the News - Friday, July 24, 2009
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
Three Rivers kid dives into the 75-degree water
the upper pool at Slicky. Sure, it looks refreshing,
the Kaweah River is dangerous no matter what
of year and is not a place for inexperienced swimmers.
teens in two days
There have been the recurring close calls
this season but no tragedy. That is, until two teenage
girls drowned in separate incidents in the same pool
on consecutive days of last weekend.
The first victim was Andrea Vedoya, 13,
of Tulare who was at Hospital Rock on a family outing.
The cool, seemingly safe pools below the popular picnic
area are just too much to resist for dozens who have
waded into the ankle- deep water daily during the
current run of triple-digit temperatures.
But just a few feet from shore a chute
with rushing white water empties into a deeper pool
below. Most waders who enter the deadly pool feel
the pull of the rushing current on its fringe and
retreat to the safety of a rock near or on the shore.
On the afternoon of July 18, Andrea felt
the strong current, then tumbled quickly down the
chute and became trapped below a rock in a larger
pool some six to eight feet deep.
“It’s unfortunate, but when a drowning
does occur, it’s an inexperienced swimmer who
gets into trouble,” said Three Rivers resident
deputy Jim Fansett, who assisted park rangers in the
recovery efforts. “Locals would take one look
at this stretch of river and say ‘no way.’”
The frantic call for help came into park
dispatch at 3:30 p.m. One witness at the scene said
a relative of the girl tried to get a rope on her
to pull her out from where she was trapped.
Rangers managed to extricate the victim from the channel
at 4:30 p.m.
“Once the high water of spring has passed, the
river can appear deceptively calm,” said David
Fireman, Ash Mountain ranger. “There are still
strong currents and, in a rocky riverbed, the river
remains dangerous all year.”
The tragedy of Saturday was repeated
Sunday, only this time darkness hindered the search
for Ashley Arrellano. Arrellano, 14, of Exeter was
swept down the same stretch of river. The call for
help came in just after 8 p.m.
By the time rescuers could respond it
was getting too dark to see anything in the rocky
section of the channel where, again, it appeared the
victim was trapped under the same large rock. The
search was abandoned about 10 p.m. and resumed at
first light Monday morning.
This time, divers entered the water but
found no victim or any clues in the vicinity of the
rock. Deputy Fansett, one of the dive team members,
spotted the victim’s body at the bottom of another
pool a few hundred yards downstream.
“Apparently, the girl was trapped under that
same rock for awhile,” Deputy Fansett said.
“At some time during the night, with the changing
water level, the body became dislodged and the current
took the victim downstream.”
Drowning is the number one cause of death
in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In the
past, there have been several drownings at Hospital
Rock, including two other victims who drowned at this
locale in 2003.
cabin (or two) at a time
Restoration ongoing at
ORIGIN OF ‘CABIN CREEK’ PLACE NAME—
Cabin Meadow was so-named for a cabin left there by
a 19th-century sheepherder. The creek name was added
NAMES OF THE SIERRA NEVADA
With high-profile projects like the rehabilitation
of Generals Highway grabbing all the attention of
late, another rehab project is being completed quietly
and under the radar of park visitors and even most
National Park Service employees. Actually, that’s
just the way Ron “Thor” Riksheim and his
crew of five like it.
That’s because these specialized
maintenance/construction workers make up what’s
known in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as
the “historic preservation crew.” Their
current project is the rehabilitation of two Civilian
Conservation Corps-era cabins (1934-1935) and a garage
at Cabin Creek.
The Cabin Creek site is located east
of the Generals Highway and two miles northwest of
Dorst Campground at 6,800 feet.
Although the crew members change with
the seasons, one constant is Thor, the crew’s
supervisor. He has been involved in these preservation
projects since he came on board with Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks in 1993.
Thor, 56, is a native of the Bay Area,
where his parents still reside, and a UC Berkeley
alum. He directs the hands-on historic-preservation
efforts of the local national parks. In the last two
decades, he’s worked at the most important and
remote historic properties in the local parks.
