Trail and water update 18th July 2019

We surveyed trails to San Jacinto Peak on 15th July (east side) and today (Deer Springs Trail), and my fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak on 16th incorporated a survey of water sources throughout the Tahquitz area meadows. The status of major water sources, trails, and road access, are all detailed below.

As I reported earlier this week, USFS confirmed closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

Be bear aware. Recent observations were described in a recent posting.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Afternoon monsoonal conditions are possible next week. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur around the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Fire season is here. The Meadow Fire as seen from Tahquitz Peak, 16th July 2019, about half-an-hour after it started. Located next to Highway 371 near Cahuilla, this fire was held at 80 acres.

WEATHER Genuine summer temperatures arrived a few days ago, although in keeping with the 2019 trend, this has so far been the coolest July in the San Jacinto mountains for several years. To date, Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak. As mentioned above, thunderstorms are forecast as a possibility every afternoon next week (22nd-26th July).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 18th July 2019 at 0800, the air temperature was 51°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), 12% relative humidity, and a stiff SSW wind at 18 mph gusting to 25.2 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 15th July 2019 at 0730 the air temperature was 50.9°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), 31% relative humidity, and a fresh SW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 23.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) may be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

Dark Canyon Road remains closed for the foreseeable future, with no planned reopening date. Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds also remain closed until 2020.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail has been completed by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire.

Willow Creek Trail had eight of the nine trees down on the State Park section removed on 7th July by the PCTA trail crew. This reduces the total to 11 trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide. This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail about a month ago.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid June and it had 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. When USFS reopened these routes in November 2018 they made it clear they would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and the trails had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). Both are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

Temporary signage installed in late June on the Caramba Trail (misspelled on the sign) indicating that the trail is not maintained, 16th July 2019.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing well at about 2.0 gpm. The new tap installed in June had disappeared by 12th July!

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well, but flow rates have dropped dramatically this month. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley is still flowing well where it crosses the meadow trail.

Tahquitz Valley, where the trail crosses the creek, 16th July 2019.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing strongly at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177).

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Valley (above), and where it crosses the PCT just below its source at Grethe Spring (below), 16th July 2019.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is flowing gently, but is very overgrown with thick vegetation, and is too shallow for easy filtering.

Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the creek crossing, 16th July 2019.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing very well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and even better where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.0).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is flowing well.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years, but flow rate has dropped dramatically this month.

Creek in Little Round Valley, 18th July 2019.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing well.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185) is flowing strongly.

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is now flowing only gently, but there is very little depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing gently.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently, but flow rate is greatly diminished compared to last month. In 2018, this spring had dried up by 1st July. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have now dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing fairly well. See comments above regarding the greatly improved trail to this spring.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. In the past week even the open sections of Highways 74 and 371 have been closed briefly for roadside fires, so always be prepared for additional delays. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may reopen later this year, or not until 2020 (see this excellent article in the Press Enterprise). Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It will not reopen in July as had been hoped. Instead it is expected to open round-the-clock, but still with a flagman and partial single lane traffic, perhaps as early as August.

Above and below: White Bog Orchid (Platanthera dilatata), San Jacinto mountains, 18th July 2019.

Campground closure update 15th July 2019

U. S. Forest Service informed me today that closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road and Campground, will remain in place for the remainder of the season. That presumably means that they will be closed into 2020.

Note that the yellow post campsites along upper Black Mountain Road, and the Fuller Ridge campground, remain open.

Closure of Dark Canyon Road means that there is no vehicle access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is still hikeable, 3.5 miles from the gate to the trailhead).

San Jacinto Ranger District was apparently notified that the limited funds available in the current federal budget year for rehabilitation of these campgrounds and associated access roads have been redirected to fire fighting and suppression.

Other trail and water conditions were updated four days ago, linked here.

Trail update 11th July 2019

I ascended San Jacinto Peak three times in the past two days, surveying the east side, Deer Springs and Fuller Ridge trails en route. Not much new to report, with snow gone but water still flowing well. Other than flow rates slowly declining, the water situation is unchanged from the previous report.

Be bear aware. At least one of the two bears we have had in the San Jacinto mountains since 2017 has been active. One was seen and photographed on Sylvan Way in Pine Cove on 20th June, and one of my neighbors in Idyllwild had one in their yard a few days later. On Saturday 29th June, hikers saw a bear on Devil’s Slide Trail at about 0900.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

WEATHER The cool conditions that characterized June and early July 2019 will be remembered fondly. Genuine summer temperatures are now forecast for the foreseeable future at all elevations. To date, Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year in the high country. No precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) yesterday 10th July 2019 at 0645, the air temperature was 50.1°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 42.4°F (6°C), 33% relative humidity, and a brisk SSE wind at 11 mph gusting to 20.5 mph.

