#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.


#Kauai: Ho’opi’i Falls, New Pathway

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

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

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

upper waterfall on Kapa'a Stream
Upper Falls

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

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

lower Ho'opi'i Falls
Lower Falls

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

Frowning Boulder
Wary Ancestor

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

lavender wildflowers under Buffalo Grass
Wildflowers under Buffalo Grass

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

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

Returning to Upper Falls
Returning to Upper Falls

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

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

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

Home Again
Home Again

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

#Kauai: Helicopter Tour

Absolutely the best thing I’ve done on Kauai!

I’ve lived on this magical island for 2 years. But this opened my eyes all the way to my toes.

Soaring over the plunging velvety emerald cliffs and mesmerizing turquoise waters was a jolt to my soul.

How could all this amazing enchantment be sparkling in the now moment and I’ve never seen it?

I fell more deeply in love with this 25 x 33 miles tiny island. But no, it’s not so tiny. The power of the landscape made me tingle for hours, it was like having a crush on a hunky man turn into true love.

I was floating. My eyes grew new nerve endings, I could see more clearly and my heart busted open in gratitude.

Wonder and awe guide my life now. And I’ve never been more grateful that I sold my belongings, explored the world, moved to an island, and decided to be happy.

You can change your life. It all starts with that whispering in your spirit that says, yes go that way or no that is not for you.

Listen to it, even if it doesn’t make sense. Logic is not final wisdom.

Would your friends and family tell you not to move to another country or convert a used shipping container into a home? I am considering this.

Don’t live anyone’s life but your own.

It’s enough to do that one thing in your life. Truly live what is in your heart.

Yes courage takes practice. But there’s no other time like right now to start practicing.

Kickstart your motivation here, in my new video on the beach in Poipu.

Mary Bartnikowski, is an author, award winning photographer, and speaker. She has led programs at Apple Computer, Stanford, Intel, and worldwide.

Stay in touch with Mary and get her free ebook, Secrets of Stunning Photographs.

Go with www.sunshinehelicopters.com

#Kauai: Power Places

Anini Beach, Kauai, photo, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Suddenly I was on Kauai. My toes tingled and my skin sparkled. 

My mouth dropped open in wonder and awe.

The power of this island surged up from the floor of my soul and out the top of my head. Happy I listened to that urge inside me to leave Hawaii Island and discover Kauai.

I’d been looking for this enchanted place in 32 countries and I never found it until now.

I knew I was home. 

I didn’t think I’d live in the USA again after traveling for 8 years worldwide. But when I found myself lying in the road after a brutal motorbike accident in Thailand, my heart whispered Hawaii.

So with 3 pieces of luggage I came home to the USA and landed in Honolulu, Hawaii not knowing a soul. I’ve never been more thrilled to see the Welcome to the United States of America sign in international arrivals. But this one had hula dancers on it.

Kauai happens to you. And your life is never the same. In the 18 months I’ve lived on this island I continue to discover new secrets that sing to my spirit, and when I visit a powerful place I love I am re-ignited with passion and purpose for my home.

Yesterday I went to Anini Beach in the above photo, and when I got there my heart busted open with gratitude. This is why I live here! Turquoise as far as the eye can see.

You’re dunked in killer beauty and pristine air. Swimming in diamond clear water that wild turtles love to be in!

This place heals you. My toothache disappeared. 

So I’m having dental surgery tomorrow. And I know in the depth of my being, at the core of my spirit that it kicked me into a greatly improved mindset to commune with turtles on Anini Beach.

Maybe I’ll go there right now to get another infusion of fairy dust, see my sea turtle friends, and soar to heaven and back without getting on a plane.

Speaking of that, I went on a helicopter ride and saw all my power places from the sky and it blew my brain cells out of my mind.

Flying Over Kalapaki Bay, Kauai, photo, http://www.bartnikowski.com

I was speechless and that is not an every day thing for me. You feel the radiance of cascading waterfalls, lush emerald green cliffs, and a beckoning bewilderingly blue coastline that delivers instant transformation and peace as you fly over this sacred rock in the middle of the ocean. You feel blessed.

It made me see that you can fly without your body, you just have to steep yourself in a powerful place that calls to you.

Surrender to what you loved as a child. Go see that place on the other side of the world that floats up in your heart when you’re dreaming. You’ll never be the same again. 

Next Post: the video of flying over Kauai in a helicopter.

Mary Bartnikowski, author of 4 books, award-winning photographer, and educator. She has led programs worldwide and at Apple, Stanford University, and Intel.

Join me on Kauai and Discover the Power Places of Kauai. Learn Photography with any Camera, Get Incredible Photos Guaranteed and Change Your Life, includes Luxury Accommodation.

Learn More Here.

Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

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

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

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

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



















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

low stone dam
Not a Waterfall

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

Hau trees bending over the trail
Tunnel of Hau Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

broad waterfall
Lower Ho’opi’i Falls

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