Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Salmon-Cherry-Big Granite Loop

We were late. Late, for a very important date.

Catherine O'Riley and I drove up I-80 and then, from Yuba Gap, in past Lake Valley and Huysink Lake to the head of the Big Granite Trail, where we saw Ron Gould had already long since parked and set off hiking, on a roundabout route which would go by way of Salmon Lake to Middle Loch Leven Lake, thence down the Cherry Point Trail to Four Horse Flat, thence back up the Big Granite Trail, so recently restored, to the point of beginning.

Our task was to hurry and hurry and hurry, and thus to catch up with Ron, and his dog Otis, at Middle Loch Leven Lake.

But such tasks bore us and we wandered rather slowly along, pausing to photograph flowers and butterflies and whatnot, so that eventually we just gave up on ever reaching Ron, it being simply impossible he would wait so very long.

We kept on flushing grouse from the forest as we walked, and a sudden scary thundering eggbeater whir of wings would explode into action beside us, and the winged monster would zoom away to some more distant pine. The forest is dominated by Red Fir and Lodgepole Pine, with Jeffrey Pine on the sunny granite outcrops, of which there are many, especially around the Loch Levens.

We met people with dogs on the trail, some unleashed, and it can be a little worrisome when the owner of two large dogs just about goes apoplectic calling them to her, while we walked past. Half Labrador, half pit bull, were they?

Escaping the dogs' dire wrath, we eventually reached Middle Loch Leven, after being convinced we had entered some kind of Twilight Zone in which signs would read, "Middle Loch Leven, .4," then ".3" then ".2" then, unaccountably, "1.4," so we would never ever quite get there.

We did somehow arrive at Middle Loch Leven, and there were Ron and Otis. Catherine and I dropped down into the shade at the foot of the lake and had lunch while Otis amused us by swimming, and then coming over right next to us and shaking the water off.

Then The Duck arrived, and Ron put a firm grip on Otis's collar, as he strained forward, eager to tear the poor little thing, with its so-innocent little quack, its pathetic little quack of hunger, tear it, I say, beak from wing from tail from foot. For the pretty little duck sailed right up to us, quacking softly, and we came to realize it was begging for food. It was in fact a Wise Old Duck of the World, almost the furthest thing from an innocent duck.

Otis could only take so much of this pathetic quacking, and that up-close-and-personal, cute and coy flirtation our precious little duck made into a pure business. Eventually Otis lunged so hard he dragged Ron down and then burst free into the water.

The Duck swam slowly away, with Otis a few feet astern, swimming like a hero.

The Duck ever so calmly led Otis on a merry chase out into deep water a hundred feet from shore, and then back in to us (it could be that food would in fact be thrown, after all; and it never hurts to check); and Otis swam and swam and swam.

Such was lunch, watching the antics of Otis and The Duck. She looked to be a Mallard.

Gathering ourselves, we started down the Cherry Point Trail, surprised by how much use it showed, although, upon reflection, we remembered there had been a search and rescue operation in this area but a few days before. It is quite a nice trail. Where it leaves Middle Loch Leven a Forest Service sign reads "Big Granite Trail 3, North Fork American River 8."

We wound down through forest and sunny openings and past springy areas rife with flowers. The skies were blue, the sun was warm, and a breeze kept things fresh. Eventually we reached the lower section of the Cherry Point Trail, which became a logging road during the 1991 timber harvest by Sierra Pacific Industries, the same harvest which wrecked the Big Granite Trail.

At Four Horse we had a try at following the original line of the Cherry Point Trail across the meadow, from one ancient aspen tree to another, but this is not too easily done. We would like to re-open this historic alignment of the trail.

Only during our climb up and out of Four Horse were we seriously bothered by mosquitos; the sun was lowering in the west as we hurried along through the forest, admiring the great work done on the July 15 work party.

We figure it to be maybe a seven-mile loop. It could be a little rough finding the Big Granite Trail down in Four Horse Flat, but we hope to install a sign or two down there and make it easier.

Such was a fun day in North Fork country.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Painted Rock Trail

Below, hiker extraordinaire Julie shares her experiences on the Painted Rock Trail. A few words of introduction: the trail connects Squaw Valley to the Royal Gorge, but the lower several miles have been closed to the public for a few decades now. It remains open from the Soda Springs-Foresthill Road east up the North Fork, on past the Old Soda Springs, and over the crest into Squaw Valley. However, where the trail leaves the road, every possible parking place is marked with "no parking" signs.

I have written extensively about this area in the past. Here I will only remark that one can find parking by driving a quarter-mile past the trail (which is actually, at first, the old wagon road to the Old Soda Springs, and across the bridge spanning the North Fork.

The Old Soda Springs is one of the most beautiful and sacred places in all the North Fork, with its huge petroglyph site, tits meadows and mineral springs, and mountains hovering all around. There was a popular hotel here from 1870 to 1898; and one of the Big Four, Mark Hopkins, built a log cabin there, which stands to this day.

The Cedars is a private club founded about 1903 which owns several thousand acres in the upper North Fork.

