Trail update 16th October 2019

An active few days has seen us hiking multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak via both the Peak and Deer Springs trails, much of the PCT in the San Jacinto mountains, multiple hikes east to Laws or Caramba, and hikes in Long and Round valleys, plus Skyline and Seven Pines trails.

Several pieces of news follow, mostly good, except for the Highway 243 situation.

The word around Idyllwild is that the planned opening of Highway 243, which Caltrans most recently had stated would happen on 1st November, will be delayed. Note that there has been no official confirmation of this change. Caltrans’ original schedule, prior to the more recent announcement, indicated that Highway 243 was unlikely to reopen before early 2020. It will soon become clear whether the earlier, more conservative, estimate will prove to have been more accurate.

Our hard-working PCTA Section B trail crew has scheduled tree removal work on the PCT in the Red Tahquitz area for 25th-27th October. As reported last week, there are some 20 trees down on the PCT between Miles 172.5 (the rockslide) and 176.5 (just north-west of Red Tahquitz). Anyone interested in helping is encouraged to check the project announcement on the PCTA website, and contact crew leader Don Line at the email address given therein.

The final (nearly 4′ diameter) tree down across Willow Creek Trail on State Park land was cut on 12th October by the PCTA Section B trail crew.

The newly constructed section of the Round Valley Trail designed to keep hikers away from the meadows, between the High Trail junction and the Round Valley spigot, opened to hikers on 9th October. We were among the first hikers to use it as we passed through on a C2C2I speed hike on 11th.

The status of water sources, all of which have been checked in the past few days, is unchanged from last week’s report linked here. Many thanks to Kyle Koppenhaver (owner of Minimul Packs) for checking a couple of the water sources I hike to less frequently.

Although some days will be milder, hikers should be prepared for autumnal temperatures at or near freezing above about 10,000′ elevation, and potentially cooler when considering windchill effects.

Beautifully crafted rock work on the new Round Valley Trail, 11th October 2019.

WEATHER After weeks of considerable variability, temperatures have settled down, to above seasonal average for late October. Overnight low temperatures, especially next week, will be well above seasonal. That said, windchill values at or even below freezing overnight, generally above 10,000′ elevation, are now typical. There continues to be no precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 16th October 2019 at 0945 the air temperature was 52.0°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.7°F (8°C), 13% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 9.7 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 14th October 2019 at 0940 the air temperature was 39.9°F (5°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.5°F (1°C), 18% relative humidity, and a gentle due West breeze sustained at 3 mph gusting to 7.0 mph.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses the Seven Pines Trail near the State Park boundary, 16th October 2019.

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). My 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 section of the PCT north of the rockslide (Miles 172.5 to 176.5) is badly impacted by 20 downed trees. Although all of these are passable by hikers, some caution is required. The trail is impassable to pack animals. As reported above, many of these will hopefully be cleared in late October.

One newly fallen 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 vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

We surveyed Seven Pines Trail again today. There are three trees down on Forest Service land, and about 30 on State Park land, the latter almost all above 7500′ elevation. 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 by on your left hand side).

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 remains closed to vehicular traffic (there is a new USFS gate just up from the Cowbell Alley access).

Trail and water update 8th October 2019

[Update 12th October: the final (very large) tree down across Willow Creek Trail on State Park land was cut today by our hard-working PCTA Section B Trail crew.]

[Update 11th October: the newly constructed section of the Round Valley Trail, between the High Trail junction and the Round Valley spigot, opened to hikers on 9th We were among the first hikers to use it as we passed through on a C2C speed hike.]

Near-perfect hiking weather has seen us on a wide diversity of trails in the past five days, including a loop out to Caramba, the PCT south to Spitler Peak, the Apache Spring and Spitler Peak trails, and the Peak and Deer Springs trails to San Jacinto Peak.

I took the opportunity as I passed by the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (PCT Mile 172.5) yesterday, to record an updated video (available on YouTube here). This may be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

The status of water sources, some of which having experienced significant declines in flow rates recently, is updated below. The status of highway closures is also described at the foot of this posting.

Hikers should be prepared for autumnal temperatures at or near freezing above about 10,000′ elevation, and potentially cooler when considering windchill effects.

WEATHER As noted last week, temperatures continue on an unpredictable rollercoaster. Above-average temperatures in recent days will give way to cold Santa Ana (NE) winds accompanied by extremely low humidity on 10th-11th October. This will be followed by rapid warming back to seasonal temperatures and a swing to SW airflow starting on Sunday 13th. Despite this variability, windchill values at or even below freezing overnight, generally above 10,000′ elevation, are now typical. There is no precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Tuesday 8th October 2019 at 0855 the air temperature was 43.5°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 38.2°F (4°C), 27% relative humidity, and a gentle NE breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 6.8 mph.

