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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Kalalau Trail Hawaii’s Most Dangerous Hike

Hiking Kalalau Trail Hawaii’s Most Dangerous Hike

We landed in Kauai rather late after hitching a ride to the airport with Kalei’s ex-boyfriend. As we walked out of the airport I sensed a more laid back environment than Oahu. Maybe the rural, scenic highway walking down Route 56 skewed my judgement, or maybe walking straight for Kalalau Trail from the airport without a shuttle, taxi, or bus did it. I did not know.

But, that first night walking past the WalMart, wild camping off in the jungle with Kelly felt more memorable than ever. We slept at the top of an embankment off the highway with vines, palm leaves and roots all cattywampus around our bivy sacks.

Despite the drastic temperature change from Oahu, I slept well. Our only plan for Kauai involved hiking the Kalalau Trail off the Na Pali Coast. I heard about its beauty from a few buddies at Pacific Skydiving and it felt like the hike of a lifetime from all the stories they reminisced.

We walked down the coast, planning on taking the bus or hitchhiking, with no definite timeframe in mind. The weather held up nicely as we trucked our packs along on our first backpacking adventure together as a couple.

Kelly did not backpack. She did not really hike or hitchhike, but she joined and surprisingly did quite well for her first time.

After a few food stops and a gas station, we quickly learned the only way to Kalalau Trail without a rental car was by hitchhiking as the bus took people as far as Princeville. We thought about taking the bus, but shortly after leaving the gas station, strapping on our packs for the road, two hippies pulled off the road and gave us a lift. They noticed the sign I rigged up earlier in red marker, “Na Pali Coast Trail” in bold capital lettering. They just completed the trail recently and agreed to take us to Princeville. The driver told us tales of the valley. His wavy, brown long hair, and scruffy five o’clock shadow resembled that of a Senator Morra lookalike from Limitless. We felt the love in the air, the spirit of travel, the wanderlust, as he told us of the people whom lived in the valley at the end of Kalalau Trail.

Kalalau Trail Hawaii's Most Dangerous Hike

Pickin’ Guava along the hike with Kelly

Before the annexation of Hawaii a small community of locals lived off in the jungle of the Kalalau along the Na Pali Coast. They lived off the luscious, soil-enriched land, with dense tropical vegetation from native guavas, nuna, java plum, and limes to non-native species planted by man. The terraces stretched for miles into the end of the valley of Kalalau with mango trees, jackfruit, bananas, etc. So much fruit you could taste its essence in the air by sticking out your tongue, like a mist of sugar in a chocolate factory.

But after getting pushed off their land, the terraces and goats became an abandoned relic of the past, a hidden gem in the valley. Hippies from all over the world took this opportunity to grow fruits and help fix the terraces, living in the valley off the land. The past 50 to 60 years all different types of travelers got lost in the valley, finding themselves in an oasis of epic proportions with godly views of the Na Pali Coast. With that tale you can bet we held on for an adventure.

The passion and love flowing in the conversation took us further than Princeville. It took us to the start of the Kalalau Trail. With five hours of daylight left we set up camp off the coast underneath palm trees overlooking the thrashing ocean.

We just missed the rain, but not for very long. What no one told us about the Kalalau Trail, we completely overlooked the obvious, jungle climate. The first six miles we trudged along the coast on a six-inch wide path of muddy, slippery rocks and sludge overlooking cliff-face after cliff-face. I did not fear heights or the squishy, slick, narrow pathways, but Kelly looked terrified, with a fake smile plastered over her ghostly grin.

It felt like eternity hiking up and down and around these mountains along the Kalalau. It took much patience on my part to accept Kelly’s less than thrilled enthusiasm for this hike. But, it was not the hike itself she disliked. She just hated the steep, chilling fear of getting vertical close to the edge of a devastating dangerous ledge, which felt endless. Probably because it was…

For the first six miles we completed them in just under seven hours. I lost much of my patience watching her lollygag behind me, but I truly did not know she feared for her life. She pushed her limits to the max and it made me appreciate how much she loves me.

