Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Sawbug, Revisited; Mumford Bar

Sawtooth Ridge divides the main North Fork to the south, and the NFNFAR (North Fork of the North Fork American River) to the north. It parallels the two canyons and has a higher "upcountry" part to the east, and a lower "downcountry" part to the west, where the ridge terminates, at the confluence of the two streams, above Euchre Bar.

One can drive into the area from Emigrant Gap. Maps are useful, at least, the "big" Tahoe National Forest map. One will end up on the Sawtooth Ridge branch of Forest Road 19, also called Texas Hill Road.

Many old trails thread Sawtooth Ridge. Some are now roads, like the Sawtooth Ridge Road, along the crest. Others have been obliterated by logging, like the south part of the China Trail. Others have been abandoned.

The Sawbug Trail leads from a minor pass on Sawtooth Ridge, at about 3900' elevation, down to the North Fork at Humbug Bar, about 2000' elevation. It forms part of what once was the main trail back to Texas Hill and Monumental Canyon from Dutch Flat, by way of Euchre Bar. For there were suspension bridges at both Euchre Bar and Humbug Bar, in the olden days.

A Dutch Flat gold miner and photographer, I.T. Coffin, used the Sawbug to get back and forth between Texas Hill and Dutch Flat, in 1863.

It is a nice old trail, and makes a long west-descending traverse of the south-facing slopes of Sawtooth Ridge, which may equally be described as the north canyon wall of the North Fork.

These sunny slopes are covered in a forest of Canyon Live Oak, with occasional conifers and Kellogg's Black Oak in areas of deeper soil, and groves of Knobcone Pine near the crest of Sawtooth.

With various friends I made a series of expeditions in search of the Sawbug. It shows on the ca. 1900 USGS topographic map, the Colfax Folio. Finding it from the top down didn't work. Three failed trips. A trail was found, but it led to some hard-rock prospects. This false trail proved to be scarcely a quarter mile east of the genuine Sawbug.

From the bottom, from the North Fork, up, proved difficult also. Most of the trail is without switchbacks, just one long descending traverse. But at the bottom, there are a few switchbacks. These confuse the issue. And at the top, there is a series of tunnels, driven into a quartz vein running right up and down the steep slopes, and the trail simply disappears.

One looks at the tunnels, at the old equipment, at the repeatedly fire-scorched oak forest, and it becomes easy to explain *why* the Sawbug disappears: first, the slopes are steep, and a certain amount of loose rock and dirt is always working its way downhill, especially after fires; and this stuff can bury a trail. Next, the tailings and debris from the tunnels themselves could have similarly washed down over the trail; finally, with no one to lop branches and brush back, what portions of the trail might exist, might also be invisible, overgrown.

Several attempts had been made to sort out the top section, which makes the last four or five hundred feet of climb to the crest of Sawtooth. Gradually a trail emerged just to the east of the north-south line of tunnels.

Last week, Ron Gould and I returned and finally found the rest of the "lost" Upper Sawbug. It proves to be a series of switchbacks to the east of the mines; a descending eastward traverse, away from the mines, is followed by a descending westward traverse leading back to the mines. There are several of these. Finally one long eastward traverse leads to a long westward traverse to the Bear Bed Tunnel; from here the Sawbug drops gently to the west, down to Humbug Bar.

So that was very gratifying. The Sawbug is finally back on the map, as it were. It took about ten visits, over three or four years, to get it right.

Even this "right" may be, in part, wrong; for I find it suspicious that the trail returns, again and again, to the very mouths of the tunnels. Would the miners have said, "Here's a switchback intersecting a quartz vein, how convenient, we'll drive a tunnel here," *or* would the "true" Sawbug have vanished beneath rock waste from the tunnels, and an ad hoc trail accessing the series of tunnels, have evolved into "the" Sawbug?

That, in any case, is a long-abandoned trail. A very nice old trail, I must say. But there are other nice old trails. Last Wednesday, I returned to Sawtooth Ridge with Ron and Catherine O'Riley, to walk the Government Springs Trail down to Mumford Bar.

