Just came out of Halape yesterday (see Facebook and Instagram for photos). Did 3 days in there as a training hike for the AT. Originally I was planning to go into Waimanu Valley, but heavy rains all week on the Big Island made me change plans. Just wasn't thrilled about crossing those 2 rivers on that hike when it is pumping with water. That can get dangerous. I figured Halape, in the dry coastal region of Volcanoes National Park, wouldn't have any rain. Boy was I wrong. My parents dropped me off at the trail head in very light rain, but as I headed down the trail it just started pouring. Super heavy. I had my rain gear on that I recently bought at REI in Portland, but that soon just made me hot and sweaty while hiking. That's what everyone says in the AT blogs I read. Rain gear is useless- your sweat gets you just as wet under the jacket if you wear it while hiking. So after a bit I ditched the rain jacket and just hiked in my Smart Wool hiking top. Was very impressed- it worked as advertised. I got very wet, but the wool kept me totally warm the whole time.
Took me 4 hours and 20 minutes to get to the camp site and my legs were pretty beat by the time I got down there. 8 miles over uneven lava rock trail. The first thing I realized is that I am definitely not yet in hiking shape yet. My plan is to start slowly on the AT- probably between 6-8 miles a day. You eventually have to average at least 15 miles a day to finish the whole thing within 6 months, but I will slowly work my way up to that. Too many miles too quickly is what causes a lot of injuries on that trail and forces people to quit. Anyway, I finally got to the campsite- a total oasis in the desert. As you drop down the hill, you see this small area of palm trees, a couple of small white sand beaches, and a protected pool for swimming. Great spot. I started to set up my tent in the rain. It's a great ultralight tent for backpacking- the Big Agnes Copperspur 2 MountainGlo. The only drawback as I quickly learned is that to make it ultralight, most of the walls of the tent are mesh. So when setting up in the rain, in those couple of minutes before you can get your rainfly on, you get puddles of water inside your tent! Not a huge deal tho. I have a camp towel and was able to get it dry pretty quickly. I was all by myself down there for a while. Couldn't do much as the rain had me stuck in my tent. But when it let up for a bit, I went out to get water and ran into a guy named Michael from Idaho who was arriving just at dusk. Cool guy and we ended up hanging out and eating dinner together that first night.
It rained all night and most of the next morning. Finally cleared up for good around 11am. Michael took off around mid-day, and then a group of 5 showed up from Kona. Just behind them, a huge group of 12 showed up. Turned out they were a high school group from HPA on a backpacking trip. They started to set up right near me, but then changed their minds and hiked over a small rise to some camp ground a bit further away. Ended up hanging out with the Kona group after the HPA guys moved, and had a nice evening sitting around their camp fire and eating dinner. When I was planning this trip, one of the bummers was that Hawaiian Airlines does not allow camping stoves on their planes- not even if it is brand new and there is no fuel with it. So I started looking into renting some gear here on the Big Island. I found only one place on the whole island that rents quality backpacking gear. Turns out the owner of this business was this girl named Allysa in the Kona group. She doesn't have a store, but just rents online, out of her home. Check her out if you need gear on the Big Island. https://hawaiicamplife.com
So, pretty chill time down at Halape. Passed the time between swimming in the pool, reading a book in my tent when it was raining, eating (went stoveless at the end which worked fine), taking naps, collecting water, and hanging out with other campers. The hike up and out of there was pretty tough. The trail head is 2,680 ft. above the beach campsite, so it was some work to get up and out of there. I was dragging quite a bit in certain parts, especially the 2 palis (cliffs) that you have to go up. Nothing too steep- pretty gradual actually- but still a climb, and again, I'm not in shape yet. Beautiful scenery along the trail tho. The lower section is all dry grass and shrubs and lava rock. The middle section is more forested with 'ohi'a and other trees with lava rock, and the final section is just a black lava rock field. Coming through the forest section, I was pretty beat. But as I came around a corner and looked ahead, all I saw was a bright yellow guava hanging on a tree in front of me. No idea how no one else on the trail picked and ate it before me, or how I missed it on the way in, but it felt like it had been placed there and was waiting just for me. So nice and refreshing and a real boost to my motivation.
So all in all a very good first trip. Got to test out all my gear, which mostly was fantastic. The rain pants are too loose for my waist and for some reason weren't made with a drawstring, so they kept slipping down as I walked. Will trade those in back in Portland. Also realized that although it adds a small bit of weight, I definitely need to get a chair kit for my sleeping pad. Sitting on rocks and logs around the campsite just really sucks. Butt hurts, back is stiff. I hate it. I will gladly carry the extra 12 ounces or so just to be comfortable for the next 6 months. In a lot of ways, this trip just reminded what backpacking is like. I have done a lot of it in the past, but it's been several years so I kind of forgot some parts of it. Certainly there were times when I was really exhausted coming up the trail that I was feeling pretty over it all. But then the trail would level out, the scenery would change, or I would just get in a rhythm with the hiking and then I would start to really enjoy the walk and appreciate where I was. Also, meeting all the cool people at the campsite and hanging out with them was good fun. People tend to be pretty friendly and welcoming when they are out camping like that. So just noticing the ebbs and the flows of the trip. Sometimes gotta grind through the hard parts, but better times are always just around the bend.
Fortunately I had cell reception all the way along, so was easy to arrange the time for my parents to pick me up at the top. I was gassed, but they treated me to the awesome Thai food truck (Tuk-Tuk Thai Food) in Volcano Village, which definitely boosted my energy. The next training trip will be on Haleakala on Maui on February 6 for a couple of nights. Supposed to be amazing, but challenging and with more altitude to deal with. Will blog again after that trip and let you guys know how it goes. Until then, keep following along on social media and keep sharing with your friends. Donations of any amount are always greatly appreciated. Thank you guys!