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In the News - Friday, MAY 5, 2006


SEQUOIA AND KINGS

CANYON NATIONAL PARKS:

New book explores

ranger’s life… and disappearance

A classic High Sierra tale of intrigue

by Sarah Elliott


    In the high country of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, there are 16 backcountry ranger stations. Each year, when the snow melts until it falls again in autumn, park rangers staff these far-flung outposts.

The Last Season
By
Eric Blehm
HarperCollins, 2006
335 pages, hardcover
$24.95

  They are a self-sufficient, sturdy, adventurous lot, these backcountry rangers. Some have been returning for their June-through-October shift for more than 30 years with little accolade and none of the workers’ benefits afforded to the “permanent” staff.
   Each summer, the rangers patrol an 80-square-mile area of rugged terrain and assist backcountry travelers by giving directions, searching for lost hikers, treating injuries, demonstrating proper food storage, and even evacuating those not lucky enough to make it out alive. They protect the natural resources by educating hikers, picking up trash, performing surveys from frogs to flowers, and restoring wilderness campsites.
   And, according to a compelling new book, The Last Season, by Eric Blehm (HarperCollins, April 2006), there was one backcountry ranger who was a legend in his own time. But on July 21, 1996, legendary turned to mystery as veteran ranger James Randall “Randy” Morgenson, 54, disappeared without a trace.
   Working for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for 28 seasons at the time of his disappearance, Randy was the senior backcountry ranger among an elite crew. Except for the three years that he spent with the Peace Corps in Asia during the late 1960s, he had worked for the parks since 1965 and been stationed at more than half of the remote High Sierra posts.
   Author Eric Blehm’s meticulous research pieces together the search-and-rescue efforts and describes events in Randy’s life — from his childhood in Yosemite National Park to adulthood and a troubled marriage — that brought him to that fateful day in the summer of 1996 when he tacked a note on the door of his Bench Lake wood-and-canvas station: “Ranger on patrol for 3-4 days…”

  “I would say I accumulated nearly 100 hours of interviews with rangers, family, and friends of Randy’s while researching the book,” said the author.
   He also revealed that he exchanged more than 5,000 emails with rangers, reviewed 23 Sequoia-Kings Canyon incident reports, scoured many peak registers in search of Randy’s words, and read 70 years worth of diaries and logbooks kept by Randy and his father.

  “I read 17 of Randy’s favorite books that influenced his life, including the last three that he read before he disappeared,” he continued.
   Also during his eight years of research, Eric spent at least 50 days in the High Sierra backcountry, hiking an estimated 300 miles, about two-thirds of which was off-trail and cross-country – “Randy Country,” as it is known.
   Those who recall the story when it was unfolding (“Backcountry ranger missing,” The Kaweah Commonwealth, August 2, 1996), and again when it made headlines in 2001 (“In the line of duty,” The Kaweah Commonwealth, July 20, 2001) may think they know the ending. But that’s only part of the story.
   The reader is immersed into the biographical account on varying levels, initially being spellbound by the mystery of the missing man and then rewarded by getting up close and personal with Randy Morgenson, a complex individual whose devotion to Earth’s wild places is passionate – some would say fanatical -- and contagious. Sierraphiles will realize that if they never took a walk in nature with this devoted mountain man they are the lesser for it.
   The book details the search that began 48 hours after Randy last checked in by radio on Saturday, July 20, when another backcountry ranger hiked to Randy’s Bench Lake post to perform a “welfare check.” Nearly 100 people were involved in this search for one of their own, as were eight specialized dog teams and five helicopters.
   Also described in detail are some personal issues in Randy’s life that leaves the reader wondering, did Randy intend to disappear?
Kaweah Country readers will recognize many of the names of Park Service personnel who crossed paths with Randy over the years or were involved in the search. This book belongs in every Three Rivers resident’s collection and should be required reading for all who visit the Sierra Nevada.
   The book is a fair account of events, but not without controversy as several Park Service shortcomings are revealed, such as resource protection, the care and handling of longtime seasonal employees, communications failures, substandard equipment, and issues that may have compromised Randy’s search-and-rescue operation.

