Hihimanu Ridge Trail, Kauai

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The view from the top!

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary

Hihimanu Ridge. This hike has been on our list since we first landed on Kauai, we have crossed off every other hike on our list (minus 2 at the moment), putting it on the back burner because of my fear of heights. When i first saw pictures of this trail and the view at the top, I knew without a doubt I HAD to do this trail, after all it was my idea to put it on our list to begin with. But every time Lucas brought it up, “Hey what about Hihimanu today?” I would find another trail and another excuse to keep putting it off. Finally I agreed it was time. What was I waiting for?

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Those two sharp peaks you see, we hiked that! 

Lucas has done the Okolehao Trail dozens of times through his work, its the first part of the Hihimanu Ridge Trail, but this trail was completely new to me, I was excited, nervous, but ready to overcome the fear that had been holding me back all this time. We loaded our packs, made sure we had plenty of water, and we were off!

The Okolehao Trail begins in Princeville off Hanalei River. Take Ohiki Road, a one-lane road skirting the taro fields at the north end of Hanalei bridge, and drive about  0.7 miles to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service parking area. Across the street is a small bridge marking the trailhead.

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The first lookout 
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Our view from the second lookout

The first part of the trail is typically one of the muddiest sections mainly because it sees the most wild pig activity and foot traffic. After the fist one-eighth of a mile you will ascend a few hundred feet in elevation (this section is VERY slippery and fairly steep). The first lookout point is off to your right near the power lines it gives you a good view of Hanalei Bay and the beginning of the Napali coastline. It would be a picturesque view if the power lines weren’t in the way of the picture. After stopping there for a brief minute to take it in and drink some water we continued the trek up the trail. After a few hundred more feet of elevation gain and a little less than a mile up we get to the first major lookout of the trail where the Aloha bench is. This is where MOST people stop it gives you a great aerial view of the Hanalei river and Hanalei Bay. The Hanalei river is great to paddle board or kayak and is very calm and typically quiet. Over half of the river is actually in the Hanalei wildlife refuge so the wildlife and fish are abundant! At this point you have about another mile before the trail starts getting sketchy.

As you continue along the trail you will come across your first few ropes that will help you descend and ascend, this will become the norm the rest of the trip. Keep trekking along and they become a bit trickier and you must become more and more reliant on the ropes as the trail goes on. Before you know it your at the hardest rope climb on the trail, a straight up mud wall (roughly 80 degree angle) where you HAVE to rely on the ropes to make it up, if i had to guess it was about 60ft or so to the top, I thought for sure after this ascend we were rounding the tip top and we would be there, but the trail continued. We knew we were almost to the top because the trail became narrower, the drop-offs on each side became more pronounced and the views kept becoming better and better. We finally reached a top platform where we could easily see the two peaks we had to climb, so close! Lucas continued on from here, as I was completely content with the first peak, I had overcome so much and as Lucas put it ” You punched your fear of heights in the face.” I was so overwhelmed with the view and the journey we just took getting here that I just sat in awe while he continued his trek of the final peaks.

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As he hiked ahead I got our binoculars out and watched him complete the hike. What an amazing accomplishment for both of us. The two peaks were not that bad, you just had to be careful of where you stepped as part of the trail was about a foot or so wide before it dropped off on both sides. My views were stunning but his at the end were down right incredible. A completely 360 view, a very rewarding hike! This hike has quickly become our favorite on the island, next time I will push myself all the way to the last peak 🙂

The Kalalau Trail

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

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The Kalalau Trail is listed as one of the worlds most dangerous hikes, of course just the sound of that makes my nerves cringe a little bit but of course for my husband he wants to mark every hike on that list off 🙂 When we both decided we wanted to tackle this hike back in January we each had our different reasons. His of course was primarily because its on the list of worlds most dangerous hikes, but also because its the only land access to Kalalau beach and along the Napali Coast. This hike for me was not about marking a dangerous hike off, it was about facing fears of heights, and knowing that I can do anything that I set my mind to. After purchasing our permits, there was no turing back. So for the following 3 months we researched, planned….packed….unpacked…. and repacked until we had exactly what we needed narrowed down.

