Backpacking Trip Bucket List

We all have them. Here’s mine. Want to join?

San Juan Forest, CO
Originally discovered in the train from Durango to Silverton by a group of Scouts who got off mid ride, those mountains, valleys and gorges have been calling me ever since.

John Muir Trail, CA
One of the all time greats.  I admit, my interest was piqued in hiking more in the western US after reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I found that this book,  John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail was a really good reference to start planning a trip.

Mt Fuji, Japan
Okay, not really a “backpacking” trip in the classics sense.  More like a day trip.  But after seeing a co-worker with a branded hiking stick of all the stations, I vowed to knock that one off the list while I am close. But if I do go, I’m getting this to commemorate.

Big Sur, California
Based on a great write up in Outside, I feel a little more comfortable heading that direction.


Kalalau Trail – Day 2

After listening to the rain all night long, day 2 brought a fair amount of anxiety.  The day previously, we ran into folks on the trail who were heading back.  They said that the trail was unpassable ahead.  Our research prior to the trip told us that mile 7 was the worst part, a sheer rock face with only the slightest trail.  We agreed that it was at least worth hiking out to verify the conditions, and worst case we could always return to this spot.

The hike out of Hankoa valley was hot. Hot and muggy.  Since we got an early jump on the trail, there were no winds yet, so all the rain and moisture that had been trapped in the valley was just sweltering.  We also saw pretty aggressive signs of animals on the trail, but no actual animals.

As we approached mile 7, we were surprised to find that the rain had made the down hill section of the trail leading into the ledge extremely difficult to navigate.  We spaced out to avoid the domino effect if one slipped, and managed to descend the 200+ feet of elevation without much issue.

After the ledge crossing we all started picking up the pace because we knew the end was near.  What was a bit misleading was at about mile 9.5 you see the sign welcoming you into the Kalalau Valley.  Sadly, there still is about 1.5 miles or so to go till you find the campgrounds.  For us, we went to the last campsites before the waterfall, so it was probably closer to 2.5 miles.


We did take some go pro footage as we crossed.

Kalalau Trail – Day 1

We started the journey on the first Hawaiian Airlines flight out of Oahau.  The first struggle of the trip was the question: “Do you have any backpacking stoves in your bag?”  I’m not really sure what the right answer to that one is.  What I did learn is that apparently now you can carry lighters (but not matches) through airport screening.  Missed that change.

When we arrived we oped to get a rental car to drive us to the trailhead.  We picked up gas canisters for our backpacking stoves (we brought a jet boil and two MSR pocket rockets).  They were $6 at the local True Hardware that opens at 7am.  Given the timing between flights, rental cars and hardware stores opening you may want to stop a quick bite to eat at McDonalds.

For the first day, we agreed that we didn’t want to try to make a push straight to Kalalau.  The plan was to explore the Hankakapai’ai Falls upstream from Hanakapai’ai beach.  We would then regain the trail and head to Hanakoa stream and call it a night.  Breaking it up like this was two fold:

1) This was the first time the group had hiked any distance together, so it allowed a gradual pace to get used to one another

2) It allowed us to handle the bulk of the major elevation changes the first day, leaving us to just plodded through the second day (after crossing the ledge)

This ended up being a very good decision for us, as the weather was less than ideal for most of the first day.

The first section of the day was fairly uneventful.  We were all getting used to the full loads on our shoulders, taking a few photos at the scenic overlooks and chatting with the early riser hikers heading out to Hankapaki’ai beach & stream.  It is roughly 2 miles from the trail head to the first stream/beach.  Since it had been raining fairly recently Hankakapai’ai stream was up a bit, but nothing impassable like it had been earlier in the year.  After drying off our feet, we head off into the forest searching for the Hankakapai’ai falls.  We stashed our backs along the trail in the roots of a grove of  trees and had no issues finding them when came back.

