Alaka’i Swamp (Kaua’i – Hawai’i)

Alaka’i Swamp – Kaua’i

August 2015

The swamp on the top of the world.   At 4000 feet, pearched on the NW slopes of Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth, lies the Alaka’i. This is a place to walk quietly through. A five million year tropical forest at altitude with over 750 inches of rain per year. Wild ginger, ferns and reptilian plants hang from the branches of the Ohia Lehua trees while bizarre bird calls appear and emerge from the cloud forest. A land of miniatures, sundews and stunted bonsai trees that live in the cloud swept meadows and bogs.

Our trip lead us from the Pihea trailhead along a ridge with views of the Kalalau valley and the open ocean beyond.   Get ready for mud as the Pihea trail is notoriously muddy and you’ll be crawling through Kauai’s red dirt for the latter half of this section. At the Alaka’i Swamp Trail Junction we chose to head south.

One of Earth’s truly bizarre places. Just be sure to bring a compass when the clouds role in! Raingear and hiking poles are a must.

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Thick Ferns unfurling
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A look at the trail conditions. This is very greasy mud. Expect this as it rains every day. Poles are crucial to avoid getting down on all fours.
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The clouds break over the Kalalau valley. +15C up here, +32C down there.
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We enter the cloud forest as the Pihea trail leads us to the Alaka’i
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Miniature lichen gardens on the forest floor
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Another view of the Kalalau Valley as the clouds briefly lift
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Typical obstacles along the trail
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Steamy cloud forest with ancient Ohia trees and Wild Ginger flowers
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PK navigates a slippery spot. We saw an entire family covered in mud on all fours heading down this…
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A look deep into the forest
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Fern trees and rotten boardwalk
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Wild Ginger. We had to try it:)
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Pihea/Alaka’i Trail Junction (looking North). We briefly detoured north to a stream then return to complete the south extension of the trail where we turned around and returned the way we came.
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A board walk leading through a Ginger grove on a detour north from the Pihea/Alaka’i Trail Junction.
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Wild Ginger flowers
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Epiphytic Alien plans grown along the forest fringes
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We enter the open patches along the Alaka’i bog
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Strange miniature trees line the path
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Giant Cedars as we head south from the Pihea/Alaka’i trail junction
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The clouds lift and we catch glimpse of the landscape to the west
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The view southwest
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Dwarf Ohia trees in blossom
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A clear view of the Alaka’i bog
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Bog Veg
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Flouromoss
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Five million year old forest
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Navigating a steep slippery spot
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typical descents along the Pihea trail on our return to the trailhead
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The chickens are everywhere!
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And a rainbow over Waimea Canyon on the drive back down to the beach for a swim and to warm up!

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