In the News - Friday, January 27, 2012
Only in the January 27 print edition: Snapshots questions (50 questions in retrospect), Our Dearly Departed (gone but never forgotten), Neighbor Profiles 2011 (what they said best), and the 2012 Kaweah Kalendar (listed on the Kaweah Kalendar page on this website).
ANNUAL YEAR-IN-REVIEW: 2011
Another year is history. The news around the world included the assassination of Osama bin Ladin, the Tucson, Ariz., shooting rampage (that killed six and injured at least 13 others, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head), Japan’s 9.0 magnitude quake and resulting tsunami that led to a nuclear meltdown, deadly tornados in America’s Heart-land, the Royal Wedding, Occupy Wall Street and the resulting movement, the acquittals of Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox, the U.S. jobless rate, the Libya uprisings and death of Moammar Ghadafi,the untimely death of British pop star Amy Winehouse, Arab Spring that started in Tunisia in north Af-rica and spread to the Middle East (Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen), the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs, Penn State sex abuse scan-dal, the GOP presidential field,the U.S. pullout from Iraq, a ter-rorist attack in Norway, NASA’s final launch of the space shuttle program, people behaving badly (Charlie Sheen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Anthony Weiner), the debt ceiling and Standard & Poor’s U.S. credit rating downgrade, and the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
January 14— Dozens of rev-elers took the annual New Year’s Day plunge in the pools adjacent to the Gateway Restaurant. The throng of onlookers and dippers has been growing steadily each year since Marcos Guzman talked a small group of locals into taking the first plunge in 2002. One Polar Dipper said she heard about the event on KJUG radio. At least one on-air personality tried to refer to the event as the “Polar Bear Dip” but get real, flatlanders. Even if the water temperature is 38 degrees, no self-respecting polar bear would be persuaded to make an appearance when it’s sunny with air temperatures in the 60s. “It’s been great for our New Year’s Day business,” said Susan McIntyre who, with her husband Glenn, owns and operates The Gateway Restaurant and Lodge. “We’re finding many of the guests are staying over for the party the next day.”
Billy Guinn, 45, of Three Riv-ers died of blunt-force trauma after a January 2 vehicle accident in the “S” curve east of Three Rivers School on Sierra Drive. The driver, Joel Mathy (aka Summers), 19, of Three Rivers was facing felony drunk-driving charges be-cause Guinn was a passenger in the vehicle Mathy was driving.
The New Year started off a wet one. Local rain gauges al-ready had recorded 20 inches of rain; there was 10 feet of snow at Wuksachi.
January 21— The Three Rivers Community Services District, after a month-long search, announced the hiring of Cindy Howell of Three Rivers as the CSD’s new general manager.
“We realized that the job is actually two-thirds administration and one-third water treatment and testing so we felt that Cindy was the best choice,” said David Mills, CSD president.
Howell replaced Julie Doctor, who was hired in February 2010. Doctor had replaced Randy Pares who held the position since 2004 but relocated to Wyoming. Scott Baker, 37, of Visalia was rescued from the chilly waters of the Kaweah River near the Ash Mountain entrance station. Baker, who was searching for a fishing spot near the Indian Head pools, slipped and fell in and was swept downstream 200 yards be-fore he was pulled ashore.
January 28— Sexual assault and battery charges were dropped in a case involving Stanton Zaharoff LaVey, 33, and Mishael Beth Nicely, 24, residents of a Three Rivers apartment complex. The two were arrested after a 19-year-old female told Sheriff’s deputies that she had been battered and sexually assaulted by the couple. The case attracted lots of media attention as LaVey is the grandson of Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-1997), founder of the Church of Satan.
Jocelle Cruz Cleto, 45, of Three Rivers died from injuries he sustained when the 1985 Honda motorcycle he was driving collided with a 2002 Chrysler Pacifica on Highway 198 near Summit Drive in Lemon Cove. Cleto was married with three children, a musician, and an evangelist. No evidence of drug use or alcohol was noted in the report filed by the California Highway Patrol.
After one of the wettest Decembers on record, January was shaping up in Kaweah Country as one of driest months ever. Temperatures above 10,000 feet were above 50 and doing some serious melting of the existing 10-foot-plus snow pack.
February 4— Supervisor Allen Ishida announced his re- election bid. He was elected to his first term in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. A third-generation citrus rancher from Lindsay, the incumbent supervisor said if and when he completes his third term he will retire and is looking forward to spending more time at home.
At least two neighbors who live along the northern extension of Kaweah River Drive expressed concern that dozens of oaks were being cut on a neighboring ranch property.
“We’re not doing anything that we haven’t done in the past to keep our property looking great and the land healthy,” said the property owner.
The neighbors were wary, they said, because of the dozens of mature oaks that were cut recently on the property behind the Comfort Inn. After that incident, county planners began drafting an ordinance that would identify key areas for preservation and, when cutting a certain number of oaks is being proposed, a permit might be required.
A Department of Water Re-sources survey for February 1 said the water content of the statewide snowpack was 78 percent of the April 1 normal. For the entire month of January, California only received 13 percent of the typical January precipitation.
February 11— In his county update at the February Town Hall meeting, Supervisor Ishida announced the formation of a redistricting committee that will redraw the boundaries for the county supervisor districts. As it stands now District 1 (including Three Rivers) includes parts or all of four incorporated Tulare County cities — Lindsay, Exeter, Farmersville, and Visalia.
One county staffer said that puts Supervisor Ishida in a unique position to concentrate on the long-range issues that can help determine the future of the unincorporated areas. Ishida said one of those “big picture” issues he has been working on since he was first elected has been tourism.
On February 5, which also happened to be the monthly 1st Saturday event, students from Three Rivers School, with a little help from their parents, teachers, and friends, staged an impressive celebration of the Chinese New Year. Under the direction of parent-volunteer Amy Dolcourt-McElroy, with the able assistance of Nancy Bloomfield, the school kids created a colorful, six-student-long dragon like the traditional ones prominent in Chinese celebrations.
The highly visual and artistic dragon paraded along Sierra Drive from Three Rivers School, through the nearby shopping district, then from the post office around the Village Shopping Center. It was quite a sight and sound, as drums and noisemakers marked the beginning of the lunar year.
Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., in his State of the State address, told everyone in no uncertain terms to brace for more cuts. But he also said that California is still a rich society and that the economy is recovering.
February 18— A 2.5 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter 16 miles southeast of Three Rivers was reportedly felt by several local residents. Though quakes are rare for Three Rivers, one former NPS ranger, Eric Barnes, claimed that a geology report prepared in the 1970s by the National Park Service detailed the existence of a dormant earthquake fault under Ash Peaks.
Barnes’s claim asserted that NPS officials, not wanting to alarm local residents, never made the findings of the earthquake study public. The Mammoth Lakes area experiences earthquakes nearly every day and those with a magnitude over 3.0 are often felt in Three Rivers.
Bruce Keller, 67, a Three Rivers bicyclist, was seriously hurt when his road bike clipped a pylon while he was exiting the Ash Mountain entrance station. Keller suffered head trauma and multiple injuries. He was airlifted via helicopter to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Steven Sterritt and his fiancée Katie Betts relocated from Ohio to Three Rivers to assume new jobs for Delaware North Parks Services at Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park. Steven became the new chef while Katie was hired as the assistant manager of the Lodge dining room.
February 25— Martini Morris, project coordinator for the Sierra Business Council in Truckee, announced that Three Rivers was leading the southern Sierra region in geotourism nominations. In second place was Springville but that foot hills community wasn’t even close.
“To date we have received 45 nominations from Tu-lare County with the largest category being ‘Accommodations,’” Morris reported. “Three Rivers has the most with 16 submittals.”
A cyber and printed map were expected to be published by National Geographic once all the nominations had been received. Among the early nominations was the Kaweah Post Office and Nadi’s Studio.
On February 23, Supervisor Allen Ishida was in attendance as a Cal Fire crew stationed in Three Rivers presented the Redbud Garden Club with a plaque commemorating the local club on its 60th anniversary.
Marcia Goldstein, Redbud Garden Club president, received the plaque, thanked all who were in attendance, and then led a tour of the native plant demonstration gar-den at the fire station.
The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce announced that it had approved a budget submitted by The Kaweah Commonwealth to produce the most recent edition of the Three Rivers phonebook.
It’s been a typically erratic La Nina with a wet month followed by a dry month then a wet month. There was no telling what the rest of the rainy season might have in store for Kaweah Country.
March 4— A trio of hikers was rescued from the Mineral King backcountry. After parking at the Conifer gate on the Mineral King Road, the party snow-hiked into the Mineral King Valley; the plan was to make Timber Gap then traverse Empire Mountain and climb Sawtooth Peak.
The campers found that a passing weekend storm had enveloped their camp with several feet of fresh powder. It was too risky to move, even in snowshoes so the men hunkered down until a park helicopter was able to fly into Mineral King and airlift the stranded hikers to safety. The trio used a satellite phone to summon park rangers.
The Woodlake Tigers boys’ soccer team won a hard-fought 3-1 battle against the Sierra (Tollhouse) Chieftains to win a Valley Championship. The Central Section championship was the first for the program since 2004.
A Lemoore motorist crashed his F-150 pickup into a rock and tree, narrowly missing a plunge down the steep canyon wall near Deer Canyon on Sierra Drive. The fortunate driver was able to crawl to safety and suffered only minor injuries. The 47-year-old driver was charged with driving under the influence and booked into the Tulare County Jail.
March 11— Population in Three Rivers declined, ac-cording to the figures included in the 2010 Census. While Tulare County added more than 20 percent new residents; Three Rivers trended down 2.9 percent. The year-round population for Three Rivers was listed at 2,182.
The price of a gallon of unleaded gas was $3.95, up eight cents from the previous week. Unrest in the Middle East was the latest rationalization given for the current hike in prices.
At its regular monthly meeting in February, the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce approved four new board members: Peter Sodhy, Pro-Youth HEART; Ed Lafferty, Nielsen and Associates; David Learned, Century 21 Three Rivers; and Bruce Keller, retired educator.
At the Three Rivers Town Hall meeting, Bobby Kamansky of Three Rivers, a consultant with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, explained his group’s effort to put Three Rivers on a National Geographic e-map. Kamansky called the map “a living, dynamic body of work, and a web-based tool that could be used to promote the unique resources of Kaweah Country.”
The geocouncil, Kamansky said, is meeting next week to discuss the criteria for inclusion and review all pending nominations.
March 18— Gas prices in Three Rivers jumped again from $395.9 to $413.9 for a gallon of unleaded.
A 61-year old guest at Kaweah Park Resort was burned on his face and arms after a propane leak ignited and exploded. The explosion totally destroyed the man’s ca. 1990 Winnebago Warrior.
The Tulare County Economic Development Corporation nominated three local business people — Nadi Spencer (Nadi’s Studio), Lynn Bretz (Reimer’s Candies and Gifts) and Bill Haxton (Mountain View Realty, Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute) for outstanding achievement in a Tulare County business. Bill Haxton was presented a spirit award for his vision in founding the new Performing Arts Institute.
“That they would nominate me for my involvement with the arts-based nonprofit indicates how important the arts are to the economic development of Tulare County,” Bill said.
Even though spring would officially begin Sunday, Old Man Winter had planned to linger awhile longer locally. The local rainfall total was at 24.50 inches and that compared favorably with 2010 (20.93) and 2009 (13.08).
The new hiking permits (March 1) required to climb Half Dome in June and July were snapped up in 23 seconds. Another round for August and September dates was scheduled for May 1. Would-be climbers were told to have their speed dialers programmed and be prepared to shell out $1.50 for a service charge for a maximum of four permits. The permit system is an attempt to ease congestion on the popular route.
March 25— Another round of storms battered California this week leaving skiers stranded, Yosemite National Park closed, and streams and roads were flooding everywhere. Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park was closed briefly Sunday to Monday while road crews cleared down trees and rockslides caused by the biggest late-season storm in more than decade.
“Just because we have one event doesn’t mean we can’t have another,” Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah general manager. “All this rain and snow is great [for the lake] as long as it is cold.”
