June 21 (1978, 1987, 1988, 2007)
Cyclopean Walls

6/21/78 summer solstice. hardly a breath of wind stirs, and the day promises to be hot.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/21/87 Summer solstice has come and gone. Some five hours ago. Now it is 8:30 AM and clouds grace the sky, chiaroscuro canyon, patchwork quilted light and dark and rock and trees. The clouds themselves: a mixture of upper-level cirrocumulus and very soft lower-level cumulus, soft in a way which speaks of summer, somehow.
A good year for pine-drops: several brutishly thick stalks pushed up through the pine needles, one, the thickest I've ever seen.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/21/88 Night. A strange and in some ways disturbing day. [...]

I went to Colfax for food, visited with BJ, and with Otis briefly. [...] Driving home, I saw the cable down and thought it looked strange; a scuzzy white Ford van was parked in a little ways, a tall miner type with broad-brimmed hat and a backpack striding down the road towards Green Valley, the man in the van about to pull out. I stopped to investigate. The tall one walked back truculently, obviously very drunk. I asked them about the gate—what gate? didn't see no gate. Just dropping my friend off, he's going to Green Valley. I wrote down the license number.

Well, if you're on your way out, I'll lock up behind you, then—said I to the driver. Off he drove; walking down after, I found the lock broken, the road wet with piss in the center. Hooked the cable up, drove on in, overtaking the Tall One. I stopped, opened the door. Said, I know you guys broke the gate, but I'm not going to go after you about it. He said, we didn't touch your gate; what about you, where you live man? You that guy that shoots people walking in on the trail? I been hearing that some guy living in here shoots at people who walk in and out on the trail.

I haven't heard about that.

Well, it's true, man, that's what they tell me.

So began a conversation which lasted a half-hour, with Vietnam vet and twice world champion of some obscure martial art, Stephen J. Williams, who has lived in Green Valley these four months. Well-educated but very drunk, a Green Beret who'd just had a fist fight with the fellow who'd dropped him off, their second of the day. And won for the second time. “ ’Fessed up to the gate.”

[Russ continues this story in his journal entry next morning, 6/22/88.]

Cyclopean Walls
[North Fork Trails blogpost, June 21, 2007:
http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2007/10/cyclopean-walls.html ]
With the discovery of a second boiler in the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River, or Azalea Canyon, and this second boiler near, if not next to, lengths of narrow-gauge rail and one lone train wheel, it seemed that the Mystery of the Missing Machine—no, that's not it—The Legend of the Lost Locomotive, might finally be confirmed. Or solved.

But no.

Nothing is confirmed. Nothing is solved. I sent Kyle Wyatt, curator of technology at the California Railroad Museum, photos of each boiler, and awaited his remarks.

He kindly remarked that the boilers did not look like locomotive boilers. So I am left wondering about the Lost Locomotive. There are so many versions of the Legend. One version has scrap metal men cutting a locomotive to pieces back by Onion Valley, in 1941, and hauling the pieces down to the scrap yard in Sacramento. Another version tells that a logging helicopter was seen flying away toward Blue Canyon from the Texas Hill area, a locomotive dangling below.

So far all that can be said with certainty is that there are several boilers left in that general area. Perhaps they were used as stationary engines, powering sawmills, or hoisting logs up inclines.

Today I visited the area with Catherine O'Riley and we walked down Bradley & Gardner's Placer County Canal from a point above the North Fork Campground, to its crossing of the North Fork of the North Fork American, where there are some truly epic stone walls, and some cute little swimming holes which last would appear to be a popular secret, as a beaten path leads rather directly to the deep pools in their bowls of stone. The path follows the Bradley & Gardner itself, from a camping area north of the river.

Continuing along the Canal, we found an old house site, a stone-walled cellar with the remains of a cast iron wood stove scattered nearby, which site could well be "Bradley's Ranch," as depicted on the oldest General Land Office map of that area (ca. 1870). A meadowy flat is just above the Ranch, where stock might have grazed. Bradley's Ranch might, or might not, be synonymous with the "Upper Ditch Camp" mentioned by I.T. Coffin in his Diary (1863; 1870-1903).

