How One Couple Makes a Difference in a Town

Makes a difference
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn Aerial view of Woodlake in the 1970s

The year was circa 1971. According to life-long residents Manuel and Olga Jiminez, Woodlake, CA was a rough little town. The city demographics were about fifty percent Hispanic farmworkers, for the most part living in poverty, and 50% white farmers and merchants.

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Photo courtesy of Marsha Ingrao – harvesting grapes

The tension between farm workers and farm owners had mounted in those days in Central California because of the grape strikes that had begun in 1965 led by Cesar Chavez. Students of Woodlake schools, children of both farm workers and farmers, attended classes together but were not close friends. Although they participated in the same schools and got along, the two groups of students did not interact socially.

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Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn High School Walkout asking the school to hire more Hispanic teachers at Woodlake High School in 1971 One of the core subject area Hispanic intern had been fired.

New high school graduates, now attending College of the Sequoias, Manual Jiminez and his new wife, Olga wanted to make a difference. They brainstormed and then flew into action. Both came from families with 14 siblings, so they had a lot of help. They organized neighborhood kids to carry out their plans to beautify Woodlake.

“We fixed the toys and picked up trash, cleaned up graffiti, and the city told us, ‘If you don’t have liability insurance, we don’t want you working on city property.’

So we did it on the weekends. We figured we’d ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”

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Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth The local pool hall and bar

There was a bar in town with a wall painted with graffiti, four letter words, and pictures of needles. Manuel asked the owner if he and his group of student helpers who could paint a mural over the graffiti on their wall. The owner readily gave his permission.

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Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth A clean slate – volunteers begin to paint a mural in place of graffiti.

The Woodlake crusaders found an artist from Fresno State to get them started. Then the couple recruited kids from the high school to help paint a mural on the offensive bar wall. While there was an overall picture, the kids painted their own paintings to create a collage.

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Photo Courtesy of Manuel Jimenez The mural completed by high school volunteers

Manuel and Olga’s loosely organized group had completed 2/3 of the painting when a police car pulled up in front of their project on the privately owned bar wall.

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Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn, Student walked out rying to  change things.

“You’re breaking the law. You’re going to have to remove the sign,” the patrol officer demanded.

Manuel answered, “You mean the graffiti that was there before was ok, but this is not ok?”

“No, you have to remove it.”

Manuel answered, “By the way, we’re not going to remove it. You’re going to have to bring me a document that shows me that this is illegal.”

People came up and said, “Why did you do this, Manuel?”

Manual answered, “I don’t understand why you ask, ‘Why do you do this?’ Have you not gone through that part of town and noticed the graffiti, the bad stuff that was on that wall?”

People complained, “But why? You’ve split the community. We always did everything together. Can’t you change this or that on the mural, maybe replace something that might offend someone?”

“No. Maybe if you had asked while they painted it. The kids painted their feelings.”

Few of the white non-farming community members thought about different life experiences that the Hispanic children had compared to those of their own children. Hispanic families left Woodlake in May and came back in October or later. They picked apples in Washington, berries in Oregon and other crops in northern California.

You never noticed, Manuel explained to the complainers. “I never went to school for a whole week. I had to miss one day every week. We had to work. In the mornings before school, we had to go work. I don’t expect you to know those things but because we grew up differently. We’re different culturally.”

To make his point he said, “No one was unfriendly. But look at the clubs in the old yearbook albums. Even though we were fifty percent of the population in 1969 and back, we were not in the pictures of activities. We were not in the clubs. We did not exist. We may have been acquaintances but we were not friends.”

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Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn 1975 Woodlake High School Yearbook picture

A week later, the entire police force showed up at the bar while the kids continued to paint. They handed Manuel a cease and desist order to remove the sign within ten days.

But it wasn’t a sign; it was a mural, a collection of painting done by Woodlake students. Parents became concerned that their kids were going to get in trouble. The couple assured participating friends and neighbors that nobody did anything illegal.

