IMG_2464

Continuing the Cactus-to-Clouds story…

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.

IMG_2601

IMG_2602

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.

IMG_2605

IMG_2607

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.  

IMG_2606

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.

IMG_2472

SOOOO…tips for backpacking Cactus-to-Clouds:

  1. Don’t wear cotton t-shirts, tech-tee’s only.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Don’t trust everything you read on the internet
  5. Bring a first aid kit (bandaids at a minimum) and vaseline.

signature

 

IMG_2588

This is one topic you won’t readily find on the internet…backpacking the Cactus-to-Clouds Trail. Mainly because I don’t think anyone is willingly insane to put themselves through what we did. But Kevin and I talked and talked about doing this and got it so far stuck in our heads that taking any other route (e.g. Idyllwild) seemed like a cop-out.

Cactus-to-Clouds is a trail that starts in the desert of Palm Springs (470 ft) — “Cactus” and ends up at Mt. San Jacinto (10,834 ft) — “Clouds.”  It’s ranked America’s fifth hardest dayhike on Backpacker.com, stating “the trek to San Jacinto’s 10,804-foot, boulder-strewn crown is only 800 vertical feet shorter than the climb from Everest basecamp to summit-and comparable to doing more than a thousand flights of stairs.” Now, let’s just add a 30lb pack to that…

Originally, our plan was to backpack up Cactus to Clouds, set-up camp, summit Mt San Jacinto, sleep, and hike back down the next day, completing the Cactus to Clouds to Cactus. But you’ll see how that all pans out…

On Friday night we arrived in Palm Springs around 8:30. We grabbed dinner at La Bonita…which honestly, Mexican food before a long hike probably isn’t the best thing.

We parked on the top of the parking garage located across the street from the Palm Springs Art Museum and slept in the bed of his truck with a camper overnight. Shortly after falling asleep, it was time to wake up…4:10am. We decided to bypass breakfast since we were still pretty full from dinner just a couple hours earlier. We packed up, moved the truck down to the lower level and started the hike at 4:50. Note: the trailhead is located in the north end of the north Palm Springs Art Museum parking lot.

IMG_2581

Within the first quarter mile I was already breaking a sweat. I was warm and already questioning my fitness level and abilities. Next time (ok, if there ever is a next time for this trail), I would start off in shorts. Because it was dark when we started, I associated this being cold. I ended up changing into shorts a couple hours later when my leggings were completely drenched with sweat. Next time I would also not wear a cotton shirt because it was wet and then cold and obviously did not absorb or wick away sweat.

IMG_2582

Since we opted out for breakfast, we munched on Yellow Deli Energizing Green Bars. These were perfect because they are so dense and filling with good and healthy ingredients.

IMG_2583

At 9:20 we reached Rescue Box 2 (one of two boxes on the trail stocked with some supplies and whatever leftovers people leave) and took our first break, 7 miles and 4 hours into the hike. We split a PB&J on ciabatta bread and hopped back on the trail.

At this point we were loosely following a timeline we found online:

• Start at the museum’s trailhead
• Picnic tables (20′)
• Rescue Box 1 (1h20′)
• First plateau (1h45′)
• Flat trail coasting the valley from south to north (2h 50′)
• Rescue Box 2 (3h45’) — around here things go awry.
• First pine tree (4h35′)
• First view of the tramway (4h50′)
• Plateau of the tramway (5h15′)
• Ranger station (5h30′)
• San Jacinto Peak (7h45’)

IMG_2455

We were pretty much hitting everything on schedule, despite the fact we were both packing exorbitant amounts of weight. So we basically expected to reach the top of Long Valley around 5 hours 15 minutes (or ~9 miles based on the rock we saw 1 mile into the hike).

I mean, we didn’t really experience any detours except for once or twice because of my inability to identify trails. First I led us (and another couple) up a path that continued to climb before we realized it was way too steep to be the trail. And then I ran the two of us into a grove of Manzanita trees before I realized when I could barely slip by and that no other human being could have walked through that way.

So based on the timeline we thought we were getting close. Fortunately (because it ended up being at least another 90 more minutes) but my hunger insisted took another break (thankfully) and split another PB&J sandwich.

The last section was more than either of us expected. It was steep, with soft dirt and very few rocks or traction. And it literally went on FOREVER. FINALLY. FINALLY. FINALLY. We reached Grubb’s Notch (the beginning of Long Valley) at 12:15pm.

At this point, we both agreed…we would take the tram back down the next day. Knowing how I already approach downhill’s (very cautiously) coupled with a pack that threw our center of balance way off and made us extremely top-heavy. Even as we depleted our water supplies, due to the elevation, our backpacks seemed to get heavier, not lighter.

