Mailbox Peak – 6/3/17

I love this photo. Everything about it is my favorite. Laughter. Girlfriends. The moody Pacific Northwest. Novelty. Precariousness. Pink. Adventure.

I heard about Mailbox Peak from a woman at the Green Monster Duathlon a few months ago. She told us she uses the hike as a training route and I knew I had to visit it. My favorite Washington ladies and I had been planning this hike ever since and the day finally arrived. I added one of my best Portland friends to the mission and at a very dark 4 AM, we made our way up to the trailhead some 3 hours away.

We took up the last of the parking spots at the trailhead and started up the Old Trail. “Non-trivial” is going to be my description: 2.5 miles and 4,000 ft of elevation gain.

The actual trail wasn’t always obvious and we took turns being the trailblazer, not wanting to claim responsibility for getting the group lost in the woods! It was foggy and cool and I wasn’t complaining. It was steep and root-y. I was amazed at how different this forest in northern Washington looked from other nearby hikes I’d been on. I enjoyed every grueling second of our ascent.

After passing the intersection of the Old and New trail (and teasing the man with the enviably luscious locks), we hit the rock scramble and I scoffed. “These are basically stairs!” we all thought. The path was clear as day and easy to navigate. The trip reports warned of it being a bit technical, so I was surprised at how basic it seemed.

Eventually, the boulders turned to rocks and then turned to stones and then pebbles, and indeed the hiking guides were right. It was a short but vertical climb to the summit.

As the photos show, we were socked in all day. Our views should have been of Seattle, Rainier, and various other mountain ranges all around. Just a few hundred yards from the summit we stopped to see just the tip of Rainier peeking out. Within about a minute it was gone and never popped out again.

We reached the top, elbowed our way through the crowd to the mailbox, wrote our letters to Santa, took a few photos, then plopped down to eat some snacks. I was thankful I put on some bug spray at the car, as we were swatting mosquitoes away.

The mailbox’s contents are ever-changing. This particular day there was a Costco-sized bottle of ibuprofen, a hiker’s log, stuffed animals, some foreign currency, a water jug, and many other random items. It is such a unique destination and a fun way to leave behind a piece of yourself at the summit.

On the descent, we took the New trail, which was much less rough, but twice as long and had relentless switchbacks. It was a beautifully maintained trail and I was wishing I could run (or sprint) all the way down.

At some point, I had to pee so badly I couldn’t stand it. The new trail was relatively busy, so I hussed up the side of the trail behind a tree, telling my buddies to keep watch. No sooner had I dropped my pants, did a fellow (male) hiker come walking up and then sat down on a tree stump directly in front of me, just feet away from my “watchwomen”! Mortified, I aborted my mission and jogged down the hill. “You people had ONE job!” I teased. Laughing, they were distracted by a bag of candy. I think the male hiker was more embarrassed than I was. “I didn’t see anything, I promise!” he assured me. I conceded I’d have to wait until we were out of the woods (no pun intended).

It was such a lovely adventure and after reaching the cars and changing clothes and shoes, we picked a nearby brewery to convene for lunch. Over a few homemade chicken strips and french fries, we planned our next ladies hike. I can’t wait!

Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon – 7/31/16 

Another weekend, another event. This time though, I had a fabulous running partner who came all the way from California to run with me! And, this event was even her idea!

This marathon is exactly what the name suggests: downhill. It makes for a speedy run, but as any runner knows, eventually trashes your quads and the fun is over. But this particular race was special because the first 3 miles were through an abandoned tunnel in northern Washington. The entire course was on an old rail line so it wasn’t quite trail, but it wasn’t road either. And the views were spectacular. But first things first.

The run was on Sunday so we headed to Seattle on Saturday morning and caught the Chihuly Glass Museum before picking up Erin. I had viewed some of his work on a trip to Las Vegas and his art is incredibly creative, so I was excited to share that with Jesse. The museum is at the base of the Space Needle and there was a festival happening in downtown Seattle so we crawled through the city and miraculously found a parking spot right out front. We wandered around the exhibits and then had lunch in the courtyard. It was a relaxing way to start the weekend, albeit very tourist-y!

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We met up with Erin and headed to North Bend to pick up our packets and kill some time. We got in some hilarious outlet shopping (see matching pants below!) and then found some pizza to carbo load.

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The hotel left much to be desired and we all slept horribly. Five AM came quickly and we groggily packed up and drove to the finish line to catch our shuttle bus to the start.

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It was like we were in high school again – do we pick a spot near the back of the bus like the cool kids? Pick near the front so we can be the first ones off? We settled on the middle, dug out some bagels and cream cheese, and enjoyed the ride.

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Our bus driver got us lost only once, and then we arrived at the start line. We had an hour and a half to kill before the race began and it was chill-ay (see: pants!)! We sat on the pavement, ate some more breakfast, took some photos, arranged our drop bags, and restlessly tried to keep warm.

There was some confusion about where the drop bags were to be left, if there was any water for us, and then a national anthem [send comments about national anthem controversies to igetallmyhatemail@gmail.com].

With headlights intact, we were finally off! I was excited to spend the next 4-5 hours catching up with Erin (luckily not actually catching up since we decided to stick together, despite her being the superior athlete). We enjoyed the tunnel, cold as it was, and emerged on the other end undressing and unloading. We took pit stops to pee and stretch, to take photos, and chatted the entire way. This run is a Boston Marathon qualifying run and I have no doubt Erin can and will qualify someday. I reminded her that she could leave me behind and could run it for time, but she insisted we were in it together. This became very important later in the day!

The half marathon mark came and went in what seemed like no time at all. I looked at my watch: a half marathon PR in the bag!

We were feeling strong, passing some people, getting passed by other people, laughing with other runners, and enjoying the event. The views of Snoqualmie Pass were incredible the entire way. We were in and out of the forest, crossing bridges, and making our way down the hill.

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But then: mile 18. And 19. And every mile got harder, my legs gaining weight with every step. Erin’s company was much more than two girlfriends catching up at this point: she was my life support. The sun was heating up the day and I was over it, fatigued setting into my physical self more than I could bear. The aid stations had only water and Gatorade (I’m clearly spoiled from the ultra aid stations and expect a smorgasbord) and I couldn’t get enough to drink. That’s what I get for not running with my hydration pack! Jesse claimed he hit the “bonk” in a similar spot.

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We passed a woman in dire need of an ambulance (she confessed she was having surgery the next day! #notworthit). We passed some people who gave up and were walking. And we passed each mile marker…slowly but surely.

At long last, the finish line was in sight. We “sprinted” to the end and I headed straight to the ground. My legs had died miles ago and all I wanted was a shower and to lie down. Jesse was feeling pretty spent as well (Erin, she had a few more miles in her, I’m sure!) and we were eager to get out of the sun and away from the crowds. We grabbed some water, our medals, and slowly walked up the hill to the car.

To wrap up the weekend, we were locked out of our hotel room, despite repeatedly asking for a late checkout. If I could be bothered, I’d leave them a terrible review! We eventually regained access to our stuff, packed up quickly, and went to Safeway for some chocolate milk and snacks for the road.

Erin’s friend picked her up, we said our good-byes, and sadly parted ways. Let me tell you; a joint marathon effort is an excellent adventure with a friend!

Psst! You can see our race photos here!