Weather and trail update 13th November 2019

A busy autumn has continued this week with multiple ascents of San Jacinto Peak, and a hike on the Black Mountain Trail (the latter now accessible from the south with the reopening of Highway 243). A short weather discussion recorded at the Peak this morning is available on YouTube.

About a dozen trees down on the upper section of Black Mountain Trail, reported last week, have all been removed. This delightful trail is now in its best maintained condition in at least eight years.

Hikers to Tahquitz Peak and Black Mountain fire lookouts should note that both close for the season this weekend, Black Mountain on Saturday 16th, and Tahquitz on Sunday 17th.

In a sign of how urgently we need precipitation, I was surprised to find that the Cinco Poses Spring spigot, about four miles up the Black Mountain Truck Trail, was dry yesterday. Other than that, the condition of water sources around the mountain is not significantly changed from the comprehensive update in last week’s posting. Given the forecast, hopefully the Trail Report will not be mentioning water availability again this year!

Hikers should always be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing. From Tuesday 19th, temperatures may be well below freezing in the high country, and even colder when considering windchill effects.

WEATHER Exceptionally warm weather in November so far – with temperatures well above seasonal average at all elevations – will finally come to an end with a vigourous cold front forecast to arrive on Tuesday 19th. This will hopefully produce some much-needed precipitation on 20th and 21st at least, with a dusting of snow possible for the highest elevations, and rainfall forecast everywhere else.

The latest very informative weather modeling from our local National Weather Service San Diego office was released today via YouTube.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 13th November 2019, at 0840 the air temperature was 53°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 52.5°F (11°C), 20% relative humidity, and a barely discernible West wind sustained at <1.0 mph gusting to 1.7 mph.

In contrast, at the Peak on Monday 11th November 2019 at 0800 the air temperature was 38.6°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 24.8°F (-4°C), 21% relative humidity, and a severe NNE wind sustained at 24 mph gusting to 27.6 mph.

This large tree, down across upper Black Mountain Trail for about seven years, required an awkward scramble on hands-and-knees to pass, until this week.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The 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.

One fallen burned pine 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 access to Seven Pines trailhead.

We resurveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid October. There are three trees down on Forest Service land, and about 30 on State Park land, the latter almost all above 7500′ elevation. The anticipated tree removal work by State Park in September did not occur. This trail has been extremely 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 on the north [left] side, so navigation is not a challenge).

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

Trail and water update 7th November 2019

A busy ten days has included surveys of water sources and trees down on the Pacific Crest Trail and all side trails from Highway 74 north to Black Mountain, plus ascents of San Jacinto Peak, Tahquitz Peak, and Black Mountain Trail (the latter now accessible from the south with the reopening of Highway 243). Every week I am hopeful that it will be the final discussion of water sources for 2019, but having said that, there is still no precipitation forecast in the foreseeable future.

Although just north of the area typically covered by the Trail Report, I got word that Whitewater Preserve and associated trails, including the trail to/from the PCT, reopened this week. This area had been closed since the Valentine’s Day flood event. Thanks to Don Line for this information.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing throughout the high country, but certainly above about 10,000′ elevation, especially by mid month.

WEATHER Temperatures continue to be above seasonal average at all elevations, and are forecast to remain that way for another week. By about 15th November, seasonally typical temperatures are forecast, including conditions well below freezing in the high country. No precipitation is forecast for the foreseeable future, although several days next week (13th-15th November) are likely to be cloudy.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) on Monday 4th November 2019 at 0830 the air temperature was 33.8°F (1°C), with a windchill temperature of 19.9°F (-7°C), 47% relative humidity, and a stiff NNE wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 21.3 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 1st November 2019 at 0900 the air temperature was 42.9°F (7°C), with a windchill temperature of 34.3°F (1°C), 14% relative humidity, and a moderate SE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 16.8 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.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The 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 Black Mountain Trail has ten trees down on the upper mile of the trail, most of which are new this year. While many are easily passable by hikers, a couple require some scrambling.

One fallen burned pine 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 access to Seven Pines trailhead.

We resurveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid October. There are three trees down on Forest Service land, and about 30 on State Park land, the latter almost all above 7500′ elevation. The anticipated tree removal work by State Park in September did not occur. 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 on the north [left] side, so navigation is not a challenge).

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

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot continues to flow well.

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 very well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It continues to flow well further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177).

Tahquitz Creek where it crosses the PCT at about Mile 177, with Grethe Spring in the background, 6th November 2019.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is basically dry in the former. It is much more accessible where it is flowing gently 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 continues to flow gently. This is the first time in seven or more years that this has flowed throughout the year.

Little Round Valley creek, 4th November 2019.

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

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 has functionally dried up. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment last winter and no longer accumulates water.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely a trickle now (but with tiny pools from which to drink for dogs being walked on the trail).

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

Highway 74 water cache is being resupplied regularly for southbound PCT hikers. This is located on the north side of the highway where the PCT crosses Highway 74. The ususal warnings apply about never completely relying on a water cache.

