Archive for July, 2022

NAUTICAL LOGOUT

July 29, 2022

On 30 June, the Crew worked Black Creek Trail, which traverses 3.7 miles from the trailhead at the end of FS 24 to Waldo Lake, climbing about 2100 feet.  A little more than a mile in is step-cascading Lillian Falls, after which the trail climbs steeply and steadily. We had logged out the lower 2.3 miles of trail; prior scouting by one of the Crew said there were no more logs until there was a wall of snow up at Klovdahl Creek, a mile from the end. We would have to wait for the snow to melt to do more, and in the meantime we tackled other projects. 

Lower part of Lillian Falls. There are numerous steps.

There were two obvious options to finish the last mile of the trail: one was to hike back in from FS 24 to finish the trail, which meant carrying the tools nearly three miles uphill before using them. A second option was to go to Shadow Bay on Waldo Lake and hike around the lake 4 miles on the Jim Weaver Trail that circles the lake to the other end of the trail, attacking it there. 

Closeup view of the area. The trail from shadow bay goes SW then NW.

Large scale view: Oakridge is about 2/3 down the left side and is about 25 miles west of the lake.

I had seen the possibility on a map of canoeing across Waldo Lake a couple of years ago, mentioned it, and some others had, too, for last year, two canoed from Shadow Bay a mile and a half to the trail’s end and logged it out. Last week, the Crew Boss called me and asked I wanted to canoe over to the other side to help him log out the last mile of the trail.

I haven’t been to the Boundary Waters since 2019, the best place I have ever canoed, all 69 different trips have taken there. I miss it terribly. But I am not ready to deal with airports and flying quite yet. I know several in the Club have had Covid. I am less worried about dying of it than I am of having long Covid, which will be devastating to a guy like me, who like a shark, has to be moving all the time. We are on track for 140,000 deaths from Covid annually in this country, the new variant is a problem, and I mask inside and when I ride with others in a vehicle to the trailhead. I don’t want the virus. Covid is not done with us yet, regardless of whether or not people are done with it.

I’ve thought of driving to the Boundary Waters, but it is 3 days each way, maybe 2 1/2, and it doesn’t appeal to me, although I haven’t ruled it out.

But canoeing on Waldo Lake?  Wow!  I emphatically agreed, and at 8:15 last Monday, we were at Shadow Bay with a We-No-Nah Heron canoe and our gear. I additionally had my paddle and rubber boots. It was incredibly buggy, as only Waldo Lake can be in summer, and this being my ninth summer here, I can say that Oregon finally approached Minnesota for bug issues. The NW Territories and Alaska are in a higher league with bugs, just the way they are with wilderness.

Sig and I loaded the canoe. I put my paddle in the bow, a paddle given to me in 1992 when I took my leave of absence from my practice, one that was used on 22 trips that summer and has been used only twice in the intervening 30 years, once on the canoe canal in Eugene, and once to practice my stroke three years ago after I broke my hand on Mt. Hood. I wanted to see how paddling might affect it (not enough to cancel a trip).

Wearing my rubber boots, I waded into the lake steadying the canoe while Sig got in. Then I got in the bow, and off we went, packs, saws, Pulaskis, hiking boots, lunches, and GPS, as the blue colored water passed under us, bottom plainly visible. It felt great to be pulling again, and I looked across the long expanse to the other side, the Open Horizons that another Sig—wilderness writer Sig Olson—wrote about.  Waldo is about 6 miles long,  2 miles wide in places, and 10 sq.mi., or about 40% the size of Basswood Lake.  I love canoeing open horizon country. There are no internal combustion engines allowed here, the spring-fed lake one of the purest in the world. There were two other boats in Shadow Bay, nobody out on the main body. I had a rough idea of where we were going; Sig had done this before and showed me about where we needed to head. For awhile, it didn’t seem like we were making progress, but we were making a good wake; there was light wind and eventually no bugs. 

Open Horizons. Note the color and the bottom.

A half hour later, we saw bottom again, closed on the western shore, and landed. We unloaded, pulled the canoe up on shore and put our work gear on. We stashed the paddles under a nearby bush, although there wasn’t anybody over there, and bushwhacked about 50 yards to the trail around the lake and then another 200 to the junction of Black Creek Trail with the Waldo Lake Trail, which led directly into the wilderness.

Within 100 yards, we found our first blowdown, and for the next mile there were at least a dozen more. I was able to chunk out a rotten one with a Pulaski to open up the trail, I pulled another two logs off trail, used Sig’s KatanaBoy 650mm on two more, and both of us used the 5 foot saw for the others. It was going to be 102 in the valley, and at 5400’ that translates to mid-80s. We wanted to get done in the morning if we could, and we did just that. We reached Klovdahl Creek at 1130, nearly six hundred vertical feet below where we started. We didn’t have to hike to where we had cleared from the other side, because we knew there were no logs. The wall of snow was history.

