Cactus to Clouds: trip report

How did you spend your Saturday? 3am. Time to get up (3 hours of sleep). Final check of the gear. Pack the car. Have a quick breakfast. 3:30am. Go pick up my buddy from the AT, Stitch. 4am leave Los Angeles. 6am arrive in Palm Springs, CA. Final gear and food check.

The task. Hike to the peak of San Jacinto. The Cactus to Clouds hike. There is a neat article from Backpacker Magazine here that ranks this as #5 in America's hardest dayhikes.

The stats. Begin at 440 feet elevation, and hike to 10,834 (10,394 foot gain). 18 miles up, 6 miles down to a tram that takes us to a parking lot 6.5 road miles from the car. Temperatures, high of 109F. Hydration, 2.5 gallons of Gatorade for me and 2 gallons of water with electrolyte mix for Stitch. We also had a secret weapon...umbrellas. They are like portable air conditioning in these conditions.

Leaving at the same time as us were three Marines from nearby Twentynine Palms. We spent many hours zig zagging with them up the steep hot rocks. We would only actually see each other every hour or so, but there was clearly one guy that was really struggling. I think he got dehydrated early and was past the point of turning back. The last time we saw him he was almost done with the 12 mile portion up to the tram and ranger station and his friends were not far ahead. I am sure he was not feeling too great Sunday either.

Our secret weapon umbrellas were really amazing and I could not believe how much more pleasurable the experience was due to the 10 ounce wonder. We had one other secret weapon. My homemade Power Pucks. A fruit and nut combination that I created, Each one yields around 1100 calories. We carried two each as well as some traditional hiker junk food.

Stitch shows off the Power Puck on the peak of San Jacinto

kicking back at the peak

Stitch takes in the view around 9000 feet

relaxing at the peak

It was wonderful that as we increased in elevation the temperature got cooler. By the time we were at the peak it was actually pretty comfortable. We even put our wind shirts on for the hike back down, especially since it was getting dark. The last hour or so to the tram was by headlamp. It was awesome night hiking as the terrain is not nearly as gnarly as the lower elevation was. It was also pretty excellent having a couple quarts of liquid weight as opposed to a couple gallons!

enjoying the desert mountain view

Long story short... We got our tickets for the tram and started thinking about the additional 6.5 miles of road, at night, in 85 degree temperatures. We had already put in our 24 miles and were ready to walk if we had to, but not before seeing if we still had our hitch-hiking talents from the Appalachian Trail.

We were successful in securing a ride from another Twentynine Palms Marine and his girlfriend (thank you Hoffman and Sarah!). They took us all the way back to the car and saved us a couple of hours in the process.

The trip was a blast. It was challenging and fun with incredible views and great company. That's all I have to say about that.


Phollower said...

That is some serious elevation change. You're an animal.

Ben said...

Wish I could have joined you.
Wait, I did!
Nice hike and nice post.
What's next, Comet?

Dave Chan said...

Thanks guys. Stitch, we'll have to come up with another epic mini-adventure. Anything else in that book of yours you've been wanting to do?

Alaskan Assassin said...

Nice. I need to try to run that one when it is cooler. Umbrellas are a great idea!!

Dave Chan said...

It would be an awesome run guaranteed to work you over. I would love to see what you could do to it. In that heat I was perfectly happy with our pace, especially with 20lbs of hydration on my back!

Stefan said...

You two are ferocious!

Post a Comment