Archive for the ‘UNPUBLISHED OUTDOOR WRITING’ Category

STRAIGHTFORWARD DAY

June 27, 2022

The Salmon Lakes Trail was going to be an easy logout, a vacation compared to the prior week’s 13.2 mile trek through the Three Sisters Wilderness. I had scouted the trail 4 days earlier and had found 6 logs starting two miles east of the trailhead, inside the Waldo Lake Wilderness, which surrounds Waldo Lake on three sides, but does not include the lake itself. Once those logs were removed, I would hike about a half mile further to Upper Salmon Lake checking for logs. I doubted there would be many there.  It is fairly open on that stretch and the last few years has had few obstructions.

Waldo Meadows area

Half of the group would then head north up Waldo Meadows Trail where I had found another half dozen logs within a half mile, before being turned back by snow.  It was warmer, and there had been rain, so it was possible that enough snow had melted that perhaps the group could reach the junction with Waldo Mountain Trail a mile from the meadow and hike that back to the trailhead, logging it out and finishing the loop. In any case, it had all the makings of a straightforward day.

Two miles in, I took care of two smaller logs myself, moving both of them, helped cut out a third, and we all regrouped at Waldo Meadows, which was entirely visible, the snow’s having left probably not more than a week or two earlier. In summer, the plants are so high, one can hide in it. Indeed, 4 years prior, almost to the day, was the first time I saw the meadow, and I could barely find the trail. I thought that was the default view of the meadow, but the grasses and flowers are all annuals, and in early season it looks bare.

Waldo Meadows 8 June 2021
Same place 23 days later, 1 July 21

I headed to Salmon Lakes while three others in the crew with me took care of a log. The trail as expected was clear, the outflow of Upper Salmon Lake, which becomes a major tributary of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River in Oakridge, was flowing well. A patch of snow was near the lake, presumably in a shady spot or other cool microclimate. 

When I returned to the meadow, the log had been cleared, and I radioed the crew leader, who was above me on the Waldo Meadows Trail heading away. I told him we would continue logging out the trail another mile or so, heading towards Chetco Lake 2 additional miles east, before turning around. Before reaching Chetco, another trail turns northward and then west, climbing Waldo Mountain, 1000 feet above us, which now was still covered in snow and inaccessible, before descending to the junction to which other crew was heading. The full loop is about 9 miles, with 1700 feet of climbing, but the views from Waldo Mountain are spectacular.

Waldo Lake from Waldo Mountain. The paired Twins are across the lake

I put my pack on and started walking east through Waldo Meadows, the trail climbing slightly through grass, thinking that few trees are out here that are going to fall on the trail, so I will get some free mileage without logs.

I was so wrong. 

A 250-300 year old hemlock, part of a small island of a few trees in the meadow, had fallen smack across the trail, and its 47 inch diameter size gave new meaning to DBH (diameter at breast height). The downed log literally came up to my chest. I cleared a few branches while waiting for the rest to arrive.

After some soul searching and group discussion, we decided to remove the log. Making a bypass of the log in a trail in a somewhat fragile meadow is not something we want to do. We started one cut on the main log and a trimming cut on the end closer to the stump, where it had fractured. 

I’ve worked on several project logs, where most of the day is spent in one area sawing or digging. One was on the Vivian Lake trail where a tree had come down on an angle and had end bind, where the weight of the tree compressed the entire log that was lower. If one removed a wedge, it was possible to see the kerf, or the saw cut, slowly close. End binds have no easy way to cut. Last year, we had another end bind in a 30 inch log on Black Creek.  We finally had to saw parallel kerfs a few inches apart and then with a Pulaski knock out the chunk of wood in between. That means cutting an inch, maybe a little more, twice, chunking out the wood with a Pulaski, and continuing inch by inch through the diameter. This log took 5 hours to remove.

Two years ago, on Shale Ridge, in the same wilderness northwest of where we were, where I had just been certified, another log also had a bind problem, and one person spent 5 hours chunking it out while the rest of us logged out 3 miles of trail. We cut a small notch in the log for people could pass, but this was not adequate for horses, and a year later the job was to open up the trail fully. Seven of us worked together and cut a larger passage through. It turns out a huge branch which we couldn’t see had pushed straight into the ground, and only with a pry log, a lot of digging, and a great deal of time, we finally succeeded in pulling it out, which was essential to remove the round, or the cut piece. I saw the branch on my B-cert trip and had forgotten how large it was, the size of a moderate tree, explaining why it took so much effort to remove the log.  We have joked that we wanted to move the wilderness boundary sign past a problem log. 

