Thursday, April 28, 2005

Visit to Canyon Creek

Wednesday morning I met Jeff Darlington of the Placer Land Trust for a brief tour of the Gold Run Diggings and the Canyon Creek Trail. Rain was in the forecast and clouds boiled up ominously to the east, after a grey morning, during which I had fretted, over and over, somewhat to this effect: "Just my luck, that on the one day when Jeff could break away and make the long drive up to Gold Run, to see for himself, something so remarkable--just my luck that clouds would chase shadows into hiding, and thus disguise the rarely beautiful canyon architecture. Plus, we'll probably get pretty wet."

However, it all went well, and much to my surprise the sun broke through the clouds from time to time, and we stayed dry. Jeff is young and fit and we made a near-record-dash down the trail, stopping a minute to look at the great tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co. (GRD&M), while I rattled on about the history, the Indiana Hill Ditch, Osmyn Harkness, James Marshall, and the State of CA vs. the GRD&M (1881).

Most of the mines at Gold Run discharged their tailings into Canyon Creek. Here and elsewhere around the hydraulic mines of the Sierra, such creeks-below-the-mines were themselves claimed, and sluice boxes installed to capture gold which escaped the mines above. The last two miles of Canyon Creek, above its confluence with the North Fork, were fitted up this way, with giant sluice boxes. In many places, terraces were blasted from the solid rock to allow construction of these sluices.

The stream of tailings, of mud and sand and cobbles and boulders and mercury and gold, was often split into three smaller streams. Huge iron bolts were set deeply into the bedrock to anchor the sluices, which were subjected to tremendous stresses from the flow of many tons of tailings around curves in the creek. Boulders of up to one hundred pounds were routinely allowed through the sluices of the mines above, in the Diggings. These could become jammed together and back up the tailings-stream. Hence the sluices needed constant attention, and many were the men who died on that job, being somehow pulled into the muddy mess. The boulders were raked out using a custom tool called a "sluice fork."

The upper mile of sluices were owned by J.A. Moody, for whom Moody Ridge is named. The lower mile were owned by W.H. Kinder, and later by the GRD&M. A remarkable historical record exists for the mines of Gold Run; many were the books and newspaper articles which described these mines, and of course there are also the 45 volumes of testimony taken in State of CA vs. the GRD&M, when the defense called many witnesses to testify to the history of the mines at Gold Run.

The men who tended the sluice boxes worked 12-hour shifts, for which they were paid $2.50. A single clean-up of Moody's Canyon Creek sluices could yield $25,000. Moody likely employed ten or twenty men, and it must have cost thousands of dollars each year in materials alone, to maintain and rebuild the sluices.

There was enough trouble with thieves stealing gold and amalgam from the sluices that, by 1870, it was not too uncommon for the owners to install booby-traps, with trip-wires connected to shotguns, or to cans full of black powder and nails.

One of the odd little nuggets of history which emerged, during my near-constant blather on the little old trail, involved the Anti-Chinese movement in California, which peaked in the late 1870s. A constitutional convention was held in 1879, and one of its fine fruits was a new state holiday: Anti-Chinese Day. I wonder if it was ever taken off the books.

Recently my son Greg wrote an essay for his history class at Alta-Dutch Flat School about the internment of California's Japanese, during WWII. He was struggling a bit, so I helped him Google some information, and told him about the Fighting 442nd, an all-Japanese unit in the U.S. Army, which was the most-decorated American unit in the war. Quite a few of Placer County's Japanese Americans fought in the 442nd. They saw much action in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Their casualties were severe.

One might have thought they would be given a hero's welcome upon their return to Placer County.

But no.

And when the Doi family were finally allowed out of their internment camp, up by the Oregon border, in the summer of 1945, and moved back into their home near Loomis, their fruit-packing shed was dynamited and burned, and men surrounded their house, pouring rifle fire into it.

Now, here is an example of justice in Placer County: the men responsible for this atrocity were all captured, and all confessed. And they were all acquitted.


There is a long tradition of such "justice" in Placer County.

Here is a letter-to-the-editor of Auburn's Placer Herald, from July, 1870. The author signs himself "Truth." One should know that in those days the Republicans stood for human rights, and the Democrats in opposition, and that the Sacramento Union was Republican, the Herald, Democratic. Also, from my research into Gold Run history I can deduce the names of many of the men mentioned below: for instance, J.H.T. is J.H. Talbott, one of the first mining claimants at Gold Run, back in 1851-52; and J.M. is the above-mentioned J.A. Moody. The terms "Celestial" and "mongolian" and "pigtail" refer to Chinese. The term "flume" refers to a sluice box.

Gold Run, July 2d, 1870

Editor Herald:-It is surprising to see a paper like the Sacramento Union showing its ignorance of California life, and nobody, as far as I have seen, willing to inform them of it. The Union has repeatedly tried to make people believe that the Chinese, as a class, are less given to offenses against the law than any other class, taking for its authority and proof the statistics of the State prisons. I intend to give the Union a few facts as they occurred in this precinct, which polls less than 200 votes; and I know from a long residence in the mines that it is about an average way of dealing with Chinamen who are caught stealing and robbing.

W.H.H., a storekeeper, detected a Chinaman stealing in his store. He did not call a constable, or prosecute him in the County Court, but tied him up in his cellar and beat him to his heart's content, and afterwards invited others, not belonging to the store, to try the good qualities of the blacksnake on the pet of the Union. Sometime during the night, he turned the Chinaman loose, more dead than alive. This is fact No. 1--not included in the statistics of the State prison.

J.H.T. and C.C., owners of claims adjoining each other, caught two Celestials cleaning up their flume. After a pretty close chase they brought them to town, held a consultation with other miners, and concluded to take them out of town and administer sentence upon them; and rumor has it that at least one of them will never rob sluices again. Fact No. 2--not taken from statistics.

J.M. noticed a pigtail very busy in his tail flume, without being aware of having hired him to do so; and not believing that the Chinaman was doing any good to his (M.'s) prosperity, he stopped him, and after a struggle tied his hands and brought him to town. If my recollection serves me right, this Chinaman did not have the benefit of increasing the per centage of Chinamen in the statistics of the State prison. Fact No. 3.

J.K., old man W., and others living in the neighborhood, had their cabins broken into, and contents abstracted. One day they found three Chinamen very industriously packing up grub, clothing, etc., in one of the miners' cabins; and after a short consultation agreed on a verdict. At least one of the Chinamen never stole again. Dr. Nelson, formerly of Dutch Flat, at present in Sacramento, can give the Union the particulars of this case, as well as others, inasmuch as he gave his testimony before the coroner's jury. Fact No. 4.

R.B. (now deceased), being hired to look to the tail flume of J.H.H., seeing some Chinamen in an "undercurrent" belonging to the flume, evidently cleaning up, and as he had a shotgun with him, and did not deem it prudent to go near them, he fired, and in about a week a dead Chinaman was found in the vicinity, with a few drops of cold lead in his back. Fact No. 5.

I could go on almost until the columns of the Placer Herald would be crowded with facts of this kind, but I hope the Sacramento Union will come to the conclusion that the statistics of the State prison will not hold good as proof that the Chinese as a class are little given to offenses against the law. And, furthermore, that the people of the mining districts generally take the law into their own hands, and save the County and State thousands of dollars every year, and prevent the necessity of building branch prisons, which would be absolutely needed if they prosecuted every rascally Chinaman caught robbing and plundering good citizens.

If it were possible to give full statistics of such facts as I have given above, through the whole State, the number would be three times as large as the whole number of convicts now at San Quentin, white, black and mongolian; and I feel safe in asserting that most of the Chinese convicts at San Quentin are sent there from the larger cities and towns, where officers and courts are handy.

If the Union doubts any of my statements, I can furnish them the full names of the persons mentioned above.

