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.

January 21 (1976, 1978, 1980)
Mid-Winter Rambles

1/21/76   sunny, with patchy alto cumulus. yesterday jim and i climbed castle peak, 9103' elev., just north of donner pass. my third ascent. tho hazy, we could see mt. diablo and the coast ranges to the north well; the marysville buttes; mt. lassen, and amidst a jumbled maze of snow peaks to the south, pyramid peak.


~ evening. further conversation this morning with my father about my land exposed me for the first time to the possibility that the overgrown, unused logging road that ascends moody ridge upslope from my property may become the main road into moody ridge. this is discouraging news. there is no way acquiring more land would protect me from the sound of traffic. at times it seems that i have been given this land just at the point where it finally will be developed; have grown attached to its beauty just in time to see it marred, by logging, road-building, subdivision ~ greg troll said half-jokingly that this land might cause me to indulge in “indolent hermithood’ instead of “crusading for conservation in california’ [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/21/78   yesterday ron, gary, neil, teo and i departed from dutch flat about 10:00 A.M. we drove to the Pit of the Old Junk Cars near bogus point [on Moody Ridge] and parked. i cast about for indian artifacts—dave nelson found a beautiful 2-3 inch spearpoint of green chert out there back in 8/76—and found not a one. soon we were all ready and immediately crashed into the manzanita, sliding down the canyon walls and rambling our various routes down to the Dead-Top Digger Pine on a ridge still high above the waterfalls, then scrambling down even steeper slopes to the Falls Trail to the River. we caught the high fall just right, with a nice rainbow. a lunch while sitting on the lawn-like Terrace of Mining Artifacts, our shirts stripped off before the sun. a few flowers in bloom on the south-west exposure wall of canyon creek's canyon.

on to the river and the billowing mist of Lowest Fall. golden eagle circling high. a scrambling ramble upriver and fine traverses of untouched canyon wall, incredible views of the pinnacles. the long 1800' climb up crystal ridge while the sun set. a nice day.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

1/21/80   steve and i went skiing day before [yesterday], back in the upper north fork canyon, brisk winds out of the northeast, snow flurries along the sierra crest but clear elsewhere. we explored a portion of the onion creek drainage, skied down through meadows to a giant cedar; then up to the road, and back into the heavy timber above the road. we didn't get back to the truck until the stars were out in force. a delicate crescendo moon framed blazing venus over snow mountain.


i'm at a standstill on my geological history of dutch flat. the choice is between a work with a degree of scholastic integrity and attention to detail, or a work focused on merely outlining the situation. a vast difference. but of course, flexibility in my visualization is important. there are shades, and even as the distribution of hydrogen in our galaxy is somewhat uneven and lumpy, in the same way i can dwell on whatever aspect of local geology i would like ~ no one has to buy my book.”

[Russell Towle's journal]