Note: For specific route information on the Cactus to Clouds (C2C) route, see this route description.
September 11, 2011
The moon was full once again, and it was time for a night hike. I met up with the group of 13 people at 1am at the Ramon trailhead and began hiking at about 1:20 am. A few hours ago I could see distant thunderheads exploding with lightning over Joshua Tree National Park, but now there were no clouds in the sky. The temperature was about 80 degrees and kind of humid, making for optimal C2C starting weather, considering that later that day the desert floor temperature was due to rise over 100. I headed to the first few people in the group and started hiking with them. When we reached 3,500 ft, I realized that I hadn't had any breakfast yet and my energy would soon die if I didn't eat. I stopped to eat at 4,500 ft and set up the camera on a big rock for some pictures.
I stayed at 4,500 ft for about 20 minutes before heading up the trail again. The middle section of C2C (4,500-6,000 ft) was a series of uphills and downhills that didn't seem to gain any net elevation. The section from 6,500 to 8,400 ft was a steep uphill which didn't seem to end, making it a nice butt-kicking workout.
I had never hiked this portion of C2C at night. Normally I would get here at mid morning. The city lights were stunning, and I just had to stop a few times to get some pictures.
Palm Springs from 6,700 ft
I caught up to the first group of people at Long Valley at 5:48 am, a little over 4 hours after we started. At this time the entire group was all spread out one by one on different parts of C2C from 4,000 ft to 8,500 ft. I walked half a mile to Long Valley ranger station to fill up water. After getting water, I heard on my radio that someone in the group was in trouble further down the route. I turned and started walking back down the Skyline portion. Another person in our group, Michael, that I happened to meet on the way down said he would go too. We descended a mile down to 7,200ft and ran into Joe, another person in our group. He was pooped out but not in any sort of trouble. At this point Michael said he was fine on dealing with the situation on his own, and I headed back up with Joe.
As we headed back down and back up, the sun rose, nicely illuminating the valley below.
trees at Long Valley
I reached the middle portion of the group at Round Valley right as they were finishing up their rest break. As they were leaving, I stopped to get a drink of water and then headed up the trail leading to San Jacinto Peak to catch up. After a little more than half a mile, I got a call on my radio that the others had gone the wrong way and were lost. They told me to holler so they would know what direction the trail was in. I hollered, but they were too far to hear it. Suddenly the radio began to die and I spent a confusing 20 minutes standing trying to hear what they were saying through the loud crackling of static. Then the radio completely died and I began walking back, assuming that they would turn back and find the right trail instead of bushwhacking. After another 15 minutes I saw them coming up. We met up again and began hiking up to Wellmans Divide where we would have lunch. It turned out that they had accidentally taken the turnoff for Tahquitz Valley.
After lunch at Wellman Divide it was an easy 2.2-mile hike to San Jacinto Peak.
We reached the summit at a little past noon. Its was over 100 in palm springs where we started and mid 50s at the summit. We remained there for about 30 minutes before heading back down.
5.5 miles later back at Long valley, Steven and I decided we would hike back down to the cars instead of riding the tram. Steven and I both wanted and an extra challenge, and I was not keen on paying the $12 for the tram when there was a perfectly good trail.
At 4,000 ft there was a dramatic temperature change. It felt like the temperature had risen 30 degrees in the last thousand feet.
We were back at the bottom at about 8:15 pm, hiking under the light emitted by the full moon.
Final Stats (not including the morning down-and-back-up detour)
11,710 ft gain/loss
1,500 ft along Skyline Trail (picnic tables)
4,900 ft along Skyline Trail
6,000 ft along Skyline Trail (Flat Rock)
7,800 ft along Skyline Trail (Coffman's Crag)
Long Valley to Round Valley
San Jacinto Peak
San Jacinto Peak
San Jacinto Peak
Mt. San Jacinto message board
Live webcam from Long Valley Ranger Station
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway website