The Story of the Cactus to Clouds Hike

The Epic Hike = Cactus to Clouds

Cactus to Clouds is a combination of two trails – The Museum Trailhead trail, and the San Jacinto Peak Trail. It totals 22 miles and 10,400 ft of climbing. They approximate that the whole hike takes 13hrs. The first trail, Museum Trailhead is a total of 11 miles and 8,100 ft of climbing. So pretty much the first bit is the absolute toughest, and takes the absolute longest.


This hike was going to be no joke.


A map of what we are doing.

This past Friday, my alarm goes off at 3:15am. I had been tossing and turning all night, probably due to feeling pretty anxious about doing this hike. I had no idea what was in store, but most of all, I HATE waking up that early. I’m a morning person, but anything before 6am sucks. I also had no idea if I would have enough water, as it clearly states that there is no water available anywhere on the hike. Also, was it going to be hot? Cold? Would we run into any rattlesnakes?

I hopped in the shower, still sleepy-eyed, as I always do before a race, as this was going to be just as long if not longer than most races I’ve done. And for some reason, I like being clean before I get dirty. Don’t ask. But, it makes me feel prepped and ready to go. I made sure I had my gatorade, my Camelbak filled with water, my warm clothes for when it’s cold at the top, my GoPro, and I was set.




Making sandwiches! :)

Kelly, who’s idea this was, and you can read about that here, pulled in the driveaway at 4am, and we hit the road to Palm Springs, which is a 2hr 15min drive from Cardiff. We got there at 6:15, and started hiking at 6:30am. Unfortunately, neither one of us really ate breakfast, and 1hr into the hike we decided to stop and eat. We ran into a guy who was hiking while carrying his newborn baby boy. WHAT?!?! He looked at us, like we were in trouble, because we were already sitting down to eat. I’m sure he looked at us two girl’s with bouncy ponytails, and thought these girls have no idea what they are in for. He started giving us advice, which we appreciated, but practically started telling us that this was not a good idea for us to do. I usually never  drop the “Ironman” card, but I had to, this guy was looking at us like we just attend yoga class, and were out for a walk in the park. But then again from his perspective, he’s a dude carrying his newborn baby boy, and about to trudge up the mountain with him. He opted against it, as he decided it would be too hot for him and the baby. Good call, Dad. He was the last person we saw that day before we got to the top of museum trailhead.


Kelly and I before our hike started.


My new awesome Camelbak. Hiking outfit of choice – Saucony Ride running shoes (not much of a hiker shoe person, except when I’m canoeing or going to hike through mud), Oakley socks, lululemon wunder unders, lululemon push ur limits tank, oakley long sleeve long underwear, lululemon puffy vest, Oakley Women’s Immerse sunglasses. I was a happy camper in this outfit.


Getting started just as the sun was rising. Beautiful.

So, there we were eating our bananas, eating a sandwich, and the total time we were stopped was 10min. We hopped back on our feet and kept on hiking. About 5min after that stop, we found ourselves at the famous rock that says…


No water. Here we go!

Had to stop at the picnic tables and get some push ups in for the Project Neon February push up challenge!

Had to stop at the picnic tables and get some push ups in for the Project Neon February push up challenge!

Up, up, up, we went. I told, Kelly, early on that she should lead the whole thing, this is her day, and her bucket list item, and I wanted it to be all about her. I was just there for moral support, and to make sure we didn’t get lost ;) A few times, the trail seems to go in different directions, where people had made their own paths, only to find out it doesn’t go that way, come back down, and then hop on the real path. We got fooled a few times too. But fortunately, figured it out. The trail has no markings, just a somewhat clearly defined path, that you have to just trust is taking you in the right direction.

Perfect find along the way on the hike on Valentine's Day!

Perfect find along the way on the hike on Valentine’s Day!

