Mark your calendars for October 8th for an entertaining Woodlake Pride evening at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens. Starting at 4:00 pm.
That sounds fun!
Woodlake is a foothill town of about 7,000 nestled in the center a circle of foothills on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bravo Lake occupies a large chunk of the heart of the town. In 1912 when Gilbert Stevenson purchased the acres to build the city, he envisioned a beautiful tourist town. BUT Stevenson built a levee around the town’s primary landmark, obscuring it from view.
Whaaaa?? Was he shortsighted or something?
Maybe, but Olga and Manuel Jimenez had some great ideas to beautify the levees.
And the City of Woodlake agreed to it?
You bet. They bought the land.
What do you do with a big lake no one can see?
Worse than that, the area around it was vacant or worse – a weed haven. Manuel and Olga Jimenez change blight into bright and created Woodlake Pride, a service organization to perpetuate the beautiful park setting they created.
A student narrates the story of Manuel Jimenez’s vision for a student community service organization which he called Woodlake Pride in the video Woodlake Pride’s Wonderful World.
The real plan that Olga had was to “grow kids by planting gardens.” They started planting gardens in 1989, but eventually the city purchased 13 acres to turn into the beautiful gardens that we see today. The 1,700 rose bushes alone make this a wonderful world.
“It’s not like Disneyland,” Manuel Jimenez states.
Although it does not feature the number of varieties of roses found in famous gardens like the Boston Rose Garden, everyone marvels at the many varieties of plant life the Woodlake Botanical Garden on the way to the Sequoia National Park. It has become a major draw for sight-seeing.
It is that inspiring tale of what one person, or in this case a couple, can do in a community if they put their heart and soul into it.
“The legacy I want to leave Woodlake is just the beauty. It’s amazing what a seed can produce,” Olga shared.
The narrow road through the stout trees should have alerted us that the final challenge would narrow down ever further.
Sure enough. It did. Such a narrow passage, we had to fold in our mirrors.
If you are planning a trip to the Redwoods, the Northern California or Southern Oregon coast, you might be interested in more pictures of our road trip three years ago. To read about our Accidental Vacation click any of the links below. What started as a disaster ended up to be one of our favorite trips.
“If one tries to think about history, it seems to me – it’s like looking at a range of mountains. And the first time you see them, they look one way. But then time changes, the pattern of light shifts. Maybe you’ve moved slightly, your perspective has changed. The mountains are the same, but they look very different.” Robert Harris
Living in the Woodlake Valley could not be better in the spring. Colors of blossoms contrasted against snowy mountains that are crisp and clear, not obscured by dusty air make spring my favorite season here.
I drove home from Visalia on this day admiring the view of the mountains and the red buds along the road. I could not stop on the freeway and shoot a picture, but luckily my friend Sally had both the tree and the view right in her front yard. I stalked around her yard changing angles trying to get just the right spot to capture both the mountain and the tree before I even announced my presence. Both of these pictures pleased me, so I hope you enjoy them, too.
A couple of weeks later, from a mile north I stood at the edge of an orange grove overwhelmed by both the smell of orange blossoms and the beauty of the sunset bouncing off of snowy Saw Tooth Mountain. This time my cell phone couldn’t catch the contrast of the landscape as clearly. Even less fortunate, my cell phone could not transmit the fragrance.
Wish you were here. We’d go for a walk in our beautiful landscape. Click the link below to see other landscapes.
Shivering beneath their antimacassars these baby orange trees see snow in the mountains, and coming down into the foothills. It’s sunny on this chilly morning. The picture looks deceptively warm, but it was 32 at 8:00. Frost covered the car.
Here are the next few challenges. To enter, Click Here.
We looked forward to our vacation in Sedona for weeks, and we’ve already been home for two days. What happened?
Sights seemed clear enough when we were there. We stopped at a wonderful museum in Kingman even though this lady view us with some distrust. Maybe her vision was blurred.
If you are at the Route 66 Museum, and you like old-fashioned milkshakes and malts you should go across the street to Mr. Dz. Yelp provided this picture, so I’m a bit blurry on the name details.
We spent the first and last night in Laughlin, so we met ourselves coming and going. It was beautiful on the way, but by the way back, the blurry air smeared the town’s beauty. So enjoy the first glimpse.
We visited a park called Slide Rock on the way home that may have been the most beautiful place in the world. In 1912 a man named Frank Pandry homesteaded it and grew apples.
It’s heyday came and went in a blur, but artifacts remain. It’s definitely worth a visit.
The red blur at the bottom explains how the place got its name. Kids and adults alike still enjoyed the slippery rocks.
Bees still enjoyed sniffing the black apple blossoms. I had never heard of black apples.
Can you imagine a finer setting for an apple orchard?
A few years ago Vince and I purchased five acres of beautiful property, and subdivided it into four parcels. Three have sold. Two have beautiful homes, and my favorite remains. We thought it had sold to one of my former fourth grade students, but financing fell through. I was so sad – instant grandchildren came with that sale. But maybe there is someone else just as lovely that wants to build a home there.
Two days ago the weather was so perfect, I had to do a photo shoot there. It’s on a cul-de-sac and has a pad already cleared for building. This is the house across the private road.
It was about 4:00 pm. The full moon peeped out of the clouds in broad daylight. I see a rabbit. What do you see?
The lot has five or six oak trees that are probably between 50 and 100 years old. They are indigenous to this area, but are not protected like the Visalia Oak. The cute little house across the street is ours. It is small, but very I think very adorable. He’s getting ready to redo our master bathroom. His son is coming to help him today, and I’m going out of town. (Whew!)
The trees have many birds, mostly owls, woodpeckers and vultures. They are camera-shy. I waste so much time trying to capture them with my camera.
