There was a time when, just about every weekend, I was lost in the mountains somewhere.
And most often, I’d be alone.
I’d hike everywhere, with friends, with hiking groups, alone. We’d drive to the other side of the island just to get a different summit view. We’d cross private properties, jump fences and made our own trails at times.
I used to climb the tracks at Koko Crater when there was a tree growing in the middle of the bridge. And more often than not, I was the only at the top.
But that all changed.
It seems with this GoPro-Instagram-Facebook culture, hiking has become the “it” thing to do. Everyone wants to post that cool summit photo on her social media platform — and the more dangerous, the better.
I got tired of waiting for people — many of whom weren’t in condition — struggling up the tracks at Koko Head or stopping every few minutes to snap photos at Olomana. I just want to be outside, feel the air in my face, listen to the quiet. I don’t need to hear a 20-minute FaceTime conversation about the latest drama at work.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love to hike. But once I got Sunny about six years ago, I started looking for trails that were dog-friendly — and, of course, that limited me to only a few. At first, it was an adjustment. I liked wandering in forests, clinging to trees, crawling along narrow trails, breathing in that moment you reach the summit. But I realized I wasn’t missing the crowds and sharing that experience with people who don’t seem to get it.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to brave the late-morning crowd — that never existed before — at Koko Head to get in a quick workout. I was horrified to see nearly 100 military personnel with heavy packs, along with the dozens of other people, climbing the stairs. It was slow-going up and even slower going down. One guy sprained his ankle, another woman looked like she had heatstroke, and a few couples completely stopped in the middle of the trail and sat down, blocking the way up.
I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I love that people are getting outdoors and being active. I do. But I wonder about their safety — and the safety of others. I was nearly run down by a guy plugged into earbuds who decided he wanted sprint to the bottom of the tracks regardless of the people still climbing up.
I realize this is a contentious topic — and it’s no wonder Civil Beat is hosting a #CivilCafe on hiking today at Fresh Cafe. (RSVP for the event here.) It’s something we should probably start talking about now before anything really bad happens.
In the meantime, I’m going to walk my dogs to the top of Makapu‘u. And if I wanna wear my sturdy Merrell Moabs for purely nostalgic reasons, I will.