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Cactus To The Clouds

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This past Saturday I went on the most grueling hike known to mankind that I have ever been on.

The cactus to the clouds hike is basically hiking from the desert floor at Palm Springs all the way to the top of San Jacinto. A very crazy distance and a very crazy elevation gain. Before I go on any further, I need to prepare my main story with two smaller side stories.

Side Story #1:
So I got invited by a random chick via the internet machine. She contacted me and asked if I wanted to join her and her girlies to hike this mountain and enjoy the sunrise and coffee at the top. I had no idea who she was prior to this but the idea sounded good so I obliged. The plan was to meet at the art museum at midnight and start hiking this beast of a mountain and that was all I knew about this hike. Being the very smart dude that I am, I gladly accepted this random invite from a total stranger.

Side Story #2:
My sister goes to the very prestigious UC Riverside. My goal was to grab a quick dinner on Friday night after work and then nap at her place until I had to leave for the hike because Palm Springs is only an hour away from Riverside. I ended up not napping because her roommates were a full two hours of “oh my gosh oh my gosh no way did you hear about oh my gosh I can’t believe oh wow I didn’t know that…” I nearly stabbed my eardrums with a sharp object because I couldn’t take it anymore. So after waking up at 5:30AM on Friday for work and not being able to nap after work, I had to do this hike without sleeping for 18 hours… great.

Main Story:
So I got a text that the girls were going to be slightly late so we’ll set out at 12:30AM instead. Not a problem. My friend DJ also joined me and I was glad to have some backup when meeting these random girls for the first time. Well, the girls finally showed up at 1:30AM. Great. They were late because they stopped for boba milk tea. There was four of them for a group total of six and we set out on the hike just before 2AM.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story… and there’s a lot of them!


I recommend hiking with a headlamp at night…unless you’re superman. Which then you have the option to just fly up the mountain.


We found this approximately a couple miles into the hike.


A couple of the girls following behind. This was when I really wanted to ditch them. One of them was extremely slow. Two of them scaring each other and kept shouting “HELP!” and running around on the trail wasting energy all within the first hour. One of them also kept calling me Jason. I kept turning to DJ and telling him that we’re going to be completely screwed if we kept wasting time and going this slow the entire way up.


Me and DJ made it to the top of this smaller peak just around 5AM. This was also the time when I decided to stop waiting for the girls and keep going. They had plenty of water and hiked in pairs anyway so they should be fine.


Panoramic shot click to enlarge


Three hours into the hike we see this. In my nerd mode, I was immediately reminded of my previous blog post and thought, “hmm… this equals 2.”


The sun finally got us…


The top of that peak was where we had to hike to…8 more miles to go…


Rescue Point #2. A few regular hikers refill this thing with ice cold water for people who don’t prepare themselves for the hike. A couple also gave DJ some electrolyte pills because he was cramping up (since the first rescue point!)

For the few who dare brave this trail, the views are amazing. These pictures don’t even do justice to how beautiful this place really is.


Six hours into the hike.


The last two miles looked like this…it was too steep in some areas. If your legs got tired and failed, you’d literally be rolling down the side of the mountain for hundreds of feet…which is not a good thing.


At the very top, you reach a flat area with nice grass and tourists taking pictures of the beautiful views and being happy and energetic and alive and skipping and high-fiving. Me and DJ on the other hand walked through like zombies.


The tram sign was the best thing I saw all day…although there is a long ramp about 300 feet in elevation that you have to walk up to get to the tram station.


We took the tram down to the desert floor.


Did we really just hike that!?


The tram ride down was very rewarding.

At the bottom, you can either hike back to the museum (psh…yea right) or call a cab. Someone actually volunteered to drive us back which made us very happy. He said that he was in the same situation before so he knew what it was like.

We grabbed a quick lunch at Woody’s Burgers before hitting the road. I was so incredibly exhausted after this hike. DJ was even more exhausted. During the car ride back to Riverside, he fell asleep on me three times in the middle of our conversation while he was talking! Ridiculous!

I stopped by 7-Eleven near my house to grab a big fat bag of ice for a nice ice bath. It was going to hurt but it would prevent me from hurting a lot the next day. At this point I had been awake for 35 hours (the longest in my life) and was in need of some serious rapid eye movement.


Ice bath in my brother’s dirty bathtub! Yes!

A Few Important Notes:

– Bring lots of water, snacks and good shoes. The trail recommends 1.5 gallons which is about right. You should be snacking on something light regularly throughout this hike and probably something salty.

– Train before you hike this. DJ did not and I almost killed one of my best friends! Oops.

– Don’t turn back once the sun is up. The further up you go, the cooler it gets. If you turn around while the sun is up, there is a serious threat of a heat related accident because the first 3/4 of the trail is directly in the sun.

– Park in front of or in the museum parking lot.

– Tram ride down is $12/person.

– Take a cab from the tram back to the museum after the hike. The guy who volunteered to drive us took about 8 minutes driving fast. The sun was extremely hot and it was definitely a lot hotter on the desert floor than on top of San Jacinto.

– A lot of awesome friendly people hike this trail and are willing to help. One dude hiked up with a pack full of ice water and put them all over the trail in shaded places for people to drink.

– Don’t be discouraged if an old lady with hiking poles blows right past you. Her name is Ellen and she’s a legend of the mountain and hikes this trail a few times a week! In fact, I talked to her for a few minutes during one of our rests and found out that she did the hike just the day before. What a nut!

If you have any questions about the hike or trail, feel free to ask. In the meantime, I’m not doing anymore crazy hikes in the near future.

Until next time… Cheers!

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Written by jonewantsm3

May 22, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Adventures

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