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    Krista Muscarella reviewed Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds

    11 months ago

    Almost a week later and I still cannot believe I completed the infamous "Cactus to Clouds" hike in Palm Springs. Rated the "Fifth Most Difficult Day Hike in the United States" by Backpacker Magazine, the hike starts on the desert floor of Palm Springs (near the cactus) and gains thousands of feet of elevation leading to San Jacinto Peak (up in the clouds).

    I woke up at 1:00am Sunday morning (10/15) to meet at my carpool spot by 2:00am. Kiyomi, Jessy, and I headed to Palm Springs and arrived in time for our 4:15am start. Sure it may have been pitch dark but with the desert sun, it heats up quickly and we had to climb as much as possible before the sun would start scorching us. One of my fellow WTC students, Charles, arranged the hike and although I had been incredibly hesitant I decided to give it a go. After all, I thought I was going to stop once we arrived at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

    So at 4:15am we started the ascent and there was no turning back. Literally, no turning back... Once you start on the Skyline Trail portion of C2C, you are committed to climbing 8,000+ feet in ~9 miles. Turning around is simply not an option as you would descend into an inferno otherwise known as the desert heat.

    The Skyline portion was not terrible until the sun started heating up the exposed trail. I was carrying three liters of water and a 32 ounce Gatorade and reached the tram with about half a liter of water to spare. Water is not available until you complete the Skyline Trail (arrive at the tram). I was thankful for all the snacks I brought - especially the bananas which I am certain helped avoid cramping.

    Our group of seven reached the tram around noon (we took a lot of breaks) and enjoyed a break while eating lunch. I felt like I could make the push for the peak - another 5 miles and ~2,500 feet of gain + 5 miles back - so myself and five others departed the tram and headed for the peak. My body started feeling it about two miles from the peak. But, with great determination I continued on. After all, I hadn't hiked ~12/13 miles just to turn around two miles from the destination. Four of us reached the peak. I was overcome with joy as I scrambled up the rocks and caught sight of the "Mt. San Jacinto Peak" sign at about 4:30pm.

    "Set your goals high and don't stop till you get there." Well, I followed this quote and reached the summit. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. The trek back to the tram was exhausting - both mentally and physically. My feet were aching, my muscles were sore, and the sun was setting faster than we were descending. It was time to put the headlamp back on; we started the hike with it and we finished with it as well. Reaching the tram around 7:00pm, I had never been so happy to end a hike (and that's saying something!!) We waited for the rest of the group, took the tram down, hopped in an Uber, and returned to the Palm Springs Art Museum where we had left the car 14+ hours before.

    My Fitbit said I walked/hiked more than 68,900 steps/28.4 miles on Sunday - more than most people walk in an entire week. It was exhausting and I seriously contemplated calling in sick to work yesterday as my body felt like it was ran over by a semi truck but I did it. I completed the "Fifth Most Difficult Hike" in the entire United States. I had hiked from the Cactus to the Clouds. I completed the trek to San Jacinto's boulder-strewn crown in such a way that is only 800 vertical feet shorter than the climb from Everest basecamp to the summit and comparable to doing more than a thousand flights of stairs. This hike was no joke and everyone even thinking about attempting it should do their homework and check it twice.

    Krista Muscarella reviewed Half Dome Trail

    12 months ago

    Guys. I can't believe I hiked Half Dome! I won a coveted permit via the lottery on recreation.gov way back in February I think it was (before they switched the permit system). On Monday, September 18th, the day finally arrived: Myself and three others were going to hike HALF DOME! We camped at Upper Pines Campground the night before and woke up at 2:30am to start hiking at 3am. There were a few reasons for this: 1. We're crazy 2. I really had to be back in LA by Monday evening 3. Two of my group members had previously hiked Half Dome and I felt confident hiking in the day with their guidance.

    So yes, we started hiking in the dark and were not able to see the elevation gain accompanied by Vernal and Nevada Falls. No big deal though; we took the Mist Trail down and were able to see the waterfalls in the daylight while descending and killing our knees. Anyways, we reached Sub Dome right as the sun was rising. It - was - INCREDIBLE! An excellent break before those gosh-darn-cables.

    We came prepared with our own gloves - rubber palms work best, not leather - but boy I could not have prepared myself for what I was about to do. Looking at those cables from Sub Dome... I nearly had a panic attack. But I did not hike all that way for nothing - I was going to keep going. I'm glad I did, because they don't look nearly as bad standing at the base of the cables. I had a GREAT support system that encouraged me and I got up those cables in about 15 minutes or so. Personally, I would not allow myself to be THAT person that "freezes" on the cables.

    I must say, climbing the cables at 8am was a fantastic experience because we did not have to deal with traffic from others. Coming down the cables was the exact same way - no other people to maneuver around. We only stayed on the top long enough to eat a quick brunch (it was only like 8:30, lol) and take some pictures. I wish descending via the Mist Trail would've been less crowded but wow the sheer number of people coming up was overwhelming. Definitely try to get an early start if you can.

    We were back at the campsite by 12/1pm so we were able to get out of there in time for the next night's arrivals. Overall, Half Dome was incredible. A bucket list item, for sure. The views from the top - even among the smoke from the forest fires - were breathtaking. Highly recommend this hike but note, it's not for the faint of heart aka those with even a little fear of heights!

    Krista Muscarella completed Half Dome Trail

    12 months ago

    Krista Muscarella saved Half Dome Trail

    about 1 year ago

    Krista Muscarella saved Duck Lake Trail

    about 1 year ago