August 25 (1976, 1986, 1988, 2002, 2005)
“Big fat healthy-looking acorns” ~ Pleasant Gatherings

8/25/76 morning in wren shack trying to make up my mind to go buy some food, put a load of lumber on my track, and go out to moody ridge for a few days instead of all this back-and-forth stuff i've been doing.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

8/25/86 Monday night. Another warm summer night, many crickets; today I walked out to the cliffs and saw some Canyon live oaks heavily laden with acorns. The branches appeared to actually sag under their weight, as if sagging under snow. Big fat healthy-looking acorns. Lots of golden fuzz on the caps, golden powder, and some of the acorns show the purple color I have long remarked in Canyon live oaks.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

8/25/88 Morning. Impending heat, confusion and fusion, helicopters beating serenity into submission. [...]

Then down to Penryn, to a pleasant gathering of Gene Markley's people, adventurous hikers and lovers of wilderness beauty, sharing slides from this summer's excursions, including Gene's very remarkable pictures from the Wind Rivers, Squaretop Mtn., and I, I showed around Gay's Royal Gorge pictures; stopped off at the Peachs' on my way home. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sun, 25 Aug 2002 07:37:55 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Beyond Canyon Creek

Hi all,

On Saturday, August 24th, son Greg (11), stepson Gus (19), and I (number too large to be expressed with mathematical precision) joined the Inimitable Catherine "Canyon" O'Riley and her friends, Karen and Terra, for a hike down the Canyon Creek Trail. Our objective was a certain pool on the North Fork, about a half-mile upstream from the confluence of Canyon Creek.

We met at the Gold Run exit on I-80 at one o'clock, and drove a couple miles south on Garrett Road, to an unmarked dirt road entering BLM lands atop The Bluffs. The Bluffs are 400-foot hydraulic mining banks, which face east into the huge pit of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co., later known as the Stewart Gravel Mine, after James Stewart, the scion of one of the old mining families of Gold Run, and friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jack London.

Atop The Bluffs (at 3200') is a fine grove of large pines. We parked and wound through the pines on the Paleobotanist Trail, which drops north into the Diggings, a wilderness of manzanita and large chert boulders and ridges of unmined, Eocene-age river gravel, with some good-sized masses of petrified wood scattered about. This trail passes through the old Sherman claim, now BLM land, before crossing into private lands, now for sale, and making its way east across the Diggings to a pass, in Potato Ravine. There the Canyon Creek Trail begins, and threads through more BLM lands before entering more of the private-lands-now-for-sale, and following Canyon Creek down, down, down, passing many waterfalls, to the North Fork American.

We paused to admire the great tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co., which leads to Canyon Creek from the Diggings, and without which they could never have mined all the way down to the bedrock floor of the Eocene river channel. The channel floor is just below the 2800-foot contour. A river of cold air flows through the tunnel, which cold air is quite pleasant on a warm to hot day.

Continuing, we pursued the somewhat intricate course of the trail, which crosses the creek at a certain point, swings around the top of the first large waterfall, and then begins an increasingly steep descent to the North Fork. Just above the river, the even more faint and tenuous "Upriver Trail" forks left, and off we went.

This Upriver Trail actually leads all the way up to Giant Gap, and there are faint signs that it may, at one time, have continued through Giant Gap, as is shown on a 1927 General Land Office map. It probably dates from the Gold Rush, and its course is determined by the vagaries of topography, with lots of short steep climbs to pass cliffs, and short steep descents to go with the climbs, and some precious few level sections. There are many places where this trail becomes so faint as to be entirely invisible. Then again, it will suddenly reappear and one can see that at one time it was rather heavily used. That "one time" was probably from about 1849 to 1860, although, one cannot doubt that the Nisenan Maidu also used this route for generations on end, to reach the salmon- and steelhead-trout-swarming pools of the North Fork American. Before the Maidu the bears and the deer used it as well. They have to pass high above cliffs, much as we have to.