A few of us, Kasa , Kathi, and I, have been wanting to visit the Painted Rock Trail for some time. You don't hear about it much, and you can't help but be intrigued because one end of it lands near The Cedars, in The Forbidden Zone, where we are told again and again, there is no parking for hikers. Yes , the trail is a public trail, but no, you may not park near it in order to hike it. Hmmm, what to do... Well, we thought, we could have someone drop us off, but that person would have to be mighty generous with their time to go down the long and rough dirt road, just to drop us off.. All the business about dropping one car off at our destination point, in this case Squaw Valley, was too much to think about. Finally we realized the best plan was to hike in from Squaw Valley on the Granite Chief trail and return the same way. It was my first time into Squaw Valley and I really was surprised at what I saw there, with regards to the very large complex of hotels and condominiums, and sort of a theme park atmosphere. I have to say, I was a little shocked. There are giant trams overhead carrying cars slowly accross the sky to see the views, apparently . The trams and their supporting towers seemed like something from a future, one or another, or from a distant world. Be that as it may, we pulled into a spiff and shiny and mostly empty parking lot and headed out on the Granite Chief Trail. A very well travelled trail with plenty of side spurs to various apartment complexes and whatnot. We passed and were passed by a few folks, jogging, walking their dogs, hiking, and then the populace dwindled away. The thing I liked best about the Granite Chief were the many very large old trees with huge ancient blazes on them. We passed what might be the largest lodgepole pine I have ever seen and quite near it an enormous ponderosa. And these trees looked extremely healthy, just magnificent specimens. With blazes as well. The trail heads up some gentle hills, then crosses some open meadows full of mule's ears, winds up across some mounds of granite and crosses some really lovely creeks for a few miles before joining up with the Pacific Crest Trail. The wildflowers are really at their peak, it seems, right about now. At the PCT we turned right and came out onto an open promentory from which we could see Devil's Peak in the distance, and Needle and Lyon Peak, Granite Chief, and some various others more close by, which Kathi was able to point out and name for us, having climbed most of them at some point.She is an enthusiastic climber of peaks large and small, and can usually name whatever mountains we might be seeing. Below us, we marvelled at the valley which would now be carrying much of what is considered to be the headwaters of the American River. Moving down from the ridge I was aware of the many tiny springs joining themselves to one another, to finally make small streams that bit by bit would add themselves to the river. The springs were always nestled in velvety grassy areas, with fragrant patches of flowers, all sorts of flowers. Considering the almost secret and forbidden nature of the trail as it nears the Soda Springs Road on the other end, I was surprised by how well marked it was off the PCT. Complete with the expected sign warning us to stay on the trail and not to trespass on the property of The Cedars. The top of the trail seemed well used, then less so, then hardly at all. We crossed over some more lovely streams and over smooth granite and brushy ledges, as the trail descended down to the floor of the river valley. In the meadows the path was completely obscured by giant crowds of tall plants and flowers taller then us. From above you would never see the trail, but your feet sort of fall into it and guide you on. Kasa led the way through this jungle-like wonderland, and she seemed to have a good feel for the trail even when it faded into total obscurity a couple of times. Oh, yes, a few people are using it, but the lush plants and large falling trees are easily overwhelming it in places.Following along near the river, it got louder and louder, increasing in flow and even making a couple of small waterfalls. When we came to the crossing we took off our shoes and waded through. It is quite cold up there. Achingly so after about a minute. But so clear and perfect. On the far bank the rocks are pink and blue and gray, and very smooth. A comfortable place to sit for a snack. After this crossing the trail became much more distinct, well travelled, which led us to wonder if the folks from The Cedars like to walk up that far, but not further. And actually, we did meet a group hikers who said they had come from there. They seemed friendly enough, but pointedly, I thought, asked us if someone was picking us up at The Cedars. It turns out they are various family members who get to stay a certain couple of weeks in one of the houses. Other family would have it at particular weeks of the year, and so on.This encounter fueled all kinds of speculation on our part with regards to The Cedars and however it came to be, and whether or not those girls were rich and snooty , or just average folks who were really lucky! ... Soon we started encountering houses off one way and another, and the trail became even more pronounced. We assumed we were in The Cedars, when the trail entered a roadway where we had lunch on a bridge over the river. We returned from this point and when we crossed paths once again with the girls, we learned we had not been to The Cedars. Instead some other names of these clusters of houses were mentioned. Closer examination of maps prooved this to be correct. We had passed the Bailey Place, then entered the Chickering domain, grouped around the Soda Springs. The Cedars, then is further on. That's pretty much the drift of this fascinating hike, except that later in the day, and going the other way, everything looks like a brand new trail. Also, returning to the edge of Squaw Valley and noticing Lake Tahoe on the other side of the ridge, I liked the feeling of imagining the dramatic valley before all this happened to it. It must have been quite a powerful place. Well, that's all, maybe see you on the Painted Rock, Julie

Saturday, July 22, 2006

To the Teacups

Friday dawned cloudy, and stayed cloudy, and summer thunderstorms were said to be brewing in the Sierra. Hence Ron Gould and I thought it the better part of valor to bid Responsibility a poignant goodbye and strenuously stray in search of Wildness and Beauty.

Ron suggested the Big Granite Trail, where our chances of rain would be high, but I made a bid for the China Trail, out of Lost Camp, and since the Big Granite Trail would end up meaning actual work (it is quite the demanding trail), we wavered a little but left I-80 at Blue Canyon and drove the two odd miles down south towards the railroad, before breaking left past a cluster of old houses onto the road to Lost Camp.

All this area is depicted on the USGS 7.5 minute Blue Canyon quadrangle, including the China Trail, which, however, is unlabeled.

Here a new house is a-building beside the road, and two signs which first appeared last summer remain, telling all the world that this marks the End of County Maintained Road, and moreover, to Keep Out.

This is a historic public road, dating back to the late 1850s, and it is an absurdity to tell We the People to Keep Out, but, hey, this is Parcel County. Parcel mining is an important part of the local economy, and to hell with the consequences.

One of the best ways to mine parcels is by way of the no-pun-intended Minor Subdivision, in which, say, one 40-acre parcel becomes four 10-acre parcels. The actual mining process often begins with a timber harvest. Then comes the subdivision, and then the sale of the new parcels. The new owners rush to nail up as many "No Trespassing" signs as possible, and then commence their desperate worries about Road Maintenance.

Road Maintenance costs money, and any use of the road whatsoever involves some degree of wear-and-tear, so, when the new owner stops and thinks about it, it is only good sense to discourage We the People from using the same road our great-grandfathers used. For goodness' sake, We the People will raise a cloud of dust, and our tires may well bounce a bit of gravel to the side. So, it is only prudent to go to Parcel County itself, and to explain the problem of people who do not own parcels using the very road which gives access to those parcels. Of course Parcel County comes through with flying colors, and an End County Maintained Road sign appears in all its glory, as official as a sign can be.

I have been a little afraid to visit Lost Camp and the China Trail, inasmuch as a major timber harvest has been approved, and at any time Siller Brothers lumber company could set their bulldozers swarming over the historic town site and trailhead.

Lost Camp boomed into existence in 1858, and was a hydraulic mining town from the get-go, a patch of auriferous Eocene-age river gravels capping the ridge dividing Blue Canyon from the North Fork of the North Fork American River (NFNFAR), said gravels only needing water to make men rich.

