War training in Sierra-stan

A little off the beaten path, one local way to gauge the state of the war in Afghanistan is in the High Sierras.

I have been camping for several years near the Leavitt Meadow Pack Station, a long day’s hike or horse ride from the north side of Yosemite National Park. Also near Leavitt is the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Pickel Meadow.

Built in 1951 for cold weather and altitude training, the Marine Corps has used the base as a way to prepare soldiers for mountain fighting in Afghanistan (speaking of pickles).

Marines receive training in mountain medicine, mountain survival and handling pack animals (especially mules).

Since 9/11, the remote warfare-training center has roughly tripled in size. Just last summer, bulldozers at the base were busy building something, which I saw this weekend was a new helipad with several large helicopters in place.

Passing by the Marines in the high country preparing for deployment, I can only wonder what is ahead for them.



Pacer pride preview

I was pretty excited about last Friday’s nationally televised (on ESPN!) game between the Grant Union Pacers and the Folsom Bulldogs. The game was sold-out, so this was an awesome substitute for being there in person. Of course, it didn’t end well for Folsom, who lost 49-14.

Grant, which won the 2008 California Interscholastic Federation championship, lost to Rocklin High School in the semifinals last year. And while a lot of the senior greats, such as Glenn Deary and Devontae Butler, have moved on, there’s still one important constant: coach Mike Alberghini, who’s been coaching at Grant for something like 43 years and, I’ve got to say, is one of the nicest, most genuine guys I’ve ever met.



Sac of cinema

The Mentalist showed up in Sac recently to shoot a few more scenes for an upcoming episode. About a psychiatrist gone postal, er, a crime fighter/psychic played by an Aussie named Simon Baker, the series takes place in Sacramento.

According to the Internet Movie Database, 244 movies, TV shows, documentaries and short films have shot at least some scenes in and around Sacto.

On the list: Cops (too bad they missed the freeway brawl on Highway 50); For Whom the Bell Tolls with Gary Cooper and NorCal standing in for Spain; Steamboat Bill Jr., shot in 1928 with Buster Keaton; and Inside the Girls Locker Room (not a documentary).