OHE June 17, 1999 (Kauai hiking)

Date: Thu, 17 Jun 1999 08:51:20 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@mailhost.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Another Visit to the Garden Isle

Touched down at Honolulu International Airport at 9:17 p.m. Monday night (June 14th) following a wonderful trip to the island of Kauai. A female hiking friend (FHF) and I enjoyed phenomenal weather as we day hiked some of the Garden Isles' best trails.

== Friday, June 11th

FHF and I joined Mel Yoshioka and twelve other Sierra Club members on the trip staying at the DOE Discover Center in Kokee. After stops in Lawai and Waimea to pick up last minute items including lunch, the group headed for Kokee stopping again at the Waimea Canyon overlook. Ate lunch at 11 a.m. inside a pavilion between the Kokee Museum and the Kokee campground, then with some time available before check in, drove up to the Kalalau overlook to gain pleasure from the breathtaking views of the valley and sheer fluted cliffs of the east wall. Backtracked to the discovery center (elev. 3,680 ft) where we unpacked our gear and prepared for an afternoon day hike.

With such nice weather, FHF and I decided to give the Awaawapuhi-Nualolo Loop a try while Mel and friends opted for Sugi Grove and various short trails in the interior of Kokee. The two of us drove to the trailhead and began the trek at 1 p.m.

The gradual 3.3 mile descent took about an hour climaxed by incredible (stuning!) precipitous views 2,500 feet above the Na Pali Coast of narrow Awaawapuhi and Nualolo Valleys. The sheer rock walls especially caught our attention. The two of us ventured to a point before a steep drop off along the narrow ridge separating the two valleys and sat down to hydrate. Goats about a hundred feet below on the Nualolo side startled FHF.

We enjoyed the vistas for about half an hour (hardly enough time to pay tribute but with such a late start we had to keep moving), then continued toward the Nualolo Trail via the Nualolo Cliff Trail, a 2.1 mile graded contour footpath with numerous overlooks into Nualolo Valley. Accomplished the cliff trail in about an hour in route to lolo vista. The final stretch to a metal railing (the end of the 3.8 mile Nualolo Trail) is one of the most spectacular in Hawaii featuring magnificent views of Nualolo Valley 2,800 feet below including the back of the valley and the Na Pali Coast toward Ke'e Beach (sea cave entrances and prominent rock spires). Also visible to the west, the island of Niihau.

Admired the sights for about forty five minutes, then commenced the steady climb to Kokee Road. FWF started ahead of me knowing that it would take longer for her to complete the 3.8 mile leg. Both of us noticed a few of the rare, endemic iliau plants some of which were in full bloom along the way as well as many tall ohia lehua and koa trees. However, a mean lantana/blackberry combo existed in large quantities about a mile from the trailhead.

Reached the Nualolo Trail/Kokee Road junction at 6:07 p.m. and walked back to the discovery center. Dinner, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., wasn't quite ready so I jogged/walked up to the Awaawapuhi Trailhead to retrieve the rental car. Upon returning to the compound, I relaxed by taking a hot shower!

After 9 p.m. some of us went outside onto the front yard to star gaze but it lasted only a few minutes because high clouds blew in from the north blocking the view. Beaded down on futons at 10:24 p.m. inside a large upper room.

== Saturday, June 12th

Arose to a beautiful, crisp (temps in the lower fifties), clear morning in Kokee, the early morning light illuminating the numerous, tall ohia lehua trees surrounding the learning center nicely. Following breakfast, I helped shuttle people to the Awaawapuhi Trailhead from the Nualolo Trailhead (the hike of choice for Mel and friends on this day). Once pau, FHF and I headed for the Kukui Trailhead and a rendezvous with Waimea/Koaie Canyons.

We commenced the 2.5 mile 2000 foot descent at 8:37 a.m. and, early on, the two of us recognized a multitude of iliau plants (many in full bloom) in a small meadow encircled by the Iliau Loop Trail. During the steep downward section, we paused on several occasions to take pleasure from the outstanding vistas, the rugged, reddish brown sheer cliffs across the canyon with their layers of sediment a delight to the eyes. Noticed a gushing waterfall in the back of a gorge and Red Hill (the gateway to Cowboy Flats and Mount Waialeale) to the left of the gorge across the valley as well. Downslope, silk oak trees with their gold flowers dominated much of the surrounding landscape. Eventually, we entered a koa haole/kukui forest and during the final quarter mile sisal plants began appearing.

