Trail update 14th December 2018

Great news for local hiking! With effect tomorrow, Saturday 15th December, the U.S. Forest Service has reopened the Pacific Crest Trail (from Spitler Peak to Tahquitz Valley) and South Ridge Trail, that had been closed due to the Cranston Fire (the section of the PCT was also previously closed since the July 2013 Mountain Fire). The snow status of the South Ridge Trail is updated below. South Ridge Road is also reopening.

Also reopening are the Caramba and Cedar trails that were closed by the 2013 Mountain Fire. However those will remain unmaintained. They are somewhat overgrown, and navigation will be difficult for those who were not familiar with those trails prior to their closure.

The trail and road system around May Valley remains closed.

Today we took a circuitous hike to Tahquitz Peak (in order to check the trail on it’s north side). On both Wednesday and Monday we hiked to San Jacinto Peak, with diversions to assess side trails. An overview of last week’s storm and initial snow depths is at the 7th December report linked here.

All high elevation trails (>8000′) remain largely or completely snow-covered. With unusually mild weather, melting continues to be extensive, with many inches of snow depth lost at all elevations in the past week. A few challenging sections of trail remain however. Strong winds in the high country in the last few days have caused substantial drifting which has partly obscured some trails that were easily followed just 2-4 days ago. These include all the trails around San Jacinto peak above 10,300′, and the trail to Tahquitz Peak from Chinquapin Flat.

Microspikes are recommended on most trails above about 7500′ at this time (see details below). They are usually most valuable in the early morning when conditions may be most icy, and for descending.

Snowshoes are currently useful only for (I) travel off-trail, (ii) Deer Springs Trail between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak, (iii) and on those trails that have not been traveled since last week (listed below).

Despite relatively mild conditions at present, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat has an average depth of about 11″ of snow. However there has been heavy drifting in the past couple of days, and some sections are about 20-24″ deep, completely obscuring the consolidated trail from last weekend. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for those of us who want the snow to stick around), conditions are currently so mild overnight that the snow is not icy. This morning, the consolidated soft snow conditions were perfect for traversing this trail in microspikes with an ice axe. By the end of this weekend, another clearer trail may be in place. Microspikes (with poles or preferably an ice axe) are recommended. I would discourage the use of snowshoes on this section (the 35 degree slope makes it very challenging), and do not carry an ice axe if you aren’t familiar with how to use it.

Trail from Chinquapin Flat to Tahquitz Peak mid-morning today, 14th December 2018. If that doesn’t look like fun to you, probably best to turn back.

South Ridge Trail is almost entirely clear of snow from the top of South Ridge Road to Old Lookout Flat (the plateau at 7800′), and microspikes are not required. From 7800′ to Tahquitz Peak the trail is almost continuously snow-covered, with about 2″ depth lower down, rising to 4-6″ nearer Tahquitz Peak. There are some deeper drifts on the uppermost switchbacks. Depending on the firmness of the snow, microspikes are not necessary for ascending, but they are useful for descending to about 8000′.

Eastern slope trails All the main trails have been well traveled and are well consolidated. Consequently snowshoes are not required (except for the situations described above), and microspikes are adequate.

This includes all the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, and the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak (in fact the latter has been much more heavily traveled and is more consolidated than the Peak Trail).

Western slope trails These have been much less traveled than the east side, and as such require much more care and are slower going.

Based on visible tracks, only a handful of hikers have traversed between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak since last week’s storm, and as such there is no clear, consolidated trail. Snowshoes are advisable.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail show no signs of use since last week’s storm, so route finding will be very challenging for those not fully familiar with these trails.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow below Strawberry Junction (8100′), and microspikes are not essential.

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7700′, and some hikers will find microspikes are not required below that elevation. Saddle Junction (now about 5-6″) has lost about half of its snow depth since the storm one week ago.

Weather Regrettably, above-average temperatures will continue for the foreseeable future (they’re even forecast to get a bit warmer next week). The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on both Monday and Wednesday mornings was slightly warmer than in Idyllwild at dawn! Steady melting will continue, especially on slopes exposed to direct sun.

