Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (2/28 – 3/5)

I initially had decided to fold this post into the weekly Sunday one, but over the last month I received so many likes on these posts that I decided it was worth keeping as a regular Monday feature.

We are slowly moving toward eating more prepared foods as our goal the next two months is to use up as much as possible so very little has to be thrown away when we move out of apartment. Our pantry grows more empty every day, and we’re slowly using up the many condiments in our refrigerator. There will obviously be things that we won’t be able to finish (like a jar of hot peppers or a jar of YaYu’s spicy chili crisp that she left behind), but we’re going to try our best. Anyway, vegan entrees and such are filling in a lot of slots in our menu these days and will continue to do so until we leave.

We had lots of tasty dinners this week. The California roll salad helped us almost finish our remaining rice (once it’s gone we’re going to use Japanese microwave cooked rice). I used quinoa this past week to make fried “rice” which used up the remainders of a bag of quinoa, and our chicken patty sandwiches used up some barbecue sauce (and we ate the last of some corn chips that we had gotten for the girls and then forgotten about – they were “refreshed” in the microwave). There were of course mini pizzas one evening – we have two jars of pizza sauce to use up – and otherwise meals were made from items in the freezer or the pantry.

Sunday: Vegan chick’n pot pie (with added black pepper)

Monday: California roll salad

Tuesday: Chick’n patty sandwiches with barbecue sauce; corn chips

Wednesday: Shrimp fried quinoa

Thursday: Roasted poblano enchiladas; cilantro rice; cucumber spears

Friday: Cheese mini pizzas with pepper and onion

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner (pancakes; plant-based sausage patties; fresh blueberry syrup; vegan sausage patties)

Desserts this past week were either Girl Scout cookies (four Thin Mints and two Samoas, our favorites), a quarter piece of one of Costco’s jumbo fudge cupcakes, or two pieces of mochi ice cream. This week we’ll segue into Costco’s red velvet cupcakes, Pepperidge Farm coconut cake, and a little more mochi ice cream. Having a tiny dessert and sharing a cup of coffee after dinner has become one of our favorite rituals and keeps us away from sweets the rest of the day.

Next week’s menu will continue to include prepared foods or convenience items, like the chili shrimp sauce and tofu burger mix. I’m not cooking much at all these days.

  • Macaroni & cheese
  • Margherita pizza
  • Fried chick’n with mashed potatoes & country gravy
  • Corn dogs
  • Chili shrimp
  • Mini pizzas
  • Tofu burgers

There are so many fascinating rocks and rock formations out on the Maha’ulepu Trail, from volcanic basalt to lava rocks to sandstone with everything in between. Sometimes it feels like we’re walking on the moon. I would be in heaven if I were a geologist.

The good weather we’ve been having means more beach days which means fewer days for walking, but we still aim to get in a minimum of four days per week. The Maha’ulepu Trail is our hiking venue these days, but the trailhead sits right next to Shipwreck Beach, so if we go there to the beach Brett will take a solo hike while I stay back on the beach with our stuff. The trail has all sorts of different paths and detours coming off of it, and it took me almost all of last month to figure out and remember our route without getting lost. We always stop along the way for a few moment to watch if we spot whales or other sea creatures (sea turtles and giant manta rays!), or if the waves are crashing particularly high against the cliffs, but mostly we just walk out and back and enjoy the views along the way.


First Hike in Koke’e State Park: It’s Only Six Miles

Although we walk almost daily, we only hike about once a month, and I have not enjoyed a strenuous hike since before the pandemic restrictions were invoked. Throughout the previous six years on Kauai, I have only hiked one trail along the Waimea Canyon Road, and that was over two-and-a-half years ago. So a few weeks ago I started researching the trails on the official website Na Ala Hele Trail and Access, the official website for state maintained trails, to verify which trails were open and to find one suitable for an afternoon hike.

Many of the trails are over four miles each way, and some of the shorter trails include an elevation gain of more than one half mile. Awa‘awapuhi (ginger valley) Trail appeared to fit the bill at 3.1 miles each way with an elevation change of 1,180 feet. Our experience however proved that looks may be cruelly deceiving.

