November 20 (1975, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1986, 2000, 2002)
“The time will come, it actually will come.”

11/20/75 awoke yesterday morning to a roof of clouds; awoke this morning to a sprinkling rain; and now it's trying to snow. a few flakes fall mixed in with the rain. i read the odyssey while sitting before the fire. […]
~ back in wren shack after an evening at sunflower school, out by lake vera, beyond nevada city. sunflower school is an ‘alternative education’ school for ‘creative children’, first through eighth grades. i met one of the teachers, george, the other day over at tim's. in the course of describing what the indian earth-covered house was like ~ the maidu ‘k'um’ ~ he invited me to participate in an evening of Indian stories. so i brought jaime de angulo's ‘indian tales’ out there tonight and read five or six old-time stories aloud, and the kids kept on asking for more, until it was bedtime and i had to stop. they were having a kind of slumber party in the school common room. it was a very enjoyable evening. i would love to teach… finished the odyssey tonight. a great book. i would like to read it in a different translation.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/20/77 sunday morning. the sky is mostly filled with altocumulus, and it is very cold. [...]

dad says the weather forecast is for snow down to the 2000' elev. supposedly it is the strongest storm in years, and of course, depending on how effectively the high-pressure cell blocks it, we may get no rain or snow at all. right now it's looking promising.

yesterday i set all the [cedar] rounds i had on hand, and my steps go nearly to the upper trail. i need about ten more, which i may go cut this morning. looking about at the forest now, with the black oaks largely denuded, it is hard to conceive how lush everything is in june. i hope i can manage to loaf a lot between now and then, and really watch the seasons. so far it's been fine.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/20/83 Morning, Sunday morning at Moody Ridge. It is snowing lightly, the first of the season.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

November 20, 1985

Another cold day. The snow hardly melts at all from one day to the next. [...]

 “20th November 85
[later that day, another entry]

It just snowed lightly; after dark now, cozy, warm fire.

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/20/86 [...]

Later. Night. Listening to Thursday Night Football on a Spanish channel. Thinking about writing an essay entitled “A Quadratic Sieve” and drifting into reveries about completing the clearing of the Knoll. So long deferred, so often envisioned, fondly imagined and cherished, an image polished by much handling, like some venerable totem or relict.

In my daydreams I lunge from pine to unwanted pine, chainsaw in hand; there follow disjointed visions of burn piles, pine and ceanothus branches disappearing in the searing flames, burning piles perhaps cunningly placed so as to fry the root systems of the horrible artemisia in the upper meadow—I see massive bushes disappear, and little patches of bunchgrass exposed to the sun's energetic light, primed now to be fruitful, and multiply, and shimmer their greensward across the parabolic expanses of the Knoll.

I see vastness all blue and overarching the grasses, the pines and cedars alike shimmering, swaying, swept by wind, by sun, sparkling. I see the dogwoods of the upper meadow in full view, covered with blooms, and puffy white clouds blooming in the sky above, in May, in Spring.

The time will come, it actually will come.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

 Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 09:17:24 -0800
To: "Kathie Schmiechen"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Lost Camp
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD:258394:LOSTCAMP.JPG:
>Thanks!!! The geology/glacial history is fascinating. I definitely want to
>get info like that into the report.
>Can you get in to the cyn described below now? I might try to get in
>sometime over the next week. I do have a hi clearance 4wd truck.
You mean the North Fork of the North Fork by way of Lost Camp? There is quite a bit of snow (six inches or so) already, but perhaps it will melt away before the main snowpack develops.
>Where is lost camp? I used to live in blue canyon (upper). I have followed
>the train tracks from lower blue canyon down cyn from there. I know where
>texas hill is too. You get to that from emigrant gap.
As you drive down the paved road to Blue Canyon, before you reach the tracks a dirt road forks to the left; a few houses are in there, and the road continues past them, forks again, right fork leads down across the tracks and on down to Lost Camp, a ghost town, hydraulic mining area, boomed in 1850s, all that's left are holes which used to be cellars, and some mining stuff. Townsite in Section 23 immediately south of Blue Canyon town itself. The trail is hard to find. I have worked on clearing brush from it over the years and it is in pretty good shape. On the Sawtooth Ridge side it has been ruined by logging.

