Monday, September 8, 2008

Diamond Head

Diamond Head in south Oahu was awesome. We took the Pali Highway in the morning over the mountain from Kailua, stopping along the way hoping to get some pictures. It was too foggy, but we did discover that Hawaii has an awful lot of free-roaming chickens, which we would continue to encounter at random times throughout our stay on both Oahu and Maui.

Anyway, Diamond Head: it's a crater -- a really big crater on the southeast corner of the island just east of Waikiki (which we elected to avoid -- the drinking, hard-partying scene isn't our thing) and just west of where we later went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. We arrived early enough that we were able to drive through the tunnel that takes you into the crater and park inside, instead of having to park outside the crater and hike in (which is over a mile walk).

[Image 1882]

Once inside, we were surprised to find that most of the area is covered with fields and scrub trees. It wasn't exactly the lush green that you expect of Hawaii, and reminded us more of home where we live in a chaparral region. In any case, we parked and soon started our hike up the mountain. Looking from the bottom, it doesn't really look like it's that far up, but after climbing it, it really isn't for the fainthearted.

[Image 1881 cropped]

All told, it was a lengthy hike, much of it with stairs to climb. I took a picture of the sign that describes the hike.

[Image 1880]

With steep inclines, switch-backs, tunnels, and great staircases to climb, it was quite an interesting hike up. If one had a fear of heights or suffers from claustrophia, it definitely wouldn't be a trip to take because the top of the steps is not only really high up a steep incline, but also ends up being well-enclosed by shrubbery and the mountain all around you.

[Image 1868] Switch-backs

[Image 1808] Tunnels

[Image 1866] Staircases

Once we got to the "top" we were surprised to find ourselves inside an old, giant, concrete military base that had been built into the mountain. The history of the facility was quite fascinating to learn, and it was quite clear to us why its location would be of value as a military facility. Climbing around inside, we could envision giant guns placed within the concrete structure, and could only imagine the deafening roar when they would go off.

[Image 1810]

Much of the facility was closed, all of it was gutted of anything interesting, and it was largely falling into disrepair. I was saddened by this, and thought it would make a riveting museum if it were done up properly. I was reminded of the underground Cabinet War Rooms that Winston Churchill lived in during World War II (which my wife and I visited several years ago), and while no famous person led a war in Diamond Head, a little museum to talk about the lives of those who lived and worked inside the crater's edge would have been fascinating.

Once at the top, however, my wife and I both had fun playing with our new camera. She had a delightful time zooming in on palm trees that were far enough away that we could barely tell which one she was looking at with the naked eye. We also were able to take a picture of our car from the top of Diamond Head! A 10-times zoom in a little hand-held camera is a pretty amazing thing. Nevertheless, we also enjoyed looking around at the lighthouse to the south of the crater, and I took a full panorama for the fun of it. Click on the image and scroll to the right to see what I mean.

[Image 1816] Stitched

The climb up was exhausting (we ended up stopping at the top of each flight of stairs), and the climb down was painful (we really had to go to the bathroom!), but it was very well worth our trip. At the top, we spent a long time just looking. The ocean was absolutely beautiful. We could see Honolulu in the distance, ships passing by, helicopters buzzing around (below us!), and we think we even saw some whales. At the top there was this metallic cover thing to the stairs that didn't have a good way up -- I climbed up anyway and really enjoyed being as high up as I could be. My wife stayed safely below. There were a lot of people milling around the very tight viewing areas, but we just took our time, enjoyed the scenery, and appreciated the beauty all around us. We even took some time to take some really silly pictures during the walk.

[Image 1879]

Um, yeah.

We had a great time!

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