December 3 (1977, 1986, 1987, 2000, 2005)
First Visit to the Green Valley ‘Pyramid’ Knoll ~
A Bobcat; a Mountain Lion; Spiders' Eyeballs ~
and “What I Should Have Said”

12/3/77   just after dawn. yesterday i hiked around here a bit in the morning, and was so jazzed by the sparkling clear air that i went into dutch flat to see if neil was up for a ramble. he wasn't ~ his dog, raga, is very sick with heartworms, and he was in a terrible funk ~ but i was up for something out of doors, so i drove out to ron's, but he wasn't home. so, i returned here, and thought it might be nice to visit the Giant Pine spring where the old Nary Red channel intersects the plane of the canyon walls. so i set off, figuring a short stroll wouldn't drain me too much ~ i'm a little week from this cold ~ and that it wouldn't hurt to put off lunch for a little while.

i reached the Giant Pine spring in short order and decided that the time had arrived to check out just how far down the slope the lush band of giant chain ferns extended from the spring. so i zigzagged along down beside the ferns, and found that they ended abruptly perhaps 200 feet below the Giant Pine. a deer trail led away to the east, and soon i was bushwhacking along through the live oaks and laurels that thrive on the serpentine. well, ‘thrive’ isn't exactly what the scene is ~ they are all relatively dwarfed ~ but there they be, also, silk tassel, manzanita, buckbrush, and digger pine are common on these serpentine slopes. coffeeberry.

i was approaching the vicinity of where ray and i had seen the bellowing deer last weekend ~ a small group was traversing a very steep rocky slope and knocking small rockslides loose ~ occasionally one of them would begin to bellow plaintively, much as a goat will do in distress. surprisingly loud. anyway, a lot of deer are in this area of late ~ they are occupying their winter range and as i contoured along, they began crashing off in all directions ~ bucks, does, fawns ~ i came within twenty feet of a fawn… just below a noble old digger pine that has large creamy bark plates reminiscent of a ponderosa, i passed a water-smoothed channel in the serpentine that had a tiny rivulet sliding along. then, right beside it, a shallow mine tunnel in the cliff face, big enough to stand up in, about ten feet deep. nearby were several well-used deer-beds, tiny flats near bushes and trees.

by this time i was near the main ravine that drops from the saddle between moody and casa loma ridges, which i had never checked out. so i continued along the slope and soon reached the beautifully polished serpentine of the ravine's channel. a small rill of water was plunging along from pool to pool, and i followed it for a ways, noticing that an occasional willow or alder testified to year-round water. many of the water-loving type of coffeeberry were along the stream. in contrast to the ones near springs i have seen, these still had their leaves, and may be an evergreen species.

i am always seduced by mountain streams into following them. there is a delight in scrambling over polished rock that makes me young, and always the lure of a possible waterfall or pool of especial magnitude. at any rate, after descending a little ways, a view opened up into green valley, and it looked very close. so i went for it, and followed the ravine nearly the whole way to the river. at a certain point the stream cuts through a breccia of angular serpentine rocks up to about a foot in diameter in a sandy matrix that corresponds well in appearance and elevation to a similar deposit near the base of ginseng ravine. this baffles me, and I am uncertain as to the origin of this breccia, but one explanation I can think of is that during the ice ages when large amounts of morainal material was being transported downstream by the north fork, the deposition along the river of large amounts of gravel in green valley created a ‘dam’ of sorts that kept the detritus wasting away from the canyon walls from being washed down to the river, forcing it to accumulate along the outer (uphill) edges of the gravel bars. it seems to be a fairly well cemented breccia, but although the green valley serpentine is heavily faulted i lean away from ‘fault zone breccia’ as an explanation. but more investigation is called for.

soon after reaching the breccia zone i departed the ravine and bushwhacked down gentle slopes to the trail, then downstream to the big meadow ~ what a beautiful place! there is a large accumulation of trash around the camping sites nearby.

i dropped on down to the river itself and followed it aways downstream, climbing out near the flying dutchman. i wanted to find a spot with a good view of giant gap and smoke a joint. i hit the westerly branch of the green valley trail and ascended into another fine meadow. the western drainage divide of ginseng ravine lies just to the west of the meadow, and rises to a curious little knoll nearby. i have often viewed that knoll from above. although the deerbrush was thick (much of green valley burned about ten years ago) i forced a way through and reached the summit of the knoll, elev. 2277, or about five hundred feet above the river. it has a superb view of the pinnacles and lover's leap. i smoked my joint, and as my sweat dried in the breeze, noticed that the shadow of lover's leap and moody ridge was moving my way. i was a little chilled on my breezy perch, and decided to follow the ridge back up to my place. the knoll, with its canyon live oak at the tip top and fine open views in all directions, is a really fine spot. someone hung a horseshoe from a branch of the oak long ago and now the branch has grown around it so that it is welded to the tree.