Our current VLL (very large log) was able to be cut to ground level. Below that, however, we had to dig the dirt out and use care that the teeth of the crosscut not get into the dirt, which is damaging. Dirt isn’t good for small hand saws, either, but they are more easily replaced. We would dig out, saw, and finally use a KatanaBoy to finish the cut, which we did on the first cut after 3 hours and an hour later for the second cut, much of which was fortunately through a rotten area of the log. 

Moving the round, once it was cut, was another matter. We had to break it out of the ground and try to make the path to the side of the trail more gravity friendly. That took 3 people on as many PLTs (precision leveraging tools which were long logs used as lever), and all four of us pushing our legs, digging out blocking soil underneath, until at long last nearly 100 cubic feet of wood started to move. 

At least once it began to roll, it moved just off the trail and stopped.  Had it stopped in the middle of the trail, I think we all would have cried.

The author (right). Multiple hard plastic wedges are keeping the kerf open, or at least trying to.
The round off the trail. All that remains is a 3 mile hike out, with our gear.

BEING TESTED

June 18, 2022

“The National Crosscut and Chainsaw Program standardizes training, evaluation, safety procedures and certification among sawyers operating on public lands” managed by organizations like the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. Cascade Volunteers, affiliated with the Willamette National Forest, has a saw program where volunteers may be trained and certified within the organization, both saving the Forest Service time and making certification easier to obtain and renew. We require experienced sawyers as instructors as well as in the field.

Trail work requires bucking, or cutting, not felling. We don’t bring down trees, alive or dead, unless they are small diameter ones blocking a trail or being a hazard. We do, however, cut downed trees; we need are certified crosscut sawyers (bucking).  I felled dead trees in the Boundary Waters 30 years ago, and it takes a different set of skills to do that. 

The ratings are sawyer trainee, A (apprentice), B, certified and C certified, the last able to do major complex log outs, B sawyers are able to work independently and may supervise A sawyers. A sawyers must work under B or C certs.

When I began, I was unclassified.  I wasn’t even a trainee, which was fine by me, since I didn’t know what I was doing. With time, I did more logouts and became better at handling saws, knowing what to do, and being a part of a crew. In 2020, two of us were invited to the first saw certification program by Cascade Volunteers at Fish Lake, an old way stop on the Santiam Road on what is a beautiful lake three months a year, a meadow another 3-4 months, otherwise ice covered. The first day was didactic, learning about saws and their use. It was well done, and we had some practical experience nearby.  I learned, for example, that sometimes a difficult cut can be avoided by doing two simpler ones in a different part of a log.

That night, we camped out, awakening the next day in light rain to go over to nearby Patjens Lake Trail up on Santiam Pass, where we traveled in groups of 5, three trainees, an evaluator, and an evaluator of the evaluator, to hike in and clear logs. I had hoped maybe I could go for A and B certification, rather than just A.  I spoke to an evaluator whom I knew, and he asked if I were willing to be a crew leader. I didn’t see how I could lead without having the skills, but I couldn’t get the skills if I didn’t lead. Confused, I decided to get just A cert that weekend. The day was misty, cold, with periods of rain and wind, and we were in an old burn, where dead trees fall not infrequently, more when it is windy. I knew the evaluator. I didn’t know the two other trainees, one of whom was my age, the other had never used a crosscut. We each had three logs to supervise, and we all obtained A certification. One of our trainees was not well dressed for a day of rain and wind in the Oregon Cascades in late October. He was lucky. I was told not to comment on other people’s evaluation of their logs, but I got many comments when it was my turn, which broke my train of thought, so I couldn’t process as well, and it didn’t help my score, not that such mattered too much. Still, I got certified, knew what I needed to work on, and have carried my saw card ever since..

That winter, I was crew leader twice for trail work, mostly because I knew where the trail was and what needed to be done. Last summer, while doing 25 day trips for crosscut log outs, I wondered whether I was ready to try for B certification. I decided not to push matters, did my job, learned more, bit my lip when one of the guys with the same experience as I always managed to tell me when we were out together that I was “pulling” the saw in some direction he didn’t like. 

This past winter, I was crew leader four more times, doing trail work without crosscut work, but in charge, since I was running the power brusher, teaching people how to use it, and working a trail that I knew better than anybody else out there. It wasn’t a big deal, but my being crew leader was noticed. 

