Trail and water update 28th August 2019

[UPDATE 2nd September 2019: A spectacular overnight thunderstorm between about 0130-0300 this morning produced some intense localised rainfall and severe winds. In Idyllwild less than 0.2″ rain fell, but Palm Springs, Pinyon, and the Desert Divide all recorded about one inch. The San Jacinto high country was hardest hit, with 2.46″ of rain in under two hours at Long Valley. Colleagues overnighting at Tahquitz Peak fire lookout reported severe winds – even blowing out one of the windows – and hundreds of lightning strikes, none of which thankfully hit the tower itself.]

Ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past few days included full surveys of the Willow Creek, Round Valley, and Deer Springs trails among others. The Tahquitz area meadow trail complex was also hiked today in conjunction with a fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak.

The status of water sources, most of which have been checked in recent days, is updated below, and the latest (positive!) news on the status of road closures is also described at the foot of this posting.

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

Remain rattlesnake aware. With warmer than average temperatures persisting into late August (and early September apparently), Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes have remained very active. Of note, myself and others have had multiple sightings in the last week or so right around the Devil’s Slide trailhead at Humber Park, and at or near Tahquitz Peak fire lookout.

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake near Devil’s Slide trailhead this evening, 28th August 2019.

WEATHER Typical summer weather continues for the foreseeable future, with above-average temperatures for late August. Overnight low temperatures will remain well above-average into September. There is a chance of monsoonal precipitation, most likely in the first few days of September. Wednesday 13th June remains the warmest morning of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) on Monday 26th August 2019 at 0910 the air temperature was 56.1°F (13°C), with a windchill temperature of 54.3°F (12°C), 56% relative humidity, and a light ESE breeze at 4 mph gusting to 8.8 mph.

At the Peak on Friday 23rd August 2019 at 0815, the air temperature was 53.1°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 46.4°F (8°C), 14% relative humidity, and a steady SSW wind at 12 mph gusting to 17.9 mph.

Just before sunrise on the Willow Creek Trail, 26th August 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

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

As reported last month, Forest Service closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year. Consequently, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead.

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

The final downed tree on the State Park section of Willow Creek Trail, 26th August 2019. It is fairly easy to climb over at the cut.

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of this month. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot continued to flow well at about 2.0 gpm on 26th August.

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

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

Creek in Tahquitz Valley at the trail crossing, 28th August 2019.

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

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 28th August 2019.

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

Candy’s Creek at its crossing of the Caramba Trail, 28th August 2019.

WATER STATUS: Western slope

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River is flowing well where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail and even better where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.0).

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

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

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

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

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is now flowing only gently, there is very little depth in which to filter water, and it is heavily overgrown.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing very gently. The tiny pool between the rocks, formerly good for filtering, filled with sediment over the winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very weakly now. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, dried up many weeks ago.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well just upstream of the trail. Intermittent diversion by Fern Valley Water District (who erroneously refer to it as Tahquitz Creek!) results in the flow across the actual trail being unreliable at present. This creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

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

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which continues to flow gently.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day 2019 flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging, however the news is encouraging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. This highway is now estimated to reopen on 1st November 2019, with some form of traffic control (details to be determined). Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet reopens full time with a pilot car this Friday 30th August, likely continuing until October. Currently this road is open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays.

Trail update 21st August 2019

Two ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past three days surveyed most of the major trails and water sources on the east and west sides of the mountain. The Tahquitz area meadows were surveyed last week.

The Cranston Fire closure order expired at the beginning of this month. Although this does not impact the wilderness trail situation, it does mean that the popular dirt roads and mountain bike trails of the May Valley and Bonita Vista roads area are now open.

Highway 243 just north of Pine Cove has apparently been experiencing some hard closures this week as part of ongoing roadwork. This may affect access to Black Mountain Road and Lake Fulmor during normal business hours for the remainder of this week.

