A Windward Hike To Remember

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - May 23, 2007
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A view from the trail
A view from the trail

The best thing about writing a sports and recreation column is that you get to find out how people spend some of their recreation time. Hiking in Hawaii is one of the best forms of recreation because it not only gets your heart pumping, but it also affords you some beautiful scenery along the way.

Recently, my wife Elaine, who grew up in Kailua, mentioned to me that she had never hiked the ridge above Lanikai to the old pill-boxes. Since we were both looking for a good workout, we decided to take the hike that very afternoon.

Ka’iwa Ridge is located on the backside of Lanikai. Two pill-boxes, built by the U.S. military during the early days of World War II, stand perched on the highest parts of the ridge. The pillboxes almost seem to call out to hikers to come and see them up close.

Our hike started right across from Mid-Pacific Country Club. The trailhead begins along a fence line. I can’t emphasize enough to make sure that all hikers should be courteous to neighbors and make certain that they are respectful to the quiet and the beauty of the neighborhood.

The hike is rated “easy” by hiking standards, but the first several hundred yards are pretty strenuous for the uninitiated. My recommendation is that hikers have a good stretch beforehand, because that first part of the trail will give anybody a good workout.

Footing is another issue. The trail is well-marked, but there are parts that are very dusty and slippery. Both of us wore tennis shoes, and some hikers we saw were actually wearing slippers. Several times, Elaine told me she wished she had hiking shoes.

Once at the pillboxes, take a break and enjoy the view
Once at the pillboxes, take a break and enjoy the view

The payoff for that first stretch of the trail comes quickly. Only a few minutes into the hike, we reached the ridge’s first landing. The cool trade winds were a welcome relief, and the view of Lanikai and the Mokulua Islands offshore was breathtaking. We stopped to take a couple of pictures, but the best part was yet to come.

The trail gets a bit rockier during the next climb, but it’s actually less strenuous. We ran into a father with three young boys, one as young as 6 years old. A woman with three of her dogs enjoyed the trail, and we even bumped into a young couple hauling their baby daughter in a nap sack strapped to the father’s chest. That’s an indication of how safe the trail is.

It took only about 15 minutes to reach the first pillbox. I was glad to see that some good Samaritans had painted it recently. We could still get a whiff of the fresh paint smell. Inside the concrete bunker, the remnants of machine gun turrets were still in place.

The last time I hiked this same trail, the pillboxes were covered with graffiti inside and out and were quite filthy with litter. This time, they were delightfully clean.

The views of Windward Oahu got better the higher we hiked. But the best payoff was when we reached the second pillbox about five minutes later. From there, we could see the entire Windward side of the island, from the lighthouse at Makapu’u Point past Waimanalo to Chinaman’s Hat near Ka’a'awa on the other side of Kaneohe Bay. As we turned around to give ourselves a panoramic 360-degree view, the beauty of the sunlight streaking through the Koolaus took our breath away.

For a 20-minute hike with a minimum of sweat and just a few places of strenuous exercise, the end result was spectacular. We were greeted by three high school girls filming a video. We took some more photos and then sat and joined them for several minutes atop the pillbox.

As if to underscore how this hike can be a part of someone’s regular workout routine, we ran into TV newscaster Brooks Baehr, who jogged up the trail with his running partner. We heard Brooks yell out “7:55” as he checked his running watch upon reaching the second pillbox.

We chatted excitedly about the beautiful view before he and his partner started their run down the hill.

Approximately an hour after we started our hike, we were back again at our car. Elaine had the biggest smile on her face. So did I. The hike up Ka’iwa Ridge above Lanikai was a memory we will always cherish.

We hope to do it again real soon. How about you?

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