At San Jacinto Peak on Wednesday 12th December, at 0930 the air temperature was 34.6°F (1.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.3°F (-6°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate 8 mph NW wind gusting to 20 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 10th December, at 0920 the air temperature was 37.5°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 25°F (-4°C), only 9% relative humidity, and a steady 15 mph SW wind gusting to 20 mph.

Trail and snow update 10th December 2018

We hiked to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park via Wellman Divide this morning, descending via Deer Springs Trail, with several diversions to assess side trails. I used microspikes only, although these were not ideal for uppermost Deer Springs Trail.

An overview of last week’s storm and snow depths is at the previous report linked here.

All high elevation trails (>7500′) remain snow-covered. Melting has been extensive, with several inches of snow depth lost at all elevations in just the past three days.

Microspikes are recommended on all trails above about 7500′ at this time (see details below). They are especially valuable in the morning before diurnal melting has started, and for descending.

Snowshoes are useful only for travel off-trail, for Deer Springs Trail between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak, and on those trails that have not been traveled since last week (listed below).

Despite mild conditions at present, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures around freezing above about 8000′ (at lower elevations on some days), and below freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Eastern slope trails All the main trails have been well traveled and are well consolidated. Consequently snowshoes are not required (except for the situations described above), and microspikes are adequate.

This includes all the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, the Sid Davis Trail, and the East Ridge Trail on San Jacinto Peak (in fact the latter has been more heavily traveled and is more consolidated than the Peak Trail).

Western slope trails These have been much less traveled than the east side, and as such require much more care and are slower going.

Based on visible tracks, only a handful of hikers have traversed between Little Round Valley and San Jacinto Peak since last week’s storm, and as such there is no clear, consolidated trail. Snowshoes are advisable.

Fuller Ridge Trail and Seven Pines Trail show no signs of use since last week’s storm, so route finding will be very challenging for those not fully familiar with these trails.

Deer Springs Trail is largely clear of snow below Strawberry Junction (8100′), and microspikes are not essential. Strawberry Junction lost about a quarter of its snow depth since Friday (now at about 6″).

Devil’s Slide Trail is largely clear of snow below 7500′, and some hikers will find microspikes are not essential below that elevation. Saddle Junction lost about one third of its snow since Friday (now 7-8″ depth).

Tahquitz Peak trail from Chinquapin Flat has about 12″ of icy snow. It was well traveled at the weekend and has a reasonable trail to follow with extreme care. Microspikes (and poles or an ice axe) are strongly recommended.

Photos: (above) The Peak Trail above Wellman Divide early this morning, 10th December, with (below) the same view from 7th December.

Weather Regrettably, above-average temperatures will continue for the foreseeable future. The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak this morning was slightly warmer than in Idyllwild at dawn! Steady melting will likely continue, especially on exposed slopes and below about 9000′.

There is a slim possibility of light precipitation on Monday 17th, after which a continuing unseasonal warming trend is forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 10th December, at 0920 the air temperature was 37.5°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 25°F (-4°C), only 9% relative humidity, and a steady 15 mph SW wind gusting to 20 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 7th December, at 1030 the air temperature was 21°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 100% relative humidity, and a moderate 12 mph NNE wind gusting to at least 14 mph.

More snow! 7th December 2018

I hiked to San Jacinto Peak on the morning of Wednesday 5th (to get some “before storm” photos), and snowshoed up and back today in spectacular conditions. Special thanks to Kyle Eubanks for reporting snow conditions as he descended the west side (while I ascended the east).

The latest Trail Report video:

We got a good storm! Literally the best snowfall up here in two years. All mid- and high-elevation trails are snow-covered at present. Snow accumulated above about 7000′ elevation (see details below). There was about 7-8″ of new snow at 8000′, and around 12″ at and above 9000′.

Snowshoes are useful above about 8000′, and strongly recommended above 9000′.

