Archive for July 16th, 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.