Last season, the crew completed some
rehab work at the Redwood Meadow Ranger Station. He
says that besides that “front-country”
job, among his favorite places to work are the Kern
and Hockett Meadow ranger stations in the backcountry.
But when it comes to historic structures
anywhere in the park, he’s most likely seen
them all, including having the privilege, he said,
of currently living in the restored residence behind
the Giant Forest Museum.
His living quarters, formerly used by
the chief ranger, like the buildings at Cabin Creek,
are listed on The National Register of Historic Places,
so any rehabilitation work done at these sites is
done with great care.
“Recently, historic preservation has undergone
some changes in how the work is done at these sites,”
Thor said. “The language has softened from ‘must
be done’ to ‘should be done.’”
Thor said when working on these old buildings,
it’s just not possible or practical to always
use the same materials. He cited the interior walls
of one of the Cabin Creek cabins as an example. They
are being done with today’s standard sheetrock
and not the 1930s-era composite material. Paint colors,
too, have become uniform throughout the parks, which
makes more sense from a procurement standpoint.
For almost everything else, he said —
the shingle roof, wood siding, granite foundation
— like materials are used exclusively. Every
attempt is made to preserve the original materials
and fixtures like the bathtub and the windows.
Thor lights up when visitors come calling
who have stories or recollections about these historic
On Tuesday, July 14, Jim and Jeanette
Barton of Three Rivers stopped by for a visit. The
Bartons spent 11 summers at Cabin Creek when Jim was
a seasonal ranger during the 1950s and ‘60s.
Cabin Creek has undergone some changes,
the Bartons related, but the place still has its peaceful
forest setting and lots of great memories. Jim, who
worked nearby as the Dorst Campground ranger, said
in those days, there was a network of maintained trails
in the area, including one that led all the way to
the Colony Mill Ranger Station below Crystal Cave.
Recently, Thor said, the Cabin Creek
buildings have been used for their kitchen and bathroom
facilities, similar to the headquarters of a work
camp. The structures, he said, had some serious issues
and were urgently in need of repair.
Thor said it will probably take another
month to finish at Cabin Creek, then he and his crew
will move on to the Pear Lake Ranger Station to re-roof
that historic structure. Thor’s job of historical
preservation in some of the most beautiful settings
anywhere is the proverbial “tough job”
but, he agreed, someone has to do it.
Making the List:
the National Register
The National Register of Historic Places
(NR) is the nation’s official list of cultural
resources worthy of preservation. The program was
authorized under the National Historic Preservation
Act of 1966 and is administered by the National Park
Service, under the auspices of the Department of the
The National Register is part of a national
program to coordinate public and private efforts to
identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archaeological
resources. Properties listed in the Register include
districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects
that are significant in American history, architecture,
archaeology, engineering, and culture.
Throughout the United States, there are
85,014 places listed and, at last count, 13,594 historic
In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks, there are more than three dozen sites, structures,
and objects listed, or determined eligible to be listed,
on the NR. Each listing includes several pages of
documents consisting of site mapping, descriptions,
and a statement of why the property is significant.
The majority of the listings in Sequoia
and Kings Canyon National Parks, including the Cabin
Creek property (1978), were listed in the late 1970s.
The last and most recent local parks resource to be
listed for inclusion in the NR is the Mineral King
Road Cultural Landscape (2003).
The Cabin Creek ranger residence and
dormitory are situated in a dense conifer forest at
6,800 feet. The two buildings are in a line approximately
50 yards west of the creek.
Both structures are wood frame, resting
on concrete foundations faced with native granite.
The wood-shingled roofs are supported by pole rafters
and gable brackets.
The ranger residence is a three-room
house with one bath; it is a rectangular building
measuring 34 by 21 feet, including its front and rear
The adjacent dormitory structure measures
23 by 45 feet and is divided into two halves; the
south half is a two-room dormitory with bath and the
northern half is a two-car garage. Like the adjoining
ranger residence, it includes front and rear porches
under its rectangular roof.
