Archive for July, 2021

THE STRAP

July 16, 2021

While waiting to start the weekly hike up Spencer Butte, I watched a new person put her gaiters on her calves and ankles upside down.  Normally, I don’t correct people, but this particular issue was something she was going to want to get right. 

“I had a heck of time learning how to use those,” I said. “Let me show you the trick.” And I did. I learned about gaiters from watching people put theirs on. I learned about hikes, pronouncing certain words, names of tools, people’s families, interests, and much more from listening to others, often when I wasn’t part of the conversation.  She was grateful for the instruction and we’ve become good friends. 

When I started with the Crew, I first carried what was in my hiking pack. But I watched what others wore, what they carried, what they used. When I cut a finger, I had a bandage, but one of the others had some clotting powder, so I added clotting powder to my first aid kit. The other day, another guy used a small piece of wood to stabilize the Pulaski when prying up a log to make my cutting easier, so I am going to add a piece of wood I have had for some time and hadn’t yet added. I’ve watched good people cut, and I try to emulate them. If I am cutting and my partner changes, I know whether the new cutter is better or worse than the previous one. I have struggled cutting with one partner and then with a change either the wood got easier or the partner was better, usually the latter. I listen to the log, I watch the sawdust, the noodles, or curved pieces of wood that appear with a good saw that is being used properly.  I ask questions and if I don’t understand, I ask more questions.  

My pack has more things I need and fewer things I don’t need.  I never skimp on water.  I always throw in a rain jacket, even if it is 90 in July.  It can get cold at night if I have to stay out.  I now wear knee pads—and like them.  My shirt is white, so it shows dirt—and blood—but is cooler and has bug repellent.  I wear gaiters to protect my calves and to keep me dry in stream crossings. They have the side benefit of keeping my double-knotted laces from loosening when I walk through brush.

I have a KatanaBoy 500 and Corona hand saws in my pack. If we come upon a 4-6 inch log across the trail, I can deal with it without the saw carrier having to take off the shield and have it ready for two people to use. I can catch up.  I did a lot of that this past week.

It’s what I carry in my pockets that has had me become a go to guy in the woods.  In my right front pocket, I carry a small pocket folding hand saw.  It’s great when I want to do some trimming or minor cutting of a small branch that people walk into on the trail without having to take off my pack. It’s not a lopper, but I can use it as a pair of loppers. In my back pocket, I carry two plastic wedges.  When we cut a good size log, we often need to drive in a wedge or two to keep the kerf or cut open. Many carry wedges somewhere in their pack.  Invariably, they are cutting when they want one. After rummaging in packs more than once, I decided to put a couple in my back pocket, because when a wedge is wanted, it is wanted now.  It’s appreciated.  Sure, my wedges wear out faster from use, but they are cheap.  

I have my phone/camera in one pocket and a GPS in the other; the GAIA app on the phone gives me a second GPS. I’m the one who takes pictures. Anybody can do it, but nobody seems to other than me. So, I have a lot of pictures of crew members and virtually none of me.  That’s OK. I don’t go on Facebook, so I don’t need digital narcissism. The Crew likes the pictures. The founder of the Crew, who no longer can go out, likes them, too. He used to reply. Then the replies got briefer. Now he doesn’t reply, but I still send them.

I have a bottle of WD-40 in my pack. A couple of years ago, I saw a stuck saw in a log sprayed with it to see if it would cut better.  Some guys swear by it, others swear at it. I know, it is hydrocarbons in the forest.  I carried it for two years and one day took it out of my pack along with the wedges when we were doing a non-crosscut trail job and I wanted to keep weight down.  Well, sure enough, we had to cut out a root wad, and when the leader asked me for wedges, I had none.  When I got back to the car, I made sure I always had wedges and WD-40 in my pack, even though one crew leader will never use it. He was very clear about not using it—ever.

