Archive for August, 2022


August 22, 2022

I looked at the log on the side of the trail, tempted to leave it where it was. The trail wasn’t blocked badly, it was hot, and the log looked heavy. We had another two miles to log out.

Then I said to myself, you’re in charge, so deal with it. I picked up the end on the trail end and lifted the log up to the uphill side. I didn’t like that, however, for I knew it was going to roll back into the trail sooner or later. So I went above the log, sat down, put my feet against it, and gave it a push. It rolled down across the trail on to the other side.

Much better.

In nearly 200 trips I have taken with the Crew, someone else was in charge, responsible for posting the work party online, ensuring we had permission, filling out the comms (communication forms with the Forest Service) report, setting the meeting point, radioing in our location and number to Eugene dispatch, holding the tailgate session at the trail head as a final check before we headed into the wilderness with saws, Pulaskis, and other tools to clear them.

Six times I had led, but on non-wilderness trails where we had to fill in root wads, do tread work, or power brushing. I can carry a power brusher, I can start one, and I know how to use it, so those were easy. Winter trail days are shorter, closer to home, and if the weather is not suitable, we just leave.

Logging out a wilderness trail is something in which I have participated 75 times. Twice this week on Olallie Mountain, I was to be the Crew leader, in charge. It was my job to have the equipment there, to know what needed to be done, to be responsible for what went on, to radio in to the Forest Service before and after. This is a job of a B-certified sawyer, and when I got my certification, I expected and was expected to do this.

The first day, there were only three of us: one well experienced who just wanted to be out in the woods; the other with some experience, but not as much as mine. We worked our way up the trail, all of us staying together, plenty of good ideas from the oldest, but for the first time, I was the person of record. We moved about three dozen logs over a mile and a half, making good time, until we reached a 17 inch one over the trail.  I called a time out for lunch, because I knew this log would take time, and we needed to sit, eat and to cool off. 

It was different being in charge. It always has been for me. When I was at Pathfinder in Algonquin Park in the sixties, I went from a camper to third man, second man, and finally head man, in 1967. There was a long, not always pleasant learning experience on the way, as I grappled with how to lead without being a jerk but still getting things done and helping the campers have a good trip. The person in charge always thought of the whole group. Like all head men at Pathfinder, I wore the red neckerchief. The canoes were red, the email address today contains the word “redcanoes,” and they enjoyed my blog post on the subject years ago. I wore my red neckerchief on solo canoe trips the past forty years, for it reminded me of those days. I even put a red neckerchief on the teacher’s desk by me the first day I substituted in a math class as the teacher of record, nobody else responsible. Eleven years later, I had my red neckerchief on again at Pat Saddle Trailhead for Olallie Mountain, for I was again in charge, doing my work, but watching everybody else, where they were were, and then schlepping my pack up Olallie.  I made sure nobody was lagging or looking badly. I realized it was I who needed to be listening to the radio chatter to make sure there were no new fires on the forest, for this time of year, we have to be ready to move out of there quickly.

After lunch, we had to underbuck the low end of the log across the trail, cut it from below, because sawing from above was going to lead to binding. Then, as the log dropped, as it would, we were able, with a strap, to pull it to one side on a long, concave piece of trunk that we had removed earlier, where the cambium was unbroken and slick. With the cut end of the  log on it, with one pulling from each side and my pushing with my legs from the far stump, the log slid slowly but definitely on the cambium layer off the trail. The whole process took over an hour, and after a couple of more logs removed, we headied back down the mountain.

Two days later, I had a more typical crew of seven to deal with the rest of the trail. We met at the usual place in Springfield, drove 40 miles to the Aufderheide Road, which connects the roads to Santiam Pass and Willamette Pass, to and across Cougar Reservoir dam, 15 miles up FS 1993 to Pat Saddle trail head. At the tailgate safety session which I led, I outlined the day’s plans. We then started hiking 1.75 miles in to where I had finished two days earlier.

We have to hike in some distance, often 3-4 miles, before we begin logging. It’s a long hiking day by itself, and that doesn’t include the multiple times putting the pack on and taking it off, plus all the saw work. We reached the area I had turned around, and started work. 

After I had pushed the log off the trail, the next one across the trail had 30 additional feet of above the trail on a hill. When we cut out the round over the trail and pushed it off, the remainder started to slide down the hill, covering the trail again. That is most annoying. Cutting again was likely to produce the same result, so we put a person on the hill pushing the end down towards two of us below the trail, who pulled and guided the log over a smaller one below hoping it would more or less smoothly move down the hill. It worked; problem solved. 

At lunch, between two fire scarred areas where there was shade, I asked to carry the D-handle saw, so we could have three saw teams working at once in the afternoon. We had a couple of leaners where we needed a strap on one part, cutting off the end in the ground or pulling it up, while pulling hard on the top strap to bring the tree down to where we could cut it, in the case of the first, or if it were off the trail, just leave it, which was the second. When everybody is working well, there is a lot of give and take, exchange of ideas, people quietly helping to lift when two others have stubborn top bind but don’t need a wedge. Nobody keeps score; we just are out there to open up the trail.  In that way, we leapfrogged our way up the rest of the trail and finished by 2. It helped that the last, steep half mile to the top of Olallie Mountain had been previously scouted and there were no logs to cut.

