The Powerline Trail

This trail is billed as a “road” providing access to a powerline system running through the center of northwest Kauai. This “road” travels through wild, untouched country and allows the hiker or mountain biker a rare chance to see parts of Kauai that nobody gets to see. As you may have intimated by my use of quotations, there is absolutely nothing road-like about this trail, and it should be avoided at all costs unless you are a glutton for punishment.

Distance: 6 miles
Elevation Gained: 600′
Difficulty: Masochistic
Time: 3:30
Critters: none

Get there like this.

Note: Following those directions and taking this hike will lead to a very unpleasant experience.


My intention on the Powerline Trail was to cross from the north terminus to the south terminus, which is a 10.25 mile traverse. Kelly would drop me off on one end and pick me up on the other, where we would enjoy some of the sights of central Kauai before heading to our bed and breakfast on the south. This is not at all how things turned out.

I got my ass handed to me on this trail. I made the error of not researching the route thoroughly to find out the most recent information. I did not realize that I was relying on a guidebook that was six years old. Nor did I factor in what six years of plant growth in the vicinity of the rainiest spot on the planet might look like. My assumption that this was an access road allowing the power company to maintain powerlines led to a very humbling experience.

If you look at the above photo, you will see a dark shadow in the lower half, slightly right of center. That is all that remains of the access road that once traversed 10.25 miles through a remote region of Kauai. That’s it. Six foot high grasses, ferns, and weeds slapping against my unclothed legs, soaking my clothing, and destroying my mood.

Sometimes, the trail looked like this. This was a little more manageable since there were fewer bushes to have to plow through. However, you may notice that this looks suspiciously like mud. That’s no ordinary mud though; that’s Hawaiian ice. This counter-intuitive term is reserved for a whitish-mud that is as slippery (worse, actually) than ice.

Between plowing through the weeds and slip-sliding on Hawaiian ice, I somehow managed to push through 1.5 miles of this shit. I continued not because I wanted to punish myself, although I did plenty of that. I continued because after every patch of grass, there would emerge a relatively long stretch of open trail that was pleasant to walk through. Additionally, the scenery was quite nice, although nothing even remotely approaching the Kalalau Trail.

But after every open, welcome patch, inevitably there would be another quarter mile of brush to push through. Finally, I reached a point where the trail literally dropped out as a stream had cut through the original trail. After nearly getting caught in this ditch, my reason finally prevailed and I turned back.

I learned that you never trust a guide book older than a couple of years. Always buy the latest edition or else crap like this might happen. I learned that Hawaiian flora grows like a teenager. I learned that evidence of a bad trail in the first three miles probably indicates that the rest of the trail will suck and therefore no chances should be taken. In other words, be willing to walk away from an “experience” if the evidence keeps telling you the experience will be bad. I was soundly humbled by this experience, which is not a terrible thing in itself. The only truly bad thing was that I could have been sitting on the lanai with Kelly and our vacation dog, Moki, reading the rest of Cloud Atlas. Alas.

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