There is quite a maze of canyons in the area, all tributaries of the NFNFAR: Blue Canyon, Texas Canyon, Fulda Canyon, Sailor Ravine, the East Fork of the NFNFAR, Burnett Canyon, and Wilmont Ravine.

I breathed a sigh of relief when Ron and I reached Lost Camp, and we saw that the bomb had not yet dropped, the logging had not yet begun, and we passed quite a number of side roads before reaching that one particular road left which leads to the China Trail.

This trail is sometimes called the "China Bar Trail," suggesting that Chinese miners worked the river there; this is supported by the 1863 diary of Isaac Tibbetts Coffin, who lived at Texas Hill and used the trail frequently. He does not call it the China Trail, or the China Bar Trail, but does record that Chinese from Dutch Flat were in the business of purchasing mining claims in the area. Perhaps by the 1880s the trail had received its present name.

Lost Camp derives its name from the maze of many canyons, the Gorge of Many Gorges, which baffled mapmakers for decade after decade, and by the late 1850s, had led to a number of stories about Rich Diggings found, late in the fall season, and then lost, for, on the following summer, when the Sure Thing was to be worked down to bedrock, and all lucky enough to be involved would become Rich Men and go back East to the States, to live like barons in New Hampshire or whatever--on the following summer, the Rich Diggings could never, ever, be found.

So when at last an actual town was built, safely above and beyond the Gorge of Many Gorges, it was named Lost Camp, in keeping with the local traditions.

The China Trail once crossed the NFNFAR and climbed to Sawtooth Ridge, which is the divide between the main North Fork and the NFNFAR. The trail was built in 1862 to allow pack trains from Dutch Flat to reach the Texas Hill area, where a number of miners lived. It later became an official "system trail" in Tahoe National Forest (TNF), and like most such official trails, it had already existed for decades before TNF was established, in 1905.

So the trusty old rangers maintained the China Trail, and blazed the grand old trees along it, and drew it on their maps, and placed signs at either end (at Lost Camp and Sawtooth Ridge), and in fact did everything good forest rangers ought to do. And then ... and then the rangers stopped maintaining the China Trail, and the old railroad lands on Sawtooth were hit hard by timber harvests, and the usual welter of stumps and slash and skid trails obliterated the China Trail, on that side of the NFNFAR. Last summer Jerry Rein and I managed to find and follow the exact line of this historic trail, through the devastated area. We even found the old TNF signpost, at the crest of Sawtooth, the sign itself missing, the post rotting on the ground in the manzanita.

Well. Ron and I were perturbed to find that OHVers had been widening the China Trail for their "quads." Many a forty-acre parcel has been divided into four ten-acre parcels around greater Blue Canyon, and the new owners not only like "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs, they like riding their quads anywhere and everywhere.

Ron spotted a distant waterfall through the trees, which we took to be the 200-foot Burnett Canyon Falls, below Texas Hill.

Eventually we dropped below the recent OHV work and followed the old trail, with its Forest Service "small i" blazes now almost unrecognizable on the trunks of ancient trees, down to the NFNFAR, sparkling clear and cold. First we visited Slate Camp (as I call it), just downstream and across the river, where a truly great swimming hole is adjacent to a gravel bar much grown over with various dogwoods and other riparian vegetation, well hiding an elaborate camp with benches and thrones of stacked slate around a slate fire-ring.

It appeared the OHVers had preceded us, at any rate, garbage and bullet casings littered the area. Butterflies swirled around us, especially some which resembled Pine Whites, and flew in a lazy flip-flopping slow motion. Soon they discovered our sweaty clothes and packs, which lay in heaps around us, and I took many photographs.

I have been concentrating more on butterflies this year, and less on flowers, and having made the acquaintance of famous entomologist Art Shapiro of U.C. Davis, I send him my photographs, and he replies with genus, species, sub-species, and gender. Thus he will write, for instance, "The second photo is a female Speyeria callippe Juba."

The non-riparian forest flanking the NFNFAR is dominated by Canyon Live Oak and Douglas Fir, with lesser numbers of Incense Cedar and Ponderosa Pine, but with a somewhat unusual incidence of the California Nutmeg, or Torreya, a conifer. The largest Torreya I have seen in Placer County are near the base of the China Trail. These trees do not have cones, but bear single large seeds which resemble husky green olives. Torreya have very large and brash and stiff and sharp needles, of a glossy dark green, which stink unpleasantly if bruised.

We had the luck to see a Kingfisher, just bombing down the river, only a few feet above the water, so that at first I thought, "Ouzel," but then saw the brilliant blues and white and the crest on the head. And then it was gone, away and down the canyon.

We had seen a new truck at the trailhead, and decided to work upstream towards the Pool of Cold Fire, expecting to find some people along the way, which we did, a friendly young couple fly-fishing in midstream.

The young man warned us about rocks and rattlesnakes. I suppose that this was his Secret Spot, and we were unschooled interlopers. We did manage to stir up a rattlesnake as we boulder-hopped upstream on the left bank, but neither of us saw the thing.

The Pool of Cold Fire stops further progress upstream. The Gorge of Many Gorges begins here. Usually I swim the Pool and then use a complicated route to climb up and around a waterfall, dropping back down to the NFNFAR a little ways above the falls, where some fairly serious gorge-scrambling begins. It is this area some old aficionados of local gorges call The Teacups. The bedrock is all metasediments of the Shoo Fly Complex, mainly metasandstone, the strata nearly vertical, and it is scoured and polished into wonderfully rounded forms along the river,

We both tried on a little swimming in the cold water, but we had no method of keeping our packs dry while swimming the two hundred feet of the cliff-bound pool, and it appeared our rather modest explorations had reached an end. I sat on the gravel and scanned the cliffs across the way. Surely there must be some kind of fisherman's trail, or some old miners' trail, which would ascend those cliffs, and somehow, some way, lead up into the Gorge of Many Gorges? I decided to have a look.

With my usual acrobatic flair I jumped from boulder to boulder across the river below the Pool, and worked upstream to the cliffs. Sure enough, a route was found, which only required a little out-and-out rock-climbing, and once I saw that it would actually work, I went back and begged Ron to check it out. He was reluctant. Worse than that, he said "No." So. How could I appeal to his Better Nature, to his Higher Self?

