I have a thing for places.
I get homesick for cities that I’ve barely just passed through and obsessed with mountains that need to be climbed. I remember the sounds and the smells and the changes in temperature and humidity when I go somewhere new. I feel them in my soul. The sprawling and steamy suburb where I grew up. The tiny midwestern college town that captured my heart. The remote and rain soaked coastal village where I learned what it was like to live somewhere so heartbreakingly beautiful that you never want to leave.
The Napali Coast is one of those places.
The Napali Coast is a 17-mile long chunk of land and water that looks like it’s straight out of a very fairytale. With crumbling cliffs towering above a very angry ocean, this is a place that is both beautiful and deadly. And, lucky for us, one hell of a hiking trail just happens to run right through the heart of it. The Kalalau Trail runs 11 treacherous miles along the cliffs and coastline to the Kalalau Valley, which is famed for both it’s natural beauty and the community of squatters that call it home.
We stepped foot on the Kalalau Trail for the first time back in 2013. We were on the tail end of a work-sponsored trip to Kauai and knew we needed to go see what the buzz was about. We followed the tourist trail down to Hanakapiai Beach and then the only slightly less traveled path up to Hanakapiai Falls. We floated at the base of a 300-foot waterfall, ogled the impossibly beautiful coastline, and slid around in the mud. By the time we were eating shave ice back in Hanalei, it had been decided: we would come back and do the whole thing.
So now here we are. In a couple days we will board planes that will take us to Lihue. We will spend a day snorkeling and acquiring provisions and drinking Mai Tais on the beach and then we’ll set off on one bucket list worthy adventure along a very famous stretch of dirt.
Things will be different this time, and not just because we plan to do the whole trail and spend three nights camping on the beach. This time I will be lugging most of my photography gear with me. While the photos that I hope to get certainly aren’t the main purpose of the trip, they are definitely big part of it. I want to shoot the waterfalls along the way and capture some shots of the beach at sunrise. I hope to document the lives of any willing locals and play with light in the sea caves. This will be my first multi-day photography trip to a place where charging my batteries or picking up a new SD card isn’t as easy as a drive into town or a hunt for the nearest electrical outlet. It also happens to be one of the wettest places on earth. Needless to say, there are some logistics involved.
All that to say, in a few short days I will be traveling to a place that has been haunting my dreams for a few years now. And I will be taking you all along for the ride. As of today, the trail is closed due to heavy rains on the north shore making the rivers impassable. With a little luck, the weather will clear, the trail will be open, and it will be smooth sailing for us all the way to Kalalau. Either way, we’ll be in Kauai and life will be looking pretty damn good.
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