Seahawks coach Jim Mora love the Cable Line Trail at Tiger Mountain for his workouts. It’s a challenge, for sure, but if you want something tougher in the same area try Mailbox Peak.
I hiked the trail a few years back while I was training for Mount Rainier. Here’s my account. Find trail info at the end of the story.
Not since the days of the Pony Express has checking the mail been such a workout.
To get to the two mailboxes on the summit of Mailbox Peak, you’ll have to climb 4,000 feet in just 2.9 miles. Of all the training hills around North Bend, this is the steepest.
It’s also significantly less popular than neighboring Mount Si, which is exactly why we picked this 4,842-foot peak for our workout.
We are here for the same reason so many hikers use the easily assessable steep hikes along Interstate 90. We are training for something bigger – Mount Rainier.
In less than a month eight of us will depart the Paradise parking lot on a two-day climb to the summit. It will be the first attempt at Rainier for six of us.
There is no better way to train for hauling a loaded pack up a mountain than hauling a loaded pack up a mountain.
We’d heard that the fit need 2.5 hours or less to get from their cars to the mailboxes. We set that as our goal an upped the ante by loading our packs with weight.
I threw on a 35-pound pack loaded with 2.5 gallons water.
Chad Sauders, a 35-year-old teamster from South Hill who wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning to run six miles, carried a pack that felt like it was loaded down with cement.
Greg Henning, a 43-year-old Steilacoom resident, and Dave Caprara, a 47-year-old South Hill resident, carried stuffed day packs.
The first step past the trailhead gate was uphill and the trail never relented.
In less than a mile we realized why the masses prefer Mount Si. Not only is Mailbox steeper, the trail is also deteriorating and footing is poor in many sections.
At times it’s easy to lose the trail and the outing becomes more of a scramble over exposed roots than a hike. But if you continue up, it’s hard to lose your way.
All of this makes the descent especially exciting. And on the way down we got in a number of slips, slides and falls.
For the most part we moved at a healthy pace, but we had to stop regularly for a hampered member of the party. Dave, who organizes the group, was slowed by a knee pain and an uncharacteristic energy shortage that was the byproduct of a new diet that helped him lose 13 pounds in the previous two weeks.
After more than two hours of trudging we broke through the treeline. Knowing we were close, the final push was easy.
As we reached the summit, I checked my watch and we couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment.
But the disappoint was quickly washed away by the setting on Mailbox Peak.
Four thousand feet below, I-90 snaked its way toward Snoqualmie Pass. And, at times, the clouds thinned enough we could see North Bend.
We took in the view as Chad ate uncooked chili straight from the can, Gregg refueled with a tin of sardines and Dave dutifully stuck to his diet with a salad.
As I ate a far less entertaining lunch of almonds and more almonds, I pulled open one of the mailboxes so we could sign the register.
Among a stack of Bush bashing letters, observations about the view and scripture quotations was a tribute to former Orting resident Jon Cahill. Cahill, an Auburn firefighter, died last June when he fell climbing Rainier’s Liberty Ridge.
Later that month, 18 members of the Washington State Fire Training Academy, where Cahill was a part-time instructor, climbed Mailbox Peak as each class does before graduation as a rite of passage. While the recruits often haul anything from letters, a new mailbox, or a fire hydrant (which is now gone) up the hill, this group affixed Cahill’s helmet identification shield to the mailbox lid.
While the patch served as a reminder of the dangers of the trip we’re training for – even though we will take a far less technical route than the one that claimed Cahill – we preferred to talk about training rather than the risk.
Are we ready yet? Probably not.
Are we getting close? Well, we did just climb 4,000 feet in three hours with loaded packs.
Then again, another 158 feet and we’d be as high as the Paradise parking lot.
TRAIL INFO FOR MAILBOX PEAK
ROUND TRIP: 5.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 4,000 feet
STEEPS: 1,379 feet per mile
MAP: Green Trails 206 – Bandera
THE TRAIL: The trail is steep, rugged and easy to lose in some areas. There are almost no flat sections on this trail.
DIRECTIONS: Take Exit 34 on I-90 and turn left on Edgewick Road, then right on Middle Fork Road. The trailhead is the gated dirt road on your right.