Monday, October 22, 2007

The Horror, and, Green Valley News

What an unusual fall, so stormy, so cool and cloudy! So often, October is bright and warm. Today it begins to find its old self.

Our Black Bears, which are often not black, have been much in the news over the summer, breaking into homes in the Tahoe area. Here, it is not uncommon for a bear or three to wander through. Various adventures and misadventures have occurred; why, once a whole family of bears broke into our car, peed in it, and jumped on the roof, denting it. Another time, a bear found its way into our bathroom, entered the shower, and left a strangely indelible paw print on the white shower wall. It also scratched the bathroom door, which had swung shut behind it.

More typically, a bear will get its paws on a bag of garbage, and strew it across acres of hillside. Some years ago I built a sturdy garbage-bin, which has not yet been successfully broken open, although it bears the scars of their efforts. They have literally rolled this cumbersome and heavy plywood bin down the hill.

The other day, a most sad and horrible bear came by. It was almost coal black, and strangely leggy, which as I later realized, meant it was thin. Why thin? Because someone had shot it, and its lower jaw dangled low from a generous thread of flesh and ligament, flopping to this side and that, useless teeth jutting forward. It would not be chased away, which is quite unusual, for it had found no food here, and for a bear to stand its ground against a man wielding a shovel, a man throwing firewood at it, a man shouting at it, a man advancing against it, when said bear has found no food, well, in my experience, that means it is sick. This was my second such sick bear. The other, a few years back, a dusty golden color, bore no visible injuries.

I tried calling the CA Department of Fish and Game, but their line was busy for half an hour, and I gave up. The poor poor thing should be euthanized.

On a happier note, I was contacted by descendants of the Dunckhorst family, who own land down in Green Valley, on the North Fork American River, south of Dutch Flat. The land is the old Opel & Williams claim, patented in the 1870s, and includes Joe Steiner's Grave, and the Hotel Site. The East Branch of the Green Valley Trail passes through their property. Joe Steiner lived down there for many years, working their claim, and acting as their caretaker.

They called the place "Pine Shadows," and drew their water, bucket by bucket, from nearby "Crystal Springs." These springs are on a lost little patch of trail leading down to the Hotel Site from near the Dunckhorst cabin.

On the 7.5-minute USGS "Dutch Flat" quadrangle, a small black square immediately south of the "r" in the words "Green Valley" seems to mark the Dunckhorst cabin, now gone. A wildfire in the middle 1950s erased the cabin. The descendants have several old family photo albums, and sent me some pictures. The cabin was a small affair with a gable roof. Of most interest is a picture of their summer sleeping platform, raised about ten feet above the ground, labeled "The Roost." My other Green Valley friends, the Dentons, who spent summers there in the 1930s and 1940s, also had a raised sleeping platform, and also called it "The Roost." The Denton Roost was built by Joe Steiner himself.

The way the Dentons tell it, the summers were so hot one simply had to sleep outside, but the rattlesnakes were so fierce, and so pesky, and so determined to somehow, some way, enter one's very bed, one could not sleep on the ground, or even near the ground. Hence, The Roost.

The Dentons had mentioned the Dunckhorsts to me, specifically, I recall their story about a young Dunckhorst man who set the record for the fastest descent of the Green Valley Trail, back around 1940. He made the descent to the river in eighteen minutes!

Such is some news.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Down and Up and Down and Up

[written October 9, 2007]

The day after visiting Hayden Hill, and that lovely little patch of old-growth forest growing on the broad terrace formed upon the rhyolite ash stratum, a few hundred feet below the canyon rim, I was busy writing about Chinese ghosts, and Mesozoic screens, and thinking about the two old trails I had discovered.

I had found a "lumber slide" dropping away north from the summit of Hayden Hill itself, and also a nearly level trail leading west into the Magic Forest. With Ron Gould I had explored similar trails, and we had often found ourselves confronted with major game trails, whereupon I might say, "this must be an old human trail," which Ron would always doubt. He would scoff. Usually, Ron was in the right.

So, writing about ghosts, and thinking about human trails disguised as game trails, I wanted to drag Ron out there to Hayden Hill immediately, if not sooner. The hour of eight in the morning arrived and I picked up my telephone; but a family member had left her internet connection up, and I had to disconnect to get a dial tone. Before I could even dial, the phone rang; it was Ron. It was a fine sparkling clear fall day, and he suggested a hike. I broke in: "We must go to Hayden Hill!"

