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In the News - Friday, August 24, 2012




North Fork chicken coop destroyed by fire


  The embers from last week’s Fork Fire (Aug. 14) were barely cold when another fire ignited less than one-half mile away on a remote part of ranch property located at 42045 North Fork Drive. That blaze was reported at 3:10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 16; firefighters arriving on the scene a few minutes later found a chicken coop fully involved with fire.

  A neighbor, who lived on an adjacent property west and upslope of where the fire started awakened to the smell of smoke and called for help after seeing flames burning nearby. The fire reportedly started when a spark shorted from an electrical enclosure system at the site.

  During the nights leading up to the fire, the caretaker’s remote camera at the site recorded a large black bear attempting to get food inside the coop.

  “It’s entirely possible that the black bear caused a short that sparked the fire,” said Jeremy Railton, the owner of the property. “We have always respected the local birds and animals and practice defensive management at the site meaning the wildlife comes first. When we rebuild we know what to do to prevent this from happening again.”   

  Dozens of chickens housed in the two connected coops died while firefighters doused the flames of the 16-by-40-foot long structure. The caretaker of the property, the owner’s brother, managed 10 chickens before the coop’s structure collapsed.

  The estimated value of the 40 chickens lost in the fire is $5,500; the loss of the structure is estimated at $8,000.

   “We were extremely fortunate on this fire, containing it when we did, especially given the time of day,” said a firefighter who doused flames in and around the burning structure. “If these flames would have spread to all this dense vegetation nearby it would have been a disaster that could have burned out of control for quite some time.”


Opinion: In case of fire


By John Elliott


  It’s not often that the reporting party is also the reporter. That’s exactly what happened in the chicken coop fire as I was the first to spot the fire and did what any neighbor would do: call 911 and alert all who live nearby.

  From my vantage point above the fire, but also potentially in the fire’s path, it was difficult to pinpoint exactly where the fire was, but as flames entered the oak trees and lit up the sky, it was obvious that this fire had the ability to grow and consume, and fast. Here are some firsthand observations from the experience:

  —Three Rivers and the foothills environs are tinder-dry. There is so much static electricity in the air that the slightest spark can cause a disaster of untold proportions. Even spontaneous combustion is possible. Be constantly vigilant for ignition sources.

  —A key factor in catching the chicken coop blaze in the nick of time was the smell of smoke. When there are prescribed fires burning in Sequoia, we are desensitized to the smell of smoke. There was so much smoke last summer that if the same situation had occurred, I might have just closed the windows and gone back to sleep. Not so this year. I knew immediately upon catching a whiff of smoke that it was cause for alarm.

  —Blackened oak leaves from the trees above the chicken coop wafted up on the prevailing air currents and landed on our house and property a quarter-mile from the site of the fire even though there was not a hint of a breeze. Those leaves could have landed anywhere and, poof, more fire. Fire doesn’t recognize property boundaries.

  —Try locating a fire on your property in the dark of night. Are you prepared while in the panic mode to have someone ready to direct the fire engines into your property? Do you have overhead clearance in and around your driveway so the engines can get in once they do find your location? In the event of having just minutes to evacuate, do you know what you would take and how (children, pets, vehicles, valuables, computers, documents, photographs)?

  —This fire was on a neighboring property, accessed by a driveway a quarter-mile up-canyon from ours. But our house and my in-laws’ home, located directly upslope, were in the direct line of fire literally. Would firefighters be able to find the driveway to our remote residences? Are we prepared to defend our own homes?

  —Where are firefighters going to get water to extinguish your fire? First responders have a few hundred gallons of water and that’s equivalent to turning on a sprinkler in a forest fire. If you want to douse a structure fire, you best have a water source (ditch, swimming pool, water tanks) clearly marked and ready with your own pumping units. Be sure to map and photograph your property and take copies to be filed at the local fire stations. Let the fire department know your disaster plan.

  That’s probably more disaster preparedness information than you want to think about right now. But remember we still aren’t out of the woods in this fire season until we experience a good soaking rain or two. Whatever you do to be more proactive about risk of wildland fire remember this: the life and home you save just might be your own.


Chief Zapalac retires from Woodlake PD


  The charismatic but often embattled chief of the Woodlake Police Department, John Zapalac, retired Monday, Aug. 20. Ramon Lara, city manager of Woodlake, issued a statement announcing the retirement earlier this week, stating that city administrators could not publicly discuss Zapalac’s sudden departure but did say that immediate action was necessary to facilitate the recruitment of the new chief.

