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In the News - Friday, September 30, 2011



3R motorists collide with wild pigs

  As if it isn’t dangerous enough driving around Lake Kaweah at night, imagine coming upon three large feral pigs standing in complete darkness in middle of the roadway. That was what happened to one Three Rivers motorist on Monday evening, Sept. 26; then another motorist hit one of the corpses and ended up seriously damaging his vehicle too.
   The first driver was Laurienne Norton, 34, of Three Rivers who was driving a 2006 Hyundai Sonata eastbound on Highway 198. According to information reported from the scene, Laurienne dimmed her high-beam headlights to enter the passing lane just before Horse Creek Campground.
   At approximately 10:35 p.m., after entering the lane, she collided with three large pigs estimated to be at least 200 pounds each. Laurienne told a CHP officer that after the collision, she drove her crashed vehicle to the side of the roadway to wait for help.
   Ten minutes later, Steve LaMar, 52, of Three Rivers was also traveling eastbound when he hit one of the dead pigs in his 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid. Steve narrowly missed flipping his vehicle after swerving in a futile attempt to avoid the dead pigs.
   Neither motorist was injured in the separate accidents.
   A herd of the wild pigs is known to inhabit the basin when the lake level drops. As they forage, they frequently attempt to cross Highway 198 at night.

Board of supervisors approves new districts

  For 18 Three Rivers residents who attended Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors public hearing on the redistricting of the county’s five supervisorial districts, it was a classic lesson that the squeaky wheel still gets the grease. At stake, was to ensure the board did not choose “Map A,” which divided Three Rivers along Sierra Drive into two separate districts.
   Several Three Rivers community members spoke during the public hearing, urging the board to preserve the integrity of Three Rivers and forego its division into two separate districts. Tom Sparks pointed out that no other unincorporated community contributes more than Three Rivers when it comes to tourist tax dollars ($1 million annually) and it would not be prudent to divide those interests.
   Bill Haxton, spokesperson for the Three Rivers group, said either Map B or C would have been acceptable as long as the lines in Map C were drawn to include Three Rivers in a single district. The board voted 3-2 for Map B and essentially to preserve rural small communities over the vested interests of the larger population centers of Visalia and Tulare.
   Not surprisingly, it was Supervisors Cox (District Three-Visalia) and Supervisor Vander Poel (District Four-Tulare) who cast the dissenting votes. Supervisor Vander Poel stated that he was impressed by all the Three Rivers emails that flooded his in-box and any boundaries that he supported would preserve Three Rivers within a single district.
   Approval of Map A could have afforded Visalia with the opportunity to elect two supervisors. So in the end it came down to the big-city population centers versus preserving equal representation for rural communities.
   Supervisor Ishida, who led the push to approve Map B, said that equality could only be accomplished by “diluting” some of the Visalia district. Supervisor Ishida’s District One is the enigma of the five districts because in addition to Three Rivers, the district contains all or parts of four incorporated cities — Lindsay, Exeter, Farmersville, and Visalia.
   The portion of Visalia that is included in District One includes 30 percent of the voters. Supervisor Worthley, who represents District Four, said he voted for Map B because it kept the Cutler-Orosi communities from being divided among two districts.
  “Much of the county business represents what’s between those [incorporated] cities so we can’t divide these areas up,” Supervisor Worthley said. “We are the only government for these communities of interest and they must be kept whole.”
   Robert Quiroz, a Visalia-basedconsultant and demographer who represents a coalition of Hispanic voters, attempted to convince the board to adopt Map C, which he said was mandated by law because more than 60 percent of county residents are Hispanic. That alternative would have aligned foothills communities –Three Rivers and Springville — in a single district.
   In the end Map B essentially keeps District One as it was before the 2010 census, except that Poplar and Cotton Center, formerly in the southern part of District One, now become part of District Five.
   An ordinance approving the Map B boundaries is expected to be finalized next month.

Cal Fire plans South Fork burn

  Cal Fire will conduct an “open space vegetation management burn” in the Grouse Creek drainage of South Fork Drive. The location is about six miles from Highway 198 in an area serviced by a fire road that traverses south from South Fork Drive to the communication towers on Blue Ridge.
   The burn is scheduled to be ignited on Saturday, Oct. 1, dependent on weather and air quality conditions. It will begin about 9 a.m. and conclude by 5 p.m.
   The fire will burn approximately 1,600 acres of brush and grass amid the oak woodlands zone. Fire engines, bulldozers, water tenders, a helicopter, and ground and air fire crews will be on site.
   The purpose of the fire is structure protection and the improvement of wildlife habitat. For more information, call Larry Pendarvis, public information officer, 635-8206.

