Saturday, June 3, 2006

Again to the Iowa Hill Canal

I met two very hardy hikers at a very early hour, Friday, for the thirty-mile drive up Foresthill Road to the Beacroft Trail and the good old Iowa Hill Canal. Julie and Kathi are fascinating women, quite independent in spirit and bold in their explorations. In fact, they are more than liable to hike poor old me right into the ground.

The IHC was built in the early 1870s, never completed, and it just ends, suddenly, below some little cliffs on the Tadpole Canyon-New York Canyon divide, more or less directly across the North Fork from Sugar Pine Point, and about 2500 feet above the river. Had it ever been completed it would have extended all the way up the canyon to near the Old Soda Springs, and robbed the waters of every tributary entering the North Fork from the south: Wabena, Wildcat, Sailor, and New York canyons, while robbing the North Fork itself for good measure.

We walked north past the Beacroft and then blundered through a patch of timber until we found and followed the Old Chinese Road, which drops NE to the IHC. Some nice clifftops are near, and we admired the view across the NF to Big Valley Bluff. Kathi surprised me by instantly naming all the snow peaks within view (Snow, Castle, Basin, Red Mtn.); for she has made a hobby of visiting the mountains in this area, and knows them well.

We spent some time clearing woody debris off the old road, built 135 years ago, about, by Chinese men from the Canton area. One must also attribute the lion's share of the work on the IHC itself, to these Wongs and Fongs and Lees.

Most all the snow is gone now, from the Canal, and Tadpole has subsided, too, and may be jumped safely where the IHC crossed, which was not the case on May 18, when I was last there. The Plainleaf Fawn Lilies still flower in force.

We reached the Big Brush, which stops one from following the IHC east to its end, or beginning as it were, since it is the upstream end of the thing. Lovely clouds painted the sky in a multitude of colors and textures and forms. We could see Lower Cherry Falls miles away in Big Granite Canyon, the upper 150 feet, anyway, where Tom McGuire and I had screamed and shouted and laughed and danced until finally we subsided into stunned and silent awe, just a few days ago.

After a leisurely hour munching snacks, we retreated back to the Beacroft Pass and entertained vague ideas of visiting New York Canyon, were the road clear of snow, yet.

And the road was clear. But, merrily driving along, I suddenly saw that my Subie was out of gas. Impossible, but true. So we had to cancel further hiking and head back down the ridge to Foresthill. At least now I know my gas gauge can read way below Empty, and the Subie still runs.

Such was a brief but enjoyable visit to the middle-upper canyon, or the upper-middle; at any rate, we were pretty near the heart of the matter, and it is a wondrous heart.

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