November 12 (1977, 1986, 2000, 2002)
1970s-Style Misadventure in Giant Gap ~
‘Californication of the Tahoe Sierra’ ~
Fog River and Snow at Dawn

11/12/77   saturday morning in the canyon. yesterday neil and gary and i drove ruby out to giant gap ridge (quite easy) via iowa hill. our objective was to descend from the canyon rim onto the knife edge ridge that sweeps down to the river opposite lovers leap, and hopefully to climb the major pinnacles that stud the blade of the ridge. neil and gary turned me on to some psilocybin mushrooms which we ate just as we left the car, a coarse gray powder that we sprinkled on fragments of bell pepper. we began following the canyon rim to the west and soon found ourselves descending the uppermost part of the pinnacle ridge, above the first main pinnacles. we all had relatively empty stomachs and came on to the mushrooms very fast. the view across to lovers leap was very impressive, with the joint planes of the rock converging above to give a marked cathedral effect. the sky was cloudy, with band after band of altocumulus passing before the sun and sending their shadows fleeting up the opposite wall of the canyon. we were all completely jazzed by a large cave we saw beneath lovers leap. it was perhaps four hundred feet below, and four hundred to the west of lovers leap. by all appearances a block of rock the size of a couple of boxcars butted end to end had somehow dropped away, leaving a hole, long and rectangular in outline inclined about seventy or eighty degrees from the horizontal. [sketch between lines.] it looked like a keyhole, and that's what we called it. i had my camera along and got a bunch of pictures.

as we descended towards the first pinnacle, a relatively minor one in size with a funny yellow, we were all starting to peak. drawing close to the little tower, the slopes deepened into out and out cliff's, and I didn't realize that neil hung back, unwilling to get out on the steep rock when he was so stoned. gary and i reached the first tower simultaneously from different routes and saw that the ‘the eagle’ spends a lot of time there—lots of white spotting the rocks, with little pellets about the size of a man's thumb scattered around, regurgitated hair, bones, etc. a rib-bone that might have come from a jack rabbit lay nearby.

we were so stoned that words abandoned us to the elements. and we felt awkward moving about on the steep rock. we watched ‘the eagle’ soaring about and when the strong winds grew suddenly cold so the sun was obscured by heavy clouds, we found shelter immediately beneath the tower, a little hollow with a carpet of moss. i was surprised by how stoned i was. occasional attempts to verbalize seemed to disrupt gary's space, so i began thinking about climbing down farther, to the next pinnacle maybe, and giving both gary and myself undisturbed mushrooms space. we were peaking out.

when i started down, gary followed. the rock grew steeper and steeper and a crevasse of sorts cut across the knife edge, about three feet wide. it looked like tricky climbing to reach the crevasse, and immediately below it was a large table-like block with extreme cliffs on either side. i proceeded down a small vertical crack with excellent holds towards the table rock and heard gary say that one could almost jump over the crevasse on to the table. i thought he was kidding. the exposure was extreme and a slip where we were would mean certain death, massive trauma at the least. but just as i reached a level where i could step over the crevasse on to the table rock, i heard a thud and a groan: gary had jumped, and landed safely on the table. a little painful for the foot, i guessed. but as i stepped onto the table, gary clutched his right foot and groaned again. he said it was broken and cursed himself for his stupidity. ‘i can't afford to do this right now,’ he said. he was angry and wanted to return posthaste to the car, and stood up, but the pain knocked him right back down, and he sprawled on some loose rock, dangerously near one edge of the table top. i was holding onto him to make sure he didn't spaz out and slip over the edge while i considered what to do.

there was a couple hundred feet of steep rock, beginning with a short vertical pitch, before we could reach the easier terrain where neil—presumably—meditated in harmony with the enormous cathedral we seemed to have wandered into. i didn't see any way i could give gary much if any protection if he pulled himself together enough to try to somehow climb up and out of there. if i climbed below him, especially on the first vertical pitch, i would be knocked right off the face if he fell; if i climbed above, i was useless. i decided that gary should remain still in one spot while i went and got neil. i thought there was a chance of giving gary adequate protection through the critical pitches if neil and i both climbed with him.

i helped him down into the crevasse and hustled up the cliff to find neil. once i crested the top pinnacle, i called his name and soon he appeared. i told him what the situation was, and that with both of us climbing in support we could probably get gary out safely, but neil flatly declared that he was too stoned for rock-climbing, and that either i helped gary out alone or one of us could go get help, ropes, etc. a very unappealing prospect. so i went back down to gary after giving neil the car keys in case something happened to me as well. when i reached the crevasse, gary was starting up alone, and refused any help. i wondered if being stoned and in shock was radically disrupting his (and my) judgment—i wondered if i shouldn't insist, to minimize further hazards, that gary not attempt the climb until we could find some way to protect him. but he seemed to be moving well, if slowly, although his foot was far too painful to put any weight on. and the curious thing is that the sky, which had clouded over completely (rain was forecast for the evening), began to open up after gary made it past the hard part. and, contrary to what one would've expected, we had a delightful time, taking a few hours to retrace our path back up to the car, stopping and taking the view. neil was real calm and steady, and in fact i had some really strong, good flashes about neil during the trip. we drove gary—who had a great time—down to a clinic in auburn, where he had a cast put on. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

