Sunday, November 21, 2010
I spent the last week in Kaua’i, hiking and running the trails of the “Garden Island”, relaxing on the beach, and taking in a long overdue vacation. A friend once told me about this trail that skirts the Na Pali Coast on the north side of the island—the Kalalau Trail—and since then, I’ve always wanted to check it and the island out. Come October, I felt I needed to get away. I had air miles, and so in November, I got away good.
On the first whole day, Monday, I got up early and drove to Koke’e State Park, and hiked/ran through the Alaka’i Swamp, which is a boardwalked trail through an old caldera at an elevation of about 4000 feet. The preserve is home to many endangered species. Very wet, wonderfully quiet, and pretty near to Mount Waihaleela, one of the wettest places in the world. Views of the Kalalau Valley from above, along the Pieha Trail. I also looped down along the Kawaikoi Stream Trail, to the beginning of Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” 3000 foot canyon walls--breathtaking. Probably 11+ miles on trail for the day. One serious faceplant.
Day 2 I slept in, and then checked out the local farmer’s market. Fresh pineapples, starfruit, papayas, monstercados, and other fruits from the Jurassic Age. Later, I drove north to Hannalei Bay, one of Hawaii’s top surfing beaches. Had a fish taco from a taco truck. On the way out there, I checked out the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to ocean-faring albatrosses. I also saw a bunch of dolphins at this old lighthouse. I drove to the end of the road, to Kee’e Beach and the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail.
Day 3, Wednesday, I spent mostly in Poipu, on the southern end of the island, snorkeling, and then hiking eight miles on the lithified sand dunes and cliffs of the Maha’ulepu Coast. Highly recommended.
Day 4 was the Kalalau Trail. 4:30 AM rise. Hit the trail at 6:19 AM, first light; finished around 4:51 PM, about 45 minutes before dark. 22 long miles, very tough, very beautiful. Stunning really. Tons of catwalks and are-you-kidding-me cliffs. Backpacker says it is one of America's top 10 most dangerous trails. The trail is also featured in a book I have as one of the best 50 trails in the world. I think it would make a top 10 list on that count as well. The trail wrecked me, like the Tom Petty song.
Day 5. Recovered from Day 4. On the beach. Watched the sun rise over the Pacific. I think I saw a wild pig or two, and visited Wailua Falls. Continued working on the second season of Lost.
Day 6. Watched the sun rise again over the Pacific. Vacation ends, with a tamale on the beach and coffee.
Unfortunately, I came home to a dead battery and a flat tire, in the now freezing cold Pacific Northwest, but I was so mellow that I rolled with it pretty well.
This was one of the best vacations ever. I think I need to do something like this at least once a year.
Some pics below, and more pics here.