Saturday, March 1, 2014


The sound was of the breeze blowing through bare winter trees – only much louder.  Like a huge, distant orchestra shrouded by a curtain of canyon wall, warming for a performance.  Blended notes.

Canyon wall, to be sure.  I was perched on a paved strip half way up and half way down.  Motorcycle cooling behind me. 

Over the edge I peered. 

The symphony was of water cascading over an ancient, gray concrete dam barricading the American River.  Built to halt debris from upstream mining or timber operations, but halting, momentarily, the river itself.  Rivers are only halted momentarily, if at all. 
Mist from this crashing water wafted up the canyon side and rested on the clear plastic face shield of my black Arai helmet.  I opened it.  Droplets, fresh and pure, coated my face and beard.

In washed the smell of the duff wetted in last night’s rainstorm.  Breathe deeply.
Standing in a nearly vertical shaft of sunlight – the only degree from which sunlight would ever strike this winter canyon ground, viewing the water thundering over the dam, smelling the history of last night’s storm and the history of this place:  Wherever I’ve just ridden is my favorite place to be.
© 2003
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Walked from “The Confluence” to Clementine Dam on the North Fork of the American. The hike reminded me of an earlier visit about a decade or so past.

    Ten years ago, as assistant superintendent for curriculum in a Placer County school district, I realized it was time to get back in touch with what really happens in the classroom. I hoofed over to the room of a master to watch her at work. (She never made it seem like work.) The lesson I stepped in on was one wherein she asked pupils to write for five minutes “thinking of someplace you’d like to be. See how much description you can put in it.” Students were to share and critique one another upon completion. I grabbed a piece of paper and set to her task.

    The day before, I had escaped the office in the late afternoon but early enough to ride my then-new BMW into the foothills visiting Clementine.

    This post is the piece I wrote in her class - pretty much unedited. I still remember being asked to pair up with a student who otherwise would have had no partner for the critique. I came away thinking the little girl could really write!