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.
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.
Over Christmas, I finally decided on a my one little word for 2013: present. I tend to waste so much time and energy either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, so I entered the new year making a conscious effort to focus on what’s happening right here and now.
(Ironically, this trip report is three weeks late. Oh hush you.)
Back on New Year’s Day, the here and now was cold enough to freeze your nubbins off. JK and I drove over Snoqualmie Pass which was socked in once again, hoping to ski above the clouds on Amabilis Mountain.
It seemed to take much longer to reach the sun this time than it did on Kendall, probably due to my total ineptitude on cross-country skis, but once we made it, it was oh so glorious.
I love days like this one, where the sun is out but it’s so cold that the trees are still snowy. I usually only get one trip like a year, but this season I keep getting lucky. Mount Rainier was out along with the prominent Alpine Lakes Wilderness peaks, which made for gorgeous views. We couldn’t see Kachess Lake this time, but we can’t complain since it was replaced by a beautiful sea of clouds.
Even in our ginormous winter puffies, we were cold as the dickens, so we only sat down for a quick lunch before heading down. I was anxious about skiing down right from the start – see why I chose my one little word? – but I needn’t have worried, I only fell six times. Six times. At least they all happened on the ungroomed part of the trail, so I had relatively soft landings…and anyhow, that’s all in the past now.
Could 2012 possibly end on a higher note? I think not. JK’s coworker, Anil, had expressed an interest in trying snowshoeing, so we drove up to Snoqualmie Pass under clear, blue skies to hike to Kendall Peak Lakes.
Our canine companions for the day were Anil’s gorgeous Border Collie, Ada, and our favorite borrowed Mutt of Unknown Composition, Brutus.
In a cruel twist of fate, we were met at the pass by a wall of clouds. The trail was packed down, so we strapped the snowshoes on our backs and started walking, hoping the clouds were low enough for us to break through them. We hiked and hiked, throwing sticks and balls for the dogs the whole way (because unlike our nutrias, these dogs never get tired), then hiked some more.
At long last, just when it was time to move our snowshoes from our backs to our feet, we popped through the blanket of clouds into a winter wonderland of snow-covered trees and glorious, glorious sunshine. Aaah!
We all agreed that slogging through the clouds made the sun that much more enjoyable. There’s always something special about being above the clouds.
It makes you feel like you’re on top of the world, even when you’re actually on a lowly non-summit right next to the freeway.
It can make a busy ski resort look like untouched wilderness.
It can make a newbie fall in love with snowshoeing, and his dog fall in love with the funny sticks that go with the sport.
It was too beautiful to leave, so we stayed until the peaks (and the pups) were awash in alpenglow and the sun set for the second-to-last time that year.
We descended back into the clouds, smugly congratulating ourselves on spending the afternoon under blue skies while those poor suckers down at Gold Creek Pond were stuck in the desaturated world of grey. Muahahhaa.
Happy New Year from our family to yours. May 2013 find you above the clouds!
Our participation in TNAB this year was pathetic. We made it to one. (We had a chance to redeem ourselves at the TNAB Turkey Burner after Thanksgiving, but we elected to sleep in and eat leftover pie in bed instead.)
But aah, the one we did join, Mount Margaret, is one we seem to make it to every year – and it happened during Hike-a-Thon, which seemed appropriate.
At this point I had realized that I would be able to make it to 100 miles for the month, so JK, Dani and I ran down to Margaret Lake for extra mileage.
Remember how Josie had made her ACL kneehab trail comeback just a couple of days before? Well, since she’s mental, she chose TNAB as her second hike. That trail is fine until you get to the end, where there, well, is no trail. And it’s steep. And you go down in the dark. Mental, in the very best way.