They sought the beauty of nature yet met the ugliness of human nature.
Friends, classmates and colleagues are grieving along with the families of the missing North Coast trio who over a month ago went on a Yosemite National Park sightseeing trip that turned out to be the last for Carole Sund, 42.
Through dental records, the body of the Eureka woman known as a staunch children's advocate was identified by authorities Monday as one of two found charred beyond recognition in the trunk of their burned-out rental car. It was found days before in the woods off Highway 108 near Long Barn, northeast of Sonora.
The FBI is treating the incident as a murder investigation, expects to identify the second body through DNA samples, but is still tracking leads. The agency's hotline 800-435-7883 receives about 300 calls a day.
The search continues for the third missing woman, with Sund's 15-year-old daughter Julie and family friend Silvina Pelosso, 16, of Argentina, still unaccounted for. Their last confirmed sighting was about 200 miles away Feb. 15 at the Cedar Lodge in El Portal, the FBI contends.
It's this uncertainty that would haunt the family forever if they never knew what happened, Tuolomne County Sheriff Dick Rogers said, re-pledging the multi-agency task force's commitment to the cause during Monday's press conference. The task force also includes members of the Modesto Police Department and the Stanislaus County Sheriff's unit.
Rogers, visibly touched by the families' strength, called their memorial service at the site Sunday "extremely emotional."
"Our worst fears have been realized," Eureka City Schools Superintendent James Scott said Tuesday in an issued statement aimed at honoring one of its most admired and active volunteers.
Students, administrators and teachers at Eureka High have patiently awaited word on the teenagers, adding counselors to help students deal with their stress, community relations spokesman Sheldon Reber said.
"For something like this to happen to us, it's really overwhelming," said Teresa Creech, Julie's cheerleading squad coach. The squad placed fifth and sixth in two state tournaments in Stockton the weekend before the trio's disappearance.
All along, family members and friends have tried to deal with the loss of loved ones and the loss of innocence in their own way.
Like others, family friend Deborah Downs who said she admired "super mom" Carole immensely was jarred by the notion of not feeling there's safety in numbers anymore.
"That's hit everybody," Downs said, though convinced the incident was a random act of violence. "As much as I miss Carole, she wouldn't have done anything I wouldn't have been doing."
She described her friend as a "capable" woman who wouldn't have gotten herself into a risky situation. And Julie recently attended a violence awareness class, Carole's husband Jens told a group of reporters at his press conference the week before.
Downs, who works at the Carrington family's real estate business, has noticed a change in his demeanor. She said the once even-keel, mild-mannered man vacillates between anger and sadness.
These are all typical stages of grief, said Linda Manfredi, Hospice of Humboldt bereavement coordinator.
"Most people in (Jens') situation have periods of rage," Manfredi said, adding it's especially hard to do it in the public eye. The case has drawn national media attention. Add to the equation his gender and desire to be strong for his four children, and you have a more stressful situation, she said.
Everyone deals with loss differently, Manfredi said. But men find it harder, suggesting that men have to circumvent the protector-only role and society needs to grant permission for them to be vulnerable.
Linda Wolfe of Arcata agrees. When their 17-year-old son Nathan died in a car accident in December 1994, her husband didn't want to go to grief support groups. And, he didn't want her to go either, she said.
"He didn't want to talk about it because he didn't want to cry," Wolfe said. But she did.
For the first few years after his death, Wolfe went to a meeting for a nationwide survivors' support group called Compassionate Friends. It meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Faith Center, 1032 Bay St., Eureka and can attract a handful of people or a crowd of up to 30.
Feeling lonely and like a minority, Wolfe just listened to others share at first. A year later, she finally opened up.
"It helped me tremendously to be around people I said were `my kind,'" Wolfe said. She went to counseling and took anti-depressants but found sharing with this group of strangers fed her soul.
She related to Carole's father, Francis Carrington, saying on camera how hard it is to outlive your child while he choked back tears.
Manfredi said the two families' reactions exemplify those that have tapped into a great inner strength that helps them deal with the pain.
With grief, there are no shortcuts, Manfredi reminded. "You get better by talking about it. Grief is forever. It's just the intensity that changes," she said.
With five years experience, Manfredi said she's observed that Humboldt County has endured "significant loss" this past year.
Hospice has expanded its grief support groups for peers of all ages, from children and teenagers to adults and seniors. Next month, Hospice is adding a group designed for survivors of victims of violent crime because their situation is unique, Manfredi said.
Those seeking more information on bereavement groups may call 445-8443.
story by Susan Wood
On Saint Patrick's Day, California Gov.
Gray Davis with entourage delivered the greenbacks to Humboldt County, then
toured the lush, green Headwaters Forest for the first time.
The $12 million, symbolically presented to county supervisors on a "great big check," is earmarked for job training and retraining as a method of countering the famous forest deal's economic losses.
Davis described the Headwaters agreement as the right thing to have done for future generations but expects some fallout in economic losses, he said.