This trail heads up well up Sawtooth Ridge to the east, miles east of the Sawbug. At a broad pass on the ridge, Old Sawtooth Road forks away to the south. A TNF sign at the fork has been shotgunned beyond legibility. It may have read, "Government Springs." For, its twin is found a half-mile west on Old Sawtooth, also shotgunned, but one can still see some partial letters which show it once read "Government Springs," and probably also, "Mumford Bar."

At this second blank sign a road forks away south, dropping into the North Fork canyon. A gate blocks this road. In about a quarter-mile or so one reaches the springs, and an oldish wooden sign points back east, reading "Mumford Bar Trail, Mumford Bar 3, N. Fk. American River 3."

Here the trail was cut by a logging road, which is being revegetated by Deerbrush, so it is fortunate that people are using loppers and cutting the bushes back, or the trail would be quickly overwhelmed.

Soon one reaches the original foot trail. It winds through woods from which the larger trees have been harvested in at least two episodes, as one often sees on Sawtooth Ridge, one perhaps in the 1960s or 1970s, the other, in the 1990s. It is a nice old trail and I highly recommend it. Its original line is blocked in a couple places up high, so minor detours are needed, but it all sorts itself out well, and a long series of switchbacks leads, eventually, to the river.

It makes a descent of about 2500'.

About half-way down to the river, say, at 4000', a lone, large granite boulder, a four-foot egg of granite, was left by the (receding) North Fork glacier, probably about 13,000 years ago. The bedrock is all Shoo Fly Complex metasediments for miles around; this erratic boulder may have come from near the Loch Leven Lakes, or even from the upper South Yuba.

There may have been, briefly, lateral moraines along the canyon wall, as the North Fork glacier wasted away, and occupied lower and lower positions in the canyon. But the slopes were too steep to preserve those moraines. First, erosion would have smeared them into formless bodies of glacial till, clinging to the canyon wall, and soon enough, these till bodies would break into patches and disappear altogether. Only a rare combination of accidents could have permitted the Erratic Egg to hold its position for so long, while the moraine associated with it smeared into till, and then even the till bled away, downhill, downhill, to the river.

Whatever the rare combination of accidents may have been, the Erratic Egg remains poised. It too will reach the North Fork, someday. One is left with the impression that, although the parent moraine, and child till, have left the scene, that the boulder holds firm must mean, that the shape and position of that part of the canyon wall cannot have changed *very much* in the past 13,000 years. The Erratic Egg may remain right there, thousands of years into the future.

Well. Continuing down the trail ...

One arrives at a spot directly across from the base of the "other" Mumford Bar Trail, which heads up on the Foresthill Divide. The river is at quite a low flow these days.

There are many old Forest Service "small i" blazes up and down the trail. There are also some other, possibly older, blazes. It has much the same feel as the Sawbug Trail: sun-blasted, fire-scorched canyon wall, supporting an ancient colony of Canyon Live Oak. One sees multi-trunked stump-sprouts dating to wildfires two hundred years past. Often a rock outcrop supports an especially large and old Canyon Live Oak, protecting it from the severity of fire on those steep dry slopes.

Just as the Erratic Egg has stood the test of thirteen thousand years, so also have these oak groves. To me they evoke the idea of a vegetational pattern perfectly adapted to rocky slopes often burned in wildfires. The Canyon Live Oaks may have settled in on Sawtooth Ridge within a century of the ice retreat, and held their place ever since. Who is to say how old these trees might really be? They are the stump sprouts of stump sprouts of stump sprouts, and each "generation" of trunks could live for centuries. That is, are we presented with a forest of oak trees five or ten thousand years old, not a mere two hundred years old, by virtue of their stump-sprouting adaptation to wildfires?

