Page 1: North shore and Na Pali coast.
Page 2: Waimea Canyon, south shore, and snorkeling.
Saturday, January 17
Today Kathy and I are high above the Pacific Ocean, flying to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We will spend one week in Kauai backpacking, hiking and snorkeling. We are taking this trip because of both desire and opportunity. I've been wanting to go hiking in a tropical rainforest, and Kauai is one of the few U.S. properties that has such a forest. Kathy wants to snorkel in the (relatively) warm ocean. Our opportunity appeared over a year ago, when United Airlines oversold our flight from Virginia to Colorado after our Christmas vacation with my parents. We agreed to give up our seats in exchange for a flight the following morning plus a whole lot of travel credit. That travel credit is letting us fly to Kauai and back for just $28 each. While on the island our housing should be relatively cheap since we will spend some of our nights camping or in a cabin at a state park. Together these low prices are letting us take a vacation that we normally couldn't afford.
Kathy in Nawiliwili Bay, across the street from our hotel.
The Garden Island Inn, a nice basic hotel in Lihue.
Sunday, January 18
After a long and hard but beautiful hike, Kathy and I are camped out at Kalalau Beach, a beautiful beach on the northwest side of Kauai. Yesterday evening we checked into the Garden Island Inn in Lihue and ate dinner at Duke's, a restaurant across the street. Duke's, like many businesses around here, is very open to the outside air because the weather is nearly always pleasant. This morning we woke up early and drove to Kee Beach in Haena State Park on the northwest side of the island. From there we hiked the popular Na Pali coast south to Kalalau Beach.
A farming area near the town of Hanalei. Hanalei is the place mentioned in the song Puff the Magic Dragon when it says "in a land called Hanalei."
Michael at Hanalei Bay, a popular surfing spot.
A wet cave in Haena State Park. There are many of these.
A rooster walking near Kee Beach. Domestic chickens were set free by a hurricane years ago, and since then wild chickens have covered the island. One parking lot that we stopped at had 25 chickens roaming about.
Most people that hike Na Pali hike only the first 2 miles. A permit is required to hike the full 11 miles to Kalalau, and the the trail goes up and down very steeply while often following cliff edges high above the ocean. The hiking is hard but the views are great. I wore an old Virginia Tech t-shirt today that helped me meet 2 other Hokies on the trail. We also met Mike, a Maryland college student who was hiking with a light load - 5 quarts of water to last 3 days, and no way to filter or boil more water. Mike said that while hiking today he met a family (husband, wife and 1-year-old daughter) that has been secretly living in the Na Pali area for about a year. Apparently most of their food comes from fruit trees in the area.
By the time we reached Kalalau Beach at 5:20 p.m. we were exhausted. Our packs were very heavy, and I'm sure that we brought more clothing and equipment than we need. The beach is beautiful but we didn't have much time to walk along it before sunset. We're making dinner now - a lengthy process since all of our water must be boiled before it can be consumed. We've been told that filters are not good enough to rid the water of the leptosporosis bacteria. We'll try to enjoy the beach in the morning.
Looking down on Kee Beach from the Na Pali trail.
A view of the Na Pali coast early in our hike.
Another view of the coast.
Descending the trail. The Na Pali trail is always either climbing or descending.
Warning signs near Hanakapiai Beach, 2 miles from the trailhead.
Hanakapiai Beach, which isn't really a beach this time of year. Every winter strong waves wash away the beach, but the sand comes back in the summer.
Feral cats live at Hanakapiai and seek out hikers for food.
Palm trees with support roots.
Tropical plant. Many of the palm trees and other plants with long, pointed leaves grow small thorns along the edges of their leaves, so the leaves catch on clothing and hands.
The white spots in this picture are caused by whales, and one whale is blowing spray into the air. Winter is whale-watching time in Kauai.
A steep and somewhat dangerous section of trail. The steep cliffs exist because Kauai's volcanic rock is easily eroded by rain and ocean waves.
More views of dangerous trail.
