October 2001 - terrorism, anthrax, airports in turmoil and still it took us only nine hours door-to-door from our Winter Palace in fabulous Las Vegas to our luxurious accommodations at the Aston Coconut Plaza Hotel five blocks off the world reknowned Waikiki Beach. The Coconut was to serve as our stalwart base of operations during our two night layover on Waikiki.

We're on a 20th anniversary mission to Maui, with a hike to Diamond Head as a warm up. Neil, the cool desk guy, checks us in in no time, recommends a bar and we're at the Shore Bird Bar & Restaurant on the beach. Mango Margaritas, spring rolls and the sound of the surf prime us for a short stroll towards Diamond Head. It's now about five pm local time and Waikiki comes alive, the Tiki torches flicker and live music wafts through the air at each hotel we pass. Duke's is the choice for dinner; it's Waikiki cool, fresh fish done Duke-style - on the open air patio and we're sippin' a '99 Duckhorn Sauv. Blanc and savorin - every minute of this paradisical respite. (Vintage wines abound on this tour, '97 cabs long gone in stateside wine cellars were to be found all over the Islands.)

We're up early the next morning, not hard to do with the time difference, another advantage of being on Hawaii time. We've planned to hike from the hotel, down the beach, past the zoo, aquarium and park, and up the steep grade through a small neighborhood to the top of Diamond Head - so called because western traders in the 1700s mistook crystals in the rocks for diamonds.

Finally we reach the trailhead, pay the $2 admission, make our way past the T-shirt vendors and flashlight salesman. There are dark passageways on the way to the summit - the trail was built by the U.S. Army as part of a coastal defense system in 1908. My wife, Pam and I, begin the 1.3 km climb from the Diamond Head crater floor.



The infamous steps
to Diamond Head.

The weather is hot. This is steep, rocky terrain, so in addition to our flashlight we've bought, we are attired in appropriate hiking shoes, plenty of water, sunscreen and bat repellant. The trail winds through the crater floor as we climb the 560 feet to the upper gun emplacements - 74 concrete stairs, a 225 foot long narrow tunnel, a second stairway consisting of 99 steps, which leads to the lowest level of the Fire Control Stations. Finally we climb the 54 step spiral staircase and find ourselves atop a piece of history, with the best view on the Hawaiian Islands.

We've made it, after 227 steps and an equal number of Japanese tourists. We discover a light breeze, a light sunshower, a rainbow, a million dollar view, blue skies, and an ocean that goes on forever. Behind us tower the lush, green, tropical Koolau mountains covered with billowing white rain clouds, more rainbows, another damn rainbow - alright, enough with the rainbows.

That's when we run into Mitch. Mitch looks like a tour guide on the Safari African Adventure ride at Disneyland - Mitch looks like his name should be Steve, as in the Tao of Steve, as in Steve McQueen, Steve Austin or (how appropriate) Steve McGarret. He's sporting the Aussie hat with the one side turned up and he's giving a speil to a group of us eco/hiker/tourists about his nature hike through the rain forest later this same day. Mitch is part of the Hawaii Rain Forest Foundation, it's non profit; the tour is three hours and only US$15 per person, (other comparable tours, and non-tax deductable, cost between US$80 and US$150) and they pick you up at a designated hotel on the Waikiki strip. At first we decline Steve's, er, Mitch's speil and wander away to try and get away from all the rainbows, when we decide we've got some time and bat repellant left so what the . . . We sign up with Mitch and head back to the Coconut for a refreshing dip in the hotel pool and then to the designated hotel.


Hibiscus.

The tour turns out to be great. Steve, er, Mitch knows his stuff. Even the ride up the mountain to the rainforest/state park is fun and informative. The park could be "National" park, but is designated "State" park so that the natives can harvest fruit, nuts, bamboo and be free to practice whatever kind of weird rituals they desire without interference from the U.S. Government. As we leave the bus and begin our three hour tour, we pass little tokens and offerings that the natives have placed around the trailhead to appease, bribe or pay off whatever spirits or Gods that may be lurking about, and they're lurking, you can feel 'em.

As sure as there are rainbows, there are spirits in this jungle.

The rain forest is alive with ancestors, lush tropical growth, muddy trails, feral pigs and, well, rain. Mitch points out Ti plants who's leaves, when wrapped around money, bring good fortune and, well, more money. We sample fruits right from the trees, suck on Brazilian pepper seeds, and hear the calls of the tookie tookie birds echo through the rain soaked trees. Mitch pontificates that not much on these islands is natural. Europeans imported diseases that wiped out 80% of the population, with 80% of the bird species decimated by imported rats and mongoose.




Diamond Head Crater.


Side note: As Don Henley and Glenn Frey so eloquently state in their song, "The Last Resort," "You call someplace paradise, Kiss it goodbye." Karmically, the "Jesus Saves" sign mentioned in that famous Eagles song is on the neighboring island of Maui, in Lahaina, near the world's second largest Bhudda statue outside of Japan.

Mitch sure knows his stuff. I don't know, I think these guys make a lot of this stuff up. I know I do when entertaining visitors in Las Vegas. Countless numbers of friends, relatives and their children think that the "Battle Of The Little Big Horn" was fought just outside of Pahrump (the center of the universe by the way), or that a water treatment facility at Lake Mead was used to load "Victory Ships" during the war, and electro-magnetic rays generated by the hydro-electric equipment at the Hoover Dam create mutant catfish the size of jumbo jets. But that's just my warped perception and not meant to cast aspersions on Steve, er, Mitch. Just because we didn't SEE any feral pigs, dosen't mean they're not there. In fact, one member of our group, and there's always one member of the group who does this, made some pig noises and we ALL thought we heard a pig reply. Mitch assured us that while birds might reply to such a call, pigs would certainly not. Mitch's assurances aside, I strongly feel the field of pig calling on Oahu is in need of a large research grant; if you have funds you'd like to direct toward this endevour, please contact me C/O Jetsetters Magazine and we'll set up a base camp on the patio at Dukes.


