#Kaua’i: Winter Hike

Hiking in winter is occasionally just like summer, but more often than not it’s wetter and muddier all across the Garden Island. Because Sleeping Giant (Nounou) is nearby and has three trails, I most often hike there (although it appears that I rarely blog about it). The eastside trail, from the Wailua House Lots, is the steepest, but undulating along the west slope from the southside is the Kuamo‘o (‘backbone’)-Nounou (‘throwing’) trail, the longest trek of the three. My favorite approach however is from the west trailhead, principally because it is usually the driest.

At the end of Lokelani (‘red rose’) Road, there is a cash only/honor fruit stand at the west trailhead, just in case you didn’t pack enough of the right kind of snacks, or you just happen to see something you’ve been craving. The winter selection is slim, but even when fruit is plentiful, don’t be surprised if all you find is a half a dozen limes.

Fruit Stand
Fruit Stand

Off Kamalu Road, the west trailhead follows a grassy lane which yields abruptly to a lattice of Eucalyptus roots crisscrossing the trail as it gets steeper. One other prominent feature of winter hikes is vog (volcanic smog), which blows in from the Big Island, and sometimes blankets Kaua’i for a week or more.  If you often have difficulty breathing, either do not hike on vog days, or plan to take plenty of breaks.

Then, just beyond the quarter-mile marker, the lattice transitions to strawberry guava.

Crisscrossed root of Eucalyptus trees in red dirt lane.
WenYu hikes up through the eucalyptus lattice . . .
Strawberry Guava Lattice
. . . and through the strawberry guava lattice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little beyond the strawberry guava lattice is a fork in the trail. Be nice instead of taking the shortcut to the left, and help prevent erosion by veering right, up to the four-way intersection with the Kuamo‘o-Nounou Trail. Straight ahead, it’s two miles to Kuamo‘o Road, often through muck and mire, and mosquitoes, and the broad pathway to the right ends about 2oo yards down mountain at the western edge of the Nounou Forest Reserve. The latter course is an interesting diversion that offers a magnificent view up the continuation of the west trail through a tall grove of Cook Pines.

Skyward
Skyward
Shards of Light
Shards of light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately, the upper trail was dry, but not too dry. When it’s too dry, you can easily lose your footing because a fine dust settles over the clay and can be like walking on marbles, invisible marbles. Luck was with us on this hike, as evidenced by this four-leaf clover near the three-quarter mile marker.

Four-Leaf Clover at Center
A four-leaf clover can be seen almost directly in the center

Lichens form on the bark of both living and fallen trees, and are more noticeable in winter when much of the greenery surrounding them is missing. Because lichens fatten up by storing water in winter, they are a treasured food source for many of the fowl and field mice with whom you share the trail.

Lichen on a fallen branch
Lichen on a fallen branch

So after hiking through this and that, around a few bends, and doubling on many switchbacks, you will pass by the intersection with the Wailua House Lots trail on your left, and about three switchbacks later you will arrive at a picnic shelter. Just east of the picnic shelter is a narrow bench or love seat with a scenic view through a break in the trees. Sit a spell, have lunch if you brought it, or just talk story with other hikers who happen by every few minutes.

Still Dry beyond the One Mile Marker
Still dry beyond the 0ne-mile marker – WenYu stops to catch her breath
Lookout at the Picnic Shelter
Lookout at the picnic shelter – vog blocks the view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus ends the state sanctioned hike. That is, the trail is only maintained up to a point about 25 yards beyond the picnic shelter. While the views are stunning, hiking past the “End of Trail” sign, which someone has recently twisted 90 degrees away from hikers, is strictly at your own risk.

View Just Before End of Trail
View just before end of trail
NOTICE: End of Trail
NOTICE: End of Trail!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up ahead the trail runs a few yards along a narrow spine, scarcely wide enough for two people to pass, then continues ever steeper over a widening course to an 8-10 foot near vertical climb to the path along the summit. Going left at this juncture leads either to a hollowed out cave or up onto the “face” of the Sleeping Giant. Use extreme caution if there is any wind at all over the top because a light breeze becomes a shearing wind up there and there is no path, only rough stones, some of them loose, and a 500-foot drop to the east.

I visited the cave on this hike simply because I was tired. Nonetheless, a trip to the cave is always refreshing both for its shade and the venturi effect. NOTE: Field mice also enjoy the cave, although there were none up there the day of our hike.

11giant_seyewestportal
West portal of the “Giant’s Eye”
View from the East Lanai
V0g-less view of Kapa‘a from the east lanai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the junction above the little rock climb, the trail continues south up to the true summit at 1,280 feet above sea level ~ give or take. There you’ll find a concrete slab that served as the base of an abandoned warning beacon for the disused grass landing strip up the Wailua Valley (which is behind me in this photo).

Warning Beacon at True Summit
Warning Beacon at True Summit

 Your return trip to the trailhead may take nearly as long as the climb, not only because of variable terrain, but because you may find some of the views you missed as captivating as anything you saw on the way up. My personal favorite of the day was seeing Wai‘ale‘ale, like a floating dragon between the vog and clouds to the west.

