The Royal Gorge
Sun and stone and mountain throne:
the Royal Gorge.
light bright lances
gently shattered rippling patches
dance embracing cliffs, trout,
dance also the ouzels,
dance the waters falling
into pools of deep and many dimensions.
bones of rattlesnake victims like driftwood heaped:
the Royal gorge.
take a foot, take another
and still another:
take four thousand feet and reach
rocky tops of Snow Mountain.
and atop those tops
obsidian clues to vanished hunters:
loping bear, jumping deer, wood-rat, thou,
sing! sing! sing to me
the men who lounged atop these tops,
granite jewels close-pack to fill space,
all around, up, down:
distant roar single hands clapping,
waterfall upon waterfall,
pool upon pool,
ouzel upon ouzel, trout on trout,
eagle golden over all of everything.
to leap, to dive, to swim,
perchance to dream, that
certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
and blended raging raging maelstrom of
and remained by way of blessing,
the echoing, echoing, all-reflecting
canyon of canyons:
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 07:26:41 -0800
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Giant Gap
Gay & Gem & Gus & Janet & Greg & I made an amazing hike yesterday. We descended the Green Valley Trail, followed the river down through Giant Gap, and came out on the Canyon Creek Trail. I had stashed the truck out in the Gold Run diggings in the morning for when we came out.
The weather was perfect—not too hot—and the river was perfect for swimming, not too cold. It took a bit longer to get ready to go in the morning than I'd planned on. We started at 10:30 rather than 9:30. An hour's hike down the trail brought us to the river at the west end of Green Valley. A deep pool distracted us from our trek for a while; but this was the plan, to pause and enjoy all the great pools along the way.
Continuing, we waded across the river and followed the left bank for a ways, then the right bank, mostly a constant jumping from boulder to boulder. We had to wade back and forth as cliffs began to appear on one side or the other. We made rather slow time. I wanted to defer lunch until we reach the first deep pool in Giant Gap, where we would be forced to swim. We arrived there at 1:40.
This pool is about 300 feet long or so. There are some great rocks to jump into it from. You can look up and see Lovers Leap almost directly above to the north. At the upper end of the pool were abundant animal tracks and sign (mainly fox) on a tiny (ten-foot) beach, where a ferny spring entered the river. We saw lots of deer tracks and some bear along the river.
Gem had packed along an inflatable air mattress and we blew it up and loaded all the packs on and swam the pool. Greg had brought flippers along and although he was very hesitant to take on such a long pool, once he got started he did very well.
Another deep, must-swim pool was almost immediately downstream. So we re-loaded the raft and swam that pool. As we continued down through Giant Gap, it was really one deep pool after another. A hundred yards of boulder-hopping, or two hundred yards, and then load the raft with the packs and swim down. The pools were amazing but our progress was quite slow. For one thing, there was no way we could have put on out shoes or clothes, most of us had flip-flops, but I was barefoot and naked as we continued down this most amazing part of the canyon. I fully expected this swim-and-boulder-hop section of the canyon to end at little ways below the Pinnacles ridge, but it didn't.
Greg and I often scouted ahead of the rest of the group, to see if there was any way to pass some pool by climbing the rocks on one side or the other. At one point we had halted, seeing that, if we waded the river, we might be able to pass the next pool by climbing above it. The others were a few minutes behind us. Suddenly a boulder came crashing down with a cloud of dust across the river, exactly where we guessed there might be a way to continue along without swimming, about a hundred feet above the river. "That can't be coincidence!," I said to Greg, "there must be an animal there! Look for it; where is it, it's got to be there!"
Sure enough, a bear could be seen climbing the slope above, a smallish bear, dark and light reddish brown mixed.
The others joined us, and crossed the river, climbed past the pool, but were immediately confronted by another huge pool and loaded the raft and swam. And so it continued; I was surprised at how long the cliff-and-pool section of the gorge lasted. The sun lowered. A ridge came into view, a spur from Moody Ridge, which I knew to have a deep pool at its base, having scrambled down the ridge twenty years ago or so, also, one can even see the pool from some places around Lovers Leap. I knew that, once we had turned this ridge, we had one more mile along the river to reach Canyon Creek. And I had imagined that we would be in clothes and shoes as we approached this ridge, possibly forced into a pool once at its base. But as it turned out we had to pack up the raft and swim all the way around the ridge to the next curve downstream. The last few pools were swum in the shadows, which were lengthening.
