Skyline Ridge Route, aka Cactus to Clouds, that starts from the Palm Springs desert floor at 470 feet to the summit of Mount San Jacinto at 10,834 feet, and is considered as one of the toughest day hikes in the America, one of the steeper trails of its length in the world, and has the greatest elevation gain of any trail in the United States. With all those facts, this day hike is only recommended for the very experienced hikers and adventurers.
Last October 22, 2016, was round two for me on doing Cactus to Tram with 3H Family hosting the event and 14 hikers who joined and started the hike at 4 am. The trail started from the Palm Springs Art Museum up to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway with a total of 11 miles. I did a better job the second time in 8 hours of reaching the Mountain Station where the tram is at an elevation of 8,516 feet. See pictures below.
I struggled during my first time last May of this year doing Cactus to Tram with my quads hurting as it took me 11 hours to reach. Here is the link from my journal about my first encounter. https://jmpventures.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/skyline-trail-c2t-05212016/
Then on Saturday, November 12, 2016, I tackled for the first time the Cactus to Clouds day hike and my third time doing the skyline trail to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway this year. 20 hikers joined the event and we all met at the parking structure in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum which we can park for free. 3H (Hiking for Health and Happiness) organized the event as Ricardo Cruz leads, while Sergio Cruz and Lissinia Aguilar as support team for the group on the first half of the hike, and were joined by Maglory Maza, Dora Cruz, Beatriz Ceballos, Roberto Aboyte, and Martha Aboyte for the second half of the hike.
I carpooled with my friend Dolores Grant and got there at the parking structure before 11 pm on Friday night. Both of us rested a bit in the car before everyone in the group arrived. We turned on our headlamps as we started our hike around 12:45 am. It was all climbing up in the beginning of the Skyline Trail as Ricardo led the way.
Less than a half mile away, we removed a layer of clothing as we felt warm on our ascent. At the same time, one of our hikers could not catch up with the group. Ralph Mancia assisted her back to the starting point. We waited patiently for Ralph to rejoined us before we continued the hike up. It was a beautiful view as we saw Palm Springs below lit up the dark skies. Having a full moon above was an added bonus. At 1,340 feet of elevation, we had a quick break where the picnic tables were.
We passed the first Rescue Box at 2.2 miles and some other landmarks on the trail. Not until we reached the 4,300 foot marker that we saw the light coming from Mountain Station from afar. We knew it was still a long way to go. After we passed the second Rescue Box at 6.6 miles, that the sun was starting breaking out. We took a break to watch and take photos of the sunrise. It was a beautiful sight.
After an 8.5 mile hike, and at 5,910 feet of elevation, we took a long break at the Flat Rock area. It is not really flat but a large, smooth granite rock. As we had our snacks, Patty Sanchez says out loud to anybody who wants some of her fruits. It was hard for me to say no and I was grateful to her sharing. This was the area before we ascend the really steep trail and hit the Traverse that starts at 7,470 feet of elevation. We also had to leave Dave Rucker and Junie Wood per their request. Their goal was just to reach the tram area. As we continue our hike up, it was always a sigh of relief every time we saw the Coffman’s Crag, a steep and rugged rock cliff. It means that we are almost near the Grubb’s Notch, the entrance to Long Valley and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
When we arrived at the Grubb’s Notch, we were then greeted by the second support crew. Everyone lined up as we gave each one of them a high-five for accomplishing the first part of the hike. I would say that I improved a lot more on my third round of hiking the first part of the Skyline Trail. We hiked a bit more towards Long Valley Ranger Station. This was where we took a longer break. The second support crew brought Tamales and Gatorade drinks for us. We relaxed for an hour and a half before starting our hike to the summit of San Jacinto. We also had to say goodbye to 2 more hikers, Daisy Beach and Mariel Radha Wax, who would take the tram down early.
The trail continues on the right side and onto the back of the Long Valley Ranger Station. Along the trail, Lissinia saw her co-worker, and we also met the 2 hikers, Jerome and Nancy Rojas, who hiked with us on the Skyline Trail last October.