Wai'ale'ale Amidst the Vog
Wai‘ale‘ale amidst the vog

Hiking the Kuilau Trail

Another great eastside Kaua‘i trail is the Kuilau Trail, which starts on the right side of Kuamo‘o Road, about 100 feet (30 meters) before arriving at Kawi Stream.

papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), white ginger (Hedychium coronarium), blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora)
Papyrus, White Ginger, Asian Sword Fern, and Blue Ginger, amongst other lush greenery

About seven miles up Kuamo’o Road from the Kuhio Highway, just before crossing Kawi Stream, there’s a small parking lot (currently closed for repair) on the left. Additional parking may be available across the stream, on the right. However, DO NOT CROSS if the stream is running high (knee deep or higher). Limited parking along Kuamo’o Road, headed back down to the east is also in vogue at this time, and there are three reasonably safe spots by the trailhead (two other nearby commonly used spots are not safe because they block the gate that is used by trucks, and earth moving equipment that also use the trail.

Kuilau Trailhead
Kuilau Trailhead

At the beginning of your hike, there’s a large clump of papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) that grows along the side of the road between the stream and the trailhead. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the trails have been wetter than usual this year, which takes a bit of the fun out of hiking, and the Kuilau is no exception. Sometimes the easiest path on the Kuilau Trail is right down the deep impressions made by tractor tires; in other spots, the path between the ruts is less soggy.

muddy ruts
Muddy Ruts

As I gained elevation on my last Kuilau hike, the sun began to dry out the ruts, and some of the smaller creatures began to move across the trail while attempting to remain unseen. Can you spot the tiny gecko in the picture below?

Green Anole
Fellow Hiker (Anolis carolinensis)

There is no potable water available along the trail, but edible fruit is abundant in season. On my first hike, someone told me the vine-y little briar with the white, five-petal blossom was wild raspberry, but on tasting I discovered it was something I had known on the mainland as thimbleberry (Rubus rosaefolius), also known as: West Indian raspberry (ola’a), roseleaf raspberry, or rose-leaf bramble.

Rubus Rosaefolia
Thimbleberry!

Both guava (Psidium guajava), and its invasive cousin strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) are also prevalent at lower elevations along the trail, and while the low hanging fruit is almost always picked bare, the fragrance of the remnants is intoxicating.

Farther along, I saw a strange vine with what appeared to be potatoes growing from it. The air potato or bitter yam (Dioscorea bulbifera) is best left alone. For one thing, it’s invasive, but most importantly, while it may be pleasing to the eye in the wild, it is almost certainly poisonous.

invasive; poisonous
Bitter Yam or Air Potato

Other vines, although invasive, are not quite so dangerous. Monstera (Monstera deliciosa) is ubiquitous in Hawaii, and internet search results highlight its delicious aspects.

Monstera, M. deliciosa
Monstera appears on every trail I’ve hiked

These prehistoric giants thrive in heavy shade as well as on bright, open slopes all along the trail. Due to my limited botanical knowledge, I cannot tell whether the fern pictured below is the native Hapu’u Pulu (Cibotium splendens), or the invasive Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea Cooperi), but like a tinkling bell in a light breeze or trickling water, its presence is soothing and cooling.

tree fern
Tree Fern

Easily recognizable, common era ferns along the trail were much easier to identify because of their similarity to those I had known at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. The most common fern along the lower ridge, as well as many other trails, is the Asian Sword Fern (Nephrolepis brownii aka multiflora), often seen among smaller, lacy ferns that I cannot readily identify.

Asian Sword Fern
Asian Sword Fern

Around the half-mile mark the landscape grows more interesting. The shadowy “amphitheater” shown here is an eastern crater below Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale (‘rippling waters’) known as the Blue Hole.

crater to the east of Wai'ale'ale
Blue Hole

A little less than three quarters of a mile along, a break in the trees permits this splendid view across the valleys of the Keāhua (‘the swelling, as a wave’) and Kāwī streams to the saddle between Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale and the Makaleha (‘to look about, as in wonder’) mountains. The peak in the distance is Keana‘awi Ridge.

Saddle between Wai'ale'ale and Makaleha Mountains
Saddle of the Makaleha Mountains

Eucalyptus tree are prevalent at the three-quarter mile point as well. As a matter of fact, there is a tunnel of eucalyptus on the Moalepe Trail, about a quarter mile past the bridge that separates these two trails. When conditions are just right, a little warmer and much drier, the scent of the eucalyptus is almost overpowering. As shown below, the eucalyptus not only provide shade for the understory, but a home for other plants as well.

Eucalyptus at Upper Elevations
Eucalyptus at Upper Elevations

I spotted a lone cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) at one mile. These birds eat bugs and geckos, and can always be found following behind lawn mowers to snatch whatever the mower churns up.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret

Below is the breathtaking view of the Makaleha Mountains from the picnic shelter set up at the one mile distance on the trail. Many visitors are unaware that this is not the end of the trail. From the lawn surrounding the picnic shelter, the trail veers off to the right, but is rather inconspicuous when the grass is tall.