But Ron replied that he had been imagining doing the Blackhawk-Sawbug loop, up by Humbug Canyon, and Sawtooth Ridge. I was persuaded, and yet for one reason and another, it was ten in the morning before we parked at the head of the Euchre Bar Trail.

"It will be pitch dark before we return," I remarked. This was likely enough, as we had twelve miles and some thousands of feet of elevation gain ahead of us. Thus it was that when we did finally reach his truck, at the end of the day, the stars were bright. GPS revealed, when it was all over, that we had climbed 5,700 feet over the course of the hike.

Most people who hike the Euchre Bar Trail go only so far as the river, which is spanned by a footbridge. The trail continues up the canyon, after crossing the bridge, and technically it not only reaches Humbug Canyon, but follows the Humbug Canyon Road up to the canyon rim, to the gate on Eliot Ranch Road.

We made quick work of the descent to the North Fork, the river flowing slowly, calm and clear, with morning shadows still clinging to large parts of the far canyon wall; in fact, the bridge was still wrapped in frigid shade, and damp with dew. The bridge is scarcely a mile and a half from the trailhead at Iron Point.

Crossing, we made good time up the main trail, passing the confluence of the North Fork of the North Fork, which is divided from the main stem of the North Fork by Sawtooth Ridge. Another mile brought us to the Southern Cross Mine, with its collapsed and dismembered stamp mill, where we stripped off shoes and pants and forded the ice-cold river. A sunny patch of bedrock, metasediments of the Shoo Fly Complex, allowed us to relax in comfort on the far side of the river, while we dried, and soon we were scrambling up a steep bank beside another dismembered stamp mill, and reached the level ore-cart-run of the Blackhawk Mine. The little railroad tracks are still in place.

The USGS 7.5-minute Westville Quadrangle shows a trail descending to the Blackhawk Mine from the crest of Sawtooth Ridge. This trail was likely widened to accommodate wagons as early as the 1890s, and in subsequent decades, bulldozers widened it further. In 1978 it became subject to a motorized vehicle closure, following designation of the North Fork American as a Wild & Scenic River, but the closure sign, up on the crest of the Sawtooth, was soon ripped out and thrown far down into the manzanita; for such is the lawlessness of OHV (off-highway vehicle) users, who also make quite a point of leaving garbage, wherever they go. They can do this with complete impunity, for there is essentially no Tahoe National Forest law enforcement; the TNF budget will not allow it, just as TNF cannot afford to maintain its own trail system.

Ron and I picked up the odds and ends of OHV garbage and started towards the top of the ridge. We were somewhat shocked at the clear signs of heavy OHV use of the trail.

Incidentally, this heavy OHV use only began two or three years ago. One of the first consequences was the vandalizing of the ancient dry-laid stone walls along a mining-ditch-trail, leading upstream from the Blackhawk Mine; apparently, the lawless motorcyclists thought it would be great fun to topple the huge slabs of slate, so carefully set into the arc of a circle a century and more ago, down the cliff into the river, from where the ditch-trail rounded a rocky point above a deep pool. This ditch-trail shows on a number of old maps, but has disappeared from modern maps. It leads all the way up to Humbug Bar, and continues farther yet as the Cavern Mine Trail.

A climb of a little less than two thousand feet brought us to the summit, where the OHV closure sign used to stand. One official TNF sign remains, almost hidden in the manzanita; it reflects an error in mapping, as it reads "North Fork American, 2" (arrow left), "Blackhawk Mine, 3" (arrow left), and "Rawhide Mine, 2" (arrow right). The error lies in supposing that the Blackhawk Mine is at Humbug Bar, rather than right at the base of the trail, where it reaches the North Fork.

As it happens, this trail junction is at the very end of the Sawtooth Ridge trail. Essentially, at the end of the Sawtooth Trail, one drops away left to reach the North Fork, and the Blackhawk Mine, and one drops away right to reach the North Fork of the North Fork, and the Rawhide Mine.

However, in the same year the neat wooden sign was installed, the Rawhide Mine was sold, and the new owner (Harry Mayo) immediately closed the trail to the public, posting all kinds of threatening "no trespassing" signs, with pictures of revolvers and so on.

