November 22 (1977, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 2000, 2003, 2004)
North Fork News

11/22/77 dawn. cumulus float by in twirling orange sunlit dances; the canyon depths are dark, and nestled in the bottom, a pool of fog. the sunlight coming through the mandala window reflects off the inside of old roundtop wren shack window beside the door, casting golden light on a small portion of the opposite wall, on the guitar and its environs.
only a few tiny patches of snow remain, but up higher—tons of the stuff, i'm sure. i'll take a walk soon and see if the clouds have lifted from the sierra crest.

i put a giant log in the stove last night before i went to bed, and the cabin stayed warm all night, and the log was still a little bit there when i peeked in this morning.

~ back from my walk. yes, loads of snow up above ~ and as i walked, a huge mass of clouds slowly advanced from the west, and now all the ridge tops are enveloped, rain looks likely, I don't know whether to go to grass valley and do my shopping, or just stay here and enjoy the storm.

[...] clouds ebb and flow all around the canyon, no rain yet, but a solid deck at about 4000' elev. i am also pondering an opportunity that was recently thrust in my face, namely to buy part of the adjacent 40 that is being sold as an 80 actually ~ the two forties in a direct line between here and lover's leap road. [...] there are some drawbacks. from the zoning standpoint, the adjacent forty lies wholly within the proposed ‘640’ zone, while the next one over lies wholly within the ‘10’ zone. the latter is nearly flat land wholly on top of moody ridge with a superb forest cover, even after last winter's logging. the former is about ten or fifteen percent top of ridge and the rest, canyon walls. the part i could buy if my dad went ahead with this, is the nearest one-third of the adjacent forty which is the best of it, both on top and on the canyon walls. what i am particularly interested in is not the parcel's—call it the ‘13’—best feature, namely the superb view on top of the ridge, but rather the beautiful terraces around the same elevation as my springs, and the ‘big spring’ on the lowest terrace. these terraces are similar to the one my cabin is on, there are numerous gigantic oak and pine trees, and the best spring of this part of the ridge ~ i've often guessed its flow to be in the neighborhood of five gallons per minute.

[…] my interest is based on a very strange attraction i feel for that area dating back to my first solo visit to moody ridge in quest of a steep 5-acre portion of my dad's land. i was not aware of the precise locations of the property lines, and the first spot i went to was this terrace area on, as it turned out, the adjacent property of the old Towle estate which walt s. & co. bought. since then I have come to appreciate it and desire it more and more. it is a sacred spot for me. but although i now have an opportunity to acquire it, it seems that it would be senseless. i can't presently afford additional monthly payments. it seems highly unlikely that anyone will ever fuck with the sacred treasures. they are hemmed in by steep slopes, although a road could contour in from the southwest if someone had the bucks. no, the prime building sites, fortunately, are on top of the ridge. i don't know. i think i'll hold back on this, as the i ching was saying. this could sap a lot of time and energy, force me into a full-time job, which i'm not sure i'll be able to avoid as it is.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/22/82 ~ It's early in the morning and I sip the dregs of coffee and smoke a joint. No sign of the approaching sunrise. Rain. Snow at Blue Canyon. This has been a ‘record’ cold fall. A wet one for sure.


The leaves are rained off the oak trees and people are tucking in for the winter and here I am, alone at my cabin, still alone after all these years. For the better? The price I pay for my freedom? Or is it just escape, to live here? Or random chance, that has denied me a mate to share the journey? I've shared parts of it anyway. Should be glad.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

November 22, 1985

Home after a day of skiing with Kelly. [...] We met at the soda Springs CafĂ© for breakfast and then skied up onto Rowton and back down and around through the meadows. Some of the snow was ideal.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/22/86 [...]

Today—today was an epic day for me—for, having driven down to Colfax to shop for food—and having returned via Ed's, where I thought it looked as though all was quiet and they were still in bed—I drove on, I returned home, I decided, while driving, to simply grab my chainsaw and cut down the largest pine in the Great Western Alcove of the Meadow.

And I did it. Finally, after all these years. And I'm glad.

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/22/87 Evening; just returned from Alex and Teri's, where I [... ] went for a walk in the diggings this afternoon, with Alex and Dave and Noah, Alex's brother. There are many people camping out in the diggings now, in trailers for the most part. This is disturbing; gunshots and dog barks resound through Dutch Flat.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 12:55:13 -0800
To: Tina Andolina, John, "Terry Davis"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: North Fork American inventory map
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD:157338:RARE II.JPG:

Hi Tina, John, Terry, you wrote,
>John and Russell,
>The North Fork is still in progress. Russell Towle is drafting the
>map and currently I do not have a copy. Russell, can you send a copy
>of your map to John? I understand it closely resembles the RARE II
>lines. Russell and Terry have been working on this map for a very
>long time and barring any gross errors in Russell's lines, I think we
>really need to get through this process so we can get to the more
>important aspect of getting local support.
I have a digital image of a 1978 RARE II map which I sent on to Gordon Johnson with photos of the North Fork last week. It is attached. To view it properly use a graphics program which allows you to zoom in on the map; the section lines and numbers are then discernible. I modified the boundary somewhat to include a little extra land in the lower reaches of Big Valley and also near Andrew Gray Creek; and also (in the version I send today) have drawn in a possible western addition in the Green Valley-Giant Gap-Pickering Bar reach of the canyon.

