Weather and water 9th November 2018

We hiked to San Jacinto Peak three times this week, on 5th, 7th, and today, 9th November, via various routes. Today’s long loop from Humber Park included a full circuit of the mountain and a long section of the PCT. A really pleasant surprise was catching up with local friend and fellow hiker/runner Michele at Wellman Divide, who then joined us to and at San Jacinto Peak.

Weather Still no hint of precipitation for the mountain in short- or medium-term forecasts. Temperatures are finally dropping to near seasonal, and today it was frigid at the Peak, but it had otherwise been unusually mild so far in November, especially as recently as Monday 5th (see below). Hikers should now expect 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, 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 (“Santa Ana”) wind gusting to 18 mph.

In stark contrast, on Monday 5th November, at 0835 the air temperature at San Jacinto Peak was a balmy 52°F (11°C), 35% relative humidity, and a windchill temperature of 44.7°F (7°C) despite a brisk NNW wind sustained at 11 mph, gusting to over 16 mph. The temperatures on Wednesday 7th were intermediate between the conditions of 5th and 9th, although more similar to the warmth of Monday 5th.

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. The water sources above 9000′ were partially frozen this morning, and more extensive freezing is to be expected in this season. With no precipitation forecast, these water conditions will not improve for the foreseeable future. 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.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 9th 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 at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 31st October 2018

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 well below 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 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, 9th November 2018. Note how all the grass near the tiny pool is flattened due to southbound PCT hikers filtering water here!

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.

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