Water and weather update 8th June 2022

The trail system has been clear of snow for many weeks. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.

In addition to ascending San Jacinto Peak by different routes on average once every 3-4 days, we have surveyed many other trails, in recent days including Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, Seven Pines, Marion Mountain, and South Ridge, plus some Forest roads.

Hikers should be prepared for unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures generally far above average for June, starting Wednesday 8th June for at least ten days. Please plan accordingly regarding route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Due to the exceptionally dry state of the mountain already, water conditions where known are detailed at the foot of this Report.

Air quality and visibility down in the lowlands, especially the Coachella Valley, has been poor all year, due to the lack of rainfall combined with windier than average conditions. Sadly this poor air quality has been visibly climbing into the higher elevations in recent weeks.

National Weather Service San Diego issued this very informative video on 29th May. Some of the data presented are remarkable, if generally very discouraging.

Full fire restrictions were introduced on Thursday 26th May on Forest Service lands, as described in detail here. Campfires on all USFS lands in the San Jacinto mountains (including in fire rings at campgrounds and yellow post sites) and smoking are prohibited for the remainder of the year.

Be rattlesnake aware. Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes (Crotalus helleri) have recently been seen on the trail system up to at least 8800 ft elevation (multiple times at Tahquitz Peak). As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail seems to be a particular hotspot (e.g., see photos in this earlier Report).

Seasonal campgrounds and Forest Service roads are now generally open. Dark Canyon Road (5S02) remains in “winter closure” and consequently Dark Canyon Campground remains closed. May Valley Road remains closed to vehicles due to “hazard trees”.

WEATHER

Following a couple of relatively cool days for the second weekend in a row, temperatures are forecast to get hot and then even hotter. From Wednesday 8th June for at least ten days temperatures will generally be far above seasonal for June, exceeding even midsummer averages (with only a brief respite on 13th-14th). Overnight low temperatures in particular may average 10-20°F above seasonal at mid elevations. There is no precipitation in the forecasts.

Short-, medium-, and long-term weather projections are summarized in the latest NWS San Diego video (available here), along with very informative data regarding the past couple of years of weather and fire seasons.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810ft/3295m) on Monday 6th June 2022 at 0800 the air temperature was 52.6°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 45.5°F (7°C), 21% relative humidity, and a brisk WNW wind sustained at 11 mph gusting to 22.6 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 2nd June 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 49.8°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.3°F (8°C), 24% relative humidity, and a very gentle due West breeze sustained at 1 mph gusting to 4.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The trail system, including the entire PCT throughout the San Jacinto mountains, cleared of snow in late April.

Due to greatly reduced maintenance work by the agencies and PCTA during the coronavirus pandemic, many trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019, passable with care by hikers but not for stock. Although reported promptly, most hazards were not removed in 2021. With storms this season being accompanied by strong winds and heavy ice loads, hikers should expect to encounter many new and additional hazards, especially in vulnerable burn areas (e.g., Willow Creek Trail, PCT Miles 170-177).

Although some treefall hazards from Red Tahquitz to Antsell Rock (PCT Miles 172.5-175) were cleared in June 2021 prior to the rockslide removal work, the situation has badly deteriorated. In my most recent survey I counted at least 72 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175. At least a third of these are major hazards that require scrambling over or around.

The significant new treefall hazard that fell about two miles up Devil’s Slide Trail over Memorial Day weekend was removed last week.

The huge treefall hazard across Marion Mountain Trail exactly at the State Park/Forest Service boundary was cut last week.

Three new trees that came down in late 2021 on Deer Springs Trail just south of its junction with Marion Mountain Trail are readily passable for hikers (but not for stock).

The middle section of South Ridge Trail (between May Valley Road and the top of South Ridge Road) has several trees down which are significant obstructions.

Willow Creek Trail is currently a slow, messy hike. About 45 trees (May 2022 survey) are down between Skunk Cabbage Junction and Hidden Divide, 75% of these on the Forest Service section.

