this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
park medical emergencies
Two medical emergencies that
occurred in Sequoia National Park during
the past week called for the patients
to be airlifted to area hospitals for
treatment. One patient appeared to be
suffering some ill-effects associated
with altitude while another received critical
care after a motorcycle accident.
The first incident occurred
Thursday, Sept. 4, when a hiker at Bearpaw
High Sierra Camp reported difficulty breathing.
Park personnel decided to call for a helicopter
and the unidentified man was transported
to Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia.
On Tuesday, Sept. 9, an unidentified
motorcyclist lost control on the Generals
Highway near Potwisha. Park dispatch received
the emergency call shortly before 4 p.m.
It was determined at the scene that the
injured cyclist had sustained trauma to
the head and back.
The male victim was transported
via helicopter to Regional Medical Center
in Fresno where he remains in critical
condition. The Generals Highway
was closed briefly after the accident
until the scene was cleared.
The cause of death is pending
in the fatality of 41-year-old Victor
Puentes of Pomona who had been swimming
on Tuesday, Aug. 26, near Road’s
End in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon
National Park. The Fresno County Coroner
is expected to have a ruling in the case
Last month, when Earl and
Gaynor McKee returned from an extended
tour with the High Sierra Jazz Band, they
discovered that their water well had been
vandalized. The well is located on a knoll
across Old Three Rivers Drive from the
couple’s home, where Earl has lived
his entire life.
The well had been pried open
at the welded well-casing lid. Rocks and
dirt were intentionally shoved into the
system, causing its total failure. Earl
contacted the original well digger, who
advised him to cover it up. The following
day, when McKee returned to the well,
he discovered even more rocks and dirt
piled into the pipeline, completely filling
the width of the pipe some 40 feet below.
A cable that had been coiled
on the ground was lying across the road
and had been used to force the rocks down
the line. There were no fresh tire tracks
on the gated access road, so the vandal(s)
apparently traveled on foot to reach the
“The well is very deep,” said
Earl. “I will have to hire a rig
to come in to repair the damage at the
cost of several thousand dollars at least.”
Earl is perplexed as to why
anyone would engage in such a cruel act.
He had recently graded the road on the
back side of his property to access the
family swimming hole. He said that for
years he and his family had crossed the
neighboring property to get to the swimming
Earl, 77, was born in the
home where today he continues to reside.
He is a lifelong cattle rancher, a founding
member of the High Sierra Jazz Band and,
more recently, a horse breeder.
“My parents homesteaded in this
area in the early 1900s and bought these
20 acres in 1921,” Earl reminisced.
“It was time I finally put a road
in while I could do it myself. Gaynor
and I wanted to be able to enjoy the hill
and the river with our family.”
Earl and Gaynor’s children
swam in the South Fork swimming hole.
Now they share it with their grandchildren.
“Only recently have I begun locking
the door to our house,” Earl said.
“It’s hard for me to believe
that things like this can happen in our
community. It just breaks my heart.”
There have been several incidents
of vandalism reported this summer in the
Old Three Rivers area and in Cherokee
Oaks. Anyone with information about these
crimes should contact the Tulare County
Sheriff’s Department at 733-6211.
WHS kicks off 95th year
Since Woodlake Union High
School opened its doors in 1914, it has
earned a reputation for excellence among
its peers and is known far beyond its
district boundaries when it comes to the
success of its students. A case in point
was the national recognition the district
received when in 2002 the College Board
awarded $5,000 and an Inspiration Award
to WHS, which was chosen from among all
the nation’s schools.
But now in these uncertain
economic times, the local high school
might just become a trendsetter in another
important category. While most districts
struggle and are making huge cuts, Woodlake
is expanding its facilities and staff
and is fiscally sound.
That enviable situation is
due in large part to Measure C, which
was passed last November, but the $4.4
million bond is just part of the good
news. According to Woodlake’s top
administrators, now more than ever, the
district can focus on an ambitious instructional
action plan that can translate to even
greater student success.
