Yesterday Anne and I hiked up Marion Mountain Trail to San Jacinto Peak via the PCT and Deer Springs Trail, repeating the route I hiked with Deb Nelson on 6th July. Also included are observations from a run on the Maxwell Trail on 7th July, a hike up the east side trails to San Jacinto Peak on Sunday 1st July, and to Tahquitz Peak on 4th July.
Weather At San Jacinto Peak at 0845 yesterday morning the air temperature was a mild 61°F (16°C), with a high 53% relative humidity and a very light south-east breeze, under clear skies. By late morning, there was heavy cloud cover and the occasional rumble of thunder from the high country. No recorded rain in Idyllwild yet in July.
The chance of thunderstorms is forecast for the next few days at least. Any precipitation would be very welcome, but hikers should be aware of rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country, and the probability of lightning at/near the high peaks.
Trail overview Following a couple of questions I have had in recent days, I should reiterate that there is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May). Flow rates at all water sources continue to drop every week, and are far below seasonal norms.
Bear sightings I spoke to local homeowners on 4th July who saw two bears together in their upper Fern Valley yard at night in late June. One of these was videoed by an automatic camera at another residence in upper Fern Valley just before midnight on Sunday 24th June. This individual appears to be one of the bears seen all over the mountain in 2017, different from the one we videoed on our property in Idyllwild on 15th May this year, linked to in the San Jacinto Trail Report for 31 May.
EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES
The Round Valley faucet is now flowing very weakly. Flow rate on 6th July was 0.10 gallons per minute (down from 0.28 gallons per minute on 15th June). [Many thanks to Florian Boyd for this update from Round Valley.]
Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing. Flow rates continue to decline rapidly, and the northern spring continues to be weaker every time I pass by. Without fresh precipitation soon, this spring will be dry by August, which would be unprecedented in the known human history of Wellman’s Cienega. (The northern cienega dried for the first time in recorded history in 2015, and then again in 2016, but not until September-October.)
These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is still flowing fairly well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.
Tahquitz Valley is completely dry.
Tahquitz Creek continues to flow fairly well at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is now flowing weakly 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). Just after crossing the PCT, the creek dries up and disappears subsurface.
Skunk Cabbage Creek where it flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow is currently flowing weakly. The water level has not changed markedly in the last couple of weeks.
WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES
The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently but reliably both where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail above Fuller Ridge, and 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 completely dry.
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 – is currently flowing weakly but reliably. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock. Otherwise the spring is largely just muddy across a short section of trail.
The minor creek crossing on Deer Springs Trail midway between the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing and Shooting Star Spring (sometimes known as Rock Spring) may be close to drying completely, and is now dry across and below the trail.
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 camp just downslope has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps (CCC) since late May.
Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to flow well. There is a tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail where water can be filtered.
The little spring in the rock crack at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) continues to flow quite well. For filtering, there is a tiny pool among the rocks, and a carefully placed tent stake makes a clean accessible trickle out of the mud.
On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now just a useless trickle in the early morning (barely even enough for a small dog to get a little water), but by afternoon it is dry. This is now the typical daily pattern. Insufficient flow for a hiker to get any water at all.
On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is now flowing again across the trail. Fern Valley Water District had briefly – between about 1st and 6th July – diverted water to their tanks, drying the creek where it crosses the trail. Usually the FVWD diversion is in place for several weeks or months every summer, and it is likely it will happen again soon. However, even when the creek flow is diverted, good pools remain just upstream from the trail. This is a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.