Saturday, August 30, 2003

Big Bend-Devils Peak II

Friday Ron Gould and I returned to the problematic Big Bend-Devils Peak Trail. A few weeks ago we had followed it from Big Bend, climbing slowly east and south to a point south of Troy, on the railroad. We had found it intact, but overgrown, where it traversed Tahoe National Forest lands, and almost entirely obliterated by logging, but possible to follow, we thought, across Section 35 into Section 36.

This trail is on the 1962 TNF map of the Foresthill and Big Bend ranger districts.

On Friday we drove to near Kingvale and took the road south from near Donner Trail elementary school, which leads in to Devils Peak and Huntley Mill Lake. We parked just below the railroad, near a recent "No Trespassing" sign hung over the road by Sinnock Properties, a real estate company out of Grass Valley. Walking up and across the tracks, we soon reached a fork right and climbed 150 feet or so over a quarter mile to the plateau where we had ended our explorations last time.

From here we struck up the hill and south, aiming towards a certain pass between the broad shallow valley of the South Yuba and the deeps of the North Fork American, said pass containing Nancy Lake. The 1962 map shows the trail bending in and out of the ravine north of Nanccy Lake. We hoped to find some unlogged terrain and undisturbed stretches of trail. Ron scouted high and I scouted low as we traversed rocky slopes of glaciated granite, flanking the ravine. Other than some unusual blazes, and some plausible trail alignments, we saw nothing. In the ravine we put our packs down and started ranging far more widely, hoping to pick up the trail, and fully expecting to find blazes on trees.

However, crossing the ravine to the east, we found an area thrashed by logging, bulldozers having scrambled up and down and everywhere, and noted the utter impossibility of surely identifying any part of the trail. Eventually we grabbed our packs and wandered south to Nancy Lake, then climbed to a granite plateau dotted with tarns, most dry, and then returned to Nancy Ravine, and began scouting to the east. Now Ron ran low and I went high.

In such an exploration one has to wander and veer from side to side, and we did all the right things, and really covered the hillside well, until, at last, I started climbing higher and higher on the little mountain (call it Nancy Hill) between Nancy Lake and Devils Peak, around which the trail made a broad arc. I climbed farther and higher than I thought the trail could possibly be found, just to make sure, and then--a blaze.

Ron was not even within hailing distance. I continued east and found many blazes, ancient, blurred with time. Soon the trail coincided with a logging road, from a harvest some 40 years ago, in which only the very largest trees had been cut, and most of the blazed trees along the trail had been left alone. Following this road-trail, I descended into more-recently-logged terrain, in which many but not all the blazed trees had been cut, and once again, a road had been cut directly into the line of the trail.

At last the road-trail dropped to the edge of a large meadow. Skirting the north edge of the meadow, I reached the road to Devils Peak, right on the section line north of the peak itself, which was but a quarter-mile away. Here I sat in the shade and waited for Ron, who arrived shortly. He had found the latter part of the road but hadn't seen any blazes.

We had lunch and rested. On the way back, we actually found an undisturbed section of the old trail, as it rounded Nancy Hill. The trail was as we had seen it a couple miles west, on TNF lands, broad and well-defined, that is, a major trail. There were great views across the upper South Yuba basin, Castle and Basin peaks in view, and the ridges above the Lola Montez lakes, etc.

With high hopes we followed the broad old trail west. However, as soon as it left the rocky unforested area, and entered a forested area, it was erased, completely, by logging. Often a skid trail or minor haul road seemed likely to have been cut into the line of the old trail, but I don't recall that we saw more than a couple blazes, over this half-mile back to Nancy Ravine.

At the ravine, we gave up on the old trail, and made our way north to the road we'd hiked up in the morning, and tromped on down and drove home.

We have now followed the Big Bend-Devils Peak Trail from Big Bend to Devils Peak, over at least 80% of its length, and have found that this trail, like too many others (the Big Valley, Sugar Pine Point, Monumental Creek, Mears Meadow, and other trails come to mind), has been for all intents and purposes obliterated.

This trail made a very gentle climb to the base of Devils Peak from Big Bend. It was broad and well-suited to people and stock. I wonder how many people are still alive who hiked this lovely old trail before it was wrecked again and again by logging.

Footnote: while trying to find out about Sinnock Properties on the internet, I did find that some very large parcels have recently sold over in Upper Jones Valley, north of Cisco Grove, in Nevada County. One is over 1000 acres, the other, 640 acres. At least one has already had a "Minor Subdivision" map filed. These parcels include parts of the ridge-line above I-80 north of Big Bend. We could end up with some view-hogging palaces up there. See

for further details.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The Big Granite Trail

Friday dawned amid thunder, lightning, and much rain, and the exploration of the Big Granite Trail Catherine O'Riley and I had planned seemed much in doubt. However, the weather people all agreed that this storm would pass quickly, with clear skies Friday night and warming temperatures on Saturday. So with a bit of our usual devil-may-care spirit urging us along, Catherine swung by the little cabins near Dutch Flat around eleven, and off we went. Gus Wiseman and Greg Towle rounded out the party. We hoped to find Tom and Mary McGuire at the confluence of the North Fork with Big Granite Creek. They had hiked in Wednesday from the Sailor Flat Trail.

Through masses of fog and occasional sprinkles we wound our way in from the Yuba Gap exit, past Huysink Lake and the Salmon Lake trailhead, to a pass on the crest of the ridge dividing Big Valley on the west from Little Granite Creek on the east. A TNF sign there showed Pelham Flat ahead, Huysink Lake behind, and we parked in a log landing beside the road.

The Big Granite Trail seems to have once stemmed from Cisco, on the railroad, and by way of Huysink Lake crossed that very pass where we parked, before descending to Four Horse Flat and Little Granite Creek. It crossed the North Fork at a ford and climbed Sailor Canyon to the La Trinidad Mine and Sailor Flat, up on the Foresthill Divide. So at some point, perhaps the crossing of the North Fork, its name should change to "Sailor Flat Trail."

Gradually roads penetrated this lovely part of the Placer County high country--I have a 1900-era map showing a road from Cisco up to Huysink, for instance--and then in a sustained frenzy of timber harvests and road-building many of the old trails on the area were obliterated, such as the Sugar Pine Point Trail and the Big Valley Trail. Much of this occurred about twenty years ago. There is the usual "checkerboard" pattern of even-numbered TNF sections interspersed with the odd-numbered "railroad" sections, with a few local variations.

Most all if not all of these old railroad sections had been purchased by lumber companies, most notably, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). This alone caused an increase in timber harvests in the area.

As Rich Johnson of the Foresthill Ranger District recounted to us the other night, at the NFARA meeting, quite a few of the old railroad sections have been purchased by TNF in recent years. I would like to see these land acquisitions continue. For instance, considering only T16N, R13E, sections 7, 17, and 9 would stand at the top of my list. And of these, how much could be said about section 9.

From our parking place in the pass, at 6600' elevation, a steep jeep trail drops to the east, bears south into section 9, and in a few hundred yards ends at a hunters' camp, where there is enough room to turn around. The only time I had ever hiked this part of the Big Granite Trail was in pitch darkness--some six years ago, perhaps--feeling my way with my feet, for the trail itself was firm and compacted, while the rich forest floor was soft. Dave Lawler and I had taken a "short cut" to the trail from Sugar Pine Point, hitting it a couple miles down. We explored the lower part of Big Granite Creek and then ventured a mile or so down the North Fork all the way to the inner gorge below Big Valley Bluff. Then, on our way back up from the river, leg cramps struck, and our pace slowed until finally the fullness of night embraced our little world of gurgling brooks and dense stands of mountain alder and occasional meadows and gigantic ancient trees. With rare and unusual luck, we found the critical fork in the trail by feel alone, and had climbed out of Four Horse Flat, to the hunters' camp, and on up the jeep trail to the road above.

Catherine, Greg, Gus and I were glad to find the foot trail itself and plunged down into a very remarkable grove of huge old Incense Cedar. A fairly light "selective harvest" had been executed, perhaps ten or fifteen years ago, but the stumps were few, and the forest giants, everywhere, running up to five and six feet in diameter, some flaring out to near ten feet in diameter at ground level. The trail actually goes through the fire-hollowed center of one ancient cedar.

As Four Horse Flat is neared the trail suddenly merges with a logging road, often clothed in brush, various species of Ceanothus and Prunus being prominent. Here and there log landings held stacks of Incense Cedar sawlogs, left behind because they were too "pecky"--for a fungus will invade the heartwood of this species, and riddle it with little patches of "rot." Then the loggers come, and one can never tell from the outside just how "pecky" any one ancient Incense Cedar will be. So, you just cut it down, and look and see. It is very very irritating to me that this area was ever logged, and then, to see this--to see that a tree likely all of 500 years old is felled just on the chance the wood is sound--it is just infuriating.

Nevertheless, for all the roads, log landings, and stacks of cull logs, the harvest here had been rather light. We have an opportunity, right now, to lobby TNF to acquire this Section 9, T16N R13E, and other sections close by. Both the Big Granite and Cherry Point trails traverse this Section 9. For an area which has been logged, this is as close to true old-growth forest as one will usually ever see. With some concerted volunteer work the cull logs and stumps could be burned, the roads maintained as trails or closed altogether, and in as little as a decade one could hike through on the Big Granite Trail and scarcely realize that any logging had ever occurred.

And this would be a good thing. A very very good thing, for, there is something quite special, quite exceptional about this trail. Or many special things. For just one, the descent, of 3,600 feet, to the North Fork, is like going from Canada to Mexico in four or five miles! You start out up in the Lodgepole Pines and Red Fir of the high montane forest, and end up among sun-blasted manzanita and Canyon Live Oaks at the river. And there are many delicate shades of changing vegetation, of ecotones and microclimates, along the old trail.

