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In the News - Friday, October 7, 2011



Four prescribed fire projects initiated

Rain, snow douses all flames

  There was a small window of opportunity for several land-management agencies to accomplish their fall prescribed fire objectives this past weekend. As soon as the stagnant, unhealthy air that had been plaguing the region for weeks moved out, and before the early-season winter storm arrived, several planned fires were ignited in Three Rivers, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Sequoia National Forest.
   Three separate agencies were granted permission to ignite fires Saturday, Oct. 1, and Sunday, Oct. 2, by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. This was unprecedented; never before had so many agencies managed separate planned fires within such close proximity of each other and the community of Three Rivers.
   The agencies and their projects were:
   National Park Service-Kings Canyon— Swale East Prescribed Fire, Grant Grove area, 101 acres.
   National Park Service-Sequoia— Huckleberry Prescribed Fire, Crescent Meadow area, 310 acres.
   Cal Fire— Grouse Creek drainage, South Fork area of Three Rivers, 1,600 acres.
   U.S. Forest Service-Giant Sequoia National Monument— Tornado Project, Hume Lake area, 96 acres.
   Smoke impacts were intense at times, especially on South Fork Drive and in the Cherokee Oaks neighborhood, but short-lived. The low-pressure system that began moving in Tuesday (Oct. 4) dissipated much of the smoke; the rain that arrived soon after effectively ended the 2011 prescribed fire season.

Lost hiker walks out safely from Kings Canyon backcountry

  When John Williams, 67, walked out of the Sierra backcountry near North Lake west of Bishop last Saturday, Oct. 1, at 9 p.m., an entire search party of dozens of rescue personnel and at least one friend were extremely relieved. It was the friend, Dave German, who alerted authorities Tuesday, Sept. 27, that Williams was overdue.
   German made the report because that was the “emergency date” agreed upon by Williams that if he had still not returned from his eight-day trip after 10 days the friend should “make the emergency call.”
   Williams, an avid backpacker, ultra-runner, and solo hiker, speaking Wednesday evening (October 5) via telephone from his home in Bishop, said he always leaves a detailed itinerary with at least one friend that includes what he’s wearing, description of gear, and more.
  “I guess you could say the primary moral of my adventure is always consider the different ways of doing a trip and learn the right way to reach your destination,” Williams said. “Even though I have 23 years experience as a backpacker, I did this adventure the naïve way and not the right way.”
   Williams admitted that he was embarrassed that he caused a team of searchers and a helicopter crew to be mobilized. He said he has personally participated in search-and-rescue (SAR) operations in the past and knows firsthand the cost and manpower involved.
   There was no doubt, Williams said, that he approached his current trip with overconfidence. The itinerary, which consisted of traveling more than 100 in eight days, was certainly within his ability to accomplish, but several factors combined to alter the outcome of this adventure.
   Williams started his trip on the east side of the Sierra via South Lake, entering Kings Canyon National Park at Bishop Pass, elevation 11,972 feet.
   He is an ultralight hiker, who was carrying 13 pounds of food in his one-pound pack. The total weight of both gear and food was just 25 pounds.
   The loop he intended to do was to start and end at South Lake. After going over Bishop Pass, he headed south through Dusy Basin, and then continued on this southerly route through Simpson Meadow along the Middle Fork of the Kings River before turning back north at Tehipite Valley.
   The route he hiked ranged from clearly marked trail to climbing down steep rock chutes and navigating on only a hint of a non-maintained trail with a few rock cairns placed here and there by previous hikers. The route north to Evolution Valley was a succession of all-day hikes, where he stopped each evening with just enough time to set up camp without a flashlight, he said.
   Williams said the route was almost entirely above timberline so was not that difficult to navigate, but what contributed to his overconfidence was that he had been on segments of the route on previous trips. But there were some variables this time.
   Among those, he said, was an elevation gain of thousands of vertical feet day after day, the condition of trails, dense overgrowth near creek crossings, mosquitoes, inclement weather, and his own physical condition. Williams expected to do the loop in eight days – he hiked out several miles short of his goal six days after his predicted finish and four days after his designated emergency day.
   Although he had at least one close call when he fell, Williams said he was never lost.
  “If anyone considers doing this loop trip [which included some off-trail travel south of Evolution Valley], I recommend they do it counterclockwise,” Williams said. “I attempted to do it clockwise and that was a naïve decision.”
   After his return, Williams said he received a debriefing phone call from one of the park rangers who was involved in the search. During the more than two-hour phone conversation, the ranger wanted to know where Williams hiked and camped each day.
   Williams asked the ranger how much it would have cost had the helicopter found him and he had been airlifted out. To his astonishment, the ranger answered that it would have been a free ride.
   The charges, the ranger answered, only come into play when multiple agencies are involved. If national parks charged for helicopter airlifts, he said, those in emergency situations might   opt to refuse the ride.
   A former math professor at UCLA and at Pomona College in Claremont, Williams said he’s not wealthy but won’t mind sending in an annual check to an appropriate park fund.   He’s thankful the park rangers are there, he said.
  “Who knows?” Williams said. “Someday, I might need them.”

