February 17 (1986, 1987, 1988, 2004, 2005)
Intense Rain; and Sacred Chicken Dances

February 17, 1986    The rain, impossibly, continues; it hasn't stopped since — when? Four or five days ago.  The most visible of the cascades I can see from the cabin, over on the rocky slopes of that spur of Moody Ridge Ron La Lande named ‘Red Ridge’ has swelled to the largest volume in my experience, and if I got soaked going out to the cliffs here to see the river, I'm sure it must be higher than in any other flood episode I've witnessed. The rain is forecast to continue through the week (today is Monday.)

Not having anticipated such a heavy rain, I am low on ready firewood; cords remain to be cut near the cabin, but in this rain it's not too pleasant to be out and about.

Which reminds me: my balky car, refusing to start after a night in the rain of late, wouldn't even coast start yesterday. I'm out of cigarettes, out of food, and so on; so I may hike in to Alta this morning. Why, I am even out of coffee and powdered milk.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

2/17/87   Evening; well, now, yesterday I met with C & C and decided more or less upon the moment's spur, not to go to Sugar Bowl; but I drove down to Ed's to get the Seneca, the infamous tragedies of Seneca which Ed picked up for me at Moe's bookstore in Berkeley (Loeb Classical Library edition); later I returned to C&C's, walked down to the meadow with them and surveyed a possible building site for a second house. They gave me a check to cover expenses for going down to Sac to pick up their new stove, so, dear diary, I will now be able to make my land payment this month.

More importantly, dear diary, today dawned so bright and clear that I called Eric Peach around 7:30 A.M. and made plans to ski in to Devils Peak, which Eric and Paula and I did, getting the late start which I must regard as typical with them; but it was fine, fine, fine, unbroken expanses of perfect powder. We stayed late, and skied back down miles of road by starlight; but all went well, or, well enough. Just got home, around 9:30 P.M. So the day was a wonderful day, sunny, warm, wonderful in so many ways...”

[Russell Towle's journal]

2/17/88   Morning; soon to go to work; yesterday was most productive, at Ed's grubbing shrub dogwoods out by their roots in a paroxysm of shoveling and yanking and raking; today, more of the same; [...] should also try again to reach Deane K. Swickard at BLM, to confirm rumors that the Grays' land at Lovers Leap has been purchased. [...]

Evening: leafing through my foliated dictionary, I stumble across a sacred dance: Tripudium: a dance performed by the priests of Mars Gradivus (Mars Who Walks in Battle) on the Kalends of March, and also, also, dear diary, a technical term of augury, connoting a favorable omen, ‘when the sacred chickens ate so fast that the food fell out of their beaks.’ Wonderful! And wonderful that the Romans were such watchers of birds! Both augur and auspices come from ‘bird,’; the latter avis-specio, bird-watch. Crows on the left, thunder on the right, the sacred chickens snatching up the grain so fast it dribbles from their very beaks! Marvels, tripudii!

Spoke with Deane Swickard this morning, the rumor is false; what's more, he was to have negotiated with the Grays via an intermediary who turned out to be Mark Weiner: so Deane refused to proceed, to negotiate with a ‘fraudulent subdivider.’”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 16:03:54 -0800
To: North Fork Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: The Cedars' Dark Plan

Hi all,

Although only an amateur historian, I am gifted with omniscience. Needless to say, this offsets, to some extent, that lack of credentials, of degrees, that absence of even the smallest smell or echo of cap or gown, that mark me so well an amateur. Hence I can report the details of a conversation which took place in a cabin at The Cedars, late in the afternoon of October 13, 1953. It sheds some light on their Policy of Exclusion.
"Nyah-ha-haaa!" The braying laugh of hard-bitten lawyer Warbucks Babbitt Warbucks rang through a rustic little shingled edifice in the High Sierra of the North Fork American. He was one of several men seated around an oak table. A glance would show that all were men of substance, if not outright captains of industry. They were, after all, members of The Cedars.

The men glanced furtively at one another, and dared the shadows of smiles. Had a solution at last been found, for the age-old problem of The Public hiking on the old public trails across Cedars lands? Warbucks *seemed* pleased; but could not this be some sort of courtroom trick, before he let the hammer drop, and caught you up in a web of perjury, or worse?

Finally, the most substantial of the substantial men spoke. Call him "Jones" (I wish to protect the privacy of his descendants). "Do you mean to say, Warbucks," Jones inquired, with all that studied gruff hoarseness of voice which showed him a real m—n's man, "that we can keep these people off Cedars land, for good? And if so, how? What's our weapon?"

Warbucks did not answer immediately. His gaze slowly moved from one expectant face to the next, and then at last he nodded, and spoke, with a quiet assurance, slightly tinged with triumph.


The word rang out starkly and strangely alone in that small room so full of people. The shadows of smiles dwindled away. Jones at last remarked, laughing nervously, "Ha, ha, Warbucks! I presume you mean, jestingly of course, that our Armed Caretakers should actually kill the trespassers—and yes, *then* they'd get the message—ha ha!-or they'd all be dead—ha! But seriously, Warbucks, we need an iron-clad legal strategy. We didn't fly you all the way out here from Washington to make jokes! What's your *real* plan?"

"Death!" Warbucks replied, firmly yet soberly. "Death, and more 'No Trespassing' signs than any sane person would ever care to imagine. Here's the plan, fellows; have no fear; you've nearly laid The Public in the dust at your feet already."