Makaleha Mountains
Makaleha Mountains

About a half mile beyond the picnic area is a little waterfall near trail’s end.  This little fall on the upper part of Opaeka‘a Stream (which eventually leads to Opaeka‘a Falls in Wailua) is more often heard than seen. Its splash pool lies about 30 feet below, and because Opaeka‘a Stream is barely a trickle at this point it’s just a pleasing sound, an affirmation that we have had sufficient rain.

little waterfall
Little Waterfall

A bridge joins Kuilau and Moalepe trails if you want to hike further (about 2.75 miles). The signs are somewhat misleading, and if you zoom in you’ll see that someone has scratched through the line “1.25 MILES TO PARKING AREA” because the other side of this sign lists 1.75 miles as the distance to Keahua Arboretum, which is only a quarter mile from the Kuilau trailhead.

endofkuilau
End of Kuilau Trail

According to the Division of Land & Natual Resources website, Kuilau Trail is 2.1 miles long. So, allow at least three hours, more if you plan to take photographs and even more if you want to stop for a picnic lunch; pack at least a liter of water, and as always, sunscreen and mosquito repellant.

Finally, here’s a long view from the trail looking down the Opaeka‘a valley to Wailua (‘two waters’) along Kauai’s east side, somewhat obscured by dense clouds earlier in the day.

wailuawatergap
Wailua Water Gap

Hiking the Wai Koa Loop Trail

The Wai Koa Loop Trail, located on the north shore of Kaua’i, is an easy five-mile (or less) hike where lush scenery abounds, and the only hazard is mud, and even that is seasonably variable. Generally, all trails on Kaua’i are wetter this year than they were in 2014 and 2015, and flash flooding has closed a few trails more frequently.

The Loop trail begins on the back lot of Kauai Mini Golf & Botanical Gardens, on the west side of Kuhio Highway (HI56) at Kilauea. You are required to sign a release and acknowledgement form before hiking this trail the first time because you will be walking on private property through a working mahogany plantation and several smaller family farms. You can sign online or at the gift shop & cafe when you arrive (where you can also rent bikes to ride the trail). Parking is located in the backlot beyond the gift shop using the sign on your right as a guide, or if you’re hiking on a Saturday, the farmers’ market on your left.

loop trail and ana'ina park sign
A Signpost Ahead

The trail will be evident from your parking spot, and the welcome (E Komo Mai!) sign by the fence at the trailhead. It isn’t really what I’d call an intermediate level trail, but otherwise heed the posted advice.

Welcome Sign at the trailhead.
Take nothing but photos; Leave only footprints.

Initially, the trail drops down into mixed deciduous and evergreen forest and the trail undulates from dry to wet to dry through cultivated and volunteer species.

Dry Pathway through Giants
Dry Pathway through towering Norfolk Island Pines

Around the Norfolk Island Pines grew the Kilauea Woods.

Kilauea Woods
Kilauea Woods

After a rising turn to the left, mahogany groves appear, first at left…

Uphill to the mahogany groves
Uphill to the mahogany groves

…then at right where another sign explains the significance of this plantation.

Wai Koa Plantation
Wai Koa Plantation

After the first mile, you will come to the loop junction. From here, you may go two miles around to the right through the community gardens, past Kauai Fresh Farms, and the Kalihiwai Lagoon to the Stone Dam Lookout, or take the shorter one mile path on your left past paddocks with grazing horses and the Guava Kai Orchard to the Stone Dam Lookout.

Although I previously enjoyed the long way around, being on a tight schedule, I chose the shorter path to the Old Stone Dam. After breaking out of the mahogany plantation, I was treated to this view of the West Makaleha (‘to look about as in wonder’) mountains.

Looking Southwest along Horse Lover's Lane
Looking Southwest along Horse Lovers Lane

Past the muddy ruts, the trail turns sharply left, and about halfway to the next bend you will see this lone tree and boulder. Beyond that, Mount Namahana (‘the twin branches’),  is nearly centered in your view of the West Makaleha Mountains.

Mount Namahana in the Distance
Mount Namahana in the Distance

Following this short jag, the trail bends sharply to the right near the Kahiliholo Stream, which you may hear as you turn the corner even though it is neither visible nor accessible from this junction.

Farther along this last leg, I noticed a well-groomed clearing that I had not seen before, and my curiosity was rewarded by the sight of two old footbridges over irrigation ditches and a glimpse of Kahiliholo Stream (which flows into Kilauea Stream).

bridge over an irrigation ditch
Bridge over an Irrigation Ditch

Since the water was carrying a heavy sediment load it was not spectacular, but still sounded sweet as it meandered down over rocks and rills.

stream between rills
Stream between the Rills

I suppose I should mention that this is not officially a feature of the loop trail, and most importantly, that I wish I had brought along mosquito repellant as it would have made it much easier to stand still and take better photographs.

up to the Wai Koa Loop Trail
Back to the Wai Koa Loop Trail

At last, the dam…

old stone dam
Old Stone Dam

However, there’s a great deal more than the dam to see here. Lush gardens and earthworks fill the drainage area below the dam.

historical marker at the lookout
Historical marker at the Lookout

The gardens, scattered around several footbridges, include ti (ki) plants, and the most fragrant ginger that I have ever found.

outflow from the gardens
Outflow from the gardens
Ti Plants and Footbridge
Ti Plants and Footbridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fragrant ginger
Fragrant ginger

Drainage from the gardens enters Kahiliholo Stream immediately downstream from the old bridge piers that supported the crossing of the former Kilauea Sugar Plantation Railway, one of the first on Kauai.

