“One just needs a little alertness to see and find out: Life is really a great cosmic laughter.” – Osho
My bag was heavy on my back. I was carrying several gallons of water, food, gear, and we had just embarked on a trek along the world famous Na Pali Coast.
The humidity was thick, but the rain felt refreshing against our skin.
But I was already struggling. What have I gotten us into? I asked myself. It was a familiar thought and the price we paid for mountainous landscapes back home in the Pacific Northwest. Those views were never easy to earn, but I had never regretted a challenge.
We had romanticized over the idea of a far-off paradise. An oasis of beauty. A grueling 22-mile round trip journey would take us to the most incredible beach we’d ever met. Kalalau Beach.
“Who cares if we were only given a one-night permit?” we said.
“Who cares that it was our first time backpacking, ever? We’ll be OK. It’s not like we are climbing a steep mountain,” we joked.
We were so naïve.
My pack had its own gravitational pull. I quickly realized I had over packed — too much water, too many just-in-case items. I could feel it on my feet as I sunk into Kauai’s red earth.
Up and down cliffs, in and out of valleys, and drenched under the rain…
And whenever the clouds would clear, Father Sun poured all its light upon our heads, and we’d become drenched all over again. This time, by our own sweat.
We decided that the trail was too strenuous. We would get to the first camp at six miles, fill our bellies with food, and then decide if we should turn around.
Maybe we had underestimated the trek. I was slowly accepting defeat.
When we neared the first camp, we saw a couple walking in our direction. It was the first sign of humans we’d seen for several miles.
“How was it?” we asked.
“Well, it depends. How was what?” they responded.
Turns out, they never made it to Kalalau Beach. Like us, they decided the trail was too hard to go beyond the first six miles. It was muddy, it was rainy, it was hot, it was dangerous.
They wished us good luck and we kept moving in opposite directions. But the first camp was so unkept and uninviting. We could either turn around for six miles, or move forward for only five. I felt so physically defeated.
But we have to keep going, I thought to myself. I can’t turn around, not without meeting this magical paradise.
We moved forward.
Maybe it’s behind that valley, I thought. It has to be behind that valley, I kept repeating.
But behind every peak and valley was just another stretch of peaks and valleys.
At times the trail became so narrow and eroded. I don’t remember my ego trembling as hard as it did, nor do I remember having ever prayed as much as I did on any other trail.
It was the Crawlers Ledge that made me realize why this trail had earned a spot on World’s Most Dangerous Trails. And dangerous it was, paired with rain and gusty winds…
Just below was a raging ocean ready to swallow me whole. But I left her hungry that day…
It was sunset when we finally arrived at Kalalau Beach. What the heck had we just done? I was overcome with a mix of relief, triumph, and disbelief.
And it was everything I had imagined. Her undeniable beauty! The pain that my body had just endured was quickly forgotten. Washed away like an ocean shore…
The following morning came fast, but it was filled with promise. I was ready for the journey back.
But ready just wasn’t enough.
Some time on our way back, every bone in my feet was screaming at me to stop. Sit down, they said. Sit down before your swollen feet burst inside your boots.
It was there that I finally surrendered and found myself erupting into tears. I was in so much pain. Resting and soothing my swollen feet was the most euphoric feeling I had ever felt.
And I laughed. I laughed hysterically while tears cascaded down my face, because, damnit she did it again.
I could almost hear her laughing at me. Mother Earth. She gave it all to me — pouring rain, jagged rocks, blazing heat, crumbling soil, and angry tidal waves crashing at the foot of each cliff. Everything came perfectly gift-wrapped in beautiful, vibrant rainbows.
Gah, she is so clever. She knows how to make my ego tremble until it shatters. And all I could do was laugh back. By the end of the night, I had blisters in places the light has never even touched.
The thing about her lessons, though, is that no matter how many pieces we are broken into, she’ll glue those pieces right back. She’ll glue them into mosaics. Another piece of art to hang on the walls of our life’s story; another romance.
But it is impossible to bring all the pieces together, and for that I know I’ve left pieces of my heart scattered along the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.
If you should ever encounter Mother Earth’s challenges, I hope that you push through the discomfort. Because when it’s all said and done, she will bring us to our knees. She will slap us across our complaining face until we remember the reason for beginning our journey in the first place.
Her magnificence will both heal your pain and rebirth you. All you have to do is surrender to her. Trust the journey.
Love & Light,
PS: Below are more photos from this trek. In the mix of fatigue and discomfort, the last thing on my mind was to photograph and be photographed. Half the time I only had the energy to quickly slip out my phone. These are a mix of phone, DSLR, and mirrorless (Sony Nex) photos. Clearly I over packed :)
Below you can also find helpful tips and things to know before embarking on this trail. Enjoy!
KALALAU TRAIL, NA PALI COAST, KAUAI, HAWAII
Tips & Things to Know Before Embarking on the Kalalau Trail:
- There are plenty creeks & rivers along the way. No need to pack too much water.
- Life Straw water bottle is the real deal. Easy to fill. Immediate drinkable water.
- Two hiking poles will save your life. And your feet! Our biggest mistake was carrying one pole each.
- Bring a water-proof cover for your backpack. You will be trekking near the wettest spot on Earth.
- Two hiking poles! Seriously. The couple who turned around were carrying huge bags & had no poles. I didn’t blame them for turning around.
- Camp at the 6-mi mark was unkept & smelly. Camp at Kalalau Beach was surprisingly well maintaned & clean.
- Kalalau Beach is oddly dry. It gets very little rain, so we didn’t need a tent tarp.
- Wear long sleeves & sunscreen on the trail. You’ll feel the sun’s burn in seconds.
- Warm layers weren’t actually needed. I get cold easily, but I could have left my puffy & warm tights behind. LOL!
- Wear waterproof shoes with ankle support. Walking with wet feet is the worst.
- Bring a blister kit. We picked this from REI. After my foot accidentally submerged into a creek, I was happy to have this.
- Be ok with naked bodies. Long live the hippie life.
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Stay curious, wild hearts!