Once again, the trail left the coastal slopes and headed inland to make its way across Waiahuakua valley. As we headed into the sheltered little enclave of the valley, we returned once again to the tropical, jungle-y like vegetation we had seen near the start of the Kalalau Trail. The bizarre-looking roots of the screwpine tree, in particular, have that tropical-jungle look to them.
Sure enough, the depths of Waiahuakua valley contained a briskly flowing stream that was perfect for refilling our water, so we got out the water filter and filled about six litres' worth of water - enough for a few more hours of hiking.
Hiking past Screwpine Trees
Continuing on, we traversed out of Waiahuakua valley and started on another breathtaking section of coast-slope traversing. These stretches above the ocean were quickly becoming my favorite parts of the Kalalau Trail (although I also quite enjoyed the shady confines of the valley sections, too). The trend towards increasingly open and dry terrain continued.
Soon, we rounded a corner and were presented with a view of the much larger Hanakoa Valley. This valley is a major stop along the Kalalau Trail - there are campsites here, along with a covered shelter and a composting toilet. There is also a side trail leading up to another scenic waterfall (Hanakoa Falls).
We arrived at the Hanakoa Shelter at just the right time for lunch, so we stopped and took advantage of the luxury of a picnic table to prepare our sandwiches.
We had been fortunate so far with the days weather - it had not yet rained on us, and for the most part it had been cloudy to mostly sunny.
Climbing out of Hanakoa Valley
There were quite a few people scattered about in backcountry campspots in the forest along the trail in Hanakoa Valley. There didn't seem to be any one best place to camp. We, however, were Kalalau Beach-bound, and it was only 1pm - plenty of time to cover the remaining five miles.
The trail traversed out of Hanakoa Valley and back to the coast. After switchbacking up and around the lower part of Manono Ridge, we encountered a different world - open-ness! The vegetation cleared away, and we started a steep, switchbacking descent to a barren cliff that looked impassible. This then, must have been the start of the difficult exposed section that all of the guidebooks and hiking descriptions of the Kalalau Trail warn about. Well, then, now it was time for my own evaluation!
Approaching the exposed stuff
Looking a little more closely, you could see the line of the trail. It switchbacked down grassy and gravelly slopes to the base of a more solid stretch of basalt cliff. In places dug into some earthy sections and in other sections following a minor ledge system (possibly enhanced by trailwork), the Kalalau trail contoured across the face of a fairly big cliff, about 450 feet above the crashing ocean below.
Now, in case the pictures aren't already obvious, the cliff we are talking about here is not 90-degrees vertical. I'd say that the slope below the trail never exceeds 60 to 70 degrees in steepness. That's still steep, to be sure, but that's less intimidating than a true vertical drop. Still, if the footing on the trail or the state of the cliff was at all unstable, it was going to be a hair-raising section of trail.
Closeup, cliff traverse section
Andrew on Chivalry Point section
Fortunately, neither were true. Upon reaching the 'exposed' section (which is apparently known as Chivalry Point, or Pohakukumano in Hawaiian), it became apparent that this would be no problem at all. The trail is a foot or two wide, and more importantly, the trail tread was solid, stable basalt bedrock. It had lots of corrugations and texture, and offered plenty of 'incut' surfaces for your boots. In fact, it appeared to me as if this section of trail would be quite passible even if it was wet - it was solid rock, so it wasn't prone to becoming muddy. I suppose you might need to be careful if it was excessively windy.
So, instead of being a fearful chore, this section of trail was exhilarating. In complete contrast to the closed-in, thick vegetation conditions at the start of the Kalalau Trail, here it was all about windblown rock and expansive vistas of the North Pacific Ocean.
Brian, Chivalry Point section
The really exposed section of trail is probably only about 200 feet long. After that, the trail sharply rounds a corner and begins a wonderful long section that cuts across red earthy volcanic soil. A lot of trailwork has been done to create a safe, wide incut trail through these sections, because they are still somewhat airy and have exposure in spots.
Cloud-wreathed Manono Ridge