Then by 1320 yesterday again at the Peak, the air temperature was 55.7°F (13°C), with a windchill temperature of 55°F (12°C), 48% relative humidity, and a very light NE breeze at 1 mph gusting to 4.8 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, are free of snow. This now includes the East Ridge Trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) may be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

Dark Canyon Road remains closed for the foreseeable future, with no planned reopening date. Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail has been completed by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire.

Willow Creek Trail had eight of the nine trees down on the State Park section removed on 7th July by the PCTA trail crew. This reduces the total to 11 trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide. This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail about a month ago.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid June and it had 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. New signage to this effect has just been mounted. When USFS reopened these routes in November 2018 they made it clear they would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and the trails had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). Both are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise very cautious navigation.

Newly posted warning signage at the junction of the Cedar and Willow Creek trails, 2nd July 2019.

Trail and water update 3rd July 2019

The streak ends today at 33. Having ascended San Jacinto Peak every day in June and for the first three days of July, it is time for sanity to prevail. It has been a remarkably enjoyable month-plus, and a challenge, mentally as much as physically. I talk much more (too much, sorry) about the streak in a video I recorded at the Peak early this morning.

In other news, the snow has gone from the trail network. Trail, road, and water source news is all outlined below.

Be bear aware. At least one of the two bears we have had in the San Jacinto mountains since 2017 has put in a reappearance. One was seen and photographed on Sylvan Way in Pine Cove on 20th June, and one of my neighbors off South Circle Drive in Idyllwild had one in their yard a few days later. Then on Saturday 29th June, hikers saw a bear on Devil’s Slide Trail at about 0900. Black Bears have been harmless to humans up here in recent history.

For those interested in obscure history factoids, 3rd July is the feast day for Hyacinth of Caesarea. A Christian boy living some 1900 years ago, he was martyred by the Romans, becoming Saint Hyacinth (the first of at least three Saint Hyacinths). San Jacinto is Spanish for Saint Hyacinth, hence many locations around here are named for him, including the mountains and the Peak.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Looking NNW toward San Gorgonio from San Jacinto Peak, early morning on Saturday 29th June 2019.

WEATHER The relatively cool conditions that characterized June 2019 look set to continue until about 10th July, when true midsummer temperatures are forecast to take hold. Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year so far in the high country. On average it was the coolest June in Idyllwild and in the high country for nearly a decade (and I could not have been more fortunate with the weather for my ascent record month). No precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 3rd July 2019 at 0745, the air temperature was 49.1°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 42.4°F (6°C), 21% relative humidity, and a light due West wind at 6 mph gusting to 9 mph.

The last two days of June were the coolest for a week, with spectacular cloud cover in the early mornings (photos above and below), and Anne and I even got lightly rained on in Little Round Valley and at the Peak on Saturday 29th.

For example, at San Jacinto Peak on Sunday 30th June 2019 at 0730 the air temperature was 46°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 35.9°F (2°C), 46% relative humidity, and a chilly SW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 22.7 mph.

Yet another great cloud day. Looking SSE toward Toro Peak from San Jacinto Peak, early morning on Sunday 30th June 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, are free of snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak has only six tiny patches remaining on the trail, which can literally be stepped over.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) may be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

Dark Canyon Road remains closed for the foreseeable future. Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail has been completed by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire.

Another ACE crew recently completed six days work on Devil’s Slide Trail, smoothing out some of the rocky sections with dirt. It will be interesting to see how their work holds up in the next serious rainfall.

Willow Creek Trail had 18 trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide yesterday, 2nd July (nine each on USFS and State land). The USFS volunteer tree have been working hard (thanks Steve and Jana!), and another team will be dealing with the State Park side on 7th July.

Seven Pines Trail was surveyed in mid June and has 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled for many months, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. New signage to this effect has just been mounted. When USFS reopened these routes in November 2018 they made it clear they would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and the trails had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). Both are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise very cautious navigation.

