The Hike Up Koko Head Crater

Out of all the amazing hikes I have done during my stay on Oahu, Koko Head is my absolute favorite. Koko Head is located on the southeastern side of the island in an area known as Manalua Bay. Although it is a relatively short hike, the 1,048 railway stairs to the top can definitely test one’s endurance! One of the most fascinating things about Koko Head, aside from the breathtaking views, is its military history.

During World War II, the U.S. Army erected several bunkers at the summit of the crater with a railway tram that carried up troops and supplies. After the Air Force was formed in 1947, the installation at Koko Head Crater became the Koko Crater Air Force Station.

Koko Crater Air Force Station atop Koko Head

For years, Koko Head Crater was a fully functional radar station. Eventually the Air Force turned the property over to the Hawaii Air National Guard. I sure hope those weekend flyboys didn’t mind the occasional hike!


Her tracks can be perilous in places.

The tracks that remain are now referred to as “railway stairs”. A climb to the summit on the Koko Head Railway stairs will take you up 990 feet in just over .7 miles. It is a grueling hike, but the view from atop is definitely worth every bit of the struggle along the way!

Koko Crater Air Force Station Mess Hall

The building was long gone by the time I began making my way up the summit; but the morning of my hike, I could almost still smell the bacon and eggs! I skipped breakfast that morning, so I was probably just hungry.

Start your hike early enough to catch one of these gorgeous sunrises on the summit!

Parking is free at the Koko Head District Park and the gates open at 6:00 am sharp. I highly recommend that if it is your first time going, start early so you can still catch a sunrise at the top. Just be mindful, it will likely still be dark when you arrive so bring a headlamp.

 

The trail can get muddy just after a thorough soaking.

 

U.S. Air Force Radar Station – July, 28, 1949

Koko Crater Radar Station during her prime.

 

Hanauma Bay in the background

In 1966, the radar station became obsolete and the property was passed on to the City of Honolulu.

 

For many, the way down can actually prove more difficult than climbing to the top.

 

American Airman hard at work manning his station.

I know what he is probably thinking. “Those slackers have been gone for hours. They better have brought me back a sandwich!”

It is still quite a trek before reaching the bottom.

This is the part of the trail where I like to sit on the rails and just contemplate life… life is difficult… walking is difficult… sitting is difficult… lying down on tracks is really difficult…. getting back up is even more difficult than that…. people are altogether way too difficult… why won’t they just go around?

 

With the aid of a gas-powered winch, a military tram slowly makes its way back down up the tracks.

I sure hope the guy photographing this has another ride coming soon. It’s a long walk getting back to the hooch!

 

It’s a pretty common occurrence to get stuck on the tracks during rush-hour traffic.

Koko Head is a very popular hiking destination for both tourists and the locals. It is estimated that over 500 people visit Koko Head trail on any given day.

Rebecca and Jonah throw up a “shaka” on the trail.

 

You can’t see Hawaii without seeing at least one of her spectacular rainbows!

I hope you enjoyed my post. If you are ever in Oahu, this is one hike that you really must do. Please feel free to explore more of my site, Big John’s Adventures in Travel, post a comment, and maybe even show me some love on social media.

Mahalo!

Happy travels,

Big John


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Hawaiian Monk Seals and Wai’anae Sunsets – A West Side Story

Hawaii has exceptionally nice weather all year around, so mid-November is as good a time as any to take an evening stroll along the beach. Avoiding the bustling crowds of Waikiki and determined to find a bit of tranquility, Rebecca, Selah and I decided to head to the western side of Oahu.  On the westward or Leeward side of the island lies the quaint community of Waianae. The area is home to beautiful beaches, various sea-life, and real small-town living. Waianae is also a very tight-knit community and it once was home to the legendary singer, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole.

Rebecca poses for a picture as Selah counts coconuts at the top of the tree.

The evening turned out even more beautiful than we had imagined. Along the way, I managed to capture some pretty fascinating scenes.

Rebecca and Selah standing between a rock and a hard place.

When I told Rebecca she would have to hike over that mountain to get to the beach, she almost didn’t want to go. Sure, she was carrying a baby but…. Joking!

My two girls looking pretty as a picture!

Although Rebecca didn’t have to hike over any mountains to make her way to the beach, she still experienced quite a bit of apprehension just getting there. Between you and me, the girl has a serious phobia when it comes to walking on sand. I am not making any of that up. Watching Rebecca walking on sand is similar to watching Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon.

I don’t know what it is about me and selfies, but I always come out looking like a deranged sociopath.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt. “Finders, keepers” is the law of the land and I scored a few amazing items along the way!

After a thorough inventory, I had acquired a green coconut, a cracked boogie board, some pretty coral, and a Hawaiian monk seal. Not bad for a 15-minute walk along the shore!

There are only about 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals alive today.

Rebecca had no problem with me keeping the coconut or the small chunks of coral, but she got all bent out of shape when I told her I also wanted to hold on to the seal.

A Hawaiian Monk Seal napping in the sand.

I asked Rebecca to give me one good reason why I couldn’t keep the monk seal, and she spouted off about ten of them. First of all, she said there was probably some sort of law against transporting an unrestrained, 500 pound sea mammal in the back of a Toyota Venza. I passed her my smartphone and asked her to point to that particular ordinance. She must have known there was no such law because she didn’t even attempt to reach for my phone. Rebecca then asked me if I was aware that a monk seal could eat upwards of 50 pounds of fish per day. I responded by reaching into my wallet and producing my Sam’s card, “Isn’t that just the sort of thing I carry this for?”