How else than by Jealousy?

"Oh well," I offered, "you would really like it up there, Ron. It's that area, you know, which Steve Hunter and his Gang call The Teacups." I wished to convey the idea that the real studs of gorge-scrambling thought nothing of slippery cliffs and hot days and angry rattlesnakes and had ever so much fun doing what no one else in the world dared to do, so much fun they had to give the place its own special name. Few were the heros enrolled upon the short list of those who had braved the severe dangers which attend upon The Teacups, dangers which in fact throng all around The Teacups, hell, even if someone were bold enough to swim the Pool of Cold Fire, they were immediately brought to bay by the big waterfall. Fewer than few had ever made it beyond that supremely scary spot, etc. etc.

Well. Most of the above was only in my mind. Somehow, tho, it worked, and Ron relented and led the way back up the cliffs and, soon enough, we were amid those glorious Teacups, with high old cliffs overhanging on every side, and waterfalls and cascades and deep pools and water-polished miniature synclines and anticlines folding the almost-quartzite metasediments into tight arcs.

We only went a little ways, far enough to peer up the gorge and see about where the main NFNFAR enters the Gorge of Many Gorges from the north; for the main axis of the Gorge better aligns with the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork, than with the higher reaches of the NFNFAR itself.

Having succeeded in all our objectives, it only remained to slowly retreat back down the gorge, over the cliffs, to boulder-hop along the river below, and then make a sweat-dripping slog up the old old trail to Ron's truck. Our clouds had gradually drifted apart and let the sun shine into the canyon, so that great masses of warm air began to form, and it was time to take things quite slow and steady.

But it is only a 1500-foot climb, and the grades are easy. We reached the truck without incident and such was a great day in the North Fork country, great, yes, but disturbing on several counts, what with the Keep Out signs and the No Trespassing signs and what with OHVers transforming the historic foot trail into a quad trail.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Chief Weimar and the Barbour Treaties

Over the past winter and spring I offered up several anecdotes about Chief Weimar of the Nisenan Maidu, for whom the Placer County town of Weimar was named. I told a little of the story of the Barbour Treaties, of 1851, when an attempt was made to secure legal title to the lands of California, by negotiating with all the Indian tribes, and giving them generous reservations, in exchange for a quit-claim on all the rest. And I also transcribed Stephen Powers' 1873 Overland Monthly article, about the Nisenan Maidu.

Yesterday, prompted by a call from geologist David Lawler, I went in search of the actual text of the treaty negotiated with the Maidu, upon which Captain Weimar "made his mark." I could not find the governmental website where, a couple years ago, I had found a scan of the very map which accompanied this treaty, the map showing the boundaries of the Nisenan reservation.

However, I did find the text of the treaty, wherein we find Captain Weimar, of all people: "For and in behalf of the Das-pia: WEE-MAR, his x mark."

The "Das-pia" must have been a tribe or band of the Nisenan Maidu, presumably from the Grass Valley/Colfax area.

Local historian Pat Jones wrote that this treaty was signed at Storm's Ranch, over near today's Chicago Park, in Nevada County. But the treaty itself records its making, on July 18, 1851, at "Camp Union, near the Yuba River, ... ." I cannot find where this "Camp Union" was located. Ten years later, in 1861, a different Camp Union was formed near Sacramento.

The eighteen California treaties, negotiated by Commissioners Barbour, Wozencraft, and McKee, were delivered to the Senate by President Fillmore in June of 1852, and on July 8, 1852, the Senate rejected all eighteen of them. The Senate then caused these treaties to be sealed away in a secret archive, and they were not discovered until 1905.

Various tribes and bands of California Indians are understandably quite upset by the history of these treaties.

A treaty of peace and friendship made and concluded at Camp Union, near the Yuba river, between the United States Indian Agent, O. M. Wozencraft, of the one part, and the chiefs, captains, and head men of the following tribes, viz: Das-pia, Ya-ma-do, Yol-la-mer, Wai-de-pa-can, On-o-po-ma, Mon-e-da, Wan-muck, Nem-shaw, Bem-pi, Ya-cum-na tribes, of the other part.

The several tribes or bands above-mentioned do acknowledge the United States to be the sole and absolute sovereign of all the soil and territory ceded to them by a treaty of peace between them and the republic of Mexico.

ART. 2.
The said tribes or bands acknowledge themselves jointly and severally under the exclusive jurisdiction, authority and protection of the United States, and hereby bind themselves hereafter to refrain from the commission of all acts of hostility and aggression towards the government or citizens thereof, and to live on terms of peace and friendship among themselves and with all other Indian tribes which are now or may come under the protection of the United States; and furthermore bind themselves to conform to, and be governed by the laws and regulations of the Indian bureau, made and provided therefor by the Congress of the United States.

ART. 3.
To promote the settlement and improvement of said tribes or bands, it is hereby stipulated and agreed that the following district of country in the State of California, shall be, and is hereby set apart forever for the sole use and occupancy of the aforesaid tribes of Indians, to wit: commencing on Bear River, at the western line or boundary of Camp Far West; from thence up said stream twelve miles in a due line; from thence on a line due north to the Yuba river; thence down said stream twelve miles on a due line of the river; from thence south to the place of beginning, to have and to hold the said district of country for the sole use and occupancy of said Indian tribes forever. Provided, That there is reserved to the government of the United States the right of way over any portion of said territory, and the right to establish and maintain any military post or posts, public building school houses, houses for agents, teachers, and such others as they may deem necessary for their use or the protection of the Indians. The said tribes or bands, and each of them, hereby engage that they will never claim any other lands within the boundaries of the United States, nor ever disturb the people of the United States in the free use and enjoyment thereof.

ART. 4.
To aid the said tribes or bands in their subsistence, while removing to and making their settlement upon the said reservation, the United States, in addition to the few presents made them at this council, will furnish them, free of charge, with five hundred (500) head of beef cattle, to average in weight five hundred (500) pounds two hundred (200) sacks of flour, one hundred (100) pounds each, within the term of two years from the date of this treaty.