One often sees big game trails leading away from the switchbacks on human trails, in these canyons. The Euchre Bar Trail has many of these game-trails-at-switchbacks. So does the Government Springs/Mumford Bar Trail. And one of these, fairly low down in the canyon, descends west and may (also) be an old human trail, dating from the Gold Rush, and the 1850s. I want to explore that trail.

We spent some time trying to find another trail, continuing upriver on the Sawtooth side, as shown on the 1962 TNF map, leading to a spot called "Watson's Crossing," presumably an easy ford, presumably named for famous local guide Robert Watson, of Tahoe City. We found several trails threading the shady woods, but nothing too convincing.

Short on time, we soon gave up on the upriver trail, although in retrospect I think we found it. Then came the long climb up and out, which took two hours.

It was a day of sun and blue skies and blue canyons, butterflies in October, ancient elfin oak groves, and it was another great day in the North Fork canyon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Errata and Addenda

With regard to recent messages I have sent, I have these additions and corrections.

1. Helicopter logging near Blue Canyon: part of Tahoe National Forest's fuel load reduction project, spanning lands from near Blue Canyon over across upper Fulda creek ad Forest Road 19. *Not* Siller Brothers' planned harvest at Lost Camp. The bomb has not yet dropped at Lost Camp.

2. Lands at Gold Run have not yet sold. I talked with Alan Ehrgott of the American River Conservancy, which has been working to make land purchases at Gold Run. He is in contact with the owners of the 800 acres, and has obtained a letter from them specifying they are willing sellers, important for Alan to proceed in getting grants. He says, tho, that the owners have "dangled before him" the current offer by the "aggregate miners."

3. Many names are scratched into the ca. 1965 footbridge at Euchre Bar. One is that of my friend Robert Johnson, author of the book "Thirteen Moons," which describes a year he lived in Green Valley in the early 1980s. Obstensibly trying to be "just one of the guys," Rob adopted a nickname while in Green Valley. And on the Euchre Bar Bridge's west railing you can find the words "Rattlesnake Cutthroat Johnson," and beneath that, in quotes, just as here, "he likes ice cream."

Rob always did have a great sense of humor.

That's all for now.

Monday, October 3, 2005

Up and Down Sawtooth Ridge

Sunday morning I met Dave Lawler and Catherine O'Riley at Iron Point, near the head of the Euchre Bar Trail (EBT), for an ambitious ramble, up the North Fork to the Blackhawk Mine, fording the river, then climbing the Blackhawk Trail to the crest of Sawtooth Ridge, following the Sawtooth Road along the crest for a mile or so, and dropping back down to Humbug Bar using the Sawbug Trail, fording the river again, and returning on the EBT.

To save ourselves some climbing, we parked down at the Rawhide Mine gate, and used the Lucky Three Claim trail to get down to the NFNFAR. At the river, some fine flat expanses of Shoo Fly Complex rocks flank the river for a ways, studded with red-flowering California Fuchsia. We followed down the river to the Ditch Trail, and used it to get on down past the confluence to the Euchre Bar Bridge.

The big pool below the bridge made pretty reflections of the canyon walls and Sawtooth Ridge, just upstream. Skies were mostly blue and it was still nice and cool.

Hiking towards Humbug Canyon, the EBT climbs a couple hundred feet to turn the corner around a spur ridge; the USGS Dutch Flat quadrangle mistakenly shows the EBT closely paralleling the river, without any such climb. We had quite enough climbing ahead of us, on Sawtooth Ridge; this business on the EBT seemed unfair.

After the style of my friend Jim Trabulse, I must relate that the exertion, at that perilously high elevation, was extreme in its severity, and severe in its extremity: sweat beaded our brows, carving small canyons through the caked dust and grime; our muscles writhed like snakes in the agony of painful yet never-ending deaths; our joints creaked and complained, and my kneecaps were close to exploding through my skin, and then through my pants, possibly injuring nearby wildlife, and crippling some innocent deer, or squirrel, or beauteous bird of querulous and plaintive song.

