Wars always leave behind empty monuments that serve as reminders of hard times. Although haunted by the memories of conflict and often death, these abandoned structures sometimes blend with their natural surroundings, revealing breathtaking landscapes of poetic proportions. One such place is the Haʻikū Stairs popularly known as the“Stairway to Heaven”, in Hawaii, a 3,922-step ascent into one of the most vivid and stunning natural sceneries on Earth.
The first steps begin in the Valley of Haiku near Kaneohe, on the island of O’ahu and climb up to 2,800 feet at a 30-degree angle. The first ladder was built during World War II, out of wood, to help string antenna cables from one side of the valley to the other. Thus, the personnel at Haiku Valley Naval Radio Station, located at about 2,800 feet above sea level, was able to communicate with the US Navy submarines as far away as Tokyo Bay. In the 1950s the ladder was rebuilt out of galvanized steel and expanded in order to accommodate the activity of the Omega Navigation System station of the United States Coast Guard. A total of 3,922 18-inch wide steps were built from ship ladders, bolted together in sections of seven and secured into the rugged hills.
Climbing the steps is fairly easy for more experienced hikers, but adventurers say reaching the the stairs is the hardest part as you have to crawl through a thick mesh of outgrown plants while dealing with slippery rugged terrain at the same time. But the biggest challenge is getting passed the guarded gate at the bottom of the hiking trail. Although the stairs were repaired in 2003, climbing the Stairway to Heaven is prohibited for safety reasons, a fact which is not up for debate as far as the City and County of Honolulu is concerned. Still, an average of 100-150 climbers still adventure on the steep trail every week, and so far no serious injuries have been reported.
On a sunny day, a scenic landscape of mountains, valleys and water unfolds under your feet making you feel like you really have climbed into heaven. Local authorities may want people to keep off, but looking at all these amazing photos, I can understand why some people just can’t resist the urge to take in all this natural beauty, even if it means breaking the law.