Weather, water, and trail update 22nd October 2020

Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened on 9th October. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (Miles 191-206, closed due to the Snow Fire). Due to exceptional fire risk, all dispersed camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) and camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) are not permitted. All wilderness camping in the State Park is also prohibited.

Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are open. Please see the State Park website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

With a significant change in the weather imminent, hikers should be prepared for temperatures near or below freezing in the high country (potentially well below freezing when considering windchill effects), especially on 25th-28th October.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and limited days; see the Tramway website for details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER After a long, hot summer, including much of October, it looks like we may briefly bypass autumn and head straight into winter in the next few days. Temperatures are forecast to fall rapidly to well below seasonal average for several days. This may be accompanied by some light precipitation at mid elevations on Sunday 25th and Monday 26th October, with one or two tenths of an inch of rain possible. By the end of October, temperatures are forecast to be at or above average again, initially driven by strong Santa Ana winds.

The latest video report from NWS San Diego nicely summarizes the weather complexities of the next few days.

Air quality has not yet returned to normal, but may do so over the next few days given the forecast winds and rain. Until the high country receives significant precipitation, fire risk remains severe.

Another recent video from NWS San Diego is informative, including the latest projection for the winter overall (spoiler alert: not good news). Data show the three months July- September 2020 were the hottest in Idyllwild history, and that Idyllwild’s ten hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 20th October 2020, at 0830 the air temperature was 51.4°F (10°C), with a windchill of 49.7°F (10°C), 17% relative humidity, and a very light WNW breeze gusting to 3.3 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 19th October 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 50.6°F (10°C), with a windchill of 46.8°F (8°C), 22% relative humidity, and a steady NW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (approx. Miles 191-206).

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing steadily. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing very gently for a short distance further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Tahquitz Creek at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 20th October 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – has nearly dried up in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing weakly, and it dries up just below the mouth of the valley. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing gently.

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

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

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is now largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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.

Sunrise from upper Angel’s Glide (8700′, roughly PCT Mile 180) on 19th October 2020.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and weather update 15th October 2020

Both Mount San Jacinto State Park and the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened on 9th October. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (Miles 191-206, closed due to the Snow Fire). All camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is not permitted. All wilderness camping in the State Park is also prohibited. In the Forest, only developed campgrounds that were previously open – Pinyon, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin – have reopened (the latter two are scheduled to close for the season on 10th November anyway). Details of the Forest Service reopening are available here.

Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations of the Mount San Jacinto State Park, which are open. Please see the State Park website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which closed 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, partially reopened on 9th October. Trams are operating at greatly reduced capacity, reduced times, and limited days; see the Tramway website for full details.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

Water conditions – as confirmed by multiple hikes in the high country in the past few days via most major routes – are not significantly different from those described in last week’s Report (available here).

On a minor personal note, on Sunday 11th October, far off trail on the north face of San Jacinto Peak, I passed one million feet of elevation gain for 2020, achieved entirely within the San Jacinto mountains. My previous record for a calendar year was about 820,000 feet. Before anyone asks, the hard part about hiking/running over a million feet of elevation gain in a year? Descending one million feet.

WEATHER Other than a brief interlude around last weekend, temperatures have been well above seasonal for the month of October so far. Autumn finally arrives late next week, around Thursday 22nd, when temperatures are forecast to fall rapidly below seasonal average for several days. Air quality has not yet returned to normal, but in the past week has been the best in the San Jacinto mountains since mid August. There is currently no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains extreme.

The latest video from NWS San Diego is very informative, including the latest projection for the winter (spoiler alert: bad news). Data show the three months July- September 2020 were the hottest in Idyllwild history, and that Idyllwild’s ten hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Thursday 15th October 2020, at 0850 the air temperature was 50.3°F (10°C), with a windchill of 43.7°F (7°C), 33% relative humidity, and a fresh NNE wind sustained at 8 mph gusting to 16.5 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 11th October 2020, at 1530 the air temperature was 44.9°F (8°C), with a windchill of 36.3°F (2°C), 47% relative humidity, and a steady NNE wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 15.8 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak remains Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

Parish’s Catchfly (Silene parishii) still just in flower, 11th October 2020, at 10,100 feet on the remote north face of San Jacinto Peak. This flower is endemic to the mountain ranges of Southern California.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail by the Snow Fire (17th-19th September 2020). A closure order for the burn scar means that the Trail remains closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (approx. Miles 191-206).

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow – for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire – despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

North spring at Wellman’s Cienega still flowing steadily, 13th October 2020.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Forest and Park update 9th October 2020

The San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest partially reopened today. Forest Service has indicated this is primarily a day use reopening. All trails are open, except for the Pacific Crest Trail between Black Mountain Road and Snow Creek (closed due to the Snow Fire). Dispersed camping remains prohibited forestwide, meaning wilderness camping (including along the PCT) or camping at yellow post sites (such as those along Black Mountain Road and South Ridge Road) is not permitted. Only those developed campgrounds that were previously open – Pinyon, Marion Mountain, Fern Basin – have reopened (the latter two are scheduled to close for the season on 10th November anyway). Details of the Forest Service reopening are available here.

The wilderness of Mount San Jacinto State Park has also reopened. Hiking permits are available at the Idyllwild and Long Valley ranger stations. All camping in the State Park wilderness remains prohibited. Please see the State Park website for details.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which has been closed since 13th March due to the coronavirus crisis, reopened today. Trams are operating at less than 25% capacity and reservations are required. Tram riders should be aware that all camping in the State Park wilderness remains prohibited. Full details of the Tram reopening are available at the Tramway website.

The unprecedented Forest and Park closures, in place for 31 days, were indicative of the exceptional fire risk and the associated resource challenges. Although conditions have ameliorated somewhat, please note that fire risk remains extreme. The wisdom of the closure decision was demonstrated by the outbreak of the Snow Fire in mid September, which burned 6200 acres, largely in the Snow Creek and Falls Creek drainages.

The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required for the San Jacinto wilderness, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station.

Black Mountain Road was graded in June through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground (and the Black Mountain Group campground) will remain closed into 2021.

South Ridge Road was partially graded in the first week of September, and is now readily passable.

WEATHER After temperatures well above seasonal for the first week of October, cooler autumnal weather finally arrived on 7th October. Regrettably it will last less than a week, with temperatures rising again to well above average from 12th October onwards. With a shift from easterly to westerly winds, air quality today was the best in and around the San Jacinto mountains since mid August. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains extreme.

The past month was the hottest September in recorded Idyllwild history. Remarkably, 27 of the 30 days recorded average temperatures above the historic average for the month. This followed an exceptionally hot and dry August, the hottest ever recorded for California. Overall the summer period (July-early September) was the sixth hottest in Idyllwild history, with the top ten hottest summers all occurring since 2002.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Thursday 8th October 2020, at 0900 the air temperature was 48.3°F (9°C), with a windchill of 40.6°F (5°C), 32% relative humidity, and a cool WSW wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 15.9 mph.

At the Peak on Tuesday 6th October 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 48.4°F (9°C), with a windchill of 41.5°F (5°C), 29% relative humidity, and a light SE wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 13.6 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak was on Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

The Pacific Crest Trail above Snow Creek (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) was extensively burned on both sides of the Trail by the Snow Fire (September 17th-19th). A closure order expected for the burn scar means that the Trail will remain closed between Snow Creek and Black Mountain Road (approx. Mile 191).

Many trails have treefall hazards remaining from last winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road will continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails barely exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire) despite USFS information to the contrary. Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August. The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing steadily. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing very gently further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – has nearly dried up in both locations.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing weakly, and it dries up just below the mouth of the valley. The flow rate has dropped substantially in recent weeks. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily, but flow rate dropped markedly in September.

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

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring stopped flowing in the first week of October. Other springs on this trail are dry.