Arrived at the first shelter and the end of the Kukui Trail at 10:40 a.m. and took a short break. Pressing on, FHF and I descended all the way to the Waimea River instead of turning left (north) onto the Waimea Canyon Trail. We rock hopped north toward the Waimea River/Koaie Stream fork for a distance, then upon recognizing the error of our way, departed the river and gained the footpath. Passed a small but delightful waterfall on the left while walking over a short wooden plank and successfully tramped along a narrow contour section bordering dike rock above the river.

Forded the Waimea River onto the three mile Koaie Canyon Trail and passed the second shelter at the base of Red Hill before entering Koaie Canyon. Reached the third shelter at 11 a.m. almost 1.5 miles inside Koaie Canyon and descended to Koaie Stream for lunch. After lunch, FHF decided she'd gone far enough so we separated. I completed the final 1.5 miles of the now graded contour through coffee plants and kukui trees in about forty five minutes. Sheer, rugged, light and dark brown rock cliffs on the opposite side of the stream caught my attention during the stretch.

Arrived at the Lonomea Campsite and the terminus of the Koaie Canyon Trail at 12:39 p.m. Emerging from the woods onto the smooth, level, rock stream bed (ideal for sun bathing), I was astonished by the beauty of the region. The bright sunshine and light trade winds brought warmth and lovely pools at the base of two waterfalls beckoned. In the background, the steep walls of Koaie Canyon stretched to the northeast with abundant blue sky above. I dropped my pack and snapped photos of the area, then took a refreshing dip in the tea colored water of the first pool. Later, I backtracked to two lower waterfalls relaxing near the bank of a large, deep, circular pool. Reluctantly, I departed the special place at 2:19 p.m. and retraced my steps to the first shelter where I found FHF waiting with a look of relief on her face.

We methodically climbed out of Waimea Canyon via the Kukui Trail taking almost two hours to do so stopping frequently to catch our breath. A "laughing" bird (Erckel's francolin) mocked us all the way up, but at 5:20 p.m. the two of us reached the trailhead and sat down on a bench.

With ample time remaining in the day we decided to head for the Kalalau lookout. Crossed Waimea Canyon Road and sped off for the overlook. Upon arriving at the scenic point, FHF and I enjoyed fantastic, clear views of the valley and sheer fluted cliffs of the steep east wall as well as spires and a rock tower on the west ridge (wall). Unfortunately, clouds moved in motivating us to depart for the DOE Learning Center. A hot shower, dinner at 6:30 p.m., a journal entry at 8 and gear organization were the main late afternoon/evening activities followed by awesome star gazing from 9 to 10 p.m. Hit the sack at 10:28 p.m.

== Sunday, June 13th ==

This being the last day on Kauai for Mel and gang, most were up by 5 a.m. and no one slept beyond 5:25 a.m. I brushed my teeth in the men's room, then joined everyone else in tidying up the DOE discovery center by vacumming the upper room, now called the "honeymoon suite" by a few, in preparation for an afternoon departure. At 6 a.m. breakfast commenced (pancakes) and between 6:30 and 7, with cleanup in the wrap up stages, I undertook the job no one desired to do - the scrubbing of the men's toilets and urinals! :-)

Blessed with another magnificent day weatherwise (entirely blue sky except for a few clouds on the fringes of the horizon), the entire group gathered in the front yard before 7:15 a.m. I drove one of the rental cars to the Kalalau overlook upper parking lot.

While the others started walking on the paved road toward the Pu'u O Kila lookout, I jogged to the Kalalau overlook to take in the sights. The early morning sunshine lit up the valley floor nicely but the steep east wall was in shadow.

By the time I arrived at the Pu'u O Kila lookout (the beginning of the Pihea Trail), I had just about caught up with the gang when the incredible panorama stopped me dead in my tracks. I gazed at the broad summit of Mount Waialeale in the distance to the south, turned around and looked down into Kalalau Valley, the steep west wall grabbing my attention. Also visible to the southwest, the outskirts of Koaie Canyon. Suddenly, four nene geese took off near the group and flew almost directly over my head! At that point I ceased the moment and told myself "You're in the zone! Life doesn't get much better than this!".

Although badly eroded in spots, the Pihea Trail offered numerous vistas of Kalalau, and I paused on several occasions to memorize the steep west wall including the light green imposing flanks, the sheer fluted cliffs, the spectacular rock towers and prominent spires. As a result of my slowness, I fell behind the group again. At the top of "Pihea Vista", the sun began to shine on the knife edge ridges of the steep east wall.

A short distance below the Pihea Trail/Pihea Vista junction, I entered the rich native flora region of Kokee and recognized several lobelia trees, tall ohia lehua trees with clusters of red blossoms and an abundance of lapalapa. The trail became a boardwalk and I caught up with Betsy and Isaac of Mel's party just prior to the junction with the Alakai Swamp Trail. Turned left onto the Swamp Trail and found Mel and the others a short distance later conversing with a native bird expert. Coming in and out of the Alakai Swamp, some of us heard and observed a few native birds ourselves.

