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.

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