Kauai: Hiking Trails

One of the reasons we went to Kauai was because it is remote and offers some very good hiking trails. Both Manina and I love to hike, it is one of the things we have always done together.

Both Manina and I packed appropriate footwear and clothing for hiking. I even brought along my trekking poles, so we were obviously planning on hitting the local trails, not just surfing each day.

Kalalau

Our very first real activity on the island was to hike the world-famous Kalalau trail.

Kalalau is a serious trail. It’s an 11-mile trail along the most spectacular coastline, the Na Pali coast. The scenery is incredible.

Some people make it a full backpacking adventure, camping for several days at a remote beach at the end of the trail. But we didn’t do that, we decided that we’d make a quick trip to Hanakapi’ai beach, which was 2.2 miles in along the trail.

We sat on Hanakapi’ai beach, ate a snack, and watched the waves roll in. Since we had been flying all night and not getting any sleep we didn’t have the energy to continue on to Hanakapi’ai Falls or Hanakoa Falls.

We hiked this trail with our friends and neighbors KC & Hannah Stayner, who were in Kauai and overlapped our stay for a few days. It was fun to hang out with them and have them hike with us along this wonderful trail.

Ho’opi Falls

This one was a gem of a hike. It’s in the Kapa’a area, a little trail hidden away in a residential area. There are a couple different “falls” to hike to and it makes for a very fun excursion. Here is our GPS record of this hike.

We set off late after lunch, planning to spend most of the afternoon on the hike.

Not long after we began, it started to rain. It seemed appropriate since we were hiking through a rain forest.

About half a mile in, there is a path down to a set of falls which has a few pools where you can jump from the lava rock into the stream. When we were there, a few local teenagers were taking the plunge. We pressed on.

After about another mile (including a wrong turn) we got to the actual Ho’opi Falls. By this time it was raining quite hard. It was a really good thing we brought along our rain jackets and were hiking in our water shoes.  We were soaked.

Manina was concerned about a flash flood, so she wasn’t interested in using the rope swing which hung temptingly over a large pool just downstream from the main falls. So, we took a couple pictures and started the hike back.

Hikes we missed

We missed out on a few hikes we would have liked to do. I guess that means we’ll just have to go back soon. When we do, these will also be on my short list:

Awa’awapuhi Trail

We headed up the Waimea canyon with the intent to do this hike, which promises an amazing overlook of the Na Pali coast from up above. Unfortunately, the weather turned nasty so we turned back and never made this hike. It’s a 6 mile round-trip hike with some pretty serious elevation gain, so it’s not a walk in the park.

Sleeping Giant Hike

This is a six-mile round trip hike up a mountain with a great view of the east coast of Kauai and surrounding valley. It’s also called the Nounou trail. The Stayners did this one and recommended it highly. Another one I’d like to finish on our next trip to Kauai.

Kauai: Surf lessons

Over one dinner midway through our Kauai vacation, Manina asked me, “What is one thing you want to do while we are here?” I thought about it for a while and said, “I’d like to take surfing lessons. I want to learn how to surf.”

When we got back to our house that night we did some research. Kauai Surf School had really good reviews on TripAdvisor, so we booked a lesson for Thursday morning. We headed out to Kiahuna beach down in the Poipu area.

I had a little trouble finding the “shack” to meet my instructor, but that was the only hiccup in the whole process. I lucked out with just about everything else. There was no wind, the waves were good, and no one else had booked a time in the 10am slot, so I had a private lesson.

The instructor, Alan, was great. He had the stereotypical super-chill surfer vibe going on, and kept mentioning to go slow. We practiced on land for a while, taking time to get the standing-up part down. One key thing Alan taught me was not to worry about my feet. He said that all the wave action and craziness is happening at your feet, but the key to surfing is your head. “Your board goes where your eyes go.”

So, keep the head up and let the feet follow. Sounds easy.

After about 20 minutes on land we were ready to head out into the water to try the real thing. Surf’s up!

I got up on my first attempt. I beached it (riding the wave all the way in to the beach) several times too. I had a bunch of really good runs. At first, I was nervous that I wouldn’t even be able to stand up. But I caught on fairly quickly and had a great time out in the ocean. At one point, Alan asked if I was even getting tired. I was not, I was just having fun.

