Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
BY MARTIN KUCERA & FLORIDALIGHTNING.COM
Strenuous hiking begins with the first
light. It feels simply awesome to be
back. So many old memories mixed
with the anticipation of what lies
ahead made me very happy. First one
on the trail is the one to dodge all the
spider webs sprung out across the
trail. Two more miles and we'll be
thousands of years back in time...
As usual, mud everywhere. First two
miles up and down to the river felt
easy. The hiking pace was deliberately
slow, to enjoy the scenery, stunning
ocean views, all the bugs, flowers and
scents possible. Moistness of the
surrounding environment added
another level of connection with the
trail. Five days like this ahead of us.  
More mud. I like mud. It is far more
interesting than a dry, scorched earth.
More character. It is winter here after
all and one of the rainiest months
overall. Large amounts of rain mean
more mystical fog, vivid rainbows,  or
thunderstorms. You also know the
stunning, razor sharp green peaks
will be shrouded in cold, cloudy mist.
Crossing the river at MM2. We
stopped here for a short lunch and to
admire the shoreline sea cave that is
here near the beach. Great breaking
waves. We camped here the last time.  
The sea cave s right above the
waterline on that cliff ahead. It fills
with water during every large wave,
especially during winter months when
the surf is much higher than usual.
A lava rock on the Hanakapiai beach.
If you are for shorter hiking and a
stunning day trip, it is well worth to
make it the first two miles. This beach
is one of the best in the Islands.
Breaking wave action on the same
beach. We had a great luck with
weather during this trip along
the Kalalau trail.
Notice the crispy, blue sky.
Staring the real hiking. There is
nothing easy after the first two miles.
Or at least nothing should be taken
easily. You are entirely on your own.
No cell phone would work here.
Gaining elevation quickly. The worst
part on the way there is that you have
a lot of food in your backpack. On the
way back it is all long gone. You must
pump and purify water along the way.
One of the major cliffs you have to go
around, many times you also go up and
down the face of the cliff along the
switchbacks. Some of these cliffs take
hours to get around into the next valley.
Although you constantly check your
progress since you don't want to run
out of daylight along the way, it is
not good to hurry along the trail at
all. It help a lot to be in a great shape.
Somewhere along the fifth mile. You
round one of the cliffs and get into this
magical kind of forest with large
boulders. The trail is hard to find but the
shade and humidity is nice for change.
Approaching MM6 - Hanakoa Valley.  
This is a huge valley and the one with
the beautiful Hanakoa Falls. We spent
a creepy first night here. Seemed like a
wild boar was sniffing around our
tent for most of the night.  
Crazy plants in Hanakoa Valley. It is
scorching hot here. We could have
made it further but it takes a lot out of
you to do the first six miles on the
first day. You can not push things
around here. We played it safe.
An aerial view of Hanakoa Valley. We
never made it to the Hanakoa Falls
but next time will do for sure. We've
seen them from the helicopter before
though and these waterfalls are
stunningly beautiful.
Crossing the river at MM6. A good
source of water for quite a while.
There is a bacteria called Leptospirosis
caused by urine of wild goats and
pigs. All water must be treated before
drinking. We used professional
camping filter and a couple drops of
chlorine and water tasted great. Never
got any problems with "Lepto". You
can also contract it though your eyes,
nose, mouth or minor cuts if you
come in contact with contaminated
water or mud.
Shortly after MM6. This is one of the
most difficult sections of the Kalalau
trail. You can see the trail exposed
along the cliff. Nothing but sheer wall
down toward the ocean. I would
certainly not want to hike this part of
the trail during or shortly after rain.
On the other hand it is a welcomed
relief to enter an open countryside
with ocean breeze and wonderful
views. It is easy to spot one of
many humpback whales
on the horizon from here.
A photo from the actual passage of this
uneasy section. I loved every minute of
it. That is why we came here. If you
are lucky to have good weather while
you are here, the difficult section is
going to be just this one you see in the
picture. If it is muddy out here, there is
going to be many more difficult
sections ahead that you might not
notice during a sunny day. Some parts
have this fine dirt on them and one
can only imagine what that might
turn into during a rain episode.
Meeting other hikers is always a nice
change and a good experience. People
along the trail seemed to be really nice.
No stress out here. Unless you thing
of this part of trail as stressful. This
photo puts the exposed part of the trail
into perspective for you. Good times.
