What is not ephemeral is the construction of houses along the rim of the canyon; I am distressed and worried about the prospects for major degradation of the view towards Giant Gap from Casa Loma and Iron Point. What can I do? I am thinking about it; thinking and thinking. Meanwhile, I am broke, flat broke, and unable to come up with my land payment this month.
Later in the afternoon… I walked out to the cliffs, where I could not bear to remain, hearing the roar of a bulldozer; Jon continues his personal clear-cut of the canyon wall, a tragedy, tragedy. That I should be shown the incredible beauty of this canyon, only to be tortured for years on end, watching it get raped; that one of the most beautiful views in California should survive into the 1970s, only to fall prey at last to the same old California greed… It is truly horrible. I hoped that those who bought parcels along the rim of the canyon would respect it; I hoped in vain. What can I do?
I talked to Dave today and learned that someone nailed up a sign on the power pole near the beginning of our driveway on Moody Ridge Road, reading “Lover's Leap Trailhead — Russell Muir, naturalist.” Dave tore it down. I should be proud, to be identified with Muir. I am proud.
Pride comes before a fall, and I see, in my minds eye, my obituary, prominently displayed in the Auburn Journal. What I see is not an impossibility. I should write some sort of will, and also compose a vision, in words, of the North Fork, of Lovers Leap and Casa Loma and Iron Pt.
Still later, […] after dark, I drift from time to time into wandering speculations about what to do—if anything—to preserve, to protect, to save substantially intact for future generations, the rare and really incredible beauty of the North Fork canyon hereabouts. Is there any chance for major zoning changes? The prospects seem dim to nonexistent. How about wholesale condemnation and purchase, by the feds, of every parcel of land along the rim of the canyon, including my own? Still less likely, what, then? What?
I found indescribable beauty in the Santa Cruz mountains, in 1967; the Cliffs, the Cave. San Mateo County's own little Yosemite, as I was later to learn—too late to do anything to protect it. When I became acquainted with this canyon, here, the North Fork, I knew I could not let any opportunity slip to prevent its degradation at the hands of Progress. I spoke on behalf of the canyon during the zoning hearings of the 1970s; I spoke to Jon, to Jimmy Formo, and later to my father, about building with respect for the incalculably wonderful view from Casa Loma and Iron Point; to no avail, to no avail. Finally, in 1983, spurred on by atrocious clearcuts, I composed and circulated my petition asking for re-zoning of the entire canyon rim along Giant Gap and Green Valley; but only Lovers Leap was accorded any change. My land-acquisition proposal for Lovers Leap seemed to fizzle, to die; but I persisted; and last year, when I finally made direct contact with BLM, I found the land acquisition proposal alive and well, much to my surprise. Yet still Emory Gray refuses to sell. So: condemnation. At Lovers Leap alone. Perhaps it's possible: for the entire canyon rim, a fantasy. Or is it? Is it not worth a try? I will stumble forward.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“4/27/88 Afternoon; relaxing with Cicero and coffee and jazz after a horrendous exertion yesterday, at Steve R.'s property above Baxter, helping him burn some large brush piles. Today, a dreamy spring day, partly cloudy, the light diffuse, the oaks in their most golden and precious, delicate and rapturous, new leaf-dress.
This morning, while out in the yard, heard a rustling, a squawking of stellar jays, and lo, there appeared, tail a-twitch with irritation, a bobcat, which sauntered over the edge and down the cliffs, herded along every step of the way by clamorous jays, flitting branch to branch, attracting others from farther aforest, hyperbolic parcels of blue complaint looping into convergence, scandals to celebrate, no time to lose!”
[Russell Towle's journal]
April 27, 2005
Visit to Canyon Creek
Wednesday morning I met Jeff Darlington of the Placer Land Trust for a brief tour of the Gold Run Diggings and the Canyon Creek Trail. Rain was in the forecast and clouds boiled up ominously to the east, after a grey morning, during which I had fretted, over and over, somewhat to this effect: "Just my luck, that on the one day when Jeff could break away and make the long drive up to Gold Run, to see for himself, something so remarkable—just my luck that clouds would chase shadows into hiding, and thus disguise the rarely beautiful canyon architecture. Plus, we'll probably get pretty wet."
