First Hong Kong.
Should I just avoid hiking in places that start with “H”?
You can read how a Hong Kong hike took me down here.
Learn about my favorite safe hikes for solo travelers here.
This post is about one experience solo hiking on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
And I'm writing it (or starting it) on my phone about 200 yards past the trailhead, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, defeated by clay.
Solo Hiking in Kauai is Safe but Can Be Challenging
Solo hiking in Kauai is safe in terms of wild animals. The only potential problem is wild boars and I'm told they're inclined to stay away from you. They have no bears and no snakes. And every trail I was on has some people on it – not lots but enough that if something happened to you, a person would be by in about 10 minutes who could help.
The only danger I saw was clay.
Clay has a very different consistency than typical soil. It's slippery when wet. Very slippery. So when I was about 100 yards along the Alakai Swamp Trail (via the Pu‘u O Kila Lookout) and saw people leave the trail covered in mud, saw the wide path with no trees to grab onto and few footholds to grip, I gave up. I don't take chances with my left knee which is vulnerable due to an incident a few years back when I jumped off a cliff into a lake. (Believe me, it wasn't as stupid as it sounds but the results, unfortunately, are as bad.)
I turned back, sat on the cliff edge, looked out at the spectacular view, and wrote the introductory paragraphs you read above.
Solo Hiking in Kauai… Redeemed
After a while – after making sure that my decision to stop was final – I turned around and went back to my car. I would have to be content with seeing the canyon from the lookouts that hundreds, maybe thousands of people use every day.
I drove back down Koke'e Road and stopped at the Museum and Lodge. There was a nature trail there. Why not? I thought. But it was short. It took five minutes. It was for kids whose parents wanted them to run off some steam.
Dejected, I continued down the highway, still looking for a way into this canyon beyond just standing and staring at it. I stopped at the Pu-u Hinahina Lookout.
At the lookout I saw a confusing sign (I didn't find the trails to be well marked in Kauai) for a variety of trails all leading from the same starting point. I decided I would try again despite the fact that I had not chosen this trail. I would turn back if necessary but I hoped I would reach the Waipo'o Falls.
I ventured into the trail which seemed more familiar to me. It was treed. And because of the trees the clay ground was peppered with twigs, stones and roots which provided a good grip on the trail. The hike to the falls is 4 miles round trip and considered to be moderately strenuous. I'd say that's a good description. There's a lot of up and down and on the down, it was frequently quite muddy.
On my first really slippery climb up, a man, shirtless, moving like a billy goat with two hiking sticks said to me “you'll need this” and passed me one stick without stopping. It was like he dropped out of the sky just to take care of me!
In the end, I had a good, long, satisfying hike – for my level of hiking. It was wonderful to be in the woods and experience, yes, a redemption. I came to hiking late in life so I don't have a natural confidence about it. But what confidence I lost on the Alakai Swamp Trail was restored on the Canyon Trail.
I didn't take many photos on the Canyon Trail but here are a few.