Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

The Most Dangerous Trail

I read a blog that listed the Kalalau trail as one of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails. The Kalalau trail starts in northern Kauai (at the end of the road) and heads up the beautiful Na Pali coast for eleven miles. On May 27th, I only hiked two miles of it, then went up a similar trail for another two miles to the massive Hanakapi’ai Falls. The first section had wonderful views of the Na Pali coast, and the second part to the falls was a bit like being in the world of Avatar.

Here’s the view of Ke’e beach where the trail starts, taken just a few minutes into the climb:

Ke'e Beach, at the start of the Kalalau trail

On the way there, I thought, this isn’t so bad. A bit rocky, but nothing too serious.

Then, just as I arrived at the falls, it rained for one hour.

Hanakapi'ai Falls in Kauai

That little bit of rain was all it took. On the way back, every stone was a slippery potential ankle-breaker. Every patch of dirt became the slipperiest mud known to man. And the stream crossings, which I’d been able to rock-hop across before, were like hopping across polished spheres of greased marble.

Fortunately I made it without injury, though I did choose to wade across one of the streams. My Merrell shoes dried pretty fast when hung in front of the A/C unit at the Kauai Sands Hotel. (note: a pretty low-grade 70’s hotel, with a closed-down restaurant, but it was cheap).

Back to Hanakapi’ai falls. As I mentioned, it was raining. Fortunately there was a rock overhang where one could get a good view and stay dry. To give you an idea of the scale, this is a panorama image made up of SEVEN wide-angle shots on the widest zoom setting. This falls is massive.

Panorama of Hanakapi'ai Falls in Kauai

One can swim there as well. It was a bit cold and rainy for everyone there, though. Even too cold for the twenty-somethings in bikinis and sandals (Hi Stephanie!). I suspect if it’s not rainy, the pool at the bottom of the falls is full of carefree bathers.

I’d recommend the hike to anyone with an adventurous spirit and good fitness. Loose sandals = bad, though you might be OK with tight, closed-toe sandals. It’s best to pick a day when it hasn’t just rained, and isn’t forecast to rain. Of course, in Hawaii, that means anything less than a 50% chance of rain… because it seems there is always a chance of showers. At least they’re warm and gentle most of the time, and leave beautiful rainbows behind!

Next, read about ziplining across a lush tropical valley, on my last day on Kauai!

Posted 10 years, 9 months ago at 3:31 pm.


The Green Flash

No, it’s not a superhero. It’s a phenomenon.

When it comes to the green flash, there are four groups of people.

  1. 1. Those who have never heard of the green flash
  2. 2. A few who know what it is, but never saw it themselves
  3. 3. Fewer still who have seen it and recognized it
  4. 4. A tiny handful who have photographed the green flash

For readers in group one, you’re about to join the esteemed second group! What is the green flash? When the sun sets over the ocean, just as the disc disappears completely below the horizon, you can sometimes see a green flash. It depends on the right conditions, and usually requires a rather clear sky. Kind of like this Hanalei Bay sunset from May 22nd, though I was worried the clouds would mess it up:

Sailboat Sunset over Hanalei Bay, Kauai

I noticed as I was photographing the sunset that the green moment (one second, really) had arrived, and held down the camera shutter button. The first two or three photos actually have a bit of green visible! You really have to zoom in, but here it is:

Green Flash over Hanalei Bay, Kauai

This photo is highly cropped, but has no color adjustments of any kind.

So now you know about the green flash. The next time you’re viewing a clear sunset over the ocean, watch for it! If you have a D-SLR, try to catch it in pixels. Just hold down the shutter in high-speed-shooting mode, and look at your pics later to see if the rim of the sun looks green as it disappears underwater.

What else did I do this lovely day besides join the ranks of green flash photographers? I rode a helicopter around Kauai with Island Helicopters! This outfit is fantastic, and I wouldn’t have changed a single moment of the tour. A truly impressive (and safety oriented) operation. I’ll be writing a full article about the tour shortly, but here are a few teaser pics to get you drooling.

Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific:

Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

The Na Pali coast, inaccessible by roads:

Kauai's Na Pali Coast

I would say a helicopter tour is a MUST for anyone visiting Kauai, provided you can afford it. And remember, there are a few areas where you never want the “cheapest available” – medical services, used cars, and small aircraft flights. I’d spend the extra few dollars for a safety-oriented, professional tour operator like Island Helicopters.

As I’m writing this, I’m feeling rather isolated as the only person in Camp Sloggett, a cool but currently empty campground near the top of Waimea Canyon. That story, however, must wait for another day.

Posted 10 years, 9 months ago at 3:41 pm.


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