Tahoe Rim Trail: Tahoe City to Echo Chalet

TRT Day 4: 23 miles

I heard Donner get up to go pee around 5AM, and John was tossing and turning.  I hadn’t slept well because of the bed – soft and the covers got totally messed up.

We managed to leave the hotel just after 6AM, and although I was tired, I was thankful that we were getting an early start because I knew we had a lot of climbing to do and I wanted to get as much of it done as possible before it got hot.

I also wanted to carry as little water as possible, so I decided to chug two liters of water before leaving the hotel and only carry 1 liter for the next 4 or 5 miles uphill.

The trail was nice and cool, and because of all the water I drank, I had to pee every 10 minutes.  That got old really quickly when I realized that there were quite an abundance of mosquitos around.  I remember these mosquitoes from the PCT.  They were most similar to the Oregon variety, which could land on you regardless of how quickly you were trying to run through them.

Luckily the mosquitos were not a constant.  They were only really present in spots where we were going through a meadow, in the forest or near a stream.  This side of Tahoe is definitely much more wet than the other side.  Water sources are plentiful.

Early on we passed an active logging site, and repeatedly heard chain saws followed by trees falling and crashing onto the forest floor nearby as loggers cut them down.  Although we weren’t close enough for it to be dangerous, we jumped every time a tree fell.

Donner made the mistake of showing an interest in lichens, when the topic somehow came up, and John spent the next hour or two regaling us with every detail on lichens he could possibly remember – which, given that he has a book on the topic, and the brain of a sponge, was a lot.

I decided to steer the topic away from lichens and onto quantum mechanics.  Donner was a physics major, so between us we tried to remember details of our physics and chemistry courses.

There were tons of hikers – both day hikers and backpackers.  We intersected the Pacific Crest Trail, and that brought a few PCT hikers into the mix too.  We were constantly pulling our buffs over our faces as we jumped off the trail to let folks pass.  I’ve been really impressed with how many hikers have pulled out masks to pass us.

At lunch we cracked open a gigantic jar of Nutella, and also made tuna wraps.  Once we finished, John and I packed up and John was standing there with his pack on ready to go 20 minutes after we sat down to eat.

“God, you guys really just like to hike, don’t you?!”  Donner said.

It’s at that point that we realized that we had been such in thru-hiker mode that we hadn’t really taken a really long break just to sit and admire a view or take an extra long lunch just to relax in nature.  Our style has always been to just keep walking.  It’s not that we don’t admire views, but usually not for more than 5 minutes or so.  Donner was more used to taking half hour or hour long breaks to enjoy the scenery.

Since we got such an early start, we got done with quite a few miles early on in the day.  We realized that there was no point in rushing or completing more miles than we needed to, since that would just mean that we finish the hike before we had planned.  We made plans to attempt to slow down a bit and take more breaks during the next section

We decided to camp at Richardson Lake, a popular camp spot – there are dozens of other people here, but really pretty.  The lake was very warm, and I soaked my feet.  I would have gotten in if it wasn’t so breezy and getting a bit chilly as evening descended.


We decided to take a little stroll around the lake to check out a Sierra Club hut that was listed on the map.  It turned out to be quite a quirky little hut, built in 1955, and obviously designed for use during the winter, when snow would pile up to the second level, so the leave a door unlocked at the top of the hut, which gained us entrance.  The inside was warm and there was a register, which I signed, which had many recent hiker’s signatures in it as well.  Outside the hut was a double decker outhouse, which we did not investigate as thoroughly.

Tomorrow we will be entering the Desolation Wilderness, which is probably the most scenic stretch of this trail.  We are all very excited, and anticipate enjoying some breaks near lakes along the way.

TRT Day 5: 21 miles

We woke up in the morning refreshed from an only slightly interrupted sleep. An animal repeatedly hissed for an hour in the middle of the night. Maybe a fox?  Who knows.

The trail was noticeably moist compared to the dry Carson Range on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. At points it seemed like someone had been spraying the trail with water and other times it was even slightly overgrown with vegetation around dry creek beds (on the dryer side, there was much less vegetation).

