About This Blog

This blog is to share with you some of the highlights of my visits to Hawaii and miscellaneous Hawaiiana. Hawai'i has had a great impact on my life. To see more on why I keep this blog, see: The Impact of Hawai'i in My Life.

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Thoughts on Hiking the Kalalau Trail on Kaua'i

I wanted to start a log of my upcoming (late August 2013) planned trip to the island of Kaua'i to hike the Kalalau Trail, along the Na Pali coast.  This will be one blog post that becomes updated occasionally, rather than several separate posts.

Ever since my first trip to Kaua'i in 1984, where I got a small taste of the trail (only had time for about the first 1/2 mile), I have longed to return and hike/explore the whole trail to Kalalau beach and into the valley.  I have been back to Kauai twice since this first trip, but have not had the opportunity to fulfill this dream, which lingers.

Approaching 55 years in age, and recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I had all but given up on this dream.  In the last year following my diagnosis, I have shed an unwanted 40+ pounds, returned to running and recently finished my first 1/2 marathon race, with a respectable time.  So, for the time being feeling relatively physically well, my dream was not yet quite dead.

When a co-worker recently informed me of a great air flight deal to Hawaii out of Las Vegas, I decided to check it out.  What I found was a savings of nearly $250 from the normal cost out of SLC.  Looking into it further, and knowing that hiking the trail was an impossibility for DeNeise, I determined that if I did a quick solo trip that was focused on hiking the trail and camping 2 nights, and otherwise traveled as cheaply as possible, I could save a lot more than what a regular resort vacation would cost.  Suddenly my dream gained momentum towards reality. 

Now the first big hurdle was, "Do I dare ask DeNeise if she would be okay if I went by myself, if I made it a quick, cheap and trail-focused trip?"  I vascillated and wondered, "Am I being impractical and selfish?"

But I couldn't stop the thought of what if?  So I called her and laid out the the big question.

It probably could not have come at too much of a worse time for her.  Dealing for some time with some draining physical issues, on this day she was quite down.  Although permission was given somewhat reluctantly (and probably through held back tears), and though she didn't say it, my mind thought again "Selfish!" and "How could you dare go to Hawaii without her? You know she loves Hawaii, too, and needs an escape vacation as much as you!"

A few days later, after making flight and other arrangements, DeNeise said she was sorry for acting jealous about me going without her, recalling how several years ago I let her go with her mother to Europe for 3 weeks on the Tabernacle Choir tour, leaving me with the kids.  After that, I stopped feeling guilty. Mostly.

Now, I am very excited to go.  I have been reading blog posts and web sites describing the experiences of many people who have been on the trail - some who have hiked the whole 11 miles and back in 1 day, others who have stayed overnight on or near the beach for 1 to 5 days.  Very few have had any kind of negative reports - other than getting real tired.  Almost all highly recommend hiking the trail as a unique life experience.  Yes, I am excited!

The only part of this hike that gives me a little pause, is a stretch of narrow cliffside trail, known as crawlers ledge, near mile 7.  After seeing pictures and watching videos of this part being traversed, and reading many comments, my overall impression is this: Although it is scary, especially if you have a fear of heights, it is not as bad as it first seems.  It does require one to be cautious and step carefully, but it has been successfully traversed by many thousands of people.

I have also been interested in preparing well to be able to do the hike and camping with the right balance of sufficient supplies, but not going overboard to create a heavy pack with unnecessary items that will only weigh me down and cause a less enjoyable experience.  Many have recommended to pack light. 

I have come up with the following list of items to pack in a regular, school-sized backpack:

Food: Nuts, dried fruit, tuna/chicken packets, protein powder, wasa, energy bars, chocolate
Water: 2 liter bottles, iodine tablets, Mio enhancer
Clothes: 2 shorts, 2 underwear, 2 shirts, flip-flops, socks
Toiletries: toothbrush, paste, sunscreen, carmex, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Deet, TP, wipes
First aid kit
All weather, outdoor blanket
Bed sheet
Heavy duty yard bag
Camera, battery
GPS device

One of the main things I am excited about doing on this trip is taking tons of great pictures (the pics shown here are not mine). I have been to Hawaii several times before, but never with a good digital camera.  I have a growing interest in expanding my photographic skills and turn my very part time hobby into a part time income generator by duplicating, framing and selling some of my best shots.  I already have a good collection of nice nature / landscape shots, that needs to be supplemented with some nice Hawaii shots.

I am after all partly Hawaiian (at least in spirit). I was once called an inside out coconut by a Polynesian guy (brown inside, white outside).

So, to meet this goal, I will soon be purchasing a new camera. After the hike, I will have two additional days to run around the island and snap as many awesome photos as possible.

Got the camera, a Nikon 3100. It's gonna take a bit to learn and become comfortable with all the functions, and it may be that while on the hike I'll mostly use the auto function.  I plan to carry the camera in a waist / fanny pack.  I am looking forward to using it a lot on this trip, and come home with tons of great pictures.

