show in the movies. Although the islands do still boast of the some of the most beautiful beaches and most amazing surf in the world, there is still plenty of fun things to do here that do not require a pair of boardshorts. Hawaii is much more diverse than it’s typically depicted. As a matter of fact, the Hawaiian Archipelago possesses nearly every climatic region found on the planet.
We continued our arduous clime to the top, unfazed by precipice we were contouring.
Nothing beats a shaka for encouragement and to spread aloha. In the mainland this gesture is often accompanied with the phrase “hang-loose”, but it’s actual name in Hawaii is the “Da Shaka”. The origins of the shaka are shrouded in mystery, but scholars and documentarians maintain that it originated in ancient mesopotamia… blah blah blah… J.K. I have no clue, but I found this dope video with attempts to elucidate the shaka’s origins.
Upon our first site of the summit we couldn’t help but celebrate. Get a load of this Tyrannosaurus flex!
Mistakes were made!!! But we learned from them. Remember a good rule of thumb is “Safety first, then team work” (Pineapple Express).
This is the view of the decent we still had to do. However, before we began we decided to explore so old abandoned military installations located on the peak.
We found bunkers and upon entry, a pretty impressive network of tunnels. The sorts of outposts are located all around Oahu, as it has long been a central strategic outpost of the US military in the Pacific. It is likely that the official trail (old railroad track) was once used by the military to transport heavy cargo up and down the hill through use of wenches and pulley systems.
We explored the inside for a bit, but had to be extremely cautious not to trip on all the derby and random broken glass that littered the floor.
We also found that large holders had smashed through certain portions of the tunnels, so we decided to head for the exit.
It was crazy dark back there and it was sure nice to see the shine of the light of day coming through the old rusted door.
Good times… Good times.
After tha expeditions it was time to carb up!
Food makes everything better.
This hike was super fun and had a lot of potential for photography (I will definitely go back with my nicer camera). We did need to use two cars, parked on each side of the mountain in order to not be stranded on the other side when we finished. We left one car at the original trail, then drove around and parked the other vehicle in the Halona Blowhole scenic lookout parking lot (literally the closest scenic lookout to Sandy Beach). The hike is not super difficult if you pace yourself. But as I mentioned it is very steep and not recommendable if you suffer from fear of heights. By my standards, it’s a moderately difficulty hike. If you are considering it, my advice would be to go in the early morning or later in the afternoon, simply because there is no shade and you will be miserable.