  “This story is critical of the search and of the NPS in certain places,” said Eric.
   By Aug. 2, 1996, the search for Randy was scaled back with friends, family, coworkers, and investigators perplexed as to the ranger’s fate. Then, on Sunday, July 15, 2001, five years after the last communication with Randy, the first clue was found…
   The Last Season is available at visitor centers throughout Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, online from the Sequoia Natural History Association, and at major booksellers nationwide.

On the trail of Randy Morgenson

by Eric Blehm, author of The Last Season

  Summer 1993— A tiny one-room cabin sits high in the mountains in Kings Canyon National Park, 25 miles from the nearest road. It’s not a sturdy structure by any means — a Sierra winter, for example, would flatten it.

The Last Season
By
Eric Blehm
HarperCollins, 2006
335 pages, hardcover
$24.95

   Therefore, each October its canvas roof is disassembled and the coming storms fill the wooden-walled structure with snow. Eventually, it’s erased from the landscape as if it were never there.
   Come June, a helicopter sets down nearby and a person emerges with a backpack and haphazard collection of brown cardboard boxes. Stacked up among snow patches and newly sprouting meadow grass, they resemble the supplies of a small expedition.
   The helicopter lifts off, leaving a backcountry ranger alone to drag supplies to the skeleton of a building protruding from a snowdrift. Whatever snow hasn’t melted is shoveled aside, and the roof is reassembled by nightfall.
   Soon enough, the higher mountain passes will become passable, and the ranger’s job — to protect the people from the park, and the park from the people — will begin.
   A stone’s throw from the outpost’s rough-hewn door is a lake with transparent turquoise water that darkens in intervals to blackness in the center. At ground level, it’s stunning, like something you’d see rimming a deserted South Pacific atoll. This is but one of a collection of high-mountain puddles left over from the last ice age. These, in particular, are known as the Rae Lakes and, despite an utter lack of humanity eight months out of the year, they are one of the most notoriously crowded summer destinations in this desolate corner of Kings Canyon.
   Nothing but hiking boots and animal hooves are allowed on the hallowed ground, and even those are regulated. Aircraft aren’t permitted to fly at low altitude here (though they occasionally crash) and helicopters are prohibited from touching down except during emergency evacuations, search-and-rescue operations, and the once or twice yearly supply drop for the ranger who will be responsible for roughly 80 square miles of raw wilderness, including 20 miles (in each direction from the cabin’s front door) of the well-traveled John Muir Trail.
   The southernmost entrance to this high valley is guarded by Glen Pass, a short, steep climb that greets northbound hikers on the John Muir Trail with 12,000 feet of cardiovascular double-time. From the pass, the lakes are incongruous blue shapes in the distance, amoebas encircled by green meadow grass that fades into the dull-gray granite landscape dominating the High Sierra.
   It was raining, and despite the trail’s nickname — the “John Muir Highway” — I hadn’t seen another human being in two days. A few weeks earlier, two friends who (along with myself) had committed themselves to the trail, backed out.
   Now, I was alone and thinking about bears while sucking on a cherry Jolly Rancher — the third, and last, of my daily ration. It’s rough country, and the JMT is considered the most difficult section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs between the Mexico and Canada borders.
   During the descent to the Rae Lakes in Kings Canyon National Parks, my hiking stick kept me upright on three separate occasions as slippery rocks befuddle my “no-slip” Vibram soles. At around 10,000 feet, scraggly pines appear, and as the air thickens with lower altitude, so do the tree trunks. The ground levels off just in time to give my shaky legs a break.
   Back down in bear country, I start whistling the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai, and every few yards I smack my stick against a rock or boulder to further announce my presence. I cross a stream and continue on the far side of the lake. It’s late afternoon. I’m wet, hungry, and like many through-hikers on the JMT, I zone out of the surroundings and fixate on my boots. No time to smell the roses; it’ll be dark soon.