Hawaii Forestry & Wildlife Map
Awa’awapuhi Trail

Even so the trailhead is approximately 1,200 feet above the end of the trail, and our hike begins with a gentle half-mile ascent to the highest point at 4,160 feet above sea level. From the summit, a gradual descent leads to a little plateau featuring a plank crossing over the intermittent head of Awa‘awapuhi Stream, and yet another plank crossing lies beyond the next hill. The ocean itself only made a brief appearance through the trees just beyond the 0.5 Mile marker, and then was not seen again for a further mile.

Somewhat steeper and bigger S-curves commence from near trailhead level, approximately 3,600 feet above sea level, marking the beginning of the long descent which is only interrupted by a few narrow ridges that connect the lower peaks of the trail. At one point YaYu remarked, “Mom could probably hike this,” and I recall thinking that this trail wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, in fact, I started running as our turnaround time neared, and only slowed down when we reached the switchbacks.

Toward the end of the trail there’s a great sweeping loop through the dryland vegetation (most of the upper trail is conspicuously wetland) and then we saw the safety railing at the end of the trail—less than two hours from the start and right at our turnaround time. At trail’s end there are two vistas, both guarded by railings, and one of them bears a 3.25 MI marker. We could both see and hear the ocean from here, and it was then I realized that I had not taken a single drink since we started. I quickly opened the first bottle of water and wet my dry, salted lips, and took several photos while we rested and chatted about all that we had seen and not seen.

We only saw two other hikers who reached trail’s end ahead of us, and checking the elevation at trail’s end, 2,560 feet above sea level, before trekking back to the trailhead reaffirmed the warning from the description on website.

DANGER: Do not venture beyond the safety railing at the end of the trail! Footing is extremely unstable, and the drop to the valley floor below is [well] over 2,000 feet.”

Thus, the actual elevation change then is 1,600 feet rather than 1,180 feet (which was derived from the difference between the starting and ending elevations; not peak to end). Granted, that’s only a 420 foot difference, but that is quite significant when translating that from a horizontal line of text to vertical distance. Also significant is the fact that the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) placed a mileage marker at trail’s end indicating that the true roundtrip hike would be 6.5 rather than 6.2 miles. Also, the return is uphill almost the entire way, which tends to slow down one’s pace.

This was a great hike overall, and YaYu and I made such good time on the hike out and down to the vistas that we were astonished when our best efforts on the return to the trailhead took over three hours (5 hours roundtrip), and we missed our self-imposed deadline by more than an hour—

Laura: Will you be back in time for our walk?

Me: Sure, it′s ‘only’ six miles!

Although it happened slightly later than usual, Laura and I did get in our daily walk. That made it over 10 miles for me that day, and over 21,000 steps. It was a very good day!

A Short Hike on the Moalepe Trail

The Moalepe trailhead. The gate can be opened so vehicles can use the road if necessary..

Located in the hills to the west of Kapaa, off Olohena Road, the Moalepe Trail winds up through protected pastureland and into the forest until it connects with the Kuilau Trail. From the trailhead to the junction with the Kuilau the total distance is 2.5 miles.

Starting up the trail. Those are rocks in the dirt.
Gates along the way allow vehicles to access the pastureland.
Most of the pastureland is separated from the trail by barbed wire.

On Monday we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. We hiked up approximately 1.5 miles, then turned around and hiked back down for a total of three miles. Brett and YaYu could have easily gone to the end, but I had to call it quits because my legs grew wobbly and I became quite dizzy. I still had a good time and got a good workout, but upon reflection I’ve realized that several factors were working against me to keep me from reaching the end, some of them my own fault.

YaYu walked in front most of the way, and showed us where to step to stay out of the mud.
We had a gorgeous view of Makaleha on the way up.
At around a mile and a quarter, the forest begins to appear.

Below are some of the things I figured out for the next time we hike.

