Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Powerline Trail, Kauai, HI

Halfway into this trail I really didn't know what to make of it. It had been recommended to me by a local runner who said it was a wonderful trail crossing some of the most beautiful parts of Kauai. To be fair to him I did run the whole of the outward leg in the dark. So the jury was out on just how beautiful the whole area was. But what was clear to me was that the trail was heavily overgrown and my legs got mutilated.

It was not a huge surprise to find no one at the trailhead when I arrived at 5.30am. I could sense the overgrown nature of the surroundings even though I couldn't see anything to verify this. I geared up, switched on my GPS and took off into the dark.

The first section is a nose to the hillside climb, but it doesn't last very long and I was quickly skipping along navigating through tall grasses and around large trees. I like running in the dark, but this was more challenging because of the overgrown nature of the trail. My legs were getting whipped by stiff branches and sharp leaves and they were covered in blood after the first mile or so. The other problem was in the form of spider webs. Again, I would catch these in my hair and across my face and I was forever trying to wipe them away and discard them from my body.
This is what running through dense undergrowth in the dark by torchlight looks like.

There were a few sections where I had to crawl through a small canopy in the undergrowth, or twist my way through complex and interwoven fallen branches. These obstacles all served to interrupt my running and slow me down. Because it was like this most of the time I didn't particularly enjoy the running...and that was the whole point!!

But I did enjoy the sense of complete isolation. This trail is in a very remote area and I felt this isolation very strongly. Its a feeling I like. Then I got a bit of a shock that made me question whether i really was alone out there. I was running along a straight and level section of trail when my torch beam picked up a white object coming towards me. Before I had time to stop I was face to face with a small, white, pit bull terrier. It's eyes flashed "fear" and I felt sorry for this small dog. It was probably more startled than I was. I couldn't see anyone in the vicinity and it gave all appearance of being a stray. I dimmed my torch then, in a flash, it barked loudly and ran passed me along the route I had come. I didn't see it again.
First sign of dawn

I was a little more aware of my surroundings after that dog encounter but spent the entire run not meeting anyone.

One of the frustrations of this trail is that the dense undergrowth would occasionally give way to stretches of decent running, but this wouldn't last long. It would be helpful to bring along a machete or bushwhacker, but this is definitely an "unmaintained" trail. Then, at 3 miles, things got a little better. The trail turns into a wide mud "road" the loosest sense of the term...and this meant that I could at least do some running. But it is a steep and difficult section because the surface is so heavily rutted. Eventually this section emerges on the summit ridge and although it was still dark, I could pick out the outline of surrounding mountains in the first light of dawn.
Did I really run through this in the dark?

I plodded on for another mile or so to get a view of the north shore of the island and by the time I decided to turn back the dark had relented and I was able to run without torchlight. I don't know why this should have changed anything, but the run back to the trailhead was really enjoyable. What I hadn't realized until much later is that the final section of the ascent had been particularly overgrown and my legs were in quite a bit of pain from the scratching and scraping along this section. By contrast, the initial section of trail seemed relatively benign and I strode out more purposefully.
Sunrise over Keaka'a bay

I could also see my surroundings and this distracted me from the lashing I was getting. It truly was a beautiful area. There's nothing in the name "Powerline" that inspires the mind, but name aside, this crosses some tremendous countryside and I ended up feeling very glad that I had come. I wouldn't recommend the full trip to the north shore however until someone comes along with a weedwhacker and machete!!!

The trail really does go through here!!!

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