I sat on that thought for the rest of the night while I set up camp under a lemon tree by the restroom. We stayed pretty dry with the tarp shelter I rigged up. Although, the massive rainfall left our campsite in a ponding mess of puddles like mud-pie craters sprawled across the ground, somehow we managed.

The whole hike felt damp, misty and wet with mud brushed across my legs and wrinkled, moist feet. My boots felt like five pound weights that got heavier with each daunting step through the harsh jungle mud. Kelly endured my pain equally, but she stood firm with her decision to end her hike at the six-mile mark. Crawlers Ledge, the more open cliff-faces, excessive erosion and limited food supply solidified her decision to stay behind.

So I kept on hiking and to my surprise she made the safe choice. The hike intensified as I crossed rivers thigh deep in fast flowing water in flash flood hazard areas. I maintained my footing, bracing myself with my walking stick as much as possible. I tried not to look down at the huge drop-offs overlooking the swell crashing against the rocky walls of the ledge I scrambled past, but that’s where the view lay. So I looked. My heart thumped slowly, but as I kept a steady pace any fear subsided as I gained confidence along the way.

Kalalau Trail Hawaii's Most Dangerous Hike

Kalalau Trail approaching the end of Hawaii’s Most Dangerous Hike off the Na Pali Coast…

Surprisingly, after the 8-mile mark the rain subsided for the first time on the hike. I hiked free. I hiked alone. I hiked at my own pace. It felt relaxing and heart-breaking at the same time. Since all I thought about was my wife’s well-being and how she held up at the 6-mile shelter. The path finally dried up and for the first time I walked on solid, stable, ground, free of potential landslides and rockslides or any slippery escapades to my demise.

I squabbled along the ridge looking out at the erosion sheared next to me, with open root structures freely dangling in the wind. One step might trigger a landslide, or not, but I made it this far so I kept going as the sun winked its rays in approval.

The mountains felt infinite in both directions as I circled in a panoramic view of the coastline from a few hundred feet in the air. Their silhouettes stacked in the distance enduring an eternity of crashing breaks from the heartaches of Mother Nature. It’s no wonder the park service closed the trail whilst we hiked it. Erosion, landslides, fallen down trees, and rock slides occurred frequently in damp, rainy weather. I lucked out as I stood there overlooking Kalalau Beach without a tear in the sky.

Kalalau Trail Hawaii's Most Dangerous Hike

Approaching the 11-mile beach on the Kalalau Trail

Although, my presence on the 11-mile beach felt short-lived this hike goes into the memory bank as not only my most dangerous hike, but my most cherished because of the moments I shared with my Kelly. She stuck it out, in the cold, in the rain, wild camping, hitchhiking, hiking and walking like a champion. I am very proud of her and the many more random adventures we will share throughout our travels around the world.

Isabela, Philippines, Tilapia…Oi…Oi

Hitchhiking Isabela Philippines

The past few days the knots and twists in my stomach killed me. Literally incapacitated, I slept most of the past two days, with the exception of hitching along for a ride to Isabela (a small village town in the mountains outside of Solano). The ride to Isabela took me through beautiful mountainous terrain. Green and chocolate peaks with yellow corn stalks sprouting from the bases, and bright lime rice terraces interlaced for miles on end. Our van hobbled down the back roads to Isabela Philippines. Dirt, gravel and dust flew in the air and the weight of 12+ passengers made the slightest bumps and cracks a challenge for the driver to escape with an unscathed undercarriage. Many times we bottomed out over speed-bumps, but kept on plugging at it. After a few hours we arrived in the village of Isabela. Many Filipino’s greeted me and the kids all stood around me in a circle staring. I was probably the first white person they ever saw in person. My stomach at this point still felt like knives twisting and turning in my abdomen. I could not eat at all, felt nauseous, slightly sweaty and not talkative in the least bit, which being a new exotic ingredient to the group, definitely made me slightly annoyed. I just wanted to be alone at this point, but everyone took such interest in me so an escape felt impossible.

