[Russell Towle's journal]
April 12, 1986: A cold and blustery morning, after days of sun, wearing cut-offs. prospecting a little with and without Alex ...
To bed early, and early to rise, this morning up before six, off to the meadow to gather pine cones for kindling, the meadow where of late a few deerbrush stumps have been burnt. ...
Looked up from face-fitting [assembling the faces of a geometrical model] to see a powerful lot of sleet falling, so went out and tried to get the Toyota up to the meadow before it was too late, but, it was too late. So gave up and fitted another face.
[Russell Towle's journal]
4/12/88 Morning, sunny, cooler, but balmy, hazy, dogwoods nearing full bloom, ferns sprouting skyward, a third cup of coffee in the making.
[Russell Towle's journal]
April 12, 1998
A snowy morning. This spring has been a stormy one, as was the winter, although these spring storms have been quite mild affairs, cold, often snow, but very light amounts. However, they are spaced close enough together that a sunny day is a rarity. Neil and I have been planning a Canyon Creek hike for over a month now, and have been rained out every Wednesday (his day off).
My big pool project at the gully below the middle spring has also provided lots of work. I have dug out tons and tons of soil, exposing a bank of rhyolite ash about twenty feet long and ten feet high. It is tempting to extend the bank laterally a few feet to either end but more tons of soil would be involved, and I am sick of digging. The basic idea is to build a dam and impound a small pond about sixteen feet across, and roughly circular, and about six to eight feet deep. A lot of masonry work. Also, the idea is to carve away the weak volcanic ash at the base of the bank to make for a vertical, not sloping face.
[Russell Towle's journal]
Date: Sat, 12 Apr 2003 10:18:14 -0800
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Bear on the SHOUT
Tom McGuire tells me that Thoreau wrote, "If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."
Aspiring to loaferhood, Ron Gould and I essayed a reconnaissance of the SHOUT (the Super-High Old Upriver Trail) on Friday. We met at the Dutch Flat exit on I-80, snuck into the Gold Run Diggings, and hied on down the Canyon Creek Trail with scarcely a pause to admire the wondrous array of flowers. The day was cloudy and cool, tho a strip of bright sky to the west suggested that a clearing would soon approach.
Striking east on the HOUT, we at last reached the Realm of Uncertainty. Here the HOUT splits into multiple trail threads, and as one follows any one, some other thread may be glimpsed above or below, and one worries, which is the "right" trail? The thread which drops to the river just west of Big West Spur is least obstructed by brush, and most used by people over recent decades, but Ron and I were interested in holding a higher line, since there is every reason to believe that the SHOUT is really the continuation of the HOUT. We chose a trail-thread which soon enough split into smaller threads, and Ron stayed on the high road, while I took the lower. With the very loud roar of the river below, we were soon out of voice contact, but struck Big West Gully about the same time, and regrouped on the east side of the gully, on the steep slopes of Big West Spur.
The clouds had lowered, and the canyon rim, two thousand feet above us, was hidden in fog. After a short rest which brought on a chill to our sweaty bodies, we contoured along, and soon spotted a trail just above. Climbing to it, I was sure it was the SHOUT, the part I had failed to find on Wednesday. We followed it back towards Big West Gully and were pleased to find that it matched up well with Ron's higher line. Then we turned back and made for the heart of Giant Gap.
The secret of the SHOUT is well-protected. Anyone with sufficient determination can find it, but to follow it along the west side of Big West Spur is difficult. We passed a nice bear bed, set into the center of a cluster of Canyon Live Oak trunks, right on the trail, and marked in the usual way bears mark their beds, with large piles of poop a few feet away. Other such piles were along the line of the SHOUT, so we saw that this fine old trail is no secret to the bears.
At a couple places the SHOUT disappears beneath an active talus slide, or is as well as obliterated by some mass of gnarled bushes and poison oak. We were always able to regain it easily enough, and were impressed with its width and integrity, after perhaps 140 years of disuse. Many are the places where dry-laid stone walls bolster the SHOUT and allow it to hold an almost level course, there on the west side of Big West Spur.
Resting here for a good long while, we were pleased when a glimmer of sunshine spread across the cliffs of Giant Gap. It is really quite remarkable to be able to enter the very heart of Giant Gap at this time of year, without having to use a kayak or raft, and without having to do much real rock-climbing. We were directly opposite the very base and axis of the Pinnacle Ridge. No eagles were seen, but a Redtail Hawk made a visit.