Enough of the style of Jim Trabulse.

Many are the gold-bearing quartz veins, many the old hardrock mines in that area. We passed a fallen stamp mill while scrambling down to the ford across the North Fork, huge masses of cast iron and giant cams and stamps and a "battery box" labeled Risdon Iron Works, San Francisco, California. This heavy equipment was likely skidded right down the canyon wall; somewhere above us, in the forest of Douglas Fir and Black Oak, would be a groove in the steep slopes, a century old, where the ponderous machinery was dragged down, over the course of several days, I imagine.

Some Water Ouzels were singing and chattering quite merrily, nearby.

The river was cold and upper-thigh-deep. Since I underestimated the depth, I merely rolled up my pants and carried my shoes; so I emerged on the Sawtooth side with wet pant legs. But the sun was shining and I made it across about ten minutes before the always-cautious Dave and Catherine, in all due prudence, stripped half-naked (the south half of course), to wade the clear emerald waters.

A Kingfisher flew across the river as we waited to get dry, in the sun.

We got ourselves back together and climbed past another fallen stamp mill, this one of the Blackhawk Mine itself, to the River Trail.

The River Trail shows on a couple old maps, running along the Sawtooth Side of the North Fork from a point downstream from the Blackhawk, up to Humbug Bar, and beyond. It has been abandoned and it quite hard to follow in places. Some reaches of this old trail have huge dry-laid stone walls, and I wished to show the best of this old stonework to Dave and Catherine.

So we passed by the base of the Blackhawk Trail, noting recent OHV tracks of the "quad" type, and walked on up the River Trail, which is about a hundred feet above river level, and holds such a level course that it may well have once supported a flume which took water from the North Fork, and delivered it to the Blackhawk, powering the stamp mill.

In a few hundred yards we reached the Amazing Place I had told Dave and Catherine about, where the River Trail rounds a cliffy promontory, and a dry-laid retaining wall of slate-like Shoo Fly rock had been built in a tight arc, and finished with carefully selected slabs, nearly two feet square, weighing a hundred pounds and up, in a remarkable tour de force of stone and geometry. A fine view extends down the river from this promontory; call it Stone Arc Point.

There, the OHVers, who had ridden right past the (regrettably, unenforced) OHV closure at the crest of Sawtooth Ridge, and had then walked up to Stone Arc Point, had tipped every last massive slab around the arc, into the river, below. So one of the prettiest examples of dry-laid stone masonry I have ever seen, was ruined, in the summer of 2005.

We took a break and admired the beauty of the North Fork and its canyon walls, and discussed what might have led to an interruption in the coniferous forest across the canyon to the south and west, where a grove of Black Oaks capped a spur ridge: was it something to do with the system of quartz veins? Black Oaks prefer deep soils. Or could it be a case of relatively shattered Shoo Fly rock, on an en echelon fault, parallel to the Melones Fault, a mile or so west?

Finally we started back on the River Trail, and began our climb to the crest of Sawtooth, on the Blackhawk Trail. This trail is actually an old road of sorts, with a gentle grade, hence it switches back and forth constantly, as it makes a climb of about 1900'. The notorious Volcano Fire of 1960 had crossed the North Fork onto Sawtooth in this area, and the road-trail looked as though it had been widened by a bulldozer around that time.

About half-way up the Blackhawk, one nears a spur ridge from Sawtooth which has an unusually flat profile at that level, around the 3000' contour, and as we approached this area, we passed an old gate of steel pipe painted yellow, now wide open, and soon saw a grassy swale with much in the way of Ponderosa Pine and Kellogg's Black Oak around it, many large trees having survived the Volcano Fire. Here again we rested, and I explored the swale and followed bear trails and found bear beds and, especially, looked for rounded, exotic rocks, for on the trail itself we had noticed some rounded rock, and taking into account the suddenly deeper and richer soils of this little area, I suspected an old till body might be present.

However, I could reach no definite conclusion, so far as glacial till.