Four Horse Flat is just below 6000' and has many grassy, ferny, flowery meadows, and wet meadows all clogged with Mountain Alder. The Cherry Point Trail merges with the Big Granite Trail in this area. The logging, I guess, has forced a new intersection of the two trails, and moreover, the main trail now in use, as one continues south towards the North Fork, is on the east side of Little Granite Creek, while the true Big Granite Trail holds the west bank for half a mile before it crosses to the east side, at about 5200'.

The forest is rich with huge old trees, White Fir rather than Red Fir, some Douglas Fir, and quite a notable incidence of Incense Cedar. Where the east- and west-side trails merge, Kelloggs Black Oak begins to intermix. This is an area of sudden transition, from the shady groves of ancient conifers, to a mixed oak and coniferous forest on the steep slopes of the canyon of Little Granite Creek.

Little Granite Creek, in this area, flows through metamorphic bedrock, but one might never guess, since a million granite boulders were dragged down here by the ice from the Loch Leven Lakes area and stranded, 12,000 years ago. The creek flows over and around these giant white eggs of granite, and more eggs are embedded everywhere on the steep slopes. The underlying metamorphic rock is almost entirely masked by these glacial deposits.

Below about 5,000 feet, the forest thins and one begins to gain good views of the surrounding terrain. A particularly monstrous cliff over on Sugar Pine Point is seen again and again as one descends. Then the trail bends east towards Big Granite Creek and steepens drastically, with many switchbacks, and passes a very notable and rare old grove of monstrous Canyon Live Oaks. I doubt I've ever seen so many giant oaks in one area. One had several large trunks, and two of these trunks, each near three feet in diameter, were connected about twenty feet above the ground by an arch of living wood. I called it the Monstrosi-Tree.

Having already made a descent of over 2000 feet, these steep switchbacks began to really take their toll, with toes crammed forward in our shoes, and despite the otherwordly fog and mist which swirled throughout the canyons and cliffs around us, we were sweating. At last the trail levels and bears east to the crossing of Big Granite Creek.

We took a long rest, and I explored downstream about a quarter-mile to the confluence of Little Granite Creek, in search of some fossiliferous Triassic limestone. I found some isolated masses of limestone, delicately fluted by solution-type erosion, with myriad little ridges and channels and hollows, but no discernible fossils. Later, upon re-examining my map, I saw that I should have gone much higher into Little Granite Creek. Another time, then.

The bed of Big Granite Creek just like that of Little Granite Creek had been, at the crossing: giant rounded granite boulders everywhere. We shouldered our packs and continued down the trail towards the river. It follows a roughly level line for a time, on a southerly bearing, and soon one breaks free of the forest into glaciated barrens of metamorphic rock. Far below, within what looks to be the impassible inner gorge of Big Granite Creek--and here flowing directly over the bedrock, without any granite eggs--we could see waterfalls and deep deep pools.

Crossing the Big Southwest Spur of Snow Mountain, the North Fork itself finally was in view, and after a few switchbacks we found our side trail leading west to the confluence of Big Granite Creek. Right at the fork there is an ancient TNF sign reading "Ford" and "Sailor Flat Trail" (and possibly "Robinson Flat") with an arrow pointing left. The post stands but the sign has split and lies on the rocks. We hustled on down to the river. Tom and Mary were not in camp, but we spotted them picking their way down cliffy areas beside the waterfalls just upstream. They looked a little shocked that strangers would arrive at their camp. However, Greg zoomed up there and identified our party, and soon we were lazing around the camp and chatting. Tom and Mary were there in the depths of the great rock-bound canyon during the several thunderstorms and were almost but not quite driven into a headlong retreat.

The fog was lifting, the clouds thinning, and we struck up a cozy little fire using more or less sodden wood. Supper was a matter of roasting vegetarian hot dogs and other delicacies. We turned in around ten under starry skies. Mars so bright had risen just above the forested ridges near New York Canyon to the southeast.

I rose before dawn and built a new fire and heated water for coffee. Tom joined me and then Greg and Gus and what with coffee and cocoa and a modest little breakfast of Grape Nuts etc. hours passed. The sun struck the canyon rim and the slowly entered the canyon depths. Yet Catherine O'Riley remained snugly wrapped in her one-man tent. I took off downriver with my loppers and worked on the fine old trail, which never appears on maps. By the time I returned the sun was about blazing and everyone was stirring.

We explored west on the trail, which stays high for a quarter-mile before dropping to river level at a large gravel bar with a lovely deep pool. Here a few of us swam, the others strangely indulging in fears of how very cold the water might be. The water was cool but not bitingly cold. Some rocks rose in tiny cliffs along one side and allowed easy jumps and dives from about ten feet up.

An osprey flew over us twice while at the pool, and from the trees nearby a peeping was heard, which might have been a second osprey.

Regrouping and reclothing, we continued west on the trail, and another quarter mile or less brought us to a large sandy flat with a grove of oaks and some ancient wheelbarrows and a huge fire ring littered with garbage. A small cross had been erected where the trail reached the camp, and I have little doubt but that this had been the camp of the large Christian youth group party, of fifty kids and five or six adults, Ron Gould and Greg and I had seen on the Sailor Flat Trail in June. They need to do a *much* better job of picking up their trash and also in using basic sanitary practices, so that wads of toilet paper are not scattered through the area.

A little ways beyond the camp, the trail appears to ford the river. We followed it a short distance past the ford, where a line of boulders allows an easy crossing, and found the path not only indistinct but overgrown, so, the retreat was sounded, and we made the easy walk back east to Big Granite Creek.

After lunch we scrambled up the creek to an amazing pool and waterfall surrounded by cliffs with one just gigantic overhang. Some swam and some scrambled around on the water-polished metasediments of the Sierra Buttes Formation. The waterfall occupies a twisted little inner gorge, a gorge within a gorge, a spiralling slot in the cliff.

Finally it was time to leave. Around two p.m. we shouldered our packs and started up the side trail. Tom came along for a ways, since he had never been on the Big Granite Trail. We had the benefit of the warmest part of the day combined with the least possible shade as we switched back and forth up the almost bare rock of Snow Mountain Spur. A rather quick and brutal climb of 500 feet carries one across the spur and into the canyon of Big Granite Creek.

At the crossing we had a long rest, and Tom left us at a trot to get back to lovely Mary, who had stayed at the camp, alone. Then the long slog up and out really kicked into gear, if you can call a deadly slow trudge, punctuated by numerous stops, "in gear." That trail is a killer. That 3,600 feet is a terrible terrible thing. We did stop often and long and as a result reached the car at 7:20, with the shadows growing very long and the sun almost setting.

One curiosity of the ascent was a sign, reading "Big Granite Trail," the words nicely routed into a slab of wood and bolted to a tree, in the Four Horse Flat area. We had seen no sign the day before. And, following the logging road reach just above the sign, I saw a peculiar patch of trail which had been freshly dug out wider. And I saw that some of the branches I had lopped the day before had been neatly stowed off the trail; and yet no one in our party had been stowing the cut branches, that I was aware. Then, in a mud puddle, two bootprints were seen, leading up and out. So it all gave every indication that that very day, Saturday, someone had walked in and bolted up the sign and did a little trail work.

I will call the ranger station at Big Bend and ask Phil Sexton. Maybe he knows about the sign.

Such was a wonderful visit to the North Fork by way of the Big Granite Trail.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Burnett Canyon & the NFNFAR

Ron Gould and I drove up to Emigrant Gap and in on Forest Road 19 to the end of the pavement and hung a right onto Texas Hill Road. At the fork one stays left to Sawtooth Ridge and right to Texas Hill and the Burnett Canyon Trail.

This trail no longer shows on the "Big" TNF map and for good reason: it has been obliterated by logging, entirely on TNF lands in sections 20 and 29, T16N R12E, at both the north and south ends of the old trail.

Ron and I decided to check on the north-side trail. The trail crosses Burnett Canyon--a fairly major tributary of the NFNFAR-- on a nearly north-south line. Here gold miner/photographer Isaac Tibbetts Coffin resided from 1858 to 1864, in two cabins, one near the trail on the north side of Burnett Canyon, the other, to the west and north at Texas Hill, where a lode claim, tunnel, and blacksmith shop were located. Coffin and friends dug a ditch several miles long which winds down Burnett Canyon, high above the creek, in fact, the road on to Sawtooth Ridge crosses this little ditch.

We followed the ridge down to the south through an area which had seen two or three selective harvests, going back to the Towle Bros. lumber company, around 1900, and then the entire ridge-crest had been swept over by an army of bulldozers and other equipment in a classic "fuel load reduction" project. Every last little trace of the trail is gone. Well, on the way out, we did see one line of boulders, maybe ten feet long or so, red with age, suggesting the line of the trail.

Eventually we reached the edge of the "inner gorge" of Burnett Canyon. Here an old narrow-gauge railroad roadbed likely dating to the Towle Bros. contoured along. Below the railroad line there was no fuel load reduction, and suddenly the old trail appeared. It had survived at least two selective cuts on these steeper slopes, apparently without difficulty. Old blazes scarred many trees, and we even saw signs that TNF had maintained the trail, in the olden days of perhaps thirty years past, before timber harvests won out over nearly every other use of the Forest.

We dropped on down to the creek in light rain showers and admired the huge masses of gigantic-leaved Indian Rhubarb. The trail was easily seen across the creek, climbing up the far side, to where it was obliterated by a clearcut.