Two Kaweah residents were arrested in connection with the burglary of houseboats at Kaweah Marina. Taken into custody without incident were a 43-year-old male and a 46-year-old female. The search of a North Fork Drive residence where the suspects lived resulted in the recovery of stolen property from another houseboat burglary. Detectives also seized a small amount of methamphetamine and five immature marijuana plants.
A man riding his bike on South Fork Drive reported a charging feral pig came out of the bushes, collided with the bike, and knocked him to the ground. The next day the man was feeling some chest and abdominal pain and was transported to Kaweah Medical Center where he was treated for broken ribs and released.
April 1— Preliminary estimates were reported for the benchmark April 1 snow totals and there were some impressive numbers. Statewide, up and down the Sierra Nevada, those numbers were nearly 165 percent of normal.
Just the thought of all that water coming down the drainages prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare California’s most recent drought ended for 2011. In the Mineral King valley, there was 120 inches of snow at 7,800 feet.
Gary Whitney was selected as 2011’s Three Rivers Lions Club honoree at Recognition Night, the annual kickoff to Jazzaffair. Whitney’s roots run deep in Three Rivers; he was chosen because of his dedication, vision, and volunteer service on behalf of the Three Rivers Cemetery.
Sequoia Sightseeing Tours celebrated 10 years of touring the spectacular sights and scenes of Sequoia National Park. The area’s only local touring service is owned and operated by Paul and Becky Bischoff.
April 8— Separate South Fork accidents left two Three Rivers residents hospitalized. Jack Fiscus, a resident of the Cinnamon Canyon area, was seriously injured when the tractor he was driving overturned. Fiscus and his wife, Judy, have lived in Three Rivers since 1967. He retired in May 2008 as an equipment operator supervisor at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks after 41 years.
A pre-dawn solo vehicle rollover left a 21-year-old Three Rivers woman with multiple spinal injuries. The vehicle also hit a power pole that knocked out power in the area for nine hours.
Jazzaffair, the annual festival organized by Sierra Traditional Jazz Club and headlined by High Sierra Jazz Band, kicked off its 38th edition. Three of the top five jazz bands on the traditional jazz festival circuit were in Three Rivers to entertain hundreds of jazz fans.
April 15— The April 1 snow totals were now official and, in the Kaweah drainage, the numbers were indicative of the snow pack up and down the Sierra Nevada. The snow, which was the product of three separate storm cycles in December, February, and March, was reported at more than 175 percent of the April 1 norm.
Because of the intermittent warmer periods between storms, the pack contained layers of ice. The water content was measured at an average of 44 inches.
Not only did a buzzer-beating budget deal in Congress keep the local national parks open, but the week of April 16 to 24 was National Park Week. In honor of the auspicious declaration, entrance fees were being waived at all units of the National Park System that normally charge admission.
Blame it on the continuing unrest in the Middle East, but gas prices continued to rise. In Three Rivers on April 15, a gallon of regular gasoline reached $4.25.
While many were reflecting upon the implications of Earth Day, statistics were made public that the planet had experienced the 13th warmest March since record-keeping began in 1880.
April 22— In a “Makin’ History” op-ed piece, publishers John and Sarah Elliott reminisced on the fact that The Kaweah Commonwealth had published 826 issues over a span of 16 years.
The Three Rivers Lions Team Roping, an annual spring thing, really livened things up throughout the weekend. Several hundred roping teams competed for handsome buckles and cash jackpots where some big-time dollars changed hands.
The origins of the Roping can be traced back to the 1890s when a number of locals gathered for a spring picnic. By the 1920s, the local event became part of a traditional May Day community picnic.
A timely essay posed the question: Where would we be without Earth Day? The first Earth Day in 1970 focused the nation on environmental issues and led to a federal EPA, a Clean Air Act, and a Clean Water Act.
April 29— A 2008 Honda all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rollover at Lions Arena injured the driver and resulted in the death of a passenger. The passenger, a 19-year-old female from Visalia, suffered severe head trauma and was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno where she was pronounced dead.
A horse that ran off from the Lions Arena was struck by a pickup in the pre-dawn hours of the day after the Team Roping ended. The accident occurred on Sierra Drive near the office of The Kaweah Commonwealth. The driver of the F-150 pickup was uninjured; the horse suffered major injuries and was euthanized.
An 11-year-old boy drowned in the swift-moving waters of Tenmile Creek in the Giant Sequoia National Monument near Highway 180. The boy was hiking with his family who were visiting from New Jersey when he slipped into the waterway.
With the end of the frequent storminess, Lake Kaweah was in its annual holding pattern at 87,193 acre feet of storage awaiting the snowmelt that, within 45 days or so, was expected to fill the basin to capacity.
May 6— Brad Baillie, 73, sustained moderate injuries when the motorcycle he was driving went down on Highway 198 just east of Horse Creek. A CHP investigator at the scene reported that the 1983 Honda motorcycle was travelling between 25 and 30 mph and crashed to the pave ment for no apparent reason. The 4:30 p.m. accident had traffic snarled for more than 30 minutes while the roadway was cleared.
Supervisor Allen Ishida introduced several county staffers at the Three Rivers Town Hall meeting. First up was Jean Rousseau, chief administrative officer, who made his debut local appearance.
Rousseau reported that the entire 2009-2010 budget for the County was $862 million; the current fiscal year’s budget was projected to be $4 million less.
Dave Bryant, Tulare County’s chief long-range planner, explained how community plans work within the umbrella of the General Plan Update. It’s conceivable, he said, that another load of documents could go out for public review in late summer or early fall.
Corporal Aaron Payne, USMC, son of Mike and Patty Payne of Three Rivers, was deployed to Afghanistan. He welcomed the deployment, he said, because of the need to root out and destroy remaining Taliban and other terrorist organizations in that country.
May 13— This year, for mid-May, there remains an extraordinary amount of snow above 8,000 feet. The California Department of Water has officially proclaimed the 2010-2011 year type as “wet.”
The May 1 numbers for the Kaweah drainage were 210 percent of normal; statewide the average was 187 percent.