  • Although the trail is not steep, it is a steady incline all the way up to the end – we gained 370 feet during our 1.5 miles. I am a quick walker, and pushed myself too quickly up the trail which in turn quickly got me tired. I need to learn to slow down when I’m climbing.
  • I did not eat anywhere near enough for lunch before we hiked, just a half of a sausage and a small papaya. I had brought along two Japanese rice crackers though, and ate those on the way down, and felt fine by the time we got back to the trailhead. That was the biggest tip off that my empty stomach was a strong reason for my lightheadedness and the weakness in my legs.
  • It was also quite hot and humid once we got to the trail. We had been expecting a nice breeze, but instead not a leaf was stirring along the way and for most of the hike the sun was beating down on us. I wore a wet tenugui (Japanese cotton hand towel) wrapped around my neck, and that helped immensely, but I still felt overheated. For any other hike in similar weather I am going to need something wet on my head as well to help keep me cool(er). I also didn’t hydrate enough on the way up, which probably also contributed to how awful I felt at the 1.5 mile point.
  • Although the trail may look smooth in the pictures, it was anything but, and we spent the entire hike, both up and down, moving from side to side to avoid rocks and branches, mud, deep ruts, and other hazards which required extra effort. The trail functions as a utility road for part of the way (tire tracks were visible), and is also used for horseback riding, and to say it is not well maintained would be an understatement. I reminded myself on the way back down that walking paths in England are, for the most part, maintained footpaths and usually much easier to walk on.
  • I had no trouble from my bursitis on the ascent, but it flared up on the way down, painful to the point I had to stop a couple of times and stretch in order to keep going. The unevenness of the trail caused the bursitis to flare up, just as it used to when I walked on cobblestones, as my hips never bother me these days on our usual daily walks which are on flat, even terrain. I’m going to have to do more frequent stretching to keep the bursitis in check as otherwise the only alternative will be cortisone shots. Interestingly, my knee did not hurt at all, but again, it was a fairly gently slope down.
Our stopping point at a mile and a half was just out of sight in this picture. Although the forest was cooling things down, I couldn’t go any further.

Although we did not make it to the top of the trail because of the issues I experienced, I was happy with our effort. I gained a lot from the experience, especially figuring out things I can do better. We still got in a three-mile hike and enjoyed some of Kauai’s beautiful countryside. Brett and I plan to try the hike again in another three weeks or so.

Back at the trailhead at the end of our hike, I was happy but still feeling a bit shaky. My shirt is drenched from the wet tenugui I wore around my neck to help me stay cool.

From Bourton-on-the-Hill to Longborough

Star Cottage, one of beautiful old buildings along Bourton-on-the-Hills high street.

The bus we ride to Moreton-in-Marsh passes through the village of Bourton-on-the-Hill on its way, and Brett and I had been wanting to get off there and spend some time exploring the village with its large manor house, stately church, and wonderfully preserved old buildings. Our host had also recommended the pub there, The Horse and Groom. Combined with several paths leading out of the village to various destinations we decided to make a day of it last week to not only check out the village but also walk over to another village, Longborough, by way of the Heart of England footpath.

What used to be old shops and other businesses along the high street have been converted into cottages for either full-time or vacation residences.

The old rectory

This booth appeared to still be functional!

One of the many awards the village of Bourton-on-the-Hill has received.

Bourton-on-the-Hill has received many awards, including one for “best kept village.” I’m sure there must have been new buildings in the village, but all we could find were old ones, all of them lovingly cared for.

Our first destination after getting off the bus in Bourton-on-the-Hill was Bourton House, a 16th-century manor house and estate (the current house dates from the 18th century however). The grounds not only contain the grand house but a brewhouse, coach barn, stables, and tithe barn along with a beautiful three-acre garden that is open to the public from April through October. We had debated walking over to see another manor house in the area, Sezincote, but decided to pay the admission to the Bourton House garden instead.

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Suffice it to say that the garden visit was worth every penny we paid to enter (£14/$17.50). The entrance to the award-winning garden was through the large tithe barn, which contained not only the ticket table but a gift shop and tea house. Several tables were set up outside on the lawn, and the day was lovely enough that people were already enjoying tea outside, but the garden beckoned to us.

