June 15 (2001, 2003, 2004)
"Gnarled Interwoven Masses of Brush Ahead, Behind, Left, and Right"

Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 14:05:00 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Canyon Creek reprised

Hi all,

This morning Tom McDonnell (of Dutch Flat), my son Greg, and I hiked down Canyon Creek Trail to the river. [...]

The wildflower bloom is pretty much over, some Harvest Brodiaea, some Monardella, musky-scented Toyon bushes are now in bloom, and a few of the last larkspurs are on their last legs. We visited the Big Waterfall and The Terraces on the way down.

It was hot and we swam a little in the North Fork which, while not icy, is somewhat shockingly cold.

The Water Ouzel nest at the last waterfall, by the river, is active again this year, but in a slightly different location, closer to the fall, in a crevice. We watched the ouzels feeding their young. Actually, we could hear the babies raising a big ruckus whenever the parents came in. The nest is too deep in the crevice to see easily.

Then it was up and out—hot, steep, resting in the shade. Saw gold prospectors—Don Robinson was one—in the creek above the bridge a ways. They enjoyed seeing the Big Tunnel. Reported only fine gold.

A good hike tho a little brief.

Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 10:26:59 -0800
To: North Fork Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: New York Canyon V

Hi all,

The well-guarded 567-foot waterfall on the East Branch of New York Canyon, already surrounded by caveats ("Beware of Cliff" and "Warning: Rattlesnakes Present" and "Gnarled Interwoven Masses of Brush Ahead, Behind, Left, and Right"), also exhibits one rather absolute and unyielding inverse ratio.

The closer one can drive to the giant waterfall, the less the water that is falling.

The word went out that Foresthill Road was open to Robinson Flat, so Ron Gould, Michael Joyce and I loaded a chainsaw and our packs into Ron's 4WD truck and aimed to drive down the Sailor Flat jeep trail. This all worked out admirably well. A few stops to cut through fallen trees, and we reached the 5200' contour, parked, and headed west through the forest. Near the jeep trail, gigantic Sugar Pine and Douglas Fir and Incense Cedar towered over a near-thicket of smaller trees and brush. We wandered a bit at first, in search of a good game trail, and then settled into a long traverse to the west. Occasionally one thread of trail would unravel into many, but merely holding a level line was enough to put us right again.

Suddenly we were shocked to see masses of reddish-gold fur on the ground, with a few flies scampering and flitting among the—carnage? What had happened here? Had some part of a bear been dragged here by a mountain lion? No bones were near. No bits of flesh. Michael wondered if a bear might have rubbed off the masses of fur against the little oak nearby, in some kind of shedding, molting event. However, the flies seemed to argue against that hypothesis. A mystery.

Without further incident we reached a nasty ocean of imbricate oak and cherry bushes, all shingling over one another after decades of heavy snow. At the edge of this brushy sea we found a prospect pit, in rock of the Sailor Canyon Formation, Jurassic-age metasediments which sometimes have fossil ammonites. We forged on, our loppers set to full power, and carved a somewhat intricate swath towards low cliffs ahead.

As it happened, we had chosen an excellent line, somewhat higher than I had followed with Gus, a week ago. Nearing the cliffs, the tracks of a bear appeared, and we began to see an easy route to the summit. Bears choose well. We gained the crest, took a short break, and followed a zig-zag course down the rocky summit of the ridge, before veering more to the west and down to the East Branch. Over this area brush was easily avoided. Thousands of Mariposa Lilies and other flowers grew in the sunny openings.

To the north we could see Snow Mountain, and to the northwest its long southwest spur dropping to the confluence of Big Granite Creek and the North Fork, with Cherry Point rising beyond, and part of the Sugar Pine Point ridge also in view, still farther to the west.
We had lunch near the head of a series of waterfalls, about a quarter-mile south and upstream from the big falls. Ron Gould and I had discussed in detail a certain little knoll near the big falls, a knoll which ought to offer a perfect view. From our lunch spot we could see the route which must be followed, crossing the creek to contour along and climb gradually to the west, until the high cliffs near the falls were passed, and a descent might be made. I was worried that we might face some real rock-climbing along the way, but as it turned out, it was far easier than I had dared hope, and soon we were making little zigs and zags down steep but safe slopes, to where the ridge flattened out and then rose abruptly into a little dome of chert of the ancient Shoo Fly Complex.

The views of the Big Falls were wonderful. Hints of rainbow color gleamed in the drifting veils of white spray. On the summit of the knoll, little flats of angular chert pebbles were scattered among the outcrops. Where I threw my pack down, on one such tiny flat, shards of black chert showed that an Indian sat here some centuries ago, crafting arrowheads, at one of the wildest, cliffiest, loveliest spots in the entire upper North Fork.

A strong breeze played across the summit and an attempt to examine my geological map was doomed.

