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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The was my last trail run with Kate before the SOB 50k.  After a lazy and overcast morning in Encinitas, we grabbed coffee from Ironsmith and headed down to Alpine.  After an hour of driving, we arrived at our destination, or so we hoped/thought.

We parked in the apparent lot and spotted the sign “Espinosa Trail –> Secret Canyon rail.”  By the time we made it out east to the trailhead, the temperatures had risen.  No need for an outer- or wind-layer and we both stripped to tanks and shorts.  We headed out with the intention of running 10 miles.  The trail was wide and evident, and we followed along this main trail for 5 miles.

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At this point, we had never reached Secret Canyon.  I guess the big indicator should have been the fact that we continued to gradually climb and never dropped down into a canyon.  In our defense though, the climb was very gradual and we didn’t realize it until we turned around to run back.  We did take some walking breaks on the way up, but I just assumed that I was out of shape/getting my bearings back (not the greatest feeling the week before the race).

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On our way back we also realized we clearly missed the split off for Secret Canyon.  It was maybe a mile or so in, but at a quick glance, the small wooden sign was misleading.  It clearly said “trail –>” but since I didn’t read it and the wooden sign was kind of shaped like an arrow in the opposite direction, we just stayed on the Espinosa Trail the whole time.

The Espinosa Trail extends 7 miles out.  Kate was obsessed with how green it was and kept exclaiming “it looks like Ireland!”

Although we ran the wrong trail, it just gives us another one to try the next time!

Espinosa Trail

Entrance: 21697 Lyons Valley Rd, Alpine, CA
Route: From the trailhead parking lot walk to the trail.  Espinosa is the main trail and will take you out 7+ miles.
Miles: 10 miles +

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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.

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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.

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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!!!).

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Back and at the trails!! One week after my 50k, Elisa and I took to Iron Mountain + Ellie Lane. Iron Mountain is a very popular hike in San Diego, however this was my first time visiting the trail. Elisa suggested we take the offshoot of the Ellie Lane loop because it’s less trafficked and it adds a little distance to the run/hike.

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Even pre-holiday weekend, it was still pretty busy, especially when we reached the top. My legs were still tired from the weekend before and were definitely feeling it. We took the casual approach of walking the uphills, and running the downhills. However, in general it was really nice to get out. I couldn’t imagine running if it had to be on the road, but the trail was exactly the freedom and diversity I needed.

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And because PB&J sandwiches are my FAVORITE (and such a large staple in my diet now) this post is filled with pictures of me stuffing my face!!!

Iron Mountain + Ellie Lane Loop

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Entrance: Hwy 67 & Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92074
Route: Follow the Iron Mountain Trail until it comes to a split. Head left for Ellie Lane. Continue on this until you meet back up with the main Iron Mountain Trail.
Miles: 10 miles

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I might be a freak of nature because for some reason, post-marathon I wasn’t sore. However, I felt the repercussions with overly tired and twitching eyes for most of the week, with 6pm’s that feel like 9pm’s (especially due to the time change).

Wednesday night I went for a brisk jog with Kate, my first run back after the marathon. With 5 miles at an 8:25 pace, I was feeling good, although it was probably a little faster than I should’ve run.

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The next day my back felt a little tweaked, like I had created an S shape in my spine. So I decided to take it easy and went to my first deep stretch class at Yoga Six. It was exactly what I needed and fit my mood perfectly — lazy and too tired to actually perform a physically intense workout.

Friday night London and I enjoyed the best Thai aroma massage from Pure Life Thai Spa in Cardiff. 2 hours for only $99! With knees in our butts and intense but needed pressure, it was definitely a relaxing way to cap off the week.

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I’ve been craving getting outdoors and out of our immediate San Diego area.  So Saturday I woke up excited to venture somewhere new. I grabbed my adventure buddy and headed out for what we thought would be Devil’s Punch Bowl. However, Google Maps led us to a very familiar hike/entrance. One so familiar, we spent the entire time trying to convince ourselves it wasn’t Three Sisters but instead Devil’s Punch Bowl. However, as we entered the valley and saw the dried falls in the distance, encountered the rope climb and other distinct characteristics of the hike, we finally accepted we were on the wrong hike!!

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As if one hike wasn’t enough for the weekend, on Sunday Elisa and I spent the afternoon running and hiking the real Devil’s Punch Bowl during the peak of the day. Since trails are the consistent theme lately, expect more on this run, and other trails soon!

Weekly Workout Recap (11/1-11/7):
Sun – 26.5 mi NYC Marathon
Mon – Rest
Tues – Rest
Wed – 5 mi
Thurs – Deep Stretch yoga
Fri – Rest
Sat – Three Sisters Hike (6 mi)
Total Weekly Mileage: 31.5 mi 
2015 miles: 1241.95 mi

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Right after the California 10/20  last Sunday, I headed home to pack up for an overnight adventure to Cuyamaca/Julian.

After being redirected several times on highway 79, we finally made it to Paso Picacho Campgrounds. The campgrounds were quiet but we learned that the big crowds had been there Friday and Saturday night.  Being somewhat unprepared, we didn’t bring enough cash and ended up scavenging for coins to pay the $30 overnight fee, eventually having it lowered to the Senior rate ($28) and even borrowing some change from Ranger Grace.

