Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Russell's affection for Tolkien

Hi everyone, it's Janet again. Today I finally got a collector's edition, one-volume copy of the Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkien, and it reminded me of my Dad.

Dad loved to talk about the LOTR books. Whenever he got irritated at my incompetent attempts to write about nature, he'd tell me to go and give the Tolkien books another spin; he thought that Tolkien was a master at clearly depicting landscapes and geography. Dad told us on more than one occasion that in his younger days, he had read the trilogy out loud to groups of friends more than 3 times! The whole thing!

I also remember that when I was in 6th grade, a boy had asked me on a "date" to go and see the Fellowship of the Ring movie. Dad said that he wouldn't let me go until I had read the books - truly bizarre, considering that I had never been grounded and in almost all matters I had an absolutely free rein. But not when it came to Tolkien! Dad held firm on that.

So, I read the books (not really, I didn't pay much attention and I skipped over most of The Two Towers), and Dad said that I could go -- but he came along and sat in the row of seats right behind me and my date!

Monday, November 10, 2008

An upcoming event of interest, sponsored by Protect American River Canyons (PARC)

Autumn American River Rendezvous - Slides, Music & Stories Inspired by the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Rivers & Foothills.

Click the link above for the full details of this event to be held this Wednesday evening, November 12 from 6:30 - 9:00 pm.
Keith Sutter, award winning nature photographer, will show images from his personal and family adventures in the high Sierra and the foothills.

Ron Gould, Board Member from the North Fork American River Alliance (NFARA), has a cache of images taken from his personal hikes and adventures with Russell Towle and friends in the Wild & Scenic North Fork.

Eric Peach, PARC Board Member, will present slides and updates on issues in the American River Watershed.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Ode to Russell Towle

I am so sad to learn that Russell has left us. Above are a couple of photos that I took of him. The first shows him with his good old pruning shears at the tree he referred to as the "Blasted Digger". I tried to tell him that "Digger" was a derogatory term and Grey Pine would be better. Russell said that he knew it was a racist term but they were racist times and he was going to be true to history. I was fine with that. You'll also note those pruning shears in his hands. Each time I went out with Russell he had those shears with him to help keep the trails open. He's pointing up toward Giant Gap rattling off one of his stories. You've got to love those Russell stories, he had so many of them and always told them with enthusiasm. The other picture is at the cabin in Secret World. Russell was a GOOD man, damn I'm sad he's gone.
I didn't know what to think when I first shook the hand of this man, with the curly gray hair and frumpy clothes, and the stuble on his chin, reminiscent of a hobo. And in spirit I suppose he was somewhat of a hobo; he didn't fit in with conventionality, you see, Russell was a free soul. And I later learned that he had hitched rides upon the rails, and I wasn't surprised, for by then I learned his spirit yearned for freedom, and I supposed mine does too, but Russell didn't live as I, from 9 to 5, he followed his soul and somehow got by living close to nature, as I wish that I could. And he played the guitar and he sang in Portugese and he discussed paleobotany and history and geology and who know how many ologies this hobo free spirit of a man was versed in, for he was a far more complex of a man than I, and as a true hobo, Russell never did condescend, you see, this man that I knew, he was genuine; he loved knowledge and life and lived with enthusiasm. And when I first shook the hand of this hobo of a man, with the stuble on his chin, I looked into his eyes and I instantly liked him.
I know you're not resting in peace Russell, you're free and you're blazing trails through the cosmos. Maybe one day you can take me on some of those trails as well.
Ronald Edwin Lane

Friday, November 7, 2008

Commenting on Janet's Post below....

... but where everyone can see it. I'm with Janet. I would love to see more words here (and pictures). I didn't get to come to the Saturday part of the weekend... so all the people who spoke that day I didn't get to hear you... (hint hint!)
Mary Jo

Monday, November 3, 2008

Random Memory

Hey, everyone! I don't want to bump Uncle Rich's pictures of the mallet down - I was so glad to see something new posted on here! But I wanted to share a memory of my Dad, and to encourage others to do the same. I really like hearing/reading stories about him... this blog seems to have been mostly dedicated to pictures so far, but I wouldn't mind some more text.

