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

In the News - Friday, JULY 21, 2006


Body recovered

from East Fork

   Nearly three weeks after she was swept away in the whitewater of the East Fork of the Kaweah River, a joint search-and-rescue task force recovered the body of Chasity Dorn. Dorn, 20, of Tulare, had been wading in a calm pool when she slipped on the slick rock and into the treacherous swift water while on a family outing in the vicinity of the Oak Grove Bridge.
   A resident of the area, who on Wednesday, July 12, searched an area where he had spotted another victim several years ago, discovered Dorn’s body.
   The resident and a friend who aided in the discovery rappelled down a sheer cliff to search a location where one of the men had located a male swimmer nearly a decade ago. That victim drowned after entering the water in the same vicinity as Dorn.
   Though Dorn was not in the exact location, the two men spotted her body a short distance away, just 300 yards downstream from the historic bridge, which is six miles from Highway 198 on the Mineral King Road.
   Deputy Jim Fansett, who assisted in the recovery, said a tactical team was able to secure the victim, who was partially exposed in whitewater that was five to six feet in depth. The narrow gorge in the area is boxed by sheer overhanging cliffs and the river channel is only 12 to 15 feet in width.
   Sequoia Mountain Rescue personnel assisted the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department in the recovery. A CHP helicopter airlifted the victim out of the steep canyon.

Petty theft

spikes in 3R

   As one recent theft victim put it, it’s one of the more annoying aspects of becoming “civilized.” Petty thievery has become nearly a daily occurrence in Three Rivers during the busy summer season.
Jim Fansett, Three Rivers resident deputy sheriff, said in the past four weeks he has received a number of reported thefts and he’s working more hours to see that the individuals involved are stopped.

  “To have a rise in these break-ins and thefts during the summer is not that unusual,” Deputy Fansett said. “But what makes me angry is when the elderly are targeted or [the thieves] endanger folks with their stupidity.”
   Fansett said he has several suspects in the recent incidents and hopes to put a stop soon to the rise in criminal activity. The most recent incident came to light on Tuesday, July 18, after a fire was set on North Fork Drive to cover an apparent burglary of a garage.
   In that theft, a battery charger, bolt cutters, and some copper tubing were stolen from a garage next to a North Fork residence. When he discovered the items missing, the owner of the property, Byron Miksch, called the sheriff’s dispatcher to report the theft.
   At approximately 9 a.m., while he was waiting for Deputy Fansett to come on duty and take the report, his garage suddenly burst into flames. Complicating the response by firefighters was the fact that Tulare County CDF personnel had been rotated to the Yucca Valley fire in San Bernardino County.
   And although one light engine was quick to respond, the flames could not be doused in the blaze until an hour later after a contingent of firefighters had arrived from Fresno County. Fortunately, the fire was contained to the garage and a shed and the victim’s home was not damaged.
   An estimate of the loss in the fire, which included the structures, tools, and a 1991 Saturn, is $40,000. The cause of the blaze is under investigation but possibly was ignited from a leaking propane tank.
   Deputy Fansett said the recent series of thefts began last month when several unlocked vehicles were burglarized and other items were stolen from sheds and outbuildings. Around the Fourth of July holiday, several Sierra Drive businesses reported thefts including more copper tubing at one business.
   Another business owner, who asked not to be identified, lost valuable personal items taken from his Sierra Drive home while he was asleep in another room.
   In that incident, some of the items taken in the theft were found in a port-a-potty behind the Village Market complex. The victim said he lost a cell phone and $200 cash that was in his stolen wallet.

  “These thefts are the price we pay for becoming civilized here in Three Rivers,” said the victim, who has been in business here since the 1960s. “I know it’s tough for a young person to make it around here and when they get hooked on drugs we get a taste of what life is like in the big city.”
   Anyone with information that could aid in stemming the recent tide of thefts is asked to call Deputy Fansett at 561-4653.

Firefighters find

archaeological sites

on California’s public lands

   When fire sweeps over a landscape, the outcome is often devastating. Even after a “prescribed” fire, the benefits of reintroducing fire to an area that hasn’t burned in many years aren’t immediately apparent.
   But with more frequency, firefighters are making archaeological discoveries that, in reality, just wouldn’t happen unless there was a fire.
   In recent years, it’s become common to hear that the Park Service has found pot in Sequoia, and most know that means marijuana gardens. But late last month, National Park Service firefighters working on the Horse Trail Prescribed Fire in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park found a different kind of pot.
   What they discovered was a significant piece of pottery. The Native American pot, known to archaeologists as Owens Valley brownware, is undecorated, unpainted, and light brown in color.
   There have been many fragments of the pottery — made in the Owens Valley 150 to 500 years ago — recovered from sites on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. But what is interesting about this find is that it is almost intact, seven inches tall with a mouth nine inches wide.
   Fire crews had been made aware of important sites in the area but this artifact was a surprise.