Kahiliholo Stream and Railway Bridge Piers
Railway Bridge Piers across Kahiliholo Stream

Steps have been installed on the approach to the dam…

steps to the dam
Steps to the Dam

…and at the top of these steps, a warning. (Hiking stick at left is only there so I would not drop it below or above the dam.)

danger sign
DANGER!

Usually, you can find a picnic table or two above the dam, and the trail loops up and back toward the gardens from here. Picnic tables are also available at the lookout. A rope hanging over the reservoir looks tempting as well, but there is a stern “brown water” warning below the dam, so I heartily agree, “Don’t Even Try It!”

railing along the path to upper gardens
Pathway to the Upper Gardens

Two varieties of bamboo grow in the upper gardens.

passage through bamboo
Passing through Bamboo
lighter variety of bamboo
Lighter Variety of Bamboo

The upper garden is also home to a smiling Buddha.

smiling buddha
Smiling Buddha

Owing to the lateness of the hour, 10:39, I had to say ‘aloha’ to the dam and high-tail it back to the trailhead, where my charges were awaiting a ride home.

goodbye to the dam
Aloha, Dam

I made the two-mile return stroll in 57 minutes (only 6 minutes late), and guidebooks say allow two hours for the entire five-mile hike. However, if you are out to see the sights, as I usually am, rather than trying to score distances, I would recommend allowing at least three hours for the full hike; more if you intend to stop and eat along the way. Actually you could make a day or more of it, visiting nearby Common Ground, Banana Joe’s for a frozen banana frosty, the Chocolate Tour, Kong Lung Market Center in Kilauea Town (including the Kilauea Bakery), the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, and three beaches: Anini, Kalihiwai Bay, and Secrets.

#Kauai: Kalalau Trail

On the northwest side of the island, where the highway ends at Ha’ena State Park, lies Makana (‘the gift’), better known as Bali Hai from the movie South Pacific. The Kalalau Trail, which skirts the mountain, begins here as well. The trail continues for 11 breathtaking miles through the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park to a campground at Kalalau Beach. NOTE: Hiking beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach and/or Hanakapi’ai Falls, a combined eight mile round trip, requires a permit from the Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) because of the many hazards, especially in the last five miles. Since my daughters and I did not obtain a permit, and the fact that I found the first two miles more than sufficiently challenging, this article only covers the four-mile hike to that first beach and back.

Two things that cannot be overemphasized when hiking the Kalalau are water and timing. There is NO DRINKING WATER on the trail, and you should carry (camelbak, canteen, and/or bottles) at least a liter (more than 32 oz.) of drinking water for every two miles on the trail. Also, arrive early because parking is limited due to the variety of attractions at the end of the road, including Limahuli Garden and Ke’e Beach. Unfortunately, we arrived about 10:30 a.m., and parked nearly a mile from the trailhead, so our hike to the Hanakapi’ai Stream and back was about six miles; that is, just over one mile per hour with a half hour for lunch at the stream. In hindsight, 7:00 a.m. would have been a good time to arrive whether hiking four miles or eight—all the way to Hanakapi’ai Falls and back—or planning to overnight it and do the full 22 mile trek.

Ke'e Beach from .25 Mile Marker
Ke’e Beach from .25 Mile Marker

The elevation gain in the first two miles is either only 575 feet or nearly 2,000 feet, depending on whether or not you count the repeated ascents from ravines. That said, the climb over the next quarter mile takes you up to 600 feet above sea level before going down and up again.

moreClimbingQuarterMile
Climbing from .25 mile marker to the first summit at .5 mile marker

We were delayed by several blinding downpours on our way north, and we still encountered showers for the first mile or so of the hike. The first half mile or so is rocky and as shown above, more than a little wet. Although I didn’t realize it while taking the next photograph, you can actually see Hanakapi’ai Beach, that little speck of white near the center of the photo, from the lookout at the half mile marker.

Na Pali Coast from .5 Mile Marker
Na Pali Coast from .5 Mile Marker

Due to the morning’s heavy rainfall, several intermittent streams overflowed into the graded trail creating all the mud you could eat, and then some.

Notice tree hump rising above the mud
Notice tree hump rising above the mud

In spite of all this mud, there was much beauty to be seen, both on the trail and out to sea. With all the microclimates along the way I encountered considerable seasonal variability.

Some pay big bucks to have this blue indoors
Some would pay mightily to have this Robin’s Egg blue indoors

This lovely tree has a list of common names that stretch across the Pacific, from Malay rose-apple to mountain apple in Hawaii.

Ohi'a ~ Mountain Apple blooming
Ohi’a’ai ~ mountain apple just beginning to blossom

With three small stream crossings, I reached Hanakapi’ai Stream in just under two hours, and sat down among the boulders by the stream for lunch. Then I waded through the stream and rock hopped down to the beach. Fresh water (NOT safe for drinking!) oozed from the cliff wall above the little salt cave, and filled the little inlet at left.