Every view in the garden was a delight for the eyes. Flowers were still in bloom throughout, and each area held something exquisite to admire, either from a distance or up close. It was not difficult at all to imagine characters from a Jane Austen novel walking through the grounds or carriages arriving up the drive for a party or a ball. We were especially impressed that the entire garden is maintained by just three people, a head gardener and two assistants. We easily spent 45 minutes there and could have stayed longer but we needed to climb back up the hill to the pub for some lunch before heading out on our hike.

The Horse and Groom sits at the top of the hill.

Besides serving delicious food, the pub also offers a boutique B&B for a stay in the village.

After a delicious lunch at The Horse and Groom (fish and chips for Brett, a stuffed pepper with spinach salad for me) we walked back down the hill a bit, then turned down a side street until coming to the Heart of England Way and headed out into the countryside. After clearing the village, the walk was primarily through lush green pastureland. Most of it was empty of animals but filled with huge, stately oak trees, but we pass a horse and of course some sheep and cows. The path was often difficult to find at times – only the faintest of footprints in the grass kept us going in the right direction.

A look back at Bourton-on-the-Hill as we headed out on the Heart of England Way.

Massive, stately oaks were found in almost every pasture.

Sometimes it was difficult to tell if we were still on the path or not . . .

. . . but eventually we would come across markers that let us know we were going the right way.

Beautiful country views could be enjoyed the entire walk.

We knew from the maps we had studied that Sezincote was in the area, and about half-way along our way to Longborough we spotted its dome peeking out through the trees. Then, after walking through a small stretch of woods and rounding a corner, there it was! Built in 1805, the neo-Mughal inspired manor is privately owned, but the house is open on Thursday and Friday afternoons for tours (May through September), and the Indian-styled gardens are open from January through October. We could see as we walked past that it would have taken quite an effort to walk there, and we were glad we had opted for the Bourton House gardens instead. It also looked as if some event was going to be taking place there (tents were set up outside and there were a few delivery trucks), so for all we knew the house wouldn’t even have been open at all that day.

We were rewarded with a spectacular view of Sezincote House, with its unique architecture and distinctive copper dome.

We finally reached the pretty little village of Longborough around 2:30 in the afternoon and headed for the village shop to get something cool to drink and to ask directions to the bus stop. When we arrived at the bus stop we discovered that 1) no bus stopped in the village that day, and 2) there was no time to either walk back to Bourton-on-the-Hill or on to Moreton-in-Marsh and catch a bus from those places. We went back to the shop to ask for the location of a payphone to call a taxi, but the shop attendant, Andrew, called a couple of taxi businesses for us only to discover that they were also booked for the next couple of hours (school runs). We were stranded. It was at that point that Andrew stepped up and offered to drive us over to Moreton-in-Marsh, an act of kindness we quickly accepted, and that cost us nothing more than a cold drink for Andrew from the refrigerator.

We were too tired and thirsty when we arrived in Longborough to do much of a visit, but we had walked for over four miles at that point.

All in all, it was a perfect day. We enjoyed gorgeous, warm weather, toured a gorgeous, lush garden, had a great lunch at a great pub, saw the stunning Sezincote manor house (from a distance), walked a good distance while enjoying beautiful scenery along the way, and were treated to a wonderful act of kindness that saved the day for us. We couldn’t have asked for more.

#Kauai: Hidden in Plain Sight

After hiking most of the shoreline from Hanamaulu Bay to Anahola Bay it dawned on me that an interesting geologic feature that nearly escapes notice was a constant companion most the way. Though discontinuous in places, and often only visible at low tide, a naturally formed limestone shelf, a barrier between reef and shore, surrounds the island of Kaua‘i.

For commercial reasons, the shelf was obliterated at Hanamaulu Bay, to provide a sheltered harbor and pier at Ahukini Landing. By contrast, the limestone formation appears to extend forever northward from the south end of Nukoli‘i Beach. In reality, it vanishes briefly adjacent to the Wailua Municipal Golf Course, and is only visible intermittently near the mouth of Wailua River.

