Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Leisurely Hike to Euchre Bar

I'm enjoying a very relaxing two week vacation. I did some yard work, reloaded ammo (.38 wadcutters), went with the better half for lunch in San Francisco's Chinatown, rode my Trek mountain bike, etc, etc.

My legs were in need of good exercise like an 1800 foot climb out of a canyon could give, so today I hiked my favorite trail, Euchre Bar Trail. I took no gold pan or shovel. I just wanted a relaxing early autumn hike, plus a look at the river level from our drought.

Yesterday on my first visit to the Placer County Archives I learned that the argonauts reached Euchre Bar in 1850. I went to the Archives to research three mines I've hiked to or have attempted to find: Southern Cross Mine on the North Fork American River (found), Clara Tunnel (found), and Mitchell Mine (got close per the GPS but couldn't reach the adit due to a steep hillside and heavy brush). As I was new to the Archives, I had to register and be placed in the database, and I was provided the list of rules (no pens, only pencils; packs and jackets kept in the storage lockers outside the research room). The staff was most helpful. They asked what I was researching, and showed me the shelves full of research materials on the mines of Placer County. Soon I was poring over large and heavy record books from the late 1800s and early 1900s with handwritten entries (what fine penmanship!) on locations of mines, proof of work improvements, and other details. There were binders with research by various people, and in the John H. Plimpton Collection, Volume IV - North Fork of the American River, Curved Bridge to Balance of the River, I found that Euchre Bar was discovered in early 1850. However, a source was not cited.

From this collection, I surmised that there are few historical records of the North Fork American River above Giant Gap, relative to the river below.

With that information in mind, today I hiked down historic Euchre Bar Trail, named after a favorite card game of the Forty-Niners. The weather was perfect. My vehicle was the only one at the trailhead at Iron Point, so I had the trail to myself. The mosquitoes were not too bad. The ground was a bit damp from the recent rains and the morning dew, and the forest had a rich smell. I heard an occasional train passing by high above, but otherwise I heard only birds and the river below. It took me about an hour to reach the footbridge over the North Fork. The sunlight had not yet reached down into this deep canyon. It may have well done so after I left, but I'm sure the rays of the sun don't touch the river here between November and January, so steep are the hills. The air temperature was very cool at the bottom of the canyon. The river was at the lowest level I'd ever seen. Not a single ripple was in the water. I ate my lunch and took some photos. A piece of sandwich bread I threw into the water hardly moved, so slow was the current.

I shouldered my pack and made my ascent. Climbing out of the canyon isn't so hard when you haven't spent hours shoveling river gravels. Well into my climb I met a man of about thirty with fishing pole in hand, headed to the river to catch trout.

Absent breaking your ankle on a lone hike in a remote section of canyon with freezing temperatures coming in the night, can there ever be a bad day in the Sierra?



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Officers Down

The counties of Sacramento and Placer both lost one of their finest on Friday, October 24.

Sitting at home reading a book late that morning, I heard on my scanner about the shooting of a sheriff's deputy in Sacramento. The dispatcher described the suspect and his vehicle. The suspect was sighted a short time later in Auburn, the seat of Placer County. By then I was listening to the police transmissions on Broadcastify. I counted 12,867 listeners on the connection.

When the afternoon ended, the authorities had the suspect in custody in Auburn. He is an illegal alien, twice deported, and details on his criminal past are still coming to light. He was charged with the murders of Sacramento County sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County sheriff's Deputy Mike Davis Jr.. He was also charged with the attempted murders of Placer County sheriff's Deputy Jeff Davis and a citizen in Sacramento, both wounded by gunfire. Finally, he was charged on two counts of attempted carjacking.

Deputy Mike Davis Jr. died on the same October 24 day that his father, a Riverside County deputy, died in the line of duty in 1988.

Early this afternoon, I took a bike ride to downtown Roseville. Strapped to my brake cables was a Baofeng UV-5R, a UHF/VHF handheld ham radio that also receives some emergency frequencies. At about $35, I'm not going care if it gets broken or lost. I scan various frequencies as I pedal along. When I passed by the train yard and Amtrak station, I heard a transmission from the Placer County Sheriff's Department about a procession leaving Sacramento and getting onto Interstate 80, en route to Roseville. I knew this pertained to yesterday's shooting.

I got onto Miner's Ravine Trail and rode along Dry Creek. A side trail took me to Center Street. At Atlantic Street, a Roseville police officer was standing at the side of his vehicle, emergency lights flashing. People were scattered along Atlantic Street, some with small American flags in hand. I realized the procession from Sacramento would pass here. A man near me said it was going to a local funeral home.

