‘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)
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.
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.