Klovdahl Creek

Years ago, Simon Klovdahl was the engineer who designed the head gates and the tunnel to start to run the water out of Waldo Lake down towards Oakridge/Westfir and generate power and irrigate Willamette Valley. For a variety of fortunate reasons, this did not work out. The lake and about 100-200 yards outside of it is National Forest; beyond on three sides is the Waldo Lake Wilderness. The Jim Weaver Trail around the lake is about 20.3 miles. I have day hiked it twice, fairly flat, many different views of the lake, different forests, and plenty of huckleberries.

Finished with the logout, we had to retrace our steps uphill in warmer conditions, with less shade, back to the lake. Fortunately, there was no hurry; each of us went at his own pace. We passed all the logs we had cut out, and at the lake was greeted by a slight but most welcome breeze. We had lunch on the shore, then reloaded the canoe. Sig asked me if I wanted to be in the stern on the return trip. That suited me just fine. We took a last look around the landing for any gear then pushed off and headed southeast towards the distant point near Shadow Bay. Rigdon Peak was to our north;  the Twins just to our left and east, Pulpit Rock straight ahead, and Mt. Ray to our right. There was a very slight following wind, and it took us only 20 minutes to get back to shallow water again. We had to make a hard left turn to get to the dock, I made a partial draw stroke out of a sweep without thinking much and turned the canoe on a dime.

Once ashore, we loaded everything back into the truck, changed out of our water gear, and headed for home.

Waldo is not the Boundary Waters, but it’s got open horizons, campsites, and plenty of places to explore. I think I’ll have to go up there later to camp. Besides, huckleberry season is soon.

Waldo Lake from the west, from Waldo Mountain. Rigdon Peak is on the left, The Twins center.

Looking due north from the SE corner. Rigdon Peak is in the distance.

“EASY DAY”

July 25, 2022

That line headed the email the leader sent out last week to the whole Crew and interested parties in the weekly summary of trail work.  I had to read the words again: “Easy Day.” Say what? We had a 10-person crew for logout of the Erma Bell and Mud Lake trails, the former being a 9 mile loop around the three Erma Bell Lakes in the Three Sisters Wilderness; the latter’s adding a smaller loop south past Mud Lake to Taylor Burn. That’s enough people, right?

Well, by the end, I didn’t think the day was easy; I was beat. On the drive to the trailhead, we encountered a large maple that fell on the Aufderheide at MP 6 requiring the four of us in the vehicle to exit. Two of us cut the maple with a hand saw and a D-handle saw; the other two picked up debris and cleaned the road. Here I was, a half hour from starting to work, and we already had done a tough one. At the trailhead, we split into two groups, one doing a lighter log load on the west side of the lakes, the side that allows one to actually see them.  I wanted to hike the east side of the loop, having logged out the west side the prior year, when snow at the higher south end prevented us from finishing the loop.

It was buggy, about as buggy as I’ve seen in Oregon, but I was the only one not wearing bug netting. I’m lucky; I don’t react badly to mosquito bites, and I figured—correctly, as it turned out—that once I started working, it wouldn’t be too bad. We got on the heavily shaded trail, fairly flat, which crosses the Skookum River entering the The Three Sisters wilderness.


The trail splits after the first 0.7 miles. There was a single log down early that I started to move off the trail, pushing without success with my legs, finally waiting to get help from two more behind me.  Log moved,  I soon turned eastward, where the two others ahead asked me, at the second log, to cut the branches that hung down. They had the big saw and were going to cut just larger logs, skipping the small stuff. I had three different size smaller saws and took care of the branches. As I moved forward again, I caught and passed the pair’s working on the next log. I soon cut out three small logs and pushed four others off the trail. Some I had to break apart to do so, but they broke easily and it didn’t take much time to move them. I was briefly passed, and then, as there was a bigger log, I would again be out in front.

I have had easier days. I crossed a stream that was fairly deep, managing to stay dry with my gaiters on that allow me approximately three seconds to do my business in 12 inches of water before I feel it. Three seconds was enough.  From the crossing, the trail climbed steadily until I encountered a pair of 6 inch logs. I had the D-handle with me, a 4 foot one or two person saw, and was able to cut out the first, having to make two cuts to do each and move them off the trail. I moved along and found small trees across the trail. Some I could move myself without cutting, others I had to cut, some on the ground I could lift an end and move; others were not so easy. I moved at least 10 logs without cutting. That took a lot out of me. I cut out another 5 small ones, but each one, along with some of the ones I moved without cutting, required me to take off my pack, do the job, and put the pack back on.  When I used the D-handle, I had to unsheath it, use it, and then put the sheath back on. I finally fell behind, because of some of the cutting I was doing went slowly. I was, however, finally becoming competent with sheathing the D-handle quickly.