And they called it paradise/ The place to be/ They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea

You can leave it all behind/ and sail to Lahaina/ just like the missionaries did, so many years ago

They even brought a neon sign:"Jesus is coming"/ Brought the white man's burden down/ Brought the white man's reign

Who will provide the grand design?/ What is yours and what is mine?/ 'Cause there is no more new frontier/ We have got to make it here

We satisfy our endless needs and/ justify our bloody deeds,/ in the name of destiny and the name of God

And you can see them there,/ On Sunday morning/ They call it paradise/ I don't know why/ You call someplace paradise,/ kiss it goodbye

When on Oahu take Mitch's tour, and wrap your payment in Ti leaves:

Mitch Berger
Hawaii Rainforest Foundation
(804) 944-2758


For Hiking in Hawaii call these Na Ala Hele offices:

O`ahu (808) 973-9782

Maui, Moloka`i, Lana`i

(808) 873-3508

Kaua`i (808) 274-3433

Big Island (808) 974-4217


HIKING SAFE IN HAWAII

The Department of Land and Natural Resources charges an entrance fee to Diamond Head State Monument. The entrance fee will be US$2.00 per person, per entry. Persons who utilize this very popular state park on a regular basis will be able to purchase an annual pass for US$10.00 per year. The fees will go into DLNR's Division of State Parks special fund for interpretation and maintenance of the state parks.

Diamond Head, or Le'ahi, was named a National Natural Landmark in 1968 because it is an excellent example of a pyroclastic volcano with a typical erosional pattern that has created the crater profile seen today. It is estimated that over a million people visit this world renowned landmark every year, and many hike the historic 0.8 mile trail to the summit for the spectacular view.

As part of improvements to the park, the Department completed renovation of the park walkway, relocated the park name sign (popular for visitor picture taking), opened a Visitor Information Booth with interpretive wall exhibits and installed a trailhead kiosk with interpretive signs that highlight the natural and historic features along the trail. Also, a park brochure to assist visitors on the hike is now available in English and Japanese.

DIAMOND HEAD PARK FACTS


Geologists estimate that Diamond Head (Le'ahi) was formed 150,000 to 300,000 years ago in a brief explosive eruption.




The top of Diamond Head,
with Honolulu in the background.

The crater covers 350 acres and measures 3,520 feet in length in the interior with a southwest-northeast orientation. The summit on the southwestern rim is 761 feet above sea level.

Diamond Head State Monument was established in 1962.

Diamond Head was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1968.

The state park in the crater was opened for public recreational use in 1978.

Diamond Head State Monument lies within the Fort Ruger Historical District which was listed both on the Hawai'i and National Registers of Historic Places in 1982-83.

Outdoor Gear HereImprovements proposed under the new master plan update include:

A new lookout and trails to provide new view and hiking opportunities;

Additional historic features opened to the public including, as interpretive features Tunnel 407, Battery Harlow, and the flat-top reservoir and gun emplacement along the eastern crater rim as new hiking trails; a new Visitor/Interpretive Center to highlight the unique geological, biological, cultural, and historic resources of Diamond Head;

New picnic areas in the area currently used by the Hawai'i Army National Guard;

A grassy outdoor public gathering (assembly) area; Long-term visitor entry and parking to be on the exterior of the crater at the Cannon Club, soon to be transferred to the State of Hawai'i; and a new wetland pond to be recreated in the existing wetland area to be also used for irrigation storage for replanting the crater floor with more native species.

Visit the Department of Land and Natural Resources web site at:

http://www.state.hi.us/dlnr/Welcome.html

HIKING SAFE IN HAWAII

As summer hiking season nears, the best buddy you can take along on a hike is a safety-conscious attitude. To help both novice and experienced hikers have a safe and enjoyable outing, a new brochure, "Hiking Safely in Hawai`i," has been produced by Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and is published in recognition of National Trails Day.

"Hiking Safely in Hawai`i" offers hikers a comprehensive list of trail safety tips that include recommendations for basic equipment, how to behave in an emergency situation, and other important information that could help prevent injury or save lives on the trail.

Tropical gear HereIt complements information about Hawai`i hiking trails managed by DLNR's Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program. Maps and trail information are featured on Na Ala Hele's new web site, located at www.hawaiitrails.org, which received considerable funding through the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Recreational Trails Program of the Federal Highways Administration.

The hiking safety brochure is now available to the public at DLNR forestry offices on each island. The brochure was produced by Na Ala Hele, with all of the funding provided by the Hawai`i Tourism Authority and State Department of Health Kaho`omiki Program (Healthy Hawai'i Initiative).

The popularity of hiking in Hawai`i continues to increase, especially among visitors. A survey last year of trail and park users showed that approximately 78 percent were from out-of-state. These individuals may be unfamiliar with or unprepared for Hawai`i's rugged, thickly vegetated and steep terrain. The rising number of search and rescue missions in recent years involving missing or injured hikers, shows trail users need to be better informed and prepared. Rescuing careless or reckless hikers places others at risk and increases costs to Hawai`i taxpayers.

The web site also provides a statewide listing of commercial trail tour operators that have permits with Na Ala Hele. The permitted trail tour guides primarily serve the visitor industry, and offer experience to help hikers stay safe on the trails as well as natural and cultural interpretive information. As visitor use of trails increases, this type of visitor industry service provides a means for inexperienced visitors to access remote areas with greater safety.

by Mike Heiney, Jetsetters Beach Editor.