Saturday was Full Moon and Summer Solstice and there was a nice party of housewarming at Rick Creelman's new Japanese house here on Moody Ridge. [...]
I've been bird-watching at La Lande's lately, really nice observations of Bullock's Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Anna's hummingbirds, occasional Rufus hummers, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Stellar jays, Rufous-sided Towhees, Oregon Juncos, certain thrushes, probably Hermit thrushes.
[Russell Towle's journal]
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 11:17:33 -0800
To: North Fork Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Visit to Yuba Gap; voyeurism
Saturday morning I drove up I-80 to Yuba Gap to meet a geologist friend from Grass Valley. I arrived fifteen minutes early. Our plan was to explore the area around Black Mountain and Monumental Ridge and the west wall of Big Valley, where the bedrock geology is quite complex. The Eastern Metamorphic Belt of the Sierra is founded upon the ancient Shoo Fly Complex, metasediments roughly 400 million years old; this complex of different formations is cut by all the major canyons in this part of the Sierra, and often measures miles in thickness. The sediments point to a continental origin, to a time when the Pacific Coast lay somewhere in western Nevada, and ocean waves lapped over all which now is our Sierra.
The Shoo Fly was folded and faulted and deformed and uplifted and eroded and sank below sea level again to be buried beneath new and younger Paleozoic deposits. These are known as the Taylorsville sequence. Then still-younger sediments and volcanic and igneous intrusive rocks were deposited atop the Taylorsville sequence: Triassic conglomerates and limestone, the mile-thick volcaniclastic Jurassic Sailor Canyon Formation, and the metatuffs and metamudflows and metadiorites of the Jurassic Tuttle Lake Formation. Apparently contemporaneous with the Tuttle Lake rocks is a mass of mafic (iron-rich, quartz-poor) intrusive rocks, called the Emigrant Gap Mafic Complex, which rose from below, melting through the Shoo Fly and all above it, and exerting tremendous pressures on the rock around it. The core of this mafic plutonic complex is the dark peridotites etc. of Black Mountain, above Lake Valley Reservoir.
The eastern margin of the mafic complex abruptly truncates some of the older rocks. Thrust-faulted slices of the Shoo Fly Complex and the Taylorsville Sequence are cut at almost right angles by the mafic igneous rocks, with a zone of intense shearing and deformation extending several hundred meters away from the edge of the pluton. A large number of dikes slice far into the "country rock" from the mafic plutons.
Now, the whole ball of wax was rotated to the east almost ninety degrees, either during or just before the famous Nevadan Orogeny, during which all the metamorphic rocks of the Sierra assumed their present near-vertical orientations, and major faults of the Foothill Fault System were active. These faults include the Melones, the Gillis Hill, the Bear Mountain, the Dogwood Peak, and others.
At any rate, the Shoo Fly, the Taylorsville, the Triassic stuff, the Sailor Canyon, the Tuttle Lake, and the Emigrant Gap Mafic Complex—and still other rocks farther east, like the Picayune Valley Formation—were rotated ninety degrees east, about a north-south axis. Only then did the vast complex of granitic plutons we call the Sierra Nevada Batholith begin to well up from below; these plutons range in age from Late Jurassic to Cretaceous in age, say, 70 to 140 million years old. The granite of Loch Leven Lakes and Palisade Creek forms just one of these hundreds of plutons. Subsequently all these rocks were uplifted, exhumed by tens of millions of years of erosion, and finally scoured and ripped by glaciers.
So, armed with David Harwood's finely detailed geologic map of the Cisco Grove and Duncan Peak quadrangles, my geologist friend and I aimed to explore the area spanning the east edge of the Emigrant Gap Mafic Complex. Supposedly some excellent glacially-polished exposures of the various formations could be found.
Arriving at Yuba Gap, the morning chill kept me in my car for a while, and I examined Harwood's map, and read pertinent sections of the monograph which accompanies it, in preparation for the day's adventure. The time of our meeting passed, and I got out and began to walk around. Not far away a somewhat old and decrepit barn-like structure, all clad in corrugated metal, stood beside an orphaned segment of old Highway 40. I saw a lot of clothes and garbage strewn inside, and climbed in to have a look.
