Ka’au Crater: Shit Got Real

It was mentioned to me offhandedly by someone, sometime ago that Ben and Jerry went on hikes every Monday. I’ve only been on the island for a little over two months and I was more than eager to get explore the mountains that consistently served as the postcard picture background of my neighborhood in Waikiki. I sought them out and before long I was on the list. Late Sunday night, I received a text message from Jerry.

Sun. Aug 10 22:42

Jerry: Still down for the epic hike tomorrow morning?

Me: What time?

Jerry: Leave 9am.

Me: Sweet.

I went about my night and had settled in to watch a few episodes of HIMYM before dozing off.

Mon. Aug. 11, 00:22

Jerry: Change to 10:30 pick up. 

Me: O.k.

The next morning…

Mon. Aug. 11, 10:02

Jerry: 11 pick up

Mon. Aug. 11, 11:30

Jerry: I’m on my way. 

Finally, a little after 1 PM we were headed to Ka’au Crater. It seems like everyone was on Hawaiian Time that day. It was intended to be a 5-6 hour hike, so I came prepared with a liter of water, Gatorade and some Spam Musubi. We followed directions from reviewers on Yelp, and without any delay we found one of the trail heads, right behind a row of mailboxes on a quiet residential street on Palolo Valley.

Immediately the hike was promising. This was no “Manoa Falls Trail.” We had to scurry down some steep slopes, tread our way back and forth through shallow streams, and walk cautiously along narrow edges. The ground was slippery at times, but generally, the trail caused no concern. Every now and then we had to pull ourselves up some ropes that hikers before us had left behind. How nice of them. We set our rules for the day.

Rule No. 1: Don’t fall.

Rule No. 2: Don’t die.

Good enough for me.

We ran into three teenagers, we asked them how far to the first waterfall. 15 minutes they said. They lied. We ran into a family of 4 with a dog. And… we ran into a co-worker who was on his way back from a hike with his friend and sister. Small island indeed. But they were one of only a handful of people we saw on the trail. We would meet no one else after that.

In due time, we hear the first waterfall. And then we see it.

kaau (3)Like a gem in the middle of a haystack the waterfall was a joy to find, it was an accomplishment; we had reached a destination. Waterfall Number One, check! We took the obligatory photographs and posted some online. Keeping in mind the plaque we had read of a person who had fallen off some years ago in her pursuit of the perfect photograph.

We kept on of course, as there were more sights to see. We followed the pink ribbons, tied to trees every now and then that served as our markers. We reached the second waterfall, taking our time to dip in our weary feet, hydrate and enjoy the cooling mist before taking off again. Here and there the trail was the stream itself and we followed the smooth rocks and boulders as it took us to the last waterfall of the hike.

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We stared at the waterfall. The advise was to climb the waterfall using the ropes along the side.

Are they fuckin’ kidding?

No. No, they were not.

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It was easier than it looks and it didn’t take long to get used to this new level of hiking. Gradually, we made our way up to the top of the waterfall of about 30 feet. The climb was spectacular, reaching the top was rewarding. All around us was the bountiful wonder of nature. The rhythmic flow of the water and the constant rush and its fall was soothing. It was us and nature. Pacha Mama in the flesh. We were alone with nature. There was nothing but the trees, and the water, and the sky, and the earth, and the birds. We felt one with the earth and it was magnificent. kaau (8)

Until we received text messages that informed us Robin Williams had been found dead in an apparent homicide. Apparently, we had cellphone signal again. On we went, this time our conversation shifting to our favorite Robin Williams movies and how funny he was. Crazy but amazing. Though I felt I couldn’t really judge as I was presently climbing up a waterfall against all logic. But the climb must go on. We climbed one water fall after another.

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And another, and another, and another. For the love of god, when will this end.

But of course it does, as most things do. We reached the ridge and behold the crater before us.

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What a beautiful sight. Even more, it was gratifying having climbed straight up seven waterfalls. I stood, gazing at the solemn green grass below me and I wondered of the creatures that called it home. It was pristine. Untouched. Virgin. It was beyond words. I was content and pleased.

Jerry calls up to me, “Ok, boo, let’s head on up to the top.”

Say what?!?

Jerry tells me we were to go to the top.


Ben excitedly states that we should eat our lunch at the summit.

What? But…. We’re here. We’re looking at the crater. It’s gorgeous, why do we need to go up even higher? Why? But…

Sighing, I grudgingly followed along.

Up here, the hike was gradually steeper. When we reached a vantage point, about halfway to the summit, we reaped our rewards. We sat down enjoyed some delicious water and sandwiches. From up here, we could see the crater on one side and the valley below. In the distance, was Waikiki, Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean stretching out to the horizon.

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Again, off we went. The day was getting late and soon the sun would set. I gazed out at this magnificent crater and asked what I thought was an obvious question.

Me: Are we seriously trying to make it around the crater by nightfall?

Jerry: Of course, boo, it’ll be so awesome.

Me: But… this is huge, we have two hours til sundown, two and half hours before it’s dark.

Jerry: Oh, we’ll be fine, we’ll reach the other side before then.

Ben: We have flashlights and it should be easier after the summit.

Jerry: Yeah, we’ll reach the other side in 45 mins.

Do they not see what I see?kaau (17)

I argue. I tell them that realistically, we will be hardly be a third of the way around the crater when the sunsets. They insist that we would. I stare at this crater in absolute bewilderment at how they thought we could climb to the top of the summit, go down, go up and down about two more times before reaching a semi-leveled trail in 45 minutes.

We reached a compromise, reach the top and decide if we want to go on, or turn back.

So, be it.

