Dec 2007 on Kauai was water logged, with a huge blob of moisture over the western state all month. By New Years, there was a transition to the better coming -- but how good was impossible to predict.( Here's an excellent, real time site for predicting rain conditions in the islands.)
Day One: Embracing the Wet.
After a month of steady rain, the Camp 10 road was in sorry shape with slippery, slimed clay but no real mud wallows just the usual deep puddles. The stream crossings were running higher than normal yet not hazardous and the water was clear.
We left the trailhead, crossed Mohihi Stream feet wet and climbed atop the ridge above Koaie Stream. We hit boggy conditions before the steep drop into Koaie Gorge(It would only get muddier.)
The route to the bogs, after the steep climb out of Koaie Gorge, continues to improve except some lowlife has removed the Arrow Log. Guess I'll have to rename the point Lost Arrow. The bogs were as soaked as we've even seen them. The fence appears to be working. The hog wallows are healing. Anticipating a long ordeal crossing Purgatory Gap and the lack of a good campsite before Kapoki, we camped early at Bog Camp between Sincock's and Bogette aka Bog 2.
Lost Arrow is actually a fork in the trail. The Mohihi-Waialae Trail bends west at this point, and the more subtle route toward the bogs bend left, east. It's very easy to miss this turn -- hence the ex-Arrow. The Mohihi-Waialae Trail also starts to angle off the ridge at this point while the route to the bogs continues level.Day Two: Follow the Pink Brick(Flagged) Road.
After a nice night with light drizzle, we walked to the end of Bogette and started across the dreaded Purgatory Gap. Note: Outside the NE corner of the fence is what appears to be an old prospect pit dug by geologists decades ago. Might be a reliable water source.
We quickly picked up the orange flags left by the gang of four and were happy to find that their trail breaking had endured. About a third of the way across, we encounter "Authoritative" pink flags (authoritative = closely spaced, long flags flapping in the breeze, tracking the ridge top) Since we'd heard reports of a new fence line being proposed, we followed them. Soon it became apparent the the flags had been placed by somebody likely guided with a GPS, semi-cleared and beelined to Kapoki Crater.
We crossed the blue flagged diagonal transect that bisects the ridge, (then drops southwest toward Grand Central). The flags led up the steep, narrow ridge to Kapoki on the crater rim and followed the rim south. We overshot the transect that leads almost directly east across the crater floor to the east rim and over to the stream drainage and box canyon near Ridge Camp. We debated continuing to follow the flags south and around the crater rim to PK, but decided to go with a known, the direct route. We back tracked a hundred yards or so.
Conditions were horrid crossing the crater floor with deep mud and a demanding climb up to PK on the east crater rim. At this point, one of us, (the old one drawing Social Security) had a confidence meltdown. Knowing the difficulty of crossing the ravines ahead and climbing out of the box canyon at Ridge Camp, he suggested the others press ahead for the summit. We consulted.
I've often wondered why the named summit of Kapoki is lower and less prominent that PK. A 1910 topographic map hints the answer. It shows Kapoki in a different location -- at what we've called PK. Apparently somebody goofed. There several others errors on the later maps.
PB pointed out that since we'd rejoined the pink flags (which obviously HAD followed the rim), they must be going somewhere, and the somewhere was probably the summit. And might be a lot easier than what we'd been doing. Fortunately he persisted.
It took a while to sink into my thick skull, but I realized that if he was right, it'd save us a lot of time and energy.
The flags followed the rim north from PK, then turned east along the divide around the north side of the drainage, level, with little (by Alakai standards anyway) mud. It was a well used route, with even the occasional blue flag. I even spotted a foot print or two, probably Bob Burd's, although I didn't know of his incredible dayhike until returning home and checking my email.
Quickly and painlessly, we reached the summit approach ridge, the traditional route followed by the ancient Waialeale Trail and taken on our earlier ascents. We took a short break, stashed our packs aways up ridge and continued toward the summit.
It was muddy but only light mist and fog that occasionally cleared enough for a view north to the headwaters and upper canyon of Wainiha Stream. As the trail opened up, we joined the summit enclosure fence then turned south at the fog filled Blue Hole (Called Waialeale "Crater" by the geological challenged). Remember the scene in Jurassic Park, where T-Rex causes ripples in puddles? Conditions were such that I produced my own ripples as far as ten feet ahead.