Parks plan prescribed fires

  After a week-long run of unhealthy air quality, there’s some cooler air due in Kaweah Country by Saturday. That means a slight improvement in local air quality and a weather window of opportunity for the local national parks to ignite a prescribed fire or two.
   If conditions warrant, NPS fires crews may begin ignitions in Grant Grove or Giant Forest within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as early as Saturday, Oct. 1. As is usually the case for this time of year, the decline in ozone levels in the atmosphere is the signal for local parks to resume their ignitions.
   In other fire-related news, the Lion Fire, burning since July 8 mostly in the Golden Trout Wilderness, consumed more than 20,500 acres. As of last week all trails have been reopened although there are still some smoldering hot spots.
   During the lightning storms that passed through the area September 23 to 24, a number of strikes were reported in the Golden Trout Wilderness. Three backcountry fires were extinguished while another, approximately four acres in size, is being closely monitored.
   The trail to Farewell Gap in the Golden Trout Wilderness was also recently reopened.
For more information, call the Western Divide Ranger District at 539-2607.

Volatile weather ushers
In the first day of autumn

Rain and snow forecast for next week

  After a summer where spring lingered and fall came early, the first day of the autumn season (September 23) was punctuated with an incredible lightning storm and heavy downpours in some areas. And the lightning was no isolated occurrence.
   It was reported up and down the Sierra with Tulare County right in the middle of a thunderous display visible for more than 100 miles. As of the next morning, there were 470 confirmed lightning strikes in the Tulare County foothills.
   The largest of these fires caused by the strikes was located northwest of Woodlake in the Mud Springs Gap area. The lightning-caused fire consumed more 350 acres before it could be contained.
   A little closer to home, strikes were reported in the Yokohl Valley area east of Exeter and in Cherokee Oaks in Three Rivers. Firefighters remained on the scene for a few hours in the 10-acre Yokohl blaze; apparently the reported strike in Cherokee Oaks did not ignite a fire.
   The volatile weather was caused by cooler air aloft that was trying to wrest control of the upper atmosphere from warmer air stalled over the region. That cooler air will finally begin to push the warm air eastward this weekend.
   This will bring a significant change in the local weather that could by Wednesday bring rain to Three Rivers and snow in the nearby mountains.

Bike-packers headed for Kaweah Country

  Jared Woods, bicycling advocate and bike-packer, was in Three Rivers on Saturday, Sept. 24, and said that he is only one of many bike-packers who will visit the area in the near future. That’s because a new map published by the Adventure Cycling Association (www.adventurecycling.org) features a route along the Sierra foothills right through Three Rivers with suggested destination stops in Sequoia and Kings National Parks and Yosemite National Park.
   Woods said there are thousands bikepackers from around the world who will now plan trips using the invaluable map that also includes indispensable information about how and when to visit spectacular California attractions, where to eat, where to camp, and more.
   Woods started his cycling adventure from his home in Los Angeles on Monday, Sept. 19, and has averaged between 40 and 50 miles each day. From Three Rivers, he was headed to Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
   After visiting Yosemite this week, Woods said he will pedal to Merced where he will board an Amtrak train for the return trip to Los Angeles.
   The graduate student at Antioch University in Los Angeles said he couldn’t think of a better way to spend a two-week vacation. By trip’s end, Woods estimates he will have pedaled more than 1,200 miles, visited Giant Forest and Yosemite Valley, and enjoyed some of the best scenery on the planet.
  “My goal in life is to encourage and teach young people the benefits of riding a bike,” Woods said. “I can’t think of a better way to do that than by setting a good example.”

Public Lands Day volunteers

clean up Lake Kaweah (photo caption)

  An ironing board? Really? That wins the award for the strangest piece of trash collected during this year’s Public Lands Day cleanup event, held at Lake Kaweah on Saturday, Sept. 24. Hundreds of volunteers woke up early and arrived at Horse Creek Campground to sign in and receive their day’s assignment. After working on various projects in the morning — campground upgrades, trash pickup, planting and weeding, and even setting up the new Horse Camp for the season — volunteers met back at the campground for a complimentary, catered lunch, which is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ way of saying “thank you” for the assistance.

