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Sequoia and Kings Canyon
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Kaweah Kam


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In the News - Friday, OCTOBER 5, 2007

Sequoia fire sparks concern

   A fire intentionally ignited Sunday, Sept. 30, by the Park Service in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park caused plumes of smoke to rise on the skyline and many Three Rivers residents to wonder as to the cause.
   A press release received at noon on Friday, Sept. 28, by The Kaweah Commonwealth announcing the park’s plans to begin a prescribed fire project the next day was received too late for the newspaper to inform readers in the week’s recent issue. As a result, myriad phone calls were received via the newspaper’s business and personal phone numbers.

  “As soon as I saw the smoke rising above the canyon, I knew people would be concerned,” said Sarah Elliott, co-publisher of the Commonwealth. “I felt as if I failed at my job because we weren’t given the opportunity to inform the community and its visitors about the fire. For that, I apologize to our readers.”
   This week, several other reports have been received by residents in the Middle Fork canyon that their smoke alarms were activated by the smoke that has settled into the drainage during the early morning hours.
   The fire, called the Wallspring Prescribed Fire, is a 175-acre unit located south of the Giant Forest Museum between the Moro Rock Road and the Generals Highway.
   The reason for the fire in the famous Giant Forest sequoia grove is because fire opens the Big Trees’ cones and releases the seeds into the nutrient-rich ash and mineral soil, which assists with germination. Fire also thins competing vegetation and opens the canopy to allow the sun to shine through.
   As for the smoke, park visitors and area residents should keep windows closed during smoky periods and limit outdoor activities. According to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, if smoke can be smelled, then harmful particulates are being inhaled.
   Those most at risk are the young and the old, and people with heart and lung conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, and emphysema.
   Children with asthma are especially vulnerable. But even the lungs of healthy children can become irritated.
   Children are more susceptible because their lungs are still developing. Pound for pound, they also breathe in more air than adults.
   Another prescribed fire project scheduled for this fall is the Davenport Prescribed Fire, an 881-acre burn in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, located in the East Fork canyon of the Kaweah River.
   Other projects are scheduled for Cedar Grove and Grant Grove, which will not impact Three Rivers with smoke.

Ambulance fix pondered

at Town Meeting

   Three Rivers ambulance volunteers and county Supervisor Allen Ishida told a large gathering at last Monday’s Town Hall Meeting that the ambulance crisis can be fixed but it’s going to take some “give and take” on the part of the companies that now serve the incorporated cities of Tulare County. In outlying areas like Three Rivers, the coverage is inconsistent at best, and sooner or later there will be a patient who cannot afford to wait for an ambulance to arrive from down in the valley.
   That was the prognosis from Sandy Owen, president of the Three Rivers Volunteer Ambulance board, who promised that the group of a six volunteers will hang on until the county has something better in place.

  “[Since the 1970s] we could always provide adequate care,” Sandy said. “But now we don’t have enough trained volunteers to answer all the calls. We make most of our calls, but not all the calls.”
   Of course, it’s the calls when nobody is available in Three Rivers that has Sandy and her dedicated volunteers concerned the most.
“We should have paramedics and an ambulance stationed right here in Three Rivers 24/7,” Sandy said.
   Ishida said that he and his fellow supervisors are working on an ambulance plan and all the companies are highly motivated because an ambulance contract for the county is up for renewal Jan. 1, 2008.

  “I can’t say for sure that we will have one provider countywide by the next contract, but there will be some big changes coming soon,” Ishida said. “The ambulance service has to change along with local healthcare because the entire system is near collapse.”
   He said the ambulance service in outlying areas became an acute problem when the state and federal governments decided to restructure their reimbursing of ambulance providers. Now it doesn’t pay to service areas like Three Rivers, and the companies say they lose money on longer trips.
   Sandy said that if the residents of areas like Three Rivers and Springville make their collective voice heard, the Board of Supervisors will take the necessary action to bring Tulare County in line with what other counties are already doing.
   In other Town Meeting-related business, Alexandra Picavet, spokesperson for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, announced that park visitation was up for summer 2007 and visits were enhanced by the new park shuttle. Picavet described the intra-park shuttle as “very successful” and said that it operated at 75 percent capacity.
   Picavet also said that as a result of the parks’ Operation Weed Free, 12 suspects had been arrested or deported during the pot bust season. More than 30,000 plants had been eradicated and eight grow sites were also abandoned within park boundaries, she said.
   Tom Sparks, speaking on behalf of the Kaweah Scenic Highway project, said that a draft of the corridor protection plan is being circulated among Tulare County planners and should be released for public review soon. He was hopeful that a meeting to discuss the new plan would be held in November.

