How To Bring Together a Community to Support a Botanical Garden

In our small community, Woodlake Botanical Gardens nearly became a town park.

Community meeting

Too much reliance on volunteer help, the finances of a small town, and the energy and amazing capacity of two people screeched to a halt at the end of June. Either the city had to take over the care of the gardens, or increase their spending to include paid help. The load was too much to bear alone. Too many disappointments when funds didn’t come through frazzled nerves and maybe a few tempers.

But the love of their gardens never wavered.

Agronomist for U.C. Davis and his wife, Manuel and Olga Jimenez, have given their time for the past 14 years. Modestly their donated time has been worth $2,310,000, or about $165,000 per year. That doesn’t include the donated plant materials and infrastructure.

Would the Community Step Up?

Today was the culmination of a month of planning.

So, Manuel and Olga invited Proteus and me to help them plan a meeting to see what kinds of support might be out there. We invited about 75 people from service organizations, educational and government services to attend a brainstorming session. Thirty-nine reserved, and fifty came.

Community meeting
David Hobgs, Monrovia, Proteus, Woodlake Pride and Delores Huerta Foundation all hobnob about the Gardens.

Fifty influencers in Tulare County gathered at Woodlake Presbyterian Church to brainstorm ways to raise $250,000 this year to support the Woodlake Botanical Gardens.

Wow! Even to put that much money on the screen scares me. Did you know that the San Francisco Botanical Gardens spend 5.5 billion dollars per year to maintain and grow the gardens?

Community meeting
Educators and Audubon society discuss the gardens.

That works out to $100,000 per acre. Woodlake has a unique 14 acre agricultural and rose and cacti garden valued at 500,000 in roses alone. If we maintained it to the same level as the SF garden, it would cost us 1,400,000 per year. That makes 250,000 seem paltry in comparison.

Our Agenda

  1. Our agenda included an opening walk around. Everyone wrote one or two things they love about the Gardens.
  2. Next, I gave a brief welcome, explained what in the world an educator/blogger was doing running a meeting about a botanical garden, and why we were there.
  3. We pre-selected four people to make presentations about the benefits of the gardens.  The first speaker, Chuck House, from Sequoia Hills Stables focused on the value and work of raising roses. Carmita Peña discussed the educational value to the 25 student volunteers a year who earned community service hours in high school working in the gardens. A Boy Scout organizer for 75 years, Bob Ludekens also still runs a nursery business that has donated hundreds of trees to the gardens. He explained why fruit from the store doesn’t taste sweet, and the fruit in the Botanical Gardens does. Finally, a former journalist and now website designer and documentarian, Shirley Kirkpatrick explained why the Woodlake Botanical Gardens are a treasure. A tourist attraction nestled in the foothills of the Sequoia National Park, the park draws much interest to their website about Tulare County.
  4. Finally, the meat of the meeting, table group brainstorming, and presentations. WOW. You can tell the engagement level of your participants in the process by simply listening to the buzz in the room. Each presentation was carefully thought out and well presented. Very few left the room even though we met during working hours.
  5. We held the meeting to right at one hour as promised, and offered them a chance to go home, but no one did until the last presentation finished. We closed with commitment cards about 10 minutes after the designated closing time.

    Community meeting
    I remind myself of my mom! 🙂

Follow-up

As a volunteer administrator, I am going to be looking for money. Several in the group volunteered to help with grant and proposal writing. It was clear that the gardens needed exposure. Some volunteered to help with marketing.

Even a little garden presents a huge amount of work. Plants don’t stop needing attention while you’re working out the details of who is going to do the work.

Community meetingWoodlake Botanical Gardens needs your help. Maybe you can donate funds. Someone suggested Fund me. So I’ll check into that. Maybe you love to weed roses. We need help with that now.

Community meeting
Manuel and Olga Jimenez, David Hobbs from Monrovia, Linda LaFleur from Kiwanis of Woodlake

Manuel is writing out a calendar of events so we can figure out how to get volunteers in the short-term to do the gardening work until we raise money to hire full-time employees. Even though we get employees, it will not negate the need for volunteer help. So if you can help, please let me know.

community meeting
a beautiful row of cabbage

I hope you don’t mind me writing about this on my blog. Right now, it’s where my mind and heart are. If I don’t write this, I won’t get much writing done.

Check into Always Write for my interviews coming up with author Sally Cronin, and social media guru, Chris Brogan. Today I am reposting a wonderful interview done by Norah Colvin with an author, Aleesah Darlinson. The topic of the interview caught my attention – the extinct Tasmanian tiger.

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Why Do Sunflowers Have Necks?

 

Why Do Sunflowers Have Necks?

sunflowers
Why do sunflowers have necks? The little guy on the left has a tired neck.

The Annual Day of the Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens started at 7:00 am to compensate for the July 1st heat in California’s Central Valley.

