In the News -
Friday, JULY 21, 2006
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
A resident of the area, who on Wednesday, July 12, searched
an area where he had spotted another victim several years ago, discovered
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
1936 ~ 2006
Joe Mooneyham of Three Rivers died Sunday, July 9, 2006.
He was 70.
want funeral services,” said his wife, Carlene. “He wanted
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
More information about Joe’s celebration of life will
be published when available.