Monday, October 08, 2007

Kaua'i Hike for Discovery Trip Report

Kaua'i Day 1

This was our first full day on Kaua'i. The phrase of the day was jet lag. Yuck. The animal of the day (week?) is the chicken. Wild chickens are everywhere on Kaua'i, ensuring that you can never go hungry if you are smart enough or fast enough to catch one of these birds.
Kayaking the Wailua River

We woke up early to drive to Kapa'a on the eastern shore of Kaua'i for a kayak tour up the Wailua River to Secret Falls. We met up with our guides at Wailua Kayak Adventures. Unfortunately, they give some seriously craptacular directions. Even though I asked numerous times for an address I was repeatedly told I couldn't have one. Instead, I got "We're at the north end of Kapa'a town behind Movie Tours." Well that's great and all, but I have no idea where that is either. So of course we got a bit lost on the way yesterday morning. I called them and told the owner where we were and got new directions. "We're just before the last building on the north side of Kapa'a." That's great and all, but I don't know if I am at the last building until I pass the building... argh. We did eventually find it, however.

We headed out to the river with our kayaks and guide, Cole. There were a few other couples on the trip for a total of 8. I was actually quite lucky not to have to share a kayak with another single guy on the trip, I had my own solo kayak, which was quite a lot of fun.
Carrie & Jerry
Kayaking the Wailua River
We hopped in the kayaks headed out up river toward the falls. Paddling upstream is pretty easy, the trade winds are at your back pushing you upstream making the upstream trip pretty low effort. I did have a bit of trouble getting used to the kayak and getting it to travel straight upstream. I guess I was padling harder on the right, my dominant side, than my left, ensuring the kayak tended to turn left as I paddled upstream.

After an hour of so of easy paddling we reached the landing point where we began our hike. We waded across a muddy part of the river and followed a trail for a mile along the river to the falls. The trail itself is an old aqueduct built to flood the taro fields that once occupied this part of the island. Along the way you could make out old stone walls and parts of an old community that has long since been abandoned and overgrown with trees bearing tropical fruit which littered the ground around us. Cole was full of information about the local area, plants and animals which made the hike enjoyable, even in soaking wet Keens! In about a mile we reached the (not so) Secret Falls where we stopped for a little bit to eat, pictures and swimming in the pool at the base of Secret Falls before hiking back to the kayaks.
Nice cock!
On the return trip down river, the wind and currents were not in our favor, making the downstream paddle much more difficult. Not to mention Jerry's antics trying to ram my kayak with his... After an hour or so of paddling we reached the marina and ended our trip. This part of the trip was exhausting, but fun anyway. I thought I might have a little soreness the next morning since I'm not used to using these muscles and I haven't been to the gym in a few weeks due to travel for work. Thankfully it wasn't too bad, just a a bit tight in the shoulders.
(Not So) Secret Falls

We then headed to the center of Kapa'a for lunch at Mermaid's Cafe. Mermaids Cafe is nothing more than a tiny little lunch window where we picked up some nice fresh food. I had a burrito in a spinach wrap with brown rice, seared ahi tuna and cilantro pesto. Along with a few local beers, it was a good meal. Yummmmmmmmy!

Back to the hotel for for a few drinks and a pretty early night...
Kaua'i Day 2

Jerry overlooking the
Pacific Ocean
Awa'awapuhi Trail

This was supposed to be the day to sleep in. I slept in until a very late 5 AM. Woot. Jet lag. The next three hours of so were spent catching up on email, making calls and a quick trip to the beach for views of the sunrise. Unfortunately, the cloud cover ruined that plan for me. Oh well...

Jerry and Carrie managed to get their slack asses out of bed at 8 AM, so we didn't even head out toward the trail until around 10 AM. We drove across the southern end of Kaua'i toward the Waimea Canyon before driving up Waimea Canyon Road to the head of the Awa'awapuhi Trail in Kokee State Park for a hike toward the coast.
Carrie & Jerry
Awa'awapuhi Trail
The trail itself descends 1600' from the trail head to the lookout point at the end of the trail over 3.25 miles, for a 6.5 mile round trip hike. At the lookout you are about 3000' above sea level, with cliffs quickly descending down into the valleys below and to the Pacific Ocean. The trail itself was very nice with spectacular views of the cliffs along the coast, beautiful foliage, including lantana, guava and java plum trees. We stopped and picked some guava on the way down for a nice fresh fruit treat before stopping for lunch at the end of the trail. I've never been on top of cliffs like these before. From the cliffs you can see the ocean and sea birds. But instead of looking up to see the birds, you had to look down and view them from above! Of course, there were chickens there on the cliffs which tried to share our lunch with us. The locals tell us the only place you don't find any of the chickens is in the KFC parking lot. ;-) There were also plenty of the state bird of Hawaii: helicopters. (Yes, every guide we met all week shared the same joke. So I have to share it with you, dear readers.) They buzzed up and down the coast and into the valleys in a constant stream disturbing what should have been a pleasant, quiet hike.
The end of the trail...
Awa'awapuhi Trail

