At 10,834′ San Jacinto Peak is the highest in Riverside County and one of the tallest in Southern California. John Muir has been quoted as saying about this peak that “The view is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.” I had the opportunity to summit this peak and words are hard to find to describe this incredible “spectacle” I had the privilege to see. But I will give it a try…
Palm Springs: Fun little town located in the desert, surrounded by mountains that are rugged and gorgeous and filled with trails to explore. The weather was beautiful and perfect for hiking. My hiking partner and I set off to hike to the peak, hoping to begin around 10:30 am. We took the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up the mountain, which let us off at 8k feet. We checked in at the ranger station and off we went. I was so excited to finally be hiking this trail, but still had a bit of nervousness about it. Altitude and I don’t always do well together.
The trail was surrounded by trees and boulders for the first 2.2 miles. Still beautiful and parts of it challenging, while other parts quite enjoyable. As we made it to the end of the 2 miles, a clearing appeared in front of us. As we got closer to this clearing, my breath was taken away. The most beautiful view was right in front of me. Blue skies, rolling mountains, scattered clouds, trees lining it all. So incredibly gorgeous. We stopped for a short break and took in the beauty of it all, then took off again.
As we headed up the remaining 3 miles, the terrain grew more steep. The views became more and more incredible. The altitude began having its effects on me in small, but noticeable ways. I remembered to take more frequent breaks as I felt I needed them. Letting myself slowly acclimate to each new level of altitude, was my best shot at getting to the top, I thought to myself. Up we went, climbing switchback after switchback. Every so often I would get a slight feeling of nausea. I breathed through it and continued on, following my awesome hiking partner with the patience of a saint.
This trail is rated “strenuous” and I completely agree with that. As we rounded what we thought was the top, we came to a sign that said .3 miles to the peak. Awesome. I’ve gone this far, what’s another .3 miles? So up we went. We came to the hut where you can take shelter if needed. We took a look inside. Lots of signatures on the walls and ceiling, a place to leave extra food or water for other hikers if you would like, sleeping bags and blankets on bunk beds for anyone who needs a rest.
Then the climb to the top. The last 50′ or so to the peak, consisted of rock scrambling. I started my climb up, following my hiking partner’s path. Suddenly there were a number of other hikers there. Not sure where they all came from, but I found it energizing. Half way up nausea took over. I sat down and closed my eyes focusing on my breathing to get through it.
Altitude and I have a history of failed summits together. I took a deep, frustrated breath and told myself I wasn’t going to let it win this time. I opened my eyes, and found the determination to push past the nausea and finished the climb up.
As I stood on the peak, I noticed how I didn’t feel anything I had just minutes earlier been suffering through. It was replaced with a feeling of accomplishment and a view that was unbelievable. 360 degree view of southern California. On one side was the gorgeous desert mountains, which then came around to the ocean and Catalina Island, and ended with views of the other beautiful mountains in the area. The wind was quite cold and fairly strong. All of the hikers on the peak were smiling and you could just feel joy from everyone up there. We helped others take a picture with the summit sign and had ours done, too. I didn’t want to leave this incredible place, so I soaked it all in and then we started the climb down
I can’t say enough how grateful I am for the ability to be able to do these hikes. I may not always do them with ease and it can be downright ugly at times, but I do them with what my soul has to offer at that moment. I am thankful that through life and its hard knocks, I have found my own way of seeing its beauty. I am grateful to be able to share it with others, too.