I have attached a photo of the old General Land Office map (ca. 1866) of the Blue Canyon-Lost Camp area. The trail going down Texas CaƱon is the trail I refer to; although modern maps do not name this tributary of the North Fork of the North Fork. The town of Blue Canyon did not exist then; Geisendorfer's Sawmill is near the later townsite.

Where the trail reaches the NF of the NF, is the Lady Bug Capital of the Universe, I have seen more, vastly vastly more, ladybugs down there than anywhere else. In the millions I should think.

The geology is interesting. The North Fork American acted as a sump for the excess of glacial ice which accumulated in the South Yuba basin (the basin was too shallow to hold it; note the elevation of South Yuba at Kingvale, ca. 6000 feet, compare to that of North Fork American at Big Granite Creek confluence, ca. 3500 feet). It overflowed into the North Fork down Serena Creek, Palisade Creek, Big and Little Granite creeks, Big Valley, the EF of the NF of the NF, the NF of the NF, Fulda Creek, and Blue Canyon. A big chunk of Yuba ice tore down the divide and flowed down the Bear River through Bear Valley. Note the granitoid glacial erratics atop the volcanic mudflow ridges beside I-80 at Emigrant Gap and Nyack. These are Yuba boulders. Such granitoid boulders from the Yuba may be found west of Blue Canyon airport atop the ridge, on Sawtooth Ridge, and many other places. I have been studying the glacial history for a long time. A friend of mine is doing cosmogenic dating on glacial erratics around Bear Valley and Cisco Grove. This measures isotopic changes due to bombardment by cosmic rays. So you can tell how long a boulder has been out in the open. Last two major episodes of glaciation the Tioga event of 10-20,000 years ago, and the Tahoe event of 45-60,000 years ago.
>As for access- what about the trail from near midas, that over looks the S
>end of sawtooth ridge-too long of a hike?
But Blue Canyon intervenes from Midas. Midas is near the site of another old mining camp called Blue Bluffs.
>The MFA goldmining camp is off FS rd 96-6 off mosquito ridge rd (FH divide)
>about 6.5 miles outside of FH. FS road 96-6 switchbacks down to the MFA. The
>camp is at the base. At the top of the road behind the locked gate, there
The road is past the crossing of Volcano Canyon? All I know is that in addition to being heavily mined in the Gold Rush, the MF was extensively flumed later in the 1850s and some claims remained active for a long time. There are old photos showing the river turned out of its bed into wooden flumes, with undershot waterwheels in the flumes driving pumps by long horizontal shafts, where the miners were working down to bedrock in the river alluvium (these deep holes had to be de-watered). Similar work went on in the other river canyons but the MF seems to have had more of this type of claim than usual. Typically these flume claims were not owned by individuals but by companies.

Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 12:22:52 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Return to Tunnel Camp

Hi all,

It would be possible to haul the stuff at Tunnel Camp out using a helicopter and cargo net. One load.

Today, November 20, 2002, is one of the most beautiful days there could be. What a blessing to live in California, in the Sierra, if only to experience a day like this! It is clear and sunny and warm, the leaves of the Kellogg's Black Oaks are a rich gold in color, and, did I say it is warm? I was in a T-shirt before dawn today, it was quite comfortable, here at 4000' elevation. And now, at 11:28 A.M., it is, what, 77 degrees!

I should have hiked down to the North Fork on the Canyon Creek Trail, one of the great trails of this part of the Sierra, but instead, I only went to the depressing Tunnel Camp, on Canyon Creek, to prepare the garbage to be hauled out. I parked off Garrett Road on The Bluffs and set out on the Paleobotanist Trail at 8:22. At 8:27 I was down in the Diggings. At 8:40 I was crossing Potato Ravine on the Canyon Creek Trail, entering BLM lands. At 8:50 I was at the outlet of the tunnel, and set my ratty old frame backpack down on the blighted terrace.

Extracting a garbage bag from my pack, I began picking up trash around the terrace. The details are tiresome, but I filled one bag rather too full, and set it beside the temporary pile of garbage and stuff I had made on Monday. Then it was time to attack the twisted-strand, eighth-inch steel cables which had been used to support the large tarp shelter on the terrace; I had brought gloves and pliers. The cables were in an intricate arrangement, cunningly looped and knotted and twisted around several Canyon Live Oak trees, and even some poison oak. Two strands crossed Canyon Creek to a deadman, formed by using a strange webbing-thing of orange woven nylon straps, wrapped around a mass of driftwood. A secondary anchor was formed from a husky driftwood log, with a boulder in the hundreds of pounds trapping the log among other boulders.