-After I had written the above I learned that last night (July 1st) about 2 o'clock, G.B., hired by Bradley & Co. to watch their flume, saw Chinamen in the flume cleaning up, and having more buckshot in his gun than he wanted to pack, let one barrel of it fly, and if the tracks of blood which some of the men found this morning are any indication, there will be a Chinese funeral shortly, and I will notify the editors of the Union in time, by telegraph, if they will act as pall bearers.

Well, at any rate.

Jeff and I stopped by the Big Waterall, then the Terraces, and felt a few vagrant raindrops while scampering down to a point low on the main trail which offers quite a fine view up the canyon into Giant Gap. The clouds didn't just threaten, they plainly promised rain, so we decided to play it safe and start back up. We took the side trail off to the Blasted Digger, which has an even better view into Giant Gap, and beyond. Fog was boiling up at the base of Sawtooth Ridge, east of Euchre Bar, a certain sign that showers had just fallen there; and we could actually see the rain wisping from the clouds, in that area. It would not be long in reaching us, so we hurried up and out and reached my car at the Dutch Flat exit just as the first peal of thunder boomed.

It was a fine little jaunt into the great canyon, and it could be that the Placer Land Trust will play a very significant role in land acquisitions at Gold Run.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Esoteric Essay

Friday morning I drove down to visit Alex Henderson near Auburn, to imagine some cabinets which might be built in his kitchen, and then to use his table saw to cut strips of red and white Philippine mahogany to make Penrose rhombs, of thirty-six and seventy-two degrees.

Around noon, tho, it came time to take Alex's nimble little Beamer convertible for a test drive.

"Let's go to Boole Road," said I, "there is some kind of old religious commune or cooperative out there, near the North Fork canyon."

For so I had heard from Ron Gould, who joined Placer Legacy's Loren Clark and others for a tour of the site, some months ago. It seems there was something historic about the place, which had some kind of printing and binding equipment. And the land itself governed access to roads running along the canyon rim.

At the Applegate exit on I-80 we turned south and took a right on Boole Road. Almost at once a sign proclaimed the entrance to the "Esoteric Publishing Company," and Ron had mentioned that name. So we turned onto the paved driveway, and saw a group of buildings sheltering in an oak grove, above left.

Up we went. A woman was receiving a delivery on a loading dock at the rear of an odd concrete building. We drove near and I asked if we might take a look around Esoteric. I mentioned the Placer Legacy, Loren Clark, and Ron Gould, and confessed my interest in securing public access to the North Fork canyon.

There was some confusion while it developed that we had stumbled upon a Jesuit retreat, built on property which had once belonged to Esoteric, and when this was finally sorted out we were asked to wait while she telephoned up to headquarters.

Before we knew it, we were in Lindsay's SUV, trundling up Esoteric Road, gathering tidbits of the history, which went back to the 1890s, and admiring the millions of buttercups blooming in the lush meadows to either side.

Lindsay explained that near everybody in Placer County had heard tell of the Esoteric Society, and that local legend insisted each and every building on the grounds was haunted, through and through. Strangers wandered in at any time, looking for ghosts. If the strangers had their way, they'd tear the buildings down until they found those ghosts.

Well. Public access to ghosts is not of vital importance, not in my world.

The Meadow Vista Trails Association obtained permission to use Esoteric lands, and we saw some of their trails marked, here and there.

Also, large numbers of E Clampus Vitus were arriving to camp in a meadow, an annual event it seems. They too have an arrangement with Esoteric.

Esoteric Publishing still exists in some rudimentary form; an internet search revealed that it had published a title as recently as 1962. Lindsay told us that a certain old brick building along the road had to do with the Society (for it was more than a mere publishing house), and that a man named Fred Peterson awaited us, and would tell us more.

The road climbed to a gap on a ridge, and suddenly the North Fork was below us, and snow peaks glinted in the distance, above the flat volcanic uplands of the Foresthill Divide. A short climb west led us to another old brick building, or rather, half brick and half frame construction, ramshackle in appearance, and with enough in the way of trees around, to mask its potential impact upon the canyon viewshed. A variety of outbuildings, and Lindsay's humble cottage, stood nearby. And a tall, thin, ancient man, his faced etched into a thousand deep creases and cracks, his hair rarely long for his age and quite white, stood on the entrance steps, at the west end of the building. A battered old grey metal toolbox rested on the steps beside him, and he gripped a ring of many dozen keys.

This was Fred.

Not far away was a California Styrax bush in full bloom, evidently planted long ago by some member of the Society. The first place I ever saw this species was a short distance to the east, down in Codfish Canyon. They have quite showy white flowers.

Lindsay indicated we should get out, and I approached Fred, introduced myself, and mentioned that I had heard of Placer Legacy's interest in the property, and appreciated the chance to take a look around. I expressed admiration for the view, and interest in the building, and in the history of the Society. Once again I dropped the names of Loren Clark and Ron Gould.

"Ron Gould, you say," Fred began, "I remember him: a quiet man, didn't have much to say. Seemed interested and all that, tho."

I rushed unnecessarily to Ron's defense.

"He may be quiet," said I, "but he knows how to listen; Ron doesn't miss much."

"I know he doesn't," Fred cackled genially, "because, when they left, after the Tour and all that, he told me, 'Nice to meet you, Fred'. He got my name right, anyway."

When Alex joined us, Fred grabbed his grey metal box and instantly led us away on the Grand Tour. So many facts and subjects were spilling out constantly, one getting in the way of another, that it was a bit difficult to hold the thread of any one fact or subject. We garnered some time for all that at the foot of a long outdoor staircase, and again on the platform up at the third story entrance, while Fred turned his mass of keys, keys of so many shapes and sizes and colors and metals, over and over and over, searching for that one key we now needed.

Around 1891, a man named Hiram Erastus Butler came to Applegate from Boston, where he had run afoul of Madame Blavatsky's Theosophical Society. Fred made it seem as tho Butler had fled for his life, or perhaps I only imagined that secret agents of the Society had been set upon poor Butler, like so many transcendental pit bulls.

For in the late 1880s, Butler had dared to raise a rivalry against Blavatsky's popular sect; he had named his new organization the Esoteric Society, and had published a book entitled "Solar Biology [Bible History of Solar Biology, Involution and Evolution, Man's True Nature, The Selection of Partners and Hints Regarding Marriage, The Twelve Signs or Functions of the Zodiac, The Power and Importance of Breath, The Polarities of the Signs, Order and Harmony of the Seven Vital Signs, The Positions of the Planets, Attributes of Character, Critical Periods of Life, Sexual Excesses, Etc.]"

And Butler left Boston for Applegate, and he and the members of his Esoteric Society built the buildings, and began publishing this new Gospel According to Butler.

Fred told us that the very bricks of the building were made on the property, using manzanita to fire the kilns.

Finally the key was found, and the old door swung open. We entered a room almost demonically musty in smell and appearance, with a mixture of new and old furniture, odd paintings, and custom signs inscribed with Sayings of the Master, which Fred had made long ago.

Fred is a kind of curator of the history of Esoteric Publishing and Hiram E. Butler. He wants Placer County to preserve this history, and make a museum in the decrepit structure. If the County doesn't act, Fred fears that some rival religious organization or cult might step in, purchase the property outright, and rapidly and malignantly subsume the true history of Butler and his Society, beneath their own dogma, their own history, their own people.

So this rather large building is already a museum of sorts, which Fred maintains as best he can, while unable to afford to fix the leaking roof. Every room smells dank and moldy, and every window is covered from top to bottom. So it is dark and smelly and, as it turns out, full of all kinds of strange and mystic memorabilia, some of which dates back fully a century to the days when Hiram Butler gave lectures, and needed to show his audiences the Seven-Pointed Star of Vital Planetary Vibrations, circumscribing the Six-Pointed Star of the Masculine and Feminine, and labeled with the word "Logos" in both Greek and Hebrew, along with astrological symbols and the good and old Snake Eating His Own Tail, representing, Fred instructed us, Eternity.

