Zen and the Art of Hiking

Between growing up backpacking the Cascades, being a member of Marion County Sheriffs Search & Rescue and spending 22 years as an Infantryman…..it’s fair to say that I’ve spent more time in the woods than the average bear. Whatever your belief system in the creation of this world, there is something inspired and harmonious with the way nature is laid out. Perhaps I am merely trying to channel my inner hunter-gatherer when I go hiking, but I feel more at peace in nature than around my fellow man.

Speaking of my fellow man….props to those who get out there on the trails…but how does one decide to tackle nature, no more prepared than if they were traveling from their barcalounger to the fridge? Last weekend I hiked the Aiea Loop. This is not a tough trail, but the rainy season here in Hawaii had kept me from tackling one more to my liking. Although I maintain a ‘deathmarch’ mentality when it comes to hiking….this is a state of mind, not a desired endstate. Many weekends it’s simply far to muddy to scrabble up and down the knife edge ridgelines on Oahu. So to burn calories and get my sweat on, I head up to Aiea.

Crowded. Easy trail means lots of casual walkers. They all let me pass easy enough, no hard feelings. But towards the end of the loop, I happen across some sort of Explorer Scout troop, or somesuch. One of the adults in the rear was on the trail wearing…..flip-flops [or as their known in the islands…slippers]. Now, as I mentioned, Aiea is not a particularly tough trail, but it IS a trail, with elevation changes and obstacles. And on that day….a right muddy mess.

I realize that I’m a trail snob…and most people tend to not venture outside of their paved world….but this cat is ostensibly a mentor to young boys and girls, and as such, should set some modicum of an example in terms of common sense. I only snapped one photo that I thought was sort of cool from the Aiea Loop, because frankly, most of the trek was green…and muddy.

Aiea Loop overlooking the H3

Yesterday, I tackled Mt Olympus again. On my two previous ascents, it was too muddy to make it up to the very top, and the cloud cover on those days made the really good photos impossible. Damn good workout. Still damn muddy…..but there’s a perverse thrill at scrabbling up a rope on the side of a rather sheer mud face with a long plunge to a certain death, should you slip to one side or the other. Not as many intrepid souls, and not everyone I passed on the trail made it to the top. Some turn around when they reach the first of three rope obstacles. Here again,I see people woefully dressed and outfitted for a climb even halfway up this beast. I saw boat shoes yesterday. Seriously? You’re going to wear topsiders on a muddy/rocky/steep trail along a knife edge ridgeline? Your funereal. And as usual, most people graciously let me pass, or I them….though in some stretches, this led to becoming very intimately acquainted as we both pass along a trail about two feet wide, with zero room for error. Coming back however, there was a couple heading down also, that simply refused to give way when I came up on them. This was in the easy area, with plenty of room. How about a little trail courtesy people?

I’ve seen various reviews and estimates for the Mt Olympus trail, of allowing 4-6 hours for the complete trip. I feel really good about making the ascent and back in right at three hours. I am of course, feeling my age today.

Below is Ka’au Crater, the hike I’m waiting for a dry spell before I tackle it.

The view to the south, from the summit.
That start/end point is a looooong way off.

The Kailua side of the Ko’olau Range

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2 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Hiking

  1. Great shots, thanks for the photos & your dedication to getting to a spot to take them.

    I'm slowing down in my old age (though I shouldn't) but didn't hike much (some …) when I was last in Hawaii. We limit ourselves to big hikes around Mt Rainier mostly, though we'll tackle some through the Olympics next September.

    I agree whole-heartedly about the casual strollers out on hiking trails, & I believe that this developing attitude can be mostly attributed to the prevalence of cell phones. Just a couple of decades ago, if one struck out along a trail with such a casual air, one was almost taking his life in his hands. Not so now — if a spot of trouble develops, just whip out a cell phone & someone official had damn well better be quick to respond.

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  2. Rainier is no joke. I used to live in Yelm and know well how rugged the terrain is. My Infantry company did an Ipsut Pass hike……in waist deep snow. My Company Commander came from 2nd Ranger Batt, and left us soon after for Delta…so, yeah…that was a lot of fun….

    I think you're spot on about cell technology….I think it not only makes people lazier in general, but it emboldens people as well. I, at least, had pretty much zero signal with Sprint, on Mt Olympus.

    If it's dry enough next weekend, I may tackle Ka'au Crater. Thank you for cheering me on…it certainly helps, as I'm not getting any younger either!

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