In contrast, at the Peak on Tuesday 1st October 2019 at 0915 the air temperature was 35.5°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 22.5°F (-5°C), 19% relative humidity, and a brisk W wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

Fresh Mountain Lion print, Caramba Trail, 4th October 2019. The lip balm stick for size reference is about 2.7″ long.

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). An 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 section of the PCT north of the rockslide (Miles 172.5 to 176.5) is badly impacted by 20 downed trees. Although all of these are passable by hikers, some caution is required. The trail is impassable to pack animals. It is anticipated that these trees may be cleared in late October.

One newly fallen 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 vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great 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 impenetrable whitethorn in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation. From Laws 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 is under development (details to follow).

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.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot continues to flow well at about 2.0 gpm.

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

Tahquitz Creek at its crossing of the PCT near Mile 177, 7th October 2019.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is flowing gently, but is very overgrown with thick vegetation, and is too shallow for easy filtering. It is much more accessible where it is flowing steadily 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 is flowing. This is the first time in seven or more years that this has flowed into the autumn.

Little Round Valley creek, 8th October 2019.

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

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 spring is flowing very gently. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment last winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely a trickle now (although there is just sufficient water for dogs to drink).

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well 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

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 well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from 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, 7th 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 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 well.

Spitler Creek at its lowest crossing of the Spitler Peak Trail, 7th October 2019.

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. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day 2019 flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. However progress is being made. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. This highway has been estimated by Caltrans to reopen on 1st November 2019, with some form of traffic control (to be determined) into 2020. However, informed local opinion suggests that this is unlikely to happen, and that the original Caltrans estimate of sometime in 2020 for controlled reopening seems to be more realistic. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Valle Vista (Hemet) reopened full time on 3rd October, but with some localized flagging operations for the foreseeable future.

Trail and weather update 3rd October 2019

I have spent most of the last ten days hiking in the San Jacinto high country. There has been yet another wild swing in weather conditions in the past few days.

Two pieces of noteworthy trail-related news. Highway 74 between Valle Vista and Mountain Center reopens this evening at 1700 with no pilot car. Localized flagging operations will continue for several weeks.

The annual maintenance closure of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will continue thru Sunday 6th October. Check the tram website to confirm the reopening currently scheduled for 7th October.

The status of water sources is basically unchanged, as described here.

Although temperatures for the next week will be above seasonal norms, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures near freezing above about 10,000′ elevation, and potentially lower when considering windchill effects.

Fresh treefall across the Tahquitz Valley trail at its junction with the Caramba Trail, 1st October 2019. The tree was removed today, 3rd October.

WEATHER In keeping with the weather theme for 2019, temperatures are on a dramatic rollercoaster again. After wintry temperatures in late September, the next week will be much warmer than average for early October, with a return to prevailing westerly airflow since Monday. There is no precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) on Tuesday 1st October 2019 at 0915 the air temperature was 35.5°F (2°C), with a windchill temperature of 22.5°F (-5°C), 19% relative humidity, and a brisk W wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 17.8 mph.

Sunset on 25th September 2019, looking toward San Gorgonio from San Jacinto Peak.

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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance until 7th October.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

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 vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great 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 in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation.

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.

Weather update 27th September 2019

[UPDATE 28th September: Palm Springs media outlets are reporting that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, currently closed for maintenance, will not now reopen until Monday 7th October. Many thanks to Florian Boyd for this breaking news.]

I spent Monday to Friday in the San Jacinto high country, hiking mostly off-trail. It was a week of dramatic and changeable autumn weather.

After weeks dominated by west and south-west winds, a shift to a northerly air flow in the early hours of Tuesday 24th caused a dramatic temperature drop, with an air temperature near freezing and a windchill of 19°F at San Jacinto Peak. I posted a short video from there that morning. Later that morning I recorded a wind gust of 49 mph near Marion Mountain.

The cool N-NE wind flow remained all week. Although Wednesday 25th was a little warmer, it was cloudy, and in the afternoon I watched as haboob conditions (a type of sandstorm) developed in the Coachella Valley and Anza-Borrego desert. The north-east winds drove sand all the way through the San Gorgonio Pass as far as Beaumont by dusk.

Thursday 26th was a day of spectacular cloud formations throughout Southern California. While much of the western lowlands and many peaks were shrouded in cloud, with its exceptional prominence San Jacinto Peak remained above it for most of the day. Thunderstorms originating near Joshua Tree spread south to Borrego, but stayed east of the San Jacinto mountains. I posted a short video of the surrounding cloud view at noon yesterday.

A high, deep marine cloud layer over the coastal lowlands led to a dramatic (even by San Jac standards) sunset last night, and a great visual effect at sunrise this morning.