ART. 5.
As early as convenient, after the ratification of this treaty by the President and Senate, in consideration of the premises, and with a sincere desire to encourage said tribes in acquiring the arts and habits of civilized life, the United States will also furnish them with the following articles, to be divided among them by the agent, according to their respective numbers and wants, during each of the two years succeeding the said ratification, viz : one pair of strong pantaloons and one red flannel shirt for each man and boy, one linsey gown for each woman and girl, four thousand yards of calico and one thousand yards brown sheeting, forty pounds Scotch thread, two dozen pairs of scissors, eight dozen thimbles, three thousand needles, one two and a half point Mackinaw blanket for each man and woman over fifteen (15) years of age, four thousand pounds of iron and four hundred pounds of steel, and in like manner in the first year, for the permanent use of the said tribes, and as their joint property, viz : seventy-five brood mares and three stallions, three hundred milch cows and eighteen bulls, twelve yoke of work cattle with yokes and chains, twelve work mules or horses, twenty-five ploughs, assorted sizes, two hundred garden or corn hoes, eighty spades, twelve grindstones. Of the stock enumerated above, and the product thereof, no part or portion shall be killed, exchanged, sold, or otherwise parted with without the consent and direction of the agent.

ART. 6.
The United States will also employ and settle among said tribes, at or near their towns or settlements, one practical farmer, who shall superintend all agricultural operations, with two assistants, men of practical knowledge and industrious habits, one carpenter, one wheelwright, one blacksmith, one principal school-teacher, and as many assistant teachers as the President may deem proper, to instruct said tribes in reading, writing, &c., and in the domestic arts, upon the manual labor system; all the above-named workmen and teachers to be maintained and paid by the United States for the period of five years, and as long thereafter as the President shall deem advisable. The United States will also erect suitable school-houses, shops and dwellings, for the accommodation of the school teachers and mechanics above specified, and for the protection of the public property.

In testimony whereof, the parties have hereunto signed their names and affixed their seals this eighteenth day of July, anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one.

O. M. WOZENCRAFT, United States Indian Agent.

For and in behalf of the Das-pia: WEE-MAR, his x mark. [SEAL.]

For and in behalf of the Ya-ma-do: OI-TA, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Yo-la-mir: WAL-LE-PIE, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Wai-de-pa-can: KA-MA-LA, his x mark. [SEAL.]

On-o-po-ma: MAN-ARCK, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Mon-e-da: WAL-LEM-HOOK, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Van-nuck: YU-ME-AN, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Nem-Shaw: WAS-HI-MA, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Ben-pi: TI-CO-LA, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Sa-cum-na: YO-LO, his x mark. [SEAL.]

Signed, sealed, and delivered, after being fully explained, in presence of—

GEORGE STONEMAN, Lieutenant first dragoons, Commanding escort to Indian Commissioner.

JOHN CAMPBELL, Assistant Surgeon, Escort to Indian Commissioner.
E. S. LOWELL, Secretary, U.S. Indian Agency.

It is understood that the above-named boundary, running north from Bear River, will pass between Rough and Ready and Penn Valley; and in the event that a line due north from said point on said river should fail to do so, it will deviate so far as to include said valley in the reservation, and exclude Rough and Ready.


The Senate's July 8, 1852 rejection of this treaty reads as follows:

Resolved, That the Senate do not advise and consent to the ratification of the treaty of peace and friendship made and concluded at Camp Union, near the Yuba River, between the United States Indian agent, O. M. Wozencraft, of the one part, and the chiefs, captains and head men of the following tribes, viz, Daspia, Ya-ma-do, Yol-la-mer, Wai-de pa can, On-o-po-ma, Mon-e da, Wau-muck, Nem-shaw Bem-pi, Ya-cum-na, of the other part.

Such is a historical snippet. Or two snippets.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Big Granite Trail; Adventure at Home

Quite a number of people arrived at Yuba Gap Saturday morning to brave the wilds of Placer County and work up several sweats restoring the historic Big Granite Trail to passability.

It had been damaged by logging in 1991 and then again in 2004, by Sierra Pacific Industries. The trailhead is at 6600' atop the divide between Big Valley on the west and Little Granite Creek on the east, and is about a mile east and south of the popular Salmon Lake trailhead, and a couple of miles south of the Loch Leven Lakes. Hence a few miles south of Big Bend, on the South Yuba river.

The trail leads down to the North Fork American river over a distance of about six miles, dropping 3600'.

Ron Gould of the "North Fork American River Alliance" (NFARA) arranged for NFARA to "adopt" the Big Granite Trail under the Forest Service "Adopt-a-Trail" program, and so we had an air of legitimacy swirling about us, along with enough saws and shovels and mattocks and McLeods for an army. And we put them to work.

Quite a lot got done. For the first time since 1991 one can easily walk the original line of the trail down to Four Horse Flat. This is a minor miracle. So the day's efforts count as a complete success. A lot of dust was flying and some of us grew quite dark with amusing patterns of grime streaking our faces. Ron and NFARA did a great job putting this work party together.

I decided to write about this at 1:23 Sunday morning because I just had a most frightful accident here in the darkness of my cabin. I was innocently walking across the floor, in the total dark, and suddenly something seemed to be attached to my foot, something quite large, yet light; I stumbled, caught myself on the couch, and I noticed pain in one toe. I shook vigorously and the thing stayed attached. It looked to be about four feet long and for a moment I thought, "It must be my ice axe, which has somehow already impaled a stuff sack," for a nylon bag seemed to be involved with the thing.

What goes in must come out, so I reached down and tried pulling the thing one way and another to get it out of my toe. I failed. I was getting a cramp in my opposite thigh and wondered how I would ever reach the one light, a desk lamp tabled on the other side of my couch.

I carefully lifted up the end of the thing not attached to my toe, and realized it was the new backpack, actually an old Kelty frame pack, a wonderful thing, which my friend Alex had given me a few days ago. And I instantly knew what had pierced my toe and then held it in such a death grip: one of the little closed circles of spring steel which hold the nylon pack bag to the frame. If those little half-inch circles get tweaked, they open up slightly and stay open. My toe must have caught one just right, and it passed all the way through in a curving arc. Hence I could not shake it free.

So I tipped myself over onto the couch, trying to hold the pack attached to my toe steady, righted myself with all due agony, and planned an assault on the lamp, a mere three feet away.