Did Tahoe National Forest intervene? Did TNF make Harry Mayo remove the signs, and stop harassing hikers? Oh no, TNF did no such thing. Here was a trail likely open to the public for over a century, instantly closed. It is exactly what we are seeing at Lost Camp right now: a new property-owner decides to close a historic public road, open since 1858, and a historic trail, open since 1862. The road and trail were once maintained by Tahoe National Forest.

Does TNF intervene? Does TNF make a telephone call, do they write a letter, do they lift their left little finger to protect the General Public's right to historic roads and trails?

No, they do not. As surely as they did nothing to keep the Rawhide Mine Trail open, they now do nothing to keep the Lost Camp Road and the China Trail open.

It's a funny thing: Tahoe National Forest has enough money to hire all kinds of people with degrees, people obviously too talented, too highly trained, to perform physical labor, to actually maintain a trail; and TNF puts these talented, talented people to work engineering more and more and more timber harvests. For that, TNF has money.

I should imagine these degree-adorned employees of Tahoe National Forest make a pretty penny. I should imagine they have benefits, like health care, like retirement, oh my, yes, they make lots of money, they enjoy lots of benefits.

Ah well, these TNF employees are Good People, as near as I can tell. They are not the ones who set the policy, not the ones who plot the course.

Sawtooth Ridge appears to have been scorched in the 1960 "Volcano Fire," which spread from near the Middle Fork of the American, north across the Foresthill Divide to the North Fork, hitting Humbug Canyon hard, and crossing the river to Sawtooth Ridge. A very large number of Knobcone Pines grow along the summit of Sawtooth Ridge, towards its southwestern end. They appear to date from the Volcano Fire.

The climb to the crest of the Sawtooth, from the Blackhawk, winds in switchbacks through a forest dominated by Canyon Live Oak, with scattered Ponderosa and Knobcone pines, and a passing-strange abundance of Kellogg's Black Oak. These are the classic deciduous oaks of the lower-middle elevations, and they seem to much prefer deeper and moister and richer soils than usually exist on south-facing canyon walls. I have only hiked the Blackhawk Trail twice, and during my first visit, I concluded that one of the concentrations of Kellogg's Black Oak was associated with vestiges of glacial till. The till was deeply weathered and altered and almost unrecognizable. It would date from a much earlier glaciation than the Tioga, which ended a scant 12,000 years ago. I would guess this older till is either Tahoe I or Tahoe II in age, roughly, 65,000 or 125,000 years ago.

At last on top of the Sawtooth, in the very last pass before the very last Tooth--this last tooth, at the southwest terminus of the ridge, being a kind of flat-topped molar, capped with a vestige of andesitic mudflow--Ron and I rested. A few feet away, the Rawhide Trail, unmaintained by Tahoe National Forest since at least 1978, led away into dense, post-Volcano manzanita. We had attacked this section with loppers a couple of years ago, and I proposed we execute some maintenance. So we picked our way into the tangled brush, lopping here, ripping dead manzanita from the ground there, and pushing the slender poles of dead Knobcone Pines away down the hillside, a process much like threading a needle, since they were usually thoroughly trapped in the manzanita, and the only hope was to simply push them in the direction they already lay, hoping to get them clear of the trail.

A quarter-mile or so of such work got us clear of the manzanita, onto more north-facing slopes. We could not take time to work any longer. That quarter-mile had already cost us dearly, in terms of exertion, in terms of blood smeared along hands and arms, from a myriad of vicious little manzanita jabs. We are not exactly young men. I mean, in my mind, anyway, I am young, but my drivers' license reveals me to be fifty-eight years old.

At any rate, we retreated to the pass, shouldered our packs, and walked on up the Sawtooth, through dense stands of Knobcone Pine, and brushy groves of Black Oak. We walked up and over the first minor Tooth. A larger Tooth, rising above the 4200-foot contour, rose before us; on the map, it is shown to have an elevation of 4210 feet. Here, on the down-ice, lee side of Tooth 4210, is a body of very old glacial till, probably of the same age as the till along the Blackhawk Trail. Again, it is not easily recognized. One of the things which help separate this patch of deep soil containing rounded boulders from, say, some vestige of Eocene-age river gravels (which also can be found on Sawtooth Ridge), is the presence of rounded granite boulders. The Eocene gravels generally do not preserve granite; granite is too easily dissolved by chemical weathering. These granite boulders might have come all the way from the South Yuba basin, or, perhaps, from Little Granite Creek, or Big Granite Creek, or the upper North Fork of the North Fork. They are visibly different from granite boulders in the recent Tioga-age tills, in that they have lost their smooth surfaces, mainly, I think, from chemical weathering, i.e., from exposure to soil acids over a long period of time. There are only a very few of these rounded granite boulders visible, in the very bed of the Sawtooth Trail.

