OHE March 20, 1998

Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1998 22:12:41 -1000
From: "Dayle K. Turner" (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Koko Crater, yet again

As I've mentioned umpteenth times, Koko Crater is one of my favorite hikes. I love loop trails, love hikes that are challenging yet aren't overly long, love venues with nice views. Koko Crater fits this formula well.

Today I started at Sandy Beach and walked up Kalanianaole Highway for a few hundred yards to the trail that starts opposite of the Halona Blowhole parking lot. The ocean was calm, far from its usual washing machine-like angst. The sun beat down full force and across the channel Molokai and Lanai were clearly in view.

The Blowhole trail parallels the highway for a quarter mile then swings right toward the rim of the crater. To reach the top, I had to negotiate a natural rock bridge where a cable has been set to assist the climb. While I normally grab the cable while going up this section, for some reason I decided to climb without it today.

After the rock bridge, steep climbing continued. Interspersed with the sounds of my labored breathing were pops of gunfire from the nearby Koko Head rifle range. Hopefully, a deranged individual wasn't down there taking pot shots at me.

About 35 minutes after leaving my car at Sandy Beach, I reached the rim and turned left toward the crater summit. I summitted 15 minutes later and spent some time resting and checking out the summit log. The last entry was five days prior (3/15). Did that mean no one had hiked to the top since then? Or if others had, had they decided not to add anything to the log? Dunno.

After making an entry in the log, I continued around the rim, going down via the ewa side lip. Since rain has been scarce the past month, the rim trail was more dry and gravel-strewn than past times I've hiked it. That being the case, I moved along slowly, not wanting to mis-step and go sliding off a cliff.

After some initial narrowness, the rim widens a bit for a lengthy stretch. There is one semi-precarious spot where I had to sit, straddle, and butt-walk but overall, the ewa rim isn't too bad.

Instead of following the rim all the way down, I descended a ridge into the crater. This ridge bottoms out between points B & C in Ball's book (page 4). As I made my way down, a couple hiking along the road stopped to watch. I laughed to myself, imagining them making remarks about how idiotic I was for coming down a route where no discernible trail existed. But the way wasn't bad, and I made it down without mishap.

After reaching the crater floor, I followed the dirt road into the crater to ascend the regular trail to the rim on the far side. At the point where I turned left to leave the jeep road and start climbing the trail, I noticed a sign I'd not seen before. It said something like this:

	|      NO ACCESS       |
	| Dangerous Conditions |
	|      Loose Rock      |
	|     Narrow ridge     |
	|     Steep Slopes     |

Was the message on this sign why no one had signed the summit log since 3/15? Hmmm. I hiked past the sign, half expecting some authority figure to shout at me with a bullhorn. But I had the crater to myself, and I didn't notice anything different about it compared to the many times I've circumnavigated it in the past. What gives with the sign? We'll see.

I continued around the rim and just before the pyramidal rock on the ocean-facing side, I turned left and descended steeply the Blowhole trail I had climbed a couple hours earlier. Because of my ample bulk, going down a hill, especially a steep one like the Blowhole trail, isn't an easy thing. But I made it okay. When I emerged on Kalanianaole, a haole guy approached and asked me about the trail after watching me descend it. "Steep but not too bad" was the synopsis I offered.

I made it back to my vehicle at Sandy Beach at 4:20, a little over three hours after I set out.

I'm not sure if/where I'll be hiking tomorrow, but on Sunday I'll be helping Steve Poor with the HTMC hike called Nihoa Gulch out by Camp Erdman. And next week I'm on vacation (Spring Break), so I'll have opportunities to hike on Monday and Tuesday before heading to Kauai Wednesday through Saturday to camp and hike with Paka-lolo Rorie.

Hope everyone else can get out to do some hiking.


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