Hiking the “Stairs of Doom” to Koko Crater • New Year’s Eve in Hawaii • December 31, 2017
We started off 2017 with a New Year’s Day snowshoe hike, and ended it with a New Year’s Eve trek up the Stairs of Doom to Koko Crater. And somehow, even with our lack of outings last winter, we managed to hike the most miles we ever have in a year: 419, all around the US. What a year to remember!
When we left for an early morning hike, we had actually intended to do another hike, but when we arrived at the trailhead we saw a police car there waiting. It turned out that much of the trail existed on private property and is therefore illegal. How disheartening is that, when we already live on this tiny island in the Pacific with limited hiking options, to be turned away from supposedly scenic hikes in beautiful areas? Oh well, we revised our plans and drove to another trail. This one was much more popular, a tourist trap on the Southeast side of the island: Koko Crater. We knew it would be crowded and exhausting, but we decided to go up the railway to the peak in order to train for a bigger hiking trip we had coming up.
Sure enough, the parking lot was completely crowded. But like I mentioned, we live on a tiny island in the Pacific with a limited number of hikes, so I guess sooner or later we’re going to have to do them all. We joined the highway of hikers climbing to the top, dodging slower ones, yielding to those coming down the tracks at a quicker pace, and stepping off to the side here or there to catch our breath. The steps to the top used to be a railway that took people up and down the mountain. They’re wide and probably very slowly wearing away with the hundreds of people that make the pilgrimage to the top every day. About halfway up, when you’re dying for a break, the trail becomes even steeper. The higher I got, the more stops I’d take, but I knew this was exactly what I asked for: a good workout.
We finally made it to the top, surrounded by tons of other hikers. I have to admit though, besides the fact that the railway makes for a great cardio exercise, I really don’t get why so many people hike this. Having done a good amount of hiking here, the views didn’t quite compare to the other easier hikes we’ve done. I know the proximity to Waikiki makes it popular among tourists, but if I was visiting here and only had so much time to go hiking, this wouldn’t be one I’d choose.
After we could take the crowds no more, we began our descent, back the way we came. While going up the railway, I had noticed that people coming down seemed to take over the path and were neglecting the “give uphill hikers the right of way” courtesy, but going down I understood why. The erosion is more apparent, and the steps are taller than they appear. After wearing out my calf muscles on the way up, my legs were a bit shaky making it seem more difficult as well. Going down could almost be considered harder than going up. But in all honesty, the hardest part isn’t being winded on the hike up, or the steep descent on the way back, it’s being surrounded by so many people. If you do attempt this trek, especially on a weekend or holiday, accept the fact that you’ll be around people the entire time and be patient. Step off to the side of the trail when you take a break. Use headphones when listening to music. Carry out your trash, especially those plastic water bottles. We’re on the verge of having a public outburst over the amount of litter on these public hikes. The only thing that keeps us sane is the reminder that each can collected is 5¢ for us.
We later learned that there is an alternative way up to the peak, so if we start running out of things to do maybe we’ll try that out — just never on a weekend or holiday again!
We celebrated New Year’s Eve that evening with a dinner for families on the boat, but were home by 9 because Curtis had to work the next day. We were glad to be safe at home with Charlotte, because apparently it’s tradition here for everyone to shoot off fireworks all around, and it sounded like a war zone outside. How everyone obtained the fireworks, which are illegal on Oahu, we have no idea! Well, I say I’m glad that we were home to keep Charlotte safe, but the truth is loud noises don’t bother her, I’m fairly certain she slept through most of that. At least we now know what to expect for next year — maybe a midnight hike with a 360º view needs to happen in order to embrace this tradition!