Twenty-two miles in a day.
That’s 22 miles over some treacherous terrain and perilous paths. Twenty-two miles over rocks and roots. Long stretches of ups and down of the Na Pali Coast.
The Kalalau Trail, from Ke‘e Beach to Kalalau Beach, is breath-taking and beautiful. It’s rugged and rough, ocean on one side, cliffs on the other, waterfalls and streams along the way.
It’s wildly popular, too. People come from throughout the world to see Na Pali’s glory. They fall and get hurt there, often. And they’re only walking at a leisurely pace.
So making it out and back again, on the same day, sounds impossible and certainly dangerous.
Not so, says Jack Yatsko.
“It can be done,” he said.
The Kapaa man has walked it out and back, twice, in a day, and run it out and back, once, in a day. And at day’s end, he was still standing.
It’s been several years since he last accomplished the feat, but the 50-year-old still counts it as something that can be done with planning, preparation and a tolerance for some pain.
“It’s definitely doable,” he said. “It’s a great workout. And you meet great people, too.”
Yatsko stays in shape and jogs about four to five miles a day.
“But I am by no means some kind of ultra-athlete,” he said.
He and his wife Janece recently celebrated their 25th anniversary by hiking into Kalalau, camping, and walking out the next day.
There are some basics to follow before deciding you, too, want to join this exclusive Kalalau-in-a-day club.
Yatsko prefers to make this trek solo. Once, he went with a friend who became dehydrated. They ended up flagging down a boat that let him get on board.
In a nutshell, be prepared for trouble. Be in decent shape. Start early. Carry supplies. Summer is best, because it offers more daylight. Mostly, stay positive and believe in your task.
“That’s the key on it,” Yatsko said. “You have a bit of a mission in mind.”
He recommends heading out about a half hour before sunrise. Bring a flashlight. No dallying. Run often early on to save time for later, Yatsko said.
“This is not a leisure walk when you’re going to take a lot of photos,” he said. “You want to move at a good clip.”
But watch your step. Be wary of roots and rocks and outcroppings.
Lighting jogging is OK as you go in and out of the valley. But there are stretches you must walk. One section, about eight miles in that takes 10 minutes to pass, Yatsko referred to as “crawler’s ledge.”
Yep, don’t be too proud to crawl.
“There’s one dicey spot,” he said. “It’s probably the most dangerous part of the trail.”
It has a steep drop-off. If you slip and fall here, you could be badly hurt, even killed. So stay steady.
“Concentrate here, and you’re fine,” he said.
Ready for return
If all goes well, you should arrive at Kalalau Beach by 10 or 11.
If so, time to reward yourself. Swim. Enjoy the spectacular setting. Look around. Feel the spirit. Relax, rest, jump in the ocean, rinse under a waterfall. Have lunch.
Prepare, physically and mentally, for the return. It will be difficult.
Consider you just cover 11 demanding miles, and face those same 11 miles once more.
Don’t ignore aches and pains and sunburns.
“Pay attention to what your body is telling you,” he said.
Above all, is attitude. Know you’re going to get tired.
Know you’re going to wonder if this was a bright idea.
Know you’re going to question your sanity, especially when you’ve got many miles to go and frankly, you’re pooped and not a happy camper.
“I’m going to be able to do this,” should be your mantra.
When setting a date for your journey, check weather conditions, because you don’t want to be caught in a storm out there.
Ideal would be cloudy and cool, but since you’ll want to do this in the summer, expect and train for sunny and hot.
Do some training for this one. Run and walk. If you’ve never walked more than a mile, don’t test yourself on Kalalau.
Yatsko left water bottles hidden along the trail on the way out, so he could reduce weight and have water when he badly needed it later on.
Iodine and neutralizer tablets are necessary, too, to kill bacteria in water from the streams, which you might drink. There are two or three spots to get water.
Yatsko wore regular running shoes for the trek, but has seen a woman walking it sans shoes. Carry a cell phone.
For the most part you’re out of range, but there are spots where it comes in and out, he said.
The tarp is a must in case you’re unable to make it back and have to hunker down for the night.
Be aware of the time. You don’t want go so slow, or take a long break at Kalalau, that you find yourself with only a few hours for the return hike.
That would leave you in the dark, trekking your way back, and perhaps feeling a bit panicked.
“Keep an eye on the clock,” he said.
Oh, and help others if you can. They might need it.
Once, Yatsko came upon a man whose kayak was taking on water. Yatsko melted a plastic bottle to seal the leak and sent the thankful kayaker on his way.
“There’s cool stuff like that,” he said.
Bring a change of clothes, grab a shower at Ke‘e, and pound some of that Gatorade you stored in a cooler in your car, so you’re refreshed for the drive home.
Yatsko once, after completing the 22-mile journey, stopped at a store afterward. He was feeling — and looking — worn, weary and wiped out.
“Are you OK?” the clerk asked.
Exhaustion comes with the territory of the Kalalau Trail.
“It’s a good awakening,” he said. “When you’re done with it, you really feel like you accomplished something. That’s a pretty cool experience.”
You will be sore and tired, muscles will creak and groan, but you’ll feel exhilarated. You’ve likely just learned something about yourself, about your limitations, about your abilities.
No better place for that, Yatsko said, then Kalalau.
The spirituality of the Kalalau Valley can’t be denied.
“There’s a power in the valley,” Yatsko said. “It’s a very powerful place.”