Coming to Hawaii? OK, But Watch Your Step!

I have no idea what the actual count is, but a lot of people – almost always visitors – get into trouble while hiking here. I suppose a lot has to do with the subconscious image most tourists have of this place: peaceful, benign, non-threatening, temperate in every way. They couldn’t be more wrong … at least when it comes to hiking.

Some of the hikes are downright treacherous. This one, on the Island of Oahu, is called the Stairway to Heaven … and how ironic is that! The rough path with a cable handrail in the really steep spots was originally constructed many years ago by the military so repair and maintenance crews could reach some communications equipment at the top. There are large KAPU (“forbidden’) signs at the bottom where the old trail begins, and plenty of posted notices that the trail is closed, that it’s dangerous, that hikers are trespassing and could be prosecuted, etcetera and so forth. But people being human, the State guys are always risking their own necks getting people down from up there.
We’re constantly reading in the local papers about mainland visitors who had to be brought down from one of our many hiking trail by a team from the fire department.  People go charging off without realizing that just one misstep and they’re in serious trouble. Much of the terrain is steep and rocky, and often they find themselves stuck high up on some narrow ridge. If they’re lucky, they’re plucked off of there by helicopter.
There have been many cases over the years of hikers who have just plain disappeared. They take off in the morning, not telling anyone where they’re going. And they simply disappear … never heard from again. Of course everyone knows what happened: they left the trail and were pushing through the thick, tropical vegetation and – Whoops! – slipped and fell into a concealed gulch. Probably fell 30 or 40 feet, no doubt breaking a limb in the process. It would be past dark, or maybe even days, before they were missed – of course they often neglect to leave word with someone – and there they lie, just a few yards off the trail, but invisible to search parties.
Gee! I hope I didn’t scare you into rethinking your visit to Hawaii! This really is a beautiful place. Quite extraordinary, and with lots to see and do that will provide memories to last a lifetime.
By all means go swimming … surfing … and hiking. But be careful.