OHE March 28, 1998 (cc)

Date: Wed, 8 Apr 1998 08:53:33 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie 
Subject: A Visit to the Garden Isle - The Complete Story Part 2

And now the stunning conclusion to Dayle and Paka's trip to Kauai...

== Friday, March 27th

Woke up a few minutes after 6 a.m. with a sore back even though I had slept on a fully inflated thermarest. By the time I got moving which was closer to 6:30 a.m. Dayle had already arisen and exited his tent.

The two of us ate some breakfast, got our gear organized for a full day of hiking and "shoved off" at 8 a.m. Lots of sunshine (sun soaked hillsides) and blue sky greeted us as we began tramping up the paved road toward the Awaawapuhi Trailhead. A cool crisp morning breeze accompanied us during the 1.4 mile mainly up hill road walk.

At 8:26 a.m. Dayle and I arrived at the start of the trail and immediately began making our way thru a forest over a relatively level wide but muddy footpath. Every once in a while the two of us noticed small numbered white signs along the trail. Next we descended into a hunting zone and not long after stopped at a view spot featuring a huge eroded landslide directly below. Heard a "laughing" bird and observed three feral chickens as we continued our jaunt. The trail opened up occasionally with nice views across the Kaulakahi Channel of Niihau in the distance. Passed a large eroded mound on the right. Paused briefly at two view points to study sheer crumbly ridge walls across the way which were eroded on top. Descended thru two switchbacks and eventually reached the junction with the Nualolo Trail at 9:36 a.m. Dayle and I proceeded straight ahead.

The sound of tour helicopters filled the air in front of us as we approached the Nualolo vistas. The two of us arrived there at 9:43 a.m. and were blessed with incredible views of the spectacular fluted sheer cliffs of Awaawapuhi Valley directly below and Naulolo Valley to the left. We blurted out words/phrases such as "Whoa!", "Yes!", "Awesome!", "Look at that!", "Nice!". If Nathan Yuen had been with us he certainly would have exclaimed his best "Neat-o!". There were only a few trees in the first valley and a stream was clearly visible running almost straight thru the middle of it. Precipitous rocky cliffs formed the valley walls. The shore break and vast Pacific Ocean beyond completed the wonderful vision.

Dayle and I removed our cameras from our packs and carefully began making our way toward a narrow eroded dike between the two valleys for a closer look. I went down the dike first as Dayle took photos of me in the foreground with Nualolo Valley in the background to show scale. There was plenty of goat scat to avoid as we descended to a steep dropoff. From the end of the dike we could stare down into Nualolo Valley and had a better view of its massive sheer cliffs. There were many trees on the valley floor and several dormant vertical waterfall shoots existed toward the back. The two of us could have spent hours enjoying the area but we wanted to cover as much territory as possible; therefore, we started heading back to the junction at 10:08 a.m. As I took one last look down into Awaawapuhi Valley I noticed the sun just beginning to light part of it up.

Ascended gradually to the junction and reached it at 10:15 a.m. Dayle and I then turned right onto the Awaawapuhi-Nualolo connector trail. The footpath contoured along the slope past a dry waterfall bed. We departed the trail briefly to check out a view spot at 10:33 a.m. Halted again at another vista location of Nualolo Valley with several choppers buzzing around. Further on we descended thru three switchbacks, wound in and out of side gullies and took delight from a brief open breath-taking stretch above the valley.

A short distance from the 1.5 mile marker the two of us observed a large light brown goat equipped with sizeable horns on a cliff below. It looked like a ram because of its size. Soon after we noticed several more of the creatures not far from the light brown one. Photos were taken accordingly followed by a rest break at a covered picnic table nearby.

At 11:30 a.m. Nualolo Valley was completely lit up (no shadows) as Dayle and I hiked above it along the rim thru tall grass. Beyond the 1.75 mile marker the trail contoured thru an eroded slope (a spooky segment for some esp. Carole Moon!) and featured more excellent views of Nualolo Valley below on the right. Came to another junction distinquished by a wooden sign with mileage figures on it: Nualolo Flats .5; Awaawapuhi 2.1; Kokee Rd. 4.9; Kokee Museum 7.5.

Instead of immediately turning left onto the Nualolo Trail Dayle and I decided to visit Lolo Vista, a ridge which juts out toward the ocean away from the main Koke'e region. As we moved toward the terminal point over the open loose dirt trail the views became mind-blowing! It was very apparent that earlier in the day we had at times been hiking close to 1000 foot dropoffs. The coast toward Kalalau could be seen including the white shore break and the spiers of one of the ridges in that area were also visible. Toward the ocean the two of us observed up close a pinnacle shaped like a nipple.

Reluctantly we departed Lolo Vista at 12:14 p.m. and arrived at the sign post at 12:26 p.m. A couple of minutes later the two of us got onto the Nualolo Trail toward the Koke'e Museum and endured a short somewhat steep ascent. The footpath eventually leveled off after another wooden sign but the flat stretch was brief and the ascent continued. It was a hot gradual climb but the trail consisted of packed mud (not slippery). I was in front and began to put some distance between myself and Dayle. Whenever I would stop to take notes he would catch up. The trail leveled off again (it even descended for a brief duration) thru forest then took us thru a meadow containing pretty multicolored lantana flowers. There was an abundance of blue sky above and sunshine. The final half mile of the trail was muddy and featured a tough ascent (not steep but steady).

We descended to a paved road reaching it at 1:50 p.m. The sign near the road read: Lolo Vista Point 3.8; Nualolo Cliff Trail 3.4. Dayle and I walked past the Koke'e Restaurant and Museum in route to the camping area.

