On our recent trip to Kauai we had Sydney, our 6-year old daughter, keep a travel journal as part of her school work. Here is what she wrote:
On our previous visit to the island of Kauai in 2009 we had hoped to hike the Kalalau Trail, which is the only land route to the Na Pali Coast. But Sydney was only 4 years old at that time and too small to tackle this difficult hike. Out of curiosity, though, we did venture up the mud covered trail over rocks, roots, and along a shear drop-off to a viewpoint. The people we saw on the trail heading back down were covered in mud and looked exhausted. They also looked at us as if we had to be crazy to take a 4 year old on this trail. We had only hiked a ¼ of a mile up the trail, but it had given us an idea of what the 11 mile long Kalalau Trail was like. It was going to be tough! And in case you are wondering just how tough of a hike it is, the Sierra Club has rated this trail a 9 out of a 10 in degrees of difficulty.
Now that Sydney was 6, we thought we would give the Kalalau Trail another go. Two miles from the trailhead is Hanakapi’ai Beach, which is as far as you can go without a permit. Even though a 2 mile hike does not sound very hard, it was said to take the average person 2 hours to hike it one way. Even longer if you are only six.
With food, water, and sunscreen in our backpacks we started up the trail. Our goal was to reach Hanakapi’ai Beach, but would turn around if it became too difficult for Sydney. Not only would we have the rugged trail to deal with, but also the tropical sun and high humidity. The first mile was a scramble over rocks, roots, and mud, just as we remembered it. But the trail along the second mile actually got easier to hike on, except for a few rocky areas and about a half mile section of ants covering the trail. As we descended the trail we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Hanakapi’ai Beach. We had lunch on the beach and enjoyed cooling off in the fresh water stream that snakes down from the valley above. We had made it in just a little over 2 hours, which is pretty good considering we travelled at the speed of a 6 year old.
Hiking the 2 miles back out was just as tough as it was coming in, but was definitely worth it. Sydney did really well, even though she decided that she no longer likes long hikes. She was the youngest person to have made the hike to the beach that day, and she really impressed everyone we passed. Maybe someday we will go back and hike the full 11 miles to the end of the trail.
Hopefully Child Protective Services is not reading this, as once again we saw the words “dangerous” and “beach” in our guidebook for Kauai and couldn’t resist. We were looking for something to do and just down the road from where we were staying in Princeville was Hideaways Beach. The beach itself was not dangerous and was said to be very beautiful and without crowds. The reason for the lack of crowds and the part that made it “dangerous” was the path leading down to the beach. It starts off with the rusty remnants of metal handrails, which are more hazardous than they are helpful. Good thing we all had our tetanus shots up to date. There must have been stairs at one time, but they eroded away. Strung along the large gaps in the railing was whatever frayed rope, string, and electrical cable (seriously!) people could scrounge up to offer anthing to grab onto to keep you from plummeting the remainder of the 120 vertical feet to the beach below. The steep descent of the root-covered trail leads to a sheer drop-off with your first glimpse of Hideways Beach. A cute alcove with gentle waves lapping at the sandy beach, and the best part… only four people on the whole beach. We enjoyed the day there playing in the water and lounging on the beach. For a beach so close to one of the most populated areas of Kauai’s north shore, this hard to get to beach was a nice find and was well worth the effort to get to it.
Queen’s Bath on Kauai’s North Shore is supposed to be an amazing place to go snorkeling and swimming. It is also one of Kauai’s most dangerous places to visit killing numerous people that have visited there. Since it is located in Princeville it was just a short walk down the road from where we were staying and we thought we would go check it out. How dangerous could it be, right?
After strolling through a residential neighborhood we came to the trailhead that would lead to Queen’s Bath. The trail followed a stream that would occasionally drop off into a picturesque waterfall. We continued down the trail over rocks and roots, a bit of a scramble in parts, and finally emerged at the bottom where it opened out onto a rugged lava shelf dropping off into breaking waves. Looking down I immediately noticed a slab of wood with a warning about Queen’s Bath carved into it.
I was expecting Kerri to comment about the warning sign, as she was looking rather uneasy about the walk we would have to do along the “dangerous” lava shelf to get out to Queen’s Bath. But hearing no complaints, Sydney and I started out parallel to the breaking waves against the rugged lava edge. I warned Sydney about the dangers of breaking waves and told her to NEVER turn her back on the ocean and ALWAYS have a way out. Looking back, we saw Kerri lagging behind and looking even more uneasy, which was understandable. This was not a place to be when the ocean was not perfectly calm. We waited for her to catch up and continued out along the ledge passing numerous warning signs about the dangers of being there.
Once out at Queen’s Bath we found a group of people standing along the edge, which went against the warnings, and nobody was swimming or snorkeling. Large waves were coming up over the edge and spilling into the pool of Queen’s Bath, while others were breaking hard against the shelf. Not a very safe place to be. We stood back in an area that offered a quick escape while expecting at any moment for a sneaker wave to come and rip someone from the shelf. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
We made our way back out along the lava shelf and back up the trail to the calm of the residential neighborhood unscathed. Queen’s Bath was a great place to visit, but I would not dare to go swimming or snorkeling there unless it was a perfectly calm day. Maybe another time.
Sydney’s foot was still a bit sore from the bee sting, so we asked her what she would like to do on the morning following our helicopter tour of Kauai. She responded that she wanted to go to the Kilauea Lighthouse, which sounded like a very educational experience (remember, we were trying to homeschool her while we were there.)
The Kilauea Lighthouse was built in 1913 and sits on a narrow peninsula on the northern most point of the main Hawaiian islands. It is a magnet for nesting seabirds, which include the red-footed boobies, the Laysan albatross, and the great frigate bird with its 8-foot wingspan. On our previous visit to the lighthouse we had seen whales and an assortment of sea birds and found it very fun and… yawn… educational.
We arrived at the parking lot, paid our admission fee, and started up the path towards the lighthouse. Along the way we came across a couple of “regular geese”, or so we thought. The Pacific Northwest is overrun with geese. You cannot go to any park or golf course near water without seeing hundreds of geese. So, whenever we do go to a park with geese, Sydney loves to chase them and make them fly away. They are kind of a nuisance, so nobody minds. After all, they poop all over the place and can be rather aggressive. So, the first thing Sydney does upon seeing a “regular goose” was to chase it. A nearby park ranger sees this, frowns, and comments that she should not chase them as they can be rather mean. We ask Sydney to stop and started reading some of the informational signs. It turns out that these “regular geese” are actually called Nene’s, or Hawaiian Geese, and are the State Bird of Hawaii. And, they nearly became extinct and the remaining few are currently on the Federal List of Endangered Species. Oops! Well, at least Sydney can now brag that she chased an endangered species around. Not many can boast that.
Further up the trail we started to see fluffy baby seabirds sticking out of small burrows in the ground. According to the informational sign they were Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and almost ready to leave the nest.
As we came into view of the lighthouse we were disappointed to see a fence and scaffolding surrounding it. A sign said they were trying to restore it, as it was 97 years old. So much for good lighthouse photos. We were also disappointed that we were a month too early to see the whales. Oh well, at least we got to chase an endangered species and see fluffy baby seabirds.