Water conditions 13 July 2018

This report is a compilation of several hikes in the last three days. Today we hiked from Devil’s Slide Trail to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman’s Cienega, repeating the same route we hiked on 11th. Yesterday (12th July) I hiked to my fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak checking all the meadows to the east of Saddle Junction, descending via South Ridge Trail. On 9th July, 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 Anne’s run on the Maxwell Trail yesterday, and from Florian Boyd’s hike to Round Valley today.

Weather At San Jacinto Peak at 0810 this morning the air temperature was 52°F (11°C), with a high 80% relative humidity and a very light SSE breeze. On Wednesday 11th July, temperature at the Peak at 0745 was 51°F (10.6°C), with a pleasantly cool windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), very high relative humidity of 87%, and a stiff ENE wind gusting to 13mph.

We finally got some rain! Combined rainfall at 5550′ elevation in Idyllwild for Tuesday-Thursday was 0.44″. It rained all over the mountain, including parts of all three days at both San Jacinto and Tahquitz peaks. As is typical with thunderstorms, rainfall was highly variable depending on location. For example, on Wednesday evening (11th July), our home in Idyllwild received 0.25″, parts of the nearby Maxwell Trail remained completely dry, while Palm Springs got 1.0″ from the same storm.

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

Trail overview Flow rates at all water sources increased significantly in the last couple of days following the rains, but this improvement is temporary, and overall flow rates remain far below seasonal norms. There is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May).

Bear sightings No new ones to report, see previous post for recent observations.


The Round Valley faucet flow rate tripled in the last couple of days, to 0.35 gallons per minute today. [UPDATE 17 July: flow rate has already fallen to 0.2 gallons per minute.] 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 these data from Round Valley.]

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well. At the northern Cienega, flow rate today was roughly double that of last week. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which continues to flow fairly well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 13 July 2018
Wellman’s Cienega South spring, 13 July 2018

Tahquitz Valley is completely dry.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow well at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 12 July 2018

Despite some rain, it is only 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.

Tahquitz Creek crossing the PCT immediately below Grethe Spring (visible in the background), 12 July 2018

Skunk Cabbage Creek where it flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow has now dried up, at least where the trail crosses the meadow. There are a few wet patches, but nothing that can be filtered.

Skunk Cabbage Creek at the trail crossing in Skunk Cabbage Meadow, 12 July 2018


The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow 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).

North Fork of the San Jacinto River at Deer Springs Trail, 8th July 2018

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) is 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 trickle in the morning (just about enough for a dog to get a little water), but by afternoon it is often dry. Even after the recent rain, insufficient flow for a hiker to get any water at all.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park has now been diverted again by Fern Valley Water District to their tanks, drying the creek where it crosses the trail. However, even when the creek flow is diverted, good pools remain just upstream from the trail. This is an important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.

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