Alan told me my years of practicing yoga really helped. He said if he could make one recommendation to dudes in Iowa who never get to surf but want to learn or to keep their skills sharp it would be to practice yoga.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. I wiped out plenty of times. I “pearled it” (getting the nose stuck in the water causing the equivalent of an endo), had to bail because I was going to run into someone else, and just flat out mistimed waves. But, I really enjoyed the whole process.

So, now I drop the fact that I’m a “real surfer” whenever my kids start to think I’m terribly uncool. I know that doing that automatically proves that I am terribly uncool, but I don’t care. I’m a surfer now. I take life as it comes at me one wave at a time and just enjoy the flow, dude.

Happy 40th to this old guy!

Happy 40th to this ol’ guy! I know turning forty sounds overwhelming but it didn’t seem to phase Seth one bit. He is fit, healthy, and in his eyes just a youngin’. I love that about him!

For his birthday sent the kids off to school and headed out to hike a 8.5 mile loop over up Grove Creek and then across and down Battlecreek Falls. It was a solid uphill climb to a beautiful open valley and then a steady decline back down Battlecreek Falls.  It was prefect weather and a beautiful hike and best of all we were practically alone on the trail.

img_1876

img_1738

After the hike we met up with his parents at Texas Roadhouse for dinner and then headed over to Eskaped where we barely managed to “eskape” this 1960’s themed trailer. 🙂

img_1881

We also had some friends over for dessert on the Sunday before his birthday. Seth isn’t a big fan of parties nor the celebration and attention being about him (another thing I love about him) but I knew people wanted to come over and wish him well on his special day so I did something small anyway. I don’t think he loved it but the kids thought it was fun and it was a good chance to chat and visit with everyone.

img_1873

img_1884

The real celebration will come in March when Seth and I sneak off to Kauai to celebrate both of our 40th birthdays! Happy birthday to the man I love!

Timpanogos Summit Hike

Manina has wanted to climb Mount Timpanogos for quite some time. I have been up there several times with my scout troops, but never just with her. So, we decided to make a date out of it. I took the day off on Friday to hike it with her.

We sent all the kids off to school and headed up the canyon to the Timpooneke trailhead. We weren’t any particular hurry, since we had all day. It’s a 15-mile round-trip hike with quite a lot of elevation gain (4500 ft) so bagging Timp is an all day affair. The conditions were perfect, with temperatures in the 60s and a light breeze — it was a great day for a hike.

img_1675

We started out at 10am, a little later than we had planned. We stopped for a quick PB&J lunch, but mostly kept moving all the way up. Unencumbered by kids (or scouts), we made good time and got to the Timpanogos saddle by 1:30pm.

We paused for a bit at the saddle to take some pictures. We had some lingering clouds out to the west over Utah county, but the view to the east was clear and spectacular. We even found a couple mountain goats right by the saddle hanging out and enjoying their lunch too.

img_1639

The section from the saddle to the summit was pretty slow going. Lots of shale and some semi-technical sections. But we made it to the top. The clouds had lifted somewhat, so we took some pictures and hung out for a little while up at 11,753 feet.

img_1671

We didn’t rush things on the way down, just enjoyed the time walking and chatting and enjoying the views.

img_1658

We stopped for a while in the big meadow and enjoyed a late lunch of crackers, cheese, turkey and fancy mustard — fancy foodstuffs for a hike. We didn’t see a lot of people on the trail until we got within a mile or two of the trailhead when we encountered a couple scout groups heading up for an overnighter. Timpooneke is usually pretty well-traveled, so it was nice to do it during the week to avoid the crowds. When we finally made it back to the parking lot I was pretty exhausted and ready to get off my feet.

img_1662

As we packed up, I reassessed my gear like I usually do. My main lesson learned was that I had carried too much water (I only drank 2 liters). Our GPS data showed we hiked 14.8 miles about 7.5 hours total. Not bad for a couple old fogies on a weekday hike to the Timpanogos summit.

Orderville Canyoneering Adventure

Remember back in 2008 when I did the Narrows hike? Yeah, it’s been a while. Ever since being released as scoutmaster about a year ago, I’ve missed going on big adventures. Sure, we just went on a Labor Day hike with the family, and I took the big kids backpacking this summer, but I was in the mood for something fairly exotic.

So, I registered for a backcountry permit to do Orderville Canyon down in Zion National Park. They limit the number of people allowed in that canyon each day, so I picked a group size of eight, figuring I could find some people crazy enough to join me.

