Hawaii Happenings: Hiking the Aiea Loop Trail

One of the many reasons I moved to Hawaii is the opportunity to spend more time outside. I am a true sun worshipper with a serious outdoor compulsion. Something about being outdoors on a nice day is vitalizing for me. Summer has always been my favorite time of year, but those Boston winters really wore on me. I know it’s hard for anyone to be inside (or outside and freezing) for six months out of the year, but I felt like living that way was really taking a toll on my well-being. Lucky for me, outdoor living is a big part of the Hawaiian way.

Every day I spend in Hawaii, I make a concerted effort not to take the weather and the plethora of outdoor activities for granted. So, a few weeks ago, I bought this book at Costco:

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I bought the book on a whim. It was on a table next to Oahu Revealed, which is this island’s version of the fantastic Maui Revealed guide we used on our honeymoon. I’d been searching online for the best trails in the area, but it was actually kind of overwhelming. This book would give me a concrete starting point. I made a (perhaps foolhardy) goal of working my way through the book during my time in Oahu.

I’m going to go full honesty on you now because that’s what blogging is about, right? This post contains one epic failure and and one happy funtime success. Starting with the first trail in the book, Koko Crater, seemed logical. We’d done the short walk up to Makapuu so we knew the area. The hike was listed as “intermediate,” and I’d done other intermediate hikes before, so I didn’t think that would be an issue. As you can guess, I was way wrong.

Trev and I drove out to the trailhead to find that this was less of a trail and more of a vertical rock climbing expedition. We climbed the boulder hanging over the highway that marked the trail entry point and walked about a half mile before facing a very steep rock wall up to a narrow stone bridge built into the vertical wall of the mountain. It was very windy and this section of the trail was a sheer drop on either side into a lovely rock canyon. Trev, always more cautious than me in these situations, decided he was out of his comfort zone and would wait for me at the base of the rock wall. Full of gusto and delusion, I decided I would give it a go. I scaled the rock wall almost to the bridge before I made the mistake of looking down. I’m not afraid of heights and I love a good adrenaline rush, but there I was, hanging off the side of a mountain, unable to see any obvious way forward or figure out how to get down. My heart began racing as a strong gust broadsided me. I panicked and climbed back down. I was about 50% sure I was going to fall to my death, but I didn’t want Trev to panic, so I played it totally cool by shouting “NOPE!” as I scrambled to find the footholds that brought me up this blasted rock. The good news is we still got some killer views from the first half of the trail.

I was feeling defeated and sorry for myself when in champion husband fashion, Trev told me there was no shame in being out of your depth. We would pick a new trail and try again.

So this week, we did. We hiked the Aiea Loop Trail, which is a 5-mile trail through the foothills of the Ko’olau Range. It was much more our speed. The trail begins with a walk through the woods over an exposed rooted area. There are several great lookouts on the first half of this trail overlooking the Wai’anae Range and Ka’ala, the tallest point on the island at 4,025 feet.The best known lookout on this trail is overlooking the H-3 highway, which doesn’t sound very scenic but it runs through a valley between mountains and then cuts right through them. I was disappointed the strawberry guava trees weren’t blooming, but that just means I’ll have to come back in late August for some fresh fruit! We also walked through a valley of eucalyptus trees, which smelled incredible.

One of the more interesting things about this hike is about three quarters of the way through, there is visible wreckage from a WWII plane crash. In 1944, an Army Air Corp bomber took off from Hickam Field, heading for Australia. Only six miles after takeoff, the plane either failed to make a turn or encountered a fuel problem, depending on who you ask. The B-24 hit Puu Nau ridge and caught fire, tumbling down the mountain. It was incredibly sad to learn about but also a rare opportunity to see something like this up close. We took a small detour to explore the remaining wreckage.

The big headline here is we made it. This “novice” outing was much more our speed. It was a great hike with lots of mud and fantastic views. That’s one hike down out of 52 in my book. And now we know to work our way up from easiest to most difficult like reasonable people.

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