Bridging the gap (photo caption)

  A Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks crew continues renovation work on the bridge at road’s end in Mineral King, using a new technology, which consists of a three-step process of reinforcing material that eliminates the need for a deep foundation or connecting concrete approach. The work will continue through October 20.

Look what’s cooking at
Badger Mountain House

Poker Run this weekend

By Brian Rothhammer

   Attention all bikers, adventurers, and those who enjoy a day in the Sierra foothills with delicious food, great people, music, games, fun, and all for a good cause. Saturday, Oct. 1, is the third annual Mountain House Poker Run in Badger.
   On approach you’ll see the new sign, new roof and get the feeling that something has changed.
   After months of renovation by neighboring contractors and dedicated staff, the time honored roadhouse at the corner of Dry Creek Road and Hwy. 245 has a revamped kitchen, new restrooms, and an upgraded dining room that’s new throughout with satellite jukebox (unlimited selections), TV, Wi-Fi, billiards, regulation shuffleboard, woodstove, and a deck with a panoramic view of Homer’s Nose.
   Quality is evident in the menu changes as well. On Friday and Saturday nights (excluding Oct. 1), Kathy Williams now lends her culinary expertise with selections such as Bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon, Lobster Tail, King Crab Legs, Prime Rib, Shrimp Scampi, and Chicken Marsala.
   Do leave room for Kathy’s legendary desserts: Maple Walnut Cake, Tuxedo Chocolate Cheesecake, Poached Pears with Wine Sauce, and Brownie Mudpie Sundae are just a sampling of the scrumptious offerings.
   On weekdays, as well as weekends, the famous Mountain Burger and all the familiar fare is available at reasonable prices. Their breakfasts fuel loggers, ranchers and firefighters and visitors from around the world.

   On Saturday, Oct. 1, be there at 9 a.m. for early check-in, as the first 100 entrants get a free event T-shirt. Entry fee is $25, which includes coffee and doughnuts at the start, all the great barbecue grub and entertainment on return, and one guaranteed good time with fun and games for all.
   Proceeds from the first Poker Run in 2009 netted over $500 for a local school with limited funding. Last year’s sketchy weather limited participation and donations but hopes are high for a better turnout in 2011.
   The rules and prizes are typical of a Poker Run with 50/50, best/worst hand, 60/40 split, oldest, youngest, farthest, closest, and the good fun for all at the games. The route starts at the Mountain House, then heads south on Dry Creek Road to Stagecoach Drive, up and around Hartland to Sierra Glen, out to 245, north to 180, west on 180 to Gena’s Place, then up Dunlap Road to Twin Valley’s Restaurant, back to Dunlap, up to 245, and return to the Badger Mountain House.
   For those who choose not to drive home after the party, camping is free at the Badger Mountain House.
   To get to Badger Mountain House from Three Rivers, take Hwy. 198 to Hwy. 216, in a half mile, turn right on Dry Creek Drive and continue for about 17 miles. An alternate route is to continue on Hwy. 216 to Woodlake, turn right on Valencia (Hwy. 245), and continue to Badger.
   Information: 337-2321.


Meadows, mosquitoes, and mountain memories

By Sarah Elliott

This is part two in a series about an August 2011 eight-day backpacking trip.