Spitler Peak Trail is currently in its most hiker-friendly condition since the 2013 Mountain Fire. Forty downed trees, most from an ice storm in late December 2021, plus dozens of additional trunks and branches in the trail, were removed by the Trail Report from this trail in early 2022 in time to aid PCT hikers using this as a snow-free alternate.

Fuller Ridge Trail has 14 treefall hazards (May 2022 survey) obstructing the trail, but all are readily passable by relatively agile hikers. Eleven of these are in the 1.5 mile section closest to Fuller Ridge Campground (approx. PCT Miles 189-190.5).

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are optimistically described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist and are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the very challenging bushwhacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers dubbed it the “King Trail” when I established the route in 2019). It leaves the Willow Creek Trail exactly 1.0 mile from Saddle Junction (0.46 mile from the Skunk Cabbage turning), descending largely on established deer trails for 1.2 miles, meeting Willow Creek just upstream from the old Laws Camp. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail has been well-cairned by myself and others and can largely be followed with very careful route-finding. My February 2022 survey counted 97 trees down on this 2.1 miles of trail. It is especially obscure 0.1-0.3 mile east of the Willow Creek crossing, becoming clearer near Caramba. Cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.

Seven Pines Trail has had very limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed from February 2019 to early October 2021, and again since December 2021. The Trail Report has adopted Seven Pines Trail as a priority for maintenance work as the trail has had a disproportionate number of lost hiker rescues in recent years. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees have been removed and almost the entire trail has been thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Despite this very considerable effort, Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail and is nothing like the relatively wide, bare, and obvious routes of, for example, Devil’s Slide or Marion Mountain trails. Cautious navigation remains required for those who do not have substantial experience of hiking this trail.

The “creek” in Little Round Valley (9700 ft) now forming just a few weakly trickling pools, 6th June 2022.

WATER CONDITIONS

This is not a comprehensive review of the status of all mountain water sources. In the high country there are still a few tiny patches of snow available for melting. This video gave an overview of major water sources in the high country as of 10th May.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing steadily (photo below) but recent history suggests it will not persist all summer. The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in May. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in May.

Both the northern (photo below) and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing very weakly for the time of year. In May the flow rate at the well-known northern spring dropped dramatically by about 50%. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing steadily where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing weakly further upstream at its source (known colloquially as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). Between these locations Tahquitz Creek is largely dry (but presumably flowing subsurface). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in May.

Skunk Cabbage (“Candy’s”) Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing gently in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and again downstream where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2).

The creek in Little Round Valley only trickles for about 150 ft at the lower end of Little Round Valley before disappearing subsurface (see photo above). It will likely dry up in the next month or two. The same creek continues to flow steadily where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT/Deer Springs Trail (approx. PCT mile 185.6) has dried up where it crosses the trail.

The tiny Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, and there is just about adequate depth from which to filter water in the tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is functionally dry.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is now barely trickling, and will likely dry by July. A tiny pool remains as a useful drinking source for dogs. Other springs on this trail have been dry for weeks.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is dry again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, there are small fresh pools just upslope from the trail (these are an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing steadily. 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 60 yards upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly, should no longer be relied upon.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1-1.5 miles down, are Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing at least at the lowest crossing).

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

Western Sheepmoth (Hemileuca eglanterina) on Fuller Ridge Trail, 2nd June 2022.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. While all time and labor is volunteered, the San Jacinto Trail Report depends on your small private donations to cover our costs. Your contribution keeps the Report available to all, free from advertising or paywalls, and independent from agencies. If you have found this Report useful, please use this link to the Donate page. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are all options. Thank you for your support.

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega (9300 ft), 6th June 2022, flowing very weakly for the time of year.
Pipe in Round Valley (9100 ft) flowing steadily, 3rd June 2022 (photo courtesy of Darla Priest).

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