I almost missed this one, and it’s not clear. I’m probably spinning as I follow it. I shot using my telephoto lens, which gets really close, but it sticks out so far, I can’t hold it steady. You are looking at the underbelly of a woodpecker. They love telephone poles. Every pole stores thousands of acorns. They like to put them in our gutters as well, up under the edge of the roof.
This is probably a vulture in the top center of the maze of limbs.
He doesn’t want to even land.
To the east beyond the foothills, you see the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range on a clear day.
There is a vacant lot right across the street next to our house. Vince has always wanted to plant a vineyard, but there are many regulations, and neither of us knows what we are doing, so it sits fallow.
You can see that the trees will bloom any day now.
The young couple that planned to buy the property asked about snakes. Mama Kitty ate one the other day. I think it was a garter snake. She made the funniest screaming noise while she was playing with it. After munching it down, she later gave it back, but was no worse for the wear.
We have seen about 2 tiny rattle snakes in the 15 years we have lived there, so they are there. We had Kalev rattle snake trained, so she is alert. The cats just eat them. They also catch gophers. The squirrels are too much for them, so we have help catching them and the raccoons. Scardy Kitty got stuck in the trap one morning. He was quite irritated as he waited patiently for me to figure out how to open it.
Country life doesn’t appeal to everyone, but city slickers, Vince and Marsha wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
The scenes as I walked along Millwood Drive took my breath away. Maybe if I stayed in shape… Eventually my husband picked me up and we enjoyed the warm photoshoot together.
While our eastern friends bury under mountains of snow, in Woodlake Valley we welcome a few inches of water on the valley floor and many feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. It rained this weekend, and in December, so while we get the most wonderful winter weather in the world, we wish for more precipitation so our wells won’t run dry. I took these pictures December 27th a day after it rained. One rain yields instant green fields.
The mountains glowed with the snow. Don’t you love snow from a distance? I experimented with composition, and used the trees to frame the picture, but couldn’t get a Rule of Thirds picture that I liked. I cropped it in Photoshop, and I’m still not sure which way I prefer so I’ll let you decide.
I love this old barn. However, beautiful winter weather doesn’t insure eternal life even for barns. I wish I knew an interesting story about it. Maybe someone who reads this post will have some insight that I don’t. Or maybe someone will make up a good story. As we came back from taking the shots of the netted trees which was my goal for the day, my husband said, “I know the perfect place to take a picture.” We got to the barn, and he said “This is it.” What I had missed being so focused on using my zoom lens was that there was a path with no fence, and I could have walked up to the barn. How did I miss it? I’m so zoned in that I miss the obvious.
As the road curves following the sandy bed of Cottonwood Creek, rows and rows of netted trees appear on the east. Slowly the daylight ghouls creep up on a lone kid-tree trapped in the center of the row as he tried to run away. They raise their arms and close in for the big take-down. He should have stayed in line.
Netting provides protection for stone fruit trees from birds. The nets also prevent frost and insect damage. I don’t know how any fruit tree lives without its net. However, trees in most fields don’t have nets.
I shot this little tree with its see through gown, and thought it looked sexy. Vince disagreed and he thought eerie described it better.
From a distance smoke seemed to pour out of the top of this building. On closer inspection with a zoom lens, the building grew a tree. Probably if I had climbed over the barbed wire and snuck up behind the structure, the tree would have pretended that it was no where close to that building all along. I staged this picture with these photogenic pieces of dead wood that had nothing more to do than lie there and look pretty.
I wonder if this is the building Bob Hengst built with friends to launch their rockets.
If you can get away from it, fog is beautiful. This week Debbie Simorte, my Girls on Fire editor, asked me how the weather in Visalia could be sunny and foggy at the same time, like that was a Kansas City impossibility. When I drove to Los Angeles this weekend for a meeting, I had to drive almost to Tejon Pass before I found an example of what sunny fog looked like. Visalia had no sun that day, only fog. The freeway, I5 South, split the fog in half as it curled up for a nap against the mountains north of the Grapevine.
As I drove south, the light haze on east side of the freeway foretold of the clear skies awaiting me in Los Angeles. The beauty of the graduated fading fog enticed me off the freeway long enough to snap these pictures before I continued on my trip. I didn’t move much from one spot as I rotated from east to west to capture the entire scene for you.
My favorite feathering of fog
Tinkerbell should be in this picture somewhere sprinkling magical fairy dust in the mountain canyons. It seemed unreal to me.
The arc of fog needed a rainbow marking its border, but none appeared. It remained stark white. Fog tried to bar the sun from entering the valley. At about two in the afternoon the sun tried to burn a hole in the clouds as it had already done on the east side of the freeway. I couldn’t stay to see if it succeeded.
I stood behind the tree and tried to shoot up at the sun, but the effect didn’t please me.
I left the meeting at 4:29 PM the next day in a rush to get over the Grapevine while it was still light. Dropping into the Central Valley, the fog greeted me. It probably had never left. At at night fog no longer felt benign. I took this picture through my dirty windshield as I ripped through the fog approaching Bakersfield, I must have plowed the clouds away. On a closer inspection microdrops of dust on my windshield remained as a calling card of the fleeing mist. I look straight ahead. I could see clearly now. When I looked to my left, there it was. It hovered just off the freeway at a gas station ready to pounce on me again. Once Bakersfield’s lights no longer protected my car and me from the fog, the sky dropped puffs of translucent cotton air onto the road. My car became a vacuum cleaner sucking in white dust bunnies. The stronger the suction, the thicker the fog became. By the time I turned off the freeway onto a country road, I could see only three lines ahead of me. A car passed me going the other direction. I counted to six as I watched him in my rearview mirror, and poof, he was gone. Fog turned the roads I know so well into a strangers.