October town meeting: New district
boundaries for lawmakers, high school

  There was a plethora of topics discussed at Monday’s town hall meeting (October 3), but none with more implications for the future of Three Rivers than the new district boundaries for legislators and the Woodlake Public Schools District. Like the district boundaries for county supervisors, boundary changes are being determined by the 2010 census data and mandated by the federal Voting Rights Act.
   Broadband service— Tom Sparks, who chaired the meeting sponsored by the Three Rivers Village Foundation, began with a brief update on the attempts to upgrade the mostly unreliable and slow local Internet. Some significant progress in establishing more broadband access is expected to be announced soon but nothing will be done immediately, Sparks reported.
   In recent conversations with representatives from AT&T, Sparks said that he received assurances that the company is working to improve cell service by making upgrades to an existing tower.
  “In some areas where you have no service or only one bar you might be able to get two or three bars [out of a possible four] and actually be able to make and receive calls,” Sparks said. “The company is claiming they have all of the Three Rivers area covered but that simply is not the case.”
   Congressional boundaries— Rudy Mendoza, a Woodlake City Council member and aide to Devin Nunes (R-21st District), spoke on behalf of the Congressman. Rudy announced that under the new congressional boundaries, Three Rivers will no longer be represented by Congressman Nunes. The lines are being adjusted north of Three Rivers; the local congressional district will be, as of January 2012, represented by Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican and Majority Whip.
  “Congressman McCarthy is currently the third-ranked Republican in the House so he will be effective in addressing your concerns,” Mendoza said.
   To learn more on the congressional redistricting, Mendoza said, log onto: www.wedrawthelines.org
   Mendoza also said that Connie Conway will no longer be representing the Three Rivers district of State Assembly. Currently serving the new Three Rivers district will be Linda Halderman, a physician from Clovis. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) will remain the local state senator.
   All these changes are subject to the inevitable legal challenges, Mendoza said.
   Woodlake unification— Tim Hire, superintendent of Woodlake Schools, presented a concise overview of the proposed unification of the Woodlake school districts on the November ballot. He explained that one of the obvious benefits is $600,000 in additional annual revenue from the state to level average salaries among all teachers in the new unified district.
   Hire also said there were cost savings by the elimination of the duplication of management tasks like quarterly budget reports.
  “It’s a move that we [Woodlake schools] had to make in the best interest of all our students,” Hire said.
   The Woodlake High School District area boundaries are also changing and will be on the November 8 ballot, Hire reported. Those boundary changes were necessary because it has been determined by legal challenges in other districts that at-large trustees are illegal.
   Now the seven trustees on the unified board will have to be residents of the area they serve, Hire explained. Two of the areas are currently represented by Three Rivers residents Edmund Pena and Kent Owen.
   Board of Supervisors boundaries— Supervisor Allen Ishida thanked locals for helping the board pass (3-2) Map B, which kept Three Rivers in a single supervisorial district. He expressed disappointment that all of his fellow supervisors were not more in agreement.
Currently, the big county issue, Supervisor Ishida said, is the Public Safety Realignment that became effective October 1. Now all convicted felons who are sentenced to less than three years in state prison must be housed by the county.
  “The millions of dollars to do this are coming from the state for the first year,” Ishida said. “After that we will be in deep trouble if there are no guarantees from the state to continue the funding.”
   That could mean even greater budget challenges for all counties, he said.
   The next Town Hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 7.

Winter storm brings rain, snow

  The first significant rain and snow system of the season passed through Kaweah Country on Wednesday and Thursday, bringing rain to the foothills and high-country snow. It was also the first storm of the season spawned in the Gulf of Alaska, which normally signals the changing of the summer season to fall when wintry-like conditions are more probable.
   Warmer temperatures are expected by the weekend with local highs around 80 degrees. The warming trend will melt most all of the fresh white stuff though snow in the higher elevations above 10,000 feet should linger awhile longer.
   A dramatic morning downpour in the Lodgpole vicinity (6,800 feet) that eventually turned to snow flurries caused a rapid rise in the Kaweah River. Bill Pooley’s Kaweah River webcam captured some dramatic images (www.kaweahriver.org).
  “In 30 minutes during the noon hour, the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River at Pumpkin Hollow went from 132 cfs [cubic feet per second] to 2,153 cfs, a true flash flood,” reported Pooley. “We can speculate that lots of homeowners along the river lost their patio furniture to the rising water as it was 90 degrees and sunny a few days ago.”
   The Kaweah River in Pumpkin Hollow peaked for the day at 3,292 cfs at 3 p.m. By that time, temperatures had dropped significantly and rain at 7,000 feet turned to snowflakes.
   Isolated power outages were also reported, a normal occurrence during the first storm of the season.
   Lodgepole recorded two inches of snow on the ground Thursday morning at the measuring stake with more snow possible before Friday (October 7). Ash Mountain recorded 1.67 inches of rainfall; Barton Mountain 1.38 inches while Lake Kaweah received 1.45 inches.
   The early-season storm also brought an end to all prescribed fires and lightning-caused fires for the time being. Tulare County is currently enjoying some of the best air quality experienced in the past six months.

