September 11 (1976, 1983, 1985, 1986, 2000, 2003)
A "good one" indeed!

9/11/76   early morning, wren shack, a fire in the stove; it cools off during the night, and still rains. if i were camped in the evolution region now there would doubtless be a foot of snow on the ground. if not more. they say 7 inches of rain in parts of southern california.

i'll probably go down to año nuevo to work soon. come back up in time for deer season, so that i can keep tabs on my land & get some building done. [...]

hmmm. what to write about ~ and why do i keep a journal? so that in years hence i can sit by myself in my cabin, with autumnal sunlight sloping in my window, puff on my pipe and feel nostalgic?”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/11/83   Morning. Hydraulicking at 7:00, [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

September 11, 1985

Wow. A very sunny day promises. It's still early; I've been out working on the trail. Yesterday afternoon I drove the Toyota down for compaction exercises. This morning, prepared for a new section of cut—the most problematical—right above the steps down to the cabin. Transition between surfaces difficult. Many boulders to move and incorporate into the fill portions.

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/11/86   Morning. [...]  Bill and I went to the public meeting held by PG&E to inform the locals about their logging plans on Drum Powerhouse Road; 40 or 50 people attended, most of us opposed to the quasi-clear-cut proposed by PG&E. [...]

Tuesday I had a flash that it would be nice to get together with Shelley and go up to Yuba Gap, and that's what we did, along with her son Tass and Gunda's Gabe; we had a wonderful time scrambling around on the glaciated granite and looking at the petroglyphs; and we stopped at Nyack overlook on the way back for spectacular views of the high country, with a few snow showers wafting down from dark clouds, patches of sunshine, and so on, very dramatic.

Yesterday I called Ken Legg who had stopped by the cabin a few days ago, having heard that I was into nature; made a date to see him today. Lora Boswell told him about me.

[...]  Received a letter from a member of a senior citizens hiking club, Virginia Y., who, referring to an article in the Sierra Club “Bonanza” newsletter in which I had recommended such action, thanked me for my efforts on behalf of the Big Oak at Lover's Leap, enclosed a copy of a petition her group had submitted to Deane Swickard of BLM, asking that BLM exert every effort to protect the Oak from “development.

I had no idea of any article in Bonanza, but, well, so much the better. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2000 07:57:52 -0800
To: "Bill Slater/R5/USDAFS"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: Sierra Nevada Paleoecology
Cc: Dave_Lawler

Hi Bill, you wrote,
>a few times later in the morning but your phone was busy. Most of the
>units are around the Texas Hill road loop north of Tunnel Mill. Sugar Pine
>Point and Big Valley Bluffs, areas where you and D. Lawler respectively had
>expressed ideas and concerns to me, are pretty well outside the areas of
There are some pretty steep slopes around Texas Hill, and although I do not know what is envisioned by the "gaps" forest health management, (perhaps "gaps" refers to Emigrant and Yuba gaps), I would not like to see mechanized treatments of the forest on those steep slopes. Of course historically the area has been heavily cut over, but along portions of Road 19 as it climbs Texas Hill, the forest has recovered beautifully and is a welcome relief from the industrialized, scramble-everywhere-with-heavy-equipment "managed" areas farther east around Sawtooth Ridge and out towards Big Valley Bluff. I am beginning to distrust any forest management. Whether it is "fuel load reduction" or "hazard tree removal" the effect always seems to be, to take a portion of forest which had a pleasantly natural appearance, whether it had ever been logged before or not, and transform it into, what?—an advertisement for the power of bulldozers?
>potential effects for the project but we are seeking public concerns and
>ideas for the broader area between Lake Valley and Fulda. I told the ID
>team that Dave had given me a rough plan for managing geologic resources
>@Big Valley Bluff and that you had various concerns as well particularly in
>the Sugar Pine Point area. I brought up some of the heritage/recreation
>opportunities out there potentially involving development of rr grades o
>ditches as trails. We are working on our NEPA schedule and planning a
>public field trip somewhere's around 10/20.
The potential for trails along old railroad grades and ditches is wonderful in that area. From the East Fork of the N. Fk. of the N. Fk., Bradley & Gardner's ditch (to Dutch Flat) could make a trail from Tunnel Mill to Blue Canyon. Parts of the ditch have already been transformed into roads.