For those of you who have never experienced Valley fog, this is a taste of what the natives call “Tule fog.” How do you describe the fog in your area?
For being such a 100% gorgeous day, Saturday, November 29th turned oddball early on. First of all I called my friend’s dad, Clarence. I know his name is Leonard. I only said it wrong twice. Leonard Hansen was Woodlake’s famous World War II POW.
He was on the Tulare County Office of Education Board of Education. I worked there. I’m Tulare County’s History Gal. We filmed a video about his experiences. I called him Clarence. It promised to be an odd day.
Then I picked up Robert Edmiston. He had promised to show me landmarks in Elderwood that I didn’t know. So we went to the Woodlake High School Farm. I couldn’t see a single crop. How odd was that?
The 100 year old palms listed oddly
California is in the middle of a drought. Hardly a drop of water sits idle. Sally, Linda and I easily amble around the circumference of Bravo Lake in an hour. Farmers pumped Tulare Lake dry over 150 years ago. The only ferry in Central California is Bill Ferry.
Someone in Elderwood replicated Easter Island. This individual wanted to redevelop the Mini-Ha-Ha Ranch and destroyed the 100-year-old stately palm trees that lines the access road by setting them on fire.
Palm tree trunks don’t burn well. This violent act clearly disturb the Plane Gods.
Someone left the door open at Elda School.
The only native stand of blue oaks left is not in a nature preserve, but sits in a hog wallow field across from an orange grove in Elderwood.
The signs are all there, but where’s the road? Robert pointed out Lone Oak Mountain in the background. The lone oak died.
I don’t think I forgot to put the car in park. Sometimes my Prius doesn’t turn off when I press the off button. Sometimes it doesn’t go into park. Even so, it shouldn’t have gone backwards. Usually, when it doesn’t turn off, it goes forwards while I’m still in the car, and I press it again. This time it sat still as though it was really in park, so I got out and took a picture. Then I looked around to see the car starting to take off! I ran towards the car as it moved gently backwards and tried to stop it, but I fell out of the car as I tried to get in. I don’t know how Robert got in the driver’s seat. The car didn’t crash. I bit the dust, but the car didn’t run over me, nor did the open car door jab me in the face. My camera, which I threw on the ground as I fell, could still shoot pictures.
The autofocus doesn’t work any more. Thanksgiving paid it forward for me. Another one of my X# lives with only one little scratch on my elbow!
Yesterday was odd ball. Click the icon to see more odd ball responses.
California mountain road contain numerous “hogbacks” as my friend, Darlene, calls the switchbacks on the way to Sequoia National Park. It turns out that those same kinds of roads exist on the Coastal Redwood Highway as well. This park called Mystery Trees was about where our truck’s worn out transmission tired of lugging our new trailer. We rented a car and enjoyed the “break.” Not only did the roads and the paths twist and turn, so did the trees, providing beauty and shade. When we did get going again, the fog wanted us to slow down more than the zigzags. These zigzags are closer to home – to anyone’s home. I never tire of the zigzag shapes of tree branches. These trees are in an educational property called Circle J Ranch owned by Tulare County Office of Education where I worked. It is close to a tiny town called Springville, east of Porterville, CA.
I apologize for the quality of this picture. I heard that someone zig zagged on their responsibilities to posterity, and put the archives in the trash instead of the scanning machine, so this is the best picture I have. In this newspaper picture it was the Kaweah (Kuh wee’ uh) River that zagged.
The headwaters for the Kaweah River begin their zig zag course out of the Great Western Divide where mountain summits rise to over 12, 000 feet. The North Fork, which is just east of us begins at 9,000 feet. If the river could go down the mountain in a straight line, the Kaweah River would drop in excess of 2 vertical miles in a distance of 30 linear miles. The Kaweah River loses the same altitude as the Colorado River, but is 97% shorter. It is the steepest river in the United States. Even with a dam to control flooding, in 1969 the water zig zagged its own way into the Woodlake Valley. (Tilchen, Mark. Floods of the Kaweah)
To see more entries for this Zig Zag challenge, click the icon above. :)
The next few days Vince and Marsha spend sight-seeing around Klamath.
Of course they drove to Crescent City to check on the truck. Locals in the service department directed them to drive through a neighborhood into a state park called Stout Grove.
“There’s a lot of traffic here for such an out-of-the-way place,” Vince commented.
Marsha wanted to jump out and take pictures in spite of the traffic. Everyone was doing the same thing, so they just traded places in line.
“This goes on for a long time. I hope they have restrooms somewhere,” Marsha wasn’t ready to dive into the big trees, but it was a concern.
They finally got to the end of the road. No parking places, but there was a restroom at the top of a little knoll. Someone pulled out of a spot, and Vince slid in, and headed for the restroom. Marsha took the dog for a little hike near the signs that said, no dogs on the trails.
“You’re not going to take your dog down there on the trail are you?” a stranger asked her.
“No, I read the signs.”
“I think you are the only one.”
Marsha imagined all kinds of reason that she wouldn’t want to take her dog on the trail that said, ”No dogs on the trails.” There might be bears. There might be mountain lions. There might be ticks. The other dogs on the trails looked big. Marsha and Puppy Girl got back in the car. Vince joined them, and said, “Let’s go. You don’t want to go up there.”
It was amazing how quickly they got out of the Stout Trees.
They even found the lost Concrete Bear Bridge to nowhere. It had flooded out many years before. Looking at how low the water was, Marsha couldn’t imagine how it would ever have reached the height of the bridge, but there really was nothing left of the bridge but a barrier and a sign telling the history of the flood.