Now beginning her second
year as principal at Woodlake High, Nicole
Glentzer said teachers and staff at the
high school can really focus on areas
that need improvement. To some a daunting
task in a school with so many (more than
50 percent) who speak English as a second
language; to Glentzer another challenge
that she says she intends to meet head
“Think about what accountability
means in terms of the responsibility that
we have as administrators and as teachers,”
Glentzer said. “It can really be
intimidating, but it shouldn’t be.
It’s about the de-privatization
of what’s going on in the classroom.”
Mrs. Glentzer said that’s
the key to understanding what’s
going on at WHS and at other public schools
that are making headway against seemingly
insurmountable odds to improve test scores.
“What we’re trying to do here
is talk to each other about what we want
to achieve,” Glentzer said.
To facilitate that critical
communication, Glentzer said, Woodlake
High is continuing its early release on
Mondays at 1:15 p.m. so teachers and staff
can meet to exchange ideas and get on
the same page as to what each department
needs to accomplish. For the initial sessions,
all the teachers meet together; subsequent
sessions will be smaller groups by department
or subject areas.
Glentzer refers to these
study groups as professional learning
communities. At Woodlake, she said, it’s
not just the principal telling teachers
what they need to accomplish.
“It’s a team effort and we’re
getting plenty of support from the district,”
Glentzer said. “Now that we’ve
identified the areas for improvement,
we need to close the gap between the English
learners and non-English learners.”
The immediate goal in all
Woodlake’s schools is to raise the
proficiency in all the subjects, especially
English and Math. For the high achievers,
Glentzer said, the administration is working
to strengthen the six Advanced Placement
courses that are offered.
One of the problems with
the AP program at small schools like Woodlake
is that the instructors see the same core
students in every class so it makes scheduling
a nightmare. To augment the AP schedule,
juniors or seniors may enroll in College
of the Sequoias general education evening
classes offered on the WHS campus.
These COS courses, which
offer high school and college credit,
give students their first taste of college-level
curriculum. That gives Woodlake’s
students an advantage in the eyes of some
college recruiters who want to see how
a prospective student might perform in
“There are so many good things here
at Woodlake,” Glentzer said. “We
have such great talent here that it’s
humbling to be in a leadership position.”
But, more importantly, Glentzer
said, is that most students really want
to succeed, and given some direction and
the opportunity, that’s just what
HIKING THE PARKS
Four lakes in a
by Sarah Elliott
It’s been a long, hot,
busy summer, but one that included no
backpacking trips and just a single dayhike;
3.5 miles to Eagle Lake out of Mineral
That is so unlike us. So
as August rolled to a close, we vowed
to make a change.
Late-season hiking is spectacular,
with mostly-sunny skies, easy water crossings,
no bugs, and less crowded trails (for
the most part).
A key motivator for planning
a couple of daylong hikes is that on September
21 we have a challenging hike planned.
It became necessary for us to spend some
days at altitude while putting a bit of
mileage under our belts to ensure we will
obtain our goal.
That is why at 8 a.m. on
the Saturday of the Labor Day holiday
weekend, John and I were walking along
the Mineral King Road in Sequoia National
Park toward the Sawtooth trailhead. And
we weren’t the only ones preparing
for a day on the trail.
The ranger station could
have easily been mistaken for a Starbuck’s
drive-thru. There were cars lined up along
the road and around the bend with more
arriving. It was actually the weekend
warriors racing inside to drop off their
itineraries and obtain backcountry permits,
taking advantage of the three-day weekend.
Less than a mile up the road,
we were navigating our way in and around
cars, backpacks, hikers, and gear strewn
throughout the Sawtooth parking lot. It
looked like an explosion at REI. There
were people in various stages of packing
and repacking, changing clothes, eating,
flossing, searching for socks, posing
for photos, filling their rental bear
canisters, and racing back to their car
to silence an errant car alarm.
It was mayhem, and we resigned
ourselves to the fact that we would be
on the trail with dozens of other hikers.
Ah, but we underestimate ourselves and
our ability to get off the beaten path.
We started up the trail that
leads from an elevation of 7,800 feet
to a variety of destinations: Timber Gap,
Monarch Lakes, Sawtooth Peak and Pass,
Glacier Pass, and Crystal Lake. And it
was Crystal Lake that would be our first
The first mile of the trail
to Groundhog Flat has been written about
in this series many times. Contrary to
our earlier prediction, on this section
of trail that works its way up the lower
flank of Empire Mountain, we passed just
one dayhiker, although we could count
about 15 more backpackers below us working
their way determinedly up the switchbacks.