The monuments of Monumental Creek are a geological curiosity in their own right. The intensely folded slate outcrop north of Big Valley Bluff is of course remarkable; this appears to be near the eastern edge of the Shoo Fly Complex, perhaps outside of it. I am told that the FS put a fence around it to protect it, decades ago. There are some papers by David S. Harwood (USGS) about that area I desperately want to get a look at. Quartz Mountain appears to be an exposure of the same chert as at Duncan Peak and Little Bald Mountain. Big Valley Canyon contains unusually fine exposures of several types of metamorphic rocks and also contains unusual glacial deposits, and moraines full of granitoid boulders which were quarried out of the South Yuba basin.

Heritage/recreation issues include several trail issues. Near Fulda Creek and south of Blue Canyon there is the historic mining camp of Lost Camp. A private section of land there (Section 23, R11E T16N) contains the trailhead of what has been called the China Trail, which descends to the N. Fk. of the N. Fk. and climbs up to Sawtooth Ridge. The Sawtooth Ridge side has been disrupted by logging roads, the Lost Camp side is intact and is a very important component of the trails in TNF. This trail was used to get to Dutch Flat from Texas Hill in the 1860s. The area of the N. Fk. of the N. Fk. accessed by this trail is very special, a steep-walled slate gorge, and I would like to see roads kept away from this gorge whenever possible. This includes a road way down onto a point or promontory in I believe Section 24 of R11E T16 N. This ought to be closed. The waterfalls in and around the gorge are rather wonderful. The gorge is wonderful. Machines ought to be kept out.

The Burnett Canyon Trail forms a part of the route from Lost Camp to Texas Hill. This trail seems to have been neglected.

I will be very pleased to hear more about TNF plans involving these areas. Thanks Bill.

Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2000 08:04:06 -0800
To: "Brian Williams"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Dutch Flat Aplodontia
Cc: ERPfromCA

Hi Brian,

I have always been curious about the elusive Aplodontia and was suprised to see you mention
>the Sierra (Sagehen Creek is a good spot) and I have some of Grinnell's
>original field notes on an Aplodontia colony near Dutch Flat.
I live near Dutch Flat and would be very pleased if you could summarize Grinnell's notes re the colony there. That is, where is it, near Dutch Flat?

As I recall, Ed & I saw another burrow higher up in Duncan Canyon. From what I can gather about the Aplodontia usually one burrow is part of a system of burrows which may be shared by several animals.

That the largest flea in the world should be specific to Aplodontia is also a curiosity.


Russell Towle

Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2000 15:25:40 -0800
To: [Professor Day]
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Melones Fault

Dear Professor Day,

While searching for information about the Melones Fault Zone, I found that you are involved in an effort to map various map quadrangles embracing this fault zone, including the Dutch Flat quadrangle.

I live on the edge of the North Fork American canyon, within the serpentine belt associated with the Melones, and can provide better access to the principal trail entering the canyon from the north, if this could be of any use to you or your associates. I am very interested in the geology of this area, and have read with interest one of your papers, "Tectonics and Structural Setting of the Northern Sierra."

Although your principal interest seems to be the bedrock of the area, there are some Quaternary deposits in Green Valley (the area in which the Melones serpentine is crossed by the North Fork) which to me seem exceptional and worthy of study. These gravels stand as high as 500 feet above the river. Some of these peculiarly high gravels were mined by the hydraulic method. One of the most interesting issue with these gravels, is their potential correlation with particular glacial maxima.

The gravels are in places cemented into a conglomerate, to a degree which makes me wonder whether the serpentine might not have supplied some portion of the cementing agents. There are also cemented serpentine agglomerates high above the river, perhaps marking the vicinity of "high gravel marks" reached during one or another glacial episode.