Newly posted warning signage at the junction of the Cedar and Willow Creek trails, 2nd July 2019.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing well (once you turn the tap on). Flow rate on 2nd July was just over 2.0 gpm, which is as strong as it gets. [UPDATE 12th July 2019: the new tap has been removed! Water is back to gushing from the pipe uncontrollably. Thanks to Florian Boyd for this information.]

Round Valley spigot flowing well, yesterday 2nd July 2019, with shiny new tap installed last month (please turn off after use).

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well, but flow rates have dropped considerably in the last two weeks. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Willow Creek where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail, early morning 2nd July 2019.

Tahquitz Valley is just still flowing.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177).

Skunk Cabbage Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing well.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing very well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and even better where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is flowing well.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years, but flow rate has halved in the past week.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing well.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing strongly, as are several nearby seasonal tributaries.

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well, but there is little depth in which to filter water.

Switchback Spring on 1st July 2019.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing well.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing well, but flow rate is only a few percent compared to less than a month ago. In 2018, this spring had dried up by 1st July. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have now dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing fairly well. See comments above regarding the greatly improved trail to this spring.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may reopen this autumn, winter, or even not until 2020 (see this excellent article in the Press Enterprise). Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It will not reopen without restrictions in late July as had been hoped. Instead it is expected to open round-the-clock but with a flagman and partial single lane traffic, perhaps sometime next month.

Trail and water update 26th June 2019

As nonsensical as it seems, I have continued to ascend San Jacinto Peak every morning this month, by as many diverse routes as possible. For example on Monday I descended via Fuller Ridge Trail (having ascended from Saddle Junction), hiking part way – and getting a ride back to Idyllwild – with Florian Boyd who had manned Black Mountain fire lookout the previous day. On Tuesday we took a long circuitous route to the Peak via Willow Creek Trail, Hidden Divide, and Round Valley. Today, a quick up-and-down from Humber Park.

The snow has (virtually) gone from the trail network. A few tiny patches remain on the East Ridge Trail only.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) may be useful for deciding whether to try to scramble around the rockslide.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail has been completed by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire.

Another ACE crew has just completed six days work on Devil’s Slide Trail, smoothing out some of the rocky sections with dirt. It will be interesting to see how their work holds up in the next serious rainfall.

Dark Canyon Road remains closed for the foreseeable future. Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July.

The status of various water sources is updated below. Also updated at the foot of this posting are the highway conditions (bad news for most readers).

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Sensational cloud-spotting yesterday 25th June 2019 from San Jacinto Peak, with Altocumulus, Cirrus, Cirrostratus, and Cirrocumulus (and other types) all on fine display.

WEATHER Delightfully cool June temperatures continue for the rest of the month (and into the first few days of July)! Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year so far in the high country. On average this has been the coolest June in Idyllwild and in the high country for nearly a decade. No precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 26th June 2019 at 0845, the air temperature was 49°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.8°F (6°C), 19% relative humidity, and a light SSW wind at 7 mph gusting to 13.7 mph.

The coolest day at the Peak since 9th June was on Saturday 22nd June, when at 0750 the air temperature was 37.4°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 23.9°F (-5°C), 48% relative humidity, and a stiff NE wind of 14 mph gusting to 24.5 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, are free of snow, with a couple of very minor exceptions.

Deer Springs Trail There are a few tiny snow patches through Little Round Valley but it is snow-free from there to San Jacinto Peak. The campsites in LRV are snow-free.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 10% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 1-2 feet deep, but it is possible to follow almost the entire trail route without crossing drifts.

Note that as of my survey on 25th June, Willow Creek Trail has 26 trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide. However this morning I passed to the USFS volunteer tree crew (Steve and Jana) who were going to start work on the 18 on the USFS side. Another team will apparently be working on the eight on the State Park side very soon.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail on behalf of the State Park two weeks ago, and it has 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled for many months, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

Black Mountain Road is easily passable, albeit a little bumpy in places, through to at least Fuller Ridge campground.

A reminder that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba is not maintained. When USFS reopened the trail in November 2018 they made it clear that it would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and it had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). The trail is indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should exercise very cautious navigation.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing well. It was fitted with a new tap on 13th June (please turn it off after use). Flow rate yesterday (25th June) was about 2.0 gpm, which is as strong as it gets.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well, but flow rates have dropped considerably in the last two weeks. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley is flowing.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177).