Mixed among the clothes, some from a child, were the papers and various belongings of one Susan Steele. There were many envelopes scattered across the floor, addressed to her, and some court papers and drug-treatment and anger-management program documents. A cursory examination revealed that she had been released from jail in Yuba County last fall; and that she had been a drug addict, cooking up, what?—heroin?—her every day devoted to just one thing, keeping the drugs coming. Amid speculations as to her fate, I left the building for the sunshine of the Yuba Gap overpass, where one has a fine view of Old Man Mountain and Red Mountain, the Black Buttes, and even the lookout tower atop Grouse Ridge.
My thoughts turned to a time in early 1966, when with a couple friends I hitchhiked from Palo Alto down to Big Sur, camping below the Highway One bridge over Hot Springs Creek, at Esalen; how we explored up the creek, through redwood groves, where human paths threaded the shady forest, and then on and on, beyond all paths, to some waterfalls. The good old days had by then already passed, and it was no longer possible to just walk down to the hot springs at Esalen, and sit gazing into eternity, over the gleaming ripples of the Pacific, as I had done a couple short years before.
At any rate, after our waterfall adventure, the next day we attempted to continue south, but had trouble getting a ride. There was no traffic, for just one thing. We began walking along the highway, bored, and in something like a mile or half a mile came to a side road leading west towards the ocean cliffs. Following it, we came to a fine little house or cabin, all abandoned, the door open, with the clothes and belongings of an entire family strewn everywhere. We explored the house, and abstracted several oddments for ourselves. I had been keeping a journal since 1962, and my own abstracted oddment was the diary of the father of the family. The diary spanned most all of 1964 and 1965, as I recall; I long since lost the thing, and also lost my own journals from that time. I forget the man's name, but remember that he was a poet, a beatnik if you will, struggling to get by, devoted to his family, but unable to make ends meet in this remote area. There were flashes of genius and rage, interspersed with the stuff of romance and philosophy.
It is passing strange to stumble upon the secrets of some stranger's inner life. But I like it.
I watched a parade of SUV's pass, all loaded with oddly narrow canoes, on their way to Lake Valley. The day was warming nicely. Returning to my car, I found that it was 10:30; The Geologist was half-an-hour late. Nothing new there. I walked back to the ramshackle metal-and-timber building, and began reading some of the letters.
Two at least were from girlfriends of Ms. Steele, and both were written from jail, one in Yuba County, one in Abilene, Texas. The Yuba County correspondent had written a poem, as if to the "warden" of the jail. At the top she scrawled "To: Susan Steele." The poem, a very bad poem, and with so very many words misspelled, had much to do with her longing to be released, and to care, herself, for her new baby, with its hair so blond and eyes so blue. The guards and their bloodhounds prevented escape. She closed by wondering what "they" (their mutual friends) were doing these days; were they in someone else's arms? "Or maybe, Babe, their [sic] thinking of me. Lord I wish I was on East 18th Street."
The letter from Abilene covered both sides of two sheets, and was written in a fine cursive script with excellent spelling and punctuation, in a decent if somewhat slangy prose. It was dated to September 20, 2002. Although her friend used her true name on the return address, she signed herself "Dixie," and asked at the first, "What happened between you and Wild Fire? Do tell!!"
There is something in a life outside the law which promotes nicknames. I suppose warrants for one's arrest could be a factor in all this; but it is more than just that, it partakes of Freud's rebellion-of-the-sons-against-the-father, as set forth in his short book, "Moses and Monotheism." After the same token, I think, our African-American citizens have a fondness for inventing new and outlandish names.
Dixie went on to describe the "Public Pretender" assigned to her case, and the almost inevitability of up to two years in State Prison, and the ten or twelve thousand dollars which might, by a long shot, win her freedom. The letter is long and chatty and describes in almost ridiculous detail the chores she and other jail trustees performed. Dixie finally turns to the overwhelming number of "nigger crackheads" in the women's jail, said crackheads abjuring the strenuous life of a trustee, and then uses so many strange slang terms, having to do with drugs in part, and involving a bold swastika, that I cannot understand quite what she means. With hopes that Susan's court proceedings go well, Dixie signs off.