Journey Through the Garden With Me

As the temperature soared towards the 102-degree mark, I wished I’d arrived before 8:30 am. Even the presence of Bravo Lake on the other side of the chain link fence did not slow down the upward march of the thermometer bubble.

sunflowers
One mile walk through Woodlake Botanical Gardens. I’m walking along Bravo Lake, but you can’t see it. Maybe if I was a sunflower and could stretch my neck up high enough I could see the water.

Before I reached the wall of the sunflowers, sweat already poured into my eyes washing away makeup. A stinging reminder that I had forgotten to wear the bandana Olga Jimenez gave me dripped down my forehead.

sunflowersNormally I walk the mile-long path in the 14-acre gardens. Olga Jimenez drove up pulling what looked like a hay wagon. She smiled up at me from her shady seat in the utility vehicle.

sunflowers
Olga Jimenez drives visitors around the park

“Hop in! You look hot already.”

Before I could dribble all over her All-Terrain-Vehicle, Olga reached into her magic stash of cures and wound a pink and white bandana into a long cord.

“Lean over,” she said and wrapped the cord under my bangs, behind my ears and tied it under my hair in the back of my head. This gringa (white woman) avoided the camera but welcomed the relief in spite of how my bangs stood out at all angles. There are some advantages to carrying the camera and being old enough that you don’t care if you are not in every picture!

All Aboard the Sunflower Train

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Sunflowers were not the only beauties displaying their colors at the Day of the Sunflower.

“I want to drive you to the end of the pathway so you can take pictures of the sunflowers going the other way. Did you know that sunflowers turn their heads?”

She kept talking like she hadn’t just dropped a bombshell of information. I never saw a flower that turned its head. I’ve seen them fold up at night.

sunflowers“First, we’re driving up through the zinnias. I’ll stop,” Olga turned and told the rest of the passengers.

sunflowers

Woodlake Botanical Garden Founders

Olga and her husband, Manuel have planted gardens all their lives. He specialized in row crops at UC Davis and became a farm specialist for the University of California Davis for many years.

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A beautiful row of cabbage

In addition to sunflowers, the Woodlake Botanical Gardens grows many food crops from corn, tomatoes, and artichokes to apple, pear, peach, fig and banana trees. Only volunteers work in the garden. Most of them are students.

sunflowersOn the way back to the start of the Sunflower Walk, my friend Monica approached.

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Monica Pizura of Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast

Cooled down from the bandana, I gave up my shady spot in the front seat and hopped on the hay cart to take unfettered pictures as we drove.

“Hey Monica, “Do you know why sunflowers have necks?” I asked her as she climbed in.

“Is this another one of your lame jokes, Marsha?”

sunflowers“No, Monica. It’s a legitimate question.”

“Ok, so they can stretch them and see over the other plants.”

sunflowers“Good guess, Monica. But no. It’s so they can turn their heads.”

“Really, why do they do that?”

I couldn’t tell her. Maybe I could have Googled it, but I wanted to save what little phone battery life I had left for photographs. As we drove along the walking path, I had a chance to visit with the developers of the Tulare County Treasures website, Shirley, and John.

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Tulare County Treasures members, Shirley and John.

We drove right past rows and rows of sunflowers without stopping.

“You’ll want to take pictures going the other direction, so you don’t have to shoot into the sun,” Olga called back at us as she ambled along going less than three miles an hour.

I could have jumped off and walked along beside the mini-train, but it was fun to sit and visit and dangle my legs as we rolled along. Every once in a while I felt my foot bounce against the wheel.

sunflowers“It’s odd, but the sunflowers do not seem as pretty going this direction,” I said to my new friends.

“They don’t seem very friendly, do they?” Shirley asked.

“No, they don’t.” John agreed. “I wonder why.”

“Maybe they’re shy!” I surmised.

sunflowers
Hiding behind the blueberries was a grove of peach trees. Some of the group deserted.

Olga stopped the ATV, and we jumped off. Most of us jammed towards the blackberries. The seedy purple berry jettisoned tiny bursts of flavor onto our tongues. A few of the group disappeared.

Blackberries grow in clumps of three. The largest one, the bull, is the prize. So engrossed in the plump blackberry “bulls” I failed to notice that the crowd had moved to the blueberries.

The blueberries fell off the vine into our hands as we tickled their bellies with our fingers. Some of the berries tasted sweet, some a little more tart. Before we left the fruity oasis, some of the party walked back to the wagon train with peach juice dripping off their chins.

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San Joaquin blueberries, I think.

We got to the end of the trail, and she turned the hay wagon around. My face was cool as a cucumber.

“You’re getting pretty brave sitting in the sun back there. How’s that bandana working for you?”

“It’s magic! I need one for my nose, too! Olga, what do you mean, the sunflowers turn their heads?” reminding her that she left me hanging at the start of the path.

sunflowers
The bees love the sunflowers.

“When sunflowers grow, they face the sun. As the sun changes position during the day, the baby sunflowers turn to face it and follow it 180 degrees. That’s called heliotropism.”

“Helio for the sun,” Monica added.

