Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Where my little water sneakers have been...Maui/Kauai July 2018

Two days ago we returned from another glorious two week vacation in Hawaii, split evenly between our two favorite islands, Maui and Kauai. The laundry chore began immediately and included as always the process of getting the mildewy-still wet-red dirt covered shoes into the washing machine.  After a heavy wash cycle followed by 12 hours on a sunny ledge, my tan Columbia water sneakers emerge, not completely free of muddy evidence, but certainly in better condition than they were going in.

I have said in previous posts about Hawaii that the closed toed aqua sneaker was an absolute imperative on any Hawaii trip packing list.  I have first hand seen the bloody feet, stubbed toes, nasty slips taken and adventures altogether avoided by the smarty part individuals who left these at home.  I purchased my sneakers nearly ten years ago for about 40$, but they are worth their weight in gold!  As I tuck away my footwear until the next time it should become useful, my mind recalls the places this footwear has been!

Kauai-the Wailua River Secret Falls Trail:

Well, pretty much any travel guide will tell you that for those who can physically handle the challenge, a kayak trip up the Wailua River is an absolute must.  Many companies, such as Kayak Wailua or Wailua River Guides, offer a 4-5 hour guided tour, sometimes with lunch included, for about 60-90$ (I guess depending on if your guide makes you a sandwich or not).  
Everything done on this tour can be done independently at about half the price.  We have
Kind of hard to take a camera while paddlesurfing
kayaked the Wailua three times and never did we take a guided tour.  Double kayaks at Wailua Kayak and Canoe, located right at the river, eliminating the need to haul your kayak on your car, rent for 90$ for 5 hours and include a dry bag.  Kayak Kauai is 95$ for the whole day, but you have to load it on your car, the dry bag is not included (but essential--think iphones/carkeys), and you don't need the darn thing for the whole day.  You WILL be done in 5 hours.

Kayaking independently allows you to manage your activities at your own pace.  You are not limited by the pace of those who bit off more than they could chew-and boy, we have seen it.
You will not be alone on the river.  Groups of up to 10 kayaks depart regularly.  The later you go the more people will be on the river and the more will be on the Secret Falls trail.
Kayaking is not easy work.  Intelligent coordinated paddlers will need strength and endurance to complete the paddle.  It always seems to be harder on the way back.
In the interest of old age, progressively tightening hamstrings, and variety--we stand up paddled the river this time.  This can be done through Kauai SUP.  $40 gets your the board and dry bag for the whole day.  It is waiting for you at the put in point and when you are done you just pull it out and call the store and they come get it.  Now that's convenient!  Prepare to avoid novice kayakers learning to steer!

Okay so what does all this have to do with the water sneakers?  Well, nothing really, except for the fact that if you are going to kayak, it is pretty likely that when you get to the fork in the river, you are going to paddle right, continue up the river another few minutes, where you will encounter a beachy area littered with kayaks.  It is here that you will abandon your vessel and take the trail to Secret Falls, which is apparently the worst kept secret on the planet owing to the multitudes of people with the same plan.  It is here that you water shoes become your best friend.
The mud is serious!
No flip flops!
The trail to not so Secret Falls is only about a mile and mostly follows along a river bank, so there is little elevation gain, but this hike is a physical challenge for two main reasons, stream crossings and the slickest mud you will ever meet.  If the water is running a bit high, like it was when we were there, your foot disappears into the murky waters as you stream cross.  The first stream crossing requires hanging onto a rope while the water pushes against you at knee level (higher if you aren't tall).  The other three are less challenging, but much safer without the added fear of injuring your foot.  The water shoes don't do much to prevent slipping on the mud, but they do prevent you from slipping on your own footwear, as with muddy slippery flip flops.  The mud is serious.  There are parts of the trail that are akin to a bobsled run.  All over the trail all the tracks of the slips that went before you.  The mud flicks up and lands on your legs, back and hair. There is also the occasional hiker that just slides unsuspectingly right into the mire, sometimes covered from head to toe on one surface until they can wash off at the falls.  Actually this happened to my daughter who left her water shoes in the room.  What was she wearing?  Flip flops.  Listen, far more seriously, we came upon a lady on a guided laying flat on her back in the mud with an ice pack around her ankle.  She was being tended to by her guide.  The gossip around the water hole was that she had broken her ankle and had to be evacuated by the coast guard.  Extreme care must be taken--you do not want this to happen.

