In the News -
Friday, SEPTEMBER 22, 2006
In scenes reminiscent of 2002 when Kaweah Country choked
on smoke from the monstrous McNally Fire in the southern Sierra, another
blazing inferno is currently causing similar breathing problems. The Day
Fire, the biggest of a complex of fires now burning in Southern California,
has consumed more than 131 square miles in the Los Padres National Forest
and is making the local air unbearable.
After threatening several communities near the boundary of
Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the Day Fire continues to burn in rugged
and mostly inaccessible terrain. Just when firefighters appear to have
the upper hand, those devilish Santa Ana winds kick up dozens of new flare-ups.
Last weekend, motorists traveling over the Grapevine via
Interstate 5 reported seeing flame lengths more than 100 feet high. An
army of nearly 2,000 firefighters, 24 helicopters, and 10 air tankers
are battling the blaze.
As of Thursday morning, firefighters were hoping for 20 percent
containment. Due to the fire’s increasing size and prevailing southwesterly
winds, the smoke is likely to continue to influence local air quality.
In the last two days, winds shifted slightly to the northwest
bringing some relief to foothills locales.
general, if you can smell smoke, then it’s probably at a strong
enough concentration to cause health effects,” said Shawn Ferreira,
a meteorologist with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The fires could conceivably burn until rains arrive in October
or November. If wind patterns remain predominantly southwesterly, long-term
exposure to smoke could cause even more serious health problems.
A National Park Service engine crew from Grant Grove and
several other local firefighters are currently on assignment in Southern
California. Fire managers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are
hopeful that conditions will improve so that several planned prescribed
fire projects may be ignited before the rainy season (see related story
on page 6).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure
to smoke and other particle pollution increases the incidence of respiratory
infections and can cause health problems, including asthma attacks and
acute bronchitis. For people with heart disease, short-term exposure to
particle pollution has been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias.
Residents in affected areas are advised to use caution when
smoke is present. Older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure,
strenuous activities, or heavy exertion.
For more air quality information, call the Fresno district
Historic painting acquired
This is the first of a new occasional feature that
will focus on the cultural heritage of Kaweah Country through its keepsakes
and treasures that are being displayed ocally or in private collections.
If you know about some important artifact of the past — a journal,
an artwork, an old photo, family heirloom or other curiosity —tell
your story and add another chapter to Kaweah Country’s colorful
Anyone who has ever braved the twisting, turning road to
Mineral King in Sequoia National Park has undoubtedly stopped at the bend
in the road near the top of “Endurance Hill.” The reason to
stop at one of the most oft-photographed and compelling views of the Mineral
King high country is the unmatched scenery.
The view from the wide place near the end of the road, at
an elevation slightly higher than 7,900 feet, is one of the most spectacular
to be found on the planet. Sawtooth, a jagged peak at 12,343 feet towers
over a steep Monarch Canyon that with each changing season, and on any
given day, can become more majestic with each passing minute.
At no time of day is that view more spectacular that at dusk
as the stark ridges above treeline resound with color and the last light
of the setting sun. Folks who frequent the High Sierra call this phenomenon
“alpenglow” and claim that no two days are ever alike.
To capture the sublime scene of a Mineral King alpenglow
in a photo is a challenge; to do it on canvas is perhaps a way to preserve
the real meaning of Mineral King treasure. An obscure artist with Kaweah
Country connections created the painting depicted above more than a century
I first saw the painting I was immediately drawn to its subtle detail
of the faint cabins and all the campfires burning in the forest,”
said John McWilliams, a collector and antiques dealer from Three Rivers
who recently purchased the oil on canvas from the estate of Barbara Milbradt.
Milbradt, who was raised in Kaweah Country, rode her saddle
horse all over the local mountains. In 1971, she was given the painting
as a gift, she said, from another relative of the artist, Margaret Allen
Oaks, who was also Barbara’s aunt.
Barbara Milbradt died in March 2006 at the age of 82.
was one of my dearest Three Rivers friends and knew that I loved that
painting,” said John McWilliams.
After Barbara passed away, McWilliams made arrangements to
acquire the painting. The artist was of the amateur variety and, according
to McWilliams, never completed more than a few works.
McWilliams said he plans one day to display the painting
in a local exhibit so others may enjoy this historic piece, an important
remnant of the Kaweah Country past.
Throughout its past, Three Rivers has developed a tradition
for town meetings that are indispensable for keeping local residents informed.