Everybody hiked down safely, including the Crew Boss, who was not leading, who spent the day cutting brush off 200 yards of trail, all by hand.  We had some cold drinks, discussed the day, signed out with dispatch, and headed home. We’ll be back next year.

Chris with a typical log; a leaner with some bush needing to be cleaned up; most of the way through; South Sister; a high meadow at about 5000 feet (1500 m).


August 13, 2022

But it’s all right now
I learned my lesson well
You see, you can’t please everyone
So you got to please yourself

(Ricky Nelson)

Last spring, the Crew cleared Separation Lake Trail to Separation Creek, descending several hundred feet in 5.6 miles through the Three Sisters Wilderness, the first of four days we would end up logging out trails in this region. Not a week later, I received a complaint passed to me from one of the Club’s hiking leaders that the lower part of the trail was brushy with plants, and because it had been wet, she and a friend got soaked when they hiked the trail.  

Garrett beginning to cut a log with dangerous side bind. The bend means the log will explode away from him, which it did. He is standing in the safe zone.He is also cutting far away from the area of maximum tension, which is on the convexity. We had two videos of this, one in slow motion.

Why didn’t you clear the brush?

I know the feeling. Several years ago, I hiked Cummins Ridge Trail on the Oregon Coast in the wilderness of the same name when I hit a stretch of tall, wet ferns about 3 miles in. I thought I could deal with the dampness without putting on my rain pants, but then I realized that wasn’t going to work, so I ended up stopping, pulling off my boots, putting on my rain pants, putting on my boots back on again, and continuing hiking, the only difference being that my wet pants were now covered and while they would not get wetter, they would certainly not get drier as long as I had the rain pants on.

Why didn’t they clear the brush?

Well, the trail is is wilderness, a place where many think there shouldn’t be signage or work done at all.  There are limited numbers of crews to do the work, which is why we have volunteer crews, like the one, the Scorpions, with whom I work. We try to log out the trails first, so we can get through them, because if the trail is blocked by a big blowdown, it doesn’t matter how up to specs in tread and width and erosion control is for the rest of the trail, one can’t use it. You can hike through brush and get wet, maybe lose the trail in places, but you aren’t trying to go under, over, or around fallen, potentially dangerous logs.

If we have time, we try to remove brush, too, but this is a massive chore. A log may be able to be pushed off or require one, two, maybe even three cuts, but those are done and the log pushed out of the way, the trail now open until the next log. Remove one, two, three dozen plants along the side of the trail and it looks the same. Remove maybe 300, and you can see a difference, until you reach the next plant. Every foot of a trail in the region of heavy brush has to be removed by clippers or loppers. How much can one remove in a day? With a pair of power brushers, which aren’t allowed in wilderness, where we can swing the brusher back and forth, we might be able to clear a mile of trail in a day.  A mile. The Crew Boss spent one logout trying to clear brush by hand over a particular difficult area of a different trail. He did perhaps 250 yards that day.  Separation Lake Trail is several miles to the creek. Even with power brushers, which are not allowed, it would take two or three days. For the record, there is another seven miles around to Horse Creek trailhead; Louise Creek Trail is comes off Separation and needs brushing, too, but it was a full day to log out 3 miles, which was only part of the whole trail.  It is wilderness, and one must understand that wilderness trips may entail more hardship. 

Working on the Louise Creek Trail.

BTW, it drizzled when we logged out the trail, so we all were soaked when we got to the turnaround point, too. So we do know how you felt. 

Bridge over Separation Creek. The turnaround point unless one wants to go another 7 miles to the Horse Creek Trail

Madam, the trail is now dry, because it hasn’t rained for a month. Good time to go.


“….(Olallie Mountain Trail) Was not maintained- overgrown with brush and blow downs, We turned back. I called the Forest Service and they said trail crew just worked on it NOT TRUE. I read this  AllTrails.

Where were the work crews? Where was the Forest Service? How dare they keep these trails in disrepair?  He didn’t write that; I did.

Poor guy. He was 6 days too early. I don’t know why I should have felt responsible for the issue. I am an unpaid volunteer who got up early two mornings one week to drive out to the trailhead, including the last 13 miles on a dusty road with potholes, in order to work in the hot sun (especially the first day) with only two others, logging out 35 logs in 1.75 miles, including some difficult, complex ones. The second trip, two days later, we had seven out there, and six of us finished the rest of the trail, removing some 50 logs, including a couple of leaners and one on a hill that kept on giving every time we made a cut.  That means that every time we removed a chunk, the log slid further down the hill, still blocking the trail. We needed one person uphill to push on the log with his legs while two of us were below the trail pulling the log our way. Eventually, we moved the whole thing off the trail.

Sir, Olallie trail is NOW CLEAR. At least until the next tree falls. I don’t normally post on such sites, but I did post something more polite on All Trails. You can read it there. And no, currently, I don’t want a premium account. 

The Crew Boss spent the day brushing this–and a lot more– by hand.