Now back to water sneakers--when you get to the falls--you can take a refreshing bath/swim.  This also is much easier with a closed water shoe!  Entry is rocky and so is the pool bottom.  Sharp rocks hurt! Another thing you will see a lot of foolhardy tourists so is swim right under the waterfall.  This is ill advised.  All the rocks below your feet as you swim were once at the top of that 120 foot waterfall, if you catch my drift.  Even a small rock from that height is going to feel like a meteor when it lands on your head.

Though I tried to scare you, I like this hike, which is why I chose to do it for the fourth time.
It actually is a must do.  I didn't slip or stub a toe or cut my foot.  And what was I wearing on my feet????

Kauai-Queen's Bath:

Queens Bath is located on the North Shore of Kauai, in the town of Princeville.  Queen's Bath is a large pool of volcanic rock slightly inset from the ocean, making for an idyllic swimming spot allowing you to take a peaceful swim while the occasional wave crashes over the rim refreshing the water.  The ocean waves often deposit a fish or two, so it is not unusual to see some snorkeling going on here.  It is completely invisible from any road, but it is easy to find the access point with a map.  I highly recommend visiting as early as possible, especially on the weekends, for one, because the area can be frequented by young locals who can really take over the place and for two, because the parking situation really stinks.

I have heard it said this is one of the most dangerous places in Kauai??  I really don't get it...

We have found the pool in ideal and not so ideal situations. One year it was really low--borderline stagnant.  So we just walked around to the other side and jumped off cliffs into the cove.  This is far more like jumping into the open ocean and usually is unsafe.  We have not been able to do it again--but it sure was fun when we did.

OK-back to the shoes.  Right out of the parking area a muddy path leads steeply down from the parking lot.  It's not always muddy, but it rains a lot on the north shore, so more often than not it is.  There are areas you have to hang on with your hands and place your feet just so.  Down at the bottom a hard left turn and a 5 minute walk over some uneven lava rocks will lead you to Queen's bath.
Once you get there you are going to have to negotiate the rocky lava to get in and out.  This is far more comfortable in a closed water sneaker.  Queen's Bath is definitely a place where a slip can leave you bleeding, so why risk it.  
Another favorite for the young at heart (yes, I do it!) is to jump off a 10 foot precipice into the pool.  The jump requires a little push out, which can hurt bare feet.   Do not do it in flip flops.  I prefer having my feet protected!

Now I have never seen anyone have to be medically evacuated from this area, but I must say that though my mom and dad used to enjoy this area with us, I have now forbidden them from joining.  It's just too risky with too much potential for a life altering injury.

Also not my picture, but ain't it pretty
Maui-Olivine Pools:

