Nearly every time I had participated in a wilderness logout, where we clear downed trees from trails, at least once somebody had corrected something in my saw technique. Initially, I expected this, although I have written here before about “pulling,” which for a full year by me was interpreted as pulling to one side or the other; pulling down as a flaw never occurred to me. Nobody told me about it; I happened to figure it out on a large log where the two of us couldn’t see each other and the only way any pulling could be determined without sight was my pulling down on the saw. To me, that was a revelation, one I could easily and did fix.

I never had a mentor, unlike some members of the crew, someone who could have taught me, and I never had specific teaching on a given log, except one afternoon on my 47th trip out with the crew, three years ago, when I worked with one sawyer who let me decide how to cut out the log. One time. Now, when young women joined the crew for a day, suddenly there was a lot more teaching! I did, as I have throughout most of my education, taught myself.

I really shouldn’t have been bothered by the corrections, except I seldom heard anybody else get corrected, and I had seen plenty of pulling to one side, strokes too fast or too short, or other issues. All of us make occasional errors on the saw, and to me, fair or unfair, it seemed like mine were pointed out, rather than let go, if they were one and done. I seldom corrected others, mostly because I still felt myself new at the business, and besides, most of the corrections or instruction I had given to newer people appeared to me to be ignored. 

The feeling never went away, and I began to dwell on it more than I should have. Still, after more than 80 days doing logouts, I could think of only 2 where nobody commented, and if after nearly 5 years of doing this I still was getting such comments, well, I’m old, perhaps too old for this.

With these thoughts in my head, the Crew went out to log out Rebel Rock trail, a steep monster that climbs 3200 feet in 6 miles (1 km in 10 km), easily over 1000 feet (300 m) in the first mile and a quarter (2 km), one of the steepest trails I have encountered. I had been more forgetful than I usually am, leaving my radio and axe at home, although those weren’t major problems. In any case, instead of that 7 pounds, I had a Pulaski and a saw in addition to my pack. Part of our group split off at the first log maybe a half mile in; two of us kept on going uphill—plodding would be a better verb for me—to the next downed log a half mile further. Nobody caught up to us when we finished, and we continued uphill to the next few logs where eventually others started to filter in. They looked like they were plodding, too.

We cut this one out by first having two of us climb up hill about 30 feet and cutting there. After the end bind, or the weight of the log, was removed, the second cut was made just to the left of the blackened trunk. The fire was 5 years ago.

I worked Rebel Rock 5 years ago as my first outing with the Crew. We climbed 2700 feet that day, and it was more work than most of my Club hikes, and I was carrying tools and working as well. 

Sure enough, on the third log, my partner on the saw told me to give him more saw, which meant let him be able to pull back more. My record was now 83 for 85 in having corrections on logouts. Oh well.

By the time we had lunch in a dry stream bed near where several big logs were not only across the trail, but below a small slide where a large rock looked like it might let go any second, I was tired. Afterwards, we worked out a way to go under the logs, not daring to try to remove them with fear of the rock, and the group split so that half stayed working on the nearby tread, and the other half, including me, kept climbing and logging out. I was moderately concerned about my water supply because I had only a liter and a half on an October day that was more like mid-August. I was closely watching my consumption.

Where we chose to keep the trail under the log. Notice the rock in the upper left corner.

One with me was recently B-certified on the saw, which was appropriate, but we had similar experience, and he always seemed to make a point to find something I was doing wrong. We had reached the last log we would do before turning around and hiking an hour’s back downhill to the vehicles. It was a 14 inch one across the trail with side bind, the log’s bulging out where the tree had fallen and become entrapped between a couple of others well downhill from the trail.  With side bind, if one cuts on the convexity, the log will explode outward. I mean explode. I have seen it. There was a YouTube Video of that on Instagram where a guy did it with a chain saw. He got thrown back several feet, lucky he wasn’t hurt or worse. My partner started on the below trail part in the danger zone. I was off trail as well, ready to saw, but he couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I suggested we change positions, because I could see I could sit on the trail and saw safely away from the bind. He was taller and could stand where I had been.

As we started sawing, he was still trying to get comfortable, and I saw him pull the saw strongly to his left. No question at all. He then did it again. I stayed silent as I usually did. We worked a little longer, the kerf or cut spot on the log started to open up at the top and towards me, consistent with the bind, and a short while later, he said I was pulling about an inch to my right.

Moment of truth. What do I do?

I quietly said, “You’ve been pulling a few times on your left.” Just the truth, not trying to be critical.

“Thank you for telling me.”

We cut the log out, the rest of the time my vision’s being laser-focused on the saw, which was in a straight line between the two of us. One more cut needed to be made over the trail, before we could close everything up. Once I saw everything had been cleared, I left the site.

It was a long way to the vehicles. I fell crossing a root wad hole, on cruise control forgetting that the soil was slick, fell and landed on my back, breaking the saw blade sheath and giving myself a hematoma on my forearm. I found a couple of small streams on the way down and cleaned my arm.  I would finish the last of my water about a quarter mile from the cars and once again would have three new bruises on my arms, which would go with the other ten in various stages of healing.

Next time Rebel gets logged out, people are going to have to hike uphill for 2.5 miles to begin. That is what I did 5 years ago. It won’t be easy, maybe or maybe not I will be up for it, but in any case, I will be polite and honest with my partner on the saw. I think I needed to correct others more often. My partner needed to hear it, and I needed to say it.

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