Snow and wind 15th October 2018

My pleasantly chilly hike today went to San Jacinto Peak via Wellman’s Cienega and a quick check of the Round Valley faucet, then descended on Deer Springs Trail, with a side hike part-way along Fuller Ridge Trail. This allowed me to check the higher elevation water sources around the mountain. I plan a more comprehensive update on the Tahquitz area meadows tomorrow.

[I recorded a video at San Jacinto Peak and took many photos elsewhere this morning but Idyllwild has been experiencing a power outage since about 1100 which is affecting our internet capabilities. I will upload media as soon as conditions allow.]

Weather The entire mountain experienced moderate rainfall on Friday night and throughout Saturday, 12th-13th October. In total we had 0.72″ at 5550′ elevation in Idyllwild, while Garner Valley and Long Valley received an inch, and all the weather stations in the region recorded at least 0.5″.

The high elevations even received a dusting of October snow. About 0.5″ fell above 9800′ on the east side, with about 1.0″ above 10,300′. On the west side, the snow level was a little higher (there was none in Little Round Valley). Only very limited patches remained today (except in upper Snow Creek), and no traction assistance (e.g., microspikes) is currently required.

Also, hikers should now expect temperatures near freezing in the high country >9,000′ elevation, and at or below freezing at the high peaks (potentially well below freezing with windchill).

At San Jacinto Peak at 1045 this morning, Monday 15th October, the air temperature was 20°F (-7°C), with a windchill temperature of -4.7°F (-20°C), 30% relative humidity, and a sustained, frigid 22 mph NE wind gusting to 32.2 mph.

On Thursday 11th October at 1445, the air temperature was 38°F (3.3°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.9°F (-1°C), 79% relative humidity, and a light 3 mph South wind gusting to 7.5 mph.

Trail overview The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains remains very poor despite the precipitation of recent days discussed above. My observations indicate that water sources that were still flowing experienced an increase in flow rate thanks to the rainfall. However, sources that were already dry did not receive enough new input to get them flowing again.

Excellent news on the Seven Pines Trail. After years of neglect by the State Park, during which dozens of fallen trees significantly obscured this lovely trail, a maintenance program has removed almost all the obstructions. It seems that frequent reporting of the poor condition of this trail by myself and others to the agencies has finally paid off (I have had two search-and-rescue missions on Seven Pines this year alone, with hikers getting lost due to the challenges of navigating this trail).

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet remained dry today, with no evidence of any flow in recent days despite the rain.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow. The northern spring was flowing much stronger this morning than last week.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is no longer flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail. There are small pools where water could be filtered just upstream from the crossing. The creek is actually flowing gently a few hundred yards upstream from the trail crossing, but access is not easy. Willow Creek has not previously been known to stop flowing at the trail crossing.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry since May.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow well at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek is barely trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after (barely) crossing the PCT, the creek dries up.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail.

Just downstream, the North Fork of the San Jacinto River was still dry today where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on Fuller Ridge (approx. PCT Mile 186). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (but now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers on this section) are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at extremely low flows. If heading to San Jacinto Peak, the North Fork where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail is a good option. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.3) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to flow gently. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs themselves continue to flow gently, about 0.15 miles upslope from the trail. Unfortunately, almost all the flow is diverted into a pipe for the Deer Springs camp. The Deer Springs camp just downslope from the trail has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on since late May.

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle gently. Today there was no sign that the flow rate had improved after recent rain. The tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail is now so shallow that filtering is very challenging.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is still dry. The tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks might be useable for emergency filtering.

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has running water at the faucet. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July, and remained dry this morning despite recent rainfall.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park was no longer being diverted by Fern Valley Water District as of 2nd October. Today there were good pools in the trail, and the creek was trickling across the trail. [Many thanks to Anne King for today’s update.] Even if the creek is diverted, good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This creek is a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.

Weather 11th October 2018

There have been no significant changes to the water conditions on the mountain, which are detailed at the previous posting here.

