Water and weather 6th September 2018

Today I hiked to San Jacinto Peak via Fuller Ridge Trail. We checked many water sources yesterday on a long loop hike to the Peak, descending via Deer Springs Trail. Tuesday morning’s hike to the Peak was just a quick one up the east side to enjoy the chilly weather.

Trail overview A flurry of noteworthy events on the mountain. The North Fork of the San Jacinto River has dried up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on Fuller Ridge. The absence of this critical water source for hikers is discussed in more detail in the relevant section below. This presents a major problem for long distance hikers to/from Snow Creek.

The CCC crew working on the Pacific Crest Trail/Deer Springs Trail have completed the section near the Deer Springs crossing. Having taken at least four summer seasons to complete a few hundred yards of trail, questions have been asked whether it was the best use of resources, although it is very well constructed and a pleasure to use.

The Black Mountain road was graded earlier this week, and the road is now in its best condition since Spring 2017. Grading was completed all the way through to the Fuller Ridge campground and trailhead. This usually takes place right around Memorial Day weekend, but this year US Forest Service waited until after Labor Day weekend instead!

Flow rates at water sources are far below historic norms. Many well-known water sources are dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time. There is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May). Details of the condition of high country trails following the 25th-30th July 2018 Cranston Fire are described at an earlier posting linked here.

Weather Some delightful autumnal weather in the high country over the past four days. Tuesday morning a sub-freezing windchill led me to pull on some thin gloves for the first time since May. A brief but rapid warming trend is expected for this weekend, followed thankfully by a return to more typical September temperatures next week.

At San Jacinto Peak at 0830 on Tuesday 4th September, the air temperature was 44°F (6.7°C), with a refreshing windchill temperature of 30.0°F (-1°C), 80% relative humidity (rising to 90% when cloud enveloped the Peak), and a strong 20 mph SE wind gusting to 27 mph. On Wednesday 5th September, at 0845 the air temperature was 46°F (7.8°C), with a cool windchill temperature of 36°F (2.2°C), 72% relative humidity, and a cool 10 mph ESE wind gusting to 19 mph.

Skilton’s Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus) basking on Devil’s Slide Trail, 4th September 2018.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow, but very weakly. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which continues to flow gently where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

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

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 29th August 2018.

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

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

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, but flow has dropped another 10% from last week, to about 1.8 gallons per minute. The water levels for this river are apparently the lowest in living memory.

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

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

A depressingly dry North Fork of the San Jacinto River on Fuller Ridge Trail, 6th September 2018.

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

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

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

Water trickling down the Deer Springs Trail from Shooting Star Spring, 5th September 2018.

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

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

Switchback Spring on Deer Springs Trail, 5th September 2018.

The little spring in the rock crack at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is now barely flowing. For filtering, there is a tiny pool among the rocks (currently heavily obscured by vegetation).

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

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

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

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

Weather 3rd September 2018

Anne and I hiked to San Jacinto Peak from Humber Park early this morning. Water conditions are little changed from last week, as described here. Lovely cool, windy weather at the Peak led to another brief video.

Despite the autumnal feel in recent days, another warming trend is forecast for the next few days. Both overnight low and daytime high temperatures will steadily rise this week to above average for midsummer (not September!) at the weekend, before starting to cool slightly the following week.

In summary today, at San Jacinto Peak at 0810 on Monday 3rd September, the air temperature was 44°F (6.7°C), with a cool windchill temperature of 33°F (0.5°C), 74% relative humidity, and a strong 16 mph SE wind gusting to 21 mph.

Although thunderstorms are not currently forecast, hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

On a different note, I usually tidy up the summit hut just below San Jacinto Peak every week. We had brought up a couple of bags specifically for this purpose today, only to find things had got a bit out of hand in just the past few days.

Above are the 18 empty plastic bottles we gathered from the hut. In addition we brought down two small bags of non-recyclable trash.

