Monday, October 4, 2010

On the Katwalk

"There is no path; paths are made by walking."

The anticipation really built for this hike. I intended for it to be an 11-mile trek uphill to reach Kendall Katwalk, a narrow shelf blasted into the cliff side long ago by dynamite crews. What I couldn’t have known was that I would unknowingly pass right over the Katwalk and keep going for miles, elongating a hike that left me limping with a twisted ankle the last four miles.

I was thrilled to spend the day on the Pacific Crest Trail because for years it’s been a dream of mine to hike the entire thing from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. This section is in the Snoqualmie Pass and started in an old-growth forest. It was a bit of a climb but the trees loomed overhead, protecting me from the sun’s rays.

After two miles or so, I muddled along on the switchbacks and eventually found myself on a massive rock chute. With each step, I could hear rattling sounds surrounding me. Not knowing what they were, I feared the worst: rattlesnakes. (Have I mentioned I’m terrified of the slithery creatures?) I envisioned dozens of rattlesnakes hiding among the rocks, ready to strike if I took a wrong step. It was then that I really started to sweat, though I’m unsure whether it was my snake phobia or the increasingly warm temperatures as I continued up the steep slope.

Ahead of me loomed Red Mountain. The orangish-red bushes lining portions of the path couldn’t have had a better backdrop. To my left was a sprawling valley of trees and rolling hillsides, with Interstate 90 barely visible in the distance.

The trail began narrowing and with each step, I envisioned stepping out onto the Katwalk. I’d read that the path suddenly drops off and only the brave summon the courage to step onto the rock shelf. I came upon several travelers who were poised on boulders, eating lunch and staring out at the wondrous peaks. I pushedon. I carefully studied the trail I was following, observing its thinness and searching for any sign that I was approaching the Katwalk.

After another hour or so, I was sure I’d somehow missed the famous Katwalk. I had left the ridge long ago and reached a lake. I asked a fellow hiker where the Katwalk was and he told me I’d passed it nearly three miles back. I was less than thrilled, but made a U-turn and began a second, more successful, search for Kendall Katwalk.

Yes, it is a challenging hike. Yes, the sights are startling in their enormity and sheer beauty. But if you’re ever looking to dangle precariously on a catwalk, this is not the place.

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