December 17 (1977, 1986, 2004, 2005)
The “Towlean Calendar” ~ The “Semi-Grand Tour” of Canyon Creek

12/17/77   rain, rain, blasting blustering torrents of rain. wind like thunder and mighty waterfalls up in the trees. but no snow.

last night I made a false start in going to bed and came back downstairs for a while. while smoking a cigarette i was surprised to see a few stars in the sky. the clouds had lifted to the ridge tops. i could see giant gap. the moon was out but is half-full so there was some illumination through the clouds. i had no lights on in the cabin so i was able to see outside. i was startled by seeing the upper pinnacle ridge silhouetted in fog across the canyon; a narrow river of fog was pouring out of the clouds on the rim and down the far side of the pinnacles. then i saw a river of fog coming from this side of giant gap and flowing down to meet the other. the two rivers of fog made a bridge across giant gap with a hole above and below. it was nice.

now i'm fogged out, can't see past the douglas firs. it has been raining hard.

 once again I strive to unravel on my own without textbooks to guide me, the geological history of this area, and its consequent landforms. always I begin by assessing what I know of the ancient bedrock topography, or in other words the pre-volcanic topography. In the area drawn above—the saddle between moody ridge and casa loma ridge—the bedrock, which is serpentine, slopes gradually from the southwest on moody ridge and the southeast on casa loma ridge from a high of about 4000' elev. to a low—at the gravel/bedrock contact—of about 3600'. thus it appears to be pre-volcanic valley in the form, but are the gravels there truly pre-volcanic, eocene in age (50-60 m. y.) as they are commonly mapped? If they had an uninterrupted blanket of rhyolitic ash (miocene, 20 m. y.)—abbreviated MVP, miocene pyroclastic rocks)”  [This continues in 12/18/77 entry.]

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/17/86   What a morning; a day that speaks more of Spring then of the end of Fall and beginning of Winter. But the solstice is only a few days hence, and then the days grow longer again, but the inertial lag of earth and atmospheric temperatures causes Summer to begin (in our estimation) when days first begin growing short, while Winter begins Wednesday's 1st grow longer—almost the opposite of what seems logical.

Where would logic place summer? Well, if it were centered upon the longest day of the year, it would begin around May 7th and end around July 4th, while winter would begin November 7th and end around February 4th (centered upon the shortest day).

Actually, it seems much the more natural and easier to begin and end all seasons on the solstices and equinoxes, as we do now. The only adjustment I propose is to force January 1st to fall on the winter solstice.

This has problems too though; true, there is poetic justice in a year that begins when days first grow longer (rather than shorter); but begin it there on one year, and it would be 1/4 of a day out of sync the next, 1/2 day the year after that; that is, we would rarely if ever, except perhaps on the very first year of this sort, 1st where the winter solstice falls precisely at 12:00 A.M.; If we did, we'd never see the situation arise again; in fact, the conjunction of a solstice with a particular second, minute and hour of a particular day is probably not repeated for the full 26,000 years (approximately) it takes for a complete precession of the equinoxes through all 360 degrees.

Hence to have the equinoxes and solstices well displaced from any beginnings of months is probably the best way to go; then the actual moment of the event falls with a pleasing indeterminacy which in and of itself—

No, I take that back. Actually we could quite easily align January 1st and the winter solstice. Here's how:

A sidereal year is 365 1/4 days, approximately; hence, by adding an extra day every 4th year, our calendar is sufficiently in synch with the solstices and equinoxes that for centuries they have fallen around the 21st of the month; it would be interesting to trace the dates, on a rectified “Before the Present” Julian calendar, on which these solstices etc. have fallen; one would, over a thousand years, be easily able to discern the precession; but, what I meant to say, is this:

Given a precession which inclines the equinoctial moment back through the Julian calendar, if one wanted to rectify the calendar so that January 1st typically coincided with the winter solstice, one could set the solstice, the calendar rather, the calendar, at any rate, could be set initially in such a way that the solstice most often fell on January 1st, occasionally on the 2nd or on 31st of December, and moreover, said it in such a way that its median moment is, perhaps, 3:00 A.M. January 1st, and hence, the calendar's days in its rough synchronization with the solstices for a century at a time; at which point, the appropriate adjustments could be made which would “rectify” the median moment back to 3:00 P.M. January 1st.

The “Towlean” calendar. Just subtract about ten days from the present calendar and go for it. People would learn precession.