Below the summit some rock ramparts partially encircled the dome and looked to offer special views of their own, so Ron and I scrambled down and made a kind of circumambulation, almost all the way around the dome, a hundred feet or so below the summit. We saw some rather nice falls and pools over in the West Branch. The dome was clearly carved out and scoured by glaciers, but as is so often the case, these metasediments do not hold striae well, and even intact areas of glacial polish were hard to come by.

We must have spent an hour or so there before turning away and climbing slowly up the steep ridge above. Along the way we visited many fine viewpoints, and were fortunate enough to find a Mountain Kingsnake at the edge of a cliff. It was about two feet long. I took several photographs and submitted a couple to the online repository "CalPhotos" (go to http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/fauna/sci-Reptile.html and click on "Lampropeltis zonata"). These lovely snakes have black and white transverse stripes or bands, with red bands more or less present and visible in the centers of the black bands. Our snake slowly slithered a tortuous course along crevices, trying and failing to find a hole where an escape could be made, but eventually succeeding, disappearing into a mass of moss which concealed some hidden chamber.

Mountain Kingsnake
(Lampropeltis zonata)
The walk out was a lot easier, what with all the lopping we had done, and soon we reached the truck. A hike of perhaps three miles altogether, with a scant six hundred feet of elevation loss and gain, seemed like so much more. We were all scratched and sore and more or less wrecked. Forty-five miles brought us to Auburn, and then it was up I-80 to home and hearth and food and sleep.

Such was a visit to New York Canyon.

Russell Towle

Green Valley's Ditches
[North Fork Trails blogpost, June 15, 2004:
http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2004/06/green-valleys-ditches.html ]
On Sunday I GPSed the courses of the two largest ditches in Green Valley: the High Ditch (HD), which traverses all of Green Valley, from east to west; and the Green Valley Blue Gravel Mine Ditch (GVBGMD), which begins on the North Fork upstream from Euchre Bar, crosses the river about midway between Euchre Bar and Green Valley, and ends in the center of Green Valley.

I found that the High Ditch holds an elevation of about 2100 feet, or a little less, and the GVBGMD comes in at about 1960 feet, or a little more or less, at its terminus, in the center of Green Valley.

Tom Martin of Alta tells me that the High Ditch is called the McCaffery Ditch, and that it took its water from the North Fork of the North Fork (NFNFAR). He cited Gene Markley as the source for this information. I called Gene and asked him about it. He said that he learned the name from Matt Bailey; and suddenly I understood the origin of that name. It appears on the earliest official map of this area, the 1866 General Land Office map of Township 15 North, Range 11 East (a "township," in the surveying sense, meaning a six-by-six block of thirty-six "sections," each section nominally a square mile—and here in Northern California, the numbering of townships is referenced to Mt. Diablo as the local "origin" of coordinates—that is, we here, near Green Valley, are in the 15th township north of Mt. Diablo, and the 11th township east of Mt. Diablo. The northeast corner of the township is thus 90 miles north, and 66 miles east, of Mt. Diablo. By the Theorem of Pythagoras (combined with the Flat Earth of Ptolemy), that means that Mt. Diablo is about 111 miles from where Casa Loma Road crosses the railroad tracks.)

At any rate. On this 1866 map, along the east boundary, in Green Valley, is a little black square with the words "Mchaffey's House and Garden." It is easy to see how "Mchaffey" could become "McCaffery." This surname is usually spelled 'McHaffey'; let us imagine that the surveyors, in 1866, mistakenly used a small 'h', and correct their error. And, the High Ditch terminates not far from the McHaffey house site, today, marked by much Vinca and some cellar holes and fruit trees. It is close to the Pyramid, in the west part of Green Valley, and right on the West Trail.

However, the High Ditch existed to serve the hydraulic mine(s) at the west end of Green Valley, not McHaffey's garden. Perhaps McHaffey himself was the owner of one or more of the mines there; perhaps he built the ditch, or hired it done; it would have been quite costly. But, I do not know that. For now I reject the "McHaffey" name in favor of the generic and descriptive "High Ditch." Perhaps it could be called the Pyramid Ditch.

But, what of this business about the High Ditch originating on the North Fork of the North Fork? It turns out that Gene Markley himself had made the same mistake I had, in mistaking the High Ditch for the ditch which is cut into the marble cliffs at the east end of Green Valley.

I knew that this marble-cliff ditch is the GVBGMD, but (like Gene) I had thought it was the same ditch which crosses all Green Valley to end near the Pyramid—near the McHaffey house site. It is not. The High Ditch originates within Green Valley itself, at the very east end, drawing water from what I call Iron Point Ravine, and probably also taking water from the other ravines along its way west—Casa Loma, Moonshine, and Ginseng ravines (my names). If one scouts past the source of the High Ditch, across Iron Point Ravine to the south and east, there is no trace of any continuation.

But, even the GVBGMD did not originate on the NFNFAR. Instead, it drew from the main North Fork, well above the confluence with the NFNFAR, and crossed the North Fork about .35 mile downstream from the Euchre Bar bridge. Today, only a cable crosses the river at that point. One can easily find and follow the line of the GVBGMD on the south side of the NF at Euchre Bar, either east or west, upstream or down; follow it west and downstream, and it mysteriously ends, near the cable.