  Zapalac could not be reached for comment but in recent months, he and several of his officers clashed with city council members over a number of budget-related items, including overtime, fuel costs for the Camp Zap bus, whether officers should be permitted to take home city-owned vehicles, and pursuit of suspects outside of Woodlake city limits.

  Zapalac, a former deputy with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, came on loan to the City of Woodlake in 1998 to serve as interim police chief. The following year he was named Woodlake’s police chief, a post he held until this week.

  Prior to his Woodlake appointment, Zapalac also served as resident deputy in Three Rivers.  Since becoming Woodlake’s chief in 1998, he was proud of the fact that there was a significant drop in crime rates, a fact he attributed to his proactive youth programs.

  Chief Zapalac not only re-started the department’s Explorer Program but along with wife Minerva founded Camp Zap, a program that provided Woodlake youth and other at-risk kids from nearby communities a weekend retreat that taught campers that success in life depended on choices they would be making throughout their school years.

  Judges, ex-offenders, and other inspirational speakers used the rural setting of Zapalac’s Lemon Cove ranch to inspire campers to be respectful to authority figures and travel the “straight and narrow path” in life, resisting the temptations of joining a gang or pursuing a life of crime.

  The camp was expanded in 2007 to include youth from other communities outside Woodlake. More than 7,000 school-age youth have attended Camp Zap since it was founded in 1999.

  Zapalac’s camp — which grew in popularity as area youth enjoyed the twice yearly campouts, many sleeping outdoors, hiking and canoeing for the first time ever — was funded primarily by a coalition of nonprofits including Woodlake Kiwanis, Woodlake Rotary, and Family HealthCare Network. The camp was staffed by volunteers from around the county.

  But it was the limited participation of Zapalac’s own officers at Camp Zap who claimed some overtime hours that garnered accusations of misuse of public funds. Chief Zap said the scrutiny was really rooted in other “police matters.” City council members who were critical maintained it was simply about the money.

  The Woodlake City Council, after hearing hours of public comment, mostly pro Zapalac but some critical too, chose not to renew funding of approximately $6,000 annually for the camp in its 2011-2012 budget. Following that controversial decision, it appeared that Zapalac’s days with the City of Woodlake were numbered.

  During his tenure as Woodlake police chief, Zapalac campaigned twice unsuccessfully to be elected as Tulare County Sheriff. In both elections he was defeated by incumbent Sheriff Bill Wittman but, after the 2010 election, said the third time would be the charm.

  Zapalac weathered storminess during those campaigns including being investigated twice by the Tulare County Grand Jury for claims of inappropriate conduct and procedures by officers in his department. In past years (2002) the Woodlake Police Department has also received a special congressional commendation for “outstanding service to the community,” and Camp   Zap was honored (2011) as Woodlake’s outstanding community organization. 

  Last month Zapalac was reelected as chair of the all-volunteer Family HealthCare Network board of directors. He has also received statewide and national recognition for his work with Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, a statewide organization of which he is one of the leading proponents.


Lightning ignites new fires


  Those prolific bolts and sheets of lightning that were striking in the upper Kaweah canyon during the predawn hours of Wednesday, Aug. 22, touched down in a number of locations in nearby Sequoia National Park.

  The most serious of the new fires was the Cactus Fire, which  was discovered burning in cliffs above Potwisha Campground and below Ash Peaks. The 3 a.m. lightning strike and resulting fire were witnessed several miles down-canyon in Three Rivers.

  Initial estimates reported the Cactus Fire at one acre. At daybreak, a park helicopter began a series of water drops.

  “The parks extend a thank you to the crew of Helicopter 520 from the Sierra National Forest,” said Deb Schweizer, Sequoia-Kings Canyon fire education specialist. “They heli-rappelled into the Cactus Fire and cut a landing zone so additional firefighters could be flown to the fire for response. Sequoia-Kings Canyon firefighters will begin staffing the fire and will continue containment efforts.”

  Another small blaze, the Rockslide Fire, was located earlier this week burning in a single tree in the upper Kern River drainage. Another single tree fire, located along the Inyo National Forest border, was also discovered after recent lightning.

