A year ago, I met G. on the trail to Kendall Katwalk. He was traveling at roughly my pace. We struck up a conversation and hiked several hours together before Ajax and I reached our turn-around time. On August 13, 2022, we met the same hike, same trailhead, to provide moral support. He was over halfway through his quest to hike the PCT northbound from the Oregon-Washington border to Stevens Pass. So, with fresh fruit and doggie kisses, we escorted him to Ridge Lake and Gravel Lake on the final leg of his journey.

Red Mountain bathed in early morning fog on the approach to Kendall Katwalk.
Red Mountain bathed in early morning fog on the approach to Kendall Katwalk.

Lessons Learned Along Kendall Katwalk

“Nature is not a place to visit, it is home.” — Gary Snyder

No matter how many times I return to a favorite trail, I nearly always see something new, experience something different, or find that conditions have changed seasonally. But always, I feel comfortable simply being myself. Isn’t that what home is supposed to feel like? As I hiked the 7.5 miles back to the car, I added a reason to repeat that I hadn’t experienced before: to celebrate.

The Katwalk, a thin trail blasted out of a sheer drop-off that can be quite intimidating and exposed under lots of snow.
The Katwalk is a thin trail blasted out of a sheer drop-off that can be quite intimidating and exposed under lots of snow.

Repeat to Inform

The first reason to repeat a hike is to provide information. I often recommend that clients find a trail to return to monthly. Repeating such a hike can provide insight into how your workout program is affecting your fitness. Whenever I visit Mt. Washington, arguably my favorite early season hike, I know exactly how long it takes to reach my first clothing break, “peeing rock,” the overlook, the sign to the Great Wall, the creek, the lake, and the turnstile.

Natural markers provide motivation and challenge while boosting my confidence, especially if I am alone. What’s more, finding a favorite tree, boulder, or vista is sort of like running into an old friend. Who says friends can’t be inanimate objects?

Even within a day, the same scenery can change. Here in the afternoon, Red Mountain gets illuminated by sunbeams poking through the dense clouds.

Repeat to Enjoy Seasonal Novelty

Another reason to repeat a hike is for sheer enjoyment. Kendall Katwalk boasts gorgeous views of the Snoqualmie Pass mountain peaks (as well as Rainier on a clear day.) Splendidly colored iron-rich rocks like Red Mountain contrast with blue skies, snowy white chutes, and gray granite. Alpine lakes poke up around every third bend. Wildflowers beckon.

Mammal-watching (dogs, marmots, humans, and picas, to mention a few) is unparalleled. And if you like dramatic exposure, the Katwalk delivers. While the trail can be hot and dusty this time of year, we were fortunate. We did the entire fifteen-mile hike this year without my dog overheating like last year. Win!

A patch of columbine draws my eye as we climbed toward the Katwalk.
A patch of columbine draws my eye as we climbed toward the Katwalk.

Repeat to Gain Confidence

Third, by letting yourself get to know a trail well, you can branch out and explore side trails. Such is the case for me on Tiger Mountain. You can also engage in deep philosophical conversations with fellow hikers and remain confident that you’ll be able to get back to the car.

Sometimes on new trails, I don’t know what to expect. If I’m worried about getting back to town by a certain time, I almost always choose a destination I know well, so I don’t run the risk of getting lost. While I enjoy novelty and exploring new places, it throws me off my pace because I’m focused on making sure I know exactly where I am.

Kendall Katwalk and Four Reasons to Repeat Hikes
Ajax looks at me as though to say, “Can’t you get rid of this Corgi? I don’t want him eating any of my chicken.” The Corgi’s owner eventually returned to grab him.

Repeat to Celebrate

But on this trip, my biggest reason to repeat the hike to Kendall Katwalk was that it’s where our training journey started. I wanted to provide moral support and encouragement for my client in pursuit of such a big goal. We’d both encountered challenging obstacles in the past year, joking at times that we were one-upping (one-downing?) each other. He’d proven to me that he had what it takes to succeed. I willingly took on the role of cheerleader in the final months.

I am 100% sold on alpine lake foot soaks as a restorative practice at the halfway point of any hike. Grounding plays a similar role as half-time or intermission, refocusing the mind and rejuvenating the body.
I am 100% sold on alpine lake foot soaks as a restorative practice at the halfway point of any hike. My feet in Ridge Lake. Grounding plays a similar role as half-time or intermission, refocusing the mind and rejuvenating the body.

When I handed him a nectarine at our first rest stop after about 3.5 miles, I thought he might cry tears of happiness. And at our turn-around spot at mile 7.5 at Ridge Lake, I surprised my client with a peach. Ajax downed his lunch. My reward was taking off my hiking boots to soak my feet.

