Last Saturday, some in our Mt. Kilimanjaro hiking group drove to Mt. San Jacinto for a training hike. Mt. San Jacinto, 10,824 ft. at it's peak, is within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument as well as in San Jacinto State Park.
The peak is accessible from several different points; we took the aerial tram from Palm Springs which carries visitors from 2,648 ft. up the side of a rocky cliff and deposits them at an elevation of 8,516 ft. The glass walled tram rotates, and I would not recommend it to anyone who is afraid of heights. I have been up the tram many times, and the temperature and terrain variation from the bottom to the top never fails to amaze me. We arrived at the tram at 8:15 a.m.: the desert temperature was already in the upper 70s. When we stepped outside at the top, I needed my sweatshirt. Pine trees, large boulders and snow dotted the landscape.
In fact, a very minor portion of our hike was on a dirt trail. We spent most of the day ascending and descending on a snow pack.
From the minute we balanced on a log, crossed a full stream and stepped onto the snow, I knew the hike would be a challenge for me. Daytime temperatures had gotten warm enough to melt the top few inches of the snow, but nighttime temperatures froze the liquid mush. We were on the trail early enough that ice patches still remained in the shadows of the trees.
I couldn't describe in detail the landscape surrounding me for the earliest portion of the hike, as I was intently focused on the "trail" - bootprints left on a narrow ledge by those who went before me. I figured if I didn't acknowledge the slippery slope that ended in the stream, it wouldn't exist. (On the way down, my daughter referred to this portion as the icy balance beam - she slid across it in running shoes.)
Once we left the stream behind, I felt better and enjoyed the climb.
After lunch, our leader decided to continue for a little while longer and we began traversing a snow slide, another of my more challenging moments. When I did look up, the views were spectacular - a pristine blanket of white underfoot and angling down into the pines several hundred yards below and the brown desert in the distance.
We got close to 10,000 ft. elevation, but were unable to reach the peak due to the snow. Our leader also wanted to make sure we descended before the temperature dropped and the snow which had melted during our climb froze again.
I have admitted in previous blogs that I do not like steep downhills - add slippery snow to the mix and...I'll just say I added a whole new dimension to the phrase "inched her way along." At some points, it was easier to sit and slide. My nylon hiking pants held up well I'm happy to report!
When I finally wobbled back across the log again and stepped onto dirt, I felt like the kissing it. I never knew dirt could look so good.
Back at the bottom of the tram, the temperature was nearly 90. Our family went into Palm Springs. I had a huge burger, onion rings and the most delicious cold beer. I figured I deserved it.