Again, the details are tiresome, but after an hour of wrestling with the many cables, unknotting them, climbing in oak trees, crossing the creek, etc. etc., I was on the final mass of cables, which had been laced around and around and around a double-trunked oak, tied, twisted, knotted, in fact, every trick in the book had been (unnecessarily) used to ensure that earthquakes, of whatever magnitude, could not dislodge these cables and bring down the precious tarp.

My dog, Lucky, long impatient to be off on a jaunt to the river, had finally realized I wasn't going anywhere soon, and stood a few yards above me, on the steep slope. It had occurred to me that the inhabitants of Tunnel Camp, who had not been there since the Big Storm, might return today, of all days the warmest and most inviting, so far, this November. I trusted Lucky to warn me of anyone's approach. But as I tugged the free end of the cable through its incredibly intricate path, I suddenly had the feeling that someone was near. I stopped, and looked at Lucky. He showed no signs of interest in the old wagon road above me. I listened; nothing. So, back to work. But in a minute I again had the strange feeling. I stopped and listened and looked at Lucky. Nothing. Back to work.

I must have heard something subliminally, for in another minute, two men, around 30 or 35 years old, a bit scruffy-looking, walked onto the terrace below me. My immediate sense was, "These two—or at least one of them—are responsible for Tunnel Camp, and they have decided to pretend otherwise." They looked around at the rather large heap of stuff, and one of them said, "Where did this stuff come from?"

So I explained that apparently someone had set up camp here in September or October, and had done some mining, and that I was getting the stuff they had left ready to be hauled out. I continued working on the cable, and they stood around, and we had a little chat, in which the elder one mentioned that he lived in Gold Run, and had recently discovered the trail, but had not been in there since early August.

So perhaps they are not the ones who made Tunnel Camp.

After a while they left, and I finished with the double-trunked tree, and turned to the last big problem, the arrangement of cables which anchored the two-inch pipe the miner(s) had used to bring water to their various sites.

The flexible plastic hose-pipe was around thirty feet long and had another thing like a fire-hose attached to one end. Two different cables anchored it. As I went and undid one of the two anchors, I saw some more equipment below, near Canyon Creek, and stopped my cable wrestling to wrangle several semi-large sheet metal objects, parts of large home-made sluice boxes, up the trail to the wagon road.

Returning, I freed the cables, dragged the pipe out of the gully below the tunnel, and got everything arranged more or less neatly on the terrace.

It all adds up to a little more than I had thought. I now think that five people, each making as few as two trips, could haul everything up and out to Potato Ravine Pass, in a couple hours. One of the things I found down there today was a set of tire chains, neatly packed in their own plastic carrying-case, and, unfortunately, kind of heavy.

Is anyone up for trying to haul the stuff out on, say, this coming Saturday morning, or afternoon? Or, could the BLM arrange for a helicopter to haul the stuff out? I will try to get through to Mark Pohley, to see if we can get a truck or two into Potato Ravine Pass.

I lashed one garbage bag of light stuff to my pack and headed up the trail. I picked up the length of four-inch plastic pipe from the hairpin curve on the old wagon road and slung it over my shoulder, and slogged on up the trail, breaking a good sweat. At Potato Ravine Pass I dropped off the garbage bag and pipe beside the other stuff. I saw that the two men had driven a "quad" off-road vehicle in to the pass. The off-road license number was something like W11J04, to expire in 2004. The quad looked like a rather new model. It didn't fit with the overall appearance of the men.

I took off my shirt for the last stretch, back across the sunny Diggings on the Paleobotanist Trail. What a day!

Such was a quick trip to Canyon Creek.