San Jacinto Peak is unusually prominent over its surrounding lowlands. In addition to creating much of it’s own weather, it also casts it’s own distinctive, if short-lived, shadow. Conditions vary, but at sunrise this morning, the deep marine layer to the west provided a perfect canvas for the “San Jac shadow“. My time-lapse video, recorded this morning, shows the spectacular 30 minute rise and fall of the San Jac shadow in just under one minute.

Regarding trail conditions, the status of water sources and highway closures is basically unchanged since last week, as described here.

Despite occasional milder days, hikers should now be prepared for temperatures around freezing above about 10,000′ elevation, and potentially lower when considering windchill effects.

Sunset over an ocean of cloud, as seen from San Jacinto Peak, 26th September 2019 (above looking west, below with the San Bernadino mountains “floating” on the right).

WEATHER After wintry temperatures for the next few days, milder weather will return on about 2nd October. Autumnal temperatures dominate, accompanied by periodic strong winds and extremely variable humidity at the highest peaks. Air temperatures, and certainly windchill values, at or below freezing overnight are now typical. There is no precipitation forecast for elevations above about 5000′ for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Friday 27th September 2019 at 0630 the air temperature was 47.0°F (8°C), with a windchill temperature of 40.1°F (5°C), 51% relative humidity, and a cool N wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 13.9 mph.

At the Peak on Thursday 26th September 2019 at 0625, the air temperature was 37.2°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 31.5°F (0°C), 98% relative humidity, and a light NNE wind at 2 mph gusting to 6.2 mph, accompanied by cloud and brief drizzle.

At the Peak on Tuesday 24th September 2019 at 0625, the air temperature was 34.5°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.3°F (-8°C), 85% relative humidity, and a sevare NNE wind at 17 mph gusting to 29.9 mph.

Sunset on 25th September 2019, looking NW from San Jacinto Peak.

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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance until 7th October.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

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 vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great 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 in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should exercise extremely cautious navigation.

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.

Usually due to lighting conditions the shadow cast by San Jacinto Peak is less obvious at sunset than at sunrise. The evening of 25th September 2019 was an exception, with the dust of haboob conditions creating a perfect canvas east of the Peak.

Trail and water update 18th September 2019

Again I’ve spent the last three days camped in the San Jacinto high country, hiking extensively on the trail system and elsewhere.

Autumnal weather arrived abruptly (and in some style) on Monday evening, with strong, chilly winds dominating the high country for the past two nights. I documented the spectacular cloud effects at sunset on Monday 16th at San Jacinto Peak in a short video, available here on YouTube.

The status of water sources, most of which having experienced significant declines in flow rates in the past couple of weeks, is updated below. The status of highway closures is unchanged and is described at the foot of this posting.

Hikers should be prepared for autumnal temperatures at or below freezing above about 10,000′ elevation (but potentially lower), at least when considering windchill effects.

Spectacular cloud formation south-east of San Jacinto Peak at sunset, 16th September 2019.

WEATHER Autumnal temperatures dominate, accompanied by extremely low humidity and periodic strong winds at the highest peaks. Windchill values at or below freezing overnight, generally above 10,000′ elevation, are now typical. There is a chance of precipitation on several days next week (25th-29th September).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 18th September 2019 at 0620 the air temperature was 42.9°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.9°F (-1°C), 7% relative humidity, and a potent SW wind sustained at 27 mph gusting to 31.8 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 17th September 2019 at 0625, the air temperature was 38.0°F (3°C), with a windchill temperature of 24.2°F (-4°C), 35% relative humidity, and a fresh WSW wind at 17 mph gusting to 26.4 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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance 9th-29th September. Warning signs have been posted at the Ramon and Museum trailheads by friend of the Trail Report, Florian Boyd.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

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 vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. State Park has apparently scheduled work this month to remove some or most of these obstructing trees. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great 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 indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

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.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot continues to flow well at about 2.0 gpm.

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 continues to flow gently where it crosses the meadow trail, the first time in some seven years that this has flowed all summer.

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

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is flowing gently, but is very overgrown with thick vegetation, and is too shallow for easy filtering. It is much more accessible where it is flowing steadily 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).

North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing the Deer Springs Trail, 18th September 2019.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing at its strongest in at least six years, but the flow rate continues to decline steadily.

Little Round Valley creek early this morning, 18th September 2019.

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

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

Deer Springs creek where it crosses the PCT/Deer Springs Trail, 18th September 2019.

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 spring is flowing very gently. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment over the winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very weakly now.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well 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

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 well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing weakly. The trail off the PCT to this spring was greatly improved earlier this summer.

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 side creek which is largely dry and 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. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day 2019 flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging, however the news is encouraging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. This highway is now estimated to reopen on 1st November 2019, with some form of traffic control (details to be determined). Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet reopened full time, but with a pilot car, on 30th August, likely continuing until October.

