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Trail work

Hiking, Trail work


Aah, Mailbox Peak.

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).

Mailman on Mailbox Peak

This one time, (at Mailbox camp,) we met an actual postman! His friends had dared him to hike up in full uniform.

New Mailbox Peak trail

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.

Marmots on top

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.

We found mama! Yay!

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.

Men with mountains

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.

It was a beautiful night, so we hung around 'til sunset

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.

Beautiful sunset!

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.

Hiking, Trail work


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.

Subie Su!

We’ve pretty much stayed in the Issaquah Alps anyway. I’m over snow. Bring on dry tails, wildflowers, and marmots.

Papa, you forgot your parachute!

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.

Someone loves to hike!

Oh well, it was worth it for a hike in the sunshine with my favorite little man.

Samish Overlook

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.

I forgot how pretty Si can be

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).

Now stand right here, young lady

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.

Happy hard hats

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.

My hero

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!

Coal Creek Falls