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

  Celebrating 10 years:

March 1995 ~ March 2005

For the past decade,

The Kaweah Commonwealth

has been telling readers

things they won't read, hear,

or see anywhere else!


In the News - Friday, JULY 1, 2005


3R visitor


river tumble

This section of the Kaweah

has claimed lives in recent years…

   Kevin Ready of New York City would be the first to admit he underestimated the power of the Kaweah River's current. On Wednesday, June 29, his momentary lapse in judgment nearly cost him his life.
   Ready, 43, was only in the river for a minute or two, but he will never forget the wild and bumpy ride.
   Shortly before 3 p.m., Ready and several of his family members were admiring the stretch of river behind their rooms at the Buckeye Tree Lodge just below the Ash Mountain entrance to Sequoia National Park. Located just upriver from its confluence with the East Fork and a somewhat wider channel adjacent to the Gateway Restaurant, the Kaweah's Middle Fork narrows here to create steep, churning rapids in a chute only several yards wide.
   Ready mistakenly calculated that he could easily make it to the opposite bank. Upon his first step into the current, he was swept away so fast in the turgid water that neither he nor his relatives on shore had even an instant to react.
   Saty Barry, who works most weekday afternoons as a server at the Gateway Restaurant, was totally amazed by what she saw next.

  “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Barry said. “Here was this body barreling down the rapids right outside our deck. All I could think about was the man who drowned a couple of weeks ago and how he must have come by these same rapids before his body was discovered the next day.”
   But fortunately for Ready, he was still alive. He had already thrashed against some large rocks in the channel, but he was still conscious.

  “First, I could see an arm and then a leg sticking up out of the whitewater,” Barry said. “As he went by, he looked liked he was in a blender.”
   But this was no cold drink concoction being whipped up in the bar; this was a bizarre life and death struggle for one very naïve visitor. As fast as he had entered the water, the victim realized a most narrow window of opportunity to get his banged-up body to a rock just below the Pumpkin Hollow Bridge. It was perhaps his only remaining chance to save himself and he made the most of it.

  Ready managed to make his way to a very precarious perch. Within minutes, a small crowd began to gather as emergency personnel started to arrive on the scene.
   Steve Green, CDF captain from the Three Rivers Fire Station, was among the first to arrive.

  “The situation is now stable and the victim is safe,” Captain Green reported as he assessed the scene. “He’s obviously banged up and he knows he is very fortunate to be alive.”
   Within the next hour, a contingent of NPS rangers arrived on the scene from nearby Sequoia National Park as well as Sheriff’s Department deputies certified in swiftwater rescue. The use of a CHP rescue helicopter was considered the best option to pluck the victim from the channel below.
   Ready was cooperative and rescuers were able to secure him in the basket dangling from the rescue chopper hovering 100 feet above. After planting his feet once again on dry land, Ready was examined by Three Rivers Ambulance personnel. The victim of this ordeal was released with only some bruises, and Ready admitted he was, indeed, feeling very fortunate to be alive.

Backpacker found dead

   On Sunday, June 26, at about noon, Bob Kenan, the backcountry ranger at McClure Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park, received a report from four backpackers of a red backpack floating in Evolution Lake.
   Evolution Lake is located about five miles from the ranger station, at an elevation of 10,852 feet above sea level, along the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail in northeast Kings Canyon.
   About two hours after receiving the initial report, Ranger Kenan arrived at the lake, which is still partially covered with ice and snow. He discovered that the backpack was too far out in the lake to retrieve safely.
   He radioed for assistance and spent the night at the lake. The following day (Monday, June 27), a helicopter transported two rangers with wetsuits and other coldwater gear.
   Upon the flyover of the lake, the rangers could see that the backpack was attached to a body. The male victim was retrieved and flown by helicopter to the Grant Grove area where the body was released to the Fresno County Coroner.
   On Wednesday, June 29, the victim was identified as Peter Daniel Spoecker, 64, of Joshua Tree. According to his backcountry permit issued by Inyo National Forest, Spoecker had begun his solo trip at the North Lake area in the John Muir Wilderness on Saturday, June 11, and planned to return there Sunday, June 19.
   To arrive at Evolution Lake, he embarked on some rugged cross-country travel, heading south and west for about 10 to 12 miles. He reportedly crossed over the Glacier Divide at Mount Lamarck, which is more than 13,000 feet elevation, and evidence suggests that he arrived at the lake on June 13.
   According to Alexandra Picavet, parks information officer, there were no reports of overdue hikers in the parks or surrounding counties. The cause of death is under investigation.
   Snowpack in the area is still up to 12 feet deep or more in some spots. The rangers indicated that Spoecker was well-equipped for the conditions, was carrying enough food, and was wearing snowshoes when he was recovered from the lake.
   A search is also ongoing in Yosemite for a 51-year-old solo male backpacker after he was reported overdue on Tuesday, June 21, from a planned six-day backcountry trip. Although the missing man is reported to be fit and experienced in backcountry travel, and weather conditions have been favorable, the search is challenging due to rough terrain, high-water runoff, and the above-average snowpack.
   This year, backcountry travel will remain hazardous through the summer due to the sustained snowpack. At higher elevations, snow and ice clog the passes and cover lakes; at the lower elevations, runoff has caused the crossing of waterways to be treacherous.