  “Howdy!”
   I nearly jump out of my skin at the abrupt intrusion. There, just a few feet away under the boughs of a dripping pine, is a man wearing the unmistakable green of a Park Service ranger.

  “Wet day,” he continued. “Saw you coming off the pass. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
   I follow Rae Lakes backcountry ranger Terry Gustafson down the trail. By way of casual conversation, he managed to find out where I am going and whom I’d seen, all without a hint of interrogation. I’m especially impressed when he asks what kind of fish I’ve caught without even seeing the rod and reel hidden inside my pack. Do I smell fishy?
   After directing me to the valley’s prime campsite, Gustafson invited me to dry out in his cabin and have a cup of tea. Inside the 10-by-10-foot square room, I realize that the “cabin” is more a wood-sided tent, but despite the drafts, it is warm and cozy.
   Spices and books lined shelves, while socks and clothing items hung from lines strung across the ceiling like rafters. A Coleman camp stove was hissing, simmering something in a closed pot that smelled like heaven.
   My less-than-discreet inhalations secured a dinner invitation, and over five-star clam chowder and English muffins dripping with butter, Gustafson patiently fielded my rapid-fire questions about the solitary life he leads. Once a Scout-Observer with the 82nd Airborne Division, he’d become a peace-loving Buddhist enraptured with the Sierra Range of Light.
   Backcountry rangering lended itself perfectly to his meditation practices. “I like the quiet,” he said.
   Like many rangers, Gustafson’s modesty stops him from detailing the lives he’s saved or the lost hikers he’s found during his 16 years on the job. Casually, he mentioned some of the more shocking duties he and his colleagues perform, like blowing up dead pack mules with dynamite or physically transporting dead climbers from precarious locations to helicopter pick-up zones.
   Excitement finally entered his voice when he talked about the number of burlap sacks he’s filled with trash left behind by careless backpackers; and the marmot family he’s been keeping tabs on; and the meadow he’s closed to grazing pack animals in order to give native wildflowers — whose names I don’t recognize — a chance at survival.
   That night, alone in my tent at the campsite Gustafson had shown me, I went to sleep secure in the fact that there’s someone other than the bears out there.
   The following morning, I woke with the sunrise and carefully cleared any traces of my presence. The break from freeze-dried meals the night before had rejuvenated my body, and I swung by the cabin to thank the ranger for his kindness. I caught him just as he was leaving, pack shouldered, ready to hit the trail himself.
   He took a minute to provide me with suggestions for key campsites and fishing lakes and told me about another ranger in McClure Meadows, some 50 miles up the trail, whom I should visit. I jot the name “Randy Morgenson” in my journal and put an X on my map to mark his cabin’s location.
   A friend of mine, retired Sierra Crest subdistrict ranger Alden Nash, had already suggested I stop in and see Morgenson, having told me: “Taking a stroll with Randy Morgenson through the Sierra would be like walking with John Muir himself.”
   I arrived in McClure Meadows some three days later. Since my encounter with Gustafson, I realized that I’m not really programmed for solo hiking, and I’m looking forward to Morgenson’s company.
   Alas, on his cabin’s front door is a note reading, “Ranger on patrol, back this evening.” I loiter for a while, then give in to my “trail pounding” schedule and continue on.
   Maybe I’ll run into Morgenson, I think. I never do.