Similarly, one can scramble out along the marble cliffs at the east end of Green Valley, and follow the GVBGMD upstream, to where, again, it mysteriously ends, near the cable. I figured out about twenty years ago that it must have crossed the North Fork on a flume, near the cable. And this was confirmed by an 1876 newspaper article from the Dutch Flat Forum, which describes operations of the GVBGM, and the ditch, and the flume.

Let me quote from that article about the GVBGM: first, an inexact reference to the cost of the ditch:
Ten men are employed who work the claim night and day, and, having a strata of gravel which prospects well, it is thought that it will pay expenses this run. The disbursements of this Co. since active measures were taken to construct a canal, up to the present time, has been between $60,000 and $70,000, while the receipts have been but $1800.
And next, the description of the flume across the North Fork:
Another important and interesting item which has not been mentioned, is the trestle-work erected on the bridge to convey the water to a corresponding height on the opposite side of the river. The height of the bridge as before mentioned is 62 ft. from the bed of the river, and the trestle-work is 73 ft. up to the bed of the flume, making in all 139 ft. to the top of the flume. The American River at this point on its bed is about 40 ft. wide, and when its rushing waters are at their height and come plunging through this narrow gorge, it forms a scene, when viewed from a central position over the river, which would well repay those who admire the grandeur of nature together with the remarkable achievements of science and art.
It is true that the GVBGM has almost the perfect elevation to be the downstream continuation of the large mining ditch which indubitably does come down the NFNFAR to Euchre Bar. However, I believe that ditch served the minor hydraulic mines at Euchre Bar itself. There is certainly no sign of its continuation downstream, on the south side of the river, west of the Euchre Bar mines. I've been over those steep rubbly slopes twice, searching for it, years ago.

It is also possible, however, that the bridge mentioned in the 1876 article was the Euchre Bar bridge itself. Then the ditch coming down the NFNFAR might have been led across here, from the north side to the south side—only to cross again, .35 mile downstream. I regard this as highly unlikely.

While raising these kinds of points in my conversation with Gene, he eventually conceded that, yes, the ditch cut into the marble cliffs does not go through to Euchre Bar on the south side of the river; he recalled that there was a section one always had to just scramble, along the river itself.

All this just goes to show that it can be hard to figure out the origins and courses of old mining ditches, especially when one, like the GVBGMD, does something really strange—cross the North Fork itself, on a flume the newspaper article declares to be "139 feet" above the river. Suppose the flume was four feet high; then the bottom of the flume would have been 135 feet above the North Fork.

The crossing point is about 3/4 of the distance between where the 1840-foot contour crosses the North Fork, just above the marble cliffs, where Sugarloaf Ravine meets the river, and where the 1880-foot contour crosses. Hence we could take the elevation of the river at the crossing to be 1870 feet. Add 135 feet—and one arrives at 2005 feet for the elevation of the ditch at the crossing.

This is in good accord with my GPSed elevations for the GVBGMD to the west—it came in at 2000 feet at the marble cliffs, and around 1960 to 1980 feet at its terminus. However, I have found that, when near cliffs, GPS data is not to be trusted. Cliffs reflect the satellite signals and wreak havoc on the GPS unit's calculation of position. Trees also cause problems. And then, when one gets home, and hooks the GPS unit up to the computer, and downloads the waypoint and track data to a properly-georeferenced topographic map, using just the right "geoid" or map datum, one often finds that the elevations one recorded on the ground, do not match up well with contour lines on the map. For instance, at the terminus of the GVBGM, in the center of Green Valley, I was getting consistent readings of about 1985 feet; but, plotted on the map, the terminus came in below the 1960-foot contour.

I believe there is a goodly amount of inaccuracy in topographic maps, in the positions of the contour lines. The Dutch Flat quadrangle's rendering of the trails in Green Valley is simply terrible. Combine the built-in inaccuracies of the map with the inevitable inaccuracies of GPS and one is left having to make rather arbitrary decisions. For instance, in a best-possible drawing of the High Ditch on the Dutch Flat quadrangle, one might simply choose to use an elevation of 2100 feet, which is half-way between the 2080- and 2120-foot contours. A refinement might be to give the line of the ditch a gentle grade, of perhaps 10 to 20 feet per mile, from east to west.

Aerial photos would help resolve these kinds of mapping problems.

I can send a fairly large (~300K) map showing my GPS track records for the two ditches, and a photograph (~80K) of the GVBGM crossing the marble cliffs, to anyone interested.

The next-largest ditch in Green Valley is on the south side of the river, at about 2200' elevation; it drew from Giant Gap Ravine and McIntyre Ravine and delivered water to the Hayden Hill Mine. I have not GPSed this ditch, yet, but I have hiked it.

There are many many smaller ditches in Green Valley.

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