I still remember how proud I felt the first time I hiked up this infamous mountain – if I could climb that, I could climb anything (even though I was so sore that I was still waddling four days later).
This one time, (at Mailbox camp,) we met an actual postman! His friends had dared him to hike up in full uniform.
Anyhoo, it’s not so much the trail up Mailbox that I find crippling, it’s going back down the steep, muddy, rooty mess that makes my knees shake and quads quiver. That’s why I’m looking forward to the opening of the new trail, which will be twice as long but more sustainable than the current eroding stairmaster. I’ll keep using the old trail on the way up, but I think it will feel heavenly to loosen up my muscles on a long run back down.
WTA is one of the organizations that are helping build this new trail, so I signed up for a work party. Full disclosure: I was also motivated by the fact that once you’ve volunteered five times, they give you your own personalized hard hat – huzzah! I spent the day learning the frustration and satisfaction of building a retaining wall out of rocks, then carried my shiny new hat to the summit.
This was my favorite Mailbox hike yet – somehow, on this normally crowded peak, I was the only one hiking up, and I spent an hour alone in the sun until JK, the pups, and our friend Eric came hustling up to meet me.
It was such a gorgeous day that we hung around ’til sunset before heading back down. Unfortunately my camera ran out of juice, so we had to make do with these cell phone photos. Oh well.
Eric was patient enough to hang back and endure my snail’s pace on the way down. I first met him four years ago at a TNAB on, of course, Mailbox Peak. He was slogging up the talus field and I passed him (the only time I have ever passed anyone on a TNAB hike). One season later, he had transformed himself into a lean, mean (except he’s one of the nicest and funniest people I know) hiking machine that few can keep up with.
These days, he and some other friends use Mailbox as their gym – neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night keeps these guys from running up to check the mail every week. Sometimes twice a week. Hell, sometimes twice a day.
As we picked our way down, Eric regaled us with tales of previous ascents (many of them involving interesting injuries) and let us in on the unofficial names of various logs, roots, and other landmarks along the trail. It was an excellent distraction from my creaky knees.
As I sit here two day later, still smiling, legs still throbbing, I think of Eric and his lunatic friends who hike Mailbox Peak several times a week. I wish I had their drive. And their obviously superior knee cartilage.
It’s always a little awkward to return to blogging after an unintentional hiatus. Instead of apologizing or listing a bunch of feeble excuses, I’ll just jump right back in. Since last we spoke:
We finally bought a new car, another Subaru Forester to replace our beloved Forester Gump. Our new adventure mobile is named Subie Sue (you know, like Zou Bisou Bisou) and allows us to venture beyond the Issaquah Alps again.
We’ve pretty much stayed in the Issaquah Alps anyway. I’m over snow. Bring on dry tails, wildflowers, and marmots.
I caught a cold, which normally wouldn’t be interesting in any way, except for the fact that this was my first time being sick since Christmas 2011. That’s huge for someone who used to pick up every single bug that went around. Alas, even my newfound iron immune system was defenseless when sitting directly in the line of fire of a coughing toddler for three hours in a car.
Oh well, it was worth it for a hike in the sunshine with my favorite little man.
JK started instructing for the Washington Alpine Club’s climbing class again, and I joined them on their first outing, Mount Si. I brought my Kindle and a sleeping pad and spent hours reading in the sunshine. Strangely, I was not the only person to do this, I saw a man spread out on a huge blanket, reading a newspaper. Now that would be a wonderful weekend tradition.
Si being Si – crowded – I got to chat with lots of excited hiking neophytes who were amazed by “the pristine views” (of I90 and North Bend). It made me realize just how lucky (and spoiled) I am when it comes to wilderness adventures.
A gentleman named Mike insisted on taking my photo in the rocks below the Haystack, giving me an excellent portrait of myself gazing dreamily towards the mountains (as I am wont to do).
I joined my very first trail work party with the Washington Trails Association! We started building a brand new connector trail on Cougar Mountain, which involved wrestling with giant ferns, digging lots of dirt, and clearing a walkable tread through a maddening system of rocks and roots.
I was surprised by how many people showed up (on a Tuesday), and inspired by the tight-knit but very welcoming community of retirees who are both in better shape and more adventurous than I am.
We made an impressive amount of progress on the new trail, and I immediately signed up for three more work parties. I’ll definitely have to come back enough times to earn my personalized hard hat…and to work on more little sections of trail that I will forever think of as my own. Oh, and to take part in nature’s CrossFit – if I hadn’t gone for a hike to loosen up my muscles after the work party, I doubt I would be able to move at all today. All that shoveling and fern-wrestling works your core muscles like the dickens!
Is there anything better than meeting someone, hitting it off right away, and just knowing that you’ll be good friends? Why yes, yes there is – when you learn that those new friends have a family cabin in the mountains!
We would obviously adore these guys even without their excellently situated chalet, but they get bonus points for not only inviting us on our first voyage to Mount Hood, but somehow also scheduling a sunny Saturday in March.
A group of us gathered in the cabin in Government Camp, Oregon, to celebrate Lauren’s birthday, play board games, and eat damn good food (and lots of it).
