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In the News -
Friday, JULY 13, 2007
HIGH AND MIGHTY
E. Lee Tree
When a huge
chunk of rotted redwood fell from the Robert E. Tree last July in Grant
Grove, it narrowly missed three Chinese tourists who were entering the
Fallen Monarch log near the base of the tree, one of the top 10 largest
giant sequoias. The tourists were shaken and, although not seriously injured,
made a hasty exit from Kings Canyon National Park.
In the aftermath of the near miss, park managers have debated
what to do next. Should areas around the Robert E. Lee Tree be off limits
to visitors? What are the odds that even one person would be in the grove
during what tree experts refer to as “a catastrophic failure”?
There was even a suggestion that park planners take a look
at all trails that go anywhere near giant sequoias.
On one point all the parties involved agreed. To make a decision
that might lead to a trail closure or closing a section of a popular giant
sequoia grove, more information would be needed.
For Tom Warner, Sequoia-Kings Canyon parks forester, even
one casualty from a tree fall is one too many. He believes firmly that
the safety of visitors and park employees must be the number-one priority.
After dealing with a similar hazard tree at Big Stump two
years ago, Warner knows the best way to evaluate the Robert E. Lee Tree
is to climb it, map it, and look in its every nook, arm socket, and burn
cavity, then note, if possible, the whereabouts of missing material.
There is only a handful of climbers with the knowledge and
athleticism required to climb a giant sequoia more than 200 feet tall
and record the kind of data that’s needed. Fortunately, for Warner
and his park colleagues, a climbing team led by botanist Steve Sillett
— who has climbed many of the world’s tallest trees and is
the subject of a 2007 book by Richard Preston, The Wild Trees: A Story
of Passion and Daring — was scheduled to work nearby this month
at Whitaker’s Forest, the University of California’s research
station in Redwood Canyon.
Sillett, a biology professor at Humboldt State University,
had also climbed the burn cavity of the Washington Tree for a 2003 IMAX
documentary and is arguably the foremost tree climber on the planet. Having
his team of six already coming to the area made the timing right, and
the necessary three days in the Robert E. Lee Tree cost effective.
Sillett and his crew of experts arrived in Grant Grove on
Friday morning, July 6. After a few shots with a crossbow to place a lead
rope over a huge cross branch, ropes were secured and the climbers were
doing what they do best — hanging out in the top of the largest
trees on earth doing tree science.
Warner and his crew closed trail sections adjacent to the
tree, monitored foot traffic, and spent most of their day answering myriad
questions about the tree climbers.
one 15-minute period on Saturday, we counted more than 100 people who
were going by this tree,” Warner said. “That tells us that
more than 400 each hour are on these trails. If there is even a small
failure and a piece falls, someone could be killed.”
While Warner was fielding another question, there was a loud
cracking noise then a crash. A rotten chunk had just crash-landed with
a thud below an unnamed giant sequoia less than 100 yards away.
A group of visitors at a railing within 25 feet of where
the rotted redwood had landed were startled but uninjured. Warner inspected
the chunk and thought he spied a small socket more than 100 feet up where
the piece might have originated.
In the nearby Robert E. Lee Tree, the climbers heard the
commotion but went about their business of measuring and taking notes
and photos. As they worked 200 feet above ground level amidst the massive
specimen, a steady fall of bark shavings lent the forest scene an appearance
of rusty snowflakes floating down.
After three long, arduous days in the Lee Tree, Sillett and
his crew were amazed by what they had experienced.
huge upper section of this tree has been dead for hundreds of years causing
a large section to fall out taking a socket with it,” Sillett observed.
“There is evidence that there has been an onslaught of fungus during
much of the tree’s 2,500 years of existence.”
Sillett said that at one massive cross branch — at
a height of 170 feet — rotted material that had fallen years ago
and accumulated now had two six-foot sugar pines and currant and gooseberry
bushes growing from the limb.
most spectacular botanical find was a chinquapin that we found growing
out of the side of the giant sequoia,” Sillett said. “It probably
started years ago when a squirrel carried the chestnut-like nut up the
tree and forgot where it was cached.”
Sillett said his team’s findings would confirm what
Warner has suspected all along.