So far as an eastward continuation of the SHOUT, we could see nothing; however, since if it does exist, it simply must follow a certain sequence of Canyon Live Oak groves along the cliffs, where it would be hidden from our gaze, we could by no means rule out its continuation.
During our retreat west, we were able to clear up several uncertainties as to the exact course of the SHOUT. We were eager to connect the SHOUT from the Bear Bed, across Big West Gully, to the HOUT, but, although at first we met with success, soon enough we were confronted again with multiple alternatives, and, I think, lost the true line of the high trail.
|Looking down the canyon from that easternmost part of the SHOUT (Super-High Old Upriver Trail) that we reached; the lavender line shows our route.|
|A rendering of the N. Fk. American watershed landscape, viewed S to N, created |
from digital elevation map data using the 3D rendering software POVray.
April 12, 2006, by Russell Towle. Click to enlarge.
Foxholm, and Mike Case's Letter
[North Fork Trails blogpost, April 12, 2006:Yesterday, scouting for sound, dead maple trunks to cut for firewood (the tight grain of the Bigleaf Maple keeps the wood amazingly dry, even after constant storms), on a steep hillside in the rain (it has rained or snowed continuously since March 1st, and my family has consumed a ton or five of firewood more than usual), I was staggering along beneath an ancient Kellogg's Black Oak, five feet in diameter but only twenty feet tall, broken down in storms decades ago, and almost, almost, but not quite, dead. I have often admired this recondite monster, with its giant burls. I noticed, yesterday, that a bear had been by recently, and clawed loose bark away from one of the burls. Climbing around and above the tree, I was passing it on a faint game trail when a plump grey fox suddenly jumped down from about ten feet above ground level and raced away. I suppose it has its den inside the monstrous oak, although I could not see the entrance. For an instant, while the fox was in mid-air, it was less than six feet from me. Foxholm of the Ancient Oak.
Those who have been on this email list for a few years will recall Mike Case's interesting accounts of trips down the North Fork with his son, Jason, from Euchre Bar to Mineral Bar.
What makes their trips exceptional is that they would spend a week or ten days or more making this distance, of maybe fifteen river miles. Hence they had time to really appreciate the great canyon and the river and the strange magic and mystery which seems to overtake one, there. Well do I recall Mike's stories of the ghostly Chinese music.
Also interesting is that Mike lives in Alaska and knows wilderness like few others. He flies into the back country and hunts and fishes and camps.
Yet he loves the North Fork American River like he was born and raised here.
Here is a letter Mike wrote to Mr. Ferenback of Friends of the River:
Dear Mr. Ferenback:Thanks for that letter, Mike. I don't know what FOR can do, but they ought to do something about the vulture houses which try to impose themselves upon the great canyon, and upon all of us who love it.
My name is Michael Case and I'm writing you from Alaska. I have a great concern about the deteriorating ascetic quality of the North Fork of the American River. I will try to keep it short. Above Green Valley there are a growing number of "mansions", or homes that rich people are building right on the canyon rim. Everyone who utilizes this portion of the river cannot escape the sight of these homes perched on the rim, overlooking everything wilderness minded people do on the river. I have been down this portion of the river several times and cringe when entering this section of river now. Using field glasses one can see the people up there sitting on their fancy decks with telescopes looking down upon us, watching our every move. These houses litter the landscape of the valley, and GREATLY detract from the "Wild and Scenic" quality of the river, and the wilderness experience.
My question is, why are these people being allowed to build on the canyon rim, within plain sight of everyone using the river, when this is a "Wild and Scenic" river? I thought the reason we had Wild and Scenic rivers was so people could get away from civilization and back to pristine nature. Are people going to continue to be allowed building and trashing the view from the river? I can just imagine the conditions 30 years from now if this dreaded building isn't stopped in its tracks now - there will be literally hundreds of homes lining the canyon rim, and the river will no longer have any "Wild or Scenic" value. If this sort of thing is going to be allowed, why not open the river back up to gold dredgers, motor cycles, atv's, etc. The Wild and Scenic quality of the river is being lost anyway. I find it very infuriating that this is being allowed.
Thank you for your time.