While I suspect the readers of this Trail Report are not the sort of hikers leaving their garbage up there, maybe now would be a good time to remind everyone that the San Jacinto Peak summit hut is not a public trash can. Thanks.

Water conditions 30th August 2018

We checked most water sources on a long loop hike to San Jacinto Peak on Tuesday 28th, descending by Deer Springs Trail. On Wednesday 29th, I reviewed the springs and creeks around the Tahquitz area meadows following a fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak.

Weather The rain from storms in the middle of August is already a distant memory, and its impacts on water sources were predictably short-lived.

At San Jacinto Peak at 0830 on Tuesday 28th August, the air temperature was 47°F (8.3°C), with a cool windchill temperature of 38°F (3.3°C), 17% relative humidity, and a stiff 14 mph W wind gusting to 17 mph.

Although thunderstorms are not currently forecast, hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Noteworthy climate observation #1. The historical average overnight low temperature for August in Idyllwild is 54.8°F (National Weather Service data). With only a couple of days remaining in August 2018, Idyllwild will have recorded a low temperature below 55°F only once this month, and the average low for the first 20 days of the month was 59.5°F.

Trail overview Flow rates at water sources are far below seasonal norms. Several well-known water sources are dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time. There is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May). Details of the condition of high country trails following the 25th-30th July 2018 Cranston Fire are described at an earlier posting linked here.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega continue to flow weakly. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which continues to flow where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

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

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 29th August 2018.

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

Tahquitz Creek crossing the PCT immediately below Grethe Spring, 29th August 2018.

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

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, but flow has almost halved from last week, down to about 2.0 gallons per minute. The same river is close to drying up where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on the Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Mile 186.2), with flow at at only 0.1 gallons per minute. The latter is extremely low flow for this critical PCT water source. These two crossings are the most important water sources for hikers on the western side of the mountain. The water levels for this river are apparently the lowest in living memory.

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

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail remains completely dry.

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

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

The minor creek crossing (sometimes known as Rock Spring) on Deer Springs Trail midway between the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing and Shooting Star Spring, is functionally dry.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs camp just downslope has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps since late May (although not since the fire evacuation on 25th July).

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

Switchback Spring crossing the PCT, 28th August 2018.

The little spring in the rock crack at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is flowing very weakly. For filtering, there is a tiny pool among the rocks (currently heavily obscured by plants).

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

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

Water conditions 24 August 2018

We went up to San Jacinto Peak this morning and also on Tuesday 21st, the latter via Fuller Ridge and the upper Deer Springs Trail before a fire lookout shift at Black Mountain. On Wednesday 22nd August, I reviewed the springs and creeks around the Tahquitz area meadows when descending from a fire lookout shift at Tahquitz Peak.

As the San Jacinto Trail Report creeps slowly into the 21st Century, I thought I’d try an occasional short video blog. All the usual detail follows in the text below.

Weather Rainfall from thunderstorms three days in a row last week, 15-17 August, included a spectacular storm cell over Idyllwild on the afternoon of 17th, when we recorded 1.50″ rain at home in under an hour! Despite similar rainfall on many parts of the mountain at the same time, impacts on water sources were remarkably short-lived.

At San Jacinto Peak at 0840 today, Friday 24th August, the air temperature was 51°F (10.5°C), with a pleasant windchill temperature of 43°F (6°C), a return to a more typical 39% relative humidity, and a firm 9 mph SW breeze gusting to 15 mph. It was even more autumnal on Tuesday 21st August, when at 0720 the air temperature was 49°F (9.5°C), with a cool windchill temperature of 40.4°F (4.7°C), 73% relative humidity, and a chilly SSW wind sustained at 16 mph and gusting just over 20 mph.

Despite the shift this week from monsoonal easterly airflow to more typical westerly maritime weather, hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Trail overview Despite the rains of last week, flow rates at water sources have rapidly returned to being far below seasonal norms. Several well-known water sources are dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time. There is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May). Details of the condition of high country trails following the 25-30 July 2018 Cranston Fire are described at an earlier posting linked here.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet is dry again, despite flowing for a few days briefly after rain on Thursday 16th. [Thanks to Florian Boyd for this update from today.]

