Kaweah Commonwealth - Three Rivers

News and Information of KAWEAH COUNTRY - Three Rivers,

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Lemon Cove and Woodlake

Visitor Information:
Three Rivers
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Real Estate
Property Rentals - NEW!
Local History
Travel Information
Weekly News and Features
Weekly Weather
Calendar of Events
Columns/ Opinions
Readers Poll
Newspaper Archives

Live Web Cam of
Sequoia National Park,
the High Sierra,
and Three Rivers, California
Kaweah Kam

AddThis Feed Button

In the News - Friday, July 10, 2009

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)



Readers' Poll ballot


Hart Fire smolders on

   Even though National Park Service fire crews completed ignitions Wednesday, July 7, don’t look for the 802-acre Hart Prescribed Fire to go out anytime soon. That means that park visitors and foothill residents will continue to experience periods of smoke, especially in the early morning hours.
   After the smoke episodes of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, a number of Three Rivers residents lodged complaints with The Kaweah Commonwealth and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in Fresno. The air district partners with officials from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in determining when prescribed burns can or cannot be ignited.
   One resident, who asked not to be identified, says it should be a simple matter of common sense.

  “When air quality is already at or near unhealthy levels it just doesn’t make sense to light a prescribed burn,” the irate caller said. “How many of these visitors that have our hotels nearly filled to capacity will ever return after waking up this week to go to the park and breathe smoke?”
   Glenn Ramming, an air quality compliance inspector with SJVPCD, was dispatched to Three Rivers on Tuesday and Wednesday to experience the smoke firsthand and to assess health hazards. He said that park officials appeared to be within the parameters of their permit to conduct the prescribed burn.
   According to Deb Schweizer, NPS fire education specialist, the smoke from the Hart Fire is expected to dissipate a little more each day. But high pressure that is expected to build this weekend will cause temperatures to climb and the deepening inversion layer will trap even more particulates near ground level.
   Ramming said local air quality measuring stations this week were showing only moderate readings for ozone levels in Three Rivers. However, he said, it was obvious that during periods of heavy smoke, air quality was unhealthful so the ozone readings were somewhat misleading relative to the actual particulate matter in the air.

  “For the last couple of days, we’ve had a temporary station here in Three Rivers collecting data,” Ramming said. “I’m hearing what local residents are saying and this information will be included in a detailed report about the incident.”

Traveling to the beat
of a different drum set

America may have Joe the Plumber,
but Three Rivers has Joe the Drummer

   For as long as anyone can recall, Three Rivers has attracted the artist in all of us. Its scenic beauty is awe-inspiring and calls out to folks from many walks of life — actors, writers, painters, sculptors, preachers, musicians, nature lovers — and lots of other people who simply long to be a part of something as big and majestic as Kaweah Country and these local mountains.
   For Joe “The Drummer” Parisi, who a month ago relocated to Three Rivers, the scenic 198 corridor has it all and epitomizes what he’s been searching for all his life.

  “I love these canyon walls, the mountains, the river, and being close to nature,” Joe said. “I’m not interested in money or fame; I just want to play my drums and maybe bring a smile to those I meet along the way.”
   Joe was raised in Michigan and still retains vestiges of his past, which include a “Go Blue” sticker or two, mementos to his lifelong allegiance to the University of Michigan Wolverines. But as an avid kayaker, Joe discovered early on that there was a big, beautiful world out there and lots of people to meet and places to go; places where he could get close to nature and play his drums.
   Maybe you’ve already seen Joe. He’s the guy playing the outrageous drum set on a flatbed trailer playing alongside Sierra Drive just before the sun sets, greeting all who stop by.
   When he first checks out a new place to play, Joe admits, part of the fun is to experience the reactions when folks get a load of this rather outlandish drummer – part serious musician but a genuine showstopper once people take a closer look at this authentic traveling minstrel show.

