The trail to Heaven.
21.04.2011 - 21.04.2011
There is one section of Kauai that is inaccessible by road. The extreme north, or Na Pali coastline can only be seen one of three ways: by air, by boat, or by foot. The Kalalau Trail is considered by many to be one of the best hikes in the world. Stretching 11 miles along the Na Pali coastline, the trail begins where the road ends, literally. From there, it climbs and dips, steeply along a badly eroded trail that hugs sheer cliff edges and is often turned into a maddening slip and slide if one of Kauai's frequent rainstorms arrives. It ends at Kalalau Beach, a mile of pristine beach open only to those who want to get an overnight permit and brave the rugged trail.
For those who don't have a permit, enough time to do an overnight hike, or don't feel like lugging camping equipment all the way to Hawaii, you can still get a taste of this exciting hike by hiking 2 miles in to Hanakapi'ai Beach and 2 miles back out. You can tack on an additional 4 miles to hike back to Hanakapi'ai Falls if time allows.
The beauty of it and the promise of a secluded beach are too much for anyone to resist, however it is not for the faint of heart. Even the short 4 mile trip to Hanakapi'ai Beach and back is difficult to maneuver. The trail gets vertical very quickly. In some places, it is smooth packed red dirt, but in others, it is a sheer climb up slippery rocks or mazes of twisted roots. The trail is not easily forgiving. One misstep, and you will be sorry. It's a hike that makes you wake up and pay attention to where you are putting your feet.
We had been hoping to do the 4 mile hike to Hanakapi'ai Beach and back all week, but each day spewed just enough rain to keep us away. I knew the trail could be difficult under the wrong conditions. I had seen photos of the misery that is the Kalalau Trail when it's wet. I didn't want any part of that. However, this particular morning was heralded in by a bright blue sky and followed two very dry days. We felt that our chances for clear skies and a dry trail were pretty good, so we headed north.
We made a pit stop at my favorite little church, the Wai'oli Hui'ia Church in Hanalei. I think this might be the most beautiful church on earth.
We continued north until the road literally dead-ended at Ke'e Beach. We grabbed the essentials (water, snack, sunglasses, camera) and headed toward the trailhead. It was a phenomenal day....clear, bright, and beautiful. We had managed to pick the perfect day to hike. The trail was dry and the skies were clear.
The first section of trail climbed up to a viewpoint where we could look down on Ke'e Beach, with it's perfect swimming lagoon framed by a reef. I had no idea just how beautiful Ke'e is until I saw it from this vantage point.
From there, the trail climbed steeply up and over rocks, pretty much a rock scramble until it once again reached a dry packed red dirt trail that wound endlessly with lush green jungle on one side and a steep drop to the ocean on the other.
The landscape was intoxicating. The views..... surreal. Jagged cliff edges fell steeply into the wild crashing ocean below. Turquoise water foaming with white tipped waves stretched as far as the eye could see. Matt pointed out a pod of dolphins as they jumped and played in the surf below. Plants in shades of green that seemed impossible to the eye burst out of every shady crevice, so large and twisted they seemed prehistoric. Flowers flowed over lava rock like brilliant purple waterfalls. Ragged green mountains rose like mammoths along the ridge before us.
I was mesmerized. I had no idea it would be like this.
For a couple of miles, the trail rounded a jungle covered ridge where the forest canopy opened to reveal an endless expanse of blue Pacific waters. A thousand feet straight down I could hear the wild surf smashing into the rocks below, sometimes so loud I was certain it was thunder or a distant explosion, only to have Matt assure me it was nothing more than the force of the water against the earth.
We were reaching the section of the trail where it started to head down toward sea level, nearing Hanakapi'ai Beach when a little girl walking toward us stopped to wait for her parents. She stood gangly and cute, like little girls do, hands at her sides, twisting back and forth to the kind of private music little girls always have in their heads when suddenly, she looked down and SHRIEKED!
I mean, it was a full on, horror movie, being bludgeoned to death in one's sleep, top of the lungs type of shriek.
She started high stepping toward us rapidly, reminding me of the drum major as he makes his way across the football field before the band at half time.
"GET THEM OFF! GET THEM OFF! GET THEM OFF!" she screamed, flailing her little girl arms helplessly at her legs as she ran, her mom trying to catch up to her, but not having a chance as fast as that kid was running.
It was then that I noticed the ground was literally teeming with THOUSANDS of little red ants. No exaggeration. THOUSANDS. They covered the trail for about 1/2 mile.
This is not at all a problem unless you stop moving.
If you stop moving, you are dead because they will climb up your legs. Quickly.
If anyone saw a girl frantically marching in place every time she stopped to take a photo on the Kalalau Trail on April 21, 2011....that would be me.
We made our way down where the trail crossed a stream. As we waded across and the view of Hanakapi'ai Beach could be glimpsed through the trees, I forgot all about hazardous slippery rocks, mud, roots, steep drop offs, hot sun, and ferocious ants.
It was beautiful.
Smooth round rocks rolled from the lush jungle to frame the beach on the back and countless cairns had been set up, rising like little sentinels protecting this pristine paradise. Steep, lush green peaks rose on the two sides of the beach, and the beautiful turquoise waters of the Pacific rushed in from the front. The beach itself was a perfect little crescent of white sand dotted with rocks covered in a moss so green it looked unreal.
The setting was simply breathtaking. There are no words to describe it.
There were several feral cats around and we had only brought grapes and cheese, so Matt kept feeding them cheese despite my warnings that, while he thought he was helping them by feeding them, that much cheese was going to wreck their little systems. I bet those 3 cats didn't poop for a week.
We had a snack and simply enjoyed the moment.
And then it was time to make the hike back...which was absolutely as beautiful as the hike in.
If you didn't count the ants.
As we neared the end of the trail I was hot and could just feel the cool water of Ke'e Beach as I splashed in. When we actually reached the end of the trail, I peeled my sweaty clothes off and dove in. Ke'e Lagoon was clear and beautiful and was the perfect place to cool off after the hike. Two big turtles were sunning up on the reef as we swam in the crystal clear water, feeling lucky to have been able to witness such a perfect piece of paradise.
It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner. Not sure what we wanted, we stopped in Hanalei at Kalypso. I hadn't heard much about it and didn't know what to expect, but it was very good. I had an "Iniki" which was the strongest mai tai I had on the entire trip.
Matt had the mango BBQ and spicy wings and I had some kind of fried fish and crab salad wrap which was delicious.
Once we got back to the house, we were full and happy (and I was more than a little "Inikified") so we decided to call it a day.
What a day it was.