Friday, July 4, 2008

Mailbox Peak

On Monday, June 9, we decided to hike Mailbox Peak, a strenuous hike just a little ways out I-90 from Seattle. The trail is unmaintained, and it’s close to straight up – it rises almost 4000 feet in 2.5 miles. We started our hike in the rain, and the rain continued off and on (mostly on) for the entire time we hiked. The trail was wet and muddy, as you’d expect from such a steep trail in the rain, and after about 1.5 hours, we gave up and headed back down.

By Thursday, it had been two days since the last rain, so Brian decided to try the hike again. The trail was still muddy, and for the last half of the hike to the peak, he was hiking in one to three inches of mud most of the time. But the ground wasn’t quite as wet as it had been on Monday, and he was a lot more comfortable wearing a short-sleeved shirt and hiking pants than he’d been in his rain gear.

At the trailhead, half a dozen other cars were already there when Brian arrived around 11:00. He turned on his GPS and took a waypoint reading just in case he got lost, and then he was off. He hiked an hour before stopping for a break and was pleasantly surprised that he’d already made it up 2400 feet. After a 10-minute rest that included chugging a quart of water and eating several granola bars and fruit leathers, he was off again. Ten minutes or so later, he hiked out of the forest but continued ascending. He reached a snowfield and met a group of three other hikers who gave him instructions on how to navigate the snowfield and the rocky slopes on the way to the summit. The upper mountain was shrouded in fog, so the instructions were welcome.

The snowfield was pretty steep, making it a little sketchy, but the surface was soft and kick-stepping seemed to provide enough traction. There wasn’t much for views.

At last, Brian made it to the top, an hour and 56 minutes after he’d started from the parking lot. Here he is, happy to have arrived:

The mailbox at the summit supposedly disappeared sometime last year, so it must have been replaced since then. The mailbox looked quite new, although its post was leaning over quite a bit.

A few minutes after Brian reached the top, a man and a woman joined him. It turned out that he was a freelance writer for the Seattle Times, writing an article on early-season hikes, and she worked for the Washington Trails Association, a major trail maintenance and hiker advocacy organization in the state.

Brian took a few minutes to “read the mail” – that is, examine the contents of the mailbox.

It turned out that the mailbox was also a letterbox. A letterbox is a location with a notebook and stamp, where a letterboxer can use the stamp to stamp his own notebook and use his own stamp to stamp the letterbox’s notebook. The mailbox’s stamp was, appropriately, a mailbox:

Here’s the first entry in the letterbox notebook:

The mailbox also contained a standard summit log, where people write comments on their climb:

Finally, there were a few random items – little rhinoceros and turtle statues, a hand-made bracelet, and a bottle of conditioning shampoo. Not sure what the shampoo was for – maybe you could wash your hair on a rainy day?

After hanging out at the summit for about 50 minutes, Brian started down. The way down took almost as long as the way up – an hour and 38 minutes. It was a lot more dangerous, too. Going down the snowfield, Brian half walked and half skated on his heels, falling on his butt twice. The snow was pretty slushy by this point, so a completely uncontrolled slide wasn’t a risk, but he did have trouble staying on his feet. Farther down, he also managed to slip in the mud and fall with his right hip and forearm hitting rocks. After that, he made it to the trailhead without further incident.

By the time he reached the end of the hike, the sun had come out:

It had been a good hike – Brian was feeling tired but not completely exhausted. He woke up on Friday morning with no pain, but could definitely feel the hike in his quads as he jogged to catch a Seattle bus that afternoon. Oh well, there’s plenty of summer left to get in shape!

No comments: