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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday March 25, 2018

We actually ended up sleeping in the Yurt one last time.  We all had a late bedtime since we didn't arrive at Camp Kumu till around 8pm last night.  When I woke up, I noticed half the crew was gone.  The door was open and I saw a clear morning sky, painted with orange and yellow.  FINALLY, IT WAS NOT RAINING.  I grabbed my camera and joined them on the beach to capture the glorious sunrise.

The yurt,

Makaleha Falls
We cooked breakfast, finalized our packing, and then all rode in the van one more time to do our last hike of the trip: revisit Makaleha falls.  This time the conditions were better than the day before.  The water was so clear, but still flowing well!  I was able to see more rocks since the last time the water level was so high.

Last breakfast,  (PC: Erik)

It took us awhile to get to the junction as we thought we were lost since we were on the wrong side of the trail according to the Adventure Guide Kauai book.  There were bamboo sections we went through and we saw a cool waterfall that was flowing to our left which Baron said that rarely flows.

Side waterfall,
Different angle of same waterfall,

We had to climb a little when following the stream,

When we finally reached the main junction, we all stopped and just gazed at the back valley walls from afar.  There were 4 ribbon waterfalls!! 

Just a glimpse of 1 waterfall out of the 4

We all were excited and decided to hit the right fork.  In less than 20 minutes, we made it to a gorgeous 2 tiered waterfall.  At first the walls of the waterfall reminded me of sacred falls back on Oahu.  I was happy to see this one waterfall because it was in its greatest conditions: clear water, more than usual flow, and flowing on a clear sunny day!  We took a group photo and hele'd on out.  We decided to head out due to our restricted time schedule since we wanted to make sure to get to the airport on time.

Right fork waterfall,

There were some local guys hiking in and one of them told us to take the left side trail since its easier.  I want to say it was probably a little harder due to all the dense hau we had to maneuver through.  It was like a jungle gym! Sometimes the Hau was so high off the floor we were just climbing/walking on the Hau.  It was actually pretty fun, I know I worked on my upper body strength from that.

Hau junglegym,  (PC: Bernice)

9:20am- Start hike
10:10am - Reached side falls
11:05am- Junction
11:20am- Waterfall
1:45pm- Back at van

We ate at Duane's Ono Char Burger since it was in the same town as Camp Kumu: Anahola.  Waiting for the food took quite long, however I think that was typical Kauai pace, but the burgers were amazing!

After, we went back to Camp Kumu to change clothes and reorganize our packs into both rental cars.  We were 3 hours early at the airport.  While waiting near the gate, Erik took a nap, while me and the others talked stories/joked around.

We took a bunch of group selfies at the gate and in the airplane.  Bernice, Darren, and Jana were chatting up a storm along with laughs during the plane ride while Erik, Daniel, and I were trying to make like we didn't know them haha.

Group Selfieee  (PC: Daniel)

Another one!

My brother picked me, Erik, Darren and Jana up after landing in HNL.  We all said our goodbyes to the rest of the crew.

I don't know what to say about this trip.  It was bittersweet I guess.

I'm writing these entries 4-5 days after the trip and the weather has been sunny clear!! It bothered me that we didn't see any view at all besides Makaleha during our days in Kauai.  All I know is we will fly back and actually backpack Kalalau/see the magical views up in Kokee.

Pau.





Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday March 24, 2018

Makaleha

The group and I had slept much better over night.  We were able to sleep in till 7am.  I peeked to my left to see outside as I sat up in my hammock.  I wasn't surprised.  The skies were still overcast and a light drizzle persisted.  I checked my phone at 7am and still, Kalalau trail was closed.

After breakfast and breaking down our gear, we set foot to hike Makaleha falls around 9:30am.  We parked near a water tank and followed a trail in.  From where we parked, we could hear the stream raging.  The stream roared to the left of us, muddy chocolate water almost overflowing its banks.  We knew then that this hike would not be safe to attempt since there were several stream crossings to make.  We explored further in to see how much further in we could go before the first stream crossing.  We then turned around and went back to the van.

Group selfie,

Yeah, you could tell by Troy's face that there is definitely no crossing the stream today. (PC: Erik)

Ho'opi'i

I always wanted to see this falls since so much people post it on IG.  It reminds me of a wide damn with water flowing over it.  However it was not man made. 