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Wet set up camp, grubbed on some snacks, and grabbed some incognito beers for our campground hike. We decided to go on a 3 mile loop, which ended up being much more of an excursion, starting at 3pm and leaving us out there collecting firewood until after 6:30pm. Don’t know exactly what happened there!

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For dinner we cooked up some of my favorite soup, Amy’s Organic Red Bean and Rice, topped with a slice of pepper jack cheese and El Nopalito tortilla chips.

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The next morning we woke up to the sounds of birds pecking at trees and howls from our neighboring campers. We made a french press coffee and oatmeal breakfast, and then packed up to head out for the Three Sisters Hike in Julian. We started around 12:30pm, and passed a lot of people coming out of the hike. The Three Sisters Hike is considered “expert,” and rightly so. Steep soft patches of sand, rope sections, and literal rock climbing made this a fairly intense hike. I ended up scrambling for most of it!

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But at the bottom of the valley we finally arrived at three waterfalls, or “The Three Sisters.” By this time it was around 2:30pm and fairly warm. We climbed to the top waterfall and jumped into the cold pond, and swam behind the fall into a little grotto. We brought light snacks, some apples, baby Larabars, and “bear crackers” (aka Mary’s Gone Crackers seed crackers).

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Going down into the valley presented a lesser challenge than going back up. The soft sand, or “sands of hell” were so tough, I was literally crawling, claiming I would rather run a full marathon at that point than have to continue to crawl for the next .1 mile. We finished with tight quads and calves, and an appetite for some dinner.

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It wasn’t too long until we found ourselves in Julian at the Julian Cafe, drinking water out of boots (lolz) and eating some homestyle cowboy food. And before we left we made sure to grab 2 full Mom’s Pies (one chicken, one apple boysenberry crumble) to-go 😛 Overall, it was a fun overnight adventure close enough to home without feeling so.

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Where’s your favorite place to hike and/or camp?

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Several things today!

1. LÄRABAR
2. National “Take A Hike Day”
3. RENOLA
4. GIVEAWAY!
5. Coupon

Here we go…

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I don’t always go hiking.  But when I do, I prefer to go barefoot in wool socks 😛  LÄRABARs have been a favorite, clean snack, packing a lot of flavor, in a 9-ingredient (all of which are WHOLE foods) or less bar!  These are my favorite to grab on-the-go, before a run, or on a hike!  Any of the flavors with chocolate chips (such as chocolate chip cookie dough, coconut chocolate chip, etc.) are my favorite.

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One of my favorite places to run/hike/explore in San Diego is Torrey Pines.  The views are literally breathtaking (hey, that climb is pretty tough).  So you’ll know where I’ll be for National “Take a Hike Day” on November 17th — outdoors and up Torrey Pines, with a LÄRABAR in hand.  Make sure to take a hike on this special day, and share your experience by using the hashtags #eatclean and #getoutside!

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A new addition to the LÄRABAR line is RENOLA, a gluten-free, grain-free “granola” option.  It tastes great all by itself, wrapped in individual packages easy for running out the door.  And it’s also good added to yogurt parfaits.

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Now’s your chance to enter to win 16 LÄRABARs and RENOLA GIVEAWAY!
(Must be US resident and 18+)
Giveaway ends midnight, November 3rd.

To enter, check out the website and comment below: which flavor of LÄRABAR are you the most excited to try and why?

Also, you can use this coupon to get $0.50 off any LÄRABAR!

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Thank you to LÄRABAR for sponsoring today’s post and inspiring me to get outside.

Last night me and a couple friends went to the fair.  Let me just say that the fair has gotten ridiculous — from Krispy Kreme sloppy joes, fried beer battered bacon wrapped corn dogs, fried kool-aid, etc., etc.

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We did a sample of fried frog legs (wet and fishy tasting), fried avocado (think savory donut stuffed with avo) and mexican-style funnel cake (long, swirled up pile of churro).

We came, we ate, we conquered.  This became the premise of our visit as we did not participate in any carnie games nor did we participate in any of the pop-up shop rides.  I get sick to my stomach on any of those rides because 1. they’re all spinny, and 2. I fear for my life.

I followed this gluttonous night by waking up at 6am for a (roughly) 8 mile hike.

I’ve been wanting to do the iconic “Potato Chip Rock” for awhile now, and finally did so today.  It’s about 3.75 miles each way, plus or minus some detours.  My friend and I made it up in less than 2 hours, and back down in a little over 1.

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The Potato Chip Rock is at the top of the Mt. Woodson trail in Poway (east of SD).  It was pretty scary getting up to the actual rock.  There’s a separation between two boulders that you have to either jump or start from the bottom and shimmy your way up.  I just imagined imminent death jumping from the rock to the potato chip (slipping, falling back, cracking my skull open and tinkering between the two boulders like a pinball).

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After I grew some balls and eventually made it up, I was still too hesitant to get too close to the edge.  I kept my distance, but was still able to capture the glorified potato chip picture.

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Afterwards I deemed it the second most adventurous thing I’ve ever done (first being skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland).  Overall, the hike wasn’t too strenuous and it ended right before we started questioning how much longer to the top.  It’s definitely a hot trail, so leaving early morning is highly recommended.

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