Soaked, sore and still smiling, we trekked through the Alaka‘i Swamp stoked by the view we glimpsed from Kilohana Lookout.
By the numbers, we were four miles from our truck, parked at Pu‘u o Kila Lookout at the end of Waimea Canyon Drive, and 4,000 feet above the Pacific shimmering to the north. A dilapidated boardwalk trail had deposited us at the edge of a cliff, engulfed in Wainiha Valley.
When the clouds broke, we saw a sand-fringed Hanalei Bay several miles away with a solitary sailboat sitting in its center. As the clouds closed the curtain on that stage, a window opened to reveal the lime-green carpet of the valley floor below.
Meanwhile, endemic birds flitted about the ancient forest, chattering away in their native tongue. An ‘elepaio had followed us for a bit as we made our way along Pihea Trail, skirting the top of Kalalau Valley, connecting to the Alaka‘i Swamp Trail, which ends at the weather-battered Kilohana Lookout.
We took in nature’s show as long as we dared. Leaving in the early afternoon meant few fellow hikers, but it also meant having to hustle to get back before dark.
We had taken our time on the way there, literally stopping to smell the flowers. From maile to mokihana, yellow-petaled ginger to green-fingered ferns, a variety of flora abounds as you near the heart of Kaua‘i.
The return trip necessitated fewer breaks for photo ops as daylight waned. But as we made the left back onto Pihea Trail for the home stretch, Mother Earth had set up a scene that stopped us in our tracks.
With the sun sinking fast through dense rain clouds, its rays cast golden spotlights on the lush Kalalau Valley and deep shadows along the fluted Na Pali Coast. Our need to refuel and rehydrate was temporarily forgotten.
It was hard for us to hurry with such a sight at our side and no one else around for miles in any direction. Indeed, the only significant signs of human life we’d seen for the past couple hours were the sporadic, abandoned telephone poles that people apparently set up soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. These half-century-old relics aroused eerie feelings.
As more rain fell and the temperature continued to cool, we pressed on through the silver puddles and red mud for the last mile. A warm shower, some hot potato soup and a cold Green Lakes beer awaited as a reward for all the effort we exerted during the day’s adventure.