A month later, that same crew leader, while sawing a 36 inch log on Black Creek, a log that was exuding pitch like a leaking faucet, had his 7 foot saw get stuck and finally pulled out near the end of the cut, which was finished with a KatanaBoy. His saw had more pitch than a loquacious salesman, and he asked if anybody had some WD-40.

Guess who had it in his pack. I wish I had recorded his voice. Within seconds I was spraying his saw to dissolve the pitch that was fouling the blades and was going to foul his gloves when he tried to carry it. Nobody else had any.

Recently, we were part of a 15 person, 5 saw team with another crew, on Patjens Loop trail, a 7 mile hike through the Mt. Washington Wilderness, that cut out 140 logs, most of which were not big. Some of these could be moved off the trail by hand, others could be moved off by Pulaski, and I discovered the 12 foot strap I carried in my pocket could be used to pull a log off the trail.  If successful, pulling a log off trail may obviate one cut, in some instances, all cuts. If one is cutting out 30 to 40 logs a day, anything to avoid an extra cut is a big deal.

The first time I used the strap, nobody was interested. I put it on anyway and moved the log.  On others, with nobody around, I used it to good advantage.  After lunch, when we were more tired, and we had made one cut on a log, I took the strap out of my pocket, put it around the end, and two of us moved the log off the trail.  

Two logs later, we needed to get a cut log over a hump to move it off trail. I put the strap on it, two of us lifted, and that was that. Later, even more tired, people started looking to me for the strap. It took a few seconds to pull it out, was another means of lifting and pulling, where using only the legs is one-dimensional pushing. One of the other crew members offered to buy it from me. I told him it’s not like straps are real expensive at Jerry’s here in Eugene. The next week he came with his own strap.

We had a leaner that we left, because it was too much work to deal with at the time, significantly dangerous, and there was an easy bypass around it. As I looked closely at the leaner, someone asked, “anybody got red ribbon to mark this off?”

Of course I did.  I had thirty or forty feet of ribbon on a roll.  I saw someone who used it two years ago, then went to Jerry’s and bought my own. No problem.

NOT REALLY HELPFUL

July 6, 2021

We encountered the first log, a 300+ year-old tree that had fallen and rotted partly away. It was difficult to go over or around, but someone had cut a notch in the top and two holes on the side for foot placement. We used them to go over the log, deciding we would remove it on the way back.

The Crew leader and I were on a section of the Winberry Divide Trail, not far from Lookout Point  Reservoir, the trail neither long enough nor high enough to attract a lot of use, but it clearly had had some love in years past, judging by the “turnpike” structures where still intact logs denoted an edge of the trail.  Most of the tread was becoming overgrown by Thimbleberry and other big-leafed plants, and we were trying to recover the path that could connect Fall Creek to the north with the reservoir to the south.  

We had split our crew in half; the leader and I were to log out part 3 of the trail, having logged out part 1 a month ago.  We would then retrace and log out part 2 from the top, on which the other two members of the Crew coming up from below using the power brusher.  I hadn’t been sure when I signed up with which group I would be working.  I like swamping or helping for log cutting with power saws, so I can look at the binds and predict what I think the log will do. On the other hand, the Stihl one cylinder 26 cc displacement power brusher with a starter cord can be fun to cut with.  The leader put me with him, and we started up the trail. The recent heat wave had ended, but humid warm air surrounded us.  I was glad I wore a thin shirt.

As we continued, I cleared encroaching brush at eye level, not trying to deal with the mass of thimbleberry that flowed over the trail, since that was better suited for the power brusher.  We soon encountered a second log that had been recently cut. 

Again, not by us.

A little further up were two more cut logs.  Sort of. In between them were two on the ground that were tripping hazards, especially in the thick growth, and the logs that were cut had ends that still extended out over the trail.  It was passable but not adequately logged out. The leader cut out the first log in one place, and I was able to lift and toss it into the blackberry patch near the trail. He trimmed back a second log so it was not over the trail, while with my Corona hand saw I cut out a small 3-inch log, also a hazard, but which had been left behind.  

