Okay, so I’m not the super most hardcore hiker in the world, but I’ve hiked some shit and don’t get easily intimidated by physical challenges. When I researched hiking the Kalalau Trail, one of the few ways to access the rugged Nā Pali Coast, I didn’t necessarily get hysterical when people on Tripadvisor proclaimed “You can die on this hike!” Those bitches were right!First, Kaua’i is (obviously) muddy because of frequent rains. Therefore, the trail is usually super muddy and slick. It begins with difficult slippery, steep rock terrain, dries out into an exposed root section, and requires crossing a fast moving stream several times before tunneling into a terrifying stretch of super muddy path with a sheer drop-off. I spent most of the hike repeating the mantras, “I am the rock. I am the mud. I am the mountain” hoping the affirmations would please the Garden Isle Gods and they might spare me a broken bone or twisted ankle. To add another layer of intrigue, in December of 2012, apparently some methy jungle-living asshole pushed a Japanese tourist off a 15 foot cliff on this very trail. She did not die, but was critically injured. When I wasn’t watching the ground to ensure my footing, I was looking up the hill to make sure a psycho tweeker wasn’t about to descend on my ass. Good times on Kaua’i!In total, I hiked 8 miles in 5 hours. The ranger predicted it would take me 7, but he doesn’t know me. I do work, son.Considering the difficulty and intensity of the hike, I can’t let the opportunity pass to share with you some of the profound displays of stupidity I encountered along the way. 1) Did you really bring your infant? Look, I know parents don’t want to leave their little babies at the resort with a sitter, but this hike was no place for a child. Several parents carried babies in backpacks on this trail. Without a backpack and even with three points of contact on the mountain, I still found the terrain extremely slippery and treacherous. What happens when you slip and drop your child? Not a good look. Most young children will not enjoy this experience. You will spend the whole time worrying about them, and it won’t be fun for anyone. Depending on the child, 10 and under can sit this one out. Drop them at the kiddie pool with Nana.2) Are you seriously wearing a skirt? I passed a girl who was ordering everyone around wearing a khaki mid-thigh skirt. Bitch stop supervising everyone else and put on some fucking pants. This is not a day of shopping at the GAP. G-sus. 3) Do you really need that tripod? About 2/3 of the way into the 8 mile hike, I saw a couple trying to negotiate a huge tripod and some intense camera equipment through this mess. We all enjoy a good vacation photo, but a full size tripod is overkill and trying to haul one up this gnarly trail could very well kill you. If your name is not Ansel Adams, pack a point and click and get over it. Best to keep your hands free and pack as light as possible.
4) Make sure your entire party is able-bodied. If one or more persons in your group is scared or even lukewarm on this adventure, leave them behind. Don’t drag folks down this path. They will bitch throughout, possibly injure themselves, and then blame you. Even the enthusiastic will be daunted early on, so prepare yourself to turn around if someone in your group isn’t feeling the intensity.
5) Check your ego. Even the most mountain-y among you aren’t likely to have experience with this type of terrain. The combination of ascent, rocks, roots, mud, crowds, narrowness, and consistent difficulty make this one of the most challenging hikes I’ve encountered and I live in a place with some big ass mountains.