We both sipped on water every 15min or so, just like I would during a race. And then every 2hrs we decided to stop and eat. So, 2hrs later, 3hrs total into the hike, we made our first “picnic” stop. I ate a Peter Rabbit fruit squeeze thing, and drank half a bottle of Powerade (Strawberry Lemonade flavor – the absolute best). It was just what I needed because the dry desert air was making my throat very dry. After our 5min pit stop, we continued on our way.


The beautiful hike.


One of the many magnificent views.


We made it to the Rescue 1 button!

I thought Kelly and I would do a lot of talking on this hike, discuss life, sing songs, ya know, the usual of what I would do when I’m hiking, camping, etc. But this hike had so much climbing, that we were both speechless most of the way. About 90min after the last pit stop, Kelly stopped to reapply sunscreen, and we took a little bit of a break, and took in the scenery. We knew the next 3 miles were going to be the toughest. Only 3 miles left, but each mile had about 1,000ft of climbing in it.

Made it past Rescue #2!

Made it past Rescue #2! Last chance to be rescued! ;)

Prior to the hike, I had no idea, that Kelly hadn’t hiked all that much, and that this was a new hobby of hers. She had been talking to a guy at REI one day, and he mentioned this hike, and she decided that she just had to do it. What I love about Kelly, is she’s a lot like me, she loves a good challenge. So, when she said she wanted to do this, without having much hiking experience, I didn’t question it, because I do similar things. I love being spontaneous, and just making up my mind to do something, and jumping right in. Go Big or Go Home.


Pulling out cactus that got stuck in my ankle.


Showcasing my heart earrings, in honor of Vday.


Dirt and Sand.

So, there we were, the toughest part of the hike, and 4 1/2 hrs into hiking, and Kelly starts dragging her feet. Literally. I got nervous. But, I admire that even with the breaks that we took every 5-10min for the next 2 1/2 hrs, she never complained, and she never gave up, or thought she couldn’t do it. She kept asking me how I was feeling, and it pained me to tell her I was feeling fine, and then I would always say, this isn’t about me, this is about you. I was soooo proud of her. I mean the suggested total time it takes to finish the museum trailhead portion is 10hrs, according to that rock, and she got us there in 7. Rockstar! Unfortunately, because it took 7hrs to the top, we stopped at the picnic tables, fueled up, and discussed about doing the San Jacinto Peak trail, which completes the Cactus to Clouds hike. The second portion takes 2hrs there and 2hrs back for a seasoned hiker, which means in this state, the whole thing could take 6hrs. Which would be the total 13hrs, that it says in the book. But, unfortunately this would put us hiking in the dark, and we thought it was best to call it a successful day and tackle the whole thing again, in the near future.


This part of the hike was my absolute favorite! Stunningly beautiful.

7hrs and 8,100ft of climbing is something to be proud of, and we did the hardest part of the trail anyway. It wasn’t on my bucket list before, but I’m now inspired to do the whole thing sometime soon. It was beautiful, challenging, and fun! I forgot how much I love hiking. Thanks Kelly for including me in your hiking venture!

When you reach the top of The Museum Trailhead, it is touristy, and people can ride a tram up to go on short hikes, and enjoy the view and nature. So, after our picnic, we hopped the tram back down to the bottom. We failed to think about how we would get from where the tram drops us off, back to our car, but fortunately a very nice couple in their late 40′s, early 50′s offered to drive us back to our car. WOW. There seriously are still really nice people in this world. They were wonderful, and gave some pretty powerful advice to us young girls. The world is beautiful and full of beautiful souls and beautiful people. I am so thankful to be a part of it.


Had to do a cartwheel to commemorate the hike!


Kelly and I 4 1/2 hrs in to the hike, right before it got very steep.