  “I’m really all about having fun and playing my drums in places where you might not expect to encounter a drummer jamming to the likes of Steely Dan, Genesis, or some really smooth jazz rifts,” Joe said. “I certainly don’t want to offend or disturb anybody with my playing.”
   So currently, Joe keeps making his rounds to various locales along the Highway 198 looking for just the right place to beat out some of the hippest percussion in the perfect setting.

  “I found this one turnout two miles inside the [Sequoia] park entrance and it’s an absolutely perfect place to play,” Joe said.
   When asked how he found Three Rivers, he explains it was a result of meeting Dave Hammond on the Colorado River in 1985 during a kayaking trip to the Grand Canyon. Hammond, an avid whitewater enthusiast, is owner of the Three Rivers Hideaway.
   Joe said even though Three Rivers doesn’t have an Italian restaurant — he’s a self-proclaimed lover of garlic and anything Italian — it’s got all his other requirements: good people, gorgeous scenery, and lots of places to do what comes naturally – play his drums.

Fourth of July in the parks
mostly safe, not always sane

   Kevin Hendricks, chief ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, reported mostly business as usual during July 4th weekend. By Friday evening, in the local parks, all available campsites were filled from Mineral King to Cedar Grove.
   Apparently, at least one park visitor decided to celebrate the Fourth of July by lighting six spot fires along the road near the Moraine Campground in Cedar Grove. All the fires were doused quickly before they could do any extensive damage.
   Hendricks said that the fires, which together charred less than an acre, were most likely started by an arsonist. However, no evidence of an incendiary device or any accelerants was found at the scene. Another suspicious fire was reported the following day near the Kings Canyon Lodge along Highway 180 on Sierra National Forest land where the road leaves the Cedar Grove area.
   That fire was also doused before it could spread into nearby brush-covered and mountainous terrain. No suspects were located that could be connected to any of the arson.
   At Hospital Rock, park rangers contacted a large group of revelers on Sunday, June 5, who reported that a woman was swept downstream while swimming in the river nearby. After taking a scary tumble in the rapids, the group told rangers, she was able to climb out of the river unassisted.
   In an unrelated incident at Hospital Rock, a 16-year-old female suffered a panic attack that required medical attention. After being treated at the scene, the patient was transported to Kaweah Delta Hospital via ambulance.
   In addition to the medical assists, rangers made one arrest for driving under the influence and another one for interfering and resisting an officer. Hendricks also reported that an unidentified backcountry hiker had to be airlifted from the Timberline Lake area of the Kern River district.

  “It was a pretty mild weekend overall in the local parks,” Hendricks commented.

