2023 ended for me with a hike on Margaret’s Way (Squak Mountain) with my good friend Pam, who was visiting from Arizona over the holidays. On January 2nd, Ajax and I ushered in 2024 with a solo hike to Central Peak from the south side of Squak. Both got me thinking about what I’d like in the coming year: to increase mindfulness, develop more connections with clients and blog readers, and get consistent with hiking year-round. A client shared an article called “Practice as a Way of Life.” My 2024 intention was born: Add richness to my hiking practice.

Ajax takes a snack break at Bullitt's Fireplace on Squak Mountain, a quarter mile from Central Peak.
Ajax takes a snack break at Bullitt’s Fireplace on Squak Mountain, a quarter mile from Central Peak.

By “hiking practice” I mean being deliberate about it rather than just “doing” it willy-nilly. Last year I wrote about setting intentions for your hikes. But during the final months of 2023, I missed the mountains so much that I threw myself at Squak Mountain before putting much thought into what I wanted to accomplish.

By way of backstory, I’m more of a fair-weather hiker. Winter for many is “off-season” for hiking. Since COVID I’ve done more off-season hiking than at other times in my life. But when the daylight is short, or it’s cold, rainy, snowy, or, like this morning, extremely windy, I lack consistency. Add to the fact that I was short a hiking partner, and it was easy to skip this morning. Mastery requires consistency, practice, and discipline.

My friend Pam and I pause for a selfie on the Margaret's Way route.
My friend Pam and I pause for a selfie on the Margaret’s Way route. I’m helping her train for the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in May. She helped spark the idea of social hiking support.

I faced a similar challenge last year when I created the Active Ajax Adventures project. My pup and I completed visits to 68 unique green spaces including 20 hikes, ten of them with my daughter. This year, I have several things I want to practice: Being more present on the trail. Exploring nature during all four seasons. And finding more like-minded people who feel the same way.

Perhaps I could use my blog not only to try to generate philosophical discussion and sharing of ideas, but also announcements for group hiking. Who knows, it might also lead to group coaching or networking. Right under my nose is a perfect tool for announcing intentions, and perhaps even generating a local hiking network. I open myself to new possibilities.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my chosen word for 2024 is OVERCOME. By that, I mean turning obstacles into opportunities. And this presents a perfect way to model change.

My current perceived obstacle is a lack of hiking partners. You’d think that as a coach and current member of the Mountaineers, I would have tons of people to hike with.

May Valley Loop on Squak Mountain. The loop from the south side is 6.6 miles round trip and 2320' elevation gain. It took us 2.5 hours.
May Valley Loop on Squak Mountain. The loop from the south side is 6.6 miles round trip and 2320′ elevation gain. It took us 2.5 hours.

During COVID, my hiking network dwindled to three people. Other friends stopped hiking due to injury, moved away, lost interest, became too busy, or switched goals entirely. I even lost a semi-regular hiking partner to early-onset dementia. My most reliable partner right now is my canine companion, Ajax, who will turn nine in May. How can I find more?

Mindshift time. My current opportunity: reaching out to previous hiking friends and inviting people to join the fun. A bonus would be chatting with others about health and well-being, a topic near and dear to my heart.

Ajax loves our hiking practice. He is always ready and raring to go on Squak Mountain.
Ajax loves our hiking practice. He is always ready and raring to go on Squak Mountain.

My idea may flop. It may succeed. But regardless of the outcome, Ajax and I will be getting out more consistently on Tuesdays, with the bonus of having others join us. If not, I will practice observation, mindfulness, and seeing what the mountain reveals. The only way I’ll fail is to not try.

The benefits of hiking regularly are numerous. Beyond the obvious reasons (mental and physical health) hiking provides a great baseline for those who want to climb Rainier, backpack along the Pacific Crest Trail, or trek to Everest Base Camp. Maybe you simply love what it feels like to get outside and leave the city stresses behind.

Putting intentionality into your hiking makes it far more meaningful. Anything that means something to you is more likely to take root and become a consistent habit. So by making hiking a practice, you increase the likelihood of doing it regularly. Win!

A signpost indicates the trailhead for Margaret's Way on Squak Mountain.
A signpost indicates the trailhead for Margaret’s Way on Squak Mountain.

So, taking my advice to continue to cultivate a “growth mindset” and “hiking practice,” I’m starting in the mountains several months earlier than usual.

