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Topic: TR: Kalalau Trail, Kauai,  Part 3, What it's like to be Adam and Eve< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: May 18 2012, 12:16 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The next installment in my very long Kalalau Trail Trip Report:


I brought a lot more food than I usually do on a backpacking trip, and didn’t even end up eating all of it.  Each day we relaxed in the hammock, walked up and down the beach, explored some sea caves, and even went on a short day hike up in the Kalalau Valley.  It was a spectacular time, and I loved being there in that primeval location with my wonderful wife.  I love my kids dearly, but it is truly nice to be able to spend time alone with just my wife and focus all my daily attention on her.  I thanked her again and again for coming on this trip with me.  I clearly realize how good I have it to be married to someone who would not only be willing to accompany me on a journey like that, but have fun and enjoy it at the same time.  I am truly blessed to have such a willing and capable wife.  I spend my normal days at work, so it was so great to be able to spend all our time together for those idyllic days.

The only real detractor from perfection was the presence of other people on the beach.  I didn’t expect to be alone there at all, and in general I don’t mind other like-minded backpackers being around, but what bothered me was the people that arrived by boat.  Boat landings on Kalalau are illegal, and I resented the fact that weird looking-dudes with pot bellies would arrive by boat and occupy the same Garden of Eden that the rest of us had earned by hiking a backbreaking trail.  It’s sad to say, but they cheapened the place for me a little bit.  Plus, I had to pay well over $120 for my camping permits and get them months in advance, while these illegal arrivals didn’t pay anything.  I have to draw a clear distinction here between the “outlaws,” or “hippies” who live quietly and secretly hidden up in the Kalalau Valley.  I didn’t mind them at all; in fact, they sort of enhanced the experience for me.  They were very gentle, unobtrusive, seldom seen people who live for months or even years hidden up in the valley, and they don’t intrude at all.  In fact, if you can earn their trust they can give you all kinds of good information about exotic fruits growing in the jungle that can be eaten.  Some of these guys gave us a bunch of guavas and told us about wild tomatoes which we picked and ate.


So, the hippies didn’t bother me, but what annoyed me was the illegal boat people who competed with us for prime beachfront real estate that we had earned by hiking and carrying everything in, and for which we had to apply and pay for permits months in advance.  Also, as time went by several groups of campers arrived and set up their tents all around our perfect spot.  There was plenty of space all up and down this long deserted beach, so why they chose to squat so close to us was a mystery.
On our last night we saw our hitchhiker friends arrive on the beach, so I told them they could have our spot when we left the next morning.  They were very grateful for that, since our spot was so perfect, and every other good spot was already occupied at that point.  We had some long conversations with them, and I was intrigued by the free-spirited vagabond lifestyle they were living.  They seemed to be merely wandering from place to place, and after spending another month exploring Kauai, the guy told me that he had arranged to hitch a ride on a boat with some friends to take him to French Polynesia.  

(a gecko crawling on the outside of our tent.  It's good luck to have these in your house in Hawaii, plus they eat bugs for you.)

Coincidentally that night was the year’s “supermoon,” the full moon in which the moon is also closest to the earth in its orbit, so it appears bigger than normal.  The moon was so bright in that clear night sky that it illuminated our whole tent.  I had not scheduled our trip around this moon phase, but it sure turned out to be a fortunate coincidence that just made the adventure even more dramatically primeval.  The next morning we had to pack up and leave at last.  We didn’t try to get up early or rush things, and ended up ready to start hiking at 9:15am.  


The return journey was quite different from the hike in, whereas before we had started just after dawn, in the cool of the early morning, and under the jungle canopy and out of the sun for several hours-- on the return trip we started out in the full sun, on the dry rocky end of the trail, and it was already hot.  We moved quickly, as before, but we experienced a similar phenomenon on the way out as we had on the way in, without being able to judge distances, and feeling like we must be much farther along the trail than we actually were.  There was no rain at all on this day, so we were dry the whole time.  


Once we got to Hanakapi’ai Beach, which is only two miles from the end, we started to see hordes of dayhikers.  We had not seen them on our hike in, because we started so early, but now, in the afternoon, there were hundreds of tourists trying to struggle through the first two miles of the trail and back to their cars.  Hanakapi'ai Beach is a popular dayhike spot, but the beach itself is treacherous and this sign is kind of ominous:


It felt weird to be among the tourists after four days away from civilization.  It was amusing too, because even after having already hiked nine miles with heavy backpacks, we were still going faster than the day-hiking tourists who had only hiked two miles at most, and were carrying nothing.  I freely admit it was quite an ego trip to fly past them on the trail with our full packs.


When we arrived back at the trailhead at last, we hugged in celebration and then walked to our rental car.  The Kalalau trailhead happens to be at the parking lot of a nice beach, so there were a lot of cars packed in.  Recall here what I said earlier about a history of break-ins at this parking lot, because cars are left overnight by backpackers.  I was happy to see that all of our windows were intact, and just as I was congratulating myself for leaving nothing in the car and all the doors unlocked, my wife said: “I hope we have enough gas to get home.”  To my dismay, she pointed out to me that the gas cap door on the side of the car appeared to be broken open.  Without another thought I jumped inside and turned the key in the ignition to check the fuel gauge.  Sure enough, all the gas was gone.  Somebody had broken open the gas cap door and siphoned the gas tank.  