In last-minute negotiations, the state and federal governments bought 7,500 acres of the property from Pacific Lumber Co. for $480 million weeks ago and expected the deal would affect the local economy. Pacific Lumber has in recent weeks layed off hundreds of employees.
Joining Davis, Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin said she fought hard to secure the state funds with "no strings attached" because she recognized population segments like timber workers were "going to take a pretty serious hit on their livelihoods."
In the Board of Supervisor's chambers, Strom-Martin told a crowd of reporters the importance in balancing environmental and economic interests.
She mentioned the money could be used to help displaced workers train for jobs in an area such as watershed preservation.
This gesture represents a shift in focus for the county from a resource extraction-based economy to a more eco tourism-oriented region, Strom-Martin said from her Sacramento office the next day.
"Clearly, yesterday was a defining moment for that," she said, equating the industry's plight with the commercial fishing business. "Certainly, (like logging) we'll always have fishing, but it's not going to be what it was," she said.
Ironically, a national report releasing the results of the best positions to have in terms of room for advancement and low stress rated lumberjack as No. 249 out of 250. The Jobs Rated Almanac due out in June rated web site manager as No. 1.
Meanwhile, those who want to visit the Headwaters Forest are restricted to the Elk River Road access south of Eureka off U.S. Highway 101, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced last week.
The southern route via Newburg Road near Fortuna is closed to visitors. It may open in three months, the BLM said.
The federal agency, which will manage the new reserve, also wants to keep the visits limited to foot-traffic-only for now. This means no motor vehicles, mountain bikes and horses will be allowed, noted Lynda Roush, BLM Arcata field office manager.
A parking area will be established just inside the reserve boundary. Those wishing to venture deep in the heart of the old-growth reserve need to be prepared for a hearty five-mile hike, two miles of that on steep terrain, Roush said.
She advises that only hikers in good condition go, wearing sturdy hiking boots and carrying plenty of water with essentials to deal with changing weather conditions.
Waste fees have claimed another victim.
A load of waste from General Hospital in Eureka was recently rejected by the Humboldt County Waste Management Authority for non-compliant disposal, hospital and waste officials confirmed. The amount of this handling fee is undetermined as of Tuesday, they added.
This comes on the heels of a similar situation for Mad River Community Hospital, which was hit with a $10,000 handling fee for improper waste disposal last week, administrator and spokesman Doug Shaw confirmed.
The Arcata hospital is considering contesting the fee, Shaw added.
Still, the hospital is cooperating fully with officials from the waste management authority to ensure the two facilities agree on compliance rules, Shaw said. The authority will make site visits in the next few weeks to review the policy, General Manager Gerald Kindsfather said.
The Arcata hospital took the financial hit when the Arcata Solid Waste Transfer Station rejected the load of waste because "material was found in the load that was determined to be outside of the regulations," the waste authority said in an issued statement. The 3,000-pound-plus load included blood-stained gauze and one ounce of blood sealed in a plastic bottle. In the meantime, the hospital has agreed to sterilize and place all blood-stained materials in medical waste containers.
But Shaw said the materials are "no different than household" medical waste, and the hospital hasn't changed its policy recently. He suggested perhaps what has changed are the state regulations. The waste authority ships the waste to a site in Medford, Ore.
"Oregon apparently will not accept even a drop of blood, dried or fluid," a hospital statement read.
But Kindsfather said the waste authority follows California code. Further, the local hospitals were notified ahead of time via letter of the inspections he says are routine.
Officials at General Hospital, which was cited for blood-stained gauze and intravenous tubing not properly bagged, said they'll probably not contest the fee.
In the wake of an apparent breakdown in talks, Humboldt State University professors in the academic senate have culminated a year-long contract dispute by filing formal grievances against the California State University Board of Trustees.
The faculty gave CSU Chancellor Charles Reed a unanimous vote of "no confidence" in a capacity-packed Goodwin Forum on the Arcata campus Tuesday evening. It also decided to decline cooperating with the CSU board to develop criteria for merit pay, one sticking point in the negotiations between the trustees and the California Faculty Association.
When the two sides failed to produce an agreeable contract for its 22 CSU campuses across the state, the CSU board rejected a plea from the union to renew negotiations and plans to impose its own set of terms and conditions that weigh in less than what the union asked for.
They include a 2.5 percent general salary increase and 1.5 percent service salary increase used for junior faculty members to work up to seniority pay. Both raises are retroactive to Oct. 1.
The HSU faculty union President Ken Fulgham, representing 250 faculty members, called the "last best offer" the board is proposing "insulting" and its rejection to compromise the "straw that broke the camel's back."
The professors may decide to strike as one of several options, but that conclusion seems "highly unlikely," Fulgham said.
"The people we don't want to hurt in all this is our students," he said, torn by a commitment to the union's principles and the students.
It appears the contract stalemate isn't the outcome the CSU board wanted either.
