Monday, 22 July 2024


MIDDLETOWN – The search for an elderly Willits man had a happy ending over the weekend, when a local California Highway Patrol officer found the man tired but otherwise OK.

Charles McEntire, 82, was found walking along Highway 29 by CHP Officer Randy Forslund Saturday evening, following a daylong effort by local law enforcement to locate him.

CHP Officer Brian Engle found McEntire's gray Toyota pickup abandoned and facing the wrong way in traffic on Loconomi Road at Butts Canyon Road shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday, according to CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Engle searched the immediate area but couldn't find him. Garcia said CHP dispatch also called McEntire's family, but they didn't know his whereabouts.

McEntire's wife told authorities that he had left that morning in an attempt to get a job at one of the local casinos, said Garcia. She also reported that Charles McEntire recently had suffered two strokes.

CHP Sgt. Mike Thomason initiated missing person procedures and alerted all allied agencies of the situation, said Garcia, and local law enforcement began a initiated a maximum effort to find the missing man.

The information about McEntire's case was passed on to CHP's swing shift, which continued the search, said Garcia.

Forslund and fellow CHP Officer Steve Curtis circulated pictures of McEntire to businesses in Middletown, Lower Lake, Clear Lake and Kelseyville. Garcia said they also checked with Redbud Community Hospital, Twin Pines Casino and homes in the area in an attempt to locate him.

At 9:30 p.m. Saturday, after a day of searching, Forslund found McEntire walking along Highway 29 at St. Helena Road in Middletown, said Garcia.

Garcia said McEntire was disoriented and tired, but otherwise in good shape.

Forslund transported McEntire to the hospital for medical clearance and McEntire's family was notified, Garcia said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


NORTH COAST – A 3.3 earthquake shook The Geysers and residences on Cobb Saturday afternoon.

The quake occurred at 1:27 p.m. at a depth of 1.9 miles two miles east of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney reported that the quake could be felt for about five seconds.

It's been a busy week for seismic activity on the North Coast.

Just after 6 a.m. Friday a 3.6-magnitude earthquake was recorded at a depth of 1.6 miles four miles east of Willits, according to the US Geological Survey.

On Tuesday at 5:40 a.m., the US Geological Survey reported a 3.0-magnitude quake took place two miles northeast of Healdsburg.

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KELSEYVILLE – A Friday morning fire destroyed a Kelseyville home.

Engineer/Paramedic Jim Dowdy of the Kelseyville Fire Protection District, who was incident commander, said an off-duty district fireman spotted the blaze at 3045 South Lake Drive.

The home was fully engulfed when it was first reported, said Dowdy. The fire was dispatched at 10:30 a.m.

Kelseyville Fire responded with four engines, while Lake County Fire Protection sent a water truck and and and engine, and Cal Fire provided two engines, a hand crew, a battalion chief and a helicopter, Dowdy said.

The fire destroyed the two-story home and burned less than a quarter-acre of nearby wildland, said Dowdy.

No one was at home when the fire broke out, and Dowdy said no firefighters were injured.

He said the home is a complete loss. A full damage estimate wasn't available Friday afternoon, although Dowdy guessed that the home was worth about $350,000.

It's been a busy few weeks for home fires, with previous blazes destroying homes in Kelseyville and Upper Lake.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


A Clearlake Oaks man pulled over for speeding last week in Merced County was arrested after allegedly being found in possession of dozens of small marijuana plants and thousands of dollars in cash.

David Nilsen, 47, was pulled over at 2:40 p.m. Sept. 8 while driving northbound on Highway 99 at the north end of Merced County, said California Highway Patrol Officer Tom Killian of the Modesto CHP office.

Killian said a CHP officer caught Nilsen on radar driving his Cadillac CTS sedan 94 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone.

When the CHP officer pulled Nilsen over, he detected a strong marijuana odor, said Killian. “The smell he was smelling was not burnt marijuana, it was green marijuana.”

Nilsen also presented his identification along with an expired medical marijuana card, Killian said.

While searching the car, Killian said the investigating officer found some marijuana that Nilsen allegedly had been smoking.

However, the big find was in the car's trunk, where the officer found two trays of young marijuana plants, each about 6 inches tall, said Killian.

