As I start to contemplate the summer hiking season, there are a million trails that are on my to do list, some old and some new. I am actually a big fan of returning to the same hike year after year. I like to compare scenery in different seasons, decrease my hiking time and, really, some trails just have views that warrant multiple visits.
There is one definite exception to this “worthy of rehiking” rule: Coliseum Mountain.** This trail is, hands down, one of the worst hiking experiences I have ever had. Here is why:
–There is a 7km “prequel” to the actual trailhead and it will suck your soul dry. I cannot articulate why the trail to Norvan Falls is so awful. It could be that you are sharing the trail with every dog walker on the north shore. It could be the relentless forest scenery. It could be that I’ve hiked the lynn valley loop so many times that I know it like the back of my own hand. No matter the cause, it is soul-sucking. Absolutely, positively soul-sucking.
–What comes next is one of the worst forest-enclosed 3km-ish North Shore slogs that you will ever experience. The unrelenting steepness is actually its only redeeming feature (I live for steep trails). But the constant slick roots, slimy rocks, mud puddles, swarming bugs and lack of any visual distraction will gradually chip away at your will to survive. I thought that perhaps my aversion to this trail was merely weather induced, as the first time I hiked it it was all fog and low cloud. But when I returned just a week later on a glorious blue sky day, it was an equally unenjoyable experience. Actually it was worse because the memory of the previous week was still fresh in my mind. Also, yes I am a sucker for punishment.
–The last two kilometres somehow feel about 10 times longer as you encounter false summit after false summit. As your summit dreams are crushed time and time again, you begin to feel hopeless and start to question whether a true summit actually exists or whether it is merely the North Shore’s version of the lost city of atlantis.
–On a clear day, the summit is fine enough. It boasts views of surrounding peaks as one would expect from a summit, but your enjoyment is fleeting when you realize you will have to retrace your footsteps over the same 12km of trail that you just tackled (cursing the entire way).
–The 3km forest-enclosed space is even worse on descent, when your knees essentially decide to give up the fight, bringing your pace to a crawl and making the 3km seem at least doubly long. You’ll also slip and skid on many a loose rock and wet root. It is not a trail for the clumsy and ungraceful (i.e. me).
–You arrive at the trailhead only to realize that it is not the real trailhead. As with false summits, you quickly realize your journey is far from the end. Your dismal reality check is that you still have 7km of mind-numbing, forest walking to get back to your car. Though you can knock out the 7km in well under an hour, it will feel like your entire life is passing you by.
–You will return to your car in desperate need of beer and wings to erase this entire experience from your memory, but in reality you will never be able to erase the memory. It will haunt you for the rest of your life, and likely well into your afterlife.
Consider yourselves warned.
** Disclaimer: hiking, like most things in life, involves a lot of personal preference. The following is my take on this trail. Though I like to be absolutest in my belief that it is the physical reincarnation of your worst nightmare, I recognize that others may love it. In fact, I’ve even encountered some Coliseum Mountain lovers in the flesh. I do not understand them, and I do not care to.