Monday, January 15, 2007

Green Valley News

[written January 15, 2007]

This morning I received a call from Steve Hunter of Colfax, an active man with a penetrating and curious mind, who has explored these Placer County canyons as have few if any others, since his childhood in the early 1950s.

I mean, as dimly as I am aware of his exploits, I know they exceed my own. Roping down the middle of thundering waterfalls: for goodness' sake, you wouldn't catch me doing that.

But Steve Hunter has. And not just once, either. He's seen gorges you only can see if you actually *do* rope down waterfalls.

Steve loves Green Valley. Yesterday he and Dan Mathers and several friends dropped down into the great canyon on the good old Green Valley Trail, hewed to the western side of things, and eventually found themselves just across from the Gold Ring Mine, on the sand bar at the head of the pretty pool on the river which reflects Lovers Leap, looming half a mile high to the west.

Here they busied themselves collecting the garbage left there last summer by some miners, and without wasting much in the way of time, they hauled several loads up to the old Incense Cedar tree in the meadow, near the wooden trough.

What, were they calling it quits?

Oh no.

From there they worked east to the Old Hotel Site, below Joe Steiner's Grave, where another mess of garbage lay in frozen masses. This too they gathered unto themselves, but this they carried up and up and up and up and up, and finally, completely out of the canyon.

Steve reports that they had to leave a frozen sleeping bag, weighted with ice, behind, but they certainly made some great strides in keeping the fine old Valley clean.

We made sounds about plans to plan to go back down and haul up the rest of the trash, with as many people as we can muster, and hit a lick on the trail too, and who knows but these fantasies may become real.

Friday, January 5, 2007

The Mysterious Ming Sun Tai

[written January 5, 2007]

***Curiosities Bearing Upon the History of Gold Run***

"At twilight, in the placer-scarred bed of Canyon Creek, South of Dutch Flat, Ming Sun Tai lighted a stick of incense from the glowing end of his fifty-cent cigar."

Over many years of enquiry into the history of Dutch Flat, Gold Run, etc., a number of curiosities have crossed my path. For instance, James Stewart of Gold Run, who once owned the "800 acres now for sale," comprising most of the Diggings, and the lower two miles of Canyon Creek, was not only born here, around 1885, but was a student of the local history, and amassed a large collection of materials, much of which was lost after his death, when his house was looted. Rumor had declared his fine old house full of gold nuggets.

This was around 1965 or so. Another Gold Run resident, hearing of this, walked out to the old Stewart place, in the Diggings, to see the looting for herself, and picked up a number of papers scattered in the mud.

Thirty years later, she let me see these papers. Among them was a letter written by Stewart, and dated to 1931, which described the discovery of gold at the head of Indiana Ravine, in 1851, and mentioned that the rich ground there was drift-mined, until, eventually, a Chinese company headed by one Tia Sing leased the old workings and hydrauliced away what remained.

Hence the Secret World, that isolated pit on the verge of the North Fork canyon, with its little stone cabin.

Now, one should not blindly trust historical sources, not even James Stewart, who grew up in this area. He was born too late to see hydraulic mining in full swing, although he did see it; in fact, there are photographs extant showing the young James Stewart, neatly dressed, watching a monitor at work, around 1895.

And the annual Report of the State Mineralogist, for 1896, records a Chinese company working at Indiana Hill. This can only be the very same company Stewart mentions, in his letter of 1931.

However, in 1896, this Chinese company could not have legally hydrauliced the old drift ground of the Secret World. Either we must imagine they operated illegally, or we must conclude that Stewart was mistaken. To me it seems much the more likely Stewart was mistaken, and that the Secret World was hydrauliced before the end of 1881, when the injunction against further discharge of mine tailings at Gold Run took effect.

That is, whatever the Chinese Company was up to in 1896, it was not hydraulic mining.

I wish I had known James Stewart. He seems quite an interesting man. He was the personal friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and of author Jack London, for instance. Could he have been acquainted, also, with author Hugh Wiley? The man who created the character of James Lee Wong, Chinese detective extraordinaire, Yale-educated James Lee Wong, a chemist?