Later, they drove through the construction zone over the Hwy 101 Golden Bear Bridge going south then turned right and went on the opposite side of mouth of the Klamath River.
Looking at it from another direction, they realized that the river forked around a little island just before it reached the ocean, or at least that’s what it looked like.
Another day they drove through a single tree – a must do if you have six days to spend in Klamath.
By Friday, they had all their laundry done, and by 12:00 they had their truck, they loaded up their trailer and took off for home.
“I wonder if I could drive all the way home,” Vince mused
It started raining little spatters in Orick, where they had seen the elk lunging beside the road. By Eureka, it was a downpour. Lunch at Applebees while the rain had time to stop sounded like a good idea. Besides everyone else was stopping there, too.
“If I can drive through that, I can drive through anything, right? Windy, narrow roads, rain, big trees, fast trucks, I am the champion, right?” Vince hesitated as he bragged.
“I had no problem writing in my journal when I used a mechanical pencil,” she grumbled to Vince. “So I couldn’t find my pencil, and I quit writing. I didn’t write anything yesterday, or maybe it was day three. What have we been doing since we got here? I remember the Trees of Mystery. I’ve lost track.”
Since he had nothing better to do for the moment, no lawn to mow, no sprinklers to fix, no chores of any kind, Vince sat down with Marsha and they started sorting through the hundreds of pictures in all of their cameras. “OK, that’s enough for now,” he said, jumping off the kitchen bench seat across from Marsha. “You’d better hurry if you are going with me. Doyouwanttogo?Iwanttoleave here by 6:15 this morning so I can get to the car dealer by 6:45.” Vince took a breath.
“Yes, I want to go.” Marsha rushed to answer the last question she heard.
Vince continued. “The dealer opens at 7:30, and maybe somebody will come to work early. I want to be the first one there. Then I’ll take you to Starbucks and you can use the internet there. You haven’t written anything in your journal for five days! What happened? You can stay here if you want to work on your journal.”
“No,” she answered quickly. “It’s ok, I wrote some of it online. But now I’m mixed up. Is it Monday? I’m not used to being on vacation and being so out of touch!”
“You know it’s getting late. Are you going to take a shower? You’re burning daylight,” Vince prodded his wife gently away from her computer.
Marsha now understood what her dad had said to her 30 years before when he told her that she made him tired with all her bustling around, and couldn’t she just sit still for a minute and talk to him. It was all making sense. She was almost over her cold, but felt she was still moving at half speed, and Vince was still moving full speed ahead. She just wanted him to slow down for a second. It was 5:30 in the morning and he had already had HIS coffee and cereal.
By 6:15, as planned, they were on the road in their red rental car, winding their way back to Crescent City to see what might be wrong with the truck. While they waited in the parking lot of the GMC dealer, Vince alternated between pacing the lot, and checking his emails on his cell phone. It was nice to have cellular service. He barked a few orders of who to call and email to Marsha. He wanted to make sure that things ran smoothly back home.
“Vincie, it’s only 6:45 a.m. Hang loose a bit. I’ll call them when the sun comes up. Why don’t you go walk around a bit?” Marsha knew he was antsy. In all of her many years in education, she still hadn’t learned how to gracefully take orders and be Vince’s unpaid secretary. She didn’t mind working for free doing community work, but somehow it annoyed her when he thought he was her community. She had tried to train him for years until now he just mimicked her, “Isn’t there a better way to say that?”
Well anyone listening or looking at him would know he was a little pressure cooker. At five feet four inches tall, his 139 pound muscular build and tense shoulders told the tale that he never stopped moving. If there was nothing to do, he adjusted. It was time for him to make an adjustment somewhere besides inside the car. People had started to arrive, so he bounced out of the car and introduced himself. Men loved him. He carried himself like a mover and a shaker. His demeanor stated, “I am here to get this done. How do you think we can get this moving?”
Time passed quickly for Marsha too since she had internet and cell service. Vince kindly let her answer all her business emails, and by the time they had breakfast and got back to the trailer to leave for the day’s adventures it was 9:00.
Daylight was well on it’s way, and it was beautiful. The bright blue sky and 75 degree temperatures couldn’t have been lovelier. The couple drove south to Eureka to check out the road and cancel the other nights at the KOA they had booked. The attendant was kind enough to only charge a small cancellation fee, and they were on their way, but to where, they weren’t sure. There was so much to see in Eureka.
First on the agenda was lunch. Vince had not eaten much since 5:00 a.m., and he wanted man food. That meant burgers. Marsha had YELPED restaurants all the way from Arcata, and the one that sounded best was Surfside Burgers on Highway 101, the main street, which was also named 5th Street as it ran through downtown Eureka. The weather was so beautiful that for that one day during the year they enjoyed sitting outside at a little table eating their burgers with 1/2 inch chunks of bacon smothered with two kinds of cheeses, tomato and lettuce.
As they ate, Vince poured through the tourist map he had picked up at the Eureka KOA. “There is so much here, but I think my brother said we should definitely see the Ferndale Cemetery. Want to check it out?” His brother, Jimmy, had gone to Humboldt State, and was an expert in all things Northern California.
“A cemetery? hmmm. Sure, let’s go. Why not? Cemeteries can be interesting.” It really didn’t take too much to keep Marsha entertained if there was blue sky and she had her camera along.
“This one is supposed to be famous, according to Jimmy,” Vince added.
“Wow, this cemetery has plots. Unlike my journal, which has no plot,” Marsha joked. Look how big the markers are! This is the size of Ralph!”