Further up the trail, I saw the two who had leapfrogged me looking a pair of logs, one about 12 inches, the other twice as much. As I approached, one asked how my face was, since he was using a bug netting. I was doing fine. He was having trouble adjusting his netting; it’s hard to wear under a hardhat or even over a hard hat. He and I cut out the smaller log  and then the three of us took turns with the larger log, a nice one, where I could stand, take long slow strokes, and rock back and forth, almost like a dance. 

Further along, briefly with the pair, I came upon another log.  Two of us cut it out, and I suggested we lift and move it on top of a nearby downed log. We did that, and the log rolled down and away.  Moving the log itself is an important part of cutting. It is very seldom that one finishes a cut and the log drops and rolls to where one wants it.

At the next large log, about 15 inches, the pair told me to go on ahead. I soon encountered a mess of branches from several small trees that I needed to move out of the way. As I worked, the Crew leader called me on my radio suggesting I eat where I was, somewhere ahead of them. I asked if he could dispatch for the noon report, since I was busy. He said he would, I finished my log and moved to a shady spot, where I had lunch, along with the mosquitoes. I have taken to eating my lunch nearly horizontal. I can hydrate, eat, cool off, and look up.

After lunch, there were only two more logs to remove before we reached Williams Lake, nearly 5 miles into the hike. I had a choice to either go on and finish the loop, or go back the way I came.

Last year, I had a similar choice on the other side of the trail and opted to go back the way I came rather than forward on to snow on a trail I hadn’t been on before. That was a smart decision. I got back a lot earlier. This year, I decided to continue, past Williams Lake, loop around back along the Erma Bell lakes, the way I did the prior year. That trail is in much better shape, there was more shade, no creek crossings, and it is scenic.

I wasn’t hiking fast, I took a break, but otherwise I kept a steady pace and expected to see several back at the parking area, since I had further to go. Nobody was there, but they came soon after. 

I was tired. Normally, I try to take pictures. But working alone and the volume of work made photography a lower priority. Cutting, breaking apart, pushing logs, and putting my pack on a couple of dozen times took a lot out of me. I do not wish to work two or even three consecutive days, like I did four years ago. I find myself puffing after just pushing logs with either my hands or my feet; pushing a log with the legs is like hiking a significant distance. Erma Bells ranks as “moderate” for an Obsidian hiking group trip. But the Club members don’t have to size up and remove logs. Still, I’d rather do this work than just the hike. I have helped make the trail passable and know the area so much better.

Falls between Middle and Lower Erma Bell Lakes

PREP WORK IS PART OF THE JOB, TOO

July 13, 2022

We ate lunch high above Rebel Creek, which below us would fall another 600 feet to the south fork of the McKenzie River. I lay perpendicular to the trail with my legs hanging over the steep drop a few hundred feet down to the rushing water.  I kept staring at a huge Douglas fir below that went straight up past me, ending in a crown of branches high above.  There was a 12 inch log that needed to be cut out where we stopped, but my partner and I were both ready to eat.  Often, I like to eat after I cut out something rather than before, but we had been cutting out stuff all morning, after we finally entered the Three Sisters Wilderness after a 2 mile hike in.

Rebel Rock and Creek trails were burned in the 2017 Rebel fire, and I could see areas on trees that were scorched, but not badly. My first trail work outing with the Crew was on Rebel Rock trail, on the other side of a high divide above me, and there, the burn was more significant, damaging more trees, but clearing out the understory. In any case, this trail hadn’t been cleared in 5 years, and it looked it. Back in early spring, a small crew logged out the first mile using chain saws, since they were not yet in the wilderness. They stopped at Rebel Creek where there was no bridge, and the day before a small chain saw crew had crossed the creek and cut about half a mile further up the trail.

This day, there were two chain saw crews to finish logging out the trail to the wilderness boundary, and two crosscut teams, with my partner and I in the lead. We had to first hike through the remaining uncleared area outside the wilderness, trying to find the trail in a jumble of downed logs and a lot of brush, and then, when we found the broken off wilderness boundary sign, start clearing the trail from there.  We weren’t just cutting out an occasional downed log; there were considerable amounts of brush and downed branches, the size of small trees, crescent shaped, that if one kicked or picked up properly, could be easily moved off the trail.  Then we would come to actual logs, which I could tackle with my pocket saw, Corona hand saw, KatanaBoy, or the 6 foot saw my partner was carrying. It took some time for him to take it off and take the sheath off to get it ready for use, so I would use the small saws where I could. We had removed a 20 inch log right after the boundary and a few others where the big saw was needed.

