Friday, October 4, 2013

Chowchilla, California

We have moved to the San Joaquin Valley of California.  It is very dry here, whatever we find green  is because of irrigation.   Our plan was to visit Yosemite National Park.  Being a national park, it is currently closed, thanks to the intelligent representatives and senators whom we voted into office.  Our issue of not being able to see Yosemite, however, is minor compared to the situation of thousands of federal employees who are out of work and are not even going to receive a paycheck for their days off.  Anyway, it is what it is, we will be here for a week and then will move on.  There are still things for us to do in the area.  The town of Chowchilla has a population of 17,00.  It seems to spill out into the countryside where there are large ochards of pistachios and almonds.
What may look like rocks on the ground in the picture above are almonds, which are being harvested now.  John and I watched a small red truck go up and down the aisles sweeping the nuts  into a bin attached to the vehicle.   We also tried a couple of the nuts, they were delicious, with a hint of a vanilla flavor.
Perhaps you are wondering why we drove out into the country to watch almonds being harvested.  Actually, across from the orchard is the Fossil Discovery Center.  It is one of the largest fossil sites in our nation.  In 1993 a landfill worker saw something unusual in the clay ground.  There, 35 feet below ground, was a tusk from a mammoth that had been washed up in an old river channel 500,000 years ago.  Further diggings have revealed bones of other animals from the Middle Pleistocene Epoch.  Besides the Columbian Mammoth, there are the fossils of a Saber-tooth cat, Dire wolf, ground sloth, and short faced bear. Replicas of the animals are in the fossil museum.  Pictured below is the skeleton of the bear.  Standing at 12 feet tall, he is believed to be one of the largest bears that ever lived.  He also had longer legs and a shorter snout than modern bears.
In the museum is also a display pertinent to the Native Americans of the region.  I an always amazed at the origin of state and city names in our country.  In this area lived the Yokuts, and  the Chowchillas(Chauchila) were part of that tribe.   By talking to another visitor to the museum we discovered that we were not too far from the Valley Pistachio Country Store.  Upon arriving at the nut store we discovered there was a winery next door.  The CRU company is one of about 12 wineries on the Madera Trail.  If all else fails and we have nothing to do while in Chowchilla, we will at least have wineries to visit!

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