The flow rates at the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega have dropped drastically since the rains, but both continue to flow gently. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which continues to flow where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Wellmans North Cienega early this morning, 24 August 2018.

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

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow.

Tahquitz Creek at the north end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 22 August 2018.

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

Tahquitz Creek crossing the PCT immediately below Grethe Spring, 22 August 2018.

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

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, at about 3.7 gallons per minute (up from about 2.6 gpm prior to last weeks rains). However, the same river just downslope is now flowing very weakly where it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail on the Fuller Ridge Trail (approx. PCT Mile 186.2), at only 0.2 gallons per minute. The latter is extremely low flow for this critical PCT water source. These two crossings are the most important water sources for hikers on the western side of the mountain. Prior to recent rains the flow rate was the lowest in living memory, and it will rapidly return to that status without new precipitation.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River on Fuller Ridge Trail, 21 August 2018.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail remains completely dry.

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

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

The minor creek crossing (sometimes known as Rock Spring) on Deer Springs Trail midway between the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing and Shooting Star Spring, remained dry even during the rainfall, and has been dry across and below the trail since June.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs camp just downslope has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps since late May (although not since the fire evacuation on 25th July).

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

Switchback Spring crossing the PCT, flowing well today, 17 August 2018.

The little spring in the rock crack at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is back to flowing very weakly. For filtering, there is a tiny pool among the rocks (currently heavily obscured by plants). A permanently placed tent stake makes a clean accessible trickle out of the mud when flow rates are reasonable.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been completely dry since 26th July, with no significant flow even after last weeks rain.

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

Water and weather 17 August 2018

For details of the condition of high country trails following the 25-30 July 2018 Cranston Fire, see an earlier posting linked here.

Four hikes to San Jacinto Peak in the last five days via various routes included two full loops to review almost all water sources and the extent of recent rains. Yesterday, 16th August, I was able to review the springs and creeks around the Tahquitz area meadows en route to my fire lookout shift.

Weather Finally some reasonable rainfall from thunderstorms three days in a row, 15-17 August. At Idyllwild, the rainfall has been poor – although it is now raining heavily as I write this – with only a trace at 5550′ elevation on 15th, and 0.04″ on 16th. However many other areas of the mountain received good rainfall yesterday (16th), with roughly half-an-inch reported from such widely spread areas as Keenwild, Vista Grande, and Long Valley.

Spectacular clouds around San Jacinto Peak yesterday afternoon, 16th August 2018, as seen from Tahquitz Peak.

On the trails, yesterday there was evidence of light rain from the 15th all the way on the eastern side of the mountain from Humber Park to San Jacinto Peak. Judging by today’s hike, the rain yesterday afternoon (16th) was focused on the east side of the high country, again all the way from 6500′ to San Jacinto Peak. However on the west side, there was only evidence of much lighter rain, and some sections of the PCT/Deer Springs Trail were almost dry.

At San Jacinto Peak at 0740 today, Friday 17th August, the air temperature was 54°F (12°C), with a modest windchill temperature of 50°F (10°C), 78% relative humidity, and a light 3-5 mph ESE breeze. The previous two days, 15th and 16th August, the weather was very similar both mornings at around 0800 and starting to feel autumnal. The air temperature was 51°F (10.5°C), with lovely fresh windchill temperatures of 43°F (6°C), 80% relative humidity, and a firm SE breeze at 8 mph gusting to 15 mph.

Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning and rapidly falling temperatures can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Flash flooding yesterday afternoon, 16th August, at the Round Valley junction (photo copyright Jeremy Odom).

