August 5 (1977, 1982, 1986,1987, 2000, 2001, 2003)
Sailor Meadow ~ Frogs and Forest ~ ‘Significance’

8/5/77 ~ [...] Giant Gap was incredible… How did I manage to avoid going there for these last two years? The cañon wrens, ouzels, the golden eagles.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

8/5/82   [...]

The sun angle grows lower; as we get closer to equinox than to solstice, the change from day to day increases, and that precious dynamism of spring and fall is ours to savor.

There has been a slow drizzle of very small spiders descending from my ceiling of late. Sort of tiresome and amusing at once, if such were possible.

A large moon rises to the southeast.

Made contact with Winslow Hall today about visiting Heath Springs, and have arranged to meet him at the Cedars next Wednesday morning. He mentioned an area of petroglyphs, Wabena Point, that I hope I get to see too. Both these areas caught my interest while atop Snow Mountain. Heath Springs is the site of one of the waterfalls I could see from Snow.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

August 5, 1986   Morning; [...]
I did some more rock climbing at Smart's yesterday, and, wow, my arms are weak and out of shape. [...]
Later, at night. Work went well at Ed's today. From there I visited La Lande, who has sold his motorcycle and cut his hair, an always startling effect. He's installed some new, larger, hummingbird feeders, and has many many hummers coming around. Ron delights in watching them. And today was one of many when the main subject of conversation was hummingbirds. Ron described them as “barking” at one another and at us. [...]

Tried to call Eric Henriksen, Fred Yeager, and John McGowan, all without success. They are Placer County officials, Supervisor, Head of the Department of Parks, and Head of Department of Public Works respectively. I wanted to talk about Smart's Crossing and the possibility of getting it adopted into the county road system.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

8/5/87 Wednesday morning. Yesterday brother Rich came by and we drove east in his new (used) Toyota Landcruiser, exploring the jeep trails around Castle Peak, and then proceeding further east into the Truckee River canyon near the state line, hiking up an interesting canyon cut into volcanic mud flow. From there much further east to Verdi where we followed roads leading north and then west, eventually reaching highway 89 at Hobart Mills after a side trip to Mt. Verdi, where we found peculiar white mineral crusts on the summit rocks I have tentatively identified as “lightning-struck bird shit”—an identification most likely erroneous, but I remain convinced that lightning, if not bird shit, plays a role in creating these vaguely porcelain-like layers.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2000 13:12:45 -0800
To: "Diana Stralberg"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: UTM section coordinates
X-Attachments: :Macintosh HD:18:contours.jpg:

Hi Diana,

I was able to use your section id's with the other data you sent to superimpose section lines upon a contour map, using Mathematica. Attached, an example, (contours.jpg) being a portion of T15N, R10E near Gold Run, including the GR diggings, Moody Ridge, and Giant Gap. I added the section numbers by hand, just manually positioning them (could have used the section center coordinates given in your data).

One odd thing is that the section numbers are not accurate. For instance, in order to get sections 13, 14, 15, 16, I had to use your numbers 15, 16, 17, 18. Don't know how that happened.

Nevertheless, this is really great, thanks very much. I see the sections are clipped against the county boundaries (in this case, the Bear river).

Date: Sun, 5 Aug 2001 19:09:16 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Sailor Meadow

Hi all,

On Saturday Catherine “Canyon” O'Riley, Tom Molloy, my son Greg, and I, hiked down to Sailor Meadow. We met in Colfax, crossed the North Fork on the road to Iowa Hill, and met the Foresthill Road, following it north and east. The Tevis Cup race was going on; there was but a few seconds' delay at Robinson Flat, and we drove to the trailhead without incident.

The trail descends a spur ridge from the Foresthill Divide, which drops north into the North Fork canyon. It is the divide between Sailor Canyon to the west, Wildcat Canyon to the east, and was severely truncated by the North Fork glacier, terminating in a 2000-foot triangular wall facing Snow Mountain.

Everywhere here in the Sierra, the ridges are usually capped by relatively young volcanics—mudflows and beds of volcanic ash, in roughly horizontal strata—while their main bulk is the underlying, vastly older "bedrock," be it slate or granite or any of many kinds of metamorphic rock. In this older rock, where strata exist, they are turned up on edge. There are really two topographies present: the present landscape, with deep canyons often separated by flat-topped ridges, and the old ancestral landscape, with its own entirely distinct set of ridges and valleys. This ancestral Sierra was buried wholesale by the young volcanics, then uplifted, and a suite of brand new canyons were incised much deeper than the old buried valleys. Thus much of the buried land surface is now thin air. It has been the work of a thousand geological Sherlock Holmes's, often at odds with one another, to unravel the details of this ancient land surface: where were the rivers, where the ridges, where the low ground, where the high ground?

