My pleasantly chilly hike today went to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman’s Cienega and a quick check of the Round Valley faucet, then descended on Deer Springs Trail, with a side hike part-way along Fuller Ridge Trail. This allowed me to check the higher elevation water sources around the mountain. [I was able to check the water sources of the Tahquitz area meadows on Tuesday 16th.]
Weather The entire mountain experienced moderate rainfall on Friday night and throughout Saturday, 12th-13th October. In total we had 0.72″ at 5550′ elevation in Idyllwild, while Garner Valley and Long Valley received an inch, and all the weather stations in the region recorded at least 0.5″.
The high elevations even received a dusting of October snow. About 0.5″ fell above 9800′ on the east side, with about 1.0″ above 10,300′. On the west side, the snow level was a little higher (there was none in Little Round Valley). Only very limited patches remained today (except in upper Snow Creek), and no traction assistance (e.g., microspikes) is currently required.
Also, hikers should now expect temperatures near freezing in the high country >9,000′ elevation, and at or below freezing at the high peaks (potentially well below freezing with windchill).
At San Jacinto Peak at 1045 this morning, Monday 15th October, the air temperature was 20°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -4.7°F (-20°C), 30% relative humidity, and a sustained, frigid 22 mph NE wind gusting to 32.2 mph.
On Thursday 11th October at 1445, the air temperature was 38°F (3.3°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.9°F (-1°C), 79% relative humidity, and a light 3 mph South wind gusting to 7.5 mph.
Trail overview The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains remains very poor despite the precipitation of recent days discussed above. My observations indicate that water sources that were still flowing experienced an increase in flow rate thanks to the rainfall. However, sources that were already dry did not receive enough new input to get them flowing again.
Excellent news on the Seven Pines Trail. After years of neglect by the State Park, during which dozens of fallen trees significantly obscured this lovely trail, a maintenance program has removed almost all the obstructions. It seems that frequent reporting of the poor condition of this trail by myself and others to the agencies has finally paid off (I have had two search-and-rescue missions on Seven Pines this year alone, with hikers getting lost due to the challenges of navigating this trail).
EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES
The Round Valley faucet remained dry today, with no evidence of any flow in recent days despite the rain.
Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow. The northern spring was flowing much stronger this morning than last week.
These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is no longer flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail. There are 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 gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail. Initially on 15th October I thought the flow rate had dropped, but this was because the river was partly frozen just upstream (note the icicles in the upper part of the photo).
Just downstream, the North Fork of the San Jacinto River was still dry today 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 (but 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. If heading to San Jacinto Peak, the North Fork where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail is a good option. 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.
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 flow gently. For hikers it is 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 has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on 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 trickle gently. Today there was no sign that the flow rate had improved after recent rain. The tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail is now so shallow that filtering is very challenging.
The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is still dry. The tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks might be useable for emergency filtering.
Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has running water at the faucet. 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, and remained dry this morning despite recent rainfall.
On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park was no longer being diverted by Fern Valley Water District as of 2nd October. Today there were good pools in the trail, and the creek was trickling across the trail. [Many thanks to Anne King for today’s update.] Even if the creek is diverted, good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This creek is a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.