Sunday, July 13, 2014

Waimea Canyon, Kaua'i

[Kyle]After four hours of sleep, we got up, loaded up the dinghy and headed for the rental car. It was still dark. The tide was even lower than before. In a couple of places, I had to jump out, which lightened the load enough to allow me to tow Maryanne and the dinghy across the sand in calf-deep water {Yes, he is my hero!}. At the bar, the water deepened, but was running so fast we had to use full power to make headway through it before shooting out the other side.

We were on the road by sunrise, heading for the farthest spot we could drive from Hanalei, the Pu’u o Kila lookout in Koke’e Park. There we got a view through the mists of the dramatic Na Pali coast far below, where a steady stream of helicopters were showing a few lucky people the vista.

Top: One of the views from the many look outs on the way. Bottom: Our first sight of the Na Pali coast from Pu’u o Kila (all these beautiful views are readily accessible by car alone!).

We didn’t have time for nearly enough, so we took a couple of representative hikes. The first was the Awa’awapuhi trail to the lookout of the same name. This trail started by winding its way through the forest before coming out along a ridge, which allowed us our first views of the steep valleys to either side. Then it descended more steeply in switchbacks into the valley on one side. Notice I said ‘descended’. One of the disorienting things about many of the mountain trails in Hawaii is that they start at the top. It’s important to turn around for the uphill slog to the car well before getting too tired, instead of the other way, where you can pretty safely figure that if you had enough energy, water, etc. to make it UP there, you can always get through the downhill trip back.

A long, hot, hike along the Awa’awapuhi trail for some stunning views of the nw coastline

In the case of the Awa’awapuhi trail, the big turn-around point was 3.25 miles of steep trail below the car. It was definitely worth the hike, though. The trail ends dramatically at the intersection of two valleys that are disorientingly steep. There are barriers warning of all sorts of nasty (but quick) death for going beyond. I watched a few idiots go to the very end of the pinnacle. When a couple that looked older and more cautious than me went and returned safely, I gave it a shot. Maryanne stayed behind “to take pictures for the insurance company”. What insurance?

The trail was fine, with only a couple of narrow spots with sheer drop-offs to either side of the three-foot wide path. Others before me hadn’t done it, but I made a point of always having three good points of contact before moving the fourth as I crossed. It would have been scary in rain or high winds.

The view from the little dinner table sized perch at the end was totally worth the scramble. The ground dropped steeply on all sides, leaving me feeling like I was standing on the open air itself. Seeing helicopters below me at half my height enhanced this effect. It was like being the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.

Kyle goes beyond the "don't go there" signs and survives!

We drove through the Waimea valley on the way back, stopping at every other lookout point along the way. We went for another hike near the southern end of the Waimea Canyon State Park on the Kukui Trail. Like the Awa’awapuhi Trail, this one also started at the top, but it was much more relentlessly steep the whole way. In only a mile, we lost more height than before. We were pretty wiped out by then, so turning back uphill afterwards was especially deflating. It was also totally worth it, though. Kukui has better views all along the descent of a big section of Waimea Canyon. They call it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific (everyone claims that it was Mark Twain that gave it this name, but he can't have been the first to do so!). We shrugged that off as marketing until we got here, but really does look and feel like it. The place is vast and gorgeous and was made even more beautiful by the late afternoon light.

Waimea Canyon - wow!

We didn’t make it home by dark. Those trails had been harder than we had anticipated. It was another bumping low tide ride across the Hanalei River bar before we collapsed into an exhausted and happy sleep. Maryanne later (like just now as I wrote this) figured out that we had now seen all of Lonely Planet’s top ten sights in Hawaii. (The others are: Volcanoes Park, Hawai’i, Waipi’o Valley, Hawai’i, Road to Hana, Maui, ‘Iao Needle, Maui, Haleakala Park, Maui, Waikiki Beach, O’ahu, Diamond Head, O’ahu, and Kaluapapa Park, Moloka’i)

On the way home we stopped by 'Glass Beach' and discovered that the described boulders of glass were mere chips and beads - but pretty in the light of the setting sun

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