Saturday, September 27, 2003

Visit to Humbug Canyon

One of the most popular trails in Tahoe National Forest is the Euchre Bar Trail, which drops something less than 2000 feet to the North Fork American. A drive of a few miles leads from the Alta exit on I-80 to the trailhead. At the base of the trail, a suspension bridge spans the river across opposing cliffs, and large trout can be seen swimming the deep pool hemmed within that little gorge.

Euchre Bar has a body of glacial outwash sediments clinging to the canyon wall. This was attacked by a variety of methods, and gold was wrested from the ponderous masses of boulders, cobbles, sand and silt. It was a mining camp in its own right, and in the early newspapers of Placer County one can read the election returns for many such camps, including Euchre Bar. Most are now deserted.

From the bridge a trail continues up the North Fork two or three miles to Humbug Canyon. This short tributary of the North Fork has its own complex of outwash deposits, and was worked quite intensively in the early 1850s. Like Green Valley it counted as a town, for a few years anyway. In 1862 it was regarded as "worked out," the "music of the saw and the hammer" was no longer heard, no one was left. Yet, as seems often the case, that "no one" was an inexact and relative term, and the Humbug Canyon of 1862 had a store, and sixty men worked the mines in the summer, and twenty remained working through the winter.

Later an era of hard-rock mining began, for many are the gold-bearing quartz veins which lace the Shoo Fly Complex rocks in that area. The Pioneer Mine, the American Eagle, the Dorer Mine, the Blackhawk, the Southern Cross, and many many more, are scattered across the steep slopes.

The Dorer family arrived in Humbug Canyon at least as early as 1864, and to this day own the Dorer Ranch, near the base of the canyon in a sunny meadow with an Indian grinding rock, on a glacial outwash terrace. A house and some outbuildings still stand there, and a road switches back and forth all the way down to the ranch, from Elliot Ranch Road, up on the canyon rim.

The easiest approach to Humbug Canyon from civilization is along the Foresthill Divide. Yet the Divide runs to near 5000' in elevation on the approach to Humbug, so snow lies deep in the winter. Hence from the earliest times supplies came, during the winter, on mule trains from Dutch Flat and Towle (near Alta). These pack trains continued into the 20th century.

Saturday Gay Wiseman and I joined Steve Hunter, and Alan and Jay Shuttleworth, for a visit to Humbug Canyon. Steve is a good friend of Bob Dorer and has a key to the gate. I was quite interested in trying to find an old trail from Sawtooth Ridge down to Humbug Bar, where a bridge once crossed the North Fork. Last fall Tom Molloy and I had found the upper end of this trail, but had been unable to follow it very far. It seemed to disappear. Here was an opportunity to follow the same old trail--call it the SawBug Trail--from the river, up. Waldemar Lindgren's ca. 1900 geologic map shows this trail crossing the Dorer Mine quartz lode on the climb to the summit of Sawtooth.

The ca. 1960 "Volcano Fire" burned a vast area between the Middle and North Forks of the American. We drove through the old burn for miles, up on top of the Divide, where plantations of young trees seem to be thriving. As we approached Humbug Canyon, more and more patches of larger, older trees appeared, which had survived the fire. The descent into Humbug was through forests of Black and Canyon Live Oak, alternating with coniferous forests dominated by Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. Around springs there were masses of dogwoods and maples and alders and ferns.

We stopped for a time at the Dorer Ranch, and met Bob Dorer and the ranch caretaker, Danny. Then we walked to the North Fork, a scant couple hundred yards away.

The rest of the party, led by Steve, hiked up to the American Eagle Mine, and then crossed to the north bank of the North Fork to visit other mining areas, including a gigantic cavern with railroad tracks leading into it. I, however, hopped across the river at the confluence of Humbug Creek, found the old bridge site, and struck out upriver on the old north-side trail.

This upriver trail shows on various old maps, but not on our modern Westville 7.5 quadrangle. I was a little surprised to find it changing into a wagon road, complete with large dry-laid stone walls, and in places, blasted out of the very cliffs.

With loppers at maximum power I made swift progress in the midday heat. I sensed that I had likely passed the Dorer Mine, but had seen no sign of it, and the old road was so easy, that it seemed best just to follow along. Without realizing it, I walked nearly a mile, and entered a forested flat, with the remains of an old wood stove, and other artifacts of human occupation and mining.

Could this be the Dorer Mine? Scouting around, I found a couple of wagon roads leading up the canyon wall, and began following the most likely, the most user-friendly, of the two. Difficulties arose. Ten thousand small Douglas Fir trees blocked my way at first, and then my "wagon road" seemed to melt into a squirrel trail, and that led into a knot-hole, and I was done.

Done? No! I thrashed around on the steep slopes, up, west, east, and then, saw another trail, which insensibly widened, and widened, and my wagon road was reborn!

I followed it higher and higher as the day grew warmer and warmer. Could this be the pesky SawBug Trail? No; I was too far east; or was the old map in error, as old maps are wont to be, so that maybe I was *not* "too far east'' but rather, exactly the right farness east? These serious questions occupied me as I lopped hundreds of branches and watched my wagon road shrink and swell and admired its dry-laid stone walls and the places where even it was blasted from the very rocks ... .

But wait; why would the SawBug be blasted? How could one justify that much work on a mere trail? Surely this wagon road led to some obscure gold mine: a hole in the ground, masses of dirty quartz lying everywhere. And soon enough I found just that. A tunnel, partially collapsed, followed a quartz vein into the sun-kissed mass of Sawtooth Ridge, and, peering past a disturbed bat, I saw light within the gloomy room, and realized that a shaft opened to the surface, somewhere above.

My wagon road seemed to end right there. Yet, climbing to examine the shaft, I caught a glimpse of a trail continuing, climbing up Sawtooth Ridge, and bearing east. So I struck out on that, and lopped many many more branches and small Douglas Fir trees, and the trail shrank, and widened, and had dry-laid stone retaining walls, or had none, and once again I began to think, This is It! This is the long-sought-after, the legendary, the one-and-only SawBug Trail!

But then a nasty notion darkened my mind's eye: perhaps this fine old trail only led to yet another hole-in-the-ground-with-quartz-all-around.

And so it did. In fact, it led to a very deep hole, a strange rectangular shaft plunging at the least a hundred feet down, only two by four feet in cross-section. And near this shaft, some signs of a collapsed tunnel. And once again, the trail seemed to utterly end. I scouted higher and to the east, I followed a bear trail to a bear bed, and I found strange masses of white quartz sand sown across the steeps, and did some involuntary skiing on these sharp little shards. And so I knew that more mine workings were somewhere above.