This photo of the pinnacles ridge referenced above was taken later in November, 1977, probably by Ron La Lande. More about that subsequent excursion is on the November 18 page.

11/12/86   [...] Then I drove up the road to Huysink Lake and beyond, exploring various logging roads, and gaining views of Snow Mountain, Devils Peak, Signal Peak, Castle Peak, Tinkers Knob, etc., stopping to hike around here and there, and winding up by hiking into the glacier-swept granite and giant red firs of the Loch Leven Lakes area.

It was another lovely Indian Summer day, warm even at 7000' elevation. I wandered, meandered, turned my path aside if things got too linear, visited giant trees, Jeffrey pines, red for, white fir—some very fine and large western junipers atop a ridge—it was very beautiful.

One of the roads I explored led out onto Sugar Pine Point, which I suspected at the time, and only just now confirmed by checking some topo maps. The map is confusing because it shows only trails where today broad logging roads penetrate. The penetration of progress, the progress of penetration, the Californication of the Tahoe Sierra. I knew instinctively that I was in the Sugar Pine Point area; but the road became rougher and seemed to avoid coming to the point, so to speak, so I never made it. And now, they say, a storm, they say, advances from the Pacific, bringing snow to the Sierra; and the progress of its penetration may impede further hikes this fall.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

November 12, 2000

Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 08:51:34 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Gold Run

Hi all,

Several people on this list responded in some way to the news that someone has been living at the outlet to the great tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co., in Canyon Creek, along the Canyon Creek Trail. They have built a lean-to and have some kind of "fire-hoses" at the outlet of the tunnel, i.e., they are mining for gold.

Judy S. wrote that she and her husband had observed a truck parked near the trailhead in Potato Ravine for several weeks, and had written down the license number, but had not walked down the trail, worried that it might be marijuana growers. She suggested the BLM should call her and get the number.

Tom M. wondered why the BLM geologist suggested that I should inform the occupant(s) of the site that camping was limited to a period of two weeks. Well, let's see. In the first place, the BLM currently thinks, based upon GPS data, that the outlet to the tunnel is on BLM land. The property line between Gold Run Properties land and BLM is somewhere in the vicinity. I myself doubt whether the outlet is on the west, BLM side of the line. If the spot was private, no camping whatsoever would be legal, unless the owner had permitted it. On unclassified federal lands, such as most all BLM and Forest Service lands, camping at any one spot is limited to two weeks.

So the suggestion that I tell the "campers" to leave was predicated upon the assumption that the outlet of the tunnel is on BLM land. Now, in all this part of the Sierra, the extensive BLM land holdings are administered by the Folsom office of the BLM. It is a fact that BLM staff at Folsom are entirely unable to patrol these extensive BLM holdings. They do not have the staff or the budget to allow them to keep tabs on their very extensive and far-flung holdings. Hence they must rely in part, and legitimately, it seems to me, on local citizens, to help keep up with issues such as squatting. They know I hike on the Canyon Creek Trail a lot. Therefore ...

I haven't been in there since late August. I hope to visit the trail soon. BTW if whoever it is that's living there is parking in Potato Ravine, then it is likely that the barrier is down again, on the road into the diggings behind Hi Sierra Motors.

Finally, on Saturday I called Mark Pohley, one of the principals of Gold Run Properties, the owners of some 800 acres of land in and around the Gold Run Diggings, said land now for sale. I wanted to know if GRP had sent a letter to the Placer Legacy, expressing willingness to sell; for the Placer Legacy will not lift its left little finger to begin talks with a land owner, unless it has had a letter from that owner, stating willingness to sell. No matter if the land is listed with a realtor, the letter is necessary. I had called Mark six months ago, to inform him of this matter of the letter, since Mark has expressed interest, has expressed the hope, that the Placer Legacy or the BLM would purchase the 800 acres.

However, no letter has been sent; Mark says the principals will meet in December and will take up the question of the letter then.

I told Mark of the "campers" at the outlet of the tunnel. He considers that the outlet is on GRP land, not BLM. At any rate, Mark said he would call the Sheriff and have a deputy go out there and roust them.

So that's about all I know at this point about the campers at the tunnel.


Russell Towle

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