We reached Groundhog Flat
and hopped across Monarch Creek to begin
ascending the long switchbacks that work
their way around the ridge toward Monarch
Lake. Now and then along this portion
of trail there are panoramic views through
the forest of the Mineral King valley
and peeks at the trail below where the
huffing-and-puffing backpackers now looked
like ants marching toward their next picnic.
In about three miles and
2,200 feet of elevation gain, the Crystal
Lake trail veers off from the well-traveled
trail to lower Monarch Lake and Sawtooth
Pass and enters the remote Chihuahua Bowl.
The trail works its way up a rocky slope
toward an obvious saddle.
Along the way are the old
Chihuahua Mine and a few prospect diggings
that divert the attention from the trail,
which is now steeper than the gradually-ascending
Monarch Lakes trail. These are visible
remnants of the Mineral King area’s
In the 1870s, many prospected
the area, dreaming of riches that were
never realized. Ironically, it was us
and the dozens behind us who were reaping
the real riches of Mineral King: the outdoor
opportunities and cultural history now
preserved forever within Sequoia National
Upon reaching the ridgetop,
it’s all downhill, but anyone who’s
hiked out of Mineral King knows that going
down never lasts long. We
enjoyed the descent while it lasted, passing
the cutoff to Cobalt Lakes, which are
in view on the other side of the grassy
When not enjoying the views
of the Cobalt Lakes, there is no other
place to look but up, where the trail
leads. And as we travel down, our destination
of the Crystal Lake dam becomes higher
and higher on the mountain.
We made the final ascent
of 300 feet on a trail scattered with
the red rocks from Mineral Peak. We passed
a couple of empty campsites just before
reaching the lower lake’s dam. On
this busy weekend, we settled in by the
dam – built by the Mt. Whitney Power
and Electric Company ca. 1903 –
and had the lake to ourselves.
We munched on nuts and fruit
while adding another layer of clothing.
The wind was swirling, as it always seems
to here, and the cirrus clouds were intermittently
dimming the warm rays of the sun, although
there was no threat of a thunderstorm.
The landscape is alluring
here. Crystal Lake is in a deep cirque
with sides so steep that there is no shoreline
to the north and south, just vertical
walls. Looking back across the Mineral
King valley toward the White Chief area,
it is a rocky rainbow of color as every
mountain is a different shade of Sierran
rock – red, black, gray, and white.
To continue the next leg
of this loop, we backtracked on the trail
slightly to pick up an indistinct path
that would take us up and over the hill
– actually just an oversized talus
pile – that forms the north side
of Crystal Lake. This began the cross-country
section of this hike.
As we traversed its rocky
slope, we eyed Mineral Peak (elevation
11,615 feet) above, the prominent red
peak between Crystal and the lower Monarch
Lake (elevation 10,380 feet). It was tempting
to make the Class 2 scramble to the summit
pyramid, but decided to save it for another
We boulder-hopped our way
up to the low point on the ridge, a great
vantage point from which to admire Sawtooth
Peak (elevation 12,343 feet). From here,
it is an easy drop into the upper Monarch
Lake basin (elevation 10,640 feet). To
reach the opposite end of the lake, we
traversed the shoreline on the Sawtooth
Peak side. After relaxing next to our
second dam of the day, we descended on
a use trail to lower “Monarch City,”
so-dubbed by us because this was the destination
of most of those backpackers we had seen
earlier in the day.
A couple of young men basking
in the sun on a lakeside boulder asked
if going to the upper lake is worth the
effort. We gave a resounding, “Yes!”
In order to continue successfully
dodging the onslaught of backpackers,
we opted to return to Mineral King on
the old, non-maintained Sawtooth trail,
which has actually disappeared in some
places. After picking up the trail on
the northwest side of the lake, the route
dropped us down the Monarch canyon via
a series of hanging valleys and over a
large rockslide along the south flank
of Empire Mountain.