White-veined Wintergreen
(Pyrola picta)
Sometimes the answer to such questions is locally, at any rate, quite easily seen. At Sailor Meadow, a topographic low in the ancestral Sierra, with a river flowing through a valley in the slate bedrock, allowed an unusually thick section of the young volcanics to accumulate. They are about 1500 feet thick, and as one walks down the trail, one slowly descends through the younger andesitic mudflows, into the somewhat older rhyolite ash, at Sailor Meadow itself. Below the ash are still older river gravels, gold-bearing, and exploited by several drift mines scattered about Sailor and Wildcat canyons.

The meadow, a rich and wet expanse of grasses about one hundred acres in extent, is skirted by a faint trail, which leads to the old stockman's camp at the meadow's southwest corner, where also are found bear beds, and an Indian grinding rock in the "pink welded tuff unit" of the rhyolite ash. Here we rested and had lunch, and then marveled at some exceptionally large Ponderosa pines nearby. The forest has young and old components: the old component is made of the huge Sugar and Ponderosa pines, with a goodly number of large White Fir, occasional Red Fir, and Incense Cedar. The young component is dominated by White Fir and Incense Cedar up to about seventy feet high and two feet in diameter. These likely sprouted after the last significant wildfire, and could be as little as sixty years old.

We wandered the forest for a while, intending to make headway north but veering east to a curious pond, quite near the main trail (which passes Sailor Meadow on its way to the Walker Mine, a hardrock mine in the main canyon). Here we rested, and Greg soon found a large number of tree frogs. These little fellows were hiding in the cracks in the great logs which litter the pond area. In one crack we found about fifteen of them.

Pacific Treefrog
(Pseudacris regilla)
We decided to continue north to a scenic overlook, a knoll near the truncated terminus of the ridge. There was a spot out that way (an old mineral prospect) which Tom Molloy had recorded the coordinates for, and we planned to use Tom's GPS unit to find it. We began to flounder a bit and seemed to be heading too far east again, verging into Wildcat Canyon, but the GPS said we were on the right track. We inadvertently found the trail again, lost it, and then arrived at the supposed spot. A few yards away we found the prospect. This was a convincing demonstration of the usefulness of these GPS receivers. However, we found that when in the heavy timber, we would lose satellite signals, and the GPS would stop working.

Continuing northward on a curving, constantly adapting-to-circumstances path through the forest, without GPS (too many trees), we found ourselves at the base of the knoll, in a nice opening in the forest, where the North Fork glacier had scoured the pink welded tuff unit, and even left a few granite boulder erratics, from miles away in Palisade Creek. Subsequently, frost wedging had splintered the pink welded tuff surface into a million little shards.

We had great views of Snow Mountain, Castle Peak, and Wildcat Point. Another long rest was definitely called for. We enjoyed it. The sun was lowering, and we slowly made our way up and out. We reached our vehicles at about 7:30 p.m. and arrived back in Colfax at about 9:30 p.m. Actually, Tom drove to Wildcat Point to spend the night.

Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 09:48:42 -0800
To: Rich Jenkins
From: Russell Towle
Subject: THP 2-03-040-PLA

Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 09:48:42 -0800
To: Rich Jenkins
From: Russell Towle
Subject: THP 2-03-040-PLA

August 5, 2003

Rich Jenkins
6105 Airport Road
Redding, CA 96002

Dear Mr. Jenkins,

I am writing with regard to Timber Harvest Plan 2-03-040-PLA, near Blue Canyon in Placer County. I am hoping that the public comment period for this THP is still open; if it is open, my initial comments are as follows. I understand that CDF does not normally admit emailed comments, and that I should mail a printed version of these comments to William Schultz, CDF, 6105 Airport Road, Redding, CA 96002.

This area is of special concern to me, as it contains the site of the historic gold mining town, Lost Camp, from which various historic trails radiated to other mining camps. I have not yet seen the THP itself, and of course, the accompanying archeological survey data is not available to me. The plan involves 590 acres across sections 22, 23, and 24, of T16N, R11E.

