Koko Crater (1996)

Koko Crater (1996)

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One fall Friday morning, I took off a few hours from grading essays and headed out to the Sandy Beach-side of the island to hike up Koko Crater. It was my first time up that oft referred-to Oahu directional landmark, and I enjoyed the 3-mile roundtrip journey.

The hike began at the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens which is adjacent to Koko Crater stables and the Hawaii Kai golf course. In fact, as I was putting on my hiking boots, I watched several golfers tee off.

The day was a superb one for ascending Koko Crater: the sky was clear, the winds were delightfully cooling, and best of all, I had the trail to myself.

To reach the actual trail, I ambled along a dirt road through the Gardens, all the while inhaling the sugary aroma from a thick grove of plumeria. Reaching the end of the garden, I followed a rutty dirt road until I found the trail heading up to the rim of the crater.

The ascent to the rim was a lung-buster but after about 10 minutes of climbing, I reached a spot where the trail leveled off. At that point, Sandy Beach, Kalama Valley, and the interior of the crater were spread below me. After a brief rest to chug some water and to snap a couple of photos, I continued on.

For about half a mile, the trail along the rim is fairly level and easy to negotiate. As I trudged along further, I soon was looking down on the Halona Blow Hole and the dark blue washing-machine-like ocean waters along Kalanianaole between Sandy's and Hanauma Bay.

Pressing forward, I welcomed the steady trade winds that swept up the sides of the crater rim as the ridge steepened. Eventually, I found myself scaling a couple of exposed, rocky spots on all fours. However, these sections were short and not overly dangerous.

I came to one conclusion about Oahu's trails: at a distance they appear much more menacing and difficult-to-negotiate than they actually are. Such was the case at Koko Crater. From afar, the ridge route to the apex of the crater looks dangerous as hell. In fact, from a quarter mile away, I was giving thought to turning back because I had doubts about making it all the way.

These questions about my ability to proceed, however, were unfounded as the trail was quite manageable as I discovered when I reached the spots that looked treacherous from afar.

The highest point (Pu'u Ma'i, elev. 1,208 ft.) reached, I hunkered down to rest, munch a snack, and breathe-in the panorama below me. In the Ewa (or west) was the coastline from Kawaihoa Point off of Portlock to Kupikipiki'o (Black) Point off of Diamond Head. Looking back beyond Sandy Beach, I could see Molokai and Maui looming behind it. The ocean was particulary resplendent, the sun shimmering off its surface peacefully, invitingly.

But my essays beckoned me, and retracing my steps, I descended to where I began, feeling glad that I had invested two and half hours to explore another place of wonder in our beautiful island home.

Read about another Koko Crater Ascent
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