A much more obvious body of old till, with similarly deeply weathered granite boulders, is on the crest of Sawtooth immediately down-ice (southwest) from Helester Point.

Crossing over Tooth 4210, we descended to a minor pass and turned sharply southwest onto the Sawbug Trail. This is our name for the ancient trail, which likely dates from the 1850s, connecting the summit of SAWtooth Ridge to HumBUG Bar. I much doubt anyone would discover the upper end of this old trail by accident. Near the top, it passes some smallish hard-rock mines in a series of switchbacks, and then makes one long gradual descent to Humbug Bar, with one more minor switchback near the base of the trail.

At Humbug Bar (which, incidentally, was entirely mined away, way back when; there is no "bar" left), we followed the Cavern Mine Trail up the canyon a short distance, to where an easy trail leads away down to the river itself. We were about to strip off shoes and pants when we realized that we could actually hop across the river, boulder to boulder. This was a welcome alternative to wading.

Afternoon shadows were long, most of the river already in shadow, but one broad beam of light still reached the river itself, just upstream, and made for an incredibly beautiful picture, glowing trees reflected in deep dark pools.

It only remained to walk the two or three miles back to the bridge, and then climb the Euchre Bar Trail to the truck. Ha! We were dragging along in painful slowness, in the dark, through interminable switchbacks, as the twilight gave way to full darkness, and the stars came out. For my part, I was reciting a litany of benchmarks, which would be passed in turn: "soon enough, the switchbacks-without-water-bars, where the leaves were scoured from the trail in the last storm; not too terribly far above that, the crest of Trail Spur, and the Iron Point Trail, forking away west into Green Valley; then, that long rocky section, through the errant patch of serpentine, serpentine separate from the main mass in Green Valley, mixed somehow into the Mesozoic screen; and then ... and then ... the last switchback ... and just a tiny little bit of ridge-trail left ... cross the Rawhide Road ... and the final, steepish, blessedly short bit of trail ... and then the Rawhide Road, again, and right there, well, a few yards away, Ron's truck ... ."

I went over these trail-phases again and again and again in my mind. I would carefully imagine what each section in turn was like. Eventually, I actually reached, and passed my benchmarks, albeit slowly, very, very slowly. When the trail entered denser forest, the world went black, but it was easy to feel the trail beneath my feet. We made the climb separately, alone in our agonies, but as I neared the tippy top, Ron caught me up.

Twelve miles, 5,700 feet of elevation gain.

We were absolutely ruined, but it had been, yes, another great day in the great canyon.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hayden Hill

Following the narrow ridge-crest north, zig-zagging just exactly as the local bears zig and zag, through masses of Ceanothus and small conifers, my musings, equally erratic, settled into a kind of coherence: "If the Chinese Historical Society did once visit this obscure and sacred precinct; if the Chinese Historical Society did place a commemorative plaque; if the Chinese Historical Society did annually burn offerings, to settle and reassure the ghosts of their ancestors, here on the very verge of the Great American Canyon, here, so near the summit of Hayden Hill, well, they left remarkably little trace of those visits--in fact, they left no trace--in fact, it would be about a miracle if the Chinese Historical Society ever set foot here--and it becomes a certainty that, when I myself reach the summit, there will be no 'commemorative plaque'."

Hayden Hill is a knoll or minor eminence within the North Fork canyon, above Green Valley. It just kisses the 3800' contour, and thus stands 2000' above the river, and four hundred feet below the canyon rim.

