Thursday, April 14, 2011

Koko Crater via Tracks

Yesterday's Pu'u Kalena  (write up done, still fighting with video) had scratched my hiking itch for the week but when Mrs. XJ suggested we climb Koko Crater I jumped at the opportunity.  One does not question or hesitate when she offers to do a trail because it's a rare opportunity.  Maybe she's starting to come around after the last two easy trails at Mokapu'u?  Regardless, I immediately agreed and after dropping off the kids at school we headed to Hawaii Kai.

Here's where the fun starts
A little over a year ago I'd done Koko Crater Rim but this was to be my first trip up the old tracks used to ferry supplies to the former radar site at the summit which was placed into service in 1942.  Most people assume that this was simply a war time radar but it was in operation until 1966.  The facility housed one of the two critical radar antenna  for the Hawaiian Air Defense Control Center.  The FAA also operated and maintained a microwave relay station here.  This site has a couple pictures of the old buildings at the foot of the crater taken in 1999.  The web site is a little sketchy so hit reload if it fails and it usually comes up. 

We parked at Koko Head Regional Park and headed for the base of the tracks.  I could tell Mrs. XJ was having second thoughts as we approached the bottom of the old rails but she continued onward.  There's no tricks on the trail, it's all laid out for you to see.
1048 steps to go!
This trail is BUSY.  I can't imagine what this place is like on a weekend considering the number of people here on a Wednesday morning.  Locals and tourists all sweat their way to the top.  This looks like it get's even more traffic than Kaiwa Ridge in Lanikai.  About midway up there's a section where the tracks are elevated to cross a small gully.  Mrs. XJ is deathly afraid of heights but toughed it out on the tracks instead of taking the bypass trail on the way up.  There was a moment when she froze up a little but she got passed it.

The Koko Head Shooting Complex is just off to the side of the trail.  Like yesterday, gunfire filled the air.  This sounded a lot tamer though and it looked like it was mostly on the police side of the range.  The soft little pops of their pistols was nothing compared to the heavy machine gun fire at Schofield.  Every so often you could hear a ricochet's whine as a bullet found a rock down range.

Start of the trail after the tracks

The last part of the tracks is the most brutal and you could see it taking it's toll on everyone.  We certainly didn't set any speed records on the way up!  At the end of the tracks there are some concrete buildings that were associated with the radar.  A short trail leads to the summit and the grated platform that once housed the radar antenna.

Upon reaching the summit we enjoyed the great views of the Hawaii Kai area.  Looking east into the crater is the botanical gardens, to the south Hanauma Bay, and west is Diamond Head.

It was scorching hot  but the breeze kept us cool.  I was getting fried in the sun though after spending two days in it.  My neck was starting to get really burnt.  I really need to wear some sunscreen.   We lingered and I posed for more goofy photos.  We had a quick bite to eat, Mrs. XJ a musubi and I a ham and cheese sandwich, then headed back down the trail.

About the top of the tracks.  The wide angle masks the steepness.
Koko Marina and Hawaii Kai
Hanauma Bay
Mrs. XJ updates her Facebook Status
Looking down into Koko Crater
The descent from Koko Crater isn't quite as easy as it looks.  The spacing of the ties isn't always consistent and my technique was to "run" down them.  Not really easy on the knees but it was fast and efficent.  Mrs. XJ opted for the crab technique.  At the "bridge" she took the bypass not liking the down hill grade and the large voids between the ties.

The trip down was much quicker and on the way out I spotted a kiawe-banyan tree.  I have a feeling the banyan will win eventually.  Arriving back at the car safely we completed the hike.  I learned two things from this trail.  First, I should really wear sunscreen because I'm completely fried, and second, after being married for over a decade Mrs. XJ can still surprise me...

Aloha and thanks for reading!

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