“Baby” Beach exists because of the tidal trough between an extent of the limestone formation and the seawall along Moanakai Road In Kapa‘a Town. Google Maps calls this Fuji Beach, but everyone in town knows it’s Baby Beach.

Fuji Beach, Moanakai Rd, Kapaa 96746
Low tide at Baby Beach

An appreciable portion of the limestone formation rings the second embayment north of Donkey beach. This beach is popular with monk seals because it’s nicely sheltered and the fishing is good, but if you see them on the beach, just move it along because they absolutely need their rest, AND it is against the law to approach or disturb them. You can see an isolated chunk of limestone submerged in the first photo, and the remainder of the formation at water’s edge in the background.

As the old right of way veers inland beyond Donkey Beach, each of the little bays onward to Anahola  Beach State Park are only accessible via dedicated dirt roads and recent motocross trails, or at low tide by rock-hopping along the shore. The next photos show isolated hunks of the bar overlain with younger volcanic debris or thrust up along the shore nearer to Anahola.

Just south of Anahola Bay lies another little ring, tilted up somewhat like the formation at Baby Beach. Coincidentally, that similarity is what awakened me to the fact that I had “seen this somewhere before.”

While this formation certainly is not all there is to see between Nukoli‘i Beach and Anahola Beach, it’s been more of a companion. Running, hiking, and rock-hopping Kauai‘i’s eastern shore is never boring.





#Kauai: The Powerline Trail

In my previous post, I touched on the state of the Powerline Trail without revealing all that makes it worthwhile. That is, while it may not be possible to hike through, what you can see is breathtaking. Powerline Trail has all the elements of a worthy hike: hills, vistas, minor obstacles, flora & fauna, and even a waterfall (nearby but not directly accessible from the trail). Additionally, some volunteers have established and continue to maintain BMX/Mountain Bike trails parallel to the main route at the north end of the route.

Of course there is the actual powerline to consider—without which there would be no trail.

Every trail has hills, some knee-crawling, and although the straight and level is rare on this trail its hills gently rise and fall. In the first two miles the most significant grade is a 19-minute incline that weaves back and forth slightly, just a wiggly course around the side of a mountain rather than switchbacks. Most run up a little, then down a little through cuts,, while most of the level ground is atop fills.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, much of this hike is through cuts, so the sights to see come up suddenly and change throughout the day. Pictured below, clockwise from upper left: Hanalei Valley; Kekōiki 2,814 feet (858 meters); Wai‘ale‘al 5,148 feet (1,569 meters); and Kawakini, highest point on Kauai at 5,243 feet (1,598 meters).

All of the obstacles on the northern end are water hazards; that is, there is no overgrown brush, no fallen boulders or trees, and no thickets of interlacing hau trees.

Although I did see one Bufo toad (Bufo marinis), and a half-dozen or so birds moving too swiftly to be digitized, the surprise here was tree frogs—two species, hopping about near the waterholes and like the birds, mimicking Monte Python’s “How Not to Be Seen.”

By contrast, flowers and forest were most cooperative as well as lovely to see. These flowers are common to most trails on Kauai, although this is the first time I’ve seen Foxglove outside of someone’s garden. Clockwise, from upper left: Philippine Ground Orchid (Spathoglottis plicata), Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbe), White Ginger (Hedychium coronarium), and Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)—absolutely, positively introduced here.

Similarly, the trees are all varieties one might encounter anywhere on the island. Nevertheless, they are welcome for their beauty and shade. Clockwise, from upper left: Ohia, Guava, someone’s notion of a Christmas tree, assorted jungle, Hala (Pandanus tectorius), and a variety of plants—mosses, ferns, and a young Casuarina—nursing on a Eucalyptus bough.

Many of the same sights glimpsed along the main trail are enhanced, and new perspectives emerge from the cycling trails. These trails are meticulously well maintained on either side of the main trail although they do not extend continuously due to challenging terrain. That is, the cycling trails run along both sides in some places, on one side or the other at times, and simply share the main trail in between the rough spots. One word of caution, keep your ears open and your head on a swivel because cyclists appear quite suddenly in both directions.