March 19 finally rolled around and we were passed ready to experience this highly sought after trail for ourselves. Lucas was extremely excited, so was I, but I also had some nerves growing the last couple weeks leading up to this day. I had a backup plan if I ever HAD to turn around but the second we began the trail, I knew I would be just fine! We had woken up to a beautiful, flawless weather forecast for the two days we would be on the trail, and I knew without a doubt that was God’s way of telling me that “I got this!” Because if we had any chance of rain in the forecast the trail conditions would drastically change and become very dangerous, making the trail even more frightening and technical.

We began the trail at 7:00 am and quickly made it to Hanakapei Beach (2 miles in). We have done this part of the trail numerous times and easily crossed over the river and took a break along the beach for a few minutes. This part of the trail and beach are always extremely packed so one nice thing about leaving out so early is being able to enjoy the trail by yourself.

After we put our packs back on, we ventured up the hill to the next phase of the trail, beginning a new part of the path we have not yet explored. From here on out all the views and ridges were new to us so we took our time and paced along snapping photos and taking breaks when needed. The first few miles until you get to Hanakoa Camp (6 mile mark) are fairly easy, with the trail going up and down along the ridge as well as through the jungle. From mile 6 on it gets a little technical in some spots. Loose rocks, steep cliffs and of course “crawlers ledge”. For a few weeks leading up to the trip i did a lot of research on Crawlers ledge, probably watched way to many videos and kinda freaked myself out. I am not terrified of heights but am bothered by them a little bit so I wanted to be prepared. As we came up to mile 7 and were fixing to face crawlers ledge (actually a little past 7 miles) we quickly realized it wasn’t as bad as its made out to be. Sure its definitely a sheer drop off, and there is possibility of someone easily falling off if your not careful with your footing, but its no where near as sketchy as many make it out to be. I personally felt there were way worse parts of the trail where you could easily have slipped and fell, at least on crawlers ledge its solid rock instead of loose dirt and small rocks. Take it slow and watch where you put your feet, and of course if you want to look around make sure you stop first!

After mile 7 it felt like we were so close to being there, only 4 miles left and we would finally be able to enjoy the majestic Kalalau Beach, we were totally looking forward to jumping into the water! The shade along the trail began to get slimmer and slimmer and we were pretty much out in the open with the sun beaming down on us the rest of the way. As we neared “clay hill” we were greeted in the distance by the beautiful secluded beach we had traveled so far to see. Trying not to get barn fever as Lucas calls it, (where as you get closer to your destination you speed up unknowingly) we made our way closer and closer until we finally stepped foot on the sands! 7 hours of hiking and we made it! The feeling when you finally get there is unbelievable!

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We quickly found a spot to set up our camp and go check out the waterfall to cool off. Afterwards we headed to the beach to walk around and explore the caves! Such a neat place to be! Between the waterfall, caves, amazing beach and diversity of people, our experience will without a doubt be one for the books! We met some amazing people who each had there own reasons from making the trek. We met people from all over including a couple from Victoria Canada who were trail running along the way (totally impressive!), a super funny gentleman from Dubai who no matter what was going to find a way to not have to hike back out (he was hilarious and had such a fun personality!), and a super sweet couple from New Zealand which we hiked out with the next day just to find out they had no idea the trail was on the list of worlds most dangerous hikes, but they excelled on the trip and made it there and back no problem.

Our trip was one we will never forget. It was physically exhausting and mentally trying but the entire time we were surrounded by pure beauty. Every turn, every ridge (I believe there were 5) had its own unique setting, the further we went on trail the more beautiful the Napali Coast became, urging us to keep going, and we’re so glad we did because we will never forget it!

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