El Charro: New spice added to old favorite

By Brian Rothhammer

  Reuben and Leonarda Cervantes have owned the El Charro restaurant in Woodlake for the past six years. Located at 136 S. Valencia Blvd., just south of Naranjo, the restaurant has been leased to a succession of operators until August 2011.
  “Woodlake is special to me,” Reuben said. “When my family moved to El Norte from Mexico in 1976, we came here.”
   The eldest of eight siblings, Reuben departed Woodlake High School after the 10th grade to help support his family. Through hard work and perseverance Reuben built a successful construction business, now based in Tulare.
   When the economy was healthy, the business grew and Reuben was able to make substantial contributions to Programa Migrante, a scholarship program for ambitious students who make the grade, but who lack the funding to attend college. Now with construction projects scarce, he was looking for other ways to serve the community.
   Opportunity knocked when the most recent management of El Charro moved on.
  “It looked like it was time to run the restaurant ourselves,” said Reuben.
   At that same time, Pablo and Eric Torres, former cooks at Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant in Three Rivers, also became available. With more than a decade each of culinary expertise, Pablo and Eric have now landed at the new El Charro.
   With all of the new parts in place, it was time to build on the success of the past and take El Charro to the next level.
  “Our goal is to bring a variety of quality traditional Mexican dishes to our friends, neighbors, and guests at a reasonable price,” said Reuben. “We’re working together to add even more to the former successful items that made El Charro a local favorite.”
   Reuben’s construction experience has come in handy.
  “When I go to a restaurant, I like to find a nice patio dining area and large, clean restrooms as well as an attractive dining room.”
   As a result, El Charro sports an all-new patio and landscaping, as well as spacious fresh his-and-hers. Future plans include enclosing the patio, improved handicapped parking, and more.
   The premises and dining room are critical but it’s the food that makes a restaurant, and the new El Charro sets a high standard. Breakfast includes Huevos Rancheros and Chilaquiles con Huevos, both of which are under $6. Lunch consists of Chile Relleno, Enchiladas, and  Tortas, all under $7, with the popular a la carte tacos still $1.25.
   Authentic Mexican dinner entrées from Carne Asada to Camarones a la Diabla can be enjoyed any time day or night, all under $11.
   When asked for his favorite, Reuben replied, “All of them!” but admitted a fondness for the Fajitas.
   Leonarda (Leo) is especially proud of the Saturday and Sunday specials of Birria, Barbacoa, or Menudo with fresh, homemade tortillas, “just like Mama used to make.”
   If you have still have room, a selection of wonderful fresh-made Mexican desserts are there to please the palate. No one leaves hungry.
   Woodlake’s newest eatery is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Catering is also available. Call 564-8497 for more information.

Living History Day focuses on Native Americans

Three Rivers Historical Society to

dedicate replica of Native American village

By Nancy Brunson

  Throughout the past year, members of the board of directors of the Three Rivers Historical Society have been working in conjunction with the Owens Valley Career Development Center’s Visalia office to research, prepare the site, and build authentic Yokuts structures as part of a permanent Native American exhibit at the Three Rivers Historical Museum.
   The exhibit will be featured annually during California Native American Day, celebrated on the fourth Friday in September. The village structures are being built with willow branches, Tule reeds and redwood bark as the Yokuts tribe members of the area would have done as recently as the mid 19th century.
   This year, Living History Day offers a unique experience with members of the Wuksachi and Wukchumni tribes providing demonstrations throughout the day.
   On Friday, Oct. 7, prearranged tours of the project will be provided to student groups (mostly fourth-graders) from Three Rivers, Lemon Cove, and Visalia schools.
   On Saturday, Oct. 8, the Living History Day event and the new village exhibit will be open to the public. Eddie Sartuche of the Wuksachi tribe will conduct a dedication and blessing of the village at 10 a.m.
   Guests may enjoy self-guided tours throughout the day with opportunities to watch ongoing demonstrations and ask questions.
   Demonstrations include: Yokuts building techniques, traditional basket weaving, the making of acorn flour (used in acorn mush, and Native American drumming.

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