Eventually, we reached paved Forest Road 19, and followed it back across the river to our point of beginning. A nice loop, of a mile or so. The stone walls at the river are Cyclopean. Amazing. And we found a chunk of old concrete at the dam site, quite similar to the concrete we found from the similar dam on Monumental Creek, a couple of weeks ago.

Earlier in the day I had located the historic Monumental Canyon Trail again, where it intersects Forest Road 45-2, and I found an old Forest Service "small i" blaze on a tree beside the trail. The trail shows every sign of being a circa-1890 narrow-gauge logging railroad grade, which was later pressed into use as a trail.

It looked as though this Monumental Canyon Trail first intersected, and then coincided with FR 45-2, but there were faint indications that it split away immediately. I myself dropped down from that point on FR 45-2 to the Bradley & Gardner, and followed it down to FR 45, thence around Onion Valley to a point above the North Fork Campground. Along the way, as I neared the meadow at Onion Valley, there approached alongside what could only be the very same old railroad grade which had become the Monumental Canyon Trail, and this Monumental Grade actually crossed the Bradley & Gardner, aiming for the Meadow! Although I found no blazes, in a cursory inspection of trees nearby, I am convinced that the true "beginning" of the historic Monumental Canyon Trail is at Onion Valley Meadow itself.

So, the long-abandoned and much-ruined Monumental Canyon Trail is coming into focus, very gradually. Don't ask me how Tahoe National Forest could just abandon this historic trail; I don't know.

It could be restored for foot use. The Bradley & Gardner also served as a foot trail, for many decades, but the destructive logging of recent times has deterred hikers, and it now becomes overgrown. But it, too, could be restored for foot use. It would make quite a wonderful trail, from its source on the East Fork, in Azalea Canyon, to its westernmost feasible point, which might be Sailor Ravine, or it might be beyond Fulda. It would be especially nice to open it up all the way down to Blue Canyon, and beyond. Near China Ranch, west of Blue Canyon, the Bradley & Gardner was, in later years, led through a tunnel and across Canyon Creek, thence down the ridge to Alta, Dutch Flat, and Gold Run. That is, there was an earlier and a later alignment, between China Ranch and Alta.

I am much of a mind that Tahoe National Forest needs to treat this over-logged area with kid gloves, needs to define at the least "recreation corridors" along the rivers and streams, and along all the old ditches and railroad grades, etc. I want to restore the wild and scenic and recreational fabric of that area, not injure it further. The TNF "thinning" projects can cause a lot of ground disturbance and leave hundreds of stumps, giving one the idea one is on some kind of tree farm, and there is a lot of value back in those woods and in those canyons, besides timber.

Below, please find the 1859 newspaper article from Auburn's "Placer Herald" newspaper, quoting from a Sacramento Union article, which last describes the Canal Celebration in Dutch Flat when the long-awaited water of the Canal finally arrived. Enjoy.
[October 15, 1859]
Placer County Canal Celebration

We copy from the Sacramento Union the proceedings of the Canal Celebration at Dutch Flat, on Tuesday. We acknowledge the kind invitation to be present on the occasion, but the unusual change in the affairs of our town [a major fire] in the early part of the week, prevented. Our wishes unite with those of the people of the Dutch Flat Divide in confidently anticipating manifold benefits from the large supply of water they will soon obtain for their mines.

We learn that the Canal is entirely finished, and the water turned in, but it will not reach Dutch Flat for several days, as it requires time to puddle the ditch well. The miners are preparing for the water, and will soon be tearing down the banks with their hydraulic pipes. Hurrah! The good time has almost come!

[Reported for the Sacramento Union.]
The residents of Dutch Flat, and vicinity, met on the morning of October 11th for the purpose of evincing their gratification at the completion of the above very important work, and at the same time tendering a complimentary dinner to E.L. Bradley & Co., the enterprising proprietors. As early as ten o’clock the town began to wear a holiday aspect, and the animated groups of miners, with a sprinkling of crinoline on the balconies, a company of small boys decorated with ribbons drawing the hose carriage adorned with evergreens, flags, and a bell or two, this with the nearly incessant roar of artillery on the anvil principle, with an occasional selection from La Fille du Regiment by the Dutch Flat Brass Band, constituted a very lively and pleasing contrast to the silent ravines, tunnels, rivers and cañons from which the miners had gathered themselves. About the hour of noon the scattered groups formed opposite the Blue Cut Hotel, and, with the “Star Spangled Banner,” in the hands of a stalwart standard-bearer, followed by the Band and the various mining companies with their banners, marched through the town, and by a slght circuit reached a platform and seats in the rear of town erected for the occasion.

