[Russell Towle's journal]
“7/5/89 [...] Yesterday when Gay returned home from a long day at her office, we rolled up a couple and drove out to the BLM land west of Gold Run, finding a hilltop covered with manzanita and sugar pine from which we could see the fireworks in Colfax, Rocklin, and Sacramento. Best of all, though, was the moon, and Venus the latter nearly occulted by the former. Continuing on to Depot Hill, we watched the fireworks in Grass Valley, and then waited a short while for moonset, venus-set. The moon set directly over Banner Mountain, and with only a portion of its slender crescent visible, it looked like a pillar of fire.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2001 10:43:01 -0800
From: Russell Towle
Subject: land acquisition in Gold Run/Dutch Flat area
The long-deferred meeting between Placer County staff (John Ramirez of Parks, Loren Clark of Placer Legacy, et. al.) and BLM staff (Deane Swickard et. al.) takes place today. David Sutton of the Trust for Public Land is unable to attend. Since Deane indicated that we might well expand the scope of proposed land acquisitions beyond the Gold Run project often mentioned here, I prepared a list of acquisition targets in the local area to take to the meeting, as follows.
Gold Run Diggings
Sections 9 & 10 (and possibly 3 & 4), T15N R10E
In 1978, Congress designated the North Fork American as a Wild & Scenic River, and created a special Gold Run Addition to the W&SR, extending north into the Gold Run Diggings. While large areas within the Addition are publicly-owned BLM lands, various parcels of private land exist there. Congress desired that these private inholdings be acquired, and exempted public agencies from spending limitations in doing so. These have formed a part of the BLM’s acquisition goals for many years. Currently, these lands are under one ownership (Gold Run Properties) and are for sale.
A network of roads and trails exist in the Gold Run Diggings, which often cross from BLM lands to GRP lands and back. These roads and trails include the most convenient access to the historic Canyon Creek Trail from BLM lands along Garrett Road. Some of the GRP parcels involved span the Addition boundary or flank it to the north. Two GRP parcels are on the rim of the canyon in Giant Gap, in the Bogus Point area, flanking the Addition to the north.
The GRP parcels within and flanking the Addition as described above comprise about 357 acres of the 800 acres currently for sale, being all those GRP lands within Sections 9 and 10 of T15N R11E.
GRP owners have expressed interest in selling to BLM and/or the Placer Legacy, and have suggested that they might make a gift of part of the land. It is worth considering acquisition of the entire 800 acres and managing it as a Primitive Area.
The Gold Run Diggings has important historical, scenic, and recreational values. It also contains interesting paleobotanical resources, including petrified wood and fossil leaves from Eocene-age subtropical forests.
Dutch Flat Petrified Forest
Section 3, T15N R10E
North of Lincoln Road between Dutch Flat and Gold Run lies a tract of diggings once known as Maryland Hill. These claims were located mostly upon the high bench gravels flanking the main deep channel of the Eocene-age (55 m.y.b.p) Tertiary Yuba River, which flowed from south to north through Iowa Hill, Gold Run, Dutch Flat, and on to Little York, You Bet, and points west. These bench gravels formed the ideal environment for the creation of petrified wood from tree trunks buried in the sediments. While most of the petrified wood once common in the Dutch Flat and Gold Run diggings was hauled away long ago for use in masonry projects, the Maryland Hill area had limited road access and a substantial amount of petrified wood remains. This area was once known as the Dutch Flat Petrified Forest.
Noted geologist/paleontologist David Lawler and I worked for years to promote the idea of a Petrified Forest Preserve here. Some BLM land is in the area, and two private parcels. Of these two, one, owned by Wing Lee, comprises 57 acres and contains most of the petrified wood. The other is owned by James Gould and comprises 28 acres. Mr. Gould was a willing seller. Mr. Lee was not.
The Dutch Flat Petrified Forest could become a valuable destination for school field trips.
Dutch Flat Chinatown
Section 3, T15N R10E
When Dutch Flat’s first Chinatown burned under mysterious circumstances in September of 1877, Henry A. Frost allowed reconstruction of the town on his property near the railroad tracks on Depot Hill. This was the largest Chinese community in the Northern Sierra, with a population exceeding 350 as late as 1893. A number of rammed-earth, “adobe” store buildings flanked the main street (which is part of the Old Emigrant Road from Emigrant Gap to Sacramento, and the main wagon road to Dutch Flat before 1863), and forty to fifty wooden buildings surrounded the stores. There was a Joss House or temple, and a tong headquarters, for, presumably, the Chee Kong Tong. The last Chinese resident left around 1940, and the remaining adobe buildings were combed for artifacts by local children. Store documents found in one of the buildings at this time eventually found their way to the Bancroft Library.
Currently, the Chinatown site is almost entirely within a 3.5-acre, residentially-zoned parcel owned by ex-Congressman Pete McCloskey. The site has been identified as containing important archaeological resources. Attempts were made by the Archaeological Conservancy to purchase this property, in recent years. The property is in close proximity but not touching the proposed Dutch Flat Petrified Forest Preserve.
The Giant Gap Trail
Sections 2, 10, and 11, T15N R10E
BLM land at Lovers Leap, Bogus Point, and farther west in Canyon Creek and the Gold Run Diggings, present the possibility of making a Giant Gap Trail, from Lovers Leap to Garrett Road. The tremendous scenery in Giant Gap benefits from being seen from many different points. An old mining ditch leaves a ravine west of Lovers Leap on BLM lands and winds along the rim of the canyon. This would make a wonderful trail, and the idea was proposed to the BLM around fifteen years ago.