The Cabin Creek ranger residence and
dorm are excellent examples of National Park Service
rustic architecture. They were built by Civilian Conservation
Camp (CCC) enrollees during 1934 and 1935, coinciding
with the opening of the Generals Highway extension
to General Grant National Park (now Kings Canyon National
Originally, the cabins housed NPS rangers
who worked at the then-new, but now gone Lost Grove
by Sarah Elliott
My earliest memories are of Cabin Creek in
Sequoia National Park. Even before entering
the cabin last week during our tour of the
site, I knew the floor plan, right down to
This cabin was my summer home
from the ages of 1 to 4. My parents, Jim and
Jeanette Barton, lived there for 11 summers
total, although they were stationed several
other places, too, during my dad’s more
than two decades as a seasonal ranger.
I credit this upbringing, which
also included summers in Yellowstone, with
imprinting on me a love for wild places and
the natural world. My childhood summers were
spent away from television and telephone and
even electricity, with the majority of my
days being spent outside and at elevations
of 6,800 to 7,800 feet.
The Cabin Creek area is located
along the Generals Highway between Dorst Campground
and Lost Grove. The cabins are situated well
off the road and where the forest gives way
to a meadow.
As the name implies, there is
a creek that meanders by in front of the cabin.
Wading and fishing for minnows with line tied
to a stick were how this waterway was utilized.
The clothesline is still out
back. My mom used a propane gas wringer washer
on the back porch.
These days, the access road to
the cabin seems shorter. Maybe it’s
just that my legs are longer than they were
when my mom would walk my brother and me to
the end of the driveway to meet my dad when
he came from work.
It was an idyllic setting from
which to embark on the rest of my life. It
is part of the reason I chose to return to
Three Rivers and the Sierra to raise my children.
Pot plots targeted in foothills
In 2008, it was the remote foothills
and mountainous areas on public lands in Tulare County
that got all the attention and grabbed headlines for
huge pot busts. Last July and August, more than 100,000
plants with a street value of millions of dollars
This year, it’s the same story
but most of the manpower and resources have been shifted
northward to Fresno County. During the past two weeks,
more than 300 law officers from 17 agencies have been
flying over and hiking up and down some of the more
remote areas in the forested public lands east of
Each season, a state task force selects
a region to attack in their war on illicit marijuana
growers. This year, it’s Fresno County’s
turn to receive the funding and the personnel.
Chris Curtice, a spokesperson for the
Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, said dozens
have been arrested and a cache of weapons has been
confiscated. The campaign, dubbed “Operation
Save Our Sierra,” has pulled out thousands of
plants grown almost exclusively by Mexican cartels.
The cartels plant the pot patches, and
Mexican nationals tend the plots and guard the rapidly
maturing cash crop. These illegal guest gardeners
often stay in the forests for several months as payment
for their resettlement.
What they leave behind, the tons of refuse,
may even be a more serious long-term problem than
the pot itself. The illicit camps scar the environment
and cost untold millions to mitigate the damage to
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
have cleaned up a few sites but are awaiting funding
to restore all the damage from 2008. This year, local
park rangers have located and eradicated more plots,
some in areas that were used in the past.
The cartels know some of their plots
will be located and destroyed, but the profits of
the others not found, estimated to be as high as 70
percent, will more than offset the losses. Sheriff
Bill Wittman, who headed up Tulare County’s
eradication team in 2008, said that in one “stepped
up” month his officers and the task force wiped
out about 10 percent of the total season’s crop
in Tulare County.
“I’d like to believe we got even more
than that,” Wittman told the audience at a Three
Rivers town meeting last spring.
Sequoia rangers, who have stepped up
local efforts since 2001, believe they have driven
most of the growers out of Kaweah drainages inside
park boundaries. But the fact remains, the cartels
are still operating in Tulare County on public lands
and will continue to do so as long as there are huge
profits to be reaped.