Today was the day that John and I have been looking forward to since booking this trip. We entered the Desolation Wilderness, one of our many favorite spots from our Pacific Crest Trail hike. A few steps past the Wilderness boundary sign John said, “We really are in the Desolation Wilderness look at all the granite rocks!”

Slowly the damp trail became more rocky. We came upon the first lake of the day and took a long break to swim.  I was nervous to get into the cold water, but John and Donner convinced me to jump in from a rock.  It was nice to go for a swim.  Four years ago when we were here it was too cold to even think about swimming here.

We continued onto Dicks Pass which presented us with an absolutely gorgeous view. We could see the chain of lakes we passed as well as many others that were out of view.

Dick’s Pass

Moments after we arrived, another a hiker arrived and gasped at the scenery. It was wonderful to watch her reaction.  We spoke with her for a bit, and found out that her name was Rose. We also found out she hiked from the Washington/Oregon Border along the PCT and was finishing her section tomorrow.  As we walked away we noticed that there would be an even better view a few steps further along and John said, “It will be great to see her reaction over there.” Predictably, Rose gasped again.


Rose had wanted to hike the whole PCT this year, but changes her plans when COVID hit.

“I hope you get to hike it in 2021,” I suggested

“If there IS a 2021….”. She retorted.

There was a small patch of snow at the top and Donner attempted a snow angel and threw a couple of snowballs at us. 

As we descended my hip started to hurt and we slowed down.  Donner and John both offered to carry some of my weight, and I took them up on their offer since John always accuses me of being too stubborn.  I was pretty upset that my hips were not cooperating, and I silently wondered if my thru-hiking days weren’t over.

The temperature seemed really warm with all the granite reflecting the sun back at us. When we got to Susie Lake we decided it was worth taking another swim.

Donner: “Did I miss a spot?”

We debated spending the night there but it was still early so we moved onto Aloha Lake, where we found a perfect spot with a spectacular view.

Can you tell which way the wind blows?

As we watched the sun set and the moon rise, we noticed that little tufts of pink clouds passed by.

“Hmmm, clouds”  John commented.  I knew what he was thinking.  We hadn’t seen clouds in almost a week.  Out here clouds usually mean weather.

TRT Day 6: 17 miles

We took our time packing up in the morning – no need to rush since we had only 6 or so miles to Echo Chalet, where there is a small store where we planned to resupply, and we knew they didn’t open until 10AM.  The clouds were strangely gone after a quiet night, and we had a perfectly blue sky.

We descended from Aloha Lake to Echo Lake through huge boulder fields.  The trail was mostly pointed rocks, which was slightly hard on the feet.  It was in one of these rocky areas that we heard some little squeaks, and found that they were coming from a pika!  Pikas are only the cutest alpine rodent.  They’re actually closely related to rabbits, I believe, but they look kind of like big fat fluffy mice with big ears.  I attempted to take its picture, but it was in a hurry to get somewhere with the tuft of grass in its mouth.


I’m assuming that this area is normally quite crowded, but today being a Friday, it seemed especially busy.  We passed group after group after group of hikers walking up from Echo Lake.

I remembered this section quite vividly from the PCT.  Once you exit the wilderness, Echo Lake has quite a few cute little houses and huts along it, with no access besides either the trail or the lake.

When we made it to Echo Chalet, we immediately bought a half gallon of ice cream to share along with chips and guacamole, soda, and potato salad. 

“Growing up, my dad used to microwave the whole tub of ice cream so he could eat it melted, and then put it back in the freezer so all we ever had was freezer burnt ice cream,” Donner griped.

“That sounds awful!”  I replied

“And then my mother would dig all the good bits out of the ice cream, like if we got chocolate chip cookie dough, there was never any bits of cookie dough left.  That was pretty much the extent of my horrible childhood.  Maybe I’ll write a book about it.”  He said, shoving spoonfuls of ice cream into his mouth.

Donner noticed that Rose was in the parking lot, having met her family who were there to pick her up.  He came back with a bag of cherries that she gave us.  So sweet!!  We went over to say goodbye and gave her our website to look us up when she got home.

It took us another hour or two to buy and sort through all the food we needed for the rest of the trail, which should take us about three and a half days.  The store was two or three times more expensive than a normal grocery store and with limited selection, so we wanted to choose our food wisely.  We managed to buy a few things that we could split between the three of us, plus a ton of Ramen noodles.