As soon as my shins heal, I hope to attempt an assault on this northern end to see how far I can go and what wonders lay ahead.


#Kauai: Changes

“You cannot step into the same river twice,” [Heraclitus according to Plato]. That’s obviously because the flowing waters mix and mingle, and even a second after you step out it has become a different river. After revisiting some of my favorite sights, I found that some have fared better than others, with a few places ravaged by changing weather patterns while others seemed totally immutable.

Just north of Donkey Beach is an unnamed stream that has slowly dried up since the turn of this century. However, it was still making its way to sea when we arrived in 2014, dropping quietly into the ocean at a small inlet, a tidal pool, a little beyond the completed portion of The Path that Goes by the Coast.

Although the photo at left was taken in early May 2017, it is representative of the state of the stream these past three years. The photo at right, taken last week, reveals a completely desiccated sandstone embankment where the little cascade once glimmered. Notice that another Casuarina tree has taken root to the right of the channel, and the shadow of the older seedlings from the earlier photo extends up the left edge of the latter.

Meanwhile, I revisited Ho’opi’i Falls on Kapa’a Stream recently, and found them gloriously rushing on in spite of slightly diminished flow—the little stream-side trail above the upper falls is now fully accessible.

The seldom-used stream-side trail between upper and lower falls was a little more hazardous than I recalled from previous hikes, as well as densely overgrown immediately below the upper falls.

Since I hadn’t visited over the summer, I also headed up Kawaihau Road toward Makaleha Falls. Everything looked familiar from the trailhead, but then I was unable to locate the first stream crossing. Initially it appeared that there might be a new crossing downstream. However, when that didn’t pan out, I returned to the trail and ventured too far upstream to a dead end. Retracing my steps, I found a place that surely must have been it, but I could not find any remnants of the old dam and the long pool that had once been key landmarks.

Looking across the stream I finally recognized the path up into the bamboo forest (but don’t all paths into bamboo forests look the same?). Eventually  some other hikers came along, and I followed them across the stream. Almost immediately after crossing, I was able to return their favor by guiding them to a shortcut along the stream which was even easier than ever because spring flooding had shifted the mainstream channel away from the near bank leaving behind a nice, dry, rock-strewn pathway.

On this hike, I only went about an hour upstream rather than all the way to the falls. Returning to the trailhead I encountered one of my favorite landmarks, this massive boulder, seemingly unchanged by time and floods, though an earthquake might be another story. I cannot imagine being on this island when this boulder moves.

Watchful boulder on Makaleha Stream

Next stop was the Powerline Trail at the end of Kuamo’o Road. When I reached the end of the road, I saw that the county had erected a one-lane bridge across the stream, so I proceeded across and parked in the nice new parking lot. The trailhead is about a twelve-minute trek up the Forest Service Road and the trail rises steeply from there.

Unfortunately, this trail is not maintained and I found that the jungle and downed trees closed it off a little more than half a mile from the trailhead. Still, it was worth a look since I had only read about it.

…But nearly 11 miles farther north, one can start from the other end! So I did, and witnessed the striking contrast between the spartan south trailhead markings—little more than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick—and the north trailhead station, more or less fully appointed, including all that graffiti.

While the news was discouraging at both ends, I was able to trek in a little over two miles, including a 20-minute ascent up a steep grade and over two water hazards. However, my adventure was finally thwarted by the third pond in the trail because it continued to widen any way I went. Being ill-equipped to trudge through with nothing more than lightweight running shoes (one of which had a hole in the toe).

Mean stretch of road

Although it doesn’t look so bad from here, consider that it’s more than twice as wide when it reaches that big tree on the right, and the ground gets softer and softer as it goes. I stuck my hiking pole in to gauge the depth and I hit bottom at about 10 inches depth; then leaned on the stick and it sunk another seven or so inches—that is a lot of mud, and not to be broached with open wounds (from earlier hikes/runs) on the shins and ankles.

So many streams have run dry or radically changed course over time while isolated pools deter hikers in the mountains, and the jungle overtakes disused trails with the passage of time. One truly cannot step in the same river twice simply because it’s no longer there.


#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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.