September 12 (1976, 1986, 1987, 1988, 2000)
Andrew Gray Creek and East Sawtooth

9/12/76  a beautiful sunday morning, the storm ending, with scattered clouds and bright sun. an inch or so of rain fell, and though i had left my bed covered and tools stashed beneath the cabin floor, i suppose the tools are wet. i'd like to go out there today [...]

i might be able to do some building out there today ~ frame up a couple of walls. [...]

~ just before sunset. clouds alternately thickening and thinning all day, shadow and bright light and soft light.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/12/86  Afternoon. Yesterday I wrote a short article about the PG&E meeting a few days ago, and sent it into the Auburn Journal. Perhaps they'll run it. Then I went to visit Ken and Florence Legg at their 1919 house near the Soley Ranch. They are very interesting people, with extensive background in natural history and hiking. Late 60s. Certain tokens of eccentric individuality distinguish their house and grounds: several different colors of trim can be seen around windows and doors, while their vegetable garden is a luxuriant random un-rowed mix of flowers and raspberries and various vegetables, at the upper end of a large meadow which slopes down to the West with a view to Wolf Mountain. Sierra Club/Audubon people, very familiar with the birds.

The Leggs told me of some petroglyphs at Crystal Lake, near the Cisco Butte. I drove up in the overheating Toyota and walked in and found them, scattered over glaciated granidiorite.

I received copies of the meeting attendance register from PG&E yesterday, typed it up, and gave it to Larry Brown, who made copies.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/12/87   Saturday morning. Just awoke to hear Gay and Gary roll down my driveway, on their way to Donner Pass; Gay had invited me to go hiking, but I underslept (restless until 3 or 4 in the morning) and then overslept (didn't awake until 7:40) and then didn't feel like rushing around to get ready. So here I am. I'm hoping that Ed and Tina and Bill will be up this weekend, and that by the hook of some crook or the crook of some hook I will contrive to get some money; for I have exactly thirty-five cents to my name, no gas, no cigarettes, and no food except some squash, and whatever I can glean from local orchards.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/12/88   Before dawn. Yesterday's blustery Northeast winds found a fire to feed near Nevada City and it has grown to 12,000 acres; the smoke cloud, strung out many tens of miles in length by the wind, was very impressive.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

September 12, 2000

Visit to Andrew Gray Creek and East Sawtooth

Continuing reconnaissance of the canyon rim in Sections 25, 26, 27 of T16N R12E, where the CWC PW boundaries are badly drawn, I drove 28 miles to a point on the rim of the North Fork canyon near Dawson Spring, and about on the section line between Sections 26 and 27. A road contours around into Andrew Gray Creek, and I could see that moderate timber harvest had occurred on the slopes below the road. A burned clearcut was passed, below the road, and then the road curved into Andrew Gray Creek and I followed the creek down.

An episode of logging perhaps 40 years ago—at the same time period, I guess, as that observed near Point s4 on a trip west from Big Valley Bluff the other day—extended down to the creek from both sides. However, it was a highly selective cut, and what few stumps there were have almost rotted away in many cases, moreover, the logs must have been yarded up the slope, there is no sign of bulldozers having ever come down to the creek. Quite a few largish sugar pines and cedars remain down there, in the 3-foot-plus range. More recently, on the side of the creek where I had approached, some trees had been taken out down to within 200 feet of the creek, perhaps ten years ago. The clearcut appears to date from 1996 (flagging had that date).

The vicinity of the creek is very natural in overall appearance. I took pictures of the creek near its confluence with Cody Creek, one photo includes an old stump. Climbing up and to the south I found the lower edge of the clearcut and followed it south. Then dropped down to the creek again, at its confluence with Harvey Gray Creek. Large douglas fir, sugar pine, incense cedar. A few stumps. Continuing south, left stumps behind as I broke out into the main canyon (no more timber worth cutting anyway), found a spot with views of s4, and slopes near s4 with 40-year-old logging. Photos, also of waterfall on Andrew Gray. Climbing up and to the west, reached gentler slopes at about 5200-foot elevation where a kind of thinning or fuel load reduction had taken place, 3-6 (10?) years ago (also, older, larger stumps). Found drastic road cut into soft slope and followed it up to car. Road now overgrown with young pines and shrubs.