I was over five hundred feet above the North Fork and was drenched in sweat. One member of our party needed to get back to Colfax by some ungodly early hour, so my explorations must stop. It was nearly two p.m.

So, I lopped along back down the trail, back down the high wagon road, to the main wagon road at Wood Stove Flat, and heard voices. I lopped along the main wagon road east and found the rest of the party near a pile of old narrow-gauge track and iron strapping, such as were used for ore carts. They had just visited a most amazing cavern, and reproached me for missing out. I in turn reproached *them* for missing out. Silly aficionados of mining history who laugh at my loppers!

Then we marched on back to Humbug Canyon and swam in the lovely pool near the bridge site and ate lunch and talked with Bob Dorer and Danny, the Caretaker. After a time we dragged ourselves up the short trail to our cars.

On the way back, I took Elliot Ranch Road and passed the long and lovely meadow at the ranch site. Skirting along the rim of the North Fork canyon, I passed the head of the Green Valley Trail and met with Giant Gap Road and at last was on pavement again at Iowa Hill Road.

In another hour I was home.

Such was a visit to Humbug Canyon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Meadow Vista Trails Association

Last night I gve a talk to the Meadow Vista Trails Association (MVTA), in the back room of Mountain Mike's pizzeria. The largely equestrian audience was interested to hear about the old trails in the Placer high country, and the gradual loss of these trails to logging, subdivisions, gates, and so on. They were very well informed, and most seemed to know of the 1953 Placer County Board of Supervisors' ordinance, in which sixty-odd historic trails were declared to be "County roads" so as to secure continued public access.

It all went off well, though if I had a video projector to show pictures and maps it would have been even better.

I learned that some members of MVTA have been GPS-ing trails in that area and supplying maps to Placer County, so that, possibly, in the course of future land subdivision and issuance of building permits, the County will be in a position to protect such-and-such trail. For who can really blame the County when it allows an old trail to be blocked, if the County never knew it existed?

We of the NFARA have discussed doing this same thing. It is such a good idea, to develop a database of mapped trails, and provide the information to Placer County, Tahoe National Forest, and the BLM. I have supplied Placer County with GPSed maps of the Canyon Creek and Green Valley trails, but so much more could be done!

Ron Gould and I have been making minute examinations of various old maps, and correlating the old trails depicted therein with the modern USGS 7.5-minute topographic maps. The old maps are full of errors, large and small. Somewhat strangely, our modern USGS maps have plenty of errors too; for instance, some of the trails shown down in Green Valley on the Dutch Flat quadrangle never existed.

Ron recently discovered 1928 and 1939 Tahoe National Forest maps showing quite a few trails which no longer appear on modern maps. The trail from Gold Run to Iowa Hill by way of Fords Bar crossed the North Fork on a bridge, labeled "Warner Bridge" on the 1939 map. Ron asked me what I knew of that. Yesterday, while leafing through my own "Dutch Flat Chronicles," I found the very legal notice, published in the "Dutch Flat Forum" newspaper in 1875(?), in which one J.E. Warner applied to the Placer County BOS for permission to operate a toll bridge at Fords Bar.

Hence Warner Bridge on the 1939 TNF map! The bridge is long gone. Curiously, this map shows the Blue Wing Trail, on the Iowa Hill side of the North Fork at Warner Bridge, as a road! 'Twas never.

Unfortunately, the Gold Run terminus of this historic trail has a brand-new subdivision plunked right atop it, and public access there has ended.

Gold Run and the North Fork American W&SR

For years I have been wondering why the BLM allows mining claims on its lands in the Gold Run Diggings. Recently I have tried once again to discover the basis for this BLM policy. For, there is a special northward extension of the North Fork American W&SR corridor; and lands within the W&SR corridor ought to be closed to mineral entry.

In 1978 Congress added the North Fork American River to our national Wild & Scenic River system. The relevant part of this legislation reads as follows:

(21) AMERICAN, CALIFORNIA. -- The North Fork from a point 0.3 mile above Heath Springs downstream to a point approximately 1,000 feet upstream of the Colfax-Iowa Hill Bridge, including the Gold Run Addition Area, as generally depicted on the map entitled, "Proposed Boundary Maps" contained in Appendix I of the document dated January 1978 and entitled, "A Proposal: North Fork American Wild and Scenic River" published by the United States Forest Service, Department of Agriculture; to be designated as a wild river and to be administered by agencies of the Departments of Interior and Agriculture as agreed upon by the Secretaries of such Departments or as directed by the President.

Why did Congress create the special Addition? Because the Diggings are wild, they are beautiful, they are historic, and there are two trails--the Canyon Creek and Pickering Bar trails-- which give access to the North Fork American itself. Congress recognized that the Gold Run Diggings constitute a kind of "portal" to the North Fork American.

Now, it happens that in the more southern part of the Gold Run Diggings, there is very much BLM land. These BLM lands are just those which lie within the so-called "Gold Run Addition" as mentioned in the legislation, above. Yet the Folsom BLM has, over all the time it has managed the lands at Gold Run, and in particular, since 1978, considered that these BLM lands within the Addition are open to "mineral entry," i.e., to mining claims.

A careful examination of the "big" Tahoe National Forest map will reveal that all these BLM lands in the Diggings are marked as within the W&SR corridor. Ordinarily, the W&SR corridor is considered to extend only one-quarter mile from the center of the river. Yet Congress wanted to extend the corridor to the north at Gold Run, and created the special Addition.

Ordinarily, all public lands within any river's W&SR corridor are immediately "withdrawn from mineral entry," that is, closed to any further mining claims. I believe it is also typical for there to be an off-highway-vehicle (OHV) closure on all public lands within the W&SR corridor. This a natural consequence of managing a river to be a Wild & Scenic River.

Yet at Gold Run, BLM lands remain open to mineral entry and to OHVs.

This has led to significant adverse impacts upon BLM lands at Gold Run. For instance, one claimant, apparently, used his key to the BLM gate at the end of Garrett Road to bring a backhoe and dump truck into the Diggings and remove large quantitites of petrified wood. The pieces weighed in the 200-300 pound range, but included the very last petrified log of any size exposed at the surface, around fifteen feet long and two to three feet in diameter. This happened just a few years ago.

These impacts include blading out roads wider with a bulldozer, creating new roads, and making many "test pits" to justify the existence of a valid mining claim. In fact, so far as I have been able to discover, it was these mining claimants who placed the gate at the end of Garrett Road. They, the claimants, actually made the very policy which excludes the rest of us from driving in to the head of the Pickering Bar Trail.

Now, in this last case, I reluctantly go along with the adverse impact. The gate reduces vehicular access to a wild and beautiful area I like to hike in. That makes it nicer for hiking. Also, there had been problems with squatters down that road, before the gate went in.