After reading the letters, I walked back into the sun at the overpass. It was 10:50. Perhaps The Geologist's jeep had broken down; he'd mentioned something about the battery being loose. Returning to the car, I drove home, and caught up on being lazy, which is a good thing, and puzzled over the strange lives of these young women.
Such was a day in which nothing went as planned or hoped (Greg and I did not, for instance, take delivery of the fifth Harry Potter book). The complex complexes of rocks on Monumental Ridge will just have to wait.
The Blackhawk Mine, etc.
[North Fork Trails blogpost, June 23, 2004:Among the documents I photographed at TNF headquarters last Friday was a mineral plat depicting the Blackhawk Mine, on the south slope of Sawtooth Ridge and bordering the North Fork American between Euchre Bar and Humbug Canyon.
This mine is marked on the USGS 7.5 minute Westville quadrangle, but in the wrong location, approximately one-half mile too far east, quite near Humbug Bar, which last is on the north side of the river and very slightly downstream from where Humbug Canyon joins the North Fork.
There are quite a number of hard-rock gold mines in this part of the North Fork canyon: the Pioneer, the Southern Cross, the Blackhawk, the American Eagle, the Gem, the Dorer—and the list goes on. In the broad geological context, the North Fork canyon, here, is deeply incised into metasediments of the Shoo Fly Complex; this "complex" of various discrete formations (which have gradually come into better focus as more and more mapping is done, over recent decades) is quite old, in the range of 400 million years, and consists of originally flat-lying beds of oceanic sediments which have been rotated almost 90 degrees. Shoo Fly strata are close to vertical and strike roughly north-south, that is, fixing our attention on one stratum and tracing its course for a good distance, we would find it running north and south.
The Complex is around ten miles thick. It is exposed in the North Fork from near the east end of Green Valley, on the west, all the way up to New York Canyon, on the east.
This is the broad picture. In finer detail the Shoo Fly has endured various phases of deformation, internal faulting and folding and so on, and apparently it was the very last such phase—the so-called "Nevadan Orogeny"—which imparted the overall rotation-to-vertical to the (already deformed) strata-at-large.
So the Complex is complex. Nevertheless, broadly, its strata are tipped up on edge and strike north. And, more or less along strike is a system of gold-bearing quartz veins, all roughly parallel; and it is these veins, found from near Euchre Bar on the west to near Italian Bar on the east, which were claimed and mined way back when. The Rawhide Mine, across Sawtooth Ridge in the canyon of the North Fork of the North Fork, is on this same quartz vein family.
The veins are much younger than the Shoo Fly, and are probably to be associated with one or more of the closest bodies of granodiorite, such as the one near Loch Leven Lakes, or the one near Lake Spaulding.
I really know very little about these old mines. Some had their own stamp mills for crushing ore. There are tunnels and shafts and ore carts and all kinds of strange old machinery, some incredibly massive and heavy. In some cases this heavy equipment must have been skidded right down the side of the canyon. In other cases, wagon roads may have been constructed to at least bring the equipment closer to its final destination, before skidding was resorted to.
Some of this amazing machinery can be seen between Euchre Bar and Humbug Canyon. Adding to the confusion already alluded to, as to the location of the Blackhawk, I have been told that one notable mass of machinery, on the north bank of the river about a quarter-mile downstream from Humbug Canyon, is part of the Blackhawk. Here a broad cut for a flume was made from Humbug Bar downstream, to what appears to be a gigantic electrical generator and turbine. The turbine (?) has fallen from its original position, and a massive pipe now runs down into the river itself, suggesting that it was used as a pump.
However, this is not the site of the Blackhawk, either. It is not impossible that it generated power for the Blackhawk. I do not know.
The mineral plat I photographed is titled "PLAT of the claim of The Heirs of Joshua N. Pedler, known as the Black Hawk Consolidated Quartz Mines, in Humbug Mining District, Placer County, California."
Joshua Pedler had a ranch near Alta, I believe.
The map is very neatly drawn, and shows three contiguous ~600' by ~1500' claims running from the North Fork 4500' to the north by northwest, up the side of Sawtooth Ridge. Some tunnels and shafts are marked. Just west of the lower claim, and near the river, is a black square marked "Claimant's House." Just east of this same lower claim, and near the river, is a dotted line marked "Trail."
