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Jessi Loerch | jloerch@heraldnet.com
Published: Tuesday, September 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

The longest 1.75 miles of my life

  • Minotaur Lake sits in a basin under Labyrinth Mountain. It's a lovely place for a day hike or a backpack trip.

    Jessi Loerch / The Herald

    Minotaur Lake sits in a basin under Labyrinth Mountain. It's a lovely place for a day hike or a backpack trip.

  • Hazel plays in the outlet at Minotaur Lake.

    Jessi Loerch / The Herald

    Hazel plays in the outlet at Minotaur Lake.

  • The light slowly fades at MInotaur Lake.

    Jessi Loerch / The Herald

    The light slowly fades at MInotaur Lake.

At first, it was hard to tell whether we were hearing thunder or just the sounds of more planes. We were camped at Minotaur Lake, a short hike near Stevens Pass, and the lake is clearly under a flight path.

It was the afternoon, we were flopped in the shade and enjoying a nap. Slowly, the thunder drew close enough to be clearly thunder.

My husband, Jerry, and I sleepily mulled our options. Our 4-year-old was asleep with her head pillowed on Jerry’s leg.

We hemmed and hawed, not wanting to wake our kid or hike out when we had planned another leisurely night, but also not wanting to stay badly enough to deal with a lightning storm and wet gear.

Then the wind changed in an instant, blowing dirt in our eyes and leaving a layer of grit over everything. Hazel woke up, the wind continued to blow in weird gusts, a clap of thunder started Hazel screaming and it started to rain.

We packed in a rush, tossing gear into our bags quickly while trying to not further freak out our kid.

We had planned to walk out slowly the next morning, with Hazel walking as much as possible. But we’d already done a decent amount of exploring around the lake, including some scrambling up to the ridge behind the lake. Hazel was too tired to hike out quickly, not to mention completely freaked out by the weather and picking up on our own anxiety. So she went on my back with our tent, some food, and whatever else got shoved in there.

Now, Minotaur Lake is not a long hike. It’s only 1.75 miles each way, but it gains 1,850 feet and it feels so much longer. It’s also not a great trail. It’s better than a climber’s path, but not a ton. It’s steep and slippery and rooty and rocky. In short, it’s nasty.

On the way down, my daughter on my back, I have never hiked a longer 1.75 miles in my life. I think I’m in decent shape, but my legs were exhausted. I could have kissed my car when we finally reached it.

When we got home, I had to know. I stepped on the scale wearing the pack and Hazel and did some math. Fifty-five pounds. I carried 55 pounds all the way down that horrible trail, and 34 pounds of that were whining, wiggling 4-year-old. I felt vindicated for the amount of whining I did on the way down.

I hiked Minotaur Lake last year, and at the time I was entranced. I wanted to come back for an overnight trip, and I’m so glad we did. Even though our trip was cut down to one night instead of two, we had an amazing time. We swam in the lake and scrambled the surrounding hills. We watched the stars and watched our daughter splash in the stream.

And I felt like a bit of a badass hiking down the hill with probably the heaviest pack I’ve ever carried.

That training will come in handy. I’m off to backpack in the Tetons for nearly a week. Things will be quieter around here for a bit, but I’ll check back in with Teton photos when I return.

Story tags » Hiking

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