Hanakapi'ai Beach
Hanakapi’ai Beach

The surf was choppy, aided by the wind, and of course it really is not safe to enter the ocean here. An old rusty, out-of-date sign just above the beach warned that at least 83 have died up here, and a local kayaker died just off the Na Pali Coast during High Surf Warnings in the week following my hike.

Looking back across the strand from the cave
Looking back across the strand from the cave

Rock hopping back up from the beach, I made a friend… an Orange Sulphur butterfly.

Lunch with a butterfly
A butterfly I met at the beach

All of the midday mud turned to hard, hot, red clay by late afternoon. Nevertheless, my return trek took nearly two-and-a-half hours, and twice as much water as the temperature appeared to be following the elevation. People I saw on the beach from three quarters of a mile upslope, passed me before I got this far.

Only a half mile more mud to go.
The morning sluice packed dry on the return trip

All things considered, I doubt I will ever attempt the 22 mile version of this hike. Fortunately there is an alternative, driving around the island and up Waimea Canyon Road to the Kalalau Lookout, which offers a view of the Kalalau Valley featured in the movie “The Descendants,” which is breathtaking no matter how you get there!

#Kauai: A Walk To the Pineapple Dump

Lots of people were still at Kealia Beach when we started out
Lots of people were still enjoying themselves at Kealia Beach when we started out on our walk

The walk from Kealia Beach out to the Pineapple Dump is my all-time favorite short hike on Kaua’i. It’s close to our home, just a mile each way on the eastside beach path, and the entire walk is packed full with gorgeous views.

The view as we left the beach area. The tide was in, and the surf was quite rough
The view as we left the beach area. The tide was in, and the surf was quite rough

Brett and I headed out for a walk late in the afternoon on Father’s Day. The sun was still out down at the beach, but there were storm clouds looming over the mountains to the east, and approaching from the south as well. The tide was up, the wind was strong, and the surf was rough – just the way we like it when we take this walk!

One of the BIG houses sprouting up above the beach walk
One of the BIG houses sprouting up above the beach walk

The area on the mauka (mountain) side of the trail used to be covered with sugar cane and pineapple fields, but these days there’s just the new crop of multi-million dollar homes with killer views.

Tidepools run through the rocks on the shore
There are loads of tidepools in the rocks along the shore
Looking north to the Pineapple Dump. The concrete jetty can be seen in the center of the picture.
Looking north to the Pineapple Dump. The concrete jetty can be seen near the center of the picture.

Back in the day, when there were pineapple canneries on Kaua’i, a train would back a car full of pineapple debris out onto the narrow jetty, then tip the car and dump the debris into the ocean. The pineapple was usually quickly swept out to sea and eaten by fish and other sea creatures, but sometimes the tide would be running in the wrong direction and would take the debris south to Kapa’a or Lihue and dump it on the beaches there. The smell of rotting pineapple was said to be ghastly.

The Pineapple Dump jetty
The Pineapple Dump jetty
Looking north from the Pineapple Dump
Looking north from the Pineapple Dump
The surf is alway churning under the jetty . . . beautiful, but deadly
The surf is alway churning under the jetty . . . beautiful, but deadly
The view from the Pineapple Dump - perfect for whale watching in the winter
The view from the Pineapple Dump – ideal for whale watching in the winter

The concrete jetty is all that remains of the dump these days. There is a viewing platform at the top of the jetty, and a small gazebo with a picnic table nearby. The area is an ideal place for whale watching in the winter, when the Hawaiian humpbacks head to the north side of the island after giving birth. You can also sometimes see sea turtles, monk seals and occasionally nene, the Hawaiian goose (an endangered species), along the walk.

Storm clouds heading in on our walk back to the car
Storm clouds heading in on our walk back to the car
Kealia Beach was complete clouded over the we arrived, although there were a few die-hards still there
Kealia Beach was complete clouded over when we arrived back, although there were a few die-hards still there
Nou'nou, The Sleeping Giant. Ancient Hawaiians lit fires behind the mountain to frighten off intruders coming to Kaua'i
Nou’nou, The Sleeping Giant. Legend says that ancient Hawaiians lit fires behind the mountain to frighten off intruders coming to Kaua’i

The walk back to Kealia provides sweeping views of the coast and mountains to the south, including Hau’upa and Nou’nou, the Sleeping Giant. By the time we got back the clouds had rolled in, and the humidity was so thick you could slice it with a knife. The rain arrived shortly after we got home, so we had timed our walk perfectly!

#Kauai: Ho’opi’i Falls, New Pathway

Ominous clouds appeared over the Makaleha Mountains as I started down the old road to Kapa’a Stream, just above the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls. Since I had walked from the house, I wondered if I would get to see the falls and home again before the rain arrived. However, the wind was calm, and the rain appeared to be on a southerly track, so I hurried down to the falls, just in case.