When Greg and I were pretty young, we'd drive out into Dutch Flat with Dad and go to the playground/tennis courts by the community center. The tennis courts are enclosed by a fence – we would go inside, Dad would shut the gate, and then we would start the game. I think it came from Tintin, but there's no telling, really. It wasn't a complicated game. Dad would start stomping around in a very exaggerated way, yelling "Stop in the Name of the Law" in a very self-important, gargly voice, and Greg and I would run away, squealing.

Sometimes he'd push us on the tire swing. Well, not really push. He'd spin us in circles until we got ridiculously dizzy. He made swings for us out at the cabins, too. The one made of thick wire is still there. It used to have a comfy cushioned seat until some bees decide to make a home in there with the cotton balls. He made us rope swings too, which he would test out first. He was excellent at climbing trees. He could go way out on the thinnest branches, and he would take all kinds of risks. But whenever Greg or I wanted to climb a tree, he'd immediately turn serious and try to pass it off as the most dangerous of pastimes.

A couple of years ago, Uncle Rich and Aunt Chris gave us a bunch of Terry Pratchett books, and Dad absolutely loved them. Back in July, during one of my weekend-visits home, he finally convinced me to start reading one of them. But he wouldn't hand me the book – he had a whole long list of characters and scenes he wanted me to pay special attention to. After I finally started reading, he made a point of checking up on me frequently. He came over to the Big Cabin to make some coffee when I was about 30 pages in. He got very excited, and insisted that I give him the book so that he could see where I was at, and what was coming, and oh, didn't I like that character? And what did I think THAT part meant? And wasn't THIS funny? I could see Mom rolling her eyes from where she was sitting behind him. He tended to "look over your shoulder" as you read a lot, if it was one of his favorite books.

By the way, he was horrible every time a new Harry Potter book came out. It was bad enough that me and Greg had to take turns reading... but with Dad taking a turn too, we all got frustrated! Plus he didn't have school in the morning, so he would always get ahead of us in the story and then hint at all the exciting events to come... oh, it was frustrating!

-- Janet

Four pictures of a small wooden mallet made by Russell.

I vaguely remember Russell making a pair of mallets (one larger than this) out of scrap oak firewood while he was building the Wren cabin shack on Highland Drive in the 1970's.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The last couple of months I've taken the time to go back through most of my pictures from hiking trips with Russell and friends. It has brought back many nice memories of Russell and the great times we had exploring the North Fork. Catherine was also part of many of those trips and she kindly has shared some of her pictures from some of those hikes and others with Russell. Catherine has many nice photos and I will post a few here for her(don't want to overload you too much). I think I've figured out where most of these pictures were taken.

With Gus and Greg on Big Granite Creek.

Deep in Giant Gap on the HOUT. Love the two differing expressions.

Along the HOUT. Hmmm, what were they thinking? One of them is using the wrong arm.

Always curious.

Hauling garbage out of Green Valley. I wonder how much garbage this man hauled out of the canyon in his life.

On the Pinnacle Ridge of Giant Gap with Lovers Leap in background.

One of the big cedars in Four Horse Flat along the Big Granite Trail. One of my favorites, just love that smile.

Thanks Catherine, I've really enjoyed looking at your pictures.


Preparing for the Multi-Media Tribute, Oct. 11

Chris Towle, Gay Wiseman, Ron Gould, Ralph Little, Carol Towle, Janet Creelman, brother Richard Towle, and sister Karen Mingst with many, many others.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Links to the Fiskars posts ...

on the "in the Fiskars Garden" blog:

  A Very Special Inquiry
  Russell Towle at Canyon Creek with his Fiskars Loppers

Fiskars donated twenty loppers - all of them were given out during the tribute weekend as an incentive for a US $100.00 membership in the North Fork American River Alliance (NFARA).

The engraving on the loppers was originally proposed as:
  "Less lip, more lop! In memory of Russell Towle, 2008".

The engraving ended up as:
  "Veni, Vidi, Recidi - Russell Towle 2008 - NFARA".

Which translates to "I Came, I Saw, I Lopped".

Thanks to my sister Shellie for the picture below:

A link to the tribute by Stephen Wolfram ...