Between the west boundary of the BLM lands at Lovers Leap, and Bogus Point, the line of the proposed trail intercepts about ten private parcels. Most or all of these were created during the illegal subdivision of Moody Ridge in the late 1970s. They are all “view parcels” and construction of residences can be expected to follow the pattern seen along Lovers Leap road, where all trees and vegetation between the house and the canyon is removed, to give the desired “million-dollar view.” Thus the view of Giant Gap from elsewhere, especially from the vicinity of Iowa Hill, the head of the Blue Wing Trail, and Giant Gap Ridge, can be severely impacted by residential development on Moody Ridge.
It is unknown whether any of the owners are definitely willing sellers, although the Anthonys are said to be, and an owner of a 20-acre parcel (Joe Hoffman) told me he would sell the 10 acres dropping over the rim of the canyon.
The Green Valley Trail
Section 1, T15N R10E
The historic Green Valley Trail heads up on Moody Ridge on private lands and passes through private lands on its descent to the North Fork American. The owner, Richard W. Towle (my father) has expressed willingness to sell the 200 acres through which much of the trail passes. Tahoe National Forest has embarked upon an effort to acquire other private inholdings in Green Valley, although without any success yet.
Section 26, T16N R10E
A lovely deep pool on the Bear River, near Alta, with water-polished cliffs on both sides and a waterfall grotto at its upper end, is known as Smarts Crossing. A road dating back to the 1860s crossed the river here, from near Dutch Flat and Alta north to Lowell Hill Ridge and the Liberty Hill Diggings. The Smart family of Dutch Flat owned a sawmill across the canyon, and built or rebuilt the bridge just above the deep pool; hence the name. This bridge washed out in the 1930s or 1940s and since then the road has served generations of local residents to give access to the river for swimming and fishing.
Land ownership in the area is complicated, with Tahoe National Forest lands, BLM lands at Liberty Hill, PG&E lands along the upper end of the Smarts Crossing Road, where it forks away from Drum Powerhouse Road, and private lands. In particular, much of the road to Smarts Crossing passes through a 75-acre parcel owned by Thomas Van Horne. An attempt to close the road to the public by the previous owner led to a class-action lawsuit in which it was shown that the road was a public road and could not be closed.
However, zoning in the area would allow residential construction on the 75 acres, and this would probably severely impact public access to Smarts Crossing. It is fair to characterize Smarts Crossing as an important part of the scenic, historic, and recreational heritage of the Dutch Flat area. To maintain open space and forestall residential development, Tahoe National Forest or BLM should attempt to acquire the 75-acre parcel, and possibly the PG&E lands near the top of the road.
Northwest part of Section 5, T15N, R11E.
Just above the head of the Euchre Bar Trail to the North Fork American, and above the historic scenic overlook of Iron Point, a 48-acre parcel of private land is surrounded on three sides by Tahoe National Forest lands. This parcel has TPZ non-residential zoning, but the current owner is attempting to secure a Minor Use Permit to construct a “caretaker’s residence” for “timber management” on the property. This parcel has not yet been adopted specifically by Tahoe National Forest as an acquisition target, but since it lies within the main canyon of the North Fork American, it does fall within the scope of TNF efforts to acquire private inholdings in that canyon.
P.O. Box 141
Dutch Flat, CA 95714
July 5, 2001
American River Ranger District
22830 Foresthill Road
Foresthill, CA 95631
With regard to the Mears Thinning Project, which you so kindly informed me of in your letter of June 27th: Broadly, I myself enjoy hiking in wild places. But wild places are too rare in Tahoe National Forest. Historic trails have been ruined by logging, so that to begin with, one can’t follow the old trail anymore, and next, why would you want to? It leads to a new kind of wilderness, made of logging roads, log decks, skid trails, and piles of half-burned slash. I want to restore the beauty of the forest, and restore the historic trails.
I am familiar with the Mears Meadow area and know of several historic trails there, which have been mostly abandoned by Tahoe National Forest. I have painstakingly followed what is left of these old trails. The Monumental Creek Trail, the Mears Meadow Trail, the Big Valley Trail, the Lake Valley Trail (with its unusual geology), and the main Monumental Ridge Trail leading south from near Huysink Lake, to Big Valley Bluff and beyond; all of these trails are in that area. All have been damaged by logging, or have become roads (FR 19). I wish no further damage to occur to any of these trails. Perhaps, where they have already, in the past, been used as skid trails, they can be put to similar use again, but these old trail alignments should not be tilled, afterwards, nor should they be blocked by water bars. Trees which have old TNF blazes, marking these trails, should be retained.
I was a little surprised that Mears Meadow does not count as a “wetland.” However, it is considered a riparian area, and some special guidelines will apparently be followed. Perhaps some of the thinning could be performed more esthetically, near the Meadow. If, for instance, the overcrowded forest has overwhelmed an old camp, a favorable camping site, let us say, flanking the Meadow, well, perhaps that camping area could be thinned much more carefully.
Such a careful and aesthetic type of thinning ought to be the rule within “corridors” along the trails. Merely cutting stumps flush with the ground, and neatly disposing the slash, and avoiding disruption of the land surface by ground-based equipment, would go a long way towards meeting an “aesthetic” standard. Also, hand crews instead of machines.
July 5, 2006
July 5, 2008
|The night-blooming Soaproot or “Amole” (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) |
with the tiny flying insects that eagerly await the opening of each bud.