On August 13, 2001, Catherine "Canyon"
O'Riley, Chris Schiller and I made the traverse of Giant Gap,
entering the canyon at Green Valley and exiting via the Canyon
Creek Trail. The photographs and captions below tell some of the
story of a fine day on the North Fork American.
At the end of the West Trail in Green Valley,
and across the river from the Gold Ring Mine, is a large pool,
deep and inviting. Lovers Leap, rising 2400 feet above the river,
is in the background. The sunny slopes in the foreground are the
serpentine of Green Valley, where the Melones Fault Zone crosses
the North Fork American. The faulted contact between the serpentine
and the Calaveras Complex metavolcanics of Giant Gap is still
well to the west and downstream.
The January 1997 flood event left a pine
tree athwart the river. Canyon O'Riley makes the crossing, over
the wind-ruffled emerald waters of the North Fork.
Just at the contact between the Melones
serpentine and the metavolcanic greenstone of the Calaveras Complex,
a serpentine spire guards the entrace to Giant Gap. The canyon
has been narrowing into a gorge by degrees. Suddenly, it closes
in tighly from both sides, as the massive greenstone is reached.
The Pinnacles, across from Lovers Leap in Giant Gap, are partly
visible in the background.
The first of the deep pools which one must
swim. In the background, the base of the Pinnacle spur.
A little ways below the First Pool, the
main mass of the Pinnacle spur comes into view. At the upper left
is Eagle Puke Point, where golden eagles roost and regurgitate
pellets of fur and bone.
Chris takes a break after crossing one of
The inimitable Canyon O'Riley more than
deserves her nickname, after swimming the eternal emerald gems
of Giant Gap.
Canyon swims yet another pool. Chris is
a little dot on the rocks a couple hundred feet down.
Finally, after about ten pools, and an endless
succession of boulders and cliffs, the last pool of the main part
of Giant Gap is passed. We re-packed our gear and prepared for
the brush and poison oak of the High Trail to Canyon Creek, another
mile and a half down the river.
On the High Trail, making for Canyon Creek.
We were glad that the sun was westering and this part of the canyon
wall was in shade.
The last deep pool before Canyon Creek is
a real sweetheart. That thing is deep. The sunny cliffs of the
south wall of Giant Gap are reflected in its surface, except,
where ruffled by the anabatic, up-canyon winds, the water reflects
more of the sky color. We are one the last little bit of the High
Trail, near the foreboding Spot of Great Danger and Dread, which
being hardy spirits, we passed with genuinely unstudied nonchalance.
At the base of the Canyon Creek Trail, where the High Trail comes in. Lovers Leap was well to the west of us when we started on the river; now it is well to the east.
We rested near Canyon Creek itself for a bit, then slogged slowly up the steep trail. It had been our firm plan to hurry through Giant Gap and climb up and out to the Gold Run Diggings by six p.m. Fortunately, this plan failed, and we had the benefit of shade the whole way up the trail. We reached Canyon's truck at about 7:30 p.m., with countless repercussions for loved ones who expected to hear from us earlier, but for me at least, it all went very well, and my children, Janet and Greg, danced up the road to greet me with smiles and hugs, when I got home. Janet even said, based upon her personal experience of Giant Gap, that she didn't expect me until eleven. Now there's what I call a daughter!
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