I led the way as we forded a stream which had a lower than normal water level due to the ongoing drought in Kokee. Next, we ascended along a somewhat muddy footpath (but not as muddy as in March of '98 when I first hiked the trail), then rejoined the boardwalk all the way to Kilohana Lookout. (READ: the construction of the boardwalk has been completed!). While in the bog, Mel pointed out the stunted growth of ohia lehua and lapalapa trees and as the wooden walkway veered left during the final stretch before the terminus, Isaac brought to our attention the presence of 1.5 inch carnivorous plants less than a foot from the perimeter of the boardwalk.

Initially fogged in, we reached the Kilohana Lookout at 10:30 a.m. and sat down to consume lunch. Slowly, the clouds dissipated revealing excellent views of cresent shaped Hanalei Bay in the distance, Wainiha River and valley directly below, and the surrounding mountain ranges.

With a late afternoon plane to catch, Mel and company departed the terminus at 11 a.m. and I reluctantly followed six minutes later. On the return leg, I was astonished at the amount of sunshine and clarity afforded the summit bog/swamp on this day. Once I gained the Pihea Trail, Masa and I enjoyed gazing across the miles of forest at the partially obstructed summit of Waialeale. However, when we passed the Pihea Trail/Pihea Vista junction, clouds rolled in from the north turning us into hikers in the mist. The cooling mist brought refreshment, but the awesome views of Kalalau were lost. We felt sorry for hikers approaching us in the opposite direction.

Upon arriving at the Kalalau upper lot at 1:20 p.m., we piled into the rental cars and headed back to the discovery center where we showered, packed and reflected on our wonderful experience during the past few days at Kokee. I looked around one last time at the tall ohia lehua surrounding the discovery center, then departed with the others at 3 p.m.

In Lihue, I dropped Doug and Norm off at the airport, ate dinner at KFC with my female hiking friend (FHF), located the State office building (in preparation for an attempt at obtaining a camping permit the next day), and eventually camped at Hanamaulu State Park after getting lost trying to find it.

The two of us set up our tents between 6:45 and 7 p.m. and just prior to 8, I departed Hanamaulu to turn in the rental car and pick up another. Got back to the park at 8:48 p.m. and flossed/brushed teeth in the men's room equipped with a wall mirror (I found it unusual for a beach park bathroom to have a mirror because I had the impression the authorities feared the object would be shattered). Noticed atleast half a dozen dogs running around loose with dog fights breaking out periodically but tried to focus on the positive (the gentle sound of waves breaking onto the beach and a line of tall coconut palms in front of our Campsite). Star gazed (clouds obstructed much of the night sky) and submitted a journal entry before bedded down for the evening at 10:45 p.m.

== Monday, June 14th

Having retired the previous evening at 10:45 p.m., I did not enter deep sleep until 2 a.m. when the kids and their parents in nearby campsites stopped making noise, deciding to go to sleep themselves. Unfortunately, the quality slumber only lasted a few hours, for by 5 a.m. the feral chickens began kaka-do-dal-doing, sometimes in stereo (two at a time). I arose at 6 a.m. and headed for the men's room to shave and brush teeth. On the way I noticed the early morning sun, although obscured by clouds, rising beautifully above the horizon.

Afterward, my female hiking friend (FHF) and I broke camp, loaded up the rental car and departed Hanamaulu Beach Park at 6:50 a.m. We drove to the State Office Building in Lihue to apply for five day Kalalau camping permits but arrived before the permits office opened. With no one else waiting for the office to open, the two of us proceeded to McDonald's for breakfast. Upon our return to the permits office, we found out that the computer was down and would not be up for atleast two hours. Instead of waiting around, we drove to charming Kapaa Town, then to the Opaekaa Falls vista (a nice overlook of the lovely 40-foot cascade). From the vista, the two of us walked across the road and looked down on the Wailua River spotting boats in route to the Fern Grotto and kayakers.

At approx. 10:20 a.m. FHF and I returned to the permits office hoping for good news. An hour later, with the computer still down, we decided to eat lunch at the Whaler located on the grounds of the Kauai Marriot Resort. The restaurant offered nice views of Nawiliwili Bay and the mountain range to the west of the bay along with ono grinds.

Back at the State DLNR permits office for one more try at getting Kalalau permits, FHF and I were informed that the computer would probably be down the remainder of the day and that only Kokee permits were being given out manually.

