The Dethroning of a Sierra County Forest Monarch by Tom Gilfoy
There used to be a big ole sugar pine sitting high up on a ridge overlooking the North Fork of the Yuba River. Although a real giant, it probably appeared even larger than it really was because it was so much bigger than all the other trees around it. The Forest Service must have thought this old forest monarch was something special too as it put up a sign designating it, “King’s Sugar Pine.”
It’s hard to tell someone exactly where the old tree was located as there is no well known landmark in the area that can be used as a starting point for directions. About the closest thing to it is the old shut-down Brandy City Cal-Ida mill on the hill above Indian Valley, but the old mill is still miles away.
It was clear back in 1949 that I and a couple of my friends first stumbled on this beautiful old tree. It was while we were exploring the area in an old Model A Ford and traveling along a logging road between the Brandy City mill and Saddleback Mountain. We were rattling along the bumpy road at the old A’s max speed, say about 25 mph, when we came around a bend and BANG, there it stood in all its magnificent glory. I mean, it really leaped out and caught your eye. That’s when I took the picture accompanying this story. If you look closely you can see the Forest Service sign in the lower left of the picture. The two characters wrapped part way around the tree are my partner Mitch Steffensen and Wagon Train Bill Seely.
For those who want to make a formal comment about the proposed rule, readers should visit <https://beta.regulations.gov/docket/NOAA-NMFS-2020-0139/document>. The editor of this paper has long championed the re-introduction of the native fish who, for eons, kept the local bears fat and happy. Thus, for the sake of the bears, alone, forget the tourists, he filed a comment with NOAA. He also hopes readers will also comment to support the fish and bears.
This past Tuesday, December 29, marked the beginning of the western Sierra County COVID-19 Vaccine Program. This joint effort between the Downieville Ambulance and Urgent Care organization and the Sierra County Health Department started operation at the Downieville Community Hall when 40 doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered to EMS and First Responders of the Downieville, Sierra City, Alleghany, and Pike City fire departments.
It’s no secret that in the heyday of gold mining and lumber, extraction industries in the Sierras thrived due to the abundance of natural resources and the essentially non-existent environmental concerns. However, in the absence of these once-thriving industries, a new player has entered the game. And it’s sustainable! Outdoor recreation has been a rejuvenating industry to communities throughout Plumas and Sierra counties, once again putting them on the map for visitors from around the world. The Downieville Classic, along with the multi-use trail systems winding through the wild beauty of the Sierras have outdoor enthusiasts visiting year-round. Hunting and fishing remain constants while winter snowmobile action is heavy throughout the mountainous areas of the county as well. However, it still holds true that the communities throughout Sierra and Plumas counties are struggling to maintain year-round economic growth, local jobs, and tourism revenue. Greg Williams and the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship have been brewing a plan to enhance the attraction of outdoor recreation enthusiasts to the area, continuing to bring life back into the Lost Sierras and boost year-round economic flow into our communities. Their plan is to connect fifteen communities throughout the Sierras via a multi-use trail system. The Trails Master Plan, or TMP, is focused on creating a vision for recreation-focused lifestyle, community investment, shared stewardship, economic opportunity, and creating local jobs to benefit the economies of disadvantaged communities in Sierra, Plumas, and Lassen counties.
Fantasies die hard, or so it is said. And perhaps they are more stubborn in the hard-knocks, real-life world of newspapering. Every reporter is rumored to have a novel tucked in some hidden file in their desk or on their computer. Every publisher dreams of becoming the visionary voice of the community. Every everyone (reporter, photographer, editor, publisher) dreams of winning the Big P. (aka Pulitzer Prize, which, by the way, have now been announced for 2020.)