August 18 (1987, 1988, 2001, 2003, 1865)
"The Grand Complimentary Chinese Dinner"

8/18/87   Morning. Slept late (8:30) but was wakened by a canyon wren prowling the eaves. [...] Acorn woodpeckers flit from branch to branch on the oaks outside.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

8/18/88   [...]  Yesterday, called Bill Newsom at his offices, discussed the Castle Peak situation, and ended up bringing a copy of the Bee article (which had appeared Sunday, rather than Saturday: I got a copy from BJ) to him at his office, swarming with judges and lawyers and secretaries, I was typically panicked-stricken by the challenge of driving in San Francisco.

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 10:28:35 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Green Valley hike

Hi all,

Late notice, but, on Sunday the 19th, 10:00 A.M., I will be hiking down into Green Valley on the North Fork for swimming and geological explorations. The geologist/sedimentologist Allan James will be coming along. I have been trying to get AJ down to see the Quaternary (Ice Age) gravels in Green Valley for years, as they must be highly significant to the glacial history of this part of the Sierra, and clearly represent several different episodes of glaciation, some, possibly as old as the Sherwin event of 750,000 years ago. They look to be glacial outwash gravels, not moraine gravels or till.

Some people will just hang out at the river and swim. Some may wish to thrash around in the old gold mines and look at the Ice Age gravels, battling rattlesnakes and poison oak, etc. etc.

Call me for directions.

Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 08:49:35 -0800
To: North Fork Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: NFARA Meeting, etc.

Hi all,

Just a reminder, there will be a meeting of the fledgling North Fork American River Alliance (NFARA) on Tuesday, August 19, 7:00 p.m., Dutch Flat Community Club, Stockton Street, Dutch Flat. Rich Johnson, District Ranger of Foresthill Ranger District, Tahoe National Forest (TNF), will be there, as will Vance Kimbrel, of Placer County Parks & Recreation. At least some of the subject matter will bear upon the proposed Capitol-to-Capitol Trail, from Sacramento to Carson City, Nevada, which, in its initial concept, was to closely parallel the North Fork in a five-foot-wide, road-like "trail" blasted from the very cliffs.

We of the NFARA oppose such a trail, but could support a route along the canyon rim, perhaps.

With this in mind, Catherine O'Riley and I explored an area along the south canyon rim east of Iowa Hill, in the Roach Hill/Giant Gap Ridge area. Here an old road dating to the 1860s if not earlier follows along the edge of the great canyon, offering wonderful views of Giant Gap, Lovers Leap, and occasionally, a glimpse of the high country. However, a subdivision in the Roach Hill area has closed this historic road, in one small, yet all-important, area.

Dean Decker of the BLM's Folsom office was kind enough to send me maps of this area, showing some of the BLM lands along this old road, and also giving the ownerships of two of the larger, unsubdivided parcels (227 and 360 acres) Catherine and I had noted in our explorations. It so happens that the BLM is planning a "fuel load reduction" project along the course of this old road, including its most scenic reaches, in the north part of Section 14, T15N R10E.

This area contains the old Sunset Mine, and that bold cliffy eminence looming into Giant Gap I call Sunset Point.

Were this part of the road ever to be used as part of the Capitol-to-Capitol Trail, it might be a good thing to encourage the BLM to go lightly, with more hand work, and less machine work. The basic idea of the project is to thin the brushy forest, masticating (chipping) brush and small trees, leaving the best Ponderosa pines etc. on approximately fifteen-foot centers, and limbing these trees up to keep wildfires from reaching the crowns.

Finally, this whole issue of the timber harvest at Lost Camp has had me thinking a lot about how, in so many cases around the North Fork American, the private inholdings—old"railroad" lands, patented mining claims, etc.—have already had and will continue to have drastic impacts upon the whole fabric of the landscape, the old trails, the wildlife, the scenery, everything, really. So, the obvious fix is for TNF to purchase these private inholdings.

Yet TNF has no money for this. It took many years for the money to be found for TNF to purchase the old railroad lands right along the North Fork itself, from Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). There's a ton of SPI land out by Lost Camp and Sawtooth Ridge, while at Lost Camp itself, it's Siller Bros. lumber company of Yuba City.

I know of two other Siller Bros. properties which are important acquisition objectives.

I wonder whether NFARA might not talk with Siller Bros. and ask for a ten-year delay in timber harvests, while we try to find some money. It was the Land & Water Conservation Act which provided the money for the recent acquisitions along the North Fork. Perhaps LWCF will play a role in future purchases.