However it has been a busy week for hiking, especially yesterday, as I mention in the video below. Also on Wednesday 10th, Anabel and I hiked the Cedar Springs and upper Jo Pond trails, and on 8th I went to San Jacinto Peak to check on the weather.

Weather Prospects for some rain at all elevations – even a dusting of snow on the Peak – seem good over the weekend. As I mention in the video, temperatures are near or below freezing at the highest elevations throughout the day at this time.

At San Jacinto Peak at 1445 on Thursday 11th October, the air temperature was 38°F (2.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 31°F (-0.5°C), 79% relative humidity, and a cool 3 mph South wind gusting to 8 mph.

On Monday 8th October at 0920, the air temperature was 34°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 21.4°F (-6°C), 32% relative humidity, and a sustained 5 mph NNW wind gusting to 14 mph.

Cedar Spring continues to flow gently. The trough about 35 yards upslope from the sign is full of water that is good for filtering.

Cedar Spring trough, 10th October 2018.

Water and weather 5th October 2018

My lovely hike today went up Deer Springs Trail to San Jacinto Peak then descended on the east side via the Tahquitz area meadows to Tahquitz Peak. This allowed for a check of most water sources around the mountain, and to see the extent of the rainfall from yesterday morning.

Trail overview The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains remains very poor. At this stage of the year, I am optimistic that the few water sources that are still flowing will not dry up before adequate precipitation falls. The high country above 9000′ elevation missed out on the drizzle that fell yesterday (discussed below), so the status of most water sources remains unchanged from recent updates.

Weather There was very light rainfall in the early hours of Thursday morning, 4th October, with 0.15″ at 5500′ elevation in Idyllwild. Elevations above about 9000′ remained above the cloud and received no rainfall. On the trails there was subtle evidence of light rainfall below about 9000′ on all sides of the mountain.

As is typical in the San Jacintos, the transition from summer to winter is very rapid, and conditions are already starting to feel pleasantly wintry in the highest elevations. Temperatures are now near freezing in the high country >10,000′ elevation (and below freezing on exposed peaks with windchill).

At San Jacinto Peak at 1010 this morning, Friday 5th October, the air temperature was 37°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 25.3°F (-4°C), 54% relative humidity, and a cool 6 mph North wind gusting to 12 mph.

On Wednesday 3rd October at 0950, the air temperature was 41°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.4°F (-2°C), 45% relative humidity, and a sustained 8 mph SSW wind gusting to 18 mph.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow weakly. The northern spring was flowing very slightly stronger this morning than recent days.

Wellmans North Cienega, 5th October 2018.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is no longer flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail. There are small pools where water could be filtered just upstream from the crossing. The creek is actually flowing gently a few hundred yards upstream from the trail crossing, but access is not easy. Willow Creek has not previously been known to stop flowing at the trail crossing.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry since May.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow well at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. Flow today was slightly stronger following the light rain. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 5th October 2018.

Tahquitz Creek is barely trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after (barely) crossing the PCT, the creek dries up.

Grethe Spring (the source of Tahquitz Creek), 5th October 2018.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow weakly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, but the flow has dropped dramatically in the past couple of weeks to only about 0.6 gallons per minute. The water levels for this river are the lowest in living memory.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River on Deer Springs Trail, 5th October 2018.

Just downstream, the North Fork of the San Jacinto River has dried up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on the Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Mile 186). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (but now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers on this section) are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at extremely low flows. If heading to San Jacinto Peak, the North Fork where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail is a good option. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.3) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to flow gently. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs themselves continue to flow gently, about 0.15 miles upslope from the trail. Unfortunately, almost all the flow is diverted into a pipe for the Deer Springs camp. The Deer Springs camp just downslope from the trail has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on since late May.

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle very gently. The tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (where water could be filtered in an emergency) is now so shallow that filtering is challenging.

Switchback Spring crossing the PCT, 5th October 2018.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) has now dried up. The tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks might be useable for emergency filtering.

