Moving to Washington state has probably been one of the best decisions of life, the access to nature, and mountains, and trails are limitless and as a result, I’m training more (happily) than I ever have before. One of my favorite things to do for training, now that I have access, is to find some of the smaller mountains and run them as hard as I can. I use these mountain runs in place of a lot of my “long runs” because they end up being long slow distance runs anyways.
So, out here in Washington, just 40 minutes from Seattle, East on I-90 we have this amazing hike, climb, or if you’re like me, run, out that I just love. It goes straight up this mountain with a total of 4000ft of gain. At the top of this particular peak, there’s a mailbox and so rightfully so, this summit is called Mailbox Peak (how creative) and this peak has some amazing, AMAZING, views at the top.
There are two routes that you can take from the parking lot to the summit, there’s the New Trail which is this nice switchback trail that takes you up the 4000′ of gain over the course of a 4.7 mile climb or there’s the Old Trail which is this gnarly climb that covers 2.7 miles and the same 4000′ of gain. Both are an impressive climb and super challenging and I absolutely love them both. Seriously, this hike/run is awesome, what I love most about this climb is the mailbox at the top.
As you make your way up the rocky terrain above the treeline you can see this mailbox waiting for you at the peak. I think it’s unique and it’s just fun and different and so when you get to the top you find this mailbox that has been adorned with stickers and is typically filled with all manner of trinkets and whatnot that people left behind in the mailbox for the next person to find. Sometimes, people will even leave a can of beer, when I got to the top there was a can of Rainier beer, which is our local pisswater beer. What I find fun, is the exchange of these little knick-knacks and how they change hands haphazardly without knowing who’s going to receive the item.
Knowing this, it got me thinking how can this be made even more fun, how can it be some sort of never-ending challenge, because that’s just how my brain works, it’s been on overdrive in the challenge creation department since moving here. So I had this idea to look through some of the amazing photos I took while I was living in the travel trailer, some of these photos are from very iconic locations scattered across the Western States, most are from National Parks. I found this one photo of Half Dome at Yosemite that shares a resemblance to the famous shot by Ansel Adams and on the back of it, I wrote a note.
I wanted to make this a challenge that wouldn’t be easily completed, I wanted it to be something that might take months or even years to complete, plus, I plan to keep dropping more of these challenges at the Mailbox every time I summit. With a very “Mission Impossible” style tone of writing, I wrote on the back of the photograph, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…is to travel to this iconic location, take your best picture of this spot, print the photo you took and deliver it to the mailbox with this same message.”
It’s a fairly straightforward challenge, but one that could take some time to achieve because of the location. Basically, this person has to go travel to Yosemite in California, take a photo of Half Dome, print it out, and return it to the mailbox at the top of Mailbox Peak in Washington.
I really wanted to make this a never-ending cycle and challenge so as I keep adding these challenges to the mailbox, it’ll be fun to see who (if I ever find out) ends up taking on the challenge, and it’ll be cool to see the photos they might leave in the mailbox. Now, in the pre-social media world, I would probably never have any idea who picked up my challenges, if they were completed or anything, but thanks to the power of Facebook groups, I’ve already been able to connect with the person who picked up my first challenge.
Just the fact that someone actually picked up my challenge in the first place is so fun and very exciting, but the fact we were able to find each other and connect on Facebook is priceless. I loved that he and I were able to connect and discuss the fact that this might take him a year or two to accomplish but he’s fully committed to the challenge and loves the idea. Even though it may take him a year or two to complete, the cool part is, when he does accomplish this task it’ll be a fun little gift to me being able to see him accomplish this challenge now that we are connected on Facebook. It’s the little things.
I plan to continue doing this using photos from other iconic locations that I’ve been to (primarily in National Parks) and don’t worry I have a bunch of pictures I can have printed and I will keep putting them in the mailbox. To those of you who love hiking in the state of Washington, if you haven’t gone up to Mailbox Peak you might want to give it a visit, and if you’re up for it, you just might find yourself on an adventure searching for one of these iconic locations that I leave in the mailbox.
If you think this is a fun idea, I encourage others to create more adventures like this all around the country and share them on social media with the hashtag, #MakeYourOwnAdventure.
I’ll catch you on the trails.
In case you’re wondering what that shot of Yosemite looked like, here’s the original.