Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kahili Ridge 1, Hikers 0

Sometimes the mountain wins. With about 1,700 feet of vertical over less than a two-mile accent, the hike up to razor-back Kahili Ridge in south Kauai is a bit of a workout, but not one to dissuade fit hikers. But when gusty winds and sheet rain punch through the Koloa Gap, bringing clouds that turn the scenery to whiteout fog, it’s time to sound the bugle and make a hasty retreat.

On the upper reaches of the buttress shoulder that leads to the ridge, the trail narrows to about 18 inches, not wide enough to feel comfortable with only ferns at the margins of sheer drop offs to either side. Going up, you can hunker down in the wind and use a hiking pole to keep climbing. Coming down is the real hazard, as rain turns the red earth into a slick toboggan run and gravity is definitely not your friend.

In the lower half of the descent, branches of scrub strawberry guava are a welcome hand to hang on to. You win, mountain, we’ll be back on a day when you aren’t so pissy. Or better yet, we’ll loop around to your other side and take the road-trail from Alexander Reservoir, where all your huffing and puffing carries less of a threat.