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has running water at the faucet. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park was no longer being diverted by Fern Valley Water District as of 2nd October. Even if the creek is diverted, good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This creek is a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.

Water and weather 3rd October 2018

Our hike today to San Jacinto Peak allowed a check of water sources around the mountain. On Monday 1st, I was able to check the Tahquitz area on a hike to Tahquitz Peak, and yesterday we checked the status of Chinquapin Creek with a hike on the Ernie Maxwell Trail.

Cranston Fire news The closure of the popular South Ridge Trail will continue well into 2019. That is the recommendation of the BAER (Burned Area Emergency Report) for the damage to the San Jacinto Ranger District. Erosion and possible rock slides in burned sections of the trail are apparently the primary concerns. The current closure order closes this trail until 31st July 2019. As first reported on this website, there was no significant damage to the Pacific Crest Trail. It will completely reopen throughout the Desert Divide section in time for the 2019 PCT northbound spring season, hopefully sooner.

Trail overview The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains is at its worst in known history. Most well-known water sources are dry or are close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time.

Weather Despite optimistic forecasts, the passage of Tropical Storm Rosa through the far south-eastern corner of California over the past three days produced no significant rainfall whatsoever in the San Jacinto mountains. There was a trace in Idyllwild on 1st October (<0.01″), and evidence of a similar amount around 9100′ (but not above or below that elevation) from yesterday. There is a slim chance of light rain over the next few days.

Regardless of the lack of precipitation, autumnal weather continues in the high country, and temperatures have now dropped to seasonal norms. Temperatures are now near freezing in the high country >10,000′ elevation (and below freezing on exposed peaks with windchill).

At San Jacinto Peak at 0950 this morning, Wednesday 3rd October, the air temperature was 41°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 28.4°F (-2°C), 45% relative humidity, and a sustained 8 mph SSW wind gusting to 18 mph.

On Friday 28th September, at 0630 the air temperature was 49°F (9.4°C), with a windchill temperature of 42.3°F (5.7°C), 24% relative humidity, and a light S wind at 8 mph gusting to 10 mph.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow weakly. The northern spring was flowing slightly stronger this morning, presumably from a little rainfall in the past couple of days, but this improvement is very subtle and will be short-lived.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is no longer flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail. There are small pools where water could be filtered just upstream from the crossing. The creek is actually flowing gently a few hundred yards upstream from the trail crossing, but access is not easy. Willow Creek has not previously been known to stop flowing at the trail crossing.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry for about four months.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek is barely trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after crossing the PCT, the creek dries up and disappears subsurface.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow weakly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, but the flow has dropped dramatically in the past week to only 0.6 gallons per minute. The water levels for this river are the lowest in living memory.

Just downstream, the North Fork of the San Jacinto River has dried up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on the Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Mile 186). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (but now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers on this section) are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at extremely low flows. If heading to San Jacinto Peak, the North Fork where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail is a good option. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.3) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to flow weakly. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs themselves continue to flow gently, about 0.15 miles upslope from the trail. Unfortunately, almost all the flow is diverted into a pipe for the Deer Springs camp. The Deer Springs camp just downslope from the trail has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on since late May.

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle very gently. The tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (where water could be filtered if necessary) is now so shallow that filtering is challenging.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) has now dried up. The tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks might be useable for emergency filtering.

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has running water at the faucet. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park was no longer being diverted by Fern Valley Water District as of 2nd October. Even if the creek is diverted, good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This creek is a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.

Water and weather 28th September 2018

On Tuesday and again Thursday/Friday I hiked various trails to and around San Jacinto Peak. The former included a check of the Willow Creek drainage on our descent, and the latter included a large circuit to check water sources around the entire mountain.

Cranston Fire news The closure of the popular South Ridge Trail is likely to continue for at least a year. This is the recommendation of the BAER (Burned Area Emergency Report) for the damage to the San Jacinto Ranger District. Erosion and possible rock slides in burned sections of the trail are apparently the primary concerns. As first reported on this website, there was no significant damage to the Pacific Crest Trail. It will apparently completely reopen throughout the Desert Divide section in time for the 2019 PCT northbound spring season, hopefully sooner.