The police also threatened the owner of the bar. He didn’t know what to do. They served him papers as well. Young Manuel asked him to hold on.

For Manuel, the battle lines between the city officials and his band of student painters were drawn. Grandson of an early labor organizer in the 1950s, long before Cesar Chavez came on the scene, Jimenez took action. He called California Rural Legal Assistance. His timing was perfect. A City Council meeting was scheduled three or four days before the cease and desist order was to take place. They invited a famous muralist from San Francisco to attend the council meeting and speak to the issue.

The artist testified, “The mural is great. I love it. It’s traditional in America. It should be left alone.”

Those words did not deter the Council’s resolve to rid the Woodlake of the offending mural. Primarily, they disliked the large picture of a farm worker resembling Cesar Chavez at the core. However, they also objected to some short sayings which were written in Spanish. Finally, they lodged a complaint about a small flag saying ‘Strike!’ and another sign asking for peace and respect for their rights.

The City Council pronounced, “It will be gone in two days. This meeting is adjourned.”

Up to this time, the attorney from California Rural Legal Assistance had not said a word. As the meeting adjourned, he stood up to speak.

“By the way, you may say the mural on the bar wall is a commercial sign. It’s clearly not a sign. This is clearly a violation of the kids’ first amendment rights. You don’t like the contents of the mural. However, if you do not go back into session, and change the order then on Monday morning we are going to federal court and file a lawsuit against the City of Woodlake. So you have one opportunity to go back into session. If not, you will be served papers.”

The Council immediately reopened the meeting and went into closed session.

After ten minutes the Mayor returned.

“You can have your mural.”

And the Mayor turned and walked off.

Meanwhile, Manuel and Olga both worked and supported their family while Manuel attended the nearest University. Ultimately, he earned a bachelor’s degree in plant sciences from Fresno State University in 1977. Shortly after his graduation, the North American Farmers Cooperative, an organization of 300 small-scale vegetable and fruit producers based in Fresno, named him as their senior agronomist.

After a rough beginning, one might think that Woodlake hated Manuel and Olga Jimenez and the couple reflected those feelings back at the City Council. That was not the case.

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Guest of the 2017 Berry Festival walks in the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.

Following that near incident, the young college couple found properties and began gardens and beautification projects around the town. They grew vegetables to give away or sell for their projects. At one time they had four gardens.

“We wanted to give local youth a chance to do something other than watch TV, hang out, or get into trouble,” Manuel said. ” John Elliot. The Kaweah Commonwealth February 9, 2015

Throughout the 1980s Jimenez’s job led him to help the Hmongs in Visalia learn how to farm in the city. They had several farms, one off Akers and one off Lover’s Lane. Language differences made communication difficult but Manuel modeled productive farming methods for the Hmong community.

The couple’s hearts were still in Woodlake. In the later 1980s, kids complained that Woodlake was ugly. They wanted to leave. Manuel and Olga got a group of kids to work, and they planted flowers in all the tree wells around the trees that lined the main streets in Woodlake. They planted flowers that spelled Woodlake on the bank of the levee around Bravo Lake.

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Photo Courtesy of Lisa Kilburn aerial view of Woodlake, CA in the 1970s

“Woodlake doesn’t have to be ugly,” he told the kids. “When you are at home, do you pick up the trash, or do you contribute to it? They learned. The community learned to take pride in the gardens.”

At first, no one wanted to let them farm on their property because of the liability of having kids work. Then Proteus let them tie into their insurance. After the insurance issue had cleared up, community members invited Manuel’s group to plant flowers on their property. Manuel recalled that Leonard Hansen let them farm on the corner of Bravo and Valencia.

They also had use of Watchumna Water District’s property that was almost one city block about two acres where they grew vegetables. By selling the vegetables, they raised money to farm their properties. At one time they had four gardens dispersed around Woodlake.

