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Small doings

Posted by joeabbott on February 10, 2013

It’s been a heckuva week here: Suzy and I both got off last weekend feeling a bit ill and we had busy days at work; she had a photo shoot and I had a team-wide meeting I was running. But, we ended the week on a good note (enjoying a little time on Friday watching old TV shows) and spending a lazy Sunday in payment for our Saturday efforts.

imageOn Saturday Suzy did yardwork and I hiked Mailbox Peak. Both efforts left us reasonably sore but much less than I would have thought, in my case.

Mailbox Peak is a local highpoint on a ridgeline just outside North Bend, WA and the trail up it provides a stiff ascent and solid cardio workout. A relatively new friend at work showed a lot of interest in getting out into the hills and expressed concern that none of his current companions gave much of a good showing on the trails: they would do fairly easy hikes and he was ready for more.

I offered a number of options on which to take him but he was new enough to the sport that he had really no opinion. I suggested Mailbox Peak (referred to by many of my friends as Asskicker Peak) and pointed him to the attendant links on the webs where he could get more information.

Mailbox Peak isn’t a formal mountain but the hike is renowned by local climbers as a solid workout and all-around good place to go to a) avoid the masses that head up nearby Mt Si trail, b) try your mettle on a rough trail that goes up steeply, and c) test whether you’re ready for “bigger things”.

With so little to go on from my friend (he said he was running 3 miles a night and hiking nearly all weekends), I opted for Mailbox as a reality check for me and a good workout for him. While it certainly was the former, it nearly did in my friend.

It’s about 400’ vertical and half a mile from where you park the car to the trailhead proper. In typical self-deprecating style and as a way of making conversation, at the trailhead I offered that I was already winded … I was a little surprised to hear my friend (far less self-deprecating that I) echo my sentiment. I started to worry whether this was the right trip for him.

We started up and about a mile into the journey he was having real problems. I offered that we could head back down and find another, easier hike nearby but he convinced me anything short of a summit would be failure and he wasn’t one to back off a challenge. And so up we went. At around 4000’ you start to break out of the trees and while the day was very overcast/socked in, the glare made my lapse of including sunglasses quite trying. Again I offered to call it a day, this time because the sunlight was bugging my eyes, but I was told we needed to summit, and so I continued to plod on: heading up a couple hundred feet, waiting for my friend, starting up again after waiting a few minutes with him.

From the contour map you can see that I nearly made it to the summit: I was about 200 yards from the top when I saw him collapse and not get up. I waited and waited but he didn’t budge. At one point another small group of folks passed him and he remained seated … I knew our day was over. I had the choice of running up to touch the literal mailbox that sits atop the peak, but there were no views on that day and I’ve been to the top of Mailbox Peak plenty often … the summit would wait.

So, I plunge-stepped down to him and he said he was spent, nothing left. We talked, I cajoled, and soon we were heading down: me plunge-stepping, him glisading (sitting down and sliding). The way down was treacherous without traction devices (something I’d errantly left on the shelf on the way out the door) but we got to a spot that allowed us a small meal: he had a box lunch from Starbucks, I enjoyed a chicken sandwich I’d made at home.

While sending out hiking beta for him to share with his wife, or for his own perusal, I left a timeline that had us returning to the cars by 3PM; when I found us leaving our high point at about 2:30PM, I knew our time was blown. I didn’t imagine my guess would be so off.

Through the next couple of hours we’d head down repeating the process we used ascending: I’d march ahead a bit, wait, see him arrive, wait a bit more, and repeat. While I wasn’t annoyed that someone had overdone it and was really tired (how many of my hiking companions compensated for mistakes I’d made in my hiking/climbing career?), I was disappointed this came about because of a machismo credo of “my body may be spent but I can will myself on!” sort of attitude. In my experience, that sort of thinking is overrated. Was Mallory really the first person to climb Mt. Everest? We’ll never know and it doesn’t matter: he didn’t come home.


Regardless, it was a fine day and one that really tested me in a number of ways. I dropped my chum off at his car and we’ve made loose plans on another hike on some weekend in the near future; he did request that we make it a much easier hike. But, today I’m fit and able to move about without significant discomfort, in part (I’m certain) to Suzy giving my feets a bit of a rub at the end of the day. I also made a call before getting home yesterday saying, “I’m ready for carbo-loading at Azteca (a local Mexican restaurant)” and so we enjoyed that at the end of my long Saturday.

And today? Not much in the way of being too busy: I turned some leaves in Chickenville to give the chickens something to scratch and peck in (and hope to keep them out of the work Suzy did yesterday), I cleared a bit of rubble from the backyard, and enjoyed a small shopping expedition. In all, small doings and I look forward to another busy week. I hope your weekend was as enjoyable as mine. Thanks for looking in!


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