By Greg Kingsley
During a relaxing two-day respite this past weekend with members of the HTMC, I tried my hand at kayaking for the first time. Just off the beach of our Kualoa Park campsite, most of us spent the morning tooling around with the 8 (or so) kayaks the members trucked in. Mokolii Island (Chinaman's Hat) was perched in our view most of the time, seemingly beckoning us to the mysterious, if not famous, feature of land. Janice and Chris (I think!) made the trek out to the island and reported conditions to be fine. After lunch, the rest of us jumped into the personal crafts, again, and made a mad dash for Mokolii..
I figured that because the work was island-bound, since we'd be fighting the incoming swells and winds, the ride back to shore would be easy. It turned out that even a beginner with kayaking (namely myself) could do it with ease. Also, sea conditions were relatively flat and breezes were manageable. Chris Atkinson and I joined up in single-person kayaks while Erin Reagan and her mainland friend, Brandon, paddled out in a two-person.
The ride out was uneventful and took about 15 minutes. Occasionally, I stretched to the sides to notice how shallow the water was. In fact, people, as we would later see, frequently wade out to the island.
We spotted a little landing site amongst the rocks: a spot
of pebbles and sand littered with black, knee-high stones. Chris
made it about a minute before the rest of us and helped guide
our vessels between the rocks onto the little shore. Since we
were on the leeward side of the island and away from the mildly-pounding
Pacific surf, making landfall here was no problem. We tucked
our boats higher on the pebble mound behind a large rock to keep
them secure from any surge in the tide.
Believing I was going to be toppled and dunked at some point during the journey, I didn't bring along my hiking boots for fear of soaking them prior to the next day's hike. The slippers I brought had become muddy and slimy as we headed up the embankment on a dusty red-dirt trail. They, soon, were in-hand as I opted to trot along with my bare feet. The trail had started to the right of our landing spot, then mildly switchbacked upward past the parched vegetation. It was a loose-dirt path with pebble-sized rocks cluttered about. I occasionally sank into my footsteps.
After about 150 feet of this, including the "ooh-ahh!"'s from twigs between my toes and rock edges against my arches, we reached the "straight-up" portion of the ascent. Slowly nestling our feet in the footholds, we made the rock face our ladder and in less than 10 minutes hit the top! We were treated to a view I had not expected and the three of us cheered the view moreso than our accomplishment. I started kicking myself since I didn't bring my cameras for the same reason I didn't tote my boots.
After about 10 minutes, Chris, Erin, and Brandon headed back down the trail. I just couldn't get enough of the view and remained behind. Alone, I admired the grand vista! In front of me was the white-sand beach of Kualoa. Behind it, the giant peak of Ohulehule; to the right, the treacherous stretch of Moo Kapu o Haloa Ridge. The spectacular sight of the Kaneohe Bay coastline, from Kualoa to Kaneohe to Mokapu Point (KMCAS), filled about 120-degrees of my view toward the south. The Koolaus towered majestically in front of me, stretching its spine far into the distance. Its southern peaks, such as Puu o Kona, Puu Lanipo, and Kainawaanui demanded attention and would not be forgotten. And this was just the view to the west!
Kaneohe Bay coastline
I was soon met with the joy of several HTMC members who had landed their craft on the opposite side of the island. (There is a circumference trail long the base of the "hat" which connects to the vertical portion on the lower west side.) Pat "Paka-lolo" Rorie, of course, led the pack and probably ran all the way up the vertical ascent. Following were Ralph Valentino, Kim & Judy Roy, and Reuben (last name?). We all enjoyed each other's company while taking in the sights. A large, triple-masted, coast-bound vessel was spotted snaking its way through some narrow areas between the shallow reefs.
Speaking of sights, just as we spotted the former summit-visiting trio (Chris, Erin, and Brandon) launching their kayaks, Paka (instinctively) decided to "raise the pirate flag" amidst our group's clamorous hoots, cheers, and laughs. Sorry, Paka, but this is a G-rated show... so I can only say "think bright, bright RED"! CK, Pat?
Alas, the laughs subsided and we shuffled back down the cliffy summit. This is one of those "it's harder to go down than to go up" trails as I retraced my footsteps back down the rock face. Luckily, there was much to hold onto - jagged rocks making perfect hand-holds. I also learned that though bare-foot hiking has it's major limitations, you get a better feel for the traction and stability of the rocks underfoot.
Fifteen minutes later, I reached the landing spot while the rest of the group trekked to the opposite side of the island to their respective kayaks. As I readied my craft, I called out to a fisherman who we had seen wading neck-deep from Kualoa Beach. He was prize-less, but I wished him luck and carried on.
I stayed behind to make sure everyone in the group had cleared the island and was underway. The return journey was awesome as most of us kayak-surfed the swells. In no time, we were back on the beach to hit the showers.
As I had mentioned to some in the group, I wanted to return to watch the sunrise at the top of the 206-foot high island. The view to the east is great, but devoid of any features to focus on. This is definitely not true in the morning!!
The next morning (Sunday, October 11), I was tossing and turning and couldn't return to sleep. The time was 5:45 AM and I stumbled weary-eyed out of my tent to find Brandon and Erin prepping a kayak. The sky was brightening and the first cries of distant roosters signalled a rising sun. I gathered my stuff (including hiking boots and cameras) into a plastic bag, dashed out to the row of kayaks, and secured my goods in the hold. Brandon and I were soon underway and made it to the island by 6:15 AM. We stashed our kayaks in the same spot and began our journey. But because of a former foot injury, Brandon stopped halfway, handed me his camera, and waited at the kayaks. Armed with my sturdy hiking boots, I dashed up the trail and found (again) a spectacular sight waiting for me at the top.
An orange-tinged sun with its golden crown had broken through the horizon. Its rays lit a shimmering, yellow carpet across the ocean to Mokolii's darkened shore. I turned from east to west to view the Koolau theater. The sun's fingertips had just begun to graze the giant Ohulehule as well as the many gray-misted peaks to the south. The Moo Kapu o Haloa Ridge glowed, the plethora of its greens and browns sparkled - a welcomed sight to my weary eyes. Valleys began to awaken from their deep slumber like a sleeping beauty opening her eyes. The sun, now radiant yellow, turned the pink-streaked gray clouds into bright fluffs of pure white cotton. There I stood, alone, witnessing Oahu slowly awaken into a new day.
With thoughts of breakfast waiting on the shores of Kualoa, I descended and jogged down to the kayak. Fifteen minutes later, Brandon and I were met by Reuben who helped us drag the boats up the sand.
What an awesome way to start the day, I thought. It was truly one of the most beautiful moments in my life. The whole experience can be concisely summed up in the words of my neighbor, "lucky you live Hawaii!"
P.S. Special thanks to the HTMC gang for bringing out the kayaks! Also, thanks "fuzzy"-Chris for the lesson..! =)
"M a g n a e s t V e r i t a s e t P r a e v a l e b i t" < g k i n g s l e @ h a w a i i . e d u > Honolulu, Hawaii
Oahu Hiking Information Page: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~gkingsle ICQ: 17055175
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