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
First Water crossing