We struggled back up the steep trail to the fuel load reduction zone and found that we could actually follow the trail a full 100 feet north, before it disappeared beneath the general welter of the fuel reduction. When we at last topped out on the road, we stumbled upon the line of Coffin's ditch, just above, and figure that this was exactly where the Burnett Canyon Trail met the ditch. Coffin likely followed the ditch itself west to the Texas Hill cabin, whenever he went there from Burnett Canyon.

We drove on out to Sawtooth Ridge, far far out on the maze of logging roads, into the clearcuts in Section 35 near Helester Point, and were at last stopped by a fallen tree, and walked the rest of the way to there the steep descent to the NFNFAR is made. The day was cloudy and cool, but muggy, and we broke a good sweat picking our way down the steeps. At the river, we hustled on down to the Rawhide Dam, and then on beyond to the cabin site, and the wagon road. While lopping away in a snarl of deerbrush and small Douglas Fir, I was about to clear a mass of dead branches caught in the Douglas Fir I was lopping, when I realized in an instant of pure terror that my loppers were one inch from the head of a rattlesnake, a large snake which made the better part of the "dead branches" I was about to attack. The snake was moving its head and staring right at me. In the space of about one-tenth of a second this all dawned upon me and with a screech I jumped back a foot or two, and then, the enormity of it taking hold, I screamed profanities and made an all-out Superman-like dive into a mass of rotten oak branches another six feet back, right at Ron's feet. I smashed the dead branches with a satisfying crunch even as I examined them for the likelihood of still more vicious snakes.

The rattler stayed put and never rattled, except for the whisper, the ghost of a rattle, which sounded more like someone shuffling cards in the next room, or rather less than that. We duly photographed the healthy thing, partly wrapped around the little Douglas Fir at about two feet above the ground.

After that, there was a great swim in a large pool, no more lopping by the way, and then the long intricate scramble up the beautiful river, and the insanely steep climb up "the gully" to our logging road, 800 feet above the river, and then at last the truck, and the long long drive out. We were back down to Dutch Flat a little after sunset.

It is quite a shame that the North Fork of the North Fork never got Wild & Scenic River designation. Ron and I saw trees at river level marked with blue spray paint, and a lot of fresh flagging along the logging road above, so, there's every sign that the timber harvest on the SPI lands in Section 35 are not over let. And I am puzzled that they are allowed to log right down to the river. That area will be helicopter-yarded, so, that may be what allows them to do what is ordinarily not permitted, i.e., to harvest trees right from the banks of streams and rivers.

Maybe we should fire some letters off to William Schultz at CDF, asking that there be a buffer zone of no harvest, along this lovely river.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Robert Louis Stevenson and the North Fork

I am always on the lookout for old descriptions of the North Fork American. It is quite amazing what one can find on the internet. This morning I stumbled upon Robert Louis Stevenson's diary-essay, "Across the Plains," date uncertain, but I would guess, in the late 1870s. The entire essay is remarkable. Little vignettes illuminate unforeseen historical corners, as when he changes from the Union Pacific to the Central Pacific, in Utah, and finds the cars of the CPRR so much taller and airier, clean, and freshly varnished; it put a new complexion on what had been a rather tiresome journey.

He also remarks upon the anti-Chinese movement (this suggests the late 1870s); how the Chinese had their own car, on the train, and that the Chinese car smelled better than the white cars, but the whites, when brought face-to-face with a Chinese man, would clutch their throats, as if strangling with the bad Chinese smell, and about to throw up.

So. The excerpt below begins with a glance back at the deserts of Nevada, and then, late at night, the train has stopped, perhaps in the canyon of the Truckee, west of Verdi, or perhaps near Donner Lake, in Coldstream Canyon.

The next morning Stevenson awakes, the train breaks free of the snowsheds once, near Emigrant Gap, and then breaks free again, for once and for all, at Blue Canyon. The American River Canyon is now in view.

Of all the next day I will tell you nothing, for the best of all
reasons, that I remember no more than that we continued through
desolate and desert scenes, fiery hot and deadly weary. But some
time after I had fallen asleep that night, I was awakened by one of
my companions. It was in vain that I resisted. A fire of
enthusiasm and whisky burned in his eyes; and he declared we were
in a new country, and I must come forth upon the platform and see
with my own eyes. The train was then, in its patient way, standing
halted in a by-track. It was a clear, moonlit night; but the
valley was too narrow to admit the moonshine direct, and only a
diffused glimmer whitened the tall rocks and relieved the blackness
of the pines. A hoarse clamour filled the air; it was the
continuous plunge of a cascade somewhere near at hand among the
mountains. The air struck chill, but tasted good and vigorous in
the nostrils - a fine, dry, old mountain atmosphere. I was dead
sleepy, but I returned to roost with a grateful mountain feeling at
my heart.

When I awoke next morning, I was puzzled for a while to know if it
were day or night, for the illumination was unusual. I sat up at
last, and found we were grading slowly downward through a long
snowshed; and suddenly we shot into an open; and before we were
swallowed into the next length of wooden tunnel, I had one glimpse
of a huge pine-forested ravine upon my left, a foaming river, and a
sky already coloured with the fires of dawn. I am usually very
calm over the displays of nature; but you will scarce believe how
my heart leaped at this. It was like meeting one's wife. I had
come home again - home from unsightly deserts to the green and
habitable corners of the earth. Every spire of pine along the
hill-top, every trouty pool along that mountain river, was more
dear to me than a blood relation. Few people have praised God more
happily than I did. And thenceforward, down by Blue Canon, Alta,
Dutch Flat, and all the old mining camps, through a sea of mountain
forests, dropping thousands of feet toward the far sea-level as we
went, not I only, but all the passengers on board, threw off their
sense of dirt and heat and weariness, and bawled like schoolboys,
and thronged with shining eyes upon the platform and became new
creatures within and without. The sun no longer oppressed us with
heat, it only shone laughingly along the mountain-side, until we
were fain to laugh ourselves for glee. At every turn we could see
farther into the land and our own happy futures. At every town the
cocks were tossing their clear notes into the golden air, and
crowing for the new day and the new country. For this was indeed
our destination; this was "the good country" we had been going to
so long.

By afternoon we were at Sacramento, the city of gardens in a plain
of corn ....

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Lost Camp CDF Inspection

Rich Jenkins, CDF archeologist at Redding, called today, with questions about the exact location of the China Trail. He said a CDF field review of the Lost Camp project is imminent, that quite a few letters have been received, and, furthermore, he intimated that some highly placed political forces had been brought to bear, and that (as a resul) unusually high-echelon CDF personnel would attend the field review.

I have no idea what highly placed political forces were at work.

Rich also verified that the fascinating ore-cart runs out in Fulda Canyon are already in the RPF's archeological survey. He thought they were well within the helicopter-yarding zone, hence, relatively well-protected; for tractor yarding is notoriously disruptive of things like trails (and ore-cart runs).

He also asked about the location of the Chinese artifacts we saw out there at Lost Camp last Sunday.

My impression is that the CDF will require that care be taken to protect the China Trail. However, when I mentioned the flagging we saw, marked "trail," Rich thought that might have only marked a proposed bulldozer skid trail!

I offered to attend the CDF review and show the team the China Trail and all archeological sites I was familiar with, but he said that could not happen without the invitation of the landowner.
I spoke with Peter Elias of Nevada City at length yesterday. Peter has been monitoring THPs in the South Yuba and overall Yuba basin for a while now, offering comments to CDF, etc. He reports very little success in modifying THPs, and an all-around lack of interest by local conservation organizations, partly because anyone who has tried knows that it is about impossible to stop a THP. Peter said the really dedicated folks over in the Mendocino area carefully constuct written comments to CDF on any THP so that the groundwork is properly laid for subsequent legal action.

Catherine O'Riley sent the following letter to CDF re the Lost Camp THP:

August 13, 2003

William Schultz
6105 Airport Road
Redding, CA 96002

re: Timber Harvest Plan 2-03-040-PLA

Dear Mr. Schultz:

I am a concerned citizen who hikes extensively
throughout the North Fork American River Canyons.
It has come to my attention that there will be a
timber harvest in the Lost Camp area. I enjoy
walking down what is known as the China Trail out
of Lost Camp and continuing upstream past Texas
and Fulda Canyons. This timber harvest concerns
me on many levels.

First of all, it appears that most of the large
and medium sized trees will be cut down leaving a
plethora of small trees that will foster future
fuel loading. Further, I believe that it is
unconscionable to cut down old growth trees and
that these trees should be spared. At the very
least, a buffer of trees along the access road to
the trail and along the trail itself should not
be cut down.

Considering that the timber harvest includes
portions of the steep and rugged Blue, Texas and
Fulda Canyons it seems likely that erosion will
ensue which will negatively impact the wild and
scenic qualities of the North Fork American

There is no doubt that this area is of historic
and archaeologic interest. Yet, the
archeological report is not available to the
general public. I would like to have this report
made available to me and, if it is incomplete, to
have a new archeological study undertaken.

Recently I visited the North Fork American River
via the China Trail and noticed thousands upon
thousand of ladybugs. What about the impacts on
them, as well as the Foothill Yellow-legged
Frogs, goshawks and numerous other animals living
in the area who will loose their habitat?

I was heartened to see some flagging along the
Trail indicating that it is, indeed, a trail. It
would be shameful to destroy one of the best kept
trails that I have been on in the North Fork when
so many other old historic trails have been
obliterated by logging operations.

In regard to the proposed new logging roads, it
seems that there are ample existing roads on
which to transport the dead trees. I suggest
that you use these or remove the trees by

As a private landowner I can appreciate the right
to do as one chooses with their land. However,
sometimes we must consider how our actions will
impact life around us and the future of the
planet on the whole. After all, we have our
national heritage to protect and preserve for
future generations.

