Sunday, February 8, 2004

Field Trip a Success

Quite a number of people showed up at 9:00 a.m. or thereabouts to meet with archeologist James Barnes of the BLM, and visit the Stone Cabin in the Secret World. Archeological volunteer Clarissa came all the way up the hill from Rio Linda; Evan Jones of the Historical Trails Foundation was present, armed with many maps; Tom and Julie, who took care of the most recent clean-up of garbage from the Great Tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co. were with us; and NFARA sec'y Catherine O'Riley brought several friends along.

The Secret World is at the head of Indiana Ravine, where the Gold Run Diggings break off abruptly at the edge of the North Fork canyon. This smallish hydraulic mining pit is walled by high banks of gravel on three sides, but opens south to the canyon itself. The day was sunny, but as we walked down the old Road to the Mines from the BLM gate at the end of Garrett Road, we caught glimpses of remnants of the river of fog which had flowed down the North Fork during the night before, being lifted and twined around Lovers Leap and the Pinnacles. Ten miles beyond, Quartz Mountain and Monumental Ridge showed fresh snow.

The Stone Cabin has been vandalized, and parts of its walls broken down, near the door, and at one corner. While James and Clarissa took photographs and developed ideas about what could be done, the rest of us busied ourselves with gathering garbage, and then explored north to a rather large tunnel which leads north out of the Secret World into the master pit of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co.

After a time we formed up for the march and clambered up an awkward bank of gravel to the east, leaving the World, walking past the huge wall of the Old Reservoir at the terminus of the Indiana Hill Ditch, and then short-cutting through the Diggings, over a low pass, to the Ditch itself. Here the trail to the Diving Board plunges directly down a gully. The Ditch winds away and out of sight to east and west, its mossy berm glowing and fresh after the rain overnight, the North Fork canyon, a vast blueness to the south, seen and sensed through a varied screen of Canyon Live Oak. Down we went.

Soon enough we heard the loud voice of the Big Waterfall, and then began to see it through the trees; and then, the ridge becomes rockier, and loses much of its somewhat elfin oak forest, and the views really open up. The Canyon Creek Trail, the Terraces, the Big Waterfall, Giant Gap, and so on. We reached the Diving Board and soon moved to the west side, where the sun was welcome. A leisurely lunch was followed by the slow climb up and out.

We took the long way around going back, looping north through the Diggings on an old road, at a certain point suddenly chilled in the north-falling shadows of high banks of gravel, and then, while passing the dark tunnel to the Secret World, we could actually peer right through, to see a jungle kissed by strong sunshine, away in the World.

We slowly wound up and out of the Diggings, pausing to admire views of Giant Gap. Everywhere along these roads, we saw the tracks of motorcycles and OHVs. I would like to see the BLM close the Gold Run Diggings to OHV use. I worry that, among other things, people will use these vehicles to remove the last of the petrified wood, along with whatever mining artifacts which are not nailed down. They already ride all the way out to the Old Reservoir beside the Secret World, and only an insubstantial curtain of oak branches keeps them off the Indiana Hill Ditch itself. This, by the way, is one of the finest trails of the Gold Run area in its own right, but is a delicate treasure, and certainly must never be used by motorcycles.

It was a very nice day in canyon and Diggings; maybe late in the spring we can have some work parties and repair the Stone Cabin.

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