Mountains of Isabela

Mountains of Isabela

The worst part of all of this came as the assortment of food covered the tables. Chicken, rice, fried fish, pork, chili pepper scattered across the table with sticky rice, cookies and other desserts. My nose tasted the aroma of all the pungent smells spreading through the air and yet I knew I could not indulge in any of it. They all looked at me with the utmost concern. Robert, a drunk Filipino man who sipped on Ginebra Sam Miguel’s Gin the whole day, approached me and stuttered in broken English, “YOU EAT THE RICE???” Not understanding my stomach felt like daggers punching through flesh he stood there confused as did much of the group. I really wished I felt better because I ended up missing every single meal they prepared in Isabela.

Isabela Philippines

He’s just chillin’ in a ditch like a gutter punk haha

However, after camping out in the van for the night with Allan James and taking some medicine in the morning my stomach finally felt capable of eating some real food. Other than crackers and a few pieces of papaya I just could not stomach anything for two full days.

Isabela Philippines

The mountains of Isabela are covered in corn stalks, rice terraces and fish ponds along with a variety of other plants. It’s beautiful here!

We woke up at the crack of dawn around 5 AM. The KTV from the night before finally faded. The voices of drunken Filipino men slurring Tagalog songs over a microphone lasted for much of the night. They finished bottle after bottle of gin, chasing it down with coconut juice from the trees scattered throughout their properties.

Fishing Isabela Philippines

Fishing in a pond in Isabela Philippines!

I indulged in crackers, and coconut juice. My stomach felt a little better, but I think I got food poisoning from a few nights prior after eating raw squid. The day progressed and we ended up going back to Robert’s father’s tilapia pond across town. There we caught fish. By this I mean, they pulled out the generator from their bamboo hut, hooked up the hose and we all jumped into the muddy bog-like pond. They fueled her up and started her. The pond drained over the course of an hour. Three Filipino men, Robert, Allan James and Welbur accompanied by myself and a naked little Filipino kid all roamed around looking for the presence of nearby tilapia. The mud squished between my toes and each step felt like quicksand as the mud inched up past my knees to my thighs. Mud ended up everywhere all over my body. My face, arms, hair, chest, legs, crotch all covered with the nastiest, smelliest brown mud from the Philippines. The feeling of diving after these slippery little fuckers definitely heightened my spirits. After spending much time sleeping in agonizing stomach pain I enjoyed getting my hands dirty catching fish or at least “trying” to catch fish. I think after much of the water drained and the pond was left to pockets of mud and water I ended up catching about ten to twenty fish of all sizes. Gills pricked my hands and left cuts and splinter-like marks across my palms and fingers, but by the end we all caught about 20 kilograms of tilapia total.

Village Life Isabela Philippines

Some of the villages in Isabela Philippines

The best part of it all when I bit into that juicy, fried fish. I took a half-ass shower from the well water pump by this point. So I no longer looked like a dirty homebum from LA, but that was the most fresh seafood I have ever tasted in my lifetime.

Isabela Philippines Talipia

Chilling by the fish pond!

Despite the stomach pain that followed most of the ride home it was worth it.