As we continued our ascent, I felt my eyes closing, dozing off, and my body moving left to right and back while I was walking. If you had seen me, you might have called me the Walking Dead. I originally thought it was the altitude sickness, but it was not. The only thing that the altitude affected me was my stomach expansion and the constant farting. Oops! The secret is out. I was once ahead of the group earlier, now I lagged behind due to my sleepy condition. I latter realized that once I rested for a couple of minutes, it gave me a surge of energy to move forward. Alas, my sleepy condition comes back to haunt me again. I also found out that it was not just me who had the same problem. Ralph, Lidia Ordaz, and others felt the same way.
We finally reached the summit of San Jacinto, one of the “Four Saints”, occasionally used to describe the high points of the four mountains (San Gorgonio, San Jancinto, San Bernardino, and San Antonio) in Southern California named after Catholic saints that are above 10,000 feet in elevation. To my surprise, the weather was so perfect at the top. It was neither cold nor windy. We then honored Meredith Crane for completing all the 8 hikes with 3H in 2016 which includes the six pack of peaks. The views anywhere around Mount San Jacinto are always beautiful and amazing. We took some pictures and rested longer this time. We visited the stone hut near the summit and took some group pictures.
We started to head back down to the tram area as fast as we could for the nighttime was coming. During one of our stops, Lidia accidentally left her cell phone on the rock while rushing to catch up with the group. She found out later, after less than mile away down when she needed it. Lidia goes back up with Jota Pe Henriquez to where she thinks she left it and retrieve it. The night got darker and it came to a point that it was getting too cold. The rest of us continued hiking back down while Ricardo stayed behind and waited for the two to come down. When we reached the Long Valley Ranger Station, we waited for the rest of the group there. 5 minutes later, we saw Lidia, JP, and Ricardo back with good news that she found her cell phone.
A few more steps, we reached the Mountain Station and took our last group picture in front of the Mount San Jacinto State Park sign. A total of 22 miles was hiked during our Cactus to Clouds event. Below is the list of hikers who accomplished hiking Cactus to Clouds this year with 3H. Congratulations !!!
- Ricardo Cruz
- Sergio Cruz
- Lissinia Aguilar
- Merideth Crane
- Dolores Grant
- Ronald Dalla Tor
- Gerardo Perez
- Linda Hernandez
- Jota Pe Henriquez
- Patty Sanchez
- Michael Osbourne
- Lidia Ordaz
- Lizzy Dee
- Ralph Mancia
- and me, John M. Patero
Here at the Mountain Station, tourists can enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, and a gift shop. While the Mount San Jacinto State Park offers over 50 miles of hiking trails.
Then we got our one-way tram tickets that cost $12 for each person to take us down the mountain. I could not believe this late at night there were still a lot of people here. Not even that, the ones that are still out there in the wilderness were still hiking back down.
When we got down to the station below, Lissinia was approached by a writer of a magazine that focuses on promoting Federal parks. He was curious and wanted to inquire about 3H on who we are, what we do, how we did it, etc. He said that the vibe of the group was inspiring because even though the hike was very difficult and challenging, we kept our optimism, enthusiasm, and friendliness. He was going to propose to the editor of the magazine to write about the Hiking for Health and Happiness family. Lissinia and the writer will be keeping in touch.
As the whole group said their goodbyes to one another, I was so thankful that Beatriz was there to drive us drivers back to the Palm Springs Art Museum parking. Ralph and I picked up the rest of our crew then checked in at Motel 6 hotel. It was essential to do this part since it was a very tiring day hike. The night was not over yet. We got invited to Maribel’s home as we ate and talked until midnight. We all went back to the hotel. Once our bodies touched the bed, we all fell asleep so quickly. The next day, we got up, checked out of the hotel, and went to Denny’s for breakfast before we head back home.
Thank you so much to the 3H Family for leading and keeping us safe in this hike. The one thing I would do next time before doing Cactus to Clouds day hike is to have lots of sleep the day before and keep on hydrating that week before the event. Accomplishing Cactus to Clouds day hike for the very first time was such an amazing and awesome experience and adventure. This would not be the last hike here as the beauty of Mount San Jacinto State Park is irresistible.