Legs shaking. Muscles twitching. Blisters pulsating. My 23lb pack seems to be getting heavier. Every time I look down I am very aware of my potential death. A faint breeze licks the back of my neck. I’m hot and cold at the same time since I am so sweaty, and this is just the beginning.
This is the Kalalau Trail. This is the other worldly experience that only the brave, adventuresome, or crazy undertake. This is the trail that makes you feel things…pain, determination, anxiety, relief, trust, discomfort, and awe.
The Napali Coast on Kauai, Hawaii is unlike any other mountains and hiking trails I have ever done. I don’t imagine I will ever hike that trail again. Not because it wasn’t worth it, but because it feels almost too sacred to do a second time. Like I want to hold that experience as a monument in my heart and mind.
Here’s the specs of what we did. 4 days backpacking to and from Kalalau Beach. 6 miles on day 1. 5 miles and Crawler’s Ledge to Kalalau Beach on Day 2. Laid around and recovered on Day 3. Hiked all 11 miles out on Day 4. I know…it was only 11 miles. Yes. They were a hard 11 miles.
We started at Ke’e Beach and hiked the 2 miles in to Hanakapi’ai Beach. These were mostly downhill and all I kept thinking was how tired I will be hiking this on our last day. Now Hanakapi-ai isn’t a beach in the traditional sense. It’s filled with huge stones instead of sand. Cats instead of crabs, and well..you can’t swim there because you’d most likely be bashed against the cliffs, but it’s beautiful. The waves crashing sounded like applause, like creation couldn’t help but applaud its Creator.
From here we continued on to the Kalalau Trail….Or so we thought. The trail is poorly marked (and my husband was telling me a random story so we weren’t paying attention, alas) so we missed it and instead hiked 4 miles out of our way on day 1. Awesome. Plus side, we saw a bomb water fall. Downside, we hiked 4 extra miles and ended up setting up camp in the dark. (We later ran into another couple who did the same thing. We aren’t the only ones!) 6 miles of up and down on the side of a mountain. Beautiful. Tiring. And we arrived at Hanakoa Valley to camp for the night.
I honestly have nothing to share about this campsite. I used the bathroom and slept there. That’s really all. Oh they did fly in trail workers on helicopters right by our campsite. That was cool I guess.
From here we hiked 5 miles to Kalalau Beach. This included scary cliffs, moments of building trust and perseverance, and some intense downhill hiking that my knees are still screaming about. And once again, I was thinking about how I’d have to go back up all these downhills. boo.
Crawler’s Ledge: All I could do was put one foot in front of the other and then grab onto my husband for dear life. I seriously wouldn’t have gotten through this part without James. Coming back was much easier and I hiked it like a pro. I was less scared, but the first time on the cliff was terrifying. I needed him to go before me. I needed his hand on the big steps, and I needed his encouragement when I felt that flutter of fear in my chest.
Here is the entrance to Kalalau Valley. People dream of glimpsing what I walked through.
Kalalau Campgrounds was pretty amazing. You can pitch up wherever, bathe in the waterfall, lay on the beach, eat fruit off the trees, explore the valley, and swim in the creeks running through. Every view is photo worthy. Be careful while snapping pictures though or you might get a nudist in your shot!
I honestly could have stayed here for a week of exploring. 4 days was not enough. Not nearly enough. Each night was met with a glorious setting sun.
The hike out was just as beautiful and my only regret was that I didn’t have longer there. I remember coming down off the trail where I see tons of tourists (they rarely go past mile 2) and I felt like such a bad-ass. They looked at us like we were crazy. May be they were looking at us like that because we smelled bad. But I think maybe they had a little longing in their eyes too. They wanted what we had in that moment: the joy that follows an adventure.
They wanted to be a bad-ass too.