This spring, I decided I wanted to try for B certification. There were two others interested, and in March we were about to go to King Castle Trail to cut out some logs when someone with a chain saw and gas cut them out a few days before our visit. End of that. I did not hear of anything else, but there an online application where I signed up asking to be considered. The same evaluator to whom I had spoken earlier said that he would be willing to take me out. He had a trail in mind, and he wanted us to log it out, doing my B cert simultaneously.

Now I was nervous. How good was I? There were some A sawyers who were likely better.  Why weren’t they upgrading?  All I knew is that I felt ready. I had been working independently for some time.

I went online to the national program and noted what the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and University of Montana were doing, looking at pages and videos. I took a practice test, read the lengthy Forest Service saw manuals again, focusing on OHLEC, the mnemonic for approach to a log: Objective, Hazards, Lean or Bind, Escape Exits, and Cutting plan. I wrote down things to remember: O for me was also to look overhead for hazards, but also on the ground, in or on the log (bees, rotten wood), around me with other people, weather, and myself. Some were constant, like the ground, others, like human factors, could vary.

I went out with my evaluator to Shale Ridge, a trail that heads south from FS 19 into the Waldo Lake Wilderness. We got to the trailhead early, and I handed both my saw and first aid cards to the evaluator. I showed all the safety equipment in my pack, put on my gaiters, knee pads, carried my strap and wedges, put on my pack, picked up the heavy bucking saw, and we headed to work.

The first log, 20 inches, was right at the beginning. This time, I was making the decision on the cutting, nobody else. Wow, this is really my show. I voiced my thoughts: the objective was to come home safely, we were to cut this log and move the round (what was cut) to the side of the trail. There was a small tree hanging over the site that needed to come down. We needed to clear the site of growth so we could saw. I and my evaluator were fresh, comfortable, and ready to work. I first cut the small tree away by making a cut into the compression side, where the trunk was concave. Then I cut the convex side, where there was tension that I had lessened by the first cut. The tree fell where I wanted it to go, and I pulled it off the trail. 

Cutting is only part of the job. A few hundred pound log or round has to go somewhere. That is why I carry a strap, and we both use our legs if we have to push. The tree I cut at the beginning will keep the log from rolling back into the trail. Shale Ridge Trail in the Waldo Lake Wilderness.

With the log’s hanging over the trail, there was likely top bind or compression that might bind or catch the saw, and I discussed two possible plans, with emergency exits easy for each of us. As we cut, I told my partner about my keeping a rhythm, using the whole saw, listening to the wood, the saw, watching the kerf, watching the sawdust for changes in color, and feeling how the cutting was going. When the compression in the wood bound or pinched the saw, I put in a plastic wedge and pounded it in with the poll, or back side, of my axe. If my partner pounded in the wedge, I ducked my head in case the wedge flew out, keeping my hand on the saw, feeling it start to move freely, as the pinching lessened.  We finally cut through the log, keeping the saw from falling to the ground. We couldn’t pull the saw back up through the kerf, but I could take off the handle and let my partner pull it back through. Then I put the handle back on. That used to be difficult for me but is now automatic. We cut the log on the other side of the trail and pushed it away. I sheathed the saw, and we moved on.

We cut several 24 inch logs. On one, we made a third cut, rather than to try to push it off after two, because there were only two of us, and sometimes cutting is easier than pushing. The evaluator liked hearing my thoughts. I discussed similar logs I had encountered, because I have been involved cutting hundreds of them. What worked? What didn’t?  I became tired, because we were sawing and pushing large logs. I was short of breath from doing that. By the end of the day, the human factors included “tired, so be cognizant of that.”  But I added, “my spirits are good,” for they were. I knew I was doing well.  I was caring for the saw, discussing the kerf as we cut, commenting on how the saw sounded, noting roughness when we were cutting through a knot, and the darker colors of the bark in the sawdust when we were nearly finished with the cut. 

I passed. I knew I had. We hiked back out to the trailhead, past the logs we had cut.  When I signed out to dispatch on the radio, I looked down the deserted road, seeing something that looked like a large tire 75 yards away. Except there weren’t big tires there. And it moved. It was a bear. 

Great way to end the day.

HYBRID VIGOR, JUST NOT HYBRID HIKE

June 11, 2022

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.