Traffic delays on Generals
Beginning last week, the Generals Highway
road rehabilitation began in earnest. The current
phase of roadwork is occurring between Halstead Meadow
and the Little Baldy summit.
Asphalt is being removed on this section
of roadway, so travelers will be driving on dirt until
the paving is complete. The Park Service is urging
motorcyclists and bicycle riders to especially use
caution when on this section of the Generals Highway.
One-hour delays should be expected between
8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Half-hour delays will occur from
6 to 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Traffic release will occur simultaneously
at the top of the hour from both directions during
the one-hour delay period. For the 30-minute delays,
traffic will be let through simultaneously at the
top and bottom of the hour.
On a nearby section of road — from
the Wuksachi intersection to Halstead Meadow —
there will be intermittent periods of miscellaneous
work, including installation of an underdrain. Continuous
single-lane traffic flow will occur with minimal delays.
Those massive thunderheads that built
up over the nearby mountains on July 18 and 19 not
only brought some significant rainfall to Mineral
King on Sunday, they also brought numerous lightning
strikes. At least five of those strikes ignited fires
from Hockett Meadow in the southern portion of Sequoia
Park to Burnt Mountain north of Tehipite Valley in
Kings Canyon National Park.
The Horse Fire located
at 9,100 feet near the headwaters of Horse Creek had
charred about two acres as of July 23. It’s
currently been assigned an active status and some
smoke is visible from Mineral King.
It has some potential for growth so two monitors have
been detailed to the area to assess fuels and potential
The Laurel and Red
Spur fires are both burning in the Kern River
drainage. Neither blaze is active or considered much
of a threat to spread beyond the approximately one-tenth
of an acre already burned.
The Scaffold Fire, burning
near Scaffold Meadow north of the Roaring River Ranger
Station, has burned less than an acre at 8,000 feet.
It shows some potential for growth so fire managers
are keeping a close watch.
The Burnt Fire is burning
near Burnt Mountain at an elevation of 9,000 feet.
It has burned less than an acre and shows little potential
Currently, there is no threat to lives
or property from any of the fires burning in the nearby
Extreme heat may aggravate
The heatwave that Tulare County is currently
experiencing is making everyone uncomfortable, but
individuals with chronic health conditions such as
heart disease, diabetes, and asthma and other lung
conditions can be especially sensitive to these extreme
“The body’s normal response to heat can
be adversely affected by chronic health conditions,”
said Dr. Karen Haught, Tulare County Health Officer.
“Many medicines prescribed for chronic conditions
such as depression, insomnia, and poor circulation
impair the body’s ability to control temperature
or inhibit perspiration.”
In addition, air quality in Tulare County
is a serious factor, and air quality actually worsens
during a heatwave, affecting individuals with chronic
health conditions even more. Those with asthma or
other respiratory illnesses are urged to monitor their
respiratory health and seek medical treatment as needed.
Also, know the symptoms for heat exhaustion
and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion— This
is typically caused when people who are not well adjusted
to heat exercise in a hot, humid environment. Fluids
and salt are lost through sweating, causing the body
Symptoms include: paleness with cool,
moist skin; sweating profusely; muscle cramps or pains;
feeling faint or dizzy; headache, weakness, thirst,
and nausea; and elevated core temperature and increased
Heat exhaustion may be treated by cooling
the body and drinking fluids. Call a doctor if the
person is unable to keep fluids down or if their mental
status begins to deteriorate.
Heat stroke— The
classic form occurs in people whose cooling mechanisms
are impaired. The exertional form occurs in previously
healthy people who are undergoing strenuous activity
in a hot environment.
Symptoms include loss of consciousness
or a markedly abnormal mental status (dizziness, confusion,
hallucinations, or coma); flushed, hot, dry skin;
slightly elevated blood pressure that falls later;
hyperventilating; core temperature of 105 degrees
Suspected heat stroke is a life-threatening
medical emergency. Go to the hospital or call an ambulance
and request information as to what to do until the
The best defense against heat-related illness is prevention.
