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In the News - Friday, October 14, 2011



3R organizing to improve Internet access

  Internet access is an issue that will affect the future of everyone in Three Rivers, and six locals have formed a committee to hopefully speed up and improve the service. They call themselves the Three Rivers Steering Committee and are dedicated to bringing greater broadband Internet access to Kaweah Country, an area woefully underserved in the past.
   By past, in terms of Internet usage, we are talking since the 1990s. With the exception of a few satellite users, most of Three Rivers, since the explosion of widespread Internet usage a little more than a decade ago, has had to depend on a slow dial-up service until a faster DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) came to town in 2004.
   The DSL, first installed via copper lines by SBC, was a vast improvement for a number of local users if they happened to be located within three miles of the hub located across from the office of The Kaweah Commonwealth at 41841 Sierra Drive. In 2008, SBC’s trunk lines, now under the ownership of AT&T, were converted to fiber optic lines, which helped to improve the reliability and download speeds for most DSL customers.
   That still left hundreds of homes and local businesses outside of the DSL service area to fend for themselves with either outdated dial-up or pricey, less- than-reliable satellite service. But discussions at the June and August Town Hall meetings involving representatives of the CVIN (Central Valley Independent Network) fueled lots of interest and convinced dozens of locals that a new broadband service could be in the offing for Three Rivers.
   That’s because CVIN, as a partner in the Central Valley Next Generation Broadband Infrastructure Project, hopes to have new fiber optic lines installed the entire length of the San Joaquin Valley from Bakersfield to Colusa by the end of 2012. The project is being funded by $66.6 million in grants to provide improved Internet service to rural area libraries and universities.
   CVIN representatives said at the recent town meetings that private users can also extend new networks off those trunk lines to serve communities like Three Rivers if there is sufficient interest.
   According to Tom Sparks, chairman of the local steering committee, more than 100 households and dozens of local businesses have already signed up as potential subscribers. To help guarantee the success of the project, Sparks said, more sign-ups are needed.
  “We’re also looking into the feasibility of a USDA grant that could furnish funds to build the local infrastructure to be ready when and if the new broadband services become available,” Sparks said. “Several property owners have also said they could furnish sites for towers if needed.”
   So why is all this new technology needed? In case you haven’t noticed, there is a digital revolution going on out there, and there is and will be a burgeoning explosion of digital content available that will be downloaded via computers and televisions everywhere. To access those super data files of videos, music, and graphics, mega bandwidth and countless wireless networks will be required.
  “If we build the infrastructure, they will come,” said Sparks. “We don’t really have a moment to lose or our homes, schools, and businesses will be left out.”
   In addition to Tom Sparks, members of the steering committee are: Bill Haxton, Rick Chappell, Lee Goldstein, Joe Sobelman, and James Seligman. To get involved or to be placed on the committee’s sign-up sheet of interested individuals or businesses, call Tom Sparks at 561-0406.

BLM seeking input on local sites

  Officials from the Bureau of Land Management regional office in Bakersfield will be conducting a public meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building from 6 to 8 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to seek input on area recreation sites.
   Under consideration are the river access properties on upper North Fork, Case Mountain, the contiguous land adjacent to Sequoia National Park near Shepherd’s Saddle and on the South Fork, and the area that enters BLM land along Skyline Drive.
   In the last couple of years, there have been negative impacts due to the closures of Paradise, Advance, and Cherry Falls, popular recreation sites that now prohibit use of any kind. These closures necessitated several miles of North Fork Drive being designated as no-parking zones.
   Officials from Bakersfield have maintained that the closures were necessary because of funding restraints that eliminated a patrol ranger assigned to the Three Rivers area on weekends. It is issues like these that BLM officials want to determine what, if any, management policies should be changed.
   All these areas have been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and therefore must be addressed in the new management plan. The agency is also seeking comments on a Case Mountain Extensive Recreation Management Plan.

District One resident sought for board vacancy

  The County of Tulare is accepting applications from interested and qualified District One residents to fill a vacancy on the Tulare County Assessment Appeals Board.
   The purpose of the appeals board is to determine the full value of property or to determine other matters of property tax assessment.
   A minimum of five years professional experience in the state as one of the following is mandatory: certified public accountant, licensed real estate broker, attorney, or certified or accredited property appraiser.
   The appeals board meets on the third Monday of each month (except April and May) in the Board of Supervisors Chambers (unless adjusted due to legal holidays). Each board member receives a $150 stipend per meeting along with mileage reimbursement.
   Applications can be obtained in person at the County Administration Building, 2800 W. Burrel, Visalia. A request to have an application mailed may be made by calling 636-5000.