Trailer ignites

wildland fire

   On Tuesday evening just before 6 p.m., a trailer hauling roof shingles, metal, and other materials suddenly burst into flames on the north side of Highway 198 just below Slick Rock. The owner of the trailer, Stan McDowell of Three Rivers, said he managed to unhook the trailer from his vehicle and was heading back to town to alert firefighters when several engines passed him en route to the scene.
   What firefighters discovered when they arrived was that burning debris from the trailer had ignited several spot fires in dry brush between the roadway and Lake Kaweah. Within 20 minutes from the time of the first 911 call, the fire was contained.
   According to Mike Davidson, the CDF battalion chief who investigated the incident, the cause appeared to be accidental and he did not determine McDowell to be negligent. McDowell said he did not know how the fire started and when he left the scene, he was not aware that the fire had spread to nearby brush.
   In other fire-related news, Chief Davidson announced that at least 10 vehicles will be patrolling in the county throughout the Fourth of July weekend. The extra patrols, he said, will be focused on the state-controlled areas of responsibility like Three Rivers and on the lookout for illegal fireworks.
   Fireworks, even the so-called “Safe and Sane” types, are strictly prohibited in and around Three Rivers, Lemon Cove, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Any persons who see individuals discharging fireworks or who are even in possession of fireworks should call the Tulare County Fire Department’s command-center hotline at 732-1196 or dial 911.

Some backcountry attractions
in Yosemite closed for season

   The five High Sierra Camps in Yosemite National Park will not open this summer due to a sustained snowpack that will cause risky traveling in some areas throughout the season. This is a rare occurrence; only the second time since 1916 that the backcountry camps have not opened.
   The camps, which consist of a dining hall, showers and restrooms, and tent-cabins with beds, are operated by Delaware North Companies. The company also oversees concessions at Sequoia National Park, including the Bearpaw High Sierra Camp in Sequoia’s backcountry, 11.5 miles east of Giant Forest. Bearpaw opened for the season in mid-June.
   Also in Yosemite, those wanting to travel the 17-mile roundtrip to the top of Half Dome had to wait longer than usual, also because of the heavy snowpack and unsettled spring weather. The metal cables that help hikers on the final ascent to the summit were not in place until June 16, instead of prior to Memorial Day, as in recent years.
   Another obstacle in reaching the 8,842-foot summit will be trail work that begins next week. Access to the Half Dome summit will be closed due to the repairs Mondays through Thursdays, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning Wednesday, July 6, and continuing into October.

Martial arts tournament

held in Three Rivers

   Last Saturday, June 25, an invitational tae kwon do tournament was held in McDowall Auditorium at Three Rivers School. The competition featured 10 local students from age seven to 13.
The students take part in year-round tae kwon do classes held in Three Rivers under the auspices of Jung’s USA Tae Kwon Do of Visalia and Clovis.
   On Saturday, the Three Rivers youths competed with 20 other boys and girls who came from around the Central Valley for the daylong tournament. Larry Davis, a local tae kwon do instructor, organized the tournament.
   Tae kwon do is an ancient Korean martial art, which teaches a form of unarmed self-defense. In the competitions, the students demonstrate certain moves and kicks during a series of judged events in various age groupings.
   Instructor Davis said local interest in the sport began when he enrolled his son, Sage, and another student in classes three years ago in Visalia. Now, he said, there are year-round classes held weekly in Three Rivers with 13 students enrolled.
   The events of the Three Rivers tournament included “Forms,” where students demonstrate certain moves; “Board Breaking,” where the competitor chooses a style of kick to break wooden boards; “Sparring,” an exhibition of offensive and defensive moves; and “Submission Grappling,” a Korean-style wrestling match.
   A panel of three judges scored each event. Troy Miller, 34, an instructor with Jung’s, served as the event’s “Master.”

  “Everybody is a winner of a medal of one kind or another because of the way in which the kids are grouped,” Davis said. “It’s fun for parents to watch their kids compete. We hope this tournament will be the first of many annual events.”

Grant Grove

prescribed fire

in progress

   On Monday, June 27, Park Service fire crews ignited a prescribed burn near Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. The burn, which encompasses 500 acres, is located one mile southeast of Grant Grove Village.
   Ignitions on a 148-acre unit of the burn were completed by Wednesday and will now be monitored as it is allowed to burn out on its own. Ignitions also began on a 60-acre block of a second segment, which consists of 352 acres, but was postponed due to the high-pressure system that has parked over the region. This section of the Grant Grove fire will be ignited after the holiday weekend and as weather conditions allow.
   Trail closures currently in effect due to the fire include sections of the Manzanita and Azalea trails and a portion of the road and trail to the Park Ridge Lookout Tower. Firefighters are hoping to reopen the Park Ridge Road in time for the busy holiday weekend.

