ContentsPutah and Cache: Entering

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Tributaries: An Introduction

David Robertson and Amy J. Boyer

Putah and Cache creeks, tributaries of the Sacramento River, contain more than can be packed into one volume. We tried packing them into a book anyway, starting on Putah Creek where it used to transform itself into tule marshes, heading upstream to Clear Lake, and returning down Cache Creek to the wetlands of the Yolo Basin. UC Davis researchers gave us rocks, birds, fish and flora. Graduate students went in search of interviews, and found them. Numerous local writers gave us poems, essays, and stories: the human desires, dreams, and sometimes hurts that shape how we live in a place and how we shape that place in turn. Libraries provided the thoughts of people first discovering the place. As the various places in the region differ, so different chapters of the book differ: some are mainly about the non-human inhabitants, some mainly about the human inhabitants, most are a mix. We hope that you enjoy your journey through this, our home place.

Amy J. Boyer

One tributary to Putah and Cache flowed in from the Office of the Chancellor at the University of California Davis. Larry Vanderhoef, in the financially lean years of the early 1990s, wanted to make UC Davis more responsive to the needs and desires of its Northern California constituency. One step he took was to create the Commission on the Environment and to give it funds to support projects concerned with the wellbeing of Northern California plant, animal, and human communities.

In 1997 some of those monies were given to the Putah Cache Bioregion Project, which had begun several years earlier under the leadership of Dennis Pendleton and Joyce Gutstein of the Public Service Research Program, Rob Thayer, Professor of Landscape Architecture, Peter Moyle, Professor of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, and myself, a Professor of English. The five of us, along with many others who joined the project, decided in the fall of that year that we wanted to publish a guidebook to our Putah Cache watershed. And we wanted the guidebook to have both a virtual and a physical existence.

The other major tributary has its headwaters in Japan. Back in the 1950s and 60s Gary Snyder went on pilgrimages with the Yamabushi, "mountain monks," on Japan's Omine Ridge, and did circumambulations (the Buddhists call them pradakshinas) on Mt. Hiei, which rises above Kyoto. In 1963 Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen, and Snyder did a formal circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin County. In 1989 Snyder taught me the route, and I have been leading classes around Tam ever since. It was natural, then, for me to think of joining Rob Thayer in planning a Circumdrive up Putah Creek and down Cache Creek. (Since the distance is over 200 miles, it was not practical to walk it.)

Thayer took the lead by writing a guide to the "stops" on the CircumDrive that he and I began leading in the fall of 1997. That document became the skeleton on which the flesh of this Guidebook grew, the poetry, fiction, and historical and scientific non-fiction. So, now, as the Guidebook goes into print, its overall form is that of a circuit around the watershed, with explanatory and artistic materials clustered around the "stops" on the drive.

In 1999 Jan Goggans and Dan Leroy, both at the time graduate students at Davis, took up the task of assembling materials, editing them, and transforming them into bits and bytes. Still later, in mid-2001, Amy Boyer began the monumental chores that come at the end of a project like this: tracking down remaining material, cutting the manuscript down to a reasonable size, making final editorial decisions, securing permissions, putting the Guidebook on the web, and preparing the text for printing.

Our thanks go to all who have written sections of Putah and Cache, to those who have participated in our CircumDrives, and to those who have joined us in the intellectual and artistic ventures we have sponsored.

David Robertson

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