Russell Towle

Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 15:17:14 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Canyoneering

Hi all,

I rec'd a very nice message from one Tim Lasko, offering to help clean up Tunnel Camp on Canyon Creek. Tim's message is below. He is into "canyoneering," in which people descend very rugged canyons/gorges using ropes and rappelling. There are sections of Canyon Creek which could only be seen in that way; for instance, the Inner Gorge, a really wonderful, mysterious, twisted, plunging, narrow, thundering thing, above the Big Waterfall. Here is his message:
>This coming weekend looks to be very busy, getting ready for Thanksgiving,
>but I may be able to remove some trash from the tunnel camp on Sunday.  I
>have never been down the Canyon Creek trail, but have wanted to hike it for
>months now.  A few questions:
>1.  Where is the tunnel camp? (I have your Canyon creek map)
>2.  I am assuming the Main Diggins Road is gated and there is no access to
>the Canyon Creek trailhead.  Is this correct?
>3.  Are there two caches of trash?  One at the camp and one at the
>trailhead?  Please Correct or Confirm - Where is each one?
>4.  Any other tips or information I should know before setting out to haul
>some of this trash?
>Please advise, hopefully I can help.
>A little bit about me...
>I am relatively new to the area (June of 2001) and have already started to
>develop a real love for the North Fork Canyon.  I went through river guide
>training with Friends of the River last spring where I was introduced to the
>North Fork Canyon.  I am not yet skillful enough to run Iowa Hill to Yankee
>Jim's but hope to develop these skills next season.  Since finding your web
>site there are quite a few more hikes on my to do list.  I couldn't be more
>impressed with your passion, dedication, and attention to detail.
>I am in the process of forming the Sierra Chapter of the American
>Canyoneering Association.  Canyoneering involves the decent of very steep
>and narrow canyons, by rappelling, hiking, jumping, swimming.  Canyoneering
>is most popular in the sandstone canyons of Utah and Arizona, but a chapter
>is forming here in the Sierra.  If you know anyone who might be interested,
>please send them my way.  Please see and
> for more information, if
>From time to time through-out the year I have access to 5 to 25 volunteers
>for various trail / river clean-ups.  If your group has any scheduled
>clean-up days I could look into supplying some volunteers.
>I look forward to meeting you on the trail.
>-Tim Lasko

November 19 (1977, 1980, 1986, 2000, 2004, 2005)
First Hard Frost ~ Ford's Bar and Big Granite Trails

11/19/77 saturday morning. missed the meeting yesterday—it was at 10:30 A.M. instead of the 1:30 time given at the first meeting. but tim and i stopped at the library and looked at some dutch flat newspapers of 100 years ago.

last night the first hard freeze of the fall, and this morning a steady rain of oak leaves.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/19/80 A few high clouds. Still no walls on the bathroom, but the roof is finished and the pipes are all in. Draining down the water tank to put a gate valve on the line where it comes into the house so I can turn the water off to work on the plumbing. Hard work, drilling all those holes with a brace and bit. Brought an old six-light window over from wren shack to use for the bathroom window. Too large, perhaps.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/19/86   The date I am unsure of; the day, Wednesday; the hour, late. Just returned from a “Novels 80” Meeting., wherein SMUD employees gave a presentation with slides describing the planning process for their proposed intertie, the 345,000-volt intertie.

Today I awoke to dense “warm sector” fog, or so I call it, fog very thick and diffuse which fills the canyon at sunrise after warm rainstorms—although that which struck last night must have been the meekest rainstorm in, well, all of infinite time, or thereabouts.

It was a wet fog, which caused the trees to drip; it barely, oh very barely, laid the dust. So I awoke, I arose, arranged for a cup of hot coffee to be in hand, advanced soon thereafter to the meadow, to the Knoll, and began burning ceanothus clippings from a month ago. The fire burned a bit too hot and high at times; I hope I didn't scald the pine branches, twenty-five feet above.

Then in for laundry, back for wanderings in the sunlit meadow, more burning, easy, scary: the knoll will not really be a safe place to burn ceanothus until all the ceanothus is gone. And then…

Then it will be grassy, verdant and lush, springy turf shimmering green, a relict meadow of Old California bunch grass. Ah, but I never really learned my grasses, did I, me boy? No sir I did emphatically not learn, and never will learn, my… grasses.

Then a brief shower, and dinner at the Alta Store, and The Meeting. It droned on, through rounds of pointless questions, and very good questions… Some differences over whether to amalgamate with STOP or not. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

November 19. 2000

Fords Bar Trail, Big Granite Trail
[North Fork Trails blogpost, November 19, 2004: ]
The Fords Bar Trail and Blue Wing Trail, together, form the historic trail from Gold Run to Iowa Hill. A toll bridge, or several generations of toll bridges, stood at the crossing of the North Fork. The older bridge belonged to someone named Ford, a more recent bridge, to someone named Warner. This much can be deduced from various old maps, including the 1866 General Land Office map for Township 15 North, Range 10 East.

