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In the News - Friday, November 30, 2012



President Tree named

second largest sequoia


Sequoia tree-climbers featured in National Geographic

President Tree named second largest sequoia


  David Quammen wrote the article and Michael “Nick” Nichols took the photos of Sequoia National Park’s giant sequoias as seen, measured, and studied by scientist Steve Sillett of Humboldt State University and a team of tree-climbing scientists. The final product is featured in the National Geographic’s December issue that hit the stands this week. 

    Sillett has climbed many of the world’s tallest trees and is the subject of a 2007 book by Richard Preston, The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring. He was featured in a July 2007 article in the Commonwealth when he and his team climbed the Robert E. Lee Tree in the Grant Grove (Kings Canyon) to assess potential hazards to park visitors.

    There is some breaking news in this recent feature: Sillett and his crew are shaking things up by changing the order of the largest giant sequoias, moving the President Tree up in the ranks from where it was previously.

  The Park Service needs to get busy. There are guidebooks and brochures to be updated. In the cyber-world, there’s a Wikipedia page that needs to be revised.

    The General Sherman remains the largest tree in the world. The Washington Tree, which used to be number two, was taken out of contention after a park-managed fire in 2003 got out of hand and entered its hollowed-out cavity and devastated the ancient tree. (Sillett also rappelled into the burn cavity of the Washington Tree for a 2003 IMAX documentary.)

    Since then, the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park has been billed as the number-two contender with the President Tree as number three. But, as a result of Sillett’s findings, now the President Tree moves to the number-two slot and the Grant Tree is bumped back to number three.

    According to the scientists’ research, the President Tree is at least 3,200 years old. Mind-boggling, actually.

    “Its dead spire, blasted by lightning, rises to 247 feet. Its four great limbs, each as big as a sizable tree, elbow outward from the trunk around halfway up, billowing into a thick crown like a mushroom cloud flattening against the sky. Although its trunk isn’t quite so bulky as that of the largest giant, the General Sherman, its crown is fuller than the Sherman’s. The President holds nearly two billion leaves,” wrote Quammen.

    Another discovery made by the tree-climbing team of researchers that alters current knowledge is that the growth of a Big Tree “can increase during old age. An elderly monster like the President actually lays down more new wood per year than a robust young tree...    This finding contradicts a long-held premise in forest ecology—that wood production decreases during the old age of a tree.”

    The President Tree was named after President Warren G. Harding in 1923.

    As part of the section, a poster pullout features 126 photos of the primeval, newly appointed, number-two-largest tree in the world. Or from Three Rivers, take the scenic 20-mile drive and walk a couple more miles to see it for yourself.


Rain and snow in weekend forecast


  The rain that passed through the area Wednesday, Nov. 28, is expected to continue as a second system will bring rain and snow to Kaweah Country throughout the weekend.

In December 2011 nary a drop of rain fell in Three Rivers for the entire month, which translated to one of the driest Decembers ever recorded. But that dry December followed an   October and November that ended with 4.78 inches of rainfall, which lulled all into thinking that last year was off to a great start, or at least an average rain pattern.

  So what about the current year where the .42 inches of rainfall on Thursday, Nov. 28, brought the season’s total to 1.65 inches? One thing is certain, the snow levels are starting out higher than usual (above 8,000 feet), typical of climate change but not unusual for a deepening El Nino either.

  Remember the Pineapple Express?

  It’s a tropical current by way of Hawaii that is capable of dropping inches of rain in a few hours and piling up the feet of snow in the local mountains. One such “Express” during Christmas 1955 brought a flood to Kaweah Country of epic proportions and was the impetus to the building of Terminus Dam.


It’s do-or-die for Measure I


  By Monday, Dec. 3, the results for the much ballyhooed local Measure I will be certified and official for another election cycle.

  Like any contest there will be a winner and there will be a loser, but regardless of the final result, the issue of how to keep Three Rivers School operating in the black is not likely to go away.