However, it all went well, and much to my surprise the sun broke through the clouds from time to time, and we stayed dry. Jeff is young and fit and we made a near-record-dash down the trail, stopping a minute to look at the great tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co. (GRD&M), while I rattled on about the history, the Indiana Hill Ditch, Osmyn Harkness, James Marshall, and the State of CA vs. the GRD&M (1881).
Most of the mines at Gold Run discharged their tailings into Canyon Creek. Here and elsewhere around the hydraulic mines of the Sierra, such creeks-below-the-mines were themselves claimed, and sluice boxes installed to capture gold which escaped the mines above. The last two miles of Canyon Creek, above its confluence with the North Fork, were fitted up this way, with giant sluice boxes. In many places, terraces were blasted from the solid rock to allow construction of these sluices.
The stream of tailings, of mud and sand and cobbles and boulders and mercury and gold, was often split into three smaller streams. Huge iron bolts were set deeply into the bedrock to anchor the sluices, which were subjected to tremendous stresses from the flow of many tons of tailings around curves in the creek. Boulders of up to one hundred pounds were routinely allowed through the sluices of the mines above, in the Diggings. These could become jammed together and back up the tailings-stream. Hence the sluices needed constant attention, and many were the men who died on that job, being somehow pulled into the muddy mess. The boulders were raked out using a custom tool called a "sluice fork."
The upper mile of sluices were owned by J.A. Moody, for whom Moody Ridge is named. The lower mile were owned by W.H. Kinder, and later by the GRD&M. A remarkable historical record exists for the mines of Gold Run; many were the books and newspaper articles which described these mines, and of course there are also the 45 volumes of testimony taken in State of CA vs. the GRD&M, when the defense called many witnesses to testify to the history of the mines at Gold Run.
The men who tended the sluice boxes worked 12-hour shifts, for which they were paid $2.50. A single clean-up of Moody's Canyon Creek sluices could yield $25,000. Moody likely employed ten or twenty men, and it must have cost thousands of dollars each year in materials alone, to maintain and rebuild the sluices.
There was enough trouble with thieves stealing gold and amalgam from the sluices that, by 1870, it was not too uncommon for the owners to install booby-traps, with trip-wires connected to shotguns, or to cans full of black powder and nails.
One of the odd little nuggets of history which emerged, during my near-constant blather on the little old trail, involved the Anti-Chinese movement in California, which peaked in the late 1870s. A constitutional convention was held in 1879, and one of its fine fruits was a new state holiday: Anti-Chinese Day. I wonder if it was ever taken off the books.
Recently my son Greg wrote an essay for his history class at Alta-Dutch Flat School about the internment of California's Japanese, during WWII. He was struggling a bit, so I helped him Google some information, and told him about the Fighting 442nd, an all-Japanese unit in the U.S. Army, which was the most-decorated American unit in the war. Quite a few of Placer County's Japanese Americans fought in the 442nd. They saw much action in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Their casualties were severe.
One might have thought they would be given a hero's welcome upon their return to Placer County.
And when the Doi family were finally allowed out of their internment camp, up by the Oregon border, in the summer of 1945, and moved back into their home near Loomis, their fruit-packing shed was dynamited and burned, and men surrounded their house, pouring rifle fire into it.
Now, here is an example of justice in Placer County: the men responsible for this atrocity were all captured, and all confessed. And they were all acquitted.
There is a long tradition of such "justice" in Placer County.
Here is a letter-to-the-editor of Auburn's Placer Herald, from July, 1870. The author signs himself "Truth." One should know that in those days the Republicans stood for human rights, and the Democrats in opposition, and that the Sacramento Union was Republican, the Herald, Democratic. Also, from my research into Gold Run history I can deduce the names of many of the men mentioned below: for instance, J.H.T. is J.H. Talbott, one of the first mining claimants at Gold Run, back in 1851-52; and J.M. is the above-mentioned J.A. Moody. The terms "Celestial" and "mongolian" and "pigtail" refer to Chinese. The term "flume" refers to a sluice box.