the view of giant gap ridge from there and from points along the ridge above are especially fine, with the concordance of joint planes exhibited to their best advantage, a symphony in rock. lover's leap is a symphony of a like nature when viewed from giant gap ridge.

the ravine to the west of knoll ridge is eroded for much of its length into the contact between the serpentine and the paleozoic metavolcanic rock to the west. as i climbed up the knoll ridge, occasionally crawling on hands and knees beneath the manzanita, i felt weaker and weaker and hungrier and hungrier and maintained a steady pace without noticing much of anything. as usual when i climb out of the canyon, it seemed to take forever, and I was lured into a shortcut near the top that required the traverse of some very steep slopes. by the time i got here i was burnt out, only just managing to wolf down two peanut butter sandwiches and a huge mug of cocoa.

today i feel great, except my cold persists, i sneeze, etc.

~ what tickles my fancy, intellectually speaking, are the countless areas that remain to be explored. there are quantities that may be quantified and qualities qualified that have totally escaped the notice of the legions of scientists that have been looking at the world lately (that is, within the past hundred thousand years or so) ~ such as?

well, without spending a lot of time searching for the right example, precise mapping of vegetation, geological structures, etc. comes to mind—why, every one of the oak trees on moody ridge could have a name of its own. and how climates and micro-climates are so perfectly expressed by vegetation. and how they're not so perfectly expressed… fortunately the interstices between domains of demonstrable knowledge are frequent and large. an individual student still has the opportunity for original work. i suppose it will always remain so. but somehow our tendency seems to be to create the delusion that we ‘have it all under control’—that is, the dominion of humanity over nature has been accomplished, and the foundations of knowledge have been firmly laid in physical fact. well, that's both true and false (like any number of other statements about reality, I have noticed) and it can't be discussed without first defining the terms. i'm not into that [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/3/86    Wednesday; this morning, on impulse, I wrote a letter to Geri Larson about the clear-cutting in the canyon, under the freedom of information act. Sent copies to Cranston, Wilson, Shumway, McCloskey, Newsom, Stadum, and Bailey. [...]

My clutch is broken. Oh-oh. Oh-oh — oh-oh oh-oh….
What metre is “ Oh-oh —oh-oh —oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh…?”

Oh-ohian pentameter?

Like all my other problems, I'm hoping that if I ignore it, it will go away. So far so good.

Should go up to the meadow and luxuriate.

Now to the Meadow.

Later… It's 4:00 P.M. and sunlight still graces the knoll; or rather, I should say, is just now leaving the knoll. It falls across at an angle parallel to a line drawn between the cedar at the southwest end of the meadow and the black oak clump atop the knoll; it fills a sort of “corridor” between groups of pines on the Knoll, and illumines a rock, a boulder of andesite, of admirable size.

Near the sunset hour now; within it, already. Giant Gap glows softly. I greatly appreciate the weather we've been having; here it is, December, 4000' elevation, and I wander the meadow in a t-shirt. But high clouds nip at the edges of our fair weather, day by day, and they say the high-pressure will weaken into collapse tomorrow and/or the next day. Friday is Lovers Leap day. Hope it's not raining.


'tis about 1:00 P.M.; I have been up in the meadow, burning stuff. Pavane for a dead princess on my tape player. [Listen to it here. ]

Breezy, overcast.

For every cubic mile of topsoil, there is a certain tonnage of spiders and centipedes; now start weighing the bacteria; the worms, for heaven's sake, be sure and weigh as well.

Finished? Good. Now, count them carefully. Divide the number of pounds by the number of worms; now you know the average weight, in pounds, of a typical worm.

What does the Bible tell us about that weight, that average?

Precisely nothing, that's what, and we need to look for no other reason to disdain and ignore the Christian creed […]

A lot of worms are having sex at any one time in the cubic mile of topsoil; how many tons of worm-come are in the cubic, pubic mile?

Pythagoras said that everything is number; I say, how many tons of worm-come are in the typical cubic mile of topsoil?