We wandered from room to room and from attic to basement and again and again the keys were revolved into every kind of geometry while The One was sought. Eventually, The One was always found, and we would enter yet another musty, dusty, mouse-poopy dark chamber, and some new magical and mystical painting or prescription was met.

Moses hurried the Israelites across the (parted) Red Sea, in one huge painting all of eight feet long. Another painting sported a very wise and loving and friendly-looking lion on the upper left, a bunch of mystical symbols elsewhere, and, below right, where one would expect to find the painter's signature, the combined astrological symbols for Leo and Sagittarius.

"Those are the symbols for Leo and Sagittarius," I remarked, "look how they are combined."

"That's because Hiram Butler had his Sun in Leo and his Moon in Sagittarius," Fred explained. "Butler is the Lion." And he rambled into an explanation about how Butler was revered by his disciples and liked to be called The Lion, which was only right because his Sun was in Leo, and Esoteric Astrology, as opposed to Exoteric Astrology, was concerned only with the Sun and Moon signs of an individual.

All of which I followed perfectly, for, from studies in the 1960s, I knew all too much about the Theosophical Society and such-like cults and cabals. I had read a biography of Blavatsky, and also of her successor, Annie Besant, and knew, for instance, that her second-in-command, second, yes, yet equally capable of receiving Divine Guidance from Ascended Masters, Avatars, and every kind of good and decent Spirit Guide--her second-in-command had lost favor, when it emerged he had sexually molested the children of many Society members, in Australia.

I did not mention this to Fred. Maybe it would have pleased him to learn of this stain upon the honor of the larger, more-powerful cult, that noble Theosophy which had hounded Hiram Erastus Butler right out of Boston, so long ago.

During all this slow and stately Tour we were accompanied by Lindsay's daughter Hanna, an eager and happy sprite of ten years' age, who knew every nook and cranny in the place, and managed to be both enthusiastic and very polite. She was a joy, a ray of pure light in these dark halls and steep narrow stairs and mildewed rooms.

I believe the old structure could be whipped into fairly decent shape. It needs a good roof first, better drainage away from its foundation second, a concrete basement subfloor third, and then, with a thorough cleaning it might well be opened as a museum.

In one attic room Alex found a very old photo album containing photos of Yosemite, among other subjects. When Alex exclaimed his appreciation, Fred offered to let him have it. Alex refused, of course. Fred's willingness to give away the album does not bode at all well for preserving the integrity of this very unusual collection of historical materials.

I do believe Esoteric is worth preserving. But the true worth of the Esoteric Society property goes beyond its importance in the history of minor cults, or its role in the history of Placer County; the true worth has to do with protecting a goodly portion of the canyon rim, upon which who knows how many houses might be built, and also with enhancing public access to a certain system of dirt roads along the canyon rim.

Wherever we went, the old grey toolbox followed. I essayed the joking remark, 'wherever goes our President, so also goes the Nuclear Football', but Fred didn't rise to my bait. His toolbox had strips of tape and paper plastered over it with labels in cursive script that I could never quite read. I don't think it contained tools.

Fred and Hanna called one room the Patriotic Room. It too was jammed with mystic insignia, but a large American flag draped one wall. The flag looked old, perhaps because everything was dusty and therefore looked old no matter what its actual age might be, so Hanna and I busied ourselves with counting the stars.

There were fifty stars.

Then Fred sprung a pop quiz on home-schooled Hanna: "Do you know what the Thirteen Stripes stand for, little girl?"

Before she could answer I jumped into the breach and answered, "They correspond to the Thirteen Dragons of the Apocalypse, of course!" He walked away, muttering about tender young minds, and the dangers of Truths all too dangerously True, for a being of her innocent years.

While walking around the south side of the building, I noticed that Little Bald Mountain and Snow Mountain were visible, and a little triangle of snow I mistook for one of the peaks near Alpine Meadows ski area, but which in retrospect I am guessing was in fact Mt. Mildred's north summit.

Fred asked if any of the peaks visible were Mt. Rose, and I answered in the negative, for the Sierra crest bars all of the Carson Range from most any point on the west slope of the Sierra. Perhaps members of the Society had evolved the idea, a century ago, that one of the snow peaks in the distance was Mt. Rose. Perhaps a special and religious significance was attached to this notion.

But it is a false notion.

Fred and Hanna saved best for last: the Library. Here a large room with a Franklin-style wood stove was lined with glass-fronted bookshelves along one long wall. The collection ranged from Swami Vivekananda to Dickens and from one generation of Huxleys to another; a somewhat remarkable and unusual collection have mainly to do with religion and mysticism, but straying widely into Greek myths and, really, many subjects. The Society had printed and bound their own indices to the Library.

Hours had passed. I had only imagined driving up to some gates, and peeking in at distant buildings. Maybe a little innocent trespassing, to get a glimpse of the great canyon. Instead we stumbled directly into the Grand Tour. I was fascinated, and would have stayed longer, but Alex had a schedule to meet, so we made our apologies and our thanks, and left.

This required we be driven back down the hill, past the swelling ranks of Clampers, to the Beamer, which we'd left to the mercies of the Jesuits. Lindsay was getting ready for work, and her husband Kent took on the task.

Kent is a slender man of middle age, with fine features and greying long hair. He is a Juilliard-trained pianist and gives lessons at the high end of expertise, as well as composing his own music; a mixture of Prokofiev and show tunes, he said. I was quite curious as to how someone, anyone, had ever landed there at Esoterica. Clearly this Kent was the very same Kent we had seen named in posters around the big old building, and the same musician Fred had alluded to at the very beginning of the Tour, who composed music for the Society in a front room, one of several rooms we'd never set foot in.

So I threw a couple questions Kent's way and we swiftly learned that the Vietnam War had chewed him up and spat him out, very much the worse for wear, so that in 1969 he became a hippy and moved to California, and within a few months his path led him to Esoteric Publishing. He stayed until 1974, returned in 1993, and has lived there ever since, composing music, and raising his family. And at long last that bad war's wounds had healed.

Then we were at the tiny Beamer and said our goodbyes, reluctantly, for Kent is quite a nice and interesting man, and we'd felt an instant rapport. Perhaps we'll meet again.

Such was an interesting few hours on the rim of the North Fork canyon. Fred and Hanna had proudly shown me how one could see the river itself, far below; I think we were looking at a point a little below Ponderosa Bridge.

This Esoteric Society, also known as Esoteric Publishing, and the Esoteric Fraternity Publishers, is of historical interest, and occupies a position on the rim of the North Fork canyon which could have great bearing upon the viewshed, and upon public access to old roads along the canyon rim. It is not the typical Placer Legacy project, but I am inspired to think it is a project worth pursuing.


Russell Towle

p.s.--I append below an excerpt from the Theosophical Society's own magazine, the PATH, from the issue of March, 1889, which sheds some dim light upon the quarrel with Hiram Erastus Butler. We learn, along the way, that Buddhist Adepts were strenuously attempting to subvert Christianity in America. Oh, those darn and dreadful Buddhists!

In one place we have a man pretending that he is a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and in another, one deliberately stating that he is Gautama Buddha come again in order to correct errors in his promulgated doctrines. Again, we find astrologers and diviners, mediums and seers, opening shops wherein they dispense oracles to the willing, gullible people. One is quite as pernicious as the other, for the taint of money will corrupt anything. And those who have means are somewhat to blame, in that they imagine that their money can procure them knowledge of the deep, spiritual things of Nature.