Also in the trunk the officer found approximately $17,667, which Killian said was in different cash denominations.

Killian said the investigation is still ongoing, with CHP attempting to locate the source of the plants and determine the extent of Nilsen's alleged involvement with the marijuana.

Nilsen was booked into the Merced County Jail on marijuana cultivation and transportation for sale charges, said Nilsen.

A Merced County Jail official said Nilsen was booked on Sept. 8 with bail set at $50,000, which he posted the following day in order to gain his release.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


On Saturday, Sept. 6, the Red Lava Tasting Room officially opened with a free wine tasting and hors d’ouvres menu. The hors d’ouvres were provided by Pine Dell Resort and Deli in Clearlake Park. Part of the proceeds from the sale of wines went to benefit the Lake Family Resource Center and there was a raffle for several prizes containing a variety of wines, art, and various other goodies, the proceeds of which also go to benefit the center.

You’ve probably figured out by now that if I get an invitation to attend a function that involves food and wine I consider it, but if it also benefits a local charity you can consider me there.

The Red Lava Tasting Room is located on Highway 29, right by Kit’s Corner. The tasting was well attended during the time I was there, and there was the requisite ribbon cutting with the ceremonious giant scissors ... It makes you wonder: is there enough of a market out there for giant scissors that they have a factory punching out hundreds of them per hour, or is there just one pair of giant scissors that gets moved from location to location opening every business in the land? I’m just curious.

I enjoyed talking to the staff and was well entertained. They are fairly knowledgeable, although some will admit to still be learning. Because of their willingness to admit this, I got the feeling that I was tasting wine with friends more than with a salesman. I’ve been in too many tasting rooms that are filled with pretension and snobbery, and I just roll my eyes when winery staff says things like “Our vineyards are only watered by the tears of angels as they weep for joy at the thought our wine.”

The wine industry has suffered too long with the stigma of the snooty French waiter pointing his nose into the air for wineries to put up with that kind of attitude, and unfortunately Lake County does have a couple of them. But not here in the Red Lava Tasting Room; you’ll be welcomed like an old friend.


The Red Lava Tasting Room serves wines from several wineries around Lake County that don’t have tasting rooms yet. I appreciated this cooperative spirit; everyone lends a hand to make the small tasting room a success, and all these small wineries get the exposure they need. The day of the grand opening they were serving 13 different wines from five different wineries, including their own. We tasted all of them and my wife jotted down notes as we tried each one.


The menu given to us as we started has a spot for tasting notes and mine is sitting here in front of me with some scribbled words, for instance next to Red Lava Vineyard the notes say “Porty aroma,” “Smokey,” and “Surprisingly full.” Robledo Family Vineyards has “a little nutty,” and “Dry, fruity.” Eden Crest says “A mild red for people who normally wouldn’t like red.” Shed Horn Cellars: “Full bodied, nice legs.” My wife will just edit out any joke I make here ... Sol Rouge Winery: ... The tasting room was serving two of their wines, but I’ve already reviewed them. I’ll have to admit Sol Rouge is becoming a favorite in our house, so tasting their wines at an event like this is just a chance to have some of theirs free since we already have several bottles at home.

The signage out in front of the tasting room is straightforward and plain, but it’s a brand new place and I’m sure it will get customized as they settle in. The psychological effect when viewing the sign is interesting: when seeing the place for the first time my wife was unimpressed with the sign or exterior and subconsciously lowered her expectations, but as we left she commented that the wines were all so much better than she was expecting. I guess first impressions can be changed. Tastings normally cost $5 per person, and for 13 wines that is quite fair. There is a wide enough variety of wines to ensure you will find something that you like.

The Red Lava tasting room also carries some amazing art works from local artists, both paintings and photography. And of course I have to mention the countertop that the tastings are served at – that is one amazing and beautiful chunk of wood! I personally will be returning to the Red Lava tasting room to purchase wines on a regular basis.

As I mentioned before, proceeds from the raffle and some of the wine sales will go to benefit the Lake Family Resource Center. The Lake Family Resource Center is a network for emergency services to help people in a multitude of circumstances including domestic violence, rape, child abuse, child development, parenting support, support groups, even tobacco control programs. They are always in need of donations, primarily in the form of money but also clothes, furniture, household goods, food, and volunteers. With the exception of money, their needs are not necessarily in that order.

