Finding Adventure All Over Kaua‘i

There are few trails on the Garden Isle that Loren Johnson hasn’t hiked, and he’s happy to share them through the Kaua’i Adventure Club

Loren Johnson, Kaua’i Adventure Club co-organizer, can out-hike anyone.

“People assume because you’re a certain age that you’re ready for the front porch and your whittler,” jokes his friend and Kaua’i Adventure Club member Jeanne Dooley.

But that’s certainly not the case with Johnson, who avidly has been hiking Kaua’i trails since moving to the island six years ago from Alaska.

Johnson’s passion for traversing Garden Isle trails is largely the reason Kaua’i Adventure Club has become so popular. The group was originally founded by a friend of Johnson’s, for whom he served as a tour guide when she first moved to the island. Though his friend has since moved away, Johnson voluntarily has taken the reins of Kaua’i Adventure Club and continues to manage cohesiveness within the group.

The club is affiliated with a larger organization called meetup.com with more than 12 million members worldwide. It is a website where people with similar interests get together and participate in group activities.

“You name it, it’s being done somewhere, probably even at this moment,” says Johnson. “That’s how many groups there are.”

People can connect to Kaua’i Adventure Club through the website meetup.com and join hikes, canoe trips, beach bon fires and many other activities around the island offered by various individuals looking to form a group activity.

“You choose one you like and RSVP,” explains Johnson. “That’s about it.”

Members also create their own activities and invite people to participate. Anyone can join, visitors and kama’aina alike.

Dooley didn’t know anyone aside from her children when she moved to the island in December 2012. She was excited to discover Kaua’i Adventure Club, which currently has more than 600 members, and became a member.

“It is a really cool group,” she says. “They are all people who want to do stuff outside and just get out and enjoy.”

The club also provides a sense of community and camaraderie where lasting friendships are made.

“And the nice thing about it is that there are no strings,” she says. “If you show up, great, if you don’t, that’s OK. There are always enough people who show up that it’s always fun. And if only two people show up, it’s still worth doing.”

Dooley is grateful for joining the group and becoming friends with Johnson, who often leads the hikes. She especially enjoyed a recent outing to Makauwahi Cave Reserve.

“I’m not in the Galapagos Islands and here’s this humongous tortoise. That was pretty awesome,” she says of visiting the reserve’s environmental restoration program that includes the ancient creatures.

“Loren knows all these little ins and outs of places on Kaua’i,” Dooley adds. “When he offers to be a free tour guide, man, take him up on it.”

Dooley also has seen a plethora of waterfalls “up close and cozy” since becoming a Kaua’i Adventure Club member.

The most popular activity the club hosts, however, is a monthly full moon beach bon fire gathering at Kealia.

“We just enjoy watching the moon come out of the ocean and seeing a whale jump over it,” jokes Johnson. “We actually did that once.”

A group of at least 15 people regularly show up to the bon fires.

Hikes, however, generate smaller groups, typically around five people. The hikes range in difficulty from easy to strenuous and are open to people of all ages.

Johnson recently completed a hike to Hanakapiai Falls with five people – four men over age 70 and one woman in her 60s.

So no excuses, he jokes. Johnson admits, however, that he initially wasn’t able to easily climb mountains. The first hike he ever tackled was Sleeping Giant, beginning at Kuamoo Road, but he couldn’t make it past the pine tree forest where the trail takes a sharp turn uphill.

“I’ve come a long way since then,” he says.

“Now everyone is trying to keep up with him,” says Dooley.

When asked why he devotes so much of his free time to hosting hikes and tours, he explains, “It’s healing.”

Spending time in places such as Alakai Swamp is especially rewarding – the birds, the serenity and the views are priceless to Johnson.

“This place is probably the most beautiful place on the planet,” says Dooley.

Visit meetup.com/Kauai-adventure-club for more information.

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