Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Odds; Ends; A New Old Trail

I am giving up on my ISP, recently purchased by some sleazy outfit in Virginia, and soon my only email address will be russelltowle@gmail.com.

Over recent weeks I have been clearing a beautiful little patch of forest up on Moody Ridge, and burning tons of dead wood in the snow. I walk half a mile or so to the job site, and while walking, I have seen many a mountain lion track, likely all from one and the same lion. I have had a chance to see what tracks look like in soft snow, in hard snow, what they look like after one day, or after four days, and so on.

Yesterday afternoon I was walking home and thought to take a shortcut to avoid some deep snow. I got myself into a real tangle of young conifers and brush and broke through into a small opening. Lion tracks dotted the snow, extremely fresh, retaining every detail. Hours old at best. I quickly scanned the trees above me: no lion. Then I looked down at the snow again and was puzzled to see that the lion had walked in circles. All the tracks looked very fresh. I looked again, up, and all around; nothing, but the forest is so overgrown I couldn't see far in any case. So I blundered along my supposed shortcut. In another few yards a disgusting smell wafted my way, and at first I thought of the gamy smell a bear can have, which I have only smelled a few times in my life. I walked another few paces, the smell ever stronger, and suddenly realized it was the smell of Death. The lion had left its kill somewhere very near, possibly up in a tree. I hastened away.

Recently I was contacted by a nice young man who had tried and failed to find the Green Valley Trail. He had no idea that a public parking area exists, and, while walking in along "Aquila Lane" (the Green Valley Trail road), saw enough in the way of "No Trespassing" and "No Parking" signs to deter him. I reassured him that it was indeed a public trail, and told him about the parking area. Strangely, the parking area, recently constructed by Placer County for the public's use, itself has a "No Trespassing" sign, facing its entrance from Moody Ridge Road.

Last fall I explored the area around Hayden Hill, a high knoll jutting into Green Valley from the south canyon wall (see http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2007/10/hayden-hill.html). The USGS 7.5 minute "Dutch Flat" quadrangle topographic map shows a trail leading down to Hayden Hill from Elliot Ranch Road, on the canyon rim; but as with so many Tahoe National Forest trails, this trail has been abandoned by the Forest Service, in favor of clearcutting, it seems. The trail is almost impossible to follow in its uppermost section, and impossible to follow, having been utterly erased, within the clearcut. However, one can leave the line of where the trail used to be, and strike out cross-country.

By the way, it is an entirely unacceptable violation of the public's trust for Tahoe National Forest to abandon any historic foot trails; but the Forest has made a regular business out of abandoning historic trails and historic roads. Not only that, these momentous derelictions of duty have been executed without public input or comment of any kind. It has all been done slyly, secretly, and under the table.

My own grandfather, who joined the Forest Service at a time when Teddy Roosevelt had inspired many a young man to join, in order to protect the public trust, in order to protect the public trails, in order to protect the wildlife--my own grandfather would be so shocked and ashamed.

Back to Hayden Hill.There is some really beautiful forest down there, with springs, and some old mine tunnels, and old mining ditches and cabin sites, and to my surprise, at the very summit of Hayden Hill itself, I found traces of an old trail plunging down the ridge-crest into Green Valley. Far below, far far below, is the historic Hayden Hill Mine, a hydraulic mine which worked the very highest and oldest of the glacial outwash sediments in Green Valley. At this mine, according to local legend, a few, or perhaps "twenty" Chinese miners were buried in a horrific landslide, way back when. I have never found any verification of this legend in the old newspapers of Placer County; but I may have missed it.

Today Ron Gould called my attention to a 1930 Tahoe National Forest map which actually shows this "Hayden Hill Trail." It will be interesting to explore it, someday, although it showed every sign of being badly overgrown.