Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Foxholm, and Mike Case's Letter

Yesterday, scouting for sound, dead maple trunks to cut for firewood (the tight grain of the Bigleaf Maple keeps the wood amazingly dry, even after constant storms), on a steep hillside in the rain (it has rained or snowed continuously since March 1st, and my family has consumed a ton or five of firewood more than usual), I was staggering along beneath an ancient Kellogg's Black Oak, five feet in diameter but only twenty feet tall, broken down in storms decades ago, and almost, almost, but not quite, dead. I have often admired this recondite monster, with its giant burls. I noticed, yesterday, that a bear had been by recently, and clawed loose bark away from one of the burls. Climbing around and above the tree, I was passing it on a faint game trail when a plump grey fox suddenly jumped down from about ten feet above ground level and raced away. I suppose it has its den inside the monstrous oak, although I could not see the entrance. For an instant, while the fox was in mid-air, it was less than six feet from me. Foxholm of the Ancient Oak.

Those who have been on this email list for a few years will recall Mike Case's interesting accounts of trips down the North Fork with his son, Jason, from Euchre Bar to Mineral Bar.

What makes their trips exceptional is that they would spend a week or ten days or more making this distance, of maybe fifteen river miles. Hence they had time to really appreciate the great canyon and the river and the strange magic and mystery which seems to overtake one, there. Well do I recall Mike's stories of the ghostly Chinese music.

Also interesting is that Mike lives in Alaska and knows wilderness like few others. He flies into the back country and hunts and fishes and camps.

Yet he loves the North Fork American River like he was born and raised here.

Here is a letter Mike wrote to Mr. Ferenback of Friends of the River:

Dear Mr. Ferenback:

My name is Michael Case and I'm writing you from Alaska. I have a great concern about the deteriorating ascetic quality of the North Fork of the American River. I will try to keep it short. Above Green Valley there are a growing number of "mansions", or homes that rich people are building right on the canyon rim. Everyone who utilizes this portion of the river cannot escape the sight of these homes perched on the rim, overlooking everything wilderness minded people do on the river. I have been down this portion of the river several times and cringe when entering this section of river now. Using field glasses one can see the people up there sitting on their fancy decks with telescopes looking down upon us, watching our every move. These houses litter the landscape of the valley, and GREATLY detract from the "Wild and Scenic" quality of the river, and the wilderness experience.

My question is, why are these people being allowed to build on the canyon rim, within plain sight of everyone using the river, when this is a "Wild and Scenic" river? I thought the reason we had Wild and Scenic rivers was so people could get away from civilization and back to pristine nature. Are people going to continue to be allowed building and trashing the view from the river? I can just imagine the conditions 30 years from now if this dreaded building isn't stopped in its tracks now - there will be literally hundreds of homes lining the canyon rim, and the river will no longer have any "Wild or Scenic" value. If this sort of thing is going to be allowed, why not open the river back up to gold dredgers, motor cycles, atv's, etc. The Wild and Scenic quality of the river is being lost anyway. I find it very infuriating that this is being allowed.

Thank you for your time.


Mike Case

Thanks for that letter, Mike. I don't know what FOR can do, but they ought to do something about the vulture houses which try to impose themselves upon the great canyon, and upon all of us who love it.

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