For thirty years I had wished to visit this "Hayden Hill." Far below its summit is the Hayden Hill Mine, that geologically significant hydraulic mine, involving Pleistocene glacial outwash sediments, involving a relict channel of the North Fork, the base of that channel four hundred feet above the modern river, the top of the outwash terrace six hundred feet above the modern river. The significance inheres in these numbers: four hundred feet, six hundred feet, connote great age, and I am tempted, very tempted, to correlate the sediments to the Sherwin Glaciation, of 750,000 years ago. The Sherwin is quite cryptic, its tills and moraines almost entirely erased by subsequent erosion, in fact, were it not for the blind luck that one solitary mass of Sherwin Till was buried, and thus preserved, by the Bishop Tuff, and then exposed in cross-section by a roadcut, near Bishop, along Highway 395, we would find this or that deeply-weathered till, and be able only to say, "Here is something glacial, and something old."

Now at least we can guess that such a till is Sherwin in age. The age of the Sherwin is given by dating the Bishop Tuff; and that tremendous outpouring of volcanic ash, of thirty-five cubic miles of rhyolite ash, took place almost exactly 750,000 years ago.

It verges upon the incredible that a glacial outwash terrace of Sherwin age could be preserved within any one of our Sierran canyons, as our canyons are so raw and so fresh, so rapidly incising, so rapidly eroding.

But that is a part of what makes Green Valley special: it does preserve glacial outwash terraces which are old, quite old. Green Valley is just exactly where the serpentine of the Melones Fault Zone crosses the North Fork, or is crossed by the North Fork, at about a right angle. The weakness of the serpentine has allowed the North Fork canyon to widen into a kind of broad amphitheater. The weakness of the serpentine has meant that this particular reach of the North Fork has always had a flat gradient; when one combines a broad amphitheater with a flat gradient, conditions become ideal for not only the deposition of sediments, but the preservation of sediments.

Of course, Green Valley is also one of two places in California where Aliens From Outer Space built pyramids. The other place is that same Owens Valley where we find the Bishop Tuff burying the Sherwin Till. At least, Dr. Wallace Halsey declared it so. Dr. Halsey believed that Aliens From Outer Space taught we humans to build pyramids, way back when. Dr. Halsey said that the Pyramid of Green Valley was at the Hayden Hill Mine, haunted by the ghosts of Chinese miners buried in a landslide.

I began hearing about the Buried Chinese Miners in 1976. According to legend, their sluice box was buried right along with them. Hence, with enough luck, with enough pluck and perseverance and plain hard work, one could dig down, down and down and down, down through the clay, down through the boulders, through, who knows, the very skeletons of the Chinese Miners, and one would at last find the sluice box, and one would become wealthy.

Many a person assured me of the truth of this legend. Crusty old-timers swore by it. But, over the decades, as I pursued research into the history of this area, and always, especially, the history of Green Valley, I could find no corroboration of the legend. I began to dismiss it as a fiction, as a confusion of myths, or a concatenation of true stories. For it is certainly true that many Chinese mined gold in Green Valley, and it is certainly true that many Chinese died in cave-ins and landslides, in the hydraulic mines of Dutch Flat and Gold Run. The old newspapers of this area can make for depressing reading, as one tragedy after another befell the miners.

Yes, I had pored over these depressing old newspapers, and I had gleaned many an interesting article about the mines of Green Valley, including, specifically, the Hayden Hill Mine.

But I found nary a word about a landslide burying, who knows, some said six, others said twenty, Chinese miners. So. It must be fiction.

Then, a few years back, I walked over to the Gold Ring Mine in Green Valley, and found the ancient and grizzled owners at home and receiving visitors. Al Platz nearly talked my ear off with his stories about Green Valley, and, of course he trotted out the Legend of the Buried Chinese. I bluntly expressed my doubts, my extreme doubts. Al added a new twist to the story, and this new twist was as follows: according to Al, a "Chinese Historical Society" came out here, every year, to a point above the canyon, where they had placed a plaque commemorating the buried miners, and every year, Al said, they would visit the spot, gaze out into the great canyon, and make offerings to their ancestors.

I believe I know the north rim of the canyon, above Green Valley, very well. I have seen no "commemorative plaque." Hence, the plaque must be on the south canyon rim. And where better, where more likely, than that spot labeled "Hayden Hill" on the USGS 7.5-minute Dutch Flat quadrangle?

This added some urgency, then, to my long-cherished agenda to visit Hayden Hill. I had often visited the mine, far below, but never the Hill itself. When an urgency of this magnitude breaks upon me, why, it may be as little as three years before I act!

