April 7 (1978, 1979, 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002)
Annoying Questions

4/7/78 morning. the clouds are breaking up. sun shines now and again. snow falls steadily from the trees. i never made it out to ron's or lovers leap yesterday. i did get willy out and aside from the cracks in the welds nothing too drastic seems to have happened.

last night it snowed a little, only down to about 3000' elevation; it had snowed all the way down to the river yesterday morning. a little sunset color and sunrise color were a fine treat last night and this morning. i should go walk around and enjoy the snowy vista while i can. annoying questions plague my mind. why am i here on earth? what is the meaning of life? what do i want? i want to be happy.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

4/7/79 […]

i feel so frustrated that I am not working for the betterment of mankind. that the few conservation issues i involve myself in are almost worthless in terms of really helping humanity. how does the fate of lover's leap compare to the starvation and oppression that remain the fate of many people on this world?”

[Russell Towle's journal]

4/7/84 ~ A sunny morning. Yesterday I posted letters to Brad Welton and Charlie McClung, outlining the willingness and unwillingness to sell, on the part of the property owners at Lover's Leap.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

4/7/88 Morning, cloudy, cool, hinting of rain; I was awakened early on by the perambulations of seven deer.

Near sunset, clear, breezy. Strolling through the meadow. Gazing at dogwoods from many different angles. Planning to plant Sierra redwoods and nurture them into rapid growth. ...

I made a list of the main trees and shrubs which grow on Ed's property, complete with etymologies of their scientific names (I stretched things a bit to arrive at “bear-clustering bear-berries” for Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).”

[Russell Towle's journal]

About Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry Manzanita):

Confluence of North Fork American, and Canyon Creek.
April 7, 2000

Russell, Janet and Greg Towle, Gem Wiseman
April 7, 2000

Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2002 06:41:49 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: NCLT hike to Canyon Creek

Hi all,

Yesterday I took a group from the Nevada County Land Trust down to the North Fork via the Paleobotanist and Canyon Creek trails.

There were about ten of us. The day had begun hazy, with a diffuse mass of fog in the North Fork canyon at dawn; by 10 a.m. it had been lifted and evaporated by solar heating and in part, rematerialized as fair-weather cumulus clouds. The day was fresh and cool and lovely. Quite a few species of wildflowers are now in bloom along the trail, tho the peak bloom is still weeks away. Especially nice are the Shooting Stars high on the trail, the Houndstongue, and hundreds of Blue Dicks down lower, past the bridge. Some poppies have appeared as well.

We visited the great dark tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co., twelve feet wide and nine feet high where it debouches into Canyon Creek. We stopped at the first large waterfall for a while; the creek has subsided a bit, with almost no snow left now in its upper basin, but the falls remain loud and pretty. Then it was down to the Upper Terraces Trail, and up the Big Waterfall Trail, where we took a long break, admiring the falls, eating some lunch, and scouting around the strange little polished basin at the base of the falls, surrounded by angular cliffs with massive overhanging rock.

Michael Joyce and others noticed some iron bars set into the cliffs rather high above the creek, say, 50 feet above, and more. I had explained the basic strategy of hydraulic mining, and how the creek had once been lined with huge sluice boxes to re-work the tailings from the mines above, and had remarked upon the importance of keeping the gigantic volumes of muddy gravel and boulders moving through the sluice boxes. As we considered these high iron bars, in positions where one would have had to rope down from somewhere above to drill the holes and set them, I was at a loss to explain their presence. Many such bars line the creek itself and were used to anchor the sluice boxes, under tremendous strain from the tons of surging tailings. But these high bars?

Not until last night did their probable use occur to me. The thing of it is, and I know this from old newspaper accounts of the tailings claims in Canyon Creek and elsewhere, sometimes you simply could not keep up with the volume of tailings, and your sluice boxes would become buried. This probably happened many times in Canyon Creek. Then, confronted with tailings, say, twenty to fifty feet deep, one would have to set new sluice boxes in a higher position, and start to work down through the pile. So, these high bars probably represent some such event.

I also know from the old newspapers that Chinese workers were used to shovel tailings in Canyon Creek. A man named W.H. Kinder once owned this long narrow claim, and the Anti-Chinese Committee of Gold Run approached him, asking him to fire his Chinese labor and hire white labor, in 1877. Kinder lamented that he needed the Chinese for shoveling. Presumably they would work much harder, for much less pay, than the white men; this was usually the case. Charles Crocker discovered this when building the Central Pacific Railroad.

After a time we continued down to the river and took another break. The swirling puffy clouds sometimes blocked the sun and kept us almost too cool. The river was, of course, high and wild. We discussed the tragedy of the young man from Indonesia who drowned last weekend, a few miles downstream, attempting to ford the river. I cannot imagine thinking that this river could be forded, at this time of year. The thing is, nine of his friends did ford it, in chest-deep water! They must have been holding hands. They are lucky not to all have been swept away.

Soon we took the upward angle and slowly, slowly climbed out of the canyon. One of our group was not used to such exertion and just slowed down accordingly. A couple of us stayed back with him while the rest of the group forged ahead. It was nice to stop and rest many times and look around. I believe I saw a pair of golden eagles soaring thousands of feet above us. They were flirting, and I hoped to witness their remarkable courtship flights, which involve dives of hundreds of feet, a sudden spread of wings to shoot straight up, like a little eagle bullet, and then a somersault or two at the top, preceding another dive; but these two were circling, in spirals of opposite senses, coming within a few feet of one another time and again, and insensibly rising higher and higher in the afternoon updrafts, until I could see them no more.

Around 4:30 we were back atop the Bluffs, at our vehicles. Everyone agreed upon the supreme importance of BLM land acquisitions at Gold Run, to secure public access to these wonderful trails and wild canyons.


Russell Towle

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