After a final steep climb we stood atop Kawaikini, at 5243 feet, the summit of Mount Waialeale. Visibility was limited with Kawaikini just sticking above the clouds at times. Occasionally we'd get a peek into Olokele Canyon as the air descended and heated up. It was cool and windy.
Clouds part for a glimpse of Olokele Valley 3000' below.
After the normal summit stuff, taking photos, etc., since it was getting late we headed down. ER pressed ahead to tag the Lake and raingage, while Patrick and I, having been there, done that headed down, stopping for water at the big cut in the fence. To my surprise the wire was badly rusted. Why bother to build a fence from wire that rusts and then apparently not even check the fence? (I've learned that the new fence, that will match the summit fence along part of it's route, will be monitored.)
We camped in windy, misty conditions at the intersection of the pink flagged route and the old Waialeale Trail close to Ridge Camp (Ridge Camp is better protected but cramped). Although the issue was in doubt at times, the night passed without any tents blowing away. Ear plugs came in handy blocking the constant roar of the wind and rattle of passing showers.Day Three
The next morning we retraced the pink flagged route, but rather than go back across the crater muck at PK, we followed the pink road south along the rim. There were some very steep, hazardous sections, and we were surprised to see overhanging cliffs and lethal drops on the south slope outside Kapoki Crater. Still, the southern rim is the way to go, with potentially great views to the south on a clear day. But one wrong step south might be your last.
Steep cliffs on south side of Kapoki. Photo: Courtesy of and all rights reserved by Bob Burd.
At times, we've contemplated going from Keaku Cave up to the crater or vice versa, but this would require precise navigation, threading the low gap in the rim
After Kapoki, about two thirds of the way returning across Purgatory, the pink flags finally betrayed us, leading us southwest off the divide, bushwhacking across a small stream flowing the wrong direction (south) to a new(to us) fenced area which we thought was Bogette (call it Bog X). We followed the fence but quickly realized it didn't add up. We returned to the pink flags and continued to the real Bogette a couple hundred yards NW. It was routine from there to Koaie Cabin.(Our few diversions this trip didn't waste much time).
At Koaie, we resisted the temptation to death march out (I'd died somewhere along the trail) and camped under a blue sky. At last, we could rinsed our mud caked shoes and socks and legs in the stream. Then we festooned the shrubbery with our gear in a futile effort to let the stuff dry. (The humidity in the Alakai is such that when you lose the sunlight, gear no longer dries.)Day Four
The next morning, after enjoyed the simple pleasure of putting on socks and shoes that were merely wet, we hiked out on a drying Mohihi-Waialae Trail. (The beginning of a lo-o-ong dry spell).
After a few dramatics with a dead battery and much appreciated aloha spirit from a hunter, we headed down hill.
The Garmin 60CSx is fantastic, even maintaining a constant lock inside the pack, much less be intimidated by overage foilage. And the electronic compass is fantastic. We never had to resort to our magnetic compass (Don't leave at home though.)
Don't forget the rain pants, preferably ones that un-zip high to allow legs to cool and dry. Many times, you'll be on hands and knees in mud or straddling wet rotting logs.
Although the conditions were the worse we've encountered east of Koaie stream, it could have been much worse -- the previous month had steady rain but no down pours. Same on our trek.
We spotted few pigs or goats this trip and sadly now there are even fewer birds to be seen or heard.
Now the route is approaching perfection. It follows a divide all the way from Koaie Cabin to Kawaikini. Ironically, the route east of Bogette now matches what I'd schemed sitting in front of a computer before I'd made my first foray to the end of the Camp 10 Road. East of Bogette, it closely matches the Hanalei/Waimea District boundary shown on the topo maps. We covered Purgatory Gap in well less than two hours, coming and going.
Shortly before Sincock's Bog and crossing the crater, I noticed rare outcrops of white clay, just like the outcrops atop the flat Powerline Trail ridge Powerline trail. They're probably from the Koloa Volcanic Series.