The latest thing in this line is that which began in Boston soon after the starting there of a
magazine called the Esoteric. With that journal we had no concern, for its founders had a right to use it to promulgate just as much of truth as they had hold of in the same way that the PATH gives out its ideas of nature and of man. But in the beginning, the managers of that magazine let it be
understood that they were, or one of them -to wit, Mr. Hiram Butler - was a theosophist; or member of the Theosophical Society. An examination of the records just made shows that he never was a member of that body.

Not very long ago a bulky book was circulated by this prophet, in which mysterious statements were made that one Vidya Nyaka desired to found a College in the U.S. to teach the stockholders (!) and students all the mysteries, and among others, the power of acquiring vast wealth, and it was said that after the college was organized unlimited means would be at its disposal, drawn from the funds at command of adepts; but, as a preliminary merely, the faithful must disburse. And disburse they did. We grieve to say that many theosophists sent in money to this scheme which, on its very face, boldly showed that it was founded as a means of giving its stock-holders wealth.

The first note was sounded in an alleged "Letter to a Seeker" published by the Esoteric. This was a fraud which took in theosophists who do not get acquainted with what is written in out-of-the-way places. It was a hit at the Theosophical Society and at the Adepts, pretending that They were cold and dead and selfish, and that only the Solar Biologists were fitted to help Americans. It exhibited ignorance when it left the domain of plagiarism. What it plagiarized from is a book called "The Wisdom of the Adepts," by Rev. Thomas Lake Harris, in which he attempted to show that Buddhist Adepts are systematically trying to subvert Christianity in America, and this "Letter to a Seeker" took as subtitle, "The Wisdom of the Wise." Fragments are taken, word for word, from pages 8, 9, 319, 249, 371, 248, 249, of Harris's book, and used to construct this letter in the Esoteric and signed Nemo. If Rev. Harris did not write it, then it was stolen from him; or, if he did, then the Esoteric is a secret organ for a Christian sect which is anti-theosophical, while it outwardly professes theosophy. Either of these alternatives is equally damaging.

The second note was a loud one on a brass bugle heralding the founding of the Esoteric College, as the direct outcome of the efforts of the magazine, with Mr. Butler at the head of it, and Vidya Nyaka in the mysterious distance with a medley of nonsensical letters at the end of his name. The real name of Vidya N. is Ohmart, and he is known to many men in Boston who experienced his wiles before Butler joined hands with him. Before that, Ohmart was satisfied to deal with men on pure business principles, but when he combined with Butler he played upon the credulity of the mystically inclined people who sincerely desired to know the things of the spirit and foolishly thought that the great pretensions of this pair hid great knowledge and wisdom.

It all speedily ended with a frightful expose in the N. Y. World, Boston Globe and Herald, and
Philadelphia Inquirer. The worst of it was that the press mixed the Theosophical Society in it, entirely without cause but wholly because of Butler's theosophic claims, and today hundreds of people think that exposure was an exposure of humbug on our part. Such are the facts; hear now of the Karma:

Mr. Butler and all his confederates have to some slight extent injured the Theosophical Society, and the nemesis provided by the immutable law of Karma will follow him until the full consequence is felt and compensation made. We do not need sworn zealots to wreak a vengeance. That will follow, whatever it be, because behind the Theosophical Society is a mighty power that works by law and by will, and not by money. No wealth can buy its favor nor avert its care for its members and for the enemies of the Society. Already material damages and great annoyance have come to these men who dared to sell and buy in the Temple of God. And the same nemesis, but perhaps with lesser fury, will pursue all those members of the Theosophical Society who have in their hearts said, "Lo, here is one who offers at a price that which the Adepts of the Theosophical Society say can only be obtained through toil and unselfish effort; let us go buy of him." We are sorry for both, but surely lessons must be learned, and we had thought that the lesson was taught when the mysterious H. B. of L. invaded our ranks seeking recruits and getting those who would not try the right way. The end is not yet, the hour has not struck, but it will arrive. Let us then rely upon Karma and do our duty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Return to the HOUT

Tuesday morning Jerry Rein and Catherine O'Riley and I walked down the Canyon Creek Trail (CCT), on our way to the High Old Upriver Trail or HOUT, where a tremendous bloom is in progress.

We noted very very many OHV tracks in the Gold Run Diggings, not only on the main road, but also wandering across hill and dale.

The increase in OHV use at Gold Run has itself been increasing. Five years ago there was essentially zero OHV use. On the BLM lands in the southern reaches of the Diggings, the main problem at that time was mining claims.

Having filed a claim, a claimant obtained a key to the BLM gate at the end of Garrett Road. Then it became time to use backhoe and bulldozer to make test pits and roads, suddenly disturbing the historic character of mines which had remained almost untouched since the 1880s.

That is, the people like you and me who might have used the gated road to drive to, say, the head of the Pickering Bar Trail, and who would not have damaged one iota of history, were barred from using this ancient road (depicted on the 1866 GLO map of the area).

But the people who explicitly intended to tear up the Diggings every which way had keys to the gate.

One such used his key, his backhoe, and his dump truck, to steal the last significant accumulation of Eocene-age petrified wood in that southern area. This was done about six years ago as I recall, and two or three years after I walked the Diggings with BLM personnel, pointing out the petrified wood, and asking that it be protected.

For the pretty petrified wood had already been looted from the old hydraulic mines everywhere in this part of the Sierra, and only a little remained. Elsewhere in the United States such petrified wood might have inspired creation of a State Park.

I believe that some part of the OHV use now occurring involves continued theft of petrified wood. I heard from a friend, earlier this year, that a group of people, apparently on foot, were gathering petrified wood in the southern Diggings.

The gate at the end of Garrett is probably a good thing. But mining claims and OHVs are bad things. Not everywhere bad; but there, at Gold Run, yes: bad.


At a certain point, well down the CCT, a fallen Canyon Live Oak has blocked the trail for many years. I seem to recall that it was there, lying across a switchback, in 1977. Recently this fairly large trunk broke a few feet above the root mass, and yesterday we had the pleasure and excitement of clearing it from the trail. It took some huffing and puffing, and when our perfectly coordinated efforts managed to roll the root mass over, it never stopped, but crashed directly down the slope and disappeared from view, breaking up into smaller chunks along the way.

Good thing no one was below us!

We cleared the remaining debris from the trail and felt quite gratified at a job well done.

Very pretty clouds graced the sky and sometimes shaded us as we marched upcanyon and marveled at the flowers. Since my previous visit last Friday, many many more Bush Monkeyflowers have started to bloom. I expect these very remarkable bushes will hit full bloom within a couple-few weeks, at least down around the 2000' contour and below. At Lovers Leap, 4000', this same species usually waits until the end of May to max out.

And when maxed out, one single bush can bear a couple hundred blooms, large, almost orchid-like, or more closely resembling snapdragons, in a salmon pink hue.

There are tens of thousands of these small bushes in Giant Gap and Canyon Creek.

We wandered a mile or so up the canyon, and watched the pretty clouds scoot by, heading south. Then certain clouds to the west began to look somewhat fuzzy and flared and we knew that rain showers must be falling from them. As the afternoon wore on, a compact mass of dark clouds formed to the west, and the showers became more visible.

On our way out the HOUT, raindrops kissed us every few minutes, but never enough to even begin to dampen clothes or hair. Yet on the CCT, plants were all wet from rain, and we saw that the showers hadn't missed us by much.

It was so very pleasant to hike the HOUT on a perfect spring day.

We were treated to a bird's-eye view of a bird, while on the HOUT near the Blue Lupine Bear Bed. Bears seem to like good scenic overlooks, and the Blue Lupine Bear Bed is a perfect example. A Great Blue Heron flew along the roaring river below, and with Jerry's binoculars we got a pretty good look at the thing, so tall and slender, patiently waiting on the rocks at river's edge for a chance to snag a fish with its long sharp beak.

