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Kaua’i Day 8

Kalalau Trail View West Mile 1Today is our last day at the northern coast — time to explore the Kalalau trail a little more. Nobody else feels like stumbling along a muddy and slippery trail so I will be doing this expedition on my own. Because of the rain during the previous days I am on one hand concerned that the trail might be impassable but on the other hand hopeful that not many people will feel motivated to hike it today. But after Zulah drops me off at the trail head I am literally standing in line to get on the trail. There is a constant stream of clean people going in and very muddy people coming out. The trail is pretty much a highway until Hanakapi’ai Beach (two miles). I am amazed to see people with flip flops and clogs on one of the most challengening trails I have ever encountered. Some people appear to have spontaneously switched from resort-spotless to primal-mud mode and are wading through knee-deep mud holes, sliding on their butts through some of the more difficult downhill passages while dragging their little shopping mall backpacks along. As usual I’m too shy to take pictures of these great examples of uncompromising fun-seeking.

Palm tree handView into Hanakapi'ai ValleyHanakapi'ai Beach from aboveHanakapi'ai Beach through screw pines

Tub before waterfallAt Hanakapi’ai Beach I have the opportunity to hike for another two miles up the Hanakapi’ai creek to the waterfall. But I am running out of time and opt instead to hike a mile further to the Kalalau lookout. This route also promises to be a good escape from the crowds since almost everyone else heads for the waterfalls or stays at the beach. First I can’t find the continuation of the trail so I ask a hippie girl who is trying to sell small leather pouches. Her instructions lead me to a disgusting above-ground pit toilet whose “pit level” is surrounded by a mountain of trash. Convinced that she pulled my leg I’m about to turn arond when I find a much narrower trail heading up the hill. The trail switchbacks and quickly gains altitude and offers good views on the beach I leave behind. I pass a waterfall with an almost perfectly shaped tub in front of it. Some sections of the trail get really narrow and it is really easy to slip off the trail into a mat of grass and plants that provides only weak protection from falling into a deadly mixture of cliff, reef, and a treacherous surf hundreds feet below.

Kalalau lookout view to westKalalau lookout view to eastThe lookout is breathtakingly beautiful: the trail passes between two towers and gives way to a sweeping view of a large valley surrounded by the sharp-edged, green hills that are so characteristic of the Na Pali coast. I discover that I can carefully go around the tower on the Pacific side and have a magnificent view onto the ocean and a good portion of the Na Pali coast line in each direction. I spend about half an hour there spotting whales and taking way too many pictures.

Kalalau lookout view into valley

Back at the Hanakapi’ai beach I watch the surf creating very strange and almost nightmarishly tall wave formation. Both sides of the beach show multiple warning signs for rip tides, strong currents, and even a score board of people’s lifes claimed by this beach. The beach is not protected by an expansive reef as in so many other places around the island so the surf comes very close. There is a rock ledge on each side of the beach that acts as a 30-degree reflector of waves. When a reflected wave meets an oncoming breaking wave the intersection of those waves temporarily prevents the wave to break and instead sends a huge amount of water directly upwards. This creates very bizarre mohawk-like shapes that glisten green against the afternoon sun.

Hanakapi'ai WaveHanakapi'ai creekCave at Hanakapi'ai BeachBird on beach

Carlos hiking KalalauI make it back to the trailhead at the time Zulah had agreed to pick me up. Like everyone else emerging from the trail I was covered in mud. We celebrate our last evening at the north shore with a great dinner at Robin and Eric’s place which includes incredibly good tasting grilled fish (Ono and Opah) that they had bought from the Hanalei fish market earlier.