Monday, October 13, 2008

I first met Russell in January of 2003 after being on his North Fork Trail email list for a few months. For me it was the start of an incredible journey exploring this fabulous canyon we call the North Fork. With Russell leading the way with his vast knowledge of the North Fork's trails, history, geology and more, it was like I had jumped aboard the North Fork Express. I'm amazed at how much of the North Fork I visited with Russell in such a short time. There is no need in me trying to tell you about these great adventures as Russell has chronicled them well on his blog.

Exploring and hiking the High Old Upriver Trail through Giant Gap was one of the adventures I really enjoyed. Many long day hikes in and out of the canyon to find, follow and clear more of this incredible route through Giant Gap. Here is Russell at the tunnel through the spur ridge of Lovers Leap. The other end of the tunnel opens out onto the shear wall of a gully.

Here is Russell, with his trusty Fiskars loppers (and Lucky!), at the blasted out overhang along the route.

It was amazing that Lucky follow us all the way to the point where a little climbing was required.

Russell was obsessed with the waterfall in New York Canyon. He did nine hikes trying to see and seeing this tall waterfall tucked in New York Canyon, I accompanied him of 2 or 3 of these hikes. Here is Russell when we approached the fall from the river on our April 2004 trip down the Royal Gorge.

The previous year we had done a trip into the Royal Gorge with Greg. Here are Russell and Greg at one of the waterfalls.

This was a neat little place to visit. Russell had been tipped off about this place by a friend that called it the “Railroad in the Sky Mine”. After Russell made a trip out to see it he called me as would sometimes do saying “Ron! You just got to see this!”. Thanks Steve!

With Catherine on the Tadpole Cliffs above the Iowa Hill Ditch.

In Big Valley.

Truly some of my best hiking experiences have been hiking and exploring the North Fork with Russell. I miss him dearly.

[posted by Ron Gould]

Friday, October 10, 2008

Saturday Breakfast in Dutch Flat

Just to let everyone know, the Methodist Church in Dutch Flat is hosting a fabulous pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The church is directly accross the street from the Dutch Flat Community Center, where the "hikers" are meeting at 9:00 a.m. The cost is only $5.00, so we'll see you there! Also, the "Art Center" will be "open" shortly after 9:00 a.m., so if you're around c'mon in and hang out. Can't wait to meet everyone! Shellie

Monday, October 6, 2008

Summer, 2002

My family gets to visit Dutch Flat occassionally, for Thanksgiving or for short visits on our way to the High Sierras with my dad. We would often see and do things with Russ and his kids. In the summer of 2002, we stopped over for a few days and Russ took us exploring near my aunt and uncle's house where we peeked into an old hand-dug gold mine and tramped over hills that had scatterings of petrified wood and remnants of Chinese diggings. The highlight, by far, was the trip to Smart's Crossing, I think it was called, to pan for gold....After a hairy drive down a narrow, semi-washed out dirt road and down a narrow trail, we came to a pristine, cold stream. It was a hot day and all the kids immediately went swimming, having dressed for the occassion. Russ simply stripped down to his altogether and then got down to the business of showing us how to dig out the bank mud to find gold. My kids were a bit surprised, to say the least, but after a moment were jumping from rocks and playing. This picture says it all.....though I haven't figured how to get it upside-up!!!

We always had interesting adventures with Russ and will miss him.

Kathy McCloskey, Rodney Bachtell, Zachary Bachtell, Matthew Bachtell, and Nathaniel Bachtell
Professional photographer Jerry de Wilde was at Año Nuevo in 1970, photographing Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters while they were filming the never-finished movie, "Atlantis Rising". They used Russ's driftwood cabin as the location for the "princess's home". I stumbled upon this shot of the cabin in thumbnail size on Jerry's website and contacted him to see if I could get a bigger image. He sent these two, and has given me permission to post them here. They're the clearest photos I've ever seen of the cabin!

Also, Jerry found in his archives this headshot of Russ from that time. He was 21.

AND, there is a full body shot of Russ (taken same day as the portrait) that will be included, printed large, in Jerry's show opening this month at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City. He is in full hippie mode. You can see a snapshot size version of that one here:

[Photos courtesy of Jerry de Wilde, copyright 1970/All Rights Reserved.]

Thanks Jerry!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I just found this photo from summer of 1988. That's Dutch Flat artist Steve Patrick on the right. We are on the top of a mountain, I believe Anderson Peak on the Sierra Crest. This is a self-timer shot. Russ is holding the summit register, and the camera is perched on the summit cairn. I wonder what we wrote in the register? Wonder where summit registers end up?