A Tribute to Success

Turning around at Ridge Lake felt bittersweet. G. still had nine miles to hike, and I faced a long dusty trail with Ajax. And about three hundred other backpackers, dogs, day hikers, and trail runners. Maybe one day I’ll become a trail angel, carrying gallons of orange juice or dozens of pieces of fresh fruit to hikers on remote trails. One thing is clear, though. No matter how much you doubt yourself, the best thing you can do is take that next step. Have someone who believes in you give you a pep talk (hey, that’s me!) Then get out there and try it. You may surprise yourself.

Dedicated to G. who taught me to chat with strangers on the trail, dispense free training advice, and give generously to my clients. A special doggy cuddle before we parted ways at Ridge Lake.
Dedicated to G. who taught me to chat with strangers on the trail, dispense free training advice, and give generously to my clients. A special doggy cuddle before we parted ways at Ridge Lake. You did it! So proud of you!

Published by Courtenay Schurman

Co-author of The Outdoor Athlete (2009) and Train to Climb Mt. Rainier or Any High Peak DVD (2002), author of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills/conditioning chapter 4 (3 editions), and Peak Performance column for the Mountaineers Mag (2014-present). Member of PNWA, SCBWI, EPIC. Served on the steering committee for WOTS (2019-present). Completed UW Certificate program for Children's Literature and Memoir. Co-owner of Body Results, Inc. in Seattle. Climb leader with Seattle Mountaineers for over 15 years. Volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo since 2014.

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  1. First, an apology for mixing some of my comments between the “Doctor’s Order” blog and this one on “Repeat Hikes” (i struggled with remote locales and devices’ small form factor). Nature IS home indeed; nowhere do I feel it more deeply than on a multi-days/weeks trek in the mountains. Beyond the obvious “making my home” where I am when I put down my pack at night, there are more subtle ways in which it strikes me. The most profound one is the realization/belief that I am no less a product of the interconnected forces and laws of nature than a chipmunk, a sugar pine, or a chunk of metamorphic rock are. I am one of the items on the menu of the great smorgasbord of nature – I am not more special and no less wonderful than they are. Then there is the realization that “the wilds” are not a hostile or foreign place… they are just a place I do not fully remember how to “navigate”, being for a day, weeks, or months; the more I learn or remember, the more it feels like a place I belong to. In a way, it slowly feels like remembering how to ride a bicycle decades after last getting on one.
    Repeat to celebrate; right on! Especially with a friend or a mentor… or BOTH. I am no accomplished outdoorsman and I get so much from the comfort, the encouragements, and the belief in my abilities I receive from people I greatly respect and admire. Just like the sun breaking through after a storm, these moments provide me with a much needed boost of energy and confidence to continue the journey. And yes, parting with friends on the trail sometimes seems to be an even bigger heartache than when, say, we bid them farewell at the airport. Who’s staying “Home”? Who’s going away from it? As for musing about becoming a trail angel…Based on the description of your recent experimentation with nectarines and peaches, it could be argued that you already have been doing the good work of the TAs without realizing it 😄

    1. “Home is where the heart is” is another quote I love. My heart is definitely in the mountains and the critters who inhabit them. I think I must have been one of the very first park rangers in a previous life. Trail angels unite! A thought came to mind as I read your post that WE FEAR WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW or cannot control (future blog post, don’t worry). The more time we spend on something, whether that’s writing, astrophysics (my daughter’s hope for a major), hiking, or knitting, the better we get at it simply out of experience. While you may not FEEL like an accomplished outdoorsman, from the outsider, your familiarity with planning a trip along the PCT, satellite tracking, navigation and so forth is quite unparalleled and I’ve worked with lots of folks. Maybe your experience pales compared to other thru-hikers but the mileage you’ve put in, the training you’ve accomplished, the knowledge you’ve gained — to me you ARE an accomplished outdoorsman. Rock on!

  2. Super article. I love repeating the same trails over and over. I never feel bored and always find novelties. It is never looked the same.

    I love solo hiking more than hiking with a partner. My self is my best partner. I have more interaction with strangers when I hike alone.

    Thanks for sharing your experience on the trail. This trail seems to be incredible. I love your writing and all your photos. Keep blogging!💗

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Silvie Marie! You have commented before about loving repeating trails – part of why I thought, “Yeah, there IS value in repeating!” Kendall Katwalk is one I’ve only done four times but each time I do it I pick up something new. I will definitely keep blogging. Appreciate your thoughts. Keep reading, keep exploring!