Microspikes are recommended on all trails above about 6500′ elevation at this time.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing above about 7000′ (at lower elevations on some days), and below freezing at the highest elevations (well below freezing when considering windchill effects). (See weather data below.)

Measured snow depths are as follows. These are total depths, (including the existing snow from the storm last week). These are averages, deeper wind-blown drifts will be encountered, especially at higher elevatons.

Eastern side: Wellman Divide 22″, Annie’s Junction 18″ (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction), Saddle Junction 11″, Humber Park 0.5″.

Western side: Strawberry Junction 8″, Marion Mountain Trail (top) 12″, Fuller Ridge Trail at junction with Deer Springs 14″, Little Round Valley 18″.

San Jacinto Peak: 24-30″.

The Peak “trail” above Wellman Divide early this morning, 7th December 2018.

Weather It started snowing lightly at 1000 on Wednesday as I descended past Wellman Divide. It rained almost continuously in Idyllwild from Wednesday morning to Thursday night, for a total of 1.88″ at 5550′ elevation. The weather system was unusually warm, so snowfall was confined to above 7500′ until Thursday night when it descended to 6500′ (but left very little snow at that elevation).

At San Jacinto Peak today, Friday 7th December, at 1030 the air temperature was 21°F (-8°C), with a windchill temperature of 5.8°F (-15°C), 100% relative humidity, and a moderate 12 mph NNE wind gusting to at least 14 mph.

At the Peak on Wednesday 5th December, at 0915 the air temperature was 27.7°F (-3°C), with a windchill temperature of 10°F (-13°C), 48% relative humidity, and a strong 18 mph SW wind gusting to 26 mph.

The bad news is that unusually warm (for December) conditions are forecast for much of the next week or so. Melting was already rapid as I descended below 9000′, and Kyle reported that on lower Deer Springs Trail “the whole trail was a river”. Considerable melting at the lower elevations that currently have snow, and in areas that are exposed to direct sun, is to be expected.

Photos: (above) the view from San Jacinto Peak towards Jean Peak and Marion Mountain on Wednesday morning 5th December, and (below) the same view today.

Photos: (above) the trail junction sign at Wellman Divide (9700′) on Wednesday morning 5th December, and (below) the same view today, 7th December.

Photos: (above) the north spring at Wellman’s Cienega on Wednesday morning 5th December, and (below) the same view today, 7th December.

Snow update 3rd December 2018

[UPDATE Thursday 6th Dec: By 1100 there had been 1.2″ rain at 5550′ in Idyllwild, where it has been raining almost continuously since Wednesday morning. I took a quick hike yesterday morning to San Jacinto Peak, where it started snowing as we descended past Wellman Divide at 10 a.m. Then there was on/off light snow down to Humber Park. However it is a very mild system, coming from the SSW, and it is now raining at Humber Park with the snow level at about 7200′. Current forecasts suggest about 5″ inches of additional snow may fall at San Jacinto Peak today. Next full blog update will be post-storm on Friday 7th December.]

We hiked up to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail and Wellman’s Divide this morning, and messed around in uppermost Snow Creek, to assess the status of melting and any changes in snow depths.

Trail conditions The snow situation is largely unchanged from the previous report of 30th November linked here. Please read that report for details. Snow depths at locations above 7500′ were largely unchanged.

Sufficient foot traffic on all major trails means that these are now relatively easy to follow. This includes Deer Springs Trail through Little Round Valley, and the Long Valley and Round Valley trails, all through to San Jacinto Peak.

Although it only received about 6″ of snow last week, the north side of Tahquitz Peak is quite treacherous, including the section of trail between Chinquapin Flat and Tahquitz Peak. It can be especially dangerous when descending from Tahquitz Peak, and in the morning when icy.

Extensive melting was taking place below 7500′ later this morning on sections of trail exposed to direct sun, such as lower Devil’s Slide, where the snow was becoming very patchy.

Microspikes are currently recommended on all trails above about 7000′ elevation. They are especially useful in the morning when snow is hard and icy, and when descending.