After Makaleha we headed to Ho'opi'i falls.  We parked along a residential area and made our way down.  As soon as we hit the stream, we veered right and followed it.  There were some side trails on the left that led to lookout points of the first waterfall.  Later, the group separated which kind of got everyone lost on the trail so we all ended up meeting back at the trail head.

First falls,

2nd, (PC: Bernice)

We decided to eat lunch at Burger King after since the OAGs always talk about BK as our PHM. 


Queen's Bath

I ended up snoozing in the car ride back.  Once I woke up, we were in Princeville.  We parked near the Queen's bath trail head.  Finding parking is actually hard.  There was a line when it came to parking.  We noticed the people coming out of the trail head were muddy as heck knees down!  There were stacks of muddy shoes by the trail sign.  We totally expected the trail to be easy and paved since it was a touristy hike.  By the time we first stepped on the trail, man was the mud so gushy!!  It looked like a thousand gallons of chocolate ice cream melted on the trail.  I thought Alaka'i swamp was the muddiest hike I've done, but the descent to Queen's bath sure outdid it.

At the end of the descent was the top of a waterfall leading to the ocean.  We crossed the top of it and walked toward the ledge.  From there I was able to see the waterfall.  It reminded me of 3 bears falls in Maui. 

On top of the waterfall, (PC: Troy)

Majority of the crew headed west to look at Queen's bath.  Right before Queen's bath, there was like a rock table formation in the ocean where the waves crash over it creating cascades.  I immediately thought of the IG photographer's pictures.  I thought it was so amazing; it was definitely a photographer's dream spot.


Erik and I took a while taking long exposures of the rock table.  We didn't really look at the actual Queen's bath since it was filled with tourists.  After that, the crew and I explored east of the ledge and then made our way back to the van.  I put my spikes on as we hiked up.  A stack of muddy shoes greeted us and Troy saw one pair of nice Nike shoes that he tried them on and kept it for himself.  At the end of the trip though, he ended up throwing it away.


 Hanalei Bay

We ended the day at Hanalei Bay to watch sunset.  We just relaxed and took lots of pictures.  The view towards Kalalau was CLEAR which was the same direction of the sun setting.  I wished we were able to backpack it.  Turns out DLNR lifted the closure of Kalalau trail at 1:30pm.

Shucks.



Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018

I woke up around 5am with the sound of rain pouring.  I checked the forecast on my phone and the NOAA radar showed massive dark green spots over the whole island.  "91% chance rain with light showers". SMH.  On Facebook, there was a post about Kauai's weather, " Mount Waialeale posted 6.87 inches in the 24 hr. period starting at noon Wednesday.  Of that amount, 5.56 inches fell in a 12 hour period starting midnight Wednesday.".  This rain was merciless!

At 5:30am Erik started cooking breakfast.  On the menu:  Hashbrown, Portuguese sausage, cheese, with egg wraps.  We all ate good.  Troy and Erik guys decided we wait till 7:30am the latest to see if the Kalalau trail closure will be lifted.  In the meantime we had to disassemble our tents and hammocks and pack it back into the jeep which we left on site.  Still, the Kalalau trail was a no-go.  We left the campsite around 8am and drove to Big Save for some drinks and snacks.  Our plan C was to hike Alaka'i Swamp-a 6 mile, monster version of Oahu's Ka'ala reserve.

After the long drive up the windy roads of Koke'e, we stopped by the Museum to ask the Ranger for some advice about Alaka'i swamp.  In the gift shop, there was one Caucasian cashier lady who was discussing with a local short lady about tops.  All of the OAGs were just browsing around the store and so I decided to ask the cashier about the hike whom I thought was a ranger also.

"Don't go there, it's going to be wet and steep"
"The stream crossing is going to be dangerous"
"The swamp is like quicksand"
"If you fall into the swamp, it can swallow you"

I just got the most ridiculous non-experienced hiker responses from both the ladies.  To my surprise, the local lady was also a worker.  I ended up just getting scoldings and sensing a huge, "DO NOT HIKE THERE TODAY!" message from them.

Puzzled, I simply replied, "Oh OK, thanks."

The two ladies didn't acknowledge me so I turned around and the first thing I saw was Daniel looking away with a WTF laughing face.  Daniel later told the group that his first response when the ladies scolded me was seeing Troy chuckling away quietly in the gift shop.  We all went back to the van and drove up to the Pihea trailhead.  The OAGs jokingly told me I should have responded with, "Don't you know who I am, I'm AB of the OAG's!" kind of response.  But at that time I was so stunned with the ladies' responses I didn't know how to reply to that.  The ladies were pretty unprofessional...yup, they were not Rangers at all.

