News and Information
for residents and visitors
Three Rivers,
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
National Parks,
Lemon Cove and Woodlake
Kaweah Kam

  In the News - Friday, JUNE 18, 2004



The BEST of KAWEAH COUNTRY Readers' Poll, which seeks input from readers' about their favorite places, is currently ongoing.

      Call for a copy of the May 28 issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth (559-561-3627) and complete one, some, or all of the categories. The results will appear in the August 6 edition.

     Also in the May 28 print edition is the annual VISITOR GUIDE 2004.

     If you missed this issue, you're missing out!


Spontaneous combustion

causes grass fire


Last Friday, June 11, when a Three Rivers homeowner on Eggers Drive was finished staining his deck, he thought he had taken the necessary precautions with the rags that still had the residue of Penofin (PENetrating Oil FINish). But when the soiled rags were left to dry in direct sun, spontaneous combustion occurred.

   “He [the resident] was very careful placing the rags on gravel to dry,” said Steve Green, a CDF captain stationed at Three Rivers. “But it is important to soak the rags with water and dry them in a shady, well-ventilated place.”
    Captain Green said that after the first combustion, a spark caught some nearby bushes and was extinguished without calling the fire department. But a few minutes later, a nearby knoll with tinder-dry grass became engulfed in flame. That’s when a neighbor called 911.

   “It took approximately 30 minutes after the initial combustion for the fire to flare up,” said Captain Green. “We received the call at 4:14 p.m. and were right on it. By the time we set up a hose line, it was out of control.”
    Captain Green said that although the blaze was “going pretty good,” once it was surrounded with a hose line, firefighters were able to quickly gain the upper hand.

   “Again, like the La Cienega incident last week, good clearance was a contributing factor in controlling the fire before it could spread to a nearby home,” Green said. “The fire scorched about an acre and was under control by 4:40 p.m.”

   Green also said that the extra personnel that are usually stationed at the Hammond Fire Station during the summer are now sharing cramped quarters at the Three Rivers Fire Station. For the immediate future, a second wild land engine that is usually housed at Hammond is standing by in Woodlake.

   “We were supposed to be in the new station [across from Valley Oak Credit Union] by April 19,” Captain Green said. “We’re expecting to hear any day now that we can occupy the new quarters.”

   In other personnel-related news, Tulare unit division chief, Gary Marshall, who formerly served as an area battalion chief in Three Rivers, was promoted to Madera-Mariposa-Merced unit chief. Chief Marshall, who served 31 years in Tulare County, was instrumental in the rebuilding of the Porterville Air Attack Base (2002) and the construction of the new Three Rivers Fire Station.



nets arrest

On Tuesday, June 8, a Mexican national was apprehended in a remote area of Sequoia National Park with over 400 pounds of food, additional supplies, and a 22-caliber rifle with ammunition.
    The 36-year-old male is suspected to have been attempting to deliver these goods to people who are currently cultivating clandestine marijuana farms in the Kaweah River’s East Fork canyon. The National Park Service was assisted by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Tulare County Sheriff’s Department officers.
    Ongoing operations by the TCSD and the NPS have been seeking to eliminate these illegal activities before the seasonal pot farms can become fully established this year. Three separate supply drops were intercepted by NPS rangers within the past two weeks.
    Anyone noticing suspicious activities on public lands is asked to report it immediately. The high incidence of marijuana cultivation in the area poses a risk to human safety and causes severe damage to property and natural resources.
    The public is asked to watch for gear and/or food being left in a campground or beside a road, people in the national parks with farming supplies in their possession, such as irrigation hose/pipe, fertilizer, or pesticide, or anything else that seems out of the ordinary. Hikers are urged to remain alert and to use caution when walking off-trail, especially near year-round waterways because many marijuana fields that have been found in recent years have armed guards.
    To report suspicious activities, call toll-free 1-888-NPS-CRIME. Callers may remain anonymous or speak to an investigating officer, whichever they choose.


Rattler invades

TRUS office


On Wednesday, June 16, office personnel at Three Rivers School discovered an unwelcome visitor. It was a typical Three Rivers rattlesnake, approximately 20 inches in length.

    Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes strike when threatened, cornered, or deliberately provoked, but given room, they will retreat.

   “We called John Crabtree, our maintenance supervisor, who placed it in a bag,” said Margaret Reyes, TRUS secretary. “We wanted to be certain that the snake could be returned to the wild.”


TRUS eighth-graders

hit the streets

of San Francisco




For the better part of a half-century, Three Rivers School eighth-graders have earned the funds necessary to take a year-end class trip. The major contributors to, and supporters of, this annual effort are Three Rivers residents.