Two fires, same locale

   Two separate blazes at the same address — 42695 North Fork Drive — on consecutive days (Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 1 and 2) had Tulare County firefighters scurrying back and forth to the same scene and wondering if a second fire was just a coincidence.
   The first fire was reported at 7 p.m. Monday, and when firefighters arrived they found a small grass fire had started after a battery used to power a fuel pump created an errant spark. According to information they were able to gather at the scene, gas was being pumped from a motor home’s generator into a plastic container.
   The spark caused the plastic container and the generator to catch fire, and after the owner of the motor home tossed the plastic container away it started a grassfire. Simultaneously, a small fire started in the wall of the motor home.
   Firefighters mopped up the fires and looked for any clues of where the fire might spread. They used a thermal camera to locate potential hot spots.
   After the owner had drilled a hole in the side of the motor home and the scene had sufficiently cooled, the five engine companies that responded were released. At 7:10 the next morning, fire personnel were again summoned to the same location.
   This time, a small wooden shed was burning, which is situated about 10 feet away from the motor home. Although there was vegetation and combustible debris around the shed, there were no indications that the two blazes were connected.
   At least one-half of the structure burned as well as some of the contents of the shed. The cause of the second blaze is under investigation.

Public Lands Day

   A throng of 403 volunteers — the most ever to register for the local event — arrived at Lake Kaweah early Saturday, Sept. 29, to spend the morning sprucing up, fixing up, and cleaning up the surrounding recreation areas. The enthusiastic contingent participated in campground restoration, painting, landscaping, litter pickup, and more. The event was part of Public Lands Day, commemorated nationwide each September.

Dinner Dance in weekend forecast

   It’s the Three Rivers version of Oktoberfest. It’s in its fifth year and is solely for friends and neighbors in Three Rivers to enjoy each other and some good old-fashioned Lions hospitality.
   But mostly the annual All-Town Dinner Dance is just what the name implies, a delicious dinner served at Lions Arena to the tunes of two outstanding bands that can play what’s new and those classic oldies that can get everybody out on the dance floor.

  “In all the events [the Three Rivers Lions] put on each year there is nothing that can compare to seeing three generations of a Three Rivers family out on the dance floor with all their friends,” said Glenn McIntyre, Lions Club president. “It’s the party of the year and not to be missed.”
   Glenn knows a little something about how to throw a party. After all it’s a big part of his Gateway Restaurant business. From the outset, this event as been his baby and he serves as master of ceremonies, not to mention head chef, ticket vendor, and publicist. Each year, he has tried different bands, various activities to keep the kids amused, and just the right menu so that even the ficklest of eaters can find something they like.
   Now the Dinner Dance formula really works, he said. While the kids get to romp in the oversized bounce house, mom and dad and everyone else will move and groove to the country sounds of the Fifty Buck Band.
   As the sun goes down, it will time for a trip to Motown via the artistry of Papa Bear & Company. This Fresno outfit can really turn up the heat.
   Saturday’s weather will be picturesque with a warm, sunny afternoon and just the right touch of cool for an evening of dancing.

  “C’mon out and see what your friends and neighbors are up to,” said Glenn. “It’s all for fun, and 100 percent of the funds we raise will be used for Lions good deeds in the Three Rivers community.”


Award-winning Cabinart
   Three Rivers artist Jana Botkin has placed in the “Celebrate Agriculture & The Arts,” an annual juried and judged art show in Madera.
   Jana placed first in the Farm Machinery Structures category with her pencil and colored pencil piece titled “Size Matters.” She was awarded second place in the Citrus category with an oil painting titled “There’s Nothing Like a Navel.”
   Since 1993, Jana has been establishing her reputation as a pencil artist working in the subject matters of both citrus and Sequoia National Park. Currently, she is working in oil.
   The Celebrate Agriculture & The Arts exhibit and competition promotes a broader interest and understanding of agriculture as an industry while showcasing the work of professional artists in an exemplary exhibit with a unique format.
   The exhibit will continue at the Circle Gallery in Madera through Friday, Nov. 9. Then the winners in each category will be traveling to other locations for further exhibit.
   To visit the show at the Madera gallery, contact the facility for operating hours and driving directions by calling 661-7005 or logging on to
   Jana’s work can be seen in Three Rivers at Sequoia Gifts & Souvenirs and Reimer’s Candies and Gifts. Her home studio is open by appointment; call 561-7606.

