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“11/4/86 Tuesday, noon, hot and sunny, leaves drifting down, lying around reading, vote later today, yesterday took the chainsaw up to the knoll and cut brush, also cut the arch tree on the trail into firewood.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“11/4/87 Night. Clouds blanket the sky, and a strong northeast wind rocks the forest, roaring; unusual, for clouds and northeast winds to drive in harness. [...]“
[Russell Towle's journal]
“11/4/88 [...] So now sunshine streams bright flags of gold into the canyon, blue fog billowing below, and I wonder what the day will bring. Two days of light rain laid the dust.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
November 4, 1997
Giant Gap Trails
One of the most beautiful scenes in California—which is saying a lot—is found in Giant Gap, a gorge over 2,000 feet deep on the North Fork of the American river, near Dutch Flat. The view may be enjoyed from many different places, the best known of these being Lovers Leap, on Moody Ridge, and Iron Point, to the east. Many photographers and painters have attempted to capture the mystic beauty of Giant Gap over the years, including Thomas Moran, a famous 19th-century landscape artist. Moran executed a fine etching of Giant Gap, in the 1870s.
The soaring cliffs and pinnacles of Giant Gap, with the North Fork roaring far below, only reveal the full spectrum of their glory to those who approach from many sides, at all seasons, and from dawn to dusk to dawn again. An opportunity exists to make these lovely and varied views available to all of us, and to provide access to a historic trail down to the North Fork itself, along Canyon Creek. I propose that we construct a trail from Lovers Leap to Garrett Road, crossing Canyon Creek at the head of its dramatic waterfall section. Over much of this distance, the trail would follow old mining ditches.
A map depicts this proposed trail, with abbreviations for various locations along its line, as noted below, in parentheses. The trail is only depicted approximately, as a line of circles. I-80, Garrett Road, Moody Ridge Road, Bogus Point Road, and Lovers Leap Road are also shown.
The trail would traverse, for the most part, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Perhaps few in this area are aware that a substantial portion of the old hydraulic diggings at Gold Run are on BLM land; in particular, these BLM lands include the Indiana Hill pit, on the edge of the North Fork canyon at the end of Garrett Road. Beginning at the BLM gate at the end of Garrett Road (GR), the trail would follow the road itself to the Indiana Hill pit (IH). This is quite an interesting place; I sometimes call it “the secret world,” because it is somewhat hidden, and walled in by high banks of gravel. One path into this secret world leads through a tunnel!
A mining ditch serving Indiana Hill took water from Canyon Creek, about a mile upstream from the steep waterfall area. Let us call this the “Indiana Hill ditch.” Although now overgrown with brush in many places, if cleared, it would make a fine trail. At first, it follows the rim of the main North Fork canyon, but gradually turns into the smaller gorge of Canyon Creek. At some point, yet to be determined, a trail would have to be constructed down to Canyon Creek (CC) from the ditch. Over part of its length, this ditch traverse private lands, and either by purchase or easement, the BLM should acquire the rights to use the Indiana Hill ditch as a trail.
At the creek, an old mining trail leads from the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company tunnel, all the way down to the North Fork of the American. Let us call this the “Canyon Creek trail.” The creek was treated as a giant sluice box in the old days; at the end of the water season, in July or August, the entire length of the creek down to the river was meticulously cleaned up, recovering the gold which had escaped the main sluice boxes in the tunnel and the diggings above. So, this trail was constructed; at first, as it parallels Canyon Creek, it is pretty, but unexceptional; but as Canyon Creek fully enters the main North Fork canyon, a series of high waterfalls, separated by pools and riffles, make up the rest of its course to the river. The old trail had spur trails leading back to the base of each waterfall, and a few of these are still intact. However, the main trail itself is in relatively good shape, and, hugging steep cliffs, winds back and forth all the way down to the river.
It is so difficult to reach this part of Canyon Creek, and this old trail, that few people even realize it exists. Those who have walked it proclaim it one of the most remarkable and dramatic trails in this part of the Sierra. I certainly agree.
From Canyon Creek, and the old trail described above, a new trail could be constructed, climbing up to the old hydraulic mines near Bogus Point (BP), at the southwest corner of Moody Ridge. Here again we are on BLM lands. The trail should be made to switch back and forth, from the wall of Canyon Creek’s gorge, to the ridge dividing Canyon Creek from the main North Fork. This ridge leads up to Bogus Point, and once the mining pits are reached, an existing trail continues on gentle grades to the Bogus Point road.
Another ditch serving the Bogus Point mines drew from the ravine immediately west of Lovers Leap. Let us call this the “Lovers Leap ditch.” From the end of the aforementioned road at Bogus Point, a new trail could be constructed, making the mild ascent of the knoll just to the east, which is marked “Bogus Point” on the 7.5 minute Dutch Flat quadrangle. The Lovers Leap ditch is met at this knoll. From here to near Lovers Leap, the trail, following this old ditch, is actually within Giant Gap, just below the rim of the canyon. Over much of its length it is on BLM lands, but in several places, privately owned parcels on Moody Ridge drape down below the ditch. In these cases, where residential development is a distinct possibility, the BLM should purchase the encroaching parcels.
The Lovers Leap ditch is fairly easily followed even now, a hundred years since it was ever maintained. We need only cut a few manzanita bushes and fallen trees out of the way, and one of the prettiest trails in California would be our reward. Many fine views into Giant Gap are had from this old ditch. After about a mile of walking, from Bogus Point, the ditch turns into the ravine west of Lovers Leap, where a rare old stand of pines and firs is met. Here a trail must be constructed descending into, and climbing out of, the ravine. On the east side of the ravine, the trail should be constructed so as to switch back and forth between the sunny rim of the main canyon, and the shady old forest flanking the cliffs, climbing gradually to Lovers Leap (LL).
November 4, 2007
|The white bead line indicates the line of sight to be rendered in a flyover animation Russell was working on.|
|The North Fork American River, at Green Valley, near the old hotel site and spring.4 November 2012|
California Wild Grape
Photo by Gay Wiseman