Ahead workers blocked the road. They stood by signs saying bridge out. We pulled over at the look out and looked across the flooded Hanalei valley. What is normally green fields of crops was now a brown muddy river. I hope we can get to the trail tomorrow I thought. I awoke the next morning at 5 am. I wanted to get an early start. I checked the website for the status of the Kalalau trail. Red letters warned the trail is still closed due to flash flood conditions. I’ll call the recreation office when they open at 8 am I thought while forcing myself to go back to sleep. At 8 AM I called the office they told me they just reopened the trail and to be careful its very muddy. We quickly packed up and headed to the trailhead.
We began hiking around 10 am, 4-5 hours later than we planned on starting. The air was extremely humid and the day promised only more heat. We learned quickly that the Kalalau trail is relentless. We climbed up the wet rocks arriving at the first lookout. Amazing 360 degree vistas greeted us. Keke beach to the East and the promise of Kalalau far off to the west. The lingering rain from the day before saturated the trail. Mud squished beneath our feet with every step eventually soaking our socks. After the first river crossing the crowds thinned. A permit is required to proceed past this mile marker. We continued up the mountain till we reached feature known as spaceship rock. Tired and very hot we sat and enjoyed lunch while absorbing the amazing panorama in front of us.
We found the pattern of the trail soon. Up 5 – 7 hundred feet down 4-6 hundred feet into the valley cross the river and repeat. We repeated this pattern for several valleys before arriving at crawlers ledge. This section crawls around a cliff edge before heading back into the valleys. The rock is still damp from the day before and the ocean 200 feet below pounds the rocky cliffs reminding you that it is right there. Carefully we edged around the cliff and continued onward. Because of our late start and it being winter the sun went down early. We put our head lamps on and continued in the dark. Stepping over roots on a muddy cliff edge and dodging toads trying to get a quick snack on the trail is how we proceeded for the next several hours. With sore feet and tired legs we emerged from the foliage on to the sandy beach. Happiness filled my mind as I removed my wet socks and dug my feet into the sand. We pitched our Radama 2 in the sand while a group of hikers laughed over a fire on the beach a few hundred yards away. The sound of the ocean rolled in and out of the night air. I rinsed the mud off in the ocean before retiring to my bed.
The next morning the sun scattered the sand crabs looking for a quick snack. I got up and began to explore the beach. A waterfall nearby provided some water for breakfast and a quick shower. After food we explored the nearby sea caves and relaxed on the beach until the sun became unbearable and we retreated to the shade. In the afternoon we decided to hike half way back to so the hike out wouldn’t be so brutal. It was sad to leave. But at least we got a long lazy morning on the beach. We hiked halfway out crossing crawlers ledge just before dark. There is a small jungle campsite at the half way mark where we set up for the night. The final morning we took a few extra minutes at each lookout we passed to enjoy the moment. It was hard to leave. We arrived at the car early and covered in sweat and mud. Now it was time to satisfy the hiker hunger with a Hawaiian grilled cheese sandwich and shaved ice on a beach. Next time I will plan for more days on Kalalau.