Extreme heat tips include:
—Stay indoors and avoid extreme temperature
—Limit activity indoors and, especially, outside.
—Drink a lot of water or other
fluids, but avoid coffee, soda with caffeine, tea,
and alcohol, as these dehydrate the body.
—Use electrical fans to circulate cool air at
home and at work.
—Wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting
—If the power fails, go to a friend’s
house, local business, or a local cooling center.
—If feeling ill, attempt cooling measures before
seeking medical attention, such as moving to a cooler
area, minimizing activity, drinking fluids, and using
cool, wet cloths or other methods to cool the body.
—Seek medical attention if symptoms develop
such as heavy sweating, cramps, weakness, dizziness,
nausea, confusion, throbbing headache, or rapid heart
—If struggling with finances, make the electric
bill a priority. If needed, contact the electric company
about payment options for electric bills.
Travel club sets sights on
Rivers and Sequoia National Park
On Friday through Sunday, Aug. 14 to
16, about 100 enthusiasts of this country’s
national parks will converge on Three Rivers and Sequoia.
The reason for this mass trek is for folks to attend
the seventh annual convention of the National Park
This year’s convention will be
headquartered at Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National
Park, but members, and some non-members, will be staying
throughout the area and visiting the local attractions.
The National Park Travelers Club (NPTC)
was officially formed in 2004 at the second annual
gathering of a group of people who met via the Internet
to talk about the parks and exchange information about
the Passport Stamps that can be obtained at any national
park, part of the “Passports to Your National
The Passports serve as a way to record
your visits to national parks by taking the booklet
to a “Cancellation Station,” typically
found in the visitor centers.
Since that time, the club has incorporated
and is currently seeking 501(c)7 status with the IRS.
On the club’s website — www.parkstamps.org
— the NPTC maintains a list of all known variations
of the Passport cancellation stamps at the parks (the
“Master List”), as well as a Google map
of all the known locations using GPS coordinates (the
Among the NPTC membership are those who
have actually visited all 391 national parks units,
some of which are only accessible by float plane (Alaska).
Each year, the club has its annual convention
at a different national park, and for the locations,
they alternate the “regions” that are
outlined by the Passport program. This year, the NPTC
chose the Western Region for the convention, and Sequoia
National Park as the host park.
“Sequoia National Park is welcoming us with
open arms and will provide guest speakers for attendees,”
said Tristan Davis, NPTC convention host and membership
director. “Addi-tionally, representatives of
the Tubatulabals of Kern Valley will give a presentation
to those attending.”
All in all, it looks to be one of the
most well-attended conventions the group has had to
date, and the agenda is packed. In addition to the
convention meeting Saturday afternoon, there will
be a dinner gathering in Three Rivers on Friday night,
a Junior Ranger activity on Saturday morning for families,
and a special ranger-guided hike on Sunday.
To top it all off, the NPTC will have
a special Passport Stamp specific to the convention
and the park that will be available only during the
convention weekend and only to attendees of the convention.
“All of the convention meetings and activities
are open to the public,” said Tristan. “Although
we hope everyone will want to join our club when they
see how much fun we have!”
Food, fun, and firefighters
A festival in July? It’s too hot!
That is what people said when the Three
Rivers Historical Society wanted to plan a fundraiser
in conjunction with the Three Rivers volunteer firefighters.
And because it was July, the traditional thing to
do was to have a “Hot Dog” Festival.
Hot or not, it all came together and
was an overwhelming success. Expecting 100 to 200
people, the volunteer firefighters and museum volunteers
ultimately served hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, and root
beer floats to more than 500.
While the Three Rivers volunteer firefighters
manned the barbecues, fire safety information was
provided by Cal Fire and National Park Service personnel.
This was a multi-community event, supported
by seven health-industry businesses from Visalia,
as well as U.S. Food Services, Culligan Water of Lindsay,
and the A&W Root Beer Floatmobile. Music was provided
by Mankin Creek, consisting of Esther Zurcher and
Keith Hamm of Three Rivers.
