June 12 (1976, 1978, 1996, 2001)
So Beautiful Here

6/12/76 early morning in the canyon… full moon last night... grosbeaks sing and a train thunders along... i should work on my tank this morning.

watched day's end and last rays of sun brightened the clouds over the high country yesterday, and as the full moon rose the thunder rolled and the doves and grosbeaks spoke… so beautiful here.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/12/78   [...]
~ afternoon. a little patch of sunlight falls on my stove. this is a good spot for the cabin. sunny in winter, shady in summer, bless the black oaks. [...]

i live in a beautiful cabin in a beautiful spot. i am healthy. i have good friends... and i am miserable. what can i do with my life that has meaning? i have it so good. some people in this world starve. few have beautiful cabins in beautiful mountains. why does it seem worthless unless i can share the journey with someone?”

[Russell Towle's journal]

June 12, 1996

Wednesday afternoon. Proofreading the Coffin journal. Slow going. Might have something ready by the Fourth.

On Saturday Dave Lawler came up and we went up to Lost Camp, near Blue Canyon, and descended an old trail to the North Fork of the North Fork, the same I’m sure which was used by I.T. Coffin on trips to and from Dutch Flat, when he lived at Texas Diggins. It is in good condition, and makes a fairly gradual descent. On the river, we saw the largest concentration of lady bugs I have ever seen, possibly as many as a million, surely over one hundred thousand, covering many boulders, tree trunks, and so on. The river was a shade too high to cross in search of the trail’s continuation.

We climbed back out of the canyon and drove west on the ridge dividing Blue Canyon from the North Fork of the North Fork. Some logging decks atop the ridge provided excellent views into the main canyon, including Giant Gap, with the Pinnacles well profiled. I would like to take some photographs out there.

Dave slept over and then on Sunday we drove up to the divide between Little Granite Creek and Big Valley Canyon, parking and walking several miles out to and beyond Sugar Pine Point, from which we descended at first steeply into the main North Fork canyon, and found a large tract of virgin timber, with sugar pines up to seven feet in diameter, along with very large ponderosa pines, white firs, and incense cedars. We ended up on a little rocky ridge paralleling the main canyon, with fine views east into the Royal Gorge, west to Big Valley Bluff. On the way out we happened upon an old trail, which facilitated our ascent. Very much logging has taken place on private sections in that area over the past ten years. The one section we lucked upon is no doubt slated for a “timber harvest” of its own, someday. As though it wasn’t hard enough, nearly impossible, to find any forest like that left in this part of the Sierra! When will they ever learn the value of this land? There seem to be no limits to how much or how uglily they will harvest the already depleted timber. So far as I’m concerned they could stop altogether, or limit themselves to thinning the smaller trees from overstocked stands, and repairing, smoothing the horrendous scars left by their rampant bulldozer logging techniques.

At any rate, although we did not reach my objective, a small hidden valley perched on the wall of the main canyon, we had quite a nice time, very strenuous, I’m only just recovering.

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 09:23:42 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: House at Iron Point

Hi all,

With GPS unit and camera I finally located the site of the proposed 2000-square-foot house above Iron Point, in the canyon of the North Fork American. It is on top of the most prominent ridge on the 48-acre parcel. Extensive bulldozer work has been done since the last rains, and huge piles of manzanita and small sugar pines have been bladed up all over the place; a road has been bladed down to the site from the railroad above, and a gate installed, along with the usual "no trespassing" signs.

The site commands a 180+ degree panorama of the North Fork canyon, from Lovers Leap on the west to Sawtooth Ridge and the North Fork of the North Fork canyon on the east. It also has a good view of Iron Point itself. My GPS unit reported an elevation of slightly over 3900 feet at the terminus of the newly-bulldozed road, where a large area was bladed open. The decision by Bill Combs mentioned locating the house uphill to the 3900-foot contour to minimize visual impacts. GPS units do not have perfect accuracy, but if this large clearing is the house site, there is virtually no tree cover, and topographically, you could not ask for a better place to build a trophy house for people to see from miles around.

Another large clearing was bladed open a couple hundred feet up the ridge, where there is more tree cover. Perhaps this is the permitted location. I have been unable to reach Bill Combs or Mike Wells or Fred Yeager by telephone.

I spoke with Steve Eubanks of Tahoe National Forest yesterday, who told me that TNF does not want to get involved in this issue. He referred me to Rich Johnson of the Foresthill Ranger District and I had another long conversation with Rich, who had been instrumental in acquiring private inholdings in the North Fork canyon. Rich concedes that while this parcel is within the main canyon and would be a desirable acquisition target for TNF, it has never been explicitly defined as such and has low to no priority in their acquisition plans. He is quite sympathetic to the appeal of the house and wishes us well. But there will be no TNF letter expressing even mild interest in this parcel, as I had hoped.

The appeal of Placer County's decision to permit this house will be heard on Thursday June 14 [2001] 10:30 a.m. at the Planning Commission chambers, DeWitt Center, Avenue B and Richardson, near Bell Road and Highway 49 in Auburn.

Address the letters to the Planning Commission, subject, proposed house at Iron Point, MUP-2643.

Some points to cover:

1. North Fork American canyon is nationally recognized for its wildness and beauty, state and federal Wild & Scenic River, houses in the canyon inconsistent with its wild character, the Iron Point scenic overlook is very popular as is the Euchre Bar Trail, area valued by many people for its wildness and beauty not for its houses.

2. Placer County itself recognizes wild and scenic value of North Fork American and zoned the 48 acres to non-residential TPZ zoning to preserve open space in the canyon and prevent residential uses.

3. Tahoe National Forest has been pursuing a land acquisition program in the North Fork canyon for years in an effort to preserve the wild and scenic qualities of the canyon, including attempts to purchase private inholdings in Green Valley, below Iron Point to the west. The Bureau of Land Management has also worked for many years to acquire private inholdings in the North Fork canyon. The Placer County Planning Department/Placer Legacy has gone on record as supporting these acquisition efforts in the North Fork, as have the Board of Supervisors.

4. Do not permit a house to be built here within the canyon; instead, lobby TNF and Congress to fund acquisition of this parcel, and others critical to the preservation of the wildness and beauty of the Great American Canyon.

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