Finally, the other pair caught up to us, and we returned the favor shortly later at a place with a few trees over the trail and a 20+ inch Western cedar chest high over the trail. We were about to cut it, but the other crew told us to move on up the trail. So we left, cut out a few more logs, more brush, threw branches over the side, until we turned a corner with the 12 inch log, where we had lunch.

Western Red cedar across the trail

After, we continued to climb above the creek, slowly putting cleared trail behind us. We came to a pair of leaners and used my strap on the outer one pulling it down and getting it off the trail. The other one was stable.  A hundred yards further, I took out a four inch leaner by cutting it off near the bottom, and when part of it came down, lifted it over a root in hopes it would slide more, but it hung up. So, I made another cut, shortening the leaner and finally broke it free. It slowly dropped towards me, and I guided it over the edge. 

The leaners. We left the inner one.

Up ahead, my partner was at a big, big log. The hemlock was across the trail, several inches of ground clearance, large 4 inch diameter branches on it, one of which looked like it was supporting part of an old burnt out log that was over the one we needed to cut. From that log 15 yards up the trail were a series of trees downed or over the trail. There was plenty of ground clutter where we were.

Steve evaluating the log. The trail goes towards the upper left corner.

Log outs aren’t just 2 folks on a crosscut going from one log to the next.  Aside from all the brushing work we had to do in between logs, like the leaners, or the 2-6 inch logs that sometimes were part of the ground and could be surprisingly difficult to remove, there was a lot of prep work.

Part way through. The axe needed to be sheathed or in a log.

OHLEC, or the approach to cutting, is Objective, Hazards, Leans/Binds, Escape Routes, Cutting plan. THEN, it’s time to cut. I also consider “Overhead’ as part of the O, to remind myself to look for dead trees or other hazards right above the log to be cut. This log had several large branches that needed to be removed, one of which looked like it was supporting a slab of wood above us. It might not have been, but we don’t like surprises, and might not happen is a poor approach to cutting hazards.  

There were also hazard branches over us, stobs, or broken branches that either could support the log off the ground and might be useful left alone, or interfere with the cut log and make it difficult to roll it off the trail. Each had to be addressed, and as noted, some of these were the size of small trees we had been removing. There were also small bushes that could trap the saw briefly, get in the way of cutting, or brush our faces while working.  My partner trimmed the slab, then removed the branch that might have been supporting it, which as it turned out, it was not.  We cut off the burned slab, not difficult given its limited thickness. It took us the better part of an hour just to clear the area of hazards.

The log is cut out and more of the trail needs work. The pry log I carried is right underneath the axe.

Removing the log needs to be planned for before the cut, too. I suggested getting a pole to put under the log that would help guide it off the trail. I looked behind me at a 5-6 inch log I had cut out 30 yards back down the trail. I could cut a chunk of that out. In the meantime, my partner went up the trail and started clearing the next 15 yards of debris.

The 5 inch log was on a slope, and true to form, difficult to deal with. I was able to pull it down a little to get a long enough chunk to use.  Unfortunately, as I was cutting through, the log began to shift and slid down several feet, meaning I had to start over. There was some top bind on the log, so I did a top cut and then finished with an undercut  doing part of the work below the trail on a small flat rock, where the log was trying to slide past. Once I got the 6 foot length cut out, I moved it to the trail, the rest of the log slid down to partly over the trail, not what I wanted. 

Nobody else was coming, so I didn’t worry about the remainder and carried the pry log back. We put it under the big log and then made two cuts from the top, dropping the log on to the pry log. Once it was there, we turned it about 60 degrees, since it was easy to pivot, and then with our legs, two slight pushes, rolled it off to the side of the trail. Finally done.

I would later check the next 250 yards of trail before the next big log. I would throw several branches off the trail, and with a small pull, have 25 feet of log go smoothly by me over the edge, with minimal effort. We made almost a half mile today. There are 3 miles at least to go on the trail to finish. My partner was kind enough to remove the log I had taken the pry log from.

We’ll be back here again, but we’ve got other trails that are higher priority right now. 

Trail after the hemlock was removed, and the four other logs below it.

