Monday, February 15, 2010

The mighty Kalalau

What the sign could also add is that it's 11 long miles to the end, with no potable water, with trailside greenery that disguises sheer drop-offs, exposed to turbulent onshore winds, and when it rains, which is often, if you can call some of these deluges simply "rain," the whole grand landscape turns into a snotty pudding and you will cling like a wretched beast to the nearest wisp of a bush and wonder if the whole island is going to turn before your eyes into a brown stain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Sort of.

Okay, you get the idea. When embarking on Kauai's Kalalau Trail along the fabled Na Pali (The Cliffs) coast, be sure to adequately equip your pack and wear real shoes. A hiking pole is a godsend. So, if indeed you are prepared and take care in foot placement, the Kalalau is a cakewalk, not even in the top ten in a list of Hawaii's most hairball-dangerous trekking trails.

Still, even fittest of big-league hikers should not plan on making the 22-mile roundtrip to the trail's terminus at the Kalalau Valley. Each mile on the Kalalau walks like two. The good news is that you begin to pick up fab vistas after only a half-mile, so there's no need to turn this trail into an all-day escapade to do it justice.

Many people do the 2 miles to Hanakapiai Beach, the only place the trail reaches sea level until its ending point. The more adventurous go inland another two miles from the beach to Hanakapiai Falls, a classic white ribbon in a tropical jungle--an 8-mile hike that, again, will feel like twice that distance. See photo on page 30 of the 2010 Kauai Trailblazer. All Kidding Aside: This beach is very dangerous in the winter, and drownings occur. Also, you have to cross a stream right at the beach, and this has also proven to be fatal to hikers during flash flood conditions.