Skunk Cabbage Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing well.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing very well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and even better where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is flowing well.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing well.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing very strongly, as are several nearby seasonal tributaries.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well, but there is little depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is flowing well.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing well, but flow rate is only 10% compared to less than a month ago. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have functionally dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing fairly well. See comments above regarding the greatly improved trail to this spring.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may reopen this autumn, winter, or even not until 2020 (see this excellent article in the Press Enterprise). Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends. It will not reopen without restrictions in late July as had been hoped. Instead it is expected to open round-the-clock but with a flagman and partial single lane traffic, perhaps sometime next month.

Trail update 20th June 2019

I have continued to ascend San Jacinto Peak daily this month, by as many diverse routes as possible. This morning for example I started my hike on Fuller Ridge Trail. Following the great work of the PCT Section B Trail Crew last week, this trail is completely free of obstacles for the first time in years. Key pieces of news are as follows.

The snow has virtually gone. It is now possible to ascend the Peak by several different routes without putting a foot on snow. The couple of persistent on-trail areas where tiny patches of snow remain – mainly Little Round Valley and East Ridge – are described briefly below. Obviously additional traction (e.g., microspikes) is no longer required in the San Jacinto high country.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS informed me yesterday that an explosives team has been requested for later in the year. Obviously that work will close the trail for some considerable time in due course. Hikers continue to let me know that the video report from late May (available here) is useful for deciding whether to try to scramble around the rockslide.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail is being completed this week by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire. The average gradient has also been lowered slightly.

Another ACE crew started work yesterday on Devil’s Slide Trail, dealing with the minor rockfall areas caused by this winter and the flood event on Valentine’s Day.

Dark Canyon Road remains closed, apparently due to a combination of flood damage (see photos in prior report) and plague reported in the ground squirrel population in that area (the latter has become an annual event). Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July.

The status of various water sources was updated in a previous report. While there has been no dramatic change since then, I have noticed decreases in flow rates in most creeks and springs in the past week or so. Also, the Round Valley pipe had a new spigot added last week.

Be rattlesnake aware. The San Jacinto form of the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake is the second most dangerous animal in the high country (after your fellow human beings). They have a neurotoxic venom, which is considerably more life-threatening than the haemotoxic venom of many lower elevation rattlesnakes. They are now active, especially below 9000′ elevation (and Anabel and I encountered one at 9100′ yesterday).

Alpine Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon alpinum) staring to bloom at their eponymous spring, on Deer Springs Trail just below Little Round Valley, 18th June 2019.

WEATHER Temperatures have been a few degrees cooler in recent days – 12th June was the warmest day of the year so far in the high country – and look set to remain that way for the rest of June. On average this has been the coolest June in Idyllwild and in the high country for several years. No precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 20th June 2019 at 1045, the air temperature was 49°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 45.3°F (8°C), 47% relative humidity, and a cool due West wind at 9 mph gusting to 18.4 mph.

At the Peak yesterday 19th June 2019 at 0855, the air temperature was 50.1°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43.7°F (6°C), 43% relative humidity, and a brisk NE wind sustained at 7 mph, gusting to 17.0 mph.

The coolest day at the Peak since 9th June was on Tuesday 18th June, when at 0855 the air temperature was 45.1°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 35.2°F (2°C), 60% relative humidity, and a stiff NE wind of 16 mph gusting to 20.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail, including Fuller Ridge, is clear of snow throughout the San Jacinto mountains. Water is currently abundant and widespread.

Deer Springs Trail There are only tiny snow patches through Little Round Valley but it is snow-free from there to San Jacinto Peak. The campsites in LRV are now snow-free.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat is clear of snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 20% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 2-3 feet deep, but it is largely possible to follow the trail route.

Round Valley trail to Wellman Divide is now clear of snow.

Devil’s Slide, South Ridge, Willow Creek, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Ernie Maxwell, High, Long Valley, and Skyline trails are all clear of snow.

Note that as of 5th June, Willow Creek Trail has 27 trees down on the trail between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide, making it slow going and a little hazardous in places. The relevant agencies have been notified.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail on behalf of the State Park last week, and it has 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled for many months, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

South Ridge Road is clear and has been graded, but may require 4WD very near the top due to mud.

Black Mountain Road is easily passable, albeit a little bumpy in places, through to at least Fuller Ridge campground.

A reminder that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba is not maintained. When USFS reopened the trail in November 2018 they made it clear that it would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and it had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). The trail is indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should exercise very cautious navigation.