Finally we reached the sun again and as far as I could see ahead there was no pool to need the raft so it was on with the clothes and shoes. My bare feet had become quite tender.
We were forced to cross back and forth several times and to do some tricky rock-climbing above various pools, but finally we reached Canyon Creek, at 7:30. We paused for half an hour and drank drinks and munched on food and treats. Then it was up the very steep lower part of the Canyon Creek Trail. The sun set but there was a good moon, which was fortunate (and part of my Plan), inasmuch as no one was feeling very sprightly. [...] As we climbed the trail, Greg and Janet leading the way, we climbed very very slowly. By the time we reached the upper, more gently inclined part of the trail, we were relying entirely on moonlight. It was easy though, although in the very last part of the trail as we turned out of Canyon Creek towards the diggings, we fell into the shadow of the ridge between the creek and the diggings, and it became harder to see. Soon enough we reached the truck and arrived home at 9:30.
The traverse of Giant Gap has been something I've wanted to do for a long time. It was great to finally do it. It is difficult. It took hours longer to do the three miles of river from Green Valley to Canyon Creek than I had expected, and this slowness was evident at the start, so we didn't do a lot of leisure swimming at the various deep pools was passed. Some kind of river shoe thingy would have been good. My feet are still sore.
An amazing place, Giant Gap.
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 11:22:52 -0800
To: "Terry Davis, Sierra Club"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: Fw: NF American Study?
Terry, The documents Steve mentions as follows:
>There was a National Wild & Scenic River study for the North Fork
>American conducted by the Forest Service in 1978. The California
>Resources Agency also published a North Fork American Waterway Management
>Plan in 1977 to fulfill its obligation (since eliminated by the
>Legislature) under the State Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. We have copies of
>both documents in the FOR office. They probably have information that
>you would find useful and you are welcome to come by and review them. I
>am loathe to loan them out since they are irreplaceable.
I loaned my State study of the NFk ten years ago and never got it back. I still have the Federal study (loaned it too, it came back in pieces, but all the pieces are here, I think).
>I also have the Wild & Scenic River assessments produced by the Forest
>Service for several North Fork tributaries (NFNF American, Big & Little
>Granite Creeks, New York Canyon) within the roadless area. These too can
>provide useful information on natural resources within the watershed and
>I can provide you with copies.
I am personally interested in all these W&SR assessments. Can you ask for them please? Of how much use they may have in putting together a North Fork Wilderness Proposal, I am not sure. Just because we can lard a proposal up with all kinds of geologic, soils, botanical, and faunal information, doesn't mean that we should.
Giant Gap was totally great. Saw a bear down there in the steepest part of the gorge. The water was perfect, comfortable and clear.
Sunday 9:00 a.m. at the Monte Vista at DF exit?
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2000 21:48:20 -0800
To: D. Harwood
From: Russell Towle
Subject: North Fork American
Dear Mr. Harwood,
Recently I obtained a photocopy of your "Geologic Map of the North Fork of the American River Wilderness Study Area ..." and find it very interesting. I have lived near the North Fork for several decades and often hike various parts of the canyon. An amateur geologist, I had been accustomed to regard the chert of Duncan Peak and Little Bald Mountain as part of the Shoo Fly, but your map places this chert separate from the Shoo Fly. Have you had occasion to modify your evaluation of this formation, or more generally, of the strip of stuff lying between the Shoo Fly and the Sailor Canyon fm.?
I really like your map and would be very pleased if any of your papers relating to geology of the North Fork or the Northern Sierra were to be found on-line.
There is some interesting Quaternary geology in the canyon near Dutch Flat, near the Melones fault zone serpentine; a mass of gravels, some cemented, amazingly well-cemented, and so much deeper than any other Quaternary gravels I have seen in Sierra canyons—up to at least 500 feet above the river—that I wish, I have long wished, that some enterprising geologist would seize upon the chance to correlate these sediments with the various glacial advances and retreats.
Well, with best regards, and appreciation for your fine work in the Sierra, I am
August 11, 2002
Frogs of Green Valley