  In other fire news, the official cause of the Fork Fire (Aug. 14) is still undetermined. Investigators have however ruled out that a downed power line was the cause.


3R Golf Course remains closed


  The sign on the gate says opening “August 2012.” But August what or when remains a mystery.

  The popular and scenic Three Rivers nine-hole course is still being maintained and looks to be in good shape. The course opened for the season on May 15 but has been closed this time since July 10.

  If and when it reopens, there will be some happy golfers once again playing the local links.


TRUS goes back to school:

New teacher is school alumnus


By Holly Gallo


  Isaac Warner has returned to his roots and joined the Three Rivers Union School teaching faculty for the 2012-2013 school year as the fourth/fifth-grade combination class teacher.    After the school board approved his position on Wednesday, Aug. 15, Mr. Warner was introduced to students on their first day of school, Thursday, August 23.

  The decision to move his family — wife Katie Rose, two-year-old daughter Alice and five-month-old son Douglas — back to Three Rivers was spawned from the opportunity to teach in his own hometown.

  “Teaching involves a dedicated effort and belief in community,” Warner said. “When the opportunity arose to teach in the community I was raised in, I jumped at the chance.”

  Warner grew up in Ash Mountain and Three Rivers and attended Three Rivers School. After graduating from Exeter High School in 1999, he received his B.A. in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Warner was credentialed through Fresno State and the Cal State Teach program after teaching in Turkey for two summers.

  From there, Warner spent the past six years as a teacher and then administrator at a charter school in Ridgecrest.

  The Warner name is already familiar within the community. Isaac’s mother, Linda Warner, currently teaches the third/fourth-grade class at TRUS. His father, Tom, is a longtime forester at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. His brother Jed is a general contractor here, and his grandmother, Gwen Warner, retired to Three Rivers 20 years ago.

  “Three Rivers is a very special community, and I’m looking forward to my own kids experiencing some of the things I was able to experience by growing up in such a tight-knit and unique place,” Isaac said.

  Yet, as The Kaweah Commonwealth has been reporting over the summer, TRUS is facing difficult times. When asked of his concerns regarding the future of the school, Warner’s thoughts were strictly positive and productive.

  “Tough budgets are a reality for most government organizations these days,” he said. “The school has an amazing computer lab, great facilities, talented staff and administration, a dedicated board, and students who scored 856 on last year’s state tests. I feel fortunate to be part of a place with so many positive aspects.

  “I’m surprised more parents from the valley don’t choose to bring their kids here,” Warner continued. “In exploring other schools in the area, I couldn’t find any that match Three Rivers for academic achievement.”


TRUS goes back to school:

Teachers shuffle classrooms; combination classes added


By Holly Gallo


  When students returned to school yesterday (Thursday, Aug. 23), they would have noticed a lot of changes at Three Rivers Union.

  Some of the changes will feel rather small. Jami Beck, who has in the past taught fifth grade, has moved to the second-grade classroom.

  Katie St. Martin, who had a part-time contract in kindergarten, will work full-time this year as she teaches third-grade math as well as maintaining her post in the kindergarten classroom.

  Athena Saenz will be taking on the duties of an instructional aide while continuing to teach the school’s band and music programs.

  More noticeable changes will be found in the new faces on campus. In addition to the  presence of a new teacher who will be teaching the fourth/fifth-grade class (see story, above), students will also benefit from the help of three new instructional aides: Loree Little, Diane Frazier, and Tiffani Powell.

  Little has lived in Three Rivers since 2003. She has a son, Gunnar, who is a sophomore at Woodlake High and a daughter, Lauren Little, in the sixth grade at TRUS. She earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and has been working with children since 1989.

  Little has been volunteering on campus since 2003.

  “It will be an honor to work more formally with the students and a genuine privilege to be able to assist and collaborate with the teachers at TRUS,” she said.

  Frazier is a parent of two TRUS students. Her sons, Cole and Wyatt, will be in seventh and fourth grades, respectively, this year. A 15-year resident of Three Rivers and childcare specialist since 1989, Frazier believes that her closeness and familiarity with the community will benefit her position at the school.

  Tiffani Powell and her family are in the process of purchasing their first home as they move to Three Rivers from Tulare. After earning a degree in dance and being a professional dancer, she has taught dance for 20 years at elementary and collegiate levels as well as at studios.