And so it was that at long long last I threaded my way along the bears' zig-zag path to the summit of Hayden Hill. I found the cellar of the cabin depicted, quite near the summit, on that aforementioned Dutch Flat Quadrangle. The cabin had pretty clearly burned in the 1960 "Volcano" fire, which had charred large parts of the Foresthill Divide, and several square miles within the North Fork canyon, even crossing the river to Sawtooth Ridge. All that remains of the cabin is a hole six feet deep, maybe twelve feet long and eight feet wide. The cellar.

Just beyond the cabin site is the summit of Hayden Hill. Thick manzanita blocked further progress along the crest, so I dropped away west and picked my way through gnarled elfin Canyon Live Oak, until I could climb back up to this summit knoll from the far (north) side. I ensconced myself within the sheltering arms of a multi-trunked Canyon Live Oak and ate my lunch.

There was no commemorative plaque.

I noted that Hayden Hill itself was formed from bedrock of the thin "Mesozoic screen" which separates the (late Paleozoic) serpentine of the Melones Fault Zone from the vastness of the (early Paleozoic) metasediments comprising the Shoo Fly Complex, east of the Melones. The rock appeared to be a dark metavolcanic formation, perhaps quite akin to the lenses of dark metavolcanic rock one sees at and near Iron Point. I was probably about a quarter-mile east of the fault zone.

Although the summit of Hayden Hill, from a topographic standpoint, commands a tremendous view, one can never quite get clear of the oaks. Giant Gap was darkening with afternoon shadows to the west, but I could not really see it. I decided to explore down the steeply-plunging north spur of Hayden Hill, in search of a rocky outcrop, or some kind of break in the forest.

Immediately I saw what seemed an old trail, old and broad. Strangely broad, I would say. This old trail was blocked by fallen pines, well-rotted, presumably killed in the Volcano Fire, and I was pleased and interested to see a series of 2X4's, around four feet long, nailed to the side of one such much-rotted pine trunk. It seems that whoever once lived in the little cabin had himself wished for a better view, and nailed a kind of ladder up the trunk of the nearest tall pine. Only the heartwood core of the pine remains, the outer six inches of trunk having rotted, except exactly at those spots where the ladder rungs were nailed. Big old twenty-penny spikes. So, it is pleasant to imagine that as the storm-wrack cleared, of a winter afternoon, and a golden glow intensified away west, in Giant Gap, the man would scramble up his nailed rungs, and enjoy a view which would have made Ansel Adams jealous.

I explored further down the spur, and my putative trail disappeared, then reappeared, disappeared, then reappeared. So, it is real. Later, in thinking about it, I decided that, rather than a trail, it might more likely be an old "lumber slide," which one occasionally finds scoring the canyon wall. In such places loads of sawed lumber, and other mining equipment, would be skidded directly down the side of the canyon. These lumber slides were usually located along the crests of spur ridges. Inasmuch as this particular spur leads right down to the Hayden Hill Mine, I suppose it was their own particular lumber slide.

Climbing back to the summit, I followed the east side of the ridge, and the old trail/lumber slide, back to the cabin, although manzanita forced me to veer off track a few times.

Next on my list of Things to Do at Hayden Hill was to visit the second cabin depicted on the Dutch Flat quadrangle. The map shows it just at the head of a ravine which passes through the mine far below, call it the Hayden Hill Ravine. It is just east of the Hill and its principal spur. And, at the head of this ravine, the map showed a tunnel.

So I wandered through the heavy timber, soon found one collapsed tunnel, climbed above, and found the other cabin site, like the first cabin site making itself known only by its cellar, and some few scraps of metal scattered about.

I decided to make a more complete exploration, dropped back down, found more collapsed tunnels, in some of which the rhyolite ash stratum was exposed to view, that stratum so typically, almost always, completely hidden, covered in the rich soil which heavy forest will develop, given a few millenia. The rhyolite ash stratum is often the source of perennial springs, and this was exactly the case here.

A tunnel in this stratigraphic position (near the unconformity separating the "Superjacent series" from the "Subjacent series") can be safely considered to have been at the least an attempt to reach a hidden Eocene-age river channel. If they had succeeded, one might expect to see the rounded pebbles of white quartz and blueish chert, in the ravine below the tunnel; but I could see no such pebbles. However, such springs can generate astounding quantities of water during and after big rain events, and all such mining debris might have long since been washed away down the ravine. Aside from a few scraps of strap iron, there was little sign of human activity near the tunnels, and I expect many people would not even recognize them as collapsed tunnels.