   Years later, in the summer of 1996, I finally saw Morgenson face-to-face, but his face was on an Overdue Hiker bulletin that was posted at all trailheads and on telephone poles in towns adjacent the parks. It wasn’t long after Randy had gone missing when I joined Alden Nash in the search — albeit, not the massive search and rescue operation being put on by the National Park Service.
   The writer in me was awoken as I learned some of Morgenson’s back story — how he had grown up in Yosemite Valley; knew and assisted Ansel Adams; learned to climb from the Sherpa in Nepal, was mentored as a writer by Wallace Stegner; and most impressive was his well-known dedication as a steward to the High Sierra wilderness. He was a legend, it seemed, even before he’d gone missing, having saved numerous lives and found various lost hikers. He was the veteran of the backcountry ranger ranks — the wise man of the woods. The Obi Wan Kenobi of the High Country.
   Spurred on by my own love of the High Sierra and the great respect I’d gained for backcountry rangers as I hiked the John Muir Trail that summer of 1993, I started taking notes. Later, I read an excerpt from one of Morgenson’s ranger journals.
   Like all backcountry rangers, his logbooks are shelved in the National Parks archives and scattered throughout the park in the mouse-chewed archives of ranger stations and dusty drawers or cabinets in various administrative buildings.
   One particular bit of Morgenson prose reminds me of that day in 1993 when I trudged through McClure Meadow: “One hiker limped and wobbled up the valley in late afternoon, passing like a ghost through the lodgepoles. Did I really see someone, or imagine it? Dreaming? The mountains and their companions, the forest and meadows and evolving creek, just stand here. They’re not telling.”
   What I didn’t know back in ’93 was that I’d missed the opportunity to converse with a man who would become a legend in ranger lore, a sort of “super ranger.” Morgenson’s writings, photography, and storytelling, his well-known run-ins with tourists and chipmunks, illuminate a low-paid, under-appreciated government position.
   These men and women are the ranger caste, people who by nature would rather sleep on a granite slab than injure a single blade of meadow grass. We see them at park entrance kiosks, handing out maps, or even at the national monuments in the heart of Washington, D.C., but in our nation’s wilderness, far from civilization, is where their true mettle and dedication are tested.
   The Last Season is the result of eight years of following Randy’s story and getting inside of his mind. His example was exemplary — but like any ranger. I found he was human, with inherent flaws. As such, when he went missing, some suspected maybe he didn’t want to be found. He had once said he’d like to hike the entire 211-mile John Muir Trail without leaving a footprint.
   Elusive? You bet. But in the end, I feel honored to shed light on his mystery.
   I asked Page Stegner, Wallace Stegner’s son, to read the manuscript with the hope that he would allow me to use excerpts from his father’s letters he had written to Randy. I was humbled when Page Stegner wrote his reaction to the book, which he allowed me to print on the back cover. The Last Season is, “the story of a wild man of profound vision and sustaining conscience.” Stegner continued by commenting that I had “superbly captured that soul and given it voice; it is one we all should listen to carefully.”
   I could not have asked for a better accolade, not in a sense of stroking my ego, but most important because I felt I’d succeeded in conveying Randy’s message to the world.
   For those of you who live and play in the High Sierra, I think you’ll find the story of Randy Morgenson’s life, and mysterious disappearance, will take you to a wild place in your heart.
   Thank you for reading. --Eric Blehm