  With the hindsight of a chaperone who has participated in the three-day sojourn to San Francisco twice, as well as having participated in the trip as an eighth-grade student, I know that this trip is both fun and educational, as well as a personal-growth experience for these young teens. The bonding ritual is priceless as well — students with students; parents with parents; students with chaperones; and parents with teacher. The kids will always consider this trip one of their favorite memories, made poignant because mere days after returning, they graduate from TRUS and their school days in Three Rivers come to an end.

2 P.M.— It’s a museum and an educational center but, shhhh, don’t tell the kids. Founded in 1969, the nonprofit Exploratorium — “the museum of art, science, and human perception” — is located near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, housed in the landmark Palace of Fine Arts, which was built in 1915 for the International Expo. With more than 650 experimental, hands-on exhibits, the kids had more than enough to keep them occupied, but the highlight of this excursion was their trip into the darkest depths of the Tactile Dome.
    The Tactile Dome is a geodesic structure inside the Exploratorium that requires advance reservations to visit. The inner sanctum of the Tactile Dome is a series of rooms, and the kids must crawl, climb and slide through amazing textures in complete darkness, with only their sense of touch to guide them.
The students went through in two groups, boys and girls, for obvious reasons.
    4:30 P.M.— Our Charter Classic bus delivered us back to the hostel at Union Square. Everyone had about an hour to ready themselves for a night on the town.
    6 P.M.— Table for 38, please, as we arrived for dinner at Hard Rock Café at the entrance to Pier 39. The courteous and efficient staff had actually been forewarned that we would be arriving. The chaperones shared a table while the students sat at tables of four and ordered on their own.
    Although teacher/tour guide Gail Matuskey picked up the four-figure tab and tip, using class funds, the kids were each provided with $20 to use in the Hard Rock Café store, if they so chose.
    8 P.M.— The bus dropped us at the historic Golden Gate Theatre for a performance of Hairspray. The two-act Tony-nominated musical, set in Baltimore in 1962, had a talented cast of 50, amazing sets, a live orchestra, and is a story with a moral.
    After the show, since our bus driver was now off-duty, the class walked the six blocks or so back to the hostel, an experience that the girls in high heels won’t soon forget. And even though it was 11 p.m., the streets were still bustling with people, quite a contrast to the Three Rivers lifestyle.

   Next week: Day 3...


Main Fork Bistro

adds outdoor

patio seating


Last December, after reopening the former Noisy Water Café as the Main Fork Bistro, owner Linda Ewing and chef Audrey Blake promised more changes than just a totally new menu. At the start of the busy Memorial Day weekend, the local eatery unveiled another change — its long-awaited patio seating.

   “This place has always been known for riverside dining,” said Linda. “The new patio with its 11 attractive tables is just another reason to come here and enjoy the Main Fork.”
    Ewing said she noticed that many diners, especially European visitors, come in asking to be seated outdoors.

   “At the moment, the view is limited because Fish and Game has asked us not to cut the cover vegetation on the property during nesting season,” she said. “But to hear all the birds along the river is really amazing.”
    When nesting season ends July 1, Ewing said she plans to trim the dense vegetation and really open up the beautiful view of the river. Directly across the river from the Bistro is the private riverfront park and retreat developed by Imad Rasool, a Los Angeles doctor.
    To celebrate the opening of the new patio, the Bistro hosted a wine tasting, the first of many such food events that Blake plans to accommodate.

   “The patio is the ideal setting for all types of gatherings,” said chef Audrey. “Come for the cuisine and enjoy the natural beauty of Three Rivers.”



Due North:

Mineral King to

Kings Canyon




This is the seventh installment in a series about a family backpacking trip in the Sierra during July 2003. Previous installments may be seen on the Hiking page on this website.


Wednesday, July 23, layover day— Our camp was strategically placed among trees near a granite ledge that looks north over all of Deadman Canyon. As darkness fell the previous evening, we watched a severe lightning storm move directly up the canyon.
   The situation was about to get serious. We were in our tents, which were pitched side by side, when the storm arrived.
   Rain began falling — peaceful droplets at first, then a violent downpour accompanied by hail and wind. Lightning was flashing in the sky with thunder following soon after.
   We counted the seconds between strikes of lightning and claps of thunder. The storm was swiftly and steadily moving closer and we were directly in its path.
   Peeking out the tent doors, we watched the lightning along Glacier Ridge, the string of peaks just to the east of us that divides Deadman and Cloud canyons. It was as thrilling and suspenseful as any show we will ever watch.
   When our calculations of the distance of the lightning moved within the one-mile range, we all put on our boots and crouched on top of our sleeping pads.

