Friday, November 30, 2012

Hiking the Napali

The aptly named north-northwest Napali Coast of Kauai is a 25-mille stretch of roadless shore where big seas do battle with a series of 2,500-foot-high cliffs separated by valleys. The notorious trail to the biggest of these valleys, the Kalalau (pictured) is an arduous 11-mile trek that begins where the road ends on the north side of the island.

But for the best views and a number of lesser-know trails that descend from above the precipices you need to head to the west side of the island and make the drive up to Waimea Canyon. Above the canyon are great views into the Kalalau from overlooks you can drive to. Or, select from a half-dozen or more trails—typically requiring 10-plus miles round-trip hiking with about 2,000 feet of down-and-back-up elevation. One of the best is the Nualolo Cliff Trail (pictured), which ends at a red-dirt escarpment that will curl your toes. For complete directions for all the hikes in the Waimea Canyon check out the proven classic, Kauai Trailblazer guide.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Maui's Iao Valley State Park

Iao (rhymes with meow) Valley State Park gets hammered with tour buses and can be a turnoff to those seeking a jungle adventure. To enjoy the place, you need to cobble together a series of attractions, beginning outside the park--which is only two miles from Maui's county seat in Wailuku.

The Maui Trailblazer guidebook has the details, beginning on page 91. The heftiest hike in the area is Kapilau Ridge (up to 5 miles round-trip, with 2,100 feet of elevation), which passes the Wailuku Cross on the way up a skinny ridge with sea views. Just before the park is a sure-thing for families: Kepaniwai Heritage Park. The county park has an arboretum of banyans, palms, and mangos that shade recreations of buildings from the cultures that formed Hawaii's sugar cane culture. Next door to this park is the privately run Hawaii Nature Center, with a gift shop, kid's museum, and nature walks (around $30) that visit the stream where the bloody battle of the Iao Valley took place in 1790. Finally, also outside the park is the Tropical Gardens of Maui, whose lush acres also span the stream. Garden admission is priced right, about five bucks.

Iao Valley State Park has several short hikes, including botanical gardens, streamside trails, and the steps that rise to a kiosk to view the park's namesake, a 2,250-foot green spire known as the Iao Needle. Most visitors stop here, not realizing you can step over a railing to a trail that leads up past the Needle to a narrow ridge that is one of Maui's (and Hawaii's) most scenic spots. Reaching this spectacular spot requires only a modest investment of energy: 1.5 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 250 feet. The trail continues beyond the vista, following the route the fleeing warriors took in 1790 to escape to Olowalu Valley on the other side of the island. But this trail is badly overgrown and not recommended, even if Kamehameha himself is chasing you with a club.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Trailblazers

Thank you readers for sharing adventures with us in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Enjoy the holiday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Super Storm Sandy's Hawaiian "Refugees"

The effects of Hurricane Sandy are being felt at another ocean some 5,000 miles away, on the sandy beaches of Hawaii. Still without power and with homes devastated, well-off residents of the Northeastern Seaboard have fled to the tropical climate and warm waters of the Extreme West Coast. Maui and Oahu (Waikiki) have seen most of the uptick, with hotels running at pretty much full capacity, but Kauai and the Big Island have also extended an aloha to Easterners. Of course, most of those impacted by Sandy remain with the grey sands and fridgid air of New Jersey and environs. Hawaiians, and everyone else, are encouraged to send aloha and donations to the American Red Cross. Every offering will make someone's Thanksgiving that much better.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dat's why they call it the BIG Island

Hikers looking for out-there experiences can find them on any of the Islands, but on the Big Island of Hawaii (about twice the size as the other islands combined), you have to go looking for someplace that isn't some form of wilderness. And it's not all wild-and-wooly. These oceanside paths at Ninole Cove are pocked with unmarked Hawaiian archeological sites, located just south of Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, which is a tour-bus stop about 40 miles south of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the east shore. Inland from these black-rock beaches is Wood Valley, site of a Buddhist retreat nestled into the huge Kau Forest Reserve, with subtropical groves and trails leading up the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano, lofted at about 14,000 feet. About 20 miles offshore Ninole, and 3 miles under sealevel, is Loihi, a bubbling mountain of lava some 15,000 feet high that is expect to see daylight in about 10,000 years. Hawaii the Big Island Traiblazer has more on this coastline, begining on page 117.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hiking poles: Not just for geezers in Hawaii

Some adventure hikers may see using a pole (the retractable kind that easily fits in a suitcase) as a crutch for injured or older people. Not so in Hawaii. In many circumstances, a pole is a literal life-saver.

Mountain trails in the islands often go straight up ridges and sometimes narrow to several feet or less, with big drop-offs on either side. This is okay when ascending under dry conditions. But coming down, even a light rain can turn the tacky red earth to muddy grease. A pole is a much-needed helping hand.

Stream crossings are frequent in lush valley trails. Rains can quickly cause stream levels to rise, making crossings difficult: A hiking pole helps keep you upright (although, during flash floods, hikers should use common sense and wait out the storm until stream levels recede.)

Poles also are a good way to probe the thick greenery that borders trails, to ensure for solid footing. Greenery can disguise drop-offs. In lush trails in the morning hours, poles are also helpful in clearing the spider webs that lace the bushes (although there are no posionous insects in Hawaii). And, should you ever find a wild pig, common to mountain regions, a hiking pole is a ready aid for self defense. (That is a joke, sort of.)

Poles are also useful on coastal routes to remote beaches, when rock-hopping is required.

If you plan on getting 'out there' in Hawaii, a hiking pole is essential gear, in much the same way swim fins are essential gear to add swimming power in the face of rip currents. For more precautionary advice in the water or on the trail consult your No Worries Hawaii guidebook.