Green Pasture, and Rain in the Makaleha Mountains
Makaleha Mountains from the Road Down to Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

Romantic though it may sound, ho’opi’i either means “to breed or impregnate,” or “to litigate” concerning land title. My most recent experience there seems to indicate the latter meaning is most likely because someone had posted hand made “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs just beyond the upper falls.

upper waterfall on Kapa'a Stream
Upper Falls

In addition to posting signs, someone had felled trees across the trail, and left some trees almost cut through like booby traps. A newly gouged, but also blocked, long, steep side trail appeared to the left of the first sign. So, knowing no other way to the lower falls, I went beyond the first obstruction and continued down the old trail, encountering even more vandalism as it were, and more half-sprung traps.

After meandering through the recently created obstacle course, I saw that the old trail was completely clear by the point that it returned to the stream—no more hand made signs nor further vandalism as proof of ownership the rest of the way to the lower falls.

lower Ho'opi'i Falls
Lower Falls

Refreshed after listening to the familiar roar, I headed back upstream, to see what I could see. One of my first encounters was one of the ‘ancestors’ I hadn’t noticed before, an outcropping that seemed to express contempt for my presence.

Frowning Boulder
Wary Ancestor

 Then, struggling in the understory, beneath the aggressive buffalo grass, beautiful lavender stars.

lavender wildflowers under Buffalo Grass
Wildflowers under Buffalo Grass

 When I got back to the point where the trail led away from the stream, the first No Trespassing sign was accompanied by a letter in a document protector nailed to a tree, about 15 feet above the trail: “Private Property, Go Back And Return to the Road by the Path beside the [Kapa’a] stream.” Having never seen or heard of a path along Kapa’a Stream, I went down by the water, and sure enough there was a narrow path.

At times, I thought I might be better off rock hopping, but although the trail was seldom used, it was passable. Once the trail crossed the head of a diversion trench that it generally followed back to the upper falls, it was quite scenic.

Returning to Upper Falls
Returning to Upper Falls

Looking back, I realized that I had passed this way heading downstream just to get a shot of the Upper Falls and simply didn’t recognize it as a trail.

Stream Trail from the Upper Fallls
Stream Trail from the Upper Fallls

After arriving at the upper falls, I could not believe how simple, and how beautiful this “new” pathway was. I would have gone this way from the beginning, if only I had known.

Home Again
Home Again

So, thank you disgruntled landowner for making the undisputed trail apparent!

Biting Off More Than One Can Chew

Sometimes the eyes deceive, as when one sees food and believes they could eat it, all of it. So too, when one sees a task and believes they can do it, with the simplest hand tools, in a day, by themselves. Such was the case when I volunteered to mow along a disused and neglected portion of one the my favorite trails, Kuilau Trail from Keahua Arboretum to the bridge where it joins Moalepe Trail.

Rather than use a gas-powered weed eater offered by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (I cannot be the only person who detests that noise), I opted for a scythe, only to discover that no one seems to know what a scythe is anymore. What I ended up with was a nifty pruning hook and a grass hook.

20151018_130643
Pruning Hook

The pruning hook only has a two-foot handle, but that is at least better than squatting  down with a sickle. Although the grass hook has a three-foot handle, it dulls quickly and easily, and is difficult to sharpen by hand.

grass hook
Grass Hook

Nevertheless, I set out to try them on the Sleeping Giant (Kuamo’o Trail). While the pruning hook performed well when removing overhanging branches and low-lying brush and pithy weeds, the grass hook was cumbersome and dulled quickly—especially when striking upturned rocks and snagging in the ubiquitous Albizia roots that are the foundation of the pathway. Consequently, I finished mowing the last few yards of that 200-yard stretch using only the pruning hook.

My next challenge would be mowing the last three fourths of a mile on the Kuilau Trail, so after returning home, I sharpened my tools as well as possible with a 2-1/2 inch whetstone, and put them away.

Over one month later, I packed a lunch, an extra liter of water, my tools, mosquito repellent, and finally got around to the task that I initially volunteered to do. Hiking in the first mile and a quarter there were no surprises such as fallen trees or landslides, and just beyond the picnic shelter area, I started capturing the “BEFORE” shots of places to be mowed. Arriving at trail’s end, I recorded a short video of the Little Falls before beginning to mow my way back to the trailhead.

Starting from the bridge, I cleaned up the first 100 yards and used up all of the ‘sharp’ that that grass hook had. In the process I also disturbed a big Black Witch Moth that fluttered around wildly, then returned to hide and slumber, upside down, in the upper thicket alongside an Albizia tree.

Black Witch Moth 'hiding' alongside an Albizia tree.
Black Witch Moth
BEFORE
BEFORE
Last quarter mile from trail's end - AFTER mowing
AFTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling as though I’d accomplished something, I set out to clean up the 50-yard stretch back to the 1.75 Mile marker. Below is an older photo of the view toward trail’s end from the marker, followed by the “BEFORE” and “AFTER” shots, looking back from trail’s end to the marker.

From 1.75 Mile Marker, about a month ago...
From 1.75 Mile Marker, about a month ago…
...and a week ago, BEFORE mowing.
…and a week ago, BEFORE mowing.
AFTER mowing
AFTER mowing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it looks quite a mess afterward, the first rainfall should clean it up quite nicely and leave the thatch to hold the thicket at bay for a while. At this point, I’d been mowing for nearly five hours, which made it obvious that I would not finish mowing my way back to the trailhead that day.

