April 17 (1978, 1982, 1987, 2001, 2006, 2014)
Vulture Houses

4/17/78 morning. sky of blue above, white fog streaming downcanyon below; as the sun warms the slopes, the fog is tugged up and evaporated, and the downcanyon flow slows. will fair-weather cumulus appear above when the fog is gone below, as has often been the case?”

[Russell Towle's journal]

4/17/82 Dawn at Moody Ridge. ... Last night, a lucky omen, we saw two Saw-whet owls perched on the branches of a large oak nearby. They were nuzzling and/or feeding one another and were nicely silhouetted against the twilight sky.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

4/17/87 Yesterday I drove to [...] the Foresthill Ranger District headquarters of TNF, where I looked over the Environmental Assessment for the Corral Springs timber sale. After a couple of hours hunched over inscrutable documents, scrutinizing the inscrutable, I hung it up and, on impulse, drove out to visit the Placer County Big Trees northernmost grove of Sierra redwoods, very nice, very fine forest of just that sort I've become accustomed to find in association with Sequoia giganteum. Huge sugar pines, ponderosa pines, and white fir and douglas fir stood in attendance upon the half-dozen or so redwoods; a few incense cedar, dogwoods, alders, and so on, interlarding.

The weather is unseasonably warm. Why, just day before yesterday—the day Rob and I skied Donner Ski Ranch—the black oaks around my cabin and the meadow suddenly sprouted leaves. I'd remarked to Rob that temperatures must be record-breaking—they were, reaching 94 degrees in Sacramento. Today was nearly equally warm; the car overheated, of course.


And continued... today I wrote letters to R. Johnson and A. Dow, district rangers from TNF, asking for special consideration for the views from Lovers Leap, Casa Loma, Iron Point, and Big Valley Bluff, and enclosing copies of Ben Frank's and Aubrey Drury's accounts of the canyon... took all morning; hope some good comes from it.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 16:04:51 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Hydropower Project
Cc: Karen Callahan

Hi all,

I have added a few flowers to the flower gallery, see
[Current link to the archived page is:
Karen Callahan of the California Native Plant Society has been a great help in identifying some of these flowers. Yesterday we visited the California Ground Cones near the top of the Pickering Bar Trail, and saw some interestng light yellow variants.

Today I met with Rick Humphreys and several others from Placer County agencies, along with Dean Decker of BLM, to hear about Rick's ideas for hydropower development in the Gold Run diggings. I immediately jumped in with both boots fully strapped, and objected that the main pit at Gold Run, the drain tunnel to Canyon Creek, and that part of Canyon Creek itself, are all in the Gold Run Addition to the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River; and that, therefore, it was unlikely that any kind of hydropower development would be permitted. Dean then waded in with the positive assertion that not only was it not likely, but, barring any change by Congress of the Wild & Scenic River Act itself, it was impossible.

Then we set off on a tour of the Polar Star pit at Dutch Flat, and then to the overlook on the Bluffs of the main pit at Gold Run. Rick Humphreys emphasized that he was mainly trying to acquaint the various agencies with the potential for hydropower development on such sites (hydraulic mine pits with drain tunnels), not with any actual project at Gold Run. That seemed good enough for now, and Dean and I then drove in to check up on recent bulldozer activity in the diggings, involving some claims there.

I wish BLM could just withdraw all those lands at Gold Run from mineral entry.


Russell Towle

Vulture Houses
[North Fork Trails blogpost, April 17, 2006:
http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2006/04/vulture-houses.html ]
Inspired by Mike Case and Jay Shuttleworth, I sent the following to the Editor of the Auburn Journal.

Editor of the Journal:

It is long past time to stop building houses overlooking the American River Canyon. Not only are such houses at desperate risk from wildfires (it is as bad as building in floodplains), but they mar the view for all the rest of us.

We are very lucky here in Placer County, to have some of the most beautiful terrain on earth. Lake Tahoe; the Sierra Crest, with Mt. Lincoln, Tinkers Knob, and Granite Chief; and, of course, our many canyons.

The North Fork of the American River canyon, in particular, is Placer county's own Yosemite, for miles over three thousand feet deep, rife with waterfalls and trackless gorges. This was once called the Great American Canyon, or The American River Canyon. It was famous nationwide, being visible from the Central Pacific Railroad in many places; why, the trains used to stop, at American View, above Alta, so the passengers could enjoy the view of Giant Gap, that incredible chasm portrayed by Thomas Moran in an etching.

That incredible view stirred our forefathers' souls, and for a time, it was called Jehovah's Gap. But the old Gold Rush name stuck.

That incredible gorge, now lined with houses. Some of the worst are out on Lovers Leap Road, and a new one is a-building at Bogus Point.

They are a blight on our landscape and a curse on our children.

If we had done nothing, thirty or forty years back, we would now have houses and "no trespassing" signs lining every inch of California's coast. We need to take care of our scenery, our wild places and open spaces, and our very remarkable American River Canyon.

Russell Towle
The "vulture houses" of Lovers Leap continue to un-grace the North Fork American canyon within the Wild & Scenic corridor.
April 17, 2014
Below, see a different kind of resident of the Lovers Leap clifftop—
can you spot this one, camouflaged in her environment?

Look close in the very center of the photo.
She's easy to spot in the cropped, enlarged second photo.

California Mountain Kingsnake
(Lampropeltis zonata)

Photographed by Gay Wiseman, April 2014

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