As I begin this, it’s January 17, 2015. The idea for this blog has developed over the last few weeks. It comes from a range of difference sources. A few years ago, my father began a blog about the Sacramento River — part travelogue, part history lesson, part photography showpiece — his blog is a trip along the banks and byways of the Sacramento River. That’s the first seed that was planted.
The second was that I turned 50 and even though I don’t believe in the significance of years that end with zeroes, I took it as a chance to re-evaluate some aspects of my life. I began to toss away my frustrations and re-discover who I was. Or maybe discover a me I had yet to be. For a few years, I have drifted down the rabbit hole of disappointments that seemed to take over my life more and more. Work wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Home life wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I have spent the last 10+ years writing fiction but have been frustrated by how those other things prevented me writing as much as I wanted to.
I realized that my frustration was feeding on itself and I had to do something. There are a number of things I have done since to try to change my approach. One of them is to get out more often. I am fortunate to live in Sacramento, a city fed by two incredible rivers. The Sacramento River flows from the North. The American River flows from the East. There are also other smaller rivers scattered around the area. I went for a walk one day at the Cosumnes River Preserve. I took my camera and enjoyed the peace and quiet for a few hours, the beauty of the river and the ducks, geese, and birds that populated it, the trees and grasslands along its banks. I decided this was something I needed to do more often.
A few weeks later, I spent a few hours walking around the William B. Pond Recreation Area (a post to follow at some point) and that is where the idea for this blog began to grow. My dad has the Sacramento River covered. I’ll take on the American River. A couple of weeks later, I walked around Sailor Bar, the location covered in my first post here.
While thinking about what to write on this blog, I realized something about the American River. I have spent all but one year of my life in its shadow. Born in Moses Lake, Washington, I moved here with the family when I was not quite 1 1/2 years old. We moved to a neighborhood that backs up against one of the levees that protects Sacramento from the risk of floods from the American River. I spent my entire childhood there and my parents still live in the family home. I went to college at CSU, Sacramento, a state college tucked along the river just down the road from our home. And I live in Sacramento still, never having moved away.
Through the years, I have taken countless bike rides along the bike trail, a 32 mile concrete ribbon that winds through the American River Parkway from Old Sacramento to Folsom Lake. This natural oasis in the heart of urban Sacramento has in some respects always been there in the background of my life and it forms the beginning and inspiration for this blog.
And the history of the area fascinates me. In another life, I probably would have ended up as a history teacher. When I was a kid, we did what all California kids do. We learned about the Gold Rush. We went to Coloma, where gold was discovered. We went to Sutter’s Fort and learned the fascinating stories of those who rushed to California to make their fortune. Then I grew up and had kids of my own and got to experience it all over again. The missions, the forts, Coloma, the tales of fortune and destitution that always seemed to go hand in hand. The American River is a body of water with history leaking from its banks across its entire length.
The American River begins as three separate forks far up into the Sierra Nevadas. Those forks eventually merge in the formation of Folsom Lake, a reservoir held back by the Folsom Dam, where the American River becomes one river until it reaches the Sacramento River just north of downtown Sacramento. While I will begin with the part of the river I am most familiar with, my hope is that I will be able to explore and share just as much about the North, Middle, and South Forks of the American River.
This will be more than just a log of my walks. I’ll share the history with you. There will be photos and other things. My first post begins with a haiku inspired by my time at Sailor Bar. I hope to find that kind of inspiration with each post. And I will also share more. This is not just a physical journey for me. It is not just an opportunity for photos and facts. It is also going to be about the mental and emotional journey I am on. Just like a river has a source and an end and it twists and turns many times in between, so do our lives. As I go through the transitions from what I was before to what I will be, I think this effort, if it goes the way I hope, will guide me in that transition. This is about connecting with something that is there, but not there. I don’t even know how to describe it, but when I am walking along the river, when I am taking pictures of sun reflecting off the water’s surface, when I sit somewhere along the edge of the river and ponder life’s mysteries … I feel more real and more connected than I do at any other time these days.
So, that is what American River Ramblings will be about. The river and its history and its beauty, and about my physical journey along its banks while I ponder my own journey.