The status of water sources is essentially unchanged from the previous update linked here. Road closures are also described at the foot of that posting.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not otherwise forecast at lower elevations.

WEATHER Typical summer weather at present. Today is forecast to be the warmest day of the year at San Jacinto Peak, finally surpassing 13th June. Cooler overnight temperatures last weekend made for delightful early morning hikes/runs. Monsoonal conditions, usually in the afternoons, are forecast as a possibility most days next week, starting Saturday 24th.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) yesterday, Tuesday 20th August 2019 at 0855, the air temperature was 57.6°F (14°C), with a windchill temperature of 53.2°F (12°C), 19% relative humidity, and a pleasant due West wind at 8 mph gusting to 16.1 mph.

At the Peak on Sunday 18th August 2019 at 0715, the air temperature was 49.7°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.9°F (6°C), 14% relative humidity, and a cool SW wind at 17 mph gusting to 19.4 mph.

The creek in Little Round Valley, 20th August 2019. This is the first time in seven years this creek has flowed into late summer.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

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

As reported last month, closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no access to Seven Pines trailhead.

Willow Creek Trail has had most obstructing trees removed this summer, and there are fewer than five trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (2-3 on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However at least one of the remaining trees can be a little challenging to hike around (or over, depending on one’s abilities).

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Temporary signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

Trail and water update 13th August 2019

Three ascents of San Jacinto Peak in the past five days have covered most of the major trails on the east and west sides of the mountain. The Tahquitz area meadows were surveyed last week.

The status of water sources, most of which have been checked in recent days, is updated below, and the status of road closures is also described at the foot of this posting.

As reported last month, closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoonal conditions, most often in the afternoons, are a slim possibility for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not otherwise forecast.

WEATHER Typical summer weather at present. Slightly cooler overnight temperatures recently have made for delightful early morning hiking. There is no precipitation in the forecast (but see comments above regarding monsoonal storms). Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest morning of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today, Tuesday 13th August 2019 at 0805, the air temperature was 53.6°F (12°C), with a windchill temperature of 49.4°F (10°C), 33% relative humidity, and a pleasant SE wind at 5 mph gusting to 10.8 mph.

At the Peak on Saturday 10th August 2019 at 0810, the air temperature was 48.1°F (9°C), with a windchill temperature of 41.2°F (5°C), 16% relative humidity, and a fresh SSW breeze at 10 mph gusting to 14.7 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

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

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

Willow Creek Trail has had most obstructing trees removed this summer, and there are fewer than five trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (2-3 on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However at least one of the remaining trees can be challenging to hike around (or over, depending on one’s abilities).

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

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot is flowing well.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well, but flow rates dropped dramatically last month. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley continues to flow well where it crosses the meadow trail.

Creek through Tahquitz Valley, 7th August 2019.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing strongly at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well 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, 7th August 2019.

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

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 186.0).

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

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

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

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

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is now flowing only gently, but there is very little depth in which to filter water, and it is heavily overgrown.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing gently. However the tiny pool between the rocks, good for filtering, was filled with sediment over the winter.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing very weakly now. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, dried up many weeks ago.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow well just upstream of the trail. Intermittent diversion by Fern Valley Water District results in the flow across the actual trail being inconsistent at present. This creek is an important source of water for the many dogs walked on this trail.

WATER STATUS: Desert Divide

Live Oak Spring (N 33 37 21, W 116 33 24) Flowing well. The most reliable water source on the Desert Divide.

Cedar Spring (N 33 40 36, W 116 34 35) Flowing well. Easiest access is the trough just upstream from the trail to the campsite.

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

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which continues to flow well.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing well. Just on the upstream side of the road there is excellent access to the creek. Useful if hikers are descending the Spitler Peak Trail.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day 2019 flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. This will not reopen until well into 2020, possibly with a pilot car by spring, but it may be next summer before it fully reopens. The status of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet remains unchanged, namely reopening full time in September but with flagmen and partial single lane traffic. Currently this road is open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It is unclear when it will completely reopen to unhindered access.