IMG_2585

We were SO excited to be on flat land. So excited that we didn’t even mind accidentally touring on the Discovery Trail as we searched for the Ranger Station. As we approached the Ranger Station we noticed a sign stating: “ALL CAMPING FULL.” Although I didn’t physically have a camping permit in hand, I did have a copy of the permit application I mailed in 11 days prior and a copy of the money order. The ranger on-site made a call to the station in Idyllwild to check and see if my permit was there. As we waited to hear the verdict, we were able to fill up our Camelbaks and Nalgenes with water from a spigot on the back porch (which added another 6lbs back to our packs). Unfortunately, there was no record of my application…and since all campsites were full, we were essentially being turned away. We went to talk to another ranger about alternative camping options outside of San Jacinto (and off the mountain). However, with a spot left at Tamarack Valley, WE LUCKED OUT! Lugging these packs around wasn’t all for nothing.

IMG_2463

IMG_2584

It was now 1:20, so very hungry and very tired, we drudgingly started the 2-mile trek to our campsite. But at least we had a campsite! We snagged the first site we came across and immediately sat down for “lunch.” Trail mix, ciabatta bread, Babybel cheese and hard salami. We set up camp, and immediately climbed in our sleeping bags for a 3-hour nap. I easily could have slept for the rest of the night, but woke up just enough to have a “housewarming party,” (aka make dinner in our tent). And sure enough, shortly thereafter, we were back to sleep.

signature

IMG_0589

This is my emerald year!!! Jupiter is in Virgo, which only happens every 12 years, making it a year of luck and success. In addition to checking my Free People and Refinery 29 horoscopes weekly, Susan Miller is my favorite monthly source of predictions. They’re accurate in a non-fluffy, over generalized fashion. And they’re based on mathematical calculations and planets aligning, so they’ve got to be true!!!!! 😛

A lot of exciting things have been happening. I recently became a Westfield UTC Brand Ambassador. I randomly received a Parkland duffle and backpack in the mail. I grabbed happy hour with the girls from Alternative Strategies. I took over the RACEPLACE Instagram. And I ran my second 50k!

IMG_0605

Elisa and I both took Friday off to slowly make our way up to Malibu. Before we reached the campsite, I had to introduce her to Malibu Farms Cafe at the end of the Malibu pier. We had, what Elisa boldly claimed as “the best sandwich ever.” And I almost lost my keys before the weekend even started, but luckily found they slipped into a bucket underneath the water station.

IMG_0653

We arrived to Malibu Creek State Park with our selection of campsites. It appeared that not too many people were camping before the race, or camping that weekend in general. We set up, and took a long walk on a trail. Before we knew it the sun had set and we were making dinner. After eating another take on the DIY Monk Pot, we sat around the fire and warmed ourselves before retiring into the cold tent to read. Go figure, the two of us didn’t generate much body heat. However, after all the ups and downs in the middle of the night mixed with the early bedtime, we probably rounded out a decent night of rest.

Saturday morning we woke up, made coffee and oatmeal and had a 5 minute walk to the starting line. We grabbed our bibs and lined up in the freezing cold….more on the race to come!

We got a late check-out for our campsite so we were able to pack up after the race. We had our eyes set on a celebration at Blue Ribbon Pizzeria way back in Encinitas, so we made our way back home — dirt, sweat, and all.  Once home we quickly showered and dined on the lemon-infused signature pizza we both love!!

IMG_0652

Sunday morning my dad was in town, so after attempting to sleep in, I met up with him and my brother for brunch at Union. A total treat-yourself weekend (including BeerMosas) was in tow after my big accomplishment Saturday :-0  Then we went to REI where I got a backpacking backpack (no trip in mind yet), and then shopped for the big Super Bowl Party for the 3 of us 😛

All in all it was a great weekend and I’m still living on a high from the race (and also soaking in my rest days).  Now to find the next 50k… *insert devil emoji*

Weekly Workout Recap (1/31-2/6):
Sun – Hot Yoga
Mon – Rest
Tues – Rest
Wed – 5 mi + Hot Yoga
Thurs – 5.5 mi
Fri – Rest
Sat – SOB 50k 32.85 mi
Total Weekly Mileage: 43.35 mi
Hours cross-training: 2
2016 miles: 116.6 mi

signature

Before we left on our Jtree trip, I made a menu that tried to roll over ingredients from dinner to breakfast to condense our load and pantry.  No room for excess/full bottles of condiments and booze!