Weather At San Jacinto Peak today, Monday 3rd December, at 0945 the air temperature was a relatively mild 28°F (-2°C), but with a frigid windchill temperature of 8.3°F (-13°C), 58% relative humidity, and a stiff 18 mph WSW wind gusting to 31 mph.

Hikers should now be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing above about 7000′ (at lower elevations on some days), and below freezing at the highest elevations (but much colder when considering windchill effects).

Water conditions Early this morning both Jolley and Middle springs were flowing on Devil’s Slide Trail, both useful water sources for the many dogs walked on this trail. Wellman’s Cienega (9300′) was partly unfrozen and flowing well at the springs this morning.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 3rd December 2018.

Snow! 30th November 2018

[UPDATE 1st December: Anne and Anabel King report about 6″ of icy snow in the Tahquitz Peak area. The snow level started around 7200′, but was melting quickly in areas exposed to direct sun below 8000′. Microspikes were essential in the very icy conditions.]

I spent the last two days around San Jacinto Peak enjoying the storm system that came through yesterday, before I descended this morning via Deer Springs Trail. Many thanks to friend of the Trail Report Kyle Eubanks who joined me at the Peak last night and descended to the Tram this morning, providing the snow depth data for the eastern side.

Videos: (above) a quick summary of the weather at San Jacinto Peak early this morning, (below) a panorama from the Peak at sunrise today.

All mid- and high-elevation trails are snow-covered at present. Snow accumulated above about 6000′ elevation on the southern and western sides of the mountain, and above about 7000′ on the eastern side. Very strong westerly winds last night caused heavy drifting on eastern slopes.

Already by noon today, extensive melting was taking place below 8000′ on exposed slopes, and some trails, such as lower Deer Springs and Devil’s Slide, were starting to become a sloppy mess. These areas will become very icy overnight, and microspikes will be invaluable this weekend at least.

Microspikes are recommended on all trails above about 7000′ elevation at this time. Snowshoes may be useful for some hikers above about 9000′ (and possibly at lower elevations depending on personal preference).

Measured snow depths are as follows (these are average accumulations, deeper drifts will be encountered).

Eastern side: Long Valley 6″, Round Valley 6″, Wellman Divide 8″, Annie’s Junction 6.5″ (State Park boundary north of Saddle Junction).

Western side: Saddle Junction 4″, Strawberry Junction 3″, Marion Mountain Trail (top) 4″, Fuller Ridge Trail at junction with Deer Springs 5″, Little Round Valley 6″.

San Jacinto Peak: 12″ (drifts to 18″).

The view south-east from San Jacinto Peak just after sunrise, 30th November 2018.

Weather It started snowing at San Jacinto Peak yesterday at about 0830, continuing until around midnight. In Idyllwild it started raining before sunrise yesterday, accumulating a total of 2.66″ at 5550′ by this morning. All stations at mid elevations on the mountain received about an inch or more of rain, with many recording more than two inches.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Friday 30th November, at 0620 the air temperature was 17°F (-10°C), with a windchill temperature of -8°F (-23°C), 100% relative humidity, and a howling 25 mph WSW wind gusting to at least 39 mph.

Hikers should now be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing above about 7000′ (at lower elevations on some days), and well below freezing at the highest elevations (even colder when considering windchill effects).

There is currently a high probability of precipitation at all elevations next week (5th-6th December).

Water conditions Obviously the water situation is no longer the concern that it has been for the past 6-7 months. Updates will only be given when there is something noteworthy to report (e.g., the Round Valley faucet starts flowing). However, finding flowing water can be a challenge as most water sources above 9000′ may be completely frozen, at least in the morning.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River at Deer Springs Trail, 30th November 2018. The stream at about 9600′ was completely frozen and covered in drifted snow.
Switchback Spring on Deer Springs Trail, 30th November 2018. Water was trickling here at about 8150′ elevation.

Rain and ice 22nd November 2018

[UPDATE Major snowfall is forecast for Thursday 29th November, above about 6500′ elevation. This will be accompanied by extreme westerly winds and severe cold. Snowfall could reach two feet deep in the highest elevations. The Trail Report will be updated on Friday 30th with full details.]