It was the hard work of a lot of volunteers
and the support of the community that made the Hot
Dog Festival such a success.
According to Nancy Brunson, Historical
Society vice president, crowds began gathering around
11 a.m. Many tourists dropped by just to see what
was going on.
She said that Historical Society volunteers
agreed that about half of the event attendees were
locals supporting the firefighters and museum, while
the other half were tourists.
“One charming family from Europe hesitated to
order root beer floats as their children had never
tasted root beer,” said Nancy. “After
taste-testing the beverage, they ordered root beer
floats all around!”
Shade tents with tables, red-checkered
tablecloths, festive decorations, and hay-bale seating
provided the perfect spot to enjoy a midday meal.
Woodlake Car Show: It’s
How could a day at the park be so cool,
even when it’s over 100 degrees outside?
Start with Woodlake City Park. Now add
dozens of the coolest, smoothest, chopped, nosed,
decked, shaved, frenched, immaculately painted, metal
sculptures on wheels.
Then add in the wide variety of other
show-quality rides that made up the 11th annual Woodlake
Custom Car and Bike Show.
With 164 entrants, the July 18 show was
a resounding success for the Woodlake Valley Chamber
of Commerce and for all who attended. There were 84
trophies awarded to proud winners in 38 judging categories.
The passion for these showpieces spans
generations, as with Vinny Carlos’s award-winning
1938 Chevrolet coupe. Vinny has spent countless hours
building the car in honor of his father Louis Carlos,
the Chevy’s previous owner.
The “Oldies But Goodies”
cruise night on Friday, July 17, was also a night
of fun, show, and shine. Throughout the weekend activities,
there were no incidents reported by the Woodlake Police
For the first time, the Tulare County
R/C Club hosted a series of 1/10-scale races, which
created spectator interest.
“We will be back next year,” said organizer
Bill Drewry of Three Rivers has a shiny new 2009 trophy
to go with his 1926 Ford Model T pickup. Back in 1968,
Bill helped a friend move the ol’ flivver, then
a “basket case,” from Visalia to Bonanza,
Over the next decade, the Ford was restored,
and last year Bill bought the Tin Lizzie and brought
her back to Tulare County.
“I’ve really been enjoying it,”
said Bill. “It’s a real kick to drive.”
Some get their kicks on Route 66. With
the annual Woodlake Car Show, the “Oldies but
Goodies” cruise night, and the newly featured
remote-control car races, Kaweah Country residents
can get their kicks a lot closer to home.
For the 12th annual Custom Car Show dates,
stay tuned to THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH or contact the
Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce at 564-6559.
In recent years, you may have noticed stickers glued
to your store-bought produce. You most likely notice
them only when you are preparing to eat the food and
must first remove the label.
These stickers actually contain information
that are helpful when making a produce purchase:
—Conventional produce has a four-digit number.
—Organic produce has a five-digit number that
starts with a 9.
—Genetically modified (GM) produce has a five-digit
number that starts with an 8.
These PLU (price look-up) stickers are
optional, so GM fruit may not be voluntarily labeled
due to the ongoing controversy surrounding this type
How to buy organic… or
IN AN IDEAL WORLD, all of the food we consume would
be organic (and locally grown). But, unfortunately,
not only are organic foods harder on the wallet, some
organic items can be more difficult to find as well.
The Environmental Working Group has recently
updated their list of the best fruits and vegetables
to buy organic and those that are lowest in pesticides.
If we can’t eat a completely organic diet, we
can at least cut down our exposure to harmful pesticides
by choosing our organics wisely.
Here is the new list of the Dirty Dozen,
the best foods to buy organic, starting with the worst:
peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarine,
strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, grapes, carrots,
Here are the Clean Fifteen, the fruits
and vegetables that are the lowest in pesticides:
onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes,
asparagus, sweet peas, kiwis, cabbage, eggplants,
papayas, watermelons, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet