“NEVER DO THIS HIKE AGAIN!” Those were the last words in my hiking journal at the end of my log for the Cactus To Clouds hike that a few of us did back in November of 2015. Of course I put an asterisk after it just in case…..
Just do any old google search on C2C and you’ll find all the horrible details. 10,400ft gain in one hike, one of the hardest day hike in the U.S. blah blah blah, we ignored all of that nonsense and made plans to do this again!
It’s November 2nd, 2018 and I find myself with Andrew at the Palm Springs Art Museum at 2:45am wondering why in the hell did I come back here. The temperature was around 60 and this time we would not have to worry about snow. The problem with Cactus to Clouds is that there is no easing into it or nice flat warm up part, as soon as you walk past the sign marking the start of the Skyline trail you go up. And up. And up. The second problem with the C2C is that you must start early and therefore hike in the dark for a few hours, thankfully some nice folks put a bunch of white dots along the way to help you out, but it is still easy to get lost.
So away we went, all our other friends who hike and are smarter than us refused our invite, so it was just Andrew and me. The first mile to the picnic tables had me wanting to turn back around, If I was solo, I might have done just that, that first mile is a shock to the system to say the least. Luckily, I know I’m a slow starter and slowly my heart rate and breathing evened out and we continued at a nice steady pace to the next goal which is rescue box #1 a couple miles away. Early on Andrew saw a bunch of eyes looking back at us in the dark and when we pointed our head lamps towards them, we saw that it was a family of mountain goats! How awesome is that, He got a couple of picks and we continued our way. We got in a good groove and past the 4300ft rocks and the rescue 2 box. This section cruelly has a couple of downhill parts just for nature to laugh at your foolishness for coming up here.
After 8 miles and at almost 6,000ft we got to flat rock. One thing I will never erase from my mind is that after flat rock there is two and a half miles of the steepest trail I have ever done and sure enough my memory was served correct. This part is just damn hard, all you can do is just keep going and get it over with. Oh yeah, don’t forget to take in the views though because seeing the sunrise over the desert and Salton Sea will take your breath away (what little breath you have at this point, hahaha) After what seems like forever, we see blue sky and we reach Long Valley where the San Jacinto Tram terminates.
Once here we stopped for a quick snack and to refill our water. You also must fill out a day use permit to continue up to Mt. San Jacinto. The weather got chilly at this point, so we put on our windbreakers and continued up to Round Valley. This part would be easy except for the fact we already hiked 11 miles straight up, but it was nice all the way to the Round Valley Campground. After this we got another nice little steep section to get to Wellman Divide where for the first time we could see to the west. We picked a perfect day as there was no wind, clear skies, and since it was Friday the usual crowds in this section were no where to be found, actually we did not see one person besides the ranger until we got to Wellman. From here it was 2.5 more miles to the top. We got to the top at about 10:30am and had a well-deserved lunch. There were a lot more folks at the top, we met a couple of more folks who were also doing the C2C as well as one hiker doing the PCT but the upside down way were you start at Canada so she was almost done!
After around 20min at the top we started the grind down to the tram station which as expected seemed to take forever but a couple of hours later we found our way back to the tram station were the greatest gift was waiting for us. The tram station sits on top of a hill so to get to it you have to climb up a path about 200ft which after the day we had seems like the hardest part of the whole hike! Oh Joy. Once at the tram station we had a much deserved beer at the bar and then took the tram down and got a lyft ride back to the car after which we were treated to Friday afternoon traffic back to our homes in the San Gabriel Valley. Doing C2C is always a great accomplishment, when you are on that tram ride down and you see how far you hiked up it makes you throw up a little in your mouth but it’s all good. It also makes you write down in your hiking journal words of advice like this. NEVER DO THIS HIKE AGAIN!* (don’t forget the asterisk)
Till Next Time, Happy Trails!