If anyone is interested in answering the crisis hotline there is a class coming up in October to train those interested. They could use people with almost any expertise so if you have the time, they have the need; even if you are a professional Himalayan sherpa I’m sure they could use you.

They are a nonprofit community benefit organization so your donations are tax-deductible. The Lake Family Resource Center crisis line is 1-888-485-7733 and is staffed 24 hours a day. Their non-emergency number is 707-262-1611. They are headquartered at 896 Lakeport Blvd. in Lakeport and have an additional office at 14671 Olympic Dr. in Clearlake.

The Red Lava Tasting Room and the Lake County Resource Center – two great features for the Lake County community.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – After a busy season of forest fires closed the Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness, Mendocino and Six Rivers National Forest officials reported that the wilderness will reopen at 6 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15.


The wilderness area was closed June 26 due to wildland fire activity and in the interest of public safety. The closure was initially effective through the end of the 2008 fire season, which traditionally ends in October with the first rains.

Last month the Yolla Bolly Complex was contained after burning nearly 90,000 acres in two months, officials reported.

For visitor safety, the portion of the Wilderness on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest will remain closed until further notice due to the number of snags along trails.

The reopening means hunters and other recreational users will be able to enjoy the Yolla Bolly Middle Eel Wilderness this fall before the rain starts.

However, until there is significant rain, forest officials warn that we are still in an active fire season and this area has already been affected by fire. Visitors are asked to use caution in these areas and to respect the fire restrictions that are still in place.

Because there is inherent risk in any outdoor activity, visitors are cautioned that they should be aware of the challenges associated with recreating in wilderness areas, including:

  • Falling dead trees or tree branches – commonly known as snags – especially in windy conditions. Note that trees in burned areas may still look alive, but could be unstable after being burned.

  • Weak and unstable spots on the forest floor from burned out stumps and roots.

  • Slippery conditions from ash, needles, and other debris, particularly when wet.

  • Flash floods and mudslides in burned areas without vegetation.


Visitors should be prepared for changing weather conditions, including temperature fluctuations and the potential for precipitation, especially at higher elevations.

Campsites should be located away from burned areas, areas that may be subject to falling or rolling debris or trees, or beneath cliffs or steep slopes.

Visitors also are asked to help protect forest resources by remaining on designated roads. Motor Vehicle Use Maps are available for the Mendocino National Forest.

For more information, contact the Six Rivers National Forest Mad River Ranger District at 707-574-6233 or visit; the Mendocino National Forest Covelo Ranger

District at -707-983-6118, Grindstone Ranger District at 530-934-3316 or visit; or the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 530- 226-2500 or visit




THE GEYSERS – After being shaken by a 3.3-magnitude earthquake on Saturday, The Geysers felt another sizable quake Sunday evening.

The 3.5-magnitude earthquake occurred at 6:34 p.m. Sunday, the US Geological Survey reported.

It occurred at a depth of 1.1 miles. The US Geological Survey reported that it was centered two miles east southeast of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west northwest of Anderson Springs.

Several smaller quakes, including a 2.9, occurred before midnight Sunday, the US Geological Survey reported.

The Saturday 3.3-magnitude earthquake was centered two miles east of The Geysers at a depth of 1.9 miles, as Lake County News reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The Mighty Crows in their Saturday performance. Photo by Dave Hendrick.

LOWER LAKE – The place to be for great music this weekend in Anderson Marsh, which is hosting the annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival.

The festival began on Saturday and will continue Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake.

This family-friendly event brings together local and regional musicians for performances on two stages, as well as a full schedule of musician workshops throughout the day.

The festival features live music on two stages, demonstrations and vendors selling old-time handmade crafts, Art in the Barn, wine and beer gardens featuring Lake County wines, and food from local purveyors.

Headliners of the festival include The Mighty Crows, Alhambra Valley Band, Mountain Laurel Band, Pat Ickes and Bound to Ride, Sidesaddle and The Mighty Chiplings.