WHS Cross-country Invitational showcases top runners

  What began as a modest cross country meet six years ago with a few small schools competing has now blossomed into one the of premier running events of the Central Section high school season. On Saturday, Oct. 8, Woodlake High School hosted 20 schools and 421 runners in six different team categories.
   All 421 runners completed a 5K (3.1 mile) course in the scenic Lake Kaweah basin, which is Woodlake’s home course. The start and finish line of the out-and-back course was at the boat ramp at the Kaweah Recreation Area.
   The top overall finisher was Robert Reid of Exeter High who completed the 5K in 16:01 (an average 5:16 per mile). His closest competition was teammate Andrew Sutton who finished in 16:19.
   Leo Hernandez, a Woodlake senior, turned in his team’s best time of 17.49, good for 23rd place among 108 varsity boys who competed in the event.
Brian Pfenninger, a Three Rivers senior, completed the 3.1 miles in 19.37, garnering him a 52nd place. Other Woodlake finishers were Ricardo Cuevas, 19:53 (58th); Jesus Chavez, 20:05 (63rd); and Alex Zamora 23:10 (98th).
   Among the varsity boys’ teams Woodlake finished seventh; Sanger edged out Exeter for the best overall team performance.
   The fastest time among the varsity girls was turned in by Blanca Hernandez of Firebaugh, who ran the 5K in 19:03; Woodlake’s Leticia Garcia, a junior, finished in 20:09, good for sixth place among the field of 99 runners.
   Other Woodlake varsity girls who finished were Evanna Navarrette, 22:21 (24th); Renee Marquez, 26:37 (75th); Phoebe Castro of Three Rivers, 26:37 (76th); and Lauren Moore of Three Rivers, 30:41 (94th). In the girls’ varsity team standings, Exeter finished first while the Woodlake girls garnered 10th-place overall.
   Woodlake did not compete in the JV or Frosh-Soph categories.
  “We have teams from all over the Central Section who come to this meet, and all the coaches tell me the same thing,” said Tony Ramirez, Woodlake’s cross-country coach. “They love the scenery and the runners love the race.”
   The Woodlake Invitational is getting bigger and better every year. In 2012, the race will add electronic timing, Coach Ramirez said, and that will attract even more schools and more runners.

Guitar innovator Preston Reed plays OBJ

  Scotland-based American guitarist Preston Reed played the Orange Blossom Junction on Tuesday, Oct. 11, and for the fortunate nearly-packed house that was in attendance, it was a night that will be long remembered.
  “It’s really difficult to sell tickets in this economy for a performer that doesn’t get airplay on the Top 40 stations,” said Doug Long, who with his wife Luci own and operate one of the best small venues for music and food in Tulare County. “In Preston you get one of the top guitarists on the planet and he’s so down to earth as a performer and a person.”
   The impact of Reed’s music and his unique playing style is acknowledged by guitar players and music lovers the world over. In 1987 he invented a two-handed playing style and compositional approach that integrates the full percussion of the guitar body.
   In some of his original material, it’s possible to hear the rhythm and the melodic tone of a three or four-piece band. His wry sense of humor and engaging wit uplift audiences who easily identify with his life experiences and musical journey that has spanned more than three decades.
   Preston adeptly performs the best of his all-original material on his own guitar that he designed, built in Scotland by luthier Mark Bailey.
   Other pieces in his repertoire are performed on a classic 12-string, evoking memories of the best harmonies of the iconic rock band The Byrds. His compositions on his 15 solo albums combine elements of blues, rock, jazz, classical, and bluegrass.
   For those who missed this debut Tulare County performance, Doug and Luci vow to bring Preston back for an encore.
   Watch Preston perform on YouTube and follow his remarkable career at www.prestonreed.com.