At some early time, possibly in the 1860s, the upper part of the Fords Bar Trail became a wagon road. Road or trail, it forked away from today's Garrett Road in Section 9 of T15N R10E. Garrett Road is labeled "Road to the Mines" on the 1866 GLO map, and then as now it leads eventually to the head of Indiana Ravine, where the very first claims were staked in what would become the Gold Run Diggings, in 1851.

Counted with the Canyon Creek and Pickering Bar trails, the Fords Bar Trail (FBT) is one of three trails giving access to the North Fork from the "Gold Run Addition" to the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River (W&SR). However, the FBT lies just to the west of the W&SR boundary. Around 1985 the FBT was closed by the landowner. The land at the junction of the FBT and Garrett was subdivided into four ten-acre parcels.

Recently, the person owning the 10-acre parcel closest to Garrett blocked the two roads leading into BLM lands atop The Bluffs, a lovely patch of forest with a parking area, where the so-called Paleobotanist Trail begins. This trail leads east across the Diggings to the Canyon Creek Trail. Here we are presented with the rare case of one private parcel blocking public access to two old trails.

In conversations with Chuck Grant of Placer County's Dept. of Public Works, about the historic Smarts Crossing Road, recently gated closed by PG&E, I mentioned the successful lawsuit brought by local residents in 1984, to show that the road is in fact a public road. Edward M. Stadum was our lead attorney in that suit, a very considerable public service, as he worked for free. Chuck said, in effect, "I don't care about the lawsuit: Placer County spent money on the road in the 1930s, as I found on our old "Maintained Mileage" maps, hence it is a County road, and can't be closed."

So I asked Chuck to check his old Maintained Mileage maps for any reference to the Fords Bar Trail. He found none, but didn't seem to understand that the FBT forks away from Garrett Road. Chuck did mention that I might look in the old Minutes of the Board of Supervisors (BOS), which could record County expenditures on the FBT.

I thought I knew where to start, for, in the January 11, 1895 edition of the "Colfax Sentinel" is an article entitled "Gold Run Items." In this article it states, "There is a movement afoot among the citizens of this place [Gold Run] and Iowa Hill to petition the Board of Supervisors to construct a bridge across the American River at Ford's Bar."

Now, Ron Gould and Bob & Judy Suter and I have been hoping to find some way to restore public access to the Fords Bar Trail. For my own part I would be content if foot, equestrian, and mountain bike access were restored: I really don't care very much about being able to drive a car on the old FBT road. At any rate, Ron took on the job of reading through the BOS Minutes for 1895 and 1896, down at the County Archives at DeWitt, in Auburn.

He found nothing about the FBT, but did find that it was a commonplace for County residents to petition the BOS to fix or improve this or that road. And, by chance as it were, Ron found a record of an expenditure of $75 on the Big Granite Trail, in 1896.

Hence, if Chuck Grant is to be believed, which seems only reasonable, the Big Granite Trail has been a public, County trail since at least 1896. Originally, it led from Cisco, on the railroad (not quite the same thing as Cisco Grove, but near), south and east across the North Fork, on a bridge, to the La Trinidad Mine in Sailor Canyon. And thence to Sailor Flat on the Foresthill Divide.

Ed Stadum advises me that these kinds of old records could prove very important in establishing the public's rights to use our old historic trails. I would like to look over the old BOS Minutes, and I wonder whether records of expenditures by Tahoe National Forest on this or that trail might have a similar legal force, as does an expenditure by Placer County.

So far as recent damage to the Big Granite Trail, I have not yet received the Timber Harvest Plan for CHY lands in the area, nor the "Ten Percent Exemption" document for SPI lands near the trail. So I have nothing new.

Date: Sat Nov 19 21:06:55 2005
To: mark tele
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: Visit to Green Valley

>Hi Russell,   There was a hotel down in Green Valley?  Do you know if the Salmon ever made it up that far before the dams went in?  Were there any inyo face flies still flying around on the hike out? This weather is unreal.  And the Caribbean braces for another hurricane.  Keep on hiking & writing. 

Hi Jeff,

Yes, a hotel. On the flat below Joe Steiner's grave.

Salmon, definitely. They would have been stopped by the Royal Gorge waterfalls, but the fish experts think the salmon woulda climbed everything below there.

No face flies, or so few as to be no problem.

See ya,