Echo Chalet

When we started hiking again, it was brutally hot.

“East Coast heat melts you, and West Coast heat bakes you”  Donner remarked.  It’s true – I felt baked, and my legs were cracking because of the dry heat.  In fact, right at the front of my ankles, my skin is so cracked that it is bleeding.

We got to a cold stream where we collected water and I took my shirt off and dunked it in the cold water and put it back on again.  That felt divine.

“What’s for dinner?”  I asked Donner

“I’m pretty sure all my meals involve Ramen somehow”  he replied.

“I think we’re going to have instant stuffing mix and hot dogs”  John said.

“Oh, then I’ll have Ramen with hot dogs!”  Donner said with excitement.

We noticed that clouds were beginning to form, and quite quickly.  These were not cute little clouds like last night, these were very obviously thunder heads.

Soon enough we are shaken with a sudden “KABOOOM!!”  A thunderstorm was upon us.  I started hiking faster, since we were headed up a hill, and we scurried over the top of it.  The rain soon started, and we made sure everything in our packs was in something waterproof.  I was glad I brought my rain jacket and rain pants, because the temperature dropped quite quickly.  Luckily my shirt was almost dry.

Now instead of holding our umbrellas up for sun, we had them open for the rain.  It didn’t rain hard, but it rained enough to bring life to the hillsides, and as we continued we passed many meadows and drainages absolutely packed with wildflowers.  Views of nearby mountains were incredible.

The rain subsided, and the flowers and views continued to take our breath away.  We could hardly stop taking pictures.

Eventually we got to the lake where we wanted to spend the night, called Showers Lake.  Funny that we came through on a day with showers…

We ate dinner by the lake, and enjoyed the last lake that we will have along this trail.

Ready for New Zealand!

Here we are, the day before our big flights to New Zealand to go for another long walk. We’re going to be walking on the Te Araroa and some of the Great Walks of NZ. For this trip, our plans are much less defined compared to our past long trail trips (AT and PCT) because we are unsure of what stage of recovery Christine’s is at. Christine had two hip reconstructive surgeries over the past three years, and more recently has developed Frozen Shoulder, which we hope will slowly go away over the next couple of months. We go on this trip cautiously optimistic after our Benton MacKaye Trail hike.

After packing and unpacking at least once a day for the last couple of weeks, here is our final packing list!