Here are two more BEFORE shots, and much work lies between them and the 1.75 Mile marker.

Labor of Love #1
Lucky to live Hawaii #1
Labor of Love #2
Lucky to Live Hawaii #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With just over one half mile to go, I’ll need a few more weeks to chew the remainder of this bite.

Trail Encounters

As the frequency and duration of my hikes increases, I meet a variety of interesting people whose paths were not otherwise likely to cross mine. Whether tourists or local people, our conversations are always enjoyable, and some of these acquaintances are “almost” friends now.

Initially, all of my encounters were with tourists, perhaps because I was only hiking on weekends, and some, such as a honeymooning couple on a five-island tour, simply wanted to confirm that they were still on the right trail. We hiked together from where we met, and talked about some of the plants and vistas along the trail until we reached our mutual destination.

Still other hikers were genuinely lost, and often heading in the opposite direction (opposite from my direction, as well as the direction they wanted to go). Although I only offered directions at first, eventually I hiked back with them past all of the incorrect alternatives to ensure that they could easily reach their destination without further delay or missteps.

More recently, people have asked if this trail or that was the way to some destination that was quite out of reach, either because no trail existed or because it was kapu (prohibited).

Volunteer T-Shirt, Forestry & Wildlife, Hawaii

After I volunteered for trail maintenance in the Nounou Forest Reserve, and expanded that to the Kealia Forest Reserve, the people and conversations were altogether different from my initial encounters. People were interested in longer conversations, and in their words, we “talked story”—something I thought would not come about for another 15 to 20 years.

First I met a spiritual woman who encouraged me by saying that I was answering the call of my mother (no, not Mom), Mother Nature that is. We had met before, on the trail and in town, but our exchanges were more like nodding to strangers in an elevator. Now, she was sharing a bit of her faith with me, and thanking me for sawing up some trees that had fallen across the trail.

On a hot muggy day, I stopped on a bridge and on greeting a couple, realized that the man was someone I had met last year on another trail. This time he was with the friend he had mentioned when we last met, and they asked why I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and trousers on such a hot day. So I explained that I volunteered with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife to maintain safe access to the trails, and had just come from clearing some heavy branches and fallen trees, for which shorts and “slippahs” simply would not do.

Most recently, Forestry and Wildlife brought over some grass cutting tools because people were beginning to ask when “we” were going to mow. Later, while laying waste to some bull grass and invasive ground cover, I met several local people, as well as their dogs. All thanked me for the work I was doing, and one woman stopped and asked, “Didn’t the county used to do this?” That’s when I explained that I was a volunteer for the county. Afterwards, she told me a little about her experiences working the kibbutzes in Israel in the 70s while I finished mowing.

Regrettably, I haven’t been back out on the trails for about a week now due to the intense heat and humidity trapped overhead by a series of tropical storms that bear down on us relentlessly. Longing for better days ahead, both to get back on my fitness regimen and to see old friends as well as making new friends while looking after the forests.

Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

A nice short hike, about 2 miles, on an excellent trail most of which is ideal for running as well as enjoying the scenery. Furthermore, getting there is a piece of cake, even though the trailhead is neither clearly marked nor easy to see from the road. From Kapa’a via Olohena Rd and Ka’apuna Rd, turn right at the stop sign by Kapahi Park, then almost immediately left onto Kapahi Rd. Coming down Kuhio Highway from the north, turn right just past Kealia Beach onto Ma’ilihuna Rd, then at the stop sign beyond Kapa’a High School, turn right onto Kawaihau Rd. Follow Kawaihau road past the Meneheune Store, and turn a sharp right where the road veers sharply to the left, just before Kapahi Park. Kapahi Rd is a short, narrow road so please respect the neighborhood and drive slowly. The trailhead is below the roadbed on the left, at a dip in the road about halfway down to the end, and parking for the trail is ONLY permitted on the left side, past the trailhead.

gate at end of old dirt road
Ho’opi’i Falls Trailhead

Initially, the trail is down a steep, old dirt road to Kapa’a Stream. Along the way you will see the beautiful Makaleha Mountains to your left, and the ubiquitous Monstera (monstera deliciosa) all around.

oldRoad
Dirt Road to Kapa’a Stream
makalehaMountains
Pohaku Pili (2,592 feet) and Makaleha Mountains
monstera
Monstera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just before the end of the road, the trail hooks to the left around some fallen trees, and then turns right at the intersection with Kapa’a Stream where someone has constructed a low stone dam.

low stone dam
Not a Waterfall

Continuing downstream, the trail runs parallel, within 10 feet of the stream, most of the way. You will see trails shunting off here and there, but again, please respect the neighborhood and know that these trails are on private property rather than state lands. Hau Trees (hibiscus tilliaceus) can be a curse (i.e., impenetrable) or a blessing as revealed below. These twisty intruders were originally planted to serve as a windbreaks, consequently impenetrable by hikers as they have spread wildly beyond their intended location.

