Trail and water update 18th September 2019

Again I’ve spent the last three days camped in the San Jacinto high country, hiking extensively on the trail system and elsewhere.

Autumnal weather arrived abruptly (and in some style) on Monday evening, with strong, chilly winds dominating the high country for the past two nights. I documented the spectacular cloud effects at sunset on Monday 16th at San Jacinto Peak in a short video, available here on YouTube.

The status of water sources, most of which having experienced significant declines in flow rates in the past couple of weeks, is updated below. The status of highway closures is unchanged and is described at the foot of this posting.

Hikers should be prepared for autumnal temperatures at or below freezing above about 10,000′ elevation (but potentially lower), at least when considering windchill effects.

Spectacular cloud formation south-east of San Jacinto Peak at sunset, 16th September 2019.

WEATHER Autumnal temperatures dominate, accompanied by extremely low humidity and periodic strong winds at the highest peaks. Windchill values at or below freezing overnight, generally above 10,000′ elevation, are now typical. There is a slim chance of some light precipitation currently forecast for next week (23rd-27th September).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 18th September 2019 at 0620 the air temperature was 42.9°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.9°F (-1°C), 7% relative humidity, and a potent SW wind sustained at 27 mph gusting to 31.8 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 17th September 2019 at 0625, the air temperature was 38.0°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 24.2°F (-4°C), 35% relative humidity, and a fresh WSW wind at 17 mph gusting to 26.4 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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance 9th-29th September. Warning signs have been posted at the Ramon and Museum trailheads by friend of the Trail Report, Florian Boyd.

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

Forest Service closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place all year. Consequently, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. State Park has apparently scheduled work this month to remove some or most of these obstructing trees. 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. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of August. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot continues to flow well at about 2.0 gpm.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing steadily. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley continues to flow gently where it crosses the meadow trail, the first time in some seven years that this has flowed all summer.

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

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. It is much more accessible where it is flowing steadily across the Caramba Trail.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing the Deer Springs Trail, 18th September 2019.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing at its strongest in at least six years, but the flow rate continues to decline steadily.

Little Round Valley creek early this morning, 18th September 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 well.

Deer Springs creek where it crosses the PCT/Deer Springs Trail, 18th September 2019.

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

Strawberry Cienega spring is flowing very gently. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment over the winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very weakly now.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well just upstream of the trail. Intermittent diversion by Fern Valley Water District (who unhelpfully refer to it as Tahquitz Creek!) results in the flow across the actual trail being unreliable at present. This creek is 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 weakly. The trail off the PCT to this spring was greatly improved earlier this summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT 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 three crossings, at 1.1 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which continues to flow gently.

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 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 2019 flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging, however the news is encouraging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. This highway is now estimated to reopen on 1st November 2019, with some form of traffic control (details to be determined). Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet reopened full time, but with a pilot car, on 30th August, likely continuing until October.

Trail update 11th September 2019

I’ve spent the last three days camped in the San Jacinto high country, hiking extensively on the trail system and elsewhere. A short vlog from San Jacinto Peak – the first in a while – is on YouTube linked here.

The status of water sources, many of which were rechecked yesterday and today, is basically unchanged from the update linked here, and news on the status of road closures is also described at the foot of that posting.

The thunderstorms of last week refreshed the forest and caused some minor erosion, visible throughout the trail system.

Extensive trail work should be underway this month, with tree clearance crews from various agencies scheduled for upper Deer Springs Trail, the PCT from Spitler to Red Tahquitz, and Seven Pines Trail, at least.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country. Autumnal temperatures are now the norm (see Weather below). Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, are possible in the high country even when such storms are not forecast.

WEATHER Autumnal temperatures (accompanied by extremely low humidity) are here, with windchill values near freezing overnight above 10,000′ elevation. That said, the next few days, including the weekend, will be unseasonably warm, before a return to pleasantly chilly September conditions next week. No notable precipitation is forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 11th September 2019 at 0620 the air temperature was 43.9°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.1°F (2°C), 13% relative humidity, and a brisk due West wind at 12 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 10th September 2019 at 0625, the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 33.4°F (1°C), 9% relative humidity, and a steady WSW wind at 10 mph gusting to 14.9 mph.

Sunset from San Jacinto Peak, 10th September 2019.