Pulling up to the trailhead parking lot, the view was well...white.  We were in the clouds for the most part.  We started hiking at 11:00am.  The very beginning of the trail was very pretty.  The terrain was compacted mud for most of our first descent.  Heading to the junction was the most muddiest trail I've ever been on.  The mud was so gushy and cake like, it was hard to get by without getting a splash of mud on your legs.

First descent,
No view,
Soon, the path narrowed and the trail become lined with planks for us to walk on.  Heading toward the Pihea lookout, we missed the junction to the stream crossing and had to back track just a little.  After a short descent after the junction, we were greeted by beautiful flora surrounding the boardwalk's planks.
 
The forest reserve was so abundant with native plants, we kept seeing the same native plants over and over again...to the point where I actually wasn't getting excited in the end because I saw so much of it.  Just as Katie told us when we went to Ka'ala recently, Alaka'i Swamp is nowhere compared to Ka'ala.  Alaka'i Swamp is HUGE and just abundant with native plants.  Ohe Naupaka, Haha aiakamanu, Kawa'u, Akia, Ahihi, Manono, Ohelo, and lots of others appeared throughout this beautiful reserve. 

Just some of the few Hawaiian native plants,

The trail had some ups and downs and there were different types of colored boardwalks.  There was the light blue old planks-easy to walk on, not slippery.  Then there was the white new planks-slippery to walk on.  I wore my micro spikes the entire time of the hike and I had to take caution when walking on the white planks.  When we arrived at a 4-way junction, we took the left turn.  There was a set of stairs to descend and soon after was the stream crossing.  I expected the stream to be wide and hard to cross based on what the 2 ladies said at the museum, but it wasn't anything what they said. The stream level was low and not very hard to cross.

As we neared the swamp, the views changed as most of the plants weren't as tall.  Instead, the flora lived in the swamp waters, very short with open views all around me.  Many low weeds and moss saturated the ground.   I could see like a mile away from me to each side: just fog and the clouds, along with the boardwalk under me.  There were sections of what Daniel called, "diving boards" where the planks were loose that when we stepped on it, we would make a splash and act as a spring, feeling a jolt.  Just before the Kilohana lookout, the height of plants became tall again with lots of Ohia and Akia towering on each side.  Half the group was already making their way back as I neared the lookout.

You can spot Darren in orange way ahead,

Some of the plank obstacles,


At the lookout, our view was just a white curtain but I know there will definitely be a next time for this hike.  It was 2:20pm.  Kilohana lookout is supposed to overlook Wainiha valley, adjacent to Kalalau valley.  Coming back, there was one section of white planks where it was so foggy, it created an eerily cool picture.  We made it back to the stream crossing at 3:35pm and back to the main junction at 4:10pm.  We made it back to the van and finished the hike at 4:50pm.  

Eerie fog and  mist section,
Exiting swamp land,

We knew it would be a long drive back to Camp Kumu not having enough time to cook dinner, so we went to this Chinese local restaurant to eat.  Daniel picked a good restaurant, since it had so many options to choose from.  After dinner, we went to Walmart nearby to grab some blankets since we knew we would be camping in the pavilion again with the cold wind.  We got a good deal: $6 for a twin xl sized wool blanket.

We arrived at Camp Kumu around 9pm, super late.  Since we knew our camp configuration, it was fast setting up this time.  We all knocked out probably a little before midnight.  I finally was able to sleep comfortably with the wool blanket...no painful cold toes occurred that night..



 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The OAGs and I waited for this trip to come...backpacking the majestic Kalalau trail in Kauai.  Last time it was only 4 OAGs (Troy, Erik, Alli, and me) +Anthony that got to experience Kalalau.  This time there were 8 of us: Troy, Michelle, Daniel, Bernice, Darren, Jana, Erik and me.  We booked our permits in November of last year and prayed our hardest that weather would not be an obstacle for this trip.

Unfortunately, the rainy weather won, leading DLNR to close down Kalalau early morning on our first day till the third day (Sat).  The week leading to the trip were filled with heavy rains and the forecast said thunderstorms were to come the day we arrive in Kauai.  The sooner the date came, forecast downgraded it to light showers then to partly cloudy...We we're all ecstatic that the forecast said the weather will be fine.  It was totally wrong.  After this experience, I don't think I can trust any forecast stations.  I should have stopped believing since our Waimano-Waimalu grinder haha.

