Destination: Built in 1908 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the trail to the top of Diamond Head crater is the quintessential Oahu tourist experience located just outside of Waikiki and conveniently across the street from my school.
Focus: Touristy, Exercise, Sunshine and a Great View
Soundtrack for the drive: M.I.A., Shuffling between Kala and Arular in an attempt to get pumped up for the climb
Quote of the Day: That one about how a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step – classic, overused almost to the point of sounding cliché and yet…
I have to practice climbing Diamond Head at least once before my friend Travis gets here in December and, according to my schedule, today is the best day. Travis is a marathoner, that bitch, complete with a runner chick tattoo on her left shoulder blade. I’ve already given her permission to put me to shame on these steps, but come on, I don’t want to look too pathetic in front of her.
When my mother was here for my first week on the island I said, “I have to go to orientation at Kapi’olani Community College (KCC) this afternoon, so why don’t you climb Diamond Head? It’s right across the street.” Over two months have passed and I doubt she’s forgiven me. Now I see why.
Always one to torture myself just a little more than necessary, I’ve parked at school and am walking the access road to the trailhead inside the crater. While the view from the top is sure to be amazing, there are 175 stairs to be hustled up before that view becomes visible. At 8:30 am the sun is already beating down on me. I’m armed with a huge bottle of water and my digital camera, my NYC rat-hugging-a-pigeon t-shirt putting me over the edge into tourist territory. All I need now is a fanny pack. I’m ready to climb.
I’ve decided the ascent will be all about exercise. I’ll save photography and breathtaking views for the amble back down. Thanks to M.I.A.’s encouragement I’m on the move with XR2 in my head. Whistle whistle blow blow / Here we here we go go. My pace is steady and I’m feeling great for the first bit. The info pamphlet talks about how many stairs there are but doesn’t really indicate how they are just a fraction of the actual uphill climb. The rest just happens to be in the form of a ramp or path.
Musical memories coursing between my ears, heart rate rising, breath controlled but loose, I climb and climb until… eerrrt! Oh yah, this is a tourist trap. Suddenly I feel like I’m trying to commute by bike over the Brooklyn Bridge because I took a wrong turn and missed the Manhattan. There are people everywhere. Slow people, old people, tired people. People resting at non-existent rest stops, people huffing and puffing, people who paid no mind to the warning signs about how steep and unrelenting this climb is. People who forget that in the U.S. of A. we stay to the right. People who insist on taking their vacation photos in the middle of the very narrow path.
I guess if I really wanted this to be a workout I would have shown up at 6 am as I’m sure many a health nut does in these parts. No one to blame but myself. Somehow I muster the strength to swallow my frustration and slow down to the crowd’s pace. It gives me time to notice how stunning the landscape here is. One of my favorite things about Hawaii is how often it doesn’t look like Hawaii. On any given nature jaunt you can see a bit of New Mexico, some California, some Vermont.
On the way back down I see Diamond Head lighthouse:
Lesson learned: Exercise makes me feel fantastic. No more excuses. No more chocolate muffins. It’s high time I really got back in shape.