Nevertheless, I oppose leaving these lands within the special Gold Run Addition open to mining claims. And I still do not understand the basis for this BLM policy. I am told that the "master plats" or master maps upon which the BLM relies do not show the Addition as within the W&SR corridor. Why not?

For, after all, Congress itself wrote

"... including the Gold Run Addition Area, as generally depicted on the map entitled, 'Proposed Boundary Maps' contained in Appendix I of the document dated January 1978 and entitled, 'A Proposal: North Fork American Wild and Scenic River' published by the United States Forest Service ... ."

The TNF map reflects the extended corridor as depicted in the 1978 "Proposed Boundary Maps." The BLM master plats do not. Why? I still do not understand.

Everything within the Gold Run Addition ought to be closed to mineral entry and closed to OHV use.

Deane Swickard, Area Manager of Folsom BLM, tells me that in 2004 a new management plan will be developed for the entire Folsom Resource Area. There will be opportunity for public comment. Perhaps at that time we can exert influence to exclude the BLM lands at Gold Run from mineral entry and OHV use.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Footnote on N.B. Willey

While leafing through my "Dutch Flat Chronicles" today I found one more reference to N.B. Willey, Superintendent of the Red Rock Mine. The reason my text search didn't turn it up yesterday is that his name is misspelled "Wiley" instead of "Willey."

The item below was contributed by Willey himself to the Colfax Sentinel, in 1896. We see that Willey was mining in Green Valley, on the North Fork American near Dutch Flat, in the 1850s. I have always thought it would be quite interesting to go down to Sacramento and find the court records for this case.

At any rate, we find that ex-Governor Willey was an old resident of Placer County.

Colfax Sentinel
April 17, 1896

Chinese Arrested in Green Valley
Dutch Flat, April 13, 1896
Editor of the Sentinel:-The public interest in the recent arrest of Chinamen in this section for hydraulic mining contrary to law is noteworthy. It is said to be the first instance when malefactors of this sort have been taken "red-handed." Now, I hardly think the Chinamen are entitled to much sympathy. They ought not to be permitted to prosecute an unlawful act when other people are prohibited. But, the circumstances ought to be considered. I know something of this particular piece of mining ground. I worked on it in the 1850's. I sold it to Chinamen 21 years ago, and I am informed it has been worked continuously by them ever since. I examined it again about ten days before the owners were arrested. It is obvious to me and to anyone acquainted with mining that the quantity of earth washed away in all that time is not as much as would be moved by a single monitor in the Dutch Flat, You Bet, or Nevada City districts in a single week.
The bench is a mass of rocks from top to bottom. It is forty or fifty feet high. It is conveniently situated for work at a little distance above the river so that the great mass of rocks issuing from the flumes is deposited before it reaches the water; and even if they were dropped in the middle of the river the current is insufficient to move them away. The sand and gravel is so insignificant that they did not use to be and are not now sufficient even so much as to discolor the river for a half mile. The water used in these mines comes from springs and small ravines on the mountain side. It is saved in reservoirs and at best is barely sufficient for a head of about 200 inches of water for an hour and a half twice a day. How can 500 inches of water pass through a 3-inch nozzle with a fall of no more than 60 or 70 feet?
There are many gravel claims working in this county by the ground-sluicing process, keeping strictly within the law as regards place of deposit, percentage of sediment in the water, and all other details, each one of which discharges into streams so much more earth than the one in question that the latter is not to be thought about for a moment. And, indeed, it does not appear that the mining in itself can do any harm or is objectionable, but only the manner of it. That formidable 3-inch nozzle is liable to "overwhelm" somebody. I scarcely need refer to the alleged effort of the Valley spies some weeks ago to blackmail these Chinamen and their inability or unwillingness to pay $200 to secure immunity. This has no bearing upon the argument.
N.B. Wiley

The Railroad-Tracks-in-Space Mine

Over the past few days some of the history of the "Railroad Tracks in Space" mine has emerged, with the help of old maps, a 1902 CA Bureau of Mines report, and the Internet.

This is the mine with nearly-level ore-cart runs running along the side of Fulda Canyon, near Lost Camp, and within the 600 acres owned by Siller Brothers lumber company, where a massive and monstrous timber harvest is planned. Lost Camp is a ghost town, embedded within a complex of hydraulic mines, in Section 23 of T16N, R11 E. The Railroad Tracks in Space, which is properly known as the Red Rock Mine, is in adjacent Section 24, just to the east.

The country rock is steeply-dipping strata of the Shoo Fly Complex, the oldest rocks in the Sierra, here metasediments, along the lines of meta-sandstone, meta-shale, with some chert. It is called a "complex" because it is not one discrete formation, but several. The nearly vertical strata strike north and south and have endured several episodes of deformation. Here they have been intruded by a system of quartz veins which follow the north-south strike, which veins must likely be assigned to that same system which is also found farther west, on the flanks of Sawtooth Ridge and within Humbug Canyon. Many "hard-rock" mines exploited these gold-bearing quartz veins, most notably, the Rawhide Mine and the Pioneer Mine. The source of the quartz may have been the granitic plutons to the north and east, visible around Lake Spaulding and Loch Leven Lakes, which intruded the Shoo Fly and other metamorphic rocks in the Jurassic or Cretaceous.

So much for the geology. Now for the historical evidence.

Around 1900 the first good topographic maps of this part of the Sierra were published, and the renowned Waldemar Lindgren used this topographic base to complete a geologic map of the same region. On Lindgren's map one sees the body of Eocene river gravels at Lost Camp, and, just to the east, a red stripe running north and south, denoting a quartz vein, with a crossed pick-and-shovel symbol, denoting a mine, and the words, "Red Rock."

The CA Bureau of Mines published a "Report of the State Minerologist" in 1902 which lists many of the mines in California, county by county, with tables of information. Here we find the Red Rock Mine to have had a water-powered, ten-stamp mill; a workforce of four men; the mine superintendent being one N.B. Willey; and the owner(s) in Philadelphia. The mine is listed as patented, that is, the lands there had passed from public to private ownership, in a process which involved demonstrating a viable commercial potential for the mineral deposit.

Not all mining claims were patented. For instance, at Gold Run, more than half of the dozens of claims were patented, the rest were not, and it is those unpatented claims which comprise the moderately large BLM holdings in the southern part of the Gold Run Diggings. These claims were never patented because they were "worked out," that is, the miners had finished hydraulicing away the gold-bearing gravel.

