Mailbox Peak Loop
Posted 30 Aug 2020
Climbed the Old Trail:
2.7 miles, one way
5.4 miles, roundtrip
1481 gain per mile
Returned on New Trail:
4.7 miles, roundtrip
9.4 miles, roundtrip
851 loss per mile
"When I post the picture of you delivering, what would you like to say about it?"" I said as we started to descend from the top of Mailbox Peak.
“Toughest delivery ever. 4000 feet in 2.5 miles. That’s gonna hurt in the morning," Kirk said.
And it did. Two days later, he is still limping around.
Misha, Kirk and I stayed at Tinkham Campground just off the I90 in Washington 40 miles east of Seattle, the night before our climb. It's a nice campground on the south fork of the Snoqualmie River. The only disadvantage is the noise from the freeway which never seems to slow down.
Yes, Kirk felt very awkward in full uniform as we started out.
We walked by the first trailhead, the easier one with the well trodden, loping switchbacks and found the Old Trailhead a couple tenths of the mile farther along.
The sign at the Old Trailhead warned of difficulty and death, so we took that trail, of course.
We are Oregonians who have hiked many miles in the Columbia Gorge, so we kept waiting for the danger. I am not saying that the trail was easy.
The trail was difficult. But perhaps not as dire as the signs would have one believe.
All of the Old Trail is in the woods, no views. As we climbed, I felt my hips loosen as if they would pop out of the sockets as I bent in half to haul myself up on giant, root-ladder steps. We met several hikers as we climbed who stopped and admired Kirk's uniform.
Kirk explained that he would turn 30 years in October. This was a great way to celebrate that milestone.
A couple asked to have their picture taken with him.
It was only the beginning .
After two miles of intense climbing, we met with the new trail and a few softer switchbacks with views toward Mt. Rainier.
The Vine Leaf Maples had begun to flame. It seemed that summer had just arrived. Seeing the trees changing so soon felt like a punch in the gut.
After we joined the new trail, we were stopped constantly by people asking Kirk if he delivered to the top. At first, he laughed and said no, but then he started having fun with it.
"Oh yeah. I deliver daily," he said straight-faced. "It really stinks when I have to walk all the way up here for an ad."
Nonplussed hikers laughed as Kirk finally assured them that he was just kidding.
The climb up the Old Trail didn't let up and after the trails joined, we strolled three moderate switchbacks to unrelenting climbing. But we were only at 4000 feet, and had plenty of oxygen, so even as we gained 1500 feet per mile, it was easier than Adams because we could breathe.
At last we made it, to the cheers of other hikers most of whom we had played leapfrog with along the trail. As soon as we stopped, people assaulted Kirk asking if they could take their picture with him, a real mailman, on top of Mailbox Peak. One young lady said it was her birthday and that climbing the peak was amazing but taking her picture with Kirk completed the experience. I could tell he was embarrassed, but he posed with everyone.
Then he explained to the group that he had a signed photo of his co-workers from his West Linn office. People deliver all sorts of items to the box: stickers, notes, and empty booze bottles are just a few examples.
Everyone snapped shots of him delivering the photo.
Then one of the hikers took a picture of the three of us together. We rarely can get photos of the three of us since we most often hike alone. We have a lot of odd selfies.
The peak itself is small, so we dropped down behind the mailbox for a little privacy while we ate our lunch. Someone has installed another mailbox behind the official one. The top of Mailbox Peak offers a 360° view with Mt. Rainier to the south and Mt. Baker to the north. Unfortunately, all the offerings left by hikers draw flies and gnats to the scene, so hanging out too long wasn't an option.
After Kirk agreed to take a few more photos, we took a deep breath, glanced around, and agreed to make our way back down. We descended on the New Trail, a longer, but much gentler alternative. Even so, our knees felt it. We were both surprised when our calves ached the following day. I had expected my hips and thighs to hurt more.
I recommend this hike. Either the Old or New Trail is going to challenge you. I especially recommend that you do this hike with a mailman. I have one you can rent, BTW. :-)
“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing”
- Barry Finlay