We did not prepare ourselves with a backup.  We were quite baffled as we thought of hikes and where to stay for the weekend.  However, we were able to venture off to other gems on the island.  This trip was definitely a learning experience and an eye opener that planned backpacking trips can't always go our way.  Mother nature has her own plans.

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The night before, Erik, Bernice, and I flew in late while Daniel, Troy, Michelle, Darren, and Jana flew in earlier in the day.  The big group bought our fuel cans and other hiking necessities we weren't able to bring on the plane for Kalalau.  I remember settling into our wonderful Yurt that Troy booked for our one night stay.  It was cold, dark, and windy.  Everyone hunkered down in their bed with only some that had blankets while me and others didn't.  The bed I slept in had sand and it was damp.  I guess the Yurt has its cons.  I needed to pee in the middle of the night but held it till I couldn't take it anymore.  It was cold inside the Yurt.  I could only imagine outside with the wind and rain.  The bathroom was a far walk from our Yurt.  I had to put my rain-jacket and headlamp on, as well as have an umbrella with me since the rain was relentless.

By 5:30am, everyone was up and repacking our packs.  We left Kumu camp at 6:40am and went to Foodland near Princeville to grab some breakfast and snacks.  The drive there was wet.  I remember all of us had to seek shelter right outside of Foodland to eat our impromptu breakfast.   Everyone decided that we at least head to Ke'e park to make sure that Kalalau is still open.

As we passed the one way bridges, the streams were ugly brown and rising almost to road level.  The shorelines were brown and the waves were angry.  We were soon stopped behind a line of cars with a cop who blocked the road in front of us not allowing anyone to pass.  It was about 8am.  While waiting, we learned that there were some rocks that fell onto the road from a landslide.  DOT guys had to assess and call for backup to remove the rocks.  Around 8:35am the heavy equipment passed us by.  Still waiting, Michelle notified us then that DLNR had officially closed the Kalalau trail per DLNR website.  It was 9:15 am.

We turned around and left the long line of cars who all were waiting to access Ke'e state park's trails.  We then proceeded to the Kilauea lighthouse.  For the first time I've never seen so much people wearing branded rain jackets in Hawaii.  Everyone walking to the lighthouse and to the gift shop were all in colorful rain shielded attires.  After seeing the light house, we chilled at the gift shop to plan where to go next.

Darren licking the lighthouse.

Michelle and the gang raved about Smiley's Local Grinds so we all ate there for lunch first.  Following lunch was Wailua falls and Okepa'a falls.  Both waterfalls had lookout parking lots similar to Rainbow falls on the big island.  The gang and I constantly had to pee the whole day.  I think it was due to the heavy rain and the sound of running water.  When we went to Wailua falls, it was scary looking.  There was so much mist and the water volume was so plentiful, it was just spitting over the ledge.  Okepa'a falls was the same except the lookout view was far from it.  The streams were roaring brown.

Scary raging Wailua Falls

First group selfie of the trip,

Okepa'a Falls from the nearest lookout


 Troy was able to get in contact with Camp Kumu and the owner was awesome, letting us stay over another night.  The Yurts and Bungalows were all booked, except for the Pavilion.  "Thats an odd request, but sure", the owner replied to Troy.  We all laughed.  Anything to shelter us from the rain.  I felt like a hippy or homeless, just trying to find shelter.

Our pavilion home

Our group's setup with the tents and hammocks went great.  We then prepared an ono dinner and just relaxed for a bit. We ate chicken & cheese wraps.  We used our hammock rain flies to shield off one side of the Pavilion so we could stay warm over night.  But, mother nature decided to change the direction of wind in the middle of night and the wind blew in from the other side.  It was freezing!!  My left toe began to hurt every time I put pressure on it.  I think it was due to the cold causing poor circulation.  I tried to mummy myself under an emergency blanket and sleeping bag liner.  The wind continued to howl all throughout the night.

Our camp.
Michelle and her tuna nori wraps  (PC: Erik)
 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday, February 25, 2018

So I finally got the day off on the weekend and guess what I got to do: HIKE!

Unfortunately, only Baron and Erik was able to join me this day.  However, this hike was something special...tubing baby!