   A howling wind made its debut at 2 a.m., making its way down-canyon with the velocity of a freight train. We were carrying two tents for our party of four on this trip, but had only set up one at this campsite as John opted to spend our first night out under the stars.
   Jennie, Jimmy, and I were cozy inside our 20-year-old, three-person Mountain Hardwear “Yellowstone,” but wind makes for a restless night’s sleep in a tent, something akin to being inside a beachball that’s being batted around at a stadium event. John, on the other hand, retreated deep into his sleeping bag to avoid the flying pieces of disintegrated granite that were being shot at him like BBs.
   By daybreak, all was again calm. By the time the sun had risen over Rainbow Mountain, we were sipping hot drinks and tearing down camp. Rainbow Mountain is a 12,000-plus-foot peak that rises above Franklin Lakes to the east.
   It is aptly named, as there is a bizarre conglomeration of every hue imaginable in the rocks along its west face, from red and yellow, to white and black, to pink and green. The character of this canyon is shaped by the geology with marble, quartzite, limestone, slate, and more strewn here and there, haphazard yet so striking.
   Erosion and uplift have left their marks. Although these events have quieted, we were still in a dynamic place where evidence of earthquakes and other drama can be observed. Upon entering the canyon from below, there is no sign of water, which for backpackers isn’t an ideal place to set up camp.
   But John and I had explored this area the previous summer and knew that the creek would make its debut farther up the slope. And it did, only to disappear again underground. Then it reappears.
   The creek weaves its way above and below ground, like thread sewn into fabric. It topples over an exposed rock wall into a chasm, where there is no above-ground outlet for the tumbling whitewater. Instead, it is suddenly gone.
   The water reemerges downstream, where it is heard before seen. Echoing among granite outcrops is the sound of water pounding violently. On closer inspection, one discovers that the creek flows from its underground seclusion from above, dropping like a giant showerhead into a rock grotto, then suddenly calms again as it gurgles out into the sunshine from this hidden cave to proceed calmly down the mountain, bordered by green grasses and a palette of wildflowers, before vanishing into the underworld once more.
   On this backpacking trip, there was no single destination — such as Mount Whitney — although we would be rewarding ourselves with a couple of layover days. Instead, each day was the destination, so with this first morning, we began the routine of slowly working toward packing our backpacks while also ensuring we took the time to enjoy the area.
   After a leisurely morning, we lifted our packs onto some sore shoulders and hipbones — the byproduct of not backpacking nearly enough — and began working our way cross-country through this magnificent canyon. Glaciers were the artists that sculpted this area, which is arranged like a giant staircase consisting alternately of steep slopes and flat valleys.
   We did some routefinding and climbing, then strolled and took photographs, then climbed, then strolled a little more. We worked our way around a major snowfield where the canyon makes a 90-degree bend. With this minor hindrance behind, we continued until the canyon ends abruptly against a granite ridge. On the other side, we knew, would be lower Franklin Lake.
   From here, we planned to merge with the Franklin Pass trail at some point above the lake. Abutted against the steepest part of the ridge is a pristine snowmelt pond that I named Coyote Lake. It was here during a day-hike in 2010, at nearly 11,000 feet, that I came around some tombstone granite and saw a coyote drinking out of the pond.
   I wasn’t stealth enough and the coyote immediately heard me and ran off into the boulders, but it was a memorable sight. No coyote was at the pond today as we continued on along the shore.
   It was an easy ascent to the ridgecrest, where we rested in the shade of the resilient foxtail pines that somehow find a foothold on the rocky mountainside. Although lightning strikes attenuate these rare and ancient trees, as evidenced by the shells of the dead but still standing skeletons, they persevere in this harsh environment. In fact, this species of foxtail pine is found nowhere else in the world but the southern Sierra Nevada.
   We were directly above the rock-and-concrete dam at the lake’s north end. From here, we clambered down a steep, rocky slope to rejoin the well-used Franklin trail. Because of the cross-country route that started our day, we would be making our approach to the 11,800-foot pass later than we had planned, but we were back on-trail and ready to step up the pace.
   The views are splendid as the sandy trail traverses well above the east shore of Franklin Lake, which is the largest lake in the Mineral King cirque. Florence and Tulare peaks and the adjoining dark-maroon headwall contrasts sharply with the sparkling blue water of lower Franklin Lake. Soon the trail takes hikers high enough to view the upper Franklin Lake, smaller and less visited, and still surrounded by snow even though we were in the waning days of August.
   We soon were on the switchback portion of the trail, where the white-hued, boulder-strewn slope was laced with snowmelt rills and dotted with lovely flowers — shooting star, columbine — that depend on these waterways. The trail rises steadily, then steeply while the views of the lakes increase along with the altitude.
   The final section of trail to Franklin Pass is a long, diagonal ramp that tricks weary hikers who are nearing the top. It heads straight toward the ridge that crosses over into the Rattlesnake drainage. Just as a hiker considers celebrating the accomplishment of reaching the pass, the trail veers back and contours the ridgeline for another quarter mile.
   Our novice backpacker, Jimmy, reached the true Franklin Pass first. By the time the rest of us arrived, he had his pack off and was lounging against a sun-drenched boulder. The always-windy pass affords some panoramic views. We could see our next destination of Forester Lake as well as the grassy, yet boulder-strewn headwaters of Rattlesnake Creek.
   As we straddled the pass, a glance back to the north reveals Castle Rocks and the many lake cirques that encompass the Mineral King valley. Looking ahead is Kern Canyon and, beyond, an excellent view of the eastern Sierra escarpment where, on this cloudless day, Mount Whitney was easily identified.
   It was lunchtime and hunger was setting in, but we only took time on the pass to take photos. It was windy and cold, so we crossed the stubborn snowfield that won’t be melting completely this year and began dropping abruptly into Rattlesnake Canyon. This weather-beaten slope has resulted in some interesting-looking granite domes — resembling mushrooms, anvils, and other-worldly shapes.
   Where the trail juts back toward the backside of Florence Peak, enough of a windbreak was created to allow us a lunch respite. Out came the smorgasbord, which wouldn’t vary much for the next week: a mix of dehydrated fruit (made at home so as not to contain sulfur dioxide); trail mix (also prepared at home to control the ingredients); crackers with hummus (dried, mixed with water), almond butter (placed in a squeeze tube), or shredded parmesan (it doesn’t spoil); home-dehydrated fruit leather; and a shared Payday candy bar (they don’t melt) for dessert.
   Rejuvenated and ready to knock off the final few miles to our second day’s destination, we continued descending to Rattlesnake Canyon. On the floor of the canyon, it’s a leisurely walk on gentle terrain alongside babbling Rattlesnake Creek, where the trail weaves in and out of forest cover and exposed meadows. We passed the inconspicuous cutoff that heads south to Shotgun Pass, only discernible by the trail sign. This brought back memories of a previous trip where our family of four traveled from Farewell Canyon to Rattlesnake Canyon via Silver Lake.
   It was along this section of trail, the gentlest terrain we had experienced all day, that John’s hiking pole broke in half. This was the first gear malfunction of the trip, but there would be more.
   Jimmy was the only other one of us traveling with a pole. He kindly offered it; John’s immediate family members would not have been so generous. As John secured the damaged equipment to his pack, Jimmy went in search of a walking stick.
   From the trail junction to Little Claire Lake, it’s a quick one mile to Forester Lake, a glistening Sierra jewel. With its flat shoreline, there is enough room for an army to camp. And as our kids can attest from years’ past, fishing for brook trout here will not disappoint. They are small, but plentiful.
   It’s just over a mile to Little Claire, so off we went, and for the third time in a day, climbed to a ridge… and back down.
   It’s a pleasant route that gently ascends to a broad saddle. From here, the trail meanders down through a dense forest where Little Claire Lake teased us with glimpses through the trees of its crystal-blue water.
   As we traversed the lake’s east shore in search of the perfect campsite, the sun set behind the precipitous wall that plunges into the lake to the west.
   We found a comfortable campsite on the north end of the lake, mere steps from one of the great Sierra viewpoints.
   To be continued...


