Trail and water update 18th July 2019

We surveyed trails to San Jacinto Peak on 15th July (east side) and today (Deer Springs Trail), and my fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak on 16th incorporated a survey of water sources throughout the Tahquitz area meadows. The status of major water sources, trails, and road access, are all detailed below.

As I reported earlier this week, USFS confirmed closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

Be bear aware. Recent observations were described in a recent posting.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Afternoon monsoonal conditions are possible next week. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur around the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Fire season is here. The Meadow Fire as seen from Tahquitz Peak, 16th July 2019, about half-an-hour after it started. Located next to Highway 371 near Cahuilla, this fire was held at 80 acres.

WEATHER Genuine summer temperatures arrived a few days ago, although in keeping with the 2019 trend, this has so far been the coolest July in the San Jacinto mountains for several years. To date, Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak. As mentioned above, thunderstorms are forecast as a possibility every afternoon next week (22nd-26th July).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 18th July 2019 at 0800, the air temperature was 51°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), 12% relative humidity, and a stiff SSW wind at 18 mph gusting to 25.2 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 15th July 2019 at 0730 the air temperature was 50.9°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), 31% relative humidity, and a fresh SW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 23.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) may be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

Dark Canyon Road remains closed for the foreseeable future, with no planned reopening date. Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds also remain closed until 2020.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail has been completed by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire.

Willow Creek Trail had eight of the nine trees down on the State Park section removed on 7th July by the PCTA trail crew. This reduces the total to 11 trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide. This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail about a month ago.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid June and it had 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. When USFS reopened these routes in November 2018 they made it clear they would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and the trails had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). Both are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

Temporary signage installed in late June on the Caramba Trail (misspelled on the sign) indicating that the trail is not maintained, 16th July 2019.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot is flowing well at about 2.0 gpm.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well, but flow rates have dropped dramatically this month. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley is still flowing well where it crosses the meadow trail.

Tahquitz Valley, where the trail crosses the creek, 16th July 2019.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing strongly at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177).

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Valley (above), and where it crosses the PCT just below its source at Grethe Spring (below), 16th July 2019.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is flowing gently, but is very overgrown with thick vegetation, and is too shallow for easy filtering.

Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the creek crossing, 16th July 2019.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing very well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and even better where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.0).

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is flowing well.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years, but flow rate has dropped dramatically this month.

Creek in Little Round Valley, 18th July 2019.

Shooting Star Spring (below Little Round Valley but above the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing) is flowing well.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185) is flowing strongly.

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is now flowing only gently, but there is very little depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing gently.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently, but flow rate is greatly diminished compared to last month. In 2018, this spring had dried up by 1st July. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have now dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing fairly well. See comments above regarding the greatly improved trail to this spring.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing very well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. In the past week even the open sections of Highways 74 and 371 have been closed briefly for roadside fires, so always be prepared for additional delays. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may reopen later this year, or not until 2020 (see this excellent article in the Press Enterprise). Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It will not reopen in July as had been hoped. Instead it is expected to open round-the-clock, but still with a flagman and partial single lane traffic, perhaps as early as August.

Above and below: White Bog Orchid (Platanthera dilatata), San Jacinto mountains, 18th July 2019.

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