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Google map of Woodlake, CA 2017

While he established himself as an expert around the country, Manuel and Olga, together with another Woodlake High School graduate, Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce President, Rudy Garcia formed the Woodlake Pride Coalition. In 1999 they received a modest tree grant for city beautification and the dream of the Woodlake (Bravo Lake) Botanical Gardens began.

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Photo Courtesy Linda Hengst Groundbreaking of Woodlake Botanical Garden

Around that time the Southern Pacific Railroad was selling the right away of the property beside the levee. Woodlake City Planner, Greg Collins applied for a “Rails to Trails” Grant. Manuel told City Manager, Bill Lewis he would put in the garden if the city bought the property. The city bought the entire property, about a mile long, 13.9 acres for $70,000 and provided water and insurance.

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Photo Courtesy of Marsha Ingrao 1,500 plant rose garden

Lots of companies donated plant material because they knew Manuel. Woodlake Botanical Gardens received over 150 varieties of stone fruit from fifteen nurseries. Everything came from all over the country.

In spite of the small grant Garcia earned for Woodlake Pride, they were often short of money. Once they mapped the town to go door to door to ask for donations to put in the irrigation system. They told the kids what to say, and started at about 8:00 in the morning.

From time to time they had larger donors to Woodlake Botanical Gardens. Everett Krakoff owned Woodlake Olive Plant. He liked what we did with the kids. His timing was always perfect.

“You guys need some tools? You need anything else? He bought hoses. Do you have a checking account? Open another for the kids so you can treat them.”

For his birthday he had his daughters write checks to Woodlake Pride.

What Manuel Jimenez has lacked in funds for his many projects through the years, he has been heaped with honors.

For his work both on the job and in Woodlake, Jimenez has received numerous awards. Among them was the first-ever Tom Haller award at the California Farm Conference in 2008.  Jimenez was named the 2000 Citizen of the Year in Woodlake.  He was one of three recipients of the California Peace Prize in 2011.

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Photo Courtesy of Marsha Ingrao Manuel and Olga Jimenez and student member of Woodlake Pride

Jimenez went on to become a  “world-renowned farming authority, all while living in and serving his hometown – the small, rural community of Woodlake, Calif. (As) the University of California Cooperative Extension advisor, who worked with small family farmers in Tulare County for 33 years.”  Jeannette E. Warnert. June 24, 2013

Less than two years later the city of Woodlake honored Manuel and Olga in a mural highlighting their work.

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Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth Mural on the corner of Valencia and Naranjo in Woodlake, CA honoring the work of Manuel and Olga Jimenez.

City officials, community members, family, and friends gathered Friday, Jan. 30, in the parking lot of the Shell station at Valencia and Naranjo to unveil Woodlake’s newest mural. Colleen Mitchell-Veyna’s latest mural masterpiece that now adorns the west side of an adjacent commercial building pays tribute to Manuel and Olga Jimenez, co-founders of the Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens, California’s first agricultural botanical garden. John Elliot. The Kaweah Commonwealth. February 6, 2015  

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Photo Courtesy of Kaweah Commonwealth Close up of Olga and student workers

Recently, Jimenez worked with the City of Woodlake to secure a grant to improve the safety, infrastructure, and aesthetics of the garden. The plan for $1 million grant also included new restrooms, drinking fountains, and fences, improvements to the Miller Brown Park. Since the grant’s approval, the city completed upgrades to the Miller Brown Park restrooms and the other city amenities.

However, Woodlake Pride has not received the help Manuel anticipated from the grant monies to make improvements to Woodlake Botanical Garden. He has spoken to the City Manager, Ramon Lara, and the City Commissioners, about his modest requests. To date has not been awarded any of the grant monies for his projects.

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Woodlake Botanical Garden

If you would like to show your support for the Woodlake Botanical Gardens, please leave a comment on the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce or the Woodlake Pride Facebook pages, or directly in this comment section before June 30.

If you would like to give to Woodlake Pride, click here.

 

What’s Oddball in Las Vegas?

