Your Weight Loss Secret? Hike almost 1,000 miles

You have set yourself a goal: hike 100 times for the exercise in 2020.

Wanderlust Colleen Fadden and Kendra Swanson not only did 100 hikes in one year, they enjoyed it so much that their long-time friends decided to hike together more often this year.

Two years ago, friends turned to hiking to help them lose weight. Heaviest, Fadden weighed 322 pounds and Swanson weighed 250 pounds. Fadden underwent an operation to lose weight in 2019 – the sleeve gastrectomy reduced the size of her stomach by about 75%. Swanson had just had a baby and wasn’t a fan of the extra pounds she’d gained in pregnancy.

Together, Startup’s Fadden, 43, and Monroe’s Swanson, 37, lost a total of 243 pounds. Fadden is 170 pounds and Swanson weighs 158.

“It’s worth the climb,” said Fadden, a paraducator for the Index School District. “I know that sounds clichéd, but it’s true.”

They have been hiking every other day for two years. If they can’t make it to a hiking trail, take 6 mile walks around their neighborhood. When their schedules don’t match to hike together, Fadden and Swanson go out alone to keep up their numbers.

In 2019, Fadden and Swanson hiked 68 times for a total of 338 miles. In 2020, they hiked 100 times for a total of 498 miles. By February 12, they hiked 19 times and covered a total of 85 miles in 2021.

Not only did Fadden and Swanson hike every other day, they also took hot yoga classes together. But then hit COVID-19.

When the Washington Paths closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, they lost a lot of time. After the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, they sometimes hiked two or three times a day to reach their 100th hike on December 31, 2020.

“Hike or go for a walk – otherwise we don’t do much,” said Fadden. “I’ve never set foot in a proper gym before.”

You’ve downloaded the AllTrails app, which has 100,000+ trail maps, so you can find trails in and around Snohomish County and track their pace, distance, and elevation for each hike. The app also has a GPS tracker so you can follow the trail if you get lost.

“We didn’t even do all of the hikes in Snohomish County,” said Swanson, who works as a volunteer at EvergreenHealth Monroe Medical Center. “We did all of this in our first year.”

“We try to make as many new ones as possible, but we usually do these right around Index and Granite Falls because they’re closer to home,” said Fadden.

Her favorite Snohomish County’s hikes are Heybrook Ridge and Heybrook Lookout near Index, May’s Creek Trail, and Lake Serene near Gold Bar.

“Lake Serene is our all time favorite,” said Fadden. “It’s just the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s calm, as the lake says. It’s just beautiful. “

“It’s breathtaking,” said Swanson. “You turn a corner and it’s like – bam! Wow. it gives me goosebumps just talking about it. ”

After a year, they ventured beyond the county boundaries to explore trails like Rattlesnake Ridge near North Bend, Colchuck Lake in Leavenworth, and Poo Poo Point in Issaquah.

“We stay here most of the time,” said Fadden. “These are great journeys for us.”

The toughest hike they’ve ever been on is Mailbox Peak, a 15 km round trip with an elevation gain of 4,000 feet. At the 4,822 foot summit is the famous mailbox where hikers left letters, postcards, stickers, and even an American flag at the top. Fadden added a Bigfoot sticker to the mailbox.

They also went on a five day backpacking trip through the Cascades. They loved that they had pitched their tent and cooked their meals by the campfire all by themselves. “We felt so empowered because none of us had ever done this without our husbands or children,” said Fadden.

The friends recently got matching tattoos to commemorate their hiking adventures and to celebrate reaching their 100th hiking goal. There is a tattoo on both right forearms with a lonely Douglas fir in the foreground and the Cascades in the background. The word “wanderlust” is flanked by hiking shoe prints – one sentence at a time.

Colleen Fadden (left) and Kendra Swanson recently got matching tattoos to celebrate having lost nearly 250 pounds from hiking. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“We’re our best cheerleaders,” said Fadden. “We couldn’t have done it without cheering each other on. It’s about our friendship and how we grew together and how we went on this amazing journey together. Without each other we would not be where we are today. ”

Fadden and Swanson have some advice for those inspired to follow in their footsteps: don’t be afraid to take breaks. Good shoes are important. Always bring the 10 most important things with you.

“When we started we took about 10 minutes off to breathe again because we were so out of shape,” said Fadden. “We pushed each other. We sweated, we cried, but we kept walking. ”

“It was hard,” said Swanson. “We couldn’t walk a few nights after we arrived. But we would go anyway, as hard as it was. ”

As if it wasn’t hard enough, Swanson even carries their toddler in a special backpack when they hike. “She pushes 40 pounds and I still wear her,” she said. Swanson loves that they now share a love of hiking because mother and daughter have traveled so much.

Kensington, now 3, loves to see waterfalls, hear birds chirp, and eat snacks. “Her favorite is Trail Mix so she can pick all of the M & M’s,” said Swanson.

The Heybrook Ridge Trail is one of Colleen Fadden and Kendra Swanson's favorite hikes.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Heybrook Ridge Trail is one of Colleen Fadden and Kendra Swanson’s favorite hikes. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

On February 12, Fadden and Swanson came to see Fadden’s cousin Sara Boyle, who was visiting from Wichita, Kansas. She has been on more than a few hiking trails in Snohomish County with her cousin in the past two years. The three hiked 3.5 miles there and back on Heybrook Ridge.

This year, Fadden and Swanson set a goal of 200 hikes. Though Fadden admits she’d love to hit the trail 150 times.

Fadden posted photos of all 187 hikes on Facebook. It helps her stay motivated to hike.

“Life just happens and you gain weight,” she said. “As you get older, it accumulates faster and faster. I’ve done every diet I could think of to lose weight, but then immediately regained it as soon as I stopped dieting. ”

Hiking works for them.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; [email protected]; @ Sarabruestle.


From left, Kendra Swanson, Colleen Fadden, and Fadden’s cousin Sara Boyle are hiking the Heybrook Ridge Trail near Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Colleen Fadden (left) and Kendra Swanson recently got matching tattoos to celebrate having lost nearly 250 pounds from hiking. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Heybrook Ridge Trail is one of Colleen Fadden and Kendra Swanson’s favorite hikes. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

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