Kathy on an eroded hill in the Kalalau valley.
Kalalau Beach at sunset.
Monday, January 19
This morning we woke up early and ate breakfast on the beach. We weren't sleeping well anyway, partly because of the very loud surf crashing just off the beach. The tide must have rolled in early in the morning. Weather patterns make the waves on this shore big during winter, and it looked like the waves were 15 feet tall or taller. Naturally, we didn't try to swim. As we were packing up camp our acquaintance Mike, who we met yesterday, walked into the campground. He got lost last night and was forced to sleep on the edge of a cliff where wind threatened to blow him over the edge. We had been wondering why he didn't show up last night. We left camp at about 10 a.m. We would have liked to stay longer since Kalalau is so wonderful, but we need to check into a cabin at Waimea Canyon tomorrow afternoon, so we couldn't spend another night in such a remote area.
Kalalau Beach in the morning.
Looking down at an arch carved out by the waves.
We headed back to Hanakapiai, a campsite just 2 miles from the trailhead. The 9-mile hike was difficult because our bodies were already worn down, but the ocean views helped keep us upbeat. Along the way we saw a lot of goats. Goats run wild in this area since escaping from captivity many years ago. Their population is controlled through hunting, and we saw about 10 bow hunters yesterday. Compared to the goats that I'm accustomed to, these goats are much smaller and have darker, colorful fur. They're cute.
After 5 miles we came to Hanakoa, a campsite closed at this time of year. A lemon tree grows near the picnic table and I was so desperate for fruit that I picked a few lemons and ate them. The sour taste made me shudder, but it was nice to have fruit.
We reached Hanakapiai at about 6 p.m., shortly before sunset. We set up camp then cooked and ate our dinner in the dark. We're not quite as close to the ocean tonight, so maybe we will sleep a little better.
Dense vegetation along the trail.
Our campsite at Hanakapiai.
Tuesday, January 20
We got up a little bit later today, about 8 a.m., since we knew that we had only 2 miles to hike today. We packed up camp then walked down to the shore where a stream flows into the ocean so that we could watch the waves while boiling more drinking water. While we waited for the water to boil we were visited by 6 small cats. We saw a few of them previously when we passed through here 2 days ago. They get a lot of food handouts from hikers. They're tame and let us pet them.
As we left the shore we crossed the stream by taking off our boots and wading across in our Tiva sandals. The cold water felt good on our very sore feet. I feel silly for packing so much after seeing how little some other campers brought with them. We saw a couple college-age women at Kalalau who had no tent and slept in the open with a blanket and sleeping pads. They seemed to have only the clothing that they wore hiking to the beach, plus bathing suits that they wore while washing their normal clothes in the stream. We saw several men and 1 woman backpacking while wearing only bathing suits and hiking boots - I presume their only clothes for the trip. A couple men that we saw camped in lightweight hammock tents that don't require poles, sleeping pads or ground cloths. If we go backpacking in Hawaii again then we will pack differently and save our bodies a lot of pain.
Clouds gathered while we were hiking and began to rain when we were only 200 to 300 yards from our car. We were hot and the rain felt good. We were lucky that there was no other rain during our hike on Na Pali since rain makes the clay trail very slick. Signs along the trail warn hikers about the slick mud, and slipping off the trail can mean falling off a very high cliff. January is one of the rainiest months for Na Pali.
After reaching our car we drove around the island to Waimea Canyon on the southwest side. We will be staying in the canyon for 2 nights in a cabin at Kokee Lodge. The cabin includes a kitchen so Kathy cooked a nice dinner with groceries that we bought on our way here. Our cabin's altitude is above 3000 feet and I may need to use our wood stove to keep us warm tonight. The weather is much cooler here than at the beach only 16 miles down the road.
A panoramic view near the bottom of Waimea Canyon. This picture is quite wide, so you may need to scroll your browser window to see all of it.
Making dinner at the cabin.
Page 1: North shore and Na Pali coast.
Page 2: Waimea Canyon, south shore, and snorkeling.