ROAD WORK

June 9, 2022

My left knee has bothered me off and on for a few months, the problem beginning last winter after a strenuous snowshoe up to Fuji Shelter from Waldo Lake Road. There is an easier way to get to the shelter, but the way I took had fewer people, and yeah, it was more difficult, the way I like it. Anyway, I got better and then snowshoed again, not as far, but apparently far enough to bother the knee again. Three more weeks off snowshoes and I repeated with another snowshoe, not too strenuous, but apparently my knee continued to protest. No change.

Canada jay with Diamond Peak in the background. Fuji Shelter

I was looking for a hike that I hadn’t done, interesting, and not too strenuous. A friend told me last year about Pool Creek Falls up FS23 out of Oakridge towards Vivian Lake, 19 miles uphill. We actually were driving by the trailhead at the time, but I couldn’t see anything. Turns out that at about mile 13, there is a small grassy pullout, and if one looks carefully, there is a trail. I had been by this a dozen times or more, usually dodging a big depression in the pavement there—AKA “sunken grade.” 

I drove up FS23, dodging a 75-100 yard long pile of rocks in the downhill lane 7 miles up and a few scattered rocks further on.  I stopped at a grassy area,I parked the car, saw the trailhead sign, visible only when one was not on the road. I got my gear on, and started up the trail. When I had gone about 20 yards on the trail, I realized I had to be on the other side of the stream to my left and had to turn around..  Great start.  I crossed Pool Creek on a bare, slippery log that fortunately needed only one foot to briefly touch, then started switchbacking up the muddy path.

To help my knee, I used trekking poles, rather than my Saguaro walking stick. I like the stick, a veteran of 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail, several national parks, including Gates of the Arctic in Alaska, where it was invaluable in stream and rock pile crossings.  The trekking poles supported my weight better than a single pole, and other than having to cross two close logs, the first by crawling over, the second’s having a notch cut through it, the trail wasn’t too bad; a quarter mile put me right in front of the falls. Simply beautiful.  Close to the road, but not easy to reach. 

Pool Creek Falls

I hiked another quarter of a mile around the falls and uphill, before I decided that I was by myself, there was plenty of mud to slip on, and I didn’t need to be adventurous. I turned around and slid back down. My knee was still fine, and I wanted it to stay that way.

Back at the car, I tried to go further to the Vivian Lake trailhead, going four of the 6 miles before I hit snow, which rapidly deepened. I stopped well before I was going to get stuck and turned around. 

On my way back down 23, I again saw a small tree across the the road.  I had driven over it on the way up, but I don’t like doing that and had time, a saw, and ability to take care of the problem. So I did.  There are several roads into trail heads in spring where there are blowdowns. The Forest Service cuts them out, sometimes with scanty clearance. It’s amazing what people will do on a road to avoid hitting a blowdown or getting out of the vehicle to deal with it. I plead guilty. The drive to Horse Creek Trailhead is a veritable zig zag from one side to the other. On the way in, we want to get started on the trail and don’t want to stop to clear the road. We’ll get it on the way out, except when we drive out, we are all so tired, we don’t. And so nothing changes. The rocks that had fallen on FS23 needed to be removed as well.  One can dodge these rocks, but on a trip to a work site along Hills Creek Reservoir a few weeks earlier, the driver thought his pickup would clear such a rock. A moderately loud scraping noise—the kind that makes you immediately think “oil pan”— told us we hadn’t. Fortunately, there was no damage, and on the way back I got out and removed the offending rock along with a few others. Remembering that day, I decided to clear rocks on this road as well. It was a nice day to work.

As I came down further, there was a tree branch over the opposite lane. Sure, it could be dodged by uphill traffic, but it was better if I cut it out. So I did. My knee was not bothered by road work, and there seemed to be a need for it. I finally reached the long stretch of rocks from where a good chunk of cliff had collapsed from the winter precipitation. There was mud over part of the road and a rock field out in my lane and even part of the other lane. This was a hazard. 

I turned off the engine, put on the flashers, since I was parked in the middle of the road, fortunately on a straightaway, so I would be easily seen in time. Anyway, I hadn’t seen a car since I had left Oakridge. The first two rocks were tossers, but then there were push hard rocks, lift and roll rocks, hike rocks, like a football, and a couple that weren’t going anywhere without a front end loader.  I worked my way down the road, wishing I had brought a shovel and a rake, but I had gloves and I had—uh oh not on—a hard hat. If ever there were a place I needed a hard hat, picking rocks out off a road below a cliff would seem like a good idea. I went back to the car and put on my hardhat. Twenty minutes later, the rocks were clear. The mud might last, or the next rain might wash it off. Then again, the next rain might bring down more rocks. Still, the road looked a lot better. I drove down to the nearly full reservoir and had lunch in the sun. Nice day for a hike and a little road work.

