Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Crossing the 'T' of Tommy Cain Ravine

With regret I must announce that Dean Decker, archeologist with Folsom BLM, is right: there is no "Tommy Cain Ravine Route" of the historic Fords Bar Trail.

The Fords Bar Trail is the Gold Run side of the old trail from Gold Run to Iowa Hill. The 1865 General Land Office map shows this trail ascending Tommy Cain ravine a ways before climbing to the "ridge route" which is shown on all subsequent maps.

A series of explorations were made over the past two weeks or so, mainly with the inimitable Ron Gould, in search of the mythical Tommy Cain Ravine Route (TCRR).

Complicating the issue is that, in the North Fork American River canyon, there are innumerable old trails used by the miners of 1849 and times since. And complicating that complication is that there are innumerably innumarable bear trails criss-crossing the steep canyon walls. At times these bear trails are indistinguishable from an old miners' trail, a trail which might have been, let's say, used from 1857 to 1864, and then abandoned.

Today Ron and I met for a fifth exploration of Tommy Cain Ravine. We were able to definitely establish that there is no true TCRR; what we had taken to be the TCRR is, in fact, an old miners' trail, but it is certainly not an old line of the Fords Bar Trail.

We found that this false-TCRR is a trail which runs from the ridge west of Tommy Cain, from the true Fords Var Trail, into Tommy Cain Ravine on a shallow angle, crossing at around 2500' elevation, and then, on the east side of the ravine, paralleing the creek and descending slowly to the south, until finally, it gives access to the old mining cabin sites I found last week with Alex and Jerry.

And there it ends.

We cannot rule out that a branch from this miners' trail leads directly up onto the ridge east, containing Point 3007, but whether such a branch exists or does not, we can at least say this:

There is no "Tommy Cain Ravine Route" of the Fords Bar Trail.

However, *if* a branch leads up to Point 3007, then this old miners' trail would allow a public-land access route from the end of Garrett Road to the "helipad" at Point 2650, on the "true" Fords Bar Trail, west of Tommy Cain.

That is interesting. The gap to be closed is rather small.

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