Continuing, we passed out of Shoo Fly up into the "young volcanics" of the Mehrten andesitic mudflow, which I knew capped the last "tooth" of Sawtooth ridge, above and west, and in the general scheme of things in the Northern Sierra, as soon as one reaches these young volcanics, when climbing out of a canyon, they extend right to the top of the ridge above.

Here they did not, or at least, the Blackhawk Trail soon climbed back into Shoo Fly metasediments, and stayed in these to the crest of the ridge, at about 3900'.

The TNF sign almost hidden in the bushes there reads "North Fork American, 2. Blackhawk Mine, 3. Rawhide Mine, 2." This would agree with the probably entirely mistaken location of the Blackhawk Mine, on the USGS Westville quadrangle, at Humbug Bar. It also implies that a hiker's route would be via the River Trail, not the EBT, since this "false Blackhawk" mine is shown north of the North Fork.

The sign must post-date the Volcano Fire.

It was now 3:00 p.m. and we had the option of taking the easy route, via the Rawhide Mine, or sticking to The Plan. We had a mile to walk, roughly east, on the crest of Sawtooth, before reaching the historic Sawbug Trail, with two summits between us and the Sawbug. Dave wondered whether we could ever get back to the truck by dark.

I said, "Of course we can!" And off we went, in a direction almost directly away from the truck. Up and down and up and down. Point 4210' loomed above us, and Dave wanted to turn back. But we struggled on up and over this major "tooth" on the ridge, and soon reached the Sawbug, almost invisible, on the south side of the road.

We followed down through a few switchbacks to the first of a series of mine tunnels arranged in a north-south line, directly up and down the steep canyon wall. Here the line of the Sawbug has been confused by mine tailings and lack of use, and we did a fair amount of skidding down the steeps over slippery live-oak leaves to reach the Bear Bed Mine, and the resumption of the Sawbug.

The open tunnel here has a giant mound of dry leaves well inside, with a deep hollow in its center.

From here, the Sawbug makes a long descending traverse of the canyon wall, until one or two minor switchbacks are met, just above the bridge site at Humbug Bar. It is a delightful walk, down the Sawbug, with occasional bird's-eye views of the Dorer Ranch, in Humbug Canyon. We hung a left up the River Trail for a couple hundred yards to the old mining road switching back sharply downstream, and made our second ford of the North Fork, almost directly across from the confluence of Humbug Creek.

This required more partial nudity and more drying and redressing.

We climbed to the trail to the bridge site and followed it up Humbug Canyon until at last we reached the EBT itself, and struck back sharply right. An hour brought us to Euchre Bar Bridge, where a glorious sunset spread glowing golden clouds across the sky, to the west, the south, the east, and we took many photographs of these flaming clouds reflected in the giant pool west of the bridge. I stayed behind to take even more photographs, while Dave and Catherine forged ahead up the EBT and then right onto the Ditch Trail leading up the NFNFAR.

I didn't catch up to them until that awkward place is reached where the ditch ends, presumably changing there into a wooden flume, and some careful clambering over steepish rocks is required to continue up the river.

As we walked up the Lucky Three Claim trail, the stars were coming out, and by the time we reached the truck, Catherine's trusty old Toyota, it was about pitch dark, tho our dark-accustomed eyes had no trouble seeing the road at our feet.

It was just after 8:00 p.m. We had spent eleven hours walking perhaps ten miles, with about 3500' elevation gain thrown in for good measure. It was another great day in the North Fork canyon.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Sawtooth Ridge & the South China Trail, Again

Friday morning I met Jerry Rein of Cape Horn for a quick excursion to Sawtooth Ridge, our objective, to find and follow the lower portion of the 1862-era South China Trail.

This trail led from Lost Camp on the north, south across the North Fork of the North Fork American (NFNFAR), thence climbing south and east to the summit of Sawtooth Ridge.

It is one of the trails formally protected by Placer County in its 1953 Trails Ordinance.