Thoroughly disgusted with the process, the two of us departed Lihue at 1:50 p.m. bound for Haena State Park (the easternmost end of the Na Pali Coast) in an attempt to salvage what was left of the day. During the trip, FHF fell asleep in the car and I enjoyed gazing at the surrounding countryside. While crusing through Hanalei town, I noticed a spectacular waterfall running down a steep mountain wall in the deepest part of Hanalei Valley. Upon seeing the prominent spires behind Makua Beach, I realized that we were almost at our destination, and a few minutes before 3 p.m. we arrived at the Ke'e Beach parking lot near the Kalalau trailhead.

After final preps, the two of us hit the trail determined to hike as far as the remaining time would allow. Although the first two miles are wide, rutted and well used by day hikers, it felt good to be on the Kalalau footpath.

Early on, I enjoyed looking down at the breaking waves with white foam off Ke'e Beach. At the half mile marker, we received our first breath-taking view of the Na Pali Coast.

FHF and I exchanged greetings with numerous other hikers traveling in the opposite direction while working in and out of several ravines/gulches. Hala trees and ti leaf plants dominated the flora, and I recognized kukui and ironwood trees as well. The sight and sound below of waves crashing against the coast added to the pleasant experience.

During the descent to Hanakapiai Valley, I paused several times to study the magnificent Na Pali Coast (the vertical sea cliffs and prominent "shoulders" - ridges dropping down to the ocean) as it continued westward and believe I located the lolo vista of the Nualolo Trail in the distance!

The two of us forded Hanakapiai Stream without any trouble, and a short distance later, reached the Hanakapiai Falls trailhead at 4:03 p.m. Passed through a relatively open stretch highlighted by an emergency helipad area, then entered a canopy. The footpath ascended gradually along the west bank of the stream as we penetrated deeper into the valley, and I spotted guava trees, thick circular bambo stands with names and dates of visitors etched into the bark, and huge mango trees. Eventually, the trail veered east accomplishing two stream crossings, then headed southeast along the east bank. Two more stream crossing over tributaries of rapidly flowing Hanakapiai Stream ensued followed by an opening in the canopy which allowed for views of two prominent spires of the middle ridge of the valley.

The beginning of the final half mile featured nice vistas of 120-foot Hanakapiai Falls in the distance. Further mauka, the waterway flowing swiftly over boulders brought about jacuzzi action. Next came a large, deep rectangular pool fed by rapids. While fording the stream above the pool to get to the west bank, FHF slipped and fell into the water but recovered quickly. During the final stream crossing back to the east bank, I discovered a lovely two-tiered waterfall on the eastern side of the stream. Higher up, I also became aware of more deep pools, smooth rock areas ideal for sunbathing, and a rapidly flowing, narrow waterslide. Another feeder waterfall existed above the waterslide on the western side of the stream. Still deeper into the valley, I observed the stream as it proceeded over a ten foot waterfall.

With very little time to enjoy the region, FHF and I arrived at a large, inviting, circular pool at the base of Hanakapiai Falls at 5:03 p.m. I recognized a "V" shaped narrow defile at the top of the vertical cascade, and the sheer walls in the back of the valley gave form to the natural amphitheater. Took pleasure from the locale for about fifteen minutes, then reluctantly commenced the return leg.

We reached the front of Hanakapiai Valley a few minutes past 6 p.m. and paused to stare at the beautiful white sand beach, waves breaking onto the shore. FHF led the way as the two of us forded Hanakapiai Stream for the last time that day and climbed out of the valley. Somehow I got around FHF without either of us realizing it and raced ahead of her. Although short on time, I stopped on several occasions to memorize the Na Pali Coast as it stretched toward Kalalau and beyond and to look down at the powerful waves as they crashed against the rocky coast.

I approached the rental car at 6:50 p.m. and reorganized my stuff for the plane ride home. When FHF arrived, she scolded me for running off, especially since she had a sore ankle. :-(

Reluctantly departed the Ke'e Beach area at 7:08 p.m. In route to Hanalei we caught glimpses of the gorgeous sunset, and as darkness set in on the way to Lihue, I couldn't help but remember the hitch hiking episode Ralph Valentino and I experienced in June of '98 (FHF and I not did see any hitch hikers on the way to the airport).

Checked into Aloha Air and caught the 9 p.m. flight to Oahu. Shortly after take off, I began reflecting on the incredible trip to the Garden Isle (minus the State computer failure) looking forward with much anticipation to a return visit in late August with a few members of OHE-L.

NOTES: The neighbor islands, especially Kauai, are where its at people! Let go of your Oahu day hikes/backpacking trips and embrace the neighbor islands! You won't be disappointed!!!


Paka (live from Fulton, Maryland)

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