We also took turns snuggling with the mascot of the trip (sorry, Mukmuk), a four month old little lady who is the easiest baby I have ever met (sorry, Nathan), and who spent the whole weekend probably giving us the wrong impression of what babies are actually like.
She even joined us, nestled in the Ergobaby, on our hike from Timberline Lodge to the top of the Palmer Chairlift, 8,500 feet. She slept the whole way, except when she was taken out of the carrier for a minute to put on her warm polar bear suit to protect against the stiff breeze near the top.
The rest of us had to make do with our much less adorable wind shells. And we had to use our legs, which seems unfair, but was probably a good thing given the feast we proceeded to gorge ourselves on when we returned to the cabin.
It was an excellent weekend indeed, thanks to our fellow cabineers, that gorgeous mountain, the creative cabin cookery, and of course our wonderful hosts.
– Palmer Lift | 4 miles | 2500 feet elevation gain –
Aah, 2012 – the year we bought a house and subsequently turned into total homebodies. A huge drop in hiking mileage, but a giant leap in hiking enjoyment.
In the middle of the January Snowpocalypse, we joined our friends and their brand new baby boy on a snowshoeing trip to the Grand Junction Warming Hut – perfectly suited for little Nathan’s feeding and changing needs! We enjoyed that trip so much that we returned on xc skis in February to ski the Mount Catherine Loop.
Spring was gorgeous in 2012, and we spent lots of time enjoying our new house and the local trails. In April, we got a taste of summer (and front row seats to a bald eagle peep show) on Oyster Dome. In June, I got a confidence booster at Camp Muir.
Our new furry son, Basil, came into our lives in July, and our first hike together was Ebey’s Landing, sure to be a family favorite from now on. Thorp Mountain didn’t disappoint this year either.
Noble Knob always seems to end up on my favorites list, even this year when we had to cut our backpack short when Basil had an allergic reaction to mosquitoes! August was my hardcore hiking month, thanks to the WTA Hike-a-Thon – the best part was my solo camping trip on Mount Rainier, where I spent an amazing afternoon with the marmots of Summerland.
Another solo favorite of mine was the Melakwa-Pratt Loop. Unfortunately our TNAB attendance was rather dismal this year, and we only made it to Mount Margaret – luckily it was a perfect night.
Labyrinth Mountain in September was fantastic – I have extra-special-lovey-fuzzy feelings about it since it happened a couple of days after I had stopped eating gluten and I already felt like a totally different person. Our second backpacking trip of the year took place at Yellow Aster Butte with a group of friends, including Wellie’s biggest fan.*
Summer lasted long into October this year, so the marmots on the Skyline Trail had lots of time to prepare for winter. My favorite trip of the year was a beautiful, last-minute hike to Mount McCausland and Lake Valhalla – that one will stay with me for years and years.
Our annual Christmas snowshoe to Skyline Ridge happened earlier than usual this year so we could take advantage of the excellent weather. The year ended perfectly, in perfect snow above the clouds on Kendall Knob.
JK finally climbed his long-coveted fourth Washington volcano this year, the beautiful Glacier Peak. He also completed two 25K runs this year, first as a volunteer on Orcas Island, then as a runner on Sun Mountain. (I, on the other hand, did a lot of talking about racing and not much else.)
Out of state favorites:
Aaah, Hawai’i. You always hit the spot. In April, JK’s sister and her beau came to visit, and we used it as an excuse to go to Maui. The Sliding Sands Trail on Haleakala always leaves me breathless (in more ways than one). In July, we went on a road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks with JK’s mom. The view of Grand Prismatic Spring from the hillside overlook was out of this world.
Hopefully we’ll make it out on more backpacking trips in 2013, but now I know that I’ll be enjoying myself either way.
*apparently going gluten-free did not help my trip report-procrastination, so these trips only have photo sets for now.
For some strange reason, travelling home from the Virgin Islands left me more jetlagged than flying home from Norway ever has. I was grumpy about it for a day or two, but then I decided to just embrace it and keep getting up stupid early.
What’s the best way to celebrate jetlag? A dawn patrol, of course!
Rattlesnake is the perfect place to see a winter sunrise – it’s short (for a slowpoke like me, it takes 40 minutes at a comfortable pace – if you can run uphill, you’ll be there in no time at all), snow-free most of the time, close to civilization*, and it has great views for such a short hike.
Unfortunately the sunrise wasn’t much to speak of this time, but I was so high on early-morning endorphins that I didn’t care.
We put on some tunes** and ran back down to the lake in glorious, glorious sunshine, a special treat after a very grey week.
I felt so good the rest of the day that I think I might attempt to make morning exercise a more regular thing (emphasis on attempt). I guess jetlag can be a blessing in disguise!
It’s slowly but surely starting to feel like spring ’round these here parts – the nutrias are especially excited about the return of sunshine on the deck.
*huh, it just occurred to me that Poo Poo Point would be an even better Dawn Patrol since it’s closer to our house. Must do this before the jetlag fades.
**this might be one of those things I should be embarrassed about, but I’m obsessed with Lana Del Rey right now. I listened to her non-stop on St. John, and hearing Ride or Gods and Monsters takes me right back to the beach. Aaahh.