Nu'alolo / Awa'awapuhi Loop Trail

Trip Start Feb 28, 2008
Trip End Mar 16, 2008

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Where I stayed
Kalalau Beach Campground

Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Saturday, March 1, 2008

The roosters started crowing around 4:00AM the next morning and even though I was wide awake, it was so cold I couldn't make myself get up out of bed to get my head lamp and book to read. So I laid in bed and stared in the dark, waiting for it to get light. I knew it was going to be cold though so this time I brought my fleece coat. Eventually, Dave and I got up pulled on our coats and ate breakfast. Then we packed up and got ready to go on our first hike. We wanted to do the Nu'alolo/Awa'awapuhi loop trail because the last time we came here, we didn't have time to do the whole loop, but were so impressed by what we did see, we wanted to do the whole thing this time. We wanted to get an early start because it's a long hike, about 10 miles plus another 1 on the road and we hadn't acclimated yet.

This hike is so close to where the cabins are that you can walk to the trailhead. It starts out in the woods consisting of lots of ohi'a lehua trees, the most abundant tree in Hawaii. They get bright red, fluffy looking flowers that the honey sucker birds love. There were also Norfolk pines and lots of Eucalyptus trees. Some of the eucalyptus were in bloom and you could hear all the bees collecting nectar high up in the canopy. The trail heads down most of the way with an occasional shelf that opens up into a grassy field with a variety of vine plants crawling over shrubs and up trees. We saw some passion fruit flowers in bloom. These are some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen! I saw flowering plant blooming all along this trail that I still haven't been able to identify. It is a type of succulent with a single tall stock where upon a number of oval balloon like flowers, about the size of a pecan, hang, alternating down the stock. They start out a kind of lime green and turn pink as four, I think, small coral colored pedals emerge from the lower tip opening up just big enough for a honey bee to fit for pollinating, I'm not really sure what actually pollinates this flower. They were otherworldly looking and haven't found them in any Hawaii flower books yet.

There also all types of birds on this trail, but most of them are high up in the canopy and I can't see them to identify them. I'm going to have to find a bird songs of Hawaii CD so I can learn there songs to identify them. I was able to identify the Japanese White-rumped Shama. At one point along the trail I stopped to pull my bird book out from my pack. It wasn't until we got about a quarter of a mile further down the trail that I realized my sunglasses had fallen off my head. I figured they must have fallen off when I pulled out the book. So, Dave and I turned back to see if we could find them. Dave got ahead of me and I had to stop looking for the glasses so I could catch up with him to tell him he was going back too far. Now remember that this trail goes down, so this means we are going back uphill. By the time I finally caught up with him, he had gone back about half a mile. We were both dripping with sweat because it's warm and humid and neither of us are used to this yet. Neither of us found the glasses. I told Dave they were cheap and not worth the trouble. So, we turned back down the trail again. I found the glasses between a couple fallen trees I had to climb over about a couple hundred feet from where we first discovered them missing.

About halfway to Lolo Vista Point, the first viewpoint on this trail, the trail comes out of the woods and opens up onto a narrow, badly eroded ridge. It's so eroded in places we were hiking in deep ditches, sometimes almost as high as my head. The dirt is brick red and clay like so that when it is wet, which it was, it is slicker than snot. The views from this ridge are fantastic! You looks down into Nu'alolo valley and across to the ocean and when you reach Lolo Vista Point 3.8 miles, you are looking down the Napali coastline. We can look down on Kalalau beach, the destination campground when hiking the Napali coast trail. It's kind of cool to be able to look down on this beach since in a few days we are going to hike 11 miles to get to it.

We stopped here to have lunch. A number of people showed up while we were eating lunch. The last time we were here, we only saw one other woman on this trail. I was surprised to see so many people this time. We saw this one woman hiking this trail barefoot with a walking stick in each hand. She had the hairiest legs I have ever seen on a man, let alone a woman. I swear the hair had to be an inch and a half long.

We have to hike back half a mile to the Nu'alolo Cliffs trail junction for the second part of this trip, two more miles. We haven't done this part so it's all new to us. We were a little disappointed to find that it heads down toward Nu'alolo valley and then traverses along the cliffs above the valley. Most of it is in thick vegetation, so there aren't a lot of great views. There is this one section where you hike along a very narrow trail about two feet wide, with a shear cliff on your right, and a shear drop on your left and you have to go around a bend on this part of the trail. A little hairy, but we've done worse. It was exhilarating. We thought the trail was going to stay up on the ridge or at least high enough that there were more views than there were. So, that was a little disappointing. We saw a number of goats grazing close to the trail. These are domestic goats gone wild and they are what causes a lot of the erosion that we see on the trails. Even though when I was hiking this trail it doesn't seem like much, when I looked back at where I came from, I thought, how in the world did I just do that? It really looked like I just hiked along a vertical cliff wall.

Once you reach the next headland, you hike up onto the ridge again. From here we hiked another .3 miles to Vista Point. This has some fantastic views on Nu'alolo valley from the other side. The sun was down enough now that shadows cast depth to the carved features of the walls on the headland we had just come from. It was breathtaking.

We hiked back to the Awa'awapuhi trail junction, and the last trail of the journey another 3.25 miles to the road. This is a strenuous uphill climb all the way. Even though it was hard work, I was actually glad it was up because my knee has been causing me problems again, but it only hurts when I'm going downhill and doesn't start to hurt until I've gone about 2 miles downhill. It had started to hurt on the Nu'alolo cliff trail, but now that we were heading back up, it stopped bothering me. This trail is a lot like the Nu'alolo trail and most of the time we were in the woods. Dave got worried about my knee and took off ahead of me at about a quarter of a mile from the road so he could go get the car and pick me up. However, when I got to the road, my knee was still feeling fine so I continued down the road until Dave showed up with the car. I managed to get about a mile down the road before he found me. Later he admitted that someone gave him a ride down to the lodge, almost to the car, so I probably hiked down the road further than he did. Of course, it was two days later before he admitted that he had not walked most the road, he he he.

When w e got back to the cabin we made stir fry beef and mixed vegetables in a teriyaki sauce and then hit the sack. We were both tuckered out.
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