Hawaii 2x10: Bike Camping in Paradise
On Friday morning, camping seemed like a fun idea, but I began to reconsider it around 5:00 p.m. when I was still working and had made no effort to pack or plan. I briefly thought about Sand Island as an easy after-dark option. The hazards of getting there are no worse at night than they are during the day. However, the thought of sitting under the 747 flight line was less than appealing. After this week of work, I really wanted peace and quiet.
Then Laukahi Street popped into my head. It leads to the Wiliwilinui Ridge, located outside Honolulu in the southeastern part of Oahu, and only 30 minutes from our house. The climb is tough, but doable; and, although I hadn't camped there before, I knew there was lots of hammock-hanging potential.
I decided to eat dinner at home so I wouldn't have to bring dinner items with me. I opted to carry my new Esbit stove, since I would only need to boil water for coffee. I squirreled out about which bike to ride for a while -- handlebar bag or not, knobbies would be nice, but probably not necessary because it was dry ... I settled on my CX race bike since it has a crazy, 2x10 setup with mountain-bike gearing. This would be good for climbing.
My initial departure was at 7:15. Fortunately, as I rode through the University of Hawaii campus, I remembered that I hadn't seen tent stakes with my tarp. I made a quick return home for stakes and was back on the road at 7:30. The ride to Laukahi Street was phenomenally fast: 23 minutes! Even on my road bike without a pack, it's usually about a 20-minute ride.
That was when all of the fastness ended. The climb up the ridge starts with approximately 2.5 miles through a neighborhood, with about 1,100 feet of elevation gain. Toward the top, the neighborhood becomes a private, gated community. I wish I had a photo of the security guard's face as I rolled through the gate at 8:15 p.m. I gave him a wave and was completely prepared to show him my camping permit. He gave me this look of total confusion and disbelief and then a slow nod. Guess they don't see much nighttime traffic by bicycle campers.
Ohia lehua in bloom, something you don't see all the time on Oahu.
When I got to the trail -- access road, actually -- my legs were pretty spent, so I elected to walk my bike up the hills to my camping spot. It was about mile in on the steep access road, in a stand of mature guava. (Guava are a funny tree. They are really sturdy despite their small branch diameter, so they are pretty good hammocking trees. However, you have to contend with guavas dropping all night, sometimes hitting the tarp -- thud!) I set up camp in about ten minutes, changed into dry clothes, and hiked up to a spot with a view to enjoy a brew.
I slept fairly well -- eight hours, though not solid. There were a lot of chirpy critters in the forest that night. The wind was nearly calm, so I was toasty warm. Actually, a little too toasty at one point. Definitely didn't need to sleep in my hat!
In the morning, I pushed my bike to the end of the access road where the hiking trail starts, and hiked to the radio tower for coffee (I thought), breakfast, and the sunrise. The morning was perfect, except that I couldn't get the Esbit stove to light. After an hour of trying, I finally gave up. Even without coffee, the views were worth it. I like the long shadows of dawn.
My ride home took only 40 minutes. I was relieved to get some coffee into my system. I was unpacked and showered by 9:45 a.m. Not a bad way to start the day! This might become my Friday thing: Escape to the wilderness for 14 hours.
Tip for this adventure: Don't pack too much! The climb up is pretty strenuous with camping gear.
Favorite local bike shop: Island Triathlon and Bike