Kealia begins at the parking lot of the control tower at the Dillingham Air Field out Mokuleia way. For the town- dwelling majority of us, the drive along the Wahiawa pineapple fields and through the sleepy town of Waialua is a relaxing treat.
The hike begins with a series of switchbacks--14 of 'em all told--that took me from the base of the mountain to the top of it in about 40 minutes. Superb views of the airfield, of Mokuleia, and of the entire North Shore are rewards for your huffing and sweat. If you're lucky, you'll see gliders being towed skyward and swooping in front and above you as you make your way up the ridge.
While tramping up the switchbacks, stop and take a look at your car in the parking lot below. It'll have taken on tinker-toy-like proportions. Better yet, look seaward at the strikingly blue waters off Mokuleia. When you return from the top, you'll wish you were wading in that magnificent coolness.
Once at the top, prepare yourself for about an hour and a half of hiking along a series of dirt roads. Yup, there are roads up there, some seemingly well-travelled. It's my guess that these roads were blazed by the military. Cyclists who are willing to haul their bikes up the trail will have an enjoyable romp in the extensive road system atop the ridge.
With only me weary legs to propel me, I trudged forward, always wondering whether some sky-hugging 4x4 truck or some daredevil mountain biker would come screaming around a bend. None did though and for the entire length of the hike, I saw nary a soul.
The prize for my efforts was a magnificent view into Makua Valley, which the military uses for maneuvers and target practice. The valley was quiet on my visit to the vista above it, and after my traditional banana, bagel, and water break, I retraced my steps to the trailhead.
Kealia is a trek I've done on two other occasions, one a hellish training expedition where I strapped on a 50-pound pack as preparation for a hike to the summit of Mauna Loa. If you have a free day, take the drive out Mokuleia way and give it a try. Leave the 50- pound pack at home.