OHE October 16, 1998

Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 00:16:51 -1000
Subject: First trip to Kalalau

Sept 12th - 15th was the first trip to Kalalau for my son Ryan and I. This is a trip we had wanted to do for many years but it just never came together. Here's a write up, details may be sketchy.

We were only able to get a permit for one night at Kalalau, but we were determined to visit this place even though Stuart Ball's book says this should not even be considered. Anticipating a grueling pace we took lots of pau hana hikes and went overnight t o Makua Rim. All this hiking plus preparing to leave work for a week made things very busy. The day before we left we went to the library for Stuart Ball's Backpackers Guide and On the Napali Coast (these are not the exact titles). We also stopped by the permit office to see if any more nights opened up. YEAH!!! one more night at Kalalau. We now had two night at Kalalau, one night at Hanakapiai and one night at Kokee.

On the 5::55am flight to Kauai I was handed a newspaper with a story about someone caught breaking into cars near Makapuu lookout. The suspect resisted and grabbed the officer's gun then shot him in the stomach. He then tried to get away in the officers c ar and was shot many times. This story caught my attention because my car has been broken into many times while hiking. One time the person was caught. HPD recovered my cell phone and told me he had already been released "they don't prosecute property cri mes" the nice officer gave me a copy of his license in case I wanted my own form of justice. This person was over 6' tall and 280lbs!! And the same person as in the shoot out!!! Got to give HPD credit for doing a dangerous job!

As we came to baggage claim we were greeted by our North Shore Taxi driver (no rental car damage for us!). His first words were "So, are you ready for your wet & wild adventure?". The day looked typical for Kauai, you could see sun on leeward side and clo uds & rain on windward.

At the trailhead there were clouds & rain over the mountains and sun over the ocean. Before 8am we chose from a wide selection of hiking sticks left by previous adventurers and set off. The two miles to Hanakapiai were muddy, rocky & slippery. The trail v ery wide & easy. About one mile in it began to rain very hard. Ryan stopped to put on his poncho, I was sure the rain would stop and took the moment to view a spectacular rainbow. A few minutes later Ryan caught up and asked my to stuff his poncho back in his pack.

Crossing Hanakapiai Stream looked to be a challenge when a very athletic looking young man came as close to falling as possible. Since I'm not as young or athletic I decided to put on my tabis and wade instead of rock hop. Getting me & my pack soaked so e arly in the trip didn't seem worth the risk. Ryan rock hopped with his pack on, no problem.

Hanakapiai Beach was beautiful, only two people there and very nice waves for body surfing. We took off our packs and had some Frocacea (spelling?) bread for breakfast. This is almost like pizza with soft thick crust, cheese and tomatoes etc.. delicious : ) We explored a little. Ryan wanted to stay longer but I spoiled the fun wanting to go before the tourist crowds came and anxious to get to Kalalau. The climb out of Hanakapiai Valley was much easier than I expected, the trail dried out almost immediately , at the top is a big rock to stand next to & look down 800 feet to the ocean ( I only did this a little, Ryan did it a lot) there are also breath taking views both directions along the coast. Continuing on we contoured in & out of many gullies, kind of l ike Maunawili trail, except in every gully there was a small waterfall.

At Hanakoa we stopped for lunch, more delicious bread (I forgot to mention the onions) and Korean pears. Hanakoa had what looked like new toilets and good camp sites hopefully it will be opened again soon. After Hanakoa we saw our first goats, we continue d over 50 on the whole trip. Many times the goats would walk just in front of us on the trail, not the least bit afraid. One baby goat even came very close, cocking it's head and looking very curious, when Ryan whistled & called it like a dog. The goats w ere also very noisy sometimes it sounded like the babies were being murdered.

This whole trail was incredible, views, narrow sections along sea cliffs, water falls, flowers, fruit, blue skies, rainbows. And no people!! Saturday morning and no people!!!

As we got closer to Kalalau every thing got much drier with some gullies now just beautiful short green grass with sisal plants and streams flowing over the edge into the sea.

The trail was much easier than I thought, I wasn't stopping to rest, but to stopping to take in the incredible views. Stuart Ball gave good advice about not trying to look and hike at the same time, it would be easy to fall off! Sea caves below and dragon 's teeth above gave many reasons to stop.

We also stopped to take pictures at the Kalalau sign, to show we'd been there. From the sign you go down into the valley through a very eroded section. Across Kalalau stream and along edge of beach to other end. Passed lots of good campsites across the tr ail from the beach and under the trees. Ryan wanted to keep going and maybe camp at the far end near the waterfall. I tried to reason with him that it was sure to be crowded down there (I figured this would be the site of the "wilderness Waikiki"). As we got near the waterfall Ryan about 30 feet ahead does an about face, his face beet red. "Dad!, Naked people!". We took a side route so as not to walk through naked people camp. Making it to the water fall we looked down to its base to see naked lady. Not s ticking around here we hike the 1/2 mile back to the uncrowded and fully clothed camp sites.

