OHE March 30, 2000 (Kauai Hiking--3/2000)

Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 07:54:30 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@k12.hi.us)
Subject: Kaua'i No Ka Oi

In Paka's opinion, the island of Kaua'i (the Garden Isle) is no ka oi (da best) of all the Hawaiian Islands when it comes to stunning scenery found on the hiking trails there, a view held by many. I had the pleasure of visiting a classic list of places on Kaua'i from March 24 through 27 with two terrific people, Tom Anderson and Tammy Doan.

== Friday, March 24

Our threesome caught the Aloha Air 3:30 p.m. flight to Lihu'e and drove to broad, white-sand Polihale beach on Kaua'i's west side. Arriving at 6:35 p.m., we witnessed a beautiful sunset ten minutes later, the islands of Ni'ihau and Lehua clearly visible to the west. Before darkness set in, a golden hue appeared low on the horizon, the pounding surf our constant audio companion. That evening we stretched out on one of the sand dunes to take in the excellent star action, featuring Saturn, an unusually bright Jupiter, Orion, Pleiades, the Milky Way, Gemini, and, to the north above the Napali Coast, Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), the dark silhouette of the ridge/rocky cliffs behind the beach contrasting against the night sky. At 2:30 a.m. I awoke inside my tent to discover the moon light illuminating the region nicely.

Richard McMahon writes "Polihale is one of the most beautiful and isolated beaches accessible by car in the state. A night spent here under a canopy of stars undimmed by city lights, or when the sea is turned to silver by a full moon, is an unforgettable experience."*

On the front cover and on page 242 of McMahon's CAMPING HAWAI'I - REVISED EDITION is a small picture of Polihale Beach.

== Saturday, March 25

From Polihale, I drove Tom, Tammy and myself to Koke'e State Park.

At 9:45 a.m. we commenced the 11.4 mile Awa'awapuhi-Nu'alolo loop in a mist and drizzle. Fortunately, by the time we got to the awesome overlook of Awa'awapuhi and Nu'alolo Valleys, the weather had settled to a gorgeous 10 to 20 mph trade wind day with an abundance of blue sky and sunshine. We lingered at the twin vistas for over an hour, and then proceeded along the cliff trail to the Nu'alolo Trail. At the junction, Tom and Tammy chose to begin the climb up to Koke'e while I headed for lolo vista.

The view of the Napali Coast toward Ke'e beach from lolo vista is breathtaking, and a scene from "Six Days Seven Nights" starring Harrison Ford was filmed there. Three haole wahines approaching from a point makai of the normal terminus of the trail encouraged me to continue further down the ridge for even better views. I followed their advice and soon found myself looking almost straight down on Nu'alolo Kai! I recognized the structure where a group of us gathered during last year's Napali Coast kayak adventure, and identified the large coral reef located between the mouth of Nu'alolo Valley and Nu'alolo Kai. Looking northeast, the incredible vista of the Napali Coast included Ke'e beach in the distance, the two prominent spires above Ke'e beach, the white wake of waves breaking off the coast, the mammoth sea cliffs, and broad, white-sand Kalalau beach. I also spotted four nene geese in flight and a number of white-tailed tropic birds soaring high above Nu'alolo Valley.

After an hour and a half of enjoying the special place, I commenced ascending the Nu'alolo Trail. Two hours later, I found Tom and Tammy patiently waiting for me at the trailhead on Koke'e Rd. At 5:30 p.m. we completed the walk back to the Awa'awapuhi trailhead and sped off for the Pu'u o Kila lookout (elev. 4,176 ft). The three of us marveled at the impressive knife-edge flanks jutting out of the steep east wall of Kalalau Valley, as well as the verdant valley floor. The day ended as it had begun when fog moved in accompanied by a rain shower. Leaving the lookout behind, we drove to the olapa cabin a short distance below Koke'e Lodge checking in at 6:22 p.m. Hot showers, a delicious meal, the writing of post cards, and a journal entry filled the evening until bed time.

Stuart Ball writes "Nu'alolo Cliff is certainly the best day hike on Kaua'i, and it may be the best in the Islands. The winding route provides a bird's-eye view of the spectacular Napali (the cliffs) Coast. The view from the double overlook at the end of the Awa'awapuhi Trail is truely awesome. On the left are the sheer cliffs of Nu'alolo Valley. Far below on the right is Awa'awapuhi (ginger valley), a narrow canyon with a meandering stream leading to the ocean. Between the overlooks is a knife-edge ridge dividing the two valleys. Spend some time watching the interplay of sun and clouds on ocean, ridge and canyon. Life doesn't get much better than this."**

Take a look at page 7 of 8 in the first photo section in Ball's HIKERS GUIDE TO THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS for a picture of Nua'lolo Valley.

== Sunday, March 26

Following a leisurely breakfast, Tom, Tammy and I checked out of the olapa cabin and headed for the Kukui trailhead (elev. 2,900 ft). At 8:45 a.m. we kicked off the initial steep descent of the 12.2 mile round trip journey to lovely Lonomea, nestled deep inside Koai'e Canyon. On the way in and out we gained pleasure from the spectacular view of Waimea Canyon with its layers of sediment/red eroded pinnacles, the golden flowers of silk oak, the pale green leaves of kukui trees, the dark green sword shaped leaves of sisal plants, the surrounding sheer, rocky cliffs and the rushing, tea colored waters of Koai'e Stream.

