PCT from 74 to Tram

General Palm Springs area.

PCT from 74 to Tram

Postby Ellen » Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:26 pm

Stardate: December 12, 2012
Objective: Hike from the PCT on highway 74 to the Palm Springs Tram (32 miles?) and beat the incoming storm.
Crew: Ellen Coleman, Sally Morley and Alison Willet (Sally's daughter)

We met at 2 AM at the base of the tram road and left two cars, then rode with Sally to the trailhead. Our feet hit the trail at 3:15 AM. It was near freezing -- even the blonde polar bear wore gloves, Smartwool shirt over a t-shirt, pants and fleece gloves and hat.

Although we had to focus our headlamps on the trail ahead of us, we could sense that we were missing some gorgeous scenery. We passed the Live Oak Canyon junction after 6.5 -- another trail to add to my list. About 8 miles in, we lost the trail for about 15 minutes :? As it started to get light, we could see that were going to have a spectacular sunrise. Went through a locked gate and wondered whether is was to keep crazy hikers out or in :wink:

The wind started to pick up when the sun rose and annoyed us on and off for the remainder of the hike. In addition to knocking us around, it signifcantly dropped the temperature. After 10.7 miles, we reached the Cedar Springs junction. Sally and I were now back on familiar territory. We descended to Fobes, groaning because we knew would pay for this later. After 15 miles, we passed the Fobes junction and were sad to find that the two wooden chairs were gone :( Had brunch in a sunny area out of the wind.

The wind was in our teeth for the initial climb out of Fobes. Then we reached the leeward side of the ridge and climbing through oaks which had shed most of their leaves. We passed the Spitler junction at 16.9 miles. Our next section (from Spitler to Tahquitz Valley) was 8.5 miles. I love how the PCT snakes back and forth from side to side of the Desert Divide. This helped protect us from the artic gusts and provided fabulous and ever-changing views of the surrounding mountains, ridges, canyons and desert.

This section of the trail is a marvel, parts are literally cut into the side of the mountain. It reminds me of the climb out of Hamilton Lake on the High Sierra Trail. My favorite part is when the trail climbs past Antdell Rock and South Peak. We took our next substantive break near South Peak by an outcropping of rocks that I like -- one resembles a diving board. I heard my iPhone sound -- Hal had texted me to say we were on his favorite part of the trail 8) I tried to text back but it failed to send.

Once again fortified, we continued to climb, knowing that we would soon start wrapping around Red Tahqutiz. The trail finally leveled out, swung to the left (west) and started to descend gently. Once again, the chilly wind was in our teeth. At least we were able to make good time to the Tahquitz Valley junction (25.4 miles). We turned north and dropped into Little Tahquitz Valley, then hiked through Skunk Cabbage meadow to the Willow Creek trail (26.9 miles). I didn't know at the time, but my SPOT signal died in Skunk Cabbage meadow.

I felt like we were finally on the home stretch when we started the climb up to Hidden Divide. The sunset, like sunrise, was spectacular. We donned our headlamps at the Hidden Divide preserve sign. We finally crested Hidden Divide and reached the High trail junction (30.2 miles). I hate descending in the dark, especially when I'm tired. It was a blessing to reach Long Valley and aim for the lights of the Ranger and Tram stations. I went up the cemet switchbacks in beer mode (e.g. quickly), waved at Tram Tim at the boarding area and claimed my just reward -- an Arrogant Bastard beer. Ali and Sally were right behind me but chose non-alcoholic celebratory beverages. Total time 14.5 hours.

Tim told us about the loss of my SPOT signal. Tim and Craig estimated how it would take from Skunk Cabbage meadow and kept looking out the window for us. Fortunately, we arrived within the time estimate, so they didn't have to start searching for us :oops: We are blessed to have such a wonderful tram family. When I thanked Tim, he remarked that we are all lucky to have this mountain which has brought us all together.

Thanks to Sally and Ali for their great company as always. Congratulations to Ali on completing her first ultra-endurance hike. Thanks to the lovely couple who gave us a ride back down the tram road to our cars.

A very special thanks to Hiker Hal. He offered to pick us up if we had to bail out and provided excellent beta on the trail -- it did indeed take longer to do this than to hike the Snow Creek PCT to tram. On short notice, Hal also secured lodging for us at his hotel to rest up before the drive home. I owe you, friend 8)

Miles of smiles,
Ellen
Last edited by Ellen on Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: PCT from 74 to Tram

Postby Hikin_Jim » Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:53 pm

Ellen wrote:even the blonde polar bear wore gloves, Smartwool shirt over a t-shirt, pants and fleece gloves and hat.
Ellen? Pants? :shock:
And yet they claim there's Global Warming. :wink:

Congrats on a really epic hike. I need to get out that way. I've been to South Pk and Antsell Rock but no farther south.

HJ
Backpacking stove reviews and information:  Adventures In Stoving
Personal hiking blog: Hikin' Jim's Blog
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Re: PCT from 74 to Tram

Postby lesper4 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:05 pm

Congratulations to you ladies. We are hiking that section of the HST in 2015 (so freaking far away). I would like to however try the PCT section you speak of that is like it in the near future. Do you have a trail map or can you point me in the direction of access point trail head etc?

Ellen wrote: This section of the trail is a marvel, parts are literally cut into the side of the mountain. It reminds me of the climb out of Hamilton Lake on the High Sierra Trail. My favorite part is when the trail climbs past Antdell Rock and South Peak.
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Postby lesper4 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:42 pm

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Postby bluerail » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:54 pm

Way to go girls! Great tr Ellen, I can only imagine that final slog up hidden divide...great job..that's a lot of walking.
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Postby Ellen » Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:18 pm

Howdy Speedy Steve :)

Thanks so much -- it was a great adventure 8)

Need to go back -- we want to see the section of the PCT from the 74 to Cedar Springs in the daylight :lol:

Miles of smiles,
Ellen
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Postby Sally » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:00 pm

Boy has this ever been a year for crazy accomplishments for us! I thought we had done the maximum after the Snow Creek PCT to the tram, and I figured "Just how much tougher can it get?" Well, this one was REALLY a toughie! Thank you Ellen for all the patience and encouragement. Alison, you are a real trooper! I couldn't pick any better hikin' buddies.

Ali and I were too wrecked to function afterward, and between the efforts of Ellen and Hal, Ali and I had a place to lay our heads for a few hours before retrieving my car from the trailhead and driving home. I can't thank you guys enough!

What a great way to wrap up the year. Maybe there might be a snowshoe excursion in store before the year is up.

I'm gonna go soak in a tub of epsom salts and hit the sack now.
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