Nature Rocks and the Cardiff Kook 10k

I LOVED this week! Seriously. I may have been tired. And it was my fourth straight week of training without a rest day, but this week rocked! My week started out with this…


Seriously, the sky was unreal. It looked like a water color painting. For some reason, when nature is so rad, like in this moment, it just makes me super grateful for life :)

I also did a run along the coast and got to see this…


It was just such a peaceful, beautiful week to be outside…


Thursday night I met up with some friends to celebrate some birthdays, one of which was my coach’s! I just love how triathlon social gatherings start early and end early :) It’s the best.


Beth and I at Beachside celebrating her bday!


Beth, Me, The LEGEND – Mike Rouse (who just ran 36 miles for a friends 36th birthday), and Tatiana

Then Friday, it was up early for Master’s swim at the Y. And boy did Hux have a workout planned for us. I seriously thought I was going to throw up. We did the following for the main set:

25 fast, 25 fast (which ended up being 50 fast), 100 easy, 50 fast

25 fast, 25 fast, 100 easy, 100 fast – repeat the 25′s and the easy 100, followed by a 150 fast at the end, then 200 fast at the end, then back down the pyramid 200, 150, 100, 50. All I know is I was CHASING feet, and I was pretty sure my arms couldn’t pull another stroke after this workout.

Friday night, I seriously fell asleep at 7:15pm, and I slept all the way until 9am Saturday morning. Tired much? But, I LOVED every second of snuggling in my bed, and closing my eyes felt soooo good. You know that feeling when your eyes start to burn, and then you close them, and it’s like a relief. I love that feeling.

Saturday, I went for a 3hr ride along the coast. I was gonna go inland and do some climbing with a group, but my legs were tired, and I knew I was racing the next day, so I kept it simple and just rode the coast. I’m sooo HAPPY I did, because I was very fortunate to see FOUR different pods of dolphins on my ride. I couldn’t believe how many dolphins were out playing. I stopped twice to just watch and enjoy. Dolphins are by far my favorite animal, (although monkeys are a close second), and I can’t remember the last time I saw dolphins off the coast.


Unfortunately, the iphone zoom sucks, so you can’t really see the pod of dolphins, but I shot one of them coming to the surface for a hot second. The water is NOT this blue here in SD, I wish it were. But, I made it this blue so that the dolphin stood out, and to make the photo pretty :)


The view of the ocean from my ride.

I headed out for a short shake out run, and then it was time to head to the master’s swim party of the year. I was super excited to hang out with my new lane mates, Jene and Jenn.


Lane 5 ladies – Jene, me, and Jenn. Jenn won “hottie” of the year award.

Today, I woke up, had my usual pre-race “meal”:


Bonk Breakers are my fave. I ALWAYS have one before I race. Although, I always change up the flavors.


New shoes for the first race of 2013. Saucony Cortana. LOVE it!

Let me preface how this race went with, I have not done a straight 10k in probably 5 years. I knew it was gonna hurt. I had no expectations. I was actually expecting to see 8min/miles on my watch. I was sore, my legs were tired, and well, I haven’t done a single speed session pretty much since September. So, this was gonna be interesting. I remember thinking, just go hard, and whatever pace that is, deal with it, you will get better as the season goes on. The first half is mostly downhill, and the second half is all uphill.

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 8.42.34 PMNot soooo bad. Lots of improvement to be made. I like thinking…I can only get better :) The best part though is I ended up getting 2nd in the 18-28 age group! Who knows how that happened, but I’ll take it!


Beth, me, and Katya. Congrats to Beth on a new PR! Rockin’ Oakley :)

Then quickly showered, changed, to go get interviewed for a documentary that is being made on my brother. My brother has a crazy life, a crazy story, and I’m super pumped for it to get told, because ultimately it is a story about never giving up on your dream. Inspiring.


Then met up with Beth and Jene for a recovery swim, and then it was time for some SuperBowl bevvies to wrap up a solid week!


Guess who ordered the Bud Light? Yup…the Wisconsin girl ;) Gotta have a beer OR mimosa when watching football.


Thanks everyone for a solid and fun week of training! I’m BIG TIME looking forward to my first rest day in a month on Tuesday:)