I don’t remember what all else Rebecca said, something about seals not being house-broken and them being really hard on carpet and furniture. Truth be told, none of it sounded all that convincing. Had she not told me I would be required to walk it and bathe it every day, I would have stuck to my guns and brought the seal home with me. Although it killed me to let Rebecca win in an argument, she had a pretty good point. Walking and bathing a 500 pound monk seal is a big responsibility; especially when I don’t even remember to walk and bathe myself every day.

On a serious note, the Hawaiian Monk Seal is an endangered species. It is the only seal native to Hawaii and several laws have been passed against harming, harassing or encroaching into the animal’s personal space. We were really lucky to get a glimpse of the seal on the beach; but as a general rule, any person in the animal’s vicinity should attempt to remain at least 50 feet away. Monk Seals can be very aggressive and it’s really hard to look cool when your screaming and crying, all the while being chased down the beach by one you got a little too close to.

A Wai’anae sunset in November

Although I couldn’t keep the monk seal, I managed to get some pretty spectactular sunset photos that I can share with all of you. While these pictures certainly don’t give the scene the justice it deserves, I think you will enjoy them just the same.

 

I love how I managed to capture that sea foam just as it came crashing against the rocks.

 

 

Only God could create a scene so beautiful as this!

 

That dark cloud coverage and choppy water has some sort of eerie effect on me.

 

This scene is one of beauty, sorrow, and everlasting peace. From the erected cross at this beachfront memorial, It is only obvious that some poor family experienced great tragedy here. Although our walk started out very light-hearted, we ended it on a rather sobering note. Looking now at this photo, it is a bible verse that comes readily to mind:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Happy travels,

Big John


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Gutsy Gladiators and Spanish Bulls or the History of Cartagena

Just off the Mediterranean coast, in the Region of Murcia, is the Spanish city of Cartagena. In addition to its natural seaport, the ancient city of Cartagena was strategically important to both Carthage and Rome due its close proximity to rich silver mines during that period of time. From Carthaginians, to Romans, to Moors, the Mediterranean city of Cartagena has a very long and colorful history. Visitors entering the city today will find remnants of that glorious past in the form of murals, mosaics, and Roman ruins. Perhaps the most fascinating of all is the Roman theatre of Cartagena which was only uncovered in recent years.

 

The Roman Theatre of Cartagena

The Roman Theatre of Cartagena was built between 5 and 1 B.C., at the times of Gaius and Lucius, the grandsons of Caesar Augustus. In the 3rd century A.D., a market was built over the theatre and then a cathedral in the 12th century. It wasn’t until the 1990s that excavations were begun to restore the site to its former glory.

 

After touring the ancient amplitheatre, my mind kept racing back to those glory days when I lived that life of a daring and dashing gladiator.

 

Big John in his glory days!

 

 

Big John standing at the massive theatre wall, reminiscing back to his Spartacus years.

 

Just recently, archeologists discovered completely intact cages that once housed gladiators and various animals.

Scenes of antiquity from the extraordinary history of Cartagena

 

Rebecca was rather upset when she found out she missed the gladiator show by a few thousand years.

 

I thought I had found the largest door in the city…

 

…but then she just had to go and one up me!

 

The town hall of Cartagena

 

 

Armed with my trusty iPhone camera, I was ready to hit the streets!

These buildings in the barrio were mostly false fronts!

 

Big John tries to flex under the mighty limbs of an old banyan tree.

 

…and there stands my beautiful Spanish flower!

 

I’m not quite sure, but I believe this kid is singing to a fish. I think that may be a warning not to drink the water coming from this fountain!

 

Cartagena has a history of bullfighting that dates back to the 13th Century.  Although the city no longer hosts these events, bullfighting can still be found in other regions of Mercia and Spain.

I never knew there was so much beauty in the streets of Spain!

 

Under a canopy of ancient Roman ruins.

 

Much of Cartagena is still an active archeological site.

 

All of these ancient ruins reminded me of our fascinating trip to the city of Rome.

 

These bronze ladies are sharing spreading good news in the midst of San Sebastian Plaza.

 

 

San Sabastian plaza offers visitors an excellent shopping and dining experience.

 

 

Much of Cartagena’s beautiful architecture seems to be a clash between the Renaissance and modernist flair.

 

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she had a thing for cops.

 

 

The walled remnants of an ancient fortress perched high on a Cartagena hill.

 

A statue of Hannibal Barca

Hannibal Barca was a general from Ancient Carthage who is widely considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. Much of Hannibal’s fame was gained in heavy combat during the Second Punic War.

 

Rebecca would travel all the way to Cartagena just to eat delicious tapas!

After miles of sightseeing through a city full of fascinating history, Rebecca and I were ready to enjoy one of Cartagena’s greatest treasures – her insanely good Spanish cuisine! Even the ancient Carthaginians knew the importance of throwing a good feast!

I hope our journey through Cartagena inspired you to pack those bags and embark on an adventure all of your own making. Thank you for visiting Big John’s Adventures in Travel and please feel free to explore more of my site.

 

Happy travels,

Big John


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