Hiking is not my favourite thing to do. More so, it is my least favourite thing to do. I do not hike. I do not understand the point of hiking. It is just a long walk with steep inclines followed by dangerous declines. When Holly and Eric suggested we do the Na Pali Coast trail, I was seriously dreading it.
I have been hiking in the past, probably can count how many times on two hands. It seems that every time I go, I am with some go getter who thinks it’s a race and I struggle to keep up. One time especially, I was with a good friend who is ten times more athletic than I am. We chose one of the easiest hikes to do in Waterton, Bear’s Hump. It was not easy. Sure it is a short hike, but it is an hour hike uphill the entire way. The view is amazing when you make it, but I am one of those hikers who huffs and puffs and stops at every view point. I do not blame my friend for leaving me in the dust to hike with an asian family, but how do you encourage a non-hiker to like hiking when it appears to be one foot in front of the other to get to the destination without enjoying the scenery?
I do not think I have ever gone on a good hike, so you can imagine how sceptical I was of this one, an 8 mile trail known as one of the most dangerous in the world. With my sister and her excuse of recent knee surgery waving us good luck, I couldn’t help but wish I was in her situation. All around me, there were serious hikers with walking sticks and hiking boots. What am I doing? I thought before beginning. Yes, there was the comfort of kids and hikers in sandals giving me the “if they can do it, I can do it” motivation, but the only thing running through my mind was being left behind again.
Off we went, the four unprepared hikers, my dad, Holly, Eric and myself. We had three bottles of water, one can of almonds, two bananas, and four granola bars. I also had one quarter left of battery power on my point and shoot camera. So, we had to not only ration food, but camera time. Thankfully, we had Holly’s GoPro to capture everything and hopefully down the road I’ll put the sped up footage on this blog.
The first two miles were not too bad. There was a clear path and although there were steep inclines and dangerous declines, I started to develop some confidence in myself. I was doing it and I was keeping up. I guess a couple years of swimming and Tae Bo workouts were paying off. Some parts of the path were slick and it was difficult keeping balance. At one point, a couple passed us, jogging the trail, only to result in the wife slipping and biffing it in front of everyone. We learned this lesson early one, take your time and watch your step.
I was surprised when I started to enjoy the hike. The sound of the waves crashing below and the breathtaking scenery around me made the hike a certain kind of special. The contrast between the lush green around me, the red path before me and the blue ocean below me kept me going. It was the first time in a hike where I lifted my head off the path and focused on the view around me. And let me tell you, it was spectacular. I don’t even know how to really describe it in words, so here is a picture. This is about a mile in. We are still happy here.
By the time we reached the beach, my knees were a little sore from the downhill trek, but I was still feeling good. You can’t swim at the beach because the waves are too rough and the sign indicating how many people died drowning there was enough to keep us sitting on the rocks. We shared our water, I split a banana with my dad, and we passed around the almonds. I was confident at this point. Originally, dad and I were supposed to hike the 2 miles to the beach, and then hike back, but I knew another 2 miles down the trail led to a waterfall and I was sure it wouldn’t be a problem if I kept going.
At this point, I had to make a decision if I was to continue on course with Holly and Eric or go back with dad. I knew the waterfall would be worth it, so I followed Eric and Holly down the 2 mile trail into the forest, eager to see what this trail would be like. Within ten minutes of hiking, the path was narrow and muddy. A couple turned back hearing that the trail got worse, and us typical country kids agreed we could do it, no problem. And for the most part, it wasn’t a problem. This trail wasn’t as strenuous with uphills and downhills, but it had rough, slippery terrain. Half expecting to see a raptor come out of the thick, it was the best hiking I have ever done. I had mud on every party of my body, climbing across the rocks reminded me of Red Rock Canyon in Waterton, and every now and then, when we had to cross the river, I felt like a jungle explorer. Sounds cheesy, I know. But I loved it.
When we finally made it to the waterfalls, after being told countless times it was only 10 minutes away, when in actuality, it was a lot farther, we took off our muddy shoes and walked into the cold water. It was ice cold. I may be exaggerating a bit, but it was freezing. Many hikers told us to swim, not to back out, so being Canadian, we knew eventually we’d go in. We are used to cold water. This was nothing.
Eventually, we jumped in, expecting to get used to it as we swam. That never happened. I was so disappointed when my camera died just as we started to swim to the waterfall. Sadly, I got a little bit of video as we were swimming, but not enough footage to get any good snapshots from. Eric got some good footage on the Go Pro. Soon we are going to put it into a video, speed it up and I will post it on this blog. Until then, the photo above is the last photo I took.
After enjoying the overly refreshing dip, we finished off our food and decided to head back. We were half way done the hike and just had to make it 4 miles back. This is what I completely forgot when I made the decision to keep going. I thought, hey, another 2 miles won’t hurt me, but I didn’t take into consideration the fact we had to go all the way back. The 2 miles back to the beach were alright. We had picked up the pace and my motivation to keep going was the thought of hummus waiting for me back at the house to stuff my face in. When we made it to the beach, we washed our shoes in the stream and the mud off our legs and arms, and gave ourselves a mini pep talk for the last 2 miles.
My legs were jelly at this point. I seriously felt like a zombie. Every movement felt lazy and uncontrolled. My body was done, but I knew I had to keep going. Now, what happens next, Holly and Eric make fun of me for, but this is just to portray how eager I was to be finished the hike. Our pace was slowing down as we were making the steep incline up the side of the mountain, but as soon as a black guy passed us, I booked it all the way to the end. Eric and Holly didn’t see me after that as I tried to keep up with him. This sudden burst of energy had nothing to do with him, although they laughed and joked, “so, that’s what you meant when you said you are looking for your chocolate.” But the truth was, I knew we were close and I wanted to be done. I’ve never hiked so fast in my life. At one point, I even started jogging. It wasn’t until I got behind a big family with kids that I had to slow down, and I have never been more impatient in my life. I saw the beach from the trail, I knew I was almost there and this family was holding me up, not giving me a chance to pass. Finally, when the trail led down to the parking lot, I ran off the path, straight for the water fountain and spent a good five minutes, hovered over it, drinking and congratulating myself.
I did it. I did an 8 mile hike and I survived. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have done on this trip so far. Sitting on that beach after the hike was the best feeling. I think this is what hiking is about, not always the destination or the views, but the proud feeling you have after finishing. I definitely recommend the Na Pali coast trail for anyone that visits Kauai. But remember, pack snacks and water, and don’t wear TOMS! I saw way too many hikers wearing them and they do not have good enough grip for that hike. Now, when I go over to SE Asia, I will be tempted to hike whenever I can.