Monthly Archives

May 2010

Backpacking, Hawaii, Hiking, Top Trips, Travel

Kalalau Trail

For our spring trip/annual vitamin D booster this year, we decided to go to Hawai’i instead of Utah. I really, really love the red rock desert, but from now on I think all of our spring breaks will be spent in the South Pacific. Man alive, it’s awesome down there.


Anyhoo, we decided on the island of Kaua’i since it’s known as the adventurous isle, and definitely the best island for hiking…but we didn’t end up doing much hiking at all. We quickly decided that it would be foolish to not spend as much of our time as possible fully submerged under water, snorkeling with all sorts of non-shark ocean dwellers.

We did manage to sneak in one backpacking trip between all the strenuous beach trips; the (in)famous Kalalau Trail.

Kaua'i is an ugly sort of place

The first time I read about this hike was in an article in Backpacker Magazine entitled America’s 10 Most Dangerous Hikes. You would think that would give me, an incorrigible exposure wuss, pause, but I am used to reading guidebooks from Washington, where any minor trail inconvenience is described with a sense of impending doom. The Kalalau Trail goes up and down and up and down, hugging the cliffs along the majestic Na Pali coast. Pssht, I thought. How bad could it be?

Kalalau Trail

Luckily I came to my senses when I found photos like this on the intertubes a couple of weeks before our vacation. I realized this would be no place for me to freak out/freeze up/stagger around like a nervous drunk, so we (I) decided that we would only hike to Hanakoa, a mile before the sketchy stuff starts, and camp there.

Private pool

Hanakoa Falls

In the end, I was relieved when we made it to Hanakoa and could relax. The trail itself is not that challenging, but the heat and humidity were really getting to me. Since my body pretty much consists of a series of tubes filled with Norwegian blood and enveloped in copious amounts of insulating blubber, it’s clear that all my time on a tropical island should be spent in the water or in the shade of a coconut tree. Anyway, it was heavenly to take a bath in creek and hike up to beautiful Hanakoa Falls.

Kalalau Trail

Postcards from the Edge

The next day, we packed up our things and headed back towards civilization – but we weren’t ready to leave quite yet. We still had a night left on our permit, so we decided to camp on Hanakapi’ai Beach, a mere two miles from the trailhead. The weather didn’t feel as oppressive on the hike out, so we spent more time admiring the gorgeous views of blue, blue water, green, green plants and red, red flowers.

Feels like Vietnam Swimming hole Yes, again

We set up our tent in the purdiest campsite we’ve ever seen, then set about sunbathing, cooling off in the creek, playing with the beach cats and generally just loving life.

The sweetest campsite

Sunset and sunrise? Magnificent.

Take two

Sunset stroll

Good morning Kaua'i

On the third morning, we packed up and made quick work of the remaining two miles. Our immediate reward was a cleansing swim on Ke’e Beach and a strawberry smoothie from the roadside stand. All trailheads should have access to tropical beaches and fruit snacks.

Final two miles


All in all a great trip – in an ideal world I would be less of a nervous idiot and actually make it all the way to Kalalau Beach, but alas, even the slightly eroded section on the way to Hanakoa made me all shaky and stumbly.

Along the trail, we ran into several of the year-round beach dwellers (real live hippies!) heading out on resupply trips. Barefoot and carrying nothing but tiny rucksacks with some water, they all looked so peaceful on their journey. I’m sure the fact that they were all stoned out of their minds had nothing at all to do with their blissful existence, but still, it felt kind of poetic when I was lumbering along with my huge pack, struggling with my emotional baggage and my actual baggage. We could all be more island-like.

Hiking, TNAB

The T stands for torture

Wait, this isn't sand!In an effort to a) get in better shape (so I can go on our summer backpacking trips without throwing up my lungs) and b) keep the blues away, we’ve decided to start hiking with TNAB again. Yes, the Thursday Night Afterburners, a motley crew of mountain renegades who run up trails at ridonculous speeds while normal people are sitting on their couches eating ice cream and watching The Office.

Our first post-Hawaiʻi (yes, Hawaiʻi! More about that later when I get my photos up…) TNAB destination was Rattlesnake Mountain East Peak. We’ve been to Rattlesnake Ledge a dozen times or so, but this was the first time we ventured beyond the ledges. Since we got a late start, we summited after the main group had already started descending, but we all reconvened at the Pour House in North Bend for Blue Moons afterwards.


Next up was Bandera Mountain. This was my third time up this trail since September, and I am growing rather fond of it. I’ll have to go back some time in July when the beargrass is out.

It must be Thursday night... The sun always shines on the S-Team

Anyhoo, the sun was shining and I was wearing shorts for the entire hike, which made me happy enough to almost forget about my racing heart and seizing muscles. Once we hit the snow line, JK raced ahead while I followed at a more leisurely pace. It was still 30 minutes faster than when we went in February, so I’ll count it as progress!

*huff* *puff* Wellie in his mountaineering jammies

The sunsets are what really make TNAB hikes stand out, and we were treated to quite a doozy as we started hiking back to our cars. The combination of great views, strenuous exercise, sunshine, beer, fresh air and great people = natural Prozac. Mission accomplished, at least for a couple of days. :o)

At day's end