Parenthetically, the hydraulic mines at Lost Camp itself were patented in 1872, by Osmyn Harkness, who also had claims at Gold Run. This man Harkness is found in the remarkable record of the 1881 case, State of CA vs. the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company, in which 27 volumes of testimony were written down. These may be examined on microfilm at the Auburn Library. Harkness gave testimony about the early history of the Gold Run Diggings, remarkable testimony, for, in 1881, he could remember events in 1852 day by day.

Last Friday Ron Gould and I had found the very ditches which supplied the water which powered the ten-stamp mill at the Red Rock Mine. Then, in a telephone conversation, Steve Hunter told me of the remains of cabins higher on the ridge, which may have been used by the miners themselves. The Red Rock Mine was coming into focus.

I chanced a Google on "N.B. Willey" and found references to man of that name who was Governor of Idaho in 1892. It hardly seemed likely that a man would go from being governor to mine superintendent.

It seemed to me that I remembered the name, N.B. Willey, from the old Placer County newspaper articles in my book, the "Dutch Flat Chronicles." So I opened the text file on my computer, and searched for Willey.

I found two items. One was significant:

Colfax Sentinel
October 2, 1896
Gen. Geo. H. Roberts and his son, A.C.B. Roberts, with Gov. N.B. Willey were down from Blue Ca–on Tuesday. The General is largely interested in mining all through the mining country and is one of the owners of the Redstone mine, near Blue Ca–on. The mine has been closed down for a time, but will resume work in a few days.

The mine is incorrectly named the "Redstone." Set that aside, mark it off to human error. What's interesting is the reference to "Gov. N.B. Willey." It can only be a certainty that Idaho's governor, and the Red Rock Mine's superintendent, are one and the same.

Returning to the Internet, I found several sites which describe Governor (Norman) Willey's involvement in labor disputes in Idaho. For instance, see

From another site I gleaned the following:

A bitter labor dispute grew out of company efforts to try to operate Coeur d'Alene lead silver mines in face of union opposition to a lower wage scale. Efforts to bring in organized, outside workers, protected by company armies, provoked considerable trouble. (Idaho's state constitution had a provision, growing out of the national railway strikes of 1886, against admission of private armies to the state. But no serious effort was made to enforce the law on this matter.) When the miners discovered that their union secretary also served the companies as a Pinkerton agent, the whole conflict literally exploded. On June 11, 1892, in an open war, a force of miners dynamited an abandoned mill at Gem. At this point, the mine owners prevailed (without any difficulty) upon Governor N. B. Willey (a mine superintendent from Warrens) to proclaim martial law.

So, here was a little about our superintendent of the Red Rock Mine. What about the "General largely interested in mining," Geo. H. Roberts?

I found (using Google) that, during Willey's term of office as governor, in the early 1890s, one Geo. H. Roberts had been Attorney General of Idaho. This is beyond the pale of possible coincidence. But could service as a state Attorney General earn one the honorific title, 'General'? I didn't really know, but I doubted it. Then I struck gold with the following reference to our General George H. Roberts, excerpted from a query on a genealogical site:

... a Civil War veteran who, it is said, was the youngest breveted-General from the Civil War.

His name was George H. ROBERTS and he was "on the staff" of
Gen. Joe HOOKER. He was wounded three times, at least one of those
happened at Gettysburg. All I know of that injury comes from a
newspaper article about his return to Gettysburg for the 50th
anniversary. It says he "took a long walk down a familiar dusty
road ... vaulted over a stone wall ... and walked again through the same
orchard where five decades ago, he had left a crimson trail of his
own blood." (Not much to go on, huh?)

But then this wonderful story: "General ROBERTS was seeking
the farm house where two Pennsylvania-Dutch girls had hidden him and
nursed him after he had staggered wounded through their kitchen
door. Standing at the entrance now and filled with bittersweet
memories, he pulled the bell cord, wondering as he did so if the two
women were still living here ... The door opened to reveal a stout,
comfortably dressed woman, her cheeks had the same rose, wrinkled
bloom as the apples in the orchard through which he had passed.
General ROBERTS removed his hat with a gallant flourish and bowed,
before inquiring for the ladies Ellen and Lizzie RIDENBOUGH who had
lived there as girls 50 years ago. He started to tell her his name
but before he could finish she cried, 'Lizzie, be comin' now. Here's
our George ROBERTS.'"

The rest of what I know about George ROBERTS is that he was
born in Philadelphia on 13 Jul 1841 of Welsh and Quaker ancestry.
His grandfather was said to be the Lord High Sheriff of Wales who
came to PA with William PENN. He joined the Union Army when he was
22 and a student at the Univ. of PA, with his family purchasing him
a commission as 2nd LT.

After the War, he married Julia CULBERTSON, daughter of a
renowned fur trader on the Upper Missouri, and became attorney
general of NE and then the first attorney general of ID.

Such is what I found about the Red Rock Mine. Steve Hunter mentioned debris near the cabin sites which suggests occupation much later than 1896 or 1902. It seems possible that the Red Rock Mine was worked intermittently through the 1930s. The ten-stamp mill is gone, and descending to the ore-processing area, and cutting the lines of the two ore-cart runs, is a kind of bulldozed skid trail, with small trees growing in it. Steve and I guess that this skid trail is coeval with the last timber harvest on Fulda Ridge, which we think occurred in the 1950s or 1960s. No trees were taken from the ore-processing area at that time. We conclude that someone, either the owner of the property, or perhaps one of the logging crew, used a bulldozer to remove the stamp mill.

It is known that Wendell Robie once owned the 600 acres at Blue Canyon/Lost Camp/Fulda Canyon. Perhaps Robie himself had the stamp mill brought out.

Such, then, is a little history bearing upon the Red Rock Mine.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Visit to Fulda Canyon

East of Lost Camp, Texas Canyon descends to the North Fork of the North Fork American River (NFNFAR). Still farther east is Fulda Canyon, with headwaters up above Emigrant Gap. Between Texas and Fulda is what I call Fulda Ridge. To the south and east of Fulda Ridge is that remarkable gorge and complex of canyons, where Fulda, the NFNFAR, the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork, Burnett Canyon, and Wilmont Ravine, all converge within a narrow compass of cliffs and many waterfalls.

This makes for one of the strangest topographical features in this part of the Sierra, strange, difficult to get to, wild, strange, and very beautiful. The entire complex of canyons is incised into metasediments of the Shoo Fly Complex, which are all turned up on edge and sometimes folded sharply.

