Tag Archives: California

Penn Alumni Travel: California National Parks, June 2015

Author: Lucy Fowler Williams, Associate Curator/Sabloff Keeper, American Collections, Penn Museum

In June I had the amazing opportunity to participate on a Penn Alumni Travel tour to the northern California National Parks including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia.  We saw and learned so much that, among other things, the trip altered my thoughts about guided tours. If you want real R&R, expert insight into nature, history, and the cultural aspects of what you are seeing, and to cover a lot of ground getting to amazing places, this kind of trip is for you.

Yosemite Trees

Yosemite Trees

The group included two tour guides and 42! university alumni representing Penn, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Perdue, the University of Texas, Columbia, and Boston University. After our first happy-hour we were all old friends, and it stayed that way for the full nine days! We started out in San Francisco, but beat feet to Sonoma Valley’s wine country where we toured the Kunde Family Winery, a five-generation vineyard. After sampling the Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, AND the Cabernet, we entered the underground wine caves and sipped from an unfinished barrel of red while listening to legends of the family business. Though my personal preferences tend toward gin, tequila, or aqvavit, this visit definitely rekindled my interest in California wines.  Just yesterday I found Kunde Estate wines in the Pennsylvania liquor store.

From Sonoma we headed east into the Sierra Nevada, and eventually climbed 6,225 feet to Lake Tahoe, the highest and largest alpine lake in the United States.   I’ve wanted to see Tahoe for a long time and in fact it is what inspired me to sign onto the trip.  Though there in the wrong season, and without my skies, I was not disappointed. An incredible blue, Tahoe is 21 miles long and an impressive 1,600 feet deep, surrounded by snow-covered peaks.

Lake Tahoe 2

Lake Tahoe

As a specialist in Native American material culture, it was my pleasure to fill the group in on the fact that while a vacation retreat and tourist destination for many, Lake Tahoe is also the spiritual center and place of origin of the Washoe Indian people, and remains as such today. Through my lectures, I introduced the weaving traditions of Washoe and northern California Indian tribes, some of the finest basketry in the world.  In the late 1800s, weavers skillfully adapted their work to meet the demands of the burgeoning tourist industry in California.  The American Craftsman Movement (1895-1920) celebrated handmade Indian weaving and encouraged a collecting obsession of Indian art across the country.  This was also the Golden Age of Museums, and it is no surprise that the Penn Museum houses exceptional California baskets, of which I shared many examples.  The tragic irony of saving Indian art while killing off Indian people was not lost on my audience.  Later in the trip I introduced NAGPRA and the repatriation movement with a special focus on issues important to California tribes today.

A Mono Lake Paiute basket at the Yosemite Museum

A Mono Lake Paiute basket at the Yosemite Museum

From Tahoe we traveled east over the Sierras and into Nevada’s Mono and Paiute Indian country, back into California, past Mono Lake (one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen), and entered Yosemite National Park from the east.   We spent two days in Yosemite, taking in all of the sites along the Valley floor (Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, the Ahwhannee Hotel named after the Chief of the tribe that inhabited the Valley), and had free time for hiking on ones own or for group tours. My son took off on the 7 mile hike to Nevada Falls, and I spent the afternoon with Barbara Beroza, the Curator of the Yosemite Museum, looking behind the scenes at Washoe, Paiute, and Miwok Indian baskets, and with Phil Johnson, a Miwok/Paiute interpreter in the gallery. Phil showed me a clever and rarely collected woodpecker trap, a long and skinny twinned basket that is tied to a tree over a hole where the ubiquitous woodpeckers are nesting!

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

From Yosemite we spent two more gorgeous days in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Sequoia is less travelled and incredibly vast and wild. In addition to much welcomed snow and rain, we saw an abundance of woodpeckers and blue Steller’s Jays, and a total of seven black bears eating grass in open meadows.

But the highlight of the trip was the magnificent Giant Sequoia trees, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the world’s largest living trees that are well protected and cared for in these parks. The General Sherman and General Grant trees standing 275 and 268 feet tall, respectively, were massive and incredibly impressive. While taking them in, I revisited John Muir’s writings and the early history and struggle to secure these incredible parks.  I was continually awed by the grandeur of the woods and reminded of the difference a single person’s actions can make.  And it was a pleasure to be traveling with so many like-minded enthusiasts of nature and of our National Parks.

Sherman Tree

Sherman Tree

With reluctance, we descended west from the cool, quiet, and lush seclusion of Sequoia and across the northern edge of the Central Valley, aka “the Salad bowl.” Impressively, this region grows a staggering one half of the produce in the United States! and we passed mile after mile of thriving walnut, pistachio, almond, peach, pear, nectarine, plum, cherry, and date trees, acres of lettuce, miles of artichokes, and on and on.  After a private tour and elegant dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we ended our trip at Carmel By the Sea with a tour of the still active Carmel Mission Church, established by Spanish Jesuits in 1793.

