This Sunday I finished hike number 29/52 for the 52 Hike Challenge in 2015, and have now completed 340 of my goal of 1000 miles for this year. For those of you who read this blog regularly, you’ll know that the 1000 miles goal was added after the 52 hikes in one year goal. As of today, I will be ending the goal of 1000 miles, as it’s taken away a lot of the joys and freedoms for which I always find myself on the trail. Instead of just heading out to have a great time, I was finding myself constantly picking a hike with the greatest difficulty and distance. It just wasn’t sustainable this year. I’m still going to hike every weekend, I just won’t be constricted to doing huge days each time.
With that, I still had a great hike on Sunday in Palm Springs. Julia and I tackled the Skyline trail, which goes from the art museum in Palm Springs, to the aerial tramway 8500 feet above. This hike was 9 miles long, with about 8400 ft of climbing. To make things even more difficult, we started after sunrise in what would be a near triple digit day for heat. Usually, we’d continue on from the aerial tramway to the summit of San Jacinto for a full Cactus to Clouds experience, but due to time constraints, we made this trip a little shorter.
No matter how many times I hike the Skyline trail, it never gets easier. In fact, it seems to get more difficult with each go. I think the high temps played a large role on this one though, as it was already cookin’ when we started. It doesn’t help that you’re gaining 1000ft of elevation for every mile you cover. This trail ears the Skyline name, as you’re heading straight up the entire time. My quads and calves were really burning after the second mile, but I was able to find a rhythm soon after. We started this hike at 6 am, just as the sun rose. For anyone who has been to Palm Springs, you know how quickly it heats up. This day was no different, and the atmosphere turned into a baking oven by 7:30.
We reached the first rescue box at mile two after about one hour of hiking. These rescue stations are a reminder of how dangerous and deadly this hike can be. There is no water, and no realistic rescue available for those that attempt this hike unprepared. People have died on this trail, and it’s something I like to keep in the back of my mind, regardless of how fit I’m feeling.
I love miles 3 to 5 of the Skyline trail, as it gives you great views to the north of the Palm Springs wind farm. It’s amazing how much clean electricity is being generated by the never ending flow of air coming through the Banning Pass.
After mile 4, there is a short respite as you climb over the first ridge. It’s the first flat and downhill section of the day, and welcome relief for weary legs. It doesn’t last for long though, as mile 6 brings back the climbing with a vengeance. The 2nd rescue station is located at mile six, and is always a nice sign to me that the climbing is almost over. Mile six to the end of the Skyline trail is some of the toughest hiking you’re likely to do. It’s not just the 3000ft of climbing over 3 miles, or the rocky trail, or the baking heat, or the numerous switchbacks…it’s all of the above, and the fact that you’ve already hike up 5500 ft over the first 6 miles!
When you climb from close to sea level at the desert floor and move your way up the side of a mountain, you get to see the climate change rather dramatically. The flaura and fauna shift right in front of your eyes, and the color palette swirls in front of your eyes leaving you unable to discern reality from a heat stroke fantasy land. We made it to the end of the Skyline Trail and aerial tramway before noon, and were able to grab a tram back down to Palm Springs. It was a great, albiet brutal day of hiking, and I’m looking forward to a lot more as we move into summer.