The next morning Kev and I were up around 8am. Rationing our scarcity of water, we made a super strong cup of espresso and an oatmeal with trail mix breakfast that tasted just like an oatmeal cookie.
Around 9:40am we were back on the trail, equipped with only a day-pack, to summit Mt. San Jacinto. With half-a-mile out of Tamarack Valley to Round Valley, and then another 3.3 miles to the peak, this was the easiest part of our hike (after all we had endured the day before!). By noon we made it to the top, to blue skies and absolutely no wind. It was picture perfect. We spent some time at the top, snacking on ciabatta, Babybel cheese and hard salami before we headed back.
At this point our water was getting pretty sparse. We quickly packed up camp and made our way back to Long Valley, knowing that water awaited us at the Ranger Station. We were also not 100% sure when or how late the Palm Springs Aerial Tram ran.
By the time we made it back to Long Valley, our Camelbak bladders were completely dry. We rejoiced by filling up our Nalgenes and chugging water. Then we walked the steep ramp up to the tram. Lucky for us, it’s scheduled to leave every 10 minutes (a one-way ticket for hikers costs $12). Note: there is no reception at the bottom of the tram in Palm Springs so you have to call an Uber while on the tram. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for me, and we ended up calling a cab (that took forever to arrive), so one of the parking lot shuttle drivers took us to the last lot before the security gate where we were able to grab a couple bars of reception and call an Uber.
After not too long we were back at the parking lot across the street from the Palm Springs Art Museum, feeling completely worn…like we had been gone for multiple days, and not just one.
Our celebratory meal was a Double Double from In-N-Out and a fat soda. YES! Once back in SD it wasn’t too long before we climbed into bed and quickly passed out.
SOOOO…tips for backpacking Cactus-to-Clouds:
- Don’t wear cotton t-shirts, tech-tee’s only.
- Secure a camping permit and have it in hand before you hike to the top with a 30 lb pack. It takes 10 days to process and with the summer months it could take longer. Plan ahead!
- Don’t backpack cactus-to-clouds, only take a daypack and make it a day hike. There’s a reason it’s rated the fifth hardest day hike in the US. Trust me when I say we packed as minimally as possible. The only excessive thing I brought was banangrams, and for Kev, a pair of jeans. Even with this, it was TOUGH.
- Don’t trust everything you read on the internet
- Bring a first aid kit (bandaids at a minimum) and vaseline.