Bighorn sheep plan moves forward

  The National Park Service regional director Christine Lehnertz has approved the environmental assessment for proposed Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep research and recovery actions within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks by signing a finding of no significant impact statement. The EA included an analysis of the no action alternative and three action alternatives that the public had an opportunity to comment on from June 14 to July 21.
   The NPS selected Alternative 4, which is “Implement Bighorn Sheep Research and Monitoring with Translocations,” with a slight modification. The modification is that while the U.S. Forest Service is a cooperating agency in the NPS research project, they will not be issuing a permit to the California Department of Fish and Game to land a helicopter within Inyo National Forest wilderness as originally proposed.
   Instead, the USFS will be conducting a separate analysis for Fish and Game actions as part of implementation of the Recovery Plan for Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep activities on USFS lands. This modification does not result in a change in any of the determinations of environmental consequences.
   The activities evaluated in the EA meet the goals of the Recovery Plan for Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep, including monitoring the status of radio-collared bighorn sheep, scientific study of bighorn sheep habitat use and the impacts of wilderness recreational activities on bighorn sheep and their habitat, and the translocation of bighorn sheep into the Big Arroyo and Laurel Creek areas of Sequoia National Park.
   The first research and monitoring captures are scheduled for this month. Translocations will begin as soon as feasible, possibly as early as 2012.
   For decision documents for this project, visit the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at http://park planning.nps.gov/SEKISHEEP.

   Eddie Sartuche of Squaw Valley (right), 83, one of the last surviving speakers of the Wuksachi language, conducts a Native American blessing at Living History Day last Saturday at the Three Rivers Historical Museum. Eddie, also known as Tu Pish Na, also assisted in the dedication of the recently constructed Indian village at the museum, which tells the history (the last 150 years) of the Yokuts people, a local native group.


Meadows, mosquitos, and mountain memories

  This is part three in a series about an eight-day backpacking trip embarked upon this past August.