We made this for the ULTIMATE pre-hike, hearty, loungy Sunday camping brunch.  Basically…we killed the camp food game!  Honestly, if I had a restaurant I would serve this to you.  So give it a shot, camping or at home, and let me know what you think!

unnamed

Savory Breakfast Oats
Serves 2
INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cup water
2 Italian sausages (pre-cooked)
1 container sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 avocado
1/4 cup feta cheese
2 eggs

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Boil water and add oats.  Cook until water is absorbed.
  2. Separately, simmer the mushrooms until cooked.
  3. Heat the sausages until internally warm.  Cut into slices.
  4. Cube avocado and crumble feta.
  5. When you’re almost ready to serve, cook eggs.  We tried to make these a little runny, but they kind of steamed all the way through.
  6. Evenly divide between two plates and layer oatmeal, mushrooms, sausages, avocado, cheese and egg.

signature

IMG_0449

As I’ve read, Joshua Tree is not one for bountiful trails and hikes say for like Yosemite NP.  However, it’s filled with what I would call points of interest (such as Arch Rock and Skull Rock), that are easily accessible and less than 1 mile off the paved road.

Originally I wanted to do The Lost Palms Oasis hike, one of the longer hikes in the park (around 7 miles).  However, once we arrived we realized this located near Cottonwood Campground, roughly 30 miles away from us.  So instead, we decided to do 2 shorter hikes — the first one classified as a “challenging hike,” and the second as a “short walk/nature trail.”

Both of these hikes were easy to find from the road, clearly indicated by wayfinding signage.  The hikes themselves were well maintained and straight-forward.  For example, we thought finding the petroglyphs would be more challenging, but even they had signs pointing towards them.

IMG_0453

IMG_0454

Ryan Mountain — “challenging hike,” 3 miles out-and-back with 1,000 feet elevation gain.  The total elevation ends up being a little over 5,000 feet, with sweeping 360 views of the entire park, Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio.

IMG_0455

Barker Dam — “short walk/nature trail,” 1.5 mile loop, with the only body of water in the park and Indian Petroglyphs.

I’m glad we did Ryan Mountain first.  Although it is deemed a strenuous hike, we had no problem going up and down this within an hour and 30 minutes, with a prolonged break at the top.  If we had only “hiked” Barker Dam, I think we both would have been fairly disappointed, although the Indian Petroglyphs definitely made up for this (we were so stoked and intrigued!!!).

IMG_0456

signature

IMG_0450

Where do you camp when all the campgrounds are full in Joshua Tree?

With no real plans except for a few campsites in mind (e.g. White Tank, Jumbo Rocks) Kevin and I arrived at Joshua Tree National Park late on Saturday afternoon to a full park.

We were informed that the only campground with open sites was Cottonwood.  However, Cottonwood was 30 miles away within the park, basically at the South entrance/exit.  So instead, we decided to weigh our options and scout out the backcountry sites.

I had read of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) camping which is free and primitive camping outside the National Park (and from what I’ve read quite desolate).  However, we found out that you can do dispersement camping (pack-in, pack-out) at designated Backcountry Boards inside the park.  These are located throughout the park (look on the map for the blue B’s).  All you need to do is find the Backcountry Board, and fill out a free permit that basically provides the information for your car (so you can park overnight) and some accountability for yourself going out there.  The only real restriction to backcountry camping is that you must be 1 mile from the road and 500 ft from any trails.

IMG_0448

After driving through the White Tank campground and realizing that even though all of the sites are divided by huge boulders, there is still a lack of privacy.  Going off the grid was exactly what we both wanted, needed and liked (camping is all about isolation!).  We ended up using the Twin Tanks location (you can see 12 other spots within JTNP here).  With just enough time to carry 2 loads from the car (we’ve worked on condensing since our first dispersement camping experience) and set up camp, we took a hike to the nearest rock formation.  After climbing about 50 feet up, we reached the top for the most majestic sunset.

I find that camping in completely remote locations is the best way to disconnect and relax.  With no cell reception, and the sun serving as your gauge of time, it’s easy to lose yourself into complete stillness and tranquility.

We also happened to catch the full moon which illuminated our little valley like a spotlight!

IMG_0451

I feel like after 24 hours in Joshua Tree, we had a pretty good understanding for the park.  Even though I had done some research prior, it’s always hard to place things in perspective and know how they all relate!

signature

Planning ahead, London and I knew we wanted to make a slightly elevated camp breakfast (especially following our camp pizza).  After searching for inspiration, egg-in-a-hole kind of just popped into our heads.  Just a few ingredients made an easy spin on the classic egg and toast breakfast.  This breakfast ended up being very substantial, keeping us full until well after our hike!  But I’m not gunna lie, we did kind of kill an entire package of bacon between the two of us… 😛

IMG_9689

IMG_9690

Egg-In-A-Hole
INGREDIENTS:
1 slice of bread
1 egg
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut a hole from the center of the slice of bread.
  2. Turn on camp stove and heat pan over medium-low heat with olive oil.
  3. Place the piece of bread in the pan.  Crack the egg directly into the center of the hole, and cook until the egg sets on the bottom, around 1 minute.
  4. Flip it over and cook until the yolk feels soft.
  5. Remove from heat and serve with bacon and ketchup :)

IMG_9691

signature

IMG_9631

Who brings micro-greens camping? In our attempts to make our Malibu camping trip as gourmet as possible, London and I sought out to make our favorite Pandora’s Pizza (the Jupiter from Pandora’s Pizza in Leucadia) camp style. After doing some research and using this REI blog for inspiration, with some trial and error (and a lot of fire play), we ended up with the most delicious and well deserved pizza!