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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance 9th-29th September. Warning signs have kindly been posted at the Ramon and Museum trailheads by great friend of the Trail Report, Florian Boyd.

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

Forest Service closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place all year. Consequently, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Willow Creek Trail has had almost all obstructing trees removed this summer. Two trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide are both passable, one on USFS land by a temporary alternate trail, and one on State Park land can be climbed over. This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in June.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. State Park has scheduled work this month to remove some or most of these obstructing trees. 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. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of August. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open.

Trail and weather update 4th September 2019

[UPDATE 6th September: spectacular thunderstorms over the whole mountain yesterday afternoon produced violent precipitation. Trail erosion caused by runoff was widespread all the way to San Jacinto Peak this morning. In Idyllwild we received 0.77″ of rain, most of it in less than 30 minutes, during which we were also bombarded by intense garbanzo bean-sized hail for at least five minutes!]

Ascents of San Jacinto Peak yesterday and Friday included full surveys of the main eastern and western high country trails. Most other trails, and the Tahquitz area meadows, were thoroughly surveyed last week.

The status of water sources, many of which were rechecked yesterday, is unchanged from the last update linked here, and news on the status of road closures is also described at the foot of that posting.

Three storms occurred in the past two days. Relatively light rainfall occurred on Sunday and Monday afternoons (0.03″ and 0.08″ respectively in Idyllwild), though with heavier rain locally in the high country. Pea-sized hail was reported in Little Round Valley on Monday afternoon.

However in between there was a spectacular overnight thunderstorm between about 0130-0300 on Monday 2nd, which produced severe localised rainfall and strong winds. In Idyllwild less than 0.2″ rain fell, but Palm Springs and the Desert Divide recorded about one inch. One cell passed over Pinyon (1.4″ rain) tracking NW over Garner Valley and Lake Hemet. The San Jacinto high country was hardest hit by a very intense storm cell, with 2.46″ of rain in under two hours at Long Valley. Evidence of substantial run-off is obvious on all the high country trails. Colleagues overnighting at Tahquitz Peak fire lookout reported winds in excess of 40mph – even blowing out one of the windows – and hundreds of lightning strikes, none of which thankfully hit the tower itself.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer (as the last few days have demonstrated!). Monsoonal conditions are always a possibility in this season (see Weather below). Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast.

WEATHER Humid, potentially monsoonal, summer weather continues for the next couple of days, with well above-average temperatures for September. At the weekend (7th-8th September) temperatures are forecast to drop dramatically to seasonal norms, and it will start to feel autumnal in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) yesterday, Tuesday 3rd September 2019 at 0815 the air temperature was 52.5°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.0°F (9°C), 68% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze at 4 mph gusting to 8.6 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 30th August 2019 at 0815, the air temperature was 54.0°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.3°F (10°C), 33% relative humidity, and a steady W wind at 9 mph gusting to 11.6 mph.

The creek in Little Round Valley continues to flow, 3rd September 2019.

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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance 9th-29th September.

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

Forest Service closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place all year. Consequently, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Willow Creek Trail has had almost all obstructing trees removed this summer. As of Monday 26th August there remained two trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (one on USFS land is passable by a temporary alternate trail, and one on State Park land can be climbed over). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in June.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. State Park has scheduled work this month to remove some or most of these obstructing trees. 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. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of August. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open.

Trail and water update 28th August 2019

[UPDATE 2nd September 2019: A spectacular overnight thunderstorm between about 0130-0300 this morning produced some intense localised rainfall and severe winds. In Idyllwild less than 0.2″ rain fell, but Palm Springs, Pinyon, and the Desert Divide all recorded about one inch. The San Jacinto high country was hardest hit, with 2.46″ of rain in under two hours at Long Valley. Colleagues overnighting at Tahquitz Peak fire lookout reported severe winds – even blowing out one of the windows – and hundreds of lightning strikes, none of which thankfully hit the tower itself.]

Ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past few days included full surveys of the Willow Creek, Round Valley, and Deer Springs trails among others. The Tahquitz area meadow trail complex was also hiked today in conjunction with a fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak.

The status of water sources, most of which have been checked in recent days, is updated below, and the latest (positive!) news on the status of road closures is also described at the foot of this posting.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoonal conditions are always a possibility in this season (see Weather below). Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not otherwise forecast.

