The inspiration to transform an abandoned railroad right-of-way and a weedy dam levee into a beautiful and unique garden facility began more than twenty years ago.
Olga and Manuel Jimenez organized a company of youth volunteers into a group called Woodlake Pride. The impetus was to create an environment for youth that builds self-esteem, confidence, and respect for others while uplifting community moral.
This was done through gardening and beautification projects in various locations around the city of Woodlake. Most see the Woodlake Botanical Gardens (WBG) as the pinnacle of success of Woodlake Pride. The reality is that Olga and Manuel have been growing the youth of Woodlake for nearly thirty years. One can be assured that the community has benefitted and will continue to benefit from the character and citizenship instilled in the hundreds of youth. These young people and the organizers have unselfishly…
It’s not easy to squeeze in 10,000 steps after spending hours getting to your destination?
Here’s one way we solved our sitting dilemma in Sedona.
It might easiest be to get up in the morning and walk in the neighborhood before starting the day. Try a walk down to the nearest shopping center. Grab your cup of coffee and continue back to your hotel.
Added to a one or two-mile walk at the start of the day, you will get in your anticipated steps even if you sit a bit along the way.
The data is everywhere. The Mayo Clinic states that walking 10,000 steps a day helps you:
Maintain a healthy weight
Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
You may have a Fitbit, but if you don’t, you can buy a simple pedometer. If I remember, I stick my iPhone in my pocket. When I’m photographing and forgot to put my phone back into my pocket, there goes my step count. But I get a good idea of how far I’m going each day.
If you don’t have a device to measure your steps, measure time. Most people can walk one mile in at least twenty minutes. At that rate, one hour will earn you three miles, and you’re three-fifths to your goal. The remaining 40 minutes is easy just walking around from chore to chore.
But the point is to start moving.
Head Out of the Bell Rock Inn Parking Lot
If you’re looking for a great vacation spot where getting in your 10,000 steps is a pleasure, you can’t find a better place than Sedona, AZ. This walk measured about 7,400 steps. I ended the day with nearly 12,000 steps.
Sedona has two main highways, 179 and 89A and a million roundabouts. This trip we stayed at Bell Rock Inn Diamond Resort on Highway 179 across from one of the most beautiful rock legends in Sedona.
“In 2006, The US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration awarded State Route 179 its highest designation within the National Scenic Byways Program: the All American Road designation. … It is a tourist attraction onto itself.” The Premier Gateway
For views, Bell Rock Inn ranks a 5 even though it’s probably the smallest of the four resorts we’ve stayed in Sedona. The neighborhood walk ranks about 5 as well.
Just outside the door of our suite the sidewalk that lines the highway spans about 4 feet wide and runs for miles. So this morning I headed up the road. I walked past Famous Pizza. At 7:30 no one but the crow wanted pizza. He did not pose as I approached him to take a portrait shot.
Along the way were two more hotels, a Holiday Express and one other as well as a strip mall. I watched early morning tourists pose next to the mural which spans the restaurant. It was about 70 degrees at 7:30 this morning, perfect for a walk.
As you head north on Highway 179 back towards Sedona, you can see Castle Rock to the left and Bell Rock near the middle. Low maintenance plants and red rocks line the sidewalks adding interest.
Even though the traffic can be heavy, especially in the spring, the sidewalk provides a beautiful safe place to walk. I took this picture of the Jack’s Canyon sign for our friend Jack, who did not know he had a Canyon named after him.
Highway 179 has scenic turnouts at the rocks so that you can park and walk. Like our son did, you can take a trail almost to the peak of Bell Rock without having to rock climb.
Along the way, you meet a few passersby. Most of them are doing what you are exercising, not chatting. Headed away from Sedona, the view is not as spectacular, but there’s more shade. I stayed on the shady side going both directions.
I passed at least four strip malls like this one during the 1.5 or 2-mile morning walk. This is the Village of Oak Creek. We ate at Cucina Rustica, a beautiful Italian restaurant behind the white arch on our last night. More sitting and eating, so I was glad for the morning walks.
In the spring there might be two miles of traffic caught up on the 6-mile strip from Highway 17 to Sedona. You may be able to see yourself in this link to the live webcam.
