As much as we were curious to try out the recently unveiled low grade 9.4 mile new Mailbox trail, we felt strangely compelled to hike the old trail, because we apparently don’t like being able to physically do things the following morning. Although we didn’t take the new trail, everyone we saw coming off it at the trail split seemed to be in unusually high spirits for a Mailbox hike, leading us to believe that the new trail may be filled with all sorts of wonderful amenities like hot chocolate stations, massage chairs and inclines that don’t cause your calves to groan constantly. I’m sure it’s a lovely experience that we will some day get around to trying out, but today it was the ruthless old trail that was calling to us, a trail that feels like it was made in a long gone era of stubbornness, where trail builders refused to make switchbacks or things that made sense.
Questionable trail choices aside, the weather was great and we couldn’t have asked for a better day on the mountain. No snow or ice to report on the trail, so traction devices were not needed. Snow can arrive quickly this time of year though, so keep an eye on the weather reports if you’re heading up soon. Wind was minimal and even with the old trail not being the main focus of recent Mailbox trail maintenance, it’s still in pretty good shape. There were a few downed trees along the path, but no other hazards outside of that (other than the trail’s generally hazardous nature). Regardless of hiking the new or old trail, I would still recommend trekking poles for the last stretch where the two trails merge, as it still has that steep Mailbox pitch that everyone has come to know and not love.
Even with the recent grumblings about Mailbox becoming the new Mt. Si with the opening of a more user friendly trail, the summit was empty when we reached it, proving that a moment of solitude on the mountain is still possible if you travel in non-peak hours (although I saw a weekend trail report that cited around thirty people on the summit at one point, which admittedly sounds a little cramped). After a good sit down, some food, a quick signing of the registry and some pictures, we headed back down. Overall, it was the standard physically punishing experience that we’ve come to expect from the old trail, but it was a great time nonetheless. Mailbox is always one of my favorite summit views in the area, which probably explains my odd love/hate relationship with it.
I am not sure what will become of the old trail now that the new trail is open. It’d be nice if it remains accessible, but if this is to be goodbye and it is destined to fade into some piece of trail lore that is only spoken about in hushed tones at dinner tables and WTA meetings, I will be proud to say I hiked it in its sadistic prime.
TRIP SUMMARY: There is no shame in taking the new trail. Your feet will thank you for it.
12:30 pm: Departed from the parking lot.
12:40 pm: Walked past shiny, pleasant, inviting looking new trailhead.
12:45 pm: Reached Sleepy Hollow like old trailhead. Don’t remember it looking this haunted.
1:30 pm: Passed a number of hikers who went up the new trail, but came down the old one. None of them seem to comprehend why we would want to hike up this way. We are unable to provide a logical explanation for them.
3:20 pm: Summit reached.
3:30 pm: Food.
3:40 pm: Headed back down.
4:00 pm: Heated debate at trail split. Maybe we should take the new trail down. Maybe there really is hot chocolate on the new trail.
4:05 pm: Immediate regret for taking the old trail back down. No hot chocolate. Steep grade. Possibly haunted at night.
5:30 pm: Arrived back at the car. Mutual agreement to never return to Mailbox (which means we’ll be back next week).