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

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Barely trickling.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is now largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Forest closure update 1st October 2020

[UPDATE 6th October: The Forest will reportedly reopen on Friday 9th October for day use. Wilderness camping will remain prohibited. Some forest roads may remain closed. Full details will be available shortly.]

The closure of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, which began on Monday 7th September, has been extended until at least 8th October (see revised closure order here).

Notices posted at trailheads such as Humber Park and Ernie Maxwell Trail were amended by hand on 22nd September to simply say “extended, see website for details”. Apparently, “the closure will be reevaluated daily”, although the previous three closure orders have all run through to their expiration date. The Forest Service does have a relatively useful FAQs regarding the closure.

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk, for public and firefighter safety, and due to lack of adequate emergency response resources. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in the closure.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

The Snow Fire, which started on 17th September, was held initially at 6013 acres (see prior posting for discussion). On 22nd September that acreage was revised up to 6254, apparently due to improved mapping, rather than additional burning. Given the enormous challenges with almost all the other fires in the state at this time, we are extremely fortunate that the Snow Fire was not ultimately many times larger, or more destructive. The principal formal trail impacted was the PCT. About eight miles were burned (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) although damage to the trail is minimal due to the gentle gradient on this section and the relatively short, light chaparral in this area.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate by Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. All fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, apparently for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. The smoke/smog level has visibly fluctuated between about 7000′ to 12,000′, although overall air quality has improved significantly in the San Jacinto mountains in recent days.

WEATHER Although temperatures cooled somewhat earlier this week, they have climbed again to well above seasonal. Temperatures are forecast to fall significantly next week. The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 23rd (59.9°F) was the highest ever recorded at that location in the second half of September. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The prospects for the remainder of 2020, discussed in an earlier video from NWS San Diego, are not encouraging.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Forest and fire update 24th September 2020

[The next update to the Trail Report is scheduled for Thursday 1st October, when the Forest and Park closures will either be lifted or extended.]

The closure of the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, which began on Monday 7th September, has now been extended until at least 30th September (see revised closure order here).

Notices posted at trailheads such as Humber Park and Ernie Maxwell Trail were amended by hand on 22nd to simply say “extended, see website for details”. Apparently, “the closure will be reevaluated daily”. The Forest Service does have a relatively useful FAQs regarding the closure.

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in the closure.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

The Snow Fire was held initially at 6013 acres (see prior posting for discussion). On 22nd that acreage was revised up to 6254, apparently due to improved mapping, rather than additional burning. There has been no visible sign of smoke or smoldering for the past few days, and containment percentage increases every day. Given the enormous challenges with almost all the other fires in the region at this time, we are extremely fortunate that the Snow Fire was not ultimately many times larger, or more destructive. The principal formal trail impacted was the PCT. About eight miles were burned (approx. PCT Miles 198-206) although damage to the trail is limited due to the gentle gradient on this section and the relatively short, light chaparral in this area.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed, potentially for the season. Indeed all fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, apparently for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. This past weekend was the best air quality this month, but it has subsequently deteriorated again somewhat in the past couple of days (but remains better now than earlier in September).

WEATHER Although temperatures have cooled somewhat, overnight lows in particular remain above average. Temperatures well above seasonal are forecast to return for the last couple of days of September into the first few days of October (as discussed in the latest briefing from NWS San Diego).

The air temperature at San Jacinto Peak on the morning of 23rd (59.9°F) was the highest ever recorded at that location in the second half of September. There is no precipitation in the forecast. The prospects for the remainder of 2020, discussed in an earlier video from NWS San Diego, are not encouraging.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow Fire update 19th September 2020

[The entire National Forest and State Park remain closed due to exceptional fire risk, with full details in an earlier posting, available here.]

UPDATED at 0915

Encouraging news. Total spread looks to have been held under 6000 acres and the fire is largely extinguished. Viewed from above, the western flank (in the vicinity of the PCT) appears to be completely extinguished. A very solid retardant line held the spread right around 5000ft elevation in chaparral, and there is no sign of smoldering or smoke.

Minor smoke plumes are still visible on the east flank of Blaisdell Ridge at about 5000ft elevation, about two miles due north of Mountain Station of the Tramway. Although there is a spotter plane in the air, there is no active air attack, so I assume there is no significant flare-up in that area. This could change at any time of course.

There is minor smoldering and smoking low down in the Falls Creek drainage. Otherwise all the spot fires in the drainages appear to have died down.

Wind in the high country is very similar to yesterday, from WSW sustained above 10 mph gusting to 18 mph. Especially those of us living in Idyllwild-Pine Cove been very fortunate to have predominantly SW winds, and everyone has been helped by having relatively weak winds. Air quality is the best today in two weeks, with the San Gabriel and Santa Ana mountains clearly visible this morning fom the San Jacinto high country.

Retardant line roughly perpendicular to the PCT at about 5000′ elevation, in the West Fork drainage about two miles north of Fuller Ridge, 19th September 2020, as seen from near San Jacinto Peak. The previous morning the fire had been moving rapidly from right to left.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers.While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Snow Fire update 18th September 2020

UPDATED 18th September @ 1710. Mixed news. Containment remains 5%. Reportedly air attack indicated 4500 acres burned at about 1600 (Cal Fire later put the figure at 4200 acres). The fire is holding on the east sides within the retardant and ridges to the west, but is spreading to the south and up the drainages/canyons.

UPDATED 18th September @ 1520. The latest report indicates 3500 acres burned at 5% containment. That acreage is roughly what I saw visibly burned this morning, as described below, suggesting that while the level of formal containment may be low, the fire has not changed dramatically in the past few hours and is not burning out-of-control. This could change at any time of course.

The Snow Fire started near the village of Snow Creek yesterday 17th September at about 1440. The cause was apparently a vehicle problem on Snow Creek Road that led to a vegetation fire. Gusty afternoon winds quickly dispersed embers widely onto the sides of the canyon, including just above Snow Creek community and on Blaisdell Ridge. By dusk last night, the fire was 1200 acres, burning in at least four separate spots. Special thanks to Florian Boyd for on-location information on 17th.

This fire is now impacting the lower north face of San Jacinto Peak up to about 5000ft in multiple canyons between the PCT to the west and approaching Blaisdell Canyon to the east.

UPDATED 18th September @ 0950. Currently the official estimate is at 2500 acres. A big fire front made a significant run up the West Fork drainage below the PCT, up to near 5000ft elevation, between 0830-0930. The fire crossed the PCT in that area at about 0900. With up to four air tankers in the air, including a DC-10 type, there were multiple retardant drops roughly perpendicular to the PCT at or above about 5000ft. Although the fire got into thicker chaparral creating lots of smoke, it appeared to be slowing down in that area by about 0945.

The entire isthmus (between Snow Creek East Fork and Falls Creek) burned overnight to its narrowest point at about 4200ft elevation. Spot fires remain smoldering in Snow Creek and Falls Creek drainages below about 4000ft, although almost all of the riparian vegetation survived unburned. The community of Snow Creek and the DWA facilities appear to be undamaged.

All morning the fire was burning in small patches on both flanks of Blaisdell Ridge up to c.5000ft. Prior to 0900, the focus of retardent drops was on the east flank of this ridge, slowing progress of the fire toward Palm Springs and the Tramway area. By 0930 the fire seemed to be petering out on Blaisdell in part because it is so rocky with relatively little fuel.

Although by late morning the prognosis for containment appeared to be somewhat positive, obviously this could change dramatically at short notice, as we have seen in so many other places in recent weeks. While the perimeter of the burned area may be several thousand acres, actual burning has been patchy within that due to rocky terrain and sparse vegetation in many areas.

In addition to the fire movement at its east end towards the Windy Point area (NW of Palm Springs), the main area of concern will be any movement westward up the West Fork drainage. By late morning there was an active fire front less than a mile from One Horse Ridge, and little more than two miles from the Fuller Ridge campground and trailhead.