Dear Diary: I must confess an error, a serious error: it is not Saturn which is conjunct with Mars, but Jupiter; not Saturn that Ed and Tina and I looked at through the telescope, but Jupiter; I'm embarrassed to have mixed them up; shouldn't be, but I am; anyway, this is the correction, all official-like.

Later. Just returned from Nicholas' and Sally's place, where, with Larry Brown, we had dinner and talked over the proposed PG&E timber harvest, and what we can do to stop it.


[Russell Towle's journal]

Return to Canyon Creek
[North Fork Trails blogpost, December 17, 2004: ]
Yesterday morning I met Catherine O'Riley, at last returned from Europe and Jordan, and Patrick Kavanaugh, for a visit to Canyon Creek. This was Patrick's first experience of this remarkable place, so we decided upon the Grand Tour. However, these short days, so close to the Solstice, tend to reduce the scope of what may be done in the way of hiking, and we really only touched a few of the high points. It was to be, then, only the Semi-Grand Tour.

Under this winter fair-weather regime which brings day after day of fog to the Central Valley, and nothing but sun to the Sierra, we of course had nothing but sun. We stopped to see the giant drain tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co., nine feet high, twelve feet wide, which carried tailings from the hydraulic mines to Canyon Creek. We stopped at Waterfall View. The Leaper has now stopped its leaping, as less water flows in Canyon Creek than did a week ago, following the last storm.

Down the steepening trail past Gorge Point, we took the Six Inch Trail, one of the old sluice-box-access trails from mining days, into the Inner Gorge. To my astonishment, we scared off a passel of pigeons from the most recondite part of the chasm below. It is difficult to describe this twisting inner gorge, with its hidden waterfalls and polished rock sides. It makes a corkscrew plunging descent to the top of the Big Waterfall, where Canyon Creek leaps boldly into space, after being trapped in the dark caves of the gorge above.

An off-trail shortcut brought us to the creek just below the Big Waterfall, only just being touched by the morning sun. Then down the little waterfall trail to The Terraces, where the men who tended the sluice boxes which once lined Canyon Creek had their main camp. I had mentioned finding the Brewer's Rock Cress in bloom at Lovers Leap, and had carefully examined the cliffs at Gorge Point, where this species first blooms along the main trail. Nothing. I reminded Catherine of the yet-earlier-blooming species, the California Milkmaid, of the genus Cardamine, also in the Mustard Family, which we have often seen in flower at the Terraces in January, even early January.

So we kept our eyes peeled in case some further freak of nature might occur. We saw young Milkmaids, but no blooms. Leaving our packs at the Terraces, we took the side trail to the creek, crossed easily, and had a look at the three waterfalls directly below the Terraces.

Upon our return I noticed, right beside our packs, several Milkmaids in full bloom, and many about to bloom. So, a new record: the spring bloom in Canyon Creek has now been seen to begin as early as December 16!

Lower Terraces Trail took us back to the Canyon Creek Trail just above the hidden High Old Upriver Trail or HOUT, and we decided to ramble the HOUT on up the canyon, which was quite nice, in the full sun of the early afternoon. We walked beyond Bogus Spur to the fork in the trail where one can either keep to the HOUT or drop down to the river just west of Big West Spur. We chose the river, and had a long break beside the sparkling clear stream, so embossed with sunshine downstream, so bright, one could scarcely look at it. Just upstream, the river emerged from the shadows of Giant Gap, and a cool breeze wafted over us, heavy cold air flowing down the canyon, near river level.

This reversal of the usual fair-weather regime of (warm) up-canyon anabatic winds during the day, and (cold) down-canyon katabatic winds during the night, is interesting. I wondered whether this katabatic river of cold air, at midday, was continuous, all the way down the canyon, or just an artifact of the shadowed gorge upstream.

Whatever the case, it was pleasant to leave the cold air near the river, and make a scramble up the sunny slopes of Big West Spur to regain the HOUT. Just above the river of cold air lies much warmer air. It was likely all of seventy degrees at the HOUT, and probably below sixty degrees at the river. A classic temperature inversion (for usually air is colder with increasing elevation).

Then followed the long and intricate and delightful walk back west. When we reached the Canyon Creek Trail all was in the shadow of Diving Board Ridge. A slow slog up the steep trail brought us to the trailhead at about 4:15.

It was a perfect day in the great canyon of the North Fork.

Sunrise Panorama as seen from Moody Ridge, December 17, 2005.

No comments:

Post a Comment