“It [the snow] is not coming off in really high flows and this gradual going up at Lake Kaweah will continue,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah park manager. “For Memorial Day weekend, we expect to be slightly above the old [pre-2004] fill level at 694 feet in elevation.”
Brothers Milton and Dennis Melkonian, in honor of artist and longtime Three Rivers resident Adrian Green, revived the Wesak Festival of 1971. The gala music festival was held at the White Horse Inn on the 40th anniversary of its founding by John Holden and Adrian Green.
The Wesak, or Vesaka, is a time-honored Buddhist celebration tradition in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other countries to commemorate the birth, the enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.
There was record flooding up and down the Mississippi River; Kaweah Country was experiencing lots of sunshine and seasonal temperatures in the 80s.
May 20— Missing backcountry skier Russell “Rusty” Sammon, 34, of San Francisco telephoned from Quaking Aspen to report he was okay and had walked out on his own. Sammon was the object of a backcountry search for several days prior to his call to park rangers saying that he was okay.
The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Employee Association sponsored a fundraiser dinner and dance to cover travel expenses for the parks’ award-winning packers’ team to attend Mule Days in Bishop.
“The budget is tight this year so we’re looking for some funds to help the team from the parks,” said Greg Feltis, NPS corrals manager and event organizer.
The season rainfall to date was 32 inches in Three Rivers; there was still 54 inches of snow on the ground in the Mineral King valley.
Family HealthCare Network held a festive ground-breaking ceremony for its new facility in Woodlake. The 10,000-square-foot clinic will have 18 exam rooms and nine dental rooms.
May 27— The Sequoia Shuttle launched its fifth season. The shuttle is free to riders inside the park; it also makes several stops outside the park picking up riders at Comfort Inn and Suites and the Memorial Building in Three Rivers where the fare is $15.
Campgrounds and all area lodging facilities were bracing for the Memorial Day weekend onslaught of visitors. Campgrounds remained closed because of snow above 6,000 feet.
June 3— All climbing routes on Moro Rock were closed to the public because formerly endangered peregrine falcons were having babies. The chicks start to fly in about 42 days; called eyases, the youngsters are still dependent on their parents until they learn how to hunt.
Cooler temperatures had the Middle Fork river levels dropping below 2,000 cfs, postponing awhile longer when the majority of the snowpack would make its way down from the high country.
The Kaweah Postal Foundation hosted a Memorial Day pic nic that rallied support for the preservation of the historic little post office. The 1910 structure is a survivor and testament to the volunteer spirit of Kaweah Country.
Another .31 inches of rainfall in Three Rivers on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend put a damper on all the visitors camping outside. Some packed up and left; others stayed and endured their wet weekend adventure.
Woodlake High School graduates earned more than $400,000 in scholarships.
June 10— An autopsy was performed on the body of a man found in Lake Kaweah near Horse Creek Campground. The identity was not immediately made public. An anonymous tipster reported that it was probable that the deceased was a Three Rivers man who had not been heard from in several weeks.
The packers’ competitions at Bishop’s Mule Days were a clean sweep for the team from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Tyler Willis, Beth Lasswell, and Nick Knutson all won team buckles; Dan Baker also won two additional buckles for individual performances.
A widespread power outage just before 5 p.m. caused a blackout from Three Rivers to Kings Canyon National Park.
“There just wasn’t anything we could do to warn our customers that there was going to be an outage,” said Brian Thoburn, SCE region manager. “Emergency repairs were necessary as the result of an outage in the Exeter area.”
Power was restored at 7 p.m.
Temperatures became a little more seasonal as daytime highs reached the lower 90s.
June 17— A 52-year-old woman from Squaw Valley (Fresno County), training in Mineral King for an ultra-marathon, fell through a snow bridge while attempting to cross Franklin Creek. After being trapped for at least two hours, the woman attracted the attention of a group of passing hikers who helped pull the frigid runner to safety.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the body recovered from Lake Kaweah was that of Mark Baribeault, 42, of Three Rivers. An autopsy did not reveal any signs of foul play.
In the past three weeks, a spate of break-ins were reported. The recent break-ins occurred in South Fork Estates, Cherokee Oaks, and the commercial center of Three Rivers. The estimated value of items stolen in the heists was not immediately made public.
The official start of summer (June 21) brought the first triple-digit temperatures since 2010.
June 24— A 20-year-old Three Rivers man was sentenced to five years felony probation for his conviction resulting from a January 2 accident in which he was the driver. A passenger was killed; the driver could have been sentenced to more than six years in prison.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks rangers rescued an unidentified hiker from the Guitar Lake area near Mt. Whitney. The man was suffering from severe dehydration and altitude sickness.
The Kaweah River reached peak flows of over 4,000 cfs for several days running. The daily peak is at 4 a.m. because that’s the time it takes for the late-afternoon snowmelt from the high country to reach Three Rivers.
The possibility of improving local Internet service fueled enough interest that a special Town Hall meeting was scheduled for August. Representatives were communicating to Three Rivers computer users that a high-speed broadband service could be in the offing for Kaweah Country if enough subscribers would commit to paying for the service.
July 1— A trio of tubers tried to navigate the turgid Middle Fork of the Kaweah River after putting in at the North Fork Bridge, unaware that the snowmelt-swollen river had recently been flowing at more than 4,000 cfs. Two of the tubers made it to safety but a 28-year-old Visalia man, who was popular teacher at Dinuba High School, drowned and was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We’re healthy, strong guys, and good swimmers, and we knew the river was high,” said one of the trio who was visiting from Texas. “We were looking for excitement and a challenge. We just never expected what happened out there.”
Just 12 days after her ordeal, the 52-year-old Squaw Valley woman (see June 17 entry) returned to Mineral King to sit on the bank of Franklin Creek and ponder the place where she nearly lost her life when she became trapped under a snow bridge. The woman, who had participated in dozens of search and rescues, said the fact that she had seen so many others have an intense will to survive helped her in surviving her ordeal too.
Triple-digit temperatures had Lake Kaweah approaching fill level: the storage was 180,291 acre feet (capacity is 185,000 acre feet).
