The Kalalau Trail: An Unconventional Shakedown Hike

The Kalalau Path: An Unconventional Shakedown Hike

A standard piece of recommendation that you will notice given to many first-time thru-hikers is that doing a shakedown hike previous to beginning the path is important to having success on the path. Whereas this can be a good piece of recommendation within the summary, one of many issues that’s not talked about sufficient is that, main as much as a thru-hike, your free time rapidly evaporates – making these shakedowns tough – as you make plans to spend your final free moments pre-trail with the individuals in your life. 

Because the rain and snow have continued to pummel Northern California, my lack of availability has been additional compounded by a scarcity of dry path. This led me to a scenario the place I noticed that if I needed to make a shakedown hike occur, I would want to mix it with one other exercise. So this previous weekend, in the midst of a week-long trip in Kauai, my girlfriend and I, together with two different pals, spent three days and two nights mountaineering the Kalalau Path on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast. Right here is my journey report for that hike:

Day 1: Ke’e Seashore to Kalalau Seashore (11 Miles, ~ 5000 toes of elevation achieve)

Our first day on the path began like many do, with an extended drive from our earlier day’s campsite to the trailhead. Sadly, this meant a later begin time (~ 11am), placing us squarely within the path of the a part of the day the place the UV and temperatures are their harshest. Nonetheless, we pressed on with stoke tanks fueled by espresso and candy Hawaiian pastries. 

The primary portion of the path was roughly two miles and consisted of a climb out of Ke’e Seashore up into the jungle after which again all the way down to Hanakapi’ai Seashore. The seashore is bordered by a big stream that’s liable to flash flooding; and the one constant piece of recommendation we obtained from locals and mountaineering blogs was that if the rain comes, don’t cross the streams. This reality, mixed with limitations on day hikers continuing previous Hanakapi’ai, outcomes on this part being a highly regarded day hike; and since we began on a Saturday, this part of the path was understandably crowded. Nonetheless, we made it to the seashore after a bit of over an hour on the path and rested there for some time to rehydrate, take within the environment, and let our our bodies slowly regulate to the warmth and humidity. 

After climbing out of the seashore and persevering with for one more 4 miles, the path descended into Hanakoa Campground – the place we’d be staying the subsequent evening. As we got here to the river subsequent to the camp, we stopped once more for one more relaxation. Peeling our packs from our sweat-drenched backs, we sat silently on massive river rocks desperately attempting to rehydrate. This break was our collective low level. Anyone requested the time and one other individual responded that it was 3:30pm. We checked out one another and silently acknowledged that we had been mountaineering for 4 and a half hours and solely made it six miles. My girlfriend requested, out loud, if we’d have the ability to do the ultimate 5 miles earlier than the solar was resulting from set round 7pm. The three of us checked out one another and half-heartedly nodded our heads one after the other earlier than choosing up our packs and beginning the climb out of the campsite. 

A mile after Hanakoa, we started a descent onto a piece of the path referred to as Crawlers Ledge. This part is roughly half a mile lengthy and is essentially the most uncovered coastal cliff mountaineering I’ve executed in my life. The path is not more than a foot huge at any level, requires three or 4 factors of contact in a number of locations, and one false step at any level on this stretch would ship you lots of of toes down into the rocky edges of the Pacific Ocean. As loopy as this may occasionally make me sound, this was my favourite part of the path. The should be 100% centered on the duty at hand spiked my adrenaline – simply as I used to be feeling my most depleted – and gave my physique the kick it wanted to deal with the ultimate stretch.

As we rounded the final nook of Crawlers Ledge and began the ultimate climb of the day, we momentarily misplaced the path as a result of it wouldn’t be a hike with Tommy if you happen to didn’t lose the path no less than as soon as. Other than that momentary departure, the final 4 miles of the path had been largely uneventful till the ultimate crest. As we got here as much as the ultimate descent, a path signal emerged notifying us of our arrival at Kalalau Seashore. Simply previous the signal was a clearing that gave us our first clear view of the seashore. There aren’t any phrases to explain how stunning the seashore checked out that second. We had been on the finish of our ropes – bodily and mentally – however this view gave us the ultimate increase we wanted to descend into our campground with 45 minutes to spare earlier than sundown. 

As we sat round that night consuming our dinners and admiring the sundown, the group recounted tales of Crawlers Ledge, the numerous climbs, and different sections of the path that had drawn our consideration. It felt like a real on-trail second. We had been exhausted and but so excited to share our emotions about what we had all gone via collectively. I used to be largely silent via that dialog, because it was one I needed to be extra a witness to than a number one participant. I felt an amazing sense of pleasure at the place I used to be and what I used to be doing: this was the place I needed to be, doing what I needed to do, with precisely the correct three individuals.  

Day 2: Kalalau Seashore to Hanakoa Campground (~ 5 Miles, Unknown elevation achieve)

We wakened on the second day with a collective groan, because the depth of the prior day’s actions had morphed into hiker hobble. After a delicate morning breakfast on the seashore, we packed up camp and headed again up the path to deal with essentially the most unforgiving portion of the path. By 1pm, we had made it to Hanakoa and arrange camp, marking what can be our best day of mountaineering on this path. 