Had Socrates? Or Plato? Ever considered this question? Of the worm-come?



I should go burn more stuff.

I shudder to think of just how many spiders there are, during their peak season, for instance, at any one time, in the meadow. And how much do they weigh? Weigh their eggs; their webs; their bound and helpless prey; weigh their eyeballs:

How many grams of spider-eyeballs are there, during peak season, in the meadow?

Weigh them carefully; now: divide the number of grams by the number of eyeballs; you have now discovered the average weight, in grams, of a spider's eyeball, if, perchance, that spider happens to live in a certain meadow in the Sierra (Live? But what are we to imagine? Hordes of sightless spiders, whiling away their old age, victims of the experiment of a madman?)…


There is really very little chance that these pages will ever be bound into volumes and placed on library shelves the world over, so that people at large, and posterity, will know of the question of the spiders in the meadow?

Little chance? I cannot concede that, dear diary. Did Anaïs Nin write of spiders, of spider-eyes, of average weights? One presumes she didn't. So this is yet unexplored, and unexploited, literary ground: let the marketplace beware: let it prepare, and let it take care to reward my inimitable Genius way, way before I die.

The volumes will gleam, sparkle, entice, and even dissuade the faint-hearted: dissuade, by the very length of shelf required to house this august opus: they will have to begin to print the Nin diaries on thicker paper, just to remain respectable. For I will merrily fill page after page with spiders, their weights, their beady eyes, beady little eyes, little, yes, but possessing, nonetheless, mass, hence energy, and let them once, only once, embrace the equal amount of spider-eye-mass from an anti-matter universe: the meadow will be lit as it rarely has been before. And, my journal will faithfully record the event, for posterity, replete with pleasing vignette, pungent observation, whirling lariats of epicyclic syntax, and the re-echoing laments of spiders, who, cruelly blinded in one of science's more macabre experiments, turn Homeric, blind bards all, in their thousands, there are tens of thousands, they sing, in sorrowing wise, of their precious little eyes, with loud, heart-breaking sighs, (this, no tissue of lies) until the sun doesn't rise, revealing webs unmanned, and exultant flies.

No, Anaïs Nin could never have dealt with this issue, at least in any depth, or to any purpose… It was reserved for me, me alone among the Romans, to write of spiders, spider-eyes, sun's rise, exultant flies.

She could only record the messy details about which famous psychiatrist was madly in love with her and wracked with jealousy because she had this thing going with some stud from Harlem…

It is awkward to explain to a paunchy, middle-aged man, who has made the Libido his life's work, that you prefer to explore the Libido in the company of a tall black man.These precious moments in real life were, after all, recorded for posterity's rapt gaze to feast itself upon; real, hence, better than any Bible; and my only ambition is to provide a supplement: my spiders are real: I really thought of them, today, I did: so here goes, eternity, immortality, prepare to admit a few spiders, eyeless, yes, yet in other respects healthy, save for what might seem an over-strong predilection for verse, for song, for epic treatment of epic subject: admit them.


Tomorrow is Lovers Leap day; this storm is waning, and may not even precipitate.

Today I did two small control burns in the meadow, one in pine needle duff, one in oak duff/grass mix; it will be interesting to see if any wildflowers emerge there next spring.

The pine duff site was interesting because only the top layer burned; a layer of matted, partially rotten needles, too wet to burn, remained. I may someday burn off large areas. I learned again what I once knew, about letting ground fires burn against the wind, a truly controlled burn—while the wind holds steady.

Why burn? Just to reduce fuel-loading, enrich the soil, promote plant diversity, sweeten the soil. The blue field gilias like fire.

Walking down the driveway this evening, met a bobcat, walking up.

For instance, if I wish to promote the development of grasses, or turf, and I do, then burning off the duff from time to time will help keep soil available to reseed, rather than being buried beneath layers of deep pine needles. The key is burning at the right moisture content of the duff. If it is done regularly, it may serve to suppress ceanothus seedlings and promote wildflowers and grasses. Now, though, I just experiment. I'm also trying to burn off the Artemisia in the upper meadow; which reminds me…

