Thursday, May 20, 2004

Odds and Ends

I have been uncharacteristically off the trails in recent weeks, and have no adventures to describe, except, yesterday I visited Green Valley with Catherine O'Riley, where we worked on clearing an old trail, which follows the Green Valley Blue Gravel mining ditch. It was a lovely spring day and we managed to open up about a half-mile of the old canal, which originated on the North Fork about a mile above Euchre Bar, and led to the hydraulic mines at the west end of Green Valley.

There is other news to report. The huge garbage site on the North Fork of the North Fork NFNFAR), less than a mile above Euchre Bar, inspired several of us to try to get Tahoe National Forest (TNF) involved in the clean-up. A helicopter seems required. Geologist Dave Lawler saw a mining claim notice near the garbage, and suggested we contact Rick Weaver, a TNF abandoned mines specialist. A few weeks ago I sent a map to Rich Johnson of the Foresthill Ranger District (which District has recently expanded northward, and now includes the garbage site) showing the High Ditch Trail and the garbage site.

Last Monday I called Rich to see what more could be done. He said that several such sites exist in the main North Fork canyon, and that it is a year-to-year process, writing cleanups into his District's budget. Rich said that the NFNFAR site would have to take its place in the queue, and it might well be more than a year before money would be available to clean it up. He suggested that we (we "citizen volunteers") could help out by bagging up the small stuff, so that it would be easy to load the helicopter cargo net when the time did finally come.

Julie X, who has been carrying garbage up and out of the canyon from the Euchre Bar area generally, and who told me of this horrible mess up along the NFNFAR, wrote that at the site are several 55-gallon drums marked "laquer thinner," and that she opened one drum, and found it two-thirds full of laquer thinner. She speculates that a meth lab must have existed there. Knowing that this would immediately lift the site's priority and importance, from "garbage" to "hazardous waste," I put in a call to Rick Weaver.

Rick said he had recently visited the site (thanks to input from Julie and Dave), and had been unable to read the lettering on the 55-gallon drums. I told him of what Julie had found, and he seemed sure that this new development would lead to quicker action to clean up the site.

Quite a number of emails had accompanied all this, most of them copied to Rich Johnson and Mo Tebbe of the Foresthill ranger District. After the laquer thinner entered the picture, TNF staff decided upon a "keep away, hands off" policy, towards citizen volunteers. Now that hazardous waste is involved, they don't want any help.

So that's where the NFNFAR garbage site stands.

I must remark that over a period of many years, hiking in the Euchre Bar area, I not only have never seen a TNF ranger on the trails, but quite the contrary, everything I do see suggests that TNF rangers and trail crews literally never visit the area. Rich Johnson conceded this to be true enough. Apparently, even something as seemingly simple as, say, a monthly patrol of the area, or a yearly, or even a once-in-five-years visit by a trail crew, is not provided for in their budget. They will have one patrol ranger on the job this summer, who will be covering trails from the Granite Chief Wilderness, down through the French Meadows area, and in the North Fork canyon. It seems possible that once, over the summer, this patrol ranger will visit Euchre Bar.

We can help TNF out by reporting garbage sites, squatter's camps, and trails blocked by brush or fallen trees, etc. etc.

The main TNF telephone number at Nevada City is 265-4531.

The Foresthill Ranger District telephone number is 367-2224.

Rich Johnson's email is .

That's all for now.

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