Well how the heck did that happen??? I’m pretty sure I swore after hiking Mailbox last summer that I would never and I mean never do that again!! Pain fades with time? I’d lost my mind? What kind of explanation would get me back up a 2.5 mike hike straight up 4,000 feet of mountain?? Good thing you asked!
February 26 I was lucky enough to grab two permits to climb Mt St Helens on June 18!!!! OMG!! So anxiously excited for that!! So let’s see that 10 miles round trip and about 4,000 feet elevation game. Better start training! What’s on the list? Mt Teneriffe! Mt Si! And you guessed it Mailbox Peak!! So…..
I knew Todd hadn’t hiked Mailbox before and the weather seemed to be ok for the weekend. It looked like we would have some fairly heavy cloud cover so that meant to views at the top. All that hard work and no view. Bummer!!
We set out to leave at 7. There was the usual valley fog hanging around but we could clearly see deep blue skies above! The closer we got along I-90 the fog was gone, the sun was out and we knew the day was going to be pretty weather perfect!
The lower lot was full and the upper lot about 50% full. Surprisingly not as busy as I was expecting. We planned to hike up the old trail and down the new trail. I know the new trail is noticeably longer but I thought the old trail would be harder on the knees and quite a bit more slippery with the trail conditions.
We made it up the first mile in 45 minutes. I was feeling pretty good about that as a training program for Mt St Helens says pace of 1,000 feel elevation in an hour. Good start! At this point there was consistently more snow and ice on the trail so we decided to put on our microspikes. The trail looks so much different with snow than it does in summer. As we gained elevation the snow became much deeper with it consistently being around knee deep.
I told Todd about the sections of the trial. First part being the forest. Second section being the hike through and up the boulder field. Third the push to the mailbox and finally the hike back to the truck!
Todd hikes uphill faster than I do so I wasn’t surprised that he did so here as well. He did comment a few times on how unrelenting the climb is. No switchbacks. Just straight up for 2.5 miles! I think it even kicked his butt a bit!
For some reason this time the first seemed to go on forever! Maybe I had just blocked it out from the previous time. It just seemed like we would never get out in the open. After what felt like eternity we finally emerged just before the boulder field. We got a glimpse of Mt Rainier. Our only glimpse of the day! It was pretty spectacular!
The boulder field was so impressive! Covered in a deep layer of snow! You couldn’t see any of the rock steps which made it less intimidating. You just had to follow this deep path in the snow. So cool! At the top of the boulder field the trees were covered in this thick pure white snow. You can see which way the wind blows as one side of the trees were only green. They looked like flocked Christmas trees. Only without the ornaments and tinsel!
At this point your calves are on fire and the quads are tired. So close! You can see people standing at the mailbox but it seems like it’s taking forever to get there. 10 steps and rest for a few seconds. Repeat. We finally made it to the top. 3.5 hours. Not bad for the conditions. The snow was almost all the way up to the bottom of the mailbox. I was telling Todd I’m the summer the mailbox is actually waist high! So I’m guessing we had about 3 feet of snow on the top!
The views were pretty spectacular. There is something about deep blue skies offset by pure white perfect snow! Gorgeous!! We could see quite a few heavy dark clouds around Mt Rainier so I assume it was snowing there.
We took the requisite photos of the views and the mailbox. Chatted with some other hikers. One thing I love about hiking, besides just being in the outdoors, is how friendly everyone is. You chat with strangers like you’ve been friends for years!
Now it was time to hand back down. The sun had been out all day so the snow was starting to melt and get slushy and slippery. With how steep it is coming down from the top and across the boulder field we wanted to make sure we could do it safely. We saw several people sliding and falling. Even a guy who bent his trekking pole when it got caught coming through the boulder field. That’s a bad place to fall and have an injury. By this time we could see some rocks poking through so slow and steady was the pace!
Once we made it past the boulder field the trail returned to a winter wonderland! We even got to glissade on a section of the trail! The new trail was stunning! Deep snow through the forest. The legs were a bit tired but feeling pretty good. I like to ease of the new trail coming down but I don’t like how long it is! It seems like it will never end!!! It took us 3 hours to get back to the truck. Tired legs and all!!
I have to admit although I was tired, this time felt way better than the first time. It wasn’t 85 degrees! I had enough water! The views were equally amazing! I’m feeling a bit better about Mailbox now. I’m out of the never doing that again phase and I’ve moved on to a love-hate relationship. It’s a grind! A worthy hike though!
Until next time Mailbox!!