Another walking option is to golf and weave your way around among the beautiful shade trees. The beautifully maintained Country Club golf course is open to the public, one block from Bell Rock Inn.
The gardeners don’t appreciate the public walking on the path during golfing hours but you may walk undetected and undisturbed early in the morning and after 5:00 at night.
These wildflowers with their bulbs and tiny flowers borrowed my camera/pedometer for a few seconds. These look like Penstemon, Golden beards. Any flower experts out there to back me up?
These juicy cacti fruits, prickly pears, bloomed ubiquitously in September. You can pay $10 to harvest them. Our Pink Jeep tour guide suggested that nobody would notice if you just picked one. You needed to pick with great care, though. The fruit has to be peeled, and it will stain you bright red.
Heading back to the resort you can see Bell Rock on the left and Courthouse Butte on the right. Courthouse Butte has also been known as Cathedral Rock, which makes it confusing to visitors who hear both names used interchangeably.
These formations are all sedimentary rocks, sandstones, limestones, and shales. Guides don’t recommend them for rock climbing as they are very soft.
Some believe that Bell Rock is a spiritual place with special energy called a vortex. Everyone I’ve known to hike up there, including me, has come back from the hike at a level five – tired to level ten – exhausted and not a number one level – energetic, though.
You can see that even the small rock formations provide a lot of shade. Building this highway caused some controversy as it tore up some of the beautiful rock formations.
Walking away from the resort seemed like the path would end at any time. Each time I thought I would walk to the end and turn around, the road curved around some vegetation, and disappeared from sight. So like a woman hypnotized, I kept walking and walking. Finally, I accepted that the sidewalk might not go all the way to heaven, but it could easily go on for many miles.
I hope you enjoyed Scenic AZ Highway 179. It reminds me of the Arizona Highways magazines my grandfather loved in the 1950s and 1960s. There I was, living his dream, walking along one of the most beautiful Arizona Highways.
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Believe it or not, Yosemite is the number one destination, and the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks together is number six. All are within a 90-minute drive from my house.
The strange thing is that people from nearby seldom enjoy these wonders. You’ve probably noticed that it’s the same thing where you live. This year several friends wanted to check out the waterfalls due to the El Nino rains California had this winter.
The perfect time to get away from the heat and go to the mountains is July. While it was in the 100s in the valley, it was 75 degrees in the park.
What to Pack for a Mountain Hiking Trip
A camera or cell phone and a car charger
A warm but light jacket
A lunch or at least snacks
An extra pair of shoes, shirt & pants
Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks
Three parks form the Mountain Loop. However, you can drive from Sequoia to Kings Canyon without coming back down from the mountains. It’s a grueling drive, though.
Kings Canyon National Park is a gentle drive from either Fresno or Visalia east on Highway 180. The hairpin turns and loops that you encounter on the way to both Yosemite and Sequoia don’t slow down your trip to Kings Canyon.
One advantage of going to Kings Canyon National Park is that fewer people go there making the lines to get in more bearable. If you can’t find a parking place, there are too many people there.
Roaring River Falls
Almost as soon as you enter the park, you reach Roaring Canyon Falls. Step out of the car, take a few steps, and you’re there. At that stop you find benches and tables to sit and picnic.
The restroom was hideous, but at least there was one. Let’s just say bugs like it. If you hike off the beaten path, there’s an innovation that women can carry that would be infinitely more pleasant than this restroom.
This young woman drew a lot of attention. First of all, she’s not fat, she’s pregnant. The water runs icy cold and swiftly, and as you know, rocks under water are not just sharp, they’re slippery. She’s wearing a watch, glasses and a dress, none of which go well with falling. Luckily for her, she made it to the other side. But those of us on the safe side of the river held our breath until she made it. Hopefully, she made it back just as safely.
Many visitors enjoyed a picnic lunch at this first vista. Cool mist wafted over like mister machines in the desert.
You can hike or trails or even on the roads. We did have one adventurous loop. If you hold a camera it’s not likely that you’ll hike quickly. Taking pictures is as essential as swatting flies at a picnic.