Remain rattlesnake aware. With warmer than average temperatures persisting into late August (and early September apparently), Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes have remained very active. Of note, myself and others have had multiple sightings in the last week or so right around the Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park, and at or near Tahquitz Peak fire lookout.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake near Devil’s Slide trailhead this evening, 28th August 2019.

WEATHER Typical summer weather continues for the foreseeable future, with above-average temperatures for late August. Overnight low temperatures will remain well above-average into September. There is a chance of monsoonal precipitation, most likely in the first few days of September. Wednesday 13th June remains the warmest morning of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) on Monday 26th August 2019 at 0910 the air temperature was 56.1°F (13°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.3°F (12°C), 56% relative humidity, and a light ESE breeze at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 23rd August 2019 at 0815, the air temperature was 53.1°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 46.4°F (8°C), 14% relative humidity, and a steady SSW wind at 12 mph gusting to 17.9 mph.

Just before sunrise on the Willow Creek Trail, 26th August 2019.

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) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

As reported last month, Forest Service 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. Consequently, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Willow Creek Trail has had almost all obstructing trees removed this summer. As of Monday 26th August there remained two trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (one on USFS land is passable by a temporary alternate trail, and one on State Park land can be climbed over). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in June.

The final downed tree on the State Park section of Willow Creek Trail, 26th August 2019. It is fairly easy to climb over at the cut.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. State Park has scheduled work in September to remove some or most of these obstructing trees. 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. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of this month. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot continued to flow well at about 2.0 gpm on 26th August.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing steadily, but flow rates continue to decline. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley continues to flow gently where it crosses the meadow trail, the first time in some seven years that this has flowed all summer.

Creek in Tahquitz Valley at the trail crossing, 28th August 2019.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing gently 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 Meadow, 28th August 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. It is much more accessible where it is flowing steadily across the Caramba Trail.

Candy’s Creek at its crossing of the Caramba Trail, 28th August 2019.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing 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 also flowing well.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing at its strongest in at least six years, but the flow rate continues to decline steadily.

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 well.

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

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing very gently. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment over the winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very weakly now. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, dried up many weeks ago.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well just upstream of the trail. Intermittent diversion by Fern Valley Water District (who erroneously refer to it as Tahquitz Creek!) results in the flow across the actual trail being unreliable at present. This creek is 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 gently. The trail off the PCT to this spring was greatly improved earlier this summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT 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 three crossings, at 1.1 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which continues to flow gently.

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 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 2019 flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging, however the news is encouraging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. This highway is now estimated to reopen on 1st November 2019, with some form of traffic control (details to be determined). Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet reopens full time with a pilot car this Friday 30th August, likely continuing until October. Currently this road is open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays.

Trail update 21st August 2019

Two ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past three days surveyed most of the major trails and water sources on the east and west sides of the mountain. The Tahquitz area meadows were surveyed last week.

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of this month. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open.

Highway 243 just north of Pine Cove has apparently been experiencing some hard closures this week as part of ongoing roadwork. This may affect access to Black Mountain Road and Lake Fulmor during normal business hours for the remainder of this week.

The status of water sources is essentially unchanged from the previous update linked here. Road closures are also described at the foot of that posting.

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

WEATHER Typical summer weather at present. Today is forecast to be the warmest day of the year at San Jacinto Peak, finally surpassing 13th June. Cooler overnight temperatures last weekend made for delightful early morning hikes/runs. Monsoonal conditions, usually in the afternoons, are forecast as a possibility most days next week, starting Saturday 24th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) yesterday, Tuesday 20th August 2019 at 0855, the air temperature was 57.6°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 53.2°F (12°C), 19% relative humidity, and a pleasant due West wind at 8 mph gusting to 16.1 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 18th August 2019 at 0715, the air temperature was 49.7°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.9°F (6°C), 14% relative humidity, and a cool SW wind at 17 mph gusting to 19.4 mph.

The creek in Little Round Valley, 20th August 2019. This is the first time in seven years this creek has flowed into late summer.

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) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

As reported last month, 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.

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Willow Creek Trail has had most obstructing trees removed this summer, and there are fewer than five trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (2-3 on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However at least one of the remaining trees can be a little challenging to hike around (or over, depending on one’s abilities).