The leader decided to turn around, figuring most everything would have been cut, if not ideally, and we would head in the opposite direction back to the start, head down Trail 2 from the other end, logging it out and joining up with the power brusher duo.  I suggested we cut out the first log we encountered, which we did over the next half hour with multiple cuts from above, so we could remove smaller chunks before the last remaining large piece.  The rotten wood gave way easily, and we had the trail cleared quickly.

Returning towards the starting point, we removed a pile of overhanging branches near the start of the trail, continuing downhill to link up with the others.

The trail is passable, unless one is tall or on a horse. It’s a lot of work to clear this and more dangerous that one thinks, for branches intertwined with each other often have a lot of force if the tension is suddenly released by a cut. I’ve seen a small branch knock off a hard hat and send a person’s glasses ten yards into the woods. Winberry Divide Trail.

This isn’t the first time we have encountered “rogue cutters,” who often are those who want to go further into the woods and bring their own saws to clear obstructions.  Earlier this year, three crosscut sawyers wanted to log out Gold Point Trail and found it had been already logged out. That’s unfortunate, because the log out was probably with a chain saw, and the top in early season is off limits to chain saws, not because it is in wilderness—it is not— but because of Peregrine Falcon’s nesting on nearby cliffs.

It also meant that a crew carried all their equipment up a couple of thousand vertical feet for naught.  I know that feeling: the year before, I had carried a chain saw to the top of Trestle Falls trail to log out about a dozen downed logs.  I had scouted the trail myself a few weeks earlier. Someone had logged out the trail, and it would have been nice, saved a lot of time and effort—the saw was a heavy load to carry up 700 vertical feet—if they had notified someone what they had done.

Someone like me, who maintains the trail page for the Cascade Volunteers Web site, and would like to have an updated list of trail conditions from competent people, so we don’t scout trails that have previously been scouted, and we don’t send crews to clear trails that have been previously cleared.  We also should not have to finish work that should have been finished, like the clearing of brush at the beginning of the trail, or work that had been started, but not finished.

In 2018, the upper part of Ollallie Mountain Trail was partly logged out and I was with the crew that had not been informed.  We have a problem where some do log-outs in areas where chain saws may not be allowed, where the Forest Service is not aware of work being done, where Workmen’s Comp Laws will not apply, in the name of “Have Saw, will Cut.” Often, the minimum distance to pass is cut, and logs may be left in the middle of the trail, so the work has to be redone—or at least finished.

The leader and I worked our way to a pile of several 16” diameter logs, one of which had been removed, and two others, each of which had two cuts half to two-thirds the way through the log, and no further. Perhaps the saw broke, perhaps they ran out of gas, or perhaps they couldn’t cut further. Ten yards further a log was left in the middle of the trail.  The problem with rogue cutting is people’s leaving logs that also need to be cut, like those at ground level that can be tripped over. Or, as just described and I have seen this earlier in the year, where a log was cut and the round (piece) left, not even pushed off the trail.

We haven’t cut anything yet. This is how we found the logs

This is amateur hour.  Three years ago with a hand saw, I started to cut out a long 4-inch log up on Hardesty Mountain, but just as I began, I suddenly realized the log had some side bind and I hadn’t a clue what might occur when I cut.  I quit, shook my head at my ignorance, walked away and never did that again. Six score days out on the trail with experienced people, I am beginning to approach competence.

The sawyer made the first cut outside the perimeter of the other two cuts, and 15 minutes later, we pushed the last round off the trail and went to deal with the log in the middle of the trail.  He cut it once into two parts, then we sat on the ground and used our combined four legs to push each section into the brush on the side, off the trail.

Log found in the middle of the trail. Sitting down and putting legs on it is far easier than pushing with arms. I have learned, however, that such effort is akin to hiking perhaps a quarter of a half mile, and one does pay for it when hiking out.

For those who want to help: join a crew, and if some logs are beyond one’s ability, leave them—uncut.  But once you start cutting, finish.  Don’t forget to push the round off the trail. That’s part of the job, too.