Russell Towle

Below is Russell's 2008 transcription of this interesting excerpt of news from the San Francisco daily newspaper, Alta California, published this day in 1865:
Publication Office 

San Francisco, Friday, August 18

The Grand Complimentary Chinese Dinner to Speaker Colfax,
Lieut. Gov. Bross, Albert D. Richardson and Samuel Bowies

The grand complimentary dinner to Hon. Schuyler Colfax and party, tendered by the "Six Chinese Companies in California," which has been in contemplation for some weeks past, took place last evening at the Hang Heong Restaurant, 808 Clay street. In addition to the Colfax party, invited guests, in number necessarily restricted by the space at the tables at the command of the Committee of Arrangements, were present and participated in the festivities. A much larger number would have been present had there been room for their accommodation. The tickets of invitations in English, were in the usual form, and signed in behalf of —
Chui Sing Tong, President of the Sam Yap Company: Khing Fong, President of the Yeung Wo Co.: Ting Sang, President of the See Yap Cp.: Wae Nga, President of the Ning Yeong Co.: Chee Shum, President of the Hop Wo. Co.: Mun Kuae, President of the Yan Wo Co.
By Selim E. Woodworth, Henry M. Hale, Wm. Harney, F.W. Macondray, Albert S. Evans, Chas Carvalho, Charles Bertody, Committee of Arrangements.

Among the American guests present were Hon. Schuyler Colfax, Hon. Wm. Bross, Albert D. Richardson, Samuel Bowies, General McDowel, Chief Martin J. Burke, Captain G.A. McNulty, Dr. McNulty, John H. Saunders, Esq; Lewis Leland, W.J. Badger, Dr. L. H. Henry, F.A. Foster, Joseph Tilden, O.H. Webb, R.J. Van Dewater, Wm. T. Coleman, W.C. Ralston, F. MacCrellish, C.K. Smith, Judge Turner, Cutler McAllister, Henry L. Davis, Joseph A. Donohoe, Gen. Hewston, Captain Coster, Judge Hoffman, A.D. Meacham, R.H. Llloyd.

There were also present the Presidents of the six companies, as given above, and representative of the leading Chinese mercantile houses of California, as follows: Tham Kwan, of the Hung Yuen: Wong Wun, of the Wo Kee Store; Chun Pho, of the Wing Cheong Leing: Lee Yew, of the Tung Wo Store; Weng Cheong Ngan, of the Hop Yik Store; Cnang Hung, of the Hop Kee Store; Chan Chow, of the Tung Sung; Fong Yan, of the Chy Lung Store; Fong Foon, of the Tung Cheong store; Choy Choo, of the Luen Wo store; Kwan Yuen, of the Tung Yu store; Sam Shim, of Hip Wo store; Wy Yuen, of Tuen Oncheong store; Lee Yuk, of the Wa Yuen Sun store; Lee Nang, of the Chung Sun store: Yu Tin, of the Hop Wo store. The hour fixed for the commencement of the dinner was six p.m., and at a few minutes past that time the company sat down to the tables. It is, of course, next to impossible to give a description of such a dinner which would be intelligible to those who have never attended one, and to those who have enjoyed that pleasure no description is needed.

The guests were received by the six President and Merchant Committee, in the hall above the dining room, on their arrival, when a general introduction all around took place before sitting down at the tables. The chairs and side-tables around the room were hung with scarlet coverings, embroidered with gold, and the dinner tables adorned with fresh flowers in regular Oriental style. The dinner proper consisted of 336 dishes, forming 130 courses, and divided comprised three distinct sittings. At the first sitting the courses consisted of soups and almost numberless "main dishes," into the composition of which entered fish, flesh, fowl and vegetable substances, in a thousand forms undreamed of to French cooks and Caucasian house wives generally. The famous "bird nest soup" which was pronounced delicious by all who partook of it, and a vast number of sweet meats and preserves of different fruits, were included in these courses.

As soon as one dish had been passed around and tasted by each guest, it was removed and a new one brought on by the attendants. No knives, forks, or spoons of our patterns were upon the tables at the first two sittings; chop sticks, and the short, thick China spoons or scoops, being what each guest was expected to help himself with. The efforts of the uninitiated guests to master the chopsticks and convey the food to their mouths with them, created a vast amount of amusement to the company, and sometimes not a little (?) to the most awkward of the party. Some of the guests soon got "the hang of things" early, while others, after repeated failures, gave up the attempt and contented themselves with spearing the morsels of food with a single stick as an Esquimaux would harpoon a walrus or a schoolboy impale an unlucky blue bottle on a pin.

