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.