In my life, I've seen many things. I have seen the streets of Venice in the early hours, The Sun Voyager in Reykjavik at the dawning of dusk, and I have seen heaven on the shores of the Na Pali Coast. No world, no vision, and no sight has touched me more than what lay in wait for me at the end of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail to the Kalalau Valley.
Based in San Francisco, I have it made. I don't need to travel to the edge of the world when I have heaven so close to where I reside. Hawaii is a dream within a dream. Each of its islands offers a different perspective on different parts of this beautiful planet we get to call home.
I'm the child of hippies. They came to Haight-Ashbury in its prime and never really left, because, respectively, of course, they did and why would they ever want to leave? When I asked my mother what my first word was, she told me it was rain.
Hawaiians Have 200 Words for Rain
I don't remember the first time I saw pictures of Hawaii, but I can say I have always been drawn to it. Like a magnet, its mere name has reached into my chest and squeezed my lungs until I could no longer breathe on more than one occasion.
The Hawaiian culture and its people have a deep connection with nature. Ancient Hawaiians, so connected to their surroundings, have many, many names for my first word, rain.
When I actually flew directly to Kauai from San Francisco before my Kalalau trail embarkment, I told the driver who took me to the hostel I was going to stay in for my first and last nights there, that it was my name.
They have a name for heavy rain, a name for lighter rain, and even a name for a lighter rain than lighter rain. They have names for the colors of the rain and the dozens of different forms that precipitation takes.
The rain would pass on messages, like when to plant their food and when to head for higher ground, and the Hawaiian people were perceptive to it. They listened, and they obeyed.
Kalalau Trail was my 10 Hours of Solace
You need to make sure you have permits sorted before you hike the Kalalau Trail. They are needed to actually do the trail as well as to camp. I made sure I got mine before I had even booked the dates for my trip.
The pot of gold at the end of the trail's rainbow is the Kalalau Valley and its beach, glossed over with the hot silver sand the Na Pali Coast is especially known for.
I would have hiked alone but was advised that it would be safer if I took someone along with me, so I took my best friend of 8 years, Harry, who shaved off his beard for the very occasion.
We saw beautiful scenery on the trail itself that blew my fragile mind. When you're hiking, the humidity makes it difficult to breathe and there are so many hillsides that make the 11-miles feel like longer. I made sure to stop and take in the ocean to one side of me to keep me going.
There was a small beach not far from the trail called Hanakapi'ai Beach with all of these gorgeous, tiny lava caves. Close by, its titular waterfalls allowed us to take a load off and swim in and out of the streaming torrent of fresh, cool water.
It was after that, the real Kalalau trail—and the overwhelming exhaustion but also beauty—kicked in.
The Narrow Pathway to Heaven
The side of the cliff towards the end of the trail has a narrow path that winds all the way around the steep hillsides. I'm afraid of heights, but I also knew what would be waiting on the other side for me. It helped me to get through, and the path wasn't as narrow as it looked once I was actually on it.
As I climbed over the final ridge, I could see Kalalau Valley and beach stretched out in front of me. An awning of trees, the green of which looks red beneath the burning sun. The rolling hills mix purples and pinks, and I know that if I don't blink soon, I'll get rainbow floaters in my eyes, but if I blink, I'll also miss it.
There were other hikers around. A young couple from Vancouver told us how in the summer if the waves are calm on the northernmost part of the valley, you can swim around some of the gigantic rocks that help to make up the skyline of Kalalau Beach.
A moonrise kingdom
We set up our camp in a quiet area on a site where there was a readymade fire pit. It wasn't beside the beach, but it was close and the privacy we could have there made up for the extra five minutes of walking we would need to do.
After our camp was set, we could experience the beach for ourselves. During the day, it's too hot to spend too long there, but at dusk, the cool breeze that the edge of the night brings made me wrap myself up in my cotton blanket was as welcome as my very first moonrise.
I have never before seen a moon like the one I saw that night. I believe I never will again. Hawaiians have many names for the moon. Each stage of the lunar cycle brings with it its own name and its own meaning. The moon can be unproductive, abundant, living, and bored.
When the moon came up over the rough, ridged hills of the island and highlighted, in particular, the spot on the beach in which we were sat, I knew that was where I was supposed to have been my entire life.
At the end of the Kalalau Trail, where the ocean rain meets the moon.