Conquering Cactus to Clouds

(11/21/08) Written by Dave B.

After spending the day goofing around in San Jacinto Wilderness, it was time to meet part of the team which would ascend San Jac from the hot desert floor near Palm Springs. So I drove down to Caffe Italia for some delicious carbo loading.

I had elected to sleep at the trailhead, or rather a few hundred years up the trail. Even if the trailhead wasn't at a museum, going up the trail is a good idea, because the desert floor is ridiculously hot, even at night.

Even a bit up the trail, there was absolutely no need for a sleeping bag. I settled down with my 22 oz bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and a one gallon jug of water, and went to sleep, periodically waking to rehydrate. By 3:30am when my alarm went off, both were empty.

I stumbled down the trail (I had neglected to bring a headlamp to "camp"), and met the other insane participants. It was 91ᄚF. We started our quick ascent punctually.

This hike is a classic, notorious for its difficulty, ranked fifth hardest day-hike in the US by Backpacker Magazine. It begins at an elevation of around 600'. Over the course of 9 miles of travel it gains over 8000' on the way to the tram in Long Valley (in the San Jacinto Wilderness). Many were struggling with the tiresome gain, and the heat. Nonetheless, by hard work we rose faster than the heat, and it was a cool 70ᄚ when we arrived at Long Valley.

Almost everyone -- after a rest at least -- felt inclined to finish what we had started, and our group pushed on. Another 5.5 miles on good trail led to the summit of San Jacinto. On the way we enjoyed lunch and another well-deserved break.

After goofing around on the summit, we took a shortcut through Tamarack Valley to get to the tram, which maybe shaved a mile off the trip stats.

We enjoyed a drink at the Tram Station which may have somewhat numbed our aching feet, joints, muscles. The tram ride down summarized in reverse our grueling ascent. We sure had hiked a long way up!