Upon arriving at Lonomea around noon, Tom and Tammy immediately recognized the beauty of this special place (I had been there once before so I knew). Tom and I went swimming in the pool adjacent to the campsite, frolicing in the jacuzzi action until the strong current pushed us to calmer waters, then sunbathed with Tammy on the smooth, warm pahoehoe lava. Later, all three of us took a refreshing dip inside the deep, circular lower pool fed by a powerful eighteen foot diagonal cascade.

At 2:51 p.m. I reluctantly departed Lonomea, Tom and Tammy having left twenty minutes earlier. We endured the stiff climb out of the canyon, halting frequently to catch our breath, and regrouped at a wooden bench near the trailhead.

"Now THAT was a workout!" I exclaimed to the couple.

Next, we piled into the rental car, traveled to Lihu'e to pick up dinner, and then proceeded to Camp Naue (YMCA) in Ha'ena. Recalling the confrontation I had with the homeless corkscrewless dude at Ha'ena beach park last August during the Napali Coast kayak adventure, I felt it wise for us to lodge at the YMCA on this occasion. We parked on the grounds just prior to 8 p.m., but due to frequent passing showers opted to sleep in one of the bunkhouses instead of tent camping.

== Monday, March 27

The stay inside the bunkhouse worked out fine until about 5 a.m. when a dude in the adjoining house began to cough almost non-stop, disrupting our sleep (you can't blame high altitude sickness on this one, Gene!). As a result of the disturbance, Tom and Tammy went for a walk on the pleasant, white-sand beach fronting the property between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. Meanwhile, I tramped across the grassy field to the men's room to wash up. En route to the bathroom, I stopped dead in my tracks upon spotting the two prominent spires above Ke'e beach to the north. There's something about those spires that fascinates me! Overcast skies and passing showers dominated the morning weather pattern. Prior to departing Camp Naue, Tom and I paid the caretaker for the overnight visit ($12 per person), and then the three of us drove to Hanalei for breakfast at the Hanalei Wake-up Cafe (recommended).

At 9 a.m. Tom, Tammy and I arrived at the fairly empty Ke'e beach parking lot and prepared for our final hike of the trip, an 8 mile round trip sojourn to Hanakapi'ai Falls via the first two miles of the magnificent Kalalau Trail. Prior to starting the hike, I loitered at the edge of the road a short distance beyond the kiosk/trailhead and thought to myself

"Wow! This is the beginning of one of the most incredible hiking trails in all the Islands!"

The three of us took our time, pausing often to enjoy the hala trees near the footpath, the wind soughing through the ironwoods, the view (and sound!) of waves crashing against the sea cliffs below and the vista of the incomparable Napali Coast. On the way to Hanakapi'ai Valley, the weather became somewhat settled to include sunny periods, and we encountered other day hikers and numerous backpackers. Because of the rain earlier in the day, sections of the trail reverted to a slippery muck but that didn't dampen our spirits. Once at the entrance to Hanakapi'ai Valley, the three of us descended a short distance to the rocks fronting the campsites and gazed at the powerful surf inundating the cove (no white-sand beach to speak of).

During the two mile jaunt into the deepest reaches of the valley rapidly flowing Hanakapi'ai Stream beckoned our attention. At 12:30 p.m. we entered the vast amphitheater at the back of the valley, but got soaked due to strong gusts which blew sheets of moisture from the falls toward the forest. Therefore, we retreated to a warmer, dryer locale. The beautiful 120-foot-high falls exhibited classic cascading action and resembled a lovely bridal veil. I pointed out to Tom and Tammy the impressive layer of dike rock running perpendicular to the falls about two-thirds of the way up the vertical cascade.

After consuming lunch and snapping a few photos, Tom and Tammy commenced the return leg of the hike while I lingered. Reluctantly at 2 p.m., I, too, departed the falls bound for Ke'e beach. En route to Ke'e, I stopped at many places along the trail to memorize the sights. When I reached the rental car, I discovered the twosome relaxing inside.

With a heavy heart, I started the vehicle at 5:35 p.m. and drove us away. Before going to the airport and catching the last flight, we ate dinner at the Wailua Family Restaurant, dining on the ono all-you-can-eat buffet.

Regarding Hanakapi'ai Falls, Stuart Ball writes "This popular hike winds above vertical sea cliffs along the rugged Napali Coast. Midway is an idyllic cove with a white-sand beach. At the end is lovely Hanakapi'ai Falls, cascading into a wide, circular pool."**

Take a look at page 6 of 8 in the first photo section in Ball's HIKERS GUIDE TO THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS for a picture of Hanakapi'ai Beach as it normally appears in summer. On the front cover is a picture of Hanakapi'ai Falls.


* McMahon, Richard, CAMPING HAWAI'I - REVISED EDITION. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 1997.

** Ball, Jr., Stuart M. THE HIKERS GUIDE TO THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS. Honolulu: University Of Hawaii Press, 2000.

== Paka

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