   We arrived at Little Claire Lake as the sun set behind the granite wall that is the lake’s west shore. The trail dropped us off at the east side of the lake where there’s a large, sprawling shoreline.
   It was tempting to claim the first flat spot we came to as our campsite. But being always on a quest to find the best campsite, we kept searching until we reached the north end of the lake.
   After the trail crosses the outlet stream and climbs out of the drainage, we spied what would be our second night’s camp to the right of the trail. It’s an established campsite amid a field of granite and grove of lodgepole pines. The breeze off the lake was steady, but the mosquitoes, only pesky at this point, were no match for the gusts. We voted unanimously that wind was better than the whining, blood-sucking demons.
   What a pleasant surprise that Little Claire Lake turned out to be. Every High Sierra lake has its own identity — some feature that makes it special, memorable, one-of-a-kind, and provides a reason for hikers to return.
   Little Claire Lake did not disappoint. From our campsite, the lovely, little round lake provided a sublime view, but not 50 yards out the back door of our campsite was an even more magnificent panorama.
   Little Claire Lake is at an elevation of 10,450 feet. While most views in the Sierra backcountry consist of an unbelievable array of soaring peaks, the vista from Little Claire is dramatic because the flat, forested lakeshore ends at a spectacular cliff that precipitously drops more than 1,000 feet to Soda Creek.
   The entire Soda Creek drainage is in view to where it ends at Big Arroyo. While the Soda Creek canyon is U-shaped, the glaciated Big Arroyo trench is so deep that its floor cannot be seen, even from this vantage point of a thousand feet above.
   Looking across Big Arroyo is Chagoopa Plateau, a broad, flat timber-covered plain. Beyond, still well within view, is the Kern Canyon and the Sierra’s eastern escarpment.
   Glorious in itself, this scene becomes indelibly etched in one’s memory because there, on the other side of the Sierra — 17 air miles away — is Mount Whitney, which at 14,500 feet elevation, is the highest mountain in the range and, in fact, the contiguous U.S.
   We had this priceless scene and the tranquil lake all to ourselves. We had not seen any other hikers since Franklin Pass.
   The next morning, we faced our longest hiking day of the trip. We again got a late start because we wanted to savor the place. John and Jimmy were up at daybreak to fish, but there would be none brought back to camp for breakfast as those caught and released were too small.
   It was chilly until the sun rose over the east ridgeline, but since it was a trail day, the stove was only lit to boil water for coffee. A cold breakfast of muesli, homemade granola, and dried fruit is what fueled us for the next leg of the adventure.
   The day’s itinerary would consist of two segments of six-and-a-half miles each. The first section consisted of descending the previously described 1,000-foot ridge to Soda Creek.
   Upon leaving the lake, we embarked on a series of short, steep, marvelously constructed switchbacks, first on exposed granite, then dropping below timberline where the heavily wooded trail is shaded and the surface is duff and sand.
   Upon reaching Soda Creek, we forded the waterway, which was running higher than normal for this time of year. Everybody traded out their boots for water shoes for this one except Jimmy, who had one wet shoe on the far side of the creek to prove it. After this brief hiatus, we made quick time descending the Soda Creek canyon.
   The trail here is well-maintained, but it was obvious that the Sequoia National Park trail crew had not made it to this lightly traveled area this season - and probably wouldn’t be here in 2011.
   The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks trail crews had a demanding season. Initially, they got a late start due to the lingering snowpack and then had a lot of trails to clear because of the amount of snowpack received.
   The most popular trails received attention first. In Sequoia, for instance, hundreds of downed trees had to be cleared on the trail from Atwell Mill (Mineral King area) to Hockett Meadow. The Lakes Trail from Wolverton and the High Sierra Trail to Bearpaw are other in-demand routes that this year required some significant cleanup, trail-crew-style.
   In this narrow canyon, we crossed several remnants of avalanche activity left over from the harsh winter. This required climbing over, under, or around the downed trees that had been swept down the mountain to the canyon floor.
   Despite these hindrances, we covered the first six miles to the Big Arroyo Trail in a speedy two hours. We crossed Lost Canyon Creek where it meets Big Arroyo Creek and settled along the trail for lunch.
   We were feeling confident that we would be to our next night’s campsite within a matter of hours. There would be a slight vertical elevation gain — 1,600 feet in just over six miles — but with no passes or peaks to climb, just a gentle trail that, according to the maps, stayed mostly parallel to Big Arroyo Creek, we planned to pull into camp with daylight to spare.
   Little did we know that we shouldn’t be dawdling over lunch. While the first half of our 13-mile day consisted of a rapid descent, this next segment of trail -would take us more than six hours.
   Although there is nothing on any map to indicate otherwise, this 6.5-mile section of trail is not maintained, is rarely used, and in some places has vanished entirely.
   While not technically difficult, we were in for some intense route-finding, and we wouldn’t be relaxing for a single step for many hours to come. Soggy meadows and avalanche remains hampered what should have been easy progress as the time flew.
   Intermittently, the remnant of trail contours the canyon wall to avoid where the creek canyon narrows and steepens, and it has been obscured in places by rockslides. In forest cover is where the trail remains most visible but fallen trees become the obstacle. Vegetation has reclaimed much of the unused path wherever the route travels creekside through swampy meadows.
   Where there are swamps, there are mosquitoes. And there was an obscene amount of mosquitoes.
   It was my trip-planning that led us to this trail. It would have to be my route-finding that would guide us through.
   First, it’s important to locate the most logical place for a trail to be. This will be different depending on when the trail was built; a stock trail will be more direct than a contemporary trail built for hikers.
   Second, look for signs of human activity, such as a blaze on a tree, an unnatural arrangement of rocks, or downed trees that have been cut. On this trail, our route was often determined by a single broken branch or one bent blade of grass.
   Third, watch the ground for signs of recent travel. The only evidence that a human had even traveled this way since the snow had melted was the intermittent tracks of one horse.
   At one point, we were stopped for more than an hour trying to find some semblance of where the trail might go. We had followed the tracks of the horse and rider to the creek, but all evidence of the trail stopped here.
   Jimmy crossed the wide creek in knee-high water and looked for the trail on the opposite side. He so desperately wanted to find the trail that he thought he had. Just as we were about to cross, he called us off.
   Twice, I hiked back up the grassy hillside to where we had last been on a section of trail. It was just a narrow, worn thread of dirt that emerged from the lodgepole pine forest but disappeared upon reaching the tall grass.
   On my third try, I contoured the hillside about 20 feet farther than on my previous two scouting episodes. I didn’t have high hopes as it looked like I was walking toward a thicket of impassable willows. But there it was, a barely discernible passage through the bushes and, beyond, down the hill where the forest once again dominated, there was an old sawn log. Success!
   All were relieved to be making forward progress once again. There was one other meadow that again proved challenging to pick up the trail and we lost another half hour searching for a route that would lead us out of this canyon.
   This meadow was a soggy bog. A trail certainly wouldn’t be constructed through this fragile wetland, so back up the mountainside we climbed.
   Too many boulders the size of Volkswagens and a stretch of ever-steepening talus were the clues that this wouldn’t be the route to take, so the route had to be down toward the creek. I tromped in a beeline straight down the hill and across the quagmire toward the creek, figuring if a trail was here, I would cross it. By now, I didn’t care that I was in mud up to my ankles and my boots, socks, and feet were drenched.
   I had almost lost all hope of finding the trail when in a pile of boulders at the bank of the creek, two three-foot-high trail ducks built with large stones were the tip-off that we were back on-trail.
   These markers could not have been seen by anyone traveling up-canyon as we were. They were hidden behind a hill of large boulders and extremely close to the edge of the creek. Instead, they were strategically placed for hikers traveling in the opposite direction.
   After leaving this mosquito-infested mud fest, I started searching for campsites, assuming that we weren’t going to make our destination by nightfall. We entered a flat, dry open stretch with grazing deer, and I began noticing some trail work, rocks to build up the trail and drain water. The trail was showing more signs of use and there were footprints. And there were a couple of good campsites and a food-storage box.
   A food-storage box? It took a minute for this to sink into my weary brain but we had arrived at the Big Arroyo junction. We were bug-bit, our boots were muddy and wet, we were cut and scraped by rocks and brush, slathered with DEET, and losing daylight fast.
   It was 7:45 in the evening and darkness was minutes away. As a group we decided we would rather set up camp in the waning light and eat dinner in the dark.
   Soon the campfire was roaring with socks and boots drying beside it and the smoke keeping the mosquitoes at a distance, the tents were set up, we dunked in the creek — frigid, yes, but always rejuvenating — and a hot and hearty dinner was being prepared. This day was difficult, but we were no worse for the wear and stronger for the experience.
   There would be no hiking tomorrow as we were staying put for two nights. And I had a 90th wedding anniversary to celebrate.
   To be continued...