Heading back up to the car, I bonked (i.e. ran out of energy) and struggled back up the 3+ miles to the car. A combination of jet lag and eating poorly over the previous days had finally caught up to me. Slowly but surely we ascended to the trailhead, just in time for a strong downpour. The cool rain sure did feel good after a warm, sunny hike!

After we hopped back in the car to drive back to Poipu beach, where we were staying, we caught sight of a rainbow over the canyon. This is now becoming a regular occurrence, we saw rainbows both days of the trip and more would come in the next few days. Tired and hungry we headed to Puka Dog in Poipu. Puka Dog is a local Hawaian-style hot dog stand. The menu is limited to dogs, chips and lemonade, but the food was great.
The end of the trail...
Awa'awapuhi Trail
Basically, you choose a hot dog, Polish or vegetarian, how hot you want the lemon & garlic sauce, mild, hot or volcano, and one of their island-style relishes such as mango, papaya and star-fruit. The grilled dog and sauces are stuffed into a large, fresh bun which has had a hole poked into the center to accomodate everything. To borrow a phrase from Rachel Ray, "yummo!". (Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that... or even *thought* to right that.) I have never seen three people shove hot dogs in their mouths so damn quickly... we knew we were hooked from the first bite. For the record, I had the Polish dog, volcano lemon & garlic sauce and mango relish. Hell yeah, that's some good shizzle... We then headed back to the hotel for some early evening drinks with some of our teammates and LLS staff before another early night to bed.

Kaua'i Day 3

Coming in for
a landing

Another bright and early morning, I'm up by 5:30 to meet Carrie and Mike for a drive to the north end of the island. We're going zip-lining in Princeville, about 90 minutes from our hotel. We meet our guides at Princeville Ranch Adventures, get suited up in a climbing harness and a stupid looking helmet before hopping in the Pinzgauer for a quick drive up the road to the zip line course. Over the course of 4+ hours we traversed 8 zip lines and a suspension bridge. The longest of the lines is well over 600' in length and 150'+ above the river valleys below. Even though it rained off and on through the day, it was a great time! Of course, there are some interesting tales to tell.

First, all participants must be under 280 lbs. There were two large women in our group who were probably pushing that limit. No big deal, right? WRONG. The tour states all participants should be in good physical condition. These ladies were anything but in good physical condition. If you are unable to walk up an uneven flight of stairs or stand up from a nearly seated position when landing, you probably shouldn't be on the tour.
Carrie taking off...

One of the ladies was particularly inept at the zip line. A mistake we all made the first time around was to jump before reaching the end of the platform and before the line caught and supported your weight. If not timed correctly, the line would dip enough that you could land on your ass on the platform before zipping down the line. I did this, once, but I didn't slam my ass on the platform. On the second line we were warned again. "Walk down the steps and on to the dirt at the bottom of the platform..." The goal is to walk down until the line catches you and supports your weight, suddenly you won't be able to touch the ground and you'll take off down the line. On this line we were warned the consequences of failing to walk down far enough were meeting "The Violator", a root sticking out of the ground which would violate your nether regions if you hit bottom...

What do you know, our large friend jumped from the step above the ground and landed ass first on the violator and the ground, covering her ample bootie in red Kauaian dirt. This pattern would continue, again and again, for all 8 lines. Her ass must have been in some serious pain from all of the abuse it took from the various platforms and stairs that she should have walked down, but bounced her ass down instead. Ouch.

Her landings weren't much better, either.

(Don't take this the wrong way, I know people are in various levels of physical condition and ability and some of these conditions are beyond their control. But you know your limits. If the event you are taking part in requires some basic level of physical fitness and this is outlined in the promotional materials, perhaps you should think twice before taking part next time...)

