OHE June 1, 1999 (Olomana)

Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 19:55:25 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Olomana--A Guide's Eyeview

About a month ago, I received an email from Scott Graf, asking if I could recommend someone to guide him and his fiancee up Olomana. They'd be arriving on Oahu on Memorial Day and wanted to hike the mountain on June 1. On vacation and with a clear calendar, I agreed to act as guide.

Scott had hiked Olomana thirteen years ago when he was 14, but since he's lived most of the years since then in Illinois, he wasn't sure if the trailhead or the trail itself had changed. Scott recalled starting out by Olomana School and the initial segment of the hike being through an open meadow. This corresponds to the old approach to Olomana from the makai-facing side of the mountain through what is now the grounds of the Youth Correctional Facility. The current route begins off of Auloa Road and the access road to the Luana Hills Golf Course in Maunawili.

At 11 a.m. today, I met Scott and his wife Susan in the parking lot in front of Aaron's Dive Shop in Kailua. I was surprised to find out they were had married just two days prior and that this trip was their honeymoon. After congratulating the newlyweds, I accompanied them to a nearby Subway sandwich shop where they ate lunch. They had visited the Arizona Memorial that morning and will spend another day on Oahu before heading to Kauai for a week and to Maui for another week.

After a quick stop at Kailua Longs Drugs for some trail snacks (I tried some Vanilla Power Gel made by the same company that makes Power Bars--good stuff), we drove over to the usual Olomana trailhead parking area. A busload of middle-school-aged kids were doing water quality experiments in Maunawili Stream by the trailhead, and one of them wished us a good hike as we walked by. The time was a few minutes before noon.

Instead of taking Scott and Susan up the club's shortcut trail that starts on the left just past the golf course guardshack, we continued along the golf course road to the official sign-marked trailhead. Overhead, the skies were cloudless and a steady tradewind puff of 15-20 mph felt wonderfully cooling.

The section up to the ironwoods is being worked on by someone. I noticed sawed trees off the main trail, a seeming effort to reroute the path. By whom, I don't know. Scott and Susan were fascinated by the large banyan by the old shack along the trail. They even stopped to snap a picture of the tree. Seeing their enthusiasm for something that has become an ordinary trailside feature made me realize how I should be more attentive to the flora, the fauna, and the land itself instead of just slam-bam hiking all the time. A good lesson learned.

We stopped at frequent intervals on the way up, to rest, to try some not-fully-ripe strawberry guava, and generally to savor the experience. Susan really wanted to see a gecko. I told her that the odds of finding one along this trail weren't good but with two and a half weeks in the islands forthcoming, she'd be likely to run into a squiggly buggah or two.

As we ascended higher, we could see landmarks further and further off. Scott pointed out places he recalled from his younger days, including Kaiwa Ridge, the Mokulua Islands, and other windward-side points of interest. During one rest break, Scott asked if we were moving too slowly or too quickly and I told him the pace was just fine.

Susan was especially jazzed about the views, saying "This is so cool," at various lookout points on the way to Peak 1. When we reached the first long rocky section where there are fixed ropes and rebars, I moved into the lead to guide them up the best line (Scott was in the front up to then). When I saw them using the ropes to ascend, I advised them to grab the aids only if necessary, citing Gene Robinson's emergency room story about the Waimano Falls hiker injured when a rope he was using snapped. "Roots and trees are generally more reliable," said I, and the newlyweds considered this advice sound.

At the vertical rock just before Peak 1, I climbed up first, testing out the fixed ropes and pointing out the array of good footholds available. Susan was next up, and she made it fine. In a minute Scott came up as well. A couple minutes later we were seated on the crest of Olomana, where we greeted a father and his teenaged son and daughter, who were getting ready to head back down.

Scott documented the oft-noted Olomana panorama with a sequence of snapshots taken from a reasonably light tripod he'd lugged up the mountain. He said he had plans to transform the shots into a Quicktime video image on a webpage where one could experience the 360 degree effect by dragging the mouse (for those who want to check this effect out, visit http://starbulletin.com/1999/02/23/features/story2.html to see a panorama taken at Red Hill on the trail up Mauna Loa). Scott also carried a video camera, using it to capture the experience in this mode.

A great day for picture-taking it was. In fact, it was just a great day for being atop Olomana, with the comb of the Koolau crest free of clouds and the ocean waters in Kaneohe, Kailua, and Waimanalo Bays looking refreshing and cool. "I've never seen water so blue," commented Susan. And, really, she was right.

The odd thing is that I should have noticed that; however, perhaps because I've looked at this sight and views similar to it so often, my perceptions have become desensitized. This taking-things-for-granted phenomenon is nothing new to the human experience. If anything, hiking today with Scott and Susan made me realize that spending more time to observe, absorb and reflect will be a good thing.

While there's still a place for fast hiking, I came to a clearer understanding that more room should be made for contemplative moments while hiking so that I'll always feel a sense of respect and fascination when I see the magnificent sweep of the Koolaus, the fragile blossom of an ohia lehua, the resplendent waters of the Kaiwi Channel off Koko Head, and more.

We spent an hour at the summit, by far the most time I've lingered there. I had a nice time chatting with the young couple, enjoying the sights, feeling the wind flow up the side of the mountain. I'm glad I was there.

We took our time going down, being especially careful at the two rope sections. In time we were in the ironwoods, one of my favorite parts of the trail because the wind there is so cooling, the whoosh of the breeze through the ironwoods so soothing.

We were back at the cars by 3:00. I declined their offer of payment, saying that the hike was a wedding gift to them. In retrospect, I owe them a token of gratitude for reminding me of the multi-faceted beauty of the place where I live. May I never forget that.

Safe hiking,


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