Ajax and I enjoyed the May Valley Loop trail, Squak Mountain.
Ajax and I enjoyed the May Valley Loop trail, Squak Mountain.

I can imagine the questions rattling around in your brain so I will try to answer them here.

I'm not opposed to taking our time; it depends on who is in the group. The idea may flop, it may soar; all we can do is try.
I’m not opposed to taking our time; it depends on who is in the group. The idea may flop, it may soar; all we can do is try.

What pace and distance? The target will be 6+ miles and 1500+ elevation gain. Our base pace will be roughly 2 miles per hour at about 1200 feet of gain per hour. If that’s easy for you, carry more weight. If that’s a stretch, come light with a jacket and a water bottle. And it’s okay to do part of the trip and turn around. You gotta start somewhere!

Any substitutions? Maybe. Since I missed today I’m looking for another weekday but it may be just me and Ajax since we have other things we have to work around in our schedule. Oops, there goes another tree branch.

A sitting bench at a viewpoint along the Margaret's Way trail.
A sitting bench at a viewpoint along the Margaret’s Way trail.

If you are a current client, you might think of these hiking practice sessions as accountability trips, appointments that will keep you committed to your hiking goals. No membership is required anywhere. These are informal, free Coach Court outings, not sanctioned, organized Mountaineers outings.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest but are not currently engaged with me in Body Results or Thrive Clues coaching, this could be a great opportunity to connect with me at no charge and find out if we might form a collaborative partnership. I only ask that you come eager to walk and be interested in enjoying the outdoors. Win-win!

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.

6 replies on “How to Grow a Hiking Practice: Join Court on Squak Mountain”

  1. I’m just curious Court, your blog seems to say that not having a hiking partner is one reason to not go hiking. I personally enjoy (actually prefer) solo hiking, day trips, 3-4 day backpacks, where I can dictate the location, the schedule, and the pace. Occasionally someone will want to join me to see what it’s all about and I’m happy to introduce them to the adventure. So, I’m wondering what role a hiking partner (human) plays in your decision to go or not go?

    1. Hey Blaine, great to hear from you!

      Actually, 90% of the time I hike I go solo and many of my blog posts talk about the benefits of hiking solo. The most recent post you’re referring to is a reflection of my trying to FIND more people to hike with as a personal goal and a way to increase community in 2024. But “Solo Hiking: Nine Ways to Enhance Your Freedom” (https://courtschurmango.com/solo-hiking-nine-ways-it-enhances-your-freedom/) is the one that comes to mind touting the many benefits of getting out there alone. I am just wanting some companionship in the colder months as I miss hiking with my daughter from the past summer. Sorry if I made it sound like solo hiking would be a negative, it absolutely is not. What’s more, I can think of a number of my clients — you included — who prefer hiking solo. Totally fine. And you may find that some types of outings (I’m thinking about climbing) go better WITH people, and others without. To each his/her own, whatever works best.

      Happy hiking!

  2. I love this post. Hiking practice…I am so happy I am still hiking strong. My motivation is “ Just do it as long as it is safe”. Yes high wind will stop me as well as it is not safe to hike in such condition. For me, I go hiking without partners as I tried it and it didn’t work for many different reasons. I haven’t found the right partner.
    I love to join you every Tuesday, if I could. 😉

    Maybe you should think about a trip to Vancouver Island for a Coastal Hike.

    What about backpacking? Have you thought about it?

    What about to organize a trip to Mt Rainier? For sure, I will join you on this one.

    Lots of possibilities…

    Keep blogging, i love it.

    1. Maybe like my Alma Mater, Mt. Holyoke College in western MA, I could create a Coach Court “mountain day” where on some randomly designated day all Body Results clients would go out to the mountains and know that somewhere, other Body Results clients are doing the same thing. (grins)

      Thanks for the ideas, Silvie-Marie. I would love to visit Vancouver Island. I’ll put that on my wishlist. I think Rainier will have to wait until Ajax is no more, since he goes on everything with me and Rainier doesn’t allow dogs. But Jasper? THAT is a place I would LOVE to go back to. We took him with us — Canada allows dogs on leash in national parks — and it was spectacular. Adding that to my list. I love when people comment, it gives me so many new ideas. Obstacles to Opportunities!

      Keep on reading, writing, shooting, and hiking!

  3. Hi Court- I wish I lived near you! Love the hiking idea. If I can find my way to Seattle one day I will definitely let you know so I can join in. Thanks for another great blog.

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