Weather forecasts are predicting the first snow storm of the winter on 2nd-4th November. Unfortunately the forecast models vary greatly on the potential severity of the storm. The snow level may fall to about 6000 ft (a little above the elevation of Idyllwild) while estimates for snowfall above 10,000 ft elevation range widely from 6-24 inches. Southbound PCT hikers in particular are strongly recommended to closely track forecasts (and the Trail Report) if they will be passing through the San Jacinto mountains after 1st November. Spikes may be recommended on parts of the PCT for at least a few days following the storm if snowfall is significant. Rainfall below 6000 ft could exceed 0.5 inch. Projections for this storm will be updated daily.
Hikers should be prepared for temperatures generally near freezing in the high country, and often below freezing around the high peaks when considering wind chill effects (see below for my latest weather observations from San Jacinto Peak). Starting Wednesday 2nd November for at least 3-4 days temperatures above 10,000 ft elevation will be far below freezing, with windchills below 0°F (-18°C).
Although our best monsoon season in 5-6 years is over, the San Jacinto mountains did just about catch the southernmost edge of a storm system at the weekend, with light rain overnight on Saturday 22nd (0.31 inch in Idyllwild at 5550 ft). While the high country was enveloped in cloud – cold enough to produce thick rime on trees above 10,000 ft (see photos below) – the rain-bearing clouds were confined to the mid elevations, with no significant precipitation falling above 8000 feet, as confirmed by measurements at Saddle Junction (8100 ft, trace), Wellman’s Cienega (9300 ft, 0.02 inch), and near San Jacinto Peak (10,700 ft, none).
Forest Service revised the closure order for areas impacted by the Fairview Fire valid until 24th January 2023. Details and a map are available here. The closed area is substantially reduced from the original September 2022 order, and is now largely confined to the actual burn scar in northern Bautista Canyon, plus the Red Mountain area.
The passage of Tropical Storm Kay on 9th September brought down many trees and branches, and hikers should anticipate finding new and additional treefall hazards and branches on trails. Current conditions for individual trails are discussed in detail below where known.
Based on multiple surveys in the past week throughout the trail system, water conditions have not changed significantly since the prior Report that is linked here. Photos illustrating the current state of Tahquitz Creek at PCT Mile 177 and Little Tahquitz Valley, and at Little Round Valley, were included in last week’s Report available here.
An update on Cedar Spring. This is flowing weakly both above and below the trough (starting 60 feet upslope from the trail that leads to the campsite). The inflow pipe to the trough that was apparently vandalized in May 2022 was going to be repaired on 25th October by a volunteer that I encountered by chance on the trail. This will again make the trough the most accessible location for water filtering. In the meantime the trough has partially filled with rainwater (but with no flow it is cloudy and stagnant, photos below). I also encountered a trail crew low down on Cedar Spring Trail, who said they were going to do some trimming work from the PCT back down to the trailhead.
Full fire restrictions introduced on Thursday 26th May remain in place on Forest Service lands, as described in detail on their website. 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. Fires are never permitted in the State Park wilderness.
Dark Canyon Campground will not reopen this year due to staffing/maintenance issues.
May Valley Road (5S21) reopened on 6th October, having been closed for eight months. Sadly signs regarding this closure have not been removed from the lower (Bonita Vista Road) end.
Temperatures for the last week of October will initially be somewhat below average for the month, but slowly warming daily. Starting around Friday 28th October, temperatures may briefly climb to above average. Moving into the first week of November, the forecasts are increasingly confident of the first snow storm of the winter around 2nd-3rd November. Freeze level may fall as low as 6000 ft (e.g., Fern Valley) while snowfall above 10,000 ft may be as much as 24-30 inches.
At San Jacinto Peak (10,810 ft/3295 m) on Thursday 27th October 2022 at 0855 the air temperature was 35.8°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 25.0°F (-4°C), 19% relative humidity, and a moderate WNW wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 13.3 mph.
At the Peak on Monday 24th October 2022 at 0830 the air temperature was 36.4°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 25.2°F (-4°C), 16% relative humidity, and a fresh NNE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 15.7 mph.
At the Peak on Friday 21st October 2022 at 0940 the air temperature was 41.4°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.0°F (5°C), 40% relative humidity, and largely calm conditions with an occasional light NNE gust up to 2.0 mph.
At the Peak on Monday 17th October 2022 at 0835 the air temperature was 35.1°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 20.1°F (-7°C), 86% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 18 mph gusting to 23.2 mph.
Some major trails have accumulated treefall hazards since late 2019 (partly due to reduced agency work during the coronavirus pandemic) passable with care by hikers but not for stock. This situation worsened somewhat following Tropical Storm Kay in early September 2022.
Willow Creek Trail remains a relatively slow, messy hike for a couple of miles. Some 37 trees are down on the Forest Service section of this trail between Skunk Cabbage Junction and the State Park boundary (23rd September 2022 survey). Of those, 27 are in the 0.6 mile section between Willow Creek crossing and the State Park boundary. A few trees were cut by chainsaw at the far (Hidden Divide) end of the Forest Service section recently, presumably by a CCC or State Park crew. The State Park cut about a dozen trees on the section of trail under their jurisdiction in late July. Another tree came down near the start of this trail close to Saddle Junction in Tropical Storm Kay.
Nine of the ten new treefall hazards on Deer Springs Trail from the Suicide Rock turning to Fuller Ridge following Tropical Storm Kay were cut by a State Park crew on 30th September, just ten days after I reported them.
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 since. In my most recent survey there were 82 treefall hazards between PCT Miles 170-175 including 20+ major ones, and about six more on PCT Miles 175-177.
On Fuller Ridge Trail there are five major treefall hazards obstructing the trail in the 1.5 mile section nearest to the campground (PCT Miles 189-190.5). Although most of the downed trees reported this summer were cleared in July, at least four more major trees came down in Tropical Storm Kay.
Spitler Peak Trail remains in its most hiker-friendly condition since the July 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. Several small trees, including three actually across the trail, came down during Tropical Storm Kay (surveyed 16th September) but all are in the lower half of the trail and are easily negotiated.
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 described by the Forest Service as “not maintained”. This is frankly grossly misleading and in reality both trails no longer exist and are so completely overgrown I strongly 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 former trails (local hikers Charles Phelan and Mark Gumprecht kindly nicknamed 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 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 more obvious near Caramba. Very cautious navigation is advised throughout the area.
Seven Pines Trail has had limited hiker traffic since November 2018, largely because Dark Canyon Road was closed almost continuously from February 2019 to July 2022. Dark Canyon Road finally reopened in mid July 2022. 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 the past decade. Between November 2021 and May 2022, 61 downed trees were removed and almost the entire trail thoroughly trimmed and cleared. Remarkably Tropical Storm Kay did not add any new treefall hazards to this trail. Nevertheless Seven Pines remains a genuine wilderness trail unlike 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 significant experience of hiking this trail.
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