“You could put two Ralphs in here side by side, Marsha. Look at the inscription on this one. Did you hear that woman over there that said she found someone here born in 1799? Almost all the markers around here are from the 1800s”
Marsha was already in another world taking pictures of cracks in the walls, and lopsided head stones, dates, and moss on rocks. Vince took the dog and walked up the steep incline to the top of the cemetery. There was no point in calling down to Marsha. He knew she would never hear him. Vince wished she were up there so he could show her where to stand to get the best pictures, but he knew she would get irritated at him for telling her what to do.
“Sometimes,” he thought to himself, “I just can’t win with that woman. She wants my help, then she gets mad when I tell her what to do. Why can’t she just do it, and smile at me? That would be a lot easier. It’s a good thing I think she’s cute!” Vince knew his 61 year old wife was no traditional beauty, but there was something about her smile, WHEN she used it, that he couldn’t resist.
Knowing and doing were two different things. Marsha did eventually make it to the top. “Come right here, sweetie,” Vince held his hand behind him for her to grab as he led the way over to his chosen spot. “The view is great. Just point your camera out this way. See how you can get the ocean in the view?”
Judging from the look she gave him, he had been right. He should have kept his mouth shut. But obediently she turned to align herself to his body, and pointed the camera exactly as he told her, and snapped the picture. “Was that so hard?” he thought to himself.
Marsha grinned at him. She read his mind, and decided it was not worth it to make a big deal over his bossing her. The day was too perfect. She kissed him lightly on the cheek. “That was a perfect shot, honey. Thanks.”
As they left the cemetery, Marsha struck up a conversation with a gentleman placing flowers. It didn’t take long until they were engaged in a heated conversation about whether or not Southern Oregon and Northern California should become the 52nd state of the Union.
“This area was all set to become the state of Jefferson before World War II,” he informed her, assuming she knew nothing about history. These trees need to be managed, and the government just won’t let us do it. Ferndale is dying. There’s no industry here,” his ranting continued.
“Marsha, sweetie, we need to be going.” Vince saved her.
“It was nice to talk to you,” Marsha smiled sweetly even though she wanted to punch him in the teeth. Vince and Marsha headed toward the rental car.
“Ferndale is amazing. I love this place! It looks like it is still 1852 around here. Let’s take our time and take some pictures of the buildings,” Marsha wheedled.
She hadn’t needed to try hard. Vince enjoyed watching her have a great time, and he loved the architecture as well. If he had been thinking with his brain when he was in college, he would have become an architect.
Architecture was his first love, and he knew he would have been good at it, but other priorities called louder than college, and he had been a good salesman, too. As a bright young man, his hard work rapidly drove him to the top of the electronics company where he worked many years. His thoughts of college dissipated in the fast running money stream. He still enjoyed designing and redoing their home. He was glad that Marsha enjoyed the beauty of the buildings as much as he did.
Quickly the day slipped by, and the couple headed back to their temporary home base in Klamath at the Golden Bear RV Park.
As they drove, Vince spotted a herd of elk bathing in the river, and pulled over. Marsha jumped out of the car with about 20 other onlookers and captured the amazing views on her digital camera. Vince snapped a few shots with his cell phone.
“There is another herd about 10 miles up the road,” warned a driver coming from the south.
When they reached that spot, the elk crossed the highway as if it were a meadow in their private forest. Cars on both sides of the road stopped in the road, and everyone got out to take close up pictures of the racked celebrities. The elk seemed used to it, stopping to pose as they crossed the street, or lay in the grass having a leafy picnic. The effect was magical. Drivers became instant friends as they marveled at the large herd animals. Vince sat in the car worried that Marsha would be trampled.
Eventually a few cars inched forward around the herd, and soon the spell was broken, and Vince and Marsha headed down the road. Both accidental travelers were ready for a nap, and they still had to figure out how Marsha was going to conduct her meeting the next night with no internet or cellular service.
Like the fog lifting the in the morning sun, The Twilight Zone of optimism surrounding Vince began to burn off. With each telltale defeatist comment coming from Vince’s mouth Marsha’s opposing positive comments became more frequent. Vince relaxed and began to enjoy a real vacation. “They’re not going to start on the truck until Thursday. They have to get the part from Las Vegas. I bet they don’t even have the part. We won’t get out of here until Saturday.”
“That means we can settle back and enjoy this beautiful place,” Marsha answered naturally. She would miss the cheerful Vince, but normal Vince meant that HE was relaxing. “What do you want to do today?”
“I’m happy just hanging around here for a while. Look at these pictures I took this morning.” Vince took out his cell phone and shared some gorgeous sunrise pictures with fog clinging to the redwoods on the hill and sun sparkling on the Klamath River as it charged its way to the Pacific Ocean a half mile away. The fishing boats had either gone back to their winter homes or lay still in the docks. Water lapped rhythmically against their sides, a metronome for the chirping birds catching their breakfast.
Marsha couldn’t argue with the natural beauty that surrounded them. She and Puppy Girl made several rounds around the RV Park. The manager tanned from many years in the sun, and missing many teeth from years of neglect and poverty rode up on his bicycle to chat as the couple walked down to the dock, this time with Marsha carrying the camera.
“Have you been here before? People stay here for months at a time. You just missed the salmon run. It slammed! This couple here,” he pointed to a man maneuvering his boat toward the dock, “they’ve been fishing here for years. They are both retired police officers. Gil caught his first fish in 1957.”
Even a distance Marsha didn’t think Gil looked old enough to be catching fish in 1957, but she had her first and only fishing experience at age 9, so she supposed he might have started fishing at an early age. Soon his wife joined him. Marsha, sitting on the dock snapped pictures of her appropriate fishing boots as she approached.
“Take a picture of where I ran into a wire. It took forever to heal, but it’s almost gone now.” The attractive blond with a ranger hat modeled for Marsha’s camera.
