TRAINING DAY


We saw the vehicle with hazard lights on, just before we arrived at Box Canyon, at about 3700 feet, where we were going to log out part of McBee Trail in the Waldo Lake Wilderness as part of crosscut saw training.  It was raining something that looked white. Good hypothermia weather, although sawing logs might keep us warm.  

Nobody at the car flagged us down, and we didn’t see anything, so we pulled into the parking lot, got into all our rain gear and personal protective equipment—hard hats, gloves, safety glasses– had our day packs on and were ready to go to work.  Five of us were getting some training, and while I had been in the woods crosscutting with the crew 19 different times, I figured I could learn some more.  It was my first time working with a saw since I broke my hand backpacking around Mt. Hood two months earlier.

We crossed Highway 19, the Aufderheide, a scenic but not often traveled 60 mile road between Highway 126 from Eugene to Santiam Pass and Highway 58 between Eugene and Willamette Pass.  Box Canyon was equidistant from each side.

While crossing the road, the truck that had had its hazard lights on stopped and asked if we could help. 

 
“There’s a car over the edge with a guy pinned in there.”

We had completely missed seeing the car.  Anybody could have.  The details weren’t completely clear, but the car was apparently driving west from Oakridge and heading towards Terwilliger Hot Springs the night before.  The hot springs are closed at night, but that didn’t stop people from using them. There were three in the car; the driver and one passenger were hurt but were able to leave and apparently flagged a car down and had called emergency.  An ambulance was heading up from the McKenzie River side, the north, but it was probably 40 miles, and the last 30 on the Aufderheide were narrow and bumpy.  They would be at least an hour and a half, maybe longer.

We walked towards the accident scene, about two hundred yards. My leg was bothering me, so I lagged behind.  We brought our tools, because we weren’t going to be doing any logging for a while until we understood the situation.  

A small, red car had collided with a fir and left a 7-8 inch gash in the bark, but not too deep.  The car had somehow turned and faced perpendicular to the road, engine compartment smashed in on the right, the windshield ready to give way, and the car was on some sort of stump, suspended, so it remained horizontal with the rear wheels several feet above the sloping forest floor under it. 

The other passengers or the hunters had put blankets on the victim, who was conscious but in a lot of pain from what appeared to be a fracture of the femur.  There was little we could do: one of the others in our group, who knew I was a physician, looked at me like I was supposed to do something.  We did not want to touch the car, and everything appeared relatively stable, so we waited for the emergency personnel to arrive.

About an hour after we knew about the accident, an ambulance arrived, a crew of first responders, someone from Eugene Mountain Rescue, and an Oregon State Police officer soon after.  They stabilized the car, started removing the passenger side front door, and got a backboard ready. They wanted to take the patient directly up the bank, which had a lot of brush.  

“Do you guys have loppers to cut out this brush?”

“Does the Pope have a Bible?” I thought.  We are a bunch of wilderness trail workers.  We had five loppers among us and cleared the bank in as minutes.  Then there was another issue.

“We encountered two logs coming in on the road.  We winched one out of the way, but the other needs to be removed.  Can you do it?”

Why yes, we can, but unfortunately, we aren’t the chain saw group. Still, we had bodies and we had a 5 foot, 2-man crosscut.  Four of us left and drove north down the Aufderheide about 6 miles, where we found a 75 foot western Hemlock down, the top covering about three-quarters of the road. This would be a big part of the training, cutting the tree out.

Of the four, one was an experienced crosscut sawyer, two were beginners., and I knew enough to be helpful. I was able to work with the two new people; we had to make two separate cuts because the log had such a top bind, or compression, we couldn’t get plastic wedges in to the kerf, or cut, to open it. We had to “chunk” the log by cutting and then using a Pulaski to remove wood. Eventually, we got through the log and with 4 of us pushing with our legs, moved it off the road, opening about 80% of the road there.

We then got back in the car and drove back towards the accident site.  Not five minutes later, a small group of cars, including one ambulance, came the other way.  

We had lunch standing up, by the trailhead in the rain, and then hiked into McBee trail, clearing about a mile of it.  When we came out and drove back to Oakridge, we came upon the tow truck with a red car, crushed front end, but no longer with a person in it.

Upper McKenzie Fire District first responder at the vehicle. The brush we would remove is in the upper right corner.
Log cut out. We didn’t cut from the road edge, because it was a lot thicker there and there was some time pressure to get the road open. The cut section is at the top.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: