San Jacinto-Cactus to Clouds

To every day, (Turn! Turn! Turn!) there is a season,(Turn, Turn, Turn) and a time to every purpose unto heaven”
Byrds 1/65 (lyrics adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes)

Que tal,

On Friday evening, my lovely spouse and I were privileged to see a fabulous performance of South Pacific starring Robert Goulet at the Gammage theatre.
This was a time of joy, appreciation and applause.
On Sunday morning, after climbing 10,400’ vertical feet I was high above Palm Springs California, on top of San Jacinto with four good friends.
This was a time of pain, misery and profanity.

Mother of all USA hikes –“Cactus to Clouds”

In the continental USA there is no higher and longer elevation gain in one day than the “Cactus to Clouds” hike. This hike, from the desert floor of Palm Springs to the peak of San Jacinto takes you up a torturous10,400.’ This is the equivalents of climbing up and down Camelback or Squaw Peak ten times only in much higher progressive elevations. It is a 23 mile round trip that we completed in just under twelve hours. When you tack on four plus hours of driving (eight for Hannu) it makes for a very long day.

Dingo, Zo and I met Hannu in Palm Springs late Sunday afternoon. We checked into our hotel and proceeded to the two possible trailheads to scout them out. One is at the end of Ramon road and the other is at the Desert Museum on Museum Drive. Trails from both starting points converge at a saddle.
We elected to begin this epic journey at the Desert Museum where we read a sign that warned- No water on faint trail, beware of rattlesnakes, scorpions and ticks.
Dingo exclaimed “TICKS!!!!!” and sent terror into Hannu’s heart. Five years previous on the Lost Coast trail, Lobo had to burn and cut into Hannu’s posterior to remove several ticks. Hannu and I have become very close since that delicate operation.
The early evening was spent on the patio at the Blue Coyote restaurant, enjoying cervezas and people watching. The Palm Springs main drag is quaint and interesting. The California culture keeps rolling on.
There just happened to be hundreds of lovelies walking by, dressed in their summer pretties. Ahhhhh-Southern California.
The girl watching appeared to motivate the men, and Lobo (Jefe) regarded it as a good thing and did not issue any demerits for dirty old man type behavior. Jefe learned this skill in management school.
After dinner we shuttled Zo’s car to the parking lot at Palm Spring’s Aerial Tram and retired early.
The following morning we got a predawn start with headlamps to avoid some of the heat and ensure daylight on the return. It was close to 80 at 4:15 A.M. We immediately started gaining elevation and were already sweating just steps into the hike. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise from the trail.
The trail to Long Valley is an unending secession of upward-reaching switchbacks in a barren landscape. Nothing appeared to be alive. Hannu would pace back and forth whenever we stopped for a short break.
We were however, blessed with a thick cloud cover to shield the sun.
Eleven miles later, we reached the ranger station at Long Valley (Valley adjacent the Aerial Tram Station at 8600’) in six hours.
From this point you can “bail out” and catch the next tram down to Palm Springs. Hannu did not give us enough time to even think about that option!
Zo, later on admitted sinful thoughts of a early return via the tram.
We acquired our Wilderness permit at the self-service Ranger Station and El Lobo scored a San Jacinto patch much to the group’s chagrin.
We proceeded the next six miles through Round Valley then up a moderately graded trail to San Jacinto peak. A scramble was required to get to the top and in our exhausted condition it was not easy to finally reach this seemingly impossible goal. Dingo Dan literally crawled to the top, but with a big smile on his face. He maintained his good sense of humor all day. I found this to be remarkable. Zo appeared to have lost his sense of humor somewhere between the cactus and the clouds.
The view of the Coachella Valley and surrounding mountain ranges was great. This is an awesome panoramic view.
Drew(ski) greeted us at the top. He had driven up from San Diego that morning and took the first tram up and then hiked the six miles to the peak.
He treated us to cookies and chocolate. Unlike the rest of us, he was energetic and thoroughly enjoying himself. Needless to say, he is the only smart one of the group.
After resting at the top we hiked the six miles back to the Ranger Station and barely had the energy to finish a 300’ climb up to the tram station.

Pic by Drew(ski)
Zo & Dan-2 miles left- “When will it end? I want my mommy”

Hannu treated us to cervezas at the station bar and we took the next tram down to Palm Springs.
Zo, Dan and I arrived back in Phoenix close to midnight. Thanks to Zo for the clutch driving home. An earlier email confirmed that his sense of humor has been restored.
I have no idea what time that stalking animal Hannu arrived in the Bay Area.

Editorial comment:

Perhaps there may be a few Grand Canyon elitists that seem to think the Canyon has an exclusive on harsh, strenuous hiking. Of course the Canyon is tough, but they may want to venture beyond and try this one out. It just might kick their ass.

Men behaving badly

All, except Drew(ski) for exhibiting disgusting behavior from start to finish of this expedition.
All, for cursing at Lobo during the climb for formulating this fun trip.
Jake for being smart enough to stay home, and then when contacted by cell phone while we were laboring on the trail, he flaunted his cool air-conditioned status and the fact that he had doughnuts for breakfast.
John Hofdahl for conveniently taking off to Kona when this outing was scheduled.

Over all I rate this hike a 9.9 due to the challenge it presented and the tenacity demonstrated by all. No one was in the industrial strength condition required to complete this type of outing. Determination, experience, and perhaps the gift of cloud cover got us to the top.

South Bass to Boucher-Grand Canyon

"Your life is in your canteen, draw it down with a zealous eye."--Gass

Down South Bass-Up the Boucher via the Tonto WestFive days, forty three miles, 10,000' + elevation gain/lossThis hike began at Bass Camp, 28 rough miles of back road west of Grand Canyon Village. Although this site is now isolated, it was once home (built in 1880) to William Wallace Bass and family. Bass was an industrious pioneer of Grand Canyon tourism. Bass introduced adventurous people to the canyon for forty years before selling to the Fred Harvey Company. He built the trail that we would take down close to the river. The Bass camp was demolished in 1937 per the Park Superintendent. The feral mules that created the Tonto trail were eliminated. The Bass corridor has returned to its natural state. All proposals to make it an industrial tourist site has been rejected by the NPS.The expedition group (PIC by Mooseman)Steve (El feo)John (El viento hediondo Grande)Mooseman (El buen)El Lobo (Malos)We started the steep descent at 8:00 A.M. and just before we arrived at the Tonto Junction Steve almost stepped on this poor guy.PIC by MoosemanAt first we thought it was the Grand Canyon Pink Rattlesnake but the color was salmon. It has since been identified as the rare Massaugua rattler.After our wildlife observation we headed down the Tonto west where we would trek 28 distant miles to Boucher Creek and then up the killer Boucher trail. The Tonto trail follows the Tonto platform for it's entire length, winding in and out of side canyons with multiple drainage's.The Tonto west is the faintest of paths, hard to follow in places with small stretches that overlook the Colorado.This area (The Jewels) has the reputation of "no man's land" because of limited water and extremely difficult emergency escape routes. Our plan was to stop at Serpentine, Turquoise and Slate Canyons.Backcountry and GCFI had told us that there was water in each of these drainage's. We travelled along the top of Serpentine with much trepidation as we could not see any sources of water below. No water would put us in a decision making process to either make a difficult climb down to the Colorado River or continue on to Turquoise and pray that we would find water at that location.The temperature was in the 80s. Steve, a self proclaimed "water freak," is always after us to carry more water. Why didn't we listen?PorqueAt the very end of Serpentine our anxieties ended with the discovery of several water pockets. (tinjas) That evening while enjoying gourmet freeze dried meals we were startled by a lone hiker that stumbled into our camp in serious need of water. He came in from the East where few travel in that direction. When we asked where he had come from, he replied "Copper Canyon" Copper Canyon was many miles to the East? He said that he had been boiling his water and requested to use our filter? He said he was from Sedona and we thought that he had seen too many vortexes. We gave him a plentiful supply of water and offered our camp to him. He then told us that he was with a group that had done the Royal Arch route. He had left his group behind and missed the turnoff to go up the Bass Trail. He did not have a map. He was insistent about getting back to the Bass turnoff even though there was little day light left. He said that he had a radio and had contacted his party at the top of Bass and they were waiting for him. We gave him explicit directions to the well marked turnoff. He left in a hurry and we all hoped for the best. It seemed like his judgments made him a candidate for update to the Death in the Canyon publication. We started out early the next morning and found water pockets in Turquoise and Slate on subsequent days. We would arrive around 2:00P.M. and have a leisurely afternoon.This section of the Tonto offers it's own set of unique rewards in the form of solitude and the opportunity to experience the canyon's natural rhythms for extended periods of time. PIC by John DA JackalMooseman would usually take up some distance to the front or the rear.In the evenings he would camp a good distance away from the rest of the group. He would spend the afternoons reading "The Man who walked through time" by Colin Fletcher who traversed the Canyon in the early 50s.Perhaps the Mooseman shared the same thoughts that Edward Abbey once articulated: "I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me at the same time." Or, he thought that he was "The Man who walked through fumes" when he walked too close behind John DA Jackal, perhaps the most prolific windbreaker ever to travel the Canyon.We reached Boucher Creek early Saturday morning and decided to knock out half of our torturous climb up the Boucher and camp on the Redwall close to White's Butte.Louis D. Boucher, the Grand Canyon "hermit" built the trail in the 1890s. Along side Boucher creek he worked a copper mine, built a cabin, planted an orchard and worked a garden. We visited the ruins of his cabin.What a great camp view we had! El Lobo Grande PIC by John DA JackalSunday morning we climbed out and headed for the showers. John and I stopped at the Beaver Street Brewery in Flag for fabulous burgers and brews. This trip was a rewarding experience, thanks to John, Mooseman and Steve for the time we shared. The weather was close to perfect. The trip was well planned and executed. Everyone contributed to it's success.Men Behaving BadlySteve for barking profanities at John and I when we would ask Steve questions in Espanol.John DA Jackal for reading the trails illustrated map countless hours and then asking if the Colorado River was Boucher Creek!!!John DA Jackal for polluting entire side canyons and then pleading"Hey it's the freeze dried food"John DA Jackal for not bringing any deserts and then greedily looking at El Lobo's stash like a hungry coyote.Steve for complaining about the noise El Lobo Grande & John DA Jackal made coming back from the Bright Angel Bar bar late the night before we went hiking.Steve for making his lovely sainted wife Joyce, carry two gallons of water when they go to the movie matinee, and then refusing to spring for any popcorn.Mooseman for acting like an adult the entire trip.Mooseman for being a lightweight farter.El Lobo Grande for consistent bad behavior the entire trip. (After all we were hiking the Tonto (Spanish Translation: silly, foolish) Trail.