NOT RACING

July 5, 2022

I dropped my pack at the Horse Creek Trailhead, opened it up, took my foam pad out, sat on the ground and lay back on the pad against my pack, knees up in the air. We had just completed 13.2 miles of the Separation Lake and Horse Creek trails, logging out the middle stretch of 2.7 miles. Three weeks earlier, we had logged out Separation Lake Trail’s 5.6 miles to the bridge over Separation creek. Two weeks ago, we had done the same at Horse Creek, on the far side of the drainage, finishing 5 miles later on a ridge, climbing 1700 feet in the process. Last week, we had cleared 3 miles of Louise Creek to the snow line, and this day, we did what we called the Horseshoe Loop, with a car shuttle, even finding a few newly fallen logs since our last visit.

Horseshoe Loop; Separation Lake to right of straight line. Start was “T” by Rainbow Creek

“When did you get here?” came from Julie, well less than half my age, who showed up a few minutes later. “I couldn’t catch you!”

“I haven’t been here long,” I replied.  I don’t tell people how far they were behind me any more than I ask how long others have arrived before me. It’s not a race. Once I am in cruising mode on a trail, I don’t vary my speed too much, barring logs or beautiful spots. I can’t go faster longer, or that would be my default speed. And I don’t want to go slower, especially if there is a lot of ground to cover, time is limited, or the weather is unfavorable.

Moving a log on Horse Creek. Note the PLT, the “Precision Leveraging Tool,” many of which are lying around the woods.

I started the hike in front. However, I encountered a new log, fallen in the past two weeks after we had cleared the trail, and stopped to remove it.  I was then at the back of the group. I don’t mind being at the back as long as I can see the next person or know I am relatively close, for I know that I am still connected to the group. I moved up a place when we got to the bridge across Separation Creek. I had passed one person on a stream crossing, since I tend to go right across if the water isn’t any deeper than a foot. My gaiters will keep me dry for a few seconds at that depth.  I briefly caught up to Julie, who hadn’t hiked this trail before and wondered if we were still on the right trail. We were, and shortly afterwards, she was long gone ahead. The upstream trail part was in the 4th and 5th miles, and I was already tired, given the tools I was carrying. This was going to be a long day. We were in a canyon, and we were going to have to climb out before the long descent to the end. I tried not to think about the climb.

After crossing the stream, on a bridge that was a bit dicey, we started the logout part of the trip, 2.7 miles to the Horse Creek Trail via Separation Lake, half way, where we would eat lunch.  

Four logs later, we arrived at the campsite. We take a half hour for lunch, but I left a little earlier to avoid becoming too stiff. If I started flagging, I wanted to at least start to fall back from the front. But there were two new logs to cut out, so after two of us dealt with them, I was once again at the back. There were two stream crossings where log bridges again were narrower than I liked, not because the water was fast moving—it wasn’t—but it was deep enough that I didn’t want to have the weight of wet clothes to add to what I already was wearing and carrying.

The steep section was straight up, no switchbacks, suggesting it was an old trail, since most trails switchback to prevent erosion. Again, I arrived at a log needing removal, but the crew leader behind me told me to go ahead. I was hoping he would say that. I was in the middle of the group on a steep climb recalling  my 45 mile backpack around Mt. Hood, where leaving Tilly Jane going to 7000,’ I was taking 40 steps and stopping to breathe, then 40 more. This one I was making only 50 steps.  Two were above me, and I had no idea how they were doing it, only that I wanted to be where they were, so I kept going, 50, stop and breathe, check the altimeter, 50 more.I reached where they were, and they were again further up.  It was 600 brutal vertical feet straight up the ridge over maybe a half mile. When we reached the junction, at 3 pm, five miles yet to go, I was concerned at how slowly I did the climb. I wasn’t carrying an excessive amount of weight, my knee was behaving, and I was just doing what I could, but I felt like I was hanging on for dear life.

5 miles to go.

I told the crew leader for the third time that day I was going to start early, again to avoid stiffness.  And for the third consecutive time, within a short distance there were two new logs that we had to cut out. After removing them, I was now in the back, but we were going downhill, so the hike became easier. At stream crossings, I looked for the shallowest place and went. I had done the same on Mt. Hood. My feet were already wet and as a canoeist, wet feet don’t bother me much. They weren’t going to dry before I finished the day, so I just kept going. And finally, the cruising speed I have after several miles of hiking started to kick in. I was still tired, but my legs worked automatically it seemed, especially downhill on a familiar trail. The crew leader later passed me; I kept him in sight for the most part and finished about 5. The others came in behind me “a few minutes” later.

I might do the loop again next year, but with lighter pants, a few extra wedges in my pack, and maybe see if I can get into better shape before I do it, although at my age, better shape has a low ceiling.