Forest closure extended 14th September 2020

The entire San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest closed on Monday evening, 7th September. The initial closure order has now been extended to Monday 21st September (see closure order extension here).

In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step has been taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests statewide, are included in the closure. According to USFS, the closure situation is reevaluated daily.

As indicated on the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. Prior trail and camping permits have been revoked. As public trails into the Park largely pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

Black Mountain Road is closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), possibly for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed, potentially for the season. Indeed all fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest are currently closed, for the protection of the volunteers who operate them and due to scarce resource availability in the event of any emergency.

Air quality on the mountain has varied from day-to-day, but in general has been poor. Most of the past week has seen two layers of smoke, one at high elevation (>14,000′), the other closer to ground level (often <4000′). With prevailing winds from northerly directions for most of the past week, the higher elevation smoke was likely from fires in northern California (or even Oregon), the lower smoke from the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles NF and from the El Dorado Fire in the Yucaipa/Forest Falls area. This morning, winds had shifted (and strengthened) to the south-east, clearing out the upper elevation smoke, but raising the lower level smoke to nearly 12,000′ around the San Jacinto mountains.

Please stay safe everyone. I will continue to post updated information as it becomes available.

“Sunrise” at nearly 0900 over Little Round Valley, 8th September 2020, by far the worst day of air quality in the closure period.
Above, San Gorgonio as seen from San Jacinto Peak early morning on 4th September 2020, and below, the same view, exactly same time of day, on 7th September 2020.

Forest closure 7th September 2020

The entire San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest is closing effective at 1700 (5:00pm) today, Monday 7th September. In addition to the forest and trails, this closure includes all campgrounds, picnic sites, trailheads, and forest roads. This unprecedented step is being taken due to exceptional fire risk. Other parts of the San Bernardino NF, as well as other national forests in Southern California, are included in this closure (see USFS closure notice here). It is not clear at this time when the Forest will reopen, the situation is being reevaluated daily (although the initial closure order is for one week until 14th September).

According to the website of Mount San Jacinto State Park, all state park trails are also closed. All current trail and camping permits are being revoked. As all public trails into the Park pass through Forest Service land, the Park is functionally inaccessible.

Black Mountain Road is now closed (at the gate about 1.7 miles up from Highway 243), likely for the remainder of the year. One unfortunate consequence of this action is that the Black Mountain Fire Lookout is also now closed for the season.

The Santa Ana wind event expected for 8th and 9th September is described in detail in the latest video discussion from NWS San Diego.

Air quality on the mountain this morning was extremely poor (comparable to when we have had local fires burning within the San Jacinto mountains). From San Jacinto Peak at about 0740, I was completely unable to see San Gorgonio or the Coachella Valley, Black Mountain only a few miles away was barely visible, and looking south (where the visibility was best) I could only just make out Apache Peak.

Please stay safe everyone. Obviously I will post more information as soon as it comes available.

Above, San Gorgonio as seen from San Jacinto Peak early morning on 4th September 2020, and below, the same view, exactly same time of day, taken today 7th September 2020.

Weather and water update 3rd September 2020

Hikes every day, including four ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past five days by different routes, have allowed for a thorough check of water sources and trail conditions. A brief period of relatively cool weather (although still above seasonal averages!) in recent days included, on Monday 31st August, the first windchill temperature below 40°F recorded at San Jacinto Peak in exactly two months. Regrettably, these few cool days will be short-lived, with another spell of record heat forecast starting Friday 4th September until Tuesday 8th.

Hikers should be prepared for unseasonably hot weather, with temperatures far above seasonal, the overnight low temperatures in particular 15-22°F above average this weekend. Please give considerable extra thought to route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements. Air quality in the mountains had improved markedly in recent days, but then deteriorated again dramatically today (3rd September) with a switch in wind direction.

Although monsoon conditions are not forecast for the foreseeable future, hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits are required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September, and should be available at the kiosk outside the ranger station. USFS has indicated that a permit quota will not be enforced for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. USFS campgrounds are open, except those mentioned elsewhere in this update.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, although no tentative reopening date has been approved.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

WEATHER As mentioned above, relatively cool weather ends on Thursday 3rd September, after which record-breaking hot temperatures are forecast until about 9th September. A couple of cool days will be followed by yet another warming starting 11th. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Regrettably, for the fourth year in a row, the late summer monsoons have largely missed us, with only 0.08″ rain measured in Idyllwild in August. Fire risk remains severe.

The National Weather Service has issued an excellent video discussion of the record-breaking heatwave expected over the Labor Day weekend. The video includes a brief summary of an exceptionally hot and dry August, the hottest ever recorded for much of Southern California.

The past month was likely the hottest August in recorded Idyllwild history (pending final National Weather Service data). Remarkably, 24 of the 31 days in August recorded an overnight low temperature of at least 60°F. Historically the average low for Idyllwild in August is 54°F.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Thursday 3rd September 2020, at 0745 the air temperature was 53.7°F (12°C), with a windchill of 47.1°F (8°C), 37% relative humidity, and a steady due East wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 20.8 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 31st August 2020, at 0745 the air temperature was 47.4°F (9°C), with a windchill of 39.7°F (5°C), 58% relative humidity, and a firm SW wind sustained at 10 mph gusting to 17.6 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded (to date) at San Jacinto Peak was on Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August.

Round Valley pipe flowing, 26th August 2020

The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

Tahquitz Creek where it crosses the PCT near Mile 177, immediately below its source at Grethe Spring, 27th August 2020.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily, but flow rate dropped markedly in August.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring continues to trickle gently. Other springs on this trail are dry.

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

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

Illegal camp fire, near Deer Springs crossing, 24th August 2020. No form of camp fire is ever permitted in the San Jacinto wilderness, but given the current fire conditions locally and statewide, this seems to be particularly thoughtless (to put it politely).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover costs. With an especially challenging year in 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and water update 26th August 2020

Six ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past ten days, by a variety of routes, have allowed for a thorough check of water sources, including Willow Creek, Deer Springs, Round Valley, and Fuller Ridge trails, among others.

Hikers should be prepared for relatively hot and humid weather well into September. Although temperatures have dropped compared to the previous two weeks, they remain above seasonal averages, especially overnight. Please give extra thought to route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Although monsoon conditions seem to have passed for the foreseeable future, hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations. A localized storm around Tahquitz Peak and Saddle Junction on 21st August included dangerous hail, up to one inch in diameter, falling for 20 minutes, while brief rain fell throughout the high country (but not in Idyllwild) on 22nd.

Air quality was very poor last week, mainly due to ozone smog and of course smoke. In the past week visibility from San Jacinto Peak has been some of the worst I have ever seen, and was so bad on 21st and 26th that the Coachella Valley was invisible. With a drop in atmospheric pressure, a subtle cooling trend, and increasing high altitude winds, air quality has been slowly improving in recent days.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits will be required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September. A permit quota will be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can currently be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those mentioned elsewhere in this update.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, although no tentative reopening date has been approved.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

WEATHER As mentioned above, temperatures will largely remain above average, especially overnight. A subtle cooling trend in the last couple of days of August will be followed by temperatures well above average in the first week of September. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Regrettably, for the fourth year in a row, the late summer monsoons have largely missed us, other than a couple of brief storms in the high country, with only 0.02″ rain measured in Idyllwild in August. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Wednesday 26th August 2020, at 0730 the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill of 44.5°F (7°C), 50% relative humidity, and a strong SW wind sustained at 13 mph gusting to 24.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 24th August 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 55.7°F (13°C), with a windchill of 50.6°F (10°C), 50% relative humidity, and a variable SW breeze sustained at 5 mph gusting to 18.2 mph.