After bathing in Kalalau stream we set up camp and eat mountain chili and tortilla chips for dinner. Again excellent food outdoors. Ryan goes to bed early. I go down to beach to watch sun set & read the few Xeroxed pages of our library books we'd brought. Again, quiet, beauty, rainbow, sunset, golden sand, ocean sky clouds. When dark I go to tent & sleep. At night there is load sound in dried leaves. Someone out there? Nene geese? or other birds we'd seen around? I turn on my flashlight and noise stops. I get out of tent to take in view of incredible night sky. More stars & planets than I've ever seen. Back to bed then reawakened by same noise (after our return I read the noise was giant toads).

Sunday morning we fire up the trusty Sierra Zip stove and make spinach & cheese omelet, I can't believe how good this dehydrated food tastes. Our first stop this morning is back to the waterfall end of the beach to see about swimming to the next beach. Ry an has already been down to the beach this morning and come back with a count of ten naked people sunning themselves. At the end of the beach we decide the water looks too rough and decide not to swim, instead we explore the cave which is full of water fr om the waterfall. We wade in about 50 yards were there is a small beach at the back of the cave. The cave the turns right maybe for another 25 yards. There's not much to see in here and there is nothing alive in the water which makes me uneasy about how h ealthy it is. Ryan body surfs while I watch a flock of medium sized white birds take off in formation then land again on the sand a few feet from me, over and over again. We then head out on our exploration up valley, our goal Big Pool and waterfall beyon d. In my haste I didn't copy the correct trail directions, but remember the trail to Big Pool should be obvious. Well there was a fork with two obvious trails, we went left which was more obvious and also wrong. Another fork right and up the stream. The t rail was still wide & well traveled along flat slabs along the stream with many pools to swim in. This couldn't be Big Pool, we hadn't gone far enough. Eventually the trail left the stream and became narrow then stopped. Instead of back-tracking we decide d to play Indiana Jones, thrashing our way back to the stream then boulder hopping, big boulders & big hops or splashes or almost swimming at times. This route was very slow. It seemed anytime we should break into a big clearing with a Big Pool, but it ne ver happened. We stopped and ate lunch at a nice remote spot then continued. Soon we came to a faint trail going across the steam, to left it stopped at a remote camp site. To the right it led to a big trail. The Big Pool Trail! In no time we were at Big Pool, sunning on the rocks, swimming in the pools, sliding down the short mossy slide. The water was very clear here, we could see many perfectly good looking guava at the bottom of the pool. Just sitting there, lazily watching guava rush down the small s eries of water falls into Big Pool was enjoyable. Would the guava sink? Or would it continue on down the stream? These are things to occupy your mind pleasantly in Kalalau Valley.

Next we went to side trail we had seen just before Big Pool. Was this the way to the waterfall? On we went twisting & turning through the forest on a definite trail. At one point we went part way up a ridge then ran into a sisal plant. Ryan skirted below on no trail, I went through two sisals close together on no trail. Back-tracking we find our obvious mistake and make it to the base of a 20+ foot rock ace with a little water coming down. Was this our waterfall? Couldn't be. On we go up around to another similar situation. We climb almost straight up next to second rock face with water and find no trail at the top. Far enough for today. The trail back flies by, amazing how quickly you go on an actual trail.

Back at camp we have beef stroganoff, mmm mmm good! Bed for Ryan and another sunset for me. More naked people walked past with full backpacks on. Now they are so common it's hardly worth mentioning. Ryan doesn't turn red and I can look them in the eye and say hello.

Monday morning we're sad to leave Kalalau, but also excited to see Hanakoa Falls and spend more time at Hanakapiai. We leave as soon as we get up. As we're packing, another naked, long haired. bearded guy walks past and asks if we've seen the Ranger. I te ll him not yet, and think to myself really how few people there are here. There is only one other tent on our 1/4 mile section of beach and every one else is down by the naked people, how come getting a permit was so hard if there is no crowd??