After a quick stop at Hilo Hattie's for some shopping and another stop at Puka Dog (Yay! Polish w/ volcano and papaya relish) we head back to Poipu for the HFD inspiration dinner. Due to weather, the dinner is moved inside to a ballroom. Good thing too! The rain was coming down in buckets as one of the speakers desciber her own fight with blood cancer years earlier before describig her brother's more recent fight against solitary melanoma which was found as it weakened his spine, crushing it and making him paraplegic. Her message was to spend the next day placing "one foot in front of another" and thinking about her brother who can no longer do that due to melanoma. I cried like a baby during her speech, it was extremely moving to me and the entire crowd of HFD participants. The next day, when the going got tough, I found myself reminding myself to put one foot in front of the other and repeat, while thinking how lucky I am to be able to do so while so many cannot.

Back to the room I packed my hike bag for the next day's adventure and went to bed with a 4:45 AM wake-up call.

Kaua'i Day 4
Kukui Trail

04:00 — Wake-up time! That must be Steph calling... hey, wait, its Delta Airlines?! I got an upgrade on a flight next week. Yay. Hey Delta, you flew my ass out here, shouldn't you know roughly what time zone I am in since you're flying me home, too? Bad Delta, no cookie. I tell Mike and we both fall asleep again.

04:13 — Wake-up time! Damnit, another upgrade call from Delta.

04:45 — Wake-up call/alarm/etc. Finally the right time to get up. 04:45. As Adrian Kronauer said, "What's the O stand for? Oh my God its early!" After a quick clean-up, I throw on my hike clothes, check the pack one last time to make sure I have all the water and food I'll need for the day along with two cameras (man, I'm a geek). I head down to the lobby to meet our guide, Bobby, and the hikers from the SF Bay Area and Silicon Valley for the drive up to the trailhead.
Waimea Canyon
Kukui Trail
We're hiking the Kukui Trail down from the canyon rim to WiliWili camp (2.5 miles, 2300' elevation change one way) before following the Waimea River northward on the west bank, crossing the river and folloiwng the east bank up Poomau Stream, one of two tributaries (the other is Waiahulu) which merge to form the Waimea River. The goal for the day is Lonomea camp on Poomau Stream.

We hit the trail just before 7 AM, following a red dirt path as it quickly descends through various levels of vegetation, including some larger trees like silk oak and silver oak, along with smaller brush, like lantana. We find some wild java plums on the trail and try a few. They are very tart and slightly astringent, but refreshing since they don't taste like water or any of the other items in my pack. The vegetation on the trail thins, providing less cover as we descend.
Kukui Trail

The trail is rough, much less maintained that the trails I have hiked in Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and around Georgia. Its clear that people try to maintain the trail, but the constant rain and erosion makes it difficult to be effective and forces rerouting of the trail. In parts, the trail is strewn with scree (loose rock) which slows down our progress as we carefully step through, trying not to twst an ankle. I slip a few times here, planting a hand in the red dirt while trying to tay upright and not take out my team like stacked dominoes. Slowly we make our way down the ridge line and switchbacks carved into the walls of the ridges until we come to a large wash where the effects of wind and rain are most obvious. A steeply descending part of the trail across red dirt with many large veins carved out by the water flowing downhill strewn with rocks large and small, and loose, large grained sand continues for perhaps .5 miles until we reach a large stand of trees and vegetation further down in the canyon.

We enter the tree cover and continue descending toward Wiliwili Camp surrounded by various oak trees and fruit trees bearing guava and passionfruit, which our guide picks and saves for later. We also begin to identify a number of sisal plants which look like oversized agave plants that came straight of out of Jurassic Park.
Waimea River
Kukui Trail
(JP was filmed on the island of Kaua'i, so its no doubt that there are some similarities.) Eventually we reached Wiliwili Camp. Users of this camp site have left it in deplorable condition with trash strewn everywhere. Beer cans, water bottles, food cans, random pieces of clothing, etc. were all over the camp site. It really pisses me off to see people abuse their environment like that and take away its natural beauty which others can no longer see. They need to learn the principles of Leave No Trace. We clear out of Wiliwili camp quickly and start heading up river where we meet our first challenge of the day: crossing the Waimea River.