“We’ve heard you are good at catching salmon. You just made two new best friends,” Marsha called down to her, flashing a beaming smile teasing, as the couple revved off in their utility boat. They waved back, and were gone.
“You two should go up to the lookout point, right over there on the north side of the Klamath,” the friendly manager offered his tour guide advice to the neophytes. “You can see the mouth of the river, and the jetty where all the fishermen just catch salmon from the dock. Then if you go across the Golden Bear Bridge, you can go up the other side. Those are nice drive. Have you been to the drive through tree? That makes a great picture.” He chatted for several minutes before his wife came and put him to work again.
Vince, tired of standing on the dock watching Marsha take pictures of the seaweed decorating the dock’s underbelly, headed back to the chairs that lined the shore. “I say we go to the Trees of Mystery that’s just down the road today,” he called as he left her sprawled face down camera pointed into the water. “Don’t drop your camera!”
Vince couldn’t believe his wife could be so klutzy. She had already dropped her camera, with its brand new lens on the ground when she took it off the tripod. She broke another lens trying to climb up on a wall and misjudged the step, smashing it on the rock wall. She didn’t even wear the watch he gave her since the last one had fallen in the toilet, and another smashed on a grocery cart. “I might lose it,’ she had told him batting her innocent looking blue eyes. He bet she didn’t even know where it was. It amazed him that she could wear clothes without some catastrophe. Her wedding ring sat on the table by her bed, having rubbed a finger sized bulge onto her finger. Earrings turned her ears green then red and oozing – if she didn’t lose them first. Necklaces with delicate chain links or clasps broke, and if there was any inexpensive jewel, it dropped off unnoticed by his unobservant wife.
“Come on, let’s go. You’ll find some more mossy stuff on the trees you can photograph.”
With child-like obedience Marsha rolled over and stood up to follow Vince as he strode away, confident that she would do just that. They left Puppy Girl at the trailer, and ventured out in the rental car to see the Trees of Mystery, a famous spot they would have missed if the truck hadn’t broken down. Paul Bunyan and Babe welcomed them, and directed them to pay at the gate and make themselves at home. “Take your time,” the ticket person said.
Just as Vince remembered from forty years before when he brought his three-year old son to see the trees, the Trees of Mystery didn’t disappoint.
In addition to the carved redwood statues, and ancient living giants, the Yurok Tribe had added a sky cab that escorted them to the top of the mountain, where even the tallest trees became tiny as they ascended. From there they could see over the mystery forest to the ocean.
Like gazing at the Grand Canyon, after seeing pictures of it for years, Vince and Marsha stared at the magnificent forest framed ocean view, posed for pictures, and then stepped back onto the moving sky cab to go down. “The trees are beautiful from up here. So is the ocean,” they both agreed as the cab descended, then stopped, then descended again. “It looks just like the pictures.”
“You have to be patient to take good pictures,” Vince told her like the father lecturing his 10 year-old daughter. Marsha let him walk on ahead and enjoy the walk back down at his own pace.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like anyone can be patient with Mr. “We’re Burning Daylight Here” pushing all the time,” Marsha muttered as Vince raced down the path in front of her. Sometimes wanted to punch him, but that wouldn’t change his natural mothering tendency, nor was that her way. He still treated his grown son the same way. In 43 years Vince, Jr. had learned to tease his dad out of it. In twenty, Marsha still steamed quietly and went her own way.
Clear down out of sight, Vince called up to her, “Take my picture down here in the Cathedral Trees.” He spread his arms as if preaching to the multitudes, and beamed a happy face up to her. She snapped several pictures. “Was it the camera setting, or did Vince just move THAT fast? Maybe my camera broke,” Marsha thought as she checked each picture after she took it.
“You moved, Marsha. You ALWAYS move just as you snap the picture like you see something else you should take,” Vince instructed helpfully when she explained that she DIDN’T get the one picture or which he voluntarily posed. Maybe she would kill him in another life. It didn’t help that he was usually right.
After about two hours the tourists had taken every record shot, every sign. After a quick spin through the gift shop, Vince and Marsha headed back down the familiar section of Highway 101 to their new digs at The Golden Bear RV Park. No internet meant they would have to just sit outside and enjoy the healing sunshine. Marsha’s cold was melting away like ice on the hot pavement, but she could sure use an afternoon nap.
Is it a sin to take a nap when the weather outside is perfect, and be awake all night reading or writing?
A few weeks ago we had lunch with our friends Spencer and Margaret in Paso Robles, CA. Paso has the best of both worlds. You have just exited the most soporific road trips through the hills past Kettleman City. Unless I’m driving, I sleep through these hills.
El Paso del Robles, passage of the Oaks, is an old western town dividing the two worlds, the desert heat of the Kettleman City hills and the Tulare Lake Basin, and the Central Coast beginning with San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, and ending with Nipomo before you move into Santa Barbara County.
Once you get to the Paso Robles Inn, you can begin to see the charm of Paso Robles. You still have the heat of the valley, but a half hour away, you have the coolness of the ocean breeze with the flavor of the Old Wild West. I took this picture on April 1st, an unusually cloudy day in Paso. I darkened the picture even a little more to add Leanne-style drama. I found that if you darken the layer too much, the sky pixelates. So I used the burn tool. I don’t like that quite as much because I don’t paint evenly, and I’m not sure if streaks are in style. I like them in my hair. The front of the Inn looks western and old, but the real beauty lies in the back, in my opinion. I darkened this one, too. Maybe I’m just in a dark mood. I’m sitting in the dark right now looking out at the Los Angeles skyline from my 14th floor picture window. But let’s get back to Paso.
with the California Golden touch
Back in 1891 – ok pretend
While we waited for Spencer and Margaret, we snapped some pictures. You can see the covered front porch. This is handy in the hot sun. It wasn’t so necessary on the day we were there. I tried a couple of things with this picture. I added a golden filter, then I made it black and white. Which one do you like best?
