Kauai Day 1

Back in March I took a trip to Kauai with my friend in order to hike the Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Trail before I leave.  We arrived in Lihue around 9:30am, picked up our rental car and set off for Koke’e state park.  It takes approximately an hour to get to Koke’e from Lihue.  Kauai I incredibly beautiful and more rural than Oahu.  Because we both had military ID we were able to get one checked bag for free.  So we had planned well and packed all of our camping gear into those bags.

I will chronicle our experience because there are a few things that are worth mentioning.  We had planned to eat granola bars for dinner on the first night because we wanted to hike to the canyon for sunset.  When we reached Koke’e we had some trouble finding the campground.  There is a sign and a bath house but no campsites are visible from the parking area.  Each camp site is semiprivate and up behind the bath house.  Once we located the camp sites we were able to set up fairly quickly.  It’s worth noting that the camp sites are first come first served.  When I have camped on the mainland you usually choose a specific site when you book.  Not the case in Hawaii, you get a permit but there is no specific site assignment.

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After we set up camp we took a short drive up to the top of Koke’e and the top of Mt. Wai’ale’ale where the lookout to the Kalalau Valley is.  When we reached the top it was totally socked in.  We were in the clouds.  That was pretty cool but we wanted to see the view too.  Mt. Wai’ale’ale is one of the wettest places on earth getting something like 500 inches of rain a year.  If you want to see through the clouds I recommend going early in the morning before the clouds move in.  We ended up going around 6am and were able to see the view.

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Our planned hike to the canyon started about 3pm.  We got a map of trails and decided to connect several trails and make a loop.  We first hiked into a marsh area with lush green plants and birds.  We then left the marsh for traditional Hawaii rainforest.  We ran into hunters several times along our route so be aware that you are in a hunting ground.  The first trail was the Halemanu Koke’e trail followed by the Black Pipe trail.  We had a little help from some hunters along the way in finding our way.  Not difficult but we got some good tips.

The black pipe trail is listed at .8mi.  It’s more than that for sure.  In fact, around 5:30pm we had been on the trail for a while and were concerned we had taken a wrong turn.  We thought we should have reached the trail junction already.  We briefly considered turning around because we were not prepared to spend the night in the canyon.  But we pressed on and came to a junction very soon after we had considered turning around.

The canyon trail to the Waipo’o falls lookout is a dry ridgeline.   With spectacular views.  We reached the canyon about 30 minutes before sunset and were not disappointed with the views!  The way the sun sets in the sky made for amazing pictures!  We poked around, took lots of pictures, and got as close to the waterfall as we dared.  Waipo’o falls can be seen from the Canyon lookout and is a double waterfall plunging over 1000 feet into the canyon.

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Neither my buddy or myself had ever hiked at night before.  We brought flashlights for the return journey and, of course, they didn’t work.  We tested and re-tested them but when it got dark they didn’t work.  My friend was using the flashlight on her phone and I was using a battery pack light.  It was interesting.  We planned to hike out to some 4wd roads and then take the main road back up the hill.  The first .5 mile or so was interesting since it was on a trail.  We reached the 4wd rd rather quickly but there are significantly more roads than are shown on the map.  Navigating wasn’t hard but we crossed more junctions than we anticipated.  We finally made it back to camp about 9pm.  We both agreed that hiking an unfamiliar trail in the dark wasn’t our favorite thing to do.

But the adventure was just beginning.  We went to bed right away since we didn’t feel like doing everything in the dark.  Because we packed everything in suitcases I had packed lightweight sleeping bags made of fleece.  Seems adequate for the temperate weather of Hawaii right?  Not exactly.  I had been monitoring the weather for a week or so before and the lows seemed to support my assessment.  The temperature at that elevation, about 3000ft above sea level, dropped to about 55 degrees both nights.  So, at about 3am, I gave up and retreated to the car.  Michelle followed me about an hour later.  She said she wondered where I went.  I thought she was sleeping so I slipped out quietly.  I didn’t know she was awake and also freezing.

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