Peace is like a river: Living life without pain

By Charlene Vartanian

  Rivers flow. It is their nature. A river, by definition, is a large quantity of water all flowing in a similar direction. Our bodies and lives also have a flow.
   One of the primary ways we notice our bodies and lives is when the flow stops — we hurt, we have pain, we can’t move around with ease, or something bad happens. When things are overwhelming, the flow stops and our bodies, minds, and emotions get stuck. Not only do we not feel at peace, we can feel quite the opposite.
   A river analogy is helpful here. Looking at the larger perspective, seeing all the eddies, rocks, twists and turns that occur can be very helpful. This larger perspective also allows us to see that, even though there is a problem area, the river still flows. It takes great patience, particularly when the river appears to stop, and yet we know it flows underground.
   Maintaining our sense of health is dependent on trusting that even when we can’t see it, the river still exists. Even when we have pain, even when we lose something or someone that we love, the flow continues. Our bodies actually appreciate and respond to the subtle reminder that life flows, things change, life is bigger than what is happening at the moment, and yet the moment, too, is full of life, even in all its disguises. A healthy and peaceful life includes embracing and dancing along the length of the continuum, and observing the flow so we can help restore stability.
   What are some of the ways we can be like a river to help support this positive directional flow in our bodies and lives?
   One of the first would be to get in touch with what is happening right now. Look out the window at the green trees and the blue sky. Step out and get a glimpse of the mountains, go to the river and just sit beside it.
   Give yourself permission to enjoy the simple things. Give yourself permission to do nothing.
Our bodies take that as a message that it is safe to breathe, inhale with ease, and find its rhythm. That is where peace exists, in knowing and living in your own rhythm.
   Let nature help you connect to the peace that exists in being a part of the flow of life. Your body will thank you for it.
   Charlene Vartanian, R.N., specializes in craniosacral therapy.

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