The warmest temperature I have ever recorded at San Jacinto Peak was on Wednesday 19th August 2020, when at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measurable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

Salvia pachyphylla (“Blue Sage”), in bloom on Willow Creek Trail, 26th August 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails. All significant tree hazards on Willow Creek Trail have now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe (currently there is no maintenance crew camped in Long Valley). The nearby Round Valley creek dried up in early August.

Round Valley pipe flowing, 26th August 2020

The small creek in Tamarack Valley also dried up in August.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing well at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley dried up in early August.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

Little Round Valley, 24th August 2020.

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily, but flow rate dropped markedly in August.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring continues to trickle gently. Other springs on this trail are dry.

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

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

Illegal camp fire, near Deer Springs crossing, 24th August 2020. No form of camp fire is ever permitted in the San Jacinto wilderness, but given the current fire conditions statewide, this seems to be particularly thoughtless (to put it politely).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Weather and water update 19th August 2020

[UPDATED 22nd August with air quality information, and description of hail storm from 21st.]

Despite the weather, I continue to average 3-4 hikes per week to San Jacinto Peak, usually all by different routes. Other hikes/runs to check on conditions since the last report have included the Tahquitz area meadows, and South Ridge and Ernie Maxwell trails.

Hikers should be prepared for hot and humid weather for the remainder of August, even at the highest elevations. I observed a record temperature at San Jacinto Peak on Monday 17th (62.1°F), and then promptly broke that again today (62.3°F). Granted it’s not exactly Furnace Creek, but it is unusually warm night and day throughout the high country at present, often combined with high humidity. Please give considerable extra thought to route choice, start times, clothing, sun protection, and water requirements.

Hikers should also be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in late summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, intense precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations. A localized storm around Tahquitz Peak and Saddle Junction on 21st August included dangerous hail, up to one inch in diameter, falling for 20 minutes.

Air quality is currently very poor, mainly due to ozone smog and of course smoke. On Friday 21st, the AQI in Idyllwild was 120 in the morning, rising to 168 later in the day. Visibility has been very poor from San Jacinto Peak this week (so bad on 21st that I couldn’t even see Palm Springs airport). With a subtle cooling trend and increasing winds, air quality may steadily improve over the next week.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits will be required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September. A permit quota will be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can currently be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those mentioned elsewhere in this update.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, to allow for a theoretical reopening date of 1st September. However that requires approvals that will likely depend on significant improvement of the coronavirus crisis.

Be rattlesnake and bear aware. As described previously, potentially hazardous wildlife is active at present. As always, if you respect them, they will respect you.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, 6700′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail, 14th August 2020.

WEATHER As mentioned above, hot record (or near-record) temperatures are forecast for most of the rest of August. Overnight “low” temperatures in particular have been 15-20 degrees above seasonal. A slight cooling trend is forecast from 22nd August, but temperatures will remain well above average, especially overnight. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast (although thunderstorms are possible). Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Wednesday 19th August 2020, at 0745 the air temperature was 62.3°F (17°C), with no measureable windchill, 42% relative humidity, and calm, extremely hazy conditions.

At the Peak on Monday 17th August 2020 at 0740 the air temperature was 62.1°F (17°C), with a windchill of 61.2°F (16°C), 50% relative humidity, and a light ESE wind sustained at 2 mph gusting to 9.4 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has nine tree hazards on State Park land between the USFS boundary and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Fourteen additional trees on Forest Service land, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe. This water source is inconsistent and should not be relied upon. The nearby Round Valley creek is now dry.

The small creek in Tamarack Valley is functionally dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley is now dry.

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

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring continues to trickle gently. Other springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, [updated 20th August] the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is flowing again where it crosses the trail. Even when Fern Valley Water District diverts flow into the pipe system, as it had for much of August, there are small pools just upslope from the trail (this creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

Above, Summit Junction, 17th August, below, Wellman Divide, 14th August. New, unfortunately inaccurate, signage has been installed by the State Park over the past week on the east side from Long Valley to Summit Junction. This replaced the existing 1960s era signage. There are too many errors to detail them all here, but, for example, from the sign above, the correct distance to the PCT is 2.8 miles (not 2.3), and from the sign below the distance to Saddle Junction is 3.2 miles (not 2.8). Hopefully such errors will not prove life-threatening, although they are substantial in percentage terms.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 12th August 2020

I continue to average four hikes per week to San Jacinto Peak, surveying water sources on as many different routes as possible, recently including Deer Springs, Fuller Ridge, and Marion Mountain trails, plus the east side routes. The 33,000 acre Apple Fire on the south side of the San Bernardino mountains was no longer showing significant smoke by Sunday 9th, although yesterday from Black Mountain I watched a minor flare-up in Wood Canyon. The damage to an area where Anne and I used to hike regularly is catastrophic. In happier news, the story of how our dog Anabel recently survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country continues to attract considerable attention and encouraging feedback. Thank you so much for all the kind comments and positive thoughts.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. USFS day use permits will be required again for the San Jacinto wilderness starting 1st September. A permit quota will be in place for Devil’s Slide Trail for Labor Day weekend. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can currently be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those mentioned in this post.

Hikers should be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, most likely in the afternoon or evening, are forecast to be a possibility every day for at least the next week.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward the normal September maintenance program into August this year, to allow for a theoretical reopening date of 1st September. However that requires approvals that will likely depend on significant improvement of the coronavirus crisis.

Be rattlesnake and bear aware. As described previously, potentially hazardous wildlife is active at present. As always, if you respect them, they will respect you.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

WEATHER Starting Wednesday 12th August, very hot record high temperatures are forecast for at least the next week. Overnight “low” temperatures in particular may be 15-20 degrees above seasonal averages. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Tuesday 11th August 2020, at 0830 the air temperature was 50.4°F (10°C), with a windchill of 41.5°F (5°C), 35% relative humidity, and a strong SW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 32.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 10th August 2020 at 0805 the air temperature was 52.4°F (11°C), with a windchill of 47.9°F (9°C), 24% relative humidity, and a moderate SW wind sustained at 4 mph gusting to 10.6 mph.

The warmest morning I have recorded at San Jacinto Peak so far in 2020 was on Monday 20th July, when at 0835 the air temperature was 59.7°F (15°C), with no discernible windchill, 31% relative humidity, largely calm with an occasional NE breeze gusting to 2.7 mph.

Smoke from the Apple Fire as seen from San Jacinto Peak on Friday 7th August. Smoke spread southeast beyond the Salton Sea.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has nine tree hazards on State Park land between the USFS boundary and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Fourteen additional trees on Forest Service land, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe. This water source is inconsistent and should not be relied upon. The nearby Round Valley creek is now dry.

The small creek in Tamarack Valley is barely trickling and will dry up this month.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley continues to flow gently.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing steadily.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

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

North Fork of the San Jacinto River where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail, 11th August 2020.

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek has now dried up where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing steadily.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is trickling, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently. Other creeks and springs on this trail are dry.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is now dry where it crosses the trail. However there are small pools just upslope from the trail (this is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

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

Apache Spring (N 33 43 11, W 116 37 13) Flowing very weakly.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 5th August 2020

I have been averaging four hikes per week to San Jacinto Peak, via as many different routes as possible, plus most other major trails around the high country such as Willow Creek, South Ridge, and Caramba. Just 32 days since leaving ICU, Anabel accompanied me into the high country for the first time today with no apparent difficulty (for those unfamiliar with the full story of how our dog survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country, it is available here).

There are several current missing persons cases in and around the San Jacinto mountains. Only one, Roy Prifogle, was known to be hiking public trails at the time of his disappearance. Anyone with any relevant information should contact Riverside County Sheriffs Department.