July 8— A 42-year-old man from the Los Angeles area, camping at Buckeye Flat, entered the river on an inner-tube-type flotation device and was swept downstream. A couple hours later, park rangers pulled the body of the victim out of the rocky channel four miles downstream. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was the second river drowning in as many weeks. It was suggested that warning flags or signs be posted along the river at strategic places when conditions reach extreme danger.
One of the more accessible rock-climbing routes in Sequoia National Park (Moro Rock) remained closed until September 1. The longer closure, Park Service officials said, was necessary to protect peregrine falcon nesting sites.
A July cloudburst had the Kaweah River suddenly flowing chocolate brown. The peak elevation at Lake Kaweah for the season (714.83 feet) occurred on July 7; the storage was 185,264 acre feet.
July 15— Smoke from the Redwood Mountain prescribed fire (623 acres) was taking advantage of the down-canyon breezes in the evening and early morning hours to make its way down the North Fork to settle in Three Rivers. The smoke impacts were most intense from July 11 to July 13.
The identity of the 42-year-old man who drowned in Sequoia National Park was made public. Hak Hyun Kim was from La Crescenta in Los Angeles County and on a family camping trip when the accident occurred.
All forks and tributaries were still running swift, cold, and higher than normal due to the season’s above average snowpack.
Caltrans announced that the posted speed limit in Lemon Cove would be increased from 40 to 45 mph on Sierra Drive from west of Road 244 to just west of Avenue 344. The change was warranted, the state agency said, because of the findings of a recent speed-zone survey.
The Commonwealth upgraded the Kaweah Kam on its website. The original web-Kam made its online debut on March 31, 2004.
The Lion Fire, ignited on July 8 by lightning in the Golden Trout Wilderness on Sequoia National Forest land, was currently burning to the south of Three Rivers. It was reported to have burned 200 acres and was being managed for natural resource objectives.
July 22— Incident command for the Lion Fire issued a statement saying the prospects for the Lion Fire to grow into a fire of significant proportion were likely. The backcountry blaze was reported to have charred 5,200 acres and was likely to produce smoke in Three Rivers for the next several weeks or months.
The California Legislature, in the midst of one brutal fiscal crisis, was attempting to raise an additional $200 million annually by requiring residents of foothills communities like Three Rivers to ante up for fire protection. The proposed bill was seeking a minimum of $150 from each property owner.
The search continued for three visitors in Yosemite National Park who were reportedly swept over Vernal Fall. Two of the trio slipped into the chilly current then the other in the party attempted to grab one of the struggling victims.
All three were swept over the 317-foot waterfall. The incident makes six water-related deaths in the popular park in 2011.
Arrests were imminent in at least one of three burglaries that occurred over the Memorial Day weekend. Sheriff’s Department personnel were en route to Tracy with a warrant for two suspects in an Oakridge Drive heist where some pricey rugs and household goods were reported stolen.
Same-sex couples were choosing to raise a family in Tulare County in unprecedented numbers. There were 824 such local households, according to the 2010 Census.
July 29— Three Rivers was literally choking on smoke from the Lion Fire. Firefighters in the Little Kern Canyon area of the Golden Trout Wilderness ignited thousands of acres as part of a strategy to stop the spread of the massive prescribed burn.
The latest reports said that the blaze was 15 percent contained. The back-burning was conducted mainly on the southern and eastern perimeters of a fire line that would eventually encircle more than 34 square miles.
“In the next several days, high pressure is expected to build into the region and that could mean that the prevailing air currents won’t be much help to dispersing the smoke in areas that are north or west of the fire like Three Rivers,” said Deb Schweizer, fire education specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. “While we had a window of reasonably good air quality, ignitions were accelerated.”
A Dodge Ram 350 pickup hauling a trailer burst into flames along the Generals Highway in the Giant Forest area, one-quarter mile south of the Four Guardsmen. The two male occupants of the vehicle, with the assistance of park rangers and a fire crew, were able to extinguish the vehicle fire. A forest fire was contained to one-quarter of an acre. The vehicle occupants were working for a subcontractor on the Generals Highway road construction.
A 24-year-old male driver on the Mineral King Road flipped his Toyota 4Runner, landing in the roadway. The motorist was not injured in the mishap that occurred near mile marker 23; the road was closed for seven hours while a tow truck was summoned to the scene.
A three-phase power outage at Village Shopping Center was caused by a short somewhere in the system that serves the businesses on the property. An SCE crew was on-site by 1 a.m. and had power fully restored by noon the next day.
August 5— Sequoia and Kings Canyon park rangers rescued a husband and wife from Texas. The couple was stranded in the backcountry near upper Kern Canyon after losing the trail and both were suffering from leg injuries.
A solo 60-year-old backpacker was reported overdue by his wife so park rangers searched the Kid Lakes area, the man’s intended route. He was spotted after igniting a signal fire and subsequently airlifted to safety.
Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant reopened as Casa Mendoza. The partners in the venture are Aurelia Mendoza, formerly the wife of Hector Serrano, and Alex Hernandez.
The new restaurant featured a revamped menu and new décor. They also promised to donate seven percent of all proceeds to the American Cancer Society.
A 22-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man from Tracy in San Joaquin County were brought back to Tulare County to face charges in connection with a Cherokee Oaks burglary. Detectives learned the identity of the duo from a McDonald’s receipt that was found at the scene of the crime.
Yosemite park rangers reported that a 26-year-old female from San Ramon fell to her death while climbing on the cables on the Half Dome route. There was thunder and lightning in the area but it was unknown if the weather was a factor.
Rain temporarily slowed the growth of the Lion Fire, now having consumed 19,272 acres. Firefighters working deep in the forest near Wet Meadow discov ered the undocumented remains of an old cabin.
Earl McKee, a lifelong resident of Three Rivers who visited the cabin in 1944, furnished information as to the origin of the historic structure. Earl recalled that the cabin was called “Dan Brown’s cabin” after the Three Rivers man who built it in the 1920s.
August 12— Two more hikers were rescued in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in separate incidents. One male hiker, 56, from Arkansas had to be rescued from the summit of Mount Whitney where he was suffering from altitude sickness.
