Well, that was a hell of a trip. It was so damn beautiful. It was physically and mentally crushing, yet soul replenishing at the same time. But with all the planning one can do—when it comes down to it—plans never really go the way one thinks.
Calm Before the Storm
Arrival in Hawaii was already past sunset, so there wasn’t much to see or do but check into our hotel, make a late night Safeway run (You know what I love here? Hot steamed rice sold at Safeway.) and crash. On our free day before the hike we decided to spend it in Waimea Canyon. We drove to a few lookouts and did part of the Canyon Trail. I could feel I was a little tired from traveling, so we kept it low key and only went in 1 mile. Also, can we talk about the chickens everywhere? I love these chickens. Makes me think of being home in the Philippines at my Nanay's house.
We ended the day at the Kalalau lookout to get a sneak peek of what we had in store for us. Talk about wow. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I couldn’t believe I was about to walk myself into it.
Queue the Jurassic Park Music
After a night of prepping our packs and some anxious ridden sleep, we got up at 5a. It took us about an hour to drive to the trailhead, where Conor dropped me off with the packs. He then turned around to park the car at Ha’ena County Park Beach. A lot of research told us to be careful about leaving the car at the trailhead due to break ins and since camping is allowed there, more light and people are around. We were lucky enough to leave the rest of our luggage at the hotel we stayed at the night before for free, so we wouldn’t have to worry about leaving anything valuable in the car. He decided to jog the mile back, showing up with a jug of water in hand that he was chugging as he ran.
We started on the trail just after 8a, with the sun already up and not a cloud in the sky. We couldn’t help but stop and peek out at the rich blue and teal water, along with the mountain side of lush green and volcanic brown. I couldn’t help but hum the Jurassic Park music and spout Jeff Goldblum lines every few minutes. I learned very quickly that there was no way to walk and take it all in at the same time or else I might walk off a cliff. When we reached Hanakapi’ai Beach we took a little break to watch the massive waves rolling in and hide under some trees while being sniffed by some curious wild cats.
At the start we had a pretty good pace going, but as the day went on and the sun got higher, we really started to feel the heat. In Seattle it is pretty hard to prepare for that kind of temperature, so of course it was what hit us first. We started to slow down significantly after finishing the 700ft. climb between miles 2 and 3. I was hoping that there would be a little more relief after that, but Conor started to show signs of heat exhaustion and was struggling with the weight of his pack, having to take it off periodically.
Mile 6 and 7: Shit got real
We pushed on slowly for the next 3 miles and arrived at the Hanakoa camp site around 2:30p. At that point we were both feeling various bouts of exhaustion and nausea so took a long break by the creek that ran next to it. We debated about whether to push on or not, knowing that our pace had put us behind our original goal and that we would most like be racing the sunset by the time we would finish. After Conor went back and forth between confidence and doubt, he got up and said, “Fuck it. Let’s finish.”
Just Kidding, Calling it Quits
We pushed hard for the next mile knowing that Crawler’s Ledge was coming up and that we would have to make a very big decision on whether or not we could safely pass. Crawler’s Ledge is known for its narrow path along a seaside cliff, with rock on one side and nothing to keep you from the drop off into the ocean on the other. With Conor running on fumes and feeling pretty exhausted myself, we climbed until we could see around the next valley. At that point Conor turned around to look at me and simply said, “I can’t do it.” I was more concerned with our safety than finishing the hike, so I reassured him that it was better to turn around and go back to the camp site.
We got set up for the night and made dinner, forcing ourselves to eat even though there wasn’t much energy to do so. We immediately crawled back into the tent to rest. During the middle of the night Conor started to feel extremely uncomfortable with the heat, so I walked him down to the creek and had him put his feet in the cold water as I held a wet bandana around his neck. We sat there for well over an hour trying to bring his temperature down and slow down his breathing. In that moment where relief was needed, it started to rain. The night finally started to cool off as the rain came down into the early morning.
When we got up in the morning, we decided it wouldn’t be smart to push on another 5 miles and attempt 11 miles out the next day. The heat exhaustion was pretty bad and had both used a lot of energy trying to cool down instead of getting a good’s night sleep. With low energy to start, the hike out turned out to be pretty brutal. The heat and humidity and really started to wear on us, along with the mosquitoes and heavy packs. I ended up taking a little weight out of Conor’s pack and carried it in mine. We relied heavily on looking for the mile markers along the way as a sign of hope that we were getting closer to the end, along with playing the Moana soundtrack on repeat. Straight up singing deliriously like this girl.
See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
AND NO ONE KNOWS, HOW FAR IT GOES
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I'll know
HOW FAR I’LL GO
Things we should of left at home:
Sleeping bag: it was way too hot. My sleeping bag liner and pad combo, however, was just enough when it got a little chilly in the early morning when it rained. Conor brought his bag and said he wish he brought a pad instead of sleeping with rocks in his back all night.
Extra clothes: really, just wear the same thing other than clean sports bra/undies. Everything is hot and gross already, if it makes you feel comfortable, bring an extra shirt but that’s it.
Extra cooking equipment: This is what we sometimes have to do because of Conor’s dietary restrictions where we can’t cook different meals in the same pot unless we have a safe way to clean it out before using again. In hindsight, we could of used just one for boiling water and 2 cups to eat/mix out of.
Conor’s DLSR: number of pictures taken with it: 0. It was too bulky to carry in hand while hiking and too much energy to get it in and out of his pack. He takes most of his pictures with his phone and GoPro anyways, so it was just extra weight. (I didn’t take many photos with my camera either, although it is much smaller and lighter and fit in my hip pack. I also just used my phone.)
That Part in Movies Where the Main Character walks into the Ocean
All I could think about the last 2 miles (where I was sunburnt because I was too lazy to apply sunscreen and completely out of water) was about Ke’ee Beach at the trailhead and how I was going to straight up walk into the ocean.
In my head I pictured myself as Nicolas Cage in City of Angels where he has that stupid look on his face at the end of the movie as his pops out of the water. I wanted that stupid look so bad. But damn, it was worth it. We walked straight to the beach, stripped off our bags and clothes and walked in. I took a moment to turn and look at the scenery and had to pat myself on the back. I had been training so hard, and even though we didn’t make it all the way, I know we still accomplished a pretty big feat.
As an added bonus, there was a guy selling coconuts out of the back of his truck and yes, I bought one. It felt like there was a gallon of coconut water in that thing because I was drinking non-stop out of it for like an hour.
Takeaway: Life Experience Level Up
We met a solo female hiker from London while we were camping at Hanakoa and appreciated her approach. She booked 5 nights so that she could take her time and go slow, rest when she needed without feeling rushed, and stop along the way to do her photography. She also took the time to check out all the waterfalls along the way and even took the opportunity to swim in one of them naked because no one else was around. We looked like such Americans after we told her we were doing the complete opposite, rushing through to try to get to the end without really being able to enjoy the view and cramming it all into 2 nights. The main reason that kept us from attempting to finish was knowing that we would need more time, which we didn’t have as we knew we would have to catch our flight in the upcoming days.
Despite the failed attempt and physical demand that Kalalau presented us, I definitely would want to go back a second time and try again, with a better plan of attack and smarter packing. And more Moana songs.