Such was a fine day in the one and only American River Canyon.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Green Valley Trail

One of the larger Gold Rush-era mining camps of the North Fork was in Green Valley, just upstream from Giant Gap. Two newspaper articles from the 1860s assert that two thousand people lived there in the early 1850s. Supplies came by mule train from Illinoistown, near today's Colfax, so the Green Valley Trail was graded for loaded mules, i.e., some care was taken to make it broad and of a gentle gradient.

In part because of our letters, Placer County Supervisor Rex Bloomfield directed the Placer Legacy to negotiate the purchase of an easement across private lands near the head of the trail, the easement extending well down into the canyon, to public lands there.

It happens that the County owns ten acres of land near the trailhead on Moody Ridge Road, and a parking area was built there.

It only remained to connect this parking area to the Green Valley Trail road. Last Friday, a California Conservation Corps crew was at work on this short new section of trail. Yesterday I took a tour of the work in progress, and it bids fair to be ready for use later this spring. The parking area remains closed for the moment.

So, some good news.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Bears of Giant Gap

One thing or another kept me trapped indoors and off the trails for most of recent weeks. A little weather here and there--it snowed here at my place as recently as last Wednesday evening--and the exigencies of schools and children.

Friday morning I met Ron Gould at the Dutch Flat exit and we contrived to drive into the Gold Run Diggings and parked at the top of the Canyon Creek Trail. Our objective was the HOUT: the HOUT has many "problem" sections, where the original almost-level line of the Giant Gap Canal has been lost, so that game and humans alike have been forced up or down (almost always, down), until whatever obstacle is passed.

The "obstacles" are often patches of gnarled, rock-hard, half-dead buckbrush interlaced with poison oak. We wanted to take a closer look at one such section, about three-quarters of a mile up from the Canyon Creek Trail.

The Giant Gap Canal was never built. It would have carried water from the North Fork to San Francisco, via a series of ditches, tunnels, and pipelines. The most difficult section of the work was in the awesome gorge of Giant Gap. So, to demonstrate the feasibility of the project, men were hired to "break grade" through the Gap, and they even began work on two of the tunnels.

Fortunately the project never advanced very far. Work stopped around 1900, and it is passing strange that some of the clear heart sugar pine 4X4's are still there in the Gap, a century later, protected from wildfires by the cliffy terrain. These 4X4's seem to have been used to make catwalks across cliffs, and such-like purposes.

If anyone ever sets eyes on one of these 4X4's it means they have nerves of steel. They are only found in the very heart of Giant Gap, in the midst of the steepest cliffs, where the HOUT degenerates into something, almost nothing, the ghost of a dream of a trail which scarcely ever was.

And yet, there it is.

As only makes sense, the men breaking grade used the line of the proposed canal as a trail to gain access to their work. So they built small dry-laid stone walls at many locations, to bolster the path. It looks as tho they had several camps during the year or two work was in progress: in Green Valley; at Canyon Creek; right in the middle of Giant Gap itself, near one of the tunnels; and, likely enough, near the North Fork, just downstream from Big West Spur.

It only makes sense that they were not too concerned to hold the ideal line of the canal across difficult, cliffy areas; after all, when it came time to actually build the canal, a maelstrom of blasting would erase everything they had done to break the grade. So in cliffy areas the HOUT often wanders a bit off-line, and you can see that they built their little stone walls nonetheless, for it was essential to have easy access to the work.

The flowers are now far too many to name, not that I know them all anyway, and the peak bloom is still weeks away. Pacific Dogwoods are in full bloom along the Indiana Hill Ditch on the upper CCT, and we saw the first few salmon-pink blossoms of our local Bush Monkeyflower. Tufted Poppies by the hundreds, lupines and clovers of several species, the first of the Mock Orange, the many thousands of Blue Dicks. The day was warming rapidly and I felt a little overheated, wearing blue jeans. We hit the HOUT and pushed up the canyon, amazed by the flowers, the river roaring and sparkling below, clear as clear can be. Some kayakers appeared, on their way to Mineral Bar from Euchre Bar. And the HOUT was suddenly adorned with large and rather fresh piles of bear poop, in the classic spring fashion, no seeds or berries, much grassy fibers, and almost black.

So we began to wonder whether we might walk right up on the well-fed creature.

We reached our problem section and scouted the area well. It looked as though the original line of the HOUT could be restored rather easily, so we forged on and beyond, passing Big West Gully and crossing steep open slopes crowded with blue bush lupine. The North Fork stretched away west on a nearly straight line before entering a sequence of interlacing spur ridges at Canyon Creek. To our amazement mosquitos were out, which is a bit unusual in such high and rocky and sunny terrain. It is not just a good flower year, apparently, but also a good mosquito year, and I already know all too well it is a good year for ticks.

Too little hiking has left me old and decrepit and as we crossed those sun-baked west-facing slopes I felt strangely weak.

Quite near the steep patch of bush lupine is the Bear Bed, a cute little nest surrounded by multiple trunks of a Canyon Live Oak. It is not impossible that these many trunks stump-sprouted after the original tree was cut down, during the breaking of the grade a century or so ago. Canyon Live Oaks grow quite slowly, for the most part. The Bear Bed has been used a lot in recent weeks, and is almost guarded or defended by amazing masses of poop.

Ron and I think that one of the four tunnels proposed as part of the Giant Gap Canal would have been cut directly through Big West Spur, thus avoiding a long section of steep cliffs where it is almost inconceivable that a canal could have been blasted out. At any rate the HOUT suddenly climbs away from the ideal grade and circles around the end of Big West Spur on a high line, winding in and out of a series of small ravines separated by major spurs of rock. We finally turned the last corner and reached one of the more amazing of all the fine viewpoints along the HOUT, nearly 400 feet above the river, and less than 100 feet away on the horizontal. It looks as tho one could jump right in. Lovers Leap is in full view to the east, and some of the waterfalls of Lovers Leap Ravine, and portions of the HOUT itself are visible, towards Onion Point.

Yet another pile of poop showed that our mystery bear had recently used the HOUT to enter Giant Gap. Ten years ago I doubted that bears would have much to do in a place like that, so full of cliffs; but again and again I see both bears and their sign, in the steepest parts of this amazingly narrow gorge.

When I go there I feel like a real stud. For a bear, it's probably nothing; ho hum, a cliff. Any yellowjacket nests to plunder?

The sun had crossed into the western sky and the embrace of deepening shadows was not welcome for long, as a stiff breeze was running up the canyon. We retreated to the first rock blade west, and sunshine, and rested a good rest, so that I began to feel myself again.

On the way back out we paused to scout another "problem" section on Big West Spur itself, and discovered an improved line for one short reach of the old trail.

We rested again above the Land of Blue Bush Lupines and were amazed to see a duck of some kind standing in the exact center of the river, a few hundred feet below, on a large rock, which looked entirely submerged to the naked eye, but under binoculars seemed to reach the surface, albeit barely. It was probably a Common Merganser, the most-frequently seen species of duck on the North Fork.

The shadows began to cover more and more of the canyon wall west of us as we finally settled into the return, and after we left Big West Spur the hike was pretty much all in the shade.

Between Bogus Gully and the Canyon Creek Trail we finally met the elusive bear whose pungent sign had marked so much of the trail. It was resting beneath a Canyon Live Oak a few feet above the HOUT, and as I happened to be in the lead, it fell to me to almost bump right into the thing, after turning a sharp blind corner. The bear and I were about equally shocked. It was a lovely reddish bear, at least a two-year-old, and only a little less than full-grown, fat and well-rounded. It scrambled up a ravine while I fell back around the corner to tell Ron, hoping it would not disappear before he had a chance to see it. But he was too far back, so I returned only in time to see it making zig-zags up some steep slopes well above me. It was interesting that it only used the direct upward line to make the first fifty yards and get above some intervening scrub oaks; there, it felt safe enough to switch back and forth up the canyon wall, just as we humans would do if we climbed such an area.