Be rattlesnake and bear aware. As described last week potentially hazardous wildlife is active at present. As always, if you respect them, they will respect you.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. However Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis. The Tram has brought forward their normal September maintenance program into August this year, to allow for a theoretical reopening date of 1st September. However that requires a variety of approvals that will likely depend on significant improvement of the coronavirus crisis.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

The Apple Fire in the San Bernardino mountains as seen from San Jacinto Peak on 3rd August 2020. The fire scar is visible on upper Banning Bench (far left) through to Burro Flat (just right of centre). The mushroom cloud of smoke marks the active fire front near Yucaipa Ridge. Folly Peak is in the foreground (lower left corner). This nearly 30,000 acre fire was caused by a diesel vehicle emitting burning carbon from its exhaust as it drove along Oak Glen Road.

WEATHER Starting today, four days of below average temperatures will provide welcome relief from the heat. By Sunday 9th August, temperatures are forecast to return to summer seasonal averages, before moving well above average starting about Wednesday 12th. There is no precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Wednesday 5th August 2020, at 0805 the air temperature was 48.8°F (9°C), with a windchill of 41.4°F (5°C), 22% relative humidity, and a steady due West wind sustained at 12 mph gusting to 17.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 3rd August 2020 at 0745 the air temperature was 55.5°F (13°C), with a windchill of 52.9°F (12°C), 18% relative humidity, and a light but steady WNW wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 8.5 mph.

The warmest morning I have recorded at San Jacinto Peak so far in 2020 was on Monday 20th July, when at 0835 the air temperature was 59.7°F (15°C), with no discernible windchill, 31% relative humidity, largely calm with an occasional NE breeze gusting to 2.7 mph.

The Apple Fire as seen from San Jacinto Peak on Wednesday 5th August. Even from nearly 20 miles away, a large active fire front was visible to the naked eye today far to the east of Snow Peak.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has nine tree hazards on State Park land between the USFS boundary and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Fourteen additional trees on Forest Service land, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS plans for removal of the rockslide have been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. An informal use trail to Laws is much more direct and avoids all of the challenging bush-whacking of the unmaintained trails (some local hikers have 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Be advised that it is an indistinct use trail, becoming less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless, cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is flowing again. Flow has periodically been redirected to the CCC/ACE camp in Long Valley and water pressure can be insufficient to also flow at the pipe. This water source is inconsistent and should not be relied upon. The nearby Round Valley creek is now dry.

The small creek in Tamarack Valley is barely flowing and will likely dry up this month.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring flowing gently on 3rd August 2020.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley continues to flow gently.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing steadily.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

Ephemeral creeks, such as those along Marion Mountain Trail and on Deer Springs Trail, are now all dry (for filtering at least).

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek is flowing weakly where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing strongly.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles on the PCT northbound from Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is now functionally dry and should not be relied upon for filtering.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very gently. Other creeks and springs on this trail have functionally dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park is now dry where it crosses the trail, however there are small pools just upslope from the trail (this is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on the Ernie Maxwell).

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing 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.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Brief trail update 29th July 2020

I have summited San Jacinto Peak four times since last week’s report via various routes including Fuller Ridge Trail. Yesterday morning Anabel and I had a lovely hike to survey conditions on Willow Creek Trail, at ten miles her longest hike since her rattlesnake bite on 2nd July.

We currently have three, possibly four, missing persons cases from 2020 in and around the San Jacinto mountains, as summarized here (note only one was known to be a hiker on public trails). Anyone with any relevant information should contact Riverside County Sheriffs Department.

The current status of water sources has not changed significantly since last week’s report. Please consult that update for the latest water conditions.

Be bear aware. As I reported belatedly in last week’s update, I had a great view of a Black Bear at 0558 on Thursday 23rd at 7800′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail. This is one of the two individuals that appeared in the San Jacinto mountains – where they normally do not occur – in 2017, but to the best of my knowledge there had been no sightings for about a year. This individual is very distinctive, with a bright blond upper body and dark chocolate head and legs. As a (much smaller) youngster, the same bear walked past our house in Idyllwild two years ago in broad daylight (short video here).

Be rattlesnake aware. After a slow start to the summer, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes have been active in recent weeks. As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail, and the lowest section of Deer Springs Trail, seem to be particular hotspots. For the first year ever, they are also occurring at the elevation of Wellman’s Cienega, where they are particularly hard to see on the heavily vegetated trail. For anyone interested in the story of how our dog Anabel survived, against very long odds, being bitten by a neurotoxic rattlesnake in the high country earlier this month, it is available here.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. However Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The State Park ranger station in Idyllwild has been open since late May. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

WEATHER Temperatures are forecast to be well above seasonal averages for the next week, until about Tuesday 4th August, with record temperatures (especially overnight lows) possible this weekend. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Monday 27th July 2020, at 0840 the air temperature was 50.8°F (11°C), with a windchill of 46.9°F (8°C), 39% relative humidity, and a light SE breeze sustained at 6 mph gusting to 11.5 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Saturday 25th July 2020, when at 0715 the air temperature was 47.3°F (9°C), with a windchill of 38.9°F (5°C), 20% relative humidity, and a brisk SSE wind sustained at 7 mph gusting to 18.4 mph.

The warmest morning of the year to date recorded at San Jacinto Peak was 20th July 2020, when at 0835 the air temperature was 59.7°F (15°C), with no discernible windchill, 31% relative humidity, largely calm with an occasional NE breeze gusting to 2.7 mph

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has nine tree hazards on State Park land between the USFS boundary and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Fourteen additional trees on Forest Service land, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple May/June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. 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 named 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

Willow Creek flowing well where it crosses its eponymous trail, early morning 28th July 2020.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 23rd July 2020

Daily hikes have included several to San Jacinto Peak, plus most of the major trails around the high country and Tahquitz Peak, in the past week. On my drive up Fern Valley Road before dawn on Monday 20th, I was very fortunate to see a relatively young Mountain Lion cub cross the road. Doubtless I had only missed seeing its mother by a minute or less. Remarkably that is the sixth time since September 2019 that I have seen a lion up here, having seen none for several years previously.

We currently have three missing persons cases from 2020 in and around the San Jacinto mountains, summarized here (although only one was a hiker on public trails). Anyone with any relevant information should contact Riverside County Sheriffs Department.

Anabel update: In another unlikely twist to the improbable story of how our dog Anabel survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country (the full story is available here), we were descending Devil’s Slide Trail early in the morning on Saturday 18th – the first day Anabel had been on that trail since she was bitten – when we passed a hiker who unexpectedly asked “what is the name of your dog?”. Remarkably the hiker proved to be Chelsea, the senior vet tech at Temecula Emergency Pet Clinic on the afternoon of 2nd July, the day Anabel was bitten and admitted! Although I had never met her, Chelsea of course recognized Anabel, having watched over her for many hours over two days. We had a long chat, Chelsea was visibly moved to see how well Anabel was doing, and it gave me the opportunity to again try to find the words to thank her, and her colleagues, for what they had done.

Be bear aware. I had a great view of a Black Bear at 0558 this morning at 7800′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail. This is one of the two individuals that appeared in the San Jacinto mountains – where they normally do not occur – in 2017, but to the best of my knowledge there had been no sightings for about a year. This individual is very distinctive, with a bright blond upper body and dark chocolate head and legs (“Blondie” feels like an appropriate nickname). As a youngster, the same bear walked past our house in Idyllwild two years ago (short video here). Now however, Blondie is all grown up and looked very large today, perhaps 50% larger than in the 2018 video.

Be rattlesnake aware. After a slow start to the summer, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes have been especially active in the past couple of weeks. As usual, the lower two-thirds of Devil’s Slide Trail seems to be a particular hotspot. For the first year ever, they are also occurring at the elevation of Wellman’s Cienega, where they are particularly hard to see on the heavily vegetated trail.

