December 24 (1977, 1978, 1979, 1985, 1987, 2002, 2006) Christmas Preparations (and non-preparation) ~
“New Trail? No!!!”

12/24/77 ~ sunny, almost clear. [...] went out to bogus point, which was nice, huge puffy cumulus crowding the sky, fantastic views of the pinnacles and lovers leap, and a faint ‘rainbow’ in giant gap ~ not a true ‘bow’ but a horizontal line that spanned the canyon about halfway down—the sun was an hour from the horizon when we saw it—it seemed to be developed in the moist air inhabiting green valley.

the canyon walls are steep near bogus point, and we contoured along below the rim, visiting a variety of bold outcrops of metamorphic rock, which took on an increasing schistose appearance as we neared the old river channel of stewart's gravel mine, etc. a fault crosses the canyon thereabouts and i imagine the relative schistocity of the bedrock is due to the shearing that generated the fault. i had hoped to visit canyon creek's waterfalls but we didn't have enough time. perhaps today i will see if neil and ron are into it. at some point i should go to grass valley, to my folks. the christmas get-together.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/24/78 [...]

yesterday morning i almost caught a pileated woodpecker with my 200mm lens, not far from my cabin. but he was too shy.


excellent music-making at neil’s. got into playing electric guitar at his place yesterday. good times. good friends. i'm feeling better about myself ~ ergo, i'm feeling better about everyone. a nagging worry that lovers leap may be despoiled by houses built nearby. that dutch flat will get too crowded.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/24/79 [...] back home around six-thirty, and just laid back. got a good rest and feel much better today, although i need to guard my condition. the snow turned to rain, all-night long, 2.70 inches, heavy winds.

[Russell Towle's journal]

December 24, 1985

“We spin remarkable fancies out of the competitive urges that race through our blood.” What an immortal phrase! Truly…

And yesterday I was considering another remarkable thing: moguls, and the skiing of moguls. Skiing begins (let's imagine) on a slope of undisturbed snow; repeated skiing of the slope and execution of turns gradually scrapes and heaps up snow into piles, “moguls;” and forces skiers to avoid the piles, cutting and scraping deeper each time between the piles, increasing relief further and further, until, eventually, the entire surface is composed of bumps and slicing hollows. A study of such slopes will then reveal that the size of the moguls and their various specific shapes depend upon certain variables, including steepness of slope, and so on. What intrigues me about the whole thing is that the skiers end up skiing on a slope of their own making; there is a recursive aspect to this, a mathematical oddness, that I find amusing and interesting. One's course downslope becomes increasingly determined by the effects of multitudes of previous “runs,” thus concentrating the erosive action of the skis still further, and accentuating the existing relief.

'Tis another sunny day, and another foggy day for the Sacramento-San Joaquin valleys, those poor suckers.

My second cup of coffee, my first joint, Christmas music on the radio. This year I've done absolutely nothing for Christmas: not a card, a present, for anyone. It feels good. I don't believe in Christ anyway. I do enjoy the “holiday spirit” but have always felt hassled by the whole rigmarole of exchanging gifts.

I need to lay in supplies today. Yesterday morning before going skiing I cut firewood; the new chain for my saw works wonders. There's more to be done today, splitting wood, hauling it to the cabin in my wheelbarrow (which is at the McClungs'), and some more cutting to open the trail to the spring.

I also need to fix my water line; a gate valve froze this fall and leaks. I've got the parts to fix it.

Later. I did fix my waterline; I did split wood; I did go to Colfax and shop [...] . I visited Alex and Teri; I got a card from Mom with a message that Carlos had called; I did return his call, and he invited me down to Berkeley to work on his barn-house. I would like to go and see him and hear of his travels in Africa.

Tomorrow I plan to go to Sugar Bowl, early, ski for the day, and spend time with Mom and Rich.

Now it's after dark; a full moon, or rather, a very nearly full moon, shines down; I will go out to the cliffs [...] The weather is amazingly warm, even at night, on this December 24th.

Finished the Cicero tape; then wandered the meadow for a while, to which I shall return once a good joint has been rolled. It is beautiful now, with the sun streaming in warmly, and I wish only to gaze and dream and smoke and sunbathe…

So I went and dreamed, but sunbathe I did little, for a strong north wind sprang up; I just wandered, and transplanted a few little cedars. Wandered the Eastern Domain, east of the Knoll, and scoped out some possible ski trails, for the old road is no longer usable. There is one very promising route, which requires considerable clearing of ceanothus—but what doesn't? A nice loop could be made, which would link the Eastern Domain with the Meadow and make for about a half-mile round trip.

