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About Us > Adventures > Mailbox Peak: Early Season Quad Conditioner June 9, 2007

Mailbox Peak: Early Season Quad Conditioner June 9, 2007
C.W. Schurman

If you are looking for a good quadriceps burner within an hour of Seattle, and have not yet heard of the infamous green and gray mailboxes on top of this nearby peak, then it’s time to try Mailbox Peak. It’s not for children, and I don’t recall seeing any dogs. At 4000’ of elevation gain in 6 miles round trip, the best adjective to describe it is “unrelenting.” Under adverse conditions some may even go so far as to call it “punishing.” Those of you who climb may compare it to some of the steeper climbers’ switchbacks in the Cascades. On June 9, five of us (Kathryn, Rachel, Vlad, Doug and myself) set out at 8:15 to give it a try.

To get to Mailbox, take I-90 east from Seattle to Exit 34. Take a left onto Edgewick Road, pass under I-90, and go .4 miles to Middle Fork Road where you will take a right. Either branch at the Y will take you there (they join together again.) Continue (2.9 miles from I-90) to the end of the road at a closed yellow gate (don’t drive up if open), at 820 feet. Park on either side of the road. No facilities. The day we went it looked like a troop of Boy Scouts was doing the hike. When a man in a Search and Rescue vehicle showed up and asked US if it was the trailhead for Mailbox, we started to get a little worried!

The weather started out as overcast and cool temperatures at the start (8:15 a.m.) but deteriorated to spitting rain and winds of at least 15 mph at the summit; it made the steep clay slopes at the bottom of the hike pretty committing and treacherous. Fortunately the steepest part (and start of the true ascent) had a log on one side with nailed handholds to brace against so nobody got hurt. Not a particularly good hike to do in nasty conditions. However, with most of it in dense woods, we didn’t even realize it was raining until we poked out of the trees at the boulder field.

The first .3 miles is on an old gravel trail that is fairly level, with a left “hole in the woods” leading into dense trees. If you come to a stream on the gravel path, you’ve missed the turnoff for the hike. The trail makes its way back past the stream and then starts heading straight up. The first mile actually feels the steepest, but the entire hike is consistently uphill. By the time we reached the boulder field, about 800 feet from the summit, we all needed to add a layer to protect us from the elements. At this point hikers can veer left on the trail to avoid the boulders; it was still dry enough to merit trying it, and since 4 of the 5 of us were climbers we welcomed the added difficulty and fun of boulder hopping up to steeper meadows beyond.

Our ascent rate was roughly 1600’ per hour, or only 1.25 mph. Humbling for someone who can do Si (3400’ gain) with a fully loaded pack (38#) in 1:43 to the Haystack. For those of you who want a comparison to a hike closer to the city, imagine Tiger’s Cable Line trail, picture the steepest portion of it, and stretch it out for 4000’ of gain. Pretty close to what you get on Mailbox.

My best suggestions: Do not attempt in the rain. Be sure to try this only after you have had several other early-season conditioners such as Si or Granite, or your calves and quadriceps will pay for it. Do NOT be on a low-carbohydrate diet for this one as you need all the uphill fuel you can get. 8 days into 2 weeks on the South Beach Induction phase as a scientific experiment proved to me all over again just how crucial good complex carbohydrates are for fueling long endurance workouts.

first view of boulder field out of forest about 3200' gain into hike


first view of boulder field out of forest about 3200' gain into hike

up steep hiker's trail to actual summit


up steep hiker's trail to actual summit

summit with Doug, Court, mailbox


summit with Doug, Court, mailbox

summit group shot Kathryn, Vlad, Doug, Rachel


summit group shot Kathryn, Vlad, Doug, Rachel

summit and view of snowy north slopes across I-90


summit and view of snowy north slopes across I-90

view of flowers and snowy summit


view of flowers and snowy summit



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