Nothing

That’s the real answer. Everything here is normal no matter how weird it might seem anywhere else in the world. Umbrellas on the ceiling?

oddballs in Las Vegas
Why Not? Rain expected in Las Vegas?

It’s EDC, Electric Daisy Carnival, weekend. Vince thought it would make it even weirder than normal, but I think not.

These attractive giants posed with others in various outfits all along the strip. They all featured the headdress and feathers, but the rest of the costumes varied. The first ones we saw just had on daisies and little panties. Vince would have preferred them.

These girls were more demure.What was odd is that one of my friends asked if I was really that blond! Sorry, I forgot my feathers!

oddballs in Las Vegas

Too hot for you? It was 110+ while we were out there.

Heady here looks a little more modest but I remember when red and maroon did not go together. Why would you buy this blouse if you live in Vegas? It looks like crushed velvet. Oh… It’s a dress? Whew! What has happened to fashion sense? What’s up with that neckline? Yikes.

The next fashionista wears the same high neckline. We did not see anyone on the streets wearing tops with a high neckline. Again, the heat must have gone to her head and she sports a bright red bag to clash with her textured top.oddballs in Las VegasThe next young man has his own fashion problems.

oddballs in Las Vegas

I knew smalls meant underwear in Australian, so I texted this pic to Carol. She informed me that his smalls had ripped. Poor guy.

That’s all that was odd in Las Vegas – that I could photograph anyway.

oddballs in Las VegasFor more Oddballs visit Cee Neuner’s Oddball Challenge

 

Announcing the Winners of the T&B N&F Travel Book Sweepstakes

Have Bags Will Travel Sweepstakes Winners  Sweepstakes winners

Summer vacations are here. Traveling has begun! What better way to start than taking Have Bags Will Travel by D. G. Kaye as your traveling companion.

sweepstakes winners
Enter to win a fun travel book! Blogging and Traveling Near and Far

Congratulations to the five lucky winners who were chosen from among those who signed up for the T&B N&F or Always Write newsletters.

Maria Perez

Marian Beaman

Tim Felmingham

Penny McGee

HiLesha O’Nan

Wasn’t that worth it?

Related Posts

It’s not too late to sign up for my newsletter and be part of my travel community.

Tell me about your adventures. Are you doing some exciting traveling this summer? If not, where would you LOVE to go?

 

Best Advice for Living a Full LIfe

Cee’s Oddball Photo Challenge

Best Advice
“Your world is a living expression of how you
are using—and have used—your mind. ” Earl Nightingale

“Earl Nightingale was an American radio personality, writer, speaker, and author, dealing mostly with the subjects of human character development, motivation, excellence and meaningful existence; so named as the “Dean of Personal Development.” Wikipedia

The statue stands guard on the steps of the Canopy Cathedral at Longwood Gardens.

Related Posts from Longwood Gardens

Where to Find a Window Wonderland
How to Tour Longwood Gardens Like an Expert
September Garden Challenge
How Pierre Du Pont Turned a “Bad Investment” Into a Landmark

How to Visit Yosemite National Park Like an Artist

The Sequoia Tourism Council encourages tourists visit the Scenic Mountain Loop, Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, for a long three-day weekend. Each park has its own interest. Those who love huge granite cliffs, and many water features might start with Yosemite. Tree lovers should start in Tulare County at Sequoia Park, the home of the biggest trees in the world.

How to Avoid the Crowds at Yosemite

The short answer is that during a great year like 2017, you probably can’t avoid crowds completely. To beat hoards of people, this last week of May is about the perfect time you will find to visit Yosemite until school is out.

HURRY!

Sign up for my Traveling and Blogging Mailing List by June 1 to enter sweepstakes to win a free travel book.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
Linda is an artist and Bob is a farmer.

Meet Linda Hengst and her husband Bob. Linda paints with oil, water-color, acrylics, using brushes, knives, on canvas and buildings. You name it. She just finished a new mural in Exeter, CA, famous for its beautiful murals.