The before and after of one of three fire rings removed from Little Round Valley on 5th August 2019. A gentle reminder that no fires are ever permitted in the San Jacinto wilderness.

Trail (and road) update 1st August 2019

Anne and I hiked Marion Mountain Trail to San Jacinto Peak this morning, doing a plant survey and packing out an unconscionable amount of trash. I surveyed trees on Willow Creek Trail yesterday, and hiked the east side trails to San Jacinto Peak on Monday 29th July.

Although not strictly trail-related, the big news concerns our ongoing road situation. Highway 243, closed since the Valentine’s Day flood event, will not reopen until well into next year. The highway “should be open with a pilot car by spring of 2020”, but it will be a year (presumably from now) before it is “back to normal” (per Caltrans, as quoted in Idyllwild Town Crier newspaper, dated today). The status of Highway 74 from Mountain Center to Hemet remains unchanged, namely reopening full time in September but with flagmen and partial single lane traffic. Currently this road is open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It is unclear when it will completely return to “normal”.

Water status is not significantly different from last weeks report (linked here), although flow rates continue to decline steadily, and ephemeral sources below 9000′ should no longer be relied upon.

As reported previously, closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

On Willow Creek Trail there are now only five trees down, in a 0.3 mile section either side of the Forest Service/State Park boundary (four on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a great improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However a couple of the remaining large trees require caution to hike around (or over, depending on preference).

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

WEATHER Typical summer temperatures at present. There is no precipitation in the forecast (but see comments above regarding monsoonal storms). Below-average temperatures are currently forecast for later next week. Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 1st August 2019 at 0820, the air temperature was 52°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.3°F (8°C), 45% relative humidity, and a ligh WSW breeze at 6 mph gusting to 9.1 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 29th July 2019 at 0735, the air temperature was 55°F (13°C), with a windchill temperature of 50.8°F (10°C), 38% relative humidity, and a light WSW wind at 6 mph gusting to 12 mph.

Willow Creek flowing steadily where it crosses its namesake trail, 31st July 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

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

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

The improving treefall situation on Willow Creek Trail is described above.

I last surveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid June and it had 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are very indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

Above and below, spectacular high clouds near Hidden Divide, 31st July 2019.

Trail and water update 25th July 2019

A long day yesterday included surveying trails east, west, and south of San Jacinto Peak, having checked water sources throughout the Tahquitz area meadows last week. The status of all major water sources, trails, and road access, are detailed below.

As reported last week, closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Monsoonal conditions, most often in the afternoons, are possible for the foreseeable future. Thunderstorms with lightning, precipitation, and rapid temperature drops, can occur in the high country even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

We are encountering Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes on the trails every week at present. This one was on the PCT near Strawberry Cienega on 24th July.

WEATHER Humid monsoonal conditions with summer temperatures took hold a few days ago. In Idyllwild it has tried to rain each day since Monday (<0.01″ each day). There have also been localised showers throughout the high country each day, but the intense thunderstorm cells have so far been at lower elevations. To date, Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak.

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) yesterday 24th July 2019 at 0720, the air temperature was 52.3°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 47.4°F (8°C), 66% relative humidity, and a light SE wind at 4 mph gusting to 11.2 mph.

At the Peak on 18th July 2019 at 0800, the air temperature was 51°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), 12% relative humidity, and a stiff SSW wind at 18 mph gusting to 25.2 mph.

Shaggy-haired Alumroot (Heuchera hirsutissima) at 9900′ near Little Round Valley, 24th July 2019.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

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

With the closure of Dark Canyon Road, Dark Canyon campground is also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

Willow Creek Trail has had most obstructing trees removed, and there are now only five trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide (four on USFS land and one on State Park). This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail in early June. However a couple of the remaining trees can be challenging to hike around (or over, depending on one’s abilities).

