Our Kalalau Hike Adventure

So Dan and I decided to relive something we did 13 years ago - hike the entire Kalalau Trail (in and out) in one day. That's 11 miles each way. Now let me start out by saying that this was a bad plan to start and then we executed it poorly. The first thing we did wrong was think we could actually accomplish this feat. But more specifically, my biggest mistake was bringing along 20lbs of camera gear in addition to my food and water, of which I could have used more. Before we decided we definitely did not have time to keep stopping to take pictures, I did get a few decent shots.

Morning Sun Full
Here is some of the Na Pali Coastline with the morning sun hitting it from pretty early in the hike.

Morning Sun Close
And here is a zoomed in shot of the end part that is in the sun.

Early Path
This is a typical shot of the early part of the trail before it winds back into the next valley. At least we don't have to go up as high as the peaks in the clouds!

With all the photo stops, it took us a little over an hour to do the first two miles to Hanakapiai Beach. The waters are not friendly, so after all that hiking, you can't even go in the water. There was actually a woman in a campsite off to the left of the photo below walking around topless, but we both managed to restrain ourselves from taking a picture. Don't worry, you aren't missing that much.

Hanakapiai Beach
Hanakapiai Beach

My next biggest mistake was not tightening my footwear enough. By mile 3, I had a blister. After leaving Hanakapiai Beach, you work you way up to the highest point on the trail around mile 3-1/2. Here are some views from that point.

Dan Space Rock
Dan leaning on Space Rock back when we were still having a good time.

Space Rock to Beginning
Wee Little Danny Boy on the trail from on top of Space Rock looking back from where we came

Space Rock Down
Looking down at a catamaran tour boat running visitors along the Na Pali Coastline. This gives you an idea how high up we are there.

Space Rock Valley
The valley just around the bend at Space Rock

Space Rock Forward
You can't even begin to see the end of where we are going, even from this vantage point.

The trail never wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side once you pass Hanakapiai Beach. Here is an example of typical paths.

Dan Typical Trail
Dan walking along a typical portion of the trail. Notice how narrow it is and the odds of catching yourself if you make a mistake.

Mid Hike Looking Back
In this shot, I circled a portion of the path we had already hiked. This is looking back towards the beginning.

So then we made our first wise decision of the day, putting the cameras up and starting to haul butt! We plod along another couple miles until we hit what we lovingly refer to as "Death Valley." It is hot, dry and slippery. Here are a couple pictures (which naturally don't do the trail justice) of what we had to cross.

Death Valley Upper Section
Notice the thin, angled path that cuts back and forth on itself.

Death Valley Lower
One false step from that trail on the left side and you slide all the way down to those rocks you can barely see in the middle. Then what?!

So here's a video Dan took with his camera showing the whole "Death Valley" area.

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Just hit play. Commentary courtesy of Dan.

That part was so treacherous, we just had to get the cameras back out for it, but as then we put them up until we actually made it to Kalalau Valley.

Dan at Kalalau

So here is our evidence that we actually made it to the Kalalau Valley. Notice the large camera bag and tripod I stupidly brought with me? I was too tired to even think of setting up the tripod and remote to get a picture of both of us together. Oh well.

We continued another half mile or more thinking we were almost to the end, but alas, that was just to mile marker 10 and the last stream before the beach. It was already about 1:00 and we were supposed to turn around and head back no later than 12:30 to have a chance to make it out before dark. Of course, that was assuming we kept the same pace as we did coming in, and we were a mess already. Every step hurt my four blisters, our muscles were cramping, Dan was tempting sunburn, all around a bad situation we put ourselves in during his honeymoon and my vacation.

After a quick lunch break, we refilled our water bottles from the streams - while ignoring the warnings of Leptospirosis - and then began the slow journey back. We were making about half the time we made on the way in because of exhaustion, sun and our various aches. We knew we were screwed and would be lucky to make it out before midnight. Making it out before daylight ended was a long forgotten dream. We would climb, rest, climb, rest, rinse, repeat. We knew we had to go faster, but it just wasn't possible.

We got back to Space Rock (3-1/2ish miles from the beginning - see pictures above) as the last of the light faded away and the clouds started drizzling on us. We laid down and took a 10 minute break assessing our options. Dan had one small flashlight and I had none. We decided to try to hike down to Hanakapiai Beach and depending on how that went, continue the rest of the way out like that. Well, it didn't go well and we were even more exhausted. You would think downhill would be easier, but two people sharing a light on these unforgiving paths goes real slow. We didn't really recover from the days hike before heading down to Hanakapiai Beach, so once we got there, we laid down in the tall grass/brush. Being who I am, I fell asleep pretty quickly. Dan woke me up after what seemed like 5 minutes. He assures me it was 45 minutes. He is probably right judging by how dead asleep my arm was when I first got up. It doesn't like playing pillow, just for the record. It was still drizzling and the wind was pretty strong. There was no way we could spend the rest of the night there without shelter. We refilled the waters again in this fast moving stream and started the final journey out. We did stop some, but after that longer rest and with the sun down, it was probably only about six times for the last two miles up and out of there. We finally stumbled down the last of the trail and into the parking lot at 1:50am.