  “Are you scared, Mom?” asked one of the kids.

  “Not scared, but definitely on alert,” I replied, while silently repeating a favorite phrase — “This too shall pass” — reserved only for the most tense of situations.
   Another flash of lightning and the night was as bright as day. And there was no need to count the seconds until the thunder because there weren’t any. The storm was directly overhead.
   Although our two tents were mere feet apart, we were shouting back and forth to be heard in the melee. Philosophical observations and a few jokes dominated the conversation.
   Suddenly, we heard a loud explosion that was at once both deafening and barely audible because of the thunderclap that accompanied it. As our minds attempted to decipher the unfamiliar sound, it soon became apparent.
   On the boulder-strewn slope directly across the creek from us, lightning had touched down, striking granite. It triggered a rock slide and we were now listening to massive rocks tumbling down the slope.
   Although we knew we had pitched our tents well away from any steep slope, the sound was hauntingly close, causing us to reevaluate our location. We optimistically deemed our camp in as safe an area as possible considering the circumstances, which is good because the last thing any of us wanted to do was to leave the relative comfort of those nylon walls to relocate in the dark during a lightning and hail storm.
   Finally, the storm moved over the top of Glacier Ridge into Cloud Canyon and the rain subsided to a mere shower. We gazed at the continuing light show until we fell asleep.
   As we peered out the tent flaps at the break of day, the sky was mostly clear with just a few billowing clouds. The sun’s rays beamed above Glacier Ridge as it prepared to rise, and it was a welcome sight.
   Since our granite slab of a patio was already dry, the only sign of the extreme weather of the night before were a few puddles and two waterfalls cascading down Glacier Ridge that weren’t there the previous day. We spent the morning drying out while preparing for a cross-country trek to Big Bird Lake, located in a basin to the southwest of our camp.
   But the sky darkened again and, at 11:30 a.m., just as we were about to embark on our day hike, raindrops again began to fall. As is a fact of backcountry life, it arrived quickly and increased in intensity.
   Again, thunder and lightning moved into the vicinity. The kids scrambled for a tent, while the parents decided to ride this one out, and we nestled on a log at the base of a tree, taking cover beneath its branches.
   The storm lasted for an hour. The kids passed the time by playing backgammon and chess on their Therma-Rest game board. The grownups watched the storm unleash its fury on the ridge opposite of the previous night’s storm track.
   There was a break in the weather at 12:30 p.m. The granite dried fast and we were soon sprawled on it, eating a rehydrated pasta-and-pinenut salad for lunch.
   At 1 p.m., the storm switched directions and the heavens dumped on us once again. Clouds as black as night, a cold, harsh wind, and lightning and thunder were once again forces with which to be reckoned.
   At this point, we were thankful for layover days. This would have been an unpleasant day to be on the trail, and we instead spent a cozy afternoon playing games, reading and, an activity that is unheard of at home, napping.
                                           * * *
   We had all dozed off late in the afternoon and awakened to hear nothing but the creek. This was a good sign, since it meant that the storm cycle was once again in retreat mode.
   It was 5 p.m. when we finally set off to find Big Bird Lake under a sky that was blindingly blue. There is no maintained trail to this high-country lake, located at 9,765 feet elevation.
   As is human nature, we picked the shortest route to what we thought would take us to the north, and closest, side of the lake. This, as is so often the case, was not the best route as it became steep and treacherous, so we backtracked a ways and then turned and traveled farther south.
   We surmounted a low ridge and emerged onto a plateau with the lake within sight. Surrounded by serrated ridges, Big Bird Lake is much longer than it is wide and large as high-country lakes go.
   The boys took their fishing poles and headed toward the shore. The girls got comfortable on a rocky viewpoint and basked in sunshine that had, thus far, been elusive during this trip.
   At 7:30 p.m., the sun dropped behind the western ridge. It was the signal to return to camp.
It had taken us 45 minutes to reach the lake. We were back at our campsite and cooking dinner in 20 minutes.
That night, as was now the norm, another storm rolled through. Although not quite as intense as the previous night’s, it brought along its share of thunder and lightning, and we fell asleep asking the weather gods for benevolence.
   But although everything we had in our possession was dampened, our spirits were not. Following each storm comes the reward of immense beauty — sparkling puddles on the rocks, a dustless trail, streaming rainbows, clean air and a glorious sky, sunlight glistening on the landscape.
   There was a moment or two when it was tempting to get angry and hurl insults skyward, but never once did we consider surrendering and slinking home.
   After all, rain in the backcountry is still better than a day in the office anytime.
   To be continued...

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