  “Finding a nearly complete pot is rare in my experience,” said Tom Burge, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks archaeologist. “The engine crew should be applauded because their actions probably saved the pot from further damage.”
   When thousands of acres are burned over, as in the case of wildfire, the discovery of archaeological sites is one benefit of what mostly is viewed as a disaster. The California Department of Forestry (CDF) now has six archaeologists that are assigned to the state’s biggest wildfires in the hope of protecting cultural sites.

  “The CDF wants to be aware of these [undiscovered] sites and avoid damaging them,” said Richard Jenkins, CDF archaeologist. “We’re not going to endanger lives or property to save a site but we might adjust our use of bulldozers if we know it’s going to save a site.”
   Jenkins and another archaeologist were able to discover and preserve several new site locations on a recent fire in the foothills east of San Jose. The two scientific fire crew members are part of a state mandate that came after the 2002 Pines Fire burned over 51 square miles east of San Diego.
   Bulldozers used to fight the fire damaged several known areas rich in spiritual and archaeological significance. But the fire also exposed some previously unrecorded sites including an 8,000-year-old village site near Mount Laguna.
   Jenkins said that fire was a real turning point for CDF. Now at least one or two archaeologists are assigned to every fire.

Generals Highway

reconstruction to

begin next week

   Construction crews will be mobilizing on Monday, July 24, in preparation of beginning work on the continuing reconstruction of the historic Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park.
   In this, the sixth phase, of the project, the National Park Service, with the assistance of the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce, is being proactive in informing the regional media that traffic delays can be easily minimized and won’t impact a visit to the local mountains. During past phases, local daily newspapers have all but told visitors not to travel via Highway 198 and Three Rivers in order to avoid delays.
   The current construction will take place on a 1.5-mile stretch of road between Big Fern Springs (9.2 miles from the Ash Mountain entrance station) and Amphitheater Point, widening the highway from 18 to 22 feet and rebuilding the stone retaining walls. Most work will occur Mondays through Thursdays from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.
   There will be no work on weekends, federal holidays, and only on occasion at night.
   Work will be halted at the top of every hour throughout the day and all vehicles in line at that time will be allowed to pass.
Park officials and the local chamber of commerce will be assisting travelers by strategically planning their departure from Three Rivers and Ash Mountain on the lower end and Giant Forest on the upper end to minimize the time spent sitting idly in line.
   Public comment sought-- In the five-year plan of the ongoing Generals Highway reconstruction, two more sections are planned to be completed. In the seventh phase, the work will take place in the 1.5-mile section between Amphitheater Point and Deer Ridge.
   The next phase will be an 8.5-mile stretch from the Wolverton Road junction to the Little Baldy turnout.
   This work is projected to begin in 2008. In preparation, the Park Service is accepting public input on the upcoming phases.
   Questions and/or comments must be sent by Thursday, Aug. 10, to: Superintendent, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 47050 Generals Hwy., Three Rivers, CA 93271; or emailed to:

Llightning-caused fires

discovered in Sequoia

   As a result of the thunderstorm activity occurring almost daily in the Sierra Nevada mountains over the past couple of weeks, it’s no surprise that a fire, or four, would be discovered.
   Fire officials are monitoring two lightning-caused blazes in the Golden Trout Wilderness of Sequoia National Forest. Both are now more than 200 acres and being allowed to burn naturally.
   On Tuesday, July 18, two lightning fires were discovered in the same region and within a few miles of each other in the southern part of Sequoia National Park west of Hockett Meadows.
   According to Jody Lyle, fire information officer at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, the two small fires are contained at an acre or less.
   The 619-acre Upper Redwood Prescribed Fire, which is about three miles southeast of Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Parks and in the vicinity of the headwaters of the North Fork of the Kaweah River, was ignited Wednesday, July 5. Ignitions on the burn are complete and it is currently in patrol status, according to Jody.
   This fire caused some smoky mornings in Three Rivers for about a week as nighttime breezes carried smoke down the North Fork canyon, but the reversal of airflows in midmorning carried the smoke up and away from town each day.

Peak bloom reaches

the high country

   If considering heading uphill in an attempt to escape the heat, make a stop between 7,000 and 8,000 feet in elevation where the temperature is at least 30 degrees cooler and the scenery is currently in full color.
   Easily accessible meadows are currently brimming with wildflowers. For instance, in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, an easy walk on the one-mile “Nature Trail,” between Cold Springs Campground and the east end of the valley, will reveal dozens of species in bloom — leopard lily, Indian paintbrush, wild geranium, columbine, wild onion, lupine, arnica, primrose, shinleaf, wallflower… you get the picture.
   Don’t delay because the blooms continue to move gradually higher in elevation so soon it will require a much steeper walk to enjoy flowers and green grasses.

