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mini location map2012-11-03
19 by photographer avatarsbkelley
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Cactus to CloudsBig Bear - Jacinto, CA
Big Bear - Jacinto, CA
Hiking avatar Nov 03 2012
Hiking21.00 Miles 10,795 AEG
Hiking21.00 Miles   13 Hrs      1.62 mph
10,795 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Four years - four years was enough to make me forget the tight, tired legs and an inability to consume enough calories to complete this journey. Thinking about dragging myself up Skyline for a third time, and the first since 2008, filled me with dread and excitement the week before. The return was well worth it, though.

After telling our friend Danielle - making her first Cactus to Clouds trek - that "we'd be lucky to see even three people on the trail," we were greeted by 5 MeetUp groups and maybe 100+ people starting from the Museum at the same time as us. Whoops! That certainly changed the dynamic of the trip right away. Between the MeetUp groups, the annual gay pride parade, and the golf cart parade all happening during our trip, Palm Springs was bursting with entertainment!

Knowing full-well what was coming, I was determined to set an intelligent and steady pace today for the three of us, ensuring good progress without burning out too early...and hoping to avoid the girls cursing my name. The first stretch certainly gets your attention: the grade, early morning, and big rock steps conspired to get the perspiration going. Route-finding here in the dark was a full-time chore for me and my headlamp, but we found the picnic tables soon enough with minimal confusion. Soon after this, you make the quick right-then-left turn combination, and it was at this point that a pattern began: a hiker from one of the MeetUp groups would jump on the back of our little pack and chat with us for a long while as we moved up. The first customer was leading a group himself, and this was his 30+ time up the Skyline. He was with us until the Shady Slope. Through here, the moonlight was bright and the night was beautiful.

Soon after that, hiker #1 stopped and waited for this group behind, and hiker #2 jumped on the back of our train, this one from the San Fernando Valley with aspirations of climbing Rainier, Hood, and Denali...he and I had much to discuss :) With the exception me badly losing the trail once, it was smooth sailing for awhile. He was with us until 5,800' just shy of Flat Rock, when first light hit us. Throughout the morning, we just kept moving slow and steady, taking 5 minute snack breaks every hour or so...the system was working perfectly! Danielle and Tanya were still feeling good, spirits up.

No system, though, can truly get you from Flat Rock to Long Valley without feeling terrible. That stretch is the definition of a grind, but we plodded our way up, putting some distance on the MeetUp groups resting at Flat Rock, so we had the upper pine slopes to ourselves. Sweeping sunrise views offered some relief from the muscular and cardiovascular torture. Even though we were in better shape 4 years ago, we were only 10 minutes behind that pace. Amazing what hiking smarter can do...

We refilled water, threw down hundreds of calories, chatted with the rangers and some fellow hikers coming up, and started the trudge up to Round Valley. We were a little quiet in here as it took awhile to get the engines going again, but the climb to Wellman's Divide came soon enough. Danielle forged ahead while Tanya and I steadily made the pass, catching as much of a second wind as you can. Clear skies and good views helped. On the final stretch, a barefoot hiker from Indio jumped into our group and chatted with us all the way to the summit. He'd left the Museum sans-shoes, and here he was, a mere mile from the top. He's 'only' done the C2C 50 times, including doing it 3 times in one day. And that, folks, is how you feel lazy even after hiking up 10,500' and 22 miles in one day...

The summit was great. The beers tasted sweet and the sun felt good in the chilly air. A beer and a half (hey, all 3 of us carried 'em up, can't let 'em go to waste!), 3 hours of sleep, and 10,500' of climbing seemed like a good reason to pass out for 10 minutes or so up top. After spending a good hour on the summit, back to the tram we went. Didn't feel nearly as miserable as last time, but we were all quite happy to see that tram house again. Ahhh, that hot tub at day's end was magical...
Mule Deer
Cag Shot
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San Jacinto Peak
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