  The Powell family decided to move to Three Rivers after getting to know its hiking trails and beautiful scenery.

  Tiffani said that it’s “ a dream to live here, and we are looking forward to being a part of such a wonderful community.”

  She and the teaching aides will be assigned to one or more of the classrooms and will be responsible for helping with yard duty and other tasks. The school was able to hire the aides with the assistance of Title I funding, which is allocated to schools that serve economically disadvantaged students.

  “We’ve always used our Title I funds for aides to help out in the classrooms,” said Sue Sherwood, superintendent/principal. “We don’t get that much but it’s enough to cover some 20 hours for instructional aides.”

  TRUS is also making up for the loss of numerous staff members, such as Barbara Merline, the library technology specialist.

  Sherwood admitted that “it’ll be a challenge” without Mrs. Merline, and that they “hope to staff our library with volunteers from the community.” Library volunteers would be responsible for entertaining classes, reading to students, checking out and cataloguing books, and related duties.

   Katy Despain left her teaching position over the summer. The eighth-grade teacher for four years, Despain moved to the Bay Area to be near family.

  Longtime office administration staff member Gloria Crabtree has also retired from TRUS. Sherwood said that Mrs. Crabtree’s absence has made a big change in the office, but that remaining staff members Lynda LeFave and Margaret Reyes have been working hard to get things up and running for the beginning of the school year.

  In addition to her administrative duties, Sue Sherwood will be teaching the seventh/eighth-grade combination class. Rob Ojeda, formerly the seventh-grade teacher, will be in the fifth/sixth-grade classroom.


Smith’s Gym adds Zumba Sculpt classes to summer lineup


By Holly Gallo


  Smith’s Gym in Three Rivers will be giving members and nonmembers alike a little dose of fun to spice up their workout routines.

  Starting Tuesday, Aug. 28, Tony Trujillo of Lindsay, a professional trainer and fitness connoisseur for over 20 years, will be leading four weeks of Zumba classes at the local gym.

  Born and raised in Visalia, Trujillo attended the Art Institute in Seattle, Wash., before returning to the Central Valley in the mid 1990s. In 1996, Trujillo moved to the Bay Area where he began studying tae kwon do at the West Coast Karate Association and started his professional career teaching cardio kickboxing.

  Trujillo stayed mobile over the next 16 years, continuing to teach cardio kickboxing, body sculpting, and R.I.P.P.E.D. all over California as a personal trainer as well as heading group exercise programs at multiple gyms and clubs. He was a trainer for the Central Valley’s Greatest Loser program.

  Today, Trujillo spends his mornings as a personal trainer while teaching a few regular group exercise classes a week, but recently he has “jumped on the Zumba wagon.”

Trujillo was introduced to Smith’s Gym through his friend and Three Rivers local Shannon Morris, and immediately liked what he saw.

  “It’s the coolest place,” he said. “It’s so old school. It holds so much potential, it can really become a hot spot for Three Rivers.”

  Trujillo only recently got licensed to teach Zumba and Three Rivers will be his first venture with it. He said that when he talked to Irene Smith, owner of Smith’s Gym, she was looking for a way to “liven things up” with a good workout class that is still low-key.

  The first experimental and free class that was held there brought seven invited guests. For most of the seven, they had either never heard of Zumba or it was first time trying it.

  According to Trujillo, the fact that anyone can get involved at various skill levels is one of the best features of the workout.

  “There are a lot of fun aspects to Zumba,” Trujillo said. “It’s less abrasive than other workouts.”

  Trujillo expects the four weeks of classes to bring in around 15 people per class.

“It’s really a bonus for me,” he said about teaching the class. Trujillo also notes the benefits of taking a class like this at a gym like Smith’s.

  “It’s nothing like a corporate gym. It’s very easy going, and we’re in a position to offer better deals down the road. We have a good feeling about this.”

  The Zumba classes at Smith’s will cost $5 for members on top of their $25 monthly fee and will be $10 a class for nonmembers (hint: it’s financially feasible to join the gym). The classes will be held at 6:30 p.m. for four consecutive Tuesdays beginning August 28.

  For more information, call Irene at Smith’s Gym, 561-4932 or 827-5440.


