[Russell Towle's journal]
“May 21, 1986 Morning, quite cool, after a weak storm. I've been rather extremely delinquent about keeping up with the journal. Much has transpired.
Dave Black and I (as per last entry) did indeed hiked down to the American via Canyon Creek. We saw a pair of golden eagles. It was nice… a difficult hike. The river was running high and cold. We did some prospecting without much luck.
I joined Newsom and Pfister at the Monte Vista for dinner, and they donated money towards getting a tree person out to take a look at the Big Oak near Lovers Leap. Bill also gave me some money for stamps, envelopes, telephone calls etc., re the Tahoe Forest Plan. I called Yamasaki Nursery and spoke to Mr. Yamasaki himself about which tree person to go to; he gave me the name of a Mr. Austen Carroll in the Sacramento area. I arranged for his son, Willy Carroll, to meet me on June 3 for a visit to the oak.
Charlie McClung gave me the go-ahead on clearing out his old stone building below the house, and last Thursday I began raking up pine needles preparatory to burning. To make a long story short, I raked up a box beneath which were about 50 sticks of dynamite. Byron Emric's old stash. Apparently I'm lucky I didn't blow myself sky high. I summoned the Sheriff, and he summoned the bomb squad, and it was a really big deal. They burned the old dynamite, laying a trail of black powder up to it. Unfortunately, they didn't burn it completely. I got back to work the other day and found several unburned sticks. Haven't decided what to do; tried to burn it myself, but the pine needles are too wet.
Later that day was the Dutch Flat Community Club potluck for which I'd arranged a presentation by Otis Wollan on the Tahoe Forest Plan. It was a success; the hall was packed like I've never seen it before.
A rumor had caught my ear that someone Federal had been cruising around Moody Ridge inquiring into land prices with a view towards arranging a purchase or trade on the lands adjacent to Lovers Leap. With the Newsom fund I called, first, TNF, and drew a blank. Then I tried BLM, and talked with Kevin Clark, with whom I spoke years ago about Lovers Leap. I'd sent a long letter in to the head of the BLM office in Folsom, along with a copy of the petition I'd circulated. But they had not replied, and I'd imagine the worst, namely, that BLM was wholly uninterested in protecting the Leap. However, it transpires that they are interested in acquiring some of the land there, and have begun a rather convoluted process which involves land trades. Mr. Clark told me that my letter had in fact touched the process off, that they are trying to fulfill their role as managers of the river from Green Valley down to the Iowa Hill bridge, and have placed land acquisition at the Leap at the top of their list. Needless to say, that made my day. I'm to meet Mr. Clark on the 27th, rather, call him, to make plans for a visit to the Leap, the Big Oak, and so on. I should write him a letter detailing the history of the process, zoning change, recalcitrance of Emory Gray, etc., since my letter of 1983. This is so exciting.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
“5/21/88 morning of singing grosbeaks and hot weather impending, Saturday morning, worked on the McClungs' spring yesterday, earlier in the week wrote a little piece on the Maidu for the little D.F. newspaper, managed to work in some Latin, quotation from Catullus, atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale*, my title, and by a clever feeling for symmetry, my conclusion also.
What else to remark upon? Spent hours on the phone, one day, with Forest Service District Rangers and with the notorious John Slober, chief of Royal Gorge x-country ski area, who with forceful urbanity assured me that the public has no rights to old roads and trails on private property in the high country, property which his highly successful organization has managed to accumulate to the tune of 3000 acres, including my access to Point 6868, for years one of my favorite tours.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
* “And for eternity, my brother, hail and farewell”
Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 09:19:34 -0800
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Visit to Upper Canyon
I have been hearing about a 500-foot waterfall in New York Canyon, a tributary of the North Fork in the upper canyon. Hoping to photograph it, I drove up the Foresthill-Soda Springs road to Sailor Flat, at about 6500 feet. Snow barred further progress, but I planned to take the Sailor Flat Trail down to the river anyway; from the trail, I had heard that one could work one's way west into New York Canyon to see the waterfall.
I planned to spend the night down by the North Fork.
The first mile or so I followed this road, then turned onto a jeep trail. This was as far as I had ever been before, and it was exciting to enter unknown territory. The jeep trail descended quite steeply in places. I kept my eyes peeled for fossil ammonites of the Jurassic-age Sailor Canyon Formation. There was a rich forest of Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, Kellogg's Black Oak, and associated species. Some of the pines were around five feet or so in diameter.
|Snow Mountain from the Sailor Canyon Trail.|
The jeep trail plunged down to about the 5000-foot level at Oak Flat. Here there was a small parking area and turn-around, and the foot trail proper continued down. If one has a 4WD with low range and steady nerves, this is by the far the easiest way into the upper canyon, since there is only about two miles of trail and 1600 feet of elevation to reach the river from the end of the jeep trail. For me, it was four miles and 3000 feet.
|Ammonite fossils from the Jurassic |
Sailor Canyon Formation can be
found along the trail in places.
|This is a typical reach of the foot trail,|
often with good cover from the sun.
|View downstream on the North Fork, to the confluence|
of Sailor Canyon Creek center left, and with Big Valley
Bluff in the distance, standing 3500 feet above the river.
It was a large garter snake of the aquatic variety, and it was swallowing a trout at least eight inches long, with only the tail and the last four inches sticking out of its mouth! I rushed back to my pack to get the camera and took several pictures. Adding to the overall strangeness, four house-flies of various sizes were crawling all over the tail of the fish and the snake's head.
|The remains of a stone cabin, probably dating from|
the late 19th century, perhaps earlier. This is on the
line of the old trail up to Wildcat Canyon.
My camp was due south of the summit of Snow Mountain, fully 4500 feet above the river. The steeply plunging strata of slates etc. of the Sailor Canyon Formation made up the cliffs across the river from me; a little ways east, the contact with the Jurassic meta-volcanic pyroclastic sequence was only faintly discernible, as a kind of gully.
|Merganser at sunset|
Big Valley Bluff could be seen a few miles down the canyon. It reminds me of El Capitan, and stands 3500 feet above the river. To the east and south there is another tremendous spur ridge jutting into the canyon, truncated by the huge glaciers which flowed through here time and again during the Pleistocene. I call this spur Wildcat Point. It stands about 3500 feet above the river, between Wildcat Canyon on the west and Wabena Canyon on the east. I had some fine views of it. From the flood-swept island I could see Wabena Point, the amazing petroglyph site a few miles up the canyon.
|Wildcat Point (on the ridge between Wabena and Wildcat canyons), as seen from the |
flood-swept island just downstream from Wildcat Canyon creek.
Before dawn I began scouting up the river. About a half-mile up I found a remarkable thing: a landslide from Snow Mountain had crashed down, filling the river to a depth of fifty feet or so, and slathering angular boulders and debris all over the top of the outwash terrace on the far (my) side of the river. This avalanche deposit had then been overrun by the river. This could only have happened in the January 1997 flood event. The river then breached the slide-dam and ripped it all out. This probably accounts for the raw look of the island near my camp. It was not only scoured by the river, but also by the avalanche debris, when the slide-dam breached.
The river's gradient was increasing and a number of lovely cascades appeared. I could also see, a little ways upstream, the hulking mass of a huge landslide deposit. I left the river and climbed up to the top of the outwash terrace to see if there was an old trail here as well. I found a faint suggestion of one and headed back to my camp. As I got closer to Wildcat Canyon I became more sure of the trail, and reached the creek directly across from where the log cabin is.
|The view from the old trail to Wildcat Canyon, atop the outwash terrace, up the canyon. |
Snow Mountain is on the left, and Wabena Point, is visible in the distance.
I met three people from Auburn, who were going down Sailor Flat Trail to the American River Trail, thence to Mumford Bar and back out on the Mumford Bar Trail. This is about a fifteen-mile hike, maybe seventeen miles.
When I reached the jeep trail at Oak Flat, I rested for a while, and took note of the heat; the mosquitoes; the brushy tangled nature of the forest through which I must go to approach New York Canyon; and recalled that I had another two miles or so and 1500 feet to climb to reach my truck. So I gave up on New York Canyon.
The jeep trail was somehow steeper than I remember on the way out. So was the upper road. It was also mysteriously longer. Finally the snowfield appeared and I crossed it to my truck.
Such was a very nice adventure to the upper canyon of the North Fork American.
Moody Ridge blooms
May 21, 2007
(Delphinium glaucum )
|Stonecrop or Canyon live-forever|