And Warbucks Babbitt Warbucks explained that time was on their side: only a very few people alive remembered hiking the old public trails before The Cedars arrived on the scene, and those who *were* still alive were not likely to be doing any hiking (being quite old). It only remained to post the very very many 'No Trespassing' signs, patrol the trails with the Armed Caretakers, ordering all hikers to leave, and soon enough *the children of the last men and women to hike the old trails freely, would themselves be dead*. With them would die the last credible hearsay that any public trail had ever existed on Cedars lands.

"Once the second generation is dead," Warbucks summed up, "the war is over, and The Cedars has won."

His audience mulled over this "Warbucks" plan. One of the younger men (he could scarcely have been a day over fifty) gestured toward a pile of papers on the table. "What about the old maps, showing these trails—the Heath Springs Trail, the Anderson Peak Trail, and so on. Won't 'The Public' be able to use the maps to show that these were once public trails?"

"'The Public' won't ever get that far, young fellow," Warbucks replied derisively. "Listen carefully: burn those maps, and if anyone ever asks, tell them that 'certain Forest Service maps erroneously depicted private trails as public trails.' Not only that, but start telling anyone and everyone that The Cedars itself made those trails."

"But, Mr. Warbucks, sir," the youngish man exclaimed, "we didn't build those trails! I mean, sure, we cleared some brush off them, and so on, but those trails are *old*! In fact, my research shows that the Heath Springs Trail was being used in 1862, and ..."—but Warbucks would not let him continue to describe his 'research'.

"Young man!" he thundered, "If anyone inquires, anyone at all, you just say, 'The Cedars built those trails,' and by God, you dress the story up nicely—tell them, what, anything—'Grandpapa says that it used to take a whole day to get down to Heath Springs, before we built the trail,' and then, you stick to your guns!

"After all," Warbucks finished, and here he fixed them with a truly steely gaze, "You own one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Just because men and women and their families used to hike and camp and fish here, way back when, doesn't mean that you, The Cedars, shouldn't have it all for yourselves, now and forever more.

"So: nail up your ten thousand 'No Trespassing' signs, patrol your trails, and wait. Death will solve your problems, permanently."

Date: Thu Feb 17 06:20:21 2005
To: "Terri"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: FW: Visit to Canyon Creek
> Hi Russell and thank you!   I have actually signed some petitions and written letters about things I feel passionately about in my time...although nothing so close to home that I can remember. I was involved in putting together some things regarding Siberian Tigers, which as you know are on the endangered species list...and I have signed petitions to save the Alaskan Wolves. I had not been aware of anything happening regarding the North Fork Canyon, which is perhaps a sad statement to make, but I do try to always speak truthfully.   At any rate, what I was getting at is...I'm not afraid to write a letter or sign a petition if I see something I feel is wrong or needs to be spoken up about, and at least try to make myself heard or get a message out.  I don't know how successful I have ever been, but at least it wasn't for lack of caring or trying.   Anyway, thank you so much for adding me to your list, I appreciate it very much.    Happy Hiking!   Terri D
 Well that's good.

There are so many threats to the NF I can't even begin to tell you.

Right now the issue which commands most of my attention involves a Placer County proposed new multi-use trail from The Confluence below Auburn, right up the south wall of the NF canyon to Ponderosa Bridge, 12.6 miles, 4 to 9 feet wide, nearly level.

I've been fighting this thing and with some friends we finally had to file a lawsuit.

Usually I'm all for trails. I live trails. But this is not my kind of trail and definitely not the NF's kind of trail.

While The County is spending money on trying to build this new multi-use trail (they call it the "North Fork American River Trail," acronym, NFART), our old historic trails are being closed to the public as people flock into Placer County and post "no trespassing" signs. So The County is letting existing historic trails be blocked and ruined, but somehow has the time and money to build a brand new trail.

Oh well. More of all this will become clear once you're on The List for a while. This is only one of all too many issues.

Date: Thu Feb 17 09:19:58 2005
To: "Paul Bryan"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: RE: North Fork Trails
> Russell, thanks a ton for the message, I have been trying to find info for a while. I was looking at topo's and was thinking about going down sailor canyon, then cruising down river until the mumford bar trail/tadpole creek, and hiking back out. This would keep us on one side of the river and the distance would be easily manageable. I figure if the distance is mellow we will be able to enjoy the surroundings more. The trip is set for March 15. Do you think the temp's will be freezing? I figure it will be wet but can we build small fires? What do you think about this route and would I be navigating by topo, or are there ART signs/major trails?
This is a nice hike, often done in one day.

On March 15 you will not get anywhere near Sailor Flat Trail up on the Foresthill Road; the snow will block access to that area until about June 1.

However, if you started at Mumford, you could walk up the canyon, and then back down.

Mumford too will be blocked by snow on March 15, but, the trailhead there is only 5300 feet so the snow won't be too deep, probably. And if you are lucky it will be rock hard. Just get to China Wall, where you park, early, and you will walk right over the top of the snow.

But that same snow could give you problems in the afternoon. So skis are something worth considering, at least for the three miles up to Mumford trail from China Wall.

So far as temps, the canyon collects cold air at night, and the lower you are to the river the colder it is. Unless there's a storm. But I would think it likely enough that in fair weather on March 15 it will be getting down to at least 40 degrees at night in that part of the canyon, and depending upon the overall air mass over CA, whether warm or cold, well, sure, you could see some freezing temps in that part of the canyon.

Fires will be fine. Build a bonfire so long as no trees are scorched, no rocks are blackened, and it's off the trail. I mean, leave no trace. But by all means have a fire. Use someone else's fire ring if you want. Try not to make new fire rings.

Once you are on the Mumford Bar Trail, there is really no too easy way of losing it or the American River Trail.

But the top of Mumford could be under snow and that really could be a bit of a navigation problem.

Well, good luck and call me if you want.

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