Wednesday, August 31, 2011

{ Kaua'i ~ Part VII: Hanakapi'ai Falls Trail }

The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile hike into the Na Pali coast. Mike and I wanted to do one big, outdoor adventure on our trip, and while backpacking into Kalalau wasn't an option, the first part of the trail is a great day trip to Hanakapi'ai Falls. The trail begins literally where the highway ends on the north shore of the island. After a two-mile hike along sheer cliffs dropping hundreds of feet down to the ocean, you reach a stream crossing and Hanakapi'ai Beach, one of the deadliest beaches in the Hawaiian Islands. It's gorgeous, in spite of the fact that many people have drowned there. To reach Hanakapi'ai Falls, instead of following the Kalalau Trail further along the coast, you follow another trail two miles inland, up the stream to the waterfall. Round-trip, it's an eight-mile hike, and the sign at the trailhead warns that it takes about eight hours. Mike and I were skeptical. "We're young! We're...not terribly athletic. But it won't take us eight hours!"

Here is the trailhead, at Ke'e Beach.

The first two miles to the beach you're going through a mixture of dense jungle undergrowth and exposed trail on the cliff edge, with breathtaking views of the coast. The trail may not look very well-maintained, but compared to the last two miles between the beach and the waterfall, this is a piece of cake. Like a flat sidewalk with ambience and a lemonade stand every block or two. Just sayin' we had no idea what we were in for!

I'd done the hike to the beach when I visited Kauai before, so I knew that the red dirt trail would pretty much ruin our shoes. We both threw away our shoes afterward, they were so trashed.

We're almost to the beach!

Hanakapi'ai Beach is really lovely. We took a break, ate some Clif bars, and explored the sea caves on the beach. We'd brought my phone just so we could tell the time {there's obviously no cell phone reception}, but time seemed irrelevant once we were on our way. We were going to the waterfall; it didn't really matter how long it took us. Since we started around 9am and it wasn't blazing hot, we weren't worried.

: : Looking out from one of the caves : :

Then it was time to head upstream to the waterfall.

We passed several huge bamboo groves. I had no idea how massive individual bamboo shoots can grow to be!

: :Lots of stream crossings : :

The trail quickly deteriorated and showed us just how good we'd had it for the first two miles. In many places, the trail was thick, deep, slimy, snot-like red clay/mud/water. There were roots, rocks, and branches everywhere--you literally had to think about where you were going to put your foot down for every single step.
 It. Was. Hard.

Finally, we glimpsed this and thought, "We're almost there!"

Now we're almost there!

The waterfall is 300 feet tall, plunging into a deep pool. We were high enough in the valley now that it was chilly, and though Mike decided to brave the cold water and swim, I was shivering and contented myself with taking photos.

It's hard to appreciate how huge the cliff face is from these photos. You feel like you're hemmed in by mammoth rock walls on every side except downstream, toward the ocean.

There was a trail up one side of the valley to a sort of ledge in the rock face. It offered a cool perspective of the valley below.

We wolfed down a couple more Clif bars, relaxed for a bit, and then headed back down the trail.
It was at this point that I decided I wanted a sherpa to carry me back to our car. The extremely rugged terrain--climbing up and around boulders, limbs, even entire trees while navigating an extremely narrow trail with poor footing and clay-caked shoes--was using every muscle in my body in ways they'd never been engaged before. We were both pretty tired, but we were only at the halfway point.

Thankfully, the worst terrain was the first two miles we had to cover on our way back. The last two miles from the beach to the car were a cinch compared to the jungle trail--but of course, it was now early afternoon, the cloud cover had burned off, and it was blazing hot. This was a new kind of miserable.

Praise the Lord, I see the beach at the trailhead!!!

Here we are, back at the trailhead, significantly worse for wear, but so glad we had done it! We didn't look at the time till we got back to the car--it was 3:30. Six and a half hours! A lot longer than I thought we'd been gone, but an hour and a half less than the time suggested in the guidebooks. As physically exhausting as it was, that day is one of our favorite memories. And we certainly slept well that night!