Trail overview The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains is at its worst in known history. Most well-known water sources are dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time. Thankfully, some rainfall is forecast next week in spinoff from Hurricane Rosa currently in the Pacific off western Mexico.

Details of the condition of high country trails following the 25th-30th July 2018 Cranston Fire are described at an earlier posting linked here.

Weather As mentioned above, significant rainfall is possible from Hurricane Rosa on Monday-Wednesday, 1st-3rd October. Associated temperatures will be around freezing (or even well below, with windchill) in the high country >10,000′ elevation.

Currently, lovely autumnal weather continues in the high country. Temperatures (especially overnight lows) remain well above average for September, with low humidity. Winds in the high country are changing direction multiple times every day.

At San Jacinto Peak at 0630 this morning, Friday 28th September, the air temperature was 49°F (9.4°C), with a windchill temperature of 42.3°F (5.7°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate 8 mph South wind gusting to 10 mph.

Yesterday morning Thursday 27th September, at 1100 the air temperature was a summery 57°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 50°F (10°C), 49% relative humidity, and a very light SW wind at 3 mph gusting to 6.6 mph.

Sunset from San Jacinto Peak, 27th September 2018.

Be Bear aware Our two resident Black Bears have had a low profile for the last couple of months. Apparently they have been largely in Hall’s Canyon, above Lake Fulmor. Unfortunately they have been making a nuisance of themselves, getting into trash and bird seed at the James Reserve. Hikers and campers everywhere, but especially those on the western side of the mountain (e.g. in the Black Mountain area), should have bear safety awareness, and practice bear-safe food storage. The tips at this CDFW website are useful.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow gently, but the northern spring in particular is now very weak. It will dry up in October without new precipitation.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is no longer flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail. There are small pools where water could be filtered just upstream from the crossing. The creek is actually flowing gently a few hundred yards upstream from the trail crossing, but access is not easy. Willow Creek has not previously been known to stop flowing at the trail crossing.

A sadly dry Willow Creek at its crossing of the Willow Creek Trail, 25th September 2018.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry for about four months.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek is barely trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after crossing the PCT, the creek dries up and disappears subsurface.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow weakly where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, but this morning I was surprised to find that the flow has dropped dramatically in the past week to only 0.6 gallons per minute. The water levels for this river are the lowest in living memory.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River on Deer Springs Trail, 28th September 2018.

Just downstream, the North Fork of the San Jacinto River has dried up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on the Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Mile 186). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (but now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers on this section) are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at extremely low flows. If heading to San Jacinto Peak, the North Fork where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail is a good option. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.3) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to flow weakly. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

Shooting Star Spring flowing into the Deer Springs Trail, 28th September 2018.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. In my off-trail wanderings last week, I confirmed that the Deer Springs themselves continue to flow gently, about 0.15 miles upslope from the trail. Unfortunately, almost all the flow is diverted into a pipe for the Deer Springs camp. The Deer Springs camp just downslope from the trail has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on since late May.

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle very gently. The tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail (where water could be filtered if necessary) is now so shallow that filtering is challenging.

Switchback Spring on Deer Springs Trail, 28th September 2018.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) has now dried up. The tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks might be useable for emergency filtering.

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has running water at the faucet. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park has been diverted by Fern Valley Water District more-or-less continuously since 1st July, drying the creek where it crosses the trail. However good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This can be a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.

Mount San Gorgonio at sunset, photographed from San Jacinto Peak, 27th September 2018.

Water and weather 21st September 2018

Last Friday I apparently set an arcane record, having hiked up San Jacinto Peak on 12 consecutive days. This week I have spent the past three days in the high country, with several opportunities to check water sources around the entire mountain.

Trail overview The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway remains shut for annual maintenance until 1st October. See the tram website for more details. Please do not even consider attempting the Skyline Trail at this time unless you fully understand that your only option is to hike off the mountain.