Adult Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus [oreganus] helleri), at 7500′ elevation on Devil’s Slide Trail, 20th July 2020.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. However Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

Permits are required for hiking and camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

WEATHER A couple of days with slightly below seasonal temperatures this week will end on about Sunday 26th July, when hot summer weather returns. Temperatures are forecast to be far above seasonal averages next week. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Fire risk remains severe.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Monday 20th July 2020, at 0835 the air temperature was 59.7°F (15°C), with no discernible windchill, 31% relative humidity, largely calm with an occasional NE breeze gusting to 2.7 mph. This was the warmest morning I have recorded at the Peak so far in 2020.

At the Peak on Friday 17th July 2020 at 0755 the air temperature was 54.9°F (13°C), with a windchill of 50.0°F (10°C), 25% relative humidity, and a light due South wind sustained at 5 mph gusting to 12.5 mph.

Coast Mountain Kingsnake (Lampropeltis multifasciata), 6700′ elevation on South Ridge Trail, early afternoon on 15th July 2020.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land east of Saddle Junction, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple May/June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. 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 named 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is not currently flowing. The flow as been redirected to the CCC camp in Long Valley and water pressure is insufficient to also flow at the pipe. Fortunately Round Valley creek just a few yards away is flowing gently, but it will likely dry up any day now.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 177). The small creek in Tahquitz Valley continues to flow gently.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing steadily.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek is flowing well where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

Little Round Valley creek, 17th July 2020.

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 185.6) is flowing strongly.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing gently, but there is not adequate depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is now functionally dry and should not be relied upon for filtering.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently. Other creeks and springs on this trail have functionally dried up.

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

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first half of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail and water update 15th July 2020

Recent hikes have included several to San Jacinto Peak, the Tahquitz area meadows today to check on water conditions on my way to Tahquitz Peak, South Ridge Trail, and a few early morning runs on the Ernie Maxwell Trail.

Anabel update: Thank you so much to the remarkable number of people who commented or contacted us about Anabel’s story. At a time of so much dismal news, her toughness, good fortune, and a happy ending, has clearly resonated with many people. It has been the most viewed posting on the Trail Report since the July 2018 Cranston Fire. If you haven’t seen the story of how our dog Anabel survived a neurotoxic rattlesnake bite in the San Jacinto high country against long odds, it is available here. She is doing great, still only ten days removed from ICU, slowly increasing her walking mileage every morning, and all neurological effects to her breathing and mobility have rapidly declined. All three of us are fortunate indeed.

Anabel recovering at home, 5th July 2020, one day removed from puppy ICU.

Be rattlesnake aware. On Monday 13th July, I saw a record (for me) four Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes in just 1.5 hours on my mid-morning descent from San Jacinto Peak to Humber Park. This was especially striking as up to now 2020 has generally been a relatively poor year for rattlesnake abundance on the mountain trails (notwithstanding what happened to Anabel last week). I came within inches of stepping on the highest of these, at 9200′ near Wellman’s Cienega, had another at 8600′ (photo below), and then two more low down on Devil’s Slide Trail at 6800′ and 6600′. All were large (at least three feet long) adults, and as usual all were relatively placid and easy to pass. With such warm weather, caution is advised for at least the next couple of months.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. USFS indicates that Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

For camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

San Jacinto Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus helleri) at 8600′ elevation on PCT north of Saddle Junction, 13th July 2020. The second of a record four that I encountered between Wellman’s Cienega and Humber Park on Monday morning.

WEATHER After three days of about seasonal temperatures at the beginning of this week, hot summer weather returns on Thursday 16th and will persist for the foreseeable future. Fire risk will be severe. There is no significant precipitation in the forecast. Temperatures over the next week will be above seasonal averages, especially the overnight lows. Heat was exceptional this past weekend, with an overnight low on 11th July some 15° above the monthly average of 54°F, and an Idyllwild high on Sunday 12th of 95°F, nearly ten degrees above average.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) on Monday 13th July 2020, at 0825 the air temperature was 52.7°F (11°C), with a windchill of 46.6°F (8°C), 69% relative humidity, and a pleasant SW wind sustained at 9 mph gusting to 15.5 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Monday 29th June 2020, when at 0805 the air temperature was 35.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 21.0°F (-6°C), 33% relative humidity, and a stiff due West wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 so far recorded at San Jacinto Peak remains Monday 22nd June, when at 0830 the air temperature was 57.0°F (14°C) with 37% relative humidity and a barely discernible SW wind gusting to 2.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land east of Saddle Junction, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported previously, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple May/June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. 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 named 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is not currently flowing. The flow as been redirected to the CCC camp in Long Valley and water pressure is insufficient to also flow at the pipe. Fortunately Round Valley creek just a few yards away is flowing gently, but it will likely dry up any day now.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

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

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 15th July 2020.

Candy’s Creek – that flows through Skunk Cabbage Meadow and then crosses the remaining visible section of Caramba Trail near Reeds Meadow – is currently flowing steadily.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek is flowing well where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing strongly.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well, but there is little depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183.0) is flowing gently, but will dry up very soon.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently. Other creeks and springs on this trail have functionally dried up.

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

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first few months of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Long read: A dog with nine lives.

[The latest weekly Trail Report from 7th July is linked here. The following article is a long read. It is the first time since the Cranston Fire in 2018 that I have posted something only tangentially related to the trails. I hope it will become clear why I wanted to write this.]

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain

Many readers of this website, especially regular hikers to the San Jacinto mountains and Idyllwild locals, know that I often run and hike the trails with Anabel, our six year old, 35 pound, Jindo-German Shepherd mix dog. I could probably write a short book about Anabel, but in a few lines, she is a rescue who spent most of her first year of life as a street dog in the Coachella Valley, and was saved by kennel manager Edgar Santiago of the wonderful animal sanctuary Living Free literally on the day she was due to be euthanized. Since we adopted her on 14th February 2015, she has become a truly remarkable trail companion. She averages 5000 miles every year running and hiking on the trails near Idyllwild with Anne and me, and she is a tough and agile mountaineer, completing dozens of difficult winter ascents that few humans attempt. Her sweet smile and placid demeanor give no hint of her challenging past, and she seems to instantly become a firm favorite of everyone who meets her.

On 2nd July, as the three of us descended from a long, cool early morning hike in the San Jacinto high country, Anabel was bitten by a large rattlesnake.

We know it was a big snake as the puncture wounds on her paw were more than an inch (actually 28mm) apart, suggesting a rattlesnake about four feet long, typically about as big as they get up here. Further details of exactly what happened we’ll never know for sure. Anne and I had stopped briefly to look at a spring, and Anabel was just a few yards ahead of us, but around a slight bend in the trail. We never heard any noise, no yelp from Anabel, certainly no rattling from a snake, but within seconds she reappeared hobbling on three legs, hanging the fourth, two spots lightly oozing blood from her front left paw. The look on her face will live with us forever – she instantly knew this was really bad.

Getting bitten by a rattlesnake is extremely dangerous for any dog. Getting bitten by a rattlesnake in the San Jacinto mountains is fatal for a dog. The distinctive black, petrophilic, form of Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (SPR) found up here has an unusually potent neurotoxic venom. While the vast majority of lowland rattlesnakes in southern California have haemotoxic venom, which is itself dangerous enough, treatment for an attack on the blood system is orders of magnitude easier than treating the nervous system attack of neurotoxic venom.

To the best of our knowledge, no dog bitten by a neurotoxic rattlesnake in the San Jacinto mountains has survived. Death invariably occurs within hours. In addition to the toxin, without emergency veterinary facilities in our mountain communities, the simple practicality of getting a dog to treatment in a timely fashion precludes prompt treatment. Indeed, the extreme toxicity of San Jacinto SPRs was in part discovered due to the very rapid deaths of several local dogs bitten in the recent past. This alerted academics at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and ultimately the global venomous snake experts at University of Queensland, Australia, that something was unusual about our local rattlesnakes, which has led to studies of their unique venom. This research has even led to claims that San Jacinto SPRs may be the most lethal snake in the country.

