Throwback Thursday: On Being a Sucker for Punishment

I once told the story of how I was compelled to re-hike one of the worst trails and summits I have ever experienced. Ever. As it turns out, my Coliseum mountain adventure is not the only time that I unwisely choice to replicate a hike that I hated.  When I scan through my collective memory, there are countless examples of returning to unworthy trails, sometimes more than twice.  I am, it seems, a complete and utter sucker for punishment.

The following is my top 3 list of misadventures (i.e. needlessly suffering multiple excursions to emotionally scarring trails):

1. Iceline-Whaleback-Twin Falls loop (Yoho National Park). This one tops my list because I have done it FOUR TIMES.  The problem with this trail is I want to love it because 75% of it is absolutely stunning.  The final 25% is a 7 km forest-bound stretch that seems positively never-ending, and which has the magical superpower ability to erase the memory of all the good that came before it. You are left with nothing but an empty soul and dead legs. I have even tried this in the opposite direction to get the worst out of the way first. Spoiler alert: it made no difference.  I do not know how 7 km can possibly seem so long and boring, but I invite you to try this hike out and prove me wrong. Trust me when I say it is a losing bet.

2. Sea-to-Summit:  (Squamish) For those of us who feel it’s inherently wrong to take a gondola up a mountain, west coast trail makers love to build trails that follow gondola lines.  It lured me in with it’s shortness (7.5 km one-way) and then made me regret that choice the entire way up. Overgrown paths, long stretches of climbing through tree roots, alternating thick mud and bone-dry loose dirt that stuck to my sunscreen. Ugh. To add to the misery, 80% of the trail was view-less and forest enclosed. Despite this, I somehow deemed this worthy of another try. It was not and was, in fact, made even worse the second time around by excessive heat and an overabundance of blood-thirsty horseflies. Never again sea-to-summit, never again.

3. Twin Lakes (aka a hike so un-nice I did it thrice): The first time I had high hopes for lakes cradled by snow capped mountains.  I was disappointed (the best lake is the closest to the parking lot and the second and third lakes are successively more disappointing). The second time, I had high hopes that I was just cranky the first time around. I encountered sloppy mud, massive and nearly-impossible-to-skirt puddles, and a deluge of rain that left me soaked and freezing.  The third time around, I was foolish enough to drag a friend along as though I actually liked the trail the first two times. My poor friend was unaccustomed to hiking, insufferably hot, barely able to shuffle up the trail (or down, for that matter) and I lost him for a brief period of time when he wandered slightly off trail.  All of this to see three lakes, two of which are underwhelming beyond belief.

It is clear that I am my own worst enemy, with a sick desire either to prove to myself that a hike loved by others must also be loved by me or that I must pay my hiking penance by endlessly hiking the same crappy trails.  Will I ever learn?

*As with any of my trail rants, remember that what constitutes a great hike varies considerably person to person. Many people I know love all of these trails.  For me, however, they are hell.


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