There's not much more to tell. A slow slog up the steep trail. From time to time we had seen some rather robust black caterpillars, with an impressive halo of red hairs radiating away from their bodies, and a funny kind of Mohawk-style crest of longer white hairs down the middle of their backs. We saw some more of these punk Mohawk caterpillars on the climb. The Leaper is much diminished but still in excellent form, better even than when the creek is higher--more focused, as though a fire-hose were hidden in the top of a cliff. Such a strange waterfall it is. One can't see the water flowing to the top of the falls, just a jet of white arcing up and out before crashing into a vertical wall six or eight feet away.

We reached the top around 6:30 and despite the strange lassitude and weakness which afflicted us both out on Big West Spur--I had had the strongest desire to just take a long nap--it had been a great day in the great canyon.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Some of you expressed interest in the geology of this area and the North Fork. Hence I offer this.

A young man named Greg Stock has been investigating the rate of incision of canyons in the Southern Sierra. He has taken quite a remarkable approach: in the deep canyons of the Kings and Kaweah, there is some limestone/marble, and many caves. Some of the caves are now high on cliffs, but once upon a time, when the canyon was shallower, they were at river level, and the river deposited sediments in them. These seds are easy to recognize because, upstream, there is granite: so if you find rounded granite boulders in a marble cave, you know the river left them there (partly, also, because these caves are too far west in the canyons to have been touched by glaciers, ever).

Hence, date the seds, and measure how high the cave is above the present river level, and you have an idea of how long it took for the river to cut the canyon that deep. And that is what Greg Stock has done.

I have been trying to entice Greg Stock up here to see the North Fork's outwash terraces. We have corresponded for a couple years. Here is his most recent to me, combined with my response. But first, let me say that the various glaciations in the Sierra have been named, or rather, those which left the most obvious traces have been named. The most-recent ended ~12,000 years ago; it is called the Tioga. Then we have Tahoe II (~65,000 years) and Tahoe I (~130,000 years) and Sherwin (~750,000 years, call it ~800,000 years). There were others but these are the main ones named so far. They have all left moraines, most easily seen and studied on the dry east side of the Sierra.

Also, when we talk about river channels aggrading, we mean that, rather than cutting deeper ("degrading"), they are filling up with sediments. A valley with an aggrading river actually becomes shallower over time, the ridges lower, the valley floor rises. That's the kind of river we had here in the Eocene, such as is exposed at Gold Run and Dutch Flat. Lazy, meandering over an ever-thickening floodplain of sediments.

Finally, the granite which we see so much of in the Sierra was emplaced at depth over a long period of time, which ended roughly 80 million years ago (80 Ma). That's the magmatism Stock refers to. One of the mysteries of Sierran geology is, how did so much rock get eroded away, to expose these deeply-seated plutons of granite? They were exposed before Eocene times (55 Ma).

Hey Greg you wrote,

Sorry, I wasn't clear about Eocene agrradation: the incision was
Oligocene in age, with dominantly aggradation throughout the Eocene
(though do not simply assume constant aggradation for millions of years
- river systems tend to be more complicated than that). Check
Wakabayashi and Sawyer (2001) for details.

I have looked at portions of Wakabayashi/Sawyer (whatever was available on the internet). Very good stuff! I actually contacted Wakabayashi years ago to beg him to come look at the outwash terraces in the North Fork American. He refused. Thus he joins the ranks of girlie-men geologists too weak to explore the North Fork (heh heh). Strong enough to brew beer and fish for trout, not strong enough for the North Fork American, not strong enough to visit outwash terraces which show every potential for correlation to other glacial deposits, such as moraines and tills!

I mean, is Wakabayashi even serious about Sierran landscape evolution? If I tell him that I have a relict channel which is 400 feet above present river level, and associated to that channel is an outwash terrace all of 600 feet above present river level, doesn't it follow immediately that we have an opportunity to discover exactly how long it took the North Fork to incise that most-recent 400 feet?

My guess: Sherwin-age. ~800,000 years.

I've only been trying to get "real" geologists to take a look at these terraces since 1976. I suppose I should be patient. Heh heh. Heh.

There are volcanic clasts in the auriferous gravels around the
Stanislaus and Mokelumne rivers, also lots of metamorphics, but only
the rare granitic clast as you say. I probably should have said "some"
and not "most" clasts are volcanics. Sounds different in your neck of
the woods. Are there no volcanics in those gravels? This is actually
an interesting question because there were undoubtedly a few km of
volcanic rocks eroded off the range after the end of magmatism ~80 Ma
to expose the granitics, so did this all happen in the
Cretaceous/Paleocene? If no volcanics by the Eocene it would suggest
very high erosion early on.

Hmmm. Stanislaus and Mokelumne should be much the same as, say, Yuba and American.

But you don't seem to intend the word "volcanics" to apply to what I think of as the "young volcanics," Valley Springs/Mehrten/etc., all post-Eocene. There are many post-Eocene channels (and some of the Eocene channels are capped) with volcanic clasts; the so-called "intervolcanic" channels, on the interfluves around here. One such is right where I live: the "Nary Red" channel. These intervolcanic channels often robbed seds from the older Eocene channels and so we get a mix of young volcanics and older quartz, chert, etc. etc.

But so far as rocks eroded after the end of magmatism--that is a fascinating subject. Miles of rock stripped away. It does make sense that some of these would be unmetamorphosed surficial expressions of the magmatism. But I am not aware that such rocks have even the slightest presence in the Eocene channels, unless we were to count the quartz; for quartz veins must have threaded through all these missing rocks, and quartz is especially well-suited to endure the rock-rotting climate of the Eocene.

No, this is a fascinating subject: what became of the miles of rock stripped away before the Eocene? Various lines of evidence suggest that it was miles of rock. So it is natural to imagine high erosion rates. And I believe that the magnitude of the erosion--i.e. miles--can only mean that this "ancestral" Sierra was being uplifted throughout this period, Cretaceous-Paloecene. Then the uplift stopped and the channels aggraded.

But I am not aware that any rocks in the Eocene channels are thought to derive from these vanished miles. Even the quartz might all have entered the channels in the Eocene itself.

Yes, Tahoe is always outside of Tioga, but the question is why.
Several people (my advisor, Bob Anderson for one) would argue that it
might have to do with basin hypsometry changes during each glaciation.
For instance, each successive glaciation bites glacial canyons deeper
into the landscape, lowering their mean altitude. So a Tioga glacier
probably spends more time at lower (warmer) altitudes within a canyon
than a Sherwin glacier did in that same canyon. Follow? Tioga
glaciers did not extend out as far because they melted closer to the
mountain front. That is one way to explain the ever-decreasing extent
of glaciers. Also, on the east side at least it is worth considering
how much the Mono Basin and Owens Valley have dropped (lowered their
altitude) over the past 1 Ma. Just some alternative ideas to the
notion of the Sherwin as the largest glaciation - though that is still
the simplest explanation.

Hmmm. Anderson may have something there, but I myself would wish to somehow discriminate between two models: (1) Anderson's model: canyons were lower in absolute elevation, hence warmer, hence glaciers melted before reaching Tahoe or earlier moraines; and (2) The other model: canyons were deeper in Tioga, hence the same absolute volume of ice would occupy a lower position. Or, simplest, maybe best, (3), Tioga was a lesser maximum than Tahoe, and much less than Sherwin.

But I just can't go along with Anderson: the depths of the canyons 65,000 years ago, Tahoe II, should not have been all that much less than Tioga canyon depths. If we accepted a 6 inches/thousand years rate, then, OK, roughly 26.5 feet lower in Tioga (65,000 minus 12,000 equals 53,000). Now, the "average lapse rate" of temperature with increasing elevation is 3.5 degrees F per 1000 feet (in dry air, higher, in wet air, lower lapse rates). So a difference in canyon floor elevation of 26.5 feet would represent a vanishingly small increase in average temperature.

