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 Must See Oddball Shop Right on the Highway

What’s Odd Today at¬†Cee’s Oddball Challenge?

 

Have you ever opened the door to a shop and it took your breath away, it was so …. odd?

My friend Sally Pace and I got in her car and drove east on Highway 198 toward the big trees, Sequoia National Park. ¬†Our mission, as we chose to accept it, was selling advertising for Kiwanis magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills.”

We’re volunteers, you know.

You can’t keep a volunteer on the straight path without them turning their work into an event.

“Hey, Sally, look here. The Doll’s Nest. Ever been there?”

“It looks like someone’s house.”

“Let’s check it out anyway. If they’re not there, oh well.”

We almost did not open the door. It WAS someone’s house. We heard a little voice inside, “It’s open. Come on in.”

We pushed open the door and sucked in our breath.

Seriously, have you ever seen so many dolls.
Seriously, have you ever seen so many dolls?

Not me!

I’ve never seen so many dolls in my life.

Most, like 99.95% of them, are imported from Russia. Many of them are decades old and were very difficult to get because of international relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.

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Bertha and her sister Marilyn started the Doll’s Nest as a hobby. The name fits the shop perfectly. These nesting dolls nest in their living room. See the little guy at the bottom middle of the picture? That’s my husband with blue eyes.

This little Vince has become my blogging helper.
Little Vince has become my blogging helper.

Little Vince is one of the few dolls who doesn’t nest.

According to Bertha, “nesting dolls are hollow wooden figures, with the top portion of the doll coming off, revealing another figurine.”

The Beetles live here along with other famous figurines.

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John Lennon ranks big among the other stars.

Some of the dolls have their nesting companions laid out beside them like you see with Mr. Walrus. My favorite was the stressed woman whose mood gradually lightened as she thought cheery thoughts.

I'm starting to feel the pressure.
You’ve had days like this, haven’t you? Well, it always gets better.

Didn't I tell you.
Didn’t I tell you? Just listen to that tiny still voice nested inside of you.

Ginny dolls caught my attention on the left side of the shop.

Hi again, Ginny. I remember you from my past.
Hi again, Ginny. I remember you from my past.

Ginny dolls were my favorite dolls when I was seven. Here is why. We had a bond.

I was born with a double harelip or cleft lip. I had to go to the hospital to have my inner lip separated from my gum where it had been sewn when I was born. At age seven, I could smile normally.

No worries, I came out just fine with Ginny by my side.

My smart momma took me shopping to pick out a new doll. We made a day of it.  She took me out to eat at L.S. Ayres & Co. at their fancy rooftop restaurant where we watched a fashion show. I also got some new baby doll pjs.

I was soooo excited to go to the hospital. I know, weird, huh?

The hospital had a huge bright playroom, so Ginny and I went right there as soon as I got there. I could not wait to make new friends and show them my new doll.

Ginny and I together had no fear.

Ginny, you moved to CA, too!
Ginny, you moved to CA, too!

If you guys ever need a place to spark happy memories, drive up to Three Rivers and visit the Doll’s Nest. hehehe

Don’t tell, but my brother loved my dolls, too.

If you are NOT a guy who loves dolls, think of it as pure history. Maybe there is somewhere to sit down and play video games on your phone while you wait. ūüôā

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Yes, there were more dolls in the dining room.

I hope you enjoyed my trip to the oddball shop.

Cee's OddBall

If you liked this post, PLEASE share it with your friends. If you have a doll-loving friend, you KNOW what to do….

This post has all the clickable links to get back to Cee and see other odd pictures or enter for yourself.

In case you missed them, click here.

Where Imagination Happens – Glimpses of Artists’ Studios

Would you expect an artist’s studio to be spotless on a visitation tour? Please don’t! Would you expect their display areas to look like an art museum? Read on to find out for yourselves.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Foothill near Rick Badgley’s studio in Three Rivers new St. Anthony’s Retreat

The day was magic, perfect temperature, warm sunshine bathing the mountains highlighting the California poppies, a few wispy clouds against the clear blue sky. A drive to Three Rivers, CA at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains never disappoints, but some days thrill more than others. This was one of those days.

Outside the Louise Fisher Clay Studio in Three Rivers
Across the highway from  the Louise Fisher Clay Studio in Three Rivers

We visited five artist’s studios, signed up for art classes, made design notes, and met some incredibly talented individuals. This studio sits atop a mountain overlooking the Kaweah River as it flows from the mountains on one side, and Highway 198, which is¬†pictured above.

Art students pounded and molded clay projects this studio, even on tour day. One student had to thin her brick when she found out that thick pieces explode when put in the kiln.

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Budding artists work with clay.

We met two of the three artists, Christine Sell-Porter and Bill “Hopper” Sullivan. To take us on the tour, Christine stopped working on her orchid¬†pot that has holes throughout to let the orchid roots breathe.

South Valley Artist's Tour
Clay orchid pot before firing

My husband chatted with Hopper, and signed up to take a class.  Christine displayed her paintings and her new experiments with clay, including the ones that did not work. You can get an idea of the beauty of the spring wildflowers from her paintings. She points out another pot she made with the orchid starting to grow.

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Christine Sell-Porter’s paintings and clay pot

We also visited a popular painter and photographer across the highway named Nadi Spencer. You can tell artsy people by the fact that the junk in their front yards looks impressive and not like the country dump. My eyes went immediately to the bike, but my husband, who is artsier than I am, noticed the paint cans with matching flowers, and the chairs with matching sweaters draped across the back. You can see the aqua one in this picture after you quit focusing on the bike.