Click to view the entire map in a new window
I intended to subtract lands from the eastern part of the RARE II boundary, so as to exclude any North Fork Association lands (note that the RARE II boundary goes to Serena Creek—I thought backing off westwards to near Heath Springs might suffice).

Although helicopter logging has occurred within RARE II boundaries at various points, I think these lands should be included in a North Fork Wilderness. The main uncertainty I have involves Section 17 north of Snow Mountain. Here, I believe, tractor logging with concomitant roads may have occurred. I was not able to get in there to see the site on the ground. The RARE II boundary includes some of this area.

It seems to me that we should err on the side of a larger Wilderness area.

Current Tahoe National Forest maps of the North Fork Roadless Area closely resemble the 1978 map.

I have another version of the RARE II boundary on a USGS geological map for a North Fork American River Wilderness Study Area, made in 1981, in which the boundary is slightly more inclusive than the map attached. I wonder whether a bit more of the upper reaches of Tadpole Canyon could be included.

North Fork News
[North Fork Trails blogpost, November 22, 2003: ]
Some minor news, or lack of news:

So far as the Siller Bros.' timber harvest at Lost Camp, I have not heard a word, either from CDF, or from Siller Bros. themselves. Quite a number of people wrote letters to CDF criticizing the proposed harvest. I believe that CDF is still reviewing the timber harvest plan, and that technically the public comment period remains open. For those new to this subject, briefly, Lost Camp is an old gold mining town near Blue Canyon. One of the nicer trails in Placer County descends to the North Fork of the North Fork American from Lost Camp. The upland areas around the town-site have already been logged, but under the current plan, will be logged even more intensively, several thousand feet of new roads will be constructed, and rarely huge old trees down in the canyons, which have escaped every previous timber harvest due to the steep slopes, will meet their dooms.

Tahoe National Forest Forest Supervisor Steven Eubanks responded to my letter of October 29, which asked that a vehicle closure be imposed upon the road leading to Big Valley Bluff, a 3500-foot cliff looming over the upper North Fork. His letter was polite but entirely non-committal, and he said that no TNF personnel can even look at the site until the snow melts, next spring. He mentioned that the Big Valley Bluff area, as of 10/1/03, passed under the management of the Foresthill Ranger District, along with all TNF lands south of I-80 and west of the Truckee RD boundary near Devils Peak. It so happens that I had emailed the text of my letter to Eubanks to Rich Johnson, District Ranger of this Foresthill Ranger District. Rich, at least, seemed receptive to the idea of a vehicle closure.

Last Tuesday, the North Fork American River Alliance (NFARA) met at the Dutch Flat Community Club to consider various business. The Board of Directors remain somewhat undecided about whether to incorporate as a "voting" or "non-voting" type of non-profit. Jim Ricker got us signed up to receive a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding Placer County is formulating with regard to the proposed Capital-to-Capital Trail; so NFARA can sign the MOU, without committing ourselves to any one trail alignment whatsoever, and be more or less formally "in the loop" of future decision-making processes.

Bob and Judy Suter reported that yet another blow is about to be struck against the historic Fords Bar Trail, which led from Gold Run to Iowa Hill. The trail was suddenly closed to the public about 20 years ago, and the land near the top of the trail was subdivided. Use of the trail has been limited to a few local insiders, as it were, but now even that is threatened, as one more house is about to be built on the trail. Bob and Judy suggested that perhaps an alternate trail route can be negotiated with the property owners. It would be very nice if this trail could be opened to the public once again, at least for foot and equestrian uses.

Our own Larry Hillberg of Colfax will be honored by the Placer County Board of Supervisors for helping some hikers stricken with heat stroke on the Stevens Trail last summer. I wonder if the Supes know that Larry hauled load after load after load after load of garbage miles up the Stevens Trail, from a squatter's camp on the North Fork, this spring. He more than deserves some recognition for that, too.

Such is some news.

Placer Land Trust
[North Fork Trails blogpost, November 22, 2004: ]
Recently I learned that the Placer Land Trust (PLT) has become involved in efforts to acquire private inholdings in and around the North Fork canyon. They are looking at parcels between Secret Ravine on the west (near the base of the Stevens Trail), and Green Valley on the east (near the base of the Green Valley Trail).

In this they seem to be allied with the American River Conservancy in its "Giant Gap Project." Lands purchased would go to the BLM, which administers the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River from Green Valley to the Colfax-Iowa Hill bridge.

The desired parcels include some, but not all, of the 800 acres currently for sale in the Gold Run Diggings. I consider acquisition of these lands to be of the very highest priority; they contain much of the Canyon Creek Trail and the Paleobotanist Trail, as well as the historic hydraulic mine pit of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company. I only wish the scope were broadened to encompass all the 800 acres.

The PLT's homepage is at

and may I suggest, they are worthy of our support, and can accept tax-deductible donations. Information may be obtained by emailing [info at placerlandtrust dot org].

With regard to the PLT's work in the North Fork, the Sacramento Bee reports as follows:
Trust receives donation

By Art Campos — Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Thursday, November 18, 2004

The United Auburn Indian Community has donated $50,000 to Placer Land Trust, a nonprofit agency that is raising money to buy and preserve 630 acres of wildland within the North Fork American scenic corridor.

The tribe, which owns and operates Thunder Valley Casino, presented the check Saturday in a ceremony at Beermann's restaurant in Lincoln.

The UAIC established the Community Giving Program as a philanthropic branch of its tribal government. It provides up to $1 million annually to nonprofit groups that support education, health, arts, the environment, community development and social services.

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