After such a fantastic backpacking trip, it was really a shame to end it on such a bad note.  I was really disgusted and frankly couldn’t believe somebody had done that.  The worst part of it was, and proof that criminals are stupid, was the fact that the door was unlocked.  All the thief had to do was open the door and simply lift the latch by the driver’s door that releases the gas cap door.  I would still have lost the gas, but at least I wouldn’t have to be stuck dealing with damage to a rental car, getting a police report, dealing with insurance companies, and so on.  But at the moment our task was to get back to town and get some gas.  There is no cell phone reception out there at all, so there was nobody to call.  I had picked up hitchhikers on our way in, so I felt sure that somebody would give us a ride.  Karma or something.

Even though the fuel gauge needle was below empty, I know there is usually a little bit of gas still in the tank, so on a hunch I decided to give it a try and see how far we could drive.  The engine started, to my relief, and we started down the road back to town.  We kept the windows rolled up and the a/c off to improve our mileage, and ironically, that ride was the hottest we had gotten on our whole trip so far.  Unfortunately, the drive back to Hanalei and the only gas station for miles and miles is a very slow, windy road and even includes a string of one-lane bridges.  How do they still have one-lane bridges in America?  Idling your car while waiting in traffic for your turn over a one-lane bridge is nerve-wracking when you are desperately hoping that the fumes you have left in your empty gas tank will get you through a twenty-minute drive.  But miraculously we made it.  We rolled into the gas station jubilantly.  I tell you the whole trip was charmed.  


Can you see the little blue dot on the trail?  That's me.


(My beautiful hiking partner)

So go to Kalalau.  You'll never be closer to being Adam and Eve, or maybe Tarzan and Jane! :laugh:
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PostIcon Posted on: May 18 2012, 3:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nice report.  I never experienced the boaters, but had some nudists hanging out at the beach while I was there, back in '93.  I hear you about people setting up too close to you, and it isn't always a different culture with a different sense of personal space.  Some folks just like to crowd in on the best spots, hoping to get you to leave so they can spread out.

Despite the bummer, it appears you had a great time.  Thanks for the TR.


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"I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth."  Steve McQueen
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PostIcon Posted on: May 18 2012, 5:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah, I didn't expect to have the whole beach to ourselves,  but it really is a nice long beach, and a hundred people could easily spread out and camp with plenty of space around them.  So it puzzled me why some would crowd in right on top of each other when there was so much open beach.
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PostIcon Posted on: May 18 2012, 7:14 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nice report and great pics. I'd heard disappointing tales about the trail conditions and the people at Kalalau Beach diluting the experience but it sounds  like in general you had a better experience than I would have guessed. In popular camping areas, I always hunt down the best difficult-to-reach site to avoid the crowdy lamers. Thanks for posting! Hope to do that one of these days.

Larry


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PostIcon Posted on: May 29 2012, 7:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Fantastic report! Thanks for sharing.

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"We're not lost. It's the trail that's missing."
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PostIcon Posted on: May 30 2012, 11:58 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

OK, so here's the follow-up to the part about our gas cap door being broken into on the rental car and our gas being siphoned while we were on the trail-- I just got the final bill from Thrifty rental cars.  Wait for it...   $11.61!  I couldn't believe it!  I was fully expecting the rental car company to nail me with huge charges for damage, but they were extremely nice about it, easy to deal with, and I only have to pay eleven dollars!  Thank you Thrifty in Kauai.  :D
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PostIcon Posted on: May 30 2012, 6:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Great TR, great pix.

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There are only two things I don't like about people: They take too long to cook and taste like crap when they're done.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 16 2013, 6:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah, it's nearly a year later, but I wanted to say thank you for posting such a thoughtful, complete, and detailed trip report.  It's helpful for those of us hungry for information as you probably were before you went.  My wife to be and I will be doing almost the identical trip (# of days, time of year, etc) in 2 months.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 16 2013, 10:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

By the way, I had a few questions for Wildblue or anyone else who would care to comment..  

I'm curious whether there is an abundance of edibles in the Kalalau beach area or the valley.  I realize the TR mentioned being given some fruit and info regarding edibles, I'm just wondering if there is much in the way of coconuts, papaya, mango, avacado, etc.  Seems like there could be, but also seems like things could be picked pretty clean.

Also, I'm contemplating how to take on the river crossings if necessary.  I prefer not to bring along heavier closed to sandals or chaco types, but I doubt barefoot crossings are not adviseable.  What are the river bottoms like?

Thanks
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 21 2013, 5:58 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

As far as edibles go, the only thing I actually saw was wild tomatoes.  They were fairly abundant, and seemed to be randomly growing hidden in the weeds along the trails and around some of the campsites.  In my research I had read that the outlaws know of all kinds of fruits growing up in the valley, but I never saw any growing myself.  There is only one coconut tree that I remember, and it was down near the entrance creek as you enter Kalalau beach.  There are other palm trees, but not coconut ones.

As far as river crossings go, we had no problem.  I have read that at certain times the rivers can be dangerously high, but when we were there in early May we were easily able to get across all of them.  In a few cases we had to take a minute or two and scout up and down the river bank for the best place to cross, but once we found the sweet spot we were able to hop across on rocks and never got wet at all.  I think this depends on the individual, however, and their personal level of confidence and balance.  I noticed other people who were much more hesitant and had a harder time on the same spots.  We also passed one lady who was wearing water shoes and just purposely plunged right in at every creek and walked through the water.  She said she loved to get wet and cool off.  The river bottoms specifically were pretty rocky, so I would not try them barefoot.

I wore light hiking boots, which I recommend, but we also each brought a pair of those "barefoot" style minimalist running shoes (Merrell Trail glove), which weigh next to nothing.  Our plan was to switch into those if we needed to wade through the water, but we never ended up needing to.  Those light shoes still came in handy once we got to the beach, though, since we could slip those on to walk around the trails, go get water, etc. without having to put on our boots.
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