Trail and water update 7th November 2019

A busy ten days has included surveys of water sources and trees down on the Pacific Crest Trail and all side trails from Highway 74 north to Black Mountain, plus ascents of San Jacinto Peak, Tahquitz Peak, and Black Mountain Trail (the latter now accessible from the south with the reopening of Highway 243). Every week I am hopeful that it will be the final discussion of water sources for 2019, but having said that, there is still no precipitation forecast in the foreseeable future.

Although just north of the area typically covered by the Trail Report, I got word that Whitewater Preserve and associated trails, including the trail to/from the PCT, reopened this week. This area had been closed since the Valentine’s Day flood event. Thanks to Don Line for this information.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing throughout the high country, but certainly above about 10,000′ elevation, especially by mid month.

WEATHER Temperatures continue to be above seasonal average at all elevations, and are forecast to remain that way for another week. By about 15th November, seasonally typical temperatures are forecast, including conditions well below freezing in the high country. No precipitation is forecast for the foreseeable future, although several days next week (13th-15th November) are likely to be cloudy.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) on Monday 4th November 2019 at 0830 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.9°F (-7°C), 47% relative humidity, and a stiff NNE wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 21.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 1st November 2019 at 0900 the air temperature was 42.9°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.3°F (1°C), 14% relative humidity, and a moderate SE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 16.8 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 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.

The Black Mountain Trail has ten trees down on the upper mile of the trail, most of which are new this year. While many are easily passable by hikers, a couple require some scrambling.

One fallen burned pine 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 is apparently closed to vehicular traffic (there is a new USFS gate just up from the Cowbell Alley access).

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot continues to flow well.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing steadily. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley creek, where it crosses the meadow trail, dried up in late September.

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

Tahquitz Creek where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177, with Grethe Spring in the background, 6th November 2019.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is basically dry in the former. It is much more accessible where it is flowing gently across the Caramba Trail.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley continues to flow gently. This is the first time in seven or more years that this has flowed throughout the year.

Little Round Valley creek, 4th November 2019.

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

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

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

Strawberry Cienega has functionally dried up. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment last winter and no longer accumulates water.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely a trickle now (but with tiny pools from which to drink for dogs being walked on the trail).

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow just upstream of the trail. Intermittent diversion by Fern Valley Water District (who unhelpfully refer to it as Tahquitz Creek!) results in the flow across the actual trail being unreliable at present. This creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Highway 74 water cache is being resupplied regularly for southbound PCT hikers. This is located on the north side of the highway where the PCT crosses Highway 74. The ususal warnings apply about never completely relying on a water cache.

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 gently. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the sign on the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing gently. The trail off the PCT to this spring was greatly upgraded earlier this year, and is now a joy to use (despite the 17 switchbacks!).

Apache Spring, 29th October 2019.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny (almost dry) side creek which should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which continues to flow gently.

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 well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Potentially useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

New trees down at Saddle Junction at the start of the Caramba Trail (above), and north of Strawberry Junction near PCT Mile 184 (below) (6th and 4th November 2019 respectively). All trees down are reported to relevant agencies immediately.