Champagne, claret, and the finer qualities of Chinese rose-flavored wines, were served in profusion with every course. At the last sitting, fruit only was served, all the varieties in the market being included in the list. At the end of each sitting the tables were entirely cleared, and the company adjourned to the reception room to smoke and pass away the time until the next was announced. At the end of the first sitting the six Presidents paid their formal compliments to Mr. Colfax and party, thanking them for their attendance in Oriental style, through their interpreter, Mr. Carvalho, and receiving the thanks of their guests in return, and then took their leave according to the "statutes in such cases made and provided," and everywhere recognized as rules of action by the Chinese. A Chinese band was now introduced, and the guests were much amused and interested by their peculiar performance, until the tables were ready for the second sitting.

During the second sitting, a deputation of the merchants approached Mr. Colfax and Governor Borss, and presented their compliments, welcoming them to the feast and expressing their appreciation on the honor done them by their presence. The gentlemen replied in short speeches, which were translated by Mr. Carvalho, and the merchants then retired. At the end of this sitting the company were entertained in the reception room with a Chinese historical recitative song, accompanied by the music of a full band, and Mr. Colfax was presented with a large red and gold letter or package, super-scribed as follows:

"To His Excellency, the Honored Guest. For His High Consideration."
Within this were six slips of red paper, the usual Chinese visiting cards, inscribed as follows.

"The Compliments of the Sam Yup Company"

"The Compliments of the Yeong Wo Company"

"The Compliments of the See Yup Company"

"The Compliments of the Ning Yeong Company"

"The Compliments of the Hop Wo Company"

"The Compliments of the Yan Wo Company"

"The Six Companies respectfully solicit your bright company at their festival this afternoon."

At the end of the third and last sitting a Committee of the Companies again approached Mr. Colfax and party, and repeating the thanks for the honor of their company, expressed their regret at not being able to furnish a more sumptuous repast. Mr. Colfax replied that the pleasure was all upon his side, then he returned thanks for the honor done himself and friends, and that he was unable to conceive of a possibility of a more sumptuous repast being provided. A general shaking of hands and exchange of compliments followed, and the company separated at 12’o’clock — the dinner having occupied a few minutes less than six hours. Taken altogether, the dinner was a grand success, and we are assured that it was enjoyed in the highest degree by the distinguished gentlemen in whose honor it was given, none of whom will be apt to soon forget their first Chinese state dinner.

August 17 (1977, 1986, 1987, 2004)
Thumpings in the Night

8/17/77   high clouds move up from the south. wildfires all over california, a huge one in big sur.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

8/17/86   Morning. Just wanted to observe that the California ground squirrels who nest around here love the big oak for roosting purposes. And I love to watch them. They used to remind me of Valdemar, since he had a special thing for ground squirrels. They seem so, well, mild-mannered. When they climb a tree to their perch, I get no feeling of aggressive twitchy territoriality; they amble up the trunk to one of their two favorite perches, and take up position looking out, so calmly, like little Squirrel Buddhas. Because they sit very still and inscrutable. There are no fireworks in this display. Just a slow ramble up the trunk and a settling into position. [...] Now two ground squirrels are sitting together at one perch.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

8/17/87   [...]

The sun was setting, a very reddish light glazed the far canyon rim, when loud thumpings were heard, not unlike the thumpings and bumpings of night creatures beneath my cabin. I determined upon sneaking out to the porch and leaning down to catch a glimpse of one of these ~ denizens. I was doing just that when the crackle of nearby leaves startled me and I looked up to see Tim's dog, Taffy, standing nearby. It was she who'd thumped. No sign of Tim: she was out on a walk. I brought her some water to drink, sat with her a while, petted her. She is very old, in dog terms, and has only a very few years at most left on earth. Sad to read of Shelley's death, sad to see Taffy's so clearly impending. I decided to walk her up to Tim's. I remember the day Tim got her, found her at Black Forest outside Nevada City. The date? Probably summer of '74. Such a good dog, very very good. My companion on many walks. Tonight, one more.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Euchre Gorge

August 17, 2004

Squeezing into the bit of shade on the ledge, Ron Gould (foreground), Cindy Goldman,
Catherine "Canyon" O'Riley, and Russell Towle. Photo taken by Gregory Towle.