Jerry always says, "I can't go too far, can't go too high, can't go too low: my knee, my shoulder, my wrist, my overall physical condition, will not permit a Russell Hike, Russell. So keep it short and easy and I will be fine." And then somehow, some way, we end up in some drastic canyon, dripping with sweat, just kicking rattlesnakes off the cliffs and breathing Face Flies and crawling under brush.

These Face Flies resemble miniature house flies. They try to get in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, into whatever opening presents itself: they are there, ready to enter. Fortunately they are not always around. When they are around, a sort of windshield-wiper action of one hand is needed to keep them away from your face.

So. I-80 to Emigrant Gap, south on Forest Road 19, across the NFNFAR, the East Fork of the NFNFAR, up to Texas Hill, right on the fork to Helester Point (a Forest Service fire lookout tower site, on one of the many Teeth of the Sawtooth), east to the head of Burnett Canyon, and then west on the Sawtooth Road, into Section 25, T16N R11E.

This area is shown on the USGS 7.5 minute "Westville" quadrangle.

We reached the fork between Upper (old) Sawtooth Road and Lower (new) Sawtooth Road. From the purple coloring applied to the lower road, and other information on the Westville quad, I deduce that the lower road was cut between 1952 and 1976. The odd-numbered "railroad" sections were logged by Southern Pacific Land Company in the 1960s (I guess--by the well-rotted appearance of the large stumps), and miles of roads and skid trails were bulldozed at that time. Then Southern Pacific sold off its lands, around 1985, and today these same sections are owned by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). SPI, I guess, conducted timber harvests out there in the early and late 1990s. There are some clearcuts, and more "selective" harvests, with lots of bulldozer yarding, in which logs are dragged to landings by bulldozers. The slopes are so universally scarred by these roads and skid trails it is actually difficult to find areas which were not disturbed. Within one single section, one square mile, Section 25, entirely within the canyon of the NFNFAR, there are miles of these roads, and many miles of skid trails.

Through this same Section 25, the South China Trail climbs from the river to the crest of Sawtooth Ridge, reaching the crest in TNF lands of Section 30, T16N R12E, at surveyed elevation 5094', a quarter-mile west of the Sawtooth Basalt. An old TNF sign, missing its sign-boards, just a lone 4X4 with peeling dark brown paint, lies on the ground there, just out of view of Upper Sawtooth Road.

The sign would have said "NFNFAR, 2. Lost Camp, 4," or something to that effect.

Like the Big Granite Trail and other old trails, TNF obtained an easement on the South China Trail from Southern Pacific Land Co., in 1950.

There are plenty of old Forest Service blazes up high on the South China Trail, in TNF parts of Section 30, and down low on the South China Trail, in TNF parts of Section 24, T16N R11E. Between these two patches of TNF lands is SPI-owned Section 25, and most of the South China Trail.

Often roads and skid trails were bulldozed directly into the line of the old trail, there in Section 25. Most of the trees which once held TNF blazes were cut down. So, to find and follow such a trail is an exercise in observation combined with good sense. What would have been the logical, the likely route of the trail? And is that scar on that Douglas Fir one of ten thousand scars caused by bulldozers bashing into trees, or dragging logs past trees, or is it in fact a "small i" TNF blaze?

These old blazes are almost always healed over, so only a faint pattern in the rough bark reveals the upright rectangle, with the square above it. The rectangles seem often to be eight inches or so high, by two inches wide, and the squares, two inches on a side. At times they are larger.

One also cannot discount the possibility that an old trail may have had more than one course or alignment.

I am looking at the map I have made on my computer, combining GPS data with a small portion of the digital version of the Westville quad, as I write this. The South China Trail does not appear on the Westville quad, but the North China Trail, below Lost Camp, is shown, albeit a little inaccurately. Earlier USGS maps did show the South China Trail, as do TNF maps from 1939, 1947, and 1962.