Just before MM8. One of the finer view
of the stunning Na Pali Coast. The
green plateau ahead is still many
hours away and it is about MM9.5.
Up close it looks like Ireland of some
kind with this smooth green grass
and goofy wild goats all over it.
Very near MM8. That is an emergency
helipad right ahead. What a great
looking camp site here compared to
Hanakoa Valley. It is more breeze here
and you are right next to the open
ocean or I should say right above it.
Only a couple of miles left to go, too.
Upon nearing later parts of the Kalalau trail, the landscape changes dramatically once again. The trail seems to be somewhat easier.
There is not that many switchbacks anymore. You kind of just rush ahead, excited of what lies around the next turn. Or perhaps it
was the fact we made it this far for the first time. There is also one part of the trail near these overgrown guava orchard we never
forget. We lost the trail here, it is marked but still quite easy to miss the critical turn. So many goat trails around they look like
people trails. So we get off of the trail without knowing it, obviously. I follow the cliff into what now becomes several trail, still in
this orchard. The one trail I chose to follow comes to this almost sheer drop leading down to the small river. We negotiated this
drop by holding onto the roots of surrounding small trees, while partially hanging in mid air or sliding down this drop on our
behinds, all dirty, frustrated and tired. Heavy backpacks on our backs. Beyond this little river there is a small trail hugging the cliff.
We tried some more but it simply became insane to go on. So I undid my backpack and went on alone... followed the trail and
when even that ended I simply wanted to see where the rest of the trail is, never wanting to admit to myself that this is not the
original trail. So I climbed some steep cliffs ahead and finally got to the fop of one of them. Provided with a greatest view not
usually found even along the trail I realized there was only a
huge drop (click here)  into the ocean ahead of me
(I ended up on the very top right cliff in the photo). Climbing back down this cliff was quite a challenge, though. So we
backtracked all the way up into to the strange orchard (this was a crazy undertaking) and finally found the original Kalalau trail.
Ever since that day I keep calling this part of the trail "The Orchard Episode". One would have to be there to believe what kind of
frustration we went through for about an hour.
The left photo above is showing the overgrown section where the orchard is. Still gives me chills to this day to think about it... the
smell of many different kinds of ripe fruit all over the ground during that hot afternoon...
The middle photo was taken in the wonderland pass the MM8. The scenery becomes even more open and view are simply
unprecedented along this part of the Kalalau trail. You see the valleys and river emptying into the wild ocean way
down below where you walk. And you see the humpback whales jumping and flopping all over the ocean,
they are everywhere looking like tinny waterspouts on the distant surface.
The last photo above was taken at MM9 looking back along the Na Pali coast. This far along the trail, you are on top of the world,
the trail only goes downhill toward the Kalalau beach
from here (click)  and you almost know for sure that you have made it.
This is also a great place to take some final rest before approaching the river at MM10 and eventually making it to the Kalalau beach.
Enjoying views of the Kalalau Valley.
Kalalau beach and the final destination
the trail is easily visible from up here.
You still have to cross another river
and walk for about another easy mile.  
The Ireland looking kind of place.
Wild goats were everywhere along
with several tents along the shore line.
In this photo we are looking back at
cliffs above the mile marker 9.
Kalalau beach. The most beautiful,
calm and peaceful place I have ever
seen. I'd live here in a heartbeat. Some
nice people do. Some 3000 people used
to. A pretty rainbow welcomed us.
A small shower, originating over the
inland portions of the island of Kauai
made it to the beach just before sunset.
And the rainbow was only getting
better. No money can buy a magic like
this.  
 Click Here for a short video.
Almost a sunset on the beach. You
walk barefoot everywhere from now
on, for almost three days. It seems like
the trail took weeks to get here and
you travelled a thousand years back in
time. Wish this would never end.
Everything hurts. But I have never felt
as great in my entire life. Time to make
a quick walk to the nearby waterfall to
get some fresh water, eat some small
dinner and then enjoy millions of
bright stars for the rest of the night.
Towering cliffs above the Kalalau
Beach late in the afternoon.
A sea cave at the far end of the Kalalau
Beach used to have a dweller.
Large waves during winter months
make boat landing nearly impossible.
To be continued - with an
account of a one day trip back
along the Kalalau Trail...



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