Trail update 1st July 2021

Daily hikes have included San Jacinto Peak multiple times per week by a variety of routes, plus in recent days South Ridge Trail, Laws/Caramba area, South Fork Wilderness Trail, and the Tahquitz/Skunk Cabbage meadow trail complex.

Recently I have focused on vegetation trimming along several major trail sections, notably South Ridge Trail, upper Deer Springs Trail, the “Strawberry Trail” (PCT from Annie’s Junction to Strawberry Junction, Miles 181-183), Spitler Peak Trail, and the South Fork Wilderness Trail, the latter with the help of Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads.

Full fire restrictions began on Wednesday 23rd June on Forest Service lands, as described here. All campfires at USFS campgrounds and yellow post sites in the San Jacinto mountains are now prohibited.

Relatively cool, cloudy weather with minor precipitation (0.02in in Idyllwild at 5550ft) was a pleasant relief last week on 23rd and 24th June. Temperatures for the foreseeable future will be above seasonal averages, so plan your hiking accordingly for hot, dry conditions.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoon conditions, usually in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Water conditions in the high country continue to deteriorate. Recent hot, dry weather has not helped the situation. The current status of many key springs and creeks is described in detail in the previous Report.

The rockslide at PCT Mile 172.5, just north of Antsell Rock, was removed on Monday 14th June. My “before, during, and after” video is available here, and has been surprisingly popular (likely because it is short and stuff blows up!). The project was a success, making this section of the PCT significantly safer, and it is now readily passable with care by hikers (but it remains impassable for stock).

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to USFS coronavirus protocols. It is not expected to reopen before late July. Hiking and camping permits are nevertheless required for USFS lands, and are usually available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. The State Park ranger station reopened months ago.

WEATHER Temperatures overall will be at or above seasonal averages for the foreseeable future, with overnight lows in particular tending to be well above seasonal. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Thursday 1st July 2021 at 0805 the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.6°F (9°C), 48% relative humidity, and a light due West wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.0 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 28th June 2021 at 0655 the air temperature was 58.8°F (15°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.7°F (13°C), 43% relative humidity, and a light due North wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.4 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 24th June 2021 at 0755 the air temperature was 44.0°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.7°F (2°C), 96% relative humidity, and a fresh SSW wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.3 mph.

South Fork of the San Jacinto River at 3650ft elevation where it intersects the South Fork Wilderness Trail, 25th June 2021. The riverbed was altered dramatically by the great flood event of 14th February 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

Trails throughout the San Jacinto high country cleared of snow by early May. Water conditions are a major concern, with most springs and creeks already having flows more typical of late autumn. Conditions have not changed significantly since the previous Report.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 23rd April, and the Black Mountain Fire Lookout on 23rd May. Boulder Basin campground reopened on 22nd May along with other USFS seasonal campgrounds. Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout reopened for the season on Sunday 30th May.

Many trails have accumulated treefall hazards from the past two winters, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Some are described below, others include: PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (PCT Miles 182-185, about 12 trees down), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2, three trees), and upper Spitler Peak Trail (five trees).

Excellent work by an ACE crew in anticipation of the rockslide blasting earlier in June resulted in the clearing of many treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175). Nevertheless about 20 hazards remain, including at least six major obstructions for hikers. USFS volunteers had previously cleared all treefall hazards from Tahquitz Creek to Red Tahquitz (Miles 175-177).

Willow Creek Trail has 14 downed trees on its Forest Service section (including a couple of new ones in recent high winds), with a couple of large, heavily-branched trees that are somewhat challenging to pass. USFS has been made aware of the problem. There are half-a-dozen additional trees down on the State Park section of the same trail.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws (which both nominally reopened in late 2018) are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality parts of these trails no longer exist with significant sections of both so heavily overgrown that I strongly advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to the Laws area is much more direct and completely avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (local hikers have kindly dubbed it the “King Trail“). It leaves Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction, 0.45 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning (trailhead at N33°46’46”, W116°39’32”, WGS84). The cairned trail descends largely on established deer tracks for 0.9 mile. Be advised that it is a use trail, becoming somewhat less obvious as it nears Willow Creek. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the old Caramba Trail has become increasingly tricky to follow, especially for the first 1.2 miles east of Laws. Closer to Caramba the trail is relatively obvious (for those familiar with the route prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Cautious navigation is required throughout this area.

Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018. There are 35 treefall hazards on the trail, four large ones on the short Forest Service section, and the remainder in the State Park, based on my May 2021 survey. Cautious navigation is recommended for those who are not familiar with hiking this trail. Dark Canyon Road has been closed since early 2019, and there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Thank you hikers for taking the time to read this. While all labor and time is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report completely depends on small private donations to cover operating costs. Every year seems to be challenging and 2021 has been no exception, so every contribution, no matter how small, is truly valuable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

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