How a very long hike produced moments of clarity

With quarantine and social distancing in full swing, I've exhausted most of the local hikes over the last few months, so my husband Robert and I ventured a few hours west and tried a new, more challenging walk in the woods.

Up until that point, we'd stuck to easy and intermediate trails, hikes we could do with the kids, so that I could blame my exhaustion on the 5-year-old who "needed a break." I'd used her as an excuse to stop and sit on many a rock at Bowl and Pitcher, Mt. Spokane, Palisades Park and Rocks of Sharon, which had been my own personal Everest.

We naively decided to hike the first part of the Enchantments to Colchuck Lake. It's the hardest hike I've ever done — nine miles, big elevation gain, rated difficult, not stroller accessible like I prefer. I felt totally out of my league.

At the trailhead there were avid hikers, stretching with their fancy gear: poles, Camelbacks, bug spray. I felt out of place because all I did to prepare was eat Dairy Queen the night before and wear Tevas instead of Birkenstocks. Tennis shoes and socks make my feet feel like they're suffocating, and you can't convince me otherwise. I'll take a mask over closed-toe shoes any day.

I didn't even remember to bring a hair tie, so by mile one I was feeling very unsure of myself. I told Robert that maybe we should've just stayed home and eaten bratwurst or something more our speed instead of driving all the way to Leavenworth to hike nine miles. But Papa PepTalk kept encouraging me with his "glass half downhill" motivational speeches, even though we were technically walking uphill — one-and-a-half Empire State Buildings worth of rock stairs.

Just when the side cramp, drenched neck and burning calves trifecta seemed too much to bear, I met a trail angel who gave me a rubber band from her snacks to put up my sweaty hair, which brightened my mood. That combined with the Swedish Fish that Robert would dangle in front of me at the top of each incline gave me the strength to carry on.

By the time we finally got to the top, it was about to be Upchuck Lake instead of Colchuck Lake, because I was close to throwing up from exhaustion. The panoramic view, however, made the rugged hike worth all the effort.

It took us seven hours up and down, which is the longest I've ever hiked and also probably the longest I've ever gone without soda.

We got passed a lot by other hikers, and I learned that slow and steady definitely does not win the race (so that tortoise was lying) but who cares. We all ended up on top eventually, and it was breathtaking.

I'm sure this hike is a piece of cake for people who eat less cake than I do, but it certainly stretched me far beyond what I thought my limits were, which ironically seems to be the theme of 2020. I'm so happy I kept going and didn't give up. And in these crazy, overwhelming and heart-wrenching times, that sentiment applies to more than just hiking.

Kimberly Curry has a degree in Family Studies from Arizona State University, teaches preschool and enjoys taking her four kids on adventures.

THREE MORE FUN, FAMILY HIKES

Finch Arboretum
Essentially a flat walk, abundant with trees and flowers as well as a babbling brook. Lots of open areas to explore. Easy

Hog Lake at Fishtrap Recreation Area
This two-mile loop offers seasonal waterfall views, though the path can be overgrown. Intermediate, but almost easy

Iller Creek/Rocks of Sharon
Spectacular views of the Palouse are the reward for a long uphill climb. The round trip totals out at 6.5 miles. Difficult

Chris Otten: Wounded Deer @ Terrain Gallery

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