Mailbox Solo (1/16/2017)

I’ve done a handful of solo hikes before, but I always balked at the prospect of solo mountaineering. I’m not adverse to risk taking, but I’m cognizant of what can go wrong and prefer to be cautious when I’m out exploring. 

My first real mountain solo was this summer when I took Harley up Mt. Townsend. 

 Harley and I at the summit of Mt. Townsend.

6,280 feet, well trafficked and relatively easy on the grand scale. I was nervous but also felt empowered and happy to be stretching my wings. What Mt. Townsend did was show me that I could mentally do a solo hike, and it set the foundation for the next one… Mailbox.

I chose Mailbox for two reasons. One, I know it’s a challenging hike but it’s also accessible being right off I-90. Second, I had been hoping to hike with a new hiking buddy I met on the Washington Hikers and Climbers group. He had to back out, but I knew he’d done Mailbox a few weeks prior and it felt more comfortable to me knowing I’d be soloing where someone I knew had been recently. So, Monday morning I rolled out for a late start and headed to Mailbox.

I decided to take New Trail. It’s longer and doesn’t have the same reputation as the original Mailbox trail (steep and up!) and felt like a better option for me.

It was compact snow and ice and tracks showed a wide variety of tractionwear being used, so I slipped on my microspikes within a few yards. Amazing difference–I didn’t lose my footing once on the trail!

One thing I enjoyed being solo is that it was completely my pace. I could stop and admire the views whenever I wanted, didn’t feel a need to apologize for water breaks, and had time to enjoy the silence and get all the thinking done that I’ve been putting off day to day. 

One nice thought train came from two trees alongside the trail…

I was drawn to how nicely they’d grown side by side. It felt like a beautiful relationship analogy where two individuals are growing together, their branches can reach out to touch and encourage each other but they never move to impede or change each other’s progress. Yet they stay together as they grow. And the result is a beautiful display of parallel purpose and harmony. 

After losing my head to these sappy reflections and with them delving a bit into my own experiences, I put some steam into my steps and powered on to the tree line. Suddenly it was time for sunglasses and layer removal–thank goodness I had remembered my sunscreen! The final push to the top was far steeper and exposed than I’d anticipated and I realized immediately that I would have had an easier descent with my iceaxe in hand instead of left behind at home, but there were others coming and going so I pushed on, one cautious step at a time.

I had the summit to myself for several minutes which was a wonderful treat. I’ll let the views speak for themselves. Overall, I made the top in just under 3.5 hours. Not my best time, but acceptable as I’ve been laid up recovering from the flu and this was my first real push in several weeks. Stats wise, New Trail is clocked as a 9.4 mile Roundtrip with 4,000 elevation gain (high point at 4,822 feet). I walk/jogged out and was back in my car before 4PM (started at 10:25AM). A wonderful experience and a good first winter solo into the mountains. Next time, Old Trail!

To follow our trail:

Mailbox Peak


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