Hot air
   Gary Hart — who was raised in Three Rivers and whose parents, Bill and Elaine, still reside here — was featured in his hometown newspaper, the Nome Nugget, for a recent accomplishment of retrofitting his 3,600-square-foot home to become the first in the entire state of Alaska — and possibly even the nation — to be heated solely by a combination of solar and wind power.
   Previously to keep his house warm during the long Alaska winters, Gary burned 250 gallons of heating oil each month. At $4 a gallon, that adds up to an excruciating energy bill.
   Now, on sunny days, three solar panels will do the work to heat water and an 80-gallon glycol tank in the boiler room. When clouds prevail, the windmill picks up the slack.
   The project set Gary back about $20,000. He predicts it will pay for itself in about three years.


Rerouted in

Sequoia’s backcountry

A family’s journey into

the wilderness and back

Day 2
Sunday, July 15
Spring Lake to Big Arroyo
7 miles

This is part three in a series about a Sierra backpacking trip.
* * *
   Getting up early has its advantages. But don’t ask our kids about that because they aren’t well-versed in this concept.
   While they slept, Mom and Dad boiled water for tea and coffee, respectively, and found a sunny boulder on which to sit, sip, and view Spring Lake.
   Right on cue, nine deer walked onto the peninsula on the east side of the lake. They began grazing and drinking, but soon a few became frisky.
   The youngsters began playing deer games along the shore, butting heads and chasing each other around; it was quite entertaining. When one of them stopped to drink out of the lake, he apparently encroached on the space of a more mature deer that was not in the mood to tolerate such child’s play and decided to show its dominance by chasing the smaller deer into the lake.
   The young deer stood there for several minutes, seemingly waiting for permission, or perhaps a safe escape route, to leave the water. Eventually, the older deer lost interest, and the smaller deer waded back to shore.
   The herd soon grazed their way out of sight, and we got busy organizing and preparing to load the backpacks. We rousted the kids just as the deer, which were previously on the opposite side of the lake, arrived on our rocky perch.
   They were pretending to munch on the sparse vegetation surrounding our camp, but it was just a ruse because soon curiosity got the best of them. The first glimpse the kids took out of their tent that morning consisted of a view of two deer staring at them from just 10 feet away with a sunny Spring Lake shimmering in the background.
   As the sleeping bags were stuffed and water heated for hot chocolate and oatmeal, the deer remained an amusing diversion. They had us surrounded, nibbling willow and watching, showing no outward signs of begging or trying to otherwise obtain food or gear (we temporarily lost a couple of hats to a buck a few years back), just being curious as deer tend to be.
   As we donned our packs for the day’s journey, we were rather impressed at our early start. On past trips, we devoted a lot more time to dismantling camp and loading the packs; no matter how hard we tried, this family of four could never be on the trail before 8:30 or 9 a.m.
   Now it was 7:40 in the morning. The early start would behoove us on this day because a look skyward revealed cumulating cumulus clouds.
   We were headed to Black Rock Pass, which was looming to the north, looking like a large shadow amidst the surrounding white granite peaks along the Great Western Divide. There is no trail from Spring Lake to the Black Rock Pass trail, but when studying this route on a topographical map from the comfort of home, it looked as though we would be able to cross Spring Lake’s outlet and, without losing any elevation, contour along the mountain’s south slope to pick up the trail at about the 10,000-foot level.
   When face to face with this terrain, however, it was obvious this was not feasible. The mountainside that didn’t look so treacherous on the map was in reality an enormous, unstable talus pile.
   The alternate route would require that we lose a couple hundred feet in elevation, a decision that is never taken lightly, but necessary at times for the sake of safety. We stayed on the west side of the outlet creek, picking our way through another onerous talus field, then rock-hopped across the waterway when we reached a thicket of willows at the bottom of slope.
   The Black Rock Pass trail is easy to spot anywhere along this route, so we got a bead on where we could best merge onto it and began heading diagonally in this direction. A couple hundred yards before reaching the trail, we ended up on an obscure path that at first we thought may have been a game trail until it gave way to switchbacks when the going got steep.
   This old use trail took us to where we had been headed, some large junipers along the main trail. Now all that was left to do was climb the 1,000-odd vertical feet to the pass.