Seven Pines Trail has at least 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. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

Trail and water update 13th August 2019

Three ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past five days have covered most of the major trails on the east and west sides of the mountain. The Tahquitz area meadows were surveyed last week.

The status of water sources, most of which have been checked in recent days, is updated below, and the status of road closures is also described at the foot of this posting.

As reported last month, 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.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoonal conditions, most often in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not otherwise forecast.

WEATHER Typical summer weather at present. Slightly cooler overnight temperatures recently have made for delightful early morning hiking. There is no precipitation in the forecast (but see comments above regarding monsoonal storms). Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest morning of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Tuesday 13th August 2019 at 0805, the air temperature was 53.6°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.4°F (10°C), 33% relative humidity, and a pleasant SE wind at 5 mph gusting to 10.8 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 10th August 2019 at 0810, the air temperature was 48.1°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.2°F (5°C), 16% relative humidity, and a fresh SSW breeze at 10 mph gusting to 14.7 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) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

Willow Creek Trail has had most obstructing trees removed this summer, and there are fewer than five trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (2-3 on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However at least one of the remaining trees can be challenging to hike around (or over, depending on one’s abilities).

Seven Pines Trail has at least 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. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot is flowing well.

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

Tahquitz Valley continues to flow well where it crosses the meadow trail.

Creek through Tahquitz Valley, 7th August 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 Meadow, 7th August 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. It is much more accessible where it crosses the Caramba Trail.

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 at its strongest in at least six years, but the flow rate continues to decline steadily.

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 very well.

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, and it is heavily overgrown.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing gently. However the tiny pool between the rocks, good for filtering, was filled with sediment over the winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very weakly now. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, dried up many weeks ago.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well just upstream of the trail. Intermittent diversion by Fern Valley Water District results in the flow across the actual trail being inconsistent at present. This creek is 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 gently. The trail off the PCT to this spring was greatly improved earlier this summer.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT 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 three crossings, at 1.1 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which continues to flow well.

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 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 2019 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. This will not reopen until well into 2020, possibly with a pilot car by spring, but it may be next summer before it fully reopens. The status of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet remains unchanged, namely reopening full time in September but with flagmen and partial single lane traffic. Currently this road is open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It is unclear when it will completely reopen to unhindered access.

The before and after of one of three fire rings removed from Little Round Valley on 5th August 2019. A gentle reminder that no fires are ever permitted in the San Jacinto wilderness.

Trail (and road) update 1st August 2019

Anne and I hiked Marion Mountain Trail to San Jacinto Peak this morning, doing a plant survey and packing out an unconscionable amount of trash. I surveyed trees on Willow Creek Trail yesterday, and hiked the east side trails to San Jacinto Peak on Monday 29th July.

Although not strictly trail-related, the big news concerns our ongoing road situation. Highway 243, closed since the Valentine’s Day flood event, will not reopen until well into next year. The highway “should be open with a pilot car by spring of 2020”, but it will be a year (presumably from now) before it is “back to normal” (per Caltrans, as quoted in Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper, dated today). The status of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet remains unchanged, namely reopening full time in September but with flagmen and partial single lane traffic. Currently this road is open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It is unclear when it will completely return to “normal”.

Water status is not significantly different from last weeks report (linked here), although flow rates continue to decline steadily, and ephemeral sources below 9000′ should no longer be relied upon.

As reported previously, 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.

On Willow Creek Trail there are now only five trees down, in a 0.3 mile section either side of the Forest Service/State Park boundary (four on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a great improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However a couple of the remaining large trees require caution to hike around (or over, depending on preference).

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

WEATHER Typical summer temperatures at present. There is no precipitation in the forecast (but see comments above regarding monsoonal storms). Below-average temperatures are currently forecast for later next week. Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 1st August 2019 at 0820, the air temperature was 52°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.3°F (8°C), 45% relative humidity, and a ligh WSW breeze at 6 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 29th July 2019 at 0735, the air temperature was 55°F (13°C), with a windchill temperature of 50.8°F (10°C), 38% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind at 6 mph gusting to 12 mph.

Willow Creek flowing steadily where it crosses its namesake trail, 31st July 2019.

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.

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is 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 improving treefall situation on Willow Creek Trail is described above.

I last 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 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. Both trails are very indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

Above and below, spectacular high clouds near Hidden Divide, 31st July 2019.