At that moment it so happened that the geometry changed and like magic the hoop of spring steel slid back out the way it had come in. I was free.

There was amazingly little bleeding, although the hoop penetrated deeply into my toe. I was trying to force the skin to break and release me by kicking, but even vigorous kicking with a frame backpack flopping around, could not tear the skin. That's because it pierced the toe way below skin level.

So it was quite an adventure.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bears and Butterflies

First, a reminder that the work party to restore damaged sections of the Big Granite Trail, is scheduled for this Saturday the 15th, meeting at the Yuba Gap exit on I-80(south side) at 9:00 a.m., carpooling from there. Ron Gould is in charge of the project, and he wrote:

"This trail work is being done under the Forest Service’s Adopt-a-Trail program. At the trailhead we will have a sign up sheet, go over some safety issues and the trail work we will be doing. For the work we will be doing we need to wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, boots and gloves. We will also need to have signed parental or guardian consent for each individual under 18 years of age."

Second, I joined Catherine O'Riley for a visit to the damaged trail yesterday, which begins up around 6600' and reached Four Horse Flat at about 6000', on its way south to the North Fork American at 3000'. All the work will be at Four Horse Flat and above. Catherine wanted a preview. So we toured the trail, taking time to visit an interesting promontory of Sailor Canyon Formation metasandstone and slate along the way. This resistant set of strata seems identical to that making the rough spur ridges dropping into Big Granite Canyon from Cherry Point. The place was swarming with flowers.

We lunched late down in Four Horse, a meadowy area dotted with tall aspens and firs, where the Cherry Point and Big Granite trails actually meet. Since these trails have not been maintained by the Forest Service, the sign is missing, but the 4X4 post at the junction still maintains a forlorn vigil; for the laughing backpackers are gone, the trails, ruined by logging.

Well, we're going to set one trail right on Saturday.

There were small oceans of Pussy Paws where we lunched, with clouds of butterflies of many types and colors flitting from flower to flower.

We decided to follow the "old" alignment of the BGT south along the west (right) bank of Little Granite Creek. (The "new" alignment crosses Little Granite creek to the east side at the west end of Four Horse). This is quite a nice old trail. We saw signs that someone else has also been working to keep it open, recently.

In about a mile one drops a thousand feet and passes from the heavy timber of Four Horse into a modest and more open forest of Kellogg's Black Oak and Incense Cedar. The trail becomes a little problematic and we missed a switchback somewhere, crossing Little Granite a hundred yards or so below the true crossing.

I thrashed up through a patch of dense forest and found the eastside trail. Were we below or above the true (lower) crossing? As Catherine climbed the last few steps to me, I saw a somewhat brindled bear fifty yards down the trail, running away from us. It was a kind of grey-grizzled brown in color. We ventured south down the trail after the bear, and I heard a bit of crashing around below us, and wondered whether it was our bear.

We sat and rested. The sun was lowering in the west, and the shadow of the Sugar Pine Point ridge was about to engulf us. After five or ten minutes, I saw a spot of dark brown twenty feet up in a Douglas Fir just below the trail, and a moment later a tiny bear peered around at us, and rapidly descended the trunk. It loped away into the woods below.

That meant that the bear we'd scared off the trail, the brindled bear, was the mother. She could not be far, and we were interfering with at least one of her children. So we snatched everything up and marched quickly up the trail and well away from the bears, before actually pausing to put our packs on.

We made a slow slog of the climb up to Four Horse, enlivened by the buzzing of a rattlesnsake we forced off the trail. We found many trees down across the "new" trail in this reach. Clearly there is an opportunity for more work parties.

It was nearing sunset when we finally reached Catherine's truck, and we felt it had been a fine day, what with all the flowers, the slate promontory, the bears, and the rattlesnake.

Hope to see you on Saturday!

Monday, July 10, 2006

In Search of Old Trails and Pliocene Basalt

Sunday morning I whisked over to Grass Valley to meet geologist David Lawler for explorations up in Nevada County, near the popular Grouse Ridge hiking area. We had two objectives: to find and follow a certain old trail running up Canyon Creek (not Gold Run's Canyon Creek, but a major tributary of the South Yuba, joining the latter just above the town of Washington), and to visit one or more of the little patches of "Pliocene Basalt" as depicted by the USGS's Waldemar Lindgren in the ca. 1900 "Colfax Folio" geologic map.

So we piled into Dave's rattletrap old Jeep and zoomed slowly up Highway 20 above Nevada City. This is an excellent drive to get a look at the Tertiary (or "young") volcanics which cap so many of our ridges in this part of the Sierra. The roadcuts expose much in the way of the andesitic lahars or mudflows of the "Mehrten" formation, and occasionally one also sees the cream or white older rhyolite ash of the "Valley Springs" formation.

Highway 20 eventually descends into Bear Valley, at the headwaters of Bear River, where again and again the South Yuba icefield spilled over the dividing ridge into the Bear, wearing it down to near non-existence, and by the looks of things, a moraine-dammed lake formed, subsequently silting in the become the wet meadow we see today.

Here two branches or "feeders" of the Henness Pass Road met, one from Dutch Flat, the other from Nevada City, and continued north as one road across the South Yuba and on towards Bowman Lake and points east. This road was known as the Pacific Turnpike and was built by combined Irish and Chinese labor in 1863, opening for travel in 1864, when stagecoaches and freight wagons made great use of it. It led to Virginia City, Nevada.

We climbed out of the South Yuba on the Pacific Turnpike, passed the road right to Grouse Ridge, and soon we were paralleling Canyon Creek, a thousand feet below, and approaching the Windy Point Cliffs, we began scanning the roadside carefully for our lost trail. We passed one logging road dropping away west and south, then another, and then saw the duck some intrepid hiker had placed at the unsigned trailhead, and parked nearby.

This was a good match for our maps, but nary a blaze could be seen. The "trail" was a rough piece of road, hashed up into a welter of loose rocks by bulldozers and impassable for cars or Jeeps, and it led us down to the line of a canal, now defunct, which once issued from Bowman Lake, a mile to our north.

