October 16 (1975, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2004)
Plunk! ~ A Flying Squirrel ~
Illegal Subdivisions and Sketchy Land Deals in Placer Co.

10/16/75   encamped at the little cabin spot (cabañita) in the late afternoon. oh, how i hate wading into brush tangles with a hot, loud, angry chainsaw in hand! i detest it, but it must be done. made about ten yards or so today, have broken the chain i use to pull bushes out so many times that it is too short to use now.

saw a pileated woodpecker soon after i arrived here today. quite a lot of snow remains on the sierra crest from the recent storm. the sky is totally clear; the moon, but a few days from the full, looms up a little ways above the mountains, crickets chirp, band-tailed pigeons whir about, an occasional acorn crashes to the forest floor. a train is going by. now a frog sings forth. should gather some firewood.

~ gathered firewood. while walking around cabañita, i saw an exposure of serpentine i had never noticed before, down in the gully below the goldcup oaks and the digger pine on the edge of cabañita. so down i went. it was a sloping, fairly flat surface of dark reddish-brown rock, crisscrossed with veins of some white mineral. quite beautiful—about ten feet square. i then descended the rest of the way into the gully, a moist, boulder-strewn area overhung with oaks, laurels, and maples, and with many aralia plants. this gully is the very head of a ravine dropping down to the american river, and there are several springs at its head. the sound of water trickling led me up the gully a short distance to a mossy little cliff of serpentine, part of the cliff band that contours along this ridge at about 3800' elevation. at the base of the cliffs there seemed to be a hole, and i walked slowly up to it.when i reached it i saw that it was larger than i had thought—say about three feet square-and that it sloped back under the cliff for a ways until it was flooded with water. i threw a rock in, and heard the characteristic plunk of a rock landing in moderately deep water. very strange. it might almost be an old mine tunnel ~ but there is no tailing pile to show for it. shall have to investigate further in the light of day.

~the sun has set. and jupiter rose over the sierra crest. moon, about two hours above the horizon, orchestrates the cricket chorus while river roars.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

“Wednesday, 16 October 1988


Burning deerbrush stumps; clearing weeds away from cedar seedlings in uppermost meadow; they'll grow into a nice wall, eventually. Saturday morning. The patio was finished on Tuesday last, whereupon I drove the demon saw back down to Berkeley, returning here Wednesday. I'm gradually recuperating; would love to get away for a day or three to some hot springs and high high country. Would like to get Gay to go with.”

[Russell Towle's journal]
Russell Towle's dryfit tessellated sandstone patio, build for Ed Stadum in 1988, photographed in 2004.

Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 21:21:44 -0800
To: Lori
From: Russell Towle
Subject: High Sierra

Hi Lori, hope I remembered your address,

I asked my Sierra Club friend John Moore about High Sierra and the railroad sections which I thought went from SP to Catellus to SPI. And this is what he wrote:

>    Information about "High Sierra" and the North Fork lands (I don't have precise
>dates for any of these transactions without a time-consuming search):
>(1) Southern Pacific's "non-timber" lands were first transferred to Santa Fe
>Pacific Land Co.
>(2) All the "non-timber" lands were then sold to Catellus.
>(3) Catellus sold most or all of such lands between Auburn and the Nevada border
>(roughly 20,000 acres) to a partnership of 4 or 5 individuals mostly from the
>Redding area who first called the partnership "First Affiliated Realty", a name
>they happened to have handy.  The sale took place in 1993, if I remember
>(4) The partners soon changed the name to "High Sierra Properties".  They
>proceeded to sell off whatever was salable and planned to log all lands that had
>merchantable timber.
>(5) TPL secured options on the properties in the North Fork Wild River Zone and
>some properties of interest elsewhere.
>(6) Despite intensive efforts on which I spent a great deal of time, over several
>years TPL succeeded in obtaining only quite a small fraction of the needed
>(7) High Sierra Properties filed timber harvest plans on all of their lands in the
>North Fork American RARE II area, including the sections along the Wild River.
>(8) In accordance with the THP's, High Sierra Properties logged the Watson
>Crossing section outside a  zone extending 200' on either side of the river and
>trail (a compromise achieved after much effort), and logged all of the Italian Bar
>section they could get their hands on.
>(9) Not being able to come up with the money, TPL approached SPI, who stated an
>interest in acquiring the Wild River Zone parcels for exchange to the Forest
>Service.  TPL and SPI negotiated a purchase agreement.
>(10) TPL exercised the options with SPI's money and immediately transferred
>ownership to SPI.  High Sierra Properties insisted on being given permission to
>log part of section 17 (Palisade Creek) in return for honoring the options.
>(11) SPI exchanged some of the lands (roughly from Watson Crossing to Palisade
>Creek) with the Forest Service and is holding the remaining lands for exchange.
>The purchase contract binds SPI not to log the lands.  The exchange is proceeding
>slowly, as usual.
>(12) TPL heard that the principals in High Sierra Properties are suing each
>other.  I am sure that whatever nasty accusations they make about each other are
>fully deserved.

So this is just what you were saying. It's too bad TPL couldn't find the money. I wrote letter after letter to my representatives trying to get money for the North Fork. To little avail.

It was nice hiking out to Blue Devil with you and Michael. There are some other very nice hikes around here, maybe we can get together some more. Today was a lovely lovely day, warm and clear.


Russell Towle

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 13:12:03 -0800
To: Bill_Newsom
From: Russell Towle
Subject: squirrel

Hi Bill,

I had my very first sighting of a flying squirrel last night, when one landed on my porch beside me and then climbed up the wall of my cabin, saw it from about two feet. They're rather small. Folds of skin very evident.

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 22:15:17 -0800
To: "Sharon P Cavallo", "Bill Newsom", "Tim Woodall", Ed Pandolfino", "Alan Green"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: Another TPZ Timber Dwelling Lawsuit

Hi Sharon, Bill, Tim, Ed, Alan,

After former owner Walter Saunders logged the property and sold it to the couple, the Purscells proceeded to construct not a "caretaker's residence" for the purpose of preserving the timber but constructed a live-in residence with a "magnificent view" of Rollins Lake by trespassing on NID property" and clear-cutting trees, the court action states.

It is interesting that just as Linda Carruthers bought the 40 acres at Iron Point from Ron Chancellor, one of the men who illegally subdivided Moody Ridge, so also in this case at Rollins Lake, the parcel was bought from Walt Saunders, another of the men who illegally subdivided Moody Ridge.

This illegal subdivision of Moody Ridge led to the construction of the very houses, out on Lovers Leap Road, which Carruthers' counsel cited before the BOS, arguing that Placer County had allowed other houses to encroach upon the viewshed.

What's more ...

Placer County has allowed other houses and subdivisions in recent years which have severely impacted the public's use of public trails giving access to the North Fork American. In my fevered brain I can imagine a lawsuit against Placer County, and having won handily, to collect as punitive damages, ten per cent of the County's property tax revenues for ten years, to be spent on protecting trails and open space.

Smoke-filled canyon, fire season 2004

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