May 14, 1953
Action to Determine Validity of Newly Passed Trails Ordinance
An ordinance establishing a series of public riding and hiking trails and roads in Placer County was approved by the Board of supervisors at a meeting Monday. An action designed to test the validity of the ordinance was filed a few minutes later by Attorney T.L. Chamberlain, representing lumber companies and other large property owners in the upper part of the county.
Chamberlain obtained a temporary restraining order from the superior court, preventing the enforcing of the ordinance until its legality can be decided.
Judge Lowell Sparks set a hearing in the matter for Monday at 1:30 p.m.
The ordinance, which has been the subject of three public hearings, had the support of sportsmen’s and other outdoor groups in the county.
It drew criticism from stockmen and lumbermen. After making several amendments to the ordinance the board of supervisors passed it by a four to one vote on a motion by Anderson, seconded by Paolini. Boyington cast the dissenting vote.
The ordinance lists a large number of existing trails and roads, mostly located in the mountain section of the county, as public. Penalties are provided for closing or blocking the trails.
Unlocked gates and fences that can be readily let down are permitted in areas where stock is pastured.
A fine of $500, six months in jail, or both are provided for violations.
The action contesting the ordinance was brought by Fibreboard Products, Inc., the Ideal Cement Company, the Stockton Box Company and the Nicholls Estate Company.
Listed as defendants are the County of Placer, District Attorney Al Broyer, Sheriff Charles Ward, County Clerk Lillian Rechenmacher, and County Recorder Clayton J. Goodpastor.
The complaint claims the ordinance to be void and invalid in that it purports to declare private property of the plaintiffs to be public property, and to take plaintiff’s property for public use. The plaintiffs claim that if the ordinance is recorded it will constitute a cloud on the title of the property.
The complaint asks that the ordinance be declared null and void, that the defendants be restrained from enforcing it, and that the clerk and recorder be restrained from recording the maps which outline the trails.
“5/14/76 early morning. such hot weather we've been having [.…]
i have been inventorying the gracie mine timbers and the windows i have on hand, and drawing different basic designs. i don't want to rush into it: this may be my home for quite a while. i don't have enough gracie timbers for rafters.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“5/14/84 Monday morning: one of the most beautiful I've seen. Awoke to filmy high clouds, diffuse light. But as soon as a few sunbeams made it through, a bank of fog appeared like magic and Giant Gap, combing over the Pinnacles Ridge. It has been swelling and lifting, until now it hangs near the canyon rim.
May go skiing this evening with Richard Swayze. Signal Peak”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“May 14, 1997
Today I picked up Greg from kindergarten at noon, we met Neil Gerjuoy there at the school, and drove up to Drum Forebay exit, and back across the penstocks to the old Towle Bros. narrow-gauge railroad roadbed. We drove along the road which follows the old railroad, until they began to diverge, and we followed the rail route. In places it has been used as a skid trail or logging road, and in places it has not been disturbed all these years, and the ties are still there and in place.
We crossed the big slide and stayed with the roadbed for a mile or so, when it intersected a logging road. Here we followed the road, which seemed perhaps to have been cut into the old roadbed. After a while we headed out, Greg was complaining, and we followed the logging road as it slowly climbed to meet the old Pacific Turnpike, which now has power lines along it, and parallels and ugly clear-cut, which we followed back to the Forebay. Here we left the road and hiked over to a cement spillway, which we ascended to the lake, and, after examining the place where the water thunders into the reservoir, circled around to where a 6-foot-diameter penstock descended the hill. This we followed, walking on top some nine or ten feet above a cement slab which lay beneath the penstock. This brought us directly down to the narrow-gauge again, along the first “road” section. Another half mile and we back at the truck.
We returned to the spot where we’d lost the narrow gauge, and descended further on the road, until we came to a place where a visible skid trail headed west from a log deck area. It was all choked up with bushes, but, Greg asleep in the truck, we followed it a long ways, until I managed to find portions of ties below the roadbed, confirming that it was indeed part of the old railroad. Then we returned and found still more of the roadbed, on the other side of the road. This we followed a fair distance and found many ties, and an entire trestle, spanning a creek, with huge old timbers lying about, large square nails embedded in them. There were quite a few incense cedar 12x12’s. We could not go all that far, because Greg was sleeping. We drove back up the road, and looked for more roadbed at another site (where we had initially entered the road on our hike). Here we met with no success. We decided to return and follow the line up from below to establish the missing link.
It made for a nice day.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
[North Fork Trails blogpost, May 14, 2005:A photo of tiny, days-old Monarch butterfly caterpillars on Purple Milkweed:
And another picture which better illustrates the flowers of this milkweed:
The photos were taken in the North Fork canyon south of Gold Run at about 1850' elevation, in a steep meadowy south-facing slope. As a child I loved the Monarch butterfly caterpillars, living jewels, and developed a facility for finding their chrysalises, also like jewels.