Applying the same arithmetic to Sherwin, using the round number of 800,000 years, we'd have 400 feet of incision. Hence, say, an average temperature of 3 degrees F warmer now than during Sherwin times, at the bottom of the canyon. Well, OK. That really would be significant. So I kind of like Anderson's model, (1), for the Sherwin.

I have debated similar issues with Allan James, who has been doing cosmogenic dating of moraines in this area (unfortunately, another girlie-man gelogist--heh heh). The question I raised with Allan was, how do temperate-latitude valley glaciers, acting as distributaries to a high-elevation ice-field or ice-cap, respond to increases in depth of the source ice-field? Do the termini of the valley glaciers "strongly respond" or do the termini "weakly respond"? That is, if the ice-field gains "100 feet" in depth, does the valley glacier become "one mile" longer, or "one foot" longer? I guess Anderson would say that valley glaciers would weakly respond, because he would make temperature the dominant variable controlling their down-valley extent.

But Greg, don't I recall that we see the same pattern in the big continental glaciers, say, in the Midwest? That the Tioga equivalent was not as extensive as earlier Wisconsin-age glaciations?

Allan James wants to make the Tioga a kind of wimpy girlie-man glacial maximum around here. Whereas I have always imagined it to be at least similar in extent to most earlier glaciations. For instance, Allan pointed to a certain glacially-scoured lakelet above 7000' elevation near here and declared it was pre-Tioga, which is in direct opposition to my own idea of Tioga glaciation, based upon over 30 years of hiking in this area, combined with thousands of miles of hiking in the High Sierra to the south. And to me it is about ridiculous to say that any (glacially-formed) lake whatsover in the Sierra is Tahoe-age. Lakes are usually ephemera, they silt in and become meadows. To me if it's a Sierran lake in the high country, it's Tioga all the way, not that Tahoe glaciers might not have scoured out an earlier version.

Why did James think this lake was pre-Tioga, that is, Tahoe II? Because a prominent boulder-line left by Tioga ice is a little ways down the mountain from the lake. But I say, fine, the Tioga had a stade and left this line of boulders. That doesn't mean Tioga ice was never higher than the boulder-line.

I can't entirely discount James's girlie-man Tioga model. So, now I'm gun-shy. I see a body of till somewhere which in the old days I would have thought, Tioga-age every step of the way, and now, because of Allan James, I have to wonder: Tahoe-age? Because the way I see it we should *not* really be able to tell "at a glance" that such-and-such a boulder, in till, has been weathering for 12,000 years or for 65,000 years.

There are some patches of old till around here, all rotten and red with iron oxide. These at least can be seen to be older than Tioga, at a glance.

It is a really interesting subject and you, Greg Stock, are taking the bull by the horns and doing the work which will help us finally settle some of these issues.

I saw in your article that you visited ***300*** caves. That is totally amazing!!

Three hundred caves. You know, that is so--great. It is remarkable. The story of that exploration would make an interesting book.

Thanks Greg,

Of Quads and Quandaries

OK, there's some rather minor breaking news on several fronts.

1. Gold Run Diggings. Recently a man named Richmond, who owns land along Garrett Road in Gold Run, blazed a trail for his OHV "quads" (in the plural; he has children who ride, too) down into the Diggings. I learned this from Bob and Judy S---, who often ride their horses and hike in the Diggings. On Saturday I saw Richmond riding his giant quad there. Yesterday I called one of the owners of the 800-acres-now-for-sale, Mark P---, and informed him of the trespass. A little odd, one trespasser "telling" on another, don't you think? Today I talked to Bob S--- and learned that Richmond has blazed his trail across a parcel belonging to an old friend of mine, Anne P---. So I called Anne. It seems likely that Anne will put an end to this particular trail.

Unfortunately, there are several other access points, including one on BLM lands, so if Anne closes down this one trail, Richmond will likely just use another.

2. Lovers Leap. While at Lovers Leap on December 15, 2004, my friends and I noted a cedar tree, rather a large one, had been felled on the BLM land there, and the main part of the trunk was gone. Later that day, we encountered two men cutting firewood nearby, also on BLM land. Soon thereafter, I called Folsom BLM to ask about the cutting. No one knew about it, but some of the people who would know were not in the office. I left my name and number and never heard back. Calling again in March, I talked to the Chief, Deane Swickard. He promised to look into the matter. Today I called again, to find that:

A. The cedar was cut illegally.
B. A permit to cut dead and down wood had been issued to a man in Alta.
C. The men we found cutting did not have a permit.

In my opinion, some kind of vehicle closure is needed at Lovers Leap. Near the very end of the road is a fork: either go straight to the current parking area, or go right to get down to the Big Oak and points to the west. I think both roads should be gated. It would add less than a hundred yards to the walk to the Leap itself. The present parking area has been getting kind of thrashed by cars and trucks and OHVs, in recent years.

I myself don't have much problem with letting people cut dead and down wood, but there should be limits. An area like Lovers Leap deserves special care. If we could thin-from-below (remove the small stuff) the forest west of Lovers Leap, so that it more closely approximates its historic open character, that *might* be a good thing.

3. Gold Run Diggings. The BLM is interested in acquiring at least some of the 800-acres-now-for-sale. Where the money will come from is unknown. Also, the BLM is prohibited from buying polluted lands. Hence some kind of analysis must be made of the Diggings, to quantify just how bad it is. For, it is a fact that there is some degree of mercury contamination there.

I had heard that the BLM hoped to do the analysis this year. However, today I talked to Deane Swickard of BLM, and learned that some lawsuits have been filed against the BLM, having to do with two mines, one in Nevada County, the other in Placer County. These lawsuits will eat up the money which might have been used to perform the analysis in Gold Run.

This does not please me.

4. Gold Run Diggings. While talking to Mark P---, one of the owners of the 800-acres-now-for-sale, I learned that:

A. There are no current offers, and no sale pending.
B. The owners think the BLM has lost interest in the Diggings.

I told Mark that the BLM has not lost interest, and that Jeff Darlington and the Placer Land Trust are continuing the efforts begun by Marc Landgraf and the American River Conservancy, to acquire private inholdings in and near the North Fork canyon, in the Gold Run area (from Green Valley on the east to Secret Ravine on the west).

I still haven't succeeded in luring the good Jeff Darlington up to Gold Run to see the 800-acres-now-for-sale. Today I left a message on his answering machine. These lands comprise one of the most historic and scenic properties in all California. How would the BLM best manage them, to preserve the extraordinary resources? One management scheme would be to pretty much leave The Diggings alone: enforce a vehicle closure on all the Diggings, with the possible exception of a parking area, somewhere, and let people hike and bike and ride horses on the roads, and let people hike on the trails.

It is possible that some kind of interpretive center might be founded, perhaps near the highway rest stop on I-80, or near the Dutch Flat exit, which would tell the story of the mines and the ancient Eocene river which spawned the mines, etc.

Well, that's all for now.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Canyon Visitation

The original plan was to lead a PARC (Protect the American River Canyon) hike to Green Valley, back in March, but heavy rain canceled and we rescheduled for April 9th. PARC's Eric Peach called to confirm a few days ago, when weather forecasts suggested a weak storm for Friday, with clearing on Saturday the 9th.

Friday's weak storm magically became a howling blizzard focused at the head of the Green Valley Trail, so at the very last minute, early Saturday morning, Eric and I decided that Canyon Creek was the more reasonable destination, with its lower trailhead elevation. The group would meet at the Gold Run exit on I-80 at about 9:45 a.m.