Clothes worn
Manufacturer Weight (oz) Weight (lbs)
Tanktop Champion 2.8
Shorts Brooks 4.1
Wool bra ibex 1.6
Socks- short, thin Darn Tough 1.4
Shoes Astral 19.8
Gaiters Dirty Girl 1.1
Ball cap (sunrunner) Outdoor Research 3
Trekking Poles Gossamer Gear 11.1
Total: 44.9oz 2.81lbs
Rain pants Lightheart Gear 4.1
Rain jacket Lightheart Gear 5.1
Windstopper fleece hat Mountain Hardwear 1.8
Liner gloves Merrel 1.1
Down hood Zpacks 1.6
Long sleeved wool baselayer Icebreaker 4.6
Long underwear silk bottoms Eddie Bauer 4
Socks- short, thick Darn Tough 2.1
Socke – short thick Farm to Feet 1.6
Underwear Vanity Fair 1.2
Down puffy Golite (RIP) 6
Long pants LL Bean 8.1
Heat net 0.6
Clothes stuff sac Gossamer Gear 0.5
Total: 42.4oz 2.65lbs
Backpack – Mariposa Gossamer Gear 34
Sleeping pad (insulated 20S) Nemo 10.1
Pack liner Gossamer Gear 1.2
Sleeping bag- 10 degree Western Mountaineering 33.4
Sleeping bag stuff sac Sea to Summit 1.1
Pillow Sea to Summit 1.9
Food Bag Gossamer Gear 0.7
Waterblatter Platypus 3L 6
Umbrella Gossamer Gear 8.1
Water filter Sawyer Mini Squeeze 2.3
Bandana 1.2
Headlamp Princeton Tec 3
Toothbrush and toothpaste 1.5
Hand sanitizer 1
Dropper bottle with bleach 0.5
Ear plugs 0.2
Chapstick 0.2
P-style 0.8
First Aid Kit 6.5
Pee bottle 1.8
Toilet paper and tampons 1.7
Shoulder pocket Gossamer Gear 1.6
Folding keyboard iwerkz 5.1
iphone SE with case apple 5.3
Wallet 1.3
Sunglasses +Case 1.8
Glasses + Case 1.9
Compass Suunto 1
Onces Pounds
Total Gear: 135.2oz 8.45lbs
Total Gear + Clothes Carried: 177.6oz 11.1lbs
Dirt Stew
Clothes Worn
Manufacturer Weight (oz) Weight (lbs)
Hiking pants LL Bean 12.6
Synthetic underwear EMS 3.2
Wool T-shirt Icebreaker 4.9
Socks Darn Tough 2.1
Ankle brace 1
Shoes Brooks 28.9
Trekking pole Lekki 9.4
Total Clothes Worn 62.1oz 3.88lbs
Clothes Carried:
Down puffy Golite 6.9
Socks – short Darn Tough 2.1
Socks – short Farm to feet 1.1
Long underwear top Icebreaker 6.8
Shorts Underarmor 4.9
Rain pants Light Heart Gear 4.6
Rain jacket Light Heart Gear 6.4
Hat Mountain hardware 2.6
Bug netting 1.8
Stuff sac Gossamer Gear 0.5
Wallet 1.2
Total Clothes Carried 38.9oz 2.43lbs
Two person Tent- Haven Six Moon Designs 35.6
Tent stakes with stuff sac 3.8
Sleeping bag- Humming bird Feathered Friends 28.2
Sleeping bag stuff sac 1
Pillow Sea to summit 2.4
Pack liner Gossamer gear 1.4
Backpack – Mariposa Gossamer gear
Sleeping pad- neoair Thermarest 7.6
1L storage Jar (for cold soaking) Nalgene 6.8
Bowl – plastic 1.5
Spoon- plastic 0.4
Spoon- titanium MSR 0.6
Hydration blatter Platypus 6
Bandana 1.2
Headlamp Energizer 3.1
Toothbrush and paste 1.4
Chapstick (with spf) 0.3
Camera + charger and spare battery Canon 10.1
Shoulder pocket Gossamer Gear 1.6
Bleach in dropper bottle 0.5
PLB Res Q link 5.2
iphone 5 with case Apple 4.9
USB and power adapter 2
chargers for iphones 1.1
USB SD card reader 0.4
GPS Garmen 5.3
Pedco Ultrapod 1.8
Electonics bag 0.2
Waterproof ziplock 1.3
Umbrella Gossamer gear 8.1
Food bag 2
Ear plugs in case 0.2
Gold bond 1.4
Toilet paper 1.2
Notebook Write in the rain 2
Sunglasses 0.6
Onces Pounds
Total Gear 185.5oz 11.59lbs
Total Gear + Clothes Carried 224.4oz 14.03lbs

Needless to say, the preparation has been all-encompassing.

We are excited because we are so close to wrapping up all the loose ends that needed to be tied up.
1. Cars are in storage
2. Maps are printed out
3. Flights and hotels are sorted out
4. We’ve gone through all our gear and carefully selected everything we could possibly need for the next 4 or 5 months. We had to think about what we would want to have when we arrive back in the US. (It’s really hard to pack for the weather in June when its 5*F outside.)

All this may sound pretty easy but everything takes about 10 times longer then think it should.  We’re finally ready.

It has to be mentioned that we are incredibly thankful for all the assistance our fantastic family, friends, and neighbors have provided.

Visit to the Olympic National Park while stuck in Seattle

We took one last backpacking trip in the Bay Area to the Marin Headlands. Then, with some much appreciated help from our friend Lauren, all of our belongings are now in a 5ft X 5ft storage unit.


Last Trip to the Marin Headlands

We then caught a flight to Seattle, and decided to spend a few days in the Olympic National Park in order to delay our Pacific Crest Trail start date to let some more snow melt in the Cascade Mountains.

