September 18 (1977, 1983, 1985, 1986, 2000, 2011)
“I see it is my mission to acquaint myself with it all”

9/18/77 morning, moody ridge. dawn. drove up yesterday after a delay because my volkswagen had dirty points and i couldn't figure it out. the ground is wet from the rain of day before yesterday. it is cold up here in the mountains! i want to hustle my windows on in now, move the piano over, and put in the wood stove.

nuthatches toot their tiny horns. there was a frog in my water tank when i checked yesterday. and a western ring-necked snake, dead. pretty snake. a flight of band-tailed pigeons arcs over the ginseng ravine.

there is a certain amount of mouse shit on the window sills, but i am too lazy to sweep it off. I have hung the window beside the door on wall three. a bit of snow fencing on the outside of the house, blind-nailed with ungalvanized rusty old finish nails i found hiding in the murk and dust of the bottom of my toolbox.

[...] the day has been clear and sunny, with a strong fresh breeze, but a haze of cirrus has slowly accumulated, and the light is frail. the adjacent portions of the canyon wall that i can see through my big window are clothed with canyon live oak and douglas fir, and seem to be dancing a mystery dance of this part of the sierra, and i see it is my mission to acquaint myself with it all. i love it here.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/18/83 morning. The early-morning hydraulicking ~ standing near the tunnel entrance, blasting chunks of serpentine down towards the sluice box, glancing out of the screen of laurel foliage to the golden glows of dawn's first light dappling the cliffs and live oaks nearby. The waters drain down, I shut off the valve and survey the scene in the calm afterlude. A frog begins to croak near the entrance to the tunnel. The springs have slowed down and no longer do the rocks overhanging the entrance drip their drips.

Finally managed to pry La Lande out of his lair, and took him to Wabena Point. Stopped at Latimer Point too. Nice canyon gazing, and swifts visited us, wheeling ‘round about us, such incredible flyers, little boomerangs slicing through the air, rocking their wings coyly while careening towards us at fifty miles per hour, never a proper flap of their wings, seemingly magically able to soar and soar, on and on, faster and faster, shifting and rolling, arcing and banking in a manner that reminded me of the hot young roller-skaters at the rink, upbeat cruising to the jungle thump of disco.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

September 18, 1985

It is Wednesday; after a rainy night, it is partly cloudy. I am a little depressed. Angry thoughts swirl around my mind. Worked on the trail/road some more this morning. At sunset last night I went out, as it began raining, and lit a fire, burning some the detritus I raked up while clearing the trail. This morning I laid some bricks in on part of the trail, and brought a wheelbarrow of gravel in to improve traction. I can now park above the steps. While working this morning, a golden eagle flew out of its perch in the trees above the steps. I could hear chainsaws and giant trees falling across the canyon near Hayden Hill; another clear-cut, courtesy of TNF. It makes me so mad.

No word from Emory Gray; it begins to look as though there's no chance whatsoever for acquisition of the land near Lovers Leap.

[...] Very beautiful fair-weather cumulus clouds, some with rain showers wisping down, grace the sky.

Great progress on the trail. I think that from here on to the spring I'll get a small bulldozer in to do the cutting; there are an infinitude of boulders interlaced with roots in that stretch. There is just a little more digging to do in the immediate vicinity of the parking spot.

So; it is 4:20; I started on the trail today at about 7:30; so, I'll have a glass of zinfandel and relax.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

9/18/86  Morning; the day dawned clear, with fog flowing down below in the canyon. But now high clouds sweep overhead, and more rain and snow are forecast. Snow. I could be telemarking right now if I was up on Castle Peak. I wonder how much telemarking I'll do this winter. [...]

Night-before-last, I was restless, in anticipation of the meeting at Lovers Leap. In fact, was up, reading, for most of the night. So, last night, made up for it. Went to bed at 11:40 and awoke at 8:40! Unusual for me.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 10:26:29 -0800
To: Bruce Webb
From: Russell Towle
Subject: owls

Hi Bruce,

Your Mosquito Ridge Road owling page is excellent, way to go.

I live near cliffs, in the Dutch Flat area, here and elsewhere Canyon Wrens seem plentiful (your web page said something like "tough in county"). There is a 2500-foot cliff near here called Lovers Leap. I have called the Canyon Wrens up to me there, even had them jump onto my leg, and once one took a dust bath at my feet. They are often sneaking around my cabin here.

You might like to try Forest Road 19 from Emigrant Gap on I-80, paved for first ten miles, little traffic night or day, also, follow it beyond the pavement to Big Valley Bluff, 3500-foot cliff on North Fork. Elevations in the 5000-6000 foot range mostly. Prairie Falcons, Golden Eagles out at the Bluff.

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 12:16:29 -0800
To: "Bruce Webb"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: owls

Hi Bruce,
>Thanks for the good information about Canyon Wrens. I am always looking for
>new areas in Placer County to explore. I will give Road 19 a try some time.
>Probably in the Spring when owls are calling more.
I enjoyed listening to the Spotted Owl recording on your web site. When I first moved here, to this Black Oak-Ponderosa Pine clifftop near Dutch Flat, 25 years ago, I would hear the Spotted Owls at night, and although a hardened birder, I had never heard their unearthly yelps and barks before. Haven't heard them here for a long time now. Too many people, and I am one of them, I suppose.
>Do you think the Prairie Falcons and Golden Eagle nest at Big Valley Bluff?
I think it likely that nest sites exist in various places on the canyon walls; but have never found one. Two days ago I saw a golden eagle doing some courtship-flight-like swoopings up by Snow Mountain on the North Fork. 4500 feet of vertical relief there, cliffs every which way. Golden Eagles used to be common visitors around Lovers Leap here, but too many people I think, now. Across the canyon some pinnacles, one of which I named Eagle Puke Point, because of all the regurgitated pellets there, a favorite roost of the eagles. I suspected a nest site nearby but never found it. After clear-cutting on the ridgetop above, eagle incidence diminished. Could be the nest was in one of the giant pines that used to stand along the rim of the canyon.

September 18, 2011
Pole Dancing on Moody Ridge
The Forward Team, Alex and Brian
The Rear Team, Ron, and Dale
Safety Rope Captain, Michael
Pole in motion, the critical approach... Tim gets a hand in...

 "GAY! put down the camera and get the guide board in place!"

Thanks, guys!



  1. Congrats on the pole.

    Where did the pile of rocks in the background appear from?

  2. Good eye, Rich!

    Ron, now chief engineer on this project, is responsible for 9/10 of that pile—I helped a little. The rocks came from the bouldery area on the springs trail, just above. We're underway now with the concrete, YAHOO!