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

  Celebrating 10 years:

March 1995 ~ March 2005

For the past decade,

The Kaweah Commonwealth

has been telling readers

things they won't read, hear,

or see anywhere else!


In the News - Friday, JULY 15, 2005

Man drowns

at Buckeye Flat

   On Monday, July 11, Noah Dominguez, 24, from Southern California drowned in the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park. Dominguez, of Wilmington, had entered the water just above the footbridge near Buckeye Flat Campground.
   This tragedy is the second drowning in Sequoia Park this year. On May 27, Bryan Coker of Lemoore was carried away by the swift current near the Ash Mountain park headquarters while celebrating his 21st birthday at the river.
   Monday’s emergency was reported to a campground ranger at 3:25 p.m. The ranger went immediately to the area and within minutes other park personnel began arriving on the scene.
   Rescuers could see that Dominguez was trapped against rocks in the strong current, but determined that the assistance of a technical swiftwater team was needed to retrieve him. Once the team arrived on the scene, several rescuers were lowered by rope where they were able to free the victim.
   The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office deputy coroner pronounced Dominguez dead at the scene just before 6 p.m.
   According to information from witnesses at the scene, the man initially became caught in a whirlpool. Some of his cousins, who were with the swimmer, tried to rescue him but he was swept downriver where he became trapped underwater.
   Dominguez and his fiancée, Desiree, who is seven months pregnant, along with several other family members had been staying in a Three Rivers campground. They went to Sequoia Park on Monday to see some of the swimming holes that Noah remembered visiting as a youth.
   Another park visitor barely escaped with his life during the afternoon of Saturday, July 2. Rangers responded to a report of a man stranded in the Kaweah River near Hospital Rock.
   Henry Rios, 26, of Lancaster, was swept downstream by the swift current — descending through rapids rated as Class 5, on a scale of 1 to 6 — but somehow managed to grab onto a boulder in the middle of the river. A ranger was short-hauled by helicopter to the victim’s location, where Rios was secured and short-hauled out and taken by ambulance to Kaweah Delta Hospital.
   In spite of the rising temperatures and the decreasing water levels, rangers are continuing to advise park visitors to use caution when near the river.

Fires may

signal busy season

Hot times:

Three days, three fires

   A series of wildland fires that occurred during a 72-hour period ending on Sunday, July 10, might be a signal that the current season will be a busy one. Nearly 2,900 acres were consumed in three separate blazes.
   Fire one— The first fire, on Thursday, July 7, started on rangeland near Elderwood, approximately 10 miles north of Woodlake. The stubborn blaze consumed 2,800 acres of grazing land and was not declared officially out until three days later.
   No structures were lost in the Elderwood fire, but according to Captain Bill Hoover of the Tulare County Fire Department, with lower humidity and more wind, it could have been much worse. The unconfirmed cause of the fire is fireworks.
   Fire two— A second fire started near Lake Kaweah on Saturday, July 9, when a bald eagle attempted to land on power lines and was electrocuted. When the burning bird fell to the ground, it sparked a brush fire on the rugged ridgetop terrain east of Lemon Hill and above Lake Kaweah.
   That remote fire locale was attacked quickly with precise aerial drops of water and retardant from helicopters and air-tankers. It burned approximately 50 undeveloped acres prior to containment.
   Fire three— On Sunday, July 10, a third blaze was sparked along Sierra Drive at Slick Rock when a late-model Dodge pickup ignited tinder-dry glass after parking in a dirt turnout adjacent to the highway. That blaze caused some anxious moments for nearby homeowners but was extinguished after consuming only a couple of acres.
   The pickup truck that started the blaze was a total loss. The fire, according to one resident who lives nearby, underscored the parking problem at Slick Rock that became extremely congested during this season’s high water when the parking lot was not accessible.

Roadwork carries

over to Saturday

   On Wednesday, July 13, Caltrans officials announced that the normal weekday closures on Highway 198 would be extended for this Saturday, July 16. Construction crews will be permitted to work from 6 a.m. until 4 p.m.
   The Lemon Cove widening project on State Route 198 includes a rubberized asphalt overlay from Road 220 to east of Avenue 324 (approximately five miles). The project began in April and is expected to be complete in November.
   On Saturday, flaggers will be in the area reversing traffic flow westbound and eastbound to one lane. Delays are expected to be less than 10 minutes. The public is reminded to use extra caution while driving in the cone zone.
   Cones on loan— Van Bailey of Force Traffic Control said he is grateful to whoever returned the cones and barriers that he recovered Monday outside the Commonwealth office where they were anonymously placed. The traffic-control items, he said, are often “borrowed” by Lake Kaweah boaters to reserve parking spaces at Lemon Hill while launching.

