Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mailbox Peak Conquered 2/17/2010

Tad bit of sunshine in February is always much appreciated here in Pacific Northwest so when the nature decided to cut us a little break from its usual rainfest, I knew I had to hit the trail.

But which one? So many great choices around here for a sunny day that it can make ones head spinning. Do I want to drive further North for the grand views of Mt. Baker's Artist Point or perhaps visit the ultimate winter playground of Mt. Rainier's Paradise?

Even though both options presented great temptation, Mailbox Peak, a mountain much closer to home, came to my mind.

First time I climbed the steep trail climbing 4000 ft of elevation in 2.5 miles, the mountain was not too keen on us. The sky was gray, no sign of views anywhere, and as soon as we reached the top and sit down for few minutes of well deserved rest, it started hailing.

Second time was not much different. It was not hailing, fortunatelly, yet this time the mountain had a freezing cold winds blasting all around us at the top, and once more, no views.

Third time a charm! I e-mail my friend Martha, who mentioned a desire to give Mailbox a try, and 10 minutes later we had a plan.

The day started quite usually, with lots of heavy fog lingering in the valleys but before we reached the trailhead, we were on our way to one of the most beautiful winter days one can ever wish for.

The sky was completely blue, sunshine filtered through the crowns of aged trees accompanied our way. The absence of snow in lower elevation and unusual warmth of the rising sun made it feel more like spring, or even summer, and soon we were hiking up just in out T-shirts.

I love the challenge the trail offers. It's steep, unmaintained with roots and rock in the way. The trees closely surrounding some of the steepest areas are barkless and polished smooth as hundreds of hand used them for support.

It's honestly the longest 2.5 miles I can think of. Many times along the way, one thinks "Why am I doing this?" And then the trail emerges from the forest, and the view of Mt. Rainier welcomes all the sweaty adventurers who did not give up... and the views get even better higher up when Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak and tons of other peaks close and far appear in the view.

Huffing and puffing we gained the last slope and stood atop of the peak enjoying the beauty around us. I can now say with certainty that there are views on mailbox Peak indeed.

I felt really proud of Martha. It's been by far the hardest, most chalenging hike she's ever been on. I think at times I had more faith in her ability to complete the trip than she had in herself. The look on her face once she reached the top was priceless.

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