Here a broad bench cut ran almost level, still several hundred feet above Canyon Creek, which wound through masses of glaciated granite below us to the west. Rather than a ditch, this section had been flumed, and in its latest incarnation, which we guessed to be from the 1960s, PG&E had used a semi-circular metal flume, supported by gigantic timbers. I saw many a six-by-eighteen, and one does not see six-by-eighteens often. Apparently, PG&E had been much bothered by snow avalanches.

We could not tell if we were on "the trail," and if we were on it, where it left the line of the canal and dropped down to Canyon Creek. Scouting north, we found a tunnel, over eight feet square, blasted into the solid granite, where it seemed that once the flume had been hung from the very cliffs, but at last PG&E could not tolerate the avalanches, and drove the tunnel. We walked fifty yards into the thing and saw no hint of light ahead; it must have been a long tunnel.

Everywhere below the defunct canal were timbers and sections of metal flume, scattered by the many avalanches over the years. PG&E had even used complicated arrays of railroad track, welded together, to attempt to hold the flume to the cliffs, railroad track bent into special curves fitted to the ins and outs of the cliff itself. Now all that too lay in disarray.

We determined to drop directly down a steep bouldery gully to Canyon Creek, and to scout down there for our lost trail. We had to skirt the base of the cliffs to reach the gully (the one good rocky avenue in a sea of brush), and at a certain point, an old cable hung down the cliff, inviting one to grab it for support in a difficult area. Dave so grabbed, and instantly a boulder cut loose from somewhere above, and thudded to the ground a few feet away.

A near thing.

As we reached the base of the steep slopes, where timber grew in thick glacial till, we ran into a welter of skid trails which boded anything but good for our chances of finding the old trail.

As it turned out, we were too far north, and should have followed the defunct canal south. Howsoever, we enjoyed a nice reconnaissance of Canyon Creek as it wound past glaciated granite domes, in a series of waterfalls and gorgeous deep pools. We had lunch near two of these waterfalls and pools, and admired the granite, which was sort of porphyritic, a crystal mush as all granite is, but this particular mush dotted with raisin-sized raisins of white feldspar, which were left as a billion tiny eminences rising ever so slightly above the glaciated surface.

We scouted north, following a bulldozer skid trail which, of course, might well be the line of the historic trail, since that is apparently how Tahoe National Forest mismanages its own trail system, i.e., TNF allows the trails to be obliterated by timber harvests. When I saw how close Canyon Creek pinched in towards the base of the windy Point Cliffs, I realized we were too far north, and we made an about-face and marched south, scanning what trees remained for old Forest Service blazes, without any luck. We had some nice strolls across large expanses of glaciated granite (this "granite" may be part of that pluton known as the "Bowman Lake Pluton"), but the afternoon was wearing on, and we wished to visit some basalt to the north, so we began climbing up and away from Canyon Creek as we made distance south, hoping to strike the line of the old trail.

But all we struck were more skid trails, logging roads, and log decks. Eventually we decided to just flail up the steep slopes and find a way to the road and the jeep. As we reached the steeps, I remarked, "You know, we should be in the right area, we could find the damn trail even now," and about ten seconds later I saw my first "small i" Forest Service blaze of the day. We had found the trail.

Following it up was a little troublesome, for almost no one has walked it for many years, and no wonder, as long stretches of it have been erased by logging. The trail is about buried beneath woody debris from the conifers along its line. We found more blazes, however, and soon had reached that same defunct canal. Here we lost the trail again, and scouting higher, found no trace, but reached the good old Pacific Turnpike, and walked a quarter-mile north to Dave's Jeep.

We deduced that the ducked bulldozer road we had followed down to the defunct canal does indeed form part of the old trail, and that once one reaches the canal, one has to follow it south a couple hundred yards or so, before the trail continues its descent to Canyon Creek. We had followed it north.

The road worsens as one approaches Bowman Lake, an old hydraulic mining reservoir, as were Lake Spaulding and Fordyce and Lake Valley and many another, now used by PG&E for water storage and power generation. Its dams have been raised since the olden days. When the Pacific Turnpike was built, the lake was, I believe, still a lush meadow a couple miles long, surrounded by high wild mountains of mixed granite and metamorphic rock, with precious little forest, the glaciers having had their way with things. Here and there an alcove in the cliffs preserved some glacial till, and some real timber flourished.

About midway east along the north side of the lake, on the Turnpike, a very rough road forks away north to McMurray Lake and Weaver Lake. One of my basalt locations was at the outlet of Weaver Lake. I wished to gather a sample for Dr. Brian Cousens of Ottawa, Canada, who has been engaged for years in the study of the youngest of the young volcanics in this part of the Sierra, mainly around the Squaw Valley Eruptive Center. There are a number of tiny relicts of basalt scattered in the middle elevations, well away from the various eruptive centers long the present Sierra crest, and these youngest-of-all Tertiary volcanics should help us unravel the history of the incision of our modern canyons. These Pliocene basalts are found only on the ridges dividing our present canyons. I have gathered samples for Brian from Sawtooth Ridge, between the North Fork American and the North Fork of the North Fork American, and from Lowell Hill Ridge, between the Bear and Steephollow, and from various other localities.

So, I find good unweathered chunks of basalt, and mail them off to Brian.

As Dave and I reached the north end of the lake, which drains north to the Middle Yuba River, a couple miles away, we saw part of the basalt, a rubbly mound rising almost a hundred feet above the road. We gathered our gear and climbed to the summit, where one can find blocky basalt cut smooth by the glaciers, with striae visible. Soon we realized that the flow was rather extensive, and scouted north along its almost flat surface, where it fell away in increasingly steep cliffs.

Geologists are alert to the difference between the lee, or down-ice, sides of rock outcrops, and the stoss, or up-ice, sides. Glaciers will pluck away rocks from the lee side, leaving cliffs, while the up-ice, stoss side, will show a gently curved and smoothed surface. The Weaver Lake Basalt exhibits this pattern to an alarming degree. We found ourselves skirting the edge of a rather monstrous and strangely steep cliff.

To the north, another part of the same flow had preserved more of its original thickness, being away from the axis of deepest ice. Pyramid Peak, as it is named on the map, exposes perhaps as much as five hundred feet of this same basalt.

