Hiking the Kalalau Trail

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

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We woke up around 7:30 AM, packed our backpacks into the car and headed out to the coffee shop. We had some pastries and two large Americanos to go and headed down the road to the trailhead. We were surprised to see that there was no parking at Ke'e park where the trailhead is located. So, we ended up parking down the road in their overflow parking lot.

The first part of the trail is rocky and a little steep. It's also hot and humid so it didn't take long for me to be soaked with sweat. Along the way we saw humpback whales jumping out of the water and making huge splashes. Even though they were pretty far out, they were so big I could see the shape of the flippers and see the bumps that helped me identify them as humpbacks. This one woman got so excited that she was hollering loud enough to here her down at the beach. I think it might have been one of those experiences of a lifetime for her. I wanted to ask her where she was from because it was pretty obvious that it was something pretty alien to her. It was fun to see how excited she got.

We reached the first beach, Hanakapiai quickly and stopped for an orange before continuing on. There were a lot of people at this beach. Not a big surprise.

The next part of the trail is the steepest section and it seems even more humid and hot than the first part. It's definitely the wettest section of the trail. It's a long haul up to the top. We passed a few backpackers heading back and a few day hikers passed us by. A lot more people on the trail than the last time we did this hike. Then we only saw a couple people on the trail. The trail looked a little different this time, there was more vegetation on the cliffs and there was even more erosion. A lot of the trees were missing a lot of leaves and we found out later that this was due to a wind storm they had in December.

We stopped for lunch on a bluff where we think Dave experiences vertigo the last time. We ate half our sushi and drank a lot of water. We wanted to make sure we stayed hydrated. We brought four quarts of water with us. While we were eating lunch we saw more whales jumping, but this time they were smaller, black and sleek, compared to the humpback whales. I swear I saw some flashes of white in the front portion of the whale. So, I think t hey were orcas.

There's a lot of unusual plants along this trail, lots of tropical plants such as the Hala, Ti, sisal and lots of plants of which I didn't know the names. Many flowering plants too. Eventually, we reached the Hanakoa valley, six miles. This is an official campground and the spot where newcomers to backpacking the Napali coast will stop for the night. It is thick with vegetation which means hot and humid with no breeze. It is also unkempt and dirty. Dave and I stopped long enough to use the outhouse and then were off again. Too many mosquitoes as well.

Once you get out of the Hanakoa valley you enter a dryer terrain. It's also more eroded do to all the domestic goats that escaped and turned wild. This section is trickier with lots of switch backs on crumbling rock that rolls under your feet like marbles. It also has narrow sections of trails along cliffs that require constant attention to your feet because if you trip, you just might die. It started raining lightly and it felt good. We were glad it didn't rain harder because the dirt can get really slippery when wet. We saw lots of goats roaming around on this part of the trail.

We planned to stop at the eight mile point where there is this really nice camp area on a bluff overlooking the ocean. We were surprised to find a number of people already there and there was only one place left for us to pitch our tent. That was a little disappointing, but we were too tired to care at that point. One of the people camped there, Bill, has been staying at this spot for nine months. He hikes out about every two weeks to get more food and then hikes back out to the same place. He has sort of claimed this as his own camp ground and played host while we were there, letting us know which spot to pitch our tent, and telling us where he had dug a latrine and hung a tarp for privacy. He also asked us if we had everything we needed and wanted to know if there was anything he could do for us. It was weird! But he was a really nice guy, ex-military, originally from Florida, missing one of his front teeth.

There is a nice little creek not far from this camp site with good water, though we treat any water from streams here. We washed up as the stream to get rid of the grime and sweat and then pitched our tent. Then we sat down to eat the rest of our sushi and then to bed. We were both pooped.
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