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid June and it had 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. Both trails are very indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot is flowing well at about 2.0 gpm.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing well, but flow rates have dropped dramatically this month.

Wellman’s Cienega North spring, 24th July 2019.

These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which is flowing very well where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Tahquitz Valley is still flowing well where it crosses the meadow trail.

Tahquitz Valley, where the trail crosses the creek, 16th July 2019.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing strongly at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well 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 Valley (above), and where it crosses the PCT just below its source at Grethe Spring (below), 16th July 2019.

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

Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the creek crossing, 16th July 2019.

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 186.0).

North Fork of the San Jacinto River at Deer Springs Trail, 24th July 2019.

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years, but flow rate has dropped dramatically this month.

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

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

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is now flowing only gently, but there is very little depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing gently. However the tiny pool between the rocks, good for filtering, was filled with sediment over the winter.

Strawberry Cienega, 24th July 2019.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently, but flow rate is greatly diminished. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, dried up several weeks ago.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very 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. See comments above regarding the greatly improved trail to this spring.

Spitler Peak Trail Descending this trail from the PCT there are five water crossings. The first two, at 0.9 and 0.95 miles down, cross a tiny side creek which is largely dry and should be ignored. The next three crossings, at 1.1 to 1.3 miles down, are Spitler Creek, which is currently flowing well.

Antsell Rock Creek (N 33 41 52, W 116 39 08) Right by the Spitler Peak Trail trailhead on Apple Canyon Road, Antsell Rock Creek is flowing 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.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. In the past week even the open sections of Highways 74 and 371 have been closed briefly for roadside fires, so always be prepared for additional delays. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may not reopen until 2020. Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It may reopen in September but still with a flagman and partial single lane traffic.

Trail and water update 18th July 2019

We surveyed trails to San Jacinto Peak on 15th July (east side) and today (Deer Springs Trail), and my fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak on 16th incorporated a survey of water sources throughout the Tahquitz area meadows. The status of major water sources, trails, and road access, are all detailed below.

As I reported earlier this week, USFS confirmed closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road, will remain in place through this year.

Be bear aware. Recent observations were described in a recent posting.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Afternoon monsoonal conditions are possible next week. Thunderstorms with lightning and precipitation can occur around the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Fire season is here. The Meadow Fire as seen from Tahquitz Peak, 16th July 2019, about half-an-hour after it started. Located next to Highway 371 near Cahuilla, this fire was held at 80 acres.

WEATHER Genuine summer temperatures arrived a few days ago, although in keeping with the 2019 trend, this has so far been the coolest July in the San Jacinto mountains for several years. To date, Wednesday 12th June remains the warmest day of the year recorded at San Jacinto Peak. As mentioned above, thunderstorms are forecast as a possibility every afternoon next week (22nd-26th July).

At San Jacinto Peak (10,810’/3295m) today 18th July 2019 at 0800, the air temperature was 51°F (11°C), with a windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), 12% relative humidity, and a stiff SSW wind at 18 mph gusting to 25.2 mph.

At the Peak on Monday 15th July 2019 at 0730 the air temperature was 50.9°F (10°C), with a windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), 31% relative humidity, and a fresh SW wind sustained at 19 mph gusting to 23.2 mph.

TRAIL CONDITIONS

All trails, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail throughout the San Jacinto mountains, have been free of snow since the end of June.

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

Dark Canyon Road remains closed for the foreseeable future, with no planned reopening date. Dark Canyon campground is therefore also closed, and there is no vehicular access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is hikeable of course, 3.5 miles each way).

The Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds also remain closed until 2020.

The rehabilitation of Apache Spring Trail has been completed by an ACE (American Conservation Experience) crew. This is great news as this side trail off the PCT had been indistinct since the 2013 Mountain Fire.

Willow Creek Trail had eight of the nine trees down on the State Park section removed on 7th July by the PCTA trail crew. This reduces the total to 11 trees down on the trail between Willow Creek and Hidden Divide. This is a huge improvement from the nearly 30 trees down on this trail about a month ago.