Orderville canyon is a fairly technical hike, an offshoot of the famous Narrows. It’s a little over 12 miles long from top to bottom, with some pretty challenging obstacles. The running water makes for some slippery conditions, so we planned on getting wet. Swimming is not uncommon, although having not seen rain for the last couple months, water levels were supposed to be fairly low.

orderville_landmark_chart

After a few cancellations and switching around some plans we ended up with a great group: me, Jake, Jesse (my brother), Tyson (Jesse’s friend), Ben (my cousin), Adam (Ben’s son), and Grant (my cousin).

The seven of us drove down to St. George Friday night. We stopped at Costa Vida in Fillmore for dinner and then five of us made our way to St. George for a quick sleepover at Gary’s house (thanks, Gary!).

A couple of the guys were running behind, so Saturday morning was more stressful than it should have been. I had booked a shuttle from Zion Adventure Company to take us from the town of Springdale to the Orderville trailhead at 9:30am. As I went to get the permit from the wilderness desk at Zion National Park, Ben called and had the shuttle come pick us up in the visitor center parking lot which saved us several precious minutes. We loaded up all our gear and piled in the van for the 90-minute drive to the trailhead.

img_1558
Loading up at Zion National Park

On the drive there we ate lots of snacks and listened to the driver, who didn’t stop talking the entire way. But, she was nice enough. The shuttle was definitely worth the cost. We were dropped off and suddenly alone in the wilderness.

img_1561
Jake, Tyson, and Jesse hiking along the old jeep trail

The first three miles of the hike were fairly downhill along an old Jeep road. But, before long we headed down into the beginning of the slot canyon which would our trail for the next six miles.

img_1572

img_1581

The temperatures were perfect. In the shade it was just cool enough for us to avoid overheating with our packs on, but not cold enough to require any additional layers. We made pretty good time through this section. We are also all by ourselves. We were passed by one group of three, and encountered another group of four heading the opposite direction. Other than that we had the whole place to ourselves until about a mile before the confluence with the Narrows.

I had done a lot of research on sites like canyoneeringusa.com, so we were prepared for the technical obstacles. A short climbing rope was an absolute necessity to get down some of the bigger drops.

img_1586
Jake hand-lining down a pretty good drop

As we hiked further down the trail it got progressively more beautiful, more technical, and more wet.

img_1593

We ran into some muddy spots and then soon we were trudging though water. Most sections were ankle to knee depth, but some pools were a bit deeper. Since the water levels were low (it hadn’t rained for months), no swimming was required.

img_1606

img_1610

Sometimes the water combined with a technical obstacle to really slow our progress. We had to carefully step along slippery logs and wedge ourselves into crevices and slowly and carefully inch our way down.

img_1618
The Guillotine
img_1623
Grant rappelling from the guillotine into a small pool

There were a few slips, a few awkward descents, but our group never even got a pack soaked, and no one got injured. We started to run into other groups heading up Orderville so we knew we were getting close to the Narrows confluence.

gopr0384

We got to the confluence and celebrated for a bit before trudging down the Narrows. We knew we were close to being finished and that the technical obstacles were all behind us. Our feet were hurting, there were rocks and sand in our shoes, but it was pointless to adjust anything at this point since we still had 1.5 miles of the Narrows before we could change shoes and socks and walk the last mile on the paved path back to the Temple of Sinewava.

gopr0415

Several of us had packed flip-flops or Crocs the whole way for the sole purpose of changing shoes for that last mile. We were a pretty tired bunch by the time we hopped on the park shuttle to take us back to the visitor center.

img_1626

We completed the hike in just over 7 hours. We weren’t in a hurry, but we never really stopped for any extended breaks. Because we made such good time we elected to make the drive back home that night. We stopped in Cedar City for a burger, listened to the BYU vs. Utah football game (BYU lost on a failed two-point conversion in the last few seconds), and made it home by midnight. Exhausted, but home.

It was a great trip, but here are a few things to remember for next time:

  1. Rope was an absolutely necessary for Orderville canyon. No harnesses or helmets were needed, but a short climbing rope made life much easier.
  2. Hiking poles were also awesome for stability in the water and probing for depth and hidden rocks or logs.
  3. Hiring a shuttle service was worth it for this hike. The road is long and bumpy to the trailhead, and it would have sucked to spend 3 hours to retrieve a second vehicle from the trailhead after that hike.
  4. I packed too much food. I could have done with much less, but I didn’t think we would get through it as fast as we did.
  5. I packed too many extra clothes. Sure they would have been useful had we had an emergency, but they just took up space and weight inside my dry bag in my pack.