Landscapes and Landmarks of the Great Central Valley

Sep 19, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Books & Tales, Hometown History, Terrance V. Mc Arthur

by Terrance Mc Arthur
& Janice Stevens

This week we have a review of a local non-fiction book, Landscapes and Landmarks of the Great Central Valley by Pat Hunter and Janice Stevens. We also have an interesting guest post by Janice Stevens about the inspiration for the book. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

Landscapes and Landmarks of the Great Central Valley by Pat Hunter and Janice Stevens
Review by Terrance McArthur

The Great Central Valley. The San Joaquin Valley. The Heart of California. The Big Valley.

It’s an amazing place to explore, and it’s even better to explore it with people you like. Two of my favorite traveling companions are Pat Hunter and Janice Stevens, although I’ve never shared a car with them. I travel in their books. With Hunter’s delicate watercolors and Stevens’ concise prose, they’ve helped me explore Fresno’s architectural gems, the twenty-one missions of California’s El Camino Real, the stomping grounds of William Saroyan’s past, and Highway 1’s stretch up the California coastline from Mexico to Oakland.

Their newest book, Landscapes and Landmarks of the Great Central Valley, is a breathtaking journey from the old Ridge Route in the south to snowcapped Mt. Shasta in the north. 150 sights that range from places that are well-known—like Yosemite and the Capitol building in Sacramento—to spots that are not as commonly visited—like the Big Orange in Exeter and the Woodland Opera House. Over a dozen small vignettes are added to the mix, featuring the crops of the Valley.

The most delightful part of the book is not gazing at the pictures that draw in the eye or reading the fascinating text. It’s playing private games like “I’ve Been There” or “I Knew That!” My score on “I’ve Been There” is 57. Can you do better?

Travel to the adobe buildings of Fort Tejon, the shrine to sugar consumption known as Dewar’s Candy Shop in Bakersfield, the buildings of Allensworth (the experimental African-American community of the early 1900’s), the ice cream shrine that is Superior Dairy in Hanford, the red-brick Reedley Opera House, the stately Fresno Water Tower, the impressive Yosemite Falls, two different Basque restaurants called Woolgrowers, the “Red Church” of Sonora, and Sutter’s Fort.

Each page seems to trigger mental messages of “I ought to go there” or “When was the last time I…?” or “I’d like to know more about that.” Of course, the strongest thought you get will probably be “ROAD TRIP!”

So…Get going…and don’t forget to thank Pat Hunter and Janice Stevens.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian in Fresno County, California. He is also a storyteller, puppeteer, magician, and maker of pine needle baskets. On top of that he writes stories that range from rhymed children’s tales to splatterpunk horror. He’s an odd bird, but he’s nice to have around.

Inspiration for Landscapes and Landmarks of the Great Central Valley
by Janice Stevens

The inspiration for Landscapes and Landmarks of the Great Central Valley came from our deep appreciation of where we live. After traveling up and down the state of California collaborating on our other books on California histories, the tug of home always pulled us back, even as we explored some of the most striking landscapes and oceanscapes of our picturesque California.

After first publishing our books on local histories, branching out to Remembering the California Missions, and the trilogy, an Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1, North, Central and South, the great Central Valley spoke to Pat to record its bounty and agricultural treasures. She enthusiastically embraced recording the richness of the valley in watercolor, from crops in full bloom, to fallow fields in between plantings and harvestings.

Janice Stevens

Invited to be a vendor in the Book Gallery at California State Expo in Sacramento, we both browsed the exhibits of California’s agriculture on full display. We discovered crops featured in parts of the valley we wouldn’t have known. And if we didn’t know, perhaps others wouldn’t know either and would welcome a book such as this to showcase the agriculture and select landmarks throughout the valley. We decided the valley between mountain ranges, from Fort Tejon at the I-5 Grapevine between Southern and Central California, the Sierra Mountain Range to the east and the coastal mountains of the Diablo Range to the west, north to Mount Shasta would be our boundaries.

We began our research traveling the valley on weekends to capture the resources for this book. Pat began painting the subjects, and I prepared a proposal. I think Pat had half the subjects painted before we received our signed contract. Along the way, as we have in all of our research trips, we chatted with folks who suggested scenes to include in our work.

One weekend, Pat and I joined other artists at Mission San Antonio to celebrate Fiesta Days for the Circle of Giving, an art group to work as vendors contributing a percentage of sales to preservation and earthquake retrofit for the mission. During our stay, we met a couple who asked if we had been to Carrizo Plain, and after an evening sharing stories, food and wine, we were intrigued with a landscape unbeknownst to us, but a “must have” for this book. The protected plain west of I-5 at the base of the Emigdio Mountains is rich in history, but the explosion of wildflowers in the spring makes other landscapes pale in comparison. It took us a couple of trips to finally access this breathtaking landscape. It can be a daunting road trip in that the road washes out quite often during the winter. But in the spring, lupine, golden poppies, and fiddleneck carpet the meadows in vibrant colors, an artist’s delight.

At the southern end of the valley west on the 1-5 Grapevine, we walked the grounds amongst the rustic historical buildings remaining from the original Fort Tejon. Displays in the few military structures from an era that began with the founding of California enlightened us. Some now sit idle in arrested decay meaning they won’t be restored but allowed to deteriorate as they will. How many times had we driven the Grapevine on our way to Southern California and never stopped to explore the Fort?

Other locations we revisited: Mount Shasta at the opposite, northern end of the valley with its snowcapped mountain top, a volcano lying dormant and peaceful for now; our coastal mountains and the fields of crops that lie at their base; the giant Sequoias from the Sequoia National Forest an hour or so from our homes in the valley; and Sand Hill Cranes in the Delta swooping in to feast on their migratory journey all made the cut to include in this book. We captured many of these familiar and other not so familiar sites in our discoveries, and the result is a tribute to the Great Central Valley, lovingly depicted in more than 150 watercolor paintings to artistically pay homage to home, the Great Central Valley.

To enter to win a copy of Landscapes and Landmarks of the Great Central Valley, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “landscapes,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 26, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT MAY TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.

You can use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Janice Stevens is an award-winning author whose work has been frequently featured on Valley Public Radio’s Valley Writers Read. Stevens also teaches memoir writing to military veterans and has compiled two volumes of military service memoirs by San Joaquin Valley Veterans: Stories of Service:
Valley Veterans Remember World War II and Stories of Service, Volume II: Valley Veterans Remember World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War
. In honor of her work with veterans, Stevens has received the Certificate of Award for Women in American History from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Stevens and colleague Pat Hunter, co-owners of Gallery II in Fresno, California, have collaborated on numerous books featuring Hunter’s watercolors and Stevens’ writing, including Fresno’s Architectural Past, Volume I and Volume II; WilliamSaroyan: Places in Time; Remembering the California Missions; An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 North; An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 Central; and An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 South.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

1 Comment

  1. We have a winner!


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