Friday, February 20, 2009

Hiking in Paradise: Okolehao Trail

Although Kaua'i is a popular hiking destination with many well-documented trails, somehow this short and very scenic trek on the North Shore was left off of all the hiking books I came across so far. The nice thing about Okole'hao Trail is that it is very easy to get to and a breeze to accomplish between lunch and dinner. It is also fun because of its steepness, as opposed to the long, muddy drag, such as the Powerline Trail.

The trailhead is located at a well-marked, little foot bridge. To get there, one must take O'hiki Road that turns off to the taro fields from Kuhio Highway's crossing of the Hanale'i River by the famous oneway bridge. Parking is off to the side—and as anywhere in the islands—done at the owner's best judgment. Rentals are certainly a clear target, but considering that the North Shore of Kaua'i has already been mostly ethnically cleansed, cars here are a lot less prone to break-ins than places such as Ana'hola.

The trail needs good hiking shoes, probably trekking poles, water and camera. A light waterproof windbreaker can also be useful; it rains often on the trail and is rather windy at higher elevations. The approximately 2.5 miles path runs straight up to about 1250' on the ridge of the mountain. Because the starting point is in the humid and densely forested Hanale'i River Valley, mosquitoes demonstrate a diligent effort to get their meals out of any and all trespassers. If bug spray is not the hiker's favorite chemical, a brisk walk will get him/her to a comfortably high elevation and away from the bloodsuckers within ten minutes.

The rest of the trail climbs steeply along the ridge and offers absolutely magnificent views at times of the Valley (where Puff, the magic dragon lives), at other times toward the Bay. Short bursts of showers occasionally pass over the range, making the path quite slippery. The rest of the way quickly makes it to a plateau for more views of ocean, mountains, rain and rainbows. Oh, Kaua'i!

Return is the same way down.