Trail update 16th October 2019

An active few days has seen us hiking multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak via both the Peak and Deer Springs trails, much of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains, multiple hikes east to Laws or Caramba, and hikes in Long and Round valleys, plus Skyline and Seven Pines trails.

Our hard-working PCTA Section B trail crew has scheduled tree removal work on the PCT in the Red Tahquitz area for 25th-27th October. As reported last week, there are some 20 trees down on the PCT between Miles 172.5 (the rockslide) and 176.5 (just north-west of Red Tahquitz). Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to check the project announcement on the PCTA website, and contact crew leader Don Line at the email address given therein.

The final (nearly 4′ diameter) tree down across Willow Creek Trail on State Park land was cut on 12th October by the PCTA Section B trail crew.

The newly constructed section of the Round Valley Trail designed to keep hikers away from the meadows, between the High Trail junction and the Round Valley spigot, opened to hikers on 9th October. We were among the first hikers to use it as we passed through on a C2C2I speed hike on 11th.

The status of water sources, all of which have been checked in the past few days, is unchanged from last week’s report linked here. Many thanks to Kyle Koppenhaver (owner of Minimul Packs) for checking a couple of the water sources I hike to less frequently.

Although some days will be milder, hikers should be prepared for autumnal temperatures at or near freezing above about 10,000′ elevation, and potentially cooler when considering windchill effects.

Beautifully crafted rock work on the new Round Valley Trail, 11th October 2019.

WEATHER After weeks of considerable variability, temperatures have settled down, to above seasonal average for late October. Overnight low temperatures, especially next week, will be well above seasonal. That said, windchill values at or even below freezing overnight, generally above 10,000′ elevation, are now typical. There continues to be no precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 16th October 2019 at 0945 the air temperature was 52.0°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.7°F (8°C), 13% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 14th October 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 39.9°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.5°F (1°C), 18% relative humidity, and a gentle due West breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 7.0 mph.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses the Seven Pines Trail near the State Park boundary, 16th October 2019.

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 just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). My updated video report from 7th October (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

The section of the PCT north of the rockslide (Miles 172.5 to 176.5) is badly impacted by 20 downed trees. Although all of these are passable by hikers, some caution is required. The trail is impassable to pack animals. As reported above, many of these will hopefully be cleared in late October.

One newly fallen tree, along the trail and at a challenging height, one mile from the top of the Spitler Peak Trail is passable with care by hikers. The trail is currently impassable to pack animals however.

Forest Service closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place all year. Consequently, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

We surveyed Seven Pines Trail again today. There are three trees down on Forest Service land, and about 30 on State Park land, the latter almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since late 2018, and is indistinct in places, especially in its uppermost mile. Hikers without prior experience of this trail should take 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. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are very indistinct and heavily overgrown with challenging whitethorn in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were very familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). An informal use trail to Laws has been developed which is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail”). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on deer trails for 1.2 miles, basically paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is quite obvious for about a mile, becoming more indistinct as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side).

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of August. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicular traffic (there is a new USFS gate just up from the Cowbell Alley access).

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