This is a continuation of my journey, following these blog posts:
My Journey to Kalalau: Days 1-2
My Journey to Kalalau: Day 3
Crawler's Ledge on the Kalalau Trail
Late to bed, early to rise makes a man...? Sleeping on the sand definitely didn't turn out to be near as nice as I had imagined. Oh, well. It's done, and now it's time to get ready to head back. I'm not really wanting to leave this place, and my feet are saying they are not really wanting to hike some more, but, oh well! I decided to get going as soon as I was ready so that I could have more time on the trail - possibly to take the side trip to the Hanakoa waterfall.
So farewell, Kalalau - it was great. I felt a bit of an adrenaline rush as I started up on the trail, which was a good thing when I hit the steep upward climb of the red hill. I kinda lost track of the trail on the moonscape-like slope and ended up having to climb up an even steeper side for a bit until I found it again. Adding that to the already difficult slope, I was sweating fairly profusely by the time I reached the top. The sun was just cresting over the high peak directly ahead, which I tried to stay ahead of in the shade to avoid the direct glare.
At the top was space rock, which I skipped going to on the way in, but went out onto this time for a farewell view of both the beach and the valley. It presents a good, sheer drop several hundred feet down. My occasional vertigo challenge kept me from getting too close. This is most likely my last time for this view. Melancholy. Gratitude.
There were a couple of other groups of hikers that were near me on the trail for the first few miles. We all got held up a bit waiting for a small herd of mountain goats to clear the path. I wasn't ready to catch a good shot with the camera. It was fun, however, to watch them traverse the cliff beneath us for a little bit - as if it was no big deal. You'd think with having four feet for figuring out where to step it would be more difficult for them, but evidently not!
This time the area of crawler's ledge seemed less of a thrill, now that I was a mountain-goat like hiker. (Yeah, right!) Just hop on over the narrow rocky footpath hugging the cliffs.
By the time I got to Hanakoa, 5 miles in, my feet were complaining fairly loudly: "Why do you abuse us so?" Sorry, guys. We gotta keep going! (despite being pretty sure I was getting some blisters). But, at least Hanakoa was welcomed again as a resting spot. Finding another spot for soaking while in search of the waterfall trail, it then began to rain. Not hard, but rain. Oh well, I'm here to get wet, right?
Finding the actual trail to the waterfall was a bit of a challenge. I knew it had to parallel at least partly, and sometimes cross-over the stream, but I wasn't seeing it. The stream area was really pretty and very tropical. Love it! I did a bit of bushwhacking and slope climbing until finally...yeah, I think that looks like a trail. Certainly not as used as other trails. No wonder the guy I ran into on the way in couldn't find it! But what was now really cool is that I had this whole narrow trail all to myself. Although my feet were hurting, this part didn't bother me - it was new territory. I was looking forward to getting to the waterfall. By now the rain had stopped, but it left enough moisture around for the perfect tropical rain forest setting. On the way I saw some trees with the mountain apple fruit, and picked a ripe and juicy specimen. Yum. It looks like a small apple, mostly red with a bit of white. The sweet taste was like a cross between an apple and a pear, with the texture of a pear.
I noticed three different streams that came together to make one as I went further up the valley. The trail leads to the end (or is that the start?) of the valley, where I was surrounded by straight, sheer, green-clad cliffs going up several hundred feet in three directions. In the middle is the tall waterfall - or the wet cliffs of what is supposed to be a waterfall - and a big pool. Evidently this area hasn't had near the rain water lately that it usually does, because now the falls were only a trickle. Kind of disappointing, but the beauty and mystic feeling of the area was still strongly felt and enjoyed - all to myself. Thanks, Lord, for this blessing.
Because the water coming in to the pool wasn't very much, the pool water seemed a bit stagnant, and didn't call for me to jump in. I had to apologize to the industrious spider whose web I broke in order to get to a good sized rock to sit on near the water's edge. A bit of a disaster for him, but let's just call it an act of God. ;) He still had a bit to work with, and I am sure he will rebuild.
Leaving Hanakoa was hard, as it is a lovely bit of paradise; and, although the main trail offers lots of pretty areas and majestic views, this was the most tropical. Next stop: Hanakapi'ai Valley in 4 miles. Just as I experienced this stretch on the way in two days ago, I could swear this was longer than 4 miles. But that's what the maps say. About half way through it, on one of the seemingly never ending upward climbs, I stopped for a rest on the curved trunk of a palm tree in a pretty setting, that was just long enough in its lower trunk curve before rising to the sun to make a place to stretch out on and lift my aching feet.
Mind over matter - words spoken easily, yet saddled with a difficult reality.
Needless to say, the last two miles to the end at Ke'e Beach was the most difficult stretch of the hike so far, not because of the trail difficulty, but because of my aching feet. I am now paying the price for not only the total of 28 miles I will be finishing, but perhaps more specifically the poor choice of hiking 5 miles up the Kalalau Valley in flip flops yesterday. This was exacerbated, I'm sure, by my condition of rheumatoid arthritis and occasional gout that had recently been pretty well under control. Each step was made thoughtfully, trying to avoid placing too much weight on the blistering areas. Ow! ow! no! shoot! ow!
