News and Information
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Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam


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In the News - Friday, JULY 13, 2007


Scientists examine the

Robert 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.

  “In 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.

  “The 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.

  “The 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.

  “The 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

delayed 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.

Lightning causes

fires in Sierra

   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 managers.
   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 fire.
   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 Act.

iPhone in Three Rivers

Internet, 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.

  “It 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.

  “I 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.

  “It’s 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.

Register kids

for VBS adventure

   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.

  “Please 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 annual event.
   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, 561-3385.


Victor Krumdick
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 54568.

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.

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