Every year a group of our outdoorsy friends gather for a “Multi-Sport Weekend” in September when the crowds have thinned and the weather has cooled. In the past we have done some dirtbag camping, finding a large enough campsite at a roadside pull-off and roughing it. Now, as we are getting older and babies are being born, we find a cabin centrally located amongst numerous possible activities is far more desirable. This year we headed east on Highway 2 and found a cabin that was large enough to fit 12 adults and 2 babies. It was about 20 minutes west of the charming town of Leavenworth. With rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, road biking, and horseback riding all within a short driving distance of the cabin it was the perfect location for an epic multi-sport weekend!
The weather was looking perfect, sun and 70s. In the morning we decided to head out with three other hikers to the nearby trailhead for Merritt Lake.
At 6.4 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation gain it would be a fun and somewhat challenging hike. This was the first time we have attempted a hike with others since the birth of our son, Jack. We have been apprehensive about hiking in a group since our pace is often slowed by Jack needing to feed. As I fed Jack at the trailhead while our hiking companions waited patiently, which is generally a 20 minute ordeal complete with diaper change, disaster struck. Jack had the worst blowout he has ever had. He and I were covered in feces. I hollered for Bobby to come and help and we ended up giving him a complete sponge bath with wipes in the parking lot before we could head out. This is why I always bring along at least two extra outfits for our little bean in my backpack and have two other backup outfits in the car. I was thanking our lucky stars that he had done this while we were still at the car where we had a full-sized pouch of wipes. On the trail I only bring along a pack of 18 wipes that I buy in the Target travel section for $0.97 to save on weight.
After getting us both all cleaned up we headed up the trail.
The description of the hike in the guidebook claimed this was a very popular hike to a muddy, not so impressive lake. There were only two other cars at the trailhead so we were hopeful it would at least be wrong about the overcrowded part. Sure enough, the whole day we only saw 4 other groups of hikers. The trail begins with 27 switchbacks that crosses in and out of stands of breathtakingly large ponderosa pines and douglas firs.
The mid morning sun beat down on us as we began huffing and puffing our way up the steep trail. We saw past evidence of frequently cut switchbacks undergoing some repair and regrowth that seems to be going very well.
At 1.7 miles you reach a talus field and are rewarded for the strenuous climb up with some impressive views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
The trail levels out here allowing for a leisurely stroll through a beautiful forest where we hunted for mushrooms.
We continued another mile before reaching Merritt Lake. The guidebook’s description of Merritt Lake is less then encouraging and I am happy to say that it was completely incorrect. The lake was breathtakingly beautiful.
It was deep and clear with little fishes swimming about.
There is a nice campsite located along the shore but when we arrived there was a family of four relaxing there after their hike up. We continued to follow the trail around the lake hoping to find a spot of our own. The trail was very overgrown and often difficult to follow but we managed to emerge out onto an outcropping of rocks on the opposite side of the lake. It was a perfect spot for a rest, some lunch, and a quick dip. The water was very cold and Bobby only got so far into the water to soak his feet while Latigo bravely jumped in and hauled out a large pine bough that had been floating nearby. We lounged on the rocks and relaxed.
Here our group split into two. Two of the hikers that were with us decided to venture further up the trail to the top of the ridge. Three of us, and Jack, decided to head back down the trail.
Overall this was a great hike. We did see two kids on the trail that successfully made it to the lake, I was duly impressed. I didn’t consider this to be a kid friendly hike, but they changed my mind! At only 6 and 8 they did what I struggled to do! The guidebooks description is thoroughly incorrect and I would definitely encourage you to head up this trail for a magnificent view of a beautiful lake!
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