Welcome to Sequoia Country, Travelers

Summer is here and it’s time to take off for parts known or unknown – cooler, warmer, more remote, more culture something new and different, or familiar. Where are you going this summer?

Kings Canyon National Park in 2018

Central California may be hot, but there are plenty of cool places to hang out to escape the heat. The Sequoia, Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks are all within a few hours driving distances from Visalia, Fresno and each other. Everyone knows Yosemite, but have you been to Kings Canyon and Sequoia?

That’s not all. Kaweah Lake in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Foothills is a sporting destination on the way to the Sequoia National Park. If you get to Three Rivers, CA, you passed it. You can’t miss over one hundred acre-feet of water, though.

Have You Tried Kayaking?

Kayaking on Kaweah Lake

Last year my adorable neighbors, Diane and Selena, treated me to a fabulous day at Lake Kaweah, less than thirty minutes from where I live. Lake Kaweah serves as a reservoir for irrigation, flood control, electric power source, and fishing and boating destination

If you are like me and used to seeing the land only, you might try a different perspective this year and hop into a kayak. Getting into and out of the kayak is a bit tricky, but once you get in, time melts away as the water laps up against the side of the boat.

See my paddle keeping me from going in circles?

The temperature on July sixth was a cool 9o degrees by late morning, so we wore plenty of sunscreen, but didn’t feel the heat. It’s a large body of water, so we had room to roam. Selena took off leaving us in her wake, circling back to check on her mother and me every so often to make sure that I didn’t spend all my time going in circles.

We Could Have Been Explorers

We could have been explorers.

There were so few people on the water when we arrived that we could have been explorers from another era seeing the mountains and foothills for the first time. If you know the history of the area, though, you would know that this lake never existed until Terminus Dam was completed in 1961. Before the Corps of Engineers built the dam, floods devastated the downstream communities. The most one-hundred-year flood in recent history occurred in 1955.

Kaweah Lake Water Levels Fluctuate

Water levels in the lake fluctuate.

You can see the water levels marked clearly on this foothill. There are many levels below what you see here. What you don’t see are the whole trees and parking lots buried under the water.

Last year the water level was high because of the enormous amount of rain we had during the 2017-18 rainy season. In wet years, even though the lake is full in July, the Corps of Engineers makes sure that the dam doesn’t break by releasing water all summer. By September the water levels decrease significantly, although boats still dot the surface. You can see that the water level was near record level last year.

Near record level water in the summer of 2018

During the 2018-19 season, Central California had about eight inches of participation. That’s below the average of ten inches, but not a bad number. I haven’t been up to the lake for a while to take pictures this year, but when the lake is full they let out a lot of water for most of the summer to control for melting snow coming from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our canals, which farmers rely on for irrigation, are full this year.

Relaxing Before Disaster Strikes

Watch out! I can’t steer this thing!

Don’t overlook the simple outdoor pleasures near you this summer. Learning and trying new things broadens and enriches your life and keeps you young. However, I’m glad you didn’t see me Selena trying to get me out of the kayak. ūüôā

You’re right, I didn’t help much. Thanks to Diane and Selena who made this trip possible.

Tell me what you have planned for this summer.

A Drive to Sequoia National Park

I thoroughly prepared myself for a day of work. I was going to  work on my quilt.  but Mary called, and off we went to the Sequoia National Park.

These WW ! and Civil Rights pictures will become several quilts to auction off at next year's convention in LA.
These WW ! and Civil Rights pictures will become several quilts to auction off at next year’s convention in LA.

We started at Bravo Lake in Woodlake, admiring the Botanical Gardens.  You have to climb to get to the lake as you walk through the gardens to the walking path around the lake.  Bravo Lake, fed by the Kaweah River, Indian word, eah, meaning river, filled with the raucous caw, cawing of many crows.

Race for Hunger, and Berry-eating festival coming up soon!
Race for Hunger, and Berry-eating festival coming up soon!

Bravo Lake, originally boasting a Spanish was renamed after an old-fashioned pioneer fist fight. ¬†As today, all fights have plenty of onlookers and well-wishers. ¬†This one was no different. ¬†When one of the fighting Irish, Tom Fowler, won, the spectators cheered him with “Bravo, bravo, Tom. ¬†Bravo.” ¬†The Indians living in the area promptly renamed the lake, Bravo Lake.

Botanical Gardens at the foot of Bravo Lake
Botanical Gardens at the foot of Bravo Lake

After hiking a few feet up to the brim of the lake, we took a quick look then got back in the car, and went east towards the mountains. ¬†The beauty of the snow on the mountains almost took my breath away, and ¬†I wanted to stop in the middle of the road, but Mary wouldn’t let me!