Gold Run, July 2d, 1870Well, at any rate.
Editor Herald:-It is surprising to see a paper like the Sacramento Union showing its ignorance of California life, and nobody, as far as I have seen, willing to inform them of it. The Union has repeatedly tried to make people believe that the Chinese, as a class, are less given to offenses against the law than any other class, taking for its authority and proof the statistics of the State prisons. I intend to give the Union a few facts as they occurred in this precinct, which polls less than 200 votes; and I know from a long residence in the mines that it is about an average way of dealing with Chinamen who are caught stealing and robbing.
W.H.H., a storekeeper, detected a Chinaman stealing in his store. He did not call a constable, or prosecute him in the County Court, but tied him up in his cellar and beat him to his heart's content, and afterwards invited others, not belonging to the store, to try the good qualities of the blacksnake on the pet of the Union. Sometime during the night, he turned the Chinaman loose, more dead than alive. This is fact No. 1—not included in the statistics of the State prison.
J.H.T. and C.C., owners of claims adjoining each other, caught two Celestials cleaning up their flume. After a pretty close chase they brought them to town, held a consultation with other miners, and concluded to take them out of town and administer sentence upon them; and rumor has it that at least one of them will never rob sluices again. Fact No. 2—not taken from statistics.
J.M. noticed a pigtail very busy in his tail flume, without being aware of having hired him to do so; and not believing that the Chinaman was doing any good to his (M.'s) prosperity, he stopped him, and after a struggle tied his hands and brought him to town. If my recollection serves me right, this Chinaman did not have the benefit of increasing the percentage of Chinamen in the statistics of the State prison. Fact No. 3.
J.K., old man W., and others living in the neighborhood, had their cabins broken into, and contents abstracted. One day they found three Chinamen very industriously packing up grub, clothing, etc., in one of the miners' cabins; and after a short consultation agreed on a verdict. At least one of the Chinamen never stole again. Dr. Nelson, formerly of Dutch Flat, at present in Sacramento, can give the Union the particulars of this case, as well as others, inasmuch as he gave his testimony before the coroner's jury. Fact No. 4.
R.B. (now deceased), being hired to look to the tail flume of J.H.H., seeing some Chinamen in an "undercurrent" belonging to the flume, evidently cleaning up, and as he had a shotgun with him, and did not deem it prudent to go near them, he fired, and in about a week a dead Chinaman was found in the vicinity, with a few drops of cold lead in his back. Fact No. 5.
I could go on almost until the columns of the Placer Herald would be crowded with facts of this kind, but I hope the Sacramento Union will come to the conclusion that the statistics of the State prison will not hold good as proof that the Chinese as a class are little given to offenses against the law. And, furthermore, that the people of the mining districts generally take the law into their own hands, and save the County and State thousands of dollars every year, and prevent the necessity of building branch prisons, which would be absolutely needed if they prosecuted every rascally Chinaman caught robbing and plundering good citizens.
If it were possible to give full statistics of such facts as I have given above, through the whole State, the number would be three times as large as the whole number of convicts now at San Quentin, white, black and mongolian; and I feel safe in asserting that most of the Chinese convicts at San Quentin are sent there from the larger cities and towns, where officers and courts are handy.
If the Union doubts any of my statements, I can furnish them the full names of the persons mentioned above.
-After I had written the above I learned that last night (July 1st) about 2 o'clock, G.B., hired by Bradley & Co. to watch their flume, saw Chinamen in the flume cleaning up, and having more buckshot in his gun than he wanted to pack, let one barrel of it fly, and if the tracks of blood which some of the men found this morning are any indication, there will be a Chinese funeral shortly, and I will notify the editors of the Union in time, by telegraph, if they will act as pall bearers.
Jeff and I stopped by the Big Waterall, then the Terraces, and felt a few vagrant raindrops while scampering down to a point low on the main trail which offers quite a fine view up the canyon into Giant Gap. The clouds didn't just threaten, they plainly promised rain, so we decided to play it safe and start back up. We took the side trail off to the Blasted Digger, which has an even better view into Giant Gap, and beyond.
|View east through Giant Gap from a viewpoint Russell referred to as the|
"Blasted Digger," east of Canyon Creek and above the Canyon Creek Trail.
It was a fine little jaunt into the great canyon, and it could be that the Placer Land Trust will play a very significant role in land acquisitions at Gold Run.
Green Valley, Fifty Years Ago
[North Fork Trails blogpost, April 27, 2006:Today I rec'd this interesting missive:
http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2006/04/green-valley-fifty-years-ago.html ” ]
I was searching the web in hopes of finding some of the old books that detailed the tertiary channels around the Gold Run and Green Valley area and came across your fantastic essay regarding the placer mining history of the area.*******
I had five placer claims along the North Fork of the American between Green Valley and Euchre bar during the second half of the nineteen fifties. I lost all heart for mining after my wife "wisely" divorced me over my addiction to the life away from all people in the canyon. :-)
Those days were hard times and the only way in and out was by walking and packing everything on ones back.
I became fascinated by what little history I could become aware of and would spend hours visiting and talking with George Veach the man who built the cabin on the south side of the river just short of Giant Gap. I also spent hours talking with the fellow named Stewart who lived in the Gold Run Diggings. He told me many stories about his father the mining engineer and the Chinese who worked in the tunnels under his property.
I and my partners would spend hours walking through the tunnels and even camped over night a few times in them on sand bars alongside the flowing water.
I don't know about now, but in the nineteen fifties Chinese people would come every year in a group and hike down to Hayden Hill and hang paper tributes and set off fire crackers in honor of those who died during the land slide. Old George claimed there was thousands of dollars in gold in the part of the sluice that no one ever found. Once crawling on hands and knees under the manzanita brush, I came across the old Hayden Hill blacksmith shop. Nothing of wood remained but there were hundreds of placer mining hand tools and monitor parts. They all disappeared with the coming of helicopters.
Besides working by hand, we had some of the early suction dredges and we worked underwater a lot. Once we found under many feet of gravel, a French silver coin dated 1852.
So, there it is again, the Chinese of Hayden Hill. But this begins to ring a little truer.
I hope to talk with Jim soon.
Green Valley, Hours Ago
[North Fork Trails blogpost, April 27, 2006It so happened that just while Jim the Miner was sending me his missive about Green Valley, as he knew it fifty years ago, I myself was in Green Valley, this morning.
I used the Iron Point Trail, off the Euchre Bar Trail, and lopped myself silly making the descent to the great ditch of the Green Valley Blue Gravel Gold Mining Company. It was already sixty degrees at eight in the morning, and I was in a t-shirt as I strode down the Euchre Bar Trail, still without water bars, by the way, and showing the signs of heavy flow directly down the trail-bed, all the way to the "secret" fork right to Green Valley.
This secret fork is just a few dozen yards above the beginning of the "switchback section" of the EBT. As one descends the EBT, the trail follows a narrow swath of serpentine for a time, and at a certain point, below the serpentine section, the trail almost coincides with the crest of the ridge, and one can see west to Giant Gap through a screen of Kellogg's Black Oaks, just now breaking their buds with fresh new leaves.
What appears to be a game trail leads away west into the oak grove, and becomes better defined as it arcs briefly north before dropping south and west in switchbacks, to the crossing of a vibrant stream, at a small waterfall.
This stream flanks the EBT ridge to the west, and as this ridge of old was named "Trail Spur," perhaps the ravine should be called Trail Spur Ravine.
From the saddle the IPT drops west into the east end of Green Valley, in multiple trail alignments, of which the principal trail is in the axis of a shallow ravine heading at the saddle. But it remains somewhat badly overgrown in a few places.
Once on the ditch of the GVBGGM, I made good time and was soon on those lovely marble cliffs plunging to the river, at the very eastern end of Green Valley.
Unfortunately, one of the houses out on Lovers Leap Road, on Moody Ridge, looks directly down on this spot, and is painted garishly, and is a mark of shame on Placer County. Although I was in a magnificent area of marble cliffs with masses of yellow Monkeyflowers sprouting from the crevices, and a green lawn of grass covering the old bench cut, and the North Fork raging and swirling below, made large by the warm weather of the day before—although I was in Paradise—I could not abide that gruesome house, and fled up the canyon and around the corner, into the Euchre-Green Valley Gorge.
I wanted to see what Sugarloaf Ravine would look like at river level. This is the stream which makes such a fine high waterfall, across the canyon from Iron Point. My mental image of this ravine is that it enters the Gorge about halfway through. And then, every time I am there, I realize, "Silly me! It is much closer to Green Valley than to Euchre Bar!"
Once again I rediscovered this fact.
I left the ditch and dropped through lush poison oak and scattered dwarfish Canyon Live Oak and Bay Laurel and minor talus, to the brink of the inner gorge itself, directly across from Sugarloaf.
A fine waterfall of maybe sixty feet dashes down into the roaring river. I picked my way up and downstream, taking photographs, fearful of the steep and mossy rocks, still in morning shade, still wet with dew.
I found potholes sixty or eighty feet above river level, incised during the Tioga glaciation, when the gorge was choked with glacial outwash, filled up to some level above these potholes. Similar potholes can be seen in Giant Gap.
Returning to the ditch, I lopped along up the canyon, and passed some rather bold cliffs on the left. I studied them; from their tops, a couple hundred feet up, one would certainly see farther up Sugarloaf Ravine to the big waterfalls above. Should I climb up now?
No. I was sweating and over-exercised, what with all the lopping. I continued along the ditch, crossing Trail Spur Ravine, again, near large waterfalls and cascades, and soon came to the end.
It's not really the end; the GVBGGM canal crossed the North Fork on a flume, and one can find and follow the same ditch on the far side.
If one can cross.
Retreating to Trail Spur creek, I rested and ate half a sandwich. A waterfall above beckoned and I fought my way up to the thing, quite pretty, a broad sort of double falls maybe fifty feet high. The local country rock is part of the Mesozoic "screen" between the Melones serpentine of Green Valley and the Shoo Fly Complex metaseds of Euchre Bar itself and points east. Here, by the falls, the rock was thoroughly folded into little synclines and anticlines of rhythmically-bedded limy sediments. The more calcareous portions would wear away faster, and left a delicate, finely-ribbed appearance to the folds.
The game trail seemed suspiciously broad and well-graded, and I was reminded that vestiges of an old human trail had been seen up by the Saddle, near East Knoll; it was not impossible that this trail connected to that.
Above me, a narrow band of serpentine supported scattered Digger Pines and too much buckbrush, and I began to have some trouble. The sun was bright and the day was warm, surely eighty degrees in the sun. I had laid off the lopping but, having spent too much time at my desk for these past seven weeks, I was maybe a little out of shape; for I rested often.
At a certain point, panting, sweating, trying to break free of the buckbrush, I stepped onto a little cliffy outcrop, and immediately stumbled, my right foot tangled in brush.
No problem, set the left foot down, transfer weight, ... oh oh! My muscles were too weak, and my stumble became a slow-motion fall forward, over the little cliff. At that moment I withdrew my right foot from the brush and thought to make a little jump, down four feet, and be glad it's over, but, no.
My right foot stabbed down to the rock, seeking only a platform (no purchase, just push off), and got stuck in a deep crack!
All this happened in less than a second.
I had a choice: swan dive or somersault. Somersault looked a lot better. But there was a chance, a slim chance, I could prevent either, and so, while falling, I collapsed my knees and reached below my feet with my hands, grabbing the rocks and just by an ace keeping myself from going over.
At that instant, a severe cramp tore into my right calf and I screamed.
Fortunately I held on, and in another second or two had extricated myself from the rock trap. My calf felt like it was on fire and I could not walk except in agony. I collapsed into a puddle of shade and the agony continued.
After a few minutes I stood up, and for a moment, thought, "This is serious; I am far from the car, and this leg is almost unusable; maybe I should drop back down to the ditch, and take the trail back?"
But a little slow climbing and patience saved the day. I surely did not want to give up the five hundred feet of elevation I had just gained.
But, I took it slow, and slogged on up to the car, reaching it at 1:00 p.m.
It had been a brief hike of five hours, looping around East Knoll and getting some very good looks at the waterfalls of Sugarloaf Ravine.