Sunday, 1 July 2012

Epic Kauai Hikes

The stars were aligned in perfect formation for me when The Kauai Adventure Club announced a hike beyond Mahaulepu Beach to Kipu Kai. Of all the epic Kauai hikes, this is a trek beyond the well traveled scenic south shore trail and it was held on a weekday when most responsible people are working.
Shipwrecks beach, adjacent to the Grand Hyatt Kauai, is a convenient starting point. There is ample parking, clean restrooms and water, all important elements to a great Kauai hike. It's also an opportunity to meetup, share an introduction which is usually framed like, 'Oh I have seen you around the island for years...." Manfred, who was leading the group is a cautious guide who leaned towards the cold reality check of what the hike entailed. "Better to be honest about the trail than to gloss it over as a cake walk", he warned.
We decided to drive to the end of the beach and begin our journey. All of us had hiked the Mahaulepu Trail on a number of occasions and if we were to include an additional three miles of albeit epic coastline views. We may smack up against the dreaded 6pm gate closure. A note of warning, be aware that Grove Farm Company controls the land surrounding the beach and closes the only access gate promptly at 6pm and will not reopen until 6 am. You do not want to get your car corralled for the evening, it could be a long walk back to the hotel.
Brisk trade winds greeted us when we left the shady protection of the ironwoods. The heat of the sun was hardly noticeable as cool winds pushed us along and we could see Pu'u Pihakapu in the distance. Walking along horse trails and then goat trails we pushed on each at a pace that reflected our own inner thoughts.
Horse trails, friends, are wide and well trampled, sprinkled with processed vegetative gifts to keep you from straying off course. Their shear weight over time pulverizes the soil and weeds creating a powdery cushioned path ideal for walking. Goat trails however, meander in fickle paths, purposefully misleading. Taking you on a journey that can lead you astray and before you realize it the narrow trail you have been following suddenly disappears.  They course around angry shrubbery that pokes and slices unprotected legs. I learned quickly, never trust a goat.
We stopped occasionally to adjust our bearings, take photos, and gingerly sidestep the dagger like thorns of the kiawe bush. Kiawe, or Prosopis pallida is a legume tree more commonly known as mesquite, a native of Colombia, it is considered a noxious weed throughout Hawaii.
Our goal was to look down upon the seldom accessible part of the island, the seaward side of Mt. Haupu where the coastal valley known as Kipu Kai sits nestled between Lihue and Poipu. With over two miles of beach this area was privately owned by John T. Waterhouse and prior to his death in 1984 had bequeathed the area to the State of Hawaii. It is currently a working cattle ranch and Mr. Waterhouse's bequest was that the State would leave it as a nature and wildlife preserve. Its most recent claim to fame is in the recent film, The Descendants. I fielded many calls from well traveled Kauai friends who saw the film and asked where on the island was that scene shot.
We reached the saddle of Pu'u Pihakapu by 12.30 and had a friendly lunch just gazing at the verdant valley with its many shades of olive green. They contrasted soothingly with the blues and aquas of the ocean against the white sand border of the beach.
It was difficult tearing ourselves away from a view that presented us with changing perspectives of Kipu Kai. Initiated by cotton like clouds pushed by trade winds. Bullying them against the mountain range blocking the sun’s rays that resulted in deeper shades of green in the valley at our feet.
The journey back was eventful... but more later.
Kauai hikes are a great way to spend the day. Let us know how you plan to spend your time here on the island.

*Written by Gust Writer Joe Sylvester. Joe has lived in Kauai, Hawaii for the past 31 years he owns and operates Turtle Cove Suites in the resort community of Poipu.

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