In the past decade, agendas of town meetings have ranged from all the
county services to the Three Rivers community plan and just about everything
No individual or group has done a better job of making these
meetings relevant than the Three Rivers Village Foundation. Tom Sparks,
a founding board member and the group’s prime mover behind the series
that he calls the “Three Rivers Town Hall,” has promised another
informative meeting on Thursday, Sept. 28.
Like past meetings sponsored by the Foundation, there will
be something for everyone.
At the top of the agenda is a visit with State Assemblyman
Maze has deep roots in Tulare County and Three Rivers and
is always willing to listen to the concerns of constituents. He will furnish
an update on what’s going on in Sacramento.
Attendees will also hear all the latest on what’s happening
in the local national parks. That presentation will include updates on
road construction and the new shuttle set to start operations in 2007.
Sparks says there are also new developments on the scenic
highway project and the toddler’s playground adjacent to the Three
Rivers Library. An announcement is forthcoming related to the latter project
as to when the groundbreaking will take place.
From all the positive feedback, Sparks says he’s hearing
that local folks really like the rapid-fire agenda on several topics that
is scheduled to conclude by 8:30 p.m.
allow plenty of time for discussion with an opportunity for some one-on-one
conversation during the refreshments afterward,” Sparks said.
For more information about the Town Hall Meetings or the
Three Rivers Village Foundation, call Tom Sparks, 561-0406.
Concert on the Grass
better and better
Sit back in the dappled shade of a fine autumn afternoon
and let yourself be carried away… Bill
Haxton, Concert host
Every autumn, on the last Saturday in September, Three Rivers
plays host to some of this part of Central California’s finest performers
of piano, song, drama, poetry, and dance. This year’s Concert on
the Grass, to be held Sept. 30, promises to be particularly excellent,
even by the standards set in the past.
Richard Isham will open the performance with two short pieces,
one by Rachmaninoff and one by Debussy. Both compositions are nicely suited
to the sublime outdoors.
Uncommon a Cappella — consisting of Three Rivers residents
Ken Woodruff, Donna Quillen, Beth Rohrkemper, and Gail Matuskey —
will take the stage to perform the iconic Crosby, Stills and Nash song
“Teach Your Children,” followed by the swaying harmonies of
New to the Concert on the Grass is Mark Gutierrez. Mark recently
performed live on Fresno Public Radio as one of a small group of young
up-and-coming Central Valley pianists. Mark will perform Chopin’s
expressive Ballade in G Minor.
Ken Elias of Three Rivers, who earlier this year had one
of his original compositions premiered by the Tulare County Symphony,
will perform a Rhapsody and a Capricio by Johannes Brahms.
Bill Haxton, the Concert’s host, will present a few
original poems, and actor and master storyteller John Slade will perform
excerpts from Charles Dickens’s immortal Oliver Twist, bringing
to life the irresistibly endearing Oliver and several other classic characters.
Bring a lawn chair or a blanket, picnic, and whatever beverage
The Concert on the Grass takes place in the yard of the Haxtons’
home at the end of Dinely Drive (signs will be posted). The Concert begins
at 3 p.m.; plan to arrive by 2:30.
Special parking arrangements will be made for anyone who
wishes to attend the All-Town Dinner Dance afterward. See the Kaweah
Kalendar page for contact information.
Election deadlines near
By now, most have heard that the General Election will be
held on Tuesday, Nov. 7. But there are some other dates of note.
The last day to register to vote in this election is Monday, Oct. 23.
Absentee ballots will be available from Monday, Oct. 9, through
Tuesday, Oct. 31.
For more information, visit www.tularecoelections.org or
Last month, four researchers affiliated with the Cave Research
Foundation discovered a cave within the boundaries of Sequoia and Kings
Canyon National Parks. The location of the cave is not being revealed
pending evaluation and scientific study.
The cave was found during an ongoing CRF project that conducts
searches for new caves and cave passages.
The newfound cave, located August 19, has been named Ursa
Minor, after the Little Dipper constellation. “Ursus” is the
scientific name for bear, a skeleton of which was found in the cave.
The cave features expansive passages and rooms, many of which
are more than 50 feet wide. Spectacular formations include long, graceful
cave curtains, fragile soda straws up to six feet in length, and large
areas of multicolored flowstones with brilliantly sparkling crystals.
There is a lake within the cave that could be up to 100 feet
Besides the possible bear remains, other ancient animal skeletons
were found in the cave. Cave-adapted invertebrates were also seen.
Parks cave management staff are working with other experts to map the
cave, inventory its features, conduct a biological inventory, photo-document
the formations, and gate the entrance.
