January 2, 2013

By: D. Curtis Stenger

Hiked mile 77 (Scissors Crossing) to mile 111 (2nd crossing of Highway 79) as a series of dayhikes December 28, 2012  January 1, 2013. The Stewart fire of August 2012 (southern half of the San Felipe Hills) left a completely charred, barren landscape. Surprisingly, trail tread in the burn remains in very good shape with virtually no erosion (so far). Although much of the desert flora of the southern half of the San Felipe Hills was destroyed there are some unburned remnants, such that through hikers may still experience ocotillo, agave, two species of yucca, and nine species of cactus. Also present (persisting even in the burn) was the California native succulent Dudleya lanceolata. The northern edge of the burn is a wide tractor line located ~50 yards south of the 3rd Gate Cache (mile 90). No water at cache as of 12/31/12. Most gates in the San Felipe Hills have the adjacent barbed-wire peeled back, leaving a ~10 foot wide gap in the fence next to each gate. Trail tread in the unburned, northern half of the San Felipe Hills also in good shape but brush beginning to encroach on trail (miles 96-98). Trail north of Barrel Springs (mile 101) to 2nd crossing of Highway 79 (mile 111) in good shape. Small population of the succulent Dudleya pulverulenta in rocks just north of San Ysidro Creek (mile 105) crossing. A local indicated that Warner Springs Resort has been sold to a local Indian tribe that plans to convert the facility into a casino.

Natural water sources: Barrel Springs (mile 101) flowing well; San Ysidro Creek (mile 105) dry; water flowing in upper region of Canada Verde (mile 108) when first (Nobo) encountered to about ~100 yards downstream but otherwise dry; Warner Springs Ranch Creek (mile 111) dry.

Parking access to trail: Very large parking area on San Felipe Road just north of Scissors Crossing (mile 77); large, roadside pull-through turnout on Montezuma Valley Road near Barrel Springs (mile 101); turnout at Highway 79 1st crossing (mile 109) across from CDF fire station; large turnout at Highway 79 2nd crossing (mile 111) a few yards west of bridge over Warner Springs Ranch Creek (to access trail, cross bridge then descend into creekbed). We also utilized parking at the San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area Information Kiosk (west side of San Felipe Road ~5 miles north of Scissors Crossing) 1 mile west of PCT to split San Felipe Hills into two day hikes. Trail can be accessed by following rough dirt road east to base of hills, then cross-country (east) along spur ridge (on north side of wash). Trail accessed, after 900 feet gain in elevation from parking area, at mile 89.75. Note that this access route was in the burned area (will likely become difficult/unusable in a few years after regrowth) and that the parking area is not visible from the PCT at mile 89.75.

All mileage points based on Halfmile’s Google Earth waypoints. Daytripper.