Outdoor Enthusiast is an inclusive kind of guy. Like, almost to a fault.

Outdoor Enthusiast: I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen with apples from our backyard. I made my first apple crisp.

Friend: Congratulations. That sounds delicious.

Outdoor Enthusiast: You and your family should come over and enjoy it with us. (Then realizing others in the room may have overheard) All of you. You should all come over and have dessert with us tonight.

Others in the room: I love dessert. (We wouldn’t be friends with people who don’t.)

I actually love this about the Outdoor Enthusiast. He would rather include too many people than leave someone out. But sometimes we have different expectations.

Me: I sure can’t wait to throw on my sweats and kick back on the couch.

Outdoor Enthusiast: Oh, I invited a million people over for dessert.

Me: Ugh, I have to use company manners. (Full implication hits me.) And I have to share?

Outdoor Enthusiast: Unless you want to make another pan.

Me: I’ll get the plates!

So when we talked about doing a hike to Mystic Lake over Labor Day with the kids, naturally Outdoor Enthusiast invited everyone we knew. It turned out to be a pretty epic hike. With 7 adults, 23 kids, and 3 dogs, I can safely say I have never felt more secure in the backcountry of Montana than I did with that group. No way were bears going to eat us.

We hit the trailhead and right away it was apparent how the trip was going to go. The men and boys took off while the women and girls took turns using the port-a-potty.

Outdoor Enthusiast: (Looking at the line for the bathroom) It’s going to take us 20 minutes just to get on the trail.

Me: There’s no way I’m squatting in the woods with these numbers!

The hike is a beautiful one. If you’re ever in the Beartooths and need a fantastic trek into the backcountry, this is one of our favorites. The first 2.5 miles are forested. There’s plenty of shade and places to stop and rest for snacks. (That’s the only way we hike. Lots of snacks.)

The final mile follows a trail through a field of boulders. ‘Field of boulders’ may be a little misleading. It’s more like steep-switchbacks-where-boulders-stretch-on-and-on-for-eternity. This last stretch is a little more intense, but not so hard that we lost any of the slew of kids that were with us.

The best part of the trail hits me the same way every single time. It’s the part when I come around the bend, huffing and puffing. Just when I wonder if someone’s moved the lake since my last trip up, the view opens up. And there it is. Mystic Lake in all its glory. The pristine blue water at the top of the mountain is worth every step of the hike.

We made the short hike down to the edge of the tree-lined lake, unloaded our packs and ate lunch on the beach while the dogs harassed and annoyed everyone.

Speaking of dogs, I haven’t really mentioned much about our dog. That’s because he was totally embarrassing. We’ve taken him on several family hikes. For the most part he’s awesome. Not so on this hike.

It was painfully clear that our dog was the socially immature one of the group. He was the instigator, body-checking the other dogs in an attempt to provoke them into play. Like the little brother annoying the big brother. Even negative attention is better than no attention.

During lunch the dogs played rough, growling and kicking up rocks while we ate. So Outdoor Enthusiast and his friend separated the dogs and pinned their leashes under heavy boulders so we could eat lunch in peace. Our dog whined and griped and pulled against his leash and we laughed at him. (Because we are good pet owners.)

The other dog didn’t resist. He respects his owner.

Our dog pulled, straining and whining, and the boulder budged.

We laughed again. Silly, desperate dog.

The joke was on us when he gained a little momentum. With muscles straining, our dog dragged the heavy boulder several feet across rocks and sand. He reached the other dog and promptly resumed his pestering.

Someone should tell him to bake an apple crisp and invite his friends over instead.


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