June 4 (1979, 1987, 1988, 1996, 2001)
Superlative Spring: Up, Down, and Sideways

6/4/79 […] Dana and I decided to go down to Giant Gap on the river and so we did ~ she spent the night before here and we made an early start. The river is high and cold. Many wild flowers, butterflies. Saw a kingfisher.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/4/87 4 AM … Last night I had an attack of environmental paranoia: hopeless to appeal the Corral Springs sale, hopeless to try and slow the wracking wheel of progress, hopeless to pretend to an ability to influence Forest Service policies, hopeless to make a living amidst all of this, hopeless, in fact, quite generally; quite generally hopeless. That I haven't the funds to even make copies of my latest letter to Charlie!


Today I plan to go to Colfax [...] And then return in search of Gay, for it is my idea to go to Big Valley Bluff with cameras.

Made a date to get together with Geri Larson on the 16th; Bill and Eric Peach may attend. The plan is to go to Iron Point and Lovers Leap and Big Valley Bluff and possibly to Corral Springs… to talk over the whole issue of clear-cutting within the North Fork Canyon, within the general viewshed…

Today's first light glows blue and faintly; will this day's last light find me at Big Valley Bluff? The Leap, the Bluff, Iron Point: I should not lose sight of how important those resources are. I'm impressed with how little I know about the evolution of policy in TNF what caused the transition to clear-cutting? Was it a sort of subversion by the timber industry? I was just reading, yesterday, at Bill's place, a book by William Douglas, written around 1950, about his travels through Persia, India, the Middle East. He addressed in some detail, the deforestation in Lebanon and Israel, and at one point recounted a chance meeting with a forest ranger while on a backpacking trip in the Cascades. The ranger told him about the overgrazing by sheep, the diminished ability of the soils to absorb rainfall, the whole subject of sustained yield—which in those days meant, quite plainly, selective harvest methods of logging. Nowadays clear-cutting seems to have become the preferred method.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/4/88  morning, cloudy with impending rain, after a day, yesterday, hesterno die, which could only have been one of the nicest, freshest, most fragrant, most delectable and deliciously vagrant, of all possible spring days, past, present, future, up, down, and sideways, anyway in every way warm, cool, cloudy, sunny, trembling with a leafy potential energy delicately expressed through the voices of birds and birdlets with all implications and ramifications inclusive… I gathered momentum amid glimpses of flowers and worked on the log chair, cutting mortices, tenons, shaving, delving, fitting, constructing a matched pair of frames next to be linked by four cross-loglets, to which will be attached the back and seat, simply one-by-fours.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

6/4/96 Tuesday evening. I just finished transcribing I. T. Coffin's description of 4th of July ball at the Dutch Flat Opera House in 1870, as it appeared in the Stars and Stripes of Auburn. I will likely incorporate it in the diary.

We had a visitor Sunday, a young man from Scotland named John, who made quite a hit with the kids. We took him out to Lovers Leap, and on various walks around here.

This afternoon, Gay and the kids and I went down to Auburn […] and went to the library, where I made copies of microfilm, from the Stars and Stripes. An interesting couple of articles about Dutch Flat, wherein one gains more of a sense of the period of decline in the late 1860s and the period of renewal in the early 1870s. I should return to the library soon and gather more Coffin letters. I have a list of dates from the diary when he wrote for the various Auburn newspapers.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 08:21:52 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Petroglyphs

Hi all,

In the high country of Placer and Nevada counties, ancient Indian petroglyphs are found, designs of many types incised into glaciated rock surfaces. A couple dozen such sites are found in the North Fork of the American, notably at Wabena Point and at the actual Soda Springs, for which the town of Soda Springs was merely the place where one changed from trail to stagecoach, a century or so ago.

Yesterday I visited a site I had wanted to see for over fifteen years. It is in the eastern part of the Palisade Creek basin, about a mile and a half east of Devils Peak, and a mile south of Palisade Lake. This site was on glaciated granite, near a wetland with lots of aspen and marshy meadows. It looks to be well-known and often visited, and several of the designs had been colored in with chalk, a practice which is frowned upon by archaeologists. The designs are scattered across an area of about one hundred by fifty feet, on gently sloping granite.

Gem Wiseman taking in the expanse of petroglyphs
Some of the classic designs of the North Fork high country were visible here: bear footprints, circles, concentric circles, spirals, square hatching, and both angular and curves zig-zags of parallel lines. There was an unusual design comprising a long straight central line (say, six feet or so) with diamond shapes bisected by the line.

These petroglyphs are palpably old. Many are too faint to discern just what the motif was. At this site they are on remnants of glacial polish, reddened slightly by iron oxides as the rock has weathered over the past twelve to fifteen thousand years, since the ice of the Tioga glaciation retreated. In places the polished surface has flaked off, disrupting the petroglyphs. The petroglyphs are thought to be 1500 to 4000 years old, and to be artifacts of the Martis Complex culture. Archaeologists have found basalt points near some of these sites which are of the type made by Martis Complex people, who used spear-throwers (atlatls) but not bows and arrows. One site near Lake Spaulding on the South Yuba depicts a man with an atlatl.

It is thought that the petroglyphs had to do with hunting magic. Some think that some of the designs may be maps. Often the sites are associated with trails. A series of such sites leads from Donner Pass down the South Yuba and around into the upper basin of the North Fork of the North Fork American, showing that the famed Donner Trail was following a pre-existing Indian trail.

The game drive appears to have been a primary hunting technique with these people. Deer etc. were forced toward a narrow pass where men hid in stone blinds. There are stone hunting blinds of this sort on the summit of Snow Mountain (a couple miles southwest of this Palisade Creek site). The Wabena Point site, across the North Fork's Royal Gorge from massive Snow Mountain, may have been a game drive site.

I will put some of photos of the faint petroglyphs I saw yesterday on a web page soon.


Russell Towle
[Here is a link to the informative web page Russell made after several visits to this site in 2001, which is now archived on Ron Gould's site:

Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 15:36:29 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: TNF acquisitions, North Fork American

Hi all,

Gus Thompson of the Auburn Journal will run a story tomorrow about the proposed purchase of 6100 acres of land from SPI by TNF. The Trust for Public Land has announced a deal with SPI for this and other lands. Details are a little sketchy, but it sounds promising. I do not know whether Congress has allocated the LWCF funding for the North Fork in this year's budget.

Good news!

I would like to see TNF go after more of SPI's holdings, including sections near Devils Peak and Sugar Pine Point, and on Snow Mountain. Some of the more important lands are owned by others, such as Lonestar Timber, Croman, and High Sierra Properties.

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