As we came down the end of the trail, headlights appeared pointing to the beginning of the trail. Relief poured over us! Cell phones don't even get reception down there. We were going to have to hike another mile or two up the road in order to be able to use our phones to call the women. Better than trail blazing, but still not something we were looking forward to doing. We said hello and Salina shouted back "Who are you?" We weren't sure how many people would be stumbling out of the mountain at 2 o'clock in the morning, but Dan answered back that it was the two of us. Salina's response was "How many of you are there?" That further baffled us. This is not Thunderdome. Two men enter, two men exit. So the plan goes anyway.

Well, what we didn't realize is that at about 6:15, after sitting there for over an hour, Steve decided to hike in and meet us part way and then hike out together. He made it all the way to the overlook of Hanakapiai Beach before turning around. Like Dan and I, he did not allow the appropriate time to leave. He ended up running out of daylight with less than a half-mile to go. While the two of us at least had one flashlight between us, he had none. He drifted off the trail and wisely just stopped there. He assumed we'd be along shortly where we could all tag up together for the last leg to freedom. He was way wrong. We were still back at Space Rock about this time. He gave up on us after a while and eventually fell asleep where he was, resigning himself to the fact that he'd be spending the night on the mountain and would hike out at first light.

Well, the wives gave us foolish men until 8:30 that night to show up and then left to call for help. The found a call box up the road, but there was no handset, just frayed wires. They went up to the next one and were patched into the Fire/Rescue Chief. After being astonished that we were so foolish to attempt to hike in and back out in one day, and then further astonished that the women managed to lose another husband to the mountain, the Chief told them there wasn't anything he could do until daylight at 6am. He recommended they go back and wait another couple hours and then go back to their condo to get some sleep. Not only did our wonderful wives have faith that we would find some way to get ourselves out of that hell we jumped into, but they wouldn't sleep anyway, so they went back to the condo and outfitted with flashlights, food and water and then came back to the park to wait for us or the rescuers.

Salina was pretty stressed that we hadn't found her husband on the way out. We told her we saw some guy not too far back up the trail, a little off the path, curled up asleep. He didn't wake when our flashlight crossed his fetal form, so we figured he was someone camping there and quietly made our way back to the path and out of there. Well, Salina grabbed a flashlight and charged in after her man. She asked if I could follow her after I took a break. My feet said hell no, but I was under the impression that he went in there to rescue us. How could I leave him there under those circumstances? I gave my feet five minutes or so of dangling off the back of the Jeep, downed a bottle of water and ate some sugar and then headed back in after her. Dan and I are the only ones who knew where we saw the guy, so even though our feet were completely destroyed, there was little option. At least without that <insert explicative here> heavy camera bag, the going was a lot easier. I cruised up the hill with only one short break. I caught up to Salina just as she was approaching the area we saw the body laying there. A couple minutes later, I swept my flashlight up, so a reflection off of him and yelled, "Steve!" He awoke with a start, assured her he was OK and then I went up and around the corner to show him how to get back on the trail. At least I learned from our earlier mistake and brought a spare flashlight with me when I went up there so we could each have one for the way back down.

We all made it out of there, called the Fire/Rescue again to tell them that our two, then three, then one, then three lost people were all safe and in the car heading back to the condo. You'd think the story would end here, but there's one more little piece to tell. The trail starts at Kee Beach. In order to get there, you travel along winding mountain roads, crossing a few one lane bridges along the way. During the day you have to wait for traffic coming from the other direction to stop before you can cross, but that isn't such an issue at 2:30 in the morning. We did discover that they took that time to do bridge maintenance. We had to sit there for about 20 minutes while they did some sort of patch. We even had to turn the Jeep off and roll down the windows. We would have preferred the A/C after that adventure, but we were low on gas and did not want to have to add yet another chapter to this story!

So all's well that ends well. A week later, my feet are still recovering. It took a couple days before I could do more than hobble around a few steps at a time, but all-in-all we were very lucky. I cleaned all the mud and debris from my wounds and dressed them up. The most I could wear for a few days was flip-flops. The gang took a picture of my sexy footwear when we finally got up the strength to go out and see some sights.

More Pictures from the Kalalau Trail

These pictures are all taken from Dan's camera. Just in case you weren't overloaded from seeing all the other pictures I took.

Me leaning on Space Rock - again, back when we were still having fun

Apparently being at the highest point on the trail wasn't enough for me - I had to climb the rock too

We are going to have to cross this crap in a minute

We said we needed to document our pending stupidity, but really we were just stalling for bravery

Here is a closer view of that one point you have to go up and over. Notice the path tilts down to make it that much more challenging!

Dan said I didn't post enough pictures of myself, so here I am carrying a stupid amount of camera crap

This is as much of a smile as I could muster, and we weren't even quite to the end yet!

And finally, Dan's thoughts on the whole ordeal.