Friday, April 23, 2010


Sleeping Giant was fun. The Wet Cave better.
BUT the only thing I really wanted to do on this trip to Kauai was hike Nualolo-Awaawaphui Loop.

Nualolo-Awaawapuhi consists of five trails totaling 10.5 miles. Unlike most hikes, this loop begins with a descent, in fact a decline of about 2,000 feet, and ends with an incline. Yes, back up 2,000 feet. Although hikers can begin from either end most would agree that starting from Nualolo is easier since Awaawapuhi's ending incline consists of switchbacks and is therefore a gradually climb. Nu`alolo on the other hand consists of only a few switchbacks so if chosen as the loop's finish is much steeper. However, this also means that starting at Nualolo equates to a steeper descent which can be very taxing on the knees.

Nualolo is approximately 3.5 miles and ends at a junction where hikers can continue further to the Na Pali Coast via Lolo Vista (0.5 miles). Although some may bypass it, eager to start Nualolo Cliff, the view from the lookout should not be missed. After returning the half mile back in from Lolo Vista the trail heads left on Nualolo Cliff (2 miles). Here the trail winds through Nualolo Valley to the next junction on Awaawapuhi. There the junction's left trail, Vista (0.3 miles), is the lookout from Awaawapuhi ridge, and its right trail, Awaawapuhi (3 miles), is the final ascent back to Kokee Road. However, that is not all. Once completed hikers must walk 1.5 miles on Kokee Road back to Nualolo. Therefore, it is highly recommended that two cars be taken. No one wants to walk a mile and a half after trekking ten and half!
Due to our late start, Jaxon, Tiff, Cassie and I didn’t begin the hike until 11:00. Beginning near Kokee Lodge at an elevation of 3,660 feet, Nualolo's cool, well shaded and muddy trail took some maneuvering. Although we avoided the puddles, and fallen trees and branches we still took our fair share of slips. We laughed continuously at one another anticipating who would be the first to really eat it.

A mile later we made it out clean to a beautiful pasture like area. The descent continued towards the ocean. Down, down, down we walked until finally the trail's canopy opened giving us our first glimpse of the Na Pali Coast and Niihau.

Excited to see what other views were in store, Jaxon and I ran the remaining portions which were rather dry and rooty making it to the junction about an hour later. Patiently we waited for Tiff and Cassie. Five minutes. Ten minutes. After asking another hiker walking by we learned that one of the girls hurt their ankle so Jaxon left to check on the situation. Several minutes later he returned saying that Tiff tripped and fell, and although injured was on her way. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Still no Tiff and Cassie. This time I left but only to find Tiff sitting under a tree unable to walk. Although she didn’t look in much pain I told her that we had three options: 1) turn around and walk back, 2) continue and finish on Awaawapuhi which is longer but supposedly easier, or 3) walk half a mile to Lolo Vista where she could be medically evacuated. Tiff decided on option #3 so we headed to the junction. Trying to keep Tiff’s spirit high and in the least amount of pain I piggy backed her down some portions which was pretty hilarious stuff.


Back at the junction Jaxon and Cassie decided they would stay with Tiff and help her walk to Lolo Vista while I ran back out Nualolo to call for help. One hour and fifteen minutes later I was at Kokee Lodge dialing 911. Although I knew Tiff was fine and would be okay I was overcome with emotions. My voice quivered as I tried my best to explain the situation. Soon I was talking to the fire chief and then the paramedic. Initially I was advised to stay at the lodge to meet and then lead them in to Tiff. Fortunately the fire chief called back saying they would send a helicopter to medivac her out.
After a few more conversations with the rescue crew I was back on Nualolo. Halfway in I actually watched the helicopter air lift Tiff to safety and 45 minutes later was once again at the junction. I continued to Lolo Vista where I met up with Jaxon and Cassie. Knowing that Tiff was safe, we decided, actually I decided and they agreed, to complete the hike along Nualolo Cliff and Awaawapuhi. Jaxon and Cassie went ahead as I continued to Lolo Vista’s look out point not wanting to miss any views. The dry trail, gravely and uneven, made the path sketchy. In addition the signs warned about the loose ground that may wash out at a moment's notice, and although not vertical, the gradual drops were steep enough to end one's life. All of the above made the hike on Lolo Vista one that I did not take lightly. I trekked cautiously, contemplating the what ifs, and wondered how in the world Tiff made it out on this path with an injury. Yet, the anticipation filled me with exhilaration and excitement. The rewards definitely outweighed the risks.

A total of five hours and eleven miles (what should have been four miles) later I was finally at the look out some 1,400 feet above the Na Pali Coast. There to the left was Ni`ihau, to the right the Na Pali coastline, behind Nu`alolo Valley and its Jurassic Park waterfall, and just below the riverbed from the dry waterfall leading to the ocean.
Talk about unforgettable, unbelievable, stunning views.

I returned from Lolo Vista and continued along Nualolo Cliff meeting up with Jaxon and Cassie for a third time. The two mile trail snaked along a large washed out portion where a section of the right side of the mountain is caved in. Its fallen rocks covered the path making footing crucial. We also crossed three dry river beds. I can only imagine how beautiful the mini waterfalls must be during the wet season. From here the sights from within the valley toward the ocean were just as gorgeous!

At last we were at the second junction ready to began the ascent on Awaawapuhi, Nualolo's adjacent ridge. Luckily the trail was well shaded but the gradual inclines seemed never ending--maybe because it was monotonous or maybe because I was just utterly and completely exhausted. I prayed that behind each bend was the road.
Finally eight hours later we were back on Kokee Road but we still had to walk back to our car. Fortunately Jaxon stuck his thumb out getting us a hitch to the lodge which we didn’t know at the time was a mile and half away! Thinking about it, if we had to walk another mile after the SEVENTEEN I just completed I would have cried.
We drove back to check on Tiff who was resting at home. While there the Dr. called confirming that she had broken her fibula!!! And with both our phones dead Jaxon and I hurried home to Koloa where everyone awaited our safe return. I called my mom on Oahu who was worried as well. Needless to say everyone was glad that no one was seriously injured but...

We all can't wait for the next hike!

No comments:

Post a Comment