Generals Highway roadwork delays
easy to avoid
As reported previously, the Generals Highway roadwork is
halting traffic between Big Fern Springs and Amphitheater Point about
10 miles from the Sequoia entrance station.
These delays are barely noticeable with a little pre-trip
planning. The uphill traffic is guided through the construction zone on
weekdays at the top of every hour and the downhill traffic follows.
Delays are only occurring during the daytime hours. Round-the-clock
construction will begin, but not until at least October 5.
To minimize visitor delays at the entrance station, park
passes are now on sale at Three Rivers motels as well as Sequoia Gifts
& Souvenirs and the Chamber of Commerce office.
Three Rivers residents and visitors can plan their trip to
minimize the wait at the construction zone. Take note that from the Ash
Mountain entrance station, it takes 25 to 30 minutes to reach the area.
If coming down the mountain, plan for about 15 minutes travel
time from the Giant Forest Museum to the traffic stop.
There are three lightning-caused fires currently burning
in Kings Canyon National Park that will continue to spread, albeit slowly,
until winter storms put a damper on them.
The largest of these is the Roaring Fire. It has burned about
921 acres since it was ignited in July, spreading a few acres a week.
The Ridge Fire, also in Kings Canyon, doubled in size in
the past couple of weeks and has consumed 131 acres.
The Burnt Fire (KCNP) is at 520 acres with more than 75 acres
of growth in the past week.
Prescribed fires on the fall-burning horizon could include
two burns in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon, and two in Mineral King, one
in Giant Forest, and one near Dorst Campground in Sequoia.
speaking with Ben Jacobs, our fuels specialist, he thinks that Silver
[Mineral King] and Cabin Meadow [Dorst] will probably be our priorities
for the fall,” said Jody Lyle, Sequoia-Kings Canyon fire information
officer. “This isn’t to say that the other projects won’t
Besides local conditions, including weather and air quality,
the ignitions of prescribed fires depend on the availability of fire crews
and their commitments to fires around the country.
1922 ~ 2006
Harry Steer, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Friday,
Sept. 15, 2006, in Spokane, Wash. He was 83.
Harry was born Dec. 29, 1922, in Fresno County. He graduated
from Fresno State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree
Harry served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War
II. In 1964, he married Mildred Pritchard Spotts, who was raised in Three
Harry and Millie were members of the Spokane First Assembly
of God. Together, they were active in the church’s Senior’s
Harry enjoyed hunting, fishing, and spending time outdoors.
Harry was preceded in death by his sister and six brothers.
In addition to his wife of 42 years, Millie, Harry is survived
by his son, Dan Steer of Spokane; daughters Carol Glashoff of Oakland,
Julie Stevens of Spokane, and Loree Poutre of Spokane; his brother, Roy
Steer of Sacramento; eight grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and
numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service was held yesterday (Thursday, Sept. 21)
at the Spokane First Assembly of God. Harry was interred at the Pleasant
Prairie Cemetery in Spokane.
1919 ~ 2006
Mary Nugent of Three Rivers died Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006,
in Visalia. She was 86.
Mary was born Nov. 26, 1919, in Toronto, Canada. She was
Mary was preceded in death by her husband, Arthur, and son
She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and
Richard Merline of Three Rivers; son Thomas Nugent of Grass Valley; daughter
Jo Anne Stone of Grass Valley; and daughter Patricia Devine of Vacaville;
seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A private gathering in Mary’s honor will be held at
a later date.
1926 ~ 2006
Frank Westley Rhodehamel died Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2006, in
Fresno after a 17-year battle with cancer. He was 80.
Frank was a fifth-generation California who was raised in
Three Rivers. He graduated from Woodlake High School in 1944 and Fresno
He received his Master’s degree in Education from Stanford
University. He spent nearly 50 years as an educator with the Fresno Unified
School District, retiring as an administrator.
Frank was an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster for many years,
taking scouts on many trips, including two to Mount Whitney. He was a
founding member of the Sierra Hiking and Ictheological Troop, organizing
and leading numerous excursions to the High Sierra.
Frank is survived by his wife of 49 years, Kathryn; his daughter,
Ann Rhodehamel-Bennett and her husband, Barry, and their daughters, Rachel
and Claire, of Fresno; son Westley Rhodehamel and his wife, Deborah, and
their children, Alli and Ami, of Bakersfield; and son Jon Rhodehamel of
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Remembrances may be made to the American Cancer Society.