Oprah Winfrey introduces Yosemite National Park to her audience

When it comes to influential television personalities it is difficult to top Oprah Winfrey. After all, the queen of daytime television has been making authors rich for years with her book club and its no secret that her endorsement of a product, sends her audience out to the shopping malls. Now, the National Park Service is hoping they’ll be the recipients of a little Oprah magic thanks to two high profile episodes about her recent camping trip to Yosemite National Park.

Oprah, along with her best friend, the ever-present Gayle King, spent a week in Yosemite awhile back, “roughing it” in a pop-up RV and exploring the stunning landscapes that the park is so well known for. They also found some time to do a little fly fishing, go hiking, and even cooked their meals over an open fire. The first episode of Oprah’s camping adventure aired last Friday and the second is due to be broadcast today. (Check local listings to see when it airs in your area.)

The excursion came about after Ranger Shelton Johnson, who has spent 18 years working for the Park Service, wrote to Oprah asking her to consider visiting Yosemite. Johnson, who is African-American, told the talk show host that not enough black people visited the parks, and that perhaps she could help change that with a visit of her own. With African-Americans making up less than 2% of the visitors, Oprah has her work cut out for her, but these two episodes may bring Yosemite some much needed exposure. It is likely that for many viewers, these shows are giving them their first ever glimpse the place.

Encompassing more than 1200 square miles of California wilderness, Yosemite is best known for it’s legendary rock formations, Half Dome and El Capitan, both of which are popular draws for rock climbers. The park also offers beautiful alpine meadows, giant sequoia trees, and deep mountain valleys, allowing visitors to hike more than 750 miles of trail or bike the 12 stunning miles of the Yosemite Valley. For adventure travelers it is quite the outdoor playground and visitors who just come to take in the view will find plenty to love as well.

As for Oprah, it’s unlikely that she’ll be back soon. While it seems that she and Gayle had a reasonably good time on their outdoor adventure, she did tell her audience “I’d never do that again” in reference to their camp out. I guess we can’t expect her to be hiking the Appalachian Trail after she retires from television next year, huh?

[Photo credit: Oprah.com]

Oprah says good-bye to Chicago

Did you hear the new rumor about Oprah Winfrey? No, not that one! This one says that come 2011, her daytime talk show will leave Chicago and be based out of Los Angeles.

According to Deadline Hollywood, the big O planned on calling it quits way back in 2002, then again in 2006. At that point she renewed her syndication contracts through 2011. But now, it looks like she’ll be moving the show from national syndication to her very own OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) station.

While there’s no denying that Oprah’s success is a positive force for Chicago tourism (even those who can’t get the coveted tickets for her show will make the pilgrimage out to Harpo Studios to take a tour or shop at the Oprah Store), the daytime diva hasn’t really been all that connected with Chicago for many years. Sure, she tapes the show here, she flies in for special events, and she lobbied (unsuccessfully) for Chicago’s Olympic bid, but other than that, she doesn’t spend a whole lot of time here, preferring instead her gigantic estate in Montecito, California.

For tourists and die-hard Oprah fans, I’m sure she will be missed. For residents (especially those who had their commutes disrupted when she closed down the streets for her massive season launch party), it’s sad to lose an icon, but hey, we’ve still got the Sears Tower…..oh, wait, nevermind.

According to “entertainment insiders”, Oprah’s company will make the announcement outlining her plans to move, sometime in the next six months.