Friday, December 23, 2011

On Location: Hiking Kauai's Kalalau Trail

It is estimated that as much as 3/4 of Kauai is inaccessible. The Robinson family owns the majority of the northwest, including the breathtaking Napali Coast.
The solutions to seeing these stunning, steep cliffs is to:
1. take a helicopter tour of the island
2. take a 16 mile kayak tour to the all but uninhabited Kalalau Beach
3. Hike the 11 mile Kalalau Trail to Kalalau Beach.
We set out on the Kalalau Trail beginning at Ke'e beach but planned to hike only the first 2 miles to the Hanakapi'ai Beach. We packed only a few snacks and some water assuming we'd be back before lunchtime.
so steep and so muddy!
slippery switchbacks
By no uncertain terms is this 8 mile (roundtrip)hike like any other hike either of us had seen before. This hike is NOT for the faint of heart. Steep, stair-like boulders along the first 1/2 mile give way to a muddy, slippery trail. Intermittent rains and strong head winds add to the adversity...and that's just the first 2 miles!
But if you can hack it physically, its 1000% worth it. 
The views of the Napali Coast boggle the mind with their dramatic natural beauty. The Hanakapi'ai beach below is equally majestic both from a distance and up close.
Upon first discovering the beach, 2/3 into the trying hike, DH and I both (silently) envisioned jumping directly into the water. Not 100 yards later, this sobering sign forced us to reconsider!
Oh well, the beach made a pretty idyllic picnic spot all the same. DH even found a feline friend to bribe with a little cheese. There are a strange amount of cats on the sands of Kauai!
Taking in the dazzling sands and waves of Hanakapi'ai, we decided to trek onward toward the Falls. 
Whoa. Compared to the second 2 miles, the first 2 miles were like a walk on the beach (somewhere other than Kauai, of course).
Wild mushrooms and orchids cheered us up along the way.

No amount of descriptors could have prepared us for the amount of red dirt mud that we would encounter on the Hanakapi'ai Falls trail. The first mile is a mud bath, slogging through thick, slimy mud. The second mile is a water bath, with river crossings up to my waist...and I'm on the tall end of things! 
No amount of pictures could define the agony of this trail nor the ecstasy of finishing at the face of the waterfall. Hungry, tired, wet and muddy, I'd still do it again tomorrow...or maybe tomorrow's tomorrow! 
***a very important wardrobe note***
Foolishly, the guidebook advised wearing long pants the ideal attire would be lightweight, waterproof(ish) shorts, tank, a top layer (jacket, button-front shirt or large cotton scarf) for the rains and a one piece swimsuit underneath. DO NOT wear ANYTHING you couldn't stand to ruin as the red dirt seems to stain irrevocably. We both wore hiking boots but I'd even consider something like...I can't believe I'm saying these words...Tevas. There, I said it. Now let's all pretend this part never happened! 

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