In the News - Friday,
September 4, 2009
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
- Fall 2009
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
Gunfire leads park rangers
When Crystal Cave employees in Sequoia
National Park reported hearing what sounded like automatic
weapons fire on Saturday, Aug. 22, a chain of events
was triggered that will likely affect resource management
in all the national parks. That’s because what
was subsequently discovered was horrifying and a huge
threat to one of Sequoia’s most treasured natural
According to information furnished by
NPS personnel, park rangers are still not certain
if the gunfire was related to the illegal pot operation,
but at least five more grow sites were discovered
on park land. As a result of the current operation,
more than 7,500 plants with an estimated street value
of nearly $3 million were eradicated, but it is also
estimated that three-quarters of the marijuana was
The search of the area that eventually
turned up the pot patches began immediately upon receiving
the report of gunfire. In addition, Crystal Cave was
closed as a safety measure. The cave on a busy summer
schedule attracts hundreds of visitors daily who had
to be turned away until the cave was reopened a week
A park helicopter conducted a series
of flyovers focusing at first on the area where the
gunshots were heard — west of the cave. Initially,
the aerial search found nothing of interest.
The area north of the cave, in the Yucca
Creek drainage, was also searched and it wasn’t
long before the telltale irrigation hose and clandestine
campsites were observed.
No personnel were sent into investigate
the newly discovered grow sites until the area could
be secured. On Thursday, Aug. 27, the first eradication
teams were inserted by helicopter in the rugged terrain
northeast of Crystal Cave.
While on the ground in the grow sites,
another location was also discovered that was not
previously sighted. Rangers estimated that 75 percent
of the five plots were already in “re-growth,”
meaning that a large quantity of marijuana had already
been harvested from the sites.
According to Joel Despain, Sequoia-Kings
Canyon cave specialist, the fact that the pot patches
were growing adjacent to Yucca Creek, which flows
through Crystal Cave, makes this illegal pot operation
“Yucca Creek is the stream that actually formed
Crystal Cave so the potential damage to this unique
resource makes these grow sites more dangerous than
all the others,” Despain said. “There
was also evidence that the weaponry at the site was
Adrienne Freeman, Sequoia-Kings Canyon
public affairs officer, said that the mobilization
of a park team to clean up and restore these grow
sites is already being planned. Despain said that
unlike the work on other sites that has to wait until
the project is feasible, the restoration at these
sites must be completed before seasonal rains wash
down tons of pollution that could harm the delicate
resources and ecosystem of Crystal Cave.
“The closure of Crystal Cave ruined lots of
vacations for visitors but even more serious is the
threat to park resources,” said Adrienne. “Everyone
should be outraged at the damage these sites are doing
to public lands.”
No arrests were made as a result of these
raids but the investigation is ongoing.
Forty years later
still Ten Years After
Two weeks ago, Ten Years After, the iconic
British rockers, took time out from their Heroes of
Woodstock Tour long enough to play Orange Blossom
Junction. On Tuesday night, Sept. 8, Johnny Winter,
the legendary Texas bluesman and another Woodstock
veteran, returns to the Junction to the delight of
the venue’s growing legion of fans.
In the beginning, when Doug and Luci
Long purchased the longstanding eatery and music venue
(on Highway 198 near Spruce Road) in 2004, they will
admit there was uncertainty how their bold venture
would work. But during the past five years, Orange
Blossom Junction has featured some of the finest guitar
players on the planet while featuringing a menu that
rivals the best California cuisine served anywhere.
The music is a passion of Doug’s
as he is an accomplished guitar player in his own
right. The passion for the restaurant’s outstanding
food is mostly Luci’s doing — she is related
to the chef, who obviously is the foundation of any
But at this junction in history —
August marking the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock
Music & Art Fair — it’s about celebrating
the music. The Woodstock festival of August 15 to
17, 1969, in Bethel, N.Y., was a gathering of tribes
that changed the world and forever branded a generation
with peace, love, and rock-and-roll.
In that eventful weekend there was no
more iconic symbol of the musical menagerie on display
than Ten Years After. Who could ever forget the grimacing
facials of guitarist Alvin Lee as he exhorted every
reverberating lick from his peace-sign emblazoned
That image of Ten Years After performing
“I’m Going Home” was immortalized
in the award-winning documentary Woodstock released
in 1970. Alvin Lee left the band in 1975 to pursue
a solo career; each of the band’s other members,
including Leo Lyons (founder and bass), Ric Lee (drums),
and Chick Churchill (keyboards), all continued to
perform with one outfit or another.