I knew this was coming and wasn't particularly concerned, though it was the first time I had to cross an unknown stream. Our guide, Bobby, had done the crossing earlier in the week and reported the water to be waist deep, it was a bit higher on me since I'm quite a bit shorter than him! I threw my small camera and some other gear in the little dry bag I carry, place my large camera toward the top of the pack, kicked off my shoes and socks and tied them securely to my pack before stepping into the water. Bobby had already helped one of the smaller women on our team (she couldn't be more than 5' tall and 90# soaking wet) across.
Waimea River
Kukui Trail
I decided to ford the stream alone, using my trekking poles for support and to help me find footing on the river bottom. Three steps into the river and I trip on a rock, nearly falling into the river unceremoniously. I say nearly becuase my poles saved me from doing more than just dunking the bottom few inches of my pack into the water, everything important remained dry. *whew* Once on the other side I got a chance to take some pictures of the river and some of the people crossing after me, cheering them on. After getting back into my dry boots — but still in wet clothing — it was time to continue up river through the canyon forest toward Lonomea camp. We traveled a mile or so upriver before stopping at the Hipalau camp for lunch. Due to time we were forced to turn around here instead of continuing another mile or so upstream to the Lonomea camp which was the original goal for the day. Here we sat down, ate lunch and a few pieces of guava and passionfruit that we had collected along the trail during the inbound hike. There is nothing better than freshly picked fruit collected trail-side!

Back upstream, we do everything in reverse. The river has started moving a bit more swiftly at this point, making he river crossing a little more difficult, but we all manage to cross without incident. As we pass Wiliwili camp the trail begins the ascent to the top of the canyon. While normally I'd rather hike under tree cover because its cooler, in this case the hiking was hot and steamy. The on and off rains along with our soaking wet clothing made this section of the hike very, very steamy.
Mike & Bobby
Kukui Trail
I felt like I was hiking uphill in a large sauna, not the most pleasurable of circumstances. When we finally broke out into the sun I was a happy man. Finally my clothes could have a chance to dry off and there was a nice canyon breeze to keep us cool. Now we had to look for shade where we could find it along the trail, but the trade-off was well worth it! Slow and steady, one foot in front of the other we asended the walls of the canyon. Bands of rain showers came through the canyon, providing us with a cooling mist and brief respites from the hot tropical sun. As we ascend, I noticied significant changes in the look of the canyon in the early afternoon sun. In the moning, the light was strongly filtered through a low haze. Now, the light was strong and direct, bringing out the beauty of the canyon walls and making the colors, reds, greens, blue skies and more muted tones in the rock walls begin to pop visually. In just a few hours the entire canyon looks like a different place, just because of the position of the sun. Wild...

Further up the canyon, standing on a ridge line we get a good blast of rain and wind that feels wonderful, nice and cooling. Turn and look back into the canyon and we see a rainbow stretched out below us, running north to south in the lower parts of the canyon. By far, this was the best view of the day! We've been seeing rainbows daily, more often than not 3 or 4 a day, but this was one of the strongest I have seen all week long. One last big push forward and we work our way past the "Speedo and Crocs" crowd hiking down into the canyon (yes, seriously. Bannanna hammocks and Crocs are not really appropriate for hiking...) We all pop out of the canyon around 3:30 PM for a snack of fresh Hawaiian pineapple and some sports drinks, before heading to the car and back down to the coast. Round trip, we did ~9 miles &mdashl I'm still looking for better information on the length of the hike.
Me and a Hau Bush
Kukui Trail

On the return trip to the hotel we drop in on Jo-Jo's Shave Ice for a cold, sweet treat. Think sno-cones with pan-Pacific flavors. I had a shave ice with lychee and mango syrups and azuki beans (the base of red bean icecream). I figured I'd get a little protein with my sugar water. ;-) We get back to the hotel where I take a quick shower to get rid of the red dirt covering me from head to toe and then head down to the beach for a quick dip in the ocean. I've been in Hawaii since Tuesday, its now Staurday and I am just now making it to the beach. There is something seriously wrong with that!

Another quick shower to get rid of the sand I have collected and then we're off to the Mission Celebration dinner. Some numbers for you:
  • This weekend 70 hikers in Kaua'i have raised a total of over $400,000!
  • This season, HFD participants from around the US have raised to date over $2,500,000!
  • In the past 2.5 years/5 seasons of HFD (I've now participated in 3 of the 5 seasons!) over $12,500,000 has been raised!

These are amazing numbers which make a difference in the life of patients dealing with blood cancers evey day.
Waimea River
Hipalau Camp

On a sadder note, this will be my final season with Hike for Discovery for a while. With our first child arriving in March, I'm not going to be able to participate again next year. I'll certainly be around and helping out on occassional hikes with the team, but I won't be able to dedicate the amount of time I have in the past 18 months to the HFD program and LLS. Once Steph and I get into a rhythm with the baby I'll be back.

For those who continue with HFD in the future: HIKE ON!
Heading back up...
Kukui Trail

Kukui Trail

Waimea Canyon rainbow
Kukui Trail

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