Olivine Pools is another one of those secret gems that requires some effort in terms of drive and hike, but provides the reward of limited company and maximal fun!  
The Olivine Pools are akin to Queens Bath on Kauai, but the area is a bit larger. It is basically a series of pools created again by shoreline lava.  The same swimming and jumping from a precipice opportunities apply. I feel like it's harder to get to, more off the beaten path, and therefore, less crowded!
Olivine Pools is located on "the other road to Hana," basically the road taken when you drive as far north as you can over the west side of Maui, past Kapalua and Honolua Bay, to the less traveled "back side."
The road to Olivine Pools is really not that bad.  It's windey and hilly, but wide.  That is if you drive over from Maui's west side.  The last two times we have come to Olivine Pools, we came directly from the airport. When your plane lands on the islands at 9am, and you can't get into your room on Kaanapali until 4, ya gotta do something, and the road up to the pools is scenic and adventurous...and not for the faint of heart.   There are definite okole squeezin' spots on the road where two cars better suck it in to be able to pass side by side. Just past the town of Kahakuloa, (home to Julia's Banana Bread Snack Stand) not far before the pools, there is a long cliffside stretch you had better take quickly if you see that it's clear, because if you come face to face with another car, someone is backing up.  I understand that its the person coming downhill that does the backing up.  If another car comes behind you, then both of you are backing up, and so on.  The locals drive fast and do not seem to be worried about scratching their cars.  No rental agreements here!  We always hold our breath here and take the ready set go approach.
Anyway, it is not rocket science to find the pools, because it's pretty much where you see cars parked, though the area is not clearly marked.  A little pathway will quickly lead you to a "Don't Die here" sign that will let you know you are there.  The tricky part is getting down, because it looks like a long steep way down to the ocean, and it is.  Anyway, there are several vague paths you can take, but the correct one is to the left.  Shortly the pools will appear below you.
SHOES ALERT!  Honestly, it would not be overkill to take the trail down to Olivine Pools in actual hiking boots.  No joke.  It is steep and rocky, the kind of small rocks that can roll under your feet.  Anyway, at the very least, you need your closed water sneaker.  They also come in mighty handy when your reach the pools, walk across the lava, enter and exit the pools and of course, take the obligatory jump off your chosen high point into the refreshing salt water, the perfect way to shake that dusty trail!
I have seen many a flip flopped individual either at the top lamenting the fact they are minus the footwear to get down this danged hill, or at the bottom bleeding.
Anyway, is it safe?  There is no question that the Olivine Pools are a calm haven directly next to an open raging sea.  There is also no doubt that during high surf a large wave could yank an individual (usually one who pushed the envelope too far) off the rocks and into the water.  It has happened.  During the summer, this situation is rare and we have never felt in danger while in the pools.  My husband and I went once, however, when the surf was higher.  We were far back from the ocean but a large wave still managed to knock us over and drag across the lava.  Soaking wet towel, wardrobe malfunction, lost bandana, blood.

Maui- the "Temple Falls" at Pua'a Ka'a State Park:

The much maligned Hana Highway is a favorite spot for many water sneaker adventures, but I would have to say our favorite is the forbidden and hidden fresh water falls and ponds at the Pua'a Ka'a State Park.  
The Pua'a Ka'a State park is nothing more than a potty and stretch your legs break on your trip down the Hana Highway.  There are some picnic tables and a couple of little falls and a pool you can hop the fence and swim in, but very few do.  The real prize is across the stream and up behind the lower pool and the best part is that pretty much no one knows about it.  Do I dare sharing our secret play spot??
The one catch is that just about the first thing you have to do is scramble up the trail past the "Trail Closed" sign.  There is no one there to enforce it, and the sign doesn't say anything like no trespassing or violators will be prosecuted or anything.  So the only obstacle you may encounter are the stares of the 35 tour bus riders watching you blatantly disregard it (that is going there AND coming back by the way).  Anyway, that does make me minimally uncomfortable so best to get there early.
Why is the trail closed?  Well, because its narrow steep and MUDDY.  But what am I wearing on my feet??  The trail is easily followed up and along the opposite side of the stream to an aqueduct that crosses a large chasm.  You walk along the aqueduct over the chasm on about 18 inches of plank, using the handrail provided.  If you fell into the aqueduct, you would fall about 6 feet onto to the concrete floor.  Probably not life altering but it would leave a nice bruise and then good luck climbing out of there so better to hang on.  I hang on with both hands.  A few steps to the right and what a beauty lies below...a gorgeous 25 foot waterfall and your own personal fresh water swimming pool.  
The water is chilly and the force of the waterfall does make for some athletic swimming.  Our favorite thing to do here is make a little climb to a ledge and jump the 12 feet or so to the cold water below.  Getting up there requires some big steps and some arm strength, but it's not a big deal.  I didn't do it last time.  This time I totally did it.  How much time do I have to have this kind of fun with my kids?
We were there for about an hour.  No one joined us.  No one knew we were there!

We didn't mind having only each other as company!

And we each did this about 10 times!
Hard to get enough!

I guess I should apologize somewhat that many of these pictures weren't taken by me.  As these places are slippery, muddy, and often connected to water--lugging around your SLR, or even your iPhone, is a risk.

Well thank you for reading this post.  I hoped you enjoyed and will get out to some of these places where your feet need a little extra love!!

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