The trip gave me the opportunity to experience some of the United State’s most incredible natural beauty, where some of Penn Museum’s California collections were made and used, and time to reflect on the importance of our mission to steward and share those collections broadly.

[Interested in traveling with Penn Alumni Travel? Visit our 2016 schedule here. We will be visiting the Southwest National Parks in September 2016.]

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Filed under Faculty perspective, Penn Alumni Travel, Penn Museum, Travel

Monday Moment of Zen

Author: Kiera Reilly, C’93

Winter blues got you down? Here’s your daily moment of Zen, thanks to the beautiful weather in California.

Manhattan Beach, CA

We welcome all alumni come visit us in the winter months for some sunshine. This weekend, the Engaging Minds academic program visited Los Angeles on Saturday and San Francisco on Sunday (San Francisco sold out). Check back for photos on our Phanfare site later on this week. Until then…

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Events, Kiera R., Making History, Photos, West Coast Regional Office

Penn Men’s Basketball Faces UCLA in Anaheim, CA

Author: Kiera Reilly, C’93

On December 10, the Penn Men’s Basketball team made their first trip to Southern California since 2003. The last time the Quakers came to town, they played the USC Trojans at the Forum in Inglewood (and beat them quite soundly). This year, Penn was scheduled to play the UCLA Bruins. As the famous Pauley Pavilion on UCLA’s campus is undergoing renovations, the game was set for the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA (home of the Anaheim Ducks Ice Hockey).

The Honda Center in Anaheim, CA - location for Penn vs UCLA on Dec. 10th

Colleagues in Alumni Relations, Athletics and Development coordinated to plan a pre-game reception before the game and invited all alumni and current parents in the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego areas to attend. We hoped for an enthusiastic crowd but weren’t entirely sure how many Penn fans would attend. In fact, we had an informal bet, with all of us guessing the number of attendees. Everyone thought I was a bit crazy for making the high guess of 380, but I knew that our Southern California alumni would want to come cheer for our Quakers! I underestimated the turn-out by a bit – over 400 people attended our reception before the game.

Jerome Allen, W’95, the Jordan R. Rockwell Head Coach of Men’s Basketball, stopped by early in the reception to say a few words. PennClubLA President Melissa Wu, C’98, thanked him for coming and presented him with a local treat – an In-n-Out t-shirt and gift certificate.

PennClubLA president Melissa Wu, C'98, and Coach Jerome Allen, W'95

Below are some photos from the reception. We must thank PennClubLA (www.pennclubla.com; Twitter: @PennClubLA) , Penn Club of Orange County (twitter: @PennClubOC), Penn Club of San Diego (twitter: @PennClubSD) and the Wharton Club of Southern California (www.whartonsocal.com) for their help in spreading the word about the reception and game. If you are in Southern California, I encourage you to connect with any of these Penn alumni groups!

A good time was had by all, but unfortunately the Quakers came up short on the court, falling to UCLA 77 – 73. Senior Tyler Bernardini, from nearby Carlsbad, CA, had a career high 29 points in the game, so we congratulate him on a great performance in front of a home crowd.

We hope the team comes back to visit us soon! Go Quakers!

For a re-cap of the game see: http://www.pennathletics.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=1700&ATCLID=205345011

Follow the team as they are set to play Duke on Jan. 1. Updates via twitter @PennBasketball

(As we post this, the Lady Quakers are in San Diego for the Surf N Slam classic – after defeating UNC-Greensboro yesterday, they will play host the SDSU Aztecs in the championship game at 2 pm PST. For more information see: http://www.pennathletics.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=1700&ATCLID=205353175 and follow the team @PennWomensbball)

Ed Balsamo C'96, W'96, brought his son to meet Coach Allen.

Dedicated Quaker fans Allan, C'81, and Dale, MT'81, Bell traveled from NJ for the game and caught up with Don Rosen, C'78

Penn Club of Orange County's Jeannie Quan Hogue, C'88, and her daughter were excited to see so many alumni in Anaheim.

I caught up with classmate, Mitchell Kraus, C'93, and we reminisced about when Jerome Allen and his teammates won the Ivy League Championship our senior year.Ed Balsamo, C'96, W'96, brought his son to meet Coach Allen

Me and Penn Club LA members, Gloria Lee, C'97, GCP'98, WG'07, Melissa Wu, C'98, Terry Baris, C'84, and Andy Firchau--all of us sporting our Red & Blue.

It was a beautiful California day, perfect for socializing outside.

The basketball team strategizing during a time-out.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Athletics, Clubs, GAN, Kiera R., Penn Clubs, West Coast Regional Office