Finally, would you please extend the comment
period so that other concerned citizens can
respond to this harvest.

Thank you for considering my comments.


Catherine O'Riley

That's a good one!

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Lost Camp THP

Tim Lasko sent this excellent letter to CDF re the Lost Camp THP:

August 13, 2003

William Schultz
6105 Airport Road
Redding, CA 96002

Timber Harvest Plan 2-03-040-PLA

Dear Mr. Schultz,
I am very concerned about the Timber Harvest Plan 2-03-040-PLA. My concerns
are as follows:

á Many are unaware of this plan and have not had an opportunity to comment.
I ask that he public comment period be extended until the end of September.
á Historic sites, such as the town of Lost Camp and historic trails, such as
the China Trail may be destroyed or lost forever during this timber harvest.
I ask that a CDF archeologist, such as Dr. Garrett Fenenga conduct a formal
site survey to identify and protect these important sites and trails. More
information on these sites and trails is available from Russell Towle (Box
141, Dutch Flat, CA 95714, 530.389.2872)
á The erosion caused by the removal of timber and the construction of roads
and skid trails, particularly in the small tributaries of Blue Canyon and
Texas Canyon, may have a negative effect on the immediate area and the wild
and scenic qualities of the North Fork American River, located downstream.
The effects of sedimentation on the trout and the endangered Foothill
Yellow-legged Frogs are of great concern to me. I ask that all-new road and
skid trail construction be eliminated, or kept to an absolute minimum in
this harvest plan. I ask that all harvest east of the main Lost Camp Road be
yarded by helicopter.
á The removal of the larger trees forming the forest canopy will promote
future fuel loading. I ask that the larger canopy forming trees not be
removed in this harvest plan.
á I ask that all old growth trees, particularly on the East Side of Fulda
ridge not be disturbed.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Tim Lasko

Let's hope that CDF will require modifications of this plan, which as it stands now is a virtual clear-cut (almost all large trees removed; many new roads, skid trails, landings). More letters would be a good thing. Joel Baiocchi wrote another good one.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Maps, Trails; Goshawks

[a letter to Forest Supervisor Stephen Eubanks of Tahoe National Forest]

Dear Supervisor Eubanks,

I had the pleasure of visiting TNF offices at Nevada City last Friday, and took a look at your remarkable collection of maps. Some TNF maps are old and fragile. It seems to me that your maps represent an important historical resource. I would like to see TNF obtain a grant to digitize the entire collection, beginning with such maps as are oldest and irreplaceable.

It was a little striking that, with all this wealth of maps, my guide, Bill Slater, could not put his hands on the 1962 TNF map of the Foresthill and Big Bend Ranger Districts. It would seem that no effort has been made to preserve the entire sequence of official TNF maps. This 1962 map is important because it shows the courses of many of the principal hiking trails on TNF.

I was also disconcerted to see, in Bill's office, a neatly-lettered list of map symbols to be used when preparing, I would guess, archeological surveys. There were special symbols for roads and railroads and ditches and so on. Strangely, there was no symbol for "trail," except, someone had at some later date drawn in a symbol for "linear feature." I have noted Bill Slater's penchant for calling a trail a linear feature.

Does such a list of map symbols betray a bias against trails? I would hope not. Yet it seems likely enough. My idea: add one map symbol which actually does mean "trail," and call it a "trail."

Yesterday (Sunday, August 10th), while on the way to explore a portion of the North Fork of the North Fork American in (mainly) TNF Section 34, west of Helester Point on Sawtooth Ridge, I took a wrong turn on the maze of logging roads and was briefly quite close to the section line between SPI Section 25 (just north of Helester Point) and TNF Section 26 (just northwest of Helester Point). Here I heard the sharp territorial peeping of a Goshawk, and then saw the bird itself. I have only heard this kind of vocalization near nest sites.

When I finally did reach the river, I found some interesting historic/archeological sites, involving the diversion dam for the powerhouse at the Rawhide Mine, a mile or so downstream. Narrow-gauge railroad track had been used as reinforcement in the low cement dam.

How I would love to see TNF acquire the SPI lands out on Sawtooth Ridge! The SPI clearcuts there are an abomination.

Thanks for your consideration of these matters,

Russell Towle

The China Trail, and the NFNFAR

Two adventures:

Saturday some eight of us met at Alta, drove up to Lost Camp, and descended the China Trail to the North Fork of the North Fork American River (NFNFAR).

We took a look around Lost Camp first, examining some few of the 590 acres to be logged. Lost Camp was a boom town in 1858, but declined rapidly. Old house and cabin sites are common, and mining pits are everywhere. The THP specifically states that not all trees to be cut are marked, so it is a little strange, to drive past tall Sugar Pines, and know their death sentence hangs over them, even tho not marked with blue paint.

At the trailhead, many trees *are* marked, including one middling large Incense Cedar which escaped the last round of logging, only a couple decades past, and which holds a rare blaze marking the trail. We were surprised to find a bit of flagging marking the trail, although it is never mentioned in the THP.

Something near a mile of walking over a descent of 1300' brings one to the confluence of Texas Canyon and the NFNFAR, the Ladybug Capital of the Universe, where, true to this strangely special place, even tho it is not the time of winter hibernation, many thousands of ladybugs cover rock surfaces and tree trunks in tightly-packed almost motionless masses, while others more or less scamper about everywhere.

A ramble up the river led us to the Pool of Cold Fire, where the amazing Gorge of Many Gorges may be said to begin, and a few of us swam up the long, deep, cliff-bound pool of crystalline, cold water; I nobly swam with one arm above the water, camera in hand, determined to at last photograph the remarkable waterfall and pool in Fulda Canyon, a ways above. I fought against the rippling, ever-strengthening currents and finally dragged myself from the icy grip of the narrow pool, and, quite naked, made the somewhat perilous climb up angling ledges into the Fulda Gorge. Arriving at the great round pool, I raised the camera, clicked the shutter release, and--found that my batteries had expired.

We saw ouzels and heard wrens and there were flowers and cute little garter snakes and the renowned Foothill Yellow-Legged Frogs and the giant Indian Rhubarb with leaves larger than dinner plates, and it was a fine day if rather tame so far as gorge-scrambling goes, and then up the trail we slowly went, and home.

Sunday, I met Steve Hunter for a foray into the NFNFAR, some miles downstream from the China Trail. Last Friday I had visited the good offices of Tahoe National Forest in Nevada City and enjoyed a brief tour of their very remarkable collection of old maps. While leafing through an enormous volume of maps devolving upon the Lost Camp area, I saw several maps of patented mining claims. One of these caught my eye, a lode claim, on a gold-bearing quartz vein, since the map showed a foot trail descending from Sawtooth Ridge to the NFNFAR, crossing a bridge, and at least starting up the north canyon wall, towards Lost Camp Ridge (the divide between the NFNFAR and Blue Canyon). I called Steve to ask him about this trail, as he is the ultimate authority on this canyon, and, not knowing it, he felt, as I did, that it must quickly quickly be known. Hence our foray.

Steve and I drove up to Emigrant Gap and in Forest Road 19, stopping briefly to say hello to geologist Allan James at Tunnel Mills campground, and then continuing past Texas Hill to Sawtooth Ridge. A maze of logging roads was negotiated, past horrendous clearcuts in Section 35 near Helester Point, on SPI lands, and eventually we trundled down a switchbacking jeep trail which had some exciting sections, very jeep-ish, until we were stopped by a ravine. However, our tortuous course had worn away much elevation; we were deep within the canyon, and only about 700 feet or so above the river. We parked at 3150' elevation; the river was somewhat below 2400'.

A steep descent over slippery slopes in a mixed forest of Canyon Live Oak, Douglas Fir, and California Nutmeg, that yew-family conifer with the stiff stinging needles, brought is to the sparkling river about three-quarters of an air mile from the east boundary of the lode claim. The canyon here, as at the China Trail, is incised into almost vertical strata of the Shoo Fly Complex metasediments. They are wonderfully shaped and polished and threaded everywhere with quartz veins, large and small. Trout darted about or hung lazily in the current, facing upstream, easily seen in the clear cold water.

We had a good scramble downstream over the polished rocks, sometimes crossing the river, and admiring soaring cliffs of slate-like rock, with blade-like eminences hundreds of feet above us. We began to sense that we must be nearing our goal, and examined the cliffs and ramparts of rock for old iron pins or bolts, marking the site of our bridge, and thus, our trail. Eventually we set the packs down and struck out more swiftly downstream. Almost immediately we saw a cable stretched across the river, well downstream, and hurried towards it.

Terraces of glacial outwash deposits appeared along both banks, the flat tops about fifty feet above river level. These would date from the Tioga glaciation, around 12,000 years ago; the ice itself did not reach this far down-canyon, but sediments disgorged by the glacier were of such a quantity as to overwhelm the river's ability to transport them, and a kind of narrow floodplain developed. Then the ice melted away, the sediment load diminished, and the river carved quickly down to bedrock, leaving these terraces, wherever topography conspired to protect them.

We saw some small scars and hollows left by ground-sluicing, long ago, in these terrace deposits, and then a 6" riveted iron pipe, used in that ground-sluicing, and then, a chunk of concrete--the bridge! We had found the bridge! And we were directly below the old cable!

However, as we scanned the banks on both sides, what we found was no bridge, but a dam, a low dam, of concrete, reinforced with much odds and ends of iron and steel, including narrow-gauge railroad track, said dam breached by flood events and their tumbled boulders, in the center of the stream, but intact on both banks. Crossing, we found that the dam had diverted the river through a short tunnel, and soon all became clear.