A first for me at that point was sampling the guava that is in abundence along the Kalalau Trail.  Bright yellow in color, you’ll know it is there when you see them split open all over the trail in front of you.  While they are a bit pulpy & seedy, they were an awesome natural sugar boost on the trail.  We worked our way in the valley, noting that it was getting cooler and rainier the further away from the beach we headed.  Imagine our surprise when we finally made it to the falls and were actually cold due to the spray from the falls and the wind.

After a quick stop at the falls, we headed out the way we came in.  We picked up our packs that we had stashed in the woods while we took the side trek to the falls, and head back onto the trail towards Kalalau.  At this point you separate from the bulk of the day trip hikers since beyond the Hankakapai’ai beach is much more vertical terrain.

We plugged along, knocking out the two significant climbs (roughly 800ft) and passing through space rock.  It certainly feels like a portal into Jurassic Park, so we of course stopped for a photo.  You can tell by the photo that it was a bit rainy that day.  After space rock, the trail was pretty much down hill until we reached Hanakoa.

Hanakoa made for a great first day stop, only because we had taken the side trip up to Hankakapai’ai falls.  The campsites were well spread out and not clearly marked.  We found a few spots to pitch our tents, and cook a quick dinner.  Since it was raining, we ended up all turning in early for the day.

So here are some photos from the trail that day

Trail Head

Day 1 Kalalau - 20 Day 1 Kalalau - 19 Day 1 Kalalau - 18Day 1 Kalalau - 21

First Water crossing

Day 1 Kalalau - 10Day 1 Kalalau - 09 Day 1 Kalalau - 08 Day 1 Kalalau - 07 Day 1 Kalalau - 06


Day 1 Kalalau - 14 Day 1 Kalalau - 13 Day 1 Kalalau - 12 Day 1 Kalalau - 11  Day 1 Kalalau - 28

Space Rock

Day 1 Kalalau - 15


Day 1 Kalalau - 31Day 1 Kalalau - 25Day 1 Kalalau - 24Day 1 Kalalau - 23Day 1 Kalalau - 17 Day 1 Kalalau - 22Day 1 Kalalau - 03Day 1 Kalalau - 02Day 1 Kalalau - 01 Day 1 Kalalau - 26Day 1 Kalalau - 05Day 1 Kalalau - 16Day 1 Kalalau - 04

First Camp

Day 1 Kalalau - 30 Day 1 Kalalau - 29  Day 1 Kalalau - 27

A better place for Cub Scout Achievement Cards

So I’m probably late to the game with this one, but the absolutely best way to store all those belt loop cards (going away in a few months anyhow) is by using baseball card sheets.

2014-12-20 17.33.31The even better thing is, with a simple hole punch, I was able to modify them to fit into the scrapbooks that the Tiger’s all started this year when they did the “Me and My Family” scrapbook.  I was even able to put it into my Den Leader notebook to hold my recently earned BALOO badge.

Hopefully this helps save someone some time and clutter!


A better Tiger Immediate Recognition Badge Cord

images-2If you ever find yourself with Tiger Immediate Recognition badges without the lanyard to affix the beads to, this is your simple solution.

Found online at Amazon:
3/32 Tactical Cord, 4 Strand

Cut about a 5 inch length for each row of beads.  I use a lighter to gently melt the ends to keep the cord from fraying, and rub it between my fingers while it is still warm and the cord will fit perfectly in the badge holder holes.  I’ve found the occasional bead that won’t fit (b/c the bead has manufacturing errors), but it is a far more durable solution than my first solution which was plastic lanyard material.

How and why I had to figure this out on my own isn’t important, but I am sharing so that hopefully when someone else Google’s “tiger immediate recognition badge cord” this solution will pop up.  I had to break out a ruler, measure the badge, determine the thickness of various common materials, etc.

The nice thing too is that para-cord comes in multiple colors, so this will work for other Cub Scout immediate recognition beads.

Of course all of this will change next summer, but until then… Do your best!