Remember when Oprah visited Fresno, camped in Yosemite?

Monday, January 08, 2018 03:03PM
Action News was on the scene as Oprah and Gayle shopped for camping equipment at River Park's REI store on October 1, 2010


FRESNO, Calif. - On October 1, 2010, many shoppers in Fresno could not believe their eyes when they spotted Oprah Winfrey shopping at River Park.

At the start of their trip, Oprah and her long-time friend Gayle stopped at River Park shopping center to get outfitted for camping at the REI store. They also took delivery of a tent camper which they trailered from Fresno to Yosemite Valley.

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When the show aired several weeks later, we learned that Yosemite Ranger Shelton Johnson had been trying for years to get the queen of talk to visit the park and share its beauty with the world. Johnson said it was actually easier to get then President Obama's attention then it was to get Oprah.

Park rangers wanted Oprah to have an authentic camping experience. So she cooked for herself, built a campfire on her own, mingled with other campers nearby and even paid for her campsite and park entrance fee.

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Oprah's Yosemite adventure

The Marquez family of Fresno was completely surprised to have found the famous visitor during their annual visit. They expected she would be secluded and off limits.

Muggs Marquez said, "I mean she had next-door neighbors, it was like another camper with just a lot of lights. They let people get close."

"There wasn't a ton of security you could just stand and be 10 yards away and watch her make dinner and popcorn," said Troy Marquez. "Yeah, she shared the popcorn with the kids."

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The intimate visit was topped off when Oprah and Gayle tried fly fishing and then rode these mules. The visit was so symbolic for Johnson, he wanted everything to turn out perfectly. He was even wishing the partly cloudy skies were bluer -- until it hit him -- the setting is majestic no matter what weather pattern is passing through.

"Yosemite is Yosemite regardless of the season, regardless of the climate, regardless of the weather," said Johnson, "It has a power to it that can't be masked by clouds. It's always there revealing itself. And you could see it in Gayle and you could see it on Oprah. You could see it in their expressions. It was hitting them and they weren't standing there at tunnel view saying 'Ah, I wish it was sunny. I wish it was better weather.' It was just, 'Whoa, this is so amazing,' that was the response that they were having."
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