We rented a car from the Seattle airport and drove to the Olympic National Park, making it to a car-camping spot before dusk.  We set up our tent, and started looking at the map of the park, and I was surprised by how exhausted I was.  Since it was dusk, I figured it couldn’t be much later than 9pm, but when I looked at my watch it was after 10pm.  Going north a few hundred miles really made a difference to daylight hours.

The next morning, we asked for advice from the information center, and decided to go visit the rain forest and take the trail from the Hoh Visitor Center up to Glacier Meadows for a couple days, and then visit the beach section of the trail near Third Beach.

The rain forest was beautiful with large quantities of moss hanging from maple trees.  Appropriately, it rained for the two days that we were in the rain forest.

Moss covered maple trees

Moss covered maple trees

The trail was mostly flat until the end when we climbed a couple thousand feet up to Elk Lake where we spent the night.  I was actually cold that night in my 10 degree bag, and I donned a second, heavier down jacket to keep warm.  The next day we kept going uphill along the trail towards Glacier Meadows.  The terrain was very rugged and absolutely gorgeous.  When the clouds parted we could see snow covered rugged mountains not too far from us.  We passed over a bridge which was hovering over a creek about 100 ft below us.  I clung to the railing with vertigo.  As I peeked over the edge, it was as if all the blood in my body moved forward in my body, and then all my guts pulled back against it sending my sense of balance askew.

A bit further down the trail we hit an area that had been affected by a mud slide.  They put ropes followed by a rope ladder to get down that area, which really sent the blood pumping.

Rope Ladder

Rope Ladder on Hoh Trail

We were walking back down the flat section of the trail when I heard a thump right next to me.  I turned my head and not 10 feet away from me a black bear had just lowered himself out of a tree.  I could have taken two steps and touched him.  My heart skipped a beat.  I kept walking forward while both Dirt Stew and I exclaimed “Oh my god, what the…..!?  Just keep walking…!”  What surprised me the most was that I didn’t feel any fear.  My instinct was instead to reach for my camera.  This was maybe because he was a smallish bear, probably not more than 150 pounds.  The bear didn’t seem bothered much by us either.  It looked at us curiously and then wandered away while we did the same.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to my camera in time, but I hope that is the closest encounter I ever have with a bear.

We then drove over to one of the beach areas of the park, and spent the night right on the beach at Third Beach.  We did a hike down the beach from there, where there were beautiful rock the formations jutting out from the ocean.  Bald eagles roamed back and forth from these rocks to the shore by the dozen.  We also saw an adorable sea otter scurrying away from us up some rocks.

Third Beach

Third Beach

Before we returned our rental car, we drove to the top of Hurricane Ridge, where there were herds of deer hanging out near the parking lot looking for hand-outs and grazing in the nearby meadows, completely tame.  From there we could see miles and miles of breath taking snow covered peaks.


We left the airport to go stay with a very helpful trail angel, Jon Belcher, who we had planned on getting a ride to the beginning of the trail from.  Unfortunately, however, there was terrible news from hikers who had already attempted to start their south bound hike.  A Mountain Education Snow Course had tried to do some training up north of Harts Pass, and a hiker post-holed and lost his balance sending him down a very steep slope.  His fall was only stopped by a couple of trees which wound up breaking 4 ribs.  Folks are now saying to stay off the trail for probably another two weeks.

We’re now hanging out with Jon Belcher and studying some maps and toying with different ideas on what to do at this point, and how to start our hike.  We will certainly not be starting from Harts Pass in a couple days as we originally planned.

Backpacking Kauai: Kalalau Trail

Dormouse and I went to Kauai for our 1st wedding anniversary, this past October.  I thought I would share with you our experience so that you can pick the information you might need to plan a future trip to Hawaii’s Garden Island.  Dormouse and I had 10 days to see the island , but this blog post is primarily about our arrival to the island and our 4 day backpacking trip on the Kalalau Trail.

Before departing we packed everything to be brought as carry on.  We didn’t want to have our tent and important equipment lost.   Backpacks (Z55 and Golite Quest) were slightly unpacked to meet the carry on restrictions of the airlines with the remaining belongings going into our “personal items.”  We packed clothes, a couple days’ worth of food, travel snorkeling fins, mask/snorkel, sleeping bags/pads, cameras, steripen, bleach for backup, and our trusty Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 tent.  Our clothes which we over-packed included fleeces, and puffy jacket.  We packed for the lowest temperatures of the year without really knowing when that typically happens.  We could have made due with just a rain jacket, long underwear, and fleece for emergencies even at higher elevations.

