The Kalalau Trail on Kauai's Nā Pali Coast was one of our BUCKET LIST hikes. As such, we expected it to be both breathtaking and pretty brutal. But somehow it was both more amazing and more grueling than we thought. And that means there are also SO MANY PHOTOS. We actually hiked in our beast of a film camera — the Pentax 67 — as well as our little Fuji mirrorless camera. So it makes sense to split up our Kauai photographs into two posts. Here we'll tell the story through our snapshots. Then we'll follow this up with a post dedicated entirely to our medium format film shots. Enjoy!
Here we are at the start! All happy and scotch free with no idea about what lies before us. (Notice all those warning signs behind us....this should have been the first hint!)
And just a side note, the first 2 miles of the trail are open to the public. But if you want to continue on past that point, you have to purchase a permit. The permits sell out months in advance, so I actually bought the permits in March, before we decided to jump into Airstream life. The permits were a gift for Ben's 31st birthday in July and when I gave them to him, I didn't know if we'd be able to swing the trip with all the new adventures on our plate. But life is short and we decided to just go for it!
As born and bred PNW hikers, the terrain was COMPLETELY foreign to us. The hike in was wet and rainy, which made the trail slippery and slow going. And at first it was a novelty...each step made a squished-glopping noise that sounded exactly like the dinosaurs footsteps in Jurassic Park. But by mile 4, we were ready for some dry trail.
The big camera comes out! The hike weaves in out of valleys and it was hard not to reach for the film camera around every turn. The first photo is me with the Pentax 67 and the second two are shots I snapped!
We made it to HANAKOA! We camped the first night at the halfway point on the trail. Our tent was nestled down in the jungle and we fell asleep to the sound of rain gently falling onto our rainfly.
After a night of tired, deep sleep we were up early and ready to make it Kalalau Beach. The rain stopped during the night and the wind dried the trail making the second day a much faster endeavor. We took in the views at every turn, waiting for glimpses of the famed Kalalau Beach, and joyously celebrated every mile marker. We braved the teetering cliffs of Climber's Ledge and voyaged over the barren red clay of Mars before finally being greeted with the Kalalau sign. We made it! And when the trail opens up onto the beach, you're greeted with the most epic view...
Our first morning! Seemingly overnight, I become a morning person, rising with sun and ready to greet the day.
Yes, it's true. It's very easy to adjust to beach-front living in a secluded paradise. We were barefoot in the sand every day and we fetched our fresh water from a waterfall at the end of the beach. And since we were spending five days in the backwoods (or back-jungle as it were) weight was a premium, but we still found space for a few little luxuries like film and Scandinavian swimmers. (A shout-out to our Bible-study peeps for this one!) And yes, even the sand was photogenic. I don't remember the last time we walked a beach where no one else's footprints dotted the sand.
Another morning with our perfect view. And notice that shadowed figure lurking outside our tent waiting for us to get up? Oh wait, it's just Henry! One of our wild Kalalau kitty friends, just waiting for breakfast to get underway...
Something about this photo on the beach pretty much sums up in the trip in my head. Our slow mornings, cooking breakfast on the beach, watching the sunrise, while one of the tiny, wild Kalalau cats keeps us company. And the little dark cat is Sky — his black coat had little flecks of white, just like the night sky. I was trying to toss a towel in the tent, but the little guy just thought I was there to give him some cuddles. Too cute! No one told me about the wild cats, so discovering these little guys took the trip from outstanding to unbeatable in my book. (And yes, I named them which DID make them hard to leave behind...but who could take a cat out of paradise?!)
When the tide went out, you could explore the caves notched along the cragged coastline. Just watch out for falling rock!
Note to self, next time...bring LESS food. We hiked in our backpackers meals and snacks aplenty but there was food everywhere. Passion fruit, jackfruit, avocados, guava. The stuff dreams are made of, my friends.
A little heartbroken to leave but full of joy and quiet contentment, we said goodbye and enjoyed our last sunset from the shores of Kalalau. We weren't quite ready to leave, but the 5 days were full of magic. We spend the days secluded and completely disconnected from the outside world. And it was like a giant RESET button...for us, our relationship, our business, you name it. Somewhere in those five days we shed our tired, scared selves and emerged excited and full of energy.
After the sun went down on our last night, we spent hours laying on the beach gazing at the extraordinary display of stars. In the last photo, you can barely make out the sliver of moon up above the clouds. I planned the trip during the new moon hoping for the least amount of light, manmade or otherwise, so we could enjoy the stars to the fullest. And on the last night, the clouds dissipated and it DID NOT disappoint. Like I said, hearts full.
The next morning we woke early and made the entire 11 miles in just under 6 hours. And we rewarded ourselves with a cold beer and fish tacos. And in case this post didn't convince you, let me say it loud and clear: if you ever get the chance to hike the Kalalau Trail, just GO.