We hiked to San Jacinto Peak today from Humber Park via Wellman’s Divide, then descended via Deer Springs Trail. Earlier in the week we hiked to San Jacinto Peak and Tahquitz Peak on different days.

The first of the videos below describes the weather situation this morning, and the second is a panorama from San Jacinto Peak just after 0900 this morning.

Weather A relatively mild frontal system came through in the early hours of this morning, bringing rain to the entire mountain between about 0200-0800. We had 0.58″ at 5550′ elevation in Idyllwild, but higher elevations received less (only 0.13″ in Long Valley). Rain fell all the way to San Jacinto Peak, but above 9300′ it was freezing rain, and especially above 9900′ everything was plastered with ice (about 0.25″ thick all over San Jacinto Peak). There was a hint of very fine icy snow, mainly above 10,400′, but insufficient to be measured. The sun was already poking through by about 0800 above 9300′ this morning, and ice was already starting to melt at the Peak despite the frigid temperature.

Hikers should anticipate temperatures near freezing in the high country (>8000′) and at or below freezing at the high peaks (well below freezing with windchill).

The possibility of another, colder, frontal system is forecast for the last couple of days of November and the 1st/2nd of December.

At San Jacinto Peak today, Thursday 22nd November, at 0900 the air temperature was 23°F (-5°C), with a windchill temperature of 0.1°F (-18°C), 100% relative humidity, and a bitter 16 mph SW wind gusting to 27.5 mph.

On Sunday 18th November at 0830 conditions were more typical and less severe, as the air temperature was 33°F (0.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 27°F (-3°C), 36% relative humidity, with a light 2 mph WSW wind gusting to 7 mph.

Trail overview The brief rain today will make little difference to the water situation in the high country of the San Jacinto mountains, which remains very poor and largely unchanged from early October. Some water sources above 9000′ were partially frozen this morning, and more extensive freezing is to be expected soon.

Microspikes were very helpful around San Jacinto Peak early this morning, and are advisable now at the highest elevations after any precipitation.

Last week we found that Marion Creek, midway along the Suicide Rock Trail, continues to flow quite well. Cedar Spring on the Desert Divide just to the east of the PCT continues to flow gently, as detailed in a prior report at this link.

Continue to be Bear Aware A full-size adult Black Bear was caught on security video at night at a house near Upper Rim Rock Road in the Fern Valley neighborhood of Idyllwild in the first week of November. I have seen the video, and in both its large size and uniform colour pattern this was clearly a different bear to the one that passed by our own house back in May. [Many thanks to my neighbor Dr. Ken Browning for sharing this information with the Trail Report.]

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet has been dry since the summer.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow, both were stronger this morning during the drizzle.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 22nd November 2018.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which has not been flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail since late summer. There may be small pools where water could be filtered just upstream from the crossing. The creek is actually flowing gently a few hundred yards upstream from the trail crossing, but access is not easy. Willow Creek has not previously been known to stop flowing at the trail crossing.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry since May.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow well at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek is only trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after (barely) crossing the PCT, the creek dries up.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow, but poorly, where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail. This morning it was largely frozen. Flow of this major west-side water source this year has been the lowest in known history.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River at Deer Springs Trail, 22nd November 2018.

Just downstream, the North Fork of the San Jacinto River remains dry where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on Fuller Ridge (approx. PCT Mile 186). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers) on this section are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at extremely low flows. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back. PCT hikers who choose to leave the PCT to ascend San Jacinto Peak quickly get access to water at the North Fork on Deer Springs Trail (as described above) and subsequently at Wellman’s Cienega (assuming they choose to descend via the east side).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.3) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to trickle gently (it was completely unfrozen this morning). For hikers it is just possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is still dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs themselves continue to flow gently, about 0.15 miles upslope from the trail. Unfortunately, almost all the flow is diverted into a pipe for the Deer Springs camp. The Deer Springs camp just downslope from the trail had been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on since late May, but they departed at the end of October.