Other entertainers include the local Elem Indian Tribe Dance Group who will kick off the event, plus local groups Andy Skelton and the Konocti Fiddlers, the Clear Lake Clickers, Public Nuisance, Don Coffin and the AMIA Live Wire Choir, and Laura and Darin Smith.

Sponsors include the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association and the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, as well as numerous businesses and service organizations.

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park is located at 8825 Highway 53, Lower Lake.

For information call 800-LAKESIDE, 274-5652, or visit or



The Clear Lake Clickers perform. Photo by Dave Hendrick.


Customers crowd into the gas station Thursday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – What started out as a customer appreciation promotion at a Lakeport gas station ended with traffic gridlock and public safety concerns.

On Thursday, Tower Mart on Lakeport Boulevard began selling regular unleaded gasoline for $1.99 per gallon, with discounts for other grades of gas as well, except for diesel, which remained at $4.29 per gallon.

Tower Mart Regional Manager Walt Huth said he found out from the corporate offices Thursday morning that the reduced gas was being offered beginning at noon as part of a special promotion.

At about 12:01 p.m., Lakeport Police started receiving a deluge of calls, said Sgt. Kevin Odom of Lakeport Police.

Over the next few hours, callers reported a massive traffic jam at Highway 29's Todd Road exit and down Lakeport Boulevard, said Lt. Brad Rasmussen. There also were reports of irate people – some of them getting ready to fight.

Lakeport Unified School District's transportation supervisor called to express concern about school buses being able to get through town between 2:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., said Rasmussen.

Odom and Officer Norm Taylor initially were sent out to investigate the situation, and found traffic was lined up from the station down Lakeport Boulevard to Main Street, Rasmussen said.

Both northbound and southbound off ramps were backed up with traffic almost to the highway, said Rasmussen. At one point, drivers were backing down the off ramps or blocking intersections. Gas station clerks were out near the road beckoning divers into the business.

“We discovered they had not done any planning for this,” said Rasmussen, who added the promotion was supposed to go on for four days.

A California Highway Patrol sergeant and a Lakeport Public Works superintendent responded to the scene along with Lakeport Police. Rasmussen said they quickly became concerned that if the promotion went on until 5 p.m. as planned, the public safety concerns would only mount.

Rasmussen said the clogged streets caused delays for people trying to get to other businesses in the area and to Mendocino College's Lake Center on Parallel Drive.

Across the street, McDonald's owner John Norcio said that he did not feel that his lunchtime business had been adversely effected. His staff had begun taking orders from drivers waiting in the backup and had runners delivering food directly to the cars.

Rasmussen spoke to Lakeport City Attorney Steve Brookes about legal concerns before asking the station to shut the promotion down until he could meet with city officials to form a plan.

Police didn't want to harm the station's business but their concerns about safety were the primary issue, Rasmussen explained.

Store manager Debbie Bottorff said the sale shut down about 1:30 p.m.

Rasmussen said police helped control traffic around the gas station. Anyone still in line when the shutdown was called were allowed to purchase gas. By the time police left the area it was nearly 3 p.m.

People were still busily stopping into the station all afternoon.

Bottorff said sales figures for the sales period were not available Thursday afternoon. She estimated that on a normal day the station pumps a total of 2,600 gallons.

Tower Mart offered the reduced gas at seven other areas around the state, including Lincoln and Lathrop. In Lathrop, the resulting traffic jams also led to a shutdown over public safety concerns, according to media reports.

Rasmussen said he had asked Huth to meet with city officials Friday morning to go over a plan for future reduced gas sales, and Huth agreed, although later in the day he changed his mind and canceled.

Huth indicated that the Lakeport station would still offer some gas discounts in the coming days, with prices expected to be set at $3.29 through the weekend.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Traffic was lined up down the highway off ramp. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The line of vehicles stretched down to Main Street. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The prices at the station haven't been seen in a long time. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



September 2008's star chart. Courtesy of John Zimmerman.


LAKE COUNTY – During the month of September, the Summer Triangle, discussed in last month’s column, shines brightly overhead.

Three bright stars make up the triangle: Deneb, Vega and Altair. They are shown on our star chart. Many of the stars in the sky have Arabic names. We will discuss how the stars in the triangle got their names.


