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Photos from Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Nov 2014

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In November, 2014, Tony and I went to Kauai and hiked all over. We did a two-night backpack trip on the Kalalau Trail, which is the famed Na Pali Coast Trail.

The trail starts at Ke'e Beach, pictured below, which is a really nice beach for swimming.

I apologize for my broken camera lens. It makes a dark shape on many pictures.

Right from the start we enter the land of steep cliffs and pointy peaks. Na Pali means cliffs.

Here is a small stream. Note the pothos houseplants growing next to it. We saw these all over the island, climbing up tall trees, draping long, strong vines and having leaves the size of elephant ears.

The trail was wet, muddy and slippery. It had rained hard the night before and was raining a little as we began the hike. The mud on Kauai trails is extremely slick and very difficult to walk on. The going is very slow. Crampons or microspikes would be useful. I'm not kidding about that as we saw some local women hiking one of the trails in Koke'e park wearing them.

Many people come to do a day hike to Hanakapi'ai Beach and waterfall. It is 2 miles to the beach and another 2 miles to the falls. You cannot swim at the beach but you can camp there.

The surf was rugged and bashed against the cliff walls very loudly.

Much of this is actually native vegetation. There isn't much native vegetation on the island.

Here is a typical small creek on this hike.

Hanakapi'ai Beach is coming into view.

They are not kidding about the dangerous conditions. There is also a large stream crossing that sometimes sweeps people into the ocean where they are killed by the current pulling them into the waves which then throw them against the rocks and cliffs. You REALLY can't swim here.

Here is the creek flowing to the ocean. The warn against dangerous high water conditions. We were fortunate the weather had been dry for a long time and our previous night's rain storm didn't create dangerous conditions.

Tony is looking for a dry way across.

He didn't find a dry way across. The water isn't too deep or too terribly cold.

Hanakapi'ai valley has a lot of waterfalls. Many helicopters fly into these valleys to see the falls. The trail is a little annoying with the helicopters flying constantly.

We took the side trail to Hanakapi'ai Falls. This is Hanakapi'ai Falls.

There are many thin falls in this area.

The two-mile trail to the falls was muddy and slippery and had many creek crossings. These crossings were similar to hiking in the Sierra where you come upon a creek, have to figure a way across and locate the trail on the other side. Unlike the Sierra's, guavas leave fruit all over the trail. If you get hungry you can possibly find a snack.

Hanakapi'ai Falls

Hanakapi'ai Falls

It took a long time to hike the 6 miles total from Ke'e Beach to the falls and back to Hanakapi'ai Beach. We had to camp at Hanakapi'ai beach our first night. There were a lot of mosquitoes in the wet, dark area where we set up our tent. I took some time to look at the beach away from the mosquitoes.

The ocean was quite violent and exciting here.

We got a fairly early start in the morning to continue to Kalalau Beach. This is what passes for a blowdown in Hawaii.

The cliffs only got more dramatic and steep from here on out. The trail was narrower and less crowded and more overgrown in many places. It was also much less slippery and we were able to make pretty good time.

The trail barely feels attached to the earth. It is vertiginous in many places. The waves crash so hard below it sounds like thunder, you swear you can feel the impact and there is some fear that this might be the day this part of the trail decides to fall into the sea.

I found a nice black tank top on the trail on the way home, so I took it. Now I see in the picture that it probably belonged to the woman pictured here on the right. I could have brought home a lot of nice shoes and socks, beach towels and mats and tons of garbage as well.

As you hike you pass many high waterfalls.

The trail mostly follows the contour of these layers of lava but it does go up and down a lot, too.

Another nice stream on the trail. This may have been the trail near Hanakoa Falls. We did not stop to visit the falls here because we were afraid we'd not be able to reach the beach. It turns out that 2 nights really is not enough time to visit this area. It is difficult to hike 11 miles quickly in Kauai. You need time for the slowness of your pace as well as for the side trails and the time spent just looking at the beauty. You need at least one entire day just to enjoy the beach. Our trip was only two nights. Four or five nights would be much better.

As we approach Mile 7, things become even more vertiginous.

There is a very narrow segment in Mile 7. There are youtube videos showing what it is like to hike this section. All I have are these pictures. They don't do it justice, really. Those waves below look close and small. In reality they are very far below and are crashing violently into the cliff.

The trail aims to go around that corner. You have to hug the wall. Fortunately the rocks were grippy.

Here is Tony coming along behind me. It doesn't look too bad there.

I stopped for a moment to take a picture of what I was about to do. Then I just stayed focused on the trail, on placing my feet, and telling myself to relax. I tried not to think about how this wasn't a loop trail. It was a there-and-back. I would have to do it again.

There's Tony coming around the difficult part. As soon as you get by it, it's not too bad.

The scenery gets better the closer you get to Kalalau. More craggy.

A picturesque stream.

There was plenty of water on the trail. They say there is crypto in the water. We used Sawyer squeeze filters. I'm not sure of they work for crypto or not. We did not get sick.

This grass had a unique, sort of sweet and butterscotch-like smell to it.

We were passed by many backpackers and also passed many others. Everyone was excited to get to the beach.

The beach is getting near. It is just beyond that green plateau. You can see a dot in the dark green area beyond the green plateau. That is a palm tree at the beach. You can see this palm tree from Kalalau lookout in Koke'e State Park, which is reached from completely the other side of the island.

We have reached Kalalau Valley! It is a very special place. I read somewhere there are native Hawaiians still living in this valley. There are ancient ruins of walls everywhere. Ancient Hawaiians planted taro and other crops in these gardens and their walled terraces remain.

We still have a ways to descend to reach the beach.

There is one more big stream to cross.

I believe there are so many signs begging people not to trash the area becuase for one thing, there are so many people who want to come here to this world-class, bucket-list hike and also because there were about 100 hippies and feral people living here. We had permits and heard they were strict about the permits, but we never saw a single ranger, nor did we see any evidence permits are ever checked. I'm not exaggerating when I say there may have been about 100 people living on the beach here.

Finally the beach is within view. Unfortunately, most of the day is over.

The beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs. My pictures are all so terrible and can't capture at all what it was like. This was one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We made it to the beach! It was such a nice beach, too. The sand was soft and there was lots of it. The waves looked too strong for swimming but you could probably wade in a little bit to cool off.

At the very end of the beach there was a beautiful waterfall. It was literally like paradise here. It was no wonder so many people were living here.

Tony did not want to camp on the beach with all the people. It looked to me like they would be noisy all night probably. I was very sad to just walk to the end of the beach, snap a picture and then leave. We started back thinking maybe we could camp back at Hanakoa Falls or something. Instead, we camped among the rock wall terraces near the green plateau about half a mile from the beach. It was very peaceful and quiet here. Lots of mosquitoes, though. I was eaten alive.

After setting up the tent I went to sit on the plateau and watch the sun change the landscape and the waves roll into the shore.