A small mining ditch contoured across the gentle slopes just above the level of the tunnels, and I set out west to see where it went. There were four possibilities, so far as the grade of the ditch:

1. Sloping down from west to east.
2. Sloping down from east to west.
3. Sloping down from east and west alike, towards the collapsed tunnels.
4. Sloping down to the east and west alike, away from the collapsed tunnels.

I began to favor (3). The grade of the ditch was far too flat to see at a glance which way it had flowed. If it had flowed away from the tunnels (4), then it would have flowed *to* specific mining sites. So I followed it west.

A road dating from salvage harvests after the Volcano Fire paralleled the ditch, and soon coincided with the ditch. Some hundreds of yards west I found the rounded cobbles and boulders of quartz and chert which can only mean an old river channel is near. So. This supported (4), at least a little, but there was no obvious sign of past mining nearby.

Soon thereafter the road ended, but a fine figure of a trail continued along the same almost level, west-bearing line. It was either an old human trail or the King of All Game Trails. Following it, I entered quite a lovely and special forest. Huge trees were common, some Douglas Fir measuring close to six feet in diameter, with large Ponderosa and Sugar pines in the area, too. The terrain was nearly flat. A rather gigantic terrace had formed, at the base of the strata of andesitic mudflow which composed all the ridge above, and near the top of the rhyolite ash strata beneath the mudflows. This is just where perennial springs are wont to form, and even if there are no springs, there is often a generalized "seep," in which water-loving species of trees and other plants are well-established. The evidence of the top-of-the-rhyolite seep may be as subtle as a roughly horizontal zone on the side of a ridge (high on a canyon wall, say), a zone where Kellogg's Black Oak and Ponderosa Pine are larger than they are either above or below the zone.

That is, upon almost every ridge in the middle elevations of this part of the Sierra, there is a "perched aquifer," a water-bearing zone. Above this zone, horizontal strata of andesitic mudflow; and below, the rhyolite ash, so often weathered into a dense clay-like material, forms an "aquaclude," and inhibits the downward migration of water. Hence springs and seeps pop out at the surface. When one considers that, when undisturbed by roads or logging or anything which could impact the soils, the mudflow above has an almost incredible capacity to absorb rainfall and snowmelt without surface runoff, one can do a little arithmetic, as follows: such-and-such a ridge is capped by andesitic mudflow, and the top of the ridge has an areal extent of, say, 1000 acres. The annual precipitation is 60 inches, or five feet. Hence 5*1000 acre-feet of water are absorbed by the mudflow (an enormous quantity of water!). The water sinks lower, hits the rhyolite ash aquaclude, and migrates horizontally to discharge as springs and seeps.

Hence, if looking at a topographic map, one notes that along the sides of a ridge whose crest is at 4000' elevation, there is a series of springs at, say, 3800' elevation, one is entirely justified in assuming that that ridge is capped by andesitic mudflow, and beneath the mudflow, as always, lies the rhyolite ash. You have, in effect, discovered the top of the rhyolite ash layer. You have also discovered that the mudflow strata are 200 feet thick.

Having so discovered the rhyolite ash, one is also safe in assuming that the bedrock is not far below. These perennial springs are usually less than 100 feet above the unconformity separating the ancient bedrock from the "young volcanics."

Here, there were spectacular springs, huge trees, including somewhat unusually large Bigleaf Maples, a significant concentration of the passing-rare Pacific Yew, and even some Torreya, larger than our usual Torreya. There were Giant Chain Ferns, and White Alders, and many Pacific Dogwoods, all water-loving plants.

The old trail led directly to the largest springs, and then appeared to end. The lovely terrace of tall trees continued right along to the west, and I hope to explore further soon. On this day, I turned back when the trail seemed to end, and found a spring with an ancient iron pipe conducting the water.

Hence I propose that it was indeed Possibility Three, "Sloping down from east and west alike, towards the collapsed tunnels." I propose that this ditch led the waters of distant springs to the Hayden Hill Ravine, and that it may have had mostly to do with delivering more water to the Hayden Hill Mine, sixteen hundred feet below, than with whatever mining operations occurred at the Collapsed Tunnels. Actually, it could have served both purposes without a shred of conflict between the one and the other.