So the Inn is in the back. The restaurant is good. You get lots of food, but to me the real benefit is the setting. Unfortunately for us that day, there was a party out in the back. So we had to eat outside. We ate just as much either way.
Beneath the beautiful fountain, they grew some of their vegetables. I doubt that they used very many of them. Maybe they had some others hidden away somewhere.
These rocks I left alone.
I darkened these front rocks.
I am always fascinated by flowing water and fish and bridges. Which rocks do you like best, darkened or unprocessed? It’s the perfect place for a wedding, and here I am already married. Maybe Vince will propose to me again. xoxox
Our friends arrived, then lunch came with sweet potato fries (my current favorite thing), and all too quickly it was time to go back home again. With a full tummy, my mouth gaping open, snoring loudly, Vince’s bride slept her way through the boring trip home.
Sally Pace and I walked around Bravo Lake for the first time together on February 12. It was so empty. I darkened it to show you how sad it looked, and wrote my name in the sky so you’d know the sky wasn’t really that color. The amount of water is real.
Water managers turned on the faucets and filled Bravo Lake over the weekend. Today I picked up trash along side of five middle school students, and their teacher, my friend Courtney, and the President of Kiwanis, Tony. We split up to get the job done faster, but we didn’t get finished, in spite of having the best equipment. Can you see our little pincher pick-up things?
Bravo Lake is the main attraction in Woodlake, but it is hidden behind a levee that is built up all the way around the .46 square mile lake to prevent flooding. Right now it is filled to capacity so that the runoff from the Sierra Nevada Mountains doesn’t overpower the Kaweah River Terminus Dam I wrote about a few days ago.
Saturday at 6:15 a.m. I will go back to Bravo Lake to help register runners for the big fundraiser for Kiwanis “Round-Up for Hunger 5K/2K Walk/Run. If you are interested you can register at http://www.WoodlakeKiwanis.com., or call Linda at 559-564-2485 or email email@example.com.
Everybody that sees Bravo Lake wonders why it is so undeveloped. It wasn’t meant to be that way. The picture below is from Pogue’s book covering the years 1853-1943. Can you guess the year in which this picture might have been taken?
One of my questions is when did Bravo Lake appear? I know it was a reservoir, #713 to be exact, but was it man-made or was it part of the landscape when white Americans first appeared in Tulare County in 1852? So far I haven’t found that out. Gary Davis and I poured over this 1892 Atlas of Tulare County that has been reprinted. Here is Bravo Lake, plain as day, long before Terminus Dam was built on the Kaweah River. The atlas was printed 40 years after the first white settlers appeared in Tulare County.
Notice that they have dug the Wuchumna Irrigation Ditch from Bravo Lake across the valley. Water rights in this area have been, and still are a much contested item in California. Nobody wants to share their water. Our region is quite dry most of the time receiving less that 10 inches of rain annually. However, there are many rivers, canals, and springs that are used to irrigate crops. The work of digging and redefining the landscape in Tulare County began almost as soon as settlers appeared. So settlers could have dug Bravo Lake, but did they? I still have much to learn.
I love this old atlas. I bought it from my friend, publisher, Chris Brewer. His bookstore in Exeter, the Book Garden, is the best place to get books about Tulare County. This historic atlas has the names of all the owners of all the property at that time. You can see Bravo Lake in the lower left corner and the property that belonged to Jonathan Blair just right of the lake. He was the fellow that pastored the Presbyterian church for 20 years.
“Steve R. Webb, Real Estate agent, had bought up a large tract of level land from Blair and others north and west of Bravo Lake. Now, to the utter surprise of everyone, except (Gilbert) Stevenson (millionaire from Los Angeles who had the vision to build a town around Bravo Lake),…, the lake suddenly found itself rechristened, and the town of Woodlake sprang up beside it in a phenomenally short period of time.” Pogue 37. That was in 1910. During the Great Depression, Stevenson lost all his money, and his dream died. He had spent the grand sum of $135,000. The reservoir remained, but Woodlake never became the developed resort that Stevenson envisioned.
In real life today it gets a lot of use as a walking path. Unfortunately it gets messy. We found a bur-infested coat, a shoe, lots of brittle, lake-permeated styrofoam cups that cracked into a million pieces when our pick-up tongs pinched them to pick them up, some cupcakes, an unopened bottle of beer, and lots of plastic bottles, bottle caps, potato chip bags, and plastic bags.
In 2003, Manuel and Olga Jiminez wrote a grant and started a botanical garden at the foot of the levee around Bravo Lake. On Saturday I will take more pictures of the gardens for you because I will be WALKING at the Run for Hunger. Or maybe I’ll take pictures before that if you sweet talk me. The roses behind us are just gorgeous right now. I haven’t researched the gardens just yet, but they are gaining recognition in the area. The new website, Tulare County Treasures has a nice article about the Botanical Gardens.
By the way, if you want to buy property in Woodlake now, you can always call the great real estate agent, Vince Ingrao – the honest agent I married. 559-799-9165
What would you do with an unruly river that tumbles 12,000 feet from the Sierra Nevada Mountains starting in the Sequoia National Park? No other North American river, including the Colorado River, drops so far in such a short distance.
What would you do if its unruliness built up one the most fertile deltas in the West?