Wright Park Baguio

Backpacking the Philippines: Straight Out Manila

Backpacking the Philippines

Backpacking the Philippines to Mines View Park

Backpacking the Philippines to Mines View Park

So I ended up getting kicked out of Manila Airport in the Philippines around 4 AM and instead of taking an un-metered taxi to god knows where I decided to just walk. Manila is one of the most dangerous parts of the Philippines. Much crime takes place and the city itself is a filthy, polluted mess. I ended up getting followed by this guy who called himself a “Travel Agent” and went by the name of Eric. But at 4 AM I found it odd this guy wanted to follow me around and help me out. We walked to a church where I learned most Filipino’s practice Christianity or Catholicism. Even at 4 AM a lot of people sat in the sanctuary worshiping God. This church stood near Metro Park. After that we checked out the Asean Mall and I noticed a pyrotechnic musical was being held on the 14th of March. He then took me to the deep sea by the coast, which we ended up walking for a few hours and chilled by the pathway that followed the coast until sunrise. At this point I just wanted to sleep, but I did not trust this guy at all. He would not leave me alone. We walked to breakfast and I ate a simple rice dish from a street vendor. Within a few minutes both of us finished our platters and when it came time to pay I put down the money on the table. The ATM only spits out 500 peso bills so I needed change. He offered to take it up and acted like she didn’t have change so he walked over to the nearest jeepney. I looked down to pick up my pack and the guy ran between the cracks, gone. He robbed me of 500 pesos and I needed to pay another 120 pesos for breakfast. So, needless to say, my first night in Manila was not the best. It didn’t really get much better from there.

I spent the rest of the day walking and trying to hitch out of Manila. I ended up walking about 25 KM. I saw a bus crash into a telephone pole and ended up on the news. I bumped into Paul Raymond Acosta who hooked me up with some lunch, clothes and directions to the best on-ramp for hitchhiking out of Manila to start backpacking the Philippines. I took a jeepney to Monumento and then a jeepney to Balintawak. I walked down the on-ramp and held my sign there near the NLEX on-ramp, “BAGUIO!” No one picked me up over the course of 4 hours. Apparently there is too much crime in Manila. People kept coming up to me trying to guide me to the bus stop, which I already knew existed.

Backpacking Baguio Philippines

Tramping down Kennon Road to see the mountains in Baguio, Philippines

I ended up giving in as I tried hitch hiking previously near a gas station and just tramping down the road didn’t work either. So I stood on the sidewalk where the Genesis bus stops for Baguio passenger pickup. Three buses later (Some Victory Liner buses as well) and no luck I almost gave up hope. By this time it was 6 PM and the sun just set. The people helping me out had left and I almost took a jeepney back to the Chill Hotel to crash for the night. It was then I met Welbur Lacdao. He was taking a bus to Nueva Vizcaya Solano. We talked for quite a bit and after a while I told him I’d go on whatever bus came first, Baguio or Vizcaya. The Baguio bus was full and his bus ended up stopping a few minutes after. We got on for a long 8-hour ride, most of which, in the darkness. I noticed a lot of scenery in the Philippines is covered in a variety of rice paddi’s and mountains.

Baguio Botanical Gardens

Baguio Botanical Gardens

The next few days I spent time in Nueva Vizcaya Solano with Welbur and his family. His daughter just turned four years old so we celebrated her birthday and the whole neighborhood and family came by for the gathering. We ate a lot of Filipino food, shanghai, dried fish, rice with pork, okra, one-day old, etc. and at night time all the adults sat around a table drinking brandy and signing to KTV. In the morning I hitched a ride with Welbur to the UV Express Service Van station and took a 3-hour ride through the mountains to Baguio. The scenery along the whole ride is winding turns going up steep 6 to 10% grades through undeveloped mountains full of green vegetables, terraces and a mix of brown shrubbery along with vibrant, lime green rice paddies sitting between the valley’s of gray granite rocks where a small river runs through it.

Baguio Punks

Chilling with the punks of Baguio whom I met at Aguinaldo Park in Baguio City, Philippines.

The first day I arrived in Baguio I randomly walked through the city and stumbled upon Aguinaldo Park and Museum across from the University of Baguio. I ended up chilling with some punks and drinking the cheapest, nastiest gin while we watched a modeling shoot go on around us. A Saudi Arabian/Brazilian model posed with his shirt off smoking cheap Fortune cigarettes, blowing plumes of smoke into the air while a petite, Korean girl stood in front of a yellow blossomed vine, topless, posing for the camera. I caught a side boob lol. I ended up drinking until the wee hours of the morning with all of the anarchist punks of Baguio. I woke up in the morning on the couch of Shark’s house with the worst hangover of my life. None of us moved until 4 PM. The night prior we hung out at two parks around town just drinking and bullshitting for hours and I ended up getting my phone stolen.

