I had such a great time clearing rocks and small trees from FS 23, I decided on a recent Monday to check out FS 24 and check for obstructions.  FS 24 leads to trailheads for the Waldo Lake Wilderness, trails which are still under snow, being mostly above 4500 feet.  The road in to them is notorious for a lot of leaners (trees that are in the pre-fall condition) and downed trees. The Forest Service cuts out the big logs that block the road, but there are a host of smaller trees and other obstructions that scratch the vehicle and are not easy to avoid. If the trees or brush allow passage, even with the high pitched squeak on metal, few want to get out of the vehicle and clear them. In one direction, the trail is calling; in the other direction, people are too tired to get out of the vehicle and do more work.  On log outs, we always talk about clearing something minor on the trail “on the way back,” but it seldom  happens. We consider ourselves trail workers, although now I am adopting some back roads.

Two years ago, we had a chain sawyer help us on the Waldo Mountain Trail. The first mile was out of the wilderness, so he and I took care of the logs there. On his way home, he cut out several logs that were encroaching on the road. It was a pleasure to drive back. We need to do more of that.

Two days before I was going out to scout 24, I got an email from one of the Crew asking if I were free “next Monday” to help out to scout another trail, doing a car shuttle with him. Next Monday was tomorrow when I got the email, but I reasoned that I could help him scout the trail and then take the short drive to Oakridge and beyond to check out 24. 

The job was easy: I’d drive to Hardesty Trailhead; he and I would take his truck up Goodman Creek Road to the middle trail head for Eagle’s Rest Trail, then hike back down, scouting the trail for downed trees that needed to be cleared with a chain saw.  We’d get to the bottom,  I would drive us both back up to where we started, and we’d depart in separate vehicles. Four miles, elevation change: minus 1200 feet. Nice hike. Two hours, max. My big contribution came before the hike when I told my partner that we didn’t have to scout above the middle trailhead. The Crew had already cleared that part of the trail and I had walked down to the middle trailhead. That knowledge saved us several miles of hiking.

The weekend was rainy, although Sunday afternoon wasn’t, and Monday wasn’t supposed to be too wet, at least in the valley. Further east, conditions were a little different. Actually, a lot different. I don’t do day hikes out of town without taking some sort of rain gear along. Still, not impressed that there might be more rain than I expected where we were going, I put on some old rain pants and wore an old rain jacket. After all, it was 4 miles of downhill. I have rubberized rain gear, but hiking in it in warmish temperatures did not appeal to me. 

The problem I had was this was a hybrid hike: it wasn’t a typical day hike, because we were checking out logs and might be removing small brush. It wasn’t a work hike, because we wouldn’t be cutting out the logs, so I figured I did not need my saws, knee pads, gaiters, or both my trekking poles. I could have both a day hike pack and a trail work pack like some, but that duplicates everything. I can move something like a first aid kit back and forth, but that is easy to forget, and I have done that. I use one pack, and if I am on a day hike, I remove the wedges, the sharpening stone, the axe, and the radio. They all go in the trunk of the car in a box that I keep things that I may or may not use on the hike, like an extra bottle of water, a warm hat, or a second hand saw. Hybrid hikes have me now rethinking the whole process.

The trail was downhill, we would shuttle, and we would be working a short time. We both knew the trail was muddy and had stream crossings, but it was easy.

In other words, I was over confident and somewhat underprepared. I wore jeans under my suboptimal rain pants, because I work in trail jeans. I never hike in them. My rain jacket hadn’t been recently waterproofed; my rubberized gear for work is waterproof. I wore a hat, not a hard hat, and I had one trekking pole, not two, even though I wasn’t carrying anything. I just plain forgot to put on my gaiters and knee pads, although they were in the trunk of my car. The gaiters would keep my feet dry when I plowed through streams. I forgot my hearing aids that morning, although given the rain, that was a smart move. Even a monkey eventually hits the right key.  I did wear my heavy boots, although I wanted to keep them dry, because I had a saw certification test the next day, and I would need all my working gear dry and in order.  When I left Eugene, it was cloudy. Ten miles later, it was raining. The rain subsided for a while, but maybe a half mile into the hike it started to rain significantly.  A lot.

When one changes a routine, unless there are strong checks present, there is a high probability that something will be forgotten or go wrong.  Note to self: next time you change a hiking system, take 5 minutes to write out a new checklist. And use it.

We got wet. That was not unexpected. We found 15 logs that needed cutting, also not unexpected. Two of the logs were long enough to cross the trail twice. Another was 48 inches in diameter, and it would require a large saw bar to cut. I asked my partner how he got over that big log, since I went uphill around the root wad, where there was a small trail made by other users, and then came back down. He clambered over it, telling me that at one point, he was spread out on top of the log, holding the bark, and hoping he would not slide down the 20 degree angle into the stream. I shuddered, but I did feel like I made a smart decision. My rain gear is smooth, and I feared I might start sliding downhill on the fir express. 

Brad near the 45 inch log.

It took us only two hours to complete the hike. The brush was dense and wet, and I was first to pass through it.  When we finished, we loaded our gear and our wet selves in my car and I drove up Goodman Creek Road to return my partner to his truck. I stayed until I heard it start, then I drove back down and home, both front seats wet. I wasn’t going out that day to look at FS 24. I was wet, not cold, but not in the right condition to do road clearing, either.  It took my jeans two days to dry inside in Oregon humidity. 

Tomorrow I go for my B crosscut (bucking) certification. I plan on wearing my work clothes, knee pads, gaiters, having my saws and axe with me, along with wedges, a strap and hopefully a functioning brain.  I hope everything dries in time.

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