Before
After

This weekend, I am going up FS 24 to one of the Waldo Lake Wilderness trailheads. I don’t expect to do much hiking yet: the trails go well above 5000 feet, and there will be snow. But the roads will be heavily traveled by people this summer, people too busy to stop and clear the road going in and too tired and eager to get home to clear it when they leave. Maybe I can help.

THE BRIDGE

May 22, 2022

One of the competing projects with the Winberry trail restoration was finishing the Indian Creek bridge on the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. The creek flows into the Middle Fork about 8 miles south of the reservoir, 23 miles south of Oakridge. The Forest Service was able to move a pre-built footbridge, with no rails, from a nearby road, through the woods, and install it on both sides of the river. One could cross the river, but with no rails, it was a bit dicey doing it.  Our job was to put in posts to support a thick kick or base log and two hand railings on each side of the length of the 60-odd foot span. We had to get our own wood, finding the right size Western red cedar trees for logs 8-9 inches in diameter and 4 feet long for the 10 posts on each side of the bridge. In addition, we needed 3-4 inch diameter smaller logs to support the posts. Then we needed 4-5 inch logs to put in two sets railings on both sides.  We used red cedar for its tannins which resist rotting.

Bridge with cut and de-barked logs

To access the crossing, we parked on a Forest Service road, bushwhacked 200 yards downhill to the Middle Fork Trail, which runs 30 miles from the reservoir south to Timponagas Lake, then walked another quarter mile to the bridge.  Fortunately, near the site were many cedars we could use. The diameter-appropriate logs were cut to the right length. These were stripped of bark, a process in the right time of spring is easy, for the bark will peel away from the underlying cambium. We were initially a little early, however, and on each log we needed to scrape with more difficulty, about 30 square feet for a 14-foot long, 8-inch diameter log, where each scrape might clear maybe 10-20 sq inches. The debarked trees were then carried to the bridge. A good sized cedar would produce several logs, of which we needed 20, ten on either side. Close by meant within a quarter of a mile, which we had to do with the logs on our shoulder alone, with another, or with a large one, 4 people each pulling on a strap. Many of these logs had to be moved uphill to the trail, then along the rocky trail mostly downhill to the bridge. The old trail went to the river further downstream so when we found logs in that area, we had people on the other side of the stream throw a line across and then pull the logs over. From there, it was about 100 yards to the bridge, saving an immense amount of walking.

Putting in the posts and the supports was fairly straightforward, and the structure started to appear.  I wasn’t involved with this part, because I was helping find red cedar, trying to distinguish it from incense cedar, which has a more scaly bark, and then obtaining longer 5-6 inch diameter logs to be used for the railings. Cedar grows more conically than firs or maples, so a large log at the base tapers significantly in 20 feet. For debarking, I used a a U-shaped scraper, where one straddles the log and scrapes towards oneself. There were also long scrapers for those who wanted to stand. We scraped the larger diameter logs first, taking at least an hour each. We first scraped in the woods, then we carried the logs to the work site.

Later, we carried the logs down to the work site, debarked, and when we had enough bare logs, the following week we could send 3 people back to the bridge to work on it, while the rest of us worked on another trail.  One day, when we ran low on logs, two of us left the work area to go further afield to find cedar. We found several three miles away along a small track that barely admitted a vehicle, felled them, stripped the branches, and while the cutter looked for more, I dragged the trees to the truck and put them in the bed. We got six such logs in the afternoon by slogging around the hillside, measuring diameters, either with an appropriate tape measure, or doing the circumference and dividing by pi, my preferred method. I helped the driver back out a half mile on the road to where we could turn around, drive back and dropped off the logs. 

It was clear we needed even more logs to finish than the six we had, so two of us were charged to go out the following Tuesday, not our typical work day, to find at least ten more logs for approximately 150 linear feet.   Because we needed certain lengths of logs to fit together, we would require somewhat more than the linear foot measure.  This time, we backed in a half mile initially and then started looking for trees. It was not a good day for my knee, because I was climbing on uneven, unstable ground. At one point, I slid down a hill part way, taking a large chunk of moss with me, which I did not want to do. Worse, when I tried to put the moss back, I started sliding more. I finally realized the best way to avoid even more damage to the moss and me was just to get off the hill.  The first three hours we were out, we found only 3 trees, but we found 8 more early that afternoon and drove back to the parking area by the bushwhack, took each log out and slid it down the bank with the others. Some poor guy was going to have to carry those logs downhill through the woods to the trail and then to the bridge for debarking.

