Thursday, April 27, 2006

Green Valley, Hours Ago

It so happened that just while Jim the Miner was sending me his missive about Green Valley, as he knew it fifty years ago, I myself was in Green Valley, this morning.

I used the Iron Point Trail, off the Euchre Bar Trail, and lopped myself silly making the descent to the great ditch of the Green Valley Blue Gravel Gold Mining Company. It was already sixty degrees at eight in the morning, and I was in a t-shirt as I strode down the Euchre Bar Trail, still without water bars, by the way, and showing the signs of heavy flow directly down the trail-bed, all the way to the "secret" fork right to Green Valley.

This secret fork is just a few dozen yards above the beginning of the "switchback section" of the EBT. As one descends the EBT, the trail follows a narrow swath of serpentine for a time, and at a certain point, below the serpentine section, the trail almost coincides with the crest of the ridge, and one can see west to Giant Gap through a screen of Kellogg's Black Oaks, just now breaking their buds with fresh new leaves.

What appears to be a game trail leads away west into the oak grove, and becomes better defined as it arcs briefly north before dropping south and west in switchbacks, to the crossing of a vibrant stream, at a small waterfall.

This stream flanks the EBT ridge to the west, and as this ridge of old was named "Trail Spur," perhaps the ravine should be called Trail Spur Ravine.

After the crossing, the Iron Point Trail levels and follows the line of an old mining ditch before dropping to a certain saddle separating East Knoll from the main canyon wall.

From the saddle the IPT drops west into the east end of Green Valley, in multiple trail alignments, of which the principal trail is in the axis of a shallow ravine heading at the saddle. But it remains somewhat badly overgrown in a few places.

Once on the ditch of the GVBGGM, I made good time and was soon on those lovely marble cliffs plunging to the river, at the very eastern end of Green Valley.

Unfortunately, one of the houses out on Lovers Leap Road, on Moody Ridge, looks directly down on this spot, and is painted garishly, and is a mark of shame on Placer County. Although I was in a magnificent area of marble cliffs with masses of yellow Monkeyflowers sprouting from the crevices, and a green lawn of grass covering the old bench cut, and the North Fork raging and swirling below, made large by the warm weather of the day before--although I was in Paradise, I could not abide that gruesome house, and fled up the canyon and around the corner, into the Euchre-Green Valley Gorge.

I wanted to see what Sugarloaf Ravine would look like at river level. This is the stream which makes such a fine high waterfall, across the canyon from Iron Point. My mental image of this ravine is that it enters the Gorge about halfway through. And then, every time I am there, I realize, "Silly me! It is much closer to Green Valley than to Euchre Bar!"

Once again I rediscovered this fact.

I left the ditch and dropped through lush poison oak and scattered dwarfish Canyon Live Oak and Bay Laurel and minor talus, to the brink of the inner gorge itself, directly across from Sugarloaf.

A fine waterfall of maybe sixty feet dashes down into the roaring river. I picked my way up and downstream, taking photographs, fearful of the steep and mossy rocks, still in morning shade, still wet with dew.

I found potholes sixty or eighty feet above river level, incised during the Tioga glaciation, when the gorge was choked with glacial outwash, filled up to some level above these potholes. Similar potholes can be seen in Giant Gap.

Returning to the ditch, I lopped along up the canyon, and passed some rather bold cliffs on the left. I studied them; from their tops, a couple hundred feet up, one would certainly see farther up Sugarloaf Ravine to the big waterfalls above. Should I climb up now?

No. I was sweating and over-exercised, what with all the lopping. I continued along the ditch, crossing Trail Spur Ravine, again, near large waterfalls and cascades, and soon came to the end.

It's not really the end; the GVBGGM canal crossed the North Fork on a flume, and one can find and follow the same ditch on the far side.

If one can cross.

Retreating to Trail Spur creek, I rested and ate half a sandwich. A waterfall above beckoned and I fought my way up to the thing, quite pretty, a broad sort of double falls maybe fifty feet high. The local country rock is part of the Mesozoic "screen" between the Melones serpentine of Green Valley and the Shoo Fly Complex metaseds of Euchre Bar itself and points east. Here, by the falls, the rock was thoroughly folded into little synclines and anticlines of rhythmically-bedded limy sediments. The more calcareous portions would wear away faster, and left a delicate, finely-ribbed appearance to the folds.

From the falls area I noted a game trail leading away and upwards, and having from the beginning planned to reascend the East Knoll by some cross-country route or another, I decided there was no time like the present, and began the climb.

The game trail seemed suspiciously broad and well-graded, and I was reminded that vestiges of an old human trail had been seen up by the Saddle, near East Knoll; it was not impossible that this trail connected to that.

I climbed slowly west and down the canyon, and soon enough found myself atop the view-cliffs I had passed earlier, and paused to photograph the various waterfalls in Sugarloaf Ravine.

Above me, a narrow band of serpentine supported scattered Digger Pines and too much buckbrush, and I began to have some trouble. The sun was bright and the day was warm, surely eighty degrees in the sun. I had laid off the lopping but, having spent too much time at my desk for these past seven weeks, I was maybe a little out of shape; for I rested often.

At a certain point, panting, sweating, trying to break free of the buckbrush, I stepped onto a little cliffy outcrop, and immediately stumbled, my right foot tangled in brush.

No problem, set the left foot down, transfer weight, ... oh oh! My muscles were too weak, and my stumble became a slow-motion fall forward, over the little cliff. At that moment I withdrew my right foot from the brush and thought to make a little jump, down four feet, and be glad it's over, but, no.

My right foot stabbed down to the rock, seeking only a platform (no purchase, just push off), and got stuck in a deep crack!

All this happened in less than a second.

I had a choice: swan dive or somersault. Somersault looked a lot better. But there was a chance, a slim chance, I could prevent either, and so, while falling, I collapsed my knees and reached below my feet with my hands, grabbing the rocks and just by an ace keeping myself from going over.

At that instant, a severe cramp tore into my right calf and I screamed.

Fortunately I held on, and in another second or two had extricated myself from the rock trap. My calf felt like it was on fire and I could not walk except in agony. I collapsed into a puddle of shade and the agony continued.

After a few minutes I stood up, and for a moment, thought, "This is serious; I am far from the car, and this leg is almost unusable; maybe I should drop back down to the ditch, and take the trail back?"

But a little slow climbing and patience saved the day. I surely did not want to give up the five hundred feet of elevation I had just gained.

Just above the trouble section, I entered a marvelous Black Oak-Ponderosa Pine woodland, on the south- and east-facing slopes high on East Knoll, and soon came upon scattered garbage of a hunters' camp. They had left camouflage tarps, a plastic water barrel of perhaps thirty gallons capacity, and various odds and ends. It looked as though they may have stayed there one night in November. I gathered up what I could, and continued, angling through the forest on a nearly level line, and soon I was back in the Saddle, which meant, more climbing, much more climbing.

But, I took it slow, and slogged on up to the car, reaching it at 1:00 p.m.

It had been a brief hike of five hours, looping around East Knoll and getting some very good looks at the waterfalls of Sugarloaf Ravine.

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