Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Oahu, Hawaii...day five
This was our last day, but we didn't let an early afternoon flight stop us from enjoying the last bits of our vacation. We awoke early and headed over to Diamond Head (in Hawaiian: Le'ahi, meaning brow of the tuna) just as the sun was peaking over the mountains. Surprisingly there were already tour buses pulling in at 6:00 am so we quickly headed up the trail towards the top of the crater.
I'm quoting now from the Hawaii State parks website, but the history is so fascinating that it bears reading: The trail to the summit of Le'ahi was built in 1908 as part of O'ahu's coastal defense system. The 0.8 mile hike from trailhead to the summit is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor. The walk is a glimpse into the geological and military history of Diamond Head. A concrete walkway built to reduce erosion shifts to a natural tuff surface about 0.2 mile up the trail with many switchbacks traversing the steep slope of the crater interior. The ascent continues up steep stairs and through a lighted 225-foot tunnel to enter the Fire Control Station completed in 1911. Built on the summit, the station directed artillery fire from batteries in Waikiki and Fort Ruger outside Diamond Head crater. At the summit, you'll see bunkers and a huge navigational lighthouse built in 1917.
The current name came was given to the crater by British sailors in the 1800's. When they first saw the crater at a great distance, the calcite crystals in the lava rock appeared to glimmer in the sunlight. The sailors mistakenly thought there must be diamonds in the soil.
Diamond Head is a crater that has been extinct for 150,000 years. The crater is 3,520 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit. When the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, harbor defense became a main responsibility. One of the major defense forts, Fort Ruger, occupied the Diamond Head Crater. A battery of canons was located within the crater providing complete concealment and protection from invading enemies. An observation deck was constructed at the summit in 1910 to provide target sighting and a four level underground complex was built within the walls of the crater as a command post. A 580-foot tunnel was dug through the crater wall to provide easier access to the Fort.
We made it to the top in pretty good time and I was able to grab some photos even though my legs were shaking from that last burst of steps to the summit. As the sun was casting some interesting shadows over the city I decided to create HDR's out of the pictures I did take. Some people don't like this type of photography, and that's cool. I don't mind if you don't really dig it...but I have to say the "Keep Out" photo is probably one of my favorites I've ever done. The sunbeams make me sooo happy. For the detail it's worth check out that picture in a larger size.
While hiking up the trail we heard this click click click sound from the passing hoard of tourists. Turns out one of the girls had worn heels. She made it all the way to the summit and although she was speaking Japanese it didn't really seem as though they bothered her, but it was a first for me. I've seen flip flops on a trail, but never heels.
The views were stunning and the rising sun cast a beautiful orange glow over Honolulu. We decided to head back down and made it to the car by 7:15. Not a bad time for a two mile hike. Next on our list was boogie boarding and since we'd made such good time I was excited that we would not only be able to get out in the water for a while but also shower before check out at noon.
Our hotel was right on the beach so all we had to do was cross the street and there was a vendor there who rented us the boards. Unfortunately low tide was at 7:30 am so the water was very shallow and the coral was poking up above the surf. The tall one was able to paddle right out to the break, but I struggled. And I'm a strong swimmer. I just couldn't get past the tide. I drug myself across the coral to the beach and sat there for a minute, defeated. Finally I realized I could either sit there and pout, or I could go rent some flippers and surf the waters of Hawaii. So I went back to the rental place, got myself some flippers and finally joined the tall one out at the break.
Ok seriously, catching a wave is hard. The tall one had surfed in Costa Rica so he was giving me pointers but I was drinking a lot of salt water. Even so, sitting out in the water waiting for a wave was probably my second favorite thing of the trip. I finally saw a big one coming and I turned towards the shore while the tall one was yelling "paddle, PADDLE!!" and I caught it! I was so used to not catching the wave and instead swallowing a mouthful of sea water so I closed my eyes and braced myself for the fall. But this time I didn't fall! It took me a minute to realize that I was being carried by the wave and finally I opened my eyes to see my board heading right for the pier. Luckily the wave ran out just before. I'm also pretty sure I made the most interesting "YIPPEE" / "WOOO" sound you've ever heard.
There was also another time that I sorta caught a wave and landed on the tall one's head. I'm still sorry, cuteness.
The tall one wasn't having much luck and his poor legs were being raked over the coral, so we called it a morning and headed back to shore. After a nice shower and some other activities we laid down for a minute before heading down to check out. On the way to the airport we decided to stop at Leonards, a place we had passed by before that had a crazy line out the door. Luckily this time it was empty and although we had no idea what the line had been for when we walked in and saw that it was a bakery and noticed the fresh malasadas sign on the counter I remembered that I had been told I needed to eat one of these things.
And they are FUCKING AMAZING. Thank GOODNESS I have no idea where they make these things in Seattle or I would be screwed.
So that's it kids...that was our trip to Hawaii. I'll be posting some closing thoughts in an upcoming post and will be adding pictures from the snorkeling adventure soon. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and mahalo for reading!
Me ke aloha pumehana!