Bob told me at one of her art shows, “If you love to paint, you have to paint. You can’t help yourself.” Bob is her life-long admirer and supporter.

Linda gets her ideas from nature, primarily from photographs.

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Bridal Veil Falls Scenic Lookout

When Linda invited me to go along with her on a photo shoot to find pictures to paint in Yosemite, I jumped at the chance. Getting to photograph a beautiful place is incentive enough, but to get inside the thinking of an artist – better still!

Native Californians, Linda and Bob, wanted to visit Yosemite on a weekday before school let out to take photographs. Does this make her an introverted artist like many are? Nah! She knew how few parking spaces there were in Yosemite! Poor Bob!

Having near record rainfalls this spring promises great pictures of the many falls in Yosemite. Crowds will follow. Below you can see the record rains of 1997.

The day we went it was about 75 degrees and sunny. Bob couldn’t find a parking spot in the scenic parking areas on either side of the road as we emerged from the long tunnel into our first view of Bridal Veil Falls.

The car was barely stopped when Linda popped out, confident that Bob would find a spot to park or pick her up. She began taking pictures immediately. At first, I waited in the back seat as Bob patiently pulled as far off the road as he could. As we sat waiting for a parking place, I shot pictures from the car. I loved the frame it created. It almost seemed that I was watching the scene on TV.

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Great photographers are advised to get out of the car to take their shots. They might miss this!

Settling into the Yosemite Valley Floor

Five minutes into our arrival Linda wanted to hike up to photograph Bridal Veil Falls with frigid water pounding over the granite cliffs misting her jacket, face and perfect hair. Bob did not want to do that. Linda brought extra clothes, a heavy raincoat, and pairs of shoes. She packed like a grandma, but had the enthusiasm of a second-grader.

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It looked like fun. I hope this guy packed like Linda.

Umm, getting to the trail meant wading. I don’t want all of you think I am a naysayer, but there is not a good way look like the heroine of this story. Without a willing partner, Linda opted regretfully out of hiking up for a Bridal Veil shower.

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“Stand here, Marsha,” Linda insisted “This is the best shot.”

Instead we took lots of shots of the falls from along the road. I tended to get caught up in details like a tree buds.

Yosemite National Park May 2017 Linda looked for the bigger picture. When I followed her advice, I got some exquisite shots.

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Wasn’t that worth it?

Trees made the perfect frame for the engorged falls. I would have been happier with a bluer sky, but as a painter, Linda could change that.

In Search of Dogwood Trees

Linda got very excited to see the dogwoods blooming. She wanted Bob to pull the car over every time she saw one. Bob pulled safely off the road often so she could take a picture.We probably saw 500 dogwood trees, not counting reflections.

Yosemite National Park May 2017She wanted me to stand up while the car was moving and take pictures of dogwood trees out of the sun roof. She stuck her miniature digital camera through the hole in the roof and clicked. Some of her pictures came out. I stayed securely imprisoned in my backseat seatbelt during the trip, Highway Patrol Person and Carol Sherritt.

Dogwood Trees Frame the Majestic Yosemite Hotel

Yosemite National Park May 2017

After about two hours of photo snapping, Bob calmly announced he could eat something. We headed towards the Ahwahnee Hotel, temporarily renamed the Majestic Yosemite. Bob checked out the dining room while we checked the ladies’ rest rooms for signs on the insides of the doors. Unlike in Australia, the doors had no signs. Very boring.

The hour and forty minute wait to order lunch did not appeal to any of us. So we ate outside to enjoy this view of the 1927 historic hotel. I took about an hour and forty minutes to get our tomato-basil soup and grilled cheese sandwich, but the wait could not have been more pleasant. We rated the food and service at about a B-.