Hau trees bending over the trail
Tunnel of Hau Trees

At breaks in the understory, you will glimpse a narrow stony gorge above and between the waterfalls. Placid and serene as it appears, you can hear the roaring upper falls a short distance away.

stony gorge above the first waterfall
Stony Gorge Above the Upper Falls

Moments later, you find yourself looking down on a steep path to a waterfall that cuts deeply into a stone shelf downstream.

steep descent to the upper Ho'opi'i Falls
Steep, Narrow Access to the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

…and do not be surprised to find the rocks, as well as the splash pool beneath teeming with young swimmers, especially on a hot day after school. Note that swimmers jump in from both sides of the stream, while some only ponder. There ARE sharp rocks in the stream bed, so I DO NOT GO THERE. It is far safer to enter the water downstream and hike/swim as desired.

upper ho'opi'i falls
Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

Not long after I returned to the main trail, I found myself at the edge of the stream, again facing a spectacular stony gorge that could only be captured in panoramic mode.

stony gorge on Kapa'a Stream
Lower Gorge on Kapa’a Stream

A little further along, I saw what a Toyota Tundra might look like after the “Smoke Monster” was through with it…

decaying pickup frame with wheels and 4-cylinder engine
Abandoned Chassis with Wheels and 4-Cylinder Engine

…and finally the lower falls, lacey and elegant. No place for jumping, although someone strung a mooring line in a tree on the opposite bank downstream. Mahalo!

broad waterfall
Lower Ho’opi’i Falls

Pressed for time and because I left my water in the car, I ran most of the way back to the trailhead, excluding the steep dirt road which exceeds the rated hauling capacity of my 65-year old chassis.

Okolehao Hike

First of all, I must apologize for the lack of photos from this hike because it was simply too steep and/or muddy to stand up and snap a photo. Still there’s no denying that what I saw was worth the mud and sweat, and I’m looking forward to plying the “fishnet” pathway again.

fishnet over pathway
Fishing Net Was Pinned to the Pathway for Traction

To get there, head north on Kuhio Highway (56), past Princeville and down the hill to the one-lane bridge over the Hanalei River. Turn left after crossing the bridge onto Ohiki Road, which lies between the river and the taro patches. Continue down Ohiki Road looking for a dirt parking lot on your left and a dilapidated footbridge on your right (less than a mile, but since my odometer only displays whole miles, I cannot say how much less).

Park and cross the road, and enter the trail by crossing the marked footbridge and following the muddy path a 100 yards or so until you come to a break on the left leading up the hill. At the very bottom, it was simply too wet to stand still, so this is the only decent photo I was able to get at lower elevations.

indian head ginger
Indian Head Ginger

Carry a little more water than you think you’ll need. I carried 2 liters in a camel pack, and a half liter bottle and was mighty thirsty when I got back to the car three-and-a-half hours later. Again, carry more water than you think you’ll need.

The most significant feature of this trail is up; and the next most significant feature appears on your return, down. You will gain or lose more than 1200 feet in altitude over the 1.75 mile trek, and you’ll hike in and out of sun and shade, through tall grasses and deep ruts with few breaks to get a good look around on the ascent. These shots were taken at a bend just below the power line.

up
Up
down
Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view “up” reminded me of Pacific Northwest trails I have hiked and loved. “Down” did not invoke fond memories of anywhere. Next up came this stunning view from Makana to Princeville where the powerline descends into Hanalei Valley and the trail continues to the left. Delicious cool breeze was also available here.

Makana to Princeville from the powerline.
Hanalei Bay

Dappled patches of meandering trail such as this reminded me of my youth, and scenes on the Appalachian Trail…

Reminiscent of the Appalachian Trail
Reminiscent of the Appalachian Trail

…still other stretches looked as much as anything like portions of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Cascades. One other thing I found remarkable here was how wet it is even at 1200+ feet, and that’s because all of these root lattices catch and hold considerable quantities of water.

broad trail with roots spreading back and forth
Reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail

Looking southwest from Kauka’oopua (1,273 feet) at trail’s end the summit of Maamaloha pierces the clouds against the north rim of Lumaha’i Valley.

napali
Maamaloha (3,745 feet) Against North Rim of Lumaha’i Valley

With east winds at 6 mph, gusting to 30 mph, it was difficult to photograph the view to the south from the plateau at trail’s end. Nevertheless, the nearer peak behind the trees is Kaliko and to its left the higher peak of Naamolokama Mountain.

Namolokama Mountain, trees blown by 30 MPH wind gusts
Naamolokama Mountain (4,421 feet) and Kaliko (4,200 feet)

To the southeast I saw the Anahola Mountains, and what I believe is Pu’u Ehu.

Mountains
Pu’u Ehu (1,946 feet) and the Anahola Mountains

The little plateau at the ‘official’ trail’s end is heavily overgrown with a several taller trees, so vistas aren’t what they used to be. Additionally, the Ti plants that were cultivated here during the Prohibition Era are being crowded out by other species. Incidentally, ‘O.kole.hao means “iron bottom” and derives from the iron try-pot stills that bootleggers (who planted the Ki on this ridge for such purpose) used to brew a liquor known by the same name.