My map shows portions of the South China Trail discovered thus far as a black line. Various waypoints I obtained using GPS are marked along its length, and the approximate positions of the few blazes which remain, in Section 25, and the many blazes which remain, in TNF lands near the river, and near the crest of Sawtooth.

Jerry and I parked on Lower Sawtooth Road almost due south of the center of Section 25, at about 4480' elevation, and took a road descending northeast, clearly dating from the 1960s logging, but retaining too much forest cover to have been recorded in the 1976 photogrammetic revision of the Westville quad. In about half a mile we reached Snake Point, a remarkable vista point of jumbled slabs of quartz-rinded Shoo Fly metasediments, jutting northwest into the NFNFAR canyon, riddled with caves, and in another couple hundred yards reached a critical point on the line of the South China Trail (SCT). Here the SCT, climbing from north to south on the "main" logging road, suddenly turns east onto another logging road. There are large trees with blazes on both the north-south section and the east-west section.

We were interested in the lower, north-south section, and followed down the road north past a small log deck, at perhaps 4080' elevation. I had scouted the log deck area a few days ago, finding no blazes, so the road itself seemed the best candidate for the line of the trail. As we walked down the road, I scanned every tree anxiously, and gazed down into relatively undisturbed forest for any smallest sign of a trail.

Patience paid off: we found a good double blaze (one facing up the trail, one down the trail), a couple hundred yards down, and followed the road with more confidence another couple hundred yards, to another, single blaze, facing uphill.

Such a blaze means the trail is making a turn, here, down the slope. However, we were in a perfect storm of skid trails, and large boulders and debris had been bladed off the road onto the very slopes where the trail should have descended.

We began a back-and-forth reconnaissance of the slopes below the Last Blaze. We would range east and west, while dropping slowly. As it happens, we never ranged quite far enough west, missing some critical blazes by scarcely a hundred yards.

Dropping lower and lower to the north, we suddenly passed into TNF lands in Section 24. What a relief! No more logging, no more skid trails, just an ancient forest of huge fire-scarred Douglas Fir, over slopes so easy I was convinced we must be on top of the SCT. I kept on yelling out, begging blazes to appear: "Come on baby, I know you're there, just give me one blaze, just one, I don't care if the trailbed is buried under fir needles and branches, just one, single, solitary blaze!"

Jerry would religiously circle every large tree, scanning its trunk.

We began to hear the river, and were led west by something which one could easily imagine to be "the" SCT, passing huge, five-foot-diameter Douglas Fir. Suddenly the blazes appeared--one, then another, and then there was the trail, switching back down the last steep slopes to the river.

We were at about 3400' elevation, and directly across the NFNFAR from the North China Trail. We could even see the old cabin site near the base of that trail.

Following sensible Forest Service protocol, this switchback section of the SCT was so well-defined it did not require blazes, so there were none, or rather, we only found one double-blaze, on a Torreya trunk, midway down this last lowest section.

There are quite a number of the unusual conifer, Torreya californica, in the NFNFAR. They have the stiffest sharpest needles of any conifer native to California. In the Yew Family, they are sometimes called "Stinking Yew" from the pungent odor of their needles, when crushed or bruised in some way. They do not grow to be very large.

We cleared the old trail of debris as we descended, tho some sections were blocked by logs beyond our strength, where bears had beaten alternate paths. Nearing the river, the last part of the trail was not only overgrown by small Douglas Fir and Dogwoods of various species, but steepened a bit beyond anything above, confusing us, but we finally sorted it out and were led directly to a miner's storage-cabin thing, a wooden structure covered with tarps, with foam mattresses cast onto the slopes below.

This tarp-cabin was directly on the old trail, which continued nearly level to the southwest, downstream to Slate Camp, where Shoo Fly metasediments, more in the way of metasandstone than slate, are stacked up into a big fire ring with stone thrones all around it. Quite remarkable, really. Also, quite messy, with much in the way of garbage scattered about.

