March 20 (1987, 2001, 2003)
Eagles and Trash

“3/19/87 Snow, snow in the afternoon: slow falling snow falling slowly and individually down, down to cling or melt or live or die or disappear as the case may be...

Skies cleared at sunset. The day was cold. All day I wondered at the strong vertical development in the clouds; they made a pretty picture, especially down by Auburn. I suspected sun-warming to be responsible. At the least, in support of the above, I can refer to the clearing of the skies at sunset.

This typewriter is decrepit. I'm constantly having to compensate for its foibles; a cluster of keys stick together, or the shift double-shifts, or this or that; and only my acute coordination prevents the text from disintegrating into a hopeless shambles. Sort of like leaping down, boulder to boulder, leaping down a talus slope in the high mountains, making instantaneous changes and compensations small or large for the exigencies of the moment. It's sort of like that.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

“Moss, Close Up”
March 19, 2001

Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2003 15:44:12 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Visit to Giant Gap

Hi all,

On Tuesday I met Tom McGuire and Catherine O'Riley for a visit to Canyon Creek and the lower reaches of Giant Gap. The storms of previous days had cleared at last, and a pure blue sky and bright sun blessed us all day long.

At eight a.m. we snuck into the Gold Run Diggings, and drove to the trailhead. It was nice hitting the trail earlier than usual. In places the creek was still in shadow, or only just then kissed by the sun. Tom marveled at everything, and we kept up this silly refrain of "You ain't seen anything yet" until it grated upon our ears and we just abided. 

It was crucial to show Tom Everything, so we stopped at the great tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company, and then again, at the Blasted Digger Overlook, with its fine view through Giant Gap to the snow peaks in the upper North Fork of the North Fork basin, Black Mountain and Quartz Mountain. We took him on the Six Inch Trail and to the Big Waterfall, and then the Terraces.

At the Terraces we watched a pair of Golden Eagles circle slowly above the Diving Board Ridge, and snacked. Then we advanced to the High Old Upriver Trail, at essentially the same elevation as the Terraces--no coincidence?--and began winding along the cliffy slopes east, into Giant Gap. A few more early flowers have appeared, and some of the earliest have already finished blooming. The yellow Biscuit Root was much in evidence, and we saw it visited by a Tiger Swallowtail.

Reaching the river, we took another of many breaks, and joked about swimming. The North Fork is running high and cold after the recent storms. Then it was on to the next segment of the upriver trail. I left my pack at the old camping terrace, where some garbage needed picking up, and we walked the last few yards to the lovely little cliff-top view spot, from which you can see directly into one of the narrowest gorges of Giant Gap. Another prolonged break had a unique reward: two eagles appeared over Eagle Puke Point, high on the Pinnacle Ridge, almost directly above us, and with Tom's binoculars it was possible to identify one as a smaller, probably male, Golden Eagle, while the larger bird was a Bald Eagle, likely a female. We watched them for five minutes or so, circling, climbing effortlessly, and then the Bald took a plunge back down to the Pinnacles and skimmed the crags northward into the depths of Giant Gap, and out of view.

So, due to pollution, and the all-around tendency of things to go to hell in a handbasket, we feel certain that some unnatural spawn of these creatures is now to follow, a Golden Bald Eagle, or some such thing.

Packing up the garbage took a while, as the plastic bottles and whatnot were scattered over the poison-oak-infested slopes below the terrace, and there were two five-gallon buckets, and some kind of tent or tarp, soggy and smelly, and really, all kinds of junk. We took it all on our backs and made the long slow march out and up and up and up, and that was one more super-fine day in Canyon Creek and Giant Gap.


Russell Towle


  1. Did you ever figure out who took the picture of Russ that is in the sidebar? You say 2004. The previous garbage hike had Catherine, Julie and Mike. I thought that might have been the day the picture was taken but I saw another photo of Russ taken that day and he was wearing a different shirt (Tin Tin). So if the sidebar photo is from a 2004 garbage hike, could this be the one and it was taken by Tom?
    Russell writes of removing the cave-in in the tunnel by the spring. He had told me how the tunnel caved-in soon after he had done some work on it. So was this cave-in that he talks about removing that cave-in or some previous cave-in. I hope he wasn't try to open it back up after it almost got him.

  2. Observant! Maybe Tom is the one who took that sidebar photo. I hope he'll check in here; I'd like to add a photo if he might have one of Russ from this day, and then we'd find out.

    About the excavation of the cave-in, this is the beginning of the episode you remember him telling about. Stay tuned for the rest of the story ;)

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Ah, what a memorable outing! I do not recall taking that photo, and on checking my archives, do not have it. . .