We climbed this.

photo 2

And we climbed that.

photo 1

It was tough, I’ve never climbed up ropes before that many times, I was very surprised I even managed. I was exhausted and energy seemed like something I couldn’t even remember anymore. But as we kept on and on, it was exhilarating. One hand over the other, one foot over the next. Push, pull, slip and slide. And up, and up, and up we went.

We reached the top and behold, another reward. kaau (18)

What a grand world we live in.

But the three of us were all staring to the west, at the sun, dipping hurriedly behind the the mountain and behind the clouds.

Yeah, shit just got real.

We tried to climb down the other side while there was still light of day, but that grew too dangerous and with an unfamiliar trial and the darkness, literally creeping up to us, we opted to turn around and climb down the only way we knew how. Down those fuckin ropes. Again.

Rule No. 1: Don’t fall

Rule No. 2: Don’t die

Not even 20 feet down, night had come. The fog had rolled in. We couldn’t see shit. Which to me was a great thing. I had no idea how far my fall would be if I did slip and fall. Each of us had one source of light, I used a small handheld flashlight. Jerry had a headlamp and Bed was using his phone. Yes, this was a pleasant evening. Shimmering down a tall mountain one-handed, in the dark.

I checked my bottle of water. I had one swig left. I took it.

Let me rephrase: Yes, this was a pleasant evening. Shimmering down a tall mountain, one-handed, in the dark, with no water.

An hour later, we reached the bottom of the summit. The fog cleared up, the moon was bright. In the distance, we could see Waikiki again. This time, its specks of bright orange glows equally gave us hope and despair. It was so close and yet so far. We pushed away thoughts of exhaustion and thirst. We focused on the $10 steaks and half-off drinks at Lulu’s if only we made it before the kitchen close. We had to. We deserve those steaks, goddamnit. I could practically, taste my pina colada.

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We managed to wander our way back to the top of the waterfall, grateful none of us slipped or fell to our deaths. Grateful that no one had injured anything. The only thing we had to complain was that we were hungry, thirsty and we smelled. Our spirits were lifted. Our energy was back. We found the trail marker and on we went. Life was good again. This trail was muddy, but who cared. We were beyond messed up by this point. We exchanged stories; what drugs have you done? What drugs do you want to do? Where was the most exciting place you had sex? Where did you lose your virginity? What is your favorite Disney movie? Blah, blah, blah. Yammer, yammer, yammer.

Suddenly, Jerry stopped. Ben stopped. I go, “what’s going on?”

Jerry: The trail ended.

Ben: What do you mean?

Me: What do you mean, it ended?

Jerry: There’s no more trail. I don’t see it.

Ben: What do you mean? I don’t understand.

Me: I don’t understand. What do you mean?

Panic had set in. It was close to midnight, we had been hiking on this particular trail for over an hour. We felt we were getting close. We could feel the end. I could almost see the white Corolla waiting for us at the parking lot with three beautiful bottles of water sitting so peacefully inside. But there was nothing around us but trees. We look around. We go up and down the trees, maybe the trail is hidden. We find nothing. It was decided we turn back. Maybe we missed a turn. Maybe we were meant to make a right and not a left. Maybe we’re on the wrong trail. Maybe this, maybe that. My flashlight runs out of battery. My phone is at 13%, Jerry’s is at 11%, Ben’s at 20%.

We called our friends, some want us to call 911. I don’t know what 911 could have done. I wanted to reach a park ranger. They were always useful. I find a phone number online. It was for the Big Island. We were on Oahu, a different island. Oahu does not have park rangers, except for the U.S.S. Arizona. He tells us to call 911. What. The. Fuck. Jerry wants to call 911 and have a chopper pick us up. Ben did not want a chopper to pick us up. I would have wanted to be picked up but I did not want to pay whatever that would cost. Ben wants to look for the trail. Jerry wants to lie down and sleep. I just wanted water. I didn’t care about staying up here all night, but could someone please just give me some water.

Maybe a small, metal container with water will come down on a small parachute like in The Hunger Games, I hoped. No such thing happened. Jerry’s roommate called 911. 911 recommended we stay put, get some sleep and try again in the morning. We decided this. We decided that. In the end, we decide to stop.

We trekked back, found a small, flat meadow at the edge of the crater, laid down and watched the stars. We had agreed to wait for sunlight. The time was 1 in the morning. Sunlight was in 4 hours.

I call my work.

Me: Hello, ummm… I went on a hike today, and umm… I’m still here on the mountain, umm.. it’s a little past midnight and ummm… and I can’t find my way back, so I won’t be able to come in to work tomorrow morning. Thank you.

It was a gorgeous night. The moon was superbly bright. The breeze cool and light but not cold. The clouds moved swiftly in and out and around. The stars shown, but not too brightly. The moon was overpowering the night. We spotted at least 7 shooting stars. They were amazing.

Soon enough the sun came up, and never had I ever been as grateful for sunlight as that beautiful morning. It gave us more energy, our thirst set aside and off we went again. We decided to try the same trail we were on last night. Just in case, we missed a turn.

Ben reached the dead end first.

Ben: You’re going to laugh when you guys see this.

We gather around and look. Last night, in the dark we saw nothing but trees. In the daylight, it was crystal clear. The trail continued on, all we had to do was crawl under a fallen tree. How. Fuckin. Hilarious.

It took us another 2.5 hours before we finally reached the top of that cliff and back on to that road right beyond the mailboxes. I was the first one out. I climbed that cliff like a lizard. I was fast. Nothing was going to stop me from reaching the end. I was going to make it. Fuck it all. I was going to reach the end. I pulled myself up that last rope. Walked out of the bushes and on to the street and I screamed!

Life is glorious.



2 thoughts on “Ka’au Crater: Shit Got Real

  1. Great pictures and scary moments. I am Ben’s mom and will kick his butt when I see him. Lol Congrats guys!! You made it.

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