Deneb is one of the most luminous stars in the sky. It is located in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. Deneb comes from the Arabic word dhaneb, which means “tail.”

Our drawing of the three constellations that hold the three stars in the summer triangle shows Deneb to be the tail of the Cygnus Swan.





The Summer Triangle, courtesy of Digitalis Education.



Vega is the fifth brightest star in the sky, and is in the constellation of Lyra the Harp. Vega comes from the Arabic word waqi which loosely translates into “falling.”Ancient cultures often saw Vega as part of an eagle or vulture, hence the reference to falling.

It should be noted that General Motors named the Vega automobile after this star in the 1970s.


Altair is the 12th brightest star in the sky. It is located in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle. Altair is Arabic for “The Bird,” reflecting the fact that ancient cultures saw this constellation as a bird.

Aside from these stars, the planet Jupiter continues to shine brightly above the southern horizon. And on Sept. 16, about 30 minutes after sunset, the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury can be seen low in the western horizon, along the star Spica.




The planets on September 16, 2008. Image courtesy of Sky and Telescope.



To learn more about Lake County Skies in September, and to observe these objects through a telescope, visit Taylor Observatory ( on Saturday, Sept. 20 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Friday that a homicide victim whose body was discovered last week in an illegal marijuana garden has been identified.

The body of Jose Luis Tafolla, 29, was identified as the result of an autopsy conducted Monday at the Napa County Coroner's Office, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Tafolla had been reported missing from Santa Rosa on Sept. 1. Sheriff's official discovered his body in a shallow grave in a large marijuana growing operation off of Highway 175 in Middletown last week, as Lake County News has reported.

Bauman said sheriff’s detectives attending the autopsy found that Tafolla had sustained multiple high-velocity gunshot wounds. Fingerprints collected during the autopsy were used to confirm Tafolla's identity on Tuesday.

On Monday, a combined task force of sheriff’s detectives, sheriff’s Search and Rescue and members of Kelseyville’s K-Corps conducted a daylong extended search of the eradicated marijuana operation and homicide scene for any remaining evidence relating to the homicide. Bauman said the search operation yielded several more items of physical evidence, including more ammunition and spent firearms cartridges believed to be connected to the homicide.

On Thursday, sheriff’s detectives served two search warrants relating to the homicide investigation on residences in the city of Santa Rosa, said Bauman. Those search warrants resulted in the interview of several potential witnesses and revealed the identities of several new persons of interest.

Since detectives began this investigation, they have learned that Tafolla reportedly left Santa Rosa on Aug. 24 with two associates and went to the marijuana grow in Lake County, apparently intending to steal marijuana by force to settle a debt owed to one of them by one of the growers, according to Bauman.

The three were not supposed to return to Santa Rosa for about a week but the day after they left, Tafolla’s two associates returned without him and his girlfriend – who Bauman said was previously believed to be Tafolla's wife – became concerned.

By Labor Day weekend, Tafolla had still not returned to Santa Rosa. When his girlfriend insisted on knowing his whereabouts, one of the two he went to Lake County with a week prior told her he had been shot and killed in a gun fight when they tried to steal the marijuana. Bauman said she then notified authorities in Santa Rosa of circumstances surrounding Tafolla’s disappearance.

Interviews and the condition of Tafolla's body when he was recovered from the marijuana operation indicate he was killed on or about Aug. 24, said Bauman.

He said that the two men arrested as they fled the area of the marijuana operation on Sept. 3 are still believed to be connected to the homicide, however, the investigation has yet to yield enough information to either charge them or clear them of any direct responsibility.

The investigation remains open pending further work by sheriff’s detectives, Bauman reported.


LAKEPORT – A tree took down a power pole and power lines in an area of Lakeport on Thursday.

The lines and power pole were in the area of Third and Crawford, officials reported.

Brandi Ehlers, a Pacific Gas and Electric spokesperson, said the initial outage was reported at 5:31 p.m. and involved secondary power lines.

She said the outage affected eight customers in downtown Lakeport from 18th to Starkeys Lane and from Clearlake Avenue to Highway 29.

PG&E workers were transporting a new pole through town on Thursday evening. Ehlers said they were replacing the pole and restringing the lines.

She said power should be restored to all customers by 5 a.m. Friday.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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