With this Winter season being so rainy and cold here in the islands, the past few days has been wet and chilly.  It continued to rain overnight and as we checked the stream gauge levels, the conditions was perfect.  When we left Erik's place, the reading was at 2.8 feet.  Right before reaching the stream to blow up our tubes, it rose to 3.2 feet!!  Ideally the minimum level to tube is around 3.3-3.4 feet. We started hiking around 8:30am.

I always wanted to go tubing again because I only did it once and also, it is SUPER fun.

Tubing was so fast, we were out by 1:30pm. There was one broken down tree that blocked the path that we either got flipped over got stuck.  Other than that it was such a relaxing hike.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

January 6, 2018

What a way to start 2018!!  Any hike with the "Red Baron" is usually epic and this one was no different.  The plan today was to hike up the ridge to Pohakea Pass, cross over the Waianae Summit Trail (WST) to Palehua and bail down the HTMC route to the Honouliuli Contour Trail (HCT) back to our cars.  Sound long?  Sure was.  But with an awesome crew of Baron, Marilou, Kellie, and OAGs Darren, Bernice, Aprille, Troy, and his wife, Michelle, this turned out to be one awesome hike!

With a long day ahead, we hit the trailhead early (7 am) and began the trek up a STEEP dirt road to the HCT, where we HAD to take a short breather!  What a way to start the day!



We followed the HCT for about 20 minutes before heading up Pohakea Ridge.  We climbed steeply through a paperbark grove, then through thick guinea grass.  About half an hour up the ridge, Troy spotted what looked like the remains of an airplane on the side of the ridge.  We all peeked to the side and realized it certainly was an airplane wreckage.  We found out it was Beech 19A aircraft that crashed last summer, killing all 4 aboard.  You can read the article here: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/36291398/plane-wreckage-likely-to-remain-on-mountain-above-kunia

We climbed down to check out the wreckage.


Once our fascination wore off, we returned to the ridgeline and resumed our trek up to Pohakea.  It didn't take long before the ridge got real STEEP!



We finally arrived at the summit line a little around 9:15.  We took a s short break, then a bunch of us left our packs & went to visit the top of Pohakea Pass.  The views from here are simply amazing!



We snapped a bunch of pictures and soaked in the views for a bit before returning to the rest of our crew, who waited back at the Pohakea ridge summit.  After regrouping, we geared up and began our trek across the WST towards Palehua.   The initial part of the crossover was mostly canopy (about 20 min) until we hit a fence line.


We climbed over the fence and the crossover started to rollercoaster.


We stopped frequently to reinflate our lungs.  Fortunately, the views alleviated the burning in our lungs.


This crossover afforded us lots of views


Troy even found some Ko'oko'olau.  He stopped to examine the native plant to see if it would be good for making tea.


Eventually, the fence line ended and we trekked across open ridge again for a while.


We stopped at a nice flat section to rest.  It was a good thing too, since the clouds began to blow in and a thick, overgrown section of uluhe awaited us just ahead.  Troy and Baron led the way through the overgrowth while the rest of the crew enjoyed the swath.


After pushing through thick overgrowth, crawling under uluhe tunnels, and ascending and descending steep inclines, the ridge finally leveled off and the overgrowth thinned, presenting us with gorgeous views.



A little before 1 pm, we found a nice open area to take a break before making our last push towards palikea.  It also provided a good spot for a group photo.


As we neared Palikea, I could see from a distance, the snail enclosure.  To my dismay, it looked like all the trees and everything else in the enclosure had died or been removed.


Shortly, we picked up the fence line again.  We climbed over the fence and proceeded towards Palikea summit.  With the sun at its peak, our energy waning, and a long way to go, we pushed pass the Palikea summit, looking forward to finding some snails and happy face spiders in the enclosure near palehua.  Eagle-Eye Michelle was the only one to find these native tree snails.


We were also able to find a couple Happy Face Spiders.  Unfortunately, I don't have a macro lens so this pic is the best I got.  :P


After getting our fill of the native fauna, we continued on to Palehua.  We paused briefly at a rocky section to enjoy the last of the views.


We then made our way to the HTMC junction to the HCT, with some help of a GPS track I had.  The descent down the ridge was rather uneventful and hard to follow in some parts, but with Baron's intuition, we made it safely back to the HCT.


We followed the HCT for a LOOOOOONG way (4.5 boring miles to be exact) back to our cars.


After about 2 hours, we finally made it back to our cars.  We ended our hike at Thai Village for our Post Hike Meal.  A fitting ending to another epic hike!  Welcome 2018!!

Video: https://youtu.be/C5nZiHbwGZU
 
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