September 13 (1976, 1978, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000)
“Canyonland” ~ Big Valley Canyon

9/13/76   clear cool morning. i have the most distinct feeling, that fall is upon us, summer is over. […] now the sun moves quickly south and the days will soon be shorter than the nights. […] i should […]  go down to año nuevo. merrill spoke of some very low prices on 2 x 6 tongue-and-groove which i would like for my roof. i should do a tuneup/oil change on willy, and do a little work on the rack so that i can haul back from the coastal lumber mill wood to build. so. i want to be here for the deer season, so as to discourage hunters from hunting on the canyonland.

the canyonland. as i see those words i am reminded of what an incredible change has come to me in the past year; in glancing at my journal then, i see that at the end of august i was back here from my last backpacking trip of the season, and ready to go out again, when my dad offered me the 5 acres… and by 20 september, i was looking at building sites. at the beginning of october was clearing a road in ~ the road the loggers tore up this summer, which i no longer use. by the end of october i had opened the road up to essentially its present length, and was trying to come up with a cabin design so that i could begin to build.

now i have a hexagonal floor. a road in far enough. no money but the opportunity to borrow some. perhaps two months of relatively good weather ~ if lucky. tim came by last night and we each questioned the i ching. i received #36, ‘the Darkening of the Light’ changing in its fifth line to become #63., ‘After Completion.’ it seemed apt and emphasized the seriousness and perseverance needed in this time.

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/13/78 morning. stars in the sky ~ i see the dog star out there, looking through  mandala window.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

September 13, 1985

 [...] Since the rain I've begun driving the Toyota down the trail, compacting the fill. It's almost to the point where I'll be able to park down here on a regular basis.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/13/87 [...]

To write: every day I have many thoughts, worthy of inscription, development, dissemination abroad and among the masses; but I do not write; I think about writing.

“But”—a little voice rejoins—“you do write: you write in this, your journal! And someday, after you've died, no doubt, why, these pages will be carefully transcribed, and published, and enjoyed.” Well, could be. Could maybe not be; and is my desire to write so easily satisfied as that? I feel at least a maturity which can guide my writing, and save me, in some cases at least, from sophomoric excess, from, um, this or that failing I would most likely have been culpable of in years past. So. I'm ready! I have lots to say. Lots and lots! Perhaps I should not feel constrained to write for publication, but write formally, about precisely what interests me, anyway…?”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/13/88   afternoon, smoky, winds calm, the huge fire [near Nevada city] now nearing containment at 29,000 acres.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 14:54:37 -0800
To: "Bill Slater/R5/USDAFS", Dave_Lawler
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Big Valley Canyon
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD:230800:metaconglomerate.jpg: :Macintosh HD:230800:odd_slate.jpg: :Macintosh HD:230800:cliffs_spp.jpg:

Hi Bill, Dave,

I thought you'd be interested in some things I saw on a hike into Big Valley Canyon from the north.
metaconglomerate.jpg slateloc.jpg
Dave, you will recall that we tried but failed to find the Big Valley Trail as it descended from Pelham Flat. Today I drove out past Mears Meadow, armed with a FS edition of the Cisco Grove 7.5 minute quadrangle, which showed the trail. Incidentally, most of this north side of Big Valley is within what Harwood in 1980 mapped as "Permian-Carboniferous pyroclastics" (PCp); and where I parked, along Road 19, is a largish boulder or outcrop of metamorphosed volcanic mudflow—I had to look twice to make sure it wasn't glacially polished Mehrten mudflow.

The map indicated that the trail descended from this point, paralleling an unnamed tributary of Big Valley creek. This was in Section 12 of T16N R12E, a FS section. The red fir forest there has been rather thoroughly thrashed by logging, and taking some bear poop as a possible indication that I was on the line of the old trail, I zig-zagged down the slope, looking for blazes on the trees. All the large trees had been cut, and I found no blazes for almost half a mile. Then, one blaze showed me on the line of the trail. But skid trails and slash every which way totally obscured any trace of the trail itself.

As the tributary's basin narrowed into a ravine, I felt sure I was following the line of the trail as I crossed a road and continued down. The map showed the trail crossing the tributary a little way below, and indeed at the corresponding point the thicket of mountain alders suddenly thinned to a gap and an easy crossing was had. Now on the sunnier, south-facing side of the tributary, I traversed a slope of huckleberry oak and slate outcrops. There were bands of black chert embedded in the slate, and there were shards and flakes of glossy black chert scattered widely across the entire area. I found one actual quarry site. This suggests to me that the old Big Valley Trail followed the line of an Indian trail. There was some interesting slate there, attached, a photo (odd_slate.jpg). Unfortunately, I could find only tantalizing short segments of the old trail, and descending further, I entered an area of heavy logging in the gentle slopes just above and flats alongside Big Valley Creek. There was a low glaciated ridge of what really looked more like a metaconglomerate than a meta mudflow, parallel to the creek. Attached, a photo. The area was rather devastated by logging. I followed Big Valley creek up to where the trail should have crossed and scouted the east side but found no sign, just a road and more logging, skid trails, and slash.

On the way back up to the car I did find two more trees with blazes along the line of what I thought was the trail.

Driving a little farther south on Road 19, I took Road 19-6 out along a ridge which divides Big Valley from a tributary just east of Big Valley Bluff. Thrashed. But after a mile or so I entered a FS section—Section 18 of T16N R13E—and the road hooked around through a pass and I could at last see Big Valley again. A large clearcut lay below me; the view was north towards the head of the canyon at Huysink Lake. A bulldozer trail led south, farther out this ridge, and following it, I soon left all signs of logging and behind and out near a point labeled with elevation 6384 I found some great views out into the North Fork and beyond to the Crystal Range, Devils Peak, Castle Peak, etc. But most notable were the rocky cliffs bounding the old forest at Sugar Pine Point, making the south wall of Big Valley Canyon. Here the two Permian/Carboniferous units—the chert and the pyroclastics—both are incredibly well-exposed, having been planed off by the glacier descending Big Valley. Attached, a photo (cliffs_spp.jpg). The shattered slate in the foreground of the photo is PCc, the contact with the PCp only a couple of hundred yards north.

By the way, Dave, the folded slate near Big Valley Bluff looks to be just within Harwood's Permo-Carboniferous chert unit (PCc), within a few feet of the contact with the Shoo Fly. I wish we had Harwood's later work on that area—there's a 1995 map of the Cisco Grove and Duncan Peak quadrangles with 12 pages of text available from the USGS—we need it.

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