Two words to describe this trail we did today. Breath-taking. Muddy. Most of the 3.5 miles we did to Alakai Crossing and back were of the breath-taking variety with amazing views of the Na Pali coast on the west side of Kauai or the greenest of forests we've had the good fortune to hike through. However, there is a 1/3 mile stretch just after Pihea Vista that is muddy, slippery and fun. I'm guessing the elevation to be somewhere between 4000 and 5000 feet and I don't think the ground ever dries anytime. The red Kauai dirt coupled with ever present mist creates the most challenging hike we've done to date. And the most fun as well.
Below is Sam with the Na Pali coast below. A good 4000 feet from the ridge where we started the hike. We heard several helicopters -- the primary way to tour the coast. The other way is via boat (usually a catamaran) and I'm assuming hiking is the least popular method. I'm still hoping the kids would like to hike down the coast some time in the future.
We didn't expect mud when we started. In fact, I started hearing complaints about this hike being boring, as if views of the Na Pali coast was not good enough. About 1 mile into the hike we started seeing people on their way back with mud on their shoes, legs, shorts, hands, etc. At that point, I knew we were in for an adventure. So it became a game of who can hike through the mud without getting any on their leg. Nobody got any mud on their leg but Sam fell on his butt at least 3 times from slipping.
There were these wooden boards covered with chicken wire that was laid over the forest floor that made trekking across the swamp easier. At some point in the future, I'd like to do the entire Alakai Swamp trail as well -- which I've read had these boards for most of the hike. On our way back the car, we were talking about how boring our hikes back in California would be. These last 10 days were just the most amazing time I've ever had on these islands. I don't see how we can ever consider any other island for next year's Hawaii trip.