Kaunala Loop Trail

Another Humane Society hike got me out on the trail with the husband and the younger dog.  It was a long drive (a bit over an hour) to the trailhead, but we love the North Shore so why not get up a little early and get out there on a beautiful Saturday morning?

As usual, pup #2 was excited for the car ride, a bit unsure about the big group of dogs at the trailhead, and then ecstatic when we actually hit the trail.  The Kaunala Loop Trail is a 5.5 mile (ish? I can’t really find consistent info on the web) loop where the back half (or more) of the trail is a gravel road and then an actual road.

Apparently on last year’s hike, there was much grumbling about the total length of the trail, so this year’s plan was an in-and-out rather than the full loop, with a plan to take 2-ish hours total.  Our little crew ended up doing the whole loop instead, for kind of weird reasons.

Here’s what happened: The pup pooped early in the hike.  Husband cleaned up while I stayed with the front pack of hikers & dogs, with the idea that he would catch up with us.  But 15 or so minutes later, he hadn’t caught up, and I got concerned that he had missed a turn or something.  So I hung back and waited for him.  Lots of hikers and dogs passed us by, and I still waited.  Finally, he caught up.  He took the dog and went up ahead (I did tell him to because she was pulling), and I fell behind a bit.

So here’s the thing: I’m a slow hiker.  I hate being the slow fat girl in the back.  But it’s a fact, that’s me.  Part of why I’m a slow hiker is that I’m not in very good shape.  But I’m also clumsy.  I’m really, really clumsy.  I’ve broken many bones in my life, and in my childhood I was always the one who fell.  I was the one on the school field trip who slipped on the rocks, fell into the stream, and was soaked the rest of the day.  I was the one who took her high school boyfriend on a hike by the beach, fell, and broke her ankle badly.  Yeah, I’m that one.  So I hike slowly and carefully so that I’m at least not the fat girl who falls down comically.  I hate being fat & slow, but I hate more being fat & clumsy.

But the husband and dog were getting farther and farther ahead, and I was once again in the back of the pack.  I was kind of pissed… I was only back there because I had stopped to wait for him.  I had been fine with the lead group, but once I’m in the back I stay there.  I was getting more and more upset as I felt myself falling further and further behind, so I started trying to hurry on the easier bits of the trail.  There were a few nice relatively flat or easy downhill slopes, and I tried an almost jog.  And of course I fell.  Hard.  Badly.

It’s a bit of a blur, but I’m pretty sure that my foot hit a root (the trails in Hawaii are really, really rooty… I have no idea how anyone does trail running here, but they do) and I lost my balance.  Ordinarily, I would have recovered my balance easily, but I was carrying a too-heavy backpack (we threw a bluetooth speaker from the car in because we had been warned about break ins) which took me over.  What I felt as a I fell was the backpack hitting my head, hard.  It really hurt, and I was shaken up.  A mother and daughter were just up ahead and asked if I was OK.  I got up, brushed myself off and laughingly said yes.  But I wasn’t OK.  I was really shaken up.  As I kept hiking, I felt very unsteady on my feet.  My ankles felt like they were turning every time I hit an uneven spot.  My jaw hurt, and my head ached where the pack had hit it.  And then my right hand started hurting a lot.  Throbbing.  And the husband & dog were nowhere in sight.  I got even more angry and a little panicked.

Finally, there was a switchback in the trail, and I could hear the main group nearby.  I called out and asked the husband to wait for me.  “Are you OK?”  “No! Just wait for me.”  The woman and daughter were still just ahead of me, and I could see the mom was a little surprised at my answer of no, but at that point I was tired of caring how I appeared to strangers.  Really, I wasn’t OK.  I didn’t want to be hiking on my own at the back of the pack any more.

When I got up to where they were, I broke down crying, told him about my fall, and complained about being left in the dust.  He said (rightly) that I had told him to go up ahead, but of course I hadn’t meant so far ahead so quickly.  And he doesn’t really know the kind of shit that comes up for me being the one at the back all by myself.  He wanted to call it a day and head back, but I really didn’t.  I felt pretty sure that if we turned back, I wouldn’t want to hike again… I would just be frustrated and sad and humiliated and done with it all.  And I didn’t want that.  I insisted on pressing forward, but together.  And with him carrying the pack and holding the leash most of the time.

We went slowly.  Eventually we caught up with about half the group at their turnaround point.  We had been promised sweeping views of the North Shore at the planned-for turnaround point, including the windmills and the whole coast, which folks who knew the trail said was about a mile more up the path.  So after a water & snack break, we pressed on.

We continued our slow pace, and we ran into the other half of the group on their way back.  They told us that we were “almost there” and that we could really turn around at any point.  But I had come this far and I wanted the damn views.  Onward.

Not too far past that, we did get a nice North Shore ocean view.

KaunalaLoop - 1

But this was just a peek through the trees, not the sweeping views we had been promised.  So we continued, crawling over, under, and between three large trees that were down across the path and getting covered in ants in the process.  The end seemed much further than the “almost there” we had been promised, but we finally reached the gravel road and we saw… nothing.  Just a gravel road with an arrow pointing to the right for the hiking trail.

I had already been thinking that, while I was glad we continued the hike and had some good times to wipe away the bad memories from the start, I wasn’t totally sure I was up for redoing the same hike on the way back.  At our slow and oft-interrupted pace, it had taken us about two hours to reach the turnaround point.  My legs still felt shaky and unsteady, my hand hurt as much if not more than right after the fall, and I was getting hungry.  I had a gut feeling that the second half of the hike would be less than pleasant.  So I suggested that we complete the loop instead of turning around.   Even if it was longer, I said, I would feel a lot more comfortable on a wide and relatively smooth path, where I was unlikely to fall.  So instead of turning back, we turned right and hoped for the best.

And not much further on, we were rewarded for our decision, with the big sweeping North Shore views.  (Clearly the hike leader had forgotten where along the trail those views appeared, so we were the only ones who got to see it.)

KaunalaLoop - 1 (1)

The rest of the hike (or, rather, the walk it had become) was uneventful, except for the lack of certainty that we were going the right way.  But we were.  There was some uphill on the gravel road, and then a lot of downhill along the road itself.  Eventually we were dumped back onto the start of the trail, right near the turn that I thought the husband might have missed, just a few yards from where I stopped to wait and the whole thing went (temporarily) to hell.  This route even retraced enough of the early part of the hike that we could pick up the dog poop we had left at the side of the trail, and neither of us had to double-back for it.

The whole hike took us 3 hours and 45 minutes.  So the back end was shorter than the trail part, and almost certainly shorter than the whole hike would have been if we had chosen the in-and-out option.  I’m not sure, in fact, that the in-and-out route selected was actually any shorter than the full loop… I wonder what the route will be next year.

I any case, it was a good call to continue the hike.  My hand still hurts, almost a week later.  But not too much, and mostly when I pick up a full mug of coffee.  Of course if we had turned back right away, my hand would still hurt now.  But we wouldn’t have felt good about the hike; we would have missed the views; and the pup wouldn’t have looked so contented on the way home.

KaunalaLoop - 3

And I feel good enough about it that I would willingly hit the trail again soon, though maybe not in a big group.

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