As a combination of wildlife biologist, mountaineer, search-and-rescuer, and dog parent, I happen to be especially interested in our unique local rattlesnakes. I had researched the topic to the point that I gave a talk to Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit five years ago about the severe risk posed to humans by San Jacinto SPRs, and how potential bite cases should be treated.

Getting Anabel to urgent care in the shortest time possible was critical. We were five miles from the trailhead. When hiking with Anabel I carry the Airlift by FidoPro, a sling-style pack designed to carry a dog out of a wilderness situation. Easier said than done. Even though I routinely train with a 40lb pack, hiking with an uncooperative, unwieldy, 35lb dog strapped to your lower back is a completely different experience.

Stopping briefly at Saddle Junction to reassess the situation, Anne matter-of-factly said “I think we’re losing her”. Without going into unpleasant detail, that was probably an understatement. I basically jogged down Devil’s Slide Trail, holding Anabel’s limp body in place by putting one arm behind my back and supporting her neck. The many hikers I passed were clearly dismayed by what they saw.

Remarkably when we got to the truck at Humber Park, Anabel seemingly improved. Being out of the sling, in a less stressful situation, in a cool shady truck bed, did her some good. Anne appeared a few minutes later, jogging down with both of our day packs. Fast forward a couple of hours, and we arrived at the Emergency Pet Clinic in Temecula. This ultimately proved to be the perfect decision. (Our regular vet in Hemet didn’t have an appointment available, the Banning vet couldn’t see Anabel until the evening, and the mobile vet was closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Thankfully we established all of this by ‘phone before leaving Idyllwild, so our decision-making was relatively efficient.)

On admission, Anabel didn’t appear to be in terrible condition. When it was clear she was going to be staying for the night, we reluctantly headed back to Idyllwild. All we could do was think positive thoughts. The next 48 hours seemed to last for weeks.

My ‘phone rang just after two o’clock in the morning that night. It didn’t exactly wake us up, as we’d hardly been sleeping. The overnight doctor was requesting permission to give Anabel more VenomVet. She had had one vial shortly after arrival at the Pet Clinic, once it was clear from her very low platelet count that the snake had given her a little haemotoxic venom mixed in with the nerve toxin (which is typical). We asked the doctor to do whatever it took. In an 18 hour period, Anabel would receive six vials of VenomVet (plus one of RTLR, a similar antivenin designed for use on horses).

VenomVet is a broad spectrum antivenin which works well for haemotoxic snake bites, and as its name suggests, it is specifically designed for veterinary use. Although it is technically certified by the Food and Drug Administration for use on neurotoxic bites too, it is clearly no match for the venom of San Jacinto SPRs.

In ‘phone calls on 2nd and 3rd July, managing veterinarian Dr. Tedder started one with “well, she’s hanging in there”, and another with “she hasn’t read the book on how these rattlesnake bites go”. The straightforward honesty of her euphonious Arkansas drawl belied the fact that, despite Anabel’s blood numbers normalizing thanks to the VenomVet, there was an unspoken understanding between us that Anabel would die if we couldn’t address the neurotoxin. We both knew the answer was CroFab.

The drug CroFab is specifically designed for treating neurotoxic snakebites in humans. Treatment is supposed to start within six hours of the bite, and it can take at least a couple of dozen vials to treat a human. Although not approved for veterinary use, it has been widely used for bitten dogs, and occasionally it is stocked by vets in southern California for that purpose. Unfortunately at $5000 per vial, it has become cost prohibitive for vets to keep even single doses of CroFab on hand.

Calls to all likely veterinary clinics in southern California drew blanks. In one conversation with the doctor, I had mentioned the research I had read on SPRs by Loma Linda University Medical Center. Just before 3pm on the 3rd, Dr. Tedder called to say that miraculously they had found that the Murrieta campus of Loma Linda Health, just two freeway exits north from the Pet Clinic, had CroFab, and that the nurse in charge of the pharmacy there had agreed to sell it to us. The doctor needed our approval for such a major financial commitment, but doubtless she knew the answer before even picking up the ‘phone. She immediately dispatched one of her vet techs to drive up to Murrieta to pick up the tiny box containing the CroFab.

Anne and I are not religious people. The critical events that would ultimately save Anabel’s life occurred on 3rd July. I mention the following only for readers with different belief systems to draw their own conclusions. San Jacinto is the Spanish for Saint Hyacinth, and the San Jacinto mountains are named for Hyacinth of Caeserea, a Christian boy martyred by the Romans some 1900 years ago, who became the first (of several) Saint Hyacinth. In the Catholic calendar, the celebration day of Saint Hyacinth is, of course, 3rd July.

It was an agonizing six hours before Dr. Tedder finally called again. Anabel had received a vial of CroFab in an intravenous saline solution about two hours earlier. All vital signs and lab tests were improving. The doctor suggested we get some sleep. The ‘phone didn’t ring that night. A textbook case of no news is good news.

Dr. Tedder suggested we visit Anabel on the afternoon of 4th July. We had been told how much her condition had improved. Although we tried not to show it at the time, we subsequently agreed how shocked we were when Anabel stumbled into the visiting room, with her head hanging low to the ground, wheezing heavily with each step. It was clear she had not so much been at death’s door, but rather had had one or two paws across the threshold. She barely recognized us at first, but the vet techs were so thrilled when her tail started softly wagging as she sniffed us for the first time in two-and-a-half days. After we had laid there gently petting Anabel for an hour or more, the doctor took time from her ridiculously busy schedule, with critical cases seemingly breaking out all around her, to have a long talk with us. Dr. Tedder was so impressed with how positive her reaction was to seeing us that we ended up returning home with Anabel that night.

Dr. Tedder worked for years in Escondido, treating hundreds of dog rattlesnake bite cases. She estimates that in cases using CroFab as part of the treatment, the survival rate was about 5%. Given the much greater logistical difficulties of getting to care from Idyllwild, let alone five miles up into the mountains, Anabel’s probability of survival was perhaps a couple of percent at best.

A hugely improbable sequence of factors had to fall into place for Anabel to survive. To get bitten on the paw and apparently not get a full envenomation (those two factors being related). To recognize the gravity of the situation and have the equipment and ability to get her off the mountain as quickly as possible. To get her promptly to the right place for treatment. To have a staff that was remarkably dedicated to keeping her alive against long odds. To have a doctor with huge expertise in the field of rattlesnake bites in dogs and who was genuinely personally invested in Anabel’s health. To have someone willing to supply a very expensive human drug to save a dogs life when frankly it would have been much easier for them to say no. And perhaps ultimately, to have a dog fit enough and strong enough, mentally and physically, to withstand everything she went through.

Anabel would not be alive today but for the incomparable Dr. Belinda Tedder and her amazing staff at the Emergency Pet Clinic of Temecula. The RN working in the pharmacy at Loma Linda Health Murrieta on Friday 3rd July made the most important decision of Anabel’s recent life. The suggestion of our beloved friend Erin Riley – who has had one of her own dogs survive being bitten by a (haemotoxic) rattlesnake – led me to buy a dog carrying system a couple of years ago. There are more comfortable options on the market, but FidoPro makes a product that can save the life of a dog, and crucially it is light and compact enough that I always took it with me whenever I went into the high country with Anabel, fully expecting to never need it. Words will never adequately express our profound gratitude to all of these people.

Doubtless we will hear some criticism for having Anabel off leash. She is blessed with a wonderful life of freedom. We avoid the most snake-prone trails in season, and put her on leash as temperatures rise. Anabel has done thousands of miles without incident in conditions more likely to encounter a rattlesnake than those we experienced on 2nd July. She has had multiple rattlesnake aversion trainings, and as a result has behaved perfectly during the half-a-dozen prior encounters we have had with San Jacinto SPRs. We were well above the highest elevation where I had previously recorded rattlesnakes on the mountain, in atypical habitat, and we had deliberately hiked very early on a cool morning to minimize the chance of a snake encounter. The air temperature was below 60°F at the time and place of the incident. It was a freak accident. Thankfully after it happened, we did everything else we could about as efficiently as possible.