What we had found was the "take" for the water supplying the powerhouse at the Rawhide Mine. There, twin Pelton wheels were fed by twin penstocks. I had always wondered where the water came from. It could only come from the NFNFAR, but, where? Usually Pelton wheels are set up with high "heads," so the water can drop a long ways into the turbine. If the Rawhide wheels were typical, well, a rather long ditch was implied, high on the canyon wall, and "taking" the waters of the NFNFAR far far upstream.

Yet, here were were, not an air mile from the powerhouse, and with utterly no question that this very dam was the one and only "take." Thus there was no very great "fall" to the Pelton wheels, perhaps as little as 100 feet, surely less than 200 feet. We were inordinately pleased by all this and sped downstream, past places where the iron penstock, around four feet in diameter, had been anchored to the very cliffs, past benches blasted out of the solid solid rock, and down to a meadowy area where the NFNFAR bends sharply to the south. There we called a halt. We found a cabin site, with a rather strange and ornate cast iron artifact nearby, and, just above the ditch-line--for here, at least, they had switched from a pipe to a ditch, to move the water along--just above, we found a sort of wagon road, badly overgrown, but suggesting that it was the way all these many materials had been brought upstream to the diversion dam.

So, it was all very good, and shows that, from the Rawhide, an excellent trail could be opened up to the old dam. This is all the more reason to try to secure the passage across private property at the Rawhide, for all this area (except the patented lode claim), like the trail from the Rawhide up to Sawtooth Ridge, is, thank goodness, Tahoe National Forest. But these old trails, open to our grandfathers, are closed to us.

While returning upstream to the dam site, Steve and I noted some large bolts let into the polished rock flanking a little inner gorge, and realized it was a bridge site, and very likely, the very bridge site, with its associated trails, which had lured us down into the magical canyon. But the sun was westering and a long hike led up to the jeep, so we did not take time to look for the trails.

In the fullness of my extreme genius I left the camera in my pack and obtained no photos of the dam or bridge site or wagon road.

I should say that in the vicinity of the dam, up and downstream, are some very nice pools. We swam one of them. They are deep and broad and cold and clear.

We swam one last time before making the steep climb to the jeep, and soaked our shirts in the cold water, and it was not too bad, and not too long, and not too hot, and not too buggy, and so, then, having arrived, it only remained to depart, and make the very long drive back to civilization, at Emigrant Gap.

Such were two great days in the NFNFAR.

Friday, August 8, 2003

Lost Camp THP Breaking News

I have this, from a good source:

CDF reports that, as a result of the 2 comment letters they've received on
this THP raising concerns relative to the plan's impact on historical and
archeological resources, the public comment period is remaining open

In response to these two public comment letters (presumbably one of them is
Russell's), CDF has (1) requested the RPF that prepared the THP to respond;
and (2) assigned its inhouse archeologist from Redding to investigate for
the presence of archeological and historic sites, and how the proposed plan
would affect these resources.

I think Russell's efforts are having an impact, although it is unclear how
long CDF will keep the public comment period open.

Also, Jim Ricker has found, in recent conversations with CDF officials, that the public comment period is expected to remain open for as many as ten more days.

If anyone wishes to see Lost Camp and hike the China Trail, let's meet tomorrow, Saturday, 10 a.m., at the Alta Store, north of the Alta exit on I-80.

Letter to CDF

Below, my somewhat hurried attempt at a letter to CDF re the Lost Camp timber harvest. The more letters we can get in to Schultz the better. Short letters are fine. Talk the historic townsite, the trail, the need for a longer public comment period, etc. Letters may also be faxed to 530.224.4841; but in any case, remember to use the THP number, 2-03-040-PLA.

August 8, 2003

William Schultz
6105 Airport Road
Redding, CA 96002

re: Timber Harvest Plan 2-03-040-PLA

Dear Mr. Schultz,

I have now had an opportunity to review the actual Timber Harvest Plan, and the CDF PHI, with respect to the "Andy Siller THP," THP 2-03-040-PLA. I have a number of comments.

First, however, I ask that the public comment period be extended through at least the end of August, and preferably, the end of September, so that many interested citizens can have a better chance to become acquainted with the THP, and offer comments.

Second, I ask that CDF conduct an archeological review of the site. Although I am unable to examine the RPF's archeological survey-it is kept secret, and with good reason-from my reading of the THP and PHI I am inclined to think that his survey was inadequate.

Although historic and prehistoric sites are likely to be scattered across the entire area, the locus of historic mining and occupation was at the town of Lost Camp, in Section 23. From Lost Camp several trails led away to different places. One, the so-called China Trail, is a particular favorite of many people, and gives access to Tahoe National Forest (TNF) lands encompassing the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River (NFNFAR), to the southeast of Lost Camp.

I saw no reference to Lost Camp as a townsite-it "boomed" in 1858-and I saw no reference to the China Trail, in the THP. In fact, in the copy of the THP I obtained from Auburn-Bowman CDF, the trail seemed to have been, somehow, deleted from the more-detailed maps.

This trail is a very important component of our historic trail system in Placer County. The more southern part, across the NFNFAR from Lost Camp, climbing to the summit of Sawtooth Ridge, has already been effectively obliterated by timber harvests, on private lands, administered by CDF.

Concern for this trail goes back to at least 1953, when it was one of sixty historic trails listed in a Placer County ordinance, enacted by the Board of Supervisors, all formally declared to be public trails, and assigning misdemeanor-type penalties to whomever might block such a trail.

I do find the trail on page 30.2 of the THP, which shows the entire extent of the 600 acres involved in the plan, and distinguishes areas of tractor yarding, from areas of helicopter yarding, proposed in the plan. The trail and trailhead can be seen on this map, with difficulty, in the more southeastern portion of that part of Section 23 involved in the THP.

We have had tremendous problems, in Placer County, with our historic trails. They have been gated closed; they have been obliterated by timber harvests; and this process began before 1953. In the Placer County ordinance, each of the sixty trails is referenced to one or more old USGS maps, which depicted that trail. In this case, the China Trail shows clearly on the 1866 GLO map T16N, R11E. So does the town of Lost Camp.

In addition to the various intervening USGS maps of this region, the trail is also depicted on the 1962 TNF map of the Big Bend and Foresthill ranger districts. It is also shown on the current USGS 7.5 minute Westville quadrangle.

Because I am both interested in Placer County history, and concerned about the preservation of our historic trails, and public access to these trails, I have urged, for a number of years, that TNF seek to acquire all private lands in Section 23. By purchasing these lands, both the historic townsite, its associated mining areas, and the China Trail could be protected. They form an important part of Placer County's heritage.

By a twist of fate, as I understand it, the leader of the movement to protect our historic trails, in 1953, was Wendell Towle Robie, of the Auburn Lumber Company; and either Robie himself, or his lumber company, owned the very lands now involved in THP 2-03-040-PLA.

I have been informed by CDF archeologist Rich Jenkins that rather narrow conditions must be met for a historic trail to be treated as a historic trail, in the context of a timber harvest. Perhaps the China Trail does not meet the narrow criteria. However, I asked Rich, and he offered no response: where in the Forest Practices Act does it condone the destruction of "trails," whether they meet the narrow criteria or not?

Now, as to more specific components of the THP.

The Lost Camp mines, within Section 23, are of several types, but all involve placer deposits, likely Eocene in age, and the largest mining areas are relicts of hydraulic mining. Add to these a complex of gullies which look to have resulted from a related method, known as ground-sluicing. I believe there were some drift mines in the area. In both methods, the auriferous gravels were washed through sluice boxes charged with mercury. This mercury not only leaked directly from the sluice boxes, through cracks between the boards, but also leaked out the ends of the sluice boxes, where the tailings were discharged.

Hence many of the smaller ravines in the area are very likely contaminated with mercury, as are the larger streams below, such as Blue Canyon, Texas Canyon (not so named in the THP; Texas Canyon is identified as a Class II watercourse in the THP, and is that stream across which one of the new roads is proposed in the THP. It is to the east of Lost Camp, the town, and has many small tributaries, and many of these tributaries are likely to be contaminated with mercury), the NFNFAR itself (not within the THP boundaries), and Fulda Creek (partly within the THP boundaries, but not actually contaminated from the Lost Camp mines, but rather-and this is an outright guess-by placer mining on the creek itself, upstream.

Therefore, construction of roads and skid trails in the small tributaries of Blue Canyon and Texas Canyon in particular, may remobilize mercury, causing it to move downstream, or have local biological effects.

I have found it difficult to understand the THP, and have had little time to read it and make adequate notes. So, I sometimes recall reading some statement within the THP, but do not remember where in the THP that statement was made. Hence I will not reference many of my comments to page numbers in the THP.

One rationale given for the timber harvest is that, by removing overstory, the smaller trees will be released. This is true. However, this site has been harvested in the not-too-distant past, overstory removed, smaller trees released, and the result, in many areas, is a drastically overstocked stand of small conifers, such that high mortality is now occurring, and a tremendous fuel loading of dead and dry woody material exists. I see this especially within Section 23. The THP also asserts that harvest will reduce fuel loading and thus protect against wildfire. I see no provision for removing the existing dead and down small trees, and suppose that with further overstory removal, i.e., the harvest of the remaining larger trees, even more fuel loading will ensue. If anything, the larger trees should be left alone, and smaller trees removed.

In contrast to Section 23, lands in Section 24 to the east, on the ridge between Texas Canyon and Fulda Canyon (let us call it the Fulda Ridge), contain a nice stand of timber which has been more lightly logged, by selective means, in past decades. The forest canopy was left intact, and there is much much less understory, little brush at all, and every chance that a "cool" fire would leave the larger trees alive. However, being within the THP, this ridge-top stand will likely be decimated, sunlight will flood in on soils disturbed by tractor logging, and a very dense and overstocked stand of small conifers will ensue.