“And tropism means that a plant or organism turns in response to an outside stimulus,” Olga finished.

sunflowers“It doesn’t look like they’ve moved any since we got here. Sunflowers are still not very friendly.” I said.

“As they get older, their necks get stiff just like ours, and they quit turning. Then they face east,” Olga said.

“Thanks, Olga, I’m feeling a little stiff-necked looking all directions to see all the gorgeous things growing here,” I said.

If you enjoyed this post, and I hope you did, please sign up for my Traveling and Blogging Near and Far Newsletter mostly for local interest.

How to Use Sunflowers

Almost everyone has eaten roasted sunflower seeds. Did you know you can make sunbutter? It’s similar to peanut butter but better for you.

I haven’t tried it. I hope it’s not like Vegemite. HGTV says you can use it like a jam or even as a substitute for cream in pasta sauces. Some people use it as a dipping sauce.

All you need are four cups of raw seeds, a stove, food processor and some oil (I’d use olive oil) and light seasoning like salt and possibly something sweet like honey. A doctor told me about Truvia, so I use that whenever I could use sugar, at least in amounts under a quarter of a cup.

Don’t buy pre-roasted sunflower seeds. Roast the raw seeds in a skillet for about 2 minutes. Tossing them keeps them from burning. Grind them into a powder for about 10 minutes. They start to turn to oil. Add a sweetener and keep going until the mixture looks like peanut butter. If it is not oily enough, add from one to four tablespoons of olive oil until it reaches the consistency you like.

Be sure to visit these two Photo Challenges for more exciting journeys.

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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.

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.”

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.”

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

making a difference
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.

makes a difference
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  

makes a difference
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.

makes a difference
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.

 

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.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
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.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
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.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
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.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
“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.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

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.

How Cruz-TA-Welding Kept Us Law Abiding in 2017

Thanks, Cruz-TA-Welding!

Early on April 29th, Vince opened the gate to mow the back yard. A routine event for a Saturday morning, but the hinge on the 100-pound rebar iron gate broke. The gate crashed to the ground. BAM!

Luckily neither the cats nor Puppy Girl was going through the posts of the gate at that time. Vince stepped back in time, too.

Well, not literally in time. It was still 2017.

Now We’re Breaking the Law!

The weather in California has been up and down this spring. One day it’s 100 degrees and two days later it’s 65 degrees. Nonetheless, kids had already texted us to come swimming. Our gate is locked because that’s the law, and besides, we don’t want kids swimming unsupervised.

The back yard 1Vince panicked. Who would come to fix it? He remembered a sign for a business down the street. Cruz-Ta-Welding, so he drove down to the shop. Juan Cruz greeted him, and Vince shared his sad story.

Juan said, “Sit down. I’ll finish my breakfast, and follow you back to your house.”

Cruz-TA-Welding
Within 15 minutes they arrived.

Minutes later he and another welder drove up, and within 1/2 hour they finished. Amazing service, wouldn’t you say?

Cruz-TA-Welding
Juan Cruz, owner

Juan Cruz loves the United States. He came to California from Mexico thirty years ago. He’s been in business in Woodlake for sixteen years and has six employees.

Cruz-TA-Welding
ZAP!

“I love it here,” he told us. “I love the system. If you work hard, you will grow. I don’t believe people can’t find a job. I’ve worked hard. Picking pears is the hardest. They are so heavy. Picking grapes is hard too.”

Cruz-TA-WeldingWhat’s the hardest job he’s ever had as a welder?

“We moved an entire factory from Visalia to Iowa. We had to dismantle all the equipment and put it back together in Iowa.”

Cruz-TA-Welding did a great job for us, and he serves the community as well. We opened the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum a year ago. Cruz-TA-Welding donated all the labor to fence the building.

Cruz-TA-Welding
Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, opened February 2016

Thanks for all you do for Woodlake, California, Cruz-TA-Welding.

If you live in this area and need a welder, we recommend him, and so does the Woodlake Chamber of Commerce.

Woodlake Related Posts

What’s So Great About Woodlake, CA?

Woodlake, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, only 40 minutes from the Sequoia National Park, takes pride in its little town. Founded in 1912, today it is the smallest incorporated town in Tulare County. Residents primarily work in agriculture where the average annual income is $32,559, half of California’s median. Even so, a few years ago Woodlake High School Foundation was recognized as giving out more in scholarships than any community its size in the United States.

More data on Woodlake.

You Can Help Woodlake Thrive

  1. Support the Woodlake High School Foundation with the purchase of Images of America Woodlake. You can buy it directly from the high school and 50% of the purchase price go to the Foundation (100% of the profits).
    Click to order. 
  2. You can support the business community and join the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Support this website, Traveling and Blogging Near and Far and Always Write. I have started a Blogging and Virtual Assistant Training Program at the High School. At the end of the 20 hours, I either need to hire the students or let them go. So far my blogs have not produced any income. But with the help of my student assistants, I’m hoping we will. I’m going to use 100% of the income to invest in their future.
  4. Enter the Traveling and Blogging Near and Far sweepstakes to get a free book.