LAKE KAWEAH:
On the rise and going with the flow


   If it were an annual race how fast the recently enlarged Lake Kaweah basin would fill, then the current season would be seven to 10 days ahead of last year. Water officials who manage the Kaweah flows were elated after learning that the May 1 snowpack totals remained a whopping 180 to 186 percent above normal.
   That’s even more incredible in light of the fact that just two months ago, those same officials were wondering if the season’s runoff would even fill the lake at all. As of Wednesday, May 3, the elevation level of the basin was 691 feet and steadily rising nearly one foot per day.
   The full-to-capacity elevation, after the enlargement of the basin was completed in 2004, is 715 feet above mean sea level. So in theory the lake would be at capacity, depending on release levels, within the next three weeks, just in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend.
   But with cooler temperatures in the forecast, the dramatic rise in the storage will be slowing at least for the immediate future.

  “If Mother Nature continues to do her thing as expected we will lose our parking lots [except Lemon Hill] right around Mother’s Day,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah’s general manager. “We are already telling campers to be careful where they camp because the water level is coming up fast.”
   Deffenbaugh said he expects the Horse Creek Campground to be completely submerged by May 19 or 20. With Horse Creek out of commission, at least for several weeks, there will be no overnight camping at Lake Kaweah. That means that those who want to camp near the lake will have to book sites in Lemon Cove or Three Rivers.
   Lake Kaweah dam tenders, Deffenbaugh said, have the ebbs and flows of Lake Kaweah down to a finite science. They use computer models based on weather forecasts and snowpack data to calculate how much and precisely when the precious water is released.

  “The current release of 2,500 cubic feet per second is just about what we are taking in as temperatures begin to drop again in the higher elevations,” Deffenbaugh said. “That water that’s being released is currently being delivered to users and for recharging storage facilities.”
   That 2,500 cfs of inflow from the Kaweah’s tributaries translates to about 1,750 cfs on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River in the vicinity of the Chevron station in Three Rivers. As temperatures warm in the afternoons, rafters will encounter ideal whitewater on the Kaweah River in what should prove to be an exciting launch to the commercial rafting season.
   So again in 2006, Deffenbaugh and his U.S. Army Corps of Engineers colleagues will get to see just how the newly enlarged basin holds up when filled to capacity. Within a week or two, the area adjacent to the Best Western Holiday Lodge in Three Rivers will be inundated.
   Kayakers and other small craft are invited to launch from the small parking area off Sierra Drive adjacent to the dike that was built to protect the Best Western from the rising water. The area, for a brief four weeks during seasons when the lake fills to capacity, will provide some unique recreation, especially for self-propelled, non-motorized craft.
   Deffenbaugh said that a construction delay for the new facilities at Slick Rock wasn’t necessarily a negative.

  “If construction of the new boat ramp and parking areas had proceeded as planned, we’d be under water right now,” Deffenbaugh said. “The fact that we are 30 feet higher than normal for this time of year would have made the project very difficult to complete.”
   Deffenbaugh said he hopes to have a design of the new Slick Rock area by month’s end.

  “Right now, it looks like we will go to construction by August,” Deffenbaugh. “The new facilities will help us make up for some of what we lost in the enlargement and will be a tremendous asset for Three Rivers.”

Scholarships honor

Three Rivers residents

Athletic scholarship

named for Jesse Sindelar

   He died one year ago this month at too young of an age. But his alma mater, namely the Exeter Booster Club, is ensuring that his contributions to the athletic programs at Exeter Union High School will be forever remembered.
   Jesse Daniel Sindelar (1981-2005) was raised in Three Rivers and graduated EUHS in 1999. In his honor, the Exeter Union High School Memorial Athletic Award was established.
   Jesse was a three-sport athlete during all four years of his high school career.
   According to the club: “Jesse was a competitor in life. Tenacity, competitiveness, and hustle were his athletic trademarks and legacy. He knew no fear on the field or on the courts. Jesse would be the first to rush a quarterback or block a kick, to get to the ball that was just out of reach or score the final basket even if he had to dribble through a press or shoot a three-point shot over an opponent standing a foot above him. No one ever doubted that Jesse had a passion for winning.

  “Jesse was the go-to guy, the one you could always count on both as a teammate and a friend. His enthusiasm was infectious and he gladly shared his smile and humor with all those around. Although Jesse’s life was short, he lived life to the fullest.”
   The award and athletic scholarship to a summer camp will be given each year to a junior athlete who best exemplifies the above traits. Last year, the award was presented to Vincent Pascoe.
   On Tuesday, May 30, at an awards ceremony in the EUHS auditorium, the 2006 scholarship was presented.
   For those who would like to support the Jesse Sindelar Memorial Athletic Scholarship Fund, contact the Exeter Booster Club, 505 Rocky Hill, Exeter, CA 93221.