3R woman appointed

Grand Jury foreman

   Last week, Marge Ewen of Three Rivers announced that she was resigning her position as a Community Services District (CSD) boardmember effective immediately. Her resignation was necessary, she said, because she had been appointed by Judge Kalashian to serve as the foreman of the Tulare County Grand Jury for the term of July 2005 to June 2006.

  “It is with mixed emotions that I resign from the CSD board,” Ewen said. “I have really enjoyed working with the other members of the board and the Three Rivers community.”
   The Grand Jury performs a watchdog agency’s role over all public entities and programs, as well as companies and individuals who operate in Tulare County. The Grand Jury’s annual report, which often uncovers wrongdoing, can have serious consequences including criminal indictments.
   Ewen said two other Three Rivers resi

dents would also serve on this year’s Grand Jury. The names of the others were not immediately made public.

Fateful journey:

The life and times

of a Sierra backpacker

   He was discovered because of hikers who saw his red backpack floating in Evolution Lake and reported it to Bob Kenan, a Kings Canyon National Park backcountry ranger. Bob, who has been stationed at various posts in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for more than 30 seasons, is stationed this year at the McClure Meadow Ranger Station along the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail, about five miles from the lake.
   As was reported in the July 1 issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth, the backpack was too far out in the partially-frozen lake for Bob to retrieve, so he radioed for assistance. Rangers, equipped for a dip in ice water, were flown in the next morning and discovered this was more than a recovery of someone’s pack because there was a body attached to it.
   The body was retrieved and delivered to the Fresno County Coroner and identified as Peter Spoecker, age 64, of Joshua Tree. End of story, right?
   Not so fast. As I wrote the story that week, the victim’s name — Peter Daniel Spoecker — sounded hauntingly familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it… a musician, perhaps? But I was on a deadline and didn’t have time to research this hunch.
   Another item that nagged at me long after the story was published was the fact that Ranger Bob noted that the last entry in the logbook at Evolution Lake was June 13, suggesting that this was when Peter arrived there, yet his body was not discovered until two weeks later on June 27.
   In answer to my question, the local Park Service information officer responded that there were no reports of overdue hikers in the parks. But she did verify that the backpacker was well-equipped for the current snowy conditions.
   An Internet search revealed that there is a musician and music producer named Peter Spoecker, who specializes in making and playing the didgeridoo, an indigenous musical instrument of Australian Aborigines. Upon discovering his website, I was able to determine that this Peter Spoecker was also from Joshua Tree and in the same age range as the Kings Canyon backpacker.
   After a couple of tries, I made contact with Grahm and Trish of The Didgeridoo Store in Oakhurst.

  “Yes, it is the same Peter Spoecker,” they replied sadly. “We are still in shock about his passing as he was a very dear friend, like family to us.”
   When asked why Peter would not have been reported as overdue when he failed to return as scheduled from his backcountry trip, they explained: “Peter would always go out hiking for weeks at a time, sometimes coming home from trips early and sometimes extending his trips without notice.”

  “We never thought anything of it when he was two weeks late on his ‘scheduled’ return from this trip,” they continued.
   Although an official cause of death has not yet been released, Peter most likely drowned or succumbed to hypothermia after falling through ice into the lake.
   According to his trip itinerary, filed when he obtained his backcountry permit from Inyo National Forest, Peter set out from North Lake in Inyo County. He would have traveled southwest on-trail to Lower Lamarck Lake, then cross-country to Lamarck Col, a pass that, at 12,900 feet above sea level, would have required 3,500 vertical feet of scrambling over snow and ice.
   Still off-trail, he then descended into Darwin Canyon before meeting up with the John Muir Trail on the north end of Evolution Lake — often described as one of the most beautiful locales in all of the Sierra — and directly beneath Mount Darwin, which, at 13,830 feet elevation, is the highest summit in the area.
   And this is where Peter spent his last worldly day. It seems to befit him since he was an artist, a musician of an ancient form, and an obvious lover of Earth’s most spiritual places.
   Peter is featured on several CDs that highlight the didgeridoo (the word itself is musical; pronounce it with an Australian lilt: DIJ-a-ree-DOO) — Whole Earth, Aboriginal Etudes, Didge USA (two-CD set), Crossing Paths, and Joshua Tree 2000.
   The latter CD features at least 15 artists who gathered at the first ever Joshua Tree Didgeridoo Festival, which was founded and organized by Peter, with assistance from buddies Grahm and Trish. The JT Didge Fest has been held each year since in Joshua Tree.