Now, this trail has long been of interest to me; for various old maps show a trail running along the north bank of the North Fork, both up- and downstream from Humbug Bar. Last summer I explored the upstream trail, which is more in the way of an old wagon road than a trail, and leads to various mines.
The mineral plat seems to absolutely settle the issue of the location of the Blackhawk. The southeastern corner of the southern claim is about 1200 feet west of the line dividing sections 3 and 4, T15N R11E; that is, the claims are well within Section 4. Several other claims nearby are also noted on the map: the Southern Cross, directly across the North Fork to the south; the Poole, east of the Southern Cross; and the Campbell, east of the Blackhawk, north of the river.
Consulting the Westville quadrangle, and plotting the boundaries of the three Blackhawk claims thereupon, we see that the southernmost part of the Blackhawk is exactly where a certain trail meets the river, which originates on the crest of Sawtooth Ridge, 2000' above and to the north. This trail seems to be a wagon road—or perhaps it is considerably younger, dating from the late 1940s—I do not know—but I remember hearing, or reading, back in the 1970s, that it is a "jeep trail" and that one can drive down to the river, at the Blackhawk Mine. Perhaps it originated as a skid trail for the Blackhawk stamp mill.
At any rate, this trail is in accord with the mineral plat.
Nearby an easy ford presented itself. I took off my shoes, put on some thongs, and waded through the cool clear river, a little over knee-deep, and with a respectable current tugging at me. On the far side, shoes back on, I picked my way upstream to the site of the Blackhawk stamp mill, also in pieces, and climbed up in search of the "Claimant's House" and the "Trail."
I reached a faint wagon road and turned at first back downstream, to the west, to see how far it might continue, but it seemed to fade away at once, so turning back east, I passed a meadowy opening with some old corrugated sheet metal fragments, possibly the house site, and immediately reached the base of the jeep trail. To my surprise, fresh tracks, of a small jeep, were on the trail. I imagine they were made Saturday or Sunday. The jeep turned east, but could not go very far, as a springy area around a mine tunnel had nurtured a mass of vegetation which blocked up the little road.
I pulled my loppers out and hacked a bit of a path through. Almost at once I was on, not a road, but a trail, "the" trail in fact which shows on the mineral plat, and on some other old maps. So I sailed merrily along, perhaps 80 feet above the river, in fact, at much the same elevation as the main Euchre-Humbug Trail on the south side. I was on the sunny, south-facing north side, and the contrast between the two trails is considerable. There was much less vegetation on my sun-baked slopes, and much better views of the river and the canyon.
It is an excellent trail, a little sketchy in places, much overgrown in many places, but with an almost level line. I saw signs of recent light lopping—perhaps Evan Jones, or Tom Martin—and signs of older, more ambitious lopping, from perhaps twenty years ago. Following along, I came to one spot where it is cut right into cliffs on a tiny promontory, and to widen the trail at this critical spot, some fine dry-laid stone retaining walls had been raised, in an almost perfect geometric arc around the point of the cliff, with what resembled huge, massive flagstones of slatey Shoo Fly rock defining the arc.
Quite charming, and quite a nice view.
There are several especially fine pools for swimming between Euchre Bar and Humbug Canyon. Some have sandy areas good for camping close by.
|Click to enlarge.|
Scouting higher, I found a human trail continuing east, above the pit, and lopped along for a ways. Then this became rather sketchy. I crossed a small ravine onto a ridge studded with large old Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs. The 1960 Volcano Fire had, it seems, crossed the North Fork on to Sawtooth Ridge, and some effort had been made to create a fire line here. However, the flames climbed right up and over the summit of Sawtooth, into the North Fork of the North Fork canyon.
At any rate, brush had grown in after the 1960 fire, and then had died. So the going got tough. Meanwhile, it was midday and I was fairly well exhausted from hiking and lopping and scouting up and down and sideways in this brushy sunny forest. A welter of bear trails criss-crossed the forest, with one fine bear bed at the base of a large pine, well-marked with piles of poop. Some of these bear trails looked like old human trails. But no good continuation east of "the" trail was found, and I fell a little short of reaching the bridge site at Humbug Bar.
