In light of the challenging wind/fire conditions this week, after an ascent of San Jacinto Peak on Monday we have spent the past two days surveying long sections of the Desert Divide, one of the most windy (and flammable) parts of the San Jacinto mountains.
Winds were strong today (20-30 mph) in Garner Valley and on parts of the Desert Divide. Both yesterday and today we passed by the notoriously exposed Fobes Saddle and it was interesting to note that the West wind there yesterday was actually stronger than the ENE wind this morning. Although it looked very hazy and dusty in the lowlands to both the east and west, the air remained clear and fresh in the mountains (at least above about 5000′).
Santa Ana winds have not been strong in the high country. Although seemingly counterintuitive, this is typical in the San Jacinto mountains, where terrain above about 9000′ is largely above the strongest north-east winds. Nevertheless with air temperatures near freezing everywhere above 4000′, windchill conditions at all montane elevations have been well below freezing.
Other than the weather conditions and associated fire risk, the most notable news is Caltrans’ announcement last night at a local community meeting that Highway 243 between Idyllwild and Banning will reopen no later than the evening of Friday 1st November. There may be some limited flagman operations for the foreseeable future. The entire highway from Lake Fulmor down to Banning has also been repaved in the past two months.
Our indefatigable PCTA Section B trail crew removed 16 downed trees in the Red Tahquitz area last weekend (PCT Miles 174.4 to 176.5). Only about five trees remain down between South Peak and the rockslide at Mile 172.5.
Almost all water sources have been rechecked in recent days, and there have been no significant changes since last week’s Report, linked here.
Despite unusually mild November weather, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing every day throughout the high country, but certainly above about 10,000′ elevation.
WEATHER Following a rapid plunge this week to temperatures well below seasonal, the first ten days of November are forecast to have temperatures well above seasonal average, more typical of late September. There continues to be no precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) on Monday 28th October 2019 at 0925 the air temperature was 38.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.8°F (-1°C), 18% relative humidity, and a light NNW wind sustained at 4.0 mph gusting to 8.3 mph.
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). The 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.
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 access to Seven Pines trailhead.
We resurveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid October. There are three trees down on Forest Service land, and about 30 on State Park land, the latter almost all above 7500′ elevation. The anticipated tree removal work by State Park in September did not occur. 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 on the north [left] side, so navigation is not a challenge).
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).