More and more people use their phones. Digital cameras may get better clarity than the iPhone, but you must remember to check the settings each time. A point-and-shoot camera takes the judgment of both exposure and focus.
This was a favorite shot.
If you know what it is, then good on ya. But don’t you think it’s pretty?
When you drive to the next stop, get out and you find a 3-mile trail loop. Sometimes you find rangers who add to the facts found on the information boards. One ranger geared up for six minutes of geology facts. You’ll meet him later.
The Loop Starting with the Kings River
Since it is a loop, you can start at either end. Monica suggested that visitors might want to head away from the river and take the more difficult walking first. When you see the end of the walk, maybe you’ll agree.
From a safe perch on the paved pathway, you could find plenty of opportunities to capture pictures of the swollen Kings River. The middle and south forks of the 125-mile long Kings River starts somewhere in the Kings Canyon National Park even though this looks much too fast and large to be the headwater.
As you can see, the parks have two seasons, fire and rain. This tree looked sparse, but still viable after the Rough Fire in August 2015. The lightning-started fire burned 151,623 acres of land, making it the largest fire of 2015 in California, involving up to 3,742 firefighters.
The sun filtered through the trees dazzled the water but left hikers alone to enjoy the walk in cool comfort.
You can see that the wide path that made walking a breeze. We also saw the devastating results of the fire lying on the ground like charred skeletons.
In the backdrop as we looked away from the river, the granite peaks vied for our attention. The river was noisier, closer and got more attention from walkers than the rocky backdrop.
Knotty Problems Ahead
Once in a while, a knotty tumor might stop you dead in your tracks to muse about the anomaly. But you walk on, you may not expect what you would encounter in just a short distance from this point.
They didn’t talk about it, just marched stoically by with their leader. No one talked much. Hmmm..
Walking across the bridge did not hold any danger or inkling of what lay ahead.
Monica stopped for a brief respite. Several travelers snapped pictures of this view.
Zumwalt Meadow was a bit mushy and no one walked out there.
This picture might have worked better in black and white. The color looked as drab as the fortieth day of rain. It could be a postcard shot with more vibrant lighting. But that was how it looked.
Stairway to Heaven
Here is the first hint that the trail was changing. It looked like the end of the trail. Monica is tiny. Ordinary sized people might not fit through the opening in the rocks.
She bravely led the way. No bears.
Eventually, there appeared the stairway that led to heaven. It seemed like it could be a trail in the Holy Land. The rocks were somewhat uneven. If you are klutzy, walking stick over rocks might prevent a twisted ankle and tumble over the edge of the cliff.
At the bottom of the rock ladder, Monica found a shady spot, and then she found something even better.
You’d never expect a beach in the middle of the mountains, but there it was. People swam in it and shade-bathed in the sand. Everyone at the beach had their shoes off. The sand was pebbly, so it didn’t stick too badly when you put your shoes back on.
Within a few minutes, you arrive back where you started. You might be able to compel nn unsmiling ranger helper to give you a five-minute lecture on the geography of the area. Or not.
If you are over 62, you can still buy a lifetime pass. The cost is now $80, but if you visit eight parks, it has paid for itself. If you’re in fourth-grade, there is a special pass for you.
If You’re Longing for Someplace to Go
Consider a staycation near you or visit Tulare County and the three National Parks nearby.
In our small community, Woodlake Botanical Gardens nearly became a town park.
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.
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?
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 included an opening walk around. Everyone wrote one or two things they love about the Gardens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Woodlake 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.
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.
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.
When Erin Mason gets a divorce, she’s left with two teenage sons to care for. Soon after, the doctor diagnoses her with cancer, and her world falls apart. Not too far away, someone else – Alan Beaumont – is suffering a similar fate.
Their paths come together in this inspiring tale, partially based on actual events. A Rather Unusual Romance shows how love can flourish in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
My psychological thriller Repent at Leisure, with 9 good reviews on Amazon, will also be FREE from Saturday 15th – Wednesday 19th July. It won a bronze award in the 2016 Drunken Druid Book Awards. https://www.drunkendruidawards.com/blog