A trail crew working in the vicinity of Hockett Meadow received a report of a hiker in distress. That turned out to be a 57-year-old male from Turlock who was experiencing chest pains; he was airlifted to Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
An enthusiastic audience at a special-edition Town Hall meeting listened to a plethora of complaints about the AT&T cell and Internet service. Principals of Central Valley Independent Network said they still planned a link to their infrastructure to Three Rivers but nothing was built yet.
August 19— A smash-and-dash vehicle burglary was reported while the owner was attending the Sunday night drum circle at Cort Gallery. One of the credit cards in a purse stolen from the vehicle logged a purchase at a Visalia gas station shortly after the theft occurred.
Several other vehicle break-ins occurred up and down Sierra Drive in Three Rivers. According to local sheriff’s deputies the rash of break-ins occurs seasonally with the influx of Valley visitors in the summer.
Two male hikers, both in their 50s, had to be rescued in the park’s backcountry. The spike in rescues was caused in part by terrain made more difficult by an extreme winter and a lingering snowpack in the higher elevations.
A pot grow-site on the North Fork was eradicated by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park rangers after a traffic stop netted 40 pounds of processed product. More than 1,000 plants were removed in the raid; no arrests were made in connection with the grow site.
August 26— This issue marked the 13th annual Best of Kaweah Country poll results. Altogether, more than 55 categories revealed readers-choice winners in the highly anticipated promotion of what’s best to do, see, eat; where to do what; and who to hire to help and as a guide.
The “Best of” choices were all about promoting:
kaweah country (noun) 1. An area on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Range that encompasses the Kaweah River drainage from its headwaters through the foothills to the San Joaquin Valley floor. 2. The people and places of Three Rivers, Sequoia National Park, Lake Kaweah, Lemon Cove, and Woodlake.
September 2— In a case involving the underground storage tanks from three former gas pumps at Kaweah General Store, the County of Tulare rendered a judgment of more than $1.1 million in civil penalties after the owner appealed the original fine of $138,824 levied by the Tulare County Division of Environmental Health. The owner also appealed the stiff fine in the Court of Appeals in Fresno; the court concluded that under “unique circumstances” the appellant did not receive fair and adequate notice and reversed the County’s judgment.
The Lion Fire, burning southeast of Three Rivers since July 8, was 95 percent contained. It was not known when the 20,050-acre blaze would be declared officially out but several area trails reopened.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon fire personnel extinguished an eight-acre blaze, dubbed the Willow Fire, burning west of the upper Kern River drainage between Big Arroyo and Rattlesnake creeks. The small fire at 8,600 feet on the east side of Franklin Pass was probably started by a lightning strike.
A spot fire on Sierra Drive, near the Ash Mountain entrance to Sequoia National Park, was quickly extinguished by some neighboring property owners. The cause of the fire was suspicious, according to a Tulare County Fire Department investigator.
September 9— Devils Canyon pot-growing sites were raided again. Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies and CAMP personnel removed more than 16,500 plants along with the usual growers’ supplies and trash. No weapons were found and no suspects were arrested.
Susan and Rick Fraser, Three Rivers Internet entrepreneurs, launched a new retail outlet, Red Barn Gifts and Souvenirs, in the Century 21 commercial center.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks hosted a reunion of the Arrowhead Hotshot fire crew. The occasion was to commemorate 30 years of elite firefighting service and fire management. The hotshot model for fire on federal lands helped formalize NPS fire response with other agencies and shaped attack strategy for all fuel types and the full range of incident environments.
Devils Postpile National Monument celebrated its 100th anniversary; Joshua Tree National Park marked its 75th anniversary. The desert park was first preserved as a monument in 1936 and later elevated to national park status in 1994.
September 23— A fire at Western Holiday Lodge originated in electrical outlet wiring near or in an outlet in the storage shed adjacent to the office and lobby, according to a Tulare County fire prevention officer. The owner of the 45-room property had a different story.
“My son saw the sparking SCE line and try to step on it to put it out,” the owner said. “Fortunately, he had rubber soles on his shoes so he was not injured.”
The lobby did not burn but did have some smoke and water damage. The estimate of the damage to the structure and contents was not immediately known.
The East Mineral King Bridge was being repaired under the guise of the Federal Highway Administration (FHA); Khamis Haramy, based at the Denver regional office, was the geotechnical engineer assigned to oversee the project.
“This is the first FHA project in these local parks that will be done entirely with park workers.” Haramy said. “Projects like these save the federal government time and money, and using local workers makes the job even more cost effective.”
Ruth Gonzalez, who worked for the city of Woodlake for 38 years, retired officially as city clerk.
September 30— A Three Rivers motorist hit a group of wild pigs crossing the road in the dark of night near Lake Kaweah and then at least two more surprised drivers hit several pig corpses. No humans were hurt in the accidents but there was major damage to the vehicles.
After a summer where spring lingered and fall came early, the first day of autumn (September, 23) was punctuated with an incredible lightning storm and heavy downpours in some areas. There were 470 confirmed lightning strikes in the Tulare County foothills alone.
Where there is lightning there is usually fire. The largest of several reported fires was 350 acres northwest of Woodlake in the Mud Springs Gap area.
The Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved new supervisorial districts based on the 2010 census. There was one alternative (Map A) that split Three Rivers along Sierra Drive; the board approved Map B by a vote of 3-2 and that alternative kept the Three Rivers community intact and remaining in District 1.
October 7— Three separate agencies were granted permission by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to ignite a total of four prescribed fires on October 1.
A lost hiker, who strayed from his itinerary, walked out of the Kings Canyon wilderness, unknowingly eluding an entire search party of would-be rescuers. The 67-year-old male college professor from Bishop was embarrassed but not injured.
“I guess you could say the primary moral of my adventure is always consider the different ways of doing a trip and learn the right way of reaching your destination,” he said. “Even though I have 23 years of experience as a backpacker, I did this adventure the naïve way and not the right way.”