I have explored part of the east side of Fulda Ridge, and have found, on the steeper slopes, and along the area of inflection between gentler and steeper slopes which roughly coincides with the boundary between tractor yarding and helicopter yarding, as depicted in the THP, various old trails and ore-cart haul trails associated with hard-rock gold mining. I saw many large Douglas Fir, one ancient tree near six feet in diameter, and one Ponderosa Pin with an old blaze, and the large bark plates typical of an old-growth tree. I would call these trees "old-growth." There was never any commercial logging down there, only a minor taking of trees, principally Incense Cedar, I believe, for mining purposes, around a century ago.

Taking an educated guess, the lands within the THP, across Fulda Creek to the east, have likewise never been logged to any appreciable extent, and there might be regarded as old-growth stands. However, the THP specifically states that no old-growth stands are involved in the harvest.

The THP also declares that no scenic values are at stake, and that no one would even see the harvest area, except from a plane or helicopter. This is not true. I have been hiking in this area for thirty years, and the scenic qualities are very important to me. Much of this area, for instance, can be seen from Sawtooth Ridge. Fulda Canyon itself is quite remarkably beautiful, with many waterfalls. I much enjoy the views from the China Trail, for instance.

Please create a buffer zone around the China Trail, in which no harvest takes place. I suggest a radius of .25 mile from the trail.

I have been told, by someone long familiar with this area, that the trout fishery on the NFNFAR has been ruined by sedimentation on the main stem and tributaries. I do not doubt but that this is true. It is not mentioned in the THP.

The THP mentions probable negative impacts upon raptors, and states that no Northern Goshawk nests were found in the area. Two days ago, on Fulda Ridge, I was startled by a sharp peeping much like that of a Northern Goshawk, in a stand of pines. I could see no nest, and the bird moved away, down the slope, and I never saw it. It much reminded me of the peeping I heard last summer from Goshawks at a nest site in the North Fork American River canyon.

The THP does not mention the existence of Foothill Yellow-legged Frogs in the project area. I have seen these frogs in the NFNFAR, and in many other streams, large and small, and based upon my experience, would expect these frogs to live in Blue Canyon, Texas Canyon, and Fulda Canyon, and their tributaries, wherever accumulations of cobbly sediment are found, and also, in some areas of bare rock (adult frogs will inhabit bare rock areas). A better survey of both raptors and amphibians seems called for.

Finally, with respect to the proposed new roads, I am quite concerned. This seems an extremely heavy-handed component of what is in any case, in my terms, a rather drastic timber harvest. I have examined the course of the proposed road across Texas Canyon, with its associated steep slopes, where a very large culvert will be needed. This haul road is needed only because, it seems, the existing road over to Fulda Ridge, to the east, has been gated closed. I suggest that all harvest east of the main Lost Camp Road be yarded by helicopter; in fact, the entire project should be yarded by helicopter.

If I had more time I could do a better job of relating my comments to specific pages and sections of the THP. Please do extend the public comment period.

Thank you very much for your consideration of these issues.


Thursday, August 7, 2003

Lost Camp THP reconnaissance

I joined Steve Hunter of Colfax for a reconnaissance of the Lost Camp THP area yesterday. We left at 8:00 a.m. and drove up to the Blue Canyon exit on I-80, proceeding south and across the railroad tracks to the road fork leading east to the ridge (let us call it Fulda Ridge), in Section 24, between Fulda Creek and Texas Canyon (Texas Canyon is not so named on the modern USGS 7.5 minute Westville quadrangle, but is named on the 1866 General Land Office map of that area). We found this road gated closed with a sign reading "no trespassing" and "if you enter you will be shot."

Another road forked left near the gate and we tried it. It almost immediately leveled out and I realized it had been cut into the line of an old ditch, which could only be the historic Bradley & Gardner Ditch, or Placer County Canal, which drew from the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork, and went to the hydraulic mines of Dutch Flat and Gold Run, arriving in 1859. It was following almost exactly the 4680' contour where we met it. In a while we reached a locked gate, and, knowing the ditch must swing around Fulda Ridge, followed the road in. We passed a group of small cabins of recent construction, and then suddenly the road ended and we could follow the ditch itself. It is about five feet deep, and six or eight feet across at the top, and was said to have a capacity of 5000 miners inches, in the olden days.

A little less than a mile along the sinuous course of the ditch brought us to Fulda Ridge. Immediately below us to the south, a fine stand of coniferous timber had shaded out the brush, and made for easy going. We noted flagging where we left the ditch, marking it as a "truck road," and knew we were just entering the Lost Camp THP, on the north line of Section 24.

This forest had been logged at least twice, decades ago, we believed, but by a "selective" method, in which only the largest trees had been cut, and the forest canopy had remained largely intact, and no brush and relatively few small trees had become established, in the shade. So, it was a pretty patch of forest, and easy to walk through, and as we descended, the crest of the ridge flattened out to a dead level. Unfortunately this forest will be pretty well all harvested, according to the THP.

Steve has explored this area almost incredibly thoroughly over the past fifty years. He and his friends have pulled off some amazing adventures. For instance, Fulda Creek, below us to the east, has a steep gradient which only gets steeper as it approaches the North Fork of the North Fork, to the south. There is a series of high waterfalls along the creek, and essentially no way to hike up or down this section. Steve and his friends brought ropes and rappelled down the cliffs beside each waterfall in turn, all the way to the river, and then came back up the China Trail.

But this was only one of Steve's forays into lower Fulda Creek. On other occasions he had found an unusual old mining railroad. Since this is within the THP we wished to document it. I myself also hoped to discover some shred of the old trail from Lost Camp to Monumental Camp, constructed in 1862. However, in this I failed. The logging of decades ago had involved bulldozers, and the usual disruption of the land surface had effaced any sign of the old trail.

Reaching the southern end of the flat top of Fulda Ridge, where it drops away in ragged cliffs of the Shoo Fly Complex metasediments, into the main North Fork of the North Fork canyon, we veered east and began working down towards Fulda Creek. Almost immediately we struck a broad old trail or wagon road, which led back to the north and east. Following it, for a time I hoped it was my lost trail from Lost Camp, but soon it was obliterated by bulldozer skid trails from, what, 35 years ago. So we just angled on down the ever-steepening canyon wall, through a thinning mixed coniferouse forest increasingly dominated by Canyon Live Oaks, until another segment of broad trail or wagon road was reached, this, very nearly on a level.

Following it south, we passed sections of dry-laid stone walls, and finally reached a small mining area with abundant chunks of angular quartz scattered around. There the road-trail seemed to end. A sort of gully choked with angular talus was above the terminus, but no tunnel was visible. We made a short scramble beyond to some cliffy outcrops with fine views out into the main canyon, and we could see all the tributaries which make the Gorge of Gorges: Fulda, Sailor Ravine, the North Fork of the North Fork, the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork, Burnett Canyon and Wilmont Ravine, and Texas Canyon. Across the main canyon, Sawtooth Ridge rose steeply to Helester Point. There, a drastically ugly SPI clearcut made a square hole in the forest cover.

Fair-weather cumulus clouds graced the pure blue sky. It was cool, perfect for hiking.

Retreating north along the road-trail, I saw a faint old human trail leading down, and we followed it a short distance to a smaller trail, also about level, perhaps one hundred feet lower. This we followed south until it appeared to end at some cliffs. A bit of iron strapping stuck out of the trail at one point, of the sort one sometimes sees in old mine tunnels, a sort of poor man's railroad track, used for moving ore carts along the tunnel. Also, we saw an ancient cable stretching straight down the hill. Steve's recollection was that this cable led down to his mining railroad. However, our level old trail must be explored first, so we turned and followed it north.

It too had its dry-laid stone walls, and we walked it for a long distance, well, a quarter-mile perhaps, and saw Douglas Fir trees of increasing size, one, perhaps six feet in diameter. Strangely, the THP specifically states that there is no old-growth forest within the plan area. These large trees are clearly old-growth. The only logging which had ever occurred at this depth within Fulda Canyon (we were near the 4200' contour), was minor harvest of medium-sized trees, for mining purposes, around 100 years ago.

Suddenly, though, the old trail was crossed by what seemed to be a skid trail, which had been undoubtedly made by a bulldozer, and yet which looked very old. No stumps in the area signalled that it had been made for logging. Its rough steep bench cut had been much softened by the passage of decades. We tentatively ascribed an age of fifty years to it. The level old trail did not seem to continue, so we followed the steep bulldozer trail down a short distance. There we found large stockpiles of quartz ore, and a variety of mining equipment, including an ore cart, a sort of crucible, and several odd tubes of galvanized metal, something like water heater tanks, but meant to rotate on a longitudinal axis, some still having their axles. We could not imagine what they were for, but, clearly, it had to do with gold mining. They were of several different diameters.

We were now close to the creek, on a small flat, everywhere sloping, but not too far from level, and with a find stand of large Douglas Fir. Steve's sense was that we were far to the north of the mining railroad, which broke out onto the sunny cliffs we had visited earlier. So, with considerable difficulty, we contoured along to the south, while the creek fell away below us, and reached increasingly rocky areas with some rather large outcrops, almost house-sized. At one point Steve climbed up some shattered rock above me, and as I followed, I came within inches of a rattlesnake, which he had passed already. It was a calm snake, half-hidden in a hole, and did not rattle. I stepped away a few feet and climbed up after Steve.