I drove a little ways west and parked near one of the huge slash piles from "fuel load reduction" on the Helester Point Road on the east side of the Eastern Sawtooth of Sawtooth Ridge. I followed the edge of the treatment area to the south toward the canyon, and saw no evidence of logging below, although there might have been, but thick forest cover obstructed views downslope. Reaching a spur ridge from the main East Sawtooth, which projects to the east, once I turned the corner onto the south slopes I left all traces of man and machine behind. Open slopes of volcanic mudflow with a few stunted trees and bushes. Some heavier timber to the west so followed along in that direction but not evidence of any logging; logging and fuel load reduction confined almost entirely to the gentler slopes, and to the top of the ridge, only a very few stumps seen, in the more western area of the summit plateau, which were "down over the edge." Hence boundary could be drawn to follow ridgecrest. Took photos of fine views upcanyon from south face of East Sawtooth.

In summary, the RARE II boundary between Big Valley Bluff and East Sawtooth is much preferable to the CWC boundary; in fact, in many places, the boundary should be pushed upslope from the RARE II. The only possible reason to drop the boundary down to the river as the CWC has done in sections 25 and 35 (south of 26) is if there had been heavy helicopter logging all the way down by the river. But in the three days recently I have spent time along the canyon rim, with many excellent views down to the river, I saw no signs of any such helicopter logging. Of course, it would be hard to see. A trip down the Mumford Bar Trail and a walk upstream of about a mile will settle the issue altogether in Section 35.

Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 07:19:29 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Placer roadless areas

Hi all,

Lately I have been working to prepare a proposal for designation of the upper North Fork American as a Wilderness Area. The California Wilderness Coalition (CWC) has initiated this effort, and is targeting most remaining roadless areas over 5000 acres in predominatly federal ownership, here in California. Within Placer County there are four such areas:

1. North Fork American.
2. Duncan Canyon.
3. North Fork of the Middle Fork American.
4. Granite Chief.

The Granite Chief roadless area has already been designated a Wilderness, and the aim there is to expand the boundary slightly.

Part of the work involves boundary checking of the various proposed Wilderness areas (PW). I am doing the boundary checking for the North Fork PW. There has been a lot of logging within the old RARE II North Fork Roadless Area since 1978. The great canyon, over 3000 feet deep over a long reach between Mumford Bar and Heath Springs, above the Royal Gorge, is still largely untouched. For reasons I have not been able to clarify, the PW boundaries as drawn by the CWC are grotesquely in error. It is difficult to examine the boundary in detail. I have acquired a nice digital camera which is not only an essential tool in documenting the PW boundary, but will be quite useful in documenting trails here in the lower canyon.

I have not heard back from Dave Sutton of the TPL yet, and need to spend more time on maps etc. for him. It seems to me that one discrete project to present to TPL at first would be acquisition of some or all of the land in and around the Gold Run diggings, including two parcels in the Bogus Point area, owned by Gold Run Properties.

I hope North Fork Trails can meet again in a couple of weeks. I know that Jim Eicher of BLM wants to attend our next meeting. Perhaps we can meet at Bill Newsom's place next time. I'll ask Bill about it when he gets back from travels abroad.


Russell Towle

Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 21:53:03 -0800
To: Tina Andolina, "Terry Davis"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: boundaries
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD:230725:boundaries.jpg
[photo above, on this page]

Hi Tina, Terry,

I have made three trips to the Big Valley Bluff/Andrew Gray Creek area within the past week. This is one of the areas where the CWC boundary for the North Fork American seems grotesquely in error. Specifically, the boundaries as drawn in and about sections 27, 26, 25, 34, 35, and 36 of T16N, R12E. I have attached a photo; taken from the easternmost "sawtooth" of Sawtooth Ridge, looking east to Big Valley Bluff and beyond. Snow Mountain, Tinkers Knob, and the uppermost peaks of the Foresthill Divide are visible in the background. I have drawn the RARE II boundary in blue, the CWC boundary in yellow.

Note the way the RARE II boundary tucks in and out of Andrew Gray Creek.

Having now covered the entire distance between Big Valley Bluff and the Eastern Sawtooth, following the canyon rim—which forms the RARE II boundary—I can say that there is nothing which has happened since 1978 to give up on the RARE II boundary along the canyon rim. I still have not descended to the river itself to walk these several miles of canyon to see if helicopter logging has perhaps taken place somewhere. I have had many fine views down to the river, and have not seen any sign of such logging, but it might be easily missed from 3000 or 3500 feet above.

It may be apparent, from looking at this photograph, that in fact there are stands of timber near the rim of the canyon, on both sides of Andrew Gray Creek, which might well be included within the boundary. There was some logging in some of these forested areas, around 40 years ago, but the skid trails are choked with manzanita, the stumps already rotted to the ground in places. I myself would like to push the boundary north a few hundred feet or more in this particular area, from the RARE II boundary.

Pending examination of the immediate vicinity of the river, I would say that a conservative and cautious choice in this area would be the RARE II boundary.

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