Climbing out of the valley I stopped to rest, not just to look at the views. this is a good warm up to start the day. At one of the first gullies with small waterfall we make some hot oatmeal with apples and spice for breakfast. We also have some fig newt ons. Again the trail is awesome, I'm taking my time but Ryan is blazing ahead. At Hanakoa I catch up with Ryan and call to him to come back across the stream so we can hike the one mile trail up to the waterfall. The trail is marked by orange ribbons and this time I have directions. After crossing the first fork of the stream my directions say the trails continues upstream gaining a ridge. We go on the trail up steam. We don't see any more ribbons and the trail gets faint then ends. How could we go wrong with directions?? Back to the stream crossing place we go downstream and find another orange ribbon. which leads us along to a point where we do go up a ridge with the second fork well below. This trail is narrow and muddy contouring along the ridge. Soon we emerge to a large pool (the largest on the Island according to Stuart Ball). The amphitheater with four waterfall chutes is spectacular. We take some pictures. The waterfall is just too high, there is no way to take it all in. The water falls down in surges that you can see and hear. We are alone for a while then a clothed bearded European arrived with a video camera. We've seen him a few time before, moving very slowly under a huge pack. We say hello and I take the long swim across the pool. I don't stay too long hearing and feeling the surges of water remind of the warning I read of falling rocks. Back on the other side of the pool Ryan & I mix up some freeze dried blueberry cheese cake.

Very much enjoyed the trail back to Hanakapiai. Met a group of goat hunters with bows & arrows. I tell them about all the goats I've seen. They haven't seen any and are on there way out. I mention all the eroded areas and that it seems like there are way too many goats. They say that if it weren't for the goats there would not be any way to even walk back here because they control the overgrowth. It seems the hunters favorite camping area, Hanakoa, has been closed. This is why there are so many goats on that side. The say the state plans to reopen it soon. They asked how the shelter looked. I told them I didn't look close but that it looked very dilapidated. But the lua looked brand new. One of the hunters was opening a big can of peaches with a big hunt ing knife, which was pretty impressive. When I caught up with Ryan he told me he had passed them a couple of times and that they were all wearing cleats.

At Hanakapiai it was crowded and muddy. Lots & lots of muddy tourists were coming down from the waterfall trail, down to the beach then back across the stream the two miles to their rental cars. The only campsite not a mud pit was barely big enough for ou r tiny tent. We had wait for every one to leave because it was also the main trail to the beach. That evening I found a Jacuzzi pool in the stream right by the ocean, to sit in and watch the sun set. Better than any four star hotel.

In the morning Ryan & I crawled on the sand through a cave that opened up to another beach, very neat! After washing the mud off our ground sheet in the stream and having more Jacuzzi time we made our way back to the trail head depositing our hiking poles for use be the next adventurers.

At the trailhead we watched the steady strea of white shoes shirts & shorts going in and the muddy brown people coming our. After showers our taxi arrived to take us to Princeville airport and our waiting rental car. We then drove to Kokee and saw views o f Kalalau from the top!! The time of day made colors only seen in postcards. We camped at luxious Kokee State Park with bathrooms & showers & running water right at our tent spot with picnic table. Not feeling like cooking that night we had stopped in Lih ue for bagels, sharp chedder cheese, fuji apples and a whole pumkin pie for dinner and breakfast.

In the morning we hiked down to Waimea Canyon, Cliff & Black Pipe trail. There were waterfalls, swimmings pools, canyon views and more goats. Ryan's intense desire to own a four wheel drive vehicle was whipped to near frenzy.

Thus ended our first, and sure not to be last, trip to Kalalau.

Reply From: Greg Kingsley (gkingsle@hawaii.edu>

Cool write-up! It brought back memories of my week-long adventure there as a Boy Scout.

It's funny, I thought the hardest part of the hike to Kalalau was the 800-foot initial ascent from Hanakapiai Stream. Then again, I was a heavily supplied, pack-laden kid getting beaten down by a hot sun.

Were the bathrooms/latrines at Hanakoa and Kalalau always there? I don't remember there being any when I was there (late 80s), but my memory has been known to falter. I clearly remember "doing the natural thing", though.

It seems that your trip there was to a more nature-friendly Kalalau than when I went. The entire trail was crowded with people and we were constantly making way for hikers approaching. I think only the Diamond Head Lookout Trail was busier. Yep, we had all those naked (shameless) beach-goers, but we also had the nasty buzz of illegal Zodiacs making shore-landings. The area was also heavily populated with campers (just as you expecting to be a "Waikiki"). From the look of some of the campers, several were obviously residents there. I found it amazing that the goats were "tame" enough to be approached by you - it seems they have less to fear these days. We barely saw any, except for an occasional one on a distant cliff scampering away at the mere sight of us.

The whole Kalalau experience made me desire Hanakoa so much more. In fact, the falls and pool at the "top" of Hanakoa Stream was my favorite experience. In a recent discussion, I found out the permit issuance for the area had become very strict (as you mentioned, the initial one-night-only permit). It seems like they've reduced the maximum number of campers in Kalalau for any given time. I also learned that armed authorities are actively enforcing the permit rules and are evicting campers without permits. The illegal Zodiac industry has been eliminated, too. These are probably the primary reasons why Kalalau seems more pristine in your review than in my experience of long ago.

It's nice to hear that Kalalau has improved... I'm tempted to think about returning, now! Thanks, Mark!


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