Lee as one main study tree is not that unusual but the fact that it branches
over a trail presents a challenge,” Sillett said. “The parking
lot is packed all day which means there are a lot of people here and the
probability that something will happen is not small.”
Early birds will be
by park roadwork
Road construction is ongoing on the Generals Highway in Sequoia
National Park from Big Fern Springs to Amphitheater Point. For the duration
of the project, traffic will pass through the construction zone at the
top of each hour during daylight hours.
Traffic is also directed by traffic lights from 5 p.m. Fridays
until Monday morning when the crews again begin the workweek.
Scheduled for the next several weeks, there will be night
delays from midnight until 6 a.m. each Friday. Construction crews will
take advantage of the minimal traffic to pour concrete.
Park visitors should plan their travels to best minimize
delays. From the Foothills Visitor Center, plan for 25 minutes to reach
the construction zone at the top of the hour (weekdays only). Big Fern
Springs, the lower end of the construction zone, is 9.5 miles from the
Ash Mountain entrance station.
From Giant Forest Museum down to the upper end of the construction
zone at Amphitheater Point is about 5.5 miles; allow 15 minutes driving
time. The entire construction zone is about 1.5 miles in length.
For recorded park information and updates, call (559) 565-3341.
Two fires have been discovered burning in the backcountry
of both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Both were ignited by
lightning on or about Thursday, July 5.
The Lost Canyon Fire is burning in sparse lodgepole pine
and brush and is about one acre in size. It is in Sequoia National Park
at about 9,000 feet in elevation, located due west of Moraine Lake and
Big Arroyo near the Lost Canyon Trail.
The Sphinx Fire, in Kings Canyon National Park, is burning
in a foxtail pine at the 11,000-foot level. It is located near Sphinx
Lakes, northwest of Mount Brewer.
Because of the high elevations and remote locations of these
fires, they will be allowed to burn yet routinely monitored by parks fire
The Sphinx Fire was discovered July 6 due to an overflight
by the park helicopter as it was on its way to assist on the Inyo Complex
The Inyo Complex, a series of fires also started by lightning
strikes, has currently consumed 35, 176 acres in the Inyo National Forest
on the Sierra’s east side. It is located about four miles northwest
of the community of Independence.
Firefighters have currently achieved about 80-percent containment
of the blaze. The fires caused the contamination of the primary water
supply for the City of Independence.
On Wednesday, July 11, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed
a State of Emergency in Inyo County, directing state agencies to respond
with personnel, equipment, and facilities under the direction of the Office
of Emergency Services and the authority of the California Disaster Assistance
iPhone in Three Rivers
music, photos… and reception!
If the local reviews are any indication, then Apple’s
new iPhone is a big hit and might even justify all the hype. That’s
the initial reaction of Heidi and Ryan Sager of Three Rivers, who were
probably the very first in Three Rivers to own the new multi-tasking cell
phone that’s being called the ultimate in handheld wireless communication.
The oblong-shaped cell phone retails between $499 and $599.
was my wife, Heidi, who actually waited in line at a Visalia Cingular
store to be among the first to get one when it was released [June 29],”
said Ryan Sager who used his iPhone to call the Commonwealth. “I
liked it so much I got one for myself.”
Ryan said he thought the local reception was much improved
over his previous cell phone. The improved reception alone might prove
a boon to reception-challenged Three Rivers.
think what’s best about it is that now I can carry three less devices
because those features — Internet, media player, digital camera
— are right at my fingertips in my phone,” Ryan said.
Sager also sees a big advantage for local Internet users
who don’t have access to DSL or high-speed service.
amazing how simple it works with my Mac computer,” Sager said. “The
newer computer programs are all set up to work with the iPhone.”
Sager said he was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Apple
stock is taking off with this product release. With what he’s making
on Apple shares, he said, it pays for the cost of the new phones.
Apple stock soared again this week on rumors that the company
is planning to release a new iPhone “nano.” That phone will
be smaller and less expensive than the recently-released one and is expected
to be available in time for holiday gift-giving.
This year’s Vacation Bible School is an opportunity
for the children of Three Rivers to come together and enjoy music, games,
crafts, and a story based on the book and popular movie by C.S. Lewis,
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A daily snack is also provided.