I'm slowly winning the war against the horehound in the west meadow the Horrible Horehound is disappearing, clump by vicious clump. Within five years, I will have erased it almost entirely. (“almost” because certain stunted clumps will doubtless escaped my notice)”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/3/87   reading Gibbons account of Petrarch and Boccaccio, when a sudden crackling of leaves and thumping of porch convinced me that Tim was stopping by for a visit, as I'd hoped; but no! Stepping outside, I saw a mountain lion, some twenty-five feet to the southwest, gazing intently away from me, towards the sound of a deer racing through the oak woods. The lion did not acknowledge my presence; so I advanced, having the protection of high ground. It turned its gaze upon me, twisting its neck, licking its tail; and out of a kind of giddy suspense, I began making little smacking-of-the-lips, cat-come-hither sounds, which merited only a steadier gaze. It might have had a collar on. After a while, it tired of my antics, and slipped silently into the dense brush. Suddenly, I heard the loud, coughing bark of a deer, a large one, by the sound of it, out near the cliffs; and after a moment's reflection, I grabbed Gay's camera and walked out there, hoping for a shot of the lion. No such luck. Returning, I found evidence of a frantic escape, near the cabin; deep gouges in the soft ground, where the deer had put everything into a scampering bounding charge; one gouge was inches from my porch, so I presume the lion to have thumped the porch itself, the deer, to have barely skirted it. I wouldn't be surprised to see a scratched deer wandering around, one of these days. They have been much less in evidence, lately; and now I know the reason why.

Today a sunny day, most welcome after three days of doom and gloom.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sun, 3 Dec 2000 20:44:26 -0800
To: Dave_Lawler
From: Russell Towle
Subject: GR
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD:287303:BLUFF.JPG:

Hi Dave,

Looking over the map again I feel sure that the depression-and-red-dirt-pile I found is indeed the shaft shown, in the Druid claim.

One of the claim maps you had showed a "Bourne's Ravine." Bourne is mentioned in the testimony about the early history of the Indiana Hill District in State of CA vs. GRD&M Co. There is another ravine tailing into Canyon Creek called Judd's Ravine. This I believe heads in the pass on the Indiana Hill ridge where the wagon road goes over. Borne's Ravine is farther north and I believe comes down to Canyon Creek right at the big tunnel, Judd's, a few hundred feet farther south. Both received moderate amounts of tailings from the gravels atop the ridge.

Attached, a picture of the Bluffs.

What I Should Have Said
[North Fork Trails blogpost, December 3, 2005: ]
I spoke at a PARC get-together last night, before a crowd of maybe forty people, about trails, and the Big Granite Trail, and what happens when a bulldozer skids logs over an ancient footpath, and so on.

I felt I had little time and could not properly develop my subject. But I am not much of a speaker, anyway, perhaps because I never make any notes, and just start flailing about, and hope for the best.

What I should have said is that the magnitude and pervasiveness of the old trails problem has only come into focus for me in recent years; that I am astounded that We the People did not rise up and stop the destruction, decades ago; that I am at fault and PARC is at fault, and of course TNF and the BLM are at fault, and the Placer County Supervisors are at fault ...

For, when I look back at my own efforts, it is as tho I had studied under FEMA, how best to fail; and under the geological Principal of Uniformity, if I myself am a miniature FEMA-in-inaction as it were, then as night must follow day, so also are the other environmentalists. Collectively, we have handled an emergency—the wanton destruction of our trails, our open space, etc.—in a most FEMA-like manner.

Perhaps we were waiting for some other agency, some other environmental organization, to do its simple duty. “Tahoe National Forest will guard the old trails,” one thinks, or, “the Sierra Club will step in and fix this,” or, “CDF won't let the loggers destroy Lost Camp and the head of the China Trail.”

Just as FEMA seems to have waited for other agencies to spring into action and provide leadership, after Hurricane Katrina.

I forgot to mention, to the people of PARC, the historic trails so ruined by logging they cannot be followed, not far from the Big Granite Trail: the Sugar Pine Point Trail, the Big Valley Trail, the Big Bend-Devils Peak Trail, the Monumental Creek Trail, the Mears Meadow Trail, ... ah ... the list goes on.

These are the very trails once used by many hikers and equestrians, through pristine forests and meadows, into steep gorges and canyons, and to various lakes; in Lardner's 1927 history of Placer County, he mentions that at Cisco, the original beginning of the Big Granite Trail, “guides and horses can be found here, for trips further into the mountains.”

So. These very ruined trails are the ones that would have been used on those trips “further into the mountains.”

Most all the damage there happened within the last three decades.

One might think, “the environmental movement is strong, here in California.”

To which I reply, “Yes, we are like FEMA! Wonderfully strong!”

No comments:

Post a Comment