On Friday Ron Gould and I drove up to the Blue Canyon exit on I-80, then south towards Blue Canyon, and east on an unmarked road near houses, just before the railroad is reached. This road-east is being watered for logging trucks, and we followed the wet and freshly-graded dirt down and across the tracks and saw the wetness continue towards Lost Camp itself. So we investigated. Had the Siller Brothers' timber harvest already commenced? But, no. The harvest is apparently on a small SPI parcel farther out on the ridge between Blue Canyon and the NFNFAR. Having found that the great rape of Lost Camp and Fulda Ridge has not started quite yet, we retraced our path and drove out as far as we could on a certain road cut into the line of the old Bradley & Gardner ditch, or Placer County Canal, which was the first big ditch to supply the hydraulic mines of Dutch Flat, arriving there, with bands and parades and speeches and sumptuous repasts, in 1859. Miners marched the streets of Dutch Flat bearing banners aloft upon which were blazoned the heraldry of their individual claims, some with mottos too, like "Root Hog or Die."

We parked at a locked gate in an area where all the large trees had been cut down a year or two ago, and, it would seem, some larger parcel had been subdivided. This is the exact pattern of progress in the middle elevations, the timber regions, of Placer County. Buy the large parcel, cut the timber, subdivide, sell; and then soon after come the gates and the "No Trespassing" signs,

Blithely trespassing beyond the gate, we followed the ditch-road on a meandering course in and out of several ravines at the head of Texas Canyon, until we reached Fulda Ridge. There we dropped away southward.

My 1866 General Land Office map shows a "Trail to Monumental Camp" bearing east from Lost Camp, and an 1862 newspaper article describes this same trail as leading to Onion Valley. Several past efforts to find some shred of the old trail had failed. Ron and I tried yet again, hugging the east side of plateau-like Fulda Ridge as we wandered south through tall pines, cedars, and Douglas Fir. This forest has not long to live. If it is left untouched after the Siller Brothers are through cutting, why, never fear, our grandchildren's grandchildren will live to see something like what is there today.

This pretty patch of forest has already been logged at least twice, the last time forty or fifty years ago, and what with the old roads and skid trails we had little hope of finding our lost trail from Lost Camp to Onion Valley. We did find two small old mining ditches, at around the 4400' contour, and the well-monumented "West Sixteenth Corner" on the line between sections 13 and 24. The lower of the two ditches is the larger and would such a fine trail in its own right. It drew from about a mile up Fulda Canyon, and apparently led to the hardrock mine of the "Railroad Tracks in Space," which Steve Hunter showed me a few weeks ago. I have since discovered that this was called the Red Rock Mine.

After exploring north on the lower ditch, we turned back south and reached a swale with a spring, heavy timber, dogwoods, and an old mining reservoir, and a section of eighth-inch riveted iron pipe, a century or so old. This seemed a likely spot for our lost trail to kiss along the way east to Onion Valley, but we could discover no trace. However, we did find the higher of the two ore-cart-runs, the wide, road-like run, both of which connect the main ore body, on the cliffs to the south, to the ore-processing area, well within shady Fulda Canyon.

We followed the old road with its dry-laid stone walls south to the ore body, where a monstrous quartz vein was stoped out from the ragged sunny cliffs plunging towards the NFNFAR. The vein has the same north-south strike as the strata of the Shoo Fly metasediments, and the same almost vertical dip.

We visited the wonderful Railroad Tracks in Space, where a tremendous view is had of the Gorge of Many Gorges, and then hung from the very railroad tracks while crossing little cliffs to gain the lower ore-cart run. We followed this back north to the ore-processing area, where rather large Douglas Fir, around four feet in diameter, are marked for harvest.

Sorry, our grandchildren's grandchildren will *not* live to see anything like these ancient monsters, after Siller Brothers reap their profits.

Ron and I thrashed north and down to Fulda Creek, arriving between a pair of pretty pools, with much in the way of sculptured rock and little waterfalls, and masses of Five-Finger Ferns, and Indian Rhubarb. After a lunch break we made a scramble down the creek itself to the confluence of Sailor Ravine. Gigantic boulders of the local Shoo Fly were a commonplace, sometimes thirty feet across, and seeming too large, really, for the size of the canyon, but, there they were. We saw ancient Douglas Fir marked for harvest all the way down to Fulda Creek, and on the slopes to the east.

From just below Sailor Ravine we began the climb back up to the flat top of Fulda Ridge, on very steep slopes which seemed to never end. Finally we reached the ore-cart runs and ore body, and from there it is relatively easy going up to the plateau, where we followed a bear trail, with its characteristic deep footmarks, the result of stepping in exactly the same spots over and over again. We followed it north to the Bradley & Gardner Ditch, and then the ditch and ditch-road west, back to Ron's truck.

It was interesting, while crossing a tiny patch of Tahoe National Forest land, to see signs nailed to the trees, warning people not to shoot, and warning that "Dogs Will Bite." These signs are on public land and were placed there by the person who has the cabin down below, and the new gate with the "You Will Be Shot" sign. Log, subdivide, sell, gate, "no trespassing," and now, an added twist, placing signs on public lands.

We never found the least trace of the Trail to Monumental Camp.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Big Granite Trail

Saturday I returned to Four Horse Flat for a reconnaissance of problematic parts of the Big Granite Trail. This trail once began at Cisco on the railroad--tho it may well be older than Cisco, which only dates to 1866--and climbed to the pass between the South Yuba and the North Fork American at Huysink Lake (named for Bernard Huysink, a 19th-century outdoorsman of Dutch Flat), skirted the headwaters of Big Valley, and entered the basin of Little Granite Creek through another pass. The trail descended Little Granite Creek, crossed to Big Granite Creek, and finally dropped to the North Fork American, where a ford led to the American River Trail. A short distance upstream, the Sailor Flat Trail was thought of as the continuation of the Big Granite Trail, and one could climb past the La Trinidad Mine, and on beyond Sailor Flat to Robinson Flat.

The Big Granite Trail is one of the sixty-odd historic trails declared to be "county roads" in the notorious yet abortive 1953 Placer County BOS ordinance which intended to preserve public access to public trails. This ordinance was repealed in 1954, and replaced by a weaker ordinance, which mentioned no trail specifically, but only provided that all "public trails" were declared to be "county roads." But who is to say which trail is public? Not Placer County. Not Tahoe National Forest.

At any rate, Four Horse Flat is south of the Loch Leven Lakes, in the glaciated valley of Little Granite Creek. The most detailed map of the region is the USGS 7.5 minute Cisco Grove quadrangle. The Flat is a meadowy area on the north side of the creek, at about 6000' in elevation, with an odd mixture of trees more often found at lower elevations, such as White Fir and Incense Cedar, and trees of the out-and-out high country, such as Aspen and Lodgepole Pine. This is where the Cherry Point Trail meets the Big Granite Trail. Very unfortunately, the area (within Section 9) was logged some fifteen or twenty years ago, and the original lines of the various trails disrupted and obliterated, by logging roads, skid trails, and log decks.