Highway closures Note that during and following rain storms, highways through areas that were denuded by the Cranston Fire are being closed abruptly due to elevated risk of flooding and mud/rock slides. The last two days Highway 243 from Idyllwild to Mountain Center, and Highway 74 from Hemet to Lake Hemet, have been closed for up to several hours in the afternoons. Factor this in to travel plans if there are storms in the forecast.

Trail overview Prior to the rains of the last couple of days, flow rates at all water sources were at their lowest of the year, and far below seasonal norms. Despite recent rains, some well-known water sources remain dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time. There is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May).

Muddy trails following rain are perfect for recording animal tracks. This Mountain Lion track was near 9800′ above Wellman Divide early this morning, 17th August 2018. The lip balm for reference measures 2.6″ long.

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet was dry by Monday 13th, having apparently dried up a day or two earlier. It started flowing again after rain on Thursday 16th, but was only a steady trickle. [Thanks to Jeremy Odom for this information.] Nevertheless, this may only be temporary relief for a few days or weeks at best. Hikers and campers to Round and Tamarack valleys from the Tram are advised not to rely on this ephemeral water source and to pack in all their water.

The flow rate at both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega doubled from Monday to Wednesday, and doubled again by today, Friday. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which continues to flow gently where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Wellman’s North Cienega, 17th August 2018.

Tahquitz Valley has been completely dry for at least two months, and recent rains have not changed that situation.

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow steadily at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow.

Lower (north) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow, 16th August 2018.

Tahquitz Creek has briefly flash-flooded twice in the past three days further upstream at its source (known locally as Grethe Spring) where it crosses the PCT at the northern end of the fire closure (approx. PCT Mile 177). However shortly after rains it has returned to a very low flow. Immediately after crossing the PCT, the creek dries up and disappears subsurface.

Tahquitz Creek at Grethe Spring, 16th August 2018, drying out after a brief flooding event.

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

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow steadily both where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, and where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). These two crossings are the most important water sources for hikers on the western side of the mountain. Prior to recent rains the flow rate was the lowest in living memory. About 100′ downstream from the river crossing on Fuller Ridge Trail the river runs dry and disappears subsurface.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail remains completely dry.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley remained completely dry this morning despite recent rains, as it has been since early June.

Shooting Star Spring – 0.28 trail miles below Little Round Valley – is flowing at about twice the rate of Monday. For hikers it is possible to filter water from the source at the base of the obvious huge rock, but a better option is to descend to the North Fork crossing mentioned above.

The minor creek crossing (sometimes known as Rock Spring) on Deer Springs Trail midway between the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing and Shooting Star Spring remained completely dry this morning, and has been dry across and below the trail since June.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs camp just downslope has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps since late May (although not since the fire evacuation on 25th July).

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

Switchback Spring crossing the PCT, flowing well today, 17th August 2018.

The little spring in the rock crack at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is now flowing at least at double the rate of last week. For filtering, there is a tiny pool among the rocks (currently heavily obscured by plants), and a permanently placed tent stake makes a clean accessible trickle out of the mud.

On Devil’s Slide Trail, Middle Spring has been completely dry since 26th July. There was a little muddy rain puddle there this morning, not even enough for a dog to drink from.

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

Water conditions 13 August 2018

For details of the condition of high country trails following the July 2018 Cranston Fire, see the prior posting linked here. Today we were able to check all high country water sources on a lengthy loop hike to San Jacinto Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail, descending via Deer Springs Trail, with a couple of side hikes to check other sources too. Last week I was able to review the springs and creeks around the Tahquitz area meadows.

Weather At San Jacinto Peak at 0740 today, Monday 13th August, the air temperature was 52°F (11°C), with a lovely fresh windchill temperature of 45°F (7°C), 54% relative humidity, and a pleasant 5 mph SSE breeze gusting to 13 mph.

There is a moderate possibility of thunderstorms for the next three or four days. Hikers should always be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions in the high country in summer. Thunderstorms with lightning can occur at or near the high peaks even when such storms are not forecast for lower elevations.