After a time we found a great viewpoint and stopped for lunch. We reviewed the situation. It was impossible that the mining railroad had disappeared. It was virtually impossible that it could be below us. I suggested that perhaps his mining railroad was just the same as our lower level trail; but Steve recalled, vividly, railroad tracks crossing a cliff, and hanging into space. We had followed the entire length of the lower level trail, and had checked the slopes well for hundreds of feet below its line. So, what then?

As we continued, Steve saw a familiar-looking outcrop above us, and as we made for it, he saw a rail. A steep climb brought us to a gully where, perhaps a hundred years past, a trestle had supported narrow-gauge track. The trestle was gone, the track hung in the air, supported by cliffy outcrops at one side. So, we climbed over to the cliffy area, and, voila! There were the railroad tracks, winding sharply around a blasted-out bench on the cliff, and hanging into space at either end of this curved reach. Old cedar ties were still in place, with small railroad spikes, and round nails, and square nails too. It all suggested a turn-of-the-century date, around 1900. We had, again, tremendous views, very similar to those we'd enjoyed earlier.

It was hard to see how far the original line of trestle and track might have continued, to the west, but, as we climbed up above the tracks, the question was likely answered, for we caught sight of a steep-walled, steeply-plunging gully, which I recognized as a quartz vein complex which had been "stoped out" along the surface, to a depth of nearly if not more than twenty feet, measured perpendicular to the overall steep rocky slopes. This may well have been because the material closer to the surface was more weathered, and the gold easier to extract by ordinary, gravity-based methods, i.e., crushing followed by of a sluice box. Sometimes at greater depths, the gold is far harder to separate from other minerals.

We followed the stoped-out vein complex on up the cliff. I have seen very similar workings in the Stanislaus river canyon. At the top of the cliff, the stoped area continued down the far side, and we realized that we had returned to the southern end of our first, highest, level road-trail. Thus Steve's mining railroad was really part of the lower old level trail; and we had just been mistaken, when we thought it had ended at some rocks, earlier.

Thus, the two parallel, almost-level trails are ore cart runs leading from the stoped-out vein complex, north to the ore stockpiles in the little flat with the old mining equipment and the old bulldozed steep road.

Steve says there are other mining artifacts down along the creek itself. I want to emphasize that, not only are these artifacts on private property, but in any case, all such things should be left alone. Carry nothing home, no old railroad spikes, no arrowheads, nothing. Photograph them if you like. Be careful about even mentioning such sites to anyone. It is a shocking fact that many archeological sites have already been looted. This has to stop.

We climbed back to the level summit of Fulda Ridge and retraced our steps back to the ditch and to Steve's jeep.

Later in the day we took a look at various parts of the Lost Camp area, including the proposed new road, to cross Texas Canyon, which is detailed in the THP, and which will require rather extreme cuts on steep slopes and a huge culvert, and, all in all, I would like to see this and other new roads *not* constructed, for this timber harvest, instead, if any harvest occurs, let there be much more in the way of helicopter yarding, much less tractor yarding, and no new roads.

Later we drove down the Lost Camp Divide out of the THP area and into some horrible clearcuts on what I presume is SPI lands.

Such was a very interesting day.

Lost Camp THP Comments

Tim Lasko took the time to call Rich Jenkins and Auburn CDF and wrote the following:

I placed a call yesterday to Rich Jenkins and Gary - possibly Britner? and
received return calls from both today. They both told me to write a letter
to William Schultz CDF (6105 Airport Road, Redding, CA 96002.) In the
interest of time, Rich also recommended faxing a copy to 530.224.4841. The
faxed copy would be time / date stamped and placed directly in the file. I
was assured that any letters would receive an official response.

My conversation was lengthy and friendly with Rich. He admitted that he has
never been to the site and informed me that a relatively new CDF
archeologist covers the Central Sierra. Dr. Garrett Fenenga works out of
the Sacramento office, but lives in Placerville. Rich suggested that I
request Dr. Fenenga to review the site. Rich stated that by making that
request, in a formal letter, it would almost guarantee the CDF take the time
to send an archeologist to the site. He also stated that it would be
helpful to submit a map with the areas of concern shown, to ensure that they
are included in the review.

I will write a letter and send it today. What are you thoughts on
submitting a map? I think we should send more letters to William Schultz
CDF (6105 Airport Road, Redding, CA 96002.)

Tim Lasko

Tim is right, we need more letters ot Schultz, and we need an extension of the public comment period! And, as Tim found, we should and will request a CDF archeological review. And we should and shall make a map.

Thanks Tim!

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Lost Camp THP obtained

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.

Letter to CDF re Lost Camp

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

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

Monday, August 4, 2003

Lost Camp THP

I spoke at length this morning with CDF archeologist Jeff Dowling, about the Timber Harvest Plan for sections 22, 23, and 24, including the site of Lost Camp, an old gold mining town. This is THP code number 2-03-040-PLA, and involves 590 acres.

Jeff seemed to know all about me, from my opposition to a timber harvest here in the Dutch Flat Diggings, a few years ago. He was rather full of scorn and dismissal towards me and all my tree-hugging kind. I was a little surprised by the vehemence of his feelings. I tried to keep things on an even keel, but again and again Jeff took me to task for wanting to stop all logging.

Nevertheless, I obtained some useful information about the Lost Camp timber harvest. In brief:

1. The property is owned by Sillers Bros. lumber company. One of the principals, Andrew Siller, recently died.

2. The THP may or may not still be open to public comment. I should call the main office in Redding to find out.

3. So far as Jeff is concerned, the site has been adequately surveyed (by the Register Professional Forester and his assistant, Dave Levy and Steve Furlong), and all historic sites well protected. He says that the steeper slopes will be helicopter logged, and that impacts using this method are so light that there is no restriction upon where trees may be taken. Jeff has, in the past, walked "all over" that area.

4. Jeff says the harvest itself will likely not take place for one to one-and-one-half years.

5. Jeff said, if I want TNF to own Section 23, then, don't wait for TNF to find the money, find it myself, contact Siller Bros., and hope for the best.

6. If I have any concerns about protection of historic and archeological sites in this THP, I should write to Rich Jenkins, CDF, 6105 Airport Road, Redding CA 96002. If I do write, Jeff will receive a copy of my letter, and, (sigh) he and Rich will then have to go out and re-survey the area themselves.

Such is what I learned about the Lost Camp THP. I have not yet seen the THP myself. It may be, as Jeff characterized it, a rather benign timber harvest, as such things go.

The Placer Queen

Gus Wiseman, a student at U.C. Davis, joined me Sunday for an exploration of upper Wildcat Canyon and the Placer Queen Mine. For those who aren't familiar with that area, Wildcat Canyon is a short tributary of the North Fork American which heads up along the Foresthill Divide, east of Robinson Flat. From Auburn one drives northeast through the town of Foresthill a long ways, losing the pavement at Robinson Flat. The sign there tells us that it is 25 miles on to Soda Springs on I-80. The Foresthill-Soda Springs road is often fairly rough over this high country reach. I consider it one of the great drives in California, with wonderful views of the North Fork canyon and the Sierra crest.

A couple miles east of Robinson Flat is the unmarked trail to Sailor Meadow and the Walker Mine. Another couple miles east brings one to the unmarked trail to the Placer Queen Mine, a drift mine near the confluence of the east and west forks of Wildcat Canyon. Sailor Meadow is notable for its large tract of old-growth forest, at about 5600' elevation. This forest, and several wet meadows, inhabit a broad bench or terrace along the east side of Sailor Canyon. Both Sailor Canyon and its neighbor to the east, Wildcat Canyon, are notable for the unusual thickness of the "superjacent" young volcanics lying on top of the vastly older "subjacent" bedrock. The young volcanics are comprised, from the top, down, of the andesitic mudflows of the Mehrten Formation (about 1000' thick here!), the "pink welded tuff" of the Valley Springs Formation, and then, beneath that, more rhyolite ash of the Valley Springs fm. Beneath all these volcanics is at least one old river channel, with gold-bearing gravel, so, in both Sailor and Wildcat canyons, there are various drift mines, where tunnels were driven into the ancient channels.

The underlying bedrock is metamorphic volcaniclastic rocks of the Sailor Canyon and Tuttle Lake formations, which appear to have been deposited in an oceanic environment, before being rotated almost 90 degrees to the east while being smashed up against the western edge of North America in the Jurassic, say, 140 million years ago. So all the strata are "on edge," nearly vertical. This rock was then uplifted and eroded, valleys formed, rivers flowed, then all was buried beneath the "young volcanics," and then, at last, our modern canyons were eroded into all of this, cutting right through the young volcanics, into the subjacent bedrock, and on down below the levels of the ancient, pre-volcanic rivers.

If one is sensitive to the variable thickness of the young volcanics, as seen along the ridges between the modern canyons, one can deduce the presence of the ancient valleys of the ancestral Sierra. Where these valleys were, the young volcanics are thicker than usual. This is especially evident around Sailor Canyon and Wildcat Canyon, where the ridgetops are up around 7000', and the ancient channels down around 5400', so that the exposed section of the volcanics is around 1500 feet thick.

At any rate. I cannot refrain from mentioning one of the most obnoxious timber harvests to take place in Tahoe National Forest in recent years. It went by the name of a "hazard tree removal" along the Foresthill Road, above Robinson Flat. It sounded innocuous enough: if some big old tree is leaning over the road, and might fall, cut it down. However, what actually happened was that, in a broad zone along either side of the road, many large trees were cut, bulldozers scrambled everywhere, log landings were constructed, and the tops of the Sailor Meadow and Placer Queen trails were obliterated. What especially galls me is that this part of the road *was* so especially virginal and lovely, winding narrowly through one of the all-to-rare unlogged parts of Placer County, a forest often dominated by Red Fir, with some Jeffrey Pine and Western White Pine here and there. So, what had been quite palpably virgin forest, often extending for miles to either side, now has the generic appearance of the run-of-the-mill logged forest.

