November 9 (1975, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1985, 2000, 2005)
An Impulsive Hike, A New Understanding

11/9/75 [...]

~ a brisk wind moves through, sweeping high clouds and oak leaves along before it. a southwest wind, which means another storm is here.”
[Russell Towle's journal]


11/9/77 moody ridge, around noon. i bought some stain and i'm about ready to start putting it on. i went on an impulsive hike this morning that took me half way to the river in search of the old asbestos workings. i found them—or a part, anyway—a caved-in tunnel and tailings pile, with much long-fiber asbestos along the fracture surfaces of the serpentine. an old wheelbarrow, an old shovel, a few cans and broken bottles—not much.

on the way back up i entered the eastern tributary of ginseng ravine, that heads up directly beneath the meadow. it was a pleasant scramble, and i found an interesting terrace in the serpentine that was slightly below and to the west of the giant ponderosas. those ponderosas have always intrigued me, since they are at an elevation that is well below the normal bedrock/volcanics contact in this area, and thus they should be in the serpentine. but that has never jibed because ponderosas hate serpentine, and so do the kellogg's oaks that flank the grove. i noted on one of my first hikes out here that, in conformity with the vegetation pattern, there appeared to be an accumulation of volcanic ash and mudflow down in the serpentine where those oaks and pines contrast so strongly with the surrounding vegetation. i always figured that this zone, which is scored by a large gully, represented a landslide of volcanics which had existed as an unstable slope in their normal stratigraphic position—i.e., above the serpentine—and that removal by headward extension of the east fork of ginseng ravine of increasing quantities of serpentine had finally forced a slide. but on today's hike i saw something that seemed to contradict that hypothesis.

i entered the lowest reach of the fresh gully that scores the ‘slide’ deposit, at an elevation only slightly above the adjacent terrace aforementioned in the serpentine to the west. on the wall of the gully was exposed what appeared to be a typical section of volcanic ash, which stratigraphically is found either directly upon the ancient bedrock surface, or on gravel layers that in turn rest on the bedrock, where ancient storms and rivers flowed. the ash seemed too homogenous to be part of the slide.

so, the upshot of it all is that, based on the apparently undisturbed ash layer, and the vegetation pattern in the upper reaches of green valley trail, i now think that the grove of oaks and ponderosas are not growing on a landslide deposit, but on volcanics in a stratigraphically or normal position, which, because the serpentine is flanking upslope and downslope, probably represent the course of a tributary to the nearby nary red channel, which shows a bedrock/volcanics contact elevation of about 3600', which seems to be duplicated by this channel. the little terrace on the serpentine seems likely to be a remnant of the channel floor from which the volcanics have been removed by erosion, as well as the south wall of the old valley. here is a cross-section as i visualize it— ”


[Russell Towle's journal]


 “11/9/80 Sunday. Finished up the foundation work yesterday. Carried 35 sacks of concrete down here on my back. I'm very pleased to have a foundation with rebar under my cabin. About 1/3 of the building has it the rest I'll get to some other time. Now I would like to proceed on the bathroom… A storm Just rolled through. Now the canyon wells over with fog. I feel peaceful, happy.”

[Russell Towle's journal]


 “11/9/81 Monday morning. Greg Troll and Iris Moore were up for the weekend. We had a nice time, climbed down to the Keyhole Cave below Lovers Leap, and then yesterday went out to Big Valley Bluff. Greg is going to get a break finally from his long round of medical studies. We may go on a trip to the Owens Valley this fall or winter.”

[Russell Towle's journal]


The 9th   [11/9/85]

Cold and sunny. A storm approaches, bringing snow. I am going to Colfax to stock up.”

[Russell Towle's journal]



 Date: Wed Nov 09 23:29:35 2005
To: Jan_Cutts (TNF)
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Big Valley Bluff
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD :1278514:The_View_East_1197.JPG:

Hi Jan,

Attached, a picture taken at Big Valley Bluff, in your ranger district, looking east up the North Fork canyon. The light is as at late afternoon, say, around three p.m., these days. This was a few weeks ago.

Portions of the Sierra crest and upper Foresthill Divide peaks like Lyon and Needle peaks are dimly visible in the distance.

Big Valley Bluff is great in the late afternoon. Forest Road 19, the Texas Hill Road, leads out that way from Emigrant Gap on I-80.

Hope all is well with you, everything is good here.

Russell Towle

November 9, 2000


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