See, my hair wasn't ALWAYS gray ; )

Check out Russ's fancy hiking footwear. This was typical.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

There are two articles about Russell in the ...

Dutch Flat Community Center 'Community' newsletter Fall 2008 issue aka Volume 21 - No. 3:

  "Russell Towle, A Passionate Life" on page 11 by Susan Prince.

  "Tribute to Russell Towle" on page 13 by Jim Ricker.

There is another article about Russell in the Protect American River Canyons (PARC) online newsletter 'The Confluence' Fall 2008 issue:


On page 7 is this:
  "Euchre Bar Trail to Southern Cross & Black Hawk Mines"
    Sunday, October 12
    Rugged, approximately 6 mile round trip hike in memory of Russell Towle led by Ron Gould.

Russell wrote about this making ?same? hike with Ron Gould on his NorthForkTrails.blogspot.com blog entry "Down and Up and Down and Up".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A panorama ...

made from eleven pictures taken from "the cliffs" near the cabins:

Full image is 13,699 x 2,775 pixels and 54.1MB.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

I updated the "Books by Russell" posting with ...

a picture of the cover of "The Dutch Flat Diary of Isaac Tibbetts Coffin".

This particular blog post can be seen here: "Books by Russell".

I am certain that this list of books is incomplete and I am still in search of the cover from "The Seven Ages of Dutch Flat". Please leave a comment with any additions or corrections.

Four pictures of a small table ...

crafted by Russell for Carol from old barn wood salvaged from near Año Nuevo and Manzanita.

Russell and Janet during an early ...

guitar jam session.

Sadly for us, Janet plays the guitar in the same 'style' today.

Photo almost certainly by Gay Wiseman, used without permission.
Scan courtesy of Carol Towle.

Russell and Janet during an early guitar jam session

An early Polar Zonohedra ...


Dot-matrix outlines, hand colored. The colors have been faded a bit by the sun.

Scan courtesy of Carol Towle.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My favorite portrait of Russ

I took this photo shortly after Janet was born, probably Spring of 1990.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Russell playing guitar

Russ loved the music of Brazilian artists Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. When he was home he sometimes spent hours a day playing music, both guitar and piano—and in recent years it was often a version of a piece by one or both of these two men. Using the Macintosh software GarageBand, he would make multi-track recordings of his favorite pieces, playing all the parts himself. In the photo below, he's playing for friend, Rick Creelman, who shared a love for this poignant music.

Listen to Russell playing A Felicidade.

Russ learned Portuguese so that he could understand and sing these songs in their original language. For those of us who don't know Portuguese, here is an English version of the lyrics of:

A Felicidade
Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes

Sadness has no end,
Happiness does.
Happiness is like a feather
That the wind carries
through the air;
It flies so lightly
But has a brief life,
It needs to have a wind that never stops.
The happiness of a poor man
is like
The great illusion of Carnaval;
People work the whole
year long
For one moment's dream,
To play the part of
A king or a pirate or a gardener,
And everything ends on
[Ash] Wednesday.
Happiness is like a drop
Of dew on a flower's petal,
It shines peacefully then swings lightly
And falls like a tear of love.
My happiness is
In the eyes of my girlfriend,
It is like a night that
passes by
In search of the dawn.
Speak quietly please,
So she wakes as happy as the day,
Offering kisses of love.
Happiness is a crazy thing
And so delicate, too;
It has flowers and love of all colors,
It has bird nests,
It has everything nice.
Because it's like this, so
I always treat it
very well.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Russell Summer 1981

Russ came to Anderson Springs (Lake County) to put the finishing touches on our deck... this was the only time he came to our house... he hated the drive! The deck benches were spectacular, and I remember he had to calculate the corner cuts very precisely, as they had multiple angles to match.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Original Russell - from January 1961

This was the story written by Russell that Carol Towle read in the meadow a couple of weeks ago.

Story courtesy of Carol Towle
Scan courtesy of Carol Towle and Brian Heck (nephew).

"My Adventures.............. and Romances???"

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'My Adventures.............. and Romances???'  Page 1

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'My Adventures.............. and Romances???'  Page 1