VBS is a community event for all children, regardless of
faith. Although the content is based on the Gospel, no child is ever pressured
to accept or conform to the Christian faith.
Since the beginning of VBS in the 1970s, children of all religious persuasions
have enjoyed a great week together, taking with them memories and experiences
to be remembered and cherished. The children all have fun while learning.
call and register your child as soon as possible as this helps us plan
our program,” said Portia Gunnerud, one of the organizers of the
Also, Portia said, a few more artificial Christmas trees
are needed as part of the set decorations, and donations of home-baked
cookies are needed that will be provided during snacktime each day.
Community members are requested to bring their donations
to Community Presbyterian Church during regular office hours (Monday-Thursday,
9 a.m.-1 p.m.) by Thursday, July 19.
Vacation Bible School is free and open to all children from
preschool age through sixth grade. For more information, call Chris Leyva,
561-3451; Portia Gunnerud, 561-3302; or Community Presbyterian Church,
1929 ~ 2007
Victor F. Krumdick, a former resident of Three Rivers, died
Tuesday, July 3, 2007. He was 78.
Victor and his family moved to Three Rivers in the 1960s.
For 30 years, Victor taught health and fitness courses at College of the
Sequoias. He retired in 1996.
In 2001, Victor was preceded in death by his daughter, Audrey.
He is survived by his daughter, Laura Krumdick of San Diego;
sons Victor Krumdick of Visalia and Kurtis Krumdick of Three Rivers; daughter
Jennifer Deer of San Diego; and son Kary Krumdick of San Diego; 15 grandchildren,
David, Garrett, and Amanda Vawter of Three Rivers, Jeremy and Dayne Ballew
and Brenna Rae, Karly, and Ellery of San Diego, and Victor, Corrie, Kandace,
Kambria, Kasaundra, Kameron, and Kurtis of Visalia; four great-grandchildren;
his brother, Robert Krumdick and family of Mercer, Wis.; and his former
wife, Gayle, of Minocqua, Wis.
Services were held Saturday, July 7, in Minocqua. Remembrances
may be made to the Seasons of Life Hospice, P.O. Box 770, Woodruff, WI
1915 ~ 2007
Emma Marie Cotta-Portugal died Thursday, July 5, 2007, at
her Hanford home with her family by her side. She was 92.
A Catholic Requiem Mass will be held today (Friday, July
13) at 9 a.m. at St. Brigid’s Catholic Church in Hanford. Visitation
will be Friday, July 13, at 5 p.m. Interment will be Saturday, July 14,
at Calvary Cemetery in Hanford.
Emma was born May 20, 1915, in Strathmore to Joseph and Amelia
Mendes-Cotta. She was raised in Hanford, where she spent most of her life.
On May 8, 1933, she married Lionel Joseph Portugal in Hanford.
She was a stay-at-home mother and raised five children.
After her children were grown, she started a licensed childcare
center in her home. This was her career for more than 15 years.
Emma was an active member of the St. Brigid’s Catholic
Church and prayed The Holy Rosary daily. She was also a member of the
Hanford Senior Citizens, AARP, Cabrillo Club, and Fraternal Hall Association.
In 2002, Emma was preceded in death by her husband of 69
years, Lionel Joe Portugal. She was also preceded in death by two brothers
and one sister.
She is survived by her sons and their wives, Ed and Bernice
of Hanford, Richard and Della of San Diego, Stan and Mary of Green Valley,
Ariz., and Leonard and Pamela of Hanford; her daughter and husband, Shirley
and Bob Perry of Three Rivers; one brother; two sisters; 20 grandchildren,
including Mark and Mike Perry, who were raised in Three Rivers; 47 great-grandchildren;
seven great-great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces, nephews, godchildren,
and many other relatives and friends.
Remembrances may be made to St. Rose McCarthy School, 200
E. Florinda, Hanford, CA 93230; or Adventist Hospice, 460 Kings County
Dr., Hanford, CA 93230.
NOTICE OF DEATH-- Patricia M. Miller died Saturday, June 30, 2007, in
Three Rivers. She was 73.