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Painful birthday: Father, son complete 17-hour North Idaho hike together

After 17 hours on the trail the group stumbled through their self-determined finish line at Schweitzer Mountain Resort on July 29.

Don Otis and his son, Landon Otis, accompanied by several other dedicated hikers, started hiking in the predawn Sunday darkness. Twenty-six miles and 10,850 vertical feet later, they finished an ordeal they hope becomes a yearly tradition.

“It’s a fun way to bond,” Don Otis said of the adventure with his son. “We have conversations on the trail.”

The budding tradition started last year in celebration of Landon’s 30th birthday. It was a big birthday and the Otis clan wanted to celebrate in a memorable way.

Landon was overweight, close to 230 pounds at the time, Don said. In preparation for the hike, which combined Star Peak, Scotchman Peak and Mickinnick Trail, Landon lost 60 pounds. Don called last year’s hike the “Trifecta.”

Landon said he’d been slowly gaining weight through high school, despite being from an active outdoor family. Nearing his 30th birthday, he resolved to lose that weight, first by changing his diet. But training for the Trifecta jumpstarted his efforts.

“I think what really drove the weight loss was having the goal of the Trifecta,” he said.

Last year’s hike was especially brutal, Don Otis said, because temperatures hovered around 97 degrees. Don wasn’t sure he wanted to do anything like it again.

But Landon had caught the bug, so he organized this year’s hike with some modifications.

The group started by hiking up Star Peak in Montana. After coming down, they drove to the Goat Mountain trailhead and hiked 4,000 feet in less than 3 miles. Once they summited Goat Mountain, they dropped down a saddle and scampered up Scotchman Peak. They hiked back to their cars, drove to Schweitzer and hiked up the mountain.

They finished the epic day at 7 p.m.

Don Otis said the worst part was coming off Scotchman Peak. By that point, he was dusty and dehydrated. Luckily, by the time they got to Schweitzer, a minor storm provided relief by dropping some rain.

“We were just glad to get down and drink as much as we could,” Don Otis said of getting off Scotchman Peak.

In addition to Don and Landon, three others completed the trek. Afterward, they all went to Don’s home in Sandpoint and had pie and beer.

Don Otis said he’s always been active, hiking and climbing. It was hard, he said, to realize he was in better shape than his son.

“You hate to be in your 50s and early 60s outhiking your 30-year-old son,” Don Otis said.

Not anymore.

“He can kick my butt just about anywhere right now,” Don said. “I can’t even get him to drink a beer hardly anymore.

“Which really makes him not much fun anymore,” he joked.


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