  “The next posting that we do [Friday, Nov. 30] will have the unofficial final results,” said Ann Turner, Tulare County elections division manager. “We have several races countywide that are still too close to call, and there is no way of knowing how many Three Rivers votes are in that last batch of 10,000 votes.”

  Judging by all the confusion at the Three Rivers polling place on Election Day, it is probable that there is a sizable number of votes, but are there enough to add three more percent in the yes column?

  In actuality, a 2.77 percent gain in the remaining votes would be needed to carry the measure by a single vote. The total as of the posting last week was 63.90%.

Turner said voters need to take more responsibility to be informed as to the procedures.

  “Many of the vote-by-mail voters up there were notified of the change from a physical polling place prior to the election,” Turner said.

  The change, Turner said, was necessitated by the unification of the Woodlake School District and redistricting.

  “Once that area [Dinely Drive and Mineral King Road] has 250 registered voters, these residents will be reassigned to the Three Rivers polling place at the Memorial Building,” Turner said.


Third annual Kaweah Country Run sets record pace


  When 109 runners and walkers checked in at the Slick Rock Recreation Area at Lake Kaweah on the morning of November 24, there was plenty of anticipation and excitement in the clear, crisp air. Joe the Drummer was in the groove and beating his movable drum fest by 7:15 a.m.

  “Anyone that knows me knows I am not a morning person, but I wouldn’t miss playing here for anything in the world,” said Joe. “These are some committed folks to be out here in the chilly morning, and they have got to get warmed up.”

  New to the annual run/walk event in 2012 was the addition of a 5K run. Forty-one runners ranging in age from nine to 65 lined up for the 7:30 a.m. start.

One of those who competed in the 5K, and his first race at age 65, was Harold Werner of   Three Rivers. Harold, who retired as a National Park Service wildlife ecologist in 2011, is one of many amazing success stories among those who converged on Slick Rock.

  “After I retired, I started a running program,” said Harold. “In a few months I dropped 40 pounds and have never felt better.”

  Harold clocked in at 28.51; a 9:18 per mile pace for the 3.1-mile out-and-back course. That finish was good for 13th overall.

  But this race belonged to Pylyp Yurkov, 20, of Three Rivers. Pylyp finished with 20:27 (6:36 minutes/mile) and that was more than a minute ahead of Roque Guerrero, 44, of Visalia who finished in second place.

  Pylyp ran cross country for the Woodlake High team so he has plenty of race experience.

  “I’m in the Navy now, stationed down in San Diego where I run everyday,” Pylyp said.

  Next up was the 5K Walk. That event was won by last year’s champion, Sarah Schachter, 31, of Three Rivers.

  Sarah finished the 3.1 miles in 36:55, knocking two-and-a-half minutes off her 2011 performance.

  “I couldn’t believe the competition out there today,” Sarah said. “There was a pack up front that really pushed me to go faster.”

  The 10K Run followed the 5K walk and attracted more experienced runners. The 2011 champ ,Seth Lagerhausen, 28, of Visalia covered the 6.2 miles in 35:55 (5:47 per mile pace), knocking a minute off his 2011 winning performance.

  But again there were fitness tales of extraordinary proportion. None were more amazing than the recovery of Michael Turner, 28, of Three Rivers.

  Michael was injured in mountain biking accident on March 24, 2012, when a manzanita stick lodged inside his skull adjacent to his brain stem. Several miraculous surgeries and months of recovery later, Michael ran his second consecutive Kaweah Country 10K.

  In 2011, Michael finished fourth with a time of 41:51; this year, he finished at 40:29 good for third place.

  Four runners elected to run both races. That’s a total of 15K (9.3 miles) with a half hour or so recovery time between the 5K and 10K. The combo runners were: Michael Baumann, 55, of Visalia, 1:09:35; Frank Avalos, 58, of Three Rivers, 1:22:56; Sarah Elliott, 54, of Three Rivers, 1:30:54; and Amanda Neill, 31 of Hanford, 1:41:14.

  The demographics of the participants are testimony that the annual Kaweah Country Run is gaining in popularity. Of the 109 participants, 41 were from Three Rivers.

