3R mountain biker on the mend
Michael Turner, a Sequoia National Park seasonal employee, figures he’s lucky to be alive let alone be able to return to work this week after his near brush with death. Mike, 28, who just last year moved to Three Rivers, was a victim in a freak accident on Saturday, March 24, while riding his mountain bike on a singletrack trail near Salt Creek.
Singletrack is a term used to describe a trail that is only wide enough for one person or mountain biker at a time. Singletrack is the most popular or sought after type of mountain bike trail.
The trail, dubbed “Randeez Trail” by a Visalia bike shop operator who frequently rides the Salt Creek trails, was no more steep or technical, Mike said, than any of the dozen or so singletrack trails in the area.
“A lot of people have the misconception that you have to be some kind of daredevil to ride these trails, but that’s not the case,” Mike said. “Experienced riders with good equipment ride these singletrack trails daily without any accidents.”
In fact, Mike said, the singletrack ride is often slow and deliberate with the rider in tight control of the forces of gravity pulling the biker down the trail. When you really get to know a trail, he said, you learn the sections where you can let go to a degree.
On the day of his accident, Mike was completing another successful ride and was 15 seconds from dismount. Suddenly, he hit a rock, lost balance, and started to go down.
Ask any mountain biker, or any trail user for that matter, and they will tell you that occasionally there are spills. Ninety-nine percent of the time there isn’t even a serious bruise or scrape.
But there is always that one freak accident that could happen to anyone just crossing the street. Ask the more than 800 pedestrians and cyclists who were hit by a vehcile last year in San Francisco.
As he was falling, Mike instinctively tried to unclip his shoes from the bike pedals to get his feet free but instead he went down face first. A branch from a manzanita cut his lower cheek and, strangely, his face swelled and went numb.
“I thought my jaw was broken,” Mike said.
There was a tiny trickle of blood but nothing that indicated that the stick had actually broken off and a four-inch section was impaled at the base of his skull.
He and his riding partner, Nick, made their way back to where their car was parked. Mike’s girlfriend, Gail, who also works at Sequoia, was called. She transported Mike to the hospital.
Army surgeon summoned— At Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia it was determined that his was a trauma case more suited for Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. After being examined and tested, his doctor discovered the stick precariously lodged in a small hole at the base of the brain next to where the jugular vein and cranial nerves exit the skull.
At first his physician at Fresno, Dr. Jerry Moore, thought this case was so risky that the operation would have a better chance for success at the U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. When they asked for help with Mike’s case, the Fresno hospital was informed that U.C. Davis had a full house.
Mike and his mother, who flew from Connecticut to be at his bedside, suspect that the administrators at U.C. Davis turned down the case because Mike is uninsured.
Mike’s doctor at Fresno was reluctant to perform a new procedure on a case he had never seen before. So Dr. Moore summoned retired Army surgeon Dr. Brien Tonkinson to remove the stick.
Tonkinson’s last assignment was in Iraq where he said he was used to this type of thing. Mike was told there were at least 35 complications that could occur, including death.
Surgery looms large— As he awaited surgery, Mike said he was totally “freaked out” by the fact that even if he lived he might not have a tongue or be able to swallow, one of the possible complications of the pending surgery.
“What kind of life would that be if I lost those functions?” Mike said.
Incredibly, there were no complications and a few days later Mike was released to recuperate at home.
“My face doesn’t work and it won’t for a long time, but I didn’t lose any functions,” Mike said. “I am extremely grateful to be alive today.”
No health insurance; friends and community step up— As to the medical bills, Mike says he doesn’t have a clue as to what the total might be but he suspects the amount will be astronomical.
A friend of Mike’s from college has set up an account at www.YouCaring.com, an online fundraising site. More than $23,000 has been raised to date; the goal of the account is $50,000 by July 1, all of which will be used to assist Mike with his medical bills and living expenses while recuperating.
Coolness and moisture
In the weekend forecast
There will be lingering showers on Friday with high temperatures around 60, and for Saturday and Sunday expect gradually improving conditions. An unstable air mass will bring even more snow to the nearby mountains that, in the current round of storms, can expect to receive more than a foot of the white stuff.
In a typical year, an April snow storm is no big deal but this year is anything but typical. Elevations above 7,000 feet, depending upon their exposure, had only about a foot-and-a-half of snow as of Thursday, April 12.
