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From Colorado to Kauai 

click to enlarge I had to hike 8 miles in conditions completely out of what I'm accustomed to to get to these falls.. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • I had to hike 8 miles in conditions completely out of what I'm accustomed to to get to these falls..
Having hiked thousands of miles over the last few years, mostly in Colorado and the western half of these United States, I wanted to try something new. I wanted to uproot myself and go into an environment foreign to me. That place turned out to be the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

I kind of knew what to expect when I got there. It would be nice to go from rocky, dry, barren mountains to the soft tread of a tropical island. I had guidebooks geared towards tourists, hikers and photographers.

But as it turns out, it’s not that easy. Once there and on the trails, I found that hiking on an island sometimes made me feel like a fish out of water.

First, the weather is, if you can believe it, even more erratic than what we’re used to in Colorado. As a matter of fact, after my experiences on the island I’m ready to abandon the idea that Colorado’s weather is erratic at all. The weather in Kauai is as pleasant as I had heard — sunny, warm, and breezy — it's also prone to rain at any time. Actually, the interior of the island gets so much rain that it's one of the wettest place on the planet!

Sometimes it would be a light rain, sometimes a heavy shower, and often just for a few minutes. The interval between rain showers would also be unpredictably variable. Being used to the somewhat predictable nature of the weather in Colorado made planning when to hike somewhat impossible in this climate, and the on-and-off nature of the rain made the use of rain-gear an exercise in futility — by the time I got it on the rain would stop. Eventually, I adopted the attitude of the locals and just went with it, rain be damned.

The islands that make up the state are volcanic and mostly made up of lava rock. But Kauai, known as the “Garden Island,” also has rich soil on top of the lava. Since it rains often, especially in the higher elevations, there is A LOT of run-off down the trails. With the run-off comes mud; thick, black, gooey, and slick mud. It sticks to everything, makes most people look like tightrope walkers as they try to gingerly get through patches of it, and at the end of the day, leaves most people covered in it from head to toe. I even got mud on top of my hat somehow.
click to enlarge One of the typically muddy trails I encountered.  The sights I saw made it worth trekking through the mud. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • One of the typically muddy trails I encountered. The sights I saw made it worth trekking through the mud.

My typical footwear for hiking are boots with aggressive soles, ankle support and sturdy, waterproof or water-resistant uppers, and that is what I brought with me. That was a big mistake. My boots left me floundering on the trail, as the tread filled with mud and the uppers became soaked all the way through. The locals wear a hybrid type of shoe that looks like a low hiking shoe, but is made so that water will drain out of the shoes. I’ll probably have to trash a pair of boots that I’ve grown particularly fond of, with mud so heavily caked into them, I can’t possibly get them clean.
click to enlarge Some places on the island  looked similar to the southwest U.S.  Waimea Canyon, also referred to the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", was deep, wide and beautiful.  But, it was also wet  and green like a jungle. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Some places on the island looked similar to the southwest U.S. Waimea Canyon, also referred to the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", was deep, wide and beautiful. But, it was also wet and green like a jungle.

A fish out of water either dies or fights its way back into the water. So, although I floundered a bit trying to make my way through unfamiliar conditions, I adapted and overcame. I endured getting wet, slipping and sliding on mud, and almost getting blown off a cliff at a particularly windy a high point on the trail. 

The trails I enjoyed lead to stunning waterfalls and breathtaking vistas, through rain forests so thick with bamboo, ferns and all things green that I often couldn’t see further than 10 feet off the trail. I saw toads that were the biggest I have ever seen, and even had a wild boar cross a trail less than 10 feet in front of me. I saw things I wouldn’t see Colorado Springs, which was the whole point of this trip.

I could’ve said the heck with the trails and done the “tourist” thing, spending my time on the beautiful beaches and looking out at thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean while indulging in some kind of adult beverage that comes with a tiny umbrella. No one would’ve blamed me. But that would’ve been too easy, and anything worth doing rarely involves taking the easy way out.
click to enlarge I could've hung out on a beach (they're not all this rocky), but the goal of this trip was to hike on unfamiliar conditions. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • I could've hung out on a beach (they're not all this rocky), but the goal of this trip was to hike on unfamiliar conditions.
Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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