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.

What Do You Get at a Travel and Adventure Show?

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Santa Clara Travel and Adventure Show

Marketing Travel and Adventure Ideas to Vacationers

Nearly fifteen hundred vendors and five hundred travel agencies represented tourist attractions around the world. They marketed events and attractions in their corners of the world at the Santa Clara Travel and Adventure Show on February 11-12, 2017.  Potential tourists from the San Francisco, Santa Clara County area packed into the Convention Center to plan their summer vacations.

Chambers of Commerce and city representatives from across Tulare County meet monthly as the Sequoia Tourism Council. This body proposes ways to promote tourism in Tulare County. Part of this promotion is to attend three travel shows across the state. The first show is in Santa Clara, followed by the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show, completed by the San Diego show.

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My left arm is not deformed. I’m holding our 2017 Visitors’ Guide, “Find Your Awe.” Chris Brewer donated the treasured 1892 Atlas of Tulare County on my right.

It was my privilege, along with four other representatives from Tulare County to attend the Santa Clara show. We set up our booth in the California rows ready to greet visitors and pass out free Sequoia Tourism Visitors’ Guides. We urged our neighbors from the north to come to Tulare County.

Marketing Travel, adventureTotal attendance was up two thousand to nearly 20,000 visitors in Santa Clara’s 108,000 square foot Convention Center Exhibit Hall. Before the doors opened crowds lined up encircling the auditorium while the vendors put finishing touches on their booths. Presenters and their representatives wove through the lines passing out admission tickets to their events. The show had broad appeal. Young families, retired couples, and out of country tourist groups waited patiently for the doors to open. Once they did, we were so busy we did not even notice when Rick Steves came and went.

Sequoia Tourism Council Booth

As a new tourism vendor, I learned quickly that the broad appeal of Tulare County is the Sequoia National Park. Working with esteemed colleagues, Eric Coyne, Deputy CAO, Economic Development Film & Tourism and assistant Ally Vander Poel from the¬†Tulare County Resource Management Agency taught me much about the film industry and economic development opportunities in our county. ¬†Kelly Evans, the¬†Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park¬†Education Program Director, and Krista Matias, Programs Coordinator for the Sequoia Parks Conservancy¬†shared about park programs available both in and out of the park. Their goal is every fourth grader in the park. Together¬†we handed out Visitors’ Guides and educated attendees who showed an interest in visiting the National Park. As a member of the¬†Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce¬†and representative on the Sequoia Tourism Council,¬†I encouraged the streaming thousands to stop long enough to consider visiting the small to medium-sized towns leading up to the park, primarily Visalia, Woodlake, Three Rivers, and Exeter.

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Yosemite Rock Climbing Wall

Our space was packed. There was often a line spilling into the walkway waiting to sign up to win our basket. People could not move through the main hallway.

Sometimes we migrated across the hall next to the Yosemite Rock Wall to hand out our Tourism Guides. The four of us chatted with visitors as fast as our mouths would go.

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The Sequoia Tourism Crew

Only four hours from either San Francisco, the northern large population hub of California, or Los Angeles, the southern bubble, Tulare County makes a quiet alternative to the hustle of busy city life. So many attendees told us that the Sequoias were on their bucket list. My personal goal was to add our small artistic and historic communities to their schedules.

My opening catch phrase as I stuck my arm bravely in front of the molasses moving line was, “Want a book?” It was hard to refuse those big trees with the tagline, “Find Your Awe.”

If they took the guide, I asked, “Are you interested in history?”

That question stopped people from their mad rush through the booths. Most of them answered positively. It would be unAmerican to say otherwise.

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Krista’s space

If the visitors liked history, I told them that I had something special for them.

Chris Brewer, from the Book Garden in Exeter not only gave us five beautiful books to give away at each of the three shows but collectible colorful fruit box labels. This artifact from the 1940s or 1950s, perfectly preserved in his museum storage, created conversations with potential tourists.

“Do you know what this is?” I asked.

Many of them guessed it was a can label. Their reply opened the door to briefly discuss small towns and the agricultural communities in Tulare County. Sometimes I threw in a pitch to the students about participating in Nationa History Day, California. I couldn’t help myself.

We all tried to slow down the wave of people long enough for them to sign up for our beautiful basket of products from Tulare County. You can’t see all the products inside. You would have loved to win this basket of goods from Tulare County!

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Donations from Chris Brewer, Marily Reese, Woodlake High School, Valley Business Bank and others crammed this basket chock full of treasures from Tulare County.

The three other women in our group focused more on¬†the “Big Trees, the Crystal Cave, the Dark Sky Festival, and¬†other events at the parks.

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Maria Perez, and her friend Madona.

Two of the 94 press members, Maria Perez and her friend Madonna stopped by our booth. I had met Maria online just the week before. We discussed phoning each other as fellow twitter followers from California. Then, we found out we both had plans to attend the Show. Problem solved.

Over the two-day weekend, February 11-12, 2017, we handed out 1,188 Tourism Guides down from 1,540 in 2016. We collected 230 names on two iPads down from 474 in 2016. (OK we talked too much!)

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Sequoia Tourism booth

Our prize winners, practically screamed with delight when they picked up their winnings. And they should have. The basket contained hundreds of dollars worth of Tulare County goods. There were a plethora of items including books, honey, olive oil, a hoodie sweatshirt, a custom clay teapot, stuffed animals, trinkets, office supplies, and candy.

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“This atlas is all I wanted!”

One young woman won the 1892 edition of the Tulare County Atlas reprinted by Bear Books and donated by Chris Brewer.

She exclaimed, “This is the only think I wanted! I’m so happy!¬†This was the best booth here!”

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She couldn’t believe she won! See the Star Fire Fruit label?

Thank you to our wonderful donors for their generosity.

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Thank you, friends, of Sequoia Tourism Council

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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.

Art Tour - Clay studio
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.

South Valley Artists Tour
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.

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