by Diana Bulls
The tule fog hangs over the Central Valley like a shroud of gray. It’s cold. It’s damp. It’s a typical January. But we have something to look forward to: A harbinger of spring that is particular only to our part of the Valley—the Fresno County Blossom Trail.
Fresno County estimates the combined value of its crops was about $750 million in 2004, making it the richest agricultural county in the state. California leads the nation in almonds, plums, apricots and many of the other crops grown along the Blossom Trail. Before anything turns into a fruit or a nut, it starts out as a beautiful blossom that soon covers every tree in orchard upon orchard. The beauty of the blossoms is breathtaking and their aroma is heavenly.
The trail also brings tourists to Fresno County’s small cities, says a spokeswoman for the Fresno County Tourism Office. Cities like Sanger, Reedley and Orange Cove hold their own spring events to celebrate the blossoms. Some growers even let visitors walk in the orchards and many have seized on the opportunity for roadside fruit stands. Honey, homemade jam, arts and crafts and wine tasting are just some of the treasures or activities available along the trail.
In 1988, an enterprising group of people from several small Valley towns came up with the Blossom Trail idea. Basically, it’s a self-guided auto or bicycle tour through 62 miles of the most productive agricultural area in the world. The Fresno County Blossom Trail Committee is made up of the Fresno County Office of Tourism; the Sanger, Reedley, Orange Cove, Kingsburg, Selma and Fowler Chambers of Commerce; the City of Clovis; and the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Each year one of these cities plays host to the opening ceremonies on the first Friday in February. This year, Reedley will host the 23rd opening on Friday, February 4.
Other annual events that take place include:
Kings River Blossom Bike Ride, Reedley, 1st Saturday in March;
Blossom Days Festival, Sanger, 1st Saturday in March;
Blossom Trail 10K Run, Sanger, 1st Saturday in March;
Orange Harvest Festival, Orange Cove, 1st Saturday in April.
Details and links to these events can be found on the Blossom Trail website and on KRL’s event pages.
When to Visit the Fresno Blossom Trail: The hardest thing about taking the Fresno County Blossom Trail is knowing exactly when to go. Depending on the temperature and precipitation, blossom season begins sometime in late February and lasts through mid-March. Start checking the Blossom Trail website in mid-February. Photographers post their photos there and that will give you a good idea of how the blossoms are opening up.
February’s landscape blazes with white blooms from almond, apple and plum, while March presents pink bouquets on peach, nectarine and apricot. The white orange blossoms aren’t nearly as spectacular as others, but their sweet, heady fragrance more than makes up for it. By all means, open up your windows and slow down. This is a trail meant for a leisurely drive, for stopping and taking photographs, and definitely taking time to smell the flowers!
Touring the Fresno Blossom Trail: You can pick up a map on the Blossom Trail website and you will need to allow several hours to drive the whole trail. It is an easy day trip from San Francisco or Sacramento. Blue “Blossom Trail” signs mark the trail and it is easy to get back on if you take one of the side roads.
There are several restaurants in Sanger, Reedley, Kingsburg, Selma or Fowler, but few places to stop along the actual trail. You may want to bring along a picnic lunch and stop at one of the roadside pullouts to enjoy the scenery.
There are several points of interest along the Blossom Trail. Simonian Farms, is considered the official start of the trail by some. This 107 year-old farm on the corner of Clovis and Jensen avenues in Fresno boasts a fruit stand and collection of antique farm equipment. Hillcrest Farms has a small-scale steam locomotive that the kids will fall in love with (on Reed Ave. near Adams Ave.). Sanger, Reedley, Kingsburg and Selma all have very nice history museums—you should probably call ahead to check on the hours.
One thing visitors should remember is that although the blossoms are beautiful they also represent a fruit or a nut that makes up a farmer’s livelihood. So please don’t pick the blossoms.
The majestic Sierra Nevada make an awe inspiring background to trees filled with blossoms. Beginning in May, the blossoms will have changed into peaches, plum, almonds and nectarines, all ripening until ready to be picked, and shipped throughout the world. But for now, this is Fresno County’s gift to California. Enjoy!
Don’t miss the Blossom Trail Kick-Off Ceremony.
Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.;
Reedley Municipal Airport, Reedley.
For more information contact the Chamber at 638-3548.