Returning to the cabin site, which happens to be beside a section corner, common to sections 5, 6, 7 and 8 of T15N, R11E, I decided to follow the ditch east. I saw from the little map I had packed along that I would immediately enter the broad basin flanked by the minor summit labeled "Sugarloaf" on the Dutch Flat quadrangle. This basin feeds the high waterfall one can see from Iron Point in the winter and spring. The map showed that my top-of-the-rhyolite-, base-of-the-andesitic-mudflow terrace continued right along, if anything more pronounced and larger than ever. The very same road I was on, there at the section corner, held an almost level line into this "Sugarloaf Basin." I thought to use the road to enter the basin, then drop back to the ditch. This worked out about as planned, except, a Reagan-era Tahoe National Forest clearcut had not only grown a host of young Ponderrosa Pine, it had also been infested with brush, from the increase in sunlight reaching the ground, and the disturbance of the soil, and I was soon forced off the road.

I dropped to the ditch, but it too was within, not the clearcut, but a more generalized harvest area, and so much new light had entered the forest that, between logging slash and brush, I was soon forced off the ditch.

Returning to the road, I found it clear, since it had entered a belt of heavy timber on the Rhyolite Terrace. A little exploration led me into a pesky little patch of private property, possibly a patented mining claim, where I found the detritus of a marijuana growing operation dating several years back.

The sun was lowering, and I made the climb up and out, trying without success to trace the line of the historic trail shown on the Dutch Flat quadrangle, through the TNF clearcut.

What would they say? "Oops, we destroyed another trail, another historic trail."?

Actually, for much of the day I was in a fuming funk about Tahoe National Forest and its timber harvests, nowadays conducted under the guise of "thinning the forest." For, my access to Hayden Hill was via Iowa Hill, via the Giant Gap Road, the Eliot Ranch Road, to a certain obscure side-road damaged by a very recent "thinning" timber harvest. I had seen, from Giant Gap Ridge on the west, to the rim of the canyon directly above Hayden Hill, on the east, a series of these thinning-harvest areas.

And, I found them very upsetting. Bulldozers, or similar heavy equipment, had scrambled and rampaged throughout the forest, raising the deep soils into furrows which will persist for centuries. I guarantee that my children's grandchildren will see those ridges and furrows and heaps of soil, if the land is left untouched until then. How can Tahoe National Forest rationalize scarring the land in this way? It is a crime, it is a kind of terrorism inflicted upon a landscape, upon a heritage and upon a wildlife and a scenery which can by no means speak for themselves, as it were, relying entirely upon us, upon the citizens, to stand up for them.

But we do not so stand up.

Tahoe National Forest no doubt let the thinning contract out to Sierra Pacific Industries, SPI, famous for their clearcuts, and the largest owner of private land in all of California, by far. So, SPI not only gets to inflict a totally corporate model, a totally industrial model, upon its own lands, it gets to industrialize our public lands as well!

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen historic trails absolutely erased, as though they had never existed, by SPI bulldozers. Of course, that has to do with how we manage timber harvests on private lands, and falls under the rules and regulations applied by the California Department of Forestry, or CDF.

That is bad enough. But a historic trail, entirely on our public land, erased by bulldozers? It is worse than an absurdity, and yet, put a Reagan or a Bush into office and you pretty much get what you asked for: the sale of public resources to private interests at bargain-basement prices.

So actually, for much of the day, I was fuming, in a kind of rage. I like to think of myself as a reasonable man. I totally support the harvest of timber on a sustainable basis. But how is it harvested? There is this way, and there is that way. And here, along Eliot Ranch Road, was a travesty. To cap it all off, burn piles a hundred feet long, thirty feet wide, and twenty feet high were seen here, there, and everywhere. Near almost every one of these piles was a sign, nailed high on a tree, reading "Timber Harvest Area. No Firewood Cutting Allowed. Tahoe National Forest."

So. Each pile held dozens of cords of wood. They will be burned to ash in one giant conflagration, but heaven help the citizen who dares to cut a pickup-truck load for himself.

Such was a very nice day near the south rim of the Great American Canyon.