Two days later, I was one of those guys.  I carried 3 of the shorter ones, 10 feet long, on my shoulder to the bridge. Then I worked with another with the longer logs, carrying on our shoulders for three more trips. He told me, after the first, “I sure am glad these are light.”  I cringed. I thought they were heavy enough, thank you, and was glad when we got to the work area to unload them. He realized he needed a pad for his shoulders. I was involved with carrying at least 9 of the 16 logs, de-barking ten. Fortunately, the sap was running, and the bark came off in long strips. It looked like we would have enough logs.

The logs had to first be placed for the top railing, where there were junctions between them. That was time consuming, cutting the junctions, until Mac joined us with his power tools, including a cute little Makita chain saw, which was like a Stihl or a Husky that hadn’t been fed. That and his large supply of 5 Ma portable batteries, an inverter in his jeep, so he could recharge them, and we could cut out sections with electric hand saws, grind them with a rotary sander, fit them together, and screw them into the posts, all with power tools. Every 15-30 minutes another log was attached to the bridge. We could have finished the bridge that day if we had stayed to sunset, but it was after 2, and we were all tired.

The last week, I worked one more day with Mac and Steve, just the three of us. It was supposed to rain all day, but it was partly cloudy with only a few sprinkles, as we secured the last four logs on the upstream railing. The rain had pushed the stream up a great deal, and the roar drowned out the sound of the electrical equipment. The bridge was finished, after ten visits by the Crew.

We had to clean up, putting the bark into the woods, where it would decompose, taking the cut pieces of logs and doing the same. We raked up the area, took our pictures, and bade farewell to this part of the Middle Fork River. Then it started to rain hard. The woods recover quickly. The trails we had to the vehicles will be overgrown and not visible in two years. The bridge will outlive me by a lot.

RECOVERING A TRAIL

May 8, 2022

The first time I saw Winberry Divide Trail on a work party, a year ago, it was hot, and we had to start clearing brush in the first ten feet in order to walk any further. I couldn’t imagine why anybody would want to work on this trail or who even knew the trail was out here.  We cut out logs and worked our way up the trail with power brushers to remove growth coming in over the trail,  and about two feet on either side of the trail, slow going in the heat,. We cleared about half a mile and then returned. Not much to see. 

The very beginning of Winberry.

We came back the following week, finished power brushing the mile of the trail to where it crossed the Forest Service road we had parked on down below. We walked back down the road to the cars, rather than taking the trail, so we could cut out the numerous trees that had fallen and were blocking the road, because the next time we came we were going to drive up the road to the second part of the trail.

Opening up the road.

That following week, two of us drove to the top of the passable road, where the second part of the trail ended and where the third part of the trail began.  While we did that, others used power brushers from below and we worked our way down, cutting out logs that some cutters had cut part way through and then had left.  That’s not good form and at the least should be flagged as a hazard with colorful tape, which was not done.

The trail went right through there. Now it does again.

Several weeks later, because in summer our priority is cutting out logs in higher elevation wilderness areas, we started doing some tread work. When fall came, and the high country was getting snow, we continued the tread work on Winberry, removing plant material on the side, throwing the soil well off the trail, and recovering what had once been a well graded path that had had some love years ago.

By December, we were ready to tackle the top part of the trail, 1.2 miles, climbing several hundred vertical feet to a ridge between the Winberry and the Lookout Point reservoir drainages. We had logged it out; we now needed to power brush the whole trail and then do tread work on all six thousand feet of it. We worked in a snow drizzle using multiple pairs of gloves each day, digging, getting on our knees to pull out Salal and some Oregon grape, and we worked the tread more than a yard wide as we moved up the ridge. I was one of two who power brushed the whole trail.  After we finished, we then continued to improve the tread, refurbish some steps that were abandoned in 2007, leaving only at a root wad hole and a spot where the trail needed to be rerouted to be future work. I learned on Wiinberry how important good rain gear is for trail work.

Tailgate session at the bottom of the third part of the trail

At this point, the Crew got a big thanks on social media from a contingent of mountain bikers who were thrilled someone was recovering the trail.  I never mountain biked, but I was a 60K + miler roadie, so I know the importance of having good routes to put spoked wheels on. Winberry would be a beautiful trail to ride.