Trail overview Flow rates at all water sources are at their lowest of the year, and far below seasonal norms. Some well-known water sources are dry or are very close to drying up and should not be relied upon by hikers at this time. There is no snow anywhere on the mountain (all trails have been completely clear since early May).

EASTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The Round Valley faucet was dry this morning, having apparently dried up in the last day or two (it was still just trickling on Friday 10th). Hikers and campers to Round and Tamarack valleys from the Tram must pack in all their water.

Both the northern and southern springs at Wellman’s Cienega are flowing weakly, but with no notable change since last week. These springs are the sources for Willow Creek, which continues to flow gently where it crosses the Willow Creek Trail.

Wellmans North Cienega, 13 August 2018.

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

Tahquitz Creek continues to flow gently at the northern (lower) end of Little Tahquitz Meadow.

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

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

WESTERN SLOPE WATER FEATURES

The North Fork of the San Jacinto River continues to flow gently both where it crosses the Deer Springs Trail, and where it crosses the Fuller Ridge Trail on the PCT (approx. PCT Mile 186.2). These two crossings are the most important water sources for hikers on the western side of the mountain. However, the flow rate is now the lowest in memory, even weaker than in the autumns of 2015 and 2016, today at only about 2.9 gallons per minute. About 100′ downstream from the river crossing on Fuller Ridge Trail the river runs dry and disappears subsurface. In addition, the North Fork is dry at all three of its crossings of the Seven Pines Trail.

North Fork of the San Jacinto River at Deer Springs Trail, 13 August 2018.

O’Sullivan Creek (PCT Mile 186.4) on Fuller Ridge Trail is completely dry.

The spring in the creek in Little Round Valley has been completely dry since early June. [See photos below of the newly-constructed toilet in the LRV campground.]

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

The minor creek crossing (sometimes known as Rock Spring) on Deer Springs Trail midway between the North Fork of the San Jacinto River crossing and Shooting Star Spring is virtually dry, and has been dry across and below the trail since June.

The last remaining trickle at so-called Rock Spring just above Deer Springs Trail, 13 August 2018.

The Deer Springs stream crossing at the PCT (approx. PCT mile 185.6) is dry, and the pools just upstream (and downstream) of the trail are also dry. The Deer Springs camp just downslope has been occupied by a crew from the California Conservation Corps (CCC) off-and-on since late May.

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

Switchback Spring crossing at the PCT, 13 August 2018.

The little spring in the rock crack at Strawberry Cienega (PCT mile 183) is now flowing very weakly. For filtering, there is a tiny pool among the rocks (currently heavily obscured by plants), and a permanently placed tent stake makes a clean accessible trickle out of the mud. The current flow rate at the tent stake is too low to reliably measure (<0.01 gpm), down from 0.07 gallons per minute on 20th July.

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

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

Above and below, the new pit toilet in Little Round Valley completed in the last week by a scout troop from Indio

Post-Cranston Fire trail conditions

The following is a final trail-by-trail review of the impacts of the Cranston Fire in the high country of the San Jacinto mountains, likely to mainly be of interest to readers most familiar with the trail system. This is NOT an official Forest Service assessment of trail conditions. Nevertheless, this information from a variety of sources is detailed and reliable.

Pacific Crest Trail The PCT on the Desert Divide was not significantly damaged as it was in the Mountain Fire. The Cranston Fire burned up the ridges from May Valley to the western and north-west flanks of Antsell Rock, and to the peaks of South Peak and Red Tahquitz. This section of the PCT was still closed from the 2013 Mountain Fire, but rehabilitation work had just been completed and the PCT was tentatively scheduled to reopen later in 2018. This plan may be in jeopardy, as the Mountain Fire closure order has been absorbed within the new Cranston Fire closure order which runs through July 2019.

