November 23 (1975, 1978, 1986, 2002, 2005)
“I only wish there was no gold there.”

11/23/75   [...]

then i took off in the jeep for canyonland, after putting some gas in in grass valley and stopping for tobacco at cedar ridge. i spent a pleasant afternoon on my land, and headed out to lovers leap for the sunset. however, my pleasant afternoon was shattered when i hit a bump too hard and the steering was radically affected, became very stiff, and loud clicks were heard upon turning the wheel. i stopped at lover's leap and tried to figure out what was wrong, without success. i was disgusted with myself and had no heart to watch the sunset, though it was clear and i could see mt. diablo and coast ranges north and south. so i started back out, and the steering soon became normal again. however, upon nearing colfax the oil pressure dropped to very low and i stopped to check it out. too low to drive. so i walked a mile into town, tried unsuccessfully to phone my dad, and ended up buying a pizza dinner. then i bought three quarts of oil and hoofed it back to the truck. glopped them in and returned home without incident.

quite a day. i'm pooped.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/23/78 [...] i went to a board of supervisors meeting tuesday the 21st wherein the zoning plan for the dutch flat-gold run-alta-moody ridge area was enacted. i represented my dad to request a third building site on his land, most of which (257 acres) was swallowed by the 640 acre zone. the supervisors gave it to him. so i should be in his good graces now if i ever was. i might have put $20,000 in his pocket.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

11/23/86 Morning, bright and sunny. [...]

So that brash and bushy pine is finally down. Or nearly so. It's down, but still bushy; I haven't finished cutting the branches off etc. etc. the trunk is too large for firewood, large enough, in fact, to saw lumber out of…”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sat, 23 Nov 2002 16:06:28 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Tunnel Camp cleaned up

Hi all,

This morning Chris Schiller and I met at Gold Run, drove in to The Bluffs, and hiked the Paleobotanist Trail across the Diggings to the east to the Canyon Creek Trail We noted that a vehicle, possibly a small truck, had been in on the little bit of road which leads up to the trailhead; and the cache of trash at the trailhead had been removed.

We continued down to the Tunnel, and found that some of the more worthwhile items there had been removed. Also, someone had left two new plastic buckets there, one inside the tunnel, one outside, both filled with sediments from the tunnel.

Taking a wild guess, this is the work of the two youngish men I met at Tunnel Camp a few days ago. They may or may not be responsible for the huge mess around the tunnel.

Chris and I decided to hike down the trail a ways first, before getting down to business, so we walked down to the little bridge, across, and around the corner to the Waterfall View spot. Then we took the side trail out to the Overlook of the Blasted Digger. One can look directly up through Giant Gap to see Sawtooth Ridge, with Black Mountain and Quartz Mountain in the distance. The river was roaring softly far below, cold and clear, still in morning shadow.

Returning, we attacked the worst first. Chris lashed the rather giant tarp and one of the lengths of two-inch hose to his pack; I lashed some odds and ends of metal sheeting and mesh, including one piece six or seven feet long, to my pack, using a strange combination of eighth-inch line and bungie cords. We each had about fifty pounds on our backs.

That first load was nasty. My sheet metal stuck up three feet over my head, and kept on catching on branches. I would duck down, but that was very difficult to sustain, and in a little while, to duck down meant to also put my hands on my knees, taking some of the weight, and to execute a kind of crab-like scuttle past the seventy-seventh branch, or whatever. When we reached the trailhead I was pretty ruined.

However, the descent back to the tunnel, some 400 feet lower and a scant half mile away, was easy and even fun.

Our second loads were a little lighter and, mercifully, without large upward protuberances. However, strange combinations of garbage projected out behind us. We were like large dung beetles or something of that sort. We realized that a third load would finish the job, so, after a break for lunch back down on the creek, we packed up the last nastiest little remnants of spoiled food, old batteries, moldy shoes, and a hundred other unmentionables. Our last loads must have been no more than forty pounds.

We made a very neat cache of garbage up at the trailhead. It only remains to drive a truck in there and haul it away.

It was a sunny day, and Canyon Creek was lovely. I only wish there was no gold there.


Russell Towle

The Big Granite Trail
[North Fork Trails blogpost, November 23, 2005: ]
Julie, a tremendous hiker, sent me this account of her recent adventure on the Big Granite Trail.

The Big Granite Trail or BGT leads down to the North Fork American just below the Royal Gorge. It starts at 6600' and hits the river at 3000'. It was damaged by logging in 1991 and then again in fall of 2004. It has become hard to find and follow. Ron Gould and Catherine O'Riley and I have been working on it and have restored some small sections but much remains to do.