"The trustees and I are disappointed that an agreement was not reached. We tried very hard to do that, and this is not the conclusion we wanted," CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said in an issued statement.
For the first time in its history, a woman will run College of the Redwoods.
Out of 81 applicants, CR has narrowed the list of finalists to three candidates all women, college officials announced.
They include Kathleen Crabill, who is serving as the interim president of Gateway Community Technical College in New Haven, Conn.; Marie Rosenwasser, president of Canada College in the San Mateo County Community College District; and Frances White, who is executive vice chancellor of City College in San Francisco.
CR's interim President/Superintendent Allan Kurki said the finalists have "vastly different backgrounds."
The position opened after former CR President/Superintendent Cedric Sampson left to become chancellor of the South Orange Community College District last August.
Two local men were arrested last week on suspicion of growing marijuana for sale. The street value amounted to $3.3 million, Humboldt County Drug Task Force agents estimated.
Steven T. Gellman, 45, of Kneeland, and Will Lee Rector, 20, of Myers Flat, were jailed in lieu of $200,000 bail.
Acting on a search warrant, agents and sheriff's deputies seized 2,667 marijuana plants and $2,700 cash from three structures, one camouflaged, on Gellman's property in Redwood Valley off U.S. Highway 299, sheriff's Sgt. Steve Knight said.
Officers also found 10 pounds of marijuana buds, two rifles and one handgun at Rector's Myer's Flat home and three ounces of dried marijuana, six rifles and $3,000 at Gellman's Kneeland residence.
Gellman was featured in the North Coast Journal's Feb. 18 cover story on falconry.
As the Mad River mouth shifts north and south, scientists are trying to determine a pattern that may date back at least a half century.
The river has broken through to the Pacific Ocean adjacent to Hiller Road in McKinleyville, its mouth 30 years ago that's about a half mile north of School Road.
"It appears there's a trend," said Jeff Borgeld, an oceanography professor at Humboldt State University. "All the rivers jump around. But (the Mad River) jumped back all the way to where it was in the late `60s."
Borgeld pointed out that the Mad's usual northern migration goes south after El Nino years. The tropical weather phenomenon that battered the California coastline in the winter of 1997-98 erodes beaches and moves layers of sand that can affect currents. The battle between incoming waves with river currents can seal up and shift river mouths, he explained.
Movement on the Pacific coastline is a historical fact of life for North Coast residents, notes local geographer Chris Haynes.
In 1854, the Mad River was diverted into Humboldt Bay so farmers on the Arcata Bottom could send their produce into Eureka, Haynes said. Thirty years later, the river flowed back into the ocean.
"The Mad River channel has changed a lot (through the years)," he said.
Nowadays coastal residents in the area of the Mad River movement from Clam Beach south to School Road should heed the natural course of bluff erosion possibly compromised by the combination of wave impact and river breaching, Haynes said.
"It's a critical problem we face in California," Haynes said. The geographer recommends a slowing in development along those McKinleyville coastal bluffs. "Every year we find new slides."
Borgeld agrees. "Wherever the river mouth is at high tide is where waves will be able to get into," he said.
Amid a turbulent time in the state's forests, Gov. Gray Davis turned to a long-time North Coast resident and savvy negotiator who understands the politics of science last week, appointing Andrea Tuttle, 52, of Arcata to head the California Department of Forestry.
Tuttle runs a consulting business in her own name, a natural resource policy and planning company she founded seven years ago. Since 1997, she has also served on the California Coastal Commission. From 1976 to 1984, she was a member of the state Regional Water Quality Control Board for the North Coast.
Tuttle was featured in the North Coast Journal's Dec. 10, 1998 cover story.
When the prospect of her running the large state agency came up during the governor's visit, Humboldt County supervisors and Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin gave the thumbs up in anticipation.
Tuttle's appointment comes at a controversial time for the California agency.
Just last week, 13 environmental groups announced their intention to sue the agency over logging regulations they claim kill salmon.
Also, Robert C. Hight, the state's lead negotiator on the Headwaters negotiations, has been appointed head of the California Department of Fish and Game.
Gov. Gray Davis' decision to appoint Hight dashed the hopes of former Assemblyman Dan Hauser of Arcata and Sen. Dan McCorquodale of Modesto, who were also up for the position. Other contenders included fisheries consultant William Kier of Sausalito, Sonoma County Supervisor Tim Smith and William Yates, director of the Mountain Lion Foundation. Hight's appointment requires Senate confirmation.
A lawyer and former director of the state lands commission, Hight was involved in negotiations over the California Desert Protection Act, the purchase of the Bolsa Chica wetlands and a settlement in an antitrust suit involving seven major oil companies. As head of the DFG he will be paid $105,883 annually a 5 percent reduction from the authorized salary, as requested by the governor.
Hight's appointment was praised by conservation groups, who had criticized the DFG's performance during Gov. Pete Wilson's administration.
The department was once primarily concerned with hunting and fishing but is now a key player in many controversial resource issues, such as timber harvest plans.
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