The water situation in the San Jacinto mountains is at its worst in known history. Most well-known water sources are dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time.

Details of the condition of high country trails following the 25th-30th July 2018 Cranston Fire are described at an earlier posting linked here.

Weather Lovely autumnal weather continues in the high country. Nevertheless, temperatures (especially overnight lows) remain well above average for September, with low humidity.

At San Jacinto Peak at 0630 this morning, Friday 21st September, the air temperature was 45°F (7°C), with a chilly windchill temperature of 33.9°F (1°C), 38% relative humidity, and a stiff 16 mph SSW wind gusting to 19 mph.

In stark contrast, yesterday morning Thursday 20th September, at 0630 the air temperature was 51°F (10.5°C), with a windchill temperature of 47°F (8°C), 6% relative humidity (yes, only six!), and a barely discernable NE wind at 4 mph.

Parish’s Catchfly (Silene parishii) flowering at 10,800′ on San Jacinto Peak, 13th September 2018. This flower is endemic to the mountains of Southern California.

Be Bear aware Our two resident Black Bears have had a low profile for the last couple of months. Apparently they have been largely in Hall’s Canyon, above Lake Fulmor. Unfortunately they have been making a nuisance of themselves, getting into trash and bird seed at the James Reserve. Hikers and campers everywhere, but especially those on the western side of the mountain (e.g. in the Black Mountain area), should have bear safety awareness, and practice bear-safe food storage. The tips at this CDFW website are useful.

Always be Lion aware I always like to be reminded that Mountain Lions are common everywhere on the mountain. And I mean everywhere. Early this morning I found this very fresh lion scat at 10,400′ elevation near Miller Peak. Descending the Peak Trail, I found a fresh print in soft sand at 10,200′. In the area of Wellman’s Cienega at 9,200′, I found more fresh scat in the trail. None of these signs had been there 48 hours earlier. There are lots of Mule Deer in the high country this autumn, and where there are deer, there are lions.

Mountain Lion scat and associated scratch marks at 10,400′, 21st September 2018. The notebook measures 4.5 x 3 inches.
Mountain Lion print at 10,200′, 21st September 2018. The lip balm for size reference is placed at the heel of the print and is nearly 3 inches long.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow gently, but the northern spring in particular is now very weak. It will dry up in October without new precipitation.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 21st September 2018.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is no longer flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail. There are some pools a few inches deep where water could be filtered near the crossing. Willow Creek has never previously been known to stop flowing at this location.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry for at least three months.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek is barely trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after crossing the PCT, the creek dries up and disappears subsurface.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, but flow has dropped to about 1.5 gallons per minute. The water levels for this river are apparently the lowest in living memory.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River on Deer Springs Trail, 20th September 2018.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River has dried up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on the Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers on this section) are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at very low flows. If heading to San Jacinto Peak, the North Fork where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail is a very good option. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to flow gently. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. In my off-trail wanderings this week, I confirmed that the Deer Springs themselves continue to flow gently, about 0.15 miles upslope from the trail. Unfortunately, most of the flow is diverted into a pipe for the Deer Springs camp. The Deer Springs camp just downslope from the trail has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps off-and-on since late May.

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle very gently. There is a tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail where water can be filtered if necessary.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) has now dried up. For emergency filtering, the tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks remains for the time being.

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has plenty of running water at the faucet. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park has been diverted by Fern Valley Water District more-or-less continuously since 1st July, drying the creek where it crosses the trail. However good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This can be a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.

Water and weather 12th September 2018

I have spent the last three days in the high country, visiting San Jacinto Peak several times, and checked water sources yesterday on a long loop hike around the entire mountain.

Trail overview A reminder that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is shut for annual maintenance until 1st October. See the tram website for more details. Do not even consider attempting the Skyline Trail at this time unless you fully understand that you must hike off the mountain. Many thanks to Florian Boyd for placing a warning sign to this effect at the Palm Springs Art Museum trailhead. A CCC crew continues to work in Long Valley during the closure (I passed them today on Devil’s Slide Trail).

