OHE June 11, 1999 (Diamond Head)

Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 16:28:46 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner 
Subject: A Diamond Head Tuesday

This past Monday night, I got a call from my friend Bill Melemai, asking if I'd like to join him, his son Willy, and some family members from the mainland for a hike at Diamond Head. Having not hiked with Bill for awhile, I agreed to join them at 9 on Tuesday morning in the parking area inside the crater.

When Tuesday arrived, because I wanted some additional exercise, I parked my car at the corner of Paki and Monsarrat Avenues at 8:30 and walked up Monsarrat, past Kapiolani Community College, and into the crater via the tunnel. About a dozen tourists were walking up the crater access road with me, having gotten off a city bus on Mosarrat a minute before I got there.

A few minutes before nine, I arrived at the crater parking area, abuzz with tourists and cab drivers, and a few minutes later Bill pulled up in his Ford Explorer with Willy and a young couple, Cheryl and Matt, visiting here from Seattle (Cheryl is Bill's cousin's daughter). Bill's aunty and uncle, both in their 60s, were supposed to join us, but they ended up not coming.

The orginal plan was to go up to the top by way of the usual tourist route--the stairs, tunnel, etc. But when he found out via a cell phone call that his uncle and aunty weren't going to be there, Bill asked Cheryl and Matt if they wanted to try a different variation of Diamond Head, specifically, a hike around the crater rim. In their early 20s, the couple was in favor of the idea, and I agreed to lead the expedition since I knew the lay of the land from past hikes.

We all hopped into the Explorer and Bill drove us to the parking area just outside the tunnel. From there, we climbed the trail to the left of the tunnel, reaching the crater rim in five minutes or so. There was a nice breeze at that vantage point as well as fine views of east Honolulu from Kahala to Hawaii Kai. Directly below us, tourist vans pulled into the parking area outside the tunnel, unloaded customers, who hopped out to snap some pictures. A couple of folks directed their cameras and/or camcorders at us, and Matt joked that he hoped the resulting pictures wouldn't incriminate us.

After a brief rest, we proceeded in a counterclockwise manner around the rim. In a few minutes, we passed by the communications structure. Nobody was there, which I was glad about since I was afraid we'd be hassled. Just past the structure, we walked along a paved road for about 60 yards before returning to the rim trail.

Just when we left the road and returned to the trail, I spotted a large white truck heading up the road. Anticipating a confrontation, I advised the group to keep walking no matter what. And so we did, moving at a brisk pace along the well-defined rim trail, below which were row upon row of houses of the neighborhoods of Kaimuki and Kapahulu.

After a couple minutes, I looked back and saw the white truck parked where the road met the rim trail. The truck's driver had gotten out and was following us about 300 meters behind. Probably realizing that he wouldn't catch up to us unless he ran, the driver stopped his pursuit, ran back to his vehicle, and proceeded to honk his horn in an attempt to get our attention and summon us back. I reminded everyone of my keep-walking imperative and we continued hiking along, still at a lively tempo.

Soon enough, the wide rim narrowed to rocky dikes, and once there I knew no pursuer except someone super gung-ho would follow us. "Once we get to the top, we can just blend in with the tourists," I theorized to the group, thinking that some authority figure might be waiting for us when we came down.

At just about every place where the rim narrows, there is a contour option to the left. Being first timers around the rim, Matt and Cheryl opted to contour instead of staying on the top. That was fine; the main thing was to complete the hike without mishap.

When we arrived at the bunker just mauka of the summit tourist observation lookout, a large gathering of people were jammed together to take in the view. No one hopped the barrier to hike the 20 yards to where we were, perhaps because a guy in a ranger suit dissuaded them from doing so. Actually, I'm not sure if the guy was a ranger; if he was, he said nothing to us.

I'm not sure why, but Bill asked about the feasibility of taking a shortcut down the side of the mountain instead of continuing around the rim or going down the tourist trail. I replied that I'd be glad to lead everyone down a steep but do-able route, citing one of my pet phrases, "It's not as bad as it looks."

From the bunker where we sat, we carefully zigzagged down the crumbly slope, taking our time so as not to cause rockfalls that might injure a downslope member of the group. Starting twenty feet down, ropes and cables were available for assistance and I advised Cheryl and Matt to use the aids only if absolutely necessary and to be wary of putting their entire body weight on the rope/cable.

Moving cautiously, we all made it down fine, and when we reached the point where the ridge leveled off, everyone looked back in amazement at the steep mountainside we'd just come down. "I don't believe I just did that," said Cheryl. Using his camera, Matt snapped some shots of the slope to document the event. We headed down the ridge, looking to the left at a homeless person's encampment and commenting how this guy is living for free in a neighborhood where residents pay big bucks for rent/mortgage.

After passing a cobbled landing where there's a memorial stone for a deceased plant expert (I can't recall the man's name), the trail emerged on Makalei Place. Makalei drops down to Diamond Head Road. While Cheryl, Matt, and Willy hung out at a nearby beach park, Bill and I walked back to my vehicle on Monsarrat and Paki, and I drove him back to his Explorer by the tunnel.

In retrospect, it wasn't a good idea to hike around the crater rim. Anyone who does so should be prepared to be stopped by security or the police. We were fortunate not to have been cited.


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