REDUBUD FESTIVAL 2006:
Raffle will support new

Lorraine Young scholarship

   The 33rd annual Redbud Festival will be presented by the Three Rivers Arts Alliance on Saturday and Sunday (Mother’s Day), May 13 to 14. Instead of deciding what gift to give your mother this year, bring her to the festival and invite her to pick out her own.
   Every year, a raffle is held to raise money for scholarships for Three Rivers students that plan to pursue an arts education. This year the scholarship fund has been renamed in the memory of Lorraine Young (1929-2005).
   Lorraine was not only a talented painter, but she was the backbone of the Redbud Festival for many years. In planning and setting up for this year’s festival it was clear that Lorraine is missed, but her inspiration is felt and her influence will continue through the students who benefit from the fund.
   The raffle is the major fundraiser for the scholarship fund and the drawing will be held Sunday, May 14, at 3 p.m.. Tickets may be purchased throughout the festival at the Arts Alliance booth, which will be next to the snack bar. The artists who participate in the Redbud Festival donate the prizes.

  “I consider myself a crafter, not an artist,” said Katherine Diamant of Visalia.
   That may be true, but her knitted-beaded necklaces are definitely the work of an artist. Stained glass pieces, a perfect Mother’s Day gift, will also be offered at her booth.
   Diamant was inspired to learn stained glass from her husband. She shows her work at the annual Yosemite Camp Curry Craft Fair and it is displayed at the Fresno Art Museum gift shop.
   Kay Gaston, also from Visalia, is a newcomer to the Redbud Festival, but not to the arts-and-crafts world. She has been doing handwork since childhood.
   Thirteen years ago, she attended a cloth doll-making class. Her teacher, “elinor peace bailey,” inspired in Gaston a whimsical attitude toward art.
   Her cloth doll art and fused dichroic glass jewelry will be on display at the Redbud. Kay just finished a position as curator of the Doll Exhibit within the “Best of the Valley” Quilt Show where the Viewer’s Choice Best of Show was awarded to one of Gaston’s cloth dolls.
   Gaston’s art is available at the gift shops of the Fresno Art Museum, Tulare Historical Society, and Main Street in Exeter.
   In addition to booths filled with ceramics, photography, weaving, woodwork, metal sculptures, drawings, paintings, jewelry, jellies and jams, candles, and more, the Three Rivers Garden Club’s booth will have affordable native plants that thrive in this area, like the festival’s namesake — redbud — and cuttings from the members’ own gardens that they have nurtured for over a year.
   The Sequoia Fund’s van representing the National Park Service will entertain children with puppets, hands-on education, and stories from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   And as festival-goers walk around enjoying the event, musical entertainment will be provided throughout the weekend. Food and drink will also be available.
   For more information, see the Kaweah Kalendar page on this website.

