Sunday, July 18, 2010


Volunteer. You'll meet amazing people. Most recently, they were students from three El Dorado County high schools participating in the first-ever Young Environmental Writers and Storytellers program. YEWS for short. Here's their mission statement.

"To create a dynamic and self-sustaining environmental education program for El Dorado County high school students, enrich the quality and availability of rural environmental news, and celebrate El Dorado's unique natural heritage through good storytelling and new media."

The program was conceived by two soon-to-be-legendary foothill residents, Emily Underwood and Shawn Dunkley. The program is cosponsored by Family Connections El Dorado and the inaugural weekend was hosted by the Mother Lode River Center.

My role was to help out during the poetry hike, with fellow volunteers Moira Magneson and Alexa Mergen. In the photograph above, we're enjoying some much-needed shade and fresh cherries. And writing about the sense of taste.

I left the workshop invigorated and inspired. Our future is in good hands. But that doesn't mean the next generation can't use our help. To learn more about the Young Environmental Writers and Storytellers of El Dorado program, and to find out how you can pitch in, follow the link to their website.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


(Photo: Kathy Pittard)

My neighborhood celebrates the Fourth of July with a brunch followed by a parade. Bands play on front lawns. Young families push their kids in strollers. Dogs tag along. Even the fire department joins in on the fun by sending an engine to lead the happy throng. Last night, the occasional firework boomed or whistled. Roman candles will light the street tonight. So why am I feeling so restless?

After the parade, I jumped in my truck and went out to check on the river, driving my usual circuit that gives me up- and downstream views from our town's bridges. The flows are wadable again, somewhere around 4,000 cfs, and the spot I like to bushwhack my way down to looked pretty good for shad and maybe stripers. There wasn't a fisherman in sight. So why wasn't I excited? Over a beer at my local dive I realized the reason why.

There are no steelhead in the river. And I miss those migratory fish. The feeling I have today reminds me of something my rugby coach used to pull on us now and then, back in college. For a couple of days we'd play nothing but basketball and soccer. We liked the break at first, enjoyed playing other games that were similar but different. Pretty soon, though, we were trying to make these games a little more like rugby. By the third day we were demanding to play rugby again and our practices were transformed from tedium to pure joy.

Last weekend, my brother and I were in Burbank pitching "Junk Sick," the screenplay we wrote together. It's a horror story set in a detox facility. Writing the script required lots of research into the nature of addiction. So I have to ask myself: When did I become a steelhead junky? And when will I get my next fix?