A few weeks ago, with Catherine O'Riley et. al., I had walked past Four Horse Flat on a logging road, and noted a fairly new sign on a tree reading "Big Granite Trail." Yet a tangle of brush and logging slash separated this sign from the old foot trail itself, a few yards away. So my first order of business was to resolve this issue.

The rest of my family was heading for Salmon Lake with friends Neil and Cindy and I dropped them off at the Salmon Lake Trail. There were all of ten vehicles parked there. Then I drove a scant half-mile further to the pass between Big Valley and Little Granite Creek--a TNF sign gives distances to Husink Lake, Pelham Flat, and Big Valley, here, at an elevation of about 6600'--and started off down the unmarked road, or jeep trail, which skirts a mass of Mountain Alders as it descends a small valley. Blazes showed this to be the line of the BGT. These groves of shrubby alders grow in wet areas and are for all intents and purposes impenetrable to humans. The courses of trails are often governed by these alder thickets.

The jeep trail ends at an elaborate hunters' camp, with sleeping platforms, and even piped water! From there the foot trail drops into a grove of large Incense Cedar, only lightly logged, and still impressive. A few weeks ago it showed no signs of recent use, but yesterday I was angered to see that some four-wheeled ATVs had been on the trail, tearing it up a bit, scattering small boulders and leaving heaps of dust. There ought to be a vehicle closure on this trail.

The Cisco Grove quadrangle shows the Big Granite Trail following this tiny tributary of Little Granite Creek southeast into Four Horse Flat, but this course has been abandoned in favor of a logging road. I searched without success for the original line of the trail, and then took the logging road, which drops gently to the southwest, and intersects another logging road at the aforementioned sign.

Here the old trail reappears just a few yards below, yet the most direct route is blocked. Yesterday I saw that, just at the sign, one switches back northeast--the wrong direction--on the lower logging road, and then almost immediately, one switches back sharply southwest, on the original trail. Old blazes on the trees confirmed this to be, in fact, the Big Granite Trail, and there is also a second sign, just where the trail is reached.

I decided to scout back north into Four Horse Flat and see if I could discover more of the original line of the trail. Soon I saw a duck, and a blaze, and a bit of undisturbed trail, and another duck, and wondered who it was, who had apparently, just like me, tried to find the old trail. The path climbed slowly into a meadow, and then, just as it would seem to have climbed higher, into the forest, I lost it. In the general scheme of things, this particular trail does not show on the Cisco Grove quadrangle; it is a "short-cut" which avoids *two* crossings of Little Granite Creek, by simply staying to the west of the creek.

For, the way the map has it, the BGT drops steeply down the little tributary, skirts Four Horse Flat on the north, crosses Little Granite Creek to meet the Cherry Point Trail, and then turns sharply southwest and crosses the creek again.

I planned to ascend the Cherry Point Trail later, and deferred further explorations in this area until I had visited another "problem" on the trail, well downstream.

As I walked back south on the "short-cut" trail, I was able to recognize its exact course more accurately. Soon I was back on the main trail, and followed along southerly, through forests and meadows, where the ATVs had flattened the late-season wildflowers. It was a lovely warm day, and butterflies were everywhere. There were blues and checkerspots and Lorquin's Admirals. I noted the recent tracks of perhaps half a dozen mountain bikes.

At a certain point, a little ways south into Section 16, at an elevation of about 5800', the most-used line of the BGT crosses Little Granite Creek to the east side, where it remains. However, the Cisco Grove quadrangle shows it staying on the west side for another half-mile south. I have walked both routes. The west-side trail is the old, original trail. I don't quite know why it was abandoned. Mule trains used this trail in the olden days, and in places, it was eroded into a narrow, bouldery trench. Add to this that the old trail crosses the creek in what might be considered a more hazardous route, over huge granite boulders, and I guess we have the reason for the new crossing.

The new crossing is a little awkward in its own right, impeded by alders, and everyone tries to make it across without getting their feet wet, and what with the alders, the banks of fine-grained weak sediments get broken down. I did a little lopping to help open the crossing, and then took a lunch break. Exploring a bit on the east side of the creek, I saw some six-foot-diameter Incense Cedar and White Fir. No logging had ever occurred here, in TNF-owned Section 16.

It was time to start back north towards Salmon Lake. I had stored waypoints for the two crossings of Little Granite Creek up by Four Horse Flat on my GPS unit, and found that that area had been heavily impacted by logging. A logging road had been carried across the creek, either directly on the line of the old trail, or quite near it, and then this new road became directly superimposed upon the old trail. As I walked along and neared the northern crossing, I guessed that the road diverged very slightly from the old trail, so, I dropped away toward the creek, and found the crossing. This is just where the old BGT and Cherry Point Trail joined. The creek was dry here, and spread wide over a bouldery floodplain. I crossed, and followed along what I took to be the BGT to the northwest for a while, but the large trees which might have held blazes had been all cut down, and the faint trail-like groove in the ground might have been no more than a skid trail. I returned, re-crossed, and followed a faint trace of the Cherry Point Trail east. I found a nice old aspen tree with not only a blaze, but initials carved into the trunk, as well as the claw marks of bears, who often scar aspens to mark their territories.

However, immediately to the north the trail seemed to coincide with the logging road. The creek itself was inviting, since it flowed directly over the metasediments of the Sailor Canyon Formation, although the flow was almost non-existent. The water-polished rocks were lovely, and I scampered higher and higher. Just a little ways north these Jurassic metasediments abruptly terminate at the granite pluton of Loch Leven Lakes. I was intrigued to see evidence of contact metamorphism in the Sailor Canyon fm. rocks: little zones of granitoid texture here and there. I wanted to follow right up to the contact itself, but Mountain Alders began to close in tightly, and I didn't want to get too far off the line of the Cherry Point Trail. So I left the creek and struck away uphill to the east until I hit the logging road which now counts as the Cherry Point Trail.

This proved to be the trail by which the half-dozen mountain bikes had descended, perhaps aiming for the North Fork, the American River Trail, and then climbing out of the canyon at Mumford Bar. These bikes cause quite a bit of erosion on steep trails. I saw a pair of large grouse along the way. There are some rather scenic escarpments of granite, and wet meadows, and nice views of Cherry Point Ridge, its north face all cloaked in Red Fir. Eventually I got far enough north to strike out west, cross-country, to Salmon Lake, and the rest of my party. Up there, in the highlands, the northeast wind was brisk, and although the kids swam, the adults stayed dry. We saw a Goshawk and a falcon in the area, along with numerous birds I did not recognize, with dark greenish wings, given to perching on tree-tops, and making sudden hawklike forays out for flying insects, and then resuming their perch. There were dozens of these. Sometimes they would flock together, sometimes they would spread out widely to their individual perches.