The water situation continues to deteriorate. Last week I noted that the North Fork of the San Jacinto River has dried up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on Fuller Ridge. In addition, Willow Creek has stopped flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail, and Strawberry Cienega has finally stopped flowing too (these are discussed in more detail below). In summary, most well-known water sources are dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time. There is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May). Details of the condition of high country trails following the 25th-30th July 2018 Cranston Fire are described at an earlier posting linked here. Finally, a reminder that the Black Mountain Road was graded last week.

Weather Some delightful autumnal weather in the high country over the past few days. Temperatures (especially overnight lows) remain above average for September, with low humidity, and persistent strong winds at the high peaks.

At San Jacinto Peak at 1905 on Monday 10th September, the air temperature was 55°F (12.7°C), with a mild windchill temperature of 51°F (10.6°C), 14% relative humidity, and a light 4 mph W wind gusting to 7 mph. By contrast this morning Wednesday 12th September, at 0615 the air temperature was 44°F (6.7°C), with a fresh windchill temperature of 32°F (0°C), 38% relative humidity, and a stiff 21 mph W wind gusting to 27.5 mph. Winds were SW or WSW near or above 20 mph all day on 11th September.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow gently, but the northern spring in particular is now very weak. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is no longer flowing where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail. There are some pools a few inches deep where water could be filtered near the crossing. Willow Creek has never previously been known to stop flowing at this location. [Many thanks to good friend of the Trail Report Val Rock for this Willow Creek update from today.]

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry for at least three months.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. This is the last remaining “reliable” water source in the Tahquitz meadows area.

Tahquitz Creek is barely trickling further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). Immediately after crossing the PCT, the creek dries up and disappears subsurface.

Skunk Cabbage Creek is dry where the trail crosses Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the small wooden bridge.

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, but flow has dropped about another 10% for the second consecutive week, down now to about 1.6 gallons per minute. The water levels for this river are apparently the lowest in living memory.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River on Deer Springs Trail, 11th September 2018.

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River has dried up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on the Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). This was the critical water source for PCTers and others hiking to or from Snow Creek, a 22 mile section of trail infamous for being waterless (now waterless for >25 miles). Options for southbound PCT hikers (and other hikers on this section) are all poor. Switchback Spring and Strawberry Cienega (see below) are possibilities staying on the PCT, but both are at very low flows. If heading to San Jacinto Peak, the North Fork where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail is a very good option. Alternatively, from where the PCT crosses the Black Mountain Road it is possible to descend the road 2.4 miles to the Cinco Poses Spring (a faucet by the roadside, see below). This undulating and exposed road is a descent of about 600′ and ascent of 200′, that would have to be reversed on the way back.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail has been dry since early May.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – continues to flow gently. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock at the top of the wet area of trail, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs camp just downslope has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps since late May (although only very briefly since the fire evacuation on 25th July).

Switchback Spring – the small spring just below the eight switchbacks on Deer Springs Trail about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction – continues to trickle very gently. There is a tiny pool on the upslope side of the trail where water can be filtered if necessary.

Switchback Spring crossing the PCT, 11th September 2018.

The little spring at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) has now dried up. For emergency filtering, the tiny pool in the crack between the two large rocks remains for the time being.

Strawberry Cienega spring by the PCT, 11th September 2018. A small pool persists between the rocks at the top of this image.

Cinco Poses Spring on Black Mountain Road (4.7 miles up from Highway 243) still has plenty of running water at the faucet. This could be an important emergency water source as others dry up throughout the western side of the mountain.

The faucet of Cinco Poses Spring next to Black Mountain Road, 6th September 2018.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been dry since 26th July.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park has been diverted by Fern Valley Water District more-or-less continuously since 1st July, drying the creek where it crosses the trail. However good pools receive some fresh flow immediately upstream from the trail. This can be a very important water source for the many dogs walked on this trail.