That’s less than 50 percent of what was in the nearby mountains last year during April. Rainfall totals are somewhat more encouraging and typical of what might be expected with climate change — more rainfall, less snowpack.
In Three Rivers, for the 24 hours that ended on the morning of Thursday, April 12, local rain gauges were reporting 1.21 inches of rainfall. That brought the season total to 13.75 inches, or about 66 percent of the 30-year average.
As of yesterday (April 12), the elevation at Lake Kaweah was 655.2, up a foot in the previous 24 hours. The storage was 78,026 acre feet or about 40 percent of capacity.
Lake Kaweah reaches its highest level, often full to just below the spillway (185,000+ acre feet) around Memorial Day. That huge pool is just in time for the hotter weather so all those boaters, swimmers, and shore fisherman can really spread out and enjoy all that open water.
Jamba Juice to serve 3R
The Jamba Juice franchise from Porterville will go mobile this weekend and travel to Three Rivers. They will be parked in front of the office of The Kaweah Commonwealth from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 14 and 15.
The company is going to donate 20 percent of all local sales over the weekend to Three Rivers Union School. Jamba Juice serves healthy drinks of blended fruit, as well as fruit and veggie smoothies. Customers may also customize their order with a “boost,” depending on what health goal one is trying to achieve on a certain day: Soy Protein Boost, Daily Vitamin Boost, Energy Boost, Immunity Boost, Antioxidant Boost, and more.
The Porterville Jamba Juice is located at 1395 W. Henderson.
Sequoia National Park springs to life
For a list of all roads and facilities set to open in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, see last week’s (April 6) article in the Commonwealth, “Roads opening for spring...,” or on this site's Newspaper Archives page, click on the April 6, 2012, issue.
Here are some updates and additions:
Lodgepole Campground has reopened for the season with a limited number of sites available adjacent to or in the large parking lot at the entrance to the campground. Tents, trailers, and RVs can be accommodated.
Also open is the Pinewood Picnic Area, the main General Sherman Tree parking lot, and the road to Crescent Meadow (the spur that leads off this road to Moro Rock remains closed).
Motorists are still required to travel with tire chains or cables when in the parks and know how to use them as they could be required at any time. For up-to-date road conditions, call 565-3341 or go to www.nps.gov/seki.
Road construction is still ongoing on the Generals Highway (11 miles from the park entrance). Park personnel at the Sequoia entrance station or the Foothills Visitor Center in Ash Mountain will help visitors time their trip to the construction zone to minimize wait time.
With the winter storm that is forecast for today (Friday, April 13), road access could change due to snow on the roadways. Always check road conditions before traveling into the mountains.
1937 ~ 2012
John “Jack” Staton Robinson of Visalia died Thursday, April 5, 2012. He was 74.
Jack was born August 1, 1937, in Los Angeles to Jack and Velma (Staton) Robinson. In 1956, he graduated from Paramount High School and went on to receive a degree in Psychology from Chapman University in Orange.
Jack was raised in Paramount and moved with his parents to Three Rivers in the 1950s.
During his lifetime, Jack faced a lot of physical challenges that left him wheelchair-bound for many years. He always faced these hardships with courage, intelligence, and a wonderful sense of humor.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents, Jack Robinson and Velma Staton Robinson (1906-2000).
He is survived by his cousins, Carol and Micheal Brown, Don and Cynthia Cargille, Doug and Karen Cargille, Susie Cargille, and Holly and Pepper Reese, and many close friends.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday, May 8, at 10 a.m., at Miller Memorial Chapel in Visalia. Immediately following, he will be laid to rest at the Three Rivers Cemetery.
2004 ~ 2012
Catherin E. Macias died Saturday, April 7, 2012, at her Woodlake home after a courageously battling a malignant brain stem tumor. She was 7.
Catherin was born October 7, 2004. She was a member of the Ballet Folklorico Sierra Linda folk dance group, which gave her much pleasure.
Catherin is survived by her grandparents Rolando and Margaret Ortega; her parents Grisela Santibanez and Daniel Macias; and her siblings, Daniel Rene, Shae Marie, Gary Ray, and Arianna Jiselle. She will also be greatly missed by her pets, dog Chiquita, rabbit Thumper, kitten Katy, and pony Blue Jean.
Visitation and rosary were held Wednesday, April 11, and a Mass of Christian Burial was Thursday, April 12.