Steve power brushing the trail
After we put rocks in the holes of the steps that were first placed in 2007
Completion

In April, I led a four member crew to the ridge from the reservoir side and we power brushed the mile stretch that formed part of the E2C—Eugene to Pacific Crest Trail.  Two weeks later, I led a hike with the Club to show what 13 visits to a trail (12 of those visits I was on) can do. Hikers occasionally need to see what kind of work goes into a trail, for falling trees and encroaching brush don’t disappear without some work by someone. Four days later and 20 degrees cooler, much wetter, five of us drove up the road, around the bushes that pushed out over the grade, through large puddles, now able to avoid cut stumps that once almost took out one of my headlights, in order to tackle the root wad hole and make the trail safer.  We worked in rain and mud, using cut logs or rounds to support a series of three retaining logs, one we found that used to line the trail but was no longer relevant there; the other two came from a nearby tree.  We filled in the holes with rock that we found 100 yards or more away and had to be towed with a rope to the work area, lowered down a hill in a bucket, or hand carried near the trail and passed off to another. The trail looks great now. We still have work to do, but it is now safe to hike, in a pretty woods, especially higher up, and doesn’t get a lot of use. 

I love the rock wall near the top of the trail, a place that stays cool in summer, has a covering of almost turquoise moss in places, and where the trail is by necessity narrow with a drop off into a small ravine.

The rock wall

I look forward to the time when we can add a switchback to the trail to avoid a steep spot that when wet is difficult to negotiate when wet and will lead to erosion. I went by spots where I ate lunch, lying on my back and looking up at the trees and sky while I rested. And now I can add the root wad repair to my list of places on the trail where I spent hours one day and learned about the trail by seeing, smelling, and touching, and when mud splattered, by tasting.

The author on his knees working on the second part of the trail.

THIS IS A GREAT WORLD

April 18, 2022

The campsite had not looked special, on a point along a channel of Basswood Lake, a mile south of the Canadian border in the Boundary Waters.  The site we had set our mind upon in the bay was occupied, and another had a difficult climb up from the water which was fine, if one were having lunch, but not so fine if one wanted to go places and come back. Or just get water for dinner. Long climbs carrying water or packs get old. The site we were on had one good tent spot, all we needed, and had views north to Canada and sunrise views over American Point.

The first night a pair of beavers swam by about 5 yards off shore, on their way to the swampy area right off the east side of the site. This would be repeated every night we were there, and one morning we watched as a beaver felled a tree. Pretty neat. On the second night, we saw an aurora, and while it wasn’t as bright the green curtains I saw hanging in the Canadian sky a half-century earlier, any aurora is worth seeing.

The third day, we saw an otter as we travelled out of the bay on a day trip. He was having a great time going in and out of the water. That night, we heard wolves howling, too far away to try to find—but we wouldn’t have seen them anyway.

The final day, we took a trip to the Canadian border and Basswood Falls, passing a campsite where we had stayed in 2004, a day after a bear on Crooked Lake got our food during a howling storm. Eating our fifth consecutive meal of mash potatoes, I had seen something that looked like a windmill churning water moving across the lake from Canada. I had no idea what it was for about five minutes, then realized it was a moose swimming with a large bush stuck in his antlers. Nice memory. 

After we returned from the border, I sat in camp and said to myself the only thing we hadn’t seen on this particular trip was a moose. I had no complaints; it was a great trip.  An hour later, I heard a noise in the marsh behind me, turned and there he was, a bull moose, fifty yards away, chewing on a bush. We stayed quiet, and he didn’t leave for a good ten minutes, then disappeared through the back of our campsite.

What a great world we live in!

*********************

Eight years ago in late January, the 28th according to the picture I have of it, back when I lived in Arizona, there was a brief rain storm, and near noon, the Sun came out.  Recent rain and sunshine mean rainbows, and I love them, both the colors and why they occur, which makes me doubly lucky.  I have seen a rainbow after sunset, when the zenith is still getting sunlight, and the rainbow spans the entire N-S plane of the celestial sphere over us. Astronomer Steven O’Meara has seen them up to I believe 14 minutes after sunset, but he lived in Hawai’l and had a lot of practice. My record is still seeing one 7 minutes after sunset.

