Saturday, September 12, 2009

Aiea Ridge

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by welikehike

Aiea Ridge trail takes you to the summit of the Koolau mountain range and provides lofty views of both sides of the island. On a clear day, you can see the island's borders from the east to the west shores. What makes this trail stand out above the other Koolau trails is the view going to the summit. You can see layers of ridges running parallel to each other which is best viewed in the mid-afternoon. I consider this to be Hawaii's version of the Smokey Mountains.

I joined up with the meetup group at around 8am. There were about 19 attendees with a good balance of men and women. The trailhead is shared with the popular Aiea Loop trail which I did numerous times when I was a kid. We started off with the sweet scent of the eucalyptus tree in the morning and snacked on some strawberry guavas. After a mile of hiking the loop trail, we turned left up the narrow path to Aiea Ridge. Recent maintenance work on the trail was evident with the uluhe ferns set back to keep our legs scratch-free. It was the usual roller coaster ride to the summit with no junctions to confuse us. The group began to split apart with the slower ones in the back. Majority of the group ended the hike at the helipad. I intended to finish the entire hike despite the clouds. I was willing to do it alone even after several discouraging remarks. Some people thought I was crazy, I just wanted to finish what I've started. I proceeded forward. The trail got narrower, muddier, and overgrown. I saw traces of wild boar footprints which made me a bit paranoid after last week's incident. It began to drizzle and the chances of a view in the end got slimmer.

The steep climb to the large grassy clearing was difficult, and at the same time, exhilarating. I was just moments away from reaching the top and, if any, the views. When I finally arrived at the first clearing, I should have gotten a first glimpse of the windward side, but unfortunately, I was surrounded by thick clouds. A minute passed and a tower nearby surprisingly came into view. The clouds were slowly clearing away and as I turned around, the mountains, the shoreline, and the blue sky began to reveal itself. The thick blanket of clouds hovering at the mountain ridges were slowly driven away by the wind. Words do not do justice in explaining this occurrence, but I'm pretty sure Ansel Adams had moments like this. The clearing of the storm was a rare sight and it will definitely be one of my best hiking moments. What made it more special was the people who doubted me were the ones at a lost. I savored the moment and reaped the benefits of my hard work. However, as I continued my way to the summit, the clouds returned and it was back to white. I waited for a few minutes but it started to rain hard. I decided to call it a day and proceeded back down the ridge.

I picked up the pace hoping that I would make it before sunset. I only had a few hours before the wooded area would turn pitch black. I was bit worried for I didn't really study the trail thinking that I would return with the group. But it was just me alone in the woods and the freaky noise of the trees rubbing against each other. When I arrived at the end, the place did not look familiar at all. There was a chained gate and a neighborhood, not a park where I first started. I realized that I took a wrong turn somewhere in Aiea loop. I called my friend, Laarni, to pick me up since she lives down the street. She dropped me to my car which was about a mile away. It was a fun and awesome day!


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