There was still more discussion at the Town Hall meeting about a possible upgrade of the Internet service but no new local providers or service in the immediate future. Some new redistricting boundaries were presented; Three Rivers would no longer be represented by Congressman Devin Nunes or Connie Conway, state assemblywoman.
The first significant rain and snow of the season came via a storm that originated in the Gulf of Alaska.
October 14— The improvement of the local Internet still remained a hot topic around town. Six locals led by Tom Sparks formed the Three Rivers Steering Committee dedicated to speeding up and improving local access to the Internet.
Representatives of the Central Valley Independent Network (CVIN) said that private users can extend new networks off the trunk lines that they are building on the Valley floor. It would depend on, they said, if there was sufficient interest.
According to Tom Sparks, more than 100 households and dozens of businesses have already signed up as potential subscribers.
“We’re also looking into a USDA grant that could fund the building of local infrastructure if and when the new broadband services become available,” Sparks said. “Several property owners have also said they could furnish sites if needed.”
While Southern California was baking under oppressive heat and Santa Ana winds, Kaweah Country was basking in Indian summer. High temperatures here were in the 80s.
October 21— A team of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) planners from the Bakersfield regional office were in Three Rivers to gather input for the agency’s new management plan. The more than 60 in attendance wanted to hear what might be in store for local recreation areas like Salt Creek/Case Mountain and the North Fork, the latter sites being closed for the past two years.
Tim Smith, BLM field manager and the meeting’s chairperson, gave an overview on what the agency does and the function of a management plan. He said more specifics would be in the plan that was set to be released in 2012.
Smith did say that they are attempting to move the access for Salt Creek/Case Mountain from Skyline Drive to an alternative site on the Craig Ranch. Several staffers visited the alternative site and will determine whether the move is feasible.
The bottom line, Smith said, is that the agency has no money.
“We’d love to restore the ranger for the Three Rivers area but as of now no funding is available,” Smith said.
One of the last vestiges of Old Three Rivers, the Grace Alles house, was demolished. Heirs and current owners of the property on Old Three Rivers Drive were on site to salvage contents, knock down the old house, and complete site cleanup.
Some of the contents and site artifacts were transported to the Three Rivers Historical Museum. The Alles family first came to Three Rivers in 1885; the house was built circa 1890.
Lynn Bretz, owner of Reimer’s Candies, added a new piece of equipment that added “panning” to their already successful operation. Panning allows nuts and candies to be coated with chocolate and eliminates having to send the candies out to a specialty handler.
Manuel Jimenez, a lifelong resident of Woodlake, who with his wife Olga founded Woodlake Pride in 1993, was awarded a California Peace Prize by the California Wellness Foundation. Each of the three 2011 recipients received a cash award of $25,000.
October 28— A fire that ignited in the chimney of a rental cabin at Silver City Mountain Resort consumed the rustic structure and all its contents. Two workers, asleep in the cabin when the fire started, were able to escape and were not injured.
Scientists from Oregon State University announced they have discovered a freshwater organism that could be the key in fighting a fungus blamed as the root cause of the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog. Removal projects, where trout are poisoned in high country waterways of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, might not be necessary if introduction of the freshwater organism could save enough frogs to sustain the endangered population.
Where in the world is Matt Lauer? He was in Three Rivers... or at least an intricately handmade bust of the popular Today Show personality was here.
Sylvia Durando of Three Rivers won the bust made in South Africa by submitting the winning bid on eBay. Deserving charities were the beneficiaries of the proceeds that commemorated the 10th anniversary of Matt’s popular feature that airs on the Today Show.
November 4— Separate accidents involving three vehicles caused at least one serious injury, and while the scene was being cleared in the second accident, Highway 198 was closed in both directions. The first crash involved a solo vehicle that left the roadway and rolled over. A 23-year-old Three Rivers woman was reportedly a passenger and she sustained serious injuries; she was hospitalized for three days. The identity of the driver and any other injuries in the crash were not reported.
The other accident involved two vehicles in the Mehrten Drive area of Highway 198. One of the vehicles crossed the center line of the highway but it was not immediately known which driver was at fault. The extent of the injuries to the occupants of the vehicles was not made public.
Three Rivers voters received some conflicting details on how they should vote by mail in the November 8 election. The confusion stemmed from the law that requires those precincts with an abbreviated ballot — only two high school board issues locally — are required to use official Vote by Mail ballots. Ann Turner, Tulare County elections division manager, said the mostly vote by mail ballots save the county some significant expenditures. Going paperless and sending electronic sample ballots were also introduced for use in this election.
What a difference a day makes. One day, the high temperature was 70 degrees the next day it was 50 as a frigid air mass moved into Kaweah Country from the Gulf of Alaska.
November 11— Measure X, the initiative that officially unified the Woodlake elementary and high school districts, was approved by voters in Woodlake, Three Rivers, and Seville. Three Rivers and Seville voted on the measure because those students are in the Woodlake High School District. Both elementary schools that serve these towns, however, opted out of the unification process.
Internet access remained a hot topic at the monthly Town Hall meeting. Tom Sparks reported that the local Broadband Steering Committee was making steady progress. If Three Rivers can get a 40 percent grant for the infrastructure then Three Rivers could get a service similar to Springville’s. The new network could cover most of Three Rivers and be faster and more reliable that what most folks have today, Sparks said.
A passing weekend storm dumped more than a foot of snow in Mineral King.
Cal Fire began issuing hazard-reduction burn permits; NPS fire personnel made preparations to burn the slash piles near Silver City.
November 18— National Park Service officials announced several new closures that would be in effect until spring. New this winter is an extended closure of the Generals Highway from January 2 until April. The road between the parks would be closed from Wuksachi Lodge to Montecito Sequoia Lodge. The NPS cited budget constraints and a concern for operator safety as reasons for the closure. Also new this year was that the Giant Forest Museum parking lot would be closed and not plowed. Lodgepole campground would also be closed to winter camping. Only snow-free sites at lower elevations would be open for winter camping.
Officials at AT&T announced that some major upgrades had been completed to the Three Rivers network. The upgrades, a company spokesperson said, would provide AT&T users in Three Rivers with faster speeds, increased reliability, and what the company calls their “best in class” wireless service.
