February 15 (2005, 2006, 1894)
Letter-Writing Activism

Date: Tue Feb 15 2005
To: "Terri"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: FW: Visit to Canyon Creek
>Good Morning, Two of my friends are on your email list [North Fork Trails] and have suggested I contact you to see if you will place me on the list as well. Roger [...] the person who forwarded this email to me, and Janice [...] seconded the idea. My father introduced me to the joys of hiking and backpacking when I was 6 years old, and I have never stopped loving it. I have been well taught the rules of leaving the areas you have been in as pristine as you found them, and have recently began bringing a digital camera with me on my hikes so that I can photograph my trips.  Hopefully you will feel I'm an okay person to put on your list, and if you would like a little more information about me before you decide, please feel free to ask any questions you may have.

Sincerely, Terri [...]
Roseville, California
Hey Terri, you are exactly the kind of person who I like to have on my list, so you're added!

Well. Perhaps not *exactly*. Heh heh. The absolutely perfect person to have is one who will actually stand up for preserving wild places like the North Fork canyon. I mean, at least, write an occasional letter, or sign a petition, or speak at a hearing, or some such thing.

Not every day necessarily, but every once in a while.

Because--the North Fork is an amazing treasure, and we are squandering it. And the horrible thing is that tho many people know and love the canyon, very few ever do anything to protect it.

Oh well, my rant.

Thanks for your interest. Give me a call if you want to see the Canyon Creek Trail and you are willing to write one letter to the BLM and copy it to our representatives. That's my price on the CCT.


Russell Towle

Letter to the Editor published in the Grass Valley Union, (online here) on February 15, 2006
Keep Trail Open
By Russell Towle

In last Saturday's article about a trail dispute near Donner Lake, Nevada County supervisors Ted Owens and John Spencer are said to support the abandonment of the easement, so that private property can reign supreme, while We the People can "go take a hike" — somewhere else.

This so-called "stock trail" is the Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road. It was built as a toll road serving the mines of Virginia City, during the Civil War, but after completion of the Central Pacific Railroad, in 1869, it was given to Placer and Nevada counties by Leland Stanford and Charles Crocker.

It is one of the most historic roads in all California, not to put too fine a point on the thing.

It has been a public road since 1869, and is the direct predecessor of the Lincoln Highway, Highway 40, and today's I-80.

It must remain open to the public, and the "no trespassing" signs and boulders removed.

Russell Towle

Dutch Flat
Much more about this trail/road, including its current status, access points, maps and photos,  may be found here:  http://www.historicdonnertrail.org/

The article below, published in the Sentinel* with the dateline February 15, 1894, is the contents of a file on Russell's hard drive labeled “Wabena Falls 1893.” It is a little fun to speculate on just what Russell might have written to the Editor of the Sentinel in response to this, had he lived in that era.

[*Probably the Colfax Sentinel, which was in publication at that time.  —Gay]
Quartz Ledge Of Promising Character
Situated in the Mountains Of Eastern Placer,
Near Snow Mountain Falls on the North Fork.

Sacramento, February 15th, 1894.
Editor of the Sentinel:—Last summer while spending a few weeks at Summit Soda Springs, on the North Fork of the American river, Placer county, a report reached me of a strike in quartz that had recently been made at a point a few miles down the river, and as time was hanging somewhat heavily, a friend and myself concluded to combine a fishing trip with a visit to the new discovery. So early one morning with saddle horses and fishing outfit, we started over the rough trail that leads down the river from Soda Springs. A ride of five miles brought us to Snow Mountain Falls, where owing to the rugged nature of the canyon, further progress with horses was impossible. Leaving our animals here, and preparing our rods and lines, we scrambled down the river to a point two miles below, finding on our way many beautiful dark pools and sunny ripples from which the trout would eagerly leap as the flies were swung above or trailed lightly along their surfaces. The fishing was exceptionally good, and we found no trouble in filling our baskets—each fifteen pounds—with fine fat trout, mostly of the rainbow species, by the time we arrived at the place where we were to leave the river for the mine.

At this point the canyon attains its grandest aspect. Bold precipitous mountains rise 5000 feet above the river, the one on the north being so steep that hardly a bush or shrub of any kind has found a foothold upon its rocky side. A hard climb of 3000 feet brought us to the mine named Cinnamon Bear.  It is situated upon the south side of the American river, about seven miles west of Soda Springs, and some twelve miles in a southeast direction from Cisco, a station on the Southern Pacific railroad, and at an altitude of 5500 feet.

