Koko Head Hike

Are you someone that enjoys heights? Are you the kind of person that likes to get yourself up to the height or have something else do it for you? For example, would you rather climb a tower or ride in a gondola?

I personally prefer the second option. I enjoy the sights from high above, but my legs go weak when I am getting myself up there. I can take pleasure in a mountain hike because I just see the trail in front of me until I reach the lookout. Or, I can take part in the thrill of a roller coaster ride because it’s propelling me forward and I’m harnessed in.

That’s one thing I don’t understand. Why do all these towers, slides, and stuff have to have see-through stairs? I’ve never understood that. They freak me out. I don’t want to see how far up I’m going until I’ve reached the top and can appreciate the view. Instead, I picture myself falling through the holes in the stairs.  Crazy, I know.

I was taking in all the beautiful pleasures of Hawaii with some friends. We had done a number of hikes around Oahu. The scenery at each one was unique and breathtaking. That was until we arrived at, what I’d like to call, The Hike of Doom, or better known as Koko Head. It was in Waikiki near Diamondhead volcano. There was an old fort at the top of this hill that used to have a train run up the side of it to deliver supplies. Eventually, the fort closed and the train route shut down. All that was left were the train rails and some cement structures.

It had become a hiking trail for many. Visitors would hike up it for the view. Military personnel would use it for personal training.  I heard that the sight at the top was incredible.

I stood at the bottom and looked up in shear panic. The trail was completely exposed. There weren’t any trees to hide the view. There were no hand railings to hold onto. The beginning was decently inclined, but the further up one got, the steeper it became. I could feel my nerves try to take over. I wanted to stop before I started. But I couldn’t. I had to be brave. I was with a group of veterans and active soldiers. I mustered up the courage, said countless prayers, and started up the hill.

“Stay focused Rachel … You’ve got this … Keep looking in front of you … Don’t look behind … You’ll be fine”. My mind went through lots of cheerleading accolades.  One of my friends forgot to eat breakfast that morning, so she opted for a sweet granola bar. I was feeling a bit better with myself as I watched her vomit every half hour or so. She regretted not eating something heartier afterwards, but said she normally didn’t eat before exercising. We would laugh, it would calm my nerves a bit, and we’d keep pushing through. What takes soldiers 15 minutes to run up, took us an hour and a half or so to get to the top.

I admit, it was well worth the hike. The sights were incredible! It wasn’t lush or green, but we could see for miles.  We could see all of Waikiki, the top of Diamondhead, and there were two smaller islands in the distance. If we turned to the other side, it was lush forest, rolling on the tops of other hills. I felt like I could see a third of the island before me.

We sat up there for a while appreciating the views and the success of the hike. It felt so good to say that I accomplished it. That I worked past my fears and forged on. I would have been disappointed had I missed it.

That was until the time came to go back down. Climbing up was one thing. Now having to see my entire way down was something entirely different. Yes, the sights were still magnificent. However, I didn’t feel like I had anything safe to hold onto.

We all started back down the hill. My heart was racing and my legs went weak. A friend suggested I put my hands on his shoulders and he would help guide me down. Okay, I thought. That would give me something sturdy. I let my mind rely on that and kept going. We worked our way down through the steepest part.

Then my friend lost his footing and my “safety net” was gone. Instantly, fear welled up inside me like a geyser firing. I told him to step aside and my adrenaline started my legs moving. I started out in a wabbly walk, which sped up. My legs kept going faster and faster, until the incline decreased and I was in a full out sprint. I thank the Lord I never tripped on those railroad ties. I felt like I was going to but my body didn’t stop.

I kept running until I reached the car. I couldn’t find a way to slow down so I pretty much ran into the side of it to stop. I pictured myself like a cartoon character hitting a window and sliding down the glass. I reached the ground.

My legs were Jell-O. I could barely get off the ground. My friends reached me and we all burst into laughter. I probably looked completely ridiculous!

But as I stood up and looked back at the hill, I was proud of myself. Typical Rachel, I said, “I’ll get into better shape and do it again!” I was full of adrenaline and enjoyed the rush of it. But not really thinking that the whole thing I was afraid of was the heights and lack of safety measures, rather than whether I was in shape or not. What can I say? I’m a sucker for adrenaline rushes.

Is anyone else with me? Do you like the buzz of a good adrenaline rush? How about climbing heights? I feel nervous just looking at someone perched precariously on the side of a cliff. Yet, I’m fascinated by it. If you did something that made you scared or nervous but you conquered it, would you do it again?

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