I did this hike three years ago with some friends and remember it being long (17 miles), exciting (on the open summit of South Kinsman in pouring rain with lightning bolts striking all around us) but not especially painful. Three years ago, it was a long day hiking adventure in the White Mountains. This time, it kicked my sweet derriere up one side of the mountain and down the other.
I started at the Beaver Brook trailhead on Route 112 (“the Kanc”) accompanied, as always, by my three-year old, semper fi German Shepherd hiking partner, Ouzo (a.k.a., Bubba) and we headed north on the Kinsman Ridge Trail. This is a rugged, rocky section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) with lots of ups and downs going over three major White Mountain peaks: Mt. Wolf, South Kinsman, and North Kinsman, the latter two being 4,000 footers. The weather was much more cooperative this time, beautiful partly cloudy skies with temps in the low 70’s in the valleys and pleasantly cooler on the summits.
By the time we summitted South Kinsman, I started having doubts about being physically able to finish this hike–and we still had over six miles to go. These kind of thoughts are like a nuclear bomb on a long hike. Endurance hiking is about 30% physical and 70% mental. The body does what the mind believes. When doubts are allowed to take root, it’s game over. So, I did what any seasoned endurance hiker does when fighting mental demons: I called my wife on my cell phone and whimpered…in a manly way, of course. She offered to have a helicopter fly up to the summit to pick me up. This sounded like an excellent plan and I asked her how much time I had to take a nap before the chopper arrived. Turns out she was just teasing me and then proceeded to encourage me onward in her special way, calling me her “leetle girly-man.”
So, after that inspirational pep talk with the spousal unit, Bubba and I continued our northerly trek down South Kinsman, up North Kinsman, and then down the other side. At Kinsman Pond, we picked up the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and tripped and stumbled for two miles to the AMC Lonesome Lake hut. Lots of treacherous ice patches on the upper half of the Fishin’ Jimmy Trail and I took some award-winning tumbles. Even Bubba, the most nimble and powerful canine hiker I’ve ever met, slipped a few times. At the hut, we picked up the Cascade Brook Trail and hiked to the Basin Cascade Trail. After eight hours of almost non-stop hiking, we joyously rendezvoused with the spousal unit and reproductive units as we were schlepping down the Basin Cascade Trail, about a mile from the Basin parking area. It was a Hollywood moment.
By the time we made it down to the van at the Basin parking area, it was about 7pm. We fed Bubba, piled into the Chevy Momma van and drove down to the Beaver Brook trailhead on the Kanc to pick up my Ford Econoline trailhog. Then we caravanned across the Kanc to the Shell station in Lincoln for Subway sandwiches and, of course, the essential post-hike medication, Sapporo beer. This hike required lots and lots of beer…all for legitimate medicinal use, of course. And all the more reason to give generously to my favorite charity, The United Samurai Beer Fund.