Kahili Mountain Ridge (cue the banjos…..er, the ukuleles)
At least one thing I know for sure I’m going to do in Kauai next month? A do-over on the Kahili Mountain Ridge trail. I had to turn around before I got to the highest part of this dramatic, exposed ridge because a wash-out on the slippery path gave me the creeps and the heat was getting to me.
The Kahili Mountain Ridge Trail is under-the-radar compared to, say, dramatic Pihea Vista or the arguably famous Kalalau trail on the north side of the island. I’d venture to guess there aren’t a ton of shoeboxes with Kahili Mountain Ridge pictures in them. Maybe it’s the fact you’re crossing private property. Kahili Mountain Park and the trail up to the namesake ridge immediately strike you as DIY, and not in the charming way. The bumpy driveway takes you past an Adventist school and a bunch of low houses (available for rent) scattered about wily nily. I decided the beautiful setting was a fair trade-off for bending over and scooting under tunnel-like sticks and slogging through mucky poop-like mud for dramatic makai views of the south shore of the island and mauka views of stunning waterfalls inland.
The trailhead (i.e., the rocky, pot-holed patch of dirt under the tree across the road from the water tank) is only 15 minutes from Poipu. I was excited to find such a steep, mountainous trail in close proximity to the south shore. The south shore of Kauai gets short shrift compared to the rest of the island, perhaps deservedly…. it is true, you are trading some of the best, most dramatic scenery of the island for assurances of more sunshine. But having come from Seattle where just a week earlier we were struck by a nasty snowstorm, and having previously only been to Maui….. the south shore of Kauai met my expectations. The ridge looked exciting. The home-made trailhead sign and overgrown soggy footpath at the beginning were weird and made me wonder if I would have been better served risking life and limb someplace more out in the open. But it’s always that way when you hike by yourself, you know?
I struggled in the heat on the steep trail. A year ago this time I was not in the best of shape. Too much ice cream for me in October and November. I have willpower, though (at least not when it comes to ice cream) and I forged on despite my tibialis anteriors screaming in agony at the unrelenting steep angle. That’s another way of saying the Kahili Mountain Ridge trail doesn’t have any stepping-stones. And the knife ridge aspect of the route feels alarmingly exposed at times. I’m not a clumsy idiot so I never felt really truly scared out of my wits, but neither did the thick vegetation on the mountainside offer much comfort.
The picture above was a little below my turn-around. Unfortunately, I don’t have an exciting, adventurous tale to tell about how I didn’t reach the top of the ridge. All that happened is I got so dang hot I couldn’t keep the sweat out of my eyes and I reached a washout in the trail that didn’t strike me as particularly terrifying except this is Kauai and hiking trails are basically muddy slip-n-slides. So I threw the towel in. But I’m gonna get up this sucker in a few weeks, mark my words. I’m really excited to return. This time, I’ll do it as an afternoon hike so I can get a few memorable pictures of the makai views.
In the picture above, see the bump in the far left of the frame? That’s part of Hoary Head Ridge. If you’ve seen some of my Mahaulepu pictures, the beaches I explored and the long walk I took back to Poipu…..they’re down there. That little lake is 424 acre Waita Reservoir. Koloa, Poipu (where we stayed) and the gorgeous coast are basically due south right on the other side of the reservoir.