The country rock of the entire mountain is an eruptive porphyritic rock of a dark green color, containing blackish crystals of hornblende. The basic portion of this rock weathers to a pale green.  A mile to the east, the metamorphic rocks appear, which are in turn joined by volcanic rocks (tuffs and basalts) a few miles still farther to the east.  A mile to the west are the black slates, highly altered and indurated, the dip of their strata as seen across what is called Big Canyon seeming to coincide with the steep western slope of the porphyritic mountain that has been intruded among them.  The consequent grinding and crushing of the two formations along the line of contact, being the probable cause of origin of the canyon that separates the slates from the porphyry.  Among the metamorphic rocks to the east we noticed several interesting geographical features.  Among them are two quite extensive deposits of marble, that would no doubt answer for ornamental purposes. Also a bed of dark colored limestone, of an oolitic structure, which when struck with a hammer gave out a strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen gas, evidently the variety called stinkstein by the Germans.  A limited search revealed no fossils in this formation, most likely all traces of them having been destroyed by the closely surrounding plutonic rocks.  Near the limestone is a small, bunchy, and greatly contorted quartz vein, carrying a seam of plumbago a half an inch in thickness.

About two miles east of Snow Mountain Falls, situated upon a bench overlooking a deep gorge of the American river, is a group of five fine mineral springs (acidulous chalybeate).  A half mile west of these springs we found a number of garnets, some of them half an inch in diameter, embedded in a white feldspathic rock.  But to return to the mine.  Owing to the steepness of the mountain in the vicinity of the lode, every vestige of earth and shingle has been swept away, exposing the vein for a distance of 4000 feet.  It is a powerful fissure of the simple type, from four to nine feet in width, with a strike a little north of west, and south of east, and a flat dip to the south.  The gouge is a friable crystalline quartz, the ore shoots, several in number, heavily charged with the sulphides, oxides, and carbonates of the different metals, prominent among them being a beautiful variegated copper ore (bornite), also a rich-looking sulphide of copper (glance) and a copper-iron sulphide (chalcopyrite) are present.  We were shown two pieces of rock which were very prettily spangled and veined with the bright virgin copper.  Blue and green carbonate of copper are abundant as well as a sulphide of antimony (stribnite).  Pyrite of iron, specular iron, and hematite, can be seen along the face of the ore shoot.  Galena (sulphide of lead) and zinc (blende) occur more sparingly.

Up to the time of our visit no test had been made for copper though there was considerable ore in sight that would show a high percentage of the metal, at least thirty per cent.  The owners, who are somewhat inexperienced in mining, say that they did not suppose copper was of any account.  The only work that had been done on the lode was a prospect hole fifteen feet in depth, which had been sunk on the northwesterly ore shoot—this shoot is about 500 feet in length—from which one assay only had been made.  It showed $3 in gold and two ounces silver, add to this say twenty-five per cent copper and it is quite encouraging for croppings.

Although the lode lies so flat at this point, 1000 feet to the east it has a much sharper pitch, as much as forty degrees, indicating that considerable disturbance of the country rock has taken place since the deposition of the mineral vein.  In some places where the foot wall has crumbled away, huge blocks of quartz lean out from the hanging wall, which has the grooved and finely polished appearance characteristic of fissure veins.  It would seem that the most favorable conditions here combine for the formation of a valuable ore deposit, and with capital, a paying property could be developed.  No doubt better rock than the sample assayed could be found along a lode of such dimensions, and in such a vein higher grade ore could be confidently looked for with increased depth.

The advantages for working the mine cheaply are many.  A gravity tramway would take the ore from the mine to the river 3000 feet below, where there is an excellent mill site and unlimited water-power, the river here dropping 100 feet.  Of course, a tunnel started at the mill site would be the proper method of working the mine should developments justify such an expense.  Such a tunnel would cross-cut the lode at a perpendicular depth of 3000 feet and give over 4000 feet of backs completely draining and ventilating the mine.  Sufficient timber grows along the river for ordinary purposes where water power is used, while on the mountain 1000 feet above the mine are vast bodies of magnificent firs.  All these natural advantages together with such an imposing looking lode cannot but suggest pleasant possibilities.  Who knows but that here in Eastern Placer, only awaiting the touch of capital, lies a second Anaconda.  Obviously, like that famous mine its economic value will be found to consist in the copper and silver it contains.  The principal drawback is the difficulty that will be experienced in getting a wagon road to the property, though this will be a comparatively easy matter should Messrs. Montgomery, Dennit and Crittenden, the millionaire owners of the La Trinidad mine, three miles down the river, conclude to build a road from Cisco to their mine.  I am informed that work on such a road is to be begun early in the coming spring.  Also, that timbers are now being gotten out at that mine for a fine 20-stamp mill to be erected as soon as the snow will permit.

H.D. Bronson.

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