Trail update 11th September 2019

I’ve spent the last three days camped in the San Jacinto high country, hiking extensively on the trail system and elsewhere. A short vlog from San Jacinto Peak – the first in a while – is on YouTube linked here.

The status of water sources, many of which were rechecked yesterday and today, is basically unchanged from the update linked here, and news on the status of road closures is also described at the foot of that posting.

The thunderstorms of last week refreshed the forest and caused some minor erosion, visible throughout the trail system.

Extensive trail work should be underway this month, with tree clearance crews from various agencies scheduled for upper Deer Springs Trail, the PCT from Spitler to Red Tahquitz, and Seven Pines Trail, at least.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country. Autumnal temperatures are now the norm (see Weather below). Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, are possible in the high country even when such storms are not forecast.

WEATHER Autumnal temperatures (accompanied by extremely low humidity) are here, with windchill values near freezing overnight above 10,000′ elevation. That said, the next few days, including the weekend, will be unseasonably warm, before a return to pleasantly chilly September conditions next week. No notable precipitation is forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 11th September 2019 at 0620 the air temperature was 43.9°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.1°F (2°C), 13% relative humidity, and a brisk due West wind at 12 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 10th September 2019 at 0625, the air temperature was 43.3°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 33.4°F (1°C), 9% relative humidity, and a steady WSW wind at 10 mph gusting to 14.9 mph.

Sunset from San Jacinto Peak, 10th September 2019.

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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance 9th-29th September. Warning signs have kindly been posted at the Ramon and Museum trailheads by great friend of the Trail Report, Florian Boyd.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

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 vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Willow Creek Trail has had almost all obstructing trees removed this summer. Two trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide are both passable, one on USFS land by a temporary alternate trail, and one on State Park land can be climbed over. This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in June.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. State Park has scheduled work this month to remove some or most of these obstructing trees. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great 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 indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

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.

Trail and weather update 4th September 2019

[UPDATE 6th September: spectacular thunderstorms over the whole mountain yesterday afternoon produced violent precipitation. Trail erosion caused by runoff was widespread all the way to San Jacinto Peak this morning. In Idyllwild we received 0.77″ of rain, most of it in less than 30 minutes, during which we were also bombarded by intense garbanzo bean-sized hail for at least five minutes!]

Ascents of San Jacinto Peak yesterday and Friday included full surveys of the main eastern and western high country trails. Most other trails, and the Tahquitz area meadows, were thoroughly surveyed last week.

The status of water sources, many of which were rechecked yesterday, is unchanged from the last update linked here, and news on the status of road closures is also described at the foot of that posting.

Three storms occurred in the past two days. Relatively light rainfall occurred on Sunday and Monday afternoons (0.03″ and 0.08″ respectively in Idyllwild), though with heavier rain locally in the high country. Pea-sized hail was reported in Little Round Valley on Monday afternoon.

However in between there was a spectacular overnight thunderstorm between about 0130-0300 on Monday 2nd, which produced severe localised rainfall and strong winds. In Idyllwild less than 0.2″ rain fell, but Palm Springs and the Desert Divide recorded about one inch. One cell passed over Pinyon (1.4″ rain) tracking NW over Garner Valley and Lake Hemet. The San Jacinto high country was hardest hit by a very intense storm cell, with 2.46″ of rain in under two hours at Long Valley. Evidence of substantial run-off is obvious on all the high country trails. Colleagues overnighting at Tahquitz Peak fire lookout reported winds in excess of 40mph – even blowing out one of the windows – and hundreds of lightning strikes, none of which thankfully hit the tower itself.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer (as the last few days have demonstrated!). Monsoonal conditions are always a possibility in this season (see Weather below). Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast.

WEATHER Humid, potentially monsoonal, summer weather continues for the next couple of days, with well above-average temperatures for September. At the weekend (7th-8th September) temperatures are forecast to drop dramatically to seasonal norms, and it will start to feel autumnal in the high country.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) yesterday, Tuesday 3rd September 2019 at 0815 the air temperature was 52.5°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.0°F (9°C), 68% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze at 4 mph gusting to 8.6 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 30th August 2019 at 0815, the air temperature was 54.0°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.3°F (10°C), 33% relative humidity, and a steady W wind at 9 mph gusting to 11.6 mph.

The creek in Little Round Valley continues to flow, 3rd September 2019.

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.

Hikers planning ascents of Skyline Trail are reminded that the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed for maintenance 9th-29th September.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide near Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The video report from late May (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to try to hike around the rockslide.

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 vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Willow Creek Trail has had almost all obstructing trees removed this summer. As of Monday 26th August there remained two trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (one on USFS land is passable by a temporary alternate trail, and one on State Park land can be climbed over). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in June.

Seven Pines Trail has at least 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. State Park has scheduled work this month to remove some or most of these obstructing trees. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great 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 indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

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.