The basalt itself was fine-grained and quite dark in fresh exposures, weathering to a light gray. It exhibits a weak columnar structure, but nowhere did I see good hexagonal columns, and all in all it has much more of a blocky character, than columnar. It is perhaps a half mile by a quarter mile in lateral extent, by about one hundred feet thick, there at the north end of Weaver Lake, and is almost bisected by the outlet of Weaver.

Dave and I slowly approached the ravine cut into the basalt where the Weaver waters escape to the north. We began to realize that the lee-side steepness of the cliffs was more than a little strange, it was a lot strange; for directly beneath the basalt was a 20-foot-thick section of rhyolite ash, and beneath that, a couple hundred feet of indeterminate soft sediments, likely also related to the rhyolite ash. And all this was much, much, much weaker than the basalt, and, facing north as it did, at an elevation not far short of 6000', was exposed to severe frost and thus to frost-sapping, an important agent of erosion, but here carried to extremes. For our basalt cliffs were not just steep, they were overhanging. At times while we had wandered the edge of the cliff, we had been standing on these massive overhangs without realizing it.

The creek itself drops over part of the overhanging section, and makes a pure out-and-out waterfall of at least one hundred feet. This would make for quite spectacle at higher flows. Yesterday, a modest amount of water simply dropped away into empty space. It's quite scary to approach the edge, there, but one tiny pine allowed us to lean over and look straight down the falls. Wow.

We were much impressed with this overhanging topography, and felt that luck had blessed us once again, for all we had imagined was scrambling up some knoll of basalt, and collecting a few samples with Dave's rock-pick.

Whereas it turned out we had stumbled upon one of the more interesting and unusual places in this part of the Sierra. I can't think of another waterfall like this one. Weaver Lake is beautiful, Pyramid Peak is bold and beautiful, but the Weaver Lake Basalt and its overhanging cliffs are, well, amazing, scary, and also beautiful.

At last it only remained to make the long drive back to Grass Valley, where we arrived about eight in the evening, sunburned, dusty, a little sore, but quite satisfied with our explorations.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Visit to Cherry Point

Monday July 3rd Ron Gould and I drove up to Yuba Gap and then in past Lake Valley and Huysink Lake to the unmarked beginning of the Big Granite Trail (BGT). This historic public trail was severely damaged by two timber harvests in 1991 and 2004, where it passes through lands belonging to Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).

It so happens that Tahoe National Forest (TNF) has no money to maintain this trail, to repair the logging damage, or even to put a sign at the trailhead. Hence it falls to We the People to fill the breach and do the work. On July 15, we will meet at 9:00 a.m. at the Yuba Gap exit on I-80, which is the last exit, eastbound, before Highway 20 to Nevada City, and drive on in to the trailhead. Ron and Catherine O'Riley have been lining up volunteers, and he thinks at least a dozen will be on hand, but more are welcome and needed. Long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and gloves are required, along with loppers, small saws, rakes, shovels, and whatever else seems good for rebuilding a trail. Mosquito repellant will be of use.

Our Monday visit was a final reconnaissance of the work, in which we marked the alignment of the trail through the damaged areas with flagging, to be removed once the work is done. We continued down through Four Horse Flat to where the BGT crosses Little Granite Creek to its east side, thence following miles down the canyon before rounding the toe of the dividing ridge to a crossing of Big Granite Creek, still farther east. From there the BGT drops one last mile to the North Fork American River. It is one of the more spectacular trails in all TNF.

Having completed our work, we wished to visit Cherry Point, high on the divide between Little Granite and Big Granite canyons. There is an unusual amount of brush on Cherry Point, which we must avoid, but I was in favor of just thrashing straight up the canyon wall, and hoping for the best, allowing ourselves to drift north if ever an obstacle was met, so that we would enjoy the shelter of a patch of fir forest extending to the summit. By a minor miracle we did avoid getting trapped or turned back by brush, and slowly zigzagged up the climb of a thousand feet.

Nearing the ~6800' summit, we struck a rocky area where a more resistant stratum of the Sailor Canyon Formation cropped out, and availed ourselves of it for the last of the climb. A final screen of White Fir forest lay between these rocks and the summit, and one monstrous old fir had a large number of deeply-worn bear footprints all around it, but no bear "bed," as is common enough on the uphill sides of large conifers.

There are many native cherries growing on Cherry Point, but an almost flat summit plateau has large flowery openings between small groups of Red Fir, and we wandered around a bit, aiming for the highest point in this gentle terrain, where, on the east side, facing Snow Mountain across two-thousand-feet-deep Big Granite Canyon, we knew we should find a rocky area commanding a wide view.

A bear trail seemed to offer access to that area, but wandered maddeningly off-line, to the point one doubted it could ever reach our rocky viewpoint, but in a final flourish of intricate zigzags through heavy manzanita, the good old bear led us exactly where we wished to go.

The view was quite nice, extending south to the Crystal Range, north to Castle Peak, and offering intimate views of the west face of mighty Snow Mountain, to the east. Close at hand southward was the great gulf of the North Fork canyon, and across this monstrous abyss we could see directly into New York Canyon, and in particular, we could see its exceptional 500-foot waterfall, now reduced to a wispy froth of white water, since the snow has all melted, in its headwaters.

Since one has quite a nice view of Cherry Point from this waterfall, the reverse must be true, and now for the first time I saw that it is true, and I am all the more inspired to ski in to Cherry Point in the spring, and see the bigg waterfalls at their biggest.

We could also see the 600-foot series of falls, perhaps best considered to be one waterfall, dropping into Big Granite Canyon off of the west face of Snow Mountain; but the big waterfalls on Big Granite Creek itself were hidden from us.

I could see the very Western Juniper tree, two thousand feet below, which Tim McGuire and I had slept under, back at the beginning of June, when we visited the waterfalls there.

Flowers abounded, Indian Paintbrush, a blue Penstemon, many Mariposa Tulips, and a montane species of Wallflower, were especially notable. There were also many butterflies up there on the summit.

As the sun began to lower we returned, descending more to the north, and striking the Cherry Point Trail, which SPI converted into a logging road in 1991, and following it south to Four Horse Flat and the BGT. Then a slow slog up through mosquito-infested forest brought us back up to Ron's trusty old truck.

A great day, near the great canyon.

Contact Ron at

for more information on the July 15th work party.