I read a comment on Facebook from a guy who has hiked the trail that the fear talk over the dangers of "crawler's ledge" was a load of crap, that when he got to the end, well past that point, he was still wondering when the scary part was coming.  The only time it seems that there is real concern here, or really anywhere on the trail, is when it is raining.  I pray it doesn't rain, for that could alter my hiking plans.

I have invited two friends to go on the hike with me.  The first one can't make it, and the other one, who lives in Hawaii, has said it's possible he can.  So I am waiting to see if I will be hiking with a buddy or on my own. The experience will be somewhat different either way, but I am good with both options. Being with a good, old friend would be really fun.  But being alone offers quality "me" time.  So, we'll see what happens.  I know DeNeise and others would be more comfortable if I were with someone, but I am confident in my ability to safely and greatly enjoy this hike on my own.

I will have one full day between hiking in and hiking back for exploring the Kalalau beach and valley. Not sure yet just how much exploring I will do in the valley, since that will require some more hiking. I guess we'll see how my feet and knees feel on that day.

Countown to Kalalau:  One month from today!  I can't wait!  Looks like I'll be doing it alone - but wait - there's me, my thoughts, the trail, the most beautiful nature on earth, the ocean, the birds, others on the trail, and God... I don't think I'm doing this alone.

In two weeks I will be on the trail.  Wow - a dream long in coming, almost here!

Many of those I tell about what I'm going to do are concerned that I am hiking alone. I shouldn't be hiking alone.  I should be careful.  I should let someone know where I am and what I'm doing.  I should try to be with others.  I should pack this, and not forget to take that.  I should stay on the trail.  I shouldn't cross the streams if the water is high.  I shouldn't hike if it is raining.  I should keep a gps device with me.  I should... just do what I know I should and HAVE FUN!

Yes.  That is what I intend to do.

I also intend to make this trip more than a physical escape / journey. It will also very much be a spiritual adventure.  I intend to speak to God a lot, and to try to come to a more centered sense of being.  Life is crazy, challenging and not always near as rewarding as one would desire.  So, my approach, my attitude and my outlook to life needs refreshing.  I look to this journey as one on which, long after it is done, I will remember with fondness and gratitude.

It will be interesting to compare this hike with others I have been on recently, namely Angel's Landing in Zion National Park and up Mt. Timpanogos.  Although these hikes differ in length and geographic features, I believe there are similar components here and there.

A week from tomorrow and I'm on de plane!  It hardly seems real.  I am praying for good weather and good luck that everything works out fine through all the traveling and arrangements.  I have been looking through and will be bringing The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook to help me decide how to spend my time during the last two days after the hike.  There's just way too much to see and take pictures of - I've got to be real selective. Sure wish I had more time and that DeNeise could join me over there.  But I am VERY thankful that I have the time that I do have.

I will be staying in Kapa'a, which is halfway between the north shore and south shore areas, so that I can explore and take as many pix as I can on the two days after the hike. Friday is beach day, and I plan to head back north and visit as many of the following beaches that time will allow:
Donkey Beach
Moloa'a Bay
Secret Beach
Secret Lava Pools
Sea Lodge Beach
Queens Bath
Pali Ke Kua Beach
Hanalei River and Bay
Lumahai Beach
Tunnels Beach
Haena Beach Park
Ke'e Beach

Some of these I may catch on Thursday after the hike, if I can. I will be looking for a good sunset from one of these last beaches.

On Saturday I will focus on water falls and visit the Kapa'a / Wailua area, and then head south.  Here's my projected itinerary:
Ho'opi'i Falls
Jungle Hike
Wailua Falls
Kipu Falls
Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo

It's fewer places on this day that take longer to see, and ending my journey with some great pizza!  There's so much more I'd love to explore - perhaps another time?  Well, if this is all I get, I will die a happy man having a major bucket list item achieved!

Just three days out! It's so cool that this is actually happening (cross my fingers that it will all go well)!  I just packed my backpack with all the stuff I'll need on the hike, and was disappointed at how heavy it is.  Not that it is extremely heavy, but somehow I envisioned being able to do this much lighter.  I've never been a fan of lugging weight behind me while hiking - but I guess I need all this stuff, and really, it could be much heavier.  Oh well, it's ok... it ain't heavy, it's my dream trip!  I will also be wearing a small waist-pack to keep my camera in, so it's easy to grab, with a bottle of water and some snacks.  Then I shouldn't have to unload until I reach the end.

Checking the weather forecast, it looks like there is a good chance of some rain while there, so I'm trying to gear up my thoughts and stay positive no matter the weather.  I've really wanted to have lots of sunshine the whole time so I can take a ton of great shots, but I guess I'll get what I get.

Now, read about my journey starting with:

My Journey to Kalalau: Days 1-2

My Journey to Kalalau: Day 3

My Journey to Kalalau: Days 4-6