An overdue hiker was rescued from his campsite near the High Sierra Trail in the Kaweah Gap area of Sequoia National Park. The male hiker, 54, from Porterville, had intended to take a five-day round-trip hike from the Wolverton parking lot to the Big Arroyo from where he would climb Black Kaweah. The man told his rescuers that his trip had been hampered by snow on the trails and the potential of snowslides. He was examined at the scene and appeared to be okay; he was airlifted to Ash Mountain.
Tule fog returned to the Valley; Three Rivers enjoyed a pleasant run of sunny, cool days.
Organizers of the 2011 Kaweah Country Run announced that proceeds of the 10K Run and 5K Walk would be donated to the Laura Olson Memorial Fund. The Three Rivers mother of two died November 11 after being diagnosed with cancer.
November 25— Sometime during the night of November 16-17, a giant sequoia, estimated to be 2,000 years old, fell in Round Meadow after a report earlier in the day that the tree was on fire. The fire was visible to visitors who reported flames venting from the side of the tree approximately 150 feet from the ground. In October, a park fire crew had burned in the area in what they referred to as “deliberately cool and wet prescription.” The area of the Giant Forest where the fire was spotted had already received some rain and snow. When the trails were reopened there was already six inches of snow on the ground. In recent weeks, no fire was visible within the burn unit.
A SCE crew installed the Edison star near the flume high above Kaweah River Drive. The star, which lights up the canyon, has been a Three Rivers holiday tradition for more than 50 years.
The NPS was in process to determine the future of 12 government-owned structures in the Wilsonia Historic District near Grant Grove. The cultural landscape district, largely composed of a cabin community, is within the boundaries of Kings Canyon National Park.
A new 12-sandwich press dubbed “Arnold” added some sandwich-making muscle to Sierra Subs and Salads.
“With the new double-sided 12-sandwich press, we have doubled our capacity and can grill different items at the same time,” said Allison Millner, co-owner of the popular eatery.
December 2— The long-range weather forecast for 2012 predicted another active season based on a trend in the 2011 season that continued to see a large number of tropical storms spawn seven major hurricanes. That trend toward active seasons began in 1995, according to forecasters at NOAA, and is directly correlated to rising temperatures of the major oceans.
For California, a drier, cooler La Nina was expected to weaken by February or March. Some computer models were showing the development of a wetter El Nino that could bring an entire season of precipitation in one month.
The second annual Kaweah Country Run experienced a dramatic growth spurt. The 10K Run and 5K Walk, held during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the basin of Lake Kaweah, attracted nearly double the participants in 2011 than the inaugural 2010 event.
The number of contributing properties in the Wilsonia Historic District near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park was actually 162, not 139 as stated in a previous article. The National Park Service was seeking public comment on what to do with their 12 contributing structures.
December 9— A would-be burglar, who attempted to break into the front entrance of the Three Rivers Market, was thwarted when the owner, who lives on the premises, came to see what was happening. Apparently, when the burglar saw the business end of what the store owner was carrying, he decided it would be wise to exit the scene in a hurry. Nothing was taken in the attempted heist but the metal frame of the double glass entry doors was badly damaged.
Woodlake High School was designated as one 367 districts nationwide named to the College Board’s second annual honor roll. To qualify for the prestigious honor, the district had to demonstrate significantly improved Advanced Placement (AP) performance while expanding the opportunity for more students to take AP courses.
High-speed Internet for Three Rivers remained a hot button topic at the monthly Town Hall meeting. In addition, Supervisor Allen Ishida introduced two new staff persons who both have been assigned to assist the Board of Supervisors. The two new staffers primarily address constituent issues and coordinate extracurricular activities like Friday Night Live and gang awareness.
Rev. Warren Campbell presented a multimedia program on community emergency response and said the state-sanctioned training sessions would be ongoing at his Church at Kaweah.
One year ago in December, Kaweah Country experienced one deluge and snowstorm after another. This year was the opposite extreme as the area was experiencing a mostly cool and dry season.
December 16— A single-vehicle accident claimed the life of a 60-year-old Wildomar man. The fatality occurred on Sierra Drive near the Salt Creek bridge. The crash occurred at 10 p.m.; a short time later the victim was declared dead at the scene. A CHP investigator said that the surviving passenger was wearing a seat belt; the driver who died was not.
Holiday shopping was made a little easier as several local outlets were featured that had great gift ideas from stocking stuffers to one-of-kind works of art.
The local national parks’ fire management officer Dave Bartlett announced his retirement. Bartlett, 55, took over Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ top fire job in 2005. Bartlett will retire after 28 years of federal service.
The weather year was ending exactly as it had started. January (2011) was extremely dry and so is December (2011).
At the regular Board of Supervisors meeting, the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot (fire) Crew was honored by District One supervisor Allen Ishida for their 30 years of service.
December 23— During the Nation’s Christmas Tree Celebration at Grant Grove, National Park Service rangers placed a wreath at the base of the General Grant Tree, the only living National Shrine, in honor of this country’s war dead.
Christy Wood of Three Rivers put a couple of her show horses through a practice run for the annual Rose Parade at Lions Arena. Joe the Drummer was on-hand with his trailer of percussion and taped music to simulate some of the sounds and drum cadences of the New Year’s spectacle to get the mounts used to performing in a noisy, crowded venue.
Dave Bartlett, on his last day as the FMO of the local national parks, was honored one final time with an official escort of the parks’ fire brigade. The long procession of emergency vehicles attracted lots of attention as it rolled from Ash Mountain through Three Rivers.
December 30— A Three Rivers man was arrested in an alleged burglary attempt of a Mineral King house. The suspect was later released as the District Attorney chose not to file charges in the case.
The Valley Voice, a Visalia newspaper that had chronicled the Tulare County business community since the 1970s, announced that it would cease publication in 2012. The ownership cited a struggling economy and some legal problems as the principal factors in the decision to cease operations.
The Kaweah Commonwealth announced that it was raising the cover price of its weekly issue from 50 cents to 75 cents effective in January. The new cover price, it was hoped, would help streamline distribution because a paid yearly subscription in 2012 would be more cost effective.