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

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First Water crossing

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Waterfall

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Space Rock

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Views

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First Camp

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Cub-O-Ree, Are you ready?

Make Cub Scout camping enjoyable with just the gear you need.

This past weekend I had my first camping experience with the pack (and a good number of packs in the local district).  After coming off of four days backpacking in Kalalau, it was a little eye opening to see how much stuff folks brought for a simple over night.

Tent:

There were numerous  cavernous family style tents.  We stood out with a backpacking oriented tent, which drew rave reviews for its single pole design and quick and light set up.  The tent, a REI Quarter Dome T3 Plus, was a balance of trade offs.  I wanted something that I could fit in lengthwise (I’m 76 inches) and that could hold both boys when the time comes that I can take them both camping. Additionally, I wanted t2014-10-24 17.25.21 HDR-1o keep an eye on weight so I wanted something that was fairly light without progressing to far along the cost/weight curve.  I ended up going with the REI Quarter Dome T3 Plus, which at the time was on sale.  Sadly, REI no longer makes the T3 Plus, only the T3, but the Quarter Dome is a legend in the REI stable so you can’t go wrong with which ever permutation they have.  One of the handiest features was the well designed vestibule, so as the drizzle started and stopped throughout the night, we had easy access to stash our chairs and other things out of the rain, without getting into the tent.

Chairs

Speaking of chairs, I’m always happy when this chair draws unsolicited comments.  Bought on the recommendation that a good trail chair would be needed on Kalalau, this chair continues to impress.  Again striking a reasonable balance between weight and price, it collapses down into a small stuff sack that is super handy.  I have found it to be great at the end of the day when you are on the trail, when sitting in line for sign ups for youth sports, and even sitting in an converted airplane hanger watching Planes 2 Fire and Rescue.  The wife, who is normally skeptical of camping gadgets, even liked it so much she asked for one.

 Sleeping pad

One piece of gear that I actually was curious to re-test at the Cub-o-ree was my Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol mattress.  When I used it on the trail, I noticed it left marks on my back but I had a hunch that was because the weather was so warm I was sleeping without a shirt.  On this outing I tested that hypothesis and was pleased to note that there was nary a mark.  Plus coupled with this pillow (perfect for backpacking side sleepers) I slept pretty soundly.  The Tiger Scout will be getting his own this holiday season, because my sleep suffers when he slides off of his old coleman mattress and into me!

Foot wear

Surprisingly this is a tough one to prepare for.  Scouting requires clothes toe shoes, yet the impact at events like these would rate at best chaco’s here in Hawaii.  My shoes from Kalalau stepped up to the task of being light weight enough that ambling around the Cub-o-ree didn’t feel like overkill in trail shoes.  The Merrell Moab Ventilation Cross Tab men’s hiking shoes in case you were wondering.  I’m starting to wear these shoes more and more everywhere I go.  The vibram soles give me far better traction that an old pair of running shoes, and the rest of the shoe is light enough that I don’t feel like I’m trudging around in heavy boots.  After three poor fitting previous boot purchases, I’m really shocked at how well I like these shoes, order without trying on, from the internet!

Hopefully this helps you as you start to pick out various pieces of gear.  While car camping is a logical starting point, if out are going to invest in some gear while you are involved in scouting think a few years ahead for where you are going to be taking it.  Backpacking oriented gear isn’t that much more in cost, usually has a much better build quality, and is one less step you need to take to that epic journey to Philmont of Kalalau!