Another great day hiking in Southern California. Perfect, cool weather without a clouds in the sky. I hadn’t originally planned on doing this hike (Cactus-to-Clouds aka C2C) or anything else this weekend, but Gary had mentioned a desire to do it. An impromptu question led to a quick bit of planning and somehow we ended up at the trailhead just before 4am on Saturday.
Gary had invited a fellow cyclist and friend, Jim, who had bucket listed this hike, and I had never hiked with either before. But given Gary’s credentials as a professional bicycle tour operator and his endorsement of Jim, I was almost more worried about being dropped by them than the reverse.
In truth, my focus was more on a bloated, nauseated stomach than anything else as we started up the steep intiial climb. I had a tried a healthier breakfast that included chicken and rice 3 hours earlier, and either that or something else just wasn’t working for me. At no point during the day did my stomach ever clear completely, so I spent the whole climb feeling heavy and lackluster — the energy in Gus and other carbs just wasn’t getting though my stomach to the muscles fast enough.
But enough of that. The hike toward the tram went well, especially given that they had never done it before. Gary was unstoppable. Jim felt he was moving a bit slowly, though, so he decided to drop back and meet us at the tram later. We split up about 15 minutes below Flat Rock, and started a faster ascent up to Long Valley.
As usual, the last 1,000 feet was steep and challenging. Some day I’d like to just rock up this section, but with the stomach thing again, I was just happy to get to the top. This was my first time doing C2C without trekking poles, so that could be part of it. Gary came up a few minutes later, looking remarkably fresh, and we headed off to the Ranger Station for water and a bit of food.
The walk up the rest of the way to the peak was of course far easier than the preceding Skyline section. We made good time, stopping for a rest and more food at Wellman’s Divide, and made the peak without problems — although I think Gary discovered that five peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may be three too many…
On the peak, there was a boisterous Scout troop, some college kids, and somewhere hiding a couple that had passed us on the way from up from Palm Springs. Strangely, it seemed like all the dozens of others who had started up from the desert before or after us (we had seen a lot of headlamps below us in the morning) ended up calling it a day at the tram. We saw no more than eight people finishing C2C. Slackers.
After some food and pictures, we headed down to the tram and met up with Jim, who had been there for more than three hours. One delicious beer and some prehistoric French fries later, we were on the tram and heading back to the heat of Palm Springs. A massive Starbucks Frappacino later, and we had the calories and caffeine to make the drive back almost pleasant.
Gary and Jim were troopers. Can’t believe some of the stuff they’ve done in the past. Real outdoorsman. As for my part, I somehow managed to actually gain weight on this hike for the first time, ever, so either I’ve figured out my diet and water to some extent or I’m carrying some kind of C2C baby. Odd.
This weekend culminated a series of Saturdays:
– Cactus to Tram with Huy (no trekking poles, with bonus bonk)
– Repeats on Woodson from Ramona (just working on aerobic capacity)
– C2C2C (with awesome first-time downhill bonk)
– Rabbit & Villager from near Borrego Springs with Mike & Huy
– San Bernardino 9-Peaks Traverse with Andre & Kam
– C2C (no poles) with Gary & Jim
Which may be why I don’t feel that tired today, at all. If only I could get rid of this baby…