Amongst the banners of the numerous mining companies we noticed the following: the Yankee Company—motto, “Take courage, there’s a good time coming.” The Badger Company: “What works long, works well at the last.” The Franklin Company: “Strike, while the iron is hot.” The American Company: “Long may the American River run. Ho! Every one that thirsteth come and drink.” The St. Nicholas Company, with emblem of a beehive: “By industry we thrive.” The Ohio Company, emblem of a shaft and windlass: “First be sure you are right and then go ahead.” The Buckeye Company, emblem a large stag. The Hog-eye Company, emblem a hog: “Root (the emblem) or die.” Also, the Dutch Flat Eureka Company, Boston Company, the Blue Cut Company—motto, “The Old Pioneer,” the Phœnix, and a number of others, whose names, in the long line, we could not catch. On reaching the aforesaid platform, after music by the Band, the meeting was called to order by J.W. Johnston, as the Marshal of the day, and the Orator, Judge Slade, was introduced by the President, H. Davis.

Judge Slade, in a short and eloquent retrospect of the past history of the world, showed the meeting that celebrations of a similar character, on the completion of works of art or utility, were of frequent occurrence in both ancient and modern times, and then passed on to consider the impetus to mining given, in the present age of the world, was secured, in our earlier mining days, through privations, toils, and the aid of the primitive rocker dug from the trunk of a tree; and now, by means of the same stout arms and hearts, but with increased facilities, there followed water on the mountain tops, sluices, comfortable homes, the solace of lovely woman’s society, and the various improved modes of mining introduced by the intelligent miners themselves. He showed, in conclusion, the identity of interests of the various proprietors of mining claims, property holders, storekeepers, and ditch owners, winding up with a most eloquent eulogy (frequently interrupted with applause) on E.L. Bradley & Co., the projectors and indomitable proprietors of the Placer County Canal.

E. L. Bradley
(from the Coffin collection)
After prolonged cheering, Mr. Bradley was called to the stand, and thanked the meeting for the cordial feeling manifested in the entire demonstration. Colonel Felloes was then called upon, and in a few well chosen sentences, declined making a speech, as dinner was waiting. Captain Pollard followed suit, when the meeting moved to the dinner tables and did ample justice to a capital dinner, provided by Charles Seffens. On the removal of the cloth the following toasts were given by the President and drank with enthusiasm:
  • The Placer County Canal—We celebrate its completion as a consummation of our most devout wishes, and long deferred hopes of the people of Dutch Flat. May our citizens generally realize their most sanguine anticipations, and be borne onward by its limpid waters to wealth and happiness. Music—Quickstep.
  • E.L. Bradley & Co.—Our friends and neighbors, to whose enterprise and energy we are indebted for the subject of our present rejoicings and high hopes for the future. May their efforts to advance our combined interests be duly appreciated and prove amply remunerative. Music, “See The Conquering Hero Come.”
  • The State of California—Our home. May it ever be a sweet home to her people, the “home of the free and the land of the brave,” may the wisest and the best ever control her destinies, and may her progress be onward and upward in all that tends to elevate a State and her people. Music, “Sweet Home.”
  • The Union of the States—May it forever be preserved, and we here resolve that it must and shall be. Music, “Hail Columbia.”
  • The Flag of our Union—May the lovers of freedom from every clime and latitude find a home and protection under our ample banner, and the breath of disunion never ruffle its graceful folds. Music, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
  • The Fair Sex, God Bless Them—Man’s most influential and best friend; beautiful in person, amiable in manners and industrious in habits; whether mothers, wives, sisters or daughters, their claims to our love and protection will ever be our first and last duty. Music, Polka.
The meeting then formed in line, and, preceded by the Band (who gave their services free, and added greatly to the enjoyment by playing well and willingly), returned to town and separated, apparently in the most pleasant frame of mind imaginable.

The whole concluded with a Ball, at which enjoyment seemed to be the order of the night.

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