From Hawaiian BU
So, as most of our readers know, Chinese BU and myself work for the YMCA of Honolulu. During our free time, we like to work with Teens from Kaimuki YMCA's No Limit Program and Club MID. (As well as hike) There is a signature program that YMCAs nationally run called Raggers, a goal-oriented program that each willing participant reflects on the progress of their life and looks to create new objectives that challenge them to grow personally, with the guidance of like-minded individuals. Kaimuki YMCA decided to run a mid-year Raggers as a way to keep teenagers mentally stimulated and focused on the goals they had established during the Summer session. Each Raggers event requires much planning and preparation to bring participants into the right frame of mind.
I have always been a person that wanted to try different things to help people reach potential that they may not have known themselves capable of. This also includes the adults that were responsible to run the event. I proposed something big that I wasn't sure was possible at the time for various reasons, but I knew would be life-altering for anyone that took on the task. I said lets challenge No Limit with Kulepeamoa, and Club MID with Hawaii Loa Ridge. The ultimate goal was for both groups to meet at the top on the Koolau Summit Trail, and do an amazing closing from there.
A little background on each trail so you can gain some perspective- 1) Kulepeamoa starts from the bottom of Pia Valley (Niu Valley), inclines very sharply until you gain the ridgeline, then steadily climbs up (with the aid of ropes in one section) to the Koolau Summit Trail, overlooking Waimanalo and the Windward side. There is a MASSIVE amount of elevation gain that is required. The return trip starts down Hawaii Loa ridge, takes a pretty undefined left down the valley, then goes through a solid strawberry guava tree slope until you reacquire the valley floor.
Most people I talked to say it's an intermediate to advanced hike, because of the elevation gain that you have to do, but if you are in decent condition, and take many breaks, that it is attainable with the right mental capacity.
2) Hawaii Loa Ridge is a Na Ala Hele hike (listed on the DLNR website, thus maintained by DLNR) that does not have the elevation gain that Kulepeamoa does, but is still challenging for a younger teenager like a middle schooler. It has steps placed into the trail for the final ascent up to the top, with short rope sections along the way that can be managed by adult supervisors to aid the younger hikers. What I also like about this hike for middle school is that you can see the end point early on in the hike and point it out to them, so they know what they are trying to get to.
With this bold suggestion, I guess Chinese BU ran with it and got everyone else on board. I wasn't even involved in the planning for this event, but the adult volunteer group latched on to the idea and made it the signature event for Raggers. Chinese BU made sure to take Brother Mitch on Kulepeamoa so he was familiar with the hike. (Hey, just so that we ALL know, I will get up to go hiking, even if it is at 6 AM, Chinese BU!) The two of them would lead the High School group on that trail. I got sent with the Middle Schoolers, since none of the other adults had done Hawaii Loa Ridge.
The pace for each hike was slow and deliberate. Both groups had designated talk times during the hike, which allowed for reflection as well as a breather. There were many breaks taken, but I was OK with that. I also had the genius idea to take walkie-talkies on the hikes to allow communication with both groups. That allowed for this great dynamic, where the High Schoolers were giving motivational talks to the Middle Schoolers, followed by random things being said by the youngsters (by far one of the highlights of the whole event!) Hats go off to Chinese BU, Mitch, and No Limit, as they reached the Summit before us, then started cheering for our Club Middies to make the top. (very special moment!)
The top was filled with hugs, high fives, cheers, oranges, water, pictures, and a great closing story from Jay. Yes, everyone had to get back to the buses, but right at that moment, with the view as our friend, we were able to make some positive differences in the youth we work with. As I type this now for you, I have this overwhelming sense of achievement, that I helped get these teenagers along their individual paths towards a better future. I've written before on these pages about the true victory in hiking- that it's not about getting to the end, it's about who you brought with you to get there to share that victory. For this Sunday, these wonderful volunteers lived up to that very premise. I feel so blessed to have shared this experience with them and the kids.
By far, the COOLEST thing we've done hiking since we started this blog. Talk to all of you soon.