Baguio Philippines

Backpacking through Baguio City, Philippines

LA gave me a souvenir to remember them from the Philippines, a La Krshna necklace, and invited me to the temple Sunday where the “Vegetarians” meet up (freegans).

Chloe's 4th Birthday Party in Solano!

Chloe’s 4th Birthday Party in Solano!

We hung out at Aguinaldo park again smoking cigarettes and just chilling. Zea introduced me to his skater friends and after a few hours of talking and watching them bust out kick flips and variel’s I noticed the punks left. They told me if I wanted to squat in Aguinaldo Park that Lolo, the caretaker, did not mind.

Cheap Brandy Philippines

Drinkin’ Brandi with the Lacdao’s

So I ended up parting ways from the skater’s, hopped the fence, and found a nice place to camp by the sewer in the bushes.

The next day I took a jeepney to Mines View Park and ended up checking out The Mansion, Wright Park, and Baguio Botanical garden. I walked for hours aimlessly with no map and no plan scoping out the area for places to sleep and hit up an Internet Cafe where I got in touch with Welbur who told me to come back to Vizcaya as he just went on sabbatical.

Cheap Philippines Brandy

Drinkin’ Brandi with the boys in Solano. Who would have thought Backpacking the Philippines would end up in a night of being tipsy with new friends 🙂

I walked and walked until I hit Kennon Road and took some pictures of the viewpoint. I then wandered through the city as the darkness loomed in and asked for directions to Mines View Park by jeepney. I ended up at Baguio Plaza where the jeepney dropped me off at the Mansion. Someone started following me around Wright Park so I decided to walk down the road and squat near the Mansion property. I hopped the stone fence and camped right in front of the “NO TRESPASSING GOVT PROPERTY” sign.

In the morning, I literally woke up, hopped the fence, waved down the first jeepney I saw and headed straight to Baguio Plaza where the driver showed me the location of the UV Express Service Van headed to Vizcaya Solano. I walked over and ended up being the last person to fill the slot in the van. I endured 3-hours of head-bobbling and felt extremely tired and sick from something I ate the night before, not to mention, getting bit by a spider while fiddling around with my sleeping bag.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Bicycle Tour TransAmerica Trail

Bicycle Tour TransAmerica Trail

2,600 Miles – 9 States – DE to CO Bicycle Tour

After tons of tweaking and finding the right video editing software for Android I finally finished editing my cross-country bicycle tour from DE to CO.  After 2,600 miles, cycling through DE, MD, VA, KY, IN, IL, MO, KS and CO the 20 minute video is finally here! Featuring a blend of video clips and pictures from all 9 states. Incorporating water silo climbing, road closed wandering, discovering blast sites, going up feed silos, scaling radio towers and more. This trip takes adventure to my extreme in every aspect. A wanderer on a bicycle touring the TransAmerica Trail. Without further ado I give you the last few months of my life on my bicycle tour TransAmerica Trail; backpacking, hiking, hitchhiking, climbing, and wild camping. Stay tuned for my next exclusive feature, which includes a written novel of my 2-month journey while I bicycle tour cross-country. This goes into detail about where I slept, who I met and their stories along with the scenery I woke up to every morning and fell asleep to every night. My goal is to finish the novel by the start of the new year, but I have not made much progress for the past few weeks. I need to get more motivation and overcome some writer’s block since I have been stuck on page 40 now for almost a month, which equates to day 12 of the bicycle tour. I hope everyone following me on my trip enjoys it.

Bicycle Tour TransAmerica Trail – DE to CO

Background Information – Bicycle Tour TransAmerica Trail
The TransAmerica Trail starts in Yorktown, VA and goes all the way to Astoria, Oregon over the span of 4,000+ miles. I took the trail into my own hands starting from my home in Wilmington, DE and using the trail as a guide as I pedaled cross-country. I veered off into the unknown on several occasions to visit Trevor in Indiana, because I got lost or when I ended up in Idaho Springs and settled down in Breckenridge for the winter. The hardest part of the trail is in the Rocky Mountains due to acclimating to the altitude and the steep climbs that happen over many miles. Georgetown Lake Shelter to Loveland Pass was only 33 miles, but was an elevation gain of 4,000+ feet. Combine that with the below freezing temperatures and it made the bicycle tour more of a mental mind game than physical. Below is a video of my 2,600+ mile bicycle tour on the TransAmerica Trail.