I retreated to where I'd left my pack, at the mining pit, and took the lower trail into the pit, which I explored, and then left the pit for the river.
I followed the broad-cut-in-solid-rock which leads downstream to the aforementioned turbine and generator, forded the river again, and made a short steep scramble up to the main Euchre-Humbug Trail. I had intended to return home by noon, and here it was, already past noon, miles from the car, and at the bottom of the great and beautiful canyon. Well. There are many worse things. I hustled, almost Julie-like, back to the bridge, and on up the Euchre Bar Trail to my car, and home.
The jeep tracks I saw told me that certain trees down across the Sawtooth Ridge road must have been cut through; for the jeep trail down to the Blackhawk is found at the very western end of the Sawtooth road. At this same point, a foot trail forks away north, down to the Rawhide Mine. Ron Gould and I had tried to get out there last year, but had been stopped by the fallen trees. Since it seemed the road was now open, I called him, and we were able to get away yesterday, and drive out there.
From Emigrant Gap we took Forest Road 19 to Texas Hill, then looped around the head of Burnett Canyon onto Sawtooth Ridge. As one nears Helester Point, the site of an old TNF fire lookout tower, the roads get worse, and one passes through several rather horrible clearcuts on Sierra Pacific Industries lands. I would like to see TNF purchase these lands., and de-emphasize timber production, and manage the more southwestern part of Sawtooth Ridge as wildlands, with a motorized vehicle closure somewhere near Helester Point.
We continued roughly west on what counts as a jeep trail. The Sawtooth road follows, in many places, the line of the older Sawtooth Trail. One can still find the old blazes TNF rangers made in trees along the trail, many decades ago. They are usually all healed over by fresh bark and can hardly be recognized. Some are on large pines, some on oaks.
There are several small bodies of glacial till high on Sawtooth Ridge, west of Helester Point. These have a reddened, weathered appearance and I imagine them to be older than the last, "Tioga" episode of glaciation. Perhaps they are Tahoe I or Tahoe II tills, from about 120,000 or 65,000 years ago, respectively.
There are also patches of glacially-planed and polished Shoo Fly metasediments, high on the ridge, near the road. It is against my usual thinking to imagine that such glacially-smoothed surfaces could persist for "65,000" years, or still less for "120,000" years. Possibly they were buried beneath till until relatively recently.
We drove right through the deep pass where some old maps record a trail down to Humbug Bar, and climbed up and over one of the higher "teeth" of Sawtooth Ridge, over 4200' elevation, and where the 1960 Volcano Fire had severely scalded the ridge, leaving a welter of forty-year-old Knobcone Pines, many dying, falling every which way like jackstraws. A very few large trees had survived the fire and bore blazes marking the old trail. There is also much manzanita out there, often crowding the road.
We drove through the next pass, then across the next tooth, and then down again to the ultimate pass just before the ultimate, most-western tooth, which rises steeply 2000 feet from the confluence of the main North Fork and the North Fork of the North Fork. The Blackhawk trail doubles back to the east here, dropping off the ridge crest, while the Rawhide Trail is lost in a sea of manzanita. We began scouting for the Rawhide Trail, and Ron quickly found the vehicle closure sign placed by TNF, likely in 1978, marking the Blackhawk Trail as closed to motorcycles and jeeps. Someone had heaved it well off the road into the manzanita.
I had scouted for the Rawhide Trail there a couple of years ago, without success. Ron picked it up in about ten minutes, and followed it back to the road. It was right where the map showed it to be, yet the manzanita had totally overwhelmed it.
Ron also found a neat little TNF sign, just off the end of the Sawtooth Road on the south, which read "American River, 2; Blackhawk Mine, 3; Rawhide Mine, 2." So, the Forest Service had apparently followed the error on the Westville quadrangle, placing the Blackhawk up at Humbug Bar, rather than right at the base of the jeep trail.
This Rawhide Mine Trail is quite an important trail, as I have often mentioned, for it is the "missing link" in what would otherwise be a continuous trail (or series of trails), from Iron Point to Loch Leven Lakes. From the lakes one can easily cross Big Granite Creek to the Devils Peak area, and from there it is easy going east to Serene Lakes and Donner Pass.
