In memory of Stairway to Heaven

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This week my Facebook was filled with the photos of the mangled remains of what used to be a section of one of my favorite Hawaii hikes: the Haiku Stairs, better known as Stairway to Heaven. Notoriously illegal, and a favorite amongst locals, international students and tourists, the stairways have been a kind of institution in Hawaii since their installation during World War II.

As restrictions became more severe the last couple of years a common ritual included sneaking through the woods at 3:30AM to climb the stairs before the guards showed up, and watch the sunrise from arguably one of the most spectacular spots on Oahu.

I loved this hike, and I have trekked the stairs no less than four times during my 3 years in Hawaii, in addition to trying out the much more dangerous route to the top via Moanalua Saddle.

Last weekend a storm hit the island, and landslides destroyed sections of the stairs (and stranded a couple of hikers at the top). Unless a miracle occurs that will convince the state to reopen the hiking trail, this probably means that there wont be any repairs done, which means that reaching the top of Pu’u Keahiakahoe via the stairs will be impossible.

In memory of the stairs, here are some photos from my trips to the top.

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After sneaking through the forrest in the back of Haiku Valley (in pitch black darkness of night), you reach a sign reminding you that what you are doing is illegal (rebel, rebel!), and could result in your death. Yes, people have died on this trek.

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Then you meet this cute message on one of the stairs. Nice pun, and also true for anyone who’s not too fond of walking in stairs. You have to scale 3,922 steps to get to the top. All in pitch black darkness of night, which is nice for anyone who’s afraid of heights.

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The remnants of a military station awaits at the top of the stairs.

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And then you wait for the sunrise and watch as Kaneohe and Kailua wake up below.

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Sunrise awards you with one of the most beautiful views on the island, of Kailua, Kaneohe and the three peaks of Pu’u Olomana (which always reminds me of the Lonely Mountain from The Hobbit).

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And then you start climbing down the stairs again, this time in broad daylight and suddenly fully aware of how steep the stairs are, and how far the drops on each side is. Awesome!

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Stop and look back to admire the beauty of the peak.

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Pose for a photo while trying (and failing) at looking awake and not bone tired after having been awake since 2AM (it will be about 6:30AM at this point).

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Love life.

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Take some time to admire the people who built these stairs, first out of wood and then metal.

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Continue down the stairs, preferably without falling.

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Look back once more, and then continue down into the valley and home.

I will miss you, Haiku Stairs!

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