A large party was camping above the lake, with all of ten tents. We thought that they might be Boy Scouts.

From the lake one can see parts of Snow Mountain, and even Lyon Peak and Tinkers Knob, in the distance. From an eminence south of the lake a much wider view embraces the length of Little Granite Creek, Sugar Pine Point and its Little Slate Ridge, and the main North Fork canyon itself.

Around four o'clock we hiked back out to Forest Road 38 and the cars.

Summing up, logging has severely impacted both the Big Granite and Cherry Point trails, especially near Four Horse Flat. Both trails now follow logging roads in this area. It seems possible that the "short-cut" portion of the BGT, in Four Horse Flat, might be reestablished, offering an alternative to the logging road now in use.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Visit to Giant Gap

Twenty-five years ago I made a series of explorations in and around Giant Gap and Canyon Creek with several friends from Dutch Flat, including Neil Gerjuoy, the amazing guitarist. Yesterday I joined Neil, his friend Cindy, and Ron Gould, for a jaunt to Giant Gap, by way of the Paleobotanist Trail (PBT), Canyon Creek Trail (CCT), and the High Old Upriver Trail (HOUT), this last being the line of the old Giant Gap Survey.

In the late 1890s a scheme was hatched to divert the waters of the North Fork American into an existing mining ditch serving the Green Valley Blue Gravel Mine, and then carry the ditch west through Giant Gap and on and on down the canyon, finally breaking out near Auburn. From there a pipeline would carry the water to San Francisco. Apparently to demonstrate the feasibility of the project, much work was done to eke out a bench cut between Green Valley and Canyon Creek. The bench cut was never finished, but in places it can be used as a trail. Hence the HOUT.

The "secret" road into the Gold Run Diggings being blocked at last, we could not drive to the Canyon Creek Trail, and so we started from BLM lands at the Bluffs. This adds 1.6 miles to the round trip in and out of the great canyon. The Paleobotanist Trail follows a somewhat wildly meandering course through the Diggings, past some rather large pieces of petrified wood, over 50 million years old, and, crossing the Main Diggings Road, follows a spur road east to the CCT.

We soon reached the huge tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co. (1873), which leads from the Diggings on the west over 2000 feet to Canyon Creek on the east. Here the miner's camp had at last been vacated, with the large blue tarp still tied up to the trees, and garbage strewn about. We cut the tarp free and piled all the garbage on it, folded it and rolled it up and used scraps of rope to cinch it up into an ungainly bundle almost four feet long. This we left on the trail above the tunnel and continued south on the CCT, passing the bridge, and lovely Waterfall View, with the side trail to the Overlook of the Blasted Digger, and wound on down the steeps of the CCT to the secret junction with the HOUT.

Neil was duly impressed with the HOUT. The HOUT winds along in and out of ravines and around little spur ridges, on a nearly level line, sometimes blasted right out of little cliffs, where one feels much the mountaineer, to have dared to traverse the airy ledges.

Starting cool, the day had warmed rapidly, and we were eager to reach the river for a swim. What with this eagerness, and that extra eight-tenths of a mile at the beginning of our hike, it seemed right to make no attempt to continue on the HOUT into Giant Gap itself, but rather, to drop down to the river at Big West Spur and then boulder-hop up to the deep pools and steep cliffs of Giant Gap.

We found a huge boulder which provided a kind of cavern of shade, stashed our packs, ripped off our clothes, and dove in. The water was much colder than it had been in Green Valley last Saturday; the clouds and cool nights of recent days must be responsible; and so we swam with a certain amount of screaming and exclamations and were not long in the crystal-clear water.

Lunch followed, and then a foray up into the Gap, swimming across a cliff-bound pool, and exploring upriver until another deep pool barred our way.

All in all we were several hours down at the river, and waited for the sun to lower, before starting the march up and out. Canyon Wrens serenaded us, and the occasional Ouzel flashed past like a little fighter jet, low to the water and hugging every curve. At last, after a third river revel, we made the steep climb up to the HOUT, followed along the cliffs back to the CCT, which had only just lost its afternoon sun, so we made that steep climb in the shade, and eventually, arrived at the tunnel, and lashed on loads of garbage, and slogged slowly up and out and across the Diggings to the Bluffs and our vehicles. It was 7 p.m.; we had started around ten in the morning; altogether, a hike of some eight or nine miles, just to spend a few hours in great and glorious Giant Gap, had been more than worth it. It was a "good one" indeed.

Monday, September 8, 2003

Siller Brothers & Lost Camp

Thinking that some attempt must be made to communicate directly with Siller Brothers lumber company, about their lands at Lost Camp, today I sent the following to Siller representative Rick Frey, with whom I've spoken in the past, about yet other Siller properties in our area.

September 8, 2003

Rick Frey
Siller Brothers
P.O. Box 1585
Yuba City, CA 95992

re: Lost Camp, and THP 2-03-040-PLA

Dear Rick,

We spoke on the telephone a few years back, when I called to ask about property belonging to the Siller Brothers near Bear River, here in Placer County. That small acreage is of interest to me because it is along the line of the historic Towle Brothers lumber company's narrow-gauge railroad, which would make a lovely trail from Drum Forebay north into Nevada County.

Today I write about another Siller Brothers property, south of Blue Canyon, comprising 600 acres, and spanning the site of the old mining town known as Lost Camp. Siller Brothers is planning a timber harvest on 590 of the 600 acres (THP 2-03-040-PLA). Lost Camp dates back to the late 1850s, and was a hydraulic mining town. It was connected by road to Dutch Flat, a few miles west, and trails radiated away from Lost Camp to other, more remote mining camps. One of these trails remains in use, the China Trail, which drops south to the North Fork of the North Fork American.

The Lost Camp area is an important part of Placer County's heritage, and the China Trail is a wonderful little remnant of the vast complex of trails which once threaded through Placer County generally, and the high country in particular. Many of these old trails have been destroyed by logging. For several years, without knowing who owns the lands around Lost Camp, I have written letters to Tahoe National Forest (TNF), urging that TNF seek to purchase these lands. I have also brought Lost Camp and the China Trail to the attention of Placer County District Five Supervisor Rex Bloomfield, and to the attention of the Placer Legacy.

Many people are concerned about Lost Camp and the proposed timber harvest. TNF has been purchasing lands in the nearby North Fork American, and elsewhere, for years, using Land & Water Conservation Act funds. I am fairly sure that TNF can eventually obtain funding to purchase the Siller Brothers property at Lost Camp, along with other Siller parcels, for instance, in Green Valley on the North Fork American.