The procession arrived a few minutes later, a motorcycle officer in the lead. The Roseville police officer at the intersection saluted as he passed. Some citizens along the route including me put hand to heart. Next came several police sedans, emergency lights flashing, followed by the hearse. Then followed many sedans from various law enforcement agencies - the California Highway Patrol, several counties, many cities and towns, and others.

After the procession passed, I followed it a few blocks to the Chapel of the Valley funeral home on Vernon Street. The time was about 2:45 PM. About one hundred citizens stood across the street and watched in silence as the Placer County Sheriff's Department honor guard carried the casket from the hearse into the funeral home. The crowd included a Boy Scout leader and some of his troops with an American flag. People had hats off and many had hand to heart. The press had large video cameras atop tripods at one corner of the funeral home's parking lot. Several police officers and their vehicles were on the opposite side of the parking lot. On Vernon Avenue, the Roseville fire department flew a large American flag from the raised ladder of a fire truck. After the body of Deputy Mike Davis Jr. was taken inside the funeral home, Placer County Sheriff Edward N. Bonner came outside to meet with several individuals. The crowd continued to watch in silence. A passing Union Pacific freight train in the nearby train yard sounded its horn at a level lower than normal.

The crowd started to disperse around 3:15 PM, and I rode home.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stevens Trail with Grinding Rocks and Ladybugs

K

With the wildfires extinguished and the air free of smoke, I returned to Colfax to hike Stevens Trail to the North Fork American River. Few vehicles were in the trailhead parking lot when I arrived around 10 AM. Not a cloud was in the sky and the temperature would climb to the low 70s - a perfect day for a hike. The distance to the river is 4.5 miles and the slope is gentle. Stevens Trail was built in 1870 as a toll foot path between the railroad stop of Colfax and the mining community of Iowa Hill.

I encountered a few people on my descent: two Japanese men around age 60; three young adults of I think Indian heritage; and two pairs of joggers. I took videos as I walked in some sections, being careful of my footing as I looked at the LCD screen, for in places to the side of the trail there are sheer drops of ten feet or more, followed by a steep grade. Two men in one section of river were in search of gold, shoveling the gravels onto screens atop buckets, their sluice boxes nearby. This is Bureau of Land Management land and permits are not needed for this activity.

I arrived at the river by Secret Ravine at 11:45 AM. With the drought, the water was at the lowest level I've seen. The low water has attracted people in search of gold. I've come to this spot a few times with shovel and pan, alone or with another person, and have taken out small amounts of gold. The activity over the past summer was on a larger scale, suggesting people had spent long periods on the river. The gravels were worked to bedrock and moved around to divert water flow through sluice boxes. Assuming a decent amount of snowfall in the mountains this winter, the rushing waters from the spring melt will move the gravels about, erasing signs of mining activity and replenishing the gold.


I sat on a slate outcrop by the river and ate a lunch of two handfuls of almonds. The Japanese men were having lunch a short distance downriver. The three young adults had continued hiking upriver a bit. This slate outcrop contained several grinding holes made by Nisenan women over the centuries. I suppose they sat here and ground acorns and other nuts into meal when their group came to the river for the salmon runs. Today, the two dams downriver prevent any salmon from reaching this spot.


I left the river at 12:30 PM. After walking a few minutes I passed a large blackberry patch where ladybugs were converging to hibernate for the winter. In the few spots I looked, they must have numbered in the thousands, This entire patch may have had hundreds of thousands of them. I watched my step to avoid crushing them.


I reached the trailhead at 2:30 PM. Another great day in the Sierra.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Scratch That Hike

Mid-September usually marks the start of the hiking season in the Sierra foothills for me. Although the hills are still bone dry, the miserably hot temperatures have passed, allowing tolerable ascents from the canyons at the end of the day. And so, I looked forward to today's planned hike to the North Fork American River, on Stevens Trail near Colfax.

The smoke from the King Fire turned me around.

The King Fire started on September 13 near Pollock Pines in El Dorado County. It has burned 82,018 acres and is 10% contained.

Traveling this morning up Interstate 80, there was a slight smoke haze starting at Auburn, elevation just over 1000 feet. By the 2000 foot mark, the smoke was such that some people had their headlights on. I knew a hike today was out of the question, so I stopped at Colfax for some photos, and then returned to the Sacramento Valley.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Memphis

Work took me to Memphis for a few days in early September. It was easier adjusting to the two hour time difference than the humidity, summers in my Sacramento Valley being bone dry. Here's what I saw in Memphis.


