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In the News - Friday, May 27, 2011


See this week's front page


Campgrounds, lodging

forecast to fill this holiday weekend

  By Saturday evening there won’t be a campsite or vacant lodging place anywhere from Lake Kaweah to Lodgepole in Sequoia to Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.
It’s the traditional kickoff to the local visitor season and it couldn’t come at a more opportune time. That’s because even though there has been a steady uptick in local business during May, this weekend will be the first since early April when the “no vacancy” sign is the rule rather than the exception in Kaweah Country.
As Three Rivers goes, so goes the visitor economy of Tulare County. More than three-quarters of all the bed tax collected outside the cities in the county is collected from Three Rivers.
The success of the local season, like so many other tourist-oriented places, is weather dependent. This weekend, a lingering winter in the nearby mountains is a mixed blessing but contains a silver lining for Three Rivers.
With many campgrounds above 6,000 feet still clogged with snow, some of those wannabe campers will be seeking sites in the foothills. Lake Kaweah, fortunate to have any sites at this time of year, will fill first. Kaweah Park Resort, Sequoia RV Ranch, and Three Rivers Hideaway in Three Rivers will fill rapidly for the Memorial Day weekend.
Next, campers will be making their way into Potwisha and Buckeye, two prime foothills locales that are available first-come, first-served. Expect these popular camping places to fill early Friday.
Others who are shut out in the foothills and might not be prepared for freezing temperatures in the higher elevations could opt for changing plans and book a stray room or cabin in Three Rivers.
Campers looking for a little more adventure might make their way up the Mineral King Road and could find a vacant site on Friday and possibly Saturday at Atwell Mill. That campground, where giant sequoias were once milled, will be open but melting snow has created wet spots throughout much of the area.
Alysia Schmidt, Mineral King interpretive ranger, reported that the Mineral King Road will be open to Silver City and there will be ranger programs throughout the weekend.
The Silver City Mountain Resort will open today (Friday, May 27) and have its restaurant and store up and running for the season. There’s always a scramble for cabins on the weekends so call ahead to check availability.
The Mineral King Road is mostly clear until just below Faculty Flat. From that point and into east Mineral King there is a tree down in the roadway and drifting snow. A winter wonderland awaits all who hike in.
Lodgepole’s 70 campsites have been sold out for weeks in advance. Campers there and in Mineral King should be prepared for nighttime temperatures at or below freezing. Daytime highs should be in the upper 40s or low 50s.
Ranger programs will also be offered at Lodgepole, Grant Grove, and Cedar Grove. Cedar Grove, at 4,600 feet, is snow-free and the pack station is open, offering pack trips and trail rides. Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park is open daily at 10:30 a.m. Ticket to tour the renowned cavern must be purchased in advance at the Foothills or Lodgepole visitor centers.
In nearby Giant Sequoia National Monument, where many dog owners and horse campers prefer to stay, campgrounds are open at Hume Lake, Ten Mile, Landslide, Camp 4, Camp 4-1/2, Green Cabin Flat, Mill Flat, and Eshom. The Big Meadows Road and campground, as well as Converse Basin and Stony Creek, are closed to camping due to snow.
Dispersed camping (not in an established campground) is permitted on national forest lands but a campfire permit is required. Campfire permits may be obtained from the Hume Lake Ranger Station, the Kings Canyon Visitor Center in Grant Grove, and from any ranger on patrol.
For general national park information, call 565-3341; for Sequoia National Forest information, call the Hume Lake Ranger Station at 338-2251.

Motorcyclist dies on Dry Creek Drive

  Gary White, 42, of Tulare was killed in a motorcycle crash on Friday, May 13, at approximately 4:30 p.m. The crash occurred 13.4 miles north of Highway 216 on Dry Creek Drive.
  White suffered fatal injuries when he lost control of the 2006 Harley Davidson Road King he was driving southbound. A CHP investigator reported that White failed to negotiate a curve in the road and veered across the centerline, driving off the east edge of the roadway.
   The victim was found by a U.S. Forest Service employee who was administering CPR when an emergency response team arrived. White was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sequoia Shuttle launches fifth season