After almost half a mile, the old trail descends to near river level. Our destination pool was in view, a couple hundred yards upstream, and most of us chose to scramble over the big boulders beside the river to reach the pool. Catherine and I took the way less traveled, the old trail itself, and slaved away in the hot sun, opening up a short section which was blocked by a large fallen branch from a Canyon Live Oak, along with some Bay Laurel and Poison Oak. By the time we had the debris cleared, sweat was streaming, and we were more than ready to go to the big deep pool and cool off. So we followed the Upriver Trail along for a ways, and then skittered down some steep slopes to the giant boulders beside the river, where the others awaited us.

This pool is about 100 feet long and 30 feet wide. You can actually see Lovers Leap, a mile to the east, from the pool. It is quite deep in places, perhaps fifteen feet, and has a cliff on the south side, and giant boulders on the north. I managed a jump from about fifteen feet up on the cliff (it seemed like a lot more, until I swam back to the boulders and looked at it from the other side), and Gus worked his way up to a precarious perch about 40 feet above the pool, contemplated the jump, and then retreated, as we were all urging him to do, to the 15-foot jump spot. I think the 40-foot jump would be as safe as 40-foot jumps can be, but there is one boulder below it, underwater, and only about eight feet from the surface; so one absolutely has to miss that one boulder, if one jumps.

We ate lunch, which included a little of my special homemade baked tofu, most of which Greg annihilated; some of us swam and jumped and played in the water (how can a person hike down into this canyon, in summer, and not swim? I really never even considered the possibility. Yet, here they were, staying out of the water as if under some religious restriction), Gus amazed us with somewhat too-daring feats of rock-climbing, and finally, around 5:30, we began lacing up shoes and organizing our packs. As we scrambled the big boulders west, we saw some Foothill Yellow-Legged Frogs, and one small, elusive snake, which may have been a rattler. At Canyon Creek we rested. The trail was already in the shade, and shadows were lengthening rapidly, as we made the slow climb up and out of the North Fork. After a lot of cool weather, it was finally warm, and we truly experienced that warmth. We rested here and there; the sun set before we reached the little bridge, but, no problem, and under the soft glow of twilight we reached the Diggings and really had no trouble, though, when the Paleobotanist Trail entered the forest, it was getting pretty dim and dark.

A hike of about six miles round-trip felt like a fair bit more than that. This had been, no question, a strenuous hike. We started about 1:30 and got back to our trucks about 8:30. It was another wonderful day on the North Fork.


Russell Towle

Visit to Four Horse Flat
[North Fork Trails blogpost, August 25, 2005: ]
This morning Ron Gould of the North Fork American River Alliance (NFARA) and I met Ed Moore of Tahoe National Forest (TNF) and drove up to Yuba Gap, Lake Valley, Forest Road 38, Huysink Lake, and at last to the pass on the divide between Little Granite and Big Valley creeks, to take a look at the recently damaged sections of the historic Big Granite Trail (BGT).

John Skinner, retired Forest Supervisor of Tahoe National Forest, had spoken highly of Ed, suggesting he was just the man to take the matter in hand.

The damage occurred in the late summer and fall of 2004, during a "10% Exemption" timber harvest in Section 9, T16N, R13E, by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).

Ed was suitably astounded by the magnitude of the damage. He and Ron discussed the possibility of having volunteers from NFARA fix the trail under TNF's "Adopt a Trail" program, and this looks likely to happen.

There are still many many flowers in bloom down around Four Horse Flat.

There are also still mosquitos.

We walked south and examined the trail crossing of Little Granite Creek, a problem area, but nothing to do with logging, in fact it is in TNF Section 16.

Ed helped me understand how little time and money TNF has to work on these old trails. There is a curious and unfortunate pattern going on: as population increases in California, and the demand for recreational opportunities increases too, TNF's budget has steadily shrunk.

Ed is a tall lean man who has an aura of the Old West about him and has worked here in the Tahoe National Forest since 1970. I'm very glad he somehow found the time to come take a look at this wonderful old trail. It feels like progress.

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