Once we arrived at the camping area parking lot at 2:01 p.m. the two of us went our separate ways. Dayle to his tent for a nap and myself into the car for a ride to the Kukui Trailhead. Drove to the Kukui Trailhead and parked across the road from it at 2:17 p.m.

Conducted final preps including a check of my camelbak waterlevel and started down the Kukui footpath at 2:26 p.m. My goal was the top of Red Hill, one of the peaks across the canyon. Immediately I noticed an incredible gushing vertical waterfall in the distance between two massive peaks as well as crumbly reddish orange cliffs on the other side of Waimea Canyon. I descended on an open dry loose dirt/crumbly rock trail thru a series of switchbacks.

At the 11th switchback (SB) I paused to take in the beautiful views of the canyon. Suddenly a goat with long horns and black and brown fur emerged from some vegetation about ten feet below. The animal was munching some grass and although it made visual contact with me only moved slowly away lying down underneath a shade tree.

After the 20th SB the trail descended somewhat steeply straight down the ridge. Seven people passed me on their way up. I continued losing elevation thru 4 additional SBs and another straight section of trail.

Entered a forest of tall buffalo grass and haole koa trees shortly beyond the 1.5 mile marker and could hear goats close by. The altitude loss was maintained thru 9 SBs inside the forest then the trail thru the forest snaked down toward the canyon floor. Encountered a grove of huge dark green plants (long narrow leaves shooting out in all directions).

Reached the canyon floor at 3:18 p.m. and went left at a junction (wooden sign) still in the forest. I could hear a stream in front of me. Next the trail took me between more of the large green plants. It was a very pleasant stroll thru the canyon with a nice breeze, blue sky and white puffy clouds above. I was surrounded by beautiful sheer rocky cliffs with wonderful natural rock towers in between them.

Just before crossing a wide delightful stream I noticed a nice waterfall on my left followed by a terrific swimming pool in the stream. Found myself knee deep in dark chilly water as I forded the river at 3:33 p.m. Upon reaching dry land I passed an Ohulehule southeast ridge like dike on the left located on the other side of the stream (the side I had just come from). Forded the waterway again at 3:39 p.m. realizing that the river had a fairly strong flow to it. At this point I recognized a trail which contoured along the base of the dike bypassing the stream crossings. Further ahead there were three camp sites (rocks laid next to each other forming a circle with spent charcoal inside) adjacent to the stream.

Crossed the river for the third time in the direction of Red Hill at 3:50 p.m. Kept making progress thru patches of forest. On the way I saw a black cat, feral chickens and another cat (not black). Gorgeous rocky peaks existed on my left. Ascended thru more huge dark green plants and koa haole. The trail then leveled off and took me to a point atleast twenty feet above the stream. Looking down on it was a pleasant sight. Reached a position where the river was flowing rapidly below with the canyon walls including the peaks in the background! I greatly desired to sit down and take it all in for several hours but could not due to time constraints.

Went thru an opening in a three foot stone wall with a precipitous red cliff on the right at 4:12 p.m. A forest covered the landscape from the cliff all the way down to the stream. Pressing on I discovered more stones stacked on top of each other and a sheltered picnic table on the right. Came to the conclusion that I had missed the junction with the Red Hill Trail since the footpath I was on appeared only to be taking me deeper into the canyon along the canyon floor. I turned back at 4:22 p.m.

On the way out I traveled along the base of the Ohulehule SE ridge looking dike using a narrow contour pathway with the stream 10 to 15 feet below on the left thus avoiding the first two stream crossings. Walked over a wooden board to span the lower part of the waterfall.

As I methodically regained the elevation I had lost earlier in the day via the switchbacks I stopped periodically to catch my breath. Also, to enjoy the radiant vision of white clouds hovering over the massive peaks and waterfall with the sunshine lighting up Red Hill. The sediment lines running thru the rocky cliffs were very obvious in the afternoon sun. Noticed a grove of trees slightly below the trail which had lovely golden leaves on them.

Reached the rental car at 6:28 p.m. and sped off in route to the Kalalau tourist lookout. "Perhaps it is clear", I thought to myself.

Pulled into the nearly empty lookout parking lot at 6:45 p.m. and dashed upto the metal railing. I beheld Kalalau's absolutely gorgeous fluted sheer cliffs along with three vertical waterfalls on the right toward the back of the valley. In stark contrast to Waimea Canyon, the fluted cliffs were dark green in color and the valley was a lush green despite the recent drought. Next I watched the sun set from another part of the lookout then returned to gazing at Kalalau Valley. It wet my appetite for a backpacking trip of the region. I remained at the lookout as long as I could brave the freezing wind but alas and very reluctantly I departed the overlook at 7:05 p.m.

Drove back to the Koke'e camping area and without delay proceeded to the place where Dayle and I had our tents set up. Began preparing the evening meal. Dayle had already consumed most of his but had the stove ready for my arrival. After dinner and cleanup the two of us prepared for an early morning departure. At approx. 9 p.m. Dayle turned in for the night while I savored the final moments of our time at Koke'e staring up at the star lit sky which was occasionally blocked by passing clouds.

== Saturday, March 28th

Arose at 5 a.m. and a few minutes later emerged from my tent. Commenced breaking it down and packing away miscellaneous items in the pitch dark using flashlight. Dayle and I loaded up the car and departed the Koke'e camp grounds at approx. 6 a.m.

On the way to Lihue we stopped at a Shell station to fill up the tank. With time to spare the two of us ate breakfast at the Lihue McDonalds then headed for the airport. I dropped Dayle off at the curbside with our bags and returned the rental car soon after.

Caught the Aloha Airlines 8:30 a.m. flight to Honolulu. We were glad to be going home but treasured the memories of hiking on Kauai and would return as soon as schedules and finances permitted.

-- Patrick

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