Graceland

Dead since 1977, Elvis still brings in money. Opposite Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard, tourists were in line to board the small bus that would take them to the estate grounds. There were many visitors at this early hour of ten o'clock on Labor Day. My money stayed in my wallet, so I could only stand outside the large entry gates and look from afar up the winding roadway to the house. Countless people have scrawled graffiti over the years on the stone and brick wall along the front of the grounds.





Elmwood Cemetery

From the small Confederate flags and the inscriptions on headstones and monuments, I'd say the Confederate States of America still lives in this historic cemetery.





Lorraine Motel

The photographs taken of the motel balcony immediately after Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot are committed to memory, so seeing the balcony itself, preserved as it was on the day of the assassination, sent a chill up my spine.


Jacqueline Smith objects to money being spent on the memorial site. She holds her protest vigil at her booth across from the motel, telling all who will listen that the money used to operate and maintain the National Civil Rights Museum would be better spent on the poor residents of Memphis. I asked her if it was not proper to keep this site, so as to remember what happened here, and she said no. I didn't think of asking her about how the money spent by the many visitors helps the local economy. Only later did I learn that she had been an employee of the motel, and also its last resident after it closed.




Peabody Hotel Ducks

Wild Mallard ducks spend a few hours swimming about the fountain of the lobby of this historic hotel in downtown Memphis. At five o'clock each day, as they have been trained, the five ducks are led out of the fountain by the hotel's Duckmaster; and then, to the tune of John Philip Sousa's King Cotton March, with spectators filling the lobby, they march together along a red carpet to the elevator, to be taken up to their quarters on the penthouse.


Restaurants

I went to Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken for lunch at the recommendation of a friend. The place was filled with customers and I was fortunate to get a table so quickly.


Memphis is renowned for its barbecued ribs. I ate ribs at three restaurants. Central BBQ by the Lorraine Motel had the best ribs of the three. The other restaurants were Corky's BBQ on Union Avenue and Rendezvous in downtown Memphis.


I returned to California a few pounds heavier from my short stay in Memphis.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Panama Canal Centennial

Me (right) with bomb dog Sam, during
President Carter's visit in 1978

The first official transit of the Panama Canal was on August 15, 1914, by the SS Ancon. While the Canal was one of the major engineering feats of history, the rising carnage in Europe reduced the grand opening to a subdued local affair.

The centennial went largely unnoticed in the United States. Ask an American under thirty which country built the Panama Canal and you'll likely get a blank stare. But Tampa, Florida with its port has an economic link to Panama. Reporter Veronica Cintron of Bay News 9 in Tampa asked my permission to use a portion of my YouTube video Panama City Fish Market for her feature on the centennial. While her video is not online, her articles and the link to my video are found here.

On August 14, 1977, I drove past the Balboa Theater in the Canal Zone shortly after a Canal anniversary event had ended. Outside were a large number of people, including old men white and black. Those old men helped build the Panama Canal.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

March 2004 Journal Entry Concerning Iraq

Work took me to the home of a Chaldean Christian family in the Dearborn, Michigan area in March 2004. The current ISIS atrocities bring to mind my talk with the homeowner's son, who predicted for Iraq the rise of the fundamentalists and the persecution of the Christians. When we talked it had been a year since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Here's an excerpt from my March 2004 journal:
I met the son (in his thirties) and he welcomed me and asked me to sit and talk a few minutes. I couldn't say no, so I sat on the couch next to him. He asked his mother to get me some coffee. I couldn't refuse. He was as polite and as generous as he was talkative... He said they were from Iraq, and had come to the United States about twenty years earlier. He said they were Chaldeans, and gave me a quick history of these people. The talk quickly turned to the war. He said it was a mistake for the United States to invade Iraq. The danger in Iraq is from radical Muslims and Saddam kept these people under control (Iraq under Hussein was a secular state). As we talked the wife set a small plate of pastries in front of me, a date wrapped in some type of dough. I thanked her and took one to eat... The son said Saddam should have been allowed to keep Kuwait, as historically that was Iraqi land, and having occupied Kuwait Hussein would have kept the oil flowing to the West. He said Saddam kept Christians in his cabinet ... Since Saddam had fallen from power, the Muslims are now persecuting the Christians. The son said his family loved the United States but it was wrong to topple Hussein...