I surveyed Seven Pines Trail in mid June and it had 35 trees down, almost all above 7500′ elevation. This trail has been very lightly traveled since 2018, and is indistinct in places. Hikers without considerable prior experience of this trail should take great care with routefinding.

The Caramba Trail from near Reeds Meadow through Laws Camp to Caramba, and the Cedar Trail from Willow Creek Trail to Laws, are not maintained. Signage to this effect has been in place since the end of June. When USFS reopened these routes in November 2018 they made it clear they would not be maintained for the foreseeable future (and the trails had been closed since the Mountain Fire in July 2013). Both are indistinct in places, and hikers without considerable prior experience of this area should use cautious navigation.

Temporary signage installed in late June on the Caramba Trail (misspelled on the sign) indicating that the trail is not maintained, 16th July 2019.

WATER STATUS: Eastern slope

The Round Valley spigot is flowing well at about 2.0 gpm.

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

Tahquitz Valley is still flowing well where it crosses the meadow trail.

Tahquitz Valley, where the trail crosses the creek, 16th July 2019.

Tahquitz Creek is flowing strongly at the northern end of Little Tahquitz Meadow. It is also flowing well 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 Valley (above), and where it crosses the PCT just below its source at Grethe Spring (below), 16th July 2019.

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

Skunk Cabbage Meadow at the creek crossing, 16th July 2019.

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 186.0).

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

The creek in Little Round Valley is flowing the strongest I have seen in at least six years, but flow rate has dropped dramatically this month.

Creek in Little Round Valley, 18th July 2019.

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

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

Switchback Spring (about 0.4 miles north of Strawberry Junction) is now flowing only gently, but there is very little depth in which to filter water.

The little creek at Strawberry Cienega is flowing gently.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring is flowing gently, but flow rate is greatly diminished compared to last month. In 2018, this spring had dried up by 1st July. Powderbox and Jolley springs, and the several unnamed ephemeral creeks on this trail, have now dried up.

On the Ernie Maxwell Trail, the crossing of Chinquapin Creek just below Humber Park continues to flow very 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. See comments above regarding the greatly improved trail to this spring.

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.

ACCESS CLOSURES The Valentine’s Day flood events continue to make access to the San Jacinto mountains challenging. In the past week even the open sections of Highways 74 and 371 have been closed briefly for roadside fires, so always be prepared for additional delays. Highway 243 between Banning and Idyllwild is closed from Skyland Ranch (north of Bay Tree Spring) to just north of Lake Fulmor. The remaining closed section may reopen later this year, or not until 2020 (see this excellent article in the Press Enterprise). Highway 74 between Mountain Center and Hemet is currently open with a pilot car and restricted hours (0400-0800, 1800-0000) on weekdays, and broader hours (0400-0000) on weekends and holidays. It will not reopen in July as had been hoped. Instead it is expected to open round-the-clock, but still with a flagman and partial single lane traffic, perhaps as early as August.

Above and below: White Bog Orchid (Platanthera dilatata), San Jacinto mountains, 18th July 2019.

Campground closure update 15th July 2019

U. S. Forest Service informed me today that closures to the Boulder Basin and Black Mountain Group campgrounds (both accessed from Black Mountain Road), and Dark Canyon Road and Campground, will remain in place for the remainder of the season. That presumably means that they will be closed into 2020.

Note that the yellow post campsites along upper Black Mountain Road, and the Fuller Ridge campground, remain open.

Closure of Dark Canyon Road means that there is no vehicle access to Seven Pines trailhead (although the road is still hikeable, 3.5 miles from the gate to the trailhead).

San Jacinto Ranger District was apparently notified that the limited funds available in the current federal budget year for rehabilitation of these campgrounds and associated access roads have been redirected to fire fighting and suppression.

Other trail and water conditions were updated four days ago, linked here.