3R teen awarded Eagle Scout merit badge


by Holly Gallo


  When 18-year-old Mat Hirni and his family moved to Three Rivers from Lemon Cove about seven years ago, they did it for the BLM land. Their Skyline home put some of the best biking and hiking trails right in their backyard, and as avid mountain bikers, the Hirnis couldn’t resist.

  While the natural beauty of the surrounding glades and hills made the value of the BLM trails self-evident, the beginning of the Salt Creek trail presented a minor tribulation for visitors to the area. The three informational signs at the start of the trail were in various stages of decay, were unprotected from the elements, and displayed very little information.

  In the summer of 2011, Mat had an opportunity to improve the site. Having been a Boy Scout for approximately nine years, Mat needed to complete his Eagle Scout service project before his 18th birthday on January 26, 2012. According to the Boy Scout Handbook, the service project must demonstrate the Scout’s ability to lead others while planning and developing a project that will benefit any religious organization, school, or community.

  Mat decided that his project would be to build an informational kiosk in the stead of the three old decrepit signs.

  The planning stages were by far the hardest parts of the project, Mat said. After getting his project approved by his Scoutmaster and troop committee, he also had to get it approved by a regional Boy Scout committee.

  Because the beginning of the Salt Creek trail is partially on private property belonging to the Ollie Craig ranch and partially on BLM land, Mat also had to navigate bureaucratic regulations in order to build the kiosk at that location.

  “The whole process took a really long time,” Mat said.

  The actual building process was relatively easy, according to Mat. He precut the timber at a family friend’s shop, and the Bureau of Land Management provided the protective plastic shield to cover the informational flyers, regulation notices, and maps. Matt completed the kiosk with the help of some friends in 150 hours.

  Displayed on the kiosk are now a map of the Case Mountain hiking area, a BLM directory, fire regulation information, backcountry camping suggestions, campfire permit information, and fishing regulation information.

  Mat graduated from Woodlake High School this year, and he now plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. He has not yet declared a major, but is considering studying business.

  He received his Eagle Scout badge at a special ceremony on Monday, Aug. 13.


National Park Service observes 96th anniversary


  On August 25, 1916, Congress approved a bill that is now simply referred to as the Organic Act. This is the legislation that directs the National Park Service to manage parks “by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” In recent years, the Park Service anniversary date has become an opportunity to talk about the future of the parks as the NPS approaches its centennial year in 2016.

  Any account of the National Park Service must begin with the parks that preceded it and prompted its creation, which includes Sequoia National Park.

  The national park concept is generally credited to artist George Catlin. On a trip to the Dakotas in 1832, he worried about the impact of America’s westward expansion on Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness.

  Catlin’s vision was partly realized in 1864, when Congress donated Yosemite Valley to California for preservation as a state park. Eight years later, in 1872, Congress reserved the spectacular Yellowstone country “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

  Congress followed the Yellowstone precedent with other national parks in the 1890s and early 1900s, including Sequoia, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, and Glacier. The idealistic impulse to preserve nature was often joined by the pragmatic desire to promote tourism: western railroads lobbied for many of the early parks and built grand rustic hotels in them to boost their passenger business.

  By 1916, the Interior Department was responsible for 14 national parks and 21 national monuments but had no organization to manage them. Interior secretaries had asked the Army to detail troops to Yellowstone and the California parks for this purpose.

  It was military engineers and cavalrymen who developed the first park roads and buildings; enforced regulations against hunting, grazing, timber cutting, and vandalism; and did their best to serve the visiting public.

  The parks were also vulnerable to competing interests, including some within the conservation movement. Utilitarian conservationists favoring regulated use rather than strict preservation of natural resources advocated the construction of dams by public authorities for water supply, power, and irrigation purposes.

  When San Francisco sought to dam Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley for a reservoir after the turn of the century, the utilitarian and preservationist wings of the conservation movement came to blows. Over the passionate opposition of John Muir and other park supporters, Congress in 1913 permitted the dam, which historian John Ise later called “the worst disaster ever to come to any national park.”

  Hetch Hetchy highlighted the institutional weakness of the park movement. While utilitarian conservation had become well represented in government by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Forest and Reclamation services, no comparable bureau spoke for park preservation in Washington.

  Among those recognizing the problem was Stephen T. Mather, a wealthy and well-connected Chicago businessman. When Mather complained to Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane about the parks’ mismanagement, Lane invited him to Washington as his assistant for park matters. Horace M. Albright, 25, became Mather’s principal aide upon Mather’s arrival in 1915.

