One must heed the call of the wild when they feel it and recently, I felt it, so I packed a bag and set off alone running across the interior of Kauai from Wailua to Princeville covering 22.66 miles of arduous terrain in just under six hours.
I took the 6,600 feet of elevation gain in stride. I began running a year ago after reading the novel, “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall, since then I’ve logged over 800 miles.
In August, I ran the Kauai Marathon, which was an amazing race with a lot of heart but I felt something was missing. While I was mired in the mud, I remembered the Kauai Marathon didn’t have any mud and would have made the race unique. This run would be a different experience for me all together. I have come to respect Kauai’s formidable terrain, it can overwhelm the inexperienced.
I began my run from my home near the west side of the Nounou Trail on Lokelani Road. From there, I ran two miles up the gradual incline of Olohena Road to the Moalepe Trailhead. Thank you to whomever recently cut the grass there, the trail looks great. Two miles later on a bridge spanning Opaeka’a Stream, the trail merges with the Kuilau Trail, which wound another 1.5 miles down to the Keahua Arboretum. I crossed the Keahua Stream there, washed the mud from my legs, splashed water in my face and let the water rush into my shoes soothing my sore feet. A few hundred meters up the road, the Powerline Trailhead begins. I’ve heard the trail was cut during World War II by the Army of Engineers to bring power to the North Shore but nowadays, the trail is unmaintained, so the next 11 miles I pieced together a trail navigating through overgrown underbrush and water hazards. The interior of the island is rugged, it brought my running pace to a walk. Rain began falling and the trail became submerged in water. A deep trough had been cut through most of the trail from running water, so my feet would unexpectedly slip into it when I was not being extra careful.
In my backpack, I carried a carrot, two nut bars, two fruit leathers, a bagel with hummus, two liters of water, a Life Straw, sodium/potassium tablets, a first aid kit and my cellphone, which tracked my run on GPS. I wore a hat, bandana, long sleeve shirt, running shorts, tall socks and my running shoes. My last accent on the trail, I wore pants and sandals. I remember small stones and dirt irritating my bare feet so I was grateful for my shoes and socks. Unfortunately, because I was wearing pants last time, I didn’t remember the foliage, but today it was all I could think about as my shorts did little to protect me from the razor sharp trail vegetation. The guinea grass, sleeping grass, lantana, and false staghorn were brutal to run through, I grimaced my way through miles of it. Next time, I’ll wear running pants. I drank my first two liters of water about three hours into the run, so I filled up one of the water bottles from the Kaapuha Stream high up in the mountains. I used my Life Straw to drink the water to avoid getting sick in case the water was contaminated with leptospirosis.
From the top of the trail, one is surrounded by vistas — peering down past Makaleha Mountain to Lihue, past the back side of Namahana Mountain into Kalihiwai Valley and across Hanalei River Valley with the Namolokama Mountain Range in the background. Four hours later, I emerged from the trail above Princeville on Kapaka Street. I ran the last two miles down the mountain to the Princeville Shopping Center where I caught The Kauai Bus back to Wailua.
For the last leg of the journey, I set off from Brick Oven Pizza where I refilled one of my two liter water bottles and ran a mile up Haleilio Road road to the east side of Nounou Trail. While running up the switchbacks to the top, a gentlemen hiking down asked, “You’re not tired?” Without a thought I replied, “Not yet.” I peeked over the ridge and headed back down the west side trail down to Lokelani Road to my home. It was a great day, I felt like I accomplished something unique. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support. One day, I would like to organize a race so others can enjoy it, too.
Benjamin Prichard is a Kapaa resident