Here is where Ron Gould and I had seen, and been seen by, a river otter, last summer. As Jerry and I reached the river there, we scared some large bird, not a Great Blue Heron, perhaps a large owl, from a tree above the pool, and it flapped strongly away downstream a hundred yards, to a grove of Douglas Fir.

We rested a bit and ate our sandwiches and talked about the blazes we had just found. We were anxious to follow the SCT *up* from those blazes, since we had apparently missed it altogether while zig-zagging down from the Last Blaze on the logging road.

So we gathered our things up and I took my sweat-soaked shirt off and lashed it to my pack and up we went.

At the top of the switchback section, on a terrace of glacial outwash, with fairly heavy timber and faint signs of old-time mining, we found many blazes, leading straight up the slope to the south. We had entered this area from the east, on our way down. Eagerly we followed the blazes up, without much of anything in the way of an actual trailbed--not strange, considering the litter of branches and needles covering the forest floor, and the lack of use of the trail for forty years.

Suddenly we could find no blazes, and stumps were seen a little ways above. We were at the south line of Section 25.

Jerry ranged east, and I stayed west, and back and forth we went, for a long time, without finding anything.

At last I decided to range farther west, to the vicinity of a log deck just south of the section line. When Dave Lawler and I had followed the SCT up from the river, around 1998, we had not noticed the blazes, but instead just relied on instinct and the overall feel of the topography, and had been led right to that same log deck.

Reaching the log deck, at about 3500' elevation, I noted a ridge just above, at right angles to the river, with large Ponderosa Pine stumps. Those were the very trees which would have held blazes, were the SCT to have followed this "ridge route" up the canyon wall.

A skid trail led up the crest of the ridge, and since skid trails are often cut directly into the lines of historic trails, here in Placer County, I gave it a try. Again, patience paid off: a TNF blaze appeared, in a couple hundred yards. Higher, the skid trail split into multiple trails, and the most-logical, most-sensible criterion came into play, and I was rewarded with more blazes, and soon I had left this minor ridge crest and was aiming directly for the Last Blaze on the logging road above. Two more blazes showed I was on the SCT, and then Jerry and I converged for the final few hundred feet up to the road's Last Blaze.

Hence the Last Blaze actually marks a major switchback on the SCT. Above the Last Blaze the SCT runs north-south; below the Last Blaze, it runs more east-west.

This only leaves a section of about a quarter-mile in length, near the center of Section 25, undiscovered. The South China Trail has been turned into a series of logging roads and skid trails over almost every inch of its length across Section 25.

It is possible that the "trail past the old mine" I saw last Monday was a part of the SCT.

Another type of blaze is found out in that area, probably everywhere: a "three-high" surveying blaze, in which three scars are arranged vertically on a tree trunk. I have seen these "three-high" blazes near section lines, and on part of the boundary between Bob's Parcel and TNF lands in Section 30, T16N R12E.

I would like to see TNF acquire the SPI sections on Sawtooth Ridge and on nearby Lost Camp Ridge (dividing the NFNFAR from Blue Canyon), as well as the Siller Bros. lands around Lost Camp, and the Rawhide Mine lands, and Bob's parcel, and the private lands at the head of the Government Springs Trail at I.T. Coffin's old Big Springs Mine.

These acquisitions are needed to restore the historic trail system, and to avert more industrialized logging of the area, and to preserve open space. Ten years ago one would scarcely believe anyone would build a "chalet" or some awful thing on Sawtooth Ridge. But Bob is ready. Who knows, he may be on the point of subdividing his parcel into four forty-acre parcels, each one offering someone a chance to put up No Trespassing signs, build a house, and change open space to "closed space."

I have a special Forest Service edition of the Westville quadrangle which shows the east boundary of Bob's Parcel maybe 400' to the west of where he has placed four No Trespassing signs, bracketing both Upper and Lower Sawtooth roads, near their junction.

Jerry and I were very pleased to have found so much more of the old China Trail. Only a bit is left unexplored.