Ahwahnee Hotel History

Yosemite National Park May 2017Beginning in 1925, the designer of the Bryce and Zion Canyon lodges, Gilbert Stanley Underwood, designed the massive 150,000 square foot hotel. Created entirely from materials not found in the protected park, trucks hauled in 1,000 tons of steel, 5,000 tons of stone, and 30,000 board feet of timber. Although James L. McLaughlin quoted the park a cost of $525,000 to build the first-class hotel, the last price tag came in at $1,250,000 in 1927 dollars or $17,050,282 today.

The hotel served as a Navy rest and relaxation hospital for naval personnel during World War II. Three hundred fifty men slept in the Great Lounge. Nearly 7,000 patients with over 90,000 service men and women coming to rest and relax.

After lunch, we followed the river on a short path to admire all the dogwood trees in bloom.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

Hiking Along the Merced River

While Bob may have napped in the car after lunch, Linda wanted to do one more hike to a bridge she remembered that had a perfect view of Yosemite Falls. We started off in that direction, her walking sticks clicking on the rocks against the clamor of the Merced River racing along in the opposite direction. We both stopped often to listen and take pictures. No one dared to photo bomb us and chance falling into the icy creek that rushed away on its watery journey.

Some hikers coming the opposite direction informed us that the bridge from which Linda wanted to take pictures of Yosemite Falls was not as close as she had hoped. They suggested we go forward another few minutes and look backward.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

I took a picture every few feet to make sure I did not miss the perfect shot.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

After we were sure we had the best pictures we could capture, we headed back to Bob. Linda made him walk the next trail, which was a short one with views of three falls, if you aimed correctly. Can you find them all?

Yosemite National Park May 2017

Linda, the most creative of the three of us, found a playmate.

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I thought Pock Mark was cute too, and I found him an extra eye that Linda did not like. Pock looked like he was eating a snake or maybe a giant rat.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

I wasn’t going to try to get it away from him!

The meadows retained some of the January rains. I wanted a reflection of the mountains. If you look carefully you can see the reflection of the falls on the lower left right by my name.

Yosemite National Park May 2017Some of the views defied my ability to come up with enough words to describe them. Grandeur and awe-inspiring sound trite, but what words would you use? Some people do not like to get people in their photographs, but my dad, a professional photographer in his retirement years, gave advice I try to always follow at least in one photo.

“When you take landscapes, you need something to show perspective. Always take a picture of someone wearing red.” Dad told me.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

Wherever the falls plummeted from the mountains we heard the intense power of the water crashing down the rocks even from a great distance.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

In places it looked like the water forced its way out of the tiny holes in the rocks.

Summary

Yosemite National Park May 2017

By the end of the day Linda was still revved. She did not want to leave.

“Oh look at the cute cap on Half Dome.”

I turned from heading toward the car where Bob waited to find her taking this shot. I hurried to take it, too, before the cap decided to move on.

At some point, Linda will create amazing paintings. As she clicked and chatted, I appreciated her enthusiastic search for the perfect photo spots, playfulness, inquisitiveness, and her eye for great photos.

If you don’t go to Yosemite with a Linda in your group, don’t despair. Great art awaits you at every turn. Just point and shoot.

Related Posts

A Drive to Sequoia National Park Views on the way to the park

Art Studios Come in All Shapes and Sizes See where Linda does her work.

Local Artist Renews Some of Linda’s artwork

What Can You Do On a Saturday Night in Woodlake? Views of the Woodlake Botanical Gardens, famous world-wide. The spring event, the Berry Festival, is scheduled May 27, 2017.

A Must See Oddball Shop Sightseeing along the way to Sequoia National Park

Related Products

We needed these to get to the trail! This would be handy, girls! It’s a best seller!

Water Filtration system – another best seller for hikers This backpack includes a rain cover!
Better Nature Photography Equipment This is cool. The secret is the top that unscrews to reveal a threaded head-a perfect home to steady your camera while you get that award-winning nature shot. I’d probably stay in the car, but a great photographer would not. This is for the greats! Be ready for wet weather.