The remainder of the day was spent ebbing and flowing via the campsite: we took a aspect journey to a close-by waterfall, rinsed off within the river and basked, albeit momentarily, in our cleanliness, and browse books in the course of the afternoon showers. Because the night got here, we gathered on the campsite’s lined desk to prepare dinner dinner and play playing cards. About half-hour in, a pair from one other campsite joined us and all of us rapidly grew to become quick pals. Siva and Danielle had been additionally from Northern California and Danielle was additionally a latest regulation college graduate now working as a public defender within the county our group lives in. The remainder of the night was chock-full of laughter, sage skilled recommendation, and a card recreation named Palace. We ended the evening round 9p feeling gratified to have made new connections in not solely the outside neighborhood however in our personal yard.  

Day 3: Hanakoa Campground to Ke’e Seashore (~ 6 Miles, Unknown elevation achieve)

The ultimate day on path began equally to the day prior: a sluggish morning was punctuated by murmurs of afternoon showers, however this time with a further need to get to our AirBnB. We hit the path shortly thereafter, making sturdy progress via the primary 4 miles of climbs and descents. Simply as we had began the descent into Hanakapi’ai Seashore, the grey clouds that had been retaining our morning cool opened up and began pouring rain. We stopped briefly to throw on pack covers earlier than persevering with the descent, understanding that the countdown had began – we needed to get to the stream and cross it earlier than this rain developed right into a flash flood. About 20 minutes later, we arrived on the stream, our garments soaked to the bone, and a stream that was rising into a quick river. Fortunately, our group – and the entire day hikers round us – made it throughout with none points. 

As we gathered on the opposite aspect to course of crossing the ultimate hurdle and put together for the ultimate two miles, we ran into our pals from the evening earlier than. After a short chat peppered with laughter on the absurdity of the scenario, we began the ultimate climb of the hike. This subsequent hour or so was the textbook definition of a slog. The heavy rains rapidly brought on the path to develop into slick and type puddles in every single place. Our steps grew to become splashes as skinny mud jumped up and coated our legs. Fortunately, the mix of the exhausting climb and humidity saved our our bodies heat all through and our spirits had been buoyed by day hikers asking us about our expertise alongside the path and congratulating us on being near completion. 

Because the path began to stage out and we approached the ultimate descent, the rain slowed to a trickle; and by the point Ke’e Seashore was in view, it had ceased completely. Rounding the ultimate curve of the descent, the signal on the trailhead got here into view and we hurried forward to the touch it – marking the tip of our hike. 

After taking a gaggle picture we sat down at a close-by picnic desk to bask within the literal, and metaphorical, glow of what we had completed. For a few of you studying this, 22 miles over three days is nothing. For us, it was loads. To me, mountaineering your individual hike doesn’t solely imply going at your individual tempo but in addition putting nevertheless a lot weight you select into what you have got simply completed. As we walked to the automotive, we joked that we felt like we might tackle the world after what we had simply executed. Between the river crossings, endless climbs, and sketchy footholds on Crawlers Ledge, we had completed loads and we spent the remainder of our journey reminding one another of it. 

Some Shakedown Hike Learnings:

  1. Belief your PT: In late December I used to be recognized with IT Band syndrome in my proper leg and have been on a strict PT routine since. This hike was my last take a look at to see if I used to be totally healed and though I’m not one to tempt destiny, I’m snug saying that my leg held as much as the pains of 11 miles and 5000 toes of elevation achieve in a day with none IT Band-specific ache. I felt sturdy on the climbs and about as safe as one can really feel, given the situations, on the descents. 
  2. All the time deliver electrolytes: Holy moly this was one of many largest errors of my mountaineering profession. Final summer season once I hiked the Wonderland Path – a equally sizzling, humid, and vertically inclined path – I used to be loaded with Liquid IV. Our group forgot to deliver any electrolyte packets on this path and we paid the worth. Muscle cramps slowed our tempo and tightness in our calves endured till our final day on the island. This can be a mistake I can’t make once more. 
  3. Methods to handle soreness: The day earlier than we departed for our hike, my left knee began to really feel sore and this ache endured all through my hike of the Kalalau Path. I used to be capable of handle the ache via small doses of ibuprofen, and it disappeared for essentially the most half as soon as we stopped mountaineering, nevertheless it made me nervous that my physique was breaking down. I’m hoping it’s simply soreness from my day-to-day coaching routine mixed with a sudden, sharp enhance in mountaineering that a couple of days off will repair. I’ve a PT appointment subsequent week in case it’s one thing extra critical, although I’m guessing she’ll simply inform me to relaxation. 
  4. My backpack alternative was an excellent one: This was the primary journey on which I used my new Durston Kakwa 40. It carried out excellently all through the three days. When paired with a pack liner, its inner storage space is 100% waterproof. It carried 20-25 kilos extra comfortably than any pack I’ve used, and it hugged my physique nicely all through the tough terrain, permitting me a nimbleness I had thought solely doable with frameless packs. I particularly liked the best way the body felt on my again: properly inflexible however with out digging into my hips. The one piece I’m going to wish to determine is what to do about snacks and my cellphone when it rains. Because the pack doesn’t have an underside pocket (just like the Pa’Lante packs have) I might want to discover a spot to retailer my snacks for mountaineering. Additional, because the hip belt pockets aren’t seam taped I might want to discover a spot to place my cellphone when it rains. 
  5. Take one other day: If there may be one piece of recommendation I can provide to fellow hikers who’re on this path it could be to do that path over 4 days as an alternative of three. Including the fourth day would permit you to spend extra time at Kalalau Seashore – which is an enormous a part of why individuals do that hike – and break up the tough terrain into extra manageable chunks. 
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Author: ZeroToHero

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