HISTORIC FIRE LOOKOUTS:
Fire-watch in a room with a view


   Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on a mountaintop, alone with the weather and wildlife and your own thoughts? Romantic images of famous writers such as Jack Kerouac and Edward Abbey come to mind.
   Both were fire lookouts.
   Although fewer and fewer fire lookout towers remain standing, many still serve a vital public safety function and are staffed by a dedicated and hardy group of people. Some lookouts have been restored as recreation rentals allowing visitors a unique camping experience, while others have simply been left to the elements. Regardless of their use, these lonely towers still inspire the wonder and awe of an era gone by.
   The Buck Rock Foundation, a local grass-roots non-profit organization, is dedicated to the preservation of fire lookouts in the Central and Southern Sierra mountains and foothills. Founders were motivated by the neglect and abandonment of many of our local remaining lookouts including Buck Rock (the namesake of the Foundation), Bear Mountain and Park Ridge. Goals of the association include preserving fire lookouts through historic restoration and maintenance, and staffing lookouts for fire detection, interpretation and for educational purposes.
   Butthe best use of fire lookouts is still the traditional one – staffing lookouts to look for fires. Fire lookouts are by design, the eyes and the ears of the forest. If a fire lookout is staffed, a fire watcher can quickly spot a fire then quickly and accurately report that fire. The faster that fire is spotted and reported, the quicker resources like fire fighters and fire engines can respond. The quicker those resources respond, the smaller the fire will likely be. The bottom line? A quick report of a fire can mean the difference between a large, catastrophic fire or a small, inconsequential one.
   Would you be interested in becoming a volunteer fire lookout?
   Do you love nature and solitude, have an adventurous spirit and like the idea of providing a service to your community and public lands? Well, if so then volunteering as a fire watcher may be for you. The Buck Rock Foundation provides a volunteer lookout program which assists in the staffing of three fire lookouts in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon area: Delilah, Park Ridge and Buck Rock. Not only do these lookouts have magnificent views of the High Sierra and giant sequoia groves, but they also look into all of our local designated wildfire “Communities at Risk” - Squaw Valley, Dunlap, Wonder Valley, Piedra, Hartland, Miramonte/Pinehurst, Badger, Wilsonia, and Hume Lake. On decent air quality days, Park Ridge can even see into the Three Rivers area and called in the first report of the Horse Fire near Horse Creek in 2004.
   Space is still available in the class of 2006 for interested folks who would like to donate time during the upcoming fire season to help us staff our local lookouts. The pay is lousy, the food depends on what kind of cook you are, exercise can not be avoided and the weather unpredictable. But, the views are incredible, the excitement is unparalleled, and how often do you get a chance to do something this unusual and so important? This is a unique opportunity to give back to your community while getting away from it all. Ours is a small, devoted group of people from all walks-of-life with a common interest in maps, weather, wilderness, and “high” adventure.
   To learn more about our program and to find out if volunteering as a fire watcher is for you, we invite you to attend our annual Volunteer Lookout Orientation on Saturday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hume Lake District Forest Service Office on Highway 180 in Dunlap, California. This day is geared for new volunteers and people with a general interest in what it might be like to work in a fire lookout. It includes a morning session of general information and purpose, along with a front line training video and guest speakers. The afternoon is filled with hands-on training of the tools-of-the-trade, weather observations and basic map reading.
   Volunteer opportunities exist for as many or as few days as you are willing to give. If you think you might be interested, please contact Kathy Ball— Email: buckrock@inreach.com; Telephone: (559) 336-9319; Or visit our website at www.buckrock.org to print and mail a volunteer application.

WEED WARS:

Troops rally to

fight invasive weeds

   Now that the weather has turned from rain to warm and dry, the weed-management operation is kicking into high gear. Over the past two weeks, the Weed Management Group has surveyed nearly 40 properties. With about 30 to go, they should be able finish this phase in 10 days or so.
   Thistle is growing rapidly and putting out seed heads. While it appears that Italian thistle will get the tactical jump on the WMG because of weather delays (it’s the earliest bloomer), a strategic edge is being maintained over the milk and yellow star thistle.
   Meanwhile, the spray rig (donated by Century 21) has entered the campaign. In two days last week, six properties were treated. Four are confirmed yellow star sites; the other two a mix of milk, Italian and tocalote.
   Over the next four to six weeks, the spray rig will be in the field hitting the worst of the thistle infestations, and field surveyors will begin revisiting treated properties to evaluate the progress.
   Do-it-yourself property owners have asked questions about Transline — where to buy it, how to mix it, how to apply it.
   Where to Buy: The nearest place is Fruit Growers Supply in Woodlake.
   How to Mix It: Transline is very concentrated. At the end of the foldout label, you’ll find the guideline for mixing garden sprayer quantities (one-quarter ounce per gallon of water).
   How to Apply It: Each gallon of mixed solution should be sprayed so that it covers about 1,000 square feet of thistle. Stay well away from surface water. Read the directions carefully. Wear all of the personal protective equipment (long-sleeved shirt, long pants, waterproof gloves, shoes and socks). Goggles should also be worn, and avoid breathing spray mist.
   Last and not least, we've conducted quite a few surveys whose property owners haven't returned the Cooperator's Agreement. The WMG can't treat your property without it. Mail it or drop it in the black mailbox on the door at 41763 Sierra Drive.
   And, remember, it's not too late to call the weed hotline: 561-3674.

OBITUARY

Andy Bronzan, 32-year

Three Rivers resident,

Visalia businessman
1916 ~ 2006

  Andro “Andy” Lewis Bronzan died peacefully at his Visalia home Saturday, April 29, 2006. He was 89.
   Andy was born Aug. 16, 1916, at home in Lathrop, Calif., to Niko and Ana Bronzan, Croatian immigrants. He grew up working on the family farm and moved to Visalia in his early 20s and began his lifelong career in the farm-machinery business.
   His first job was steam-cleaning tractors in the shop at Treanor Equipment Company (Cater-pillar), but he quickly advanced to managerial and sales positions. During this time (December 1943), he married Mary Ellis, his wife of 61 years.
   Daughter Marsha was born shortly before Andy departed to Alaska to serve as a heavy equipment mechanic with the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he returned to Visalia and built and managed a Treanor Equipment branch in Delano.
   Son David was born during that time. In 1950, Andy and family returned to Visalia where he purchased his first equipment dealership, Bronzan Equipment (Ford). A second son, Marc, was born.
   Sidelined by illness in 1957, the business was sold and the family was told that Andy would never work again. Displaying his characteristic strength and resilience (stubbornness?), in 1959 he bought Sequoia Machinery in Visalia (John Deere) and opened an additional location in Tipton.
   In 1970, Andy sold the John Deere dealership and purchased the International Harvester dealership in Fresno and Five Points, retaining the name Sequoia Machinery. Later, a Visalia location was added. When the Fresno facility moved to a newly-built location on Highway 99, the dealership became one of the first “XL” dealerships in the nation, due to excellence of sales, service, and customer support.
   In 1980, Sequoia Machinery was sold and Andy focused his attention on Kaweah Company, a machinery finance company that he had started in 1956. Andy continued to work until his death.
   In 1968, Andy and Mary built their home in Three Rivers, enjoying their peaceful view of both the lake and the Sierra. They lived in Three Rivers for the next 32 years, returning to Visalia in 2002.
   Andy was active in the Visalia and Three Rivers communities. He was proud of his involvement in the building of Kaweah Delta District Hospital and his membership on the board of directors of American National Bank.
   He was a member of Visalia First Presbyterian Church, and Three Rivers Community Presbyterian Church, the Rotary Club, the All Slavonic American Association, and both Three Rivers and Visalia chambers of commerce.
   Andy and his wife were fortunate to travel throughout the United States and internationally, and their trips abroad seemed to always return through Croatia. He counted 17 trips to Croatia to visit family and always hoped to go one more time.
   Andy was scrupulously honest in all his dealings, fiercely loyal, and a devoted husband, father, and grandfather to his seven grandsons, whom he adored and was most proud.
   Andy is survived by daughter Marsha Robbins of Atascadero; son David Bronzan and wife Donna of Visalia; seven grandsons, Kevin Robbins of Alaska, Travis Robbins of Atascadero, Jeff Bronzan of Visalia, Brandon Bronzan of Rohnert Park, Curtis Bronzan of Huntington Beach, Jared Bronzan of Petaluma, and Aaron Bronzan of Palo Alto; his brother, Lou Bronzan, and wife Mary of Brentwood; sister Kate Smalley of Stockton; sister-in-laws Winnie Bronzan and Lorraine Bronzan of Tracy; and many nieces and nephews.
   He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Ellis Bronzan; brothers Anton, Martin, and Nick; and son and daughter-in-law Marc and Barbara Bronzan.
   Interment was Thursday, May 4, at the Three Rivers Cemetery, followed by a memorial service at the Community Presbyterian Church.
   Remembrances may be made to the Three Rivers Community Presbyterian Church (P.O. Box 685) or the donor’s favorite charity.


 
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