Today I reviewed the water sources of the Tahquitz area meadows on the way to my fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak. Our hike yesterday went to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman’s Cienega, then descended Deer Springs Trail, checking the higher elevation water sources around the mountain en route.
Weather Temperatures have been above-average for the past week, and will remain so for at least the first week of November. Nevertheless, other than on unseasonably warm days, hikers should now expect temperatures near or below freezing at the high peaks (potentially well below freezing with windchill).
At San Jacinto Peak yesterday, Tuesday 30th October, at 0930 the air temperature was 39.5°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 27.4°F (-2.6°C), 31% relative humidity, and a fresh 10 mph due West wind gusting to 17 mph.
Bear update One of our resident Black Bears passed through Thousand Trails in upper Pine Cove on or around Sunday 28th October 2018. [Many thanks to Kathy Price-Robinson for this information.]
Trail overview The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains remains very poor, and the overall status of water sources is basically unchanged from early October. Small patches of snow remain on San Jacinto Peak in Snow Creek on the uppermost North Face.
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.
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.
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 poorly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail. Flow rate was only about 0.5 gallons per minute today. Flow of this major west-side water source this year has been the lowest in known history.
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 flow very gently. 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 on 30th October they appeared to be packing up and the camp will likely be vacated very soon.
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.
The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is 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 abundant 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. It was dry where it crosses the trail when I checked it on Monday 29th October. 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.