   The view from Black Rock Pass is expansive — Kaweah Peaks, Big Arroyo, Little Five Lakes, Chagoopa Plateau, Kern Canyon, and the Whitney crest about 16 air miles distant — but while the others were taking photos and snacking on Clif bars, I was distrait, pondering an upcoming trail junction and knowing a decision needed to be made about a route change.
   That’s the deal with backpacking. It’s a matter of personal responsibility, and if anyone in the backcountry ever thinks they are in complete control, they are thoroughly mistaken.
   A rerouting of the trip was imminent because the altitude and John weren’t getting along, and he was traveling slower than what our schedule dictated. In a few miles, we would be reaching the High Sierra Trail, where we had planned to turn east and head into the Kern Canyon, but I was considering hanging a left and staying within closer proximity to the frontcountry.
   I had also been noticing that proffering tactful advice had given way to impatience with this slower member of the party, especially as the thunderheads began roiling overhead. This is not the temperament that should prevail when privileged to have vacation time in the wilderness.
   I was disappointed about this looming change in plans. Compounding my mood, to the north, in the Big Arroyo and along the Kaweah Peaks Ridge, a downpour was visible and heading our way.
   Then the hailstorm hit. It lasted only a few minutes, but it got us all up and moving down the trail. We had no choice but to walk into the storm.
   Just above the largest of the lovely Little Five Lakes, the rain was constant enough that we stopped under some sheltering firs to dig out the pack covers and raingear. After leaving the Little Five Lakes behind, the rain let up enough that we were able to stop on a forested plateau and spread out on a large, smooth rock for a lunch of trail mix, dehydrated fruit, crackers topped with peanut butter or parmesan cheese, and, for dessert, a Payday candy bar.
   The rain once again began to fall. We continued steadily downhill toward Big Arroyo, stopping just once as the lightning came too close.
   We quickly left the trail, moving well away from the ubiquitous trees, and headed for a low clearing. We assumed a squat position until the storm passed over us.
   We waded across the creek near the historic Big Arroyo Patrol Cabin and arrived at the camping area, soaking wet. This is where we had planned to have lunch before continuing seven more miles on the High Sierra Trail to spend the night at Moraine Lake.
   But now it was late in the afternoon, we were behind schedule on this, our longest travel day, and a family meeting needed to be called to discuss the direction we would be heading on the High Sierra Trail. It was obvious that other backcountry travelers had been thwarted by the daylong thunderstorm as there were colorful dome shelters erected throughout the area but since it was still drizzling, there were no signs of activity.
   We found more shelter than we had the entire day under the eaves of the old cabin. As the rain subsided, we began hanging up our rain-soaked gear on the rusty nails protruding from the log structure.
   Although we usually try to avoid staying at such a popular wayside stop, the kids picked out a campsite and began setting up the tents. John and I decided we would wait until morning, take a look at the weather, then make the final decision regarding the remainder of the trip.
   In my heart, I wanted to continue into the backcountry; I look so forward to this escape each year. But commonsense had already prevailed; I knew that the trip was headed for a major detour.


Sherman Rogers
1933 ~ 2007

   Sherman Rogers, a part-time resident of Three Rivers for the past 20 years, died Sunday, Sept. 30, 2007. He was 74.
   Sherman was born in Tulare on Feb. 15, 1933, to Sherman and Doris Rogers. He received a B.A. degree in 1957 from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
   In 1960, he received his law degree from UCLA and joined the California Bar Association in 1961. In addition, he was a member of the American Bar Association since 1962 and former president of the Tulare County Bar Association.
   He was a member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the California Trial Lawyers Association, the Consumer Attorneys of America, and the Tulare Elks and Moose lodges.
Sherman, a resident of Tulare, is survived by his wife, Ester; two daughters, Andrea Doherty and husband Patrick of Cambridge, Mass., and Cynthia Rogers and husband Harold Hagopian of New York, N.Y.; and three grandchildren, Tess Doherty, and Felix and Simon Hagopian-Rogers.
   Services were held this past week. Interment was at Tulare District Cemetery.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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