Mountain folks display

flair for the dramatic

Silver City Resort hosts

annual talent show

by Brian Rothhammer

   With dozens of switchbacks, curves, rock outcroppings, and breathtaking sheer drops (no guardrails here), driving the Mineral King Road to Silver City is a delight for the mountain motorist. It was originally carved into the steep mountainsides of the southern Sierra in the 1870s as a wagon road to serve the Mineral King mining district.
   Though largely unchanged, it is entirely navigable in a passenger car (not recommended for RVs). The first automobile to make the trip did so in 1907, and since then countless thousands have since made the trek to this mountain paradise.
   Pleasant surprises greet the visitor at every turn with spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife, and giant sequoias. At 6,900 feet, the mountain community of Silver City has surprises of its own.
   On the evening of July 4, a remarkable array of talented people gathered on the deck alongside the historic Silver City Store. It was, you see, the 22nd annual Silver City Resort Fourth of July Talent Show.
   The resort is a group of cabins nestled in the forest and arranged around the store, which was built in 1929. These range from small 1930s vintage wood plank structures with few amenities to chalets built as recently as 2005 with all the comforts of home. The newer cabins have been carefully designed and crafted to blend in with and complement the rustic atmosphere.
   In this idyllic setting, all voices joined in a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. First up for the show was Ryan Caddell with an original song expressing his remorse at having struck a potted plant with a Frisbee earlier in the day. All was forgiven.
   Between acts, emcee Forrest Jones passed the microphone among the guests as each introduced themselves in turn. There were folks from as far away as Serbia and as close as Three Rivers, along with U.S. servicemen soon to be shipped overseas.
   Roger Suva, a frequent visitor from Orange County, read an original poem that was simply astounding. Titled “Thinking of Mary,” it was an ode to the mountains that he referred to as “the bosom of Mineral King,” and to one who still walks with him and shares his love of all things natural, though she is no longer of this earth.
   Then there were the marmots.
   Staff members Cara and Leanne Befort and Molly and Casey Dunn rendered a “reworked” Disney song wherein “Under the Sea” became “Under Your Car,” a delightful yet cautionary tale of marmots and automotive wiring punctuated with squeaky sounds from marmot puppets available at the store. Marmots are infamous residents of the area.
   Back to the spoken word, thespian Nicholas D’Agosto of Los Angeles delivered a sonnet from Italian writer and journalist Italo Calvino (1923-1985). It was an imagined conversation between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo and was recited entirely from memory.
   After more introductions and entertainment, it was time for refreshments. The word pie seems inadequate to describe the epicurean treat known as Fruit of the Forest.
   All in all, the annual talent show, held each year on the Saturday closest to the Fourth of July, is a wonderful bit of family fun for the generations and has the feel of an old-time campout amidst the majesty of the Sierra Nevada.
   To get to Silver City from Three Rivers, simply make the 90-minute drive up Mineral King Road and enjoy. For cabin reservations, call 561-3223 or visit www.silvercityresort.com.

Bear in the air

   A mother bear and her three cubs ambled into a bit of a crisis as they were exploring the South Fork Estates neighborhood. An alert and ferocious watchdog — Russ and Carol Ernst’s five-pound dachshund — chased the bears into the oak canopy.

  “Put the dog away and everyone went on their merry way back up the hill,” said the Ernsts.

A world away

Christy, who owns Wood ‘N’ Horse Training Stables, is currently hosting Dan Carlisle, 14, of the Wairarapa district in New Zealand. He is in the United States for a month, and in addition to his lessons on performance horses, Dan will also visit the local national parks, Disneyland, and the beach on this side of the Pacific Ocean.

Cars are the stars in Woodlake

   It’s time to shine up the ol’ ride. On Friday, July 17, Woodlake is the place to be as the “Oldies But Goodies” street dance and cruise night kicks off the 11th annual Woodlake Custom Car and Bike Show.
   The street fair will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. with music by DJ Tony Avila. On Saturday, July 18, cruise on over to the Woodlake City Park for the car and bike show.
   There will be a 50/50 drawing, food and soft drink vendors and, of course, the cars! The event, sponsored by the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce, will begin at 7 a.m..
   Cars will be judged at noon in 31 different categories. Trophies will be awarded at 2 p.m.
   More than 100 entries are expected and there will be food, fun, and sun for everyone. The event is free to all spectators.
   To enter a car in the show, call 564-3559 or fill out an entry form found at many merchants throughout Woodlake. Entry fee is $15 and includes a free T-shirt.
   So come on out and bring the family. As always, alcohol is prohibited in the City Park.