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle gently, although flow was not noticeably stronger today.

Switchback Spring on Deer Springs Trail, 22nd November 2018.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) has not been flowing since September. The tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks is just about useable for emergency filtering.

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has plenty of water at the faucet. Please do not forget to completely turn off the faucet when you are finished here. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July. Even today during the rain, it was not flowing at all.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park has been periodically diverted by Fern Valley Water District since the summer. Even when the creek is diverted, pools receive a little fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This is a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.

Weather & water 15th November 2018

We hiked to San Jacinto Peak today with friend Carolyn Auwaerter, from Humber Park via Wellman’s Divide, then descending via Deer Springs Trail/PCT to the Suicide Rock Trail, then the Suicide Rock climbers trail back to Humber Park.

Weather There is a possibility of light precipitation forecast for Thursday 22nd November. Temperatures are now seasonal, and today it was frigid at the Peak. Hikers should anticipate temperatures near freezing in the high country (>9000′) and at or below freezing at the high peaks (potentially well below freezing with windchill).

At San Jacinto Peak today, Thursday 15th November, at 0930 the air temperature was 34.6°F (1.4°C), with a windchill temperature of 17°F (-8°C), 24% relative humidity, and a potent 25 mph NE (“Santa Ana”) wind gusting to 33.3 mph.

Similarly, on Friday 9th November at 0830 the air temperature was 29°F (-1.7°C), with a windchill temperature of 13.5°F (-10.3°C), 11% relative humidity, and a stiff 16 mph NE wind gusting to 18 mph.

Remarkable hazy cloud at 6000-7000′ this morning looking SE from San Jacinto Peak (Toro Peak is to the upper left).

Trail overview The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains remains very poor and basically unchanged from early October. The water sources above 9000′ were partially frozen this morning, and more extensive freezing is to be expected soon.

This afternoon we found that Marion Creek, midway along the Suicide Rock Trail, continues to flow quite well. Cedar Spring on the Desert Divide just to the east of the PCT continues to flow gently, as detailed in a prior report at this link.

Marion Creek along Suicide Rock Trail, 15th November 2018.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet has been dry since the summer.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow gently.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 15th November 2018.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which has not been flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail since late summer. There may be small pools where water could be filtered just upstream from the crossing. The creek is actually flowing gently a few hundred yards upstream from the trail crossing, but access is not easy. Willow Creek has not previously been known to stop flowing at the trail crossing.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry since May.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow well at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek is barely trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after (barely) crossing the PCT, the creek dries up.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow, but very poorly, where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail. Flow of this major west-side water source this year has been the lowest in known history.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River at Deer Springs Trail, 15th November 2018.

Just downstream, the North Fork of the San Jacinto River remains dry where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on Fuller Ridge (approx. PCT Mile 186). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers) on this section are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at extremely low flows. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back. PCT hikers who choose to leave the PCT to ascend San Jacinto Peak quickly get access to water at the North Fork on Deer Springs Trail (as described above) and subsequently at Wellman’s Cienega (assuming they choose to descend via the east side).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.3) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to trickle gently (when not frozen). For hikers it is just possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs themselves continue to flow gently, about 0.15 miles upslope from the trail. Unfortunately, almost all the flow is diverted into a pipe for the Deer Springs camp. The Deer Springs camp just downslope from the trail had been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on since late May, but they departed at the end of October.

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle gently, although flow was very weak today. The tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail is now so shallow that filtering is very challenging.

Switchback Spring on Deer Springs Trail, 15th November 2018.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) has not been flowing since September. The tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks is just about useable for emergency filtering.

Strawberry Cienega, 9th November 2018. The pool between the rocks has some accessible water (after I had just removed all the leaves and vegetation).

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has plenty of water at the faucet. Please do not forget to completely turn off the faucet when you are finished here. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park has been periodically diverted by Fern Valley Water District since the summer. Even when the creek is diverted, good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This is a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.