If you’ve never seen a tree so wide you can drive your truck through it, then you need to come to the Sequoia National Park. The Kaweah River surges down from the Sierra Nevada, through the Big Trees, forming the Delta where big agriculture lives in Tulare County.
The huge forests that attract thousands of tourists world-wide today, might have been wiped from the map before their secret was discovered were it not for the drama that unfolded in the mountains in the 1880s.
I met author, Jay O’Connell, in the Pizza Factory in Three Rivers on the day Sally Pace and I made ad sales calls for the Kiwanis Magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills.” I went home, and sure enough, I had his book, Cooperative Dreams A History of the Kaweah Colony, in my library, but to my loss, had never taken the time to read it.
“Three key issues of the nineteenth-century California history are illustrated by events at Kaweah.” The issues prominent in the 1880s, when the Kaweah Colony formed were: “land and its acquisition; labor and the organization of it; and conservation. … They are personified by three major characters in the drama of the Kaweah.” Charles Keller found the land, and knew it would be perfect to start the perfect cooperative colony. Burnette Haskell, son of none other than Eddie Haskell (not from Leave It To Beaver, but very much like him in personality) gave voice to the organized labor movement so prominent in those years. Finally, Visalia’s own “Father of the Sequoia National Park,” George W. Stewart championed conservation so effectively that the results surprised even him.
What I didn’t know was that there was such a mysterious aura around the often-told story. For fifty years even historians did not know how the park came to be included in a bill that originally reserved only a small portion of the trees for posterity. Even more amazing was the reason for including the magnificent trees in the preservation act.
O’Connell gently unfurls the story, introducing each character, using primary sources including letters, newspaper articles, and interviews of survivors of the colonies conducted in the 1940s by Tulare County historical expert, Joe Doctor, to authenticate his narrative.
As a student of local history, I found this fascinating, but California’s history, its dream belongs to the world as did the settlers that came in the 1800s.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Mary, you wanted a what?
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.
The outside attraction here was a giant statue of Paul Bunyan.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
“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! 🙂
We got up Sunday morning to absolutely sparkly blue skies, and cool temperatures. It was a perfect day for a trip to the mountains. I wanted to see snow up close and personal. In the summer here the weather changes very little, but in the winter it can change from minute to minute. Before it changed too much V, Kalev and I hopped into the car and headed for the hills. My goal was to get to Sequoia National Park, and play in the snow.
The trip up to the park was distracting. “Pull over right here, V. I want to snap a picture of rock outcroppings.”
“Stop, stop, stop. right here V. There’s a great picture of a horse for Auty.”
“Look at that view, V. Don’t you think I should take that? SToooooop!!!”
“Thanks V. I’m ready now.” Both V and Kalev were VERY patient
Kaweah Lake near Three Rivers, CA
I do want to stop at Kaweah Lake and take a few pictures. OK?
Now that’s what I’m talking about. I can’t believe that I thought this was ugly when I first moved here. Right now it is at its lowest levels. You can see the high-level water mark on the side of the hill. When the rains come, and the snows melt, the lake behind Terminus Dam builds up. If the Corps of Engineers doesn’t keep it empty now, it could conceivably break the dam built in 1955. Before that time our valley was subject to extreme droughts most years, then huge floods every 7-10 years that bathed all the valley towns in several feet of fast-flowing, tree and rock-laden river waters.
We pulled into the Tulare County Boat Safety Patrol Lake Kaweah Office parking lot, saw a friend of V’s, and took some pictures. The flag was flying at half-mast in honor of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting.
Then we headed up the road in search of snow. Almost immediately we came to Horse Creek Bridge. When I was teaching, just before summer vacation one year, a young woman came to speak to our 4th graders about swimming safety.
Like many other youngsters, when summer came, she went with her friends and took turns jumping off Horse Creek Bridge into the water below. Of course, there’s a lot more water in the summer.
Nonetheless, the rocks are still there, buried, and impossible to judge. She hit her head and broke her neck.
The jump paralyzed her for life at age 19.
We drove up to Slick Rock, a popular place to swim in the summer.
Kalev was thankful for a chance to explore.
Mom and Dad weren’t paying much attention to her. Good thing she had on her leash!
V came unglued. I struggled with my bandaged thumb to pull out burs for about the next 15 minutes. Finally we were down to the last three, but they weren’t budging. Then one more to go. It was almost in her mouth, and needed to be cut out. About that time, the park ranger drove up. I got out of the car and asked if he had any scissors. He did! We cut the last bur out, bit by bit. Kalev was such a good girl. She did jerk her head a bit, but never a yelp or a snap. In the end, it took both V and me to hold her head still while Ranger Bill snipped out the bur. Here’s a FAQ for you about burs. “The bur of burdock was the inspiration for Velcro.” Wikipedia
Kalev was very grateful to Ranger Bill.
Our next stop was Horse Creek Campground.
You can see how exposed the tree roots are because of the higher level of the water in the spring and early summer. That means the campground is under water, and we wouldn’t be driving on this road.
Across the road, I spotted Pac-Man hanging out at Horse Creek Campground.
Can you tell how old this tree is? Me either, the rings are too small for me to count, but it’s dead now. After one last shot for Toemail, we were ready to leave. The blue skies suddenly turned gray, we were tired, and we never drove high enough to reach snow. We decided to go back home and wait for the snow to come down to us. It was a relatively quick trip, and we thought of many other reasons to come back. It was a great date. People come from all over the world to visit the Sequoia National Park, home of the biggest trees in the world. We didn’t make it up that far today.
So if you come visit us, we’ll make the entire trip to the Sequoias without all the distractions because you will have seen them already. Or maybe you’d like the distractions, too.
Happy Thanksgiving!!! It’s always good to be home, even though there are no cultural places to visit nearby, or Diners and Dives restaurants. There’s also little rain, traffic, or noise – although cows make a lot of noise from time to time.
Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I took my big lens out for a walk to experiment with it. I took the wide-angle with me, but never got it out. It was too much fun to get up close and personal with the mountains.
These mountains I do know, and I know that we are looking east. The Sierra Nevada range is a Spanish name meaning sawtooth snowy. It must have been loggers that named it, but I think they were accurate in their description.
You can see that east of the valley is more frequently range land and not farming, although we do have groves of citrus in this area. Mountains compose 2/3 of Tulare County. This location is only about 40 minutes from the mountains where you visit Sequoia National Park.I love the layers of hills and mountains. It’s hard to capture them with even the big lens., but we had rain while I was away, and the mountains took on a thin layer of snow which helps show their definition. Unfortunately for capturing the sky, I waited just about an hour too long before going outside. While it is clear as a bell from 10:00 to about 2:00, after that there is a winter haze that settles in.These pictures may all start to look the same to you. I’m having to go back and forth a little to make sure I don’t pick the same picture accidentally because I didn’t save all the pictures in the file, and I didn’t go in order. I just stand in one place and pivot, so there is a lot of similarity. I’m sure every little peak has a name, but I don’t know them. However, I do have my favorites, and this little saw blade on the left side of the picture is one of them.
Just so you know, there are foothills on every side. This picture points northwest.
And this one points due west. See I really do know my directions.Since I’m from deciduous Indiana, autumn is not complete without leaves. The sun was almost ready to set making these leaves shimmer and shiver with the impending dusk.Even the ugly leaves are pretty in the sun.
I got a phone call at just about this time, and missed the sunlight on the dandelions. They looked etherial on the hillside. The more I take pictures, the more I am aware that if I don’t snap the picture from exactly the right place at exactly the right time, I miss it. I can walk one step and the view changes. This drives me nuts when I am driving and I can’t stop the car soon enough. In this case I had to settle for dandelions on flat land, not circling the tree like alien landing lights.This at least gives you a glimpse of the magic I saw magnified through my mega 75-300 lens. Hope you enjoyed being back home again in Tulare County, California.