Hiking, backpacking, peaks trail, mountains, colorado

Peaks Trail

Peaks Trail

I woke up today and spent most of the morning fixing my phone.  The GPS stopped working after I flashed the custom PacMan ROM to my HTC One.  I will have to look into this later, but it caused me to start my hike a bit later than I wanted.

I looked outside and noticed we got dumped with 2 to 3 inches of snow from the night earlier.  At first I almost backed out from backpacking the 8-mile trek from Farmers Corner to Breckenridge through the back country trails in the mountains, but I figured this would wear me out enough to finally get some rest at a decent hour.  I changed into my warm gear leaving my snow pants and fleece behind and set out up Lake View Circle West after the red flags in the snow until reaching the ridge.  Once I reached the ridge I continued backpacking along after the blue diamond markings on the pine trees, snow collapsing some of the branches, as I walked past.  My Goretex boots held up fairly well with all the snow.  As I proceeded to trek up the mountain the snow became deeper nearing 4 to 6 inches.  I didn’t mind.  No one else would be out today because of the weather and the powder made the hike a bit tougher, but the views, simply breathtaking.  I stopped on multiple occasions to snap panoramas and photos of the scenery surrounding me.

Silo Climbing Peaks Trail Breck

The view from the top of the silo on Peaks Trail!

Silo Climbing

Another angle from the top of the snowy silo.

For a while I did not know where the trail took me.  I followed directions from my landlord, Kate, and continued backpacking along the route, but did not take a map and my GPS still thought I sat at 149 Lake View Circle West so I just went on instinct.

After about five miles of backpacking and following the ridge, the blue diamonds nailed to the evergreens and the spill way, I finally reached a sign indicating I hiked Peak’s Trail.  Not far after I met another sign, the arrow pointing left, Breckenridge 3 miles.

“Sweet, I should get there before dusk then…,” I thought.

Place Hacking - Peak's Trail

Place Hacking – Peak’s Trail

I continued on, backpacking up and down the steep slopes of the trail until I spotted a 30 foot tall, green, water silo.  I almost passed it, my legs hurt from the long bike ride the other day and hiking up the mountain, but I ran down the hill looking up at it.

A gate and lock covered the entrance to the ladder, which was only 8 feet off the ground, that didn’t stop me though.

I read the sign, which simply said, “DO NOT TAMPER WITH THE WATER SILO!”

I didn’t tamper with it.  I didn’t break the lock or cut the fencing around the ladder.  A small triangular opening already existed on the left side of the ladder.  I hopped on the manhole that stuck 3 feet out of the ground and grabbed on the fencing of the ladder.  I swung until my left leg wrapped around the side of the ladder and pulled myself up using my left foot as a base.  I dropped my bag and that extra room allowed me to squeeze my body inside of the fencing.

I stood on top of the locked gate and climbed up the ladder, 30 feet or so, reaching the top.

The view, completely beautiful, allowed me to see over the treeline…nothing but mountains.  I grabbed some pics and a video and continued backpacking.

I did not want to end up in the woods once the sun set.  It’s hard enough seeing at the moment without glasses or contacts.  I would have ended up making an igloo and sleeping in the woods.

I wound up finishing the hike, which I think was 7 to 9 miles, and took the Free Ride bus to Breckenridge, where I grabbed some post cards.

I have adapted to the bus schedule and took another ride back to Summit High School.

Once I arrived at home I packed up my gear and decided to make a sign for tomorrow to hitch a ride to A Basin.  We shall see how it goes.  I’m meeting up with Kelton so we will have a fun time.

Peaks Trail

The snowy view while hiking Peaks Trail from Frisco to Breckenridge.

Silo Climbing Peaks Trail

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