Oh yes, James Stewart might have known Hugh Wiley; Hugh Wiley may well have stayed with the Stewarts at Gold Run, just as Jack London did.

At any rate, somehow, some way, Hugh Wiley came to know this area.

In 1921 Hugh Wiley wrote a short story titled "Joss." I will give a little excerpt, which the miracle of the Internet brought my way only this morning:

At twilight, in the placer-scarred bed of Canyon Creek, South of Dutch Flat, Ming Sun Tai lighted a stick of incense from the glowing end of his fifty-cent cigar. The incense burned dull red at the origin of the twisted thread of smoke which spun in the early moonlight that lay on the Western slope of Moody Ridge. He set the stick of incense on a grey boulder and fixed it upright with three little pebbles.

"Pai seung tai," the Chinaman whispered. "In the love of a man's ancestors, he accomplishes the worship of the gods." He continued his course up the bed of Canyon Creek. A thousand feet farther on he lighted another stick of incense. To his left lay a half mile of open flat, slashed and bruised and welted from the conflict which had waged in the days when yellow gold lay from the grass roots to bedrock beneath.

For more, see

That Wiley used the phrase "gold from the grass roots to bedrock" shows that he really knew something about this area; for, there was no cap of "young volcanics" hiding the Eocene-age auriferous gravels, as was so common to the south around Foresthill. It was gold-bearing at the surface, and all the way down to the bedrock, hundreds of feet below.

So. For all these years I never even suspected that an author named Hugh Wiley existed.

Follow the link, and read Wiley's "Joss." It's not the highest of all faluting, but it's worth a read. The difference between a diamond and a sapphire can mean everything.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


[written January 2, 2007]

Happy new year, 2007 should be a good one!

The other day I approached my teenage son with an excellent idea: "I will first put the chainsaw in my old backpack; next, I'll put that old backpack on your broad shoulders; then, away we will go, down and down and down, into the depths of Green Valley, there to clear brush from the High Ditch."

To which he replied in a series of rather emphatic and mostly monosyllabic negatives, scarcely comprehensible, exclaimed in his curious teenage slang.

I decided not to press the issue, just then. Perhaps a negative would ripen into a maybe. A day later I recalled that the Green Valley Trail itself is getting so badly overhung by manzanita, that this business of carrying chainsaws in backpacks is maybe not an idea worthy of the brightest star in the heavens. So I rephrased my Plan: now he would carry the chainsaw a short distance, very short, really, and I would cut the gnarled deep red branches, and he would toss them off the trail.

Another series of foreign-sounding exclamations, all negative. Sigh.

So this morning I put the damn saw in the damn pack, and carried it down to the uppermost bad section all by myself. I worked over a reach of about two hundred yards and achieved something, less than I had imagined, better than nothing. The day was grey and cool and good for trail work.

Ron Gould suggests that we should round up a real work party and hit the whole trail. A good idea. The manzanita is getting worse and worse in a number of different trail reaches. Supposing we were to carry some of the dratted garbage up and out, from the end of the West Trail, down by the river, well, a frame backpack is the best tool for garbage, and the manzanita would drag and catch and claw at our packs and turn an already tiresome task into a bitter fight. So a bit of manzanita trimming is definitely in order. There are, also, one or two new trees down on the trail, which need cutting into pieces before they can be moved.

Life is more than trails and saws.

Music, music, music. Antonio Carlos Jobim! I rec'd a CD for Christmas, titled "Elis & Tom," the amazing Elis Regina singing the songs of the amazing Tom Jobim. One song especially excited my interest, Águas de Março, or Waters of March; here Jobim joins Elis in a duet. I Googled around in search of more information, for it seemed such an exceptional performance, and found a video of the actual recording session, in Los Angeles, in 1974!

What? How could that be?

It was on YouTube, of which I had heard but not seen. I naturally avoid such sites because I have such a poor internet connection, it takes forever to download content. For the Waters of March, however, forever was fine. I waited, I waited, I waited, and at last I watched.

Really really great!

So. I saw that anyone in the world can upload videos to YouTube. I quickly assembled a few short pieces of geometrical animations I had made years ago. See

The above page also contains a link to the Águas de Março video, which I highly recommend, especially if you like Brazilian music.