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Hawaii Vacation Highlights Part 2: Kalalau Trail

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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

In my last blog, I shared highlights from our summer vacation:

Today, I'll share another highlight: the Kalalau Trail

After surviving my brain surgery while still in the hospital, I knew it would take a lot of work to recover from the surgery. So, I set a goal to eventually do my favorite hike in the world as a reward for putting in that work and to just have a great adventure as part of being alive!

The Kalalau Trail is one of the most famous trails in the world, located on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii. The full main trail runs 11 miles one-way along some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world. Then, you camp on an isolated beach before returning to the starting point. You need to apply for a permit to do this 1 year in advance. Permits for shorter versions of the trail like I did are available on much shorter notice.

If you'd like to see the full trail highlights, here is one of the best hiking-related videos I've ever seen with amazing scenery and a big surprise at the end that gives you another perspective. This is 8 minutes long, but OMG it's so motivating and beautiful:

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These two are in SERIOUSLY good shape to be able to do the full 22 miles in just over 8 hours in one day.

I have never done the full version of the trail, but have done a strenuous 8-mile round-trip version of the trail that consists of these 4 segments:
1) 2 mile hike to a beautiful beach along the coast
2) 2 mile hike into the rainforest to a 200-foot isolated waterfall
3) 2 miles back to the beach through the rainforest
4) 2 miles back along the coast

I've been fortunate enough to do this 4 times in the past: the first two times with my wife, the next time with my oldest son, and the 4th time with both of my sons. The scenery is so spectacular it's an adventure you'll never forget.

Doing the full 22 miles is amazing, but hiking into the rainforest on a side trail is an extra bonus with all the lush greenery. At first, you try to keep your shoes dry, but you quickly realize this is pointless because you're just hiking through mud and puddles in normal circumstances. The volcano center of Kauai isn't too far from here and is the second wettest spot in the world.

For some reason, this makes you feel like a kid jumping into water puddles :).

This video shows the hike into the rainforest and to the waterfall:

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This was my goal that I set in the hospital bed and I'm happy to say that I was able to reach this goal in 5.5 hours that included about 1 hour at the waterfall including swimming out to the waterfall. The current is very strong. The area around the waterfall is one of my favorite spots on earth. It was fun to reflect on my journey while sitting here eating lunch.

Unfortunately, nobody else from my family could make it with me this time, but it's really easy to make friends on this trail because everyone is so excited. I ended up hiking a good part of it with a couple on their honeymoon and shared a bunch of my experience since this was their first time on Kauai.

Here is a 24-second video of me at the waterfall:

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The force of the water landing creates strong winds, making this a cool reprieve from the heat of the rest of the trail.

The day was hot and humid even though I started early. Also, the trail starts with an immediate climb. About 20 minutes into the hike, I said to myself, "there is no way I'm going to be able to do all of this."

But, then I just put my head down and thought, "I'm making it to the waterfall." I took almost no photos on the way there (but did take 100+ photos on the way back). I figured that everything prior to the waterfall was optional. But, once I made it to the waterfall, it was no longer optional to make it all the way back to the beginning unless I wanted to have a helicopter rescue (there are 2 spots along the trail for helicopter landings in case of rescue).

I still remember the time I went with my oldest son. When we completed the hike, there was a guy selling fresh coconuts from the back of a pickup truck for $5 each. He popped a straw in the coconut and handed them to us. it was the best drink of my life :).

This probably WAS a bit too strenuous for me for where I was in my recovery, but I didn't push it by too much. The power of reaching a truly meaningful goal got me through the extra push I needed. After this, I didn't do much for the next 24 hours.

My training for this goal after surgery started with a walk to the end of the block and back with either my wife or one of my kids babysitting me. Then I graduated to having my dog Flash be my guard dog around the neighborhood. I lived the SparkPeople program by staying consistent and reaching one small goal at a time.


I have to say, watching these videos especially the first one was a little emotional thinking about everything. Thanks again for all of your support!

What stretch goals would you like to achieve? How will you train to reach those goals? Your stretch goal doesn't need to be anything like this. It doesn't even need to be fitness-related. But, make it fun to think about what could be YOUR version of this adventure?


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