What would you do if it emptied into the largest body of fresh water in the lower 48 states west of the Lake Superior? (That shallow lake, Tulare Lake, has long since been drained by a series of irrigation canals.) Like a ghost it infrequently reappears flooding Highway 43, the road to my favorite beach.
What would you do with the unruly, three-forked river?
You would dam that river! And 50 years ago, that’s just what the U.S. Corps of Engineers did.
Mary restrains the clouds from ushering in the next flood at the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center.
Though these were not the only flood years, large floods caused by warm winter rains melting the snowpack occurred in 1937 (Remember the Grapes of Wrath? Steinbeck wrote his famous book after he visited Visalia, and saw the destruction of the flood that year.) Additionally warm weather floods also took place in 1955, 1966, and 1986.
Smaller floods caused by warm weather snowmelt only without lots of extra watery input deluged the valley in 1969, 1978, 1983, and 1997. The once every 50 years or so a flash flood type storm, caused by a tropical storm dropping 3-5 inches overnight during a dry season, last happened in September, 1978. Finally, the rarest destructive flood initiated by a landslide that created a natural dam. Like a chain of dominos when the dam broke it caused a 40 foot deep river to plunge down the mountain side and flow into Visalia, still 5 feet deep when it created the temporary Venice in CA. This disaster happened only once in December, 1867. (Facts thanks to Sequoia Natural History Association, author Mark Tilchen. Floods of the Kaweah.) Mary bought it for me at half price, $5.99, compared to the next museum we visited. Amazon price is $10.95. It’s a great book with many pictures of famous floods.
Here are the pictures I took of the old photos from the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center at Kaweah Lake.
If you teach 3rd grade in Tulare County I would recommend visiting Terminus Dam on the Kaweah River as a mini-field trip for your students or your own family, and the book would certainly interest you. Although the reading level is too difficult for third graders, the pictures might draw them into challenging the descriptions. Earl Mann, who took many of the pictures in the book, still lives in the area, might be a great primary source witness to the flood of 1955. Tilchen recorded Earl Mann’s account of the 1955 flood on page 36 of the book.
Hope you enjoyed this short history lesson about fascinating Tulare County.
We got up Sunday morning to absolutely sparkly blue skies, and cool temperatures. It was a perfect day for a trip to the mountains. I wanted to see snow up close and personal. In the summer here the weather changes very little, but in the winter it can change from minute to minute. Before it changed too much V, Kalev and I hopped into the car and headed for the hills. My goal was to get to Sequoia National Park, and play in the snow.
The trip up to the park was distracting. “Pull over right here, V. I want to snap a picture of rock outcroppings.”
“Stop, stop, stop. right here V. There’s a great picture of a horse for Auty.”
“Look at that view, V. Don’t you think I should take that? SToooooop!!!”
“Thanks V. I’m ready now.” Both V and Kalev were VERY patient
Kaweah Lake near Three Rivers, CA
I do want to stop at Kaweah Lake and take a few pictures. OK?
Now that’s what I’m talking about. I can’t believe that I thought this was ugly when I first moved here. Right now it is at its lowest levels. You can see the high-level water mark on the side of the hill. When the rains come, and the snows melt, the lake behind Terminus Dam builds up. If the Corps of Engineers doesn’t keep it empty now, it could conceivably break the dam built in 1955. Before that time our valley was subject to extreme droughts most years, then huge floods every 7-10 years that bathed all the valley towns in several feet of fast-flowing, tree and rock-laden river waters.
We pulled into the Tulare County Boat Safety Patrol Lake Kaweah Office parking lot, saw a friend of V’s, and took some pictures. The flag was flying at half-mast in honor of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting.
Then we headed up the road in search of snow. Almost immediately we came to Horse Creek Bridge. When I was teaching, just before summer vacation one year, a young woman came to speak to our 4th graders about swimming safety.
Like many other youngsters, when summer came, she went with her friends and took turns jumping off Horse Creek Bridge into the water below. Of course, there’s a lot more water in the summer.
Nonetheless, the rocks are still there, buried, and impossible to judge. She hit her head and broke her neck.
The jump paralyzed her for life at age 19.
We drove up to Slick Rock, a popular place to swim in the summer.
Kalev was thankful for a chance to explore.
Mom and Dad weren’t paying much attention to her. Good thing she had on her leash!
V came unglued. I struggled with my bandaged thumb to pull out burs for about the next 15 minutes. Finally we were down to the last three, but they weren’t budging. Then one more to go. It was almost in her mouth, and needed to be cut out. About that time, the park ranger drove up. I got out of the car and asked if he had any scissors. He did! We cut the last bur out, bit by bit. Kalev was such a good girl. She did jerk her head a bit, but never a yelp or a snap. In the end, it took both V and me to hold her head still while Ranger Bill snipped out the bur. Here’s a FAQ for you about burs. “The bur of burdock was the inspiration for Velcro.” Wikipedia
Kalev was very grateful to Ranger Bill.
Our next stop was Horse Creek Campground.
You can see how exposed the tree roots are because of the higher level of the water in the spring and early summer. That means the campground is under water, and we wouldn’t be driving on this road.
Across the road, I spotted Pac-Man hanging out at Horse Creek Campground.
Can you tell how old this tree is? Me either, the rings are too small for me to count, but it’s dead now. After one last shot for Toemail, we were ready to leave. The blue skies suddenly turned gray, we were tired, and we never drove high enough to reach snow. We decided to go back home and wait for the snow to come down to us. It was a relatively quick trip, and we thought of many other reasons to come back. It was a great date. People come from all over the world to visit the Sequoia National Park, home of the biggest trees in the world. We didn’t make it up that far today.
So if you come visit us, we’ll make the entire trip to the Sequoias without all the distractions because you will have seen them already. Or maybe you’d like the distractions, too.