I am an amateur historian and have published books on the history of nearby Dutch Flat, including the diary of gold miner/photographer Isaac Tibbetts Coffin, who lived near Lost Camp, at Texas Hill and Burnett Canyon, from 1858 to 1864. His diary records visits to Lost Camp and use of the historic trails in the area.

It seems to me that special care should be taken when harvesting timber in this area. Lost Camp is more than a set of old mining ditches, reservoirs, and cabin sites; it is a town site, and has not ever been adequately surveyed from an archeological standpoint. The area of the town has been subjected to several timber harvests since the 1850s. I am concerned, then, that any further timber harvests, especially those where tractor logging is involved, but also those where helicopters are used to transport sawlogs, may blur the archeological record in critical areas. Road construction may also damage the archeological resource.

I am also concerned about the effects of further timber harvests upon the historic trails in this area. One trail in particular, sometimes called the China Trail, leads from Lost Camp down to the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River (NFNFAR) to the south. This trail once continued south, across the river, climbing Sawtooth Ridge, and giving access not only to the Sawtooth Ridge Trail, but to the Burnett Canyon Trail and Texas Hill. Now, this more southern, Sawtooth Ridge part of the China Trail has been obliterated by logging.

The more northern, Lost Camp reach of the China Trail is depicted on the 1866 General Land Office map of T16N, R11E. Both the northern and southern reaches of the China Trail are depicted on the 1962 Tahoe National Forest (TNF) map of the Big Bend and Foresthill Ranger districts.

The China Trail gives access to one of the most beautiful areas in TNF. There is a remarkable gorge, with many waterfalls, upstream on the NFNFAR from the base of the trail. Over a period of several years I have tried to bring this area to the attention of both TNF and Placer County, and have urged that every effort be made to purchase the private lands in this area, especially Section 23, which contains both the site of Lost Camp, and the top of the China Trail.

The 1866 GLO map also depicts the "Trail to Monumental Camp," leading due east from Lost Camp and across the ridge separating Texas Canyon from Fulda Creek. While trying to find the line of this old trail, a few days ago, I found many trees marked with blue paint, and much flagging, and realized a timber harvest was planned. Several mining ditches and reservoirs were in the area, along with what appeared to be a cabin site, and an old orchard, and many gullies left from ground sluicing.

I immediately called CDF at Bowman, near Auburn, and spoke with a very pleasant man named Kelly (I am not sure of his full name). Kelly did not know if the THP was still open to public comment, and suggested I call Jeff Dowling. Kelly said that, although I could not myself see the archeological survey of the area, Jeff could look at his copy, and verify whether any particular site or artifact had been documented.

I talked to Jeff yesterday. To my surprise, he seemed to know me quite well. Apparently he thought that I was raising questions about archeological resources merely as a ploy to stop or impede the timber harvest. Rather than check his copy of the archeological survey performed by the Registered Professional Forester (Dave Levy of Nevada City), Jeff merely asserted that he had walked "all over" that area, and that the survey was adequate. When I suggested that Lost Camp was more than a mining ditch and reservoir or two, he declared that our conversation had reached an impasse, and treated me to quite a lecture upon property rights, and "people like me" who oppose any and all timber harvests.

Jeff did not know if the public comment period for this THP was open or not, and suggested I call you. He told me that, supposing that I identified some new archeological site not already recorded, you and he would simply have to visit Lost Camp and devise mitigation measures; the timber harvest itself would go forward.

In years past I have been assured by CDF personnel that no archeological resource whatsoever would stop a timber harvest, but only, perhaps, change its extent, slightly.

I understand this, and I know that CDF, and its employees, and all timber harvests, are governed by a variety of regulations and laws. For instance, on the CDF home page it is stated that "In addition to timber, the state's wildlands also provide valuable watershed, wildlife habitat, and recreation resources. Maintaining the sustainability of all these natural resources is the goal of the CDF Resource Management Program."

Now, I do not believe that CDF has been properly maintaining and sustaining the historic trails in this area—I mean, not just near Lost Camp, but broadly, in Placer and Nevada counties generally. For, again and again I have seen historic trails obliterated by logging. Placer County used to have a rich network of trails, interconnecting, and fairly well spanning the entire county. Now, I am not saying, in some kind of reductio ad absurdum, that each and every one of these old trails should have been preserved intact. It is only natural, over the course of time, that some of these old trails became roads, for instance.