The day dawned with a monstrous river of fog nearly filling the North Fork canyon, swiftly ruffled by the rising sun, beneath clear and azure skies. The fog soon boiled up into mysterious masses, and within three hours had evaporated, only to be reincarnated as fair-weather cumulus clouds, a few thousand feet above. I was stuffing lunch and camera in my day pack when the telephone rang. Alex Henderson reported that I-80 was being closed at Colfax because of a major accident up on the Summit, and that our crew ought to take the back roads if at all possible.

Fortunately, Eric too made one more call, just as his gang was leaving Auburn, so I told him all about the back roads. Then I left for Gold Run and paced around in the sunshine for an hour with Alex. Eric et. al. arrived, and after some fussing around with packs and boots we set out south into the Diggings, towards the Canyon Creek Trail.

By a lucky break the esteemed Otis and Jane Wollan were among the group, along with Tony and Margie, Ann, Alex, and Eric's wife Paula. Like Eric, Otis has long been an advocate for the North Fork and the environment, here in Placer County. The world was fresh and wet and cool. As we walked south on the Main Diggings Road, we encountered ATV tracks made that very morning. I had heard of a new ATV trail in the Diggings, and sure enough, the tracks sprang from that very trail, which leads from a house on Garrett Road down to the Main Diggings Road.

We hit the Canyon Creek Trail hard and fast, or rather, we bumbled along admiring wildflowers, of which there were many: Houndstongues and Shooting Stars and Balsam Root and Indian Pink were all in bloom along upper reached of the trail. We stopped at the great tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Co. (1873), blasted twelve feet wide and nine feet high from the blocky-fracturing metavolcanic rock of the Calaveras Complex. This tunnel splits into two smaller tunnels a few hundred feet in, each branch over a thousand feet long, ending in vertical shafts in the Diggings. These tunnels allowed the GRD&M to wash the Eocene gravels all the way down to the bedrock floor of the ancient river. Millions of cubic yards of tailings flowed through the tunnels in massive sluice boxes, only to enter yet other sluice boxes for the last mile down Canyon Creek to the North Fork.

The day was absolutely lovely, with billowy clouds and deep blue sky and roaring cascades and waterfalls all along the creek. Vultures careened along aloft. The Leaper was in good form, with somewhat too much water slamming across the deeply incised chamber for its most ideal shape to manifest. Then we reached the Inner Gorge. First one spots it from afar, then the trail is cut into cliffs rising directly above the gorge, and many fine views are had.

Eric and I had noted some scuffed patches on the trail, made by a bear or more likely a human, earlier in the morning. I criticized the coordination and walking ability of whoever or whatever it was, and joked that it must be an overlarge man, Budweiser in hand; for the scuffs and slips were oddly frequent and deep.

The PARC folks made an especially good group to appreciate the wonders of Canyon Creek; they were astounded, even stunned, by this strange strange twisted gorge-within-a-gorge, where the creek drops in waterfalls into a kind of cave, from which all kinds of hissings and thunderings emerge to echo and reflect from the cliffs.

Lots of yellow Biscuit Root and some few Slender Larkspur are in bloom along that part of the trail. Canyon Nemophila and Lacepod were abundant.

We took the steep cross-country route down to the Big Waterfall, enjoying a lunch break while being cooled by drifting spray. The white pigeons were back, in that neat group of seven seen in there for two years now. They seem to love the Big Waterfall and are almost always near it.

The sun became lost in the clouds and we felt a chill set in, so back on with packs and on down the trail it was. At The Terraces we found my overlarge-man-with-a-Budweiser, in the form of four young men with backpacks, tarps and sleeping bags spread across the lower terrace.

This reminds me that many parts of the Canyon Creek Trail need work; the trail is easily damaged in its present, over-fragile form.

We walked out Lower Terraces Trail to the main trail and on down to the river, where we enjoyed another sustained break. Once again the clouds intervened and threw us into shadow and once again we shouldered our packs and started hiking--up, this time.

But not for long. Soon we reached the semi-secret HOUT (High Old Upriver Trail) and struck out towards Giant Gap, rounding Bogus Spur to reach the excellent east-facing overlook, the North Fork all emerald and white below, and Giant Gap rearing up into massive cliffs and pointy pinnacles just up the canyon. Cloud shadows drifted across the cliffs.

I should say that the flowers are not yet at their peak, but down there on the HOUT, on south-facing slopes at about 1800' elevation, there is a ton of flowers. There are tens of thousands of Blue Dicks, and quite an array of Harlequin Lupines, and, well, many other species.

It is beginning to look like this may be a very remarkable wildflower season, a once-in-a-decade bloom.

The Canyon creek Trail is steep lower down, and we paused to rest near the Inner Gorge. There were the Seven Pigeons of Doom, or whatever they're called, perched across the gorge. Someone said they wanted to see the lovely birds take flight, so I heaved a rock their way with some shouted imprecation such as, "avast, birdies!" The rock almost hit them, it was a remarkable and lucky heave. Of course they dutifully took flight and zoomed around.

On the hike up and out we found time to walk the short and scary Six Inch Trail, and then the Blasted Digger Trail. So it really became the Grand Tour. When we finally returned to the main trail, my slow and steady pace easily outpaced the rest of the group, and, rather than repeatedly waiting for them to catch up, I just kept on slowly climbing, and reached my car around 7:00 p.m. I trust they arrived not too long after. I myself rushed home in a horrible hunger and made quesadillas with Chinese hot sauce and spinach and garlic, for me and my family.

It was another great day on the North Fork.

Friday, April 8, 2005

North Fork American Land Acquisition

(an open letter to District Ranger Rich Johnson of Tahoe National Forest)

Hey Rich, you wrote,

"GOOD NEWS!! See attached news release. rich j."

Thank you very much, Rich, for your fine efforts!!!

In that press release, you were quoted as follows:

"This parcel completes our efforts with SPI to protect this truly wild river ... ."

The press release does not make it clear, but I presume the 640 acres in question is Section 21, T16N R13E, near the confluence of Big Granite Canyon and the North Fork, which includes a portion of the Big Granite Trail. Incidentally, the ca. 1875 GLO map of this area has the legend "Rough Barren Mountains" centered over Section 21. And for this we paid $700,000, and that, *after* SPI helicopter-logged the section?

I strongly object to the idea that "This parcel completes our efforts." Our efforts should by no means be "completed" by this acquisition. This "completion" is based upon the pathetic notion of a Wild & Scenic River "corridor," defined by Congress to extend a quarter-mile to either side of the center of a given river.

Here we have the one and only American River Canyon. It is Placer County's Yosemite and might very well become a National Park. Does the great canyon extend only 1/4 mile to either side of the North Fork? No. Do the trails which give access to it extend only 1/4 mile to either side of the North Fork? No. Do the amazingly beautiful views from scenic overlooks up and down the canyon extend only 1/4 mile from the river? No.

For instance, the Big Granite Trail has already been damaged by SPI and another lumber outfit, CHY, on lands to the north of Section 21. The Sugar Pine Point Trail has been well-nigh obliterated by SPI in nearby Section 17, for instance. But they are not through ruining our heritage.

So, Rich, to me, anyway, it is silly to talk about "completing our efforts." There is very much more land, many thousands of acres, which I believe must be acquired by TNF, if the true extent and ambience of our wild heritage, in the American River Canyon, is to be preserved for future generations. To name just a few areas:

1. Snow Mountain.
2. Wildcat Point (Section 31, between Wildcat and Wabena canyons).
3. Sugar Pine Point, Four Horse Flat.
4. The North Fork of the North Fork.
5. Between the Royal Gorge and The Cedars.
6. Green Valley.
7. Rawhide Mine.

So, it's not time for "Job well done; now we can relax," but rather, "Job underway, but we must both increase the pace, and broaden the scope, of land acquisitons in and around the American River Canyon."

Thanks again,

Russell Towle