'Outdoorsy' is not a word anyone would use to describe me. But post Peru, I'm feeling a bit more brave and craving a bit of the great outdoors. And let's be honest, when you live in the Pacific Northwest, your options for getting outside are endless. So when Rosalie and Kenzie suggested we go for a hike together, I was so excited. You guys know I rarely try something new by myself so when the Fit Squad says 'Let's do this!' I never say 'No'. Plus July in Seattle means you have to find reasons to be active outside!
Because they are both far more experienced with the hiking trails, I trusted them and went with the flow. They both recommended Mailbox Peak because of the view at the end. To be fair, they were honest about what I was about to get into. I was slightly intimidated given the description but I knew if I was going to do it, they were the ones I wanted to be with. Plus if you follow any outdoorsy person on Instagram, you've seen the spectacular pictures of Mailbox Peak. I had to do it!!
Mailbox Peak has two options - the 'old' trail which is a straight up 2.5 mile incline or the 'new' trail which is a 4 mile trail that is full of switchbacks to get you up the mountain. The three of us were in agreement that the old trail was the way to go - we all like to just get it done.
There are a few parking lots, that day there was even a shuttle running from a large lot a few miles from the trailhead. Fortunately, we got there around 8:30 AM so there were still a few spots available at the lot directly below the trailhead.
The trail starts with a sign that essentially says, "Don't do this unless you're really, really sure that you can handle it." This should have been my first clue but of course I laughed it off and moved on. Someday I'll learn to actually listen!
The trail starts off innocently enough in a beautifully shaded area but very quickly turned into the steep incline that warrants the sign at the beginning. It was no joke. What makes this trail so hard is that it is relentless. The steep incline goes on for the full 2.5 miles. There are very few moments where the path levels off which means you do not ever really get a chance to relax and catch your breath. The path is a dirt path for the first 2 miles or so. I was grateful for all the tree roots and overgrown branches because they were ultimately the main reason I survived the uphill climb. I think between mile 1 and mile 2, I was literally pulling myself up whenever there was an opportunity to hold onto a tree. I could not find my hiking boots that morning so being in sneakers was a bit of a disadvantage for this trail. There was minimal traction and a plethora of opportunities to turn my ankle. Fortunately the first few miles are shaded so that helped protect us from the heat of the 85 degree day.
The last half mile is spectacular. You come out of the woods into an opening, look up and literally see a mountain of rocks. It is stunning. What was great about this part of the trail was that, although it was still steep, there were a lot of rock steps. This helped with the traction and helped me feel better grounded in the uphill trek. But this is also when the mental game kicked in BIG time for me. It's a bit of a tease when you see the opening - you think you should just have to make it to the top of the rock hill. Nope, you get to the top and it leads into another step dirt mountain. You keep going and each time you come around a corner, there's nothing but climbing left to do. It went on like this for a good 30 minutes. There was a point when I literally told myself to just take 10 steps. I would count 10 steps, take a 10 second break and start all over again. The focus was just getting to 10. I couldn't look past 10 because my legs, my mind and my body were toast.
But let me tell you, when you get to the top, the view is breathtaking. You have a 360 degree view of nothing but mountains and water. Just seeing Rainier covered in snow made it worth the trek. There were a lot of bugs near the mailbox so we found a corner to perch on and took a much needed break. Fortunately, Rosalie wisely predicted that we would need mimosas at the top so she started pouring our drinks while we re-fuled with some protein bars, fruit and sweet potato cookies. My advice is bring a friend like Rosalie who's willing and able to carry all the extra weight for the mimosas!! I have NO idea how she managed to do that. Snacks are a must. Pack fruit, protein bars, sandwiches, nuts, etc. you are going to need it when you finally make it to the top.
We sat for a bit, snacked, caught our breath and relaxed before we headed back down. This is actually the part where I wanted to be excited (because I knew it would be easier) but in fact, I knew better. Going downhill can be tough in a different way, especially if you're like me. I'm not the most coordinated person, I'm not the most graceful person and I get distracted very easily. Combine that with the fact that I was not wearing hiking boots on and I knew I was in trouble. We counted and I slipped 8 times on the way down, but only 2 of them were complete, flat on my backside type falls so I consider that a win!!
It was hands down the hardest climb/workout I've ever done. But this is one of the main reasons I LOVE my Fit Squad and love trying different workouts. Endurance workouts and inclines just aren't my jam. And no matter how much I workout, I'll always find these two things challenging. It's also why I'm grateful for friends like Rosalie and Kenzie who'll encourage me to try something different, step outside my comfort zone and test my limits. It would not have been half as fun without their stories, their smiles and their incredible energy.