Monday, August 29, 2011

{ Slip 'n' Slide }

On Saturday, newlywed friends of ours had a housewarming party {remember Luke and Joanna?}. And this was no ordinary housewarming party: Besides the best chicken kabobs, bratwurst, and chicken hot wings fresh off their new grill, there was a firepit and a slip'n'slide. Yes, you read that right--a whole slew of self-respecting, supposedly grown-up people spent the afternoon playing on a slip'n'slide. It was awesome. Perhaps that's because I don't remember if I ever went on one as a kid? Or because we had to "lube ourselves up" with dish soap prior to hurling our bodies down the plastic runway? I'm not sure.

You might want to get out your sunglasses for the next few pictures. We Pacific Northwesterners are painfully white-skinned. Seriously, in bright sunlight you have to squint.

I love this sequence of Mike + Michael sliding down together!

Joanna, the very soapy lady of the house, ensuring that the track stays well-watered. 

At one point, Michael {not my husband, the other Michael} stood at the end of the track and the guys attempted to go through his legs.

Then they decided to all go down as fast as they could--a sort of never-ending relay.
It was hilarious.

I tried twice to upload a video of the guys' relay, but blogger hates me and rejected it both times. Arrrrrgh! And in spite of how sore we all are today, and the strange bruises/grass burns/various injuries we sustained, it all just goes to're never too old for a slip'n'slide.

P.S. And I haven't even mentioned the absolutely divinely delicious spread that invited me to eat myself to oblivion! Joanna is a culinary genius: I'd never even heard of watermelon feta salad with balsamic vinegar, but that did not stop me from eating two large platefuls of it. And I had four helpings of the peach-mango-nectarine salsa, then just stood in front of the bowl and finished off two bags of chips {they were nearly empty already} by dipping them into the salsa. Gluttony, I tell you. But such delicious gluttony it was!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

{ Kaua'i, Part VI ~ Queen's Bath + Odds 'n' Ends }

There is a beautiful spot on Kauai's north shore called the Queen's Bath. It's a large lava rock pool, fed by the ocean, accessible only by trekking down to the lava-rimmed coast and then walking what seems an interminable distance along the lava, seeing nothing that looks remotely pool-like but lots of large waves crashing onto the rocks, and wondering if this is a ploy to rid the island of naive tourists.

And then you see this.

It's deep, and calm, and roomy. An occasional large wave will come high enough to fill a small pool that in turn overflows into the Queen's Bath.

It's beautiful, in an otherworldly and wholly unexpected kind of way.
You can see some dry rocks at the upper end of the pool in the right-hand corner of the photo above. This turns into a narrower channel, with more shallow pools {below}.

Mike and I explored far beyond the Queen's Bath and found all sorts of beautiful pools. I can't think of a better word to describe them than "otherworldly." To see huge waves crashing agains the lava outcropping a few yards to one side, and all around you these deep, calm pools with the most exquisite blue-green water and delicately colored rocks, was a sensory juxtaposition that I relished.

That one made me want to be a mermaid so I could explore the cavern!

Some pools were directly connected to the ocean and the depth of the water within changed by several feet when a wave came in.

See Mike on the edge of the pool above? I'm using him for scale. These pools are so lovely--why can't I be a mermaid and live here?

The Queen's Bath was a fun, unusual expedition: Not the greatest swimming, but plenty of geological/oceanic eye candy and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Later that day we ventured to the Wailua River. I had to include this picture because it's so incredibly green.

Here are some sunrise-from-the-lanai shots.

This enormous fountain heralds the entrance to Princeville, which isn't exactly a town, but I don't know what else to call it. {Wait: according to Wikipedia, it's a "census-designated place (CDP)." Whatever that means.} I certainly felt fancy, driving by this fountain to get to our condo. It's hard to tell from the photo, but you could fit quite a few people into one of those seashells!

One night we ate dinner in Hanalei and then posed for pictures by the Hanalei River.

This is Mike being sexy. Like you couldn't tell!

This is me being...sunburned. I'm not nearly as creative in my posing choices as my husband.

Coming up next: The hike to end all hikes!