Lions will again

pay marrow-registry fee

   As the Three Rivers Lions Club did in March, the community-service organization will once again pay the registration fee for anyone who signs up for the bone-marrow donor program. Registration will take place locally during the regular community blood drive, scheduled for Thursday, July 7, at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
   The shortage of bone-marrow donors, especially those of specific ethnicities, has been made known in Three Rivers due to local resident Sara Ruehling, 6, who is of Asian descent and in need of a marrow transplant to assist in her fight with a rare form of leukemia.
   In recognition of the shortage of marrow donors, the Lions Club will pay the $65 tissue-typing fee for anyone who registers as a bone-marrow donor. This fee is automatically waived for potential donors who have a specific mixed ethnic background.
   A small blood sample is required for the tissue-typing test. A short health questionnaire must also be completed.
   For more information on the National Marrow Donor Program, visit
   The blood drive, sponsored by the Lions Club and administered by the Central California Blood Center, also needs donors as blood supplies traditionally run low during the summer months.

  See the Kaweah Kalendar for additional information.

Register kids now

for Vacation Bible School

   This year, all who attend the annual Vacation Bible School day camp will enjoy the “Circle G Ranch” where they will become a part of the “Ranch House Kids: Adventure of the Open Door.”
   The ranch theme will be highlighted daily as “Trail Guides” (camp counselors) lead the campers through different stations, including skits and storytelling during Saddle-Up Missions, music and song at the Campfire Sing-Along, snacks at the Chuck Wagon, crafts at the Craft Corral, and outdoor games during Open Range Recreation.
   Each day will begin and end with the Ranch House Roundup. Children will be taught the importance of a relationship with God and life lessons such as love, forgiveness, and giving thanks.
   Vacation Bible School has been a traditional summer activity in Three Rivers for many years. It is a success each year due to the volunteers who spend many hours planning the event and working with the children.
   Currently, both adults and teens are needed to assist at Vacation Bible School. There are openings for Trail Guides, game helpers, skit actors, and food servers.
   To register a child for Vacation Bible School, call Margaret Jones as soon as possible (561-3255).
   To volunteer, call Portia Gunnerud (561-3302) or the Community Presbyterian Church (561-3385).


Lawrence Mai
1920 ~ 2005

   Lawrence V. Mai of Three Rivers died Friday, June 24, 2005. He was 85.
   Services were held Tuesday, June 28, beginning with a miliary interment at Three Rivers Cemetery and followed by a memorial service at the Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers.
   Lawrence was born April 21, 1920, in Russell, Kan., the youngest son of Mary and George Mai. He was riased with his brothers, Emil and Edwin, and sisters Louella, Selma, and Georgia on a farm where he learned a love and respect for the land.
   During World War II, Lawrence proudly served his country in north Africa and Italy. He was a member of the 702nd Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company, where his division’s primary job was to run the oil through the pipelines for use by planes and ships.
   After returning from the war, Lawrence met Marie Galyardt, a war widow, and her baby daughter, Terri. The couple married on Aug. 26, 1946.
   The family resided in Plainville, Kan., where Lawrence worked for Texaco Oil for 35 years.
   In 1982, following his retirement, Lawrence and Marie headed west and settled in Three Rivers to be near daughter Terri and her family.
   During his more than two decades in Three Rivers, Lawrence loved the California weather and took advantage of it by spending many happy days on the golf course. He also enjoyed playing bridge, the High Sierra Jazz Band and barbershop music, and the many hours he spent with dear friends and family.
   On Jan. 20, 2004, Lawrence was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Marie.
   He is survived by his daughter, Terri Hiltel, and her husband, Ted; two granddaughters, Marisa Nordlin and husband Michael and Kara Hiltel; his sister, Selma Harris of Mesa, Ariz.; and many loving nieces and nephews.

Marion Legakes,

Woodlake native and

lifetime resident
1917 ~ 2005

  Marion Day Legakes of Woodlake died Sunday, June 26, 2005. She was 87.
   Marion was born Oct. 27, 1917, in Woodlake, where she was raised and educated. She graduated from Woodbury College in Los Angeles with a degree in commercial arts.
   On May 9, 1942, she married Pete Legakes. Marion returned home to Woodalke with her new husband in 1943.
   She worked at the Woodlake Post Office for 31 years. Marion was a charter member of the Woodlake Lady Lions and the Camillia Circle Garden Club and a member of the Woodlake Presbyterian Church, which was founded by her great-grandfather, who was part of the Blair-Moffett family.
   In 1977, Marion was named Woodlake’s Woman of the Years. She and Vi Crawford served as Grand Marshals of the 37th annual Woodlake Parade and Rodeo.
   Marion was a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 1991 with secondary lung cancer, but she beat the odds.
   In 2000, Marion was recognized as Woodlake’s Woman of the Century, the first time that award had ever been presented.
   A memorial service was held Wednesday, June 29, at Woodlake Presbyterian Church. Burial was Thursday, June 30, at Woodlake District Cemetery.


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