Another special interest of mine is the geology of rocks east of the Shoo Fly, in and about the North Fork canyon. I wish I had access to more of the recent literature. David Harwood seems to have done a lot in that area.

With hopes that I can be of assistance to your efforts in mapping the Dutch Flat quadrangle, I am,


Russell Towle

Visit to Giant Gap
[North Fork Trails blogpost, September 11, 2003: ]
Twenty-five years ago I made a series of explorations in and around Giant Gap and Canyon Creek with several friends from Dutch Flat, including Neil Gerjuoy, the amazing guitarist. Yesterday I joined Neil, his friend Cindy, and Ron Gould, for a jaunt to Giant Gap, by way of the Paleobotanist Trail (PBT), Canyon Creek Trail (CCT), and the High Old Upriver Trail (HOUT), this last being the line of the old Giant Gap Survey.

In the late 1890s a scheme was hatched to divert the waters of the North Fork American into an existing mining ditch serving the Green Valley Blue Gravel Mine, and then carry the ditch west through Giant Gap and on and on down the canyon, finally breaking out near Auburn. From there a pipeline would carry the water to San Francisco. Apparently to demonstrate the feasibility of the project, much work was done to eke out a bench cut between Green Valley and Canyon Creek. The bench cut was never finished, but in places it can be used as a trail. Hence the HOUT.

The "secret" road into the Gold Run Diggings being blocked at last, we could not drive to the Canyon Creek Trail, and so we started from BLM lands at the Bluffs. This adds 1.6 miles to the round trip in and out of the great canyon. The Paleobotanist Trail follows a somewhat wildly meandering course through the Diggings, past some rather large pieces of petrified wood, over 50 million years old, and, crossing the Main Diggings Road, follows a spur road east to the CCT.

We soon reached the huge tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co. (1873), which leads from the Diggings on the west over 2000 feet to Canyon Creek on the east. Here the miner's camp had at last been vacated, with the large blue tarp still tied up to the trees, and garbage strewn about. We cut the tarp free and piled all the garbage on it, folded it and rolled it up and used scraps of rope to cinch it up into an ungainly bundle almost four feet long. This we left on the trail above the tunnel and continued south on the CCT, passing the bridge, and lovely Waterfall View, with the side trail to the Overlook of the Blasted Digger, and wound on down the steeps of the CCT to the secret junction with the HOUT.

Neil was duly impressed with the HOUT. The HOUT winds along in and out of ravines and around little spur ridges, on a nearly level line, sometimes blasted right out of little cliffs, where one feels much the mountaineer, to have dared to traverse the airy ledges.

Starting cool, the day had warmed rapidly, and we were eager to reach the river for a swim. What with this eagerness, and that extra eight-tenths of a mile at the beginning of our hike, it seemed right to make no attempt to continue on the HOUT into Giant Gap itself, but rather, to drop down to the river at Big West Spur and then boulder-hop up to the deep pools and steep cliffs of Giant Gap.

We found a huge boulder which provided a kind of cavern of shade, stashed our packs, ripped off our clothes, and dove in. The water was much colder than it had been in Green Valley last Saturday; the clouds and cool nights of recent days must be responsible; and so we swam with a certain amount of screaming and exclamations and were not long in the crystal-clear water.

Lunch followed, and then a foray up into the Gap, swimming across a cliff-bound pool, and exploring upriver until another deep pool barred our way.

All in all we were several hours down at the river, and waited for the sun to lower, before starting the march up and out. Canyon Wrens serenaded us, and the occasional Ouzel flashed past like a little fighter jet, low to the water and hugging every curve. At last, after a third river revel, we made the steep climb up to the HOUT, followed along the cliffs back to the CCT, which had only just lost its afternoon sun, so we made that steep climb in the shade, and eventually, arrived at the tunnel, and lashed on loads of garbage, and slogged slowly up and out and across the Diggings to the Bluffs and our vehicles. It was 7 p.m.; we had started around ten in the morning; altogether, a hike of some eight or nine miles, just to spend a few hours in great and glorious Giant Gap, had been more than worth it. It was a "good one" indeed.

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