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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: