June 1 (1977, 1979, 1986, 1996, 2002, 2008)
Ants' Hunting Camp ~ Passion for Trails

6/1/77 ~ just after dawn in the canyon. as i listened to a grosbeak singing, a train enters the canyon… the upper pinnacles of giant gap are sunlit.

grosbeaks sing in such sweet phrases. river roars in its distance. mosquitoes whine. mice dash about from ridge pole to plate to floor. a colony of carnivorous ants have a hunting camp established on the sill of the big window. about a hundred of them rear up on their hind legs and wave their arms about in the most atavistic manner, waiting for some careless fly or wasp, engaged in buzzing against the glass, to lurch down within reach. Then one of the ants will chomp onto a foot and hang on like a bulldog. soon nearby ants will notice the capture and assist, until the fly is held securely by half a dozen or so. eventually the whirring wings are caught and held, the squirming abdomen restrained, the wiggling head captured as well. soon the wings are torn off and discarded (there were quite a number of them on the floor beneath that corner of the window when i arrived yesterday) and somehow the coup de grace is administered (i haven't been patient enough to observe it yet); then the fly nearly disappears in a swarm of ants as they tug and pull, never entirely in concert, the corpse on the long road out of the cabin. at any given point during the day the hunting camp is usually engaged in three or four kills.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/1/79 wind roars in the trees as it has every day recently. deerbrush at its peak now.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

June 1, 1986 […]
Called Newsom last Friday [about the] tax deductible status for his donation towards the full-page ad which ran today in the Auburn Journal concerning the TNF Plan. He asked me to look into a situation in Truckee, wherein logging has begun recently on a timber sale made in 1982; much of the job involves clearcutting, and I'll enclose for future reference a draft of the first page of the report I wrote for Newsom, in the Archives. [...]

Kevin Clark from BLM had to call off the meeting we planned for last Friday; I need to get back to him. Will Carroll will be coming up on Tuesday to examine the Big Oak. Rebecca Siren will be coming up on Thursday to look at the garbag at Bogus Point; she's from Placer County Environmental Health.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

June 1, 1996

Saturday afternoon, the kids in the hot tub, which is slowly filling with warm water, made by burning manzanita branches I had to cut from the path of my newest trail. Yes, dear diary, trails have become one of my passions around here, over the past several years. I first improved the Old Trail out to the springs and beyond, then added a long extension over to Rick and Aki’s place, making more than a half mile altogether. I made a High Trail which makes a return to the Meadow from the Rick & Aki Trail (as we call it), but it is in poor condition, and rarely used. I made a Low Trail out to a point on the Rick & Aki Trail, from the Fourth Spring down to the ridge to the west, where an old mule trail descends to Green Valley, thence up the mule trail to the top of the ridge.

I made a Maple Grove Trail out to the northeast corner of my property, with a return to the upper Meadow. But it is rarely used, and partially blocked with fallen branches.

Also, a Lower Cliff Trail out to The Cliffs.

Most recently, I made a trail which descends the cliffs and winds back into the gully where the old mine tunnel is. There I made a pool, using volcanic mudflow (andesite) boulders for the dam, where water from the springs falls down a mossy rock face. So we call this the Pool Trail. Along the way a branch leads to the Sun Spot, a protected hollow in the cliffs opening to the south. A good place in winter, when clear weather returns after storms, but strong north winds make the Cliffs themselves a little too cool.

And then finally, the New Trail, connecting to the old Green Valley Trail to the east, where I have restored in part the old mule trail which switches back and forth in descent, long ago cut by hikers who avoided the switchbacks and made a steeper more direct route, and overgrown by manzanita, which I cut away. This trail was a piece of work. It is cut into a steep hillside, and makes a smooth descent to join the Green Valley Trail. It still needs a lot of work. [...]

So, Janet and Greg and I dragged a few manzanita branches up here, and I kindled the fire beneath the old metal tank, and a hose leads the hot water into the old wooden hot tub Bill Newsom gave me seven years ago. We had to drain the water out and bail the residue, full of little wiggly worms and water beetles and mosquito larvae and so on. We couldn’t clean the algae out properly, so now the new fresh water is a little green and murky from the get-go.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sat, 1 Jun 2002 14:05:31 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Lion search

Hi all,

Harvest Brodiaea
(Brodiaea elegans)
At 7:00 a.m. Friday morning I drove out to Gold Run, then south on Garrett Road, parked in the pine forest, and hiked across the Diggings on the Paleobotanist Trail to the Canyon Creek Trail. I made an early start to beat the heat. At the Canyon Creek trailhead I shouldered one of the three 2X6's John Krogsrud bought for the little bridge, and carried it on down. As I approached the big tunnel on the old wagon road section of the trail, I was surprised to see, through a tiny gap in the Canyon Live Oaks, the Blasted Digger Pine, well to the south on the ridge dividing Canyon Creek from the North Fork. I had no idea it was visible from this high on the trail.

I noted a complete absence of recent Bobcat scat on the trail, and wondered whether some distemper had afflicted the local population. This happens to the foxes from time to time, they are decimated by disease. After a little exploring around on Canyon Creek downstream from the bridge, I was back up top at my truck before ten in the morning.

Last night my dog awoke me around 1:30 in the morning with one of his irksome harangues of the local wildlife. Perhaps a deer or a bear had strayed too near for his liking. As I waited for the barking to subside, I heard the hooting of an owl and opened my sleeping loft window. It was a Spotted Owl, hated by loggers, an owl I have never seen but heard often enough. They make an amazing variety of sounds. When I first moved here in 1976, I slept outside all summer, and was actually frightened by the demonic howling of the spotted owls. Moody Ridge was very wild then, in the days before it was illegally subdivided.

My daughter and I heard one the other night. It made a series of even-toned, soft barks, and then launched into some very sweet and smooth whistles, each beginning on a low note and rising fairly high. Last night the owl was again quite close. It did not sound like a tortured dog from hell but like an owl, making a series of sweet hooting barks, in gradually rising notes, with a final flourish of three finely crafted hoots. Gradually it simplified this complex series. I got up, dressed quickly, and went outside. The stars were glittering. The owl had moved west along the tops of the little cliffs near here, and had retained its simplified mode of hooting. I walked west towards the springs and answered with similar hoots, hoping to lure it back, but it slowly went farther west. When it was about a half-mile away I came back inside.

I noticed that a bank of clouds hung over the Sierra to the south. Staying up nearly another hour, I peeked outside before returning to bed, and saw the clouds had moved north and were directly overhead.

This morning dawned cool and cloudy and I decided to return to Canyon Creek and carry the last two 2X6's down to the bridge. I began to harbor a hope that I would see some wildlife; there was something about this cloudy morning, a hushed, still feeling, with some prospect of thunderstorms developing, that made me think I might get lucky; and then, I had heard the spotted owl the night before; somehow this all seemed to add up to a chance of actually seeing something.

I did notice that, as I approached the Canyon Creek Trail, in the Diggings, there were two fresh Bobcat scats on the road, where there had been none yesterday. They were quite different from one another, inches apart. Something to do with diet I suppose. At any rate. I brought a ratty little pillow along to cushion my shoulder, and heaved the two 2X6's up. They were heavy; John had warned me that they were green and heavy, and even now, after a couple of weeks to dry, they were a load; around, say, 40 to 50 pounds. I had my pack on too, with my camera and some water etc.
Orange Bush Monkeyflower
(Diplacus aurantiacus)
Well, it was kind of rough, but I did it. I had to switch from one shoulder to the other, increasingly frequently, and even though it was all pretty much downhill, I worked up quite the sweat. Finally I was there, and took a break, and admired the flowers near the bridge. The Notch-petaled Bush Monkeyflower is in full bloom at the bridge level now, and remains in full bloom at least as far down as Gorge Point. These small bushes are covered with dozens to, I should think, hundreds, of showy, large flowers, somewhat like snapdragons in appearance, salmon to cream in color, with some small yellow blotches inside the floral tube. And, there are a lot of these little bushes. I would say that I saw, oh, at least 100,000 of these flowers today.

Mystery Plant—if you can identify, post a comment.
After a rest, I crossed the bridge and walked down to the Waterfall Vista, then out to the Blasted Digger Pine, and then on down to Gorge Point and the Rockslide. There are many species of flower in bloom now, and many that were in bloom a month or so ago, but are not, now. There were the tall larkspurs, and the Tincture Plant, and thousands of daisy-like tarweeds, and real daisies, and on and on. It is, I think, a little better than average year for flowers, in Canyon Creek, anyway.

Eventually, I headed up and out. It was a quiet, rather leisurely morning in Canyon Creek. I did see some swallows and hawks and assorted other birds, but no big animals, no foxes or bobcats or bears or lions. A few alligator lizards startled me along the trail, but not even one rattlesnake made an appearance. As I hiked slowly up the trail the clouds began to part and swell into thunderstorm form, but without producing any actual storms, at least, in this area. I was back home about 1:00 p.m.

If anyone entertains thoughts of visiting Canyon Creek and seeing the fine flowers, do it now, or next weekend if possible. If you want some company, or just directions, give me a call.


Russell Towle

Return to Hayden Hill and the Terrace Trail
[North Fork Trails blogpost, June 1, 2008:
http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2008/06/return-to-hayden-hill-and-terrace-trail.html ]

Russ included several pictures within the post at that link—which he rarely did (though he took scads of wonderful photos) because of the horrible slow rodent-chewed "farm-line" dialup internet connection we suffered with at the time. I will not repost everything here, but just an excerpt, and this map showing the route he and Ron took:


We reached the top of one of the huge red mining scars above the mine. These were much more visible thirty years ago; small pines and other trees have gradually populated the scars. The scars derive from hydraulic mining over a century ago. I had never been to the top of the scars before. I scanned the red surface closely; already the auriferous gravels at the Hayden Hill Mine counted as the oldest of the glacial outwash deposits left in Green Valley, as the mine is associated with an abandoned channel of the North Fork, the base of which channel is fully four hundred feet above the river, and the tops of the principal outwash terraces flanking this abandoned channel, six hundred feet above the river. I myself guess these terraces to be roughly 750,000 years old, dating from the Sherwin Glaciation. But the Red Scars rise higher yet. Could one find an absolute highest elevation where glacial outwash is preserved, in these scars?

At the top of the scars, the reddish material had the character of being a very weakly stratified deposit of angular chunks of rock, of an entirely local origin, in a matrix of silt and clay. Were it not for the weak stratification, almost invisible, one would be tempted to name it a colluvial deposit, not alluvial at all. As it is, it is about as frustrating as the trail-which-is-not-a-trail we had been following: the deposit has rocks deriving only from the slopes immediately above, and all angular: hence colluvium, hence not glacial outwash. But the deposit is weakly stratified! And it is, whatever its origin and significance, lying on top of true glacial outwash deposits, some distance below.

Well. Interesting, anyway. We followed a game trail right through the Western Red Scar basin, and entered another patch of oak forest, with more game trails, of the kind which with enough imagination might be human trails.


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