3R rape case

on its way to

state’s high court

   From the beginning, when he was arrested and jailed in February 2002 on rape charges during an incident at Lake Kaweah, Gary Tomlin of Three Rivers has claimed he is innocent.
   Now, four years later, several nationally-recognized experts have evaluated results of Tomlin’s recent polygraph tests and want the court to render a new verdict: innocent.
   In 2003, Tomlin, then 40, was sentenced to 51 years-to-life and is currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison, located southeast of Sacramento in Amador County. He was convicted on the testimony of the Woodlake man he allegedly raped.
   Tomlin testified that what occurred at the Slick Rock Recreation Area was a consensual sexual encounter. In a series of letters to The Kaweah Commonwealth written from his various jail cells over the years, Tomlin has always maintained his innocence and remained hopeful that one day he would be exonerated while also describing the horrors of prison life.
   Cynthia Dupuis, a Visalia private investigator who was retained by Tomlin’s family after his conviction, said she was shocked by the lack of investigation done prior to Tomlin’s jury trial. There was no physical evidence or any investigation into the credibility of the alleged victim, she said.
   INNOCENT!, a Michigan-based agency that works with the families and friends of those who claim to be wrongly convicted, made public Tomlin’s polygraph results on July 18. The findings support Tomlin’s claim of innocence and were corroborated by experts at Johns Hopkins University.
   A spokesperson for the nonprofit organization said that Tomlin’s case is currently headed for the California Supreme Court and they are confident the verdict will be overturned.

Dogs invited to learn

all about rattlesnakes

   For the second year, professional dog trainer Patrick Callaghan will travel to Three Rivers to teach local dogs how to avoid rattlesnakes. The rattlesnake-avoidance training will be held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5 and 6, at Paul and Amanya Wasserman’s River Ridge Ranch on the North Fork.
   During last year’s event, 58 dogs were trained by Callaghan. He uses proven techniques to humanely teach each dog how to avoid being bitten by a rattlesnake.
   Callaghan uses muzzled rattlers in a controlled environment and works one-on-one with each dog. He will teach them to how to respond to the sight, sound, and smell of a rattlesnake to avoid being bitten and also alert their owners when a snake is in the vicinity.
   Callaghan recommends that dogs who have been previously trained to take a review snake-avoidance lesson annually to further strengthen their rattlesnake awareness.
   Callaghan has been a professional dog trainer for 30 years. He is the owner and director of the Gameland Kennels Dog Training Center in Norco.
   The cost to attend the event is about $65 to $70 per dog. To register or for more information, call the Wassermans, 561-3061.

Cool off at church’s

‘Ice Cream Social’

   Nothing says ice cream more than a month-long run of triple-digit temperatures. That’s why the timing couldn’t be better for the community to turn out at an Ice Cream Social.
   The event, which also includes an ice cream-making contest, will be held Sunday, July 30, beginning at 7 p.m., in the Harrison Fellowship Hall at the Community Presbyterian Church. It is sponsored by the Koinonia group at the Community Presbyterian Church.
   Community members are welcome to donate a batch of cookies or bring their favorite homemade ice cream.
   A competition will be held with prizes awarded for Best Vanilla, Best Chocolate, and Best Other Flavor ice creams.
   All proceeds from ice cream and cookie sales will benefit the Presbyterian church.
   For more information or to sign up to enter the contest, call Nikki Crain, 561-4048.


Joe Mooneyham
1936 ~ 2006

   Joe Mooneyham of Three Rivers died Sunday, July 9, 2006. He was 70.

  “Joe didn’t want funeral services,” said his wife, Carlene. “He wanted a party!”
   On Sunday, Sept. 10, a celebration of Joe’s life will be held and the Mooneyhams’ 50th anniversary will be commemorated.
   Joe was born May 5, 1936, to Harmon and Addie Mooneyham in Tungsten, Colo. He was raised in Southern California and lived most of his adult life in Orange County, Calif.
   He had a 47-year career as a longshoreman and crane operator.
Joe and Carlene began their love affair with Three Rivers about 30 years ago. They became property owners and made many trips to Kaweah Country.
   In 1996, they made their rental into a second home. By 2002, they were full-time residents of Three Rivers.
   Joe fought his battles with cancers courageously, said Carlene. The cancers were under control when he had back surgery last year and became a paraplegic.
   He still fought back, but in March 2006, he suffered a heart attack that, coupled with a severely compromised immune system, made him prone to infections. Joe spent the past four months in five different hospitals before succumbing to the infections this month.
   In addition to his wife of 50 years, Carlene, Joe is survived by three children, Scott Mooneyham of Homeland, Calif., Robin Fox of Laguna Niguel, and Eric Mooneyham of Portland, Ore.; eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; his mother, Addie; eight brothers; and two sisters.
   In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Joe’s memory to: Animal Aid, 5335 S.W. 42nd, Portland, OR 97221.
   More information about Joe’s celebration of life will be published when available.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
OFFICE: 41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, California
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
PHONE: (559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118 E-MAIL:
Entire contents of this website © Copyright 2003-2004 by The Kaweah Commonwealth