  One Exeter family of six signed up for the 5K Run. Two family members who came from New Jersey and Florida to be home for Thanksgiving traveled the most miles to compete in this year’s event.

  There is currently a Shepherd’s Saddle Half Marathon and 10K Run planned for March 2013 that is in the permit process. Stay tuned to the Commonwealth or log onto kaweahcountryrun.com for all the latest news.


All invited to attend the

Annual Christmas Bird Count


  On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Sequoia Natural History Association will host the annual Christmas Bird Count in Sequoia National Park. Even if you have never paid a second thought to watching birds before, the Christmas Bird Count is a wonderful excuse to spend the day outdoors with the entire family while exploring nature.

  Not only does the Bird Count make for a nice day outside, it also plays a valuable role in conservation. By counting birds, managers can understand the health of bird populations and, therefore, be better equipped to protect bird species for generations to come. 

  Another great thing about the Christmas Bird Count is that you don’t have to be an ornithologist or even an avid birder to participate. Brand-new birders are a welcome addition to the Christmas Bird Count.

  New birders are essential to birding groups because they can focus on listening and spotting birds while the more experienced of the group can focus on identifying them. Many more species are counted when the group includes diverse levels of knowledge. 

  If you would like to gain some birding experience before the Christmas Bird Count, Sequoia National Park is offering beginner birding programs. On Saturday, Dec. 1, Birds in Flight will teach visitors about when, where, and why birds migrate. On Saturday, Dec. 8, Birds and Their Habitat will teach where birds live and why.  Each program will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

  All programs are free and open to everyone (see the Kaweah Kalendar page on this website for details on all these events).

  Birding is an activity that is great for all ages and can be rather addicting once you get started.  Don’t let your holiday turkey be the only bird you see this holiday season!

  Information: 565-4212.

Alysia Schmidt, Sequoia-Kings Canyon interpretive park ranger, contributed this article.


Al Stoppel Day cleans 3R


By Holly Gallo


  “Al Stoppel Day is not forgotten, but rather has been carrying on quietly with a handful of volunteers and a few capable organizations,” Al Stoppel organizer Brad Bloetscher wrote in The Kaweah Commonwealth two weeks ago.

  In the few days before this year’s event, to be held tomorrow morning (December 1), Bloetscher said that they’ve received a few calls from volunteers and have some areas of town “squared away,” but more help is always needed.

  “It’s just a handful these days,” Bloetscher said. “It used to be that we would have 60 to 70 people out there.”

  Though the number of volunteers has dropped in recent years, their shared enthusiasm and hard work has remained a powerful asset in keeping Three Rivers litter-free.

  In the past, the Lions Club would sponsor breakfast at Three Rivers School and aluminum cans were collected and donated to the Boy Scouts with the help of Pat O’Connell. The community clean-up campaign, known as the “Three Rivers Beautiful Campaign” until Al Stoppel’s death in 1984, started in 1971 as an annual event.

  “Bestowing the event with Al’s name was a typical act for Don Hise, whose sense of community and cooperation has known few peers,” Bloetscher said. “In Don’s words, ‘Al Stoppel was a champion of community spirit with a keen ability to find compromise on issues that challenged Three Rivers.’”

  This year, Al Stoppel Day will be held Saturday, Dec. 1, from 8 a.m. to noon. A dumpster will be provided by Waste Connections of the Central Valley and will be available at the Three Rivers Art Center.

  To volunteer, call Brad Bloetscher, 561-4550.


Arts Alliance plans Sierra-themed compendium


By Holly Gallo


  The Arts Alliance of Three Rivers is calling for visual and literary artists to submit their work to be considered for their first ever book project, which is expected to be a 100-page, full-color, hardcover book. The project will pair visual representations celebrating southern Sierra Nevada life, nature, and heritage with similarly themed poetry, prose, short essays, and the like.

  The anthology, under the working title of “Wonders in Our Backyard,” is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2013. The proceeds will benefit the Alliance’s Lorraine Young Memorial Scholarship Fund that is awarded every spring to high school graduates going on to pursue the arts in their higher education.

  Project co-chairs and visual artists Nancy Jonnum and Karen Kimball entertained the idea of a collaboration of local artists and writers as a potential solution to the perpetual challenge of funding the Lorraine Young Scholarship.

“We’ve been working on ideas for the scholarship fund that would be more sustainable and not just a one-time project,” Kimball said.

  Normally, the scholarship is funded by the Alliance’s annual Redbud Arts and Crafts Festival and individual donations. The book would provide a major contribution upon its release while also becoming an enduring benefactor of the fund.

  Though Kimball expects to encounter some challenges, especially in that the book is the first of its kind for the Alliance, she reported that the initial response from potential submitters has been encouraging. In addition to traveling to different writers’ and artists’ groups in Tulare, Fresno, and Kern counties, Kimball said that they are fortunate to have the network of artists and writers here in town as well.

  “We tried to cast a big net,” Kimball said. “We have no idea what we’ll get back… But I do expect to get more visual art than written word.”

  Those interested in submitting their work can download the submission guidelines and entry forms from artsalliance.wordpress.com. It costs $20 to submit a piece of art or literature, and the fee provides the submitter membership to the Arts Alliance. Current members may submit their work for consideration for free. The deadline is March 1, 2013.

  Submitters should remember to choose themes that express aspects of the southern Sierra, such as giant sequoias, rivers, lakes, wildlife, forests, and sentiments related to the natural area.


3R Woman’s Club gets lesson in wine tasting


  The Three Rivers Woman’s Club’s second meeting of the year kicked off with the planning of the annual nonperishable food drive and the choosing of names for gifts to be given to many deserving children here in Three Rivers.

  The November program was Wine Tasting with Julie Doctor. She brought six different labels of Pinot Noir and led club members through the process of discerning the difference in wines. All were reminded to swirl the wine in the glass and examine it. A good Pinot Noir has legs hanging on the inside of the glass. It has a delicate red color.

  Smell it and notice the clarity, body, aroma and bouquet. Then taste it and let it roll around on the tongue while the tastebuds experience the full effect.

  Now consider if it is watery, woody, fruity, acidic, oily, nutty, or perhaps a buttery flavor.

  “Go ahead and take another sip and see what else you can find,” urged Julie.

  Sip away they did, making notes on each different wine. Then they voted for their favorites.

* * *

  This past year the Woman’s Club returned to the community $27,450.00 through student scholarships and donations to Tulare County Hospice, American Cancer Society, Comfort for Kids, WUHS Football, Three Rivers Emergency Aid Alliance, Three Rivers Bread Basket, Three Rivers Historical Society, Our Place Playground, Three Rivers Union School, Tulare County Literacy Program, WUHS scholarships, College of the Sequoias, Critter Creek Wildlife Station, Happy Trails Riding Academy, and the Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute.

  The next meeting of the Club is Wednesday, Dec. 5, 1 p.m., at Three Rivers Memorial Building. Those in attendance will hear Christmas music performed by the College of the Sequoias Chamber Singers.

  Members should remember to bring nonperishable foods for the food drive and a wrapped gift for the child they selected.

  The Three Rivers Woman’s Club membership is open to all women of the community.  If you have any questions or are interested in becoming a member, call Bev, 561-3601.

  This article contributed by Linda DeLisio, Three Rivers Woman’s Club publicity chair.




Michael Ringer

1947 ~ 2012

  Michael D. Ringer of Exeter died Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. He was 64.

  A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Eagles Lodge in Exeter.

  Michael was born November 9, 1947, to Fritz and June Ringer, He was raised in Visalia and attended Mount Whitney High School and College of the Sequoias.

  He was a retired carpenter and farmer. He was a past president and member of the Exeter Eagles Lodge. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, NASCAR, and playing shuffleboard. He was also known for throwing great parties.

  Michael is survived by his wife of 46 years, Pam Ringer; two daughters, Tawny Ringer and Athena Ringer; his mother, June Ringer; brother Steve Ringer; brother and sister-in-law Russ and Leslie Lankton; and nephews Matt Ringer, Cody Lankton, and Jake Lankton.


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