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

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

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Their weight-loss secret? Hiking nearly 1,000 miles

Over the past two years, friends Colleen Fadden of Startup and Kendra Swanson of Monroe have lost nearly 250 pounds.

They set a goal for themselves: Hike 100 times for the exercise in 2020.

Not only did wanderlusts Colleen Fadden and Kendra Swanson go on 100 hikes in one year, they enjoyed it so much, the longtime friends decided to hike together even more times this year.

Two years ago, the friends turned to hiking to help them lose weight. At their heaviest, Fadden weighed 322 pounds and Swanson was 250 pounds. Fadden had weight-loss surgery 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 had put on in pregnancy.

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

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

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

In 2019, Fadden and Swanson hiked 68 times, covering about 338 total miles. In 2020, they hiked 100 times for a total of 498 miles. As of Feb. 12, they have hiked 19 times, covering 85 total miles in 2021.

In addition to hiking every other day, Fadden and Swanson also had been taking hot yoga classes together. But then COVID-19 hit.

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

“Hiking or walking — we don’t do much else,” Fadden said. “Never have stepped foot in an actual gym.”

They downloaded the AllTrails app — which features more than 100,000 trail maps — so they could find trails in and around Snohomish County, as well as record 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 realize all the hikes that are in Snohomish County,” said Swanson, who works as an aid at EvergreenHealth Monroe Medical Center. “We did all of those within our first year.”

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

Their favorite hikes in Snohomish County 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,” Fadden said. “It’s just the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s serene, like the lake says. It’s just absolutely beautiful. “

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

After a year, they’ve ventured beyond county lines to check out hiking trails, such as Rattlesnake Ridge near North Bend, Colchuck Lake in Leavenworth and Poo Poo Point in Issaquah.

“We mostly stay here,” Fadden said. “Those are big trips for us.”

The hardest hike they’ve been on is Mailbox Peak, which is a 9.4 mile roundtrip with a 4,000-foot elevation gain. At the 4,822-foot summit is the famous mailbox where hikers have left letters, postcards, stickers and even an American flag at the top. Fadden added a Bigfoot sticker to the mailbox.

They also took a five-day backpacking trip through the Cascades. They loved that they pitched their tent and cooked their meals over a campfire all by themselves. “It made us feel so empowered, because neither one of us had ever done that without our husbands or kids,” Fadden said.

The friends recently got matching tattoos to commemorate their hiking adventures and to celebrate that they met their 100-hike goal. On both of their right forearms is a tattoo featuring a lone Douglas fir in the foreground and the Cascades in the background. Flanking the word “Wanderlust” are sets of hiking boot prints — one set for each of them.

Colleen Fadden (left) and Kendra Swanson recently got matching tattoos to celebrate meeting their 100-hike goal in 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Colleen Fadden (left) and Kendra Swanson recently got matching tattoos to celebrate meeting their 100-hike goal in 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“We are our best cheerleaders,” Fadden said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this without us cheering each other on. It’s all about our friendship, and how we’ve grown together, and how we’ve done this amazing journey together. We wouldn’t be where we are today without each other.”

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 essentials with you.

“When we first started, we took like 10-minute breaks to be able to breathe again because we were so out of shape,” Fadden said. “We pushed ourselves. We sweat, we cried, but we kept going.”

“It was hard,” Swanson said. “We couldn’t walk some nights after we got home. But we would still go, as hard as it was.”

As if it wasn’t hard enough, Swanson even carries her toddler in a special backpack when they go on hikes. “She’s pushing 40 pounds, and I’m still carrying her,” she said. Swanson loves that they now share a love of hiking, because mother and daughter have gone on so many trips.

Kensington, now 3, loves to see waterfalls, hear birds chirping, eat snacks — “Her favorite is trail mix so she can pick out all the M&Ms,” Swanson said — search for painted rocks and greet hikers they meet on the trail.

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 Feb. 12, Fadden and Swanson were joined by Fadden’s cousin Sara Boyle, visiting from Wichita, Kansas. She’s been on more than a few Snohomish County trails with her hiking cousin in the past two years. The three of them hiked 3.5 miles out and back at Heybrook Ridge.

This year, Fadden and Swanson have set a goal of 200 hikes. Although, Fadden admits she’d be happy making it to the trail even 150 times.

Fadden has posted photos from all 187 hikes on Facebook. It helps her stay motivated to go hiking.

“Life just happens, and you gain weight,” she said. “As you get older, it keeps piling on faster and faster. I did every diet I could think of to lose weight, but then gained it right back as soon as I stopped dieting.”

Hiking works for her.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; sbruestle@heraldnet.com; @sarabruestle.

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