I’ll Never Do That Again

Whether it’s climbing, mountain biking, or hiking, there’s something satisfying about completing a hard route, a scary mountain bike trail, or a grueling hike. While the feeling of accomplishment is a nice reward for finishing a challenging task, another reward is being free of the need to ever revisit that route, trail, or hike again. Although I am a believer in checking the box and moving on, I don’t exactly practice what I preach.

The truth is that I love to revisit my favorite climbs, boulder problems, hikes, and ski runs. For example, I have lost count of the number of times I have hiked Mount Moosilaukee, I can’t go to Pawtuckaway without at least trying Hobbit Hole, and just last week I stared wistfully up at Lonesome Dove, my favorite climb at Rumney. I have even flown all the way across the country to climb Mount Shasta on three separate occasions because I love it so much. While my great experiences on these trips have repeatedly led me back to them, there are plenty of other things that I find myself saying “I’ll never do that again.” Whether these trips were no fun, scary, or I had something unfortunate happen to me, there are plenty of places and things that I am happy to have ticked off the list, but not in a hurry to revisit.

Perhaps it’s the type-2 nature of many of these activities, or maybe it’s the fact that I am now helping Ashley work on her tick list that I am starting to revisit some of the trips that I swore never to repeat. Strangely, I am discovering that many of the trips I’ve been trying to avoid are surprisingly pretty fun. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten fitter, have a better approach, have a better understanding of what to expect, or have surrounded myself with better company, but many of these trips have ended up being nicer than I remembered, and have me rethinking some of the “never again” trails and routes on my list.

This past weekend, Ashley wanted to hike and more specifically wanted to summit a New Hampshire 4000-footer that she hadn’t done yet. Mentally running through her list ruled out the majority of the 4000-footers on the I-93 side of the White Mountains. With it being the Fourth of July, I didn’t want to go too far away for fear of traffic, while simultaneously not wanting to pick an overly popular hiking destination for fear of crowds. As I worked through the few options that fit my criteria, I kept coming back to hiking the Kinsmans, as they met all of the requisites. The only thing holding me back was they were on my “never again” list.

The thing about the Kinsmans is that I don’t exactly remember how they made the “never again” list. My limited memory is hiking the Kinsmans about ten years ago with my friend Tim. The trail was rugged, long, and we hated it. What I don’t remember is if we were out late the night before, and perhaps some of the misery was self inflicted. The only other reason that the Kinsmans have remained on the list is that my frequent climbing/hiking partner also does not have fond memories of them. Another possibility of them being on the list is that their flashier neighbors outshine them. Directly across from the Kinsmans is the iconic Franconia Ridge, which is a little shorter in mileage and a little quicker of a trip, while also being more visually dramatic, and right next to the Kinsmans is historic Cannon Mountain, presenting hikers with a faster route to many of the same views as the Kinsmans.

With seemingly no better options, we decided to hike North and South Kinsman on Monday, and surprisingly we had a blast. Looking back on the trip, I’m not sure why I’ve avoided this hike for so long. The views were incredible, and while not as easy as Cannon, North and South Kinsman offer far more solitude. On our trek, we saw relatively few day hikers, with most of the traffic being AT hikers going the opposite direction as us. Furthermore, Ashley loved the cairn/throne that adorns the summit of South Kinsman and for a while she threatened that she wouldn’t leave it.

My recent experience on the Kinsmans has me rethinking other “never again” trips on my list and wondering if some of them weren’t as bad as I remember. While there are still a lot of items on the tick list, maybe I can make time to revisit some old ones, and see if they’ve gotten better with age.