  It’s free inside Sequoia Park. It makes several stops along Highway 198 from Visalia, stopping in Three Rivers at the Comfort Inn and the Memorial Building, and as of this week, it’s up and running for the fifth consecutive season. This year, although it must be booked in advance for rides outside the park (fare is $15), the shuttle is offering some new services inside the park, including a hiker’s shuttle from Lodgepole Visitor Center that departs at 7:30 a.m. daily with stops at Wolverton and Crescent Meadow. In addition to the daily 6:30 p.m. return shuttle, extra shuttles will be operating on holiday weekends.
   An expanded shuttle service in the parks is necessary this year because on weekends the Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road will be closed to vehicular traffic. Only those hikers with backcountry permits, people with handicapped placards, and the shuttles will be permitted to drive on the road.
   Shuttles depart daily from Visalia from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. Return trips from Giant Forest leave at 2:30 p.m.; the last shuttle from the Giant Forest departs at 6:30 p.m.
   Reservations are required. For more information, call 1-877-BUS-HIKE or visit reservations.sequoiashuttle.com.

Road construction in Sequoia National Park:

Upcoming schedule

   A long-term construction project is ongoing on the historic Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park between Ash Mountain and Giant Forest. The construction zone is located from Amphitheater Point (11 miles from the park entrance station) to Deer Ridge (12.5 miles from the park entrance; 4.25 miles below Giant Forest).
  Friday, May 27: Traffic will be guided through the construction area at the top of the hour from 7 am-12 pm.
  Memorial Day weekend (Saturday-Monday, May 28-30): Traffic will be regulated by traffic lights, timed at 20 minutes between green lights.
  Weekdays (Tuesday-Thursday, May 31-June 2): Traffic will be allowed to pass through the construction area at the top of the hour from 7 am till 8 pm. Uphill traffic goes first.
  Friday, June 3: Traffic will be guided through the construction area at the top of the hour from 7 am-5 pm.
  Night work (Tuesday night, May 31-Friday morning, June 3): From 9 pm through 5 am the road will be closed to traffic with one opportunity to pass through the construction area each night at 11:30 pm.
  Non-construction hours: Traffic lights, timed at 20 minutes between green lights, will regulate drivers. (Construction staff and pilot vehicles might also guide drivers when necessary.)
  Special Notice: The Generals Highway from Hospital Rock to the Giant Forest Museum is CLOSED to vehicles greater than 22 feet in length until May 2012. There are several private campgrounds in Three Rivers and a public campgrounds at Lake Kaweah and at Potwisha (Sequoia) that will accommodate RVs of this size.

