This is how environmental karma works (no need to Google the term, I just made it up). Thanks to my ADD and white trash camp neighbors I am singing Kanye’s “Gold Digger” and wondering if it promotes racism as I jump rock to rock up the Stanislaus River. It’s a smoky Tuesday and the fishing is outstanding.


I try to do three solo days on the river at the end of the summer as a kind of reset/evaluation of life/recharge the batteries/think deep thoughts/clean the slate kind of experience. The Stanislaus River Campground is the perfect location and this year I have the added benefit of being located next to a group with a very different camping agenda. I saw the fully stocked beer pong table when I arrived and thought, “well, this should add to the adventure.”


My authentic self lives here. I spent a month every summer in a rock cabin without electricity or a flush toilet about 10 miles down the river in Big Meadows. If I don’t return to the mountains periodically my Homeostasis suffers, I am not whole. I have a dream to live part time in Robert Conrad’s old place in Bear Valley as a writer/skier/fly fisherman, commuting to LA once a month to work on my stories which are being turned into Oscar worthy movies.


Course my authentic self also lives in Sonoma where it provides, works, writes and raises kids. It’s a balance as all our lives are.


I fish hard then go to bed early without a campfire. I wake at 2am to a man screaming, “Get the f**k out of here!” followed by a car alarm followed by a shotgun blast. Next I hear the mom tell her son “Get your f**cking shit together” followed by more alarms and a second blast and the sound of two cars tearing out of the campsite.


I look out my tent, see nothing but a big cloud of dust, assume it was a bear visit and that since my food is safely in the back of my truck which is 30 feet from my tent that I’ll be OK (pathological optimism). I fall back asleep.


In the morning I discover that the bear came back, opened the lift gate on my truck which I had unintentionally but thankfully left unlatched and taken out and eaten the leftover contents of my ice chest. I take very little on these mountain trips: granola, yogurt, coffee, flour with spices (for the trout), butter, rice, cocoa mix and some fruits and veggies. All is gone except for a dirty half eaten cucumber and a baggie of coffee (which is the most important thing). I should have covered the ice chest but I doubt that would have helped.


I make coffee then head downriver for my final fishing sesh. The beer pong table is upside down, plastic plates, bottles and garbage are all over the neighbor’s campsite and there is a trail of detritus leading into the woods. Nobody is around and all is quiet as I watch the orange glow of a smoky sunrise.


America is the white trash neighbors blaring Kanye. The bear is the environment striking back. And I am the tearing Indian trying to get people to understand that to live in harmony is a much better strategy.


Environmental karma is real. Record fires and record temperatures are real. Climate change is real. You know that stuffy nose you haven’t been able to shake, that’s a sinus infection caused by increasing toxic particulates that you are consuming daily.

That malaise that makes you want to drink and smoke more and lie in bed all day watching Netflix, that’s called negative coping with anxiety and it is literally killing you. The solution is not easy because the deck is currently stacked against your success but if you exercise, organize, and stay out of the shit pool, you will feel better, I promise.


“Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.” I very wise fortune cookie told me that at a time when I was feeling very discontented. Then I met someone at a friend’s birthday party who said she was really moved by something I had written ( and life suddenly seemed better.


After a few hours I head back to my campsite to pack up. The neighbors have returned, cleaned the area and left for good.


The bear is gone but this is his home and he will be back.






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