Fans of the original Ten Years After
hounded the members for an encore. A couple of decades
later, Leo asked Alvin if he would be willing to reunite
for a tour.
Alvin opted not to go but the momentum
for a revival was already in high gear. The other
two original members were willing so Joe Gooch, a
young guitar-playing British phenomenon, stepped in
and since 2002 has Ten Years After riding a new wave
But these minstrels are no over-the-hill
revival rock band. They play with all the frenetic
energy of the band’s classic blues rock but
now, in the words of one music critic, “…the
sound is perhaps more precisely Ten Years After.”
Joe Gooch capably fills those monstrous
roles of Alvin Lee, both on guitar and vocally, and
lends his own energy to new material on the latest
CD aptly entitled Evolution. The classic albums of
1968 through 1975 have all been remixed and digitized
by Ric and are also available from these seemingly
At the Junction’s recent show,
the audience was treated to a two-hour set of Ten
Years After, both then and now. Leo, the group’s
legendary bass player, still drives a tight sound
that evokes many memories of the Woodstock generation.
“What was incredible about playing Woodstock
is that 500,000 people all came together and there
was no violence, only peace and harmony, and a lot
of rain and mud,” Leo recalled. “What
happened there never happened before or since that
one incredible weekend.”
Joe Gooch commented how much he and the
guys really appreciate playing the Junction.
“On the Woodstock Tour we play maybe 40 minutes
then we’re hustled off to the next date and
place,” Joe said. “Playing out here in
the country is very relaxing and we can really relate
to our audience and let it all go.”
At Orange Blossom Junction, come for
the food — it’s delectable — but
stay for the music — it’s unforgettable!
See the upcoming concert schedule and
menu at: www.orangeblossomjunction.com.
Upgrading the Crystal Cave
input is necessary
Sequoia National Park planners conducted
a tour and the first of several planned informational
meetings this week that will be held to gather public
input prior to a proposed rehabilitation and restoration
of Crystal Cave. NPS staff told a gathering of about
50 at the cave on Tuesday, Sept. 1, that the infrastructure
at one of the Sequoia’s premier attractions
is aging and in urgent need of some upgrades.
After its discovery by two Park Service
employees in 1918, development of the cave for public
use was delayed for two decades. It was opened to
the public in 1940 after an appropriations bill was
passed that included provisions for the cave, sponsored
by then-Congressman Albert E. Carter of Three Rivers.
Since its opening, thousands of visitors
have toured and enjoyed the cool underground living
laboratory. It has been operated by the Sequoia Natural
History Association (SNHA) since the 1980s and is
a substantial portion of that nonprofit group’s
revenue, grossing $500,000 annually.
Facilities like the cave’s entrance,
lighting, access trail, gift shop, parking, restrooms,
picnic area, and parking lot are among the cave’s
components that could undergo changes.
“At the current time we are in the scoping phase
to try to get some idea as to what the public would
like to see as priorities in the project,” said
Nancy Hendricks, NPS environmental protection specialist,
who facilitated the cave tour and meeting.
Comments on the scoping phase are due
by Friday, Sept. 25. Log onto http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki
for project details.
Ja Nene Natural Body Products
by Janene Lasswell
I have a new store opening Tuesday, Sept.
15, in San Luis Obispo at 950 Chorro Street, across
from the mission. The new SLO store will be managed
by my niece, Ashlee Newman.
I’m going to work at the new store
a couple of times a month, but most of the time, I
will be in Three Rivers. On Sunday, Aug. 31, I moved
my Three Rivers business from the Sierra Drive store
to the workshop at our home, where I will be selling
I will still honor all gift certificates,
locals-only discounts, and coupons. People are also
welcome to order from my website and designate the
shipping as “will call” and come pick
it up or I can possibly deliver.
Everyone is welcome to stop by and hang
out in the shop. Just call (559) 561-0900 or 561-4021
first to make sure I'm there. It's interesting to
see how these products are made.
So if anyone tells you it’s a shame
my store is closing, tell them I’m still here,
and now at the Central Coast as well. In fact, I hope
to be making about 10 times as much product starting
the first of September.
This necessary change is due to our town’s
small size. I have had an amazing response to my natural
To give you an idea how amazing: if I
got the same response in Fresno, I would be grossing
$150,000 a month. Of course, this isn't Fresno and
thank God for that, right?
Still, I need to earn a living and think
I'm somewhat ready to move to a little bigger venue.
Wish me luck!
products may be viewed and purchased at www.anointyourself.com.