I tried to distract my thoughts from the pain by visually enjoying as much as possible the beauty of this part of the trail. Great ocean views, and beautiful foliage. As much as I want this hike to end, I am a bit sad that this whole experience will be finished. Ke'e Beach finally came into view (feet crying out "yes!"), and the last steps down the rocky path were both physically and emotionally taxing. When I was down on the beach, I felt somewhat numb - Is it over? Am I happy or sad? Hmmmm... maybe something more like very tired and sore, yet nicely fulfilled. A sense of achievement and awe. A feeling of gratitude.
The shoes came off, the feet got wet and the camera came out in preparation for the coming sunset. So, although the Kalalau hike was now officially completed, there is more. A nice capstone to this experience occurs in two days, on August 31st (keep reading).
I ride a taxi back to my car, drive back to the Kaua'i Sands Hotel, call DeNeise to check in and report that all is well, and then crash - first in the bathtub, and then on the bed. A well-needed, very restful night followed.
Friday, August 30th
As worn out as I feel, I can't get myself to sleep in. Dawn has me hobbling back out on the beach. A day in Hawaii just isn't complete unless begun with an ocean sunrise. I have now two days before I catch my flight back to meet up with DeNeise in San Diego for an anticipated escape vacation for the two of us.
Ending the day, I enjoyed sitting outdoors in Hanalei village eating an ono (delicious) Hawaiian BBQ dinner plate listening to a fun rock band named Group Therapy. Then, a very ONO large shave ice dessert comprised of half mango and half guava flavors, sitting on top of a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream, and topped with a snow-cap (condensed milk). Mmm, mmm.
Saturday, August 31st
The last full day here. Following the ocean sunrise routine, it was time for breakfast and laundry. I got some permanent trail souvenirs in the form of stained clothes, some of which I chucked. Breakfast at the hotel was always the same, but good continental-style offerings. Every morning I chose a couple of croissants, a banana and guava juice.
I had to pick and choose among the many places I still wanted to see, that would not all fit in one day's itinerary. That's okay. It just means I'll have to come back again someday. Dang it.
I have long been intrigued with the movie "Jurassic Park" and the locations where it was shot - most of which were right here on Kaua'i. So, I have wanted to get back into the heart of the island, close to Mt. Waialeale (the wettest spot on earth), where the helicopter landing at the waterfall scene was shot. Getting there is on a road full of beauty, but alas, for the second time now, I could only get so far in a car. I even pushed the length I dared to drive in a Pontiac sedan on the muddy road that was in a 4-wheel drive condition. But after a while, a truck that was in front of me at a certain point began backing up with difficulty up a muddy, hole-ridden, sloped road. Geez, if he can't make it....
So, then on to view some waterfalls: the view of the lacy Opaeka'a Falls and the famed Wailua Falls.
My final exploration for the day, and for this trip, was to take the long drive out to the west side of the island, up to and beyond Waimea Canyon - where I saw some beautiful roosters - the official island bird - to the views of the Kalalau Valley from the top rim of the valley cliffs. This created a full circle tour of the island, and a nice capstone experience to my Kalalau journey. DeNeise and I enjoyed coming here 13 years ago, hiking on the Pihea Trail that follows the valley rim for a while, offering some fantastic, mystic and other-worldly views.
Sorry, feet, you lose. I've gotta do it. And, I am so glad I did. This is a place of great spiritual importance to me - from what I experienced 13 years ago, and now today. Beyond enjoying the lush, fantastic views again, I experienced a closeness to my Father in Heaven, and a very strong love for my wife and kids, with a strong wish that they could be with me here, right now. I was partly sad that I have not been able to give this experience to my kids, and having always wanted them to know and love Hawai'i as I do. Life didn't bless me with the resources to do that, and perhaps I haven't always been as responsible with my finances as I could have been that might have allowed it. But instead of dwelling on regrets, I chose to dwell on being thankful for all God has blessed me with, and especially for each one of my family and a desire that they may someday, somehow, have a similar experience. I prayed that the Lord could help this happen.
On my way down the mountain I was blessed to see a bright rainbow, and then got down real close to it. The next morning, as I was preparing to leave, again, a beautiful rainbow. For Noah, the rainbow meant that water would never again cover the earth. For me, I hoped that it did not mean that I would never return, however, I did know that it meant that I would never forget the blessing of this wonderful journey.
Aloha Oe, Kaua'i. Mahalo Nui Loa!
Photos by Ken R. Young
A cool way to end this Hawaiian adventure happened on the plane from Honolulu to Las Vegas. I sat next to a guy named Ricardo, a surfer dude / photographer who lives on the North Shore of O'ahu (surfing Mecca). What would have otherwise been a long, boring flight became very interesting as he told me about his life and surfing adventures. He had a laptop with him and showed me several surf film clips that he had made - out in the middle of the action. Some awesome shots from both on top and under the water, and following the surfers into the "green room". Loved it. I've never surfed, but always wanted to try. I have sometimes wondered if I had a surfer-dude alter ego. I made a new friend and actually enjoyed a flight!
From Las Vegas I took a flight down to San Diego and there met DeNeise. For the next week we enjoyed staying at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort. If on Kaua'i I had a busy, physically taxing journey, in Coronado it was pure relaxation. We had a great time!