  On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson approved legislation creating the National Park Service within the Interior Department. In managing these areas, the Park Service was directed “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

  Secretary Lane named Mather the Park Service’s first director and Albright assistant director. Through the 1920s the National Park System was really a western park system. Only Acadia National Park in Maine lay east of the Mississippi.

  The West was home to America’s most spectacular natural scenery, and most land there was federally owned and thus subject to park or monument reservation without purchase.

  Excerpted from The National Park Service: A Brief History by Barry Mackintosh (1999).




College interns assist in

Park Service management, learn ‘eco-literacy’


By Selesta Padilla Cazares


  The second year of the Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks internship program is winding down.  Ten college students have been working hard helping in various areas within the parks, all having specific projects to complete by the end of their season.  Students are also immersed in a park management/eco-literacy class so they may apply knowledge toward real-world management solutions. This demanding 12-week internship gives students the experience they need to take their studies to the next level.

  When the students applied they were given seven distinct fields to choose from according to their top three interests.  Areas of interest included wilderness and air quality, ecological restoration, communications and social media, visitor and resource protection, science communication and logistics,  the Junior Ranger Program, and developing an interpretive podcast for the parks’ website. 

  Hannah Schwalbe, intern at the Foothills Visitor Center, participated in a progressive internship focusing on helping the public understand the importance of recording phenology, or seasonal life-cycle of plants and animals, to accurately understand changes in the climate occurring today. 

  “The research was sometimes a challenge, but it was exciting when I got to relay the information to visitors,” she said. “They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.” 

Hannah not only informed visitors, but empowered them to continue phenology monitoring at home.

  Mondays were set aside for the students to participate in a resource-based environmental literacy course. They visited significant places such as Terminus Dam at Lake Kaweah, Giant Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Cedar Grove, Crystal Cave, and Mineral King.

  Before attending class, they were required to complete specified readings leading to deep and meaningful discussions during class time.  Among the management topics were climate change, fire management, partnerships with other governmental agencies, invasive plant species, and air quality. All are pertinent parks issues that apply more widely to the rest of the world.

  The range of management issues gave interns the ability to analyze and reflect on natural landscapes, creating an unforgettable connection as well as developing the skills to be responsible stewards and perhaps managers of national parks in the future.

Intern Taylor Hays, working as an archival intern, shared that he has experienced a memorable stay here and especially enjoyed the Monday eco-literacy class. 

  “Everyone is so diverse with different backgrounds creating very interesting discussions. The topics are so heavy. I like trying to work through them together, since we all think differently.”

  Jerry Swanson, attending his last semester at Humboldt State University for Natural Resource Management, stated, “The field classes gives this internship a different aspect compared to others where you miss those real life experiences.” 

  He has had an incredible experience during his three months working within a friendly and helpful environment.

  Students will return to school this fall with not only the experience of their completed projects, but hopefully a sense of place in natural landscapes to deepen their understanding of ecological relationships and enhance ecological literacy for a lifetime.

  Selesta Padilla Cazares is a 2009 graduate of Woodlake High School. She is currently a student at Cal Poly, Pomona.




Heal, nurture, grow, learn: Five-day yoga retreat coming to Badger


By Deborah ‘Jaishree’ Spielman


  What have you done for yourself lately? A long weekend of yoga and healthy living will send you home renewed and rejuventted.

  Experienced instructor and facilitator Deborah “Jaishree” Spielman will conduct a coed yoga retreat in Badger from Thursday, Aug. 30, through Monday, Sept. 3.

Jaishree specializes in Vinyasa, Restorative, Shakti Flow, and Bhakti yogas. She will also be teaching the basics of  Ayurveda, a workshop on dream journaling and leading kirtan (divine chanting).

  In addition, she will be available for private consultations. Treatments from a local massage therapist will also be available.


  YOGA is the oldest and most effective total-body health activity known to man. For thousands of years, this scientifically proven regime has been positively affecting all the human body’s systems: muscular, neurological, endocrine, skeletal, respiratory... Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “to link” or “to bond in union.”

  When we couple conscious breathing with simple or dynamic physical flowing movement,  we bring our level of strength, flexibility, and balance to new heights. This connection mirrors what happens in our mental and spiritual bodies.

