At approximately eight-thousand feet, life begins. At least for those who come from where I come from. It is precisely here that snowpack begins to melt and pool, nearly a mile and a half in the sky, along the crest of the Sierra Nevada. This snowmelt then rushes down, with force and determination, to the foothills that hug the mountain range and merges with numerous other tributaries to form the American River. The American cascades westward through the Great Central Valley of California, the valley in which I was born, and then merges with the equally large Sacramento River before fanning out and reaching the Pacific Ocean. Its waters provide for many of the communities in both the northern and southern parts of the state — agriculturally, economically, and recreationally. But for those of us who have grown up beside it, it represents something deeper. Something integral to who we are as people. Its waters flow through us just as surely as our blood flows through our veins. How many generations waded through its mud, fought against its current, gleaned its riches. How many of our parents met along its banks. How many fathers taught their sons to fish the salmon who run its shallows every fall. And how many more will.