January 23 (1987, 1988)
Bald Eagle Season

1/23/87   Morning; I feel so much better today, it's great, really great. A light snow is falling, and about a quarter-inch is on the ground.

Awoke from a dream in which I was skiing with Kelley; we gazed out over a snowy canyon and climbed icy summit [...]

This is more of a frozen fog than a snowfall; it's about sunrise and there may be swift clearing, or may not: another, larger storm is presumed to be entering the state today, and the one might blend into the other nearly imperceptibly.

Yes, the fog assumes a certain glow that speaks loudly of thinness in the cloud cover; and the winds turn and drive from the east, or the north, indicating that this storm, at any rate, is largely past.

The snow falls heavier rather than lighter, and it may be that another band of clouds has yet to pass over. I have noticed that in between bands of clouds, wind directions often change just as though separate storms were involved, and, to that extent, perhaps one could say that separation does exist; so that a cloud band begins with south winds, then grades into northerlies as it passes... several such bands may inhabit a single storm, a single cyclone may whirl several in succession across the state. Typically the cyclone itself moves across with them; occasionally, it seems to stall, just as the high-pressure anticyclone stalls, and then storm after storm, storm qua cloud-band, sweeps across the state... the post-sunrise increase in snowfall is something I have long attributed to solar warming of the cloud mass, causing uplift and enhanced condensation...”

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/23/88   Morning, cloudy and cool, but promising warmth later, more delightful warmth, warmth which has melted most of the snow from near my cabin over the past few days, sun which has shined so brilliantly, and I have felt so strongly inclined to go up and ski, but, no one to go with. Today is Saturday, and I hope to see Ed & Tina, Bill, Gail & Kenji, who knows. Alex's brother, Paul Henderson, was up yesterday, maybe again today, he's been helping me understand matrix algebra [...]

Later: night: 9:00 o'clock; just returned from a day spent with Bill and Alex & Teri, wherein, by some chance, I had occasion to mention the bald eagle twice, in conversation, with Bill, remarking that in Mexico there are several types of black-and-white hawks and eagles and vultures, the type of whose class found here in California: the bald eagle; while, with Mary Henderson, we touched upon the bald eagle recently discovered in Ireland; and I remarked that up to sixty balds had been counted in the Middle Fork of the Yuba canyon, wintering. Well. One thing leads to another, that to another yet, and now I'm home... I come home and find a note from Kelley, who, with husband John and son Kyle, had visited and picnicked out on the cliffs today. She wrote that a bald eagle was observed. circling over ‘my place‘ for five minutes. So, telepathy?”

[Russell Towle's journal]

January 22 (1978, 2002, 2008)
Harpies, Daemons, and Nefarious People

1/22/78   Well, here I sit in my cabin. A weak storm front that moved through during the night has left the North Fork canyon a witch's cauldron of fog—here, billowing up in mountains edged with gold in the morning light, there, exploded into puffs and patches and tendrils that drift about with shadows in tow, fleet shadows that make the sunny north wall of the canyon into a rippling tapestry, sometimes, however, coalescing into a dull, somber aspect that seems akin to the medieval man's image of mountains ~ fearful landscapes beplagued with harpies, daemons of all sorts and kinds, certain disaster for those unwary enough to stray therein...

yes, a magnificent day. [...] well, outside is the place for me.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Green Valley, glimpsed through the shifting mists

Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 14:04:12 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Gold Run/Canyon Creek

Hi all,

With two weeks of dry weather, the latter week with cold nights, Canyon Creek has subsided to low to moderate flows. It is interesting that, despite all the wet weather we have had, the ground water has not yet recharged to a "normal" winter surplus, and the hundreds of springs issuing from the volcanic strata in the upper basin of Canyon Creek continue at low, more summer-like flows.

Over this past fall and winter I have worked a bit on the uppermost section of the Canyon Creek Trail, from Potato Ravine Pass east to the Indiana Hill Ditch and a little ways along that ditch. This portion of the trail was partly buried and disrupted in various ways by salvage logging following a wildfire ca. 1960, and then again by bulldozer activity on a nearby road, in the 1980s. Ed Stadum and Catherine O'Riley helped a lot. Most recently, I restored the original line of the trail along the ditch, where logging skid trails had left huge piles of dirt. I have made no attempt to restore the full original width of the trail, merely making the narrowest of bench cuts and minor fills along the original trail line.

Recently I learned of the California Heritage Fund grant program, which is directed at acquisition of properties with historical significance, and which seems an awfully good match for the 800 acres now for sale in the Gold Run Diggings. I contacted Supervisor Rex Bloomfield and Placer Legacy chief Loren Clark about the grant program, which is administered by the State Office of Historic Preservation. I also contacted a person in that office, Cheri Stanton, who sent me a PDF file containing the grant application form. There are two deadlines for the current funding cycle, in March and August of 2002. Cheri informs me that the grant application is also available for viewing and downloading at the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) web site:

Perhaps the BLM and Placer County could collaborate to acquire the entire 800 acres now for sale. This land includes much of the length of the Canyon Creek Trail. Currently the BLM lands in the southern part of the Diggings are open to OHV use and also are open to "mineral entry," i.e., mining claims. This, despite the fact that these same lands are within the special Gold Run Extension of the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River zone. I would like to see these existing BLM lands, along with any acquisitions which may be made, closed to OHV use and to mineral entry, with every effort made to quiet existing claims.

All this is only to say that if, by some miracle, the 800 acres were acquired, the BLM and Placer County would be faced with the question, what do we do with it? How will it be managed, for what purposes, etc. etc.? And so it behooves those of us who like the Diggings and the Canyon Creek Trail to give some thought about the future of this area.


Russell Towle

The Secret Trails of Green Valley
["North Fork Trails" blog post, January 22, 2008:
http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2008/01/secret-trails-of-green-valley.html ]
I was surprised to hear from someone, in response to my "Visit to Green Valley," that she wishes the trails of Green Valley kept a secret. She objects to my mention of hiking on old mining ditches or on this or that old trail; there are, it seems, Nefarious People on this North Fork Trails email list, who, though my malfeasance, now know about the mining ditches and old trails in Green Valley.

Never mind that I have often written about precisely these ditches and trails before.

The Nefarious People, she writes, will tie plastic flagging all along the ditches, all along the trails, spray-painting a boulder now and then for good measure, with artful messages like "Green Valley Blue Gravel Mine Ditch, .25."

Perhaps one spray-painted boulder would warn of rattlesnakes. Another might read, "Euchre Bar, 1 mile, If You Like Jumping on Cliffs and Fording Raging Rivers."

Well, I'm sorry, but it is my philosophy that the old trails of the North Fork need to be known, not unknown. The North Fork of the American River—its wildness, its beautiful scenery, its historic trails and mining ditches and prehistoric sites—deserves every kind of protection and preservation. But this protection and preservation is hardly possible if no one knows the great canyon, and its great old trails.

This email list is all about making this wildness, this beauty, these old trails and ditches, known. In Green Valley, a number of private parcels exist, old patented mining claims, any one of which could on any given day sprout "No Trespassing" signs, or even a cabin. The purchase of these private parcels, and the transfer of the titles to Tahoe National Forest, or to the Bureau of Land Management, depending upon the location of the parcel— the purchase of these parcels is critical to the future of Green Valley.

So, don't forget, the High Ditch is quite near the 2080' contour, in Green Valley, north of the river. Hike it, and let me know if you like it; it makes for a nearly level walk of a mile or so, from one end of Green Valley to the other. It crosses the East Trail about three hundred yards above Joe Steiner's grave, with another ditch, at that point, closely paralleling it, just above. The Still-Higher Ditch, as it were. But the High Ditch itself is the ticket.

Below, a map of Green Valley, showing some of its trails and ditches—which are also trails.

Trails in Green Valley
North is up. This map doesn't show the parking area that was established on county land to serve users of the Green Valley Trail. It is on Moody Ridge Rd., about 100 yards west of the Aquila Rd. intersection, on the left. There is a shortcut trail from that parking area over to the trailhead.