Kendall Katwalk Hike
Saturday October 13th 2007
This is a long hike. It is 11 miles round trip from the trailhead, up to the Kendall Katwalk, and back down again. When we got to the Katwalk, we continued further on down the trail to Gravel Lake, so we estimated that our total hiking distance was 14 miles.
This is not an easy hike. There is a lot of uphill climbing, and it is a long distance to travel. But we started early on a cool fall day, so we didn't get overheated on the uphill stretch. Indeed, when we started, low clouds obscured most of the landscape, and it seemed like there might be a chance of rain. We were already a mile into our journey before the clouds gave way. We picked this hike because we wanted to see some fall colors, and we certainly were rewarded. All along the way there were trees and bushes with leaves turning red and gold.
Red Mountain is visible at many different points along the trail. It's name is obvious, the color is indeed red, and it stands out from the other nearby mountains, which are all normal "rock" colored. I assume it the result of volcanic activity, instead of plate tectonics? Whatever process created it, Red Mountain is interesting to look at.
As the trail winds higher, you leave the forest and get better vistas. At one point you can look down on Interstate 90 and the ski resort. You can also look south toward Mount Rainier. We did this hike in October, and saw several spots of frost and snow. The path keeps ascending up the side of Mount Kendall, until eventually you reach a point where you can look to the east and see a terrific view. One hiking guide mentions a "Spectacle Point", I think it was referring to this viewpoint. The Katwalk is just a bit further down the trail.
This entire hike is one section of the Pacific Crest Trail. To me, just knowing we were on the PCT was something special, this trail is world famous! Perhaps the excitement fueled our hiking, because we ended up going beyond the Kendall Katwalk all the way to Gravel Lake.
The Katwalk is a short stretch of trail that is 3 feet wide that was dynamited out of the side of steep rock face. The hiking write-ups all caution acrophobes from venturing too close, but this is not intimidating at all - of course, we were there on a dry, windless day, I suppose in less ideal conditions the Katwalk is much more treacherous. (What is the difference between an acrophobe and an altophobe???). Most people turn around at the Katwalk, but we felt vigorous and so hiked on down to see Gravel Lake and Ridge Lake. Then we returned to the Katwalk and enjoyed our lunch.
On our way back down we passed quite a few people heading up the trail. I know we are typically early starters, but it was getting to be late afternoon as we got near the bottom. I always wonder what happens to those late starters - do they make it to the end, and hike back in the dark? With flashlights? Do they move a lot faster than we do? Or do they just give up when it becomes apparent there isn't enough daylight left?
I liked this hike. A lot. Despite the distance and altitude, we seemed to get to conquer the whole trail without any difficulty. I am thinking we should look at some of those longer trails in the hike books...
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