We picked up the trail again
at Groundhog Flat, and the last mile to
the trailhead would be the only time we
traveled the same trail twice that day.
We met a half-dozen people on this section,
which was more than we had seen all day.
With just a little effort,
there are still places where one can avoid
the three-day-weekend crowds. And we returned
to the Mineral King valley in time to
prepare dinner for our weekend guests.
A Concert (and
on the Grass
A Three Rivers musical tradition
continues with the 28th annual Concert
on the Grass, coming up on Saturday, Sept.
27. By design, the concert is a mix of
professional performers and upcoming talent.
In recent years, world-famous entertainers
like flutist Tracy Harris and actor Ronnie
Cox have spun out their musical magic.
This year, the talent is
some of the best ever — three astonishing
vocalists—Vanessa Rodriguez, Lauren
Adaska and Leah Spencer. All
three have voices that will stop you in
your tracks. Vanessa is powerful and emotional,
Lauren is pitch perfect and exquisite,
Leah is beautifully textured and nuanced.
On the professional side,
two new chamber groups will be performing:
the Tulare County Symphony Brass Quintet,
led by notable trumpet master Cooper Walden;
and the Cummins Quintet, a charming family
of Los Angeles musicians who also have
a home in Three Rivers.
The concert takes place on
the shaded lawn at the Haxton residence
near the end of Dinely Drive in Three
Rivers. Parking attendants will guide
you from there with shuttle service to
the concert venue. Music begins at 2:30
p.m., but starting at 1:30 is an art show
featuring Three Rivers artists and craftspeople
with Ken Elias performing Bach’s
atmospheric Goldberg Variations in the
background. This is the time to set up
your chairs and blankets, enjoy your picnic,
wander among the artists, and get yourself
ready for a wonderful and free show.
Annual dinner supports
The annual Three Rivers Union
School Foundation dinner is right around
the corner, and the Foundation board hopes
you will be there. On Sunday, Sept. 28,
you will have the opportunity to see old
friends and meet new ones.
The evening includes a delicious
dinner prepared by Felix Gonzalez, Flamenco-style
music provided by our local Faena Brava,
an opportunity to win a prize and bid
in the silent auction, and more. But hurry,
because the date of the event is quickly
approaching, and we must know you are
coming so we can prepare.
This year, funds will be
directed to the Foundation’s main
project, the completion of repairs and
upgrades on the upper field. This field
is used almost daily year-round by the
community as well as the school. Students
use it for everything from recess to field
day and soccer, football and baseball.
But it is when school is
not in session that the field really gets
a workout. It provides the only grassy
space in Three Rivers for events such
as dog training, Frisbee, the annual fall
carnival, and recreational sports for
The Foundation is looking
forward to finishing the renovation of
the baseball field, which will be dedicated
to the memory of Maile Peck (1936-2006).
Maile was the town’s most loyal
sports fan. She attended nearly every
game at the school and especially loved
men’s summer softball.
All donations stay right
here in Three Rivers and go directly to
Foundation projects. Support your local
school and community by calling Lee Crouch,
561-3363; Susan Lamberson, 561-7400; or
the school, 561-4466; for a ticket. Donations
for the auction are welcome as well. Tickets
are $50 for a single plate and $75 for
a double and need to be purchased by Friday,
Dinner with friends supporting
such a cause is a great way to spend a
Costco book event
highlight 3R author
Jay O’Connell was raised
in Three Rivers and graduated Woodlake
High School in 1977. Although he hasn’t
resided in Three Rivers since he left
for college, he remains a constant presence,
having written three books on local history.
His most recent, Train Robber’s
Daughter (Raven River Press, 2008), will
be the main feature of an event at the
Visalia Costco this weekend.
“We’re planning to make this
event more than just an ordinary book-signing,”
said a Costco representative. “In
fact, it’s a bit unique to even
have a book-signing at Costco.”
Jay will be onsite from 10
a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13,
to discuss his book that follows the extraordinary
life of Eva Evans, daughter of Chris Evans,
one-half of the notorious Evans and Sontag
duo who robbed trains in the San Joaquin
Valley and hid out in the Sierra foothills.