That would be great; hope I'm not prophesying a monster storm or five, at least not this winter (or spring)—not unless I start making some money. No slack left now.

I've seen the Ridge blanketed beneath an easy five packed feet of snow, watched that melt back down to three, and then grow to five again… but I haven't yet seen the Ridge beneath ten feet of hard pack, and I'm sure it's been that way within the past century… in fact, the Ridge may well have seen fifteen feet within the century.


Just gazed out into the blue-shadowed canyon, the softly glowing sky and wondered how, amid all this inspiration and beauty, I could possibly avoid becoming a successful writer? Simply by not trying, that's how; I'm very good at that.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/24/87   Dawn; a very strong northeast wind, very strong and very cold, lashes the trees. Skies are clear.

Later; I listen to Borodin, read Froude, eat spaghetti with hot sauce, stare at my steadily wrinkling and balding reflection, watch stellar jays flit from branch to branch, listen in amazement to the roaring wind, note that the cold temperatures have brought birds down from the high country, birds which ordinarily wouldn't be kicking around.

I've been enjoying a renaissance of guitar playing, the first in years, and have spent hours every day at it. [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2002 15:24:55 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails From: Russell Towle
Subject: New Trail? No!!
Cc: Ryan McCarthy

Hi all,
[Link no longer works]

is a story which ran in Monday’s Sacramento Bee. The text itself is included within this message, so you needn’t visit the Bee website unless you wish to see the two photos and the map.

As you will see, the trail, as proposed by Placer County District Five Supervisor Rex Bloomfield, would follow up the canyon of the North Fork American, closely paralleling the river. It is specifically envisioned as being five weet wide, and also as going through Giant Gap. It is intended for hiking, biking, and equestrian use. It would, I think, severely compromise the wildness, scenery and solitude of the North Fork American.

I have spoken with Supervisor Bloomfield, and written to him, about this trail, expressing my opposition. I have suggested possible alternative routes. I believe that, at the very least, no such new trail should be built within that reach of the canyon which contains the Wild & Scenic River “corridor.” Note I do not say, within the corridor itself. I say, not within the canyon itself.

I oppose the construction of this trail. It would be, for just one thing, such a terrible, terrible mistake to blast a trail through Giant Gap.

Here is the text of the article:
Hiking route through Sierra gets new life
Proposed Sacramento-to-Nevada trail wins support, $1.5 million.
By Ryan McCarthy — Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 a.m. PST Monday, December 23, 2002

The hunt for a way through the wilderness of the American River didn’t end in the 19th century. Greg Wells is scouting the north fork of the river outside Auburn for a route for the proposed Capitol to Capitol Trail between Sacramento and Carson City, Nevada.

“You look at the terrain and try to find the best way through it,” said Wells, a retired park ranger working for Placer County. The trail will provide a route for hikers and horseback riders through some of Northern California’s more spectacular spots, including Giant Gap — an area about 12 miles northeast of Colfax described as “the Grand Canyon of the Sierra.”

With a history going back to the 1970s, the proposed trail has won new life with $1.5 million in state funding and support from a range of people, including the man who started a trail that circles Lake Tahoe.

“It’s a fantastic idea,” said Glenn Hampton, who helped create the Tahoe Rim Trail that opened last year. Hampton remembers talk of a trail between the California and Nevada capitols decades ago but said work on the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail may have diverted attention from the Capitol to Capitol Trail.

Treks into the Sierra wilderness will provide people with a kind of time machine, he said. “It’s almost like going back 100 or 200 years,” said Hampton.

The project is expected to use the American River Parkway in Sacramento and trails around Folsom Lake, but the Auburn area outside Lake Clementine will be new territory.

Named “Rio de los Americanos” when trappers such as Jedediah Smith reached it more than 150 years ago, the American River has its mild side next to Sacramento bikeways, but its also has wild, remote runs in the foothills and rugged mountains of the Sierra.

Consultant Wells, who started scouting the route in November, will work with a 10-member panel including trail advocates and environmental representatives to select the trail’s path.

Sunrise sky, clearing sky; Snow Mountain and Tinkers Knob as seen from Moody Ridge,
December 24, 2006

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