Sunday, July 3, 2005

Visit to Lovers Leap

Last December during a visit to Lovers Leap (Lovers Leap is a promontory or spur ridge jutting south from Moody Ridge into Giant Gap; see the 7.5 minute Dutch Flat quadrangle) I observed a large cedar had been felled at the end of Lovers Leap road, on BLM land, and the thickest part of the trunk removed; and later, found two men cutting oak firewood, along a road to the west.

A telephone call to Folsom BLM was fruitless; no one was in the office who had even heard of Lovers Leap, and although I left a phone message, no one called back.

After two months I tried again, and spoke to Area Manager Deane Swickard. He promised to look into the matter.

In a few weeks I called Deane back, and learned that a permit to cut dead and down wood near Lovers Leap had been issued to an Alta man; but the large cedar tree was no part of the permitted use, nor were the two men I'd observed, in December, holders of the permit.

On Saturday July 2nd I visited Lovers Leap with my son and nephew. I noted that the rest of the trunk of the large cedar tree had been sliced into rounds and hauled away. I also noted, as I have for several years now, that OHVs--"quads" and motorcycles--have been driving down the foot trail part of the way to the cliff-top, spinning donuts in the parking area, and so on. And a small cedar tree, scarcely a foot in diameter, had been recently felled to expand the parking area, already much expanded in the last ten or twenty years.

All in all this very special place seems much degraded. I think that a vehicle closure is in order; the parking area should be moved a hundred yards north, or so, and a barricade placed to block both the last bit of main road, and the road to the west, where the two roads fork.

We spent an hour at the Leap, enjoying the lengthening shadows etching out the cliffs in Giant Gap as sunset drew near, and were pleased to see a pair of falcons soaring five hundred or a thousand feet below. I saw them land on the cliffs in two different places. They were vocalizing quite a bit, and I suspect that they are a nesting pair, and that young falcons are in the nest.

Then, to the west, I saw that a house is being built on the summit of Bogus Point. There are roughly ten private parcels on the rim of the canyon in Giant Gap, between the BLM lands at Lovers Leap, and BLM lands to the west of Bogus Point. I have always dreamed of a trail connecting Lovers Leap to Canyon Creek, along the canyon rim, and parts of the trail exist already: a mining ditch follows the canyon rim for a ways west from Lovers Leap Ravine, and an old trail climbs from Canyon Creek to the canyon rim just west of Bogus Point. It would not take much to connect the two existing sections.

But Moody Ridge was rapidly and illegally subdivided in the late 1970s, and "view" parcels were created all along the canyon rim. Since about 1985 I have been urging the BLM to try and acquire any and all of these ten parcels between Lovers Leap and Canyon Creek. Or, suffer the alernative--ten grand houses with million-dolar views, lining Giant Gap?

To see the new house at Bogus Point was like a dagger in my heart.

I wanted to leave, but my son and nephew were enjoying themselves, so I held my peace. Later, walking up the trail over the motorcycle tracks, I thought about the past, present, and future of Placer County and the North Fork, and could really see no way to avert the continued degradation of the most important piece of open space in Placer County, the North Fork canyon. I've spent thirty years trying to protect this canyon, and it has been thirty years of failure.

You can be sure that when such moods strike me, I'm looking to share the blame. I have many acquaintances, residents of this area, who really should have been joining the fight to protect the North Fork and its viewshed and its trails. So I went down the list in my mind, bitterly apportioning some blame here, and more blame, there.

When I am sane I don't think that way. But seeing the wreckage at the parking area, the garbage scattered about, the OHV scars on the old trail, the new house at Bogus Point--it made me crazy.

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