Bravo Lake adjusted with layers reducing the saturation of blue.
Bravo Lake adjusted with layers reducing the saturation of blue.

Mary snapped a few pictures along the way, but I was driving, but you have seen this trip before.  When we got to the first stop for Kaweah Lake, we found the Natural History museum open.

Welcome to the Natural History Museum at Kaweah Lake  Kaw, kaw, snap.
Welcome to the Natural History Museum at Kaweah Lake Kaw, kaw, snap.

It was closed¬†when Vince, Kalev, and I visited the last time. ¬†We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the museum purchasing books, and chatting with the volunteer about the dam built on the river in the 1950s to alleviate the flooding problems that had plagued the valley since 1852, when it was first settled by white settlers. ¬†I took pictures of the notebook of old photos. ¬†You can see the lake in the background of some of them. ¬†I’m only including one picture in this overview post.

Can you see the reflection of Kaweah Lake off the photo?
Can you see the reflection of Kaweah Lake off the photo?

Back on the road to Three Rivers we stopped at another POI, point of interest, that Mary found on an iPhone app, a giant cow.  I thought this bull/cow was rather vulgar looking given the pipes coming and going from him/her.  I found the exhaust pipe especially humorous since cows are especially huge methane producers here in the valley, causing more air pollution than automobiles.  Apparently this bovine used to be a hamburger stand, which explains some of his/her extraneous appendages.

This place will whet your appetite!
This place will whet your appetite!

Mary, you wanted a what?

He's a catch, Mary!  :)
He’s a catch, Mary! ūüôā

Then we traveled on to the next museum where they were setting up for a Veteran’s appreciation program at 7:00 p.m. tonight.

Isn't' this a cool sign.  Unfortunately the sky wasn't as pretty as Paul's just a few feet away because I was shooting into the sun.  Lucky for me Photoshop came to the rescue.  I'l show you the before and after in a different post.
Isn’t’ this a cool sign? ¬†Unfortunately the sky wasn’t as pretty as Paul’s just a few feet away because I was shooting into the sun. Lucky for me, Photoshop came to the rescue. I’l show you the before and after in a different post.

The outside attraction here was a giant statue of Paul Bunyan.

Paul is cracking up a bit, but he was carved in 1941 from one log!  He weighs tons.  I guess I'm skinny in comparison.
This sky is natural. ¬†Paul is cracking up a bit, but he was carved in 1941 from one log! He weighs tons. I guess I’m skinny in comparison.

Displayed on the east side of the building were both summer and winter Native American huts.  So in which one would you rather spend the winter?  You can read more about Yokuts housing on TC History Gal Productions.

Tule reeds and bark huts.
Tule reeds and bark huts.

We finally made it to my favorite stop, the Gateway Restaurant at the mouth of the Kaweah River. ¬†Mary tried to dutifully check us in and post our food on Facebook, but wifi there didn’t work with iPhone.

The noise here is the sound of rushing water.
The noise here is the sound of rushing water.

You can see that when the water levels are up to normal – the white line on the rocks, that this would be an exciting ride in a raft. ¬†OK, I couldn’t actually SEE the line, but the waitress assured us that it was there. ¬†The stack of rocks piled on the boulders are for wishing. ¬†So make a wish, but don’t tell anyone what it is. ¬†Let me know if it comes true, though!

Can you find the stack of wishing rocks?
Can you find the stack of wishing rocks?

While we ate our fish lunch at 3:00 p.m., we read about the famous Utopian Socialist Colony founded in Three Rivers called the Kaweah Commonwealth in 1896. ¬†They wanted to earn money for themselves cutting down the huge trees, and thus they motivated John Muir, and eventually Teddy Roosevelt to protect the gentle giants from eternal destruction by declaring the colony’s purchased property a National Park. ¬†(The U.S. Government could do that.) ¬†Six years after they started their colony, it ended with only a minor internal bickering. ¬†Utopia didn’t make it here around Three Rivers. ¬†I personally thought they were much too capitalistic. – cutting down our fine trees for profit. ¬†Apparently not everyone wanted to labor at all, another cause of internal irritation.

A bargain shopping spree for seniors over age 62.  $10 for a lifetime pass to the National Parks.  I'm coming back when I'm older!  :)
A bargain shopping spree for seniors over age 62. $10 for a lifetime pass to the National Parks. I’m coming back when I’m older! ūüôā

We could have gone back, but chose to go the 1/4 mile east from the restaurant to the entrance of the National Park. ¬†That was the most expensive short date I’ve had – ever! ¬†Mary paid $80 for an annual pass to get in. ¬†We went to the station, stayed 10 minutes until it closed, then turned around and headed for the chocolate candy store before it closed. ¬†Had I been a mere 6 months older, I could have bought a LIFETIME pass to ALL the National Parks for $10. ¬†The only bad part of that was that the man asked me if I wanted to purchase one. ¬†He didn’t even ask Mary who is just about my age, 30 something. ¬†Why would he think I look 62, anyway? ¬†I’m going on a diet as soon as I finish my chocolate candy.

Agree/Disagree?
Agree/Disagree?

You can tell that all these great times have taken their toll on my tummy. ¬†I’m almost as big as Paul Bunyan! ¬†Diet, diet, diet. ¬†(tomorrow).

OK, kids don't see the humor in this sign.  Go figure!
OK, kids don’t see the humor in this sign. Go figure! ¬†Looking at chocolate makes me shake with excitement. ¬†Sorry for the blurry picture. ¬†Couldn’t be helped! ¬†ūüôā

“Unattended children will be given candy and a free puppy!” ¬†Do I look 10? ¬†What about a second childhood? ¬†After a long wait in line to buy chocolates for Vince (hahaha), we headed back home. ¬†What a fun surprise. ¬†Did you enjoy the trip with me? ¬†I hope so! ¬†ūüôā

Happy Easter from Three Rivers, California, and me, Marsha Lee :)
Happy Easter from Three Rivers, California, and me, Marsha Lee ūüôā (not pictured here)

Day Trip From Woodlake to Three Rivers, CA In Search of Snow

Winding Through the Backroads Out of Woodlake, CA

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.

TC Drive to Kaweah Lake014The trip up to the park was distracting. ¬†“Pull over right here, V. ¬†I want to snap a picture of rock outcroppings.”

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“Stop, stop, stop. right here V. ¬†There’s a great picture of a horse for Auty.”

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“Look at that view, V. ¬†Don’t you think I should take that? ¬†SToooooop!!!”

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“Thanks V. ¬†I’m ready now.” ¬†Both V and Kalev were VERY patient

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Kaweah Lake near Three Rivers, CA

I do want to stop at Kaweah Lake and take a few pictures.  OK?

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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.

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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.

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Terminus Dam

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“No, no Puppy Girl. Mommy doesn’t want to climb back UP those stairs.” – ML

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I’ll bring you back here this spring, and you’ll wonder how those cars could have ever been driving down there. ML

TC Drive to Kaweah Lake052 TC Drive to Kaweah Lake055 TC Drive to Kaweah Lake076Then 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.

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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.

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Nonetheless, the rocks are still there, buried, and impossible to judge.  She hit her head and broke her neck.

TC Drive to Kaweah Lake082 The jump paralyzed her for life at age 19.

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We drove up to Slick Rock, a popular place to swim in the summer.

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Kalev was thankful for a chance to explore.

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Mom and Dad weren’t paying much attention to her. ¬†Good thing she had on her leash!

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Plenty of green grass. Don’t look Dad! About time we get to explore something besides pavement! ¬†This is MORE like it. OK, I’m done now, Dad. DAD! I said I’m DONE. LET”S MOVE IT! ¬† COME ON! – K

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Finally, there’s a lot to sniff here . – K

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I could make it down this little slope, but Dad said no. If he’d just LOSE this leash! – K

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I could climb those. He’s not being reasonable with this leash thing. MMMM, What’s this smell? -K

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Dad seems preoccupied with this view. I don’t know what the big deal is. I could just run around if he’d just unsnap my leash. – K

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Mom doesn’t even care. Do you think SHE is going to climb those rocks. hahaha Last time she tried something like that she smashed her camera lens when she tripped. LOL ¬†BUT I COULD BE CLIMBING THOSE ROCKS! ¬†DAD, LET ME GO! ¬†-K

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I wonder how I could get his attention? – K

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There, these did the trick! Now he’s looking. ¬†He’s bending down. ¬†He’ll unsnap my leash now. ¬†Ouch DAD! You’re pulling my hair! ¬†I don’t have much, hair, and … What are you doing? ¬†Leave those burs in my back alone. They aren’t bothering anyone! – K

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Great, now he’s called Mom over. She never gives up on these things. OUUUUUCH! MOM! Why don’t they just go back to their sightseeing? – K

 

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

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That wasn’t so bad. Maybe Ranger Bill will let me down to run around. – K

Kalev was very grateful to Ranger Bill.

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Our next stop was Horse Creek Campground.

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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.

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Dad, put me down. Mom’s leaving us. ¬†MOM, you forgot me! ¬†Do you see that grass? What’s a Pac-Man? – K

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Across the road, I spotted Pac-Man hanging out at Horse Creek Campground.

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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.

What do you think?  With or without distractions?