Three Rivers Woman’s Club embarks on 96th years

By Linda DeLisio

  The 2011-2012 officers of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club are: Ginny Lippire, president; Linda Lewis, vice president; Polly Kelch, secretary; Karen McIntyre, treasurer. The club’s purpose is to promote interest in intellectual pursuits, to become a center for the broader social life, and to work unitedly for the general advancement of both club and community.
   Organized in 1916, the Three Rivers Woman’s Club enjoyed their first meeting of the year at the Three Rivers Memorial Building. The luncheon catered by Antoinette’s Coffee and Goodies, making it a delicious and delightful start to another successful year.
   We were informed that last year we returned to the community $25,850 through scholarships and donations to groups such as the Community Services District (community playground), Three Rivers Bread Basket, Wish Upon A Star, Smile Train, Tulare County Symphony, Three Rivers Historical Society, Three Rivers Union School (Eagle Booster Club, school garden project, academic awards program), Woodlake High School (scholarships, marching band), Operation Christmas Child, Tulare County Hospice, Comfort for Kids, Happy Trails Riding Academy, and Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute.
   Meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month. Some of the presentations include The Thingerie Fashion Show, Christmas music performances, a presentation including live animals from the Critter Creek Wildlife Station, Cinco de Mayo Ballet Folklorico, a dinner including live entertainment, and more. Come and join the fun.
   If interested in becoming a member, call Bev at 561-3601. Guests are welcome to attend meetings.
   The next meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 1 p.m., at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.   We will be entertained with The Thingerie fashion show.
   Linda DeLisio is the 2011-2012 publicity chairman of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club.


Study abroad is affordable option for college students

By Mo Basham

  Andrew Basham is completing his junior year of college at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, through the University of California Education Abroad Program (EAP) program at UC Santa Barbara. He will return and complete his senior year at UCSB.
   He continues to work on his Political Science major with an International Relations emphasis and his minor in Spanish. All the courses that Andrew will take this academic year will be taught in traditional Spanish or the local cultural dialect of Catalan.
   Andrew arrived in Barcelona on August 20 and is scheduled to return sometime in mid-June 2012. He hopes to be able to spend his holiday and Spring Break traveling in Europe, specifically Germany and Greece.
   A side note to parents and students who might be interested in the EAP is that the cost to participate was no more expensive than had Andrew decided to stay at UCSB for his junior year — that’s for the year; it is different if you only go for a semester.
   The cost of housing is considerably less in Spain than in Santa Barbara, which makes up for the cost of the flight to and from Barcelona. Few, if any books or additional materials are required to be bought for the classes that Andrew will be taking, again saving quite a sum of money.
   The EAP application process is time-consuming and absolute deadlines are established for just about every level of the process. So you must stay diligent once you get started.
Getting a passport is the first thing to do since they are good for 10 years.
   Mo Basham and her husband, Bob, are residents of Three Rivers. Their sons, Sam and Andrew, graduated from Three Rivers School.

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