City kids spend

quality time in Kaweah Country

   ON APRIL 25, approximately 100 elementary school children enrolled in the Pro-Youth/HEART program at Washington Elementary School in Visalia — who had visited Three Rivers a year earlier for a field trip sponsored by several Three Rivers businesses and residents (“Visalia students discover untapped resources in Three Rivers,” The Kaweah Commonwealth, July 25, 2008) — paid a visit to Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park during National Junior Ranger Day. As Junior Ranger candidates, each child was taught how to use binoculars, water safety, wild journaling, and to feed a mule and a horse.
   They viewed the Native Ameri-can pictographs at Hospital Rock and learned about animal tracks, caves, bears, and ranger jobs. After completing the tasks necessary to earn their Junior Ranger patch, the children hiked up the Marble Falls Trail, enjoying beautiful wildflowers, moss on trees, the rushing river, and a waterfall.
   According to Washington’s site director, Kathy Hays, last year’s Three Rivers field trip was the highpoint for her children in 2008, and Junior Ranger Day was the highpoint for 2009.
   ALSO ON APRIL 25, Kitty Lee of Comfort Inn and Suites of Three Rivers paid for 40 elementary school-age children, enrolled throughout Tulare County at various sites in the Pro-Youth/HEART program, and four chaperones to attend the final concert of the Tulare County Symphony’s 2008-2009 season. A special pre-concert program was provided and included insights and solo performances by Cooper Walden, principal trumpet, Tulare County Symphony Orchestra and K.C. Simba-Torres, principal violin II.
   ON MAY 30, nearly 90 elementary school children enrolled in the Pro-Youth/HEART program at Conyer Elementary in Visalia visited Three Rivers for a field trip, following in the path of Kathy’s kids at Washington. Like Kathy before him, Zach Blythe, Conyer Elementary’s site director, was amazed by all the wonderful volunteers and businesses who contributed their time and talents to create a wonderful day for the children.
   As in the past, Reimer’s gave a candy factory tour, Buckaroo provided parking for two school buses, Heart’s Desire shared their deck overlooking the river for lunch and art activities, and Don and Teriz Mosley conducted a tour of their South Fork ranch, all free of charge. In addition, Charlie Castro and Earl McKee of Three Rivers provided a presentation at the Three Rivers Historical Society Museum, and Lake Kaweah ranger Valerie McKay provided the dam tour at Lake Kaweah.
   Pro-Youth is a Tulare County nonprofit organization that sponsors and administrates the HEART (Homework, Enrichment, Acceleration, Recreation, Teamwork) afterschool program.

Summer’s SNHA field seminars

   Here are the excursions organized by the Sequoia Field Institute, the educational-adventure arm of Sequoia Natural History Association. Don’t say there is nothing to do this summer:
   Friday-Sunday, July 10-12— Exploring Cedar Grove with Map and Compass (as of July 1, there was still room in this seminar. Register now!). Instructor: Randy Coffman. Price: $156 (SNHA members $136)
   Thursday-Monday, July 16-20— From Lost Lake to Jennie Lakes: Backpacking a Forest and Park in the Southern Sierra. Instructor: Jim Warner. Price: $225 (SNHA members $195)
   Wednesday-Tuesday, July 29-Aug. 4— Franklin Lakes to Sawtooth Pass: A Loop Backpack with a Little Cross-Country and Five Big Lakes. Instructor: Jim Warner. Price: $310 (SNHA members $270)
   Friday, Aug. 14— Floating Astronomy Trip: Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing on Lake Kaweah. Time: 8:30-10 pm. Cost: $20/person.
Saturday, Aug. 29— Giant Sequoias in a Warming World. Instructor: William Tweed. Price: $15/person; $30/family (SNHA members receive 15% discount)
   Receive more information or register for programs by calling 565-4251 or online at www.sequoiahistory.org.


10 years ago in

The Kaweah Commonwealth

— JULY 2, 1999 —
   Kaweah No. 1 celebrates a century of hydropower— On June 29, Southern California Edison celebrated 100 years of hydroelectric services from Kaweah No. 1 in Three Rivers to the agricultural hub of Tulare County. The program and luncheon was held on the historic powerhouse property on Sierra Drive near the junction with the Mineral King road. In commemoration of this anniversary, THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH published a four-page special section detailing the history of the hydroelectric power plant.
   TRUS hires new teachers— The Three Rivers School board of trustees hired three new teachers for the 1999-2000 school year: Linda Warner, Laura Harrison, and Linda Mutch.
   Fr. David’s mission to the south— Father David Johnson, OFM, announced that he will leave St. Anthony Retreat in mid-August for an assignment at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, which would also allow him to relocate closer to where his parents reside. He was at the retreat for 11 years.
   Obituaries— Brent A. Wilson (1954-1999); Ernest Crowley (1921-1999).
  Bike ride benefits AIDS victims— Michael Sheltzer of Three Rivers wrote about his experience of training for and participating in the California AIDS Ride, which benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Sheltzer raised $3,500 and took part in the seven-day ride, pedaling from Los Angeles to San Francisco.