  “We took [organization of the Festival] over as Peter became too busy to organize it and we all wanted it to continue,” explained Grahm and Trish in an email. “We lived close to that area at the time and it was easy for us to do. But, last year, we made a major (and wonderful) move to Oakhurst, and Joshua Tree became too far away for us as festival organizers. So we made the decision to move it to the forest this year with Peter’s blessing.”
   This year’s sixth annual “Jammin’ Tree” Didgeridoo Festival will be held at the North Fork Community Center and Campground, just outside of Yosemite National Park. The event is scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 15 to 18.
   According to the Festival’s website, the JT Didgefest will host members of the didgeridoo community from throughout the world. Didgeridoo players, performers, hand drummers, and anyone interested in indigenous music is invited to attend.
   Concerts, lessons, and workshops will be held throughout each day. Also, didgeridoos, other instruments, CDs, and handcrafted items will be for sale.
   And, of course, there will be a special tribute performance to the Festival’s late founder and inspiration, Peter Spoecker.


Wayne McKibbin
1945 ~ 2005

   Wayne Carlyle McKibbin of Three Rivers died Monday, July 4, 2005, of brain cancer. He was 59.
   A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 16, 3 p.m., at the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers.
Wayne was born Nov. 29, 1945, in Maryland to Katherine Bell and Carlyle Rentz McKibbin. He was raised in Westby, Wis.
   According to Wayne’s daughter, Terah Pack of Exeter: “My father accomplished in 59 years what many never accomplish in a lifetime — having a number-one hit and a Platinum album, skydiving, sweats with Indians, a calling from God that led my father on an amazing journey as a minister then chaplain at the Susanville prison, where he found his true calling with the men that most had forgotten. This inspired my father to launch his ‘Freedom from Addiction’ program.

  “My father was lucky enough to find one true love in life, my mother, Diane. While in the 10th grade, he played at my mother’s high school prom. When my mother is asked about that night, she always smiles and answers, ‘I knew I had found the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.’

  “If this man had not been my father, I would have felt very blessed to have known him. With faith, forgiveness, and love, some day this loss will become easier to deal with. Until then, we mourn the loss of one of God’s children.”
   Wayne was a minister, chaplain, and meditation teacher for the past two decades. In 1991, the McKibbin family moved to Three Rivers where Wayne was pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church. They have lived in Three Rivers off and on since then.
   Wayne is survived by his wife of nearly 42 years, Diane; four children, Todd, Tracey, Tegan, and Terah; his mother, Katherine; nine grandchildren; three brothers; and two sisters.

Anna Miller
1939 ~ 2005

   Anna Amelia Miller, a former resident of Three Rivers currently residing in Visalia, died Friday, July 1, 2005, of cancer. She was 66.
   Anna was born in Sonora, Mexico, the oldest daughter of Anita Soleno. She was raised in Woodlake and attended Woodlake schools.
   Throughout her life, Anna lived off and on in Three Rivers, the last time being from 1991 to 1994. She raised her children as a single parent, having been preceded in death by her husband, William “Bill” Miller.
   She has also resided in Texas, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and the California communities of San Jose, Boulder Creek, Ojai, and Visalia.
   Anna is survived by her sons, Michael Miller and Edward Miller, both of Visalia; daughters Tina Miller of Ojai and Tavia Johnson of Visalia; her mother, Anita Soleno of Woodlake; three sisters; four brothers; and 11 grandchildren.
   Private services were held. Memorial donations may be sent in Anna’s name to: Tulare County Hospice, 900 W. Oak St., Visalia, CA 93291.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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