Dormouse and I flew in direct from San Francisco to Lihue (LIH), Kauai’s main airport.  From the airport we walked next to a busy Ahukini Rd on a large grass shoulder to a shockingly close Walmart (1.5 miles) to pick up more food, supplies, canister fuel, and odds and ends.  From the Walmart we caught the next bus to Kapaa to go to Honu’ea Internacional Hostel, our accommodations for the night.  The price was right for the hostel and would recommend it because there are no expensive resort fees tacked on top of the price like the cheap hotels on the island.  The hostel was clean and had everything you should expect from a hostel.  Including a locker to store your extra stuff for $20 a week (which is what we should have put our warm clothes).

Walking from the airport in Lihue to Walmart is a breeze

Walking from the airport in Lihue to Walmart is a breeze at 1.5 miles one way.

While we were at the hostel we met many, great people including Jeremy, a surfer from LA who was island hopping, catching waves for a couple weeks.  We told him that Kauai was known for the hiking and were surprised when he hadn’t been out on a trail, yet.  It didn’t take much convincing to get him to join us for the first few miles of the Kalalau Trail to the amazing Hanakapi’ai Falls 4 miles in.  Luckily Jeremy had a car and an awesome attitude for the hike.  He only had some very sturdy flip flops but he seemed in shape and it was only 4 miles.

The first two miles were pretty easy with great views and with dry tread. At two miles you reach a great beach.

One of the view on the way to Hanakapi'ai

One of the views on the way to Hanakapi’ai

At the beach, there are small lava tube caves and a nice place to sit for a snack in the shade.  There were some bushes for stashing our fully loaded backpacks for the 2 mile out and back journey (4 miles total) to the waterfall.

The valley trail walked among many fruiting guava trees that we were happy to gorge ourselves on. Some guava tasted like bananas some more tart.

A guava lined trail on the way to Hanakapi'ai Falls.  Yummy.  FYI Don't eat them off the ground.

A guava lined trail on the way to Hanakapi’ai Falls. Yummy. FYI Don’t eat them off the ground.

After we reached the falls we took no time at all to swim in the enormous pool at the base of the amazing falls.  This place is as close to paradise that I have been. A refreshing dip after a muddy and humid hike in. We played in delight swimming in the torrent falling from 100′ up.  It was surprising to see how few people went in but instead sat confused in the cold waterfall mist.

Swimming in and out of the waterfall was amazing.  Don't miss out if you make it that far.

Swimming in and out of the waterfall was amazing. Don’t miss out if you make it that far.

Hanakapi'ai Falls

Hanakapi’ai Falls

We headed back to the beach to continue on the Kalalau Trail and parted ways with our new friend Jeremy. Going past the beach required a $20 permit/person. Going up the hillside and to the first bend we were greeted with our first amazing view of the Napali Coast. We were amazed that we were going to live among this beauty for 4 nights.

The valley after Hanakapi'ai

The valley after Hanakapi’ai

As you go along, the valleys get more and more breathtaking. The hiking was challenging for our legs which have become accustomed to CA trails. Many, many up and downs were a part of the terrain due to the steep cliffs that we were hiking on. The terrain and swimming from earlier caught up with us. We decided to camp in one of the larger valleys on the trail. We had to retreat quickly to our tent to avoid the mosquitoes.  Like much of Hawaii, below 3,000 feet is overrun with mosquitoes in wet areas, among other non-native species.  One of Kauai’s remote areas was no exception unfortunately.

The next morning we quickly broke down camp to avoid the swarm of mosquitoes.  We made our way to Hanakoa Valley.  At that valley our map and books we had read suggested that there was a trail to a waterfall.  We had decided to try to reach this waterfall, which was only a mile in.  Seemed like a great idea.  We quickly found that the trail was non-existent and decided to turn back.  We weren’t positive that it would be running because of the recent dry weather, so the additional effort didn’t seem worth it.