I beg Siller Brothers to look favorably upon these land acquisitions-to be a willing seller-and also to defer timber harvests on these lands for ten years. Experience has shown that the process of obtaining money to make land purchases is slow.

Thanks for your consideration of these matters!


Russell Towle

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Visit to Green Valley

Green Valley is near Dutch Flat and Alta on the North Fork American, just where the weak serpentine of the Melones Fault Zone crosses the river, and the canyon widens, the walls recede, and large glacial outwash terraces of multiple ages cloak many slopes. Two thousand people are said to have resided in Green Valley in 1851-52. Saturday, Gay Wiseman, Neil Gerjuoy, his friend Cindy, and I, walked down the old mule trail by which Green Valley was provisioned in the old days. In some places it is worn and eroded into a narrow trench. Mule trains came up from Illinoistown (~Colfax) to many mining camps, such as Little York, Dutch Flat, Cold Springs (now Gold Run), and Green Valley.

Later in the 1850s wagon roads reached Dutch Flat itself, and the pack trains to Green Valley and the other remote or canyon-bound mining camps left from Dutch Flat, Gold Run, and Towle.

Helicopters thundered constantly across the canyon to the south, filling their water buckets at Sugar Pine Reservoir, and then zooming east and south to the Codfish Fire, near Deadwood Ridge. The day was sunny and clear, tho a pall of smoke had lifted out of the canyons near the fire, and drifted slowly across the main North Fork canyon to the east, as the upslope winds increased in strength.

We took the High West Trail and threaded our way down to the very end, below the bluffs of the Green Valley Blue Gravel mine, and near the site of the old suspension bridge, torn out by a flood several decades ago. I have two old photographs showing one incarnation that bridge, ca. 1940. This bridge is mistakenly shown very far upstream to the east, on the USGS 7.5 minute "Dutch Flat" quadrangle.

At the river a fresh strong breeze stirred the trees and ruffled the river and we could no longer hear the helicopters.

After a lunch break, Gay and Cindy swam the huge deep pool at the end of the trail, a spot also notable for its fine view of Lovers Leap, rising 2300` above the river, just to the west. Neil and I went upstream to the bridge site, forded the North Fork, admiring the masses of cemented glacial outwash, and took the trail climbing west to the Gold Ring Mine. We continued right past the old, Depression-era log cabin, following the trail across the meadow, and into Giant Gap Gulch, where the path plunged right down to the river. Somehow I had missed the correct trail, which stays high, so we climbed steep slopes adorned with poison oak to this true trail, and continued west.

The trail passes a number of mining areas which involve patches of glacial outwash. Apparently the glacial outwash in general, and the cemented outwash in particular, was rich with gold, and stamp mills were dragged down here in the olden days to pound it up so it could be run through sluice boxes.

The trail narrowed drastically as it approached the North Fork, and crossed some rather steep slopes, just where one would wish it broadest, but soon enough we were on the sparkling clear stream again, just upriver from the Gate Post, a remarkable column of rock which rises right from the water, where the river leaves the shattered serpentine of Green Valley for the massive metavolcanic rocks of Giant Gap. The faulted contact between the Melones serpentine and the Calaveras Complex metavolcanics is very near the Gate Post, and an especially fine pool is just downstream. The last significant deposits of Green Valley's glacial outwash sediments, including some cemented gravels, on the south bank, are just here, just at the contact. Farther downstream, in Giant Gap, the slopes are too steep to have preserved such sediments. Springs likely associated with the more fractured rock in the fault zone, which zone forms a near-vertical plane crossing the canyon obliquely, are on both sides of the river, that on the south bank still flowing nicely.

Fording the river again, we climbed up to the line of the Giant Gap Survey on the north canyon wall, 150 feet above the river, but did not follow it very far. On the way to the river from the Gold Ring Mine I had looked across and seen two major sections of the Survey, where a narrow bench cut had been blasted from the cliffs a century ago, part of a scheme to divert the waters of the North Fork and deliver those waters to San Francisco. However, these sections of the Survey were on very steep cliffs, and the bench cuts did not look to be properly continuous, in fact, it looked difficult to impossible for someone to really hold the line of the Survey, over there, just upstream from the Gate Post. These sections were the last crossing the serpentine, before the Survey entered the tough Calaveras Complex rock of Giant Gap.

Dropping back to the river, we swam the fine pool below the Gate Post, admired the wildflowers, especially the purple asters, and the fine views of the Pinnacles, to the southwest, and then made the pure scramble up the north bank of the river back to the West Trail Pool. After some more snacking in the shade of a big alder tree, we started a long slow slog up the trail, reaching the top about 7 p.m.

Such was a fine day in Green Valley and at the eastern entrance to Giant Gap.

Thursday, September 4, 2003

Lost Camp

A few years ago I stumbled upon the following reference to Lost Camp, somewhere on the internet. Wendell Robie, noted for many things, being among the founders of the Auburn Ski Club (which built a ski jump at Baxter (!) in 1928), and who was among the originators of the Tevis Cup race from Squaw Valley to Auburn, was also an advocate for public access to the historic trails of this area.

But Robie died and Siller Bros. bought Lost Camp.

Robie wanted to preserve the special heritage of the region, of which he owned a part. He managed the Robie Estate, which owned Lost Camp mine, a hydraulic mining site two miles from Blue Canyon. He was a patriot, blending history and religion in a manner that modern times either dismisses or disapproves. "Among all desirable homelands of the world, it was the will of providence to hold this one to the last, for Americans," he said in 1958 of the Gold Country. "Of this the record of history speaks plainly," Robie said. "Civilized people never lived in this Sierra foothill area before the Gold Rush." Skiing in the Sierra for Robie was a reminder of Providence. "..No experience so reverently expresses the presence of God in our lives, than that majestic and silent beauty He provides with these great mountains," Robie wrote. The Auburn Ski Club established a chapel for services and worship as part of its winter park at Cisco.
In a letter from "these hill slopes of the Sierra," Robie wrote to friends that "from our part, it is plumb regrettable when God made man in His own image that He did not add a little more of brains to go with him."
"We have more knowledge," wrote Robie. "But no more intelligence than the ploughman with a crooked stick as to how to use it."

Lost Camp THP approved

I heard from Rich Jenkins, CDF archeologist at Redding, today. He wrote: "... Visited the THP area two weeks ago. Plan still under review. Thanks for all of the provided information..... ."

Since the plan is still under review, I believe the public comment period is technically still open.

It is quite doubtful that any comments would substantially change things at this point, unless we found some weird hybrid of a Spotted Owl and some rare, endangered trout, and then, and only then, the OwlTrout would save the day.

590 acres of Placer County history is about to get hammered.