However, when timber harvests destroy one trail after another in Placer County's "high country" (and I would count Lost Camp as part of that high country, being above the usual snow-line, in the winter), I cannot help but think that both CDF and TNF are much at fault, and are, in fact, breaking the law. For it is my understanding that historic trails are to be protected, under the various laws, not destroyed.

I know many such instances of destroyed trails: the southern part of the China Trail has already been mentioned; add to that, the Big Valley Trail, the Sugar Pine Point Trail, the Monumental Creek Trail, and others.

I spoke with Mike Wopat of the California Geological Survey, who had submitted comments with regard to this "Lost Camp" THP. Mike said that his concerns involved proposed construction of a haul road in the northeast part of Section 23, giving access to lands in the northwest part of Section 24 to the east. This new road would have to cross the stream known as Texas Canyon, and Mike was concerned about erosion and sedimentation.

I too am concerned about this proposed new road. A road already exists, which forks to the east from the road to Lost Camp, south of the railroad tracks, in Section 14 to the north of Section 23. This existing road already gives access to the lands in the northwest corner of Section 24. I would think that is much to be preferred that this existing road be used as a haul road, rather than constructing a new road. Although I am not sure of the exact course of the proposed new road, I would also fear that it might have considerable impacts upon the old mining ditches in the area.

Thank you very much for your consideration of these issues.


Russell Towle

Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 12:51:14 -0800
To: "Jenkins, Rich"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: RE: THP 2-03-040-PLA

Hi Rich, thanks for your reply, in which you wrote,

>Thanks for the informative e-mail. Please follow up with a printed version sent to Mr. Bill Schultz for a formal response.

I am mailing a printed version today.

>Prior to the formal response I want to say a few words about the protection of historic sites which include trails. Current rules, regulations, and laws do not provide protection for all such resources. Only "significant" historic sites, as defined by the Forest Practice Rules, require protection. Text from the 2003 is as follows:
>Significant archaeological or historical site means a specific location which may contain artifacts. or objects and where evidence clearly demonstrates a high probability that the site meets one or more of the following criteria:
>(a) Contains information needed to answer important scientific research questions.
>(b) Has a special and particular quality such as the oldest of its type or best available example of its type.
>(c) Is directly associated with a scientifically recognized important prehistoric event or person.
>(d) Involves important research questions that historical research has shown can be answered only with archaeological methods (excavation).
>(e) Has significant cultural or religious importance to Native Americans as defined in 14CCR895.1.
>Criteria c is most frequently used when evaluating the significance of trails. The Emigrant Trails (Donner, Lassen, Nobles, etc) fit this criteria due to their importance in providing routes to the California Gold Rush and the settling of the west. Other local trails have a more difficult time qualifying under this or other criteria. If you feel that your trails qualify under one or more of these criteria by all means let us know in writing......

So, this is an excerpt from CDF's Forest Practice Rules. But, what of Federal laws, such as the National Historic Preservation Act; or CEQA? I suppose it is likely enough that the Forest Practice Rules have been carefully worded so as to comply with existing state and federal statutes.

And, in what way is the utter destruction of hiking trails consistent with CDF's avowed mission to sustain recreational resources?

Now, I call these trails "historic trails." Suppose instead we simply call them "trails," and do not appeal at all to their historic nature. Where in the Forest Practice Rules does it condone the destruction of trails?

Thank you very much for your consideration of these matters, Rich.


Russell Towle

Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 23:28:44 -0800
To: North Fork Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Lost Camp THP obtained

Hi all,

I drove to Auburn and picked up the Timber Harvest Plan for Lost Camp, from CDF.

It is far worse than I had imagined. 590 of the 600 acres owned by Andrew and Sharon Siller will be logged. This includes the lands around the trailhead and first part of the China Trail. Several new roads are to be constructed, including roads which violate ordinary forest practices, since they would be within riparian zones and on steep slopes.

The steepest slopes will be helicopter-logged. The rest, tractor-logged. It looks pretty bad.

I am going to Lost Camp tomorrow with Steve Hunter, who has hiked that area for 50 years, to investigate the situation more closely. I hope we find about a million historic archeological sites, 'cause that's what it's going to take.

Tonight I spoke to the CanyonKeepers group in Auburn. They were very nice and I rambled on and on about geology and glaciers.


Russell Towle

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