Haiku Stairway, Oahu
Kaneohe's Haiku Stairs, often referred to as the Stairway to Heaven, have been closed to the public for years, but that didn't stop my hardy foursome from making the ascent in April 2009. Technically, it's illegal to scale the Stairway and there is a guard posted from 0630 to sunset to turn away prospective hikers, but if you get up early enough you can climb unmolested. We were on the trail by 0620 and twelve minutes late we looked down from above the H3 to see the guard and his motorcycle staking out their positions.
The climb itself is heart-pounding, both from the hour-plus stairmaster-like activity required and from the occassionally scary, exposed positions you are in. We had a windy day, with fog enshrouding the top, making the last 200 vertical feet, with your butt hanging high over the H3, particularly nerve-racking. If you are afraid of heights, skip this hike.
The trail itself is essentially a ladder with rails, though one 90-degree section is augmented with a rope. There are three or four landings along which you can take a break and get great photos, but for the most part you are hanging off the sides of the Ko'olau range. The views are spectacular! You see The Mokoluas off Lanikai, Mt. Olomana, and all of Kaneohe Bay up to Chinaman's Hat! At the first false summit, you'll find an old cement building with a wench that the military used to haul up supplies during WWII and at the second (real summit) you'll find another building that supports weathered, unused microwave dishes and keeps you sheltered from the moisture laden, cold, rushing winds. There's a logbook inside, which you can sign with your full name and address if you want to supply law-enforcement with evidence you were there.
We considered hiking down the backside towards Tripler hospital, which would take 6 hours, but we couldn't find the trail in the fog, so we descended back down the stairs. Sometimes we had to go down as if descending a ladder, but much of the time we could descend normally -- though the constant stress on our thighs left us all quivering like Parkinsons patients at the bottom. Occassionally, the wind caused some of Hawaii's indigneous plants to thwack me in the face -- not an issue on the way up! Damn endangered species!! Despite the violent flora, we were down by the guard by 1015, trying to avoid eye-contact while walking dead straight in front of him.
Of course, the guard HAD to chat with us. After some small talk, Ted volunteered that we had climbed over from Tripler, thinking that would keep us out of poential trouble. The guard said, "I know you're lying. Your shoes are too clean!" Busted, Ted admitted he didn't want to put he guard in a position where he felt he had to arrest us. "No bro. If I were going to call the cops, I would've done it already." It's good to know that the guard thing is just a charade if you play it right.
We encountered an amazing sight as we drove through the mountains on the eastern side of the island. A thread-like trail of steps could be seen rising to the very top--they are The Haiku Steps, known also as the Stairway to Heaven.
These stairs leading up to the top of Puu Keahiakahoe (altitude 2800 ft.) were created by the efforts of the U.S. Navy in 1942. The Haiku steps were meant to be used as a means of reaching the Haiku Radio Station, 'top secret facility for transmitting radio signals to the Navy ships operating throughout the Pacific'.
It's actually comprised of galvanized-steel ship ladders 18 inches wide and 4000 feet long in total. Some sections are steep, but most are not. There are 3,922 steps. The stairs were closed after some vandals tore up a few sections of ladder. Also, they were closed at the construction of H-3.
Repairs were made, but the stairs haven't been open yet. Friends of the Haiku Steps and others are petitioning to have them reopened for hiking.
*Haiku is Hawaiian for Kahili flower
A remote, barely mark trail in the back of a mountainside subdivision in the windward town of Ahuimano leads to an abandoned metal access ladder, built in WWII to service a Coast Guard Radio antenna. The dilapidated metal stairs reach 2600 vertical feet with 1855 steps. Locally referred to as “The Stairway to the Stars”, this hard to find and dangerous ladder is a once in a lifetime adventure, because no one could be dumb enough to do it twice. The four hour climb on the un-maintained stairway rewards the “stair master” with a spectacular view of the windward side of Oahu. (See it on the “sand bar tip”). Less adventurous and smarter visitors will opt for a helicopter ride.
*NOTE ... I have not been here!!! This trail has intrigued me since I first spotted it as we came out of the tunnel on H3, Kaneohe bound. Research has headed me in the general direction, but I have not actually "attempted" the illegal entry to this most interesting hike to the top of the Koolau range. The path (stairway) is now repaired, but local authorities have barred the opening due to "health and safety" issues. I do see, from time to time, a trail of happy hikers making their way to the top of the stairs. I am eagerly awaiting the official opening, though might add that if it doesn't happen soon, I may have to "slip through the gate" as others before me have done!