Trail update 13th June 2019

I have ascended San Jacinto Peak daily this month, by as many diverse routes as possible. This has included almost all the PCT above 8000′ in the region, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, and Willow Creek trails, Round Valley, plus Tahquitz Peak and the Tahquitz area meadows. Today’s ascent surpassed my record set last September for consecutive days summiting San Jacinto Peak (currently at 13). I recorded a short vlog at the Peak this morning, available here on YouTube. Key pieces of news are as follows.

The snow has virtually gone. It is now almost possible to ascend the Peak by several different routes without putting a foot on snow. The couple of persistent on-trail areas where snow remains – mainly Little Round Valley and East Ridge – are described below. Obviously additional traction (e.g., microspikes) is no longer required in the San Jacinto high country.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5), as reported on 10th June. The video report from late May (available here) may be useful for deciding whether to try to scramble around the rockslide.

Dark Canyon Road is closed, apparently due to flood damage (see photos below). This means Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds remain closed until at least late July. They have a revised tentative reopening date of 25th July.

The status of various water sources was updated in a previous report. and there has been no significant change since then. Most creeks and springs are currently flowing at their best rates in nearly a decade, with many additional ephemeral sources also flowing. [UPDATE: just after I took the photo below, the Round Valley pipe had a new spigot added. Thanks to Florian Boyd for this information.]

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Be rattlesnake aware. The San Jacinto form of the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake is the second most dangerous animal in the high country (after human beings). They have a neurotoxic venom, which is considerably more life-threatening than the haemotoxic venom of many lower elevation rattlesnakes. They are now active, especially below 9000′ elevation.

The pipe at Round Valley yesterday 12th June 2019. Flow rate is about 2 gpm. A new spigot was added on 13th June to control flow.

WEATHER Temperatures will remain summer-like for the foreseeable future – it is now summer, after all – but most of the next week will be a few degrees cooler than the past couple of days. No precipitation is in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 13th June 2019 at 0925, the air temperature was 59°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 55°F (13°C), 11% relative humidity, and a light SW breeze at 3 mph gusting to 5.4 mph.

At the Peak yesterday 12th June 2019 – the warmest day of the year so far at this altitude – at 0925, the air temperature was 59°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 58°F (14.5°C), 43% relative humidity, and a very light SW breeze sustained at 1 mph, gusting to 5.8 mph.

The last recent cool day at the Peak was Sunday 9th June, when at 0655 the air temperature was 41.9°F (5.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.1°F (-0.5°C), 49% relative humidity, and a stiff East wind of 17 mph gusting to 22.5 mph.

California Groundcone (Boschniakia strobilacea) recently emerged at about 8800′ elevation. This remarkable plant has no need for chlorophyll, parasitizing the roots of manzanita.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail, including Fuller Ridge, is clear of snow through the San Jacinto mountains. [UPDATE 14th June: the PCT Section B Trail Crew cleared the remaining six downed trees on Fuller Ridge today, meaning the Fuller Ridge Trail is completely clear of obstructions.]

Deer Springs Trail There are only tiny snow patches from about 8800′ to well above the Fuller Ridge Trail turning at about 9700′. Snow remains more continuous (30% cover) through Little Round Valley but it is virtually snow-free from there to just below San Jacinto Peak. The campsites in LRV are now snow-free.

Tahquitz Peak trail from the PCT/ Chinquapin Flat is clear of snow.

East Ridge Trail from near Miller Peak to San Jacinto Peak remains 50% snow-covered, with some drifted areas still 2-3 feet deep. Descending this route yesterday was largely an exercise in postholing through (flavorless) soft serve ice cream.

Round Valley trail to Wellman Divide has about 10% snow cover in its upper section near the Divide.

Devil’s Slide, South Ridge, Willow Creek, Marion Mountain, Seven Pines, Ernie Maxwell, High, Long Valley, and Skyline trails are all clear of snow.

Note that as of 5th June, Willow Creek Trail has 27 trees down on the trail between Saddle Junction and Hidden Divide, making it slow going and a little hazardous in places. The relevant agencies have been notified.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail on behalf of the State Park today, and it has 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled for many months, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

South Ridge Road is clear and has been graded, but may require 4WD very near the top due to mud.

Black Mountain Road is easily passable through to at least Fuller Ridge campground.

A reminder that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba is not maintained. When USFS reopened the trail in November 2018 they made it clear that it would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and it had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). The trail is indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should exercise very cautious navigation.

Dark Canyon Road, 13th June 2019.
Dark Canyon Road damage (above) on the paved section to the Dark Canyon campground, and (below) on the dirt section to the Seven Pines trailhead.