The reason the Rawhide Trail is a "missing" link is that, for some decades, the current owner of the mine buildings at the confluence of Blue Canyon and the North Fork of the North Fork, has blocked public access across the two bridges there. Once across the NFNFAR one is on TNF lands, in fact, the mine itself and many other buildings are on TNF lands.
The Rawhide property, as I hear, is now for sale. We must find a way to get this measly little 80 acres or whatever in TNF ownership.
The sign Ron found is quite interesting, for it shows that this trail was once a formal part of the TNF trail system. This is also suggested by its presence on old TNF maps.
It would seem that TNF "gave up" on this trail not too long after the 1960 fire, for, as Ron and I traced the old trail through the masses of manzanita, we found many signs that it had been maintained and the brush cut back, but the cuts were old cuts, done with a chainsaw, and I would not doubt but that they dated to some time after 1960, but before 1970.
We had one pair of loppers and took turns, until sweat was streaming into our eyes; then we'd change over. It was pretty rough going. At last we reached a large pine which had survived the 1960 fire and held a classic "small i" blaze. Soon thereafter we left the sunny manzanita for the shadier north slopes of Sawtooth. The trail had held a level line through the manzanita, but now began its descent to the Rawhide. We followed it on down for a quarter-mile, through some minor switchbacks which do not show on the map, but GPS tracking showed, later, that the trail's course is almost exactly what is depicted on the Westville quad.
We did not come even close to properly clearing the trail, but left it in such a condition that one does not often have to crawl.
I had imagined an attempt to drive the Blackhawk jeep trail, but the tracks of the jeep left no doubt it had been a small vehicle, no pickup truck or SUV in the modern pattern, but an out-and-out CJ-type rig. So we felt apprehension over following what could only be a very very steep road, with few chances to turn around.
Instead, we drove back east to the low pass where the old Humbug Bar Trail drops off Sawtooth Ridge to the south, and explored to the north, in search of the Golden West Quartz Mine, the mineral plat of which records a trail dropping to a bridge on the North Fork of the North Fork. However, we had ruined ourselves on the Rawhide Trail, and even a descent to the top of the claim, at about 2800' elevation, was beyond us. We scouted west until we gained the ridgelet embraced by the claim, but then just followed it up, looking for what we presumed would be a human trail leading back up to the pass.
We eventually did find this old trail; found it, and lost it, found it again, lost it again, and then found it yet again and followed it quite neatly into the pass where we'd parked. This is undoubtedly the trail used to access the Golden West.
The Golden West was claimed by one Reuben H. Lloyd. One of the quirks of modern life is the Internet. I googled Reuben H. Lloyd and found him to be a prominent attorney in San Francisco, a hundred years ago, more or less. Lloyd seems to have been a bit of a character; well—he served on the Golden Gate Park Commission, and, presumably because he was an old-time resident—wait—start at the beginning.
In the 1860s, in San Francisco, was a man who declared himself Emperor of the Pacific, or at least, of San Francisco: we know him as Emperor Norton. And Emperor Norton had two dogs, Bummer and Lazarus. These dogs could fight other dogs, and catch rats, in a most admirable and exceptional manner. And Norton and his dogs would march into just about any saloon or restaurant and expect to be served, gratis, being Emperor, you know.
Well. Time passed. Bummer and Lazarus died. They were duly skinned and stuffed and placed reverently on display in certain saloons. More time passed. As these stuffed dogs represented such an important part of the local history, it was decided to formally present them to the City.
And who accepted this precious gift, on behalf of San Francisco?
Reuben H. Lloyd.
At any rate, such were two interesting days in and around the great canyon.
One final note: Ron and I were shocked to see real estate “For Sale” signs out on Sawtooth Ridge. They appear to be in the west one-half of Section 30, T16N, R12E. I would like to see TNF purchase these lands, yesterday if not before. For, despite the rather horrible industrial timber management (mismanagement?) which has scarred too much of Sawtooth Ridge already, I value it very much as a wild place, where people do not live. The “For Sale” sign cannot but evoke visions of 40-acre “view” parcels. You know the rest.