Fortunately, the Cranston Fire largely did not burn over to the east side of the Desert Divide due to the lack of fuels caused, ironically, by the widespread destruction of the Mountain Fire. In this area, the PCT largely runs along the eastern flank of the Desert Divide. Only at the saddle between Red Tahquitz and South Peak, and just north of Antsell Rock, did the Cranston Fire reach the PCT, but in these relatively rocky areas there was no damage to the trail.

Although the Cranston Fire did burn a short way north between Red Tahquitz and Grey Tahquitz (Peak 8792), it did not reach the PCT here. The fire did however reach north to the PCT at Chinquapin Flat, having burned completely around Anabel Peak (Peak 8860), the high point of the ridge just east of Tahquitz Peak proper. The fire jumped the PCT by fewer than 100 feet in a couple of locations just downslope from Chinquapin Flat.

In summary, the PCT is essentially unchanged from its post-Mountain Fire status. Plans to reopen this section soon should be unaffected. This will be especially important given that the PCT Alternate through Hurkey Creek campground and May Valley – that we helped develop in 2014 and 2015 – was completely burned over by the Cranston Fire and may be closed for some considerable time (possibly years rather than months).

The Pacific Crest Trail at Chinquapin Flat, August 2018
The Pacific Crest Trail just east of (below) Chinquapin Flat, August 2018.

South Ridge Trail This is the high country trail most impacted by the Cranston Fire, and the only high country trail that remains closed under the reduced closure order. Vegetation along most of the trail side was not directly burned, but in a couple of areas the fire did jump the trail. Nowhere was the tread of the trail itself damaged. Specifically, vegetation on both sides of several switchbacks burned roughly midway between South Ridge Road and Old Lookout Flat. Just above Old Lookout Flat the fire started to descend the west side through the forest by about a hundred yards over a fairly wide area. In addition, significant vegetation cutting occurred at the top of South Ridge Road, and along the trail from there to Old Lookout Flat, as a measure to reduce spread of the fire.

Old Lookout Flat, looking approximately north, August 2018
South Ridge Trail just above Old Lookout Flat, looking South, August 2018

The fire was allowed to burn up Hurkey Creek Canyon all the way to Tahquitz Peak, and some vegetation burned to within about 40 feet on the south and south-east sides of Tahquitz Peak fire lookout. Despite what was implied (or in some cases boldly stated) in inaccurate information disseminated by multiple irresponsible individuals – I’m trying to be polite here – the Tahquitz Peak fire lookout did NOT burn down in the Cranston Fire.

Tahquitz Peak fire lookout looking west-south-west, August 2018.

South Ridge Trail (from South Ridge Road south to Keenwild fire station) This multi-use trail, a popular mountain bike trail, was completely burned over, and will likely be closed for some considerable time.

May Valley Road (and adjacent bike trails) This dirt road very popular with locals for biking, hiking, running, and dog walking, was completely burned over from its crest just beyond Cowbell Alley all the way down to its junction with Bonita Vista Road. The latter burned from near Fleming Ranch west all the way along Keen Camp Ridge to Hwy 74.

No other high country trails were directly affected by the Cranston Fire. This includes all the trails around the Tahquitz area meadows, Devils Slide, Ernie Maxwell Trail, Willow Creek Trail, Ramona Trail, etc., all of which have now reopened. Black ash flakes were visible throughout all the trails of the mountain, even all the way to San Jacinto Peak, at least for the first few days after the fire. That there were not more spot fires scattered around the high country is very fortunate, to put it mildly.

Fobes Trail The Cranston Fire did not reach this far south in Garner Valley. However, dozer lines were inserted along/near Fobes Ranch Road, which is currently not open to non-residents, limiting trailhead access.

Spitler Peak Trail Although the fire burned both sides of Apple Canyon Road, the Spitler Peak Trail itself was unaffected. However, it may be some time before Apple Canyon Road – the access for the Spitler Peak trailhead – is fully open to non-residents.

Zen Center Trail This informal trail was unaffected by the Cranston Fire, although it remains in fairly poor condition, particularly in its upper elevations, since the Mountain Fire.