Heading on we reached the dreaded 7th mile of the trail.  This is where people with acrophobia get their ultimate test.  In this area, the trail is next to a cliff with a narrow tread-way while heading downhill.  There was some great timing also.  We got to this section in time for the parade of helicopters to watch us walk along this precarious section of trail.  At any other point on the trip I felt smug about how great it was that I was in paradise while the people in the helicopter were wishing they were in our shoes.  It’s astonishing that trail is actually there because of how steep the area is.  At this point we were glad we brought our umbrellas to block out the sun.  The shade as you go towards Kalalau Beach becomes more and more rare.  The Kauai heat, even in October was warmer than my San Francisco thinned blood could handle.

The seventh mile of the Kalalau Trail

The seventh mile of the Kalalau Trail

The 7th mile of the Kalalau Trail

The 7th mile of the Kalalau Trail

After the scary part of the trail you pass through even more amazing landscape until you make it to Red Hill.  At Red Hill you get your first good view of the Kalalau Valley.

Kalalau Valley from Red Hill

Kalalau Valley from Red Hill

Going down into Kalalau Valley is a memorable experience because of the stunning scenery. My experience in particular was memorable for a different reason.  After ducking down into the trees and crossing Kalalau Creek I was greeted by a couple “locals,” people who have taken up residence in the valley who mostly are not native Hawaiians.

A man and a woman were shocked to have encountered me at that moment.  The man quickly asked without introduction, “Are you a vegetarian?”  Confused, I answered, no.  He walks past and says, “Okay, good,” dragging a freshly gutted goat.  The woman smiling widely said, “Welcome home!”

If you are used to backpacking into the wilderness you might be disappointed with the experience of coming into the Valley or camping on Kalalau Beach.  But the way I saw it, going to this destination was akin to coming into a town which had no supplies.  Walking through the camps, we were greeted over and over with the same exclamation, “Welcome home.”

As you walk down the beach you pass a privy and there are plenty of spots to camp.  We decided to go further.  If you go to where the trail ends you find the community shower/water source complete with place to put a bar of soap.  Luckily there is no reason to take water from downstream because the stream meets the beach quickly after the area.

Community Shower and water source

Community Shower and water source

We decided to set up camp further away under a palm tree.  And there we spent two nights.

We lived beneath the palm tree in this picture

We lived beneath the palm tree in this picture

While there we learned of trees bearing tangerine-like fruit.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a knife for their thick skin.  Further down the beach there are some caves on the beach worth exploring.  We were told that in the summer when waves are calm on the north side there is a great beach you can swim to if you can swim around some rocks at the west end of Kalalau Beach.  If you aren’t a strong swimmer some fins would help greatly.

Up Kalalau Stream there is a great deal to explore.  We decided to make the small trek up to the Seven Sacred Pools.  It is a great place for a refreshing dip when the surf is rough.  Be careful to closely track your path because there is an extensive network of paths through the valley due to the local population.  We ran into a “local” who was headed out of the valley.  We were lucky to have them guide us out.  She took us via the “Hippy Highway” instead of the Kalalau Valley Trail that is listed in maps and guide books.  She told us that the area had been cleared out of many of the “locals” recently within the past month (these maneuvers apparently happen only every couple years, so the limited number of “locals” we met might be very different from what others may experience.)

Overall our time at Kalalau Beach was relaxing and we watched a couple of beautiful sunsets while making dinner, and attempted to eat as many of the fruit from the local plants on the beach as possible.

After our second night we reluctantly left.  We headed back to Hanakapi’ai Beach to spend the night after going to the falls again.

The next morning we hitchhiked to the closest bus stop in Princeville.  From there we caught a bus to Lihue for our next abode.

– $20 per person/day (a deal for paradise).  You will have a hard time getting a better deal on Kauai
– 11 miles one way with 4 mile side trip to Hanakapi’ai Falls
– Bus trips on the island $2 per leg
-Pack beach clothes and little else for just Kalalau.  Store your warm clothes at a hostel
– Walking in sandals is a great idea given the moist tropical conditions.  Keep your feet dry.  Dirt Stew had a couple of rotten spots on his feet after it rain and he had to deal with wearing his wet shoes that never dried.
– An umbrella is a great comfort in the exposed sections and the area gets a lot of rain.