The stars (and my usual backpacking cohort's vacation plans) aligned to allow us to do a trip on the Kalalau Trail in Hawaii. My family is peeved that I'm going to run off for a couple of days during our summer vacation, but that's a different issue for me to figure out.
I haven't hiked this trail before (and not likely to be this lucky again) and I'm having a hard time finding any detailed trip reports that will answer some basic questions I have.
What I want to know is: 1. Do I need to worry about rats and other critters messing with my food? 2. Are there significant mosquitos or other flying bugs? 3. How many river crossings should I expect? There is at least one, per the online map.
I hiked the Kalalau back in 2012 with my family (wife and two teenage sons). That was one of my favorite adventures, right up there with the JMT.
1. Looking at my packing list and thinking back we didn't use anything special to protect our food from critters. I think we just used a stuff sack and hung it on a low branch.
2. Yes bugs, we used deet and head nets.
3. If memory serves me correct there were three river crossings. Hanakapiai, Hanakoa, and one just before Kalalau. Because the trail was muddy anyways, I didn't take my hiking shoes off and just tromped right through each water crossing.
I will say, this hike is an ass kicker, but I'd do it again in a second. The views are amazing, just make sure you stop hiking before you appreciate them. Seriously, at times the trail is little more than a goat path clinging to the hill side with a wonderful drop into the ocean. Also, at least back in 2012, the pit toilets stunk worse than any smell you could imagine. Oh and keep your eyes peeled for all the Avocado trees along the trail. I dream of getting back there again in the near future.
I have heard that it's a really tough trail. I've already started some training. I'm going to take a SUL kit to make it easier, since I don't have to worry about it being too cold. Probably going to nix the stove so I don't have the hassle of picking up and then disposing of fuel.
Just got back to civilization/work and I must agree that this is a really tough trail, but totally worth it. It's a jungle, but without even half the bugs and no snakes at all to worry about.
There is a short section called Crawler's Ledge that looks pretty scary, but only from one direction. On the way in, there is a turn in the trail where you can see only the ocean below in front and on your right side. And it's downhill. It does look scary, but the ledge is solid. Besides, nearly the whole trail is a ledge and the of falling off is nearly as perilous.
The only special gear I recommend is a hanky, to wipe sweat and sunscreen out of the eyes. At the last minute, I found a scrap of a microfiber towel I'd used for awhile when I tried the whole hanky thing for day-to-day and stuffed it into my pocket. I'm not at all used to that level of heat and humidity, this was a game-changer.