IMG_9632

Camp Pizza
INGREDIENTS:
Pre-made pizza dough
1/2 fresh mozzarella ball
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 fresh basil leaves
1 pinch microgreens
1/2 avocado
Olive oil
What you’ll also need:
Cast iron skillet
Lid
Wood burning fire

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Start fire.
  2. Prep ingredients (slice mozzarella into rounds, halve cherry tomatoes, chop basil, cube avocado).
  3. Preheat pan and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Layout pizza crust in pan and top with cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes, then cover with lid and cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and top with microgreens and avocado, then serve.

signature

IMG_9633

A couple weekends ago, London and I hit the road for an overnight camping trip.  After 3 hours of driving, we finally arrived to the Malibu Creek State Park campgrounds.  We pulled in the line to enter the park when the young ranger (age identified after I saw the braces) informed us that Reserve America moved our campsite to Pismo Beach.  WHAT!!!!! London and I looked at each other in disbelief, like what the hell.  Lucky for us this little lass was playing a joke, and we were able to enter and set up our camp with limited sunlight left.

IMG_9436

As I set up the tent, London popped open our hydroflask filled with Saint Archer’s Blonde Ale.  Trying to capitalize on the last few minutes of light, we went for a little hike around the campgrounds.  We found a little path that we followed until I grabbed London in reaction to a snake.  However, she proceeded to step on it’s HEAD and then stumble back and fall on her butt (which bruised quite nicely).  We continued to walk and experience the wildlife, which included a deer (that I thought had no horns, but indeed did have horns).

IMG_9634

When we returned to the campsite, we decided it would be a good idea to TRY and start a fire.  Good thing we started when we did.  We got a little too excited with the first sight of a flame (yay for camp hacks — hand sanitizer and lint for fire starters) and quelled the fire by shoving too much brush on top of it.  Luckily from the help of our neighbors we were able to get enough of a fire going to cook dinner and play bananagrams until it died around 8:30pm and were forced to retreat in the tent.

It was a cold night, and I didn’t sleep too well.  And it didn’t help we didn’t have any fire to look forward to in the morning.  But luckily when we woke up, the sun was shining high above and it was warm enough to brew a couple cups of coffee and start cooking our gourmet breakfast.

After breakfast we packed up our camp and headed out for a hike.  Originally I had several hikes in mind (see here and here) but we ended up coming across Sandstone Peak in Sunset Magazine earlier in the morning, so we decided to give it a try.

IMG_9818

IMG_9635

Our short but fairly vertical hike ended up being pretty eventful.  Sandstone Peak is the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains (From overcast and windy, to raining to sunny skies and double rainbows, 4 miles was fairly thrilling.  We didn’t end up going to the very top of the peak because the rain made the stone slick, and after London’s fall the day before I didn’t want to risk it.

IMG_9817

By the time we finished the hike it was already late afternoon, so we were aching for some good (real) food afterwards.  We ended up at Malibu Farms Cafe on the edge of the Malibu Pier.  SO SATISFYING!!!

Camp pizza & breakfast recipes to follow!

Where to stay:
Malibu Creek State Park
1925 Las Virgenes Rd
Calabasas, CA 91302

Where to hike:
Circle X Ranch/Sandstone Peak
12896 Yerba Buena Road
Malibu, CA, 90265
Sandstone Peak Trailhead: 1 mile north of Circle X Ranch contact station on Yerba Buena Rd. Parking lot is on left.

Where to eat (real food):
Malibu Farms Pier Cafe
23000 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265

signature

IMG_8794

SURPRISE!  I signed up for my first 50k on December 12th — the Malibu Canyon 50k.  Piggybacking off the training and mileage I established for the NYC Marathon, I’m excited to embark on this new and fun adventure, with absolutely no expectations.  Although I originally signed up to do this with my (future) ultrarunning buddies who are no longer able to do the race, I’m still committed to filling up the next couple of weekends with long runs on Saturday (~2 hours) followed by longish trail runs on Sundays (2-3 hours).

This past weekend London and I visited Malibu Creek State Park for a quick overnight camping trip, with the intentions of checking out parts of the 50k trail.  While we didn’t actually end up surveying the route (damn Daylight Savings time making the sunset at 4:45pm…), we did come up with some good camp hacks, tips and recipes to share.

So stay tuned for a lot of trail running and a little camp vibes content coming soon!!

 

signature

 
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: