May 12 (1982, 1987, 2001, 2003)
May Skiing on Squaw Peak ~ Dash to Yosemite

5/12/82 ~ A few days of billowing clouds, thunder, lightning, rain. The day before yesterday I saw the pretty little clouds and decided to go skiing. Up to Squaw Peak, climbing from ledge to ledge beside a waterfall, carrying my skis. As soon as I'd fairly begun the clouds thickened and it began snowing. But upon reaching the top of the cliff, the sun returned, and soon after I began skiing I took my shirt off. A few snowflakes wafted down out of the blue, blown sideways from a dark cloud to the southwest. Two or three inches of snow had fallen as I declined… thunder began to be heard as the western clouds swelled and combined, forming a black wall over Lake Spaulding. I continued skiing and climbing as the black wall approached; halfway to the summit I lost my sunshine, and it was high on the summit snowfield that the black wall caught up with me, and once again it was snowing heavily. I raced up to the top and skied west along the ridge to where I had an uninterrupted run down the mountain. Thunder was exploding in racketing ripping sequences all around me, and I wasted no time in my retreat from the heights. My telemarking gradually sharpened up and I was carving some pretty nice ones when I ran out of mountain.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

5/12/87 Morning; cloudy skies from the outset, so today I expect that thunderstorm activity will be more intense. It has been wonderful, thunderstorms every day for nearly a week, and, over the past few days, a sprinkling of rain in the afternoon.

Yesterday morning I saw a goshawk sit and eat something—I think, a bird—in an oak tree nearby. I crept outside and watched it for a while. After eating, it flew a few feet to a more secluded branch and appeared to go to sleep, its head hunched between its shoulders. After a few anxious minutes watching this bucolic scene, I whistled and made some noise and spurred the sleepy hawk into action.

[I] take note of the many blessings and abundant wealth that already accrue to me. Just now, I step outside, and listen to sweet-singing black-headed grosbeaks, assertively chirping buzzing bewick's wrens, flowers in bloom everywhere, the oak woods still the tender green of newness and spring—in the summer they burn dark and toughen up. I clean my polyhedra and try not to think of how impossible my situation is. A temporary state. It will be corrected soon. I will work; I will earn money; I will pay my debts, and so on. Meanwhile, I should not hold my breath waiting for the Getty Museum to send me a check.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sat, 12 May 2001 07:52:53 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Latest

Hi all,

John Ramirez, of the Placer County Dept. of Parks & Recreation, has been trying to arrange a meeting of BLM, TNF, and Placer County officials, and interested citizens, and possibly also a representative of the Trust for Public Land, to discuss land acquisition objectives in the Gold Run area. The discussion will likely also address other land acquisition objectives in the same general area. At this point, the meeting is projected to occur late in May, on the 22nd to 24th.

The various projects worth considering, as I see it, are:

1. Gold Run Addition Project.
The land acquisitions most often mentioned on this email list are those proposed for lands owned by Gold Run Properties in the southern reaches of the Gold Run Diggings. Seven parcels of land, comprising 357 acres, including the Canyon Creek Placer Mine, which contains much of the Canyon Creek Trail, are sought. These seven parcels are in and near the "Gold Run Addition" to the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River, as enacted by Congress in 1978.

2. Giant Gap Trail Project.
Two of the seven parcels are on Moody Ridge near Bogus Point, and are along the rim of the canyon, and on the line of the proposed Giant Gap Trail from Gold Run Diggings to Lovers Leap. Although much of the land along this trail is BLM, there are ten parcels, including the two owned by Gold Run Properties, which are privately owned. Some of these parcels actually hang down over the rim of the canyon into Giant Gap, and there is every likelihood that large houses with "million-dollar views" will be built on these parcels.

3. Dutch Flat Chinatown Project. The site of Dutch Flat's Second (or New) Chinatown is on a 3.5-acre parcel below the railroad at Depot Hill, above Dutch Flat. Occupation dates to 1877. This is a major archaeological site. The Chinese community here was the largest in the Northern Sierra, with a population (under the special Geary Act census) of about 360, in 1893. The Archaeological Conservancy was trying for a time to find funds to purchase this parcel. The owner is a willing seller.

4. Dutch Flat Petrified Forest Project.
One of the largest concentrations of petrified wood left in the old hydraulic mine diggings anywhere in the Sierra is found here. There is some BLM land on-site, and two private parcels of special value: a 28-acre parcel owned by a willing seller, and a 57-acre parcel owned by an unwilling seller.

5. Smarts Crossing Project.
The historic road from Dutch Flat across Bear River to Liberty Hill crossed the river on a bridge known as Smarts Crossing. A deep pool with a small falls at its upper end has been a favorite swimming and picnicking spot for generations of people in this area. The road from the north crosses PG&E lands and then a ca. 75-acre parcel before entering TNF lands near the river. Local residents went to court in 1984 to protect public access to the river on this road. The 75-acre parcel has been heavily logged and is residentially zoned. It is unknown whether the owner is a willing seller.

6. Iron Point Project.
A 48-acre parcel above Iron Point, almost surrounded by TNF lands and within the main North Fork American canyon, has been mentioned before. It is currently proposed to build a 2000-square-foot house there with 500 square feet of deck, and Placer County issued a Use Permit for that house. I appealed that decision, and the appeal with be heard before the Planning Commission, probably some time in June. From there the matter could be considered by the Placer County BOS. If the Planning Commission/BOS deny the project, the permit applicant will not purchase the property, and the owner will very likely be a willing seller. TNF Supervisor Steve Eubanks has said the "just as TNF is interested in acquiring other private inholdings in the North Fork American canyon, so also it is interested in acquiring this 48-acre parcel." However, with so many other land acquisition objectives in the North Fork, this one will not be high in TNF priority.

7. Green Valley Trail Project.
The owner of ca. 200 acres along the historic Green Valley Trail is a willing seller.

8. Fords Bar Project.
The historic trail from Gold Run to Iowa Hill crosses large acreages of private land on its way to Fords Bar.

There are other projects worth considering. For instance, what about the rest of the 800 acres owned by Gold Run Properties? What about the old hydraulic mine diggings generally, from Dutch Flat through Gold Run? What about the extensive PG&E holdings in the area, which include miles of the historic Pacific Turnpike from Dutch Flat to Virginia City, and miles of the old Towle Brothers narrow-gauge railroad roadbed, which would make a wonderful trail from Drum Forebay in Placer County, to Skilman Flat near Highway 20, in Nevada County? What about Section 23 south of Blue Canyon, at the head of the historic China Trail down to the North Fork of the North Fork?

Does anyone else have any ideas?


Russell Towle

Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 08:58:41 -0800
To: North Fork Trail
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Dash to Yosemite; misadventure in the North Fork

Hi all,

For over a month I have been waiting for the weather to set in fair, so that I could revisit the 567-foot waterfall in New York Canyon. With all the April storms, a nice snowpack has developed, and the first burst of warm weather should set the falls into their peak flow. I had decided to make a quick in-and-out this last weekend, entering the canyon on the Mumford Bar Trail, camping below Big Valley Bluff, and then making a quick foray up to New York Canyon, and then on up to the base of the falls.

However, the recent snow, down to 3500' elevation, had scarcely melted back to the 4000' level, and Mumford trailhead is around 5300', so I feared a long slog through fresh snow would be required. My son Greg and I hatched an alternate scheme, to make a mad dash to Yosemite. Soon the entire family was in a frenzy of packing, except for my 13-year-old daughter, whose religion requires quiet weekends at home, with long meditations on her rope swing, and the reading of several books, and episodes of "The Simpsons" and "Malcolm in the Middle" being savored at their own right and proper times. She flatly refused to go. However, as she watched Greg and I hauling loads of gear up to the car, she gradually relented, and at last she came along.

It was her first visit to Yosemite. She tolerated it, and even enjoyed it at times. The Valley was quite lovely on Saturday afternoon, with lots of snow hanging up on the south canyon wall, and the waterfalls at moderately high flows. We visited Bridalveil Falls, and then just drove around as the sun was setting. Puffy and intricate cumulus clouds hid the summit of Clouds Rest, while Half Dome was lit by the sun. The smaller waterfalls were themselves flowing nicely.

We camped for free on the South Fork of the Tuolumne, outside the park, and found our secret spot marred by a gigantic mess of garbage, clothes, sleeping bag, toilet paper, food packaging, a CD player, and really everything under the sun. It looked as tho a storm had driven the culprits out in the middle of the night, and a bear had then had its way. So we cleaned it all up and hauled it up the steep trail to the parking area. It was far too much for our Subaru, so we left it in a neat pile and asked the ranger at the entrance station to call Stanislaus National Forest and tell them about it.

On Sunday we hiked the Mist and Zigzag trails up to Vernal and then Nevada falls, returning on the Johnny Muir Trail. It was a picture-perfect day. The crowds were rather light; we only saw a few hundred people along the trail, not a thousand or more. After some lounging around down by the river on the Valley floor, we left for home, arriving four or five hours later.

I was just building a fire to make hot water for showers when my daughter ran down to tell me that there was an emergency message on our answering machine: someone was lost in Canyon Creek. It turned out that this had happened Saturday. A friend had taken someone down the trail, they became slightly separated on the trail, and as might well happen the Upper Terraces Trail had been mistaken for the main trail, and once they diverged they diverged completely. A series of messages related the story of a series of hikes up and down the trail in search of the lost man. The fourth or fifth message recorded that he had been found.

This reminds me again of what has always been clear but is forgotten easily enough: Canyon Creek and the North Fork canyon, generally, are quite dangerous places. The risks range from over-exertion and exhaustion, through broken bones, rattlesnake bites, and, of course, death. Some trails are easier than others, and some trails are so difficult that few people should ever even take them on. The CCT is dangerous, the HOUT is more dangerous, the SHOUT still more dangerous, with so much exertion required that one can easily slip and fall in spots which ordinarily would not be any trouble, just because one is tired.

I may try for New York Canyon next weekend.


Russell Towle

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