Anabel’s recovery may take months. Right now her health improves in leaps and bounds every day. She may never completely recover, although I wouldn’t put anything past her. Just seeing that tail wag gently as she lies on her bed at first light every morning is more than we ever could have hoped for.

Postscript: On Tuesday 7th July, I finally felt up for a hike back into the San Jacinto high country. As I loaded my daypack before dawn, Anabel was watching me from her bed near the front door. She knew the routine, having done it hundreds of times before. Only three days removed from ICU, she slowly got up, and, wobbling slightly, walked over to the door mat where she sat down, waiting for her collar to go on. It brought tears to my eyes, for the umpteenth time in the past few days. Soon enough baby girl, soon enough. The San Jacinto mountains seem to kill human hikers with no thought, and with disconcerting frequency. This time they had let a small dog live, just barely, to hike another day.

Copyright text and photographs Jon King 2020.

Trail and water update 7th July 2020

The streak of daily ascents of San Jacinto Peak finished at 63. My personal goal had always been to try to complete two months, then a couple of cool days kept me going to 2nd July. Heavy hiker traffic over the long holiday weekend, and the prospect of very hot weather starting this week made it the right time to stop. I was back up there again today, worried about the dangerous fire conditions, with very low humidity and strong gusty winds.

Snow is long gone, and water is, for now, flowing where expected, as updated in detail at the foot of this post.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. USFS indicates that Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

For camping in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

WEATHER A dramatic warming starts on 9th July, with temperatures (both daytime and overnight) forecast to be well above average for the next ten days at least. Fire risk will be severe. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Tuesday 7th July 2020, at 0845 the air temperature was 53.2°F (12°C), with a windchill of 45.1°F (7°C), 15% relative humidity, and a strong SW wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.7 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Monday 29th June 2020, when at 0805 the air temperature was 35.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 21.0°F (-6°C), 33% relative humidity, and a stiff due West wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 so far recorded at San Jacinto Peak was Monday 22nd June, when at 0830 the air temperature was 57.0°F (14°C) with 37% relative humidity and a barely discernible SW wind gusting to 2.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land east of Saddle Junction, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported last week, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple May/June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. 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 named 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley pipe is not currently flowing. The flow as been redirected to the CCC camp in Long Valley and water pressure is insufficient to also flow at the pipe. Fortunately Round Valley creek just a few yards away is flowing, but may well dry up later this month.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing gently, but flow rates have dropped considerably in recent weeks. These are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing 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 currently flowing.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing, although at less than half the volume compared to this time last year. The same creek is flowing well where it crosses Fuller Ridge Trail (at about PCT Mile 186.4).

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

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is flowing strongly.

Switchback Spring at PCT Mile 183.5 (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is flowing well, but there is little depth in which to filter water.

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

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing, but flow rate is only 10% compared to less than a month ago. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have functionally dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well (an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail) [thanks to Anne and Anabel for checking this on their run this morning].

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 fairly well.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending the trail there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next crossing, at 1.1 miles down, is Spitler Creek and is the best source of water (currently flowing well). The next two crossings are the same creek, but for obvious reasons it is best to fill up at the highest of the three crossings.

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 very 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.

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first few months of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.

Trail update 30th June 2020

I have continued to hike up San Jacinto Peak every morning since 1st May, today reaching two complete months (61 days). I again took a circuitous descent via Willow Creek Trail to work with Forest Service volunteer Bill Rhoads clearing thick whitethorn from the trail. Great news, we finished the final section today (photos below) and Willow Creek Trail now has no significant vegetation hazards, although downed trees remain as described below.

Water is, for now, flowing where expected, although flow rates are dropping steadily in the high country. Please see last week’s post for details of water sources and availability, which are unchanged in the past couple of weeks.

Black Mountain Road reopened on 20th June, having been graded through to the Fuller Ridge campground. USFS indicates that Boulder Basin campground will remain closed all year. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is closed indefinitely (since 12th March) due to the coronavirus crisis.

Camping – with social distancing restrictions – is now available in Mount San Jacinto State Park, see their website for details. The U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Idyllwild remains closed. Although Forest Service wilderness camping and hiking permits can be issued if requested, they are currently not required. USFS campgrounds are now open, except those discussed elsewhere in this post.

WEATHER A few pleasantly cool days to finish June will be followed by a return to very warm temperatures starting on Friday 3rd, about seasonally average for July. There is no precipitation in the forecast.

At San Jacinto Peak (3295m/10,810ft) today, Tuesday 30th June 2020, at 0750 the air temperature was 40.1°F (5°C), with a windchill of 29.3°F (-1°C), 44% relative humidity, and a steady due East wind sustained at 14 mph gusting to 20.2 mph.

The coolest recent day at the Peak was Monday 29th June 2020, when at 0805 the air temperature was 35.3°F (2°C), with a windchill of 21.0°F (-6°C), 33% relative humidity, and a stiff due West wind sustained at 16 mph gusting to 31.2 mph.

The warmest day of 2020 so far recorded at San Jacinto Peak was Monday 22nd June, when at 0830 the air temperature was 57.0°F (14°C) with 37% relative humidity and a barely discernible SW wind gusting to 2.9 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails have been clear of snow since early June. Many trails have new treefall hazards from this past winter, passable for hikers but not for stock. Some are described in detail below, others include: PCT south of Red Tahquitz (approx. PCT Miles 173-175), PCT between Strawberry Cienega and Deer Springs camp (Miles 182-185), Fuller Ridge Trail near its northern end (PCT Miles 189.1-190.2), Spitler Peak, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring trails.

Willow Creek Trail has 14 tree hazards (five on Forest Service land, nine on State Park) between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide from this past winter. Ten additional trees on Forest Service land between Saddle Junction and Willow Creek, and two in the State Park, have been cleared since late May. As reported above, the challenging whitethorn on this trail has now been removed.

Seven Pines Trail has been very lightly traveled since November 2018. There are 25 treefall hazards on the trail, almost all in the upper State Park section of trail, based on multiple June 2020 surveys. Very cautious navigation is recommended for those unfamiliar with this trail. The Forest Service closure of Dark Canyon Road (and Dark Canyon campground) is expected to continue into 2021, so there is currently no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail remains open at the rockslide just north of Antsell Rock (Mile 172.5). USFS has not indicated when this area may close for removal of the rockslide. The video report (available here) can be useful for deciding whether to hike around the rockslide or take an alternate route.

Forest Service temporary signage indicates that the Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp and on to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are “not maintained”. In reality both trails no longer exist. Both are so heavily overgrown I advise hikers do not attempt to follow them. Many experienced hikers have reported getting lost in this area since summer 2019. 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 named 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 established deer trails for 1.2 miles, roughly paralleling Willow Creek just to its south. Currently it is indistinct, becoming even less obvious as it nears Laws (by which time Willow Creek is close by on your left hand side, so navigation is not a challenge). I hope to work on the trail in early July. From Laws east to Caramba the route of the original Caramba Trail is relatively easy to follow (for those who were familiar with this trail prior to the 2013 Mountain Fire). Nevertheless very cautious navigation is still advised.

An example of our whitethorn removal work on Willow Creek Trail from today, 30th June 2020. A section of trail near the Forest Service-State Park boundary this morning (above), and this afternoon (below).

San Jacinto Trail Report: available for everyone, funded by readers. While all labor and time is volunteered, this Report completely depends on small private donations to cover its direct costs. With a very challenging first few months of 2020, every contribution is invaluable. If you have found this Report useful, please consider visiting the Donate page. Thank you.