Orlen Loverin: He would never meet his son

by Gary Whitney

  This is the final installment in a four-part series to honor the three Three Rivers men who were killed during World War II. A plaque will be placed at the Three Rivers Cemetery in their honor during a special Memorial Day service.
                                                   * * *
   Writing a short story on Captain Loverin is a difficult task. It would be easier to write a book as he packed a great deal of adventure into a short period of time.
“Baldy,” as he was called by family and friends, did not fit him as a nickname in any shape manner or form. More fittingly, it should have been Rock, Buck, or Duke since his exploits made him appear larger than life.
   Even before World War II, he had made the headlines for a heroic deed. In the winter of 1941 while working for the National Park Service, Orlen successfully led a search deep into the snow-packed Sierra to rescue a downed Army bomber crew that had crashed on a training mission.
   For his actions, he was commended by Colonel C. S. Miller of the Fresno Army Headquarters as well as several other high- ranking Army officials. The rescue in itself is a great story but I want to tell you the story of Captain Orlen N. Loverin, the B-25 bomber pilot, who flew 31 missions against the Empire of Japan.
   Orlen enlisted January 27, 1942, at Hanner Field, Fresno, Calif. Upon completion of his flight training, Orlen was assigned to Columbia, S.C., where the Army was putting together a new bomber group to head to the Pacific theater of operations.
   Orlen was assigned to the 499th Bomber Squadron of the newly formed 345th Bombardment Group. It was here that Orlen was given his new plane, a B-25 Mitchell bomber that he would give the name of “Doodle.” (Not only would the Doodle carry Orlen on his 31 missions, but three other pilots as well for a total of 80 missions before it was retired to lighter duty due to fatigue.)
   The first stop for the bomb group upon being deployed was San Francisco, and the flight plan just happened to take the squadron in the vicinity of Tulare County. Orlen was given permission from the squadron leader to fly over his hometown of Three Rivers. Orlen circled five times, dipped his wings to those waving from the ground and, in essence, flew off into the sunset. He would never return.
   After a brief stay in San Francisco, the squadron received orders to enter the Pacific Theater. Their journey took them to Hawaii, Christmas Island, Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia, Brisbane and, finally, an airstrip on the Reed River near Townsville, Queensland, Australia, all told, a two-week flight.
   Here they awaited the arrival of their ground crews who had traveled by ship. They then moved on to Port Moresby, New Guinea, to set up and begin combat operations. When all was finally in order, the squadron moved across the island to the Dobodura Airfield Complex, built by the Americans in December 1942.
   The field at Dobodura provided the Americans with an ideal airfield from which to run their bombing campaign. In fact, the numerous airfields throughout New Guinea were key in providing the Allies air superiority for the many island campaigns going on in the region at the time.
   Rabaul, Wewak, Salamau, Lae, Bougainville — names virtually unknown before 1943 but now forever etched in American military history — would become destinations for Orlen, the crew of the “Doodle,” and many more of America’s brightest and bravest.
   Rarely were missions flown in the Pacific without loss of airplanes and pilots. As if the combat wasn’t enough, mechanical failure, rugged terrain, difficult navigation, and tropical weather caused all kinds of problems for Allied pilots.
   The Army felt that flight duty in the Pacific was extremely difficult on the pilots and therefore insisted on a two-week “R&R” (rest and relaxation) after every six weeks of active duty.
Orlen, by several accounts, was considered the best pilot in the squadron and it didn’t take long before he became flight leader. Many times, Doodle returned to her airfield and would undergo “surgery” to have the numerous bullet holes in her fuselage and wings patched up.
   On one mission, one of his crew members was wounded and on another, one of his gunners shot down a Japanese Zero that was trying to shoot them down. Then came the mission to bomb Papopo Airdrome, Rabaul, New Britain.
   Orlen was leading his squadron to target when bad weather forced their fighter escort to return to base. This did not faze Captain Loverin at all; I believe he felt if his fighters couldn’t fly in the bad weather, neither could the Japanese.
   As he pressed on, he realized that his right engine was smoking badly; being flight leader would mean he must either pass the leadership to another plane or abort the mission altogether.
   Captain Loverin picked a third option: continue to lead his squadron and bomb the target. The weather improved, and as they started their run, they found that Japanese fighters did fly on this day; 15 fighters pounced on the bombers in an effort to divert them from the target.
Captain Loverin pressed on; they completed their mission and the squadron dropped two of the enemy fighters in the process. Captain Loverin received the Air Medal for this engagement for his “skillful leadership,” “courage,” and “devotion to duty.”
   On December 19, 1943, Captain Loverin, copilot 2nd Lt. William B. Graham, and navigator 1st Lt. George K. Snyder boarded a C-47 Dakota bound for Sydney, Australia, to celebrate the 21st birthday of Lt. Graham. The plane had a crew of four and 27 passengers for a total of 31. In bad weather the plane left Townsville and headed south toward Rockhampton.
   A farmer in the area of Canal Creek heard a plane overhead that sounded as if it were in trouble. He located the plane in the sky and watched in horror as it spiraled to the ground with an engine on fire. Several hundred feet from the ground the plane exploded and came to the ground in pieces.
   There were no survivors. Lt. William Graham would die one day short of his 21st birthday. Alice Walters would never have the life she planned with Lt. George Snyder. And Captain Orlen N. Loverin would never hold his son, Gerald (1944-2000).
   Orlen and his crew could have had that same fate on any of the 31 missions they had flown. I have a sense with Orlen though that it would take a situation beyond his control to end his life.
   Orlen was a leader, a superb pilot, and a good friend to his comrades in arms. In testimony to this, his first copilot, 1st Lt. Kenneth D. McClure, upon his promotion to pilot, named his plane “Doodle Jr.” in memory of his friend.
   Note from series author Gary Whitney: There quite simply is not a way for us to ever repay Captain Loverin or Lieutenants Brewer and Liddell for the sacrifices they made for our freedom. We lost these young men from Three Rivers over 65 years ago; we are losing the soldiers of “The Greatest Generation” at a rate of one thousand per day.
   May we never lose sight or memory of the incredible sacrifices they laid on the altar of freedom.
   Please join me this Monday, May 30, at 10 a.m. as we honor Orlen, Donald, and Howard for their service above and beyond the call of duty.

News of the

Center Stage Strings

Music Festival Series

The (real) Red Violin coming to 3R

by Bill Haxton

Of all the instruments to come out of the fabled workshop of Antonio Stradivari, the one known as The Red Mendelssohn violin is one of the most famous and most coveted. This is partly because of the violin itself and partly because of the Academy Award-winning 1998 movie The Red Violin, starring Samuel L. Jackson.
On every level, this fame is deserved. The violin really does have beautiful red coloration and really did belong to descendants of 19th-century composer Felix Mendelssohn.
More to the point, however, is the opinion of virtuoso violinists who praise it as one of the finest sounding violins Stradivari ever created.
The mystery surrounding The Red Mendelssohn is authentic, too. It really did disappear for over 200 years, before resurfacing in the 1930s.
Subsequently, it passed through a couple of owners, then went up for auction in 1990, when publicity about the lost 200 years gave writer/director François Girard the idea for the film.
The Red Violin is available for rent at Chump’s DVDs. It’s a good movie by itself, but something is added when you know that violin is going to be in Three Rivers with its current owner, international virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn, performing on it during the Center Stage Strings Music Festival Series this June (see advertisement on this page).
Series tickets for all four concerts are $40 (or $12 each).  Tickets are available at Chump’s DVDs or online at www.CenterStageStrings.com (click the “Concerts” link).


All 'choked up

by Allison Sherwood Millner

  When I was young, my parents let us choose what we wanted for dinner on our birthday. Better than a fancy night out, we got to select our favorite foods for our special evening. The options were endless, the possibilities staggering and, yet, time and time again I defaulted to my favorite: the artichoke.
   Artichokes, in their splendor, would grace our dinner table at almost every birthday. They were a favorite among us all, but somewhat of a rarity because of their price. Special, exotic and downright messy, artichokes made birthdays that much better.
   The artichoke plant is actually part of the thistle family, native to the Mediterranean. The plant is silvery green in color with long, lanky leaves and thick stems. The flower of the plant is the edible artichoke that grows up and out of the leaves. Left unpicked, the scales of each artichoke peel back, exposing the thistly lavender choke, thus flowering.
   I know what some of you are thinking… artichokes? Really? The answer is “Yes!”
If you’ve never torn off a leaf from a steamed ‘choke, dipped it in butter, turned it upside down and scraped the meaty pulp with your teeth, then I contend you’ve got some livin’ to do.
   Eating an artichoke is like going on an adventure. When you start on your journey, you are filled with anticipation, wondering how long it will take until you reach your destination.
   Slowly and methodically you make your way through the obstacles, each spade-shaped leaf providing you with just enough sweet meat to keep you going. As you near the center, the excitement builds and whole clumps of soft scales come off with each pull. And as one final and cruel trick, you must tackle the inedible choke before arriving at your destination… the heart.
   It is possible that there is nothing better than the perfectly steamed, wonderfully soft but still firm, bursting with earthy sweetness taste of an artichoke heart. While you can find them these days in a jar, a can, or even frozen, they pale in comparison to one that’s been freshly cooked.
   Of course, artichokes have their faults. They probably won’t make an entire meal and eating one requires several napkins and extra plates for the scraped leaves.
   As Miss Piggy once pointed out to Kermit, “After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual ‘food’ out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps.”
   But I say let the naysayer nay, more artichoke goodness for me. Aside from being delicious, each edible globe contains the most antioxidants of almost any vegetable. Eating artichokes can aid in digestion, help liver and gall bladder function, and has even been known to lower cholesterol.
   Allison and her husband Dane own and operate Sierra Subs and Salads in Three Rivers.



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