Weekly tip

Health threats from smoke

   SMOKE FROM FOREST FIRES IS made up primarily of carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, and other organics, nitrogen oxides, and trace minerals. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.
   In general, particulate matter is the major pollutant of concern from forest-fire smoke. Particulate is a general term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Particulate from smoke tends to be very small and, as a result, is more of a health concern than the coarser particles that typically make up road dust.
   Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, produced as a product of incomplete combustion. It is produced in the largest amounts during the smoldering stages of the fire.
   Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream through the lungs and reduces oxygen delivery to the body’s organs and tissues.
   SMOKE CAN CAUSE: coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes, a runny nose, and/or asthma exacerbations.
   If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse. People who have heart disease might experience: chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and/or fatigue.
   Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in the following ways: inability to breathe normally, cough with or without mucus, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.
   When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.
   ARE YOU AT RISK? If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems than healthy people.
   Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.
   Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.

  —Not always practical if you live in Three Rivers, of course, but leave the area if you are at risk from breathing smoke.

  —Limit your exposure to smoke outdoors and indoors.

  —Stay inside and use your air conditioner. If you do not have an air conditioner or smoke is likely to get inside your house, seek shelter elsewhere until the smoke is completely gone.

  —Avoid activities that put extra demands on your lungs and heart. These include exercising or physical chores, both outdoors and indoors.

  —Reduction of physical activity reduces the dose of inhaled air pollutants and may reduce the risk of health impacts during a smoke event. During exercise, people may increase their air intake as much as 10 times their resting level. An endurance athlete can process as much as 20 times the normal intake. This brings more pollution deep into the lungs. While exercising, people tend to breathe through their mouths, bypassing the natural filtering ability of the nasal passages, again, delivering more pollution to the lungs. They also tend to breathe more deeply, causing the particulate to lodge deeper into the lungs where it can cause more damage.

  —Dust masks, bandanas, or other cloths (even wet) will not protect you from smoke.

  —Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, woodburning stoves, furnaces, propane appliances, or incense. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
   Smoke concentrations tend to be very high for a few hours, then drop off dramatically, meaning that the 8-hour, or even 1-hour, measurements that average the particulate matter in the air can be misleading. That’s because research has shown that it’s the spikes that cause some of the most debilitating effects.
   Visibility, however, can take the place of a real-time particulate monitor (an instant and continuous reading of particulate concentrations) to help determine how thick and unhealthy the smoke is. Smoke levels are ever-changing, so here is a general way of judging smoke levels on a continual basis:
   GOOD AIR— If visibility is 10 miles or more, then particulate levels (averaged 1 hour, ug/m3) are 0-40.
   MODERATE— If visibility is 6 to 9 miles, then particulate levels are 41-80.
   UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS— If visibility is 3 to 5 miles, then particulate levels are 81-175.
   UNHEALTHY— If visibility is 1½ to 2½ miles, then particulate levels are 176-300.
   VERY UNHEALTHY— If visibility is 1 to 1¼ miles, then particulate levels are 301-500.
   HAZARDOUS— If visibility is ¾-mile or less, then particulate levels are over 500.
   Procedure for making personal observation to determine smoke concentrations: (1) Face away from the sun; (2) Determine the limit of your visibility range by looking for targets at known distances (miles); (3) Use the chart to determine health effect.


Phyllis Thornburg
1927 ~ 2009

   Phyllis J. Thornburg, a former resident of Three Rivers who was currently residing in Lindsay, died Tuesday, July 7, 2009, in Porterville. She was 81.
   Phyllis was born Aug. 5, 1927, in Tracy. There will be no services.
   Condolences may be sent to the family at emchapel@aol.com.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2009 The Kaweah Commonwealth