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.
South End of Nukoli‘i Beach
North End of Nukoli‘i Beach
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.
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.
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.
Looking Back from Summit
Looking Ahead from Summit
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.
“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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Other vines, although invasive, are not quite so dangerous. Monstera (Monstera deliciosa) is ubiquitous in Hawaii, and internet search results highlight its delicious aspects.
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.
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 (Nephrolepisbrownii aka multiflora), often seen among smaller, lacy ferns that I cannot readily identify.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Around the Norfolk Island Pines grew the Kilauea Woods.
After a rising turn to the left, mahogany groves appear, first at left…
…then at right where another sign explains the significance of this 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
At last, the 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.
The gardens, scattered around several footbridges, include ti (ki) plants, and the most fragrant ginger that I have ever found.
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.
Steps have been installed on the approach 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.)
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!”
Two varieties of bamboo grow in the upper gardens.
The upper garden is also home to a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This lovely tree has a list of common names that stretch across the Pacific, from Malay rose-apple to mountain apple in Hawaii.
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.
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.
Rock hopping back up from the beach, I made a friend… an Orange Sulphur butterfly.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then, struggling in the understory, beneath the aggressive buffalo grass, beautiful lavender stars.
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.
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.
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.
So, thank you disgruntled landowner for making the undisputed trail apparent!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With just over one half mile to go, I’ll need a few more weeks to chew the remainder of this bite.