  We become more flexible in our everyday living. We become stronger and less attached to fear and negativity.

  We become balanced and are able to either ignite our actions when necessary or soften around unpleasant triggers. The practice can be simple, engaging the internal “bhandhas” or power locks in the body that is both empowering and sublime.

  This opens the neuromuscular vantage points in the brain and allows ‘happy’ hormones to release. Asana can be vigorous and fluid like dance, creating a deep, detoxifying sweat. Asana is a completely no impact, self-weight-bearing, aerobic activity.

  Always, a yoga class leaves us feeling refreshed, clear, and awake in our new body. Yoga is the path to true healing and the first step to total transformation.

  I have personally seen my students transform in front of my eyes in only one hour of yoga practice. From ages 10 to 70, I love working with anyone dealing with pain or old injury because I, too, have come back from chronic debilitating pain. At the point where we are simply moving and breathing, we are then able to take our yoga to the next step.

  MEDITATION allows the mind to become steady, high blood pressure drops, breathing capacity grows, and we begin to manifest our highest intentional dreams into reality. From the simplest tasks to our greatest visions, through the practice of meditation, we connect with our truest form and ability.  

  We call the physical asana a “yang” or male energetic practice. Ayurveda, the study of vedic health science, as well as meditation are the sister “yin” or female energetic sides to hatha yoga.

  Here we are able to take our health to the next level and prepare ourselves for more advanced yogic practices, such as reading and studying, or chanting and remembering our own divine connection. No matter one’s race, religion, or creed, each human has the right and ability to practice yoga. 


The benefits of yoga

  As a bhakti yogi, my classes integrate a love of divine creativity and authentic bliss.

The reactions to our actions is called Karma, and that karma layers upon our body like a too tight sweater in summer. Accumulated karma can be cleansed by the process of yoga.

  Stripping away the physical and emotional layers of our ego is a gateway to a solid daily spiritual practice. We work very hard in our lives, and while we may sleep we rarely take time to rest. The deep relaxation of Restorative yoga poses helps all the organ systems. There is an improvement in digestion, fertility, elimination, the reduction of muscle tension, insomnia, and generalized fatigue.

  This could explain why 16 million Americans have started taking yoga classes or doing yoga at home. As a result of medical studies, hospitals have incorporated yoga into their post-cardiac rehabilitation programs.  

  Yoga practice can lead  to eating less, eating more slowly, and choosing healthier foods.  While many people report that yoga gives them an overall feeling of well being, there is evidence of that it also relieves migraines, lower back problems, and arthritis.

Daily itinerary

  During the retreat, twice daily yoga sessions will take place morning and late afternoon. Wheat grass juice will be served after morning yoga and three sumptuous vegetarian meals including organic vegetables grown on site will be served.  

  There will be time for relaxing by the pool. Evenings will be music and kirtan. Participants will have a choice of camping, dormitory, or private room with shared bath.


Veg out

  The Badger yoga retreat will provide participants with three delicious vegetarian meals per day.

  Enjoying vegetarian meals can have other benefits besides taste. Vegetarians are at lower risk for developing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. 

  Exposure to and learning about vegetarian meals is useful, allowing one to augment and improve their present diet, if desired.


Beautiful Badger

  Hosting the event is New Braj, a 14-acre Vedic cultural community nestled in the Sierra foothills at 51869 Eshom Valley Road in Badger and minutes away from  Kings Canyon National Park.

  The produce from New Braj’s organic gardens is sold at the Village Market in Three Rivers.

  Management of the New Braj community is presently headed by Nitya Jones who has spent his entire life living in Badger and Three Rivers.

  To register for the upcoming retreat or for additional information, call 337-2980 or email loladevi@yahoo.com.

  Jaishree, as her Guruji named her,  is an RYT (Registered Yoga Teachers Alliance) certified Power Vinyasa yoga teacher, ayurveda and meditation coach, and kirtan singer who teaches her workshops, retreats, and kirtan offerings all over the globe.  She is dedicated to the path of evolving consciousness and healing. Jaishree has over 400 hours of yoga training including Baron Baptiste Levels 1 and 2, 45 hours with Shiva Rea, 60 hours of alignment and assisting training, and CPR certification. Her yoga classes, workshops, and retreats are incredibly potent, blissful, and fun for all levels.





THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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