South Valley Artists Tour
Outside Nadi Spencer’s studio in Three Rivers

Nadi sells most of her paintings on Facebook by joining groups that love the kinds of things she paints. She paints a lot of dog portraits. Her realistic paintings look like photographs for a high-quality restaurant or brochures with just enough artistic touches to make them fun.  She sold both cards and paintings at the show.  You can see her self-portrait on the top right.

South Valley Artist's Tour
Inside Spencer’s gallery

People came and went the entire time we visited her gallery. One woman came in to pick up some 40 year-old teddy bears she had advertised online. Only a half-door and a huge dog separated her studio from the gallery.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Spencer’s color packed studio

It was getting near closing time for the artists so we headed back home to Elderwood to visit our two neighbors. Not that the Sundstroms and¬†I are unfriendly, but I have walked by this studio several hundred times in the last 15 years, walked with John Sundstrom’s wife, and never met John nor seen the inside of his work area.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Artist John Sundstrom’s studio driveway

John may well have been the most prolific and diverse of any of the artists we visited. He taught for 25 years or so at the Creative Center in Visalia for disabled adults. He said that having the same students for years pushed him to explore many artistic mediums.

South Valley Artist's tour
First impressions at John Sundstrom’s two-story solar-powered studio

The front and center of the studio featured¬†his sculptures out of stone. ¬†He showed us the hand chisels and files he used to carve. Being a former dental assistant, I had visualized a power tool like a dentist’s drill that he might have used on these hard rock. He told us that only the company that sold the stones used a power tool to cut the rocks into flat-bottomed chunks. My favorite sculpture glowed from the inside out when illuminated.

South Valley Artists' Tour
The glowing stone

Reluctantly we headed upstairs away from the sculptures, but the diversity of his fabulous drawings and paintings quickly captured our interest. He accented this Japanese kimono with gold leaf.

South Valley Artists' Tour
Japanese Kimono by John Sundstrom

After visiting until after closing time, we left for home, saving the tour of¬†our friend, Linda Hengst’s studio for the next day, and our Visalia artists for Sunday.

Volunteer Sales Force Heads for the Hills

Woodlake Kiwanis Club¬†publishes a magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills…” available on street corners everywhere, and delivered to nearly 30,000 homes. ¬†The premier product we promote is “what’s happening” in the form of a calendar centerfold. ¬†The money we raise from selling advertising pays for the magazine and funds Kiwanis¬†activities for schools.

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Friday Sally Pace and I headed east for Three Rivers, the town on the Kaweah Rivers at the base of the Sequoia National Park where the big trees live.  We stopped along the way to sell advertising.  What that meant was Sally talked to people while I played around and took pictures.  This is a great little place to stop and get all kinds of schlock from great food to speciality gifts.  It seems like a beary nice place to hang out and relax.

2014 Kiwanis calls132You might get a little too relaxed after the wine tasting event they are going to have. ¬†This gal hasn’t awakened since the event last time.

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This tourist came all the way from Russia to see the trees. ¬†She posed for me, but she didn’t understand what I said.

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You might want to come with a group of folks and fill up the place. ¬†It’s a cozy place that seems larger than it is because of the mirror.

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I wouldn’t advise standing on the tables and dancing. ¬†I stood on one of the chairs to take this next picture, and it swiveled (you can see my bare feet). ¬†That is my excuse for why the picture¬†is a bit blurry. ¬†The table was beautiful – even if it did have a big hole in the middle where you could throw your cups when you finished. (That’s if you had too much to drink and didn’t know what you were doing, or lost control of your cup.)

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If you really drank too much, this fellow might see you out the door.

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If you didn’t designate a driver, you wouldn’t have to go far. ¬†The hotel is right next door. ¬†But don’t get hung up on your way¬†over there like these guys did.

2014 Kiwanis calls141This was just our first call.  The next stop was only logical.

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Once thoroughly cleansed outside and in…

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We adjourned to the first lunch place.

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Then met some real buckaroos….

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getting ready for the next meal rush hour.

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We were already stuffed. Good thing they just opened to show us the view.

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Feeling a little groggy after our ice cream lunch we headed over to the folks who could make us feel well again.

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They have the best prices on drugs, and we decided it paid to shop locally. ¬†Next, we moseyed down the hill towards home feeling pretty good. ¬†Too good, maybe. ¬†We found a great bargain at this next stop we could hardly pass up. ¬†Look at all those choices in the display window. ¬†I think my husband called about then, and gave me some strict instructions. (He’s a realtor, for those of you who don’t know me very well.)

2014 Kiwanis calls187“Yes dear, we’re on our way now. ¬†Yes, I got you something…” ¬†Oops, I hadn’t gotten HIM anything. ¬†So we made one last stop (not counting the ladies gift store).

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That big cookie in front is no longer available. We kicked ourselves for eating so much ice cream.  These are new owners.  As we waited to talk to the owner, our eyes popped out when she served her customers.  We both wanted to sit with them and eat family style.  There was plenty there for all of us.  No one invited us to do that, though.

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She had just enough time to give us a smile and sell us cookies before she headed back to the kitchen.

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Laden with goodies, we jumped in, making sure I¬†got in the right car this time (another story), and headed five miles for home. ¬†We sold some ads, and our clients¬†sold some things too. ¬† Our pay …a fun day!

Chocolate Lovers Rejoice

Here is a nice reflection on the sweetness of life. ¬†Mary and I had to make difficult choices at Reimer’s Candy Shop in Three Rivers, CA. ¬†This is a favorite stop on the way both to and from the Sequoia National Park to see the big trees.

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Both my husband and I compete to see who can lose the most weight while eating the most chocolate.  Right now he is winning.  OK he always wins.  Here is his advice!

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What do you think? ¬†ūüôā