As if competing the brutal Tram Road Challenge race wasn’t enough exercise for one day, my friend Jeff and I followed it up with an extraordinary hike. A hike that included this view!
In order to start the hike, we had to go for a ride…. up the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway. It’s the largest rotating tram car in the world, and it takes you roughly 6,000 feet up into the mountains, in about 10 minutes. I was very excited, because I’d never ridden it before. The Aerial Tramway opened later than usual the day of the race (because of the race), but Jeff and I made it on the first car that headed up.
The views on the ride are spectacular. And because the floor of the tram car rotates, you see in all directions over the course of the ride.
I would ride the Tramway all the time, if I could. That’s what Jeff does. He and his girlfriend Jenny have annual passes, and they come up once or twice a week for a hike or trail run.
My favorite part of this particular ride was seeing, in its entirety, the route of the race I had run a couple hours before. It looks flat from this angle, but it’s not! I traced it in red:
When you get off the tram, you’re approximately 8,500 feet above sea level. There’s a couple restaurants, gift shops, and observation decks, but we were most interested in the 56 miles of hiking trails that radiate out from the Mountain Station. And Jeff knows them like the back of his hand. He suggested a 6-mile loop, and off we went.
SIDEBAR: How was your Halloween? Check out my Halloween costume on Instagram. It’s food-related, and I got tons of compliments!
It’s a whole different world up there. You would never guess you’re in the middle of the desert, because all around you is a tall, thick evergreen forest. It’s often 40 degrees cooler (or more) than down in the city, with lots of shade and fantastic rock formations. It reminded me a lot of the hike I did up in British Columbia a couple months ago.
We hiked the Round Valley loop, with a couple detours. The first was to some campsites surrounding a meadow. Here’s Jeff and me in front of a cabin that’s used as a ranger station.
The trails undulated up and down, and we were hiking between 8,300 and 9,100 elevation. The air is thinner up there, so I got tired more quickly than normal, but none of the uphill parts lasted that long. Altogether, we covered 1,200 feet of elevation gain during the hike. Which, when added to the 2,000 or so we covered during the race, adds up to over 3,000 total for the day!
Later we visited Hidden Lake, which isn’t much of a lake this time of year.
The lake fills up every winter and spring thanks to rainfall and melting snow, and then slowly evaporates in the summer and fall. Some years it evaporates completely, but not this year.
After three hours of hiking and an hour of racing, we were pooped! After riding the Tramway back down, we stopped for lunch and got double cheeseburgers at a place called Crazy Mel’s. Hit the spot!
Then we headed back to Jeff’s place, where I showered and relaxed for a little while. Jeff and Jenny’s cat Brynn took a shine to me, and spent about a half hour resting on my chest.
I have one more food photo to share, of my dinner the night before the race and hike. Jeff and I went to a Palm Springs restaurant called Kaiser Grille, where I had a Greek salad. I asked them to add chicken, and, as always, dressing on the side.
The only other thing I ate while in Palm Springs were the typical things I eat in the morning before a race: a big protein shake, bananas, and coconut water. And after the race, I ate grapes, a yogurt, and a small bag of mixed nuts – all free giveaways at the race expo.
Keep it up, David!
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