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 gently. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the sign on 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, 29th 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 (almost dry) 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 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. Potentially useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

New trees down at Saddle Junction at the start of the Caramba Trail (above), and north of Strawberry Junction near PCT Mile 184 (below) (6th and 4th November 2019 respectively). All trees down are reported to relevant agencies immediately.

Trail and weather update 30th October 2019

In light of the challenging wind/fire conditions this week, after an ascent of San Jacinto Peak on Monday we have spent the past two days surveying long sections of the Desert Divide, one of the most windy (and flammable) parts of the San Jacinto mountains.

Winds were strong today (20-30 mph) in Garner Valley and on parts of the Desert Divide. Both yesterday and today we passed by the notoriously exposed Fobes Saddle and it was interesting to note that the West wind there yesterday was actually stronger than the ENE wind this morning. Although it looked very hazy and dusty in the lowlands to both the east and west, the air remained clear and fresh in the mountains (at least above about 5000′).

Santa Ana winds have not been strong in the high country. Although seemingly counterintuitive, this is typical in the San Jacinto mountains, where terrain above about 9000′ is largely above the strongest north-east winds. Nevertheless with air temperatures near freezing everywhere above 4000′, windchill conditions at all montane elevations have been well below freezing.

Other than the weather conditions and associated fire risk, the most notable news is Caltrans’ announcement last night at a local community meeting that Highway 243 between Idyllwild and Banning will reopen no later than the evening of Friday 1st November. There may be some limited flagman operations for the foreseeable future. The entire highway from Lake Fulmor down to Banning has also been repaved in the past two months.

Our indefatigable PCTA Section B trail crew removed 16 downed trees in the Red Tahquitz area last weekend (PCT Miles 174.4 to 176.5). Only about five trees remain down between South Peak and the rockslide at Mile 172.5.

Almost all water sources have been rechecked in recent days, and there have been no significant changes since last week’s Report, linked here.

Despite unusually mild November weather, hikers should nevertheless be prepared for temperatures at or below freezing every day throughout the high country, but certainly above about 10,000′ elevation.

WEATHER Following a rapid plunge this week to temperatures well below seasonal, the first ten days of November are forecast to have temperatures well above seasonal average, more typical of late September. There continues to be no precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) on Monday 28th October 2019 at 0925 the air temperature was 38.3°F (4°C), with a windchill temperature of 30.8°F (-1°C), 18% relative humidity, and a light NNW wind sustained at 4.0 mph gusting to 8.3 mph.

Apache Spring flowing gently, 29th 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). The 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.

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 access to Seven Pines trailhead.

We resurveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid October. There are three trees down on Forest Service land, and about 30 on State Park land, the latter almost all above 7500′ elevation. The anticipated tree removal work by State Park in September did not occur. 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 on the north [left] side, so navigation is not a challenge).

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 23rd October 2019

[Update 29th October: Caltrans has just announced that Highway 243 between Idyllwild and Banning will reopen no later than 6pm on Friday 1st November. There may be some limited flagman operations for the foreseeable future.]

Three ascents of San Jacinto Peak last week followed by two so far this week, by a wide variety of routes, have allowed thorough assessment of many water sources. Today’s loop hike up the Peak Trail and down Deer Springs Trail included a check of Strawberry Cienega.

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. 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 status of water sources, some of which having experienced significant declines in flow rates recently, is updated below.

Hikers should be prepared for temperatures at or near freezing, potentially colder when considering windchill effects, especially above about 10,000′ elevation but possible at all montane elevations starting next week.

WEATHER Temperatures have been well above seasonal average for most of October. However starting early next week wintry temperatures, with lows near freezing in Idyllwild, are expected. There continues to be no significant precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Wednesday 23rd October 2019 at 0920 the air temperature was 48.3°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 46.9°F (8°C), 25% relative humidity, and a very light NW breeze sustained at 1.5 mph gusting to 3.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 21st October 2019 at 0915 the air temperature was 41.9°F (6°C), with a windchill temperature of 36.3°F (2°C), 37% relative humidity, and a gentle NW breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 7.5 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.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). The 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 this weekend.

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 access to Seven Pines trailhead.

We resurveyed Seven Pines Trail last week. There are three trees down on Forest Service land, and about 30 on State Park land, the latter almost all above 7500′ elevation. The anticipated tree removal work by State Park in September did not happen. 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, so navigation is not a challenge).

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).

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.

Wellman’s Cienega north spring, 21st October 2019.

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).

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is almost dry in the former. It is much more accessible where it is flowing gently 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 at its crossing of the Deer Springs Trail, 23rd October 2019.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley continues to flow gently. This is the first time in seven or more years that this has flowed into the autumn.

Little Round Valley creek, 23rd October 2019.

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

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 has functionally dried up. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment last winter and no longer accumulates water.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is barely a trickle now.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow 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 17 switchbacks!).

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.

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. Potentially useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

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.

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.