Monday, March 8, 2004

Green Valley Garbage Hike

Hi all,

The plan is to hike down (and down and down and down) into fabled Green Valley on the North Fork American next Sunday, March 14, probably meeting in front of the Alta Store at 9:00 a.m., tho we may bump that up to 10 a.m. if anyone says the later time would be better. Ticks, poison oak, and maybe even mosquitos, if this warm weather continues, along with 2000' of elevation gain over about three miles, coming out, should be expected. That is, strenuous, and full of hazards. And what's more, there may be an optional "adventure hike" to the East Tunnel (on the HOUT) at the Green Valley entrance to Giant Gap, involving all kinds of derring-do like hopping from boulder to boulder, climbing steep slopes, and so on.

Rain would cancel.

Yesterday my wife Gay and I met Catherine O'Riley, Julie, and Eric & Paula Peach for a hike down the Canyon Creek Trail to the HOUT, and then east up the HOUT into Giant Gap, to Onion Point. We hoped to sneak into the Gold Run Diggings and drive to the CCT, but the Secret Route was under the waters of a pond, and our whole adventure might have been reduced to extricating one or more 4WDs from a submerged mining pit, so we drove out Garrett Road to The Bluffs and followed the Paleobotanist Trail east across the Diggings to the CCT.

We reached the CCT at 10:00 a.m. and passed the Great Tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co. (1873) at 10:15. From there I lost track of time. Canyon Creek was medium low in flow, but the falls looked good, The Leaper was leaping, and many more flowers were out. The Western False Rue Anemone, Isopyrum occidentale, was widespread and common: California Milkmaids were in various stages of bloom, from youth to old age, the latter signaled by the high proportion of seed-pods to flowers, Brewers Rock Cress, Biscuit Root, a few Blue Dicks here and there, and several little guys that I peer at and wonder, "what could that tiny flower be?"

Eric and Julie and I visited the Big Waterfall, using a fiendish shortcut, and then dropped back out to the CCT by way of the old miners' terraces, where a wood stove is in pieces, and many flowers bloom. We hit the HOUT with all due verve and panache and soon caught up the rest of our party, who seemed to have mounted a protest against the strenuous demands of the trail, and had settled into an all-out rest. We left them to their food and drink and strode quickly towards Giant Gap. Julie, the smallest of our group, did the fastest striding, and soon left Eric and me behind.

I will not describe every step of the hike, but it was wonderful, sky blue, sun warm, the temperature in the middle 70s, the North Fork roaring clear and blue-green or snowy in its white water rapids below us, the views ever-changing, until at last we wound in and out of the ragged rock spurs at the base of Big West Spur and entered the heart of Giant Gap.

It is like a cathedral, and seen from afar it looms with spires and buttresses, and they slowly draw closer and closer as one traverses a canyon architecture already extreme. Then one passes Big West Spur and enters the cathedral proper, through an elfin oak forest with blushing milkmaids silently cheering. An opening in the gnarled little trees gives onto a clifftop perch with a fine view of Lovers Leap and the Pinnacles rising over 2000' on either side of the gorge, the river a few hundred feet below, roaring with rapids. Lovers Leap Ravine is traced by its waterfalls, and Onion Point is seen to be close at hand.

A few of us went on to Onion Point, others decided to rest at the overlook. We all met up later at one of the sunny angles on Big West Spur and made the two-miles-or-so hike west to the CCT and then up the often-steep trail, Julie as usual forging ahead and finally just leaving the rest of us to our own devices. Leg cramps slowed one of our party but eventually we were on the PBT, winding through the Diggings; The Bluffs drew near, forced us to climb one last climb, and at sunset we reached our vehicles. About eight miles, round trip, with only 1800' of elevation gain, had more or less ruined us all.

Except Julie.

Another great day in the great canyon.

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