Stairway From Heaven

On a lazy Sunday morning we flip through our Hikers Guide to O’ahu. The page easily unfolds to Kamananui (Moanalua Valley)–DANGER: Low, SUITABLE FOR: Novice, LENGTH: 11 mi.

Sounds manageable…

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9:30am. Google instantly finds the trail head–Moanalua Valley Park. The lawn is freshly manicured, perfect for a family picnic.

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The road is flat and wide. Along the way there are several directories explaining the valley’s rich history.

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Pass overgrown bridges, remnants of old mansions, and cobble stone roads, we’re in no rush. We snap photos of birds and sleeping grass. This is too easy!

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The path suddenly disappears in a sea of California grass. Unsure if it’s the end, we swim through the blades to find out.

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An army soldier directs us onward.

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We finally make it onto a clearing and a more familiar hiking scene, the easy trail behind us.

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It quickly escalates and now we’re really hiking. The incline is steep and I wonder how we’ll make it back down.

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After some rope work and several switchbacks, we’re above it all. We continue higher and higher, each plateau giving us a new and better view.

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At 1:30p we reach the summit. Rewarded with an expansive view from WCC to Lanikai we sit and recharge. We share the moment with two other groups who tell us they plan to continue on to Haiku Stairs. They think it’s by “that bunker over there”. Unsure of how far “over there” is, but not wanting to go back, we press on.

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Concerned about the remaining daylight, we’re the first to move. Using ropes, we climb down, then up and back down. Back and forth, we follow the ridge. You can almost touch the clouds. Though the sun is out, you can imagine it’s cold at night.

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Praying we don’t end up on the night’s news, I spot Chinaman’s hat and a large bunker.

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The path is marked by signs of life. My anxiety disappears, distracted by the views. We didn’t know, but going left would’ve taken us over Middle Ridge and into Moanalua Valley again.

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With my hometown and stairs in sight, I practically skip to the bunker.

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Definitely Happy Face!

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Take it all in. The air is fresh and clean. There’s no place like home.

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The descent is intimidating at first.

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Followed by a second bunker

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Be careful, take your time. Don’t get too distracted. Easier said than done.

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Kaneohe disappears as we head further down. Sections of rusted stairs are broken and vertical.

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We reach the bottom at 4pm. Gates are locked and dogs from every house sound the alarm. We timidly ask a resident to give us passage through their property. They kindly oblige.

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The Haiku entrance to Stairway to Heaven is under constant guard and not accessible without trespassing or disturbing homeowners. I can understand the neighborhood’s frustration, especially as most hikers begin before sunrise. Had we not found the stairs by accident we may’ve never hiked it in our lifetime.

Hiking the back route can also be dangerous. Many have been known to get lost. I do not recommend this if you’re not experienced. Upon further reading, we were supposed to turn left onto Kulana’ahane into the valley. I’m not exactly sure what trail we hiked. A similar path, Pu’u Keahi a Kahoe, with the same starting point is listed–DANGER: High, SUITABLE FOR: Expert, ELEVATION GAIN: 2600ft.

If you go, go in good weather. Start early and have a plan (unlike us). Wear pants. The grass and brush can cut you up. Bring lots of water and sunscreen. Never go alone. If you have doubts, turn around. Be mindful of your water supply and daylight. At mile-5 we shared water with a hiker who ran out and was cramping. On our way down we also failed to convince tourists with no flashlight, 3:30p was not a good time to start. Be smart…bumbai you learn.

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