As an adult I mysteriously lost the childhood instincts which often led me to these caterpillars. Years and years go by without seeing any. So I was pleased to find these.
This is a banner year for wildflowers. I have made more trips into the canyon than usual this spring, often to the HOUT, and have watched as one species finishes its bloom, and another begins. The larger blue bush lupine has set seed, but the Harlequin Lupine is still in full bloom. This area is on the cusp of transition into the late-spring peak bloom; the grasses are setting seed and turning brown, while new flowers like Blue Field Gilia, and the shrub Mock Orange, always late-season species, are making their first appearances.
The poison oak flourishes as I have never seen before, and mosquitos gather in menacing clouds if one stops to rest on a steep trail. And they don't just threaten; they act, and quite vigorously.
[The link referenced in this segment is now defunct but if you would like to purchase a digital copy of either of these books, use the email address at the bottom of the left sidebar to inquire.]
Date: May 14, 2007 1:17:52 PM PDT
To: Russell Towle
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Books for Sale
you can now order two of my books, in the form of PDF files on CDs:
1. "Nine Expeditions to New York Canyon."
From 2001 through 2005 I made nine expeditions to reach the 560-foot waterfall in New York Canyon, of which two failed to even gain a sight of the thing. The failures form a part of the story. I had my camera with me on most of these adventures. This book consists of nine PDF files, each of which contains my original description of the trip, as written for the North Fork Trails email list, combined with the photographs I took on that expedition (if any). There are, then, hundreds of high-resolution photographs, each with a caption, spread among these files. Photographs of waterfalls; photographs of flowers, of fossils—of the Horrible Snakefish! Several other PDF files are on the CD: a preface; a bunch of maps and landscape renderings; and a sketch of the rather complicated geology of that area, with geologic maps.
2. "The Dutch Flat Diary of Isaac Tibbetts Coffin."
I.T. Coffin was a gold miner and photographer in old Dutch Flat. He was also quite a hiker. Here is an excerpt from Coffin's brief memoir, embedded in his diary:
One of the Coffin Clan
Pedigree—born November 20th, 1832, in Tuftonborough, N.H. Father, Weare Coffin, of Alton, N.H., the champion athlete of the state in his day, and was a farmer. Mother, Mary Canney of Tuftonborough, N.H., a pretty and good woman, a school teacher and tayloress. Parents both died before reaching 50—both buried in the City Cemetery, in Salem, Mass. I was the youngest of 4 children. Brother A.F. Coffin died in Philadelphia in 1852 and lies buried in Laurel Hill cemetery, and Sister Julia A. Dinse, died at Dutch Flat, Cal., in 1869, without issue. Sister Mrs. E. Jewell, now lives at 280 Sixth Ave., New York. Grand Father was Johnathan Coffin of Alton, N.H., and Great Grand Father was Major Ben. Coffin of Newburyport, Mass., who fought in the revolutionary war. Grand parents on both sides were pioneer farmers into New Hampshire. Grandmother Canney was a noted woman in her day, and a brave hard working woman, who went to the mill with a sack of wheat on her back and was one of the good old sort. She once Shot a bear that came out of the woods and got after the sheep in the barn yard, and no man at home, so she got down the Old flint lock queens arm, loaded with pieces of lead, and pointed it in through the yard fence, and as the bear came in range, as he chased the sheep around the yard, she pulled it off and wounded the bear, so that he was caught and killed. She finally in a fit of sulks hung herself to the high bed post with a skein of yarn of her own make.*******
Each book sells for $29.95, which includes tax, shipping,and handling.
Lost Camp; a Joke in New York Canyon
[North Fork Trails blogpost, May 14, 2007:Lost Camp is an old hydraulic mining town, south of Blue Canyon, established in a rush, in 1857 or thereabouts. No buildings are left, although two are shown on both the USGS 7.5 minute "Westville" quadrangle, and on the official Tahoe National Forest (TNF) map. I have a web page devoted to Lost Camp [archived here ].
The historic China Trail drops to the North Fork of the North Fork of the American from Lost Camp, and then climbs to the crest of Sawtooth Ridge, to the south. The trail was built in 1862. Forty-three years later, it was absorbed into TNF's system of trails. The old road to Lost Camp from Blue Canyon (Lost Camp actually predates Blue Canyon) has been open to the public since the 1850s.
Like many another old road and old trail, the Lost Camp Road and the China Trail pass through a mixture of private property, and public TNF lands. Ten years ago I began urging TNF to acquire the private lands at Lost Camp, and thus to secure public access to the China Trail. Nothing has been acquired, and we are now on the verge of losing access to road and trail alike.
Some of the private lands were subdivided and sold. The new owners wish the General Public would just go away forever; then the new owners could have the China Trail all to themselves. The summer before last, a "Private Road" sign appeared at the beginning of the Lost Camp spur road, near Blue Canyon. More recently, one of the new owners has been chasing people away at gunpoint, and trying to convince the other new owners to put a gate on the road.
I hear that Placer County does not regard the Lost Camp Road as a "county" road.
I thought to talk to TNF about the old road; after all, it shows on the old TNF maps, and is identified as TNF System Road "16N51," on the 1962-66 map. So I called Phil Horning at the Nevada City office, and spoke with him for about an hour, this afternoon.
Phil is currently much involved in TNF's OHV Study. Like other National Forests, the Tahoe is trying to regulate OHV use. This is a bureaucratic exercise of demonic and nightmarish proportions. It is an effort spanning several years. Now, I myself like our historic foot trails; I wish them to be preserved, protected, maintained, and put back on the maps—for hikers. Astoundingly, hardly any TNF employees have ever heard of these trails, and still less have they set foot on them.
I have been warned by sympathetic TNF employees, "Do not register your historic foot trails in the OHV study; if such a trail were to go on our map, it would (eventually) be designated an OHV route." So I have held my peace.
You see, the TNF OHV study will not examine each road and trail on its merits; TNF will not decree, "this trail is open to motorized uses, but that other trail is not." No. TNF will inventory all existing OHV routes, roads, trails, cross-country routes, whatever. Some few will be closed to OHV use, but most will become formally and explicitly open to OHV use; an Interim Order is about to be promulgated, which will add 50 miles of OHV routes to the existing two thousand miles or whatever it is.
When the final Decision is made, the most likely form it will take is that any and all roads, trails and routes now in use by OHVs will remain in use, *but* all further "cross-country" travel by OHVs will be illegal.
That is, at the bottom line, this vast bureaucratic exercise will in effect retain the status quo, but give TNF rangers more power to limit cross-country travel.
So. Back to Lost Camp. I was really interested in TNF's sense of whether the Lost Camp Road is a public road, or not; whether it is a TNF System Road, or not. I asked Phil, and I could hear the rustle of a large map unfolding through the telephone. It took a while to zero in on Lost Camp (Phil, despite twenty years at TNF, had never heard of the China Trail, never set foot in Lost Camp), and then he said, "Well, the road does not appear on the OHV Study Map at all."
How could that be? The Lost Camp Road is on the current official TNF "visitors'" map, the big map which unfolds to over two feet square.
I asked. Phil replied that, by its absence from the OHV Study Map, the implication is that TNF no longer considers it to be a System Road. Hence it does not appear on the map. And *hence* it will likely be closed to OHV use; for it has no formal standing, any more, as a Forest Road. It will count as "cross-country travel."
Note the conundrum here. Suppose we agitated the Lost Camp Road issue, and we went to TNF, and we said, "It is your job to conserve public access to public lands; you must keep the Lost Camp Road and the China Trail open to the public.
And suppose TNF listens, TNF agrees, TNF says, in effect, "Golly, you are right! It was once a System Road, and it shall forever be a System Road; the China Trail was once a System Trail, and it shall forever be a System Trail."
Oops! Now, like almost all System Roads and System Trails depicted on the OHV Study Map, the Lost Camp Road and the China Trail will be deemed "open" to OHV use!
Phil helped me sort out these imponderables.
He also told me an amusing story of a visit he made to the fabled New York Canyon and its giant waterfall, with John Skinner, at that time TNF's Forest Supervisor. John is on this email list, and may vouch for the veracity of the story.
According to Phil, they set out to find the giant waterfall, descending the ridge immediately east of the East Fork of New York Canyon. This eventually brought them to the top of the falls; but the cliffs there do not lend themselves to good views, so they made quite a scramble out of dropping below the falls, and then they climbed some kind of rocky eminence for a view.
They had some trouble descending from this eminence, and then were faced with the climb back up to the falls, and then, more climbing, up and up and up, to their vehicle. I mean, we're talking a couple thousand feet, maybe. This was a major effort, and the vicinity of the falls is rife with menacing cliffs. It is a dangerous place, and what's more, hardly anyone goes there. It really looks like no one has *ever* gone there. It is an amazing place.
So. They reached the top of the falls again, and Phil spotted some plastic flagging, some yellow flagging, tied to a tree. Below the flagging, he found a bottle nestled into a small cairn of rocks, and in the bottle was a message.
John and Phil were astounded. Who could have ever visited that place? And flagging! And a bottle! And a message in the bottle!
So they eagerly opened the bottle, and eagerly read the message.
It recorded a pleasant visit to the giant waterfall by such-and-such a *girl scout troop*!!!
After a time they came to realize that some TNF surveyors had visited that spot only days before; the surveyors had known of Supervisor Skinner's impending visit, and contrived a little joke.
At any rate, such is some news from Lost Camp and New York Canyon.