On display will be artifacts and photographs
from the Evans and Sontag era, as well
as from the melodrama that sensationalized
Jay, who works as a television
producer in Southern California, has written
several historical series for the Commonwealth,
detailing the Kaweah Colony, Col. Charles
Young, the CCCs, and the Mt. Whitney Power
& Electric Company. In commemoration
of the 75th anniversary of the Civilian
Conservation Corps in Three Rivers and
Sequoia National Park, the CCC series
will be updated and republished.
“Re-reading the CCC series in an
election year with massive budget issues
(and a government bailout of major financial
institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)
makes it oddly pertinent,” said
Beyond this reprised series,
Jay has offered to contribute a monthly
article regarding local history. As Three
Rivers moves fast-forward into the 21st
century, it will be a welcome respite
to rewind to a time when the pace was
slower and life was simpler.
This weekend, meet and talk
with Jay in person, then watch for more
of his writing in the upcoming months
in the Commonwealth.
SFCC hosts fall
In June, the Sequoia Foothills
Chamber of Commerce initiated a new approach
to its quarterly member mixers. As a way
to introduce Chamber members and the community
to the diversity of local businesses in
Three Rivers and surrounding gateway communities,
the Chamber began hosting its mixers at
a member’s business location.
The fall member mixer will
be held Wednesday, Sept. 17, beginning
at 6:30 p.m., sponsored by the Sierra
Business Center and Sierra Lodge at 43175
The Chamber invites all business
members, as well as community members
interested in the economic health of Three
Rivers and surrounding gateway communities,
to attend the fall member mixer.
The Chamber will provide updates on recent
accomplishments and share plans for some
exciting upcoming events.
Guest speaker Erin Capuchino,
tourism and marketing coordinator for
the Visalia Convention & Visitors
Bureau, will provide an update on regional
marketing efforts that promote Three Rivers
and help local businesses.
The Chamber intends to continue
this trend of having its member businesses
host the quarterly mixers. Member businesses
interested in hosting a mixer provide
the venue and refreshments. The Chamber
provides door prizes, advertising, and
notifies its members.
Several businesses may partner
together to host the mixer, which also
could provide a unique opportunity to
highlight businesses located together
in one of the many “plazas”
in Three Rivers.
Chamber members interested
in hosting a quarterly mixer may contact
Johanna Kamansky, president, 679-9066,
or Scott Mullikin, vice president and
member chair, 561-3488.
Ronald Carl Zimmerman of
Three Rivers died Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008,
at his Oriole Lake cabin. He was 60.
Ron was born Nov. 8, 1947,
in Los Angeles to Priscilla Prior and
Carl Zimmerman. He was raised in the South
Bay area of Los Angeles and was a member
of the first graduating class of Rolling
Hills High School.
Ron was a protégé
in the electrical field. This vocation
ultimately culminated in the mastery of
motor control and three-phase 600-volt
systems. Hospitals, factories, and other
specialty electrical challenges became
Ron served in the U.S. Army
and was a veteran of the Vietnam War.
In the 554th Engineering Battalion, known
as the “combat engineers,”
Ron operated a grader to build roads for
advancing U.S. troops.
During his lifetime, Ron
resided in Big Bear Lake, Hawaii, Redondo
Beach, and Katherine Landing, Ariz. Kailua-Kona
was home for nearly a decade during the
1980s, where Ron was both a sport and
He opened branches for Amfac
and Honsador Lumber on the Big Island
while also operating his electrical business.
Ron first came to Three Rivers in the
1950s while on the way to Oriole Lake
(located off the Mineral King Road, eight
miles from Hwy. 198).
More than 40 years later,
in 1999, Ron and his wife, Betsy, settled
in Three Rivers, where Ron opened his
electrical-contracting business. It was
here that he rediscovered his love for
horses, recently breaking a couple of
Ron enjoyed gathering cattle
and riding horses in the Sierra. He was
a 32nd-degree Mason and Shriner and flew
airplanes for many years, his preferred
aircraft being a Beechcraft Bonanza.
Ron is survived by his wife,
Betsy; his mother, Pat Leighou; son Ronnie
Zimmerman and wife Melissa; one granddaughter;
his brother and sister; eight nephews;
and six nieces.