It amounts to petty vandalism on the grand scale.

So, then, Gus and I drove up the Foresthill road, and a little past the side road to Deadwood, an old mining camp, we explored an obscure road on the left which was cut directly into the line of the historic Iowa Hill Ditch. This ditch was constructed in the 1870s, and was projected to take directly from the North Fork, way upriver, not far from the Cedars, and to take also the waters of all the North Fork's southern tributaries: New York Canyon, Sailor Canyon, Wildcat Canyon, Wabena Canyon, etc. Fortunately it was never completed; it ends a little east of Tadpole Canyon, and never reached New York Canyon. We followed the road east for a mile or so; it has been freshly re-graded only this year, and the newly-bulldozed road eventually leaves the line of the ditch and drops towards one of the several drift mines on the north, North Fork side of Hogback Ridge. I have no idea what's afoot down there. It worries me that so much expensive work has been done.

Where the road leaves the ditch, the ditch-road itself continues east, I don't know how far, seemingly in TNF lands, and purposely blocked by a large dead tree and berm of dirt. We walked in a short distance, then returned to the car, drove back to the Foresthill Road, and on up to the Placer Queen Trail. Parenthetically, I have wondered whether this part of the historic Iowa Hill Ditch might form part of the proposed Capitol-to-Capitol Trail. It would certainly make for a beautiful trail; there are some great views out into the North Fork, with Big Valley Bluff almost directly across the canyon, and Snow Mountain to the east.

I had scouted around for the trail down to the Placer Queen several times in years past. The USGS 7.5 minute Royal Gorge quadrangle shows the trail following a ridge crest down into Wildcat Canyon from a point along the road, a little east of Sunflower Hill. This time I stored waypoints for the trailhead and several points along the trail onto my GPS unit, and even with this additional help, it was very hard to find the trail. That wonderful hazard tree removal had done a good job of tearing things up at the trailhead, and what trees which might have carried blazes had been cut. We struck a likely line and started down, but, after a descent of perhaps 150 feet in elevation, when we broke free of the forest onto the crest of a barren little ridge of andesitic mudflow, I saw the true trail beside us, coming down very slightly to the east side of the crest. So, we had missed the uppermost line of the old trail.

Continuing down the mudflow ridge, we saw signs that this trail had actually been a small road in its day, a jeep trail, perhaps, although more likely it long pre-dated jeeps, and was either a wagon road, or a track used by some kind of ancient light truck, or both. Whatever the case, it has not been driven for a long, long time, and is fairly steep. As we passed again into forest, heavy brush buried the trail in places, and we sometimes simply had to veer away into more open terrain, and come back to the trail somewhere below. I had my loppers and was able to open up a few sections of trail.

At last we reached the top of an especially steep and forested section, and completely lost the line of the trail. We scouted back and forth along the hillside below, and picked it up again. This is the lowest, most northerly section depicted on the Royal Gorge quadrangle. The map is in error, for it shows the trail leading straight down the hill to the mine, when in fact it has several switchbacks. It is quite wide, but badly overgrown, and many were the eight-foot branches of Pacific Dogwood, many the small White Firs, I cut away from the trail. We had descended through the entire section of mudflow and were entering the pink welded tuff in particular, and the rhyolite ash of the Valley Springs fm. generally, which formation, almost everywhere in the Sierra, is the source of springs and seeps. Thus the many dogwoods, thus the rich forest of large pines and firs and Douglas Fir and Incense Cedar.

We saw that someone else had lopped branches along the trail, perhaps ten years ago, or more. However, just to follow the trail was quite a challenge, and at one point we succeeded where the previous explorers had failed, for there were no more old lopped branches. Eventually we reached a forested flat--truly flat--where several stumps spoke to the needs of the miners, perhaps for timbering in the tunnel, or for a cabin; but no cabin site was evident.

We rested a very short while, until clouds of mosquitos discovered us, and I began scouting back and forth along the flat terrace. I soon struck an old human trail leading back to the north into the east branch of Wildcat Canyon, so I went and got Gus and we explored along the trail for quite a ways, until it diminished into almost nothing as it neared the creek.

We were just above the point where the creek crossed from the young volcanics upstream into the old bedrock downstream. A moderately large landslide in the weak almost white rhyolite ash flanked the creek on the west side, apparently freshly remobilized and cut by the January 1997 flood event. We were to see several other, similar slide areas in the volcanic ash, in the general area.

We followed the creek down into the bedrock, which looked to be metavolcanics of the Tuttle Lake fm. This is variegated, with layers of pyroclastics, similar to the mudflows of the young volcanics, but all squished and metamorphosed and much harder and denser, and layers of fine-grained dark sediments, sometimes showing tight folds. The creek was charming, a little difficult to follow, and when we reached one deep little pool, of a sort which made one want to swim, I wondered whether a trail might have led to the pool from the mine, saw a terrace just above, and so we climbed back up and scouted the hillside. While we found no particular trail to the pool, we did strike the continuation of the main trail, again, very broad, which I had missed altogether in the large flat with the stumps, somewhere above us.

We followed along in a westerly direction and soon reach the mine residence, a log cabin around twenty feet square, with carefully hewn logs, squared off on the inside, still showing the marks of the broadaxe, and a shingled gable roof. The cabin had collapsed, probably many years ago. There was a fair amount of milled lumber in the thing, too, and an old wood stove, and so one, and all round nails, so, certainly 20th century; but nothing I saw could pinpoint the date of its construction. It might have been as late as the 1930s, maybe even a little later.

We found that the trail continued down and to the west, and followed along. We never found the main tunnel of the mine, although we saw many prospect holes, and did pass one very likely candidate for the tunnel, at least, it looked just as though a large tunnel had collapsed, along with portions of the steep slope above it.

The trail continued. We reached a rather large and steep slide area in the Valley Springs rhyolite ash, with many springs and seeps and dogwoods and alders along its base, lost the trail, and eventually emerged on a steep bank above the west fork of Wildcat Canyon. Here we decided to cross the creek and strike west and north on a contour, towards Sailor Meadow. If the going got too rough, we could always retreat to the Placer Queen.

Looking for an easy place to make the steep 100' descent to the creek, I saw what seemed like a continuation of the old trail, and joked to Gus that I was always seeing old trails, whether they existed or not. We followed it down and looked for a way up the far side; only one good possibility presented itself, and after a bit of a scramble, we were on steep heavily forested slopes, and immediately struck an unequivocal old human trail.

It was easy to lop the obstructions away, as the trail made an easy climb to the northwest. Soon we topped out on a small ridge, which at first I mistook for the main divide between Wildcat and Sailor canyons. A large flat lay just west, and we were unable to pick up the line of trail across the flat. Huge Sugar Pines and White Firs towered everywhere, with many fallen giants making for an intricate sequence of climbing and jumping and weaving back and forth.

Checking my Royal Gorge quadrangle, I saw that, as is often the case, this large flat area was not well expressed on the map, and that we must be a quarter-mile away from the divide. We contoured along and climbed a little, unwillingly, for my sense of location indicated we were on a perfect elevation to feather right in to the level part of the divide, where the long narrow pond lies, and the unmarked trail west to Sailor Meadow breaks west from the trail on down to the Walker Mine. I was sure that the old human trail must continue to the Sailor Meadow-Walker Mine Trail, but I saw no sign of it.

Our broad flat had narrowed to a terrace, and that in turn ended on steep brushy slopes which forced us still higher. We struck the main trail a scant hundred feet above the level reach by the narrow pond, and crossed right over to the west, circling around the north side of large and lush Sailor Meadow, then around the west side to the Indian grinding rock, and the old stockman's camp; for someone had grazed cattle here, once upon a time.

The ancient forest around Sailor Meadow is so very lovely, so amazing. Just west of the stockman's camp is a grove of tremendous Ponderosa Pines which range towards eight feet in diameter. Gigantic Sugar Pines are everywhere, along with huge White Firs and Incense Cedars. The largest Douglas Fir I have seen in the Sierra, maybe ten feet in diameter, is somewhere to the north; I have passed it twice in years past, wandering the broad terrace, over a mile long, but have been unable to find it again in the past two years.

A breeze blew up and scared the mosquitos away, and made the aspens tremble, and billowing cloud castles half-filled the sky, and distant thunder was heard, while we rested and ate a late lunch. Around 3:30 p.m. we started up and out, following the Sailor Meadow-Walker Mine Trail up the divide, a climb of about 1500 feet, to the Foresthill Road. This we followed east to Sunflower Hill, and then took a shortcut, contouring around the steep north side of Sunflower, which faces into Wildcat Canyon, and merging with the road again a half-mile to the east. We were a scant hundred yards from the car.

During the long drive down to Auburn, Gus fell asleep while I rattled on about the Placer County Big Trees and William Lardner's ~1925 expedition. So I held my peace and drove and drove and at last we reached Auburn and stopped in at the Shanghai for supper, where I chatted a little with my friend, the genial Richard Yue, proprietor. A blues band was revving it up nicely to an appreciative audience on the outdoors terrace, but Gus and I stayed tamely inside and listened to a strange old player piano execute jazzified versions of jazz standards like "Green Dolphin Street" and "When Sunny Gets Blue," both favorites of mine, which I play on guitar and piano. The food was fine.

Such was another day exploring the upper North Fork, with so many great views of Snow Mountain, and Devils Peak, Sugar Pine Point, and the many side-canyons, all made more dramatic by cloud shadows drifting slowly over the cliffs and forests.