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.

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