January 5 (2001, 2003)
Early Bloomer

“1/5/01  Cardamine californica (Dentaria californica) California Milkmaids, early bloomer; edible root; at The Terraces in Canyon Creek. Cruciferae (Brassicae ?).”

[Russell' Towle's field notes, "Gold Run Flora"] 

Cardamine californica, Placer County, CA. January 5, 2001

The 'Terraces' are tent-sized flat areas—former miners' cabin sites—on a side trail of the Canyon Creek Trail that leads to the base of one of the waterfall sections of the Canyon Creek gorge.

See also another of Russell's photos of California Milkmaids, in the CalPhotos database at UC Berkeley:
More about California Milkmaids, from the “Encyclopedia of Life” data base:
Cardamine californica has a bioregional distribution that includes Oregon, the California Floristic Province and Baja California. Elevations of occurrence are less than 1200 meters. Common habitats are shaded locations, particularly in canyons and woodlands.

With a common name Milkmaids, this perennial has rhizomes less than two centimeters long and is tuber-like. The stem rises to a mature height of 20 to 70 centimeters. Leaves exhibit leaflets or lobes of cauline leaves that are entire, wavy or dentate. The cauline leaves are alternate, with lower leaves long-petioled, and upper ones short-petioled to sessile. The inflorescence has flowers whose petals are nine to 14 millimeters long, and white to pale rose in color. This species is one of the earliest to bloom within its range.
Further, from:

The alternate common name of Toothwort probably has to do with bulges on the root of the plant that appear tooth-like and with the suffix "wort" being the generic name for an herb. Milkmaids and other plants in the same family have the alternate family name of Cruciferae because of the four petals that bend backward and resemble a cross. 
It is officially a member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family. Edible Brassicaceae include brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, rutabagas, kohlrabies, and turnips, all descended from a single ancestor, a wild cabbage. Caradamine, meaning "strengthen the heart" refers to the herb's  medicinal value.

Date: Sun, 5 Jan 2003 12:30:21 -0800
To: North Fork Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Green Valley Trail

Hi all,

Following the Perpetual Storm, the weather has gradually warmed and cleared, and there have been several days recently in which the temperature here at 4000' has risen to 65 degrees. This morning dawned clear and I debated whether to dash over to Gold Run and down the Canyon Creek Trail to the Big Waterfall, which ought to be in fine form with so much snow melting up higher in Canyon Creek, or, to drop down into Green Valley, where the Martins of Alta had reported a tree down across the trail. I decided on Green Valley.

It so happens that my chainsaw is ailing, and yesterday I had spent far too much time cutting far too little firewood, for, from some matter of carburetion, the saw refused to run at peak rpm and had perhaps half its usual horsepower. A thorough cleaning of the air filter, and a desperate twisting of tiny screws, without even knowing just what those tiny screws were intended to adjust, had yielded no improvement. So, today I decided to take only my loppers and my huskiest, nastiest handsaw, and hope for the best.

My primary goal, as I conceived it, was to descend to the high mining ditch of the Green Valley Blue Gravel Mine, and explore a certain section of it. It once was a wonderful trail, and it could be again. And it seemed only right to pause and take care of the fallen tree along the way.

So, down down down, watching the snowy summit of Snow Mountain slowly sink out of view, twenty miles to the east, and then, passing the Echo Tree, halfway to the river, a few switchbacks brought me to the fallen tree, a Digger Pine (or, to be politically correct, a Foothill Pine) with two trunks, each around six or eight inches in diameter. It had crushed down a mass of manzanita, so a welter of pine and manzanita branches were woven across the trail as well. I began with the loppers, and sadly, my fine Fiskars soon broke. I need to find a source of new cutting blades for those loppers. They are such good loppers.

However, most of the branches were out of the way, and I began on the trunks. Four cuts were needed. Each cut was hampered by the sagging of the trunk in question, which would then bind the blade of the saw. So there was a fair amount of acrobatics, climbing up or kneeling down into various positions in order to cut from one side, or the other, or even from the bottom, up.

In an hour I had it all done. I had taken off my shirt long before, and collapsed in the shade of the manzanita, sweating, scratched, even bloody.

There was a certain trembling in my sore muscles which told me that it would be ever so much nicer not to perform any more strenuous exercises on this fine day. Then there was the matter of the 49ers' playoff game this afternoon. The river could wait. After resting for a while, I started back up the trail, pausing occasionally to eke out a few water bars, which are badly needed along many reaches of that trail. My itsy bitsy little water bars might last through one middling storm. What is needed is some serious mattock and shovel and rock work, in which hefty slabs of rock, no less than eighty pounds apiece, are embedded in a line at an angle across the trail, in many places, forcing runoff to the side.

Such was a couple hours on the Green Valley Trail


Russell Towle

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