Hey, I finally had the opportunity to try your handywork at Big Granite. A friend and I were there and I remembered that you guys had done some reclamation. We were able to follow it for the most part, drifted off of it a time or two, and then of course just sort of spilled out onto the road just a little below the trail . So were you saying that the area there sort of along side the creek in that flat area is Four Horse Flat? Because I have never been quite sure. I had been thinking more up the hill and on the other side of Little Granite, say that flat area before the current Cherry Point Trail comes down and hits the logging road. I have explored around up there and seen plenty of great sights, but nothing to suggest Four Horse Flat. Well, the hike was really beautiful, and it was good to finally reach the river.

You might remember it has taken me a few journeys there, searching , and finding, then searching again. Kasa and I first looked for it coming down from Loch Leven, via Cherry Point. We hit the logging road, crossed Little Granite Creek, and walked on and on... no Big Granite. Next we headed in from Salmon Lake, down Cherry Point, onto the log road , across the creek and voila! suddenly the trail appeared! The reason we had not seen it before was very high buckbrush growing along the road, which had been bulldozed for the recent logging. Suddenly the trail with a sign and everything were right there for all the world to see! The day was late but we proceeded for a bit, staying on the... what would it be... west side of the trail, rather then crossing near the top. Waning daylight sent us back once again. Next I headed in from your directions off of Forest Road 38, through the hunter's camp. But I had a bit of trouble with the log skidding area.

Next, Kasa and I returned, with directions from you, and were able to thread our way through the skid trails and water bars, and finally arrive at the large landing where the road is the trail... On that wonderful day we were able to continue quite far down into the canyon, but just shy of Big Granite Creek we turned back, with Kasa having knee problems. And so, after all these previous attempts, imagine how pleasing it was to finally reach the river. All the creeks and the river were very low, of course. What Kathi and I did when we reached the signpost overlooking the river, was to turn right ending up at Big Granite Creek and the pretty pools and waterfalls. We had lunch there, and explored around the creek. Observing the American River Trail on the other side we decided to cross over and scramble up to it. There were some thickets of poison oak to get through, and some manzanita fields, that hindered us a bit.

Once on the other trail, we thought we would follow it upriver until we could see where it would cross, we just assumed we would see the crossing, come back across, and hop on the trail, then just zip along the trail and head home. But, as often happens in the canyon, what we thought were trails when looking across the river, were just high water courses and gravel bars, meandering back to the river. We crossed back over at the Sailor Flat Trail, and wandered around on this and that almost could kinda be trails. We scared a small bear from the brush and he bounded away, looking fluffy and appealing. We crashed around through the brush, up this hillside and back down, searching, thinking we had struck a trail, only to be disappointed. Oddly, in the most tangled and brushy area, a pink flag appeared. But it seemed to point to nothing. Scratching our way through the most obscure thickets, we encountered these flags several times , but couldn't really make sense of them.

Finally we returned to the river and decided to cross again. I was quite worried about daylight by now and felt we would make better time if we hit the American River Trail, and hightailed it back. This we did. While Kathi crossed and was putting her shoes back on, I went to see if the trail was near us at this point, and I encountered another one of the flags. Using the open trail we hurried along. I felt sure that waning daylight was going to be an issue, and I sort of pushed us along rather quickly. What worried me was the idea of navigating those skid trails near the top of the trail, in the dusk. We were able to cross again on wonderful big boulders without having to take our shoes off. Then it was just a matter of scrambling back up to the trail and moving along. I was very aware of impending dark, and I'm afraid I pushed along rather heartlessly... but all for nought. We did indeed walk in the dark.

The dusk had hit profoundly by the time we had come up most of the steep portions. Once darkness came, I quit rushing us: what was the point now? The stars were magnificent. When we reached the log road we got out Kathi's light (She had one!) I looked for, and found the sign on the tree positioned for hikers coming up, but not down... Kathi observed that, due to all the logging roads and skid trail confusion, the signs don't really help anyone, because the only people who see them are people who already know where they're going. Good point. In the full darkness it was very slow going through the skid trail, and up to the hunter's camp, making me think how it would be great for some of us to put that last bit back into trail... You can sort of see a trail in the dark if you gaze ahead and let your eyes relax, but in those mazes of bulldozer mounds it's just not the same. Well, the hike was superlative in every way. And I suppose, given the shortness of the days, our decision to do so much exploring could be viewed in one of two ways... as either ambitious, or unwise! Thanks for all the tips in helping us find the trail.

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