The Sun has to be fewer than 42 degrees elevation to see a rainbow. That’s why we usually see them early morning or late afternoon. The sun is usually too high at noon, unless it is winter.  I did the math in my head: In late January, the Sun is at declination (sky latitude) minus 18, or 18 deg. S. The North Star is at 32 elevation in Tucson, so overhead in Tucson is 58 deg N. On the solstice, the Sun was 23.5 deg south latitude, and 23.5 from 58 was 34.5 degrees above the horizon at local noon, which in January is about 12:35-12:40 pm.  Add in the difference of 18 deg S from 23.5 deg S, and the sun would be about 40 deg high at noon. This was going to be close, but I thought it ought to be possible to see it.  I went out to the driveway, looked north towards the top of Catalina mountains but saw no rainbow. Hmmm. Then I thought, silly me, it’s on the ground. I looked down right to where the base of the mountains met the desert.

There it was.

A beautiful rainbow was flowing along the base of the Catalina mountains. That was SO COOL to see. I found something I would have missed otherwise by knowing a simple fact about rainbows then when the time came remembering that I just might see a rainbow at noon.  I did, on the ground against the mountains.

Is this an interesting world, or what?

******************

In 2007, I hiked the South Rim Trail in Big Bend National Park, out to where the cliffs drop into the Chihuahua Desert. It was humid, late June, and Big Bend was part of my national park odyssey.  It was an 11 hour drive to get there, during which I saw my first Scissor-tailed flycatcher. You can’t miss them. I left the Chisos Basin early, nobody was out there, and when I reached the cliffs, I could see the desert a couple of thousand feet below me. A south wind was blowing into my face, which was pleasant, after all the climbing.

Up ahead I saw what I first thought was smoke, then realized it was water condensing into a cloud. It’s the same phenomenon I saw 20 miles from Victoria Falls from a train back in 2001 when I went to the Zambia eclipse. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I realized the sheer amount of water formed a cloud.

What I saw at Big Bend that day was a demonstration of orographic lift, the phenomenon that explains why mountains get so much more precipitation than valleys. The water vapor hits the mountains, is forced upward, cools, and condenses when it cools to the dew point. That day in Big Bend, the south wind was ferrying humid air that struck the cliffs, forced upwards, and condensed right in front of me. It was incredible.

It truly is a remarkable world.

Cloud formation, Big Bend National Park, June 2007

******************

I read last week about the shock wave that went around the world for 2 1/2 days after the Tonga eruption. What I didn’t know was that the wave was measurable, and we have proof of the compression and the expansion of the atmosphere when the wave passed.

The graphics in the New York Times were excellent, and when I read about the barometric pressure changes, a couple of mb or a few hundredths of an inch, I decided to look on my own.  Not every place had a clear brief rise in late morning of 15 January, or a brief clear drop that night, and some places had active weather occurring that would have overwhelmed any small signal from the shock wave. But I was enthralled by barometric pressures in places \that showed a clear brief rise followed by a drop in the late morning and a clear brief drop, followed by a rise around midnight the next day.  This absolutely fascinated me, enough so that I showed my wife, who doesn’t share my rabid enthusiasm for such trivia. She liked it, too. How could you not? 

Moose, wolves, beaver, otter, and an aurora, same trip.  A rainbow practically on the ground at noon in the desert, because that is where it has to be. Orographic lift happening right in front of me.  And barometric pressure showing a change from a shock wave from a south Pacific volcanic eruption many hours earlier.

Tonga Volcano shockwave in Chicagoland (SOURCE: NWS Chicago)

Minneapolis

8:53 AM4 °F-2 °F76 %E6 mph0 mph29.64 in0.0 inFair
9:53 AM5 °F-1 °F76 %VAR3 mph0 mph29.65 in0.0 inFair
10:53 AM7 °F2 °F80 %VAR3 mph0 mph29.64 in0.0 inFair


Eugene

7:54 AM42 °F39 °F89 %ESE6 mph0 mph29.95 in0.0 inCloudy
8:45 AM42 °F40 °F92 %CALM0 mph0 mph29.95 in0.0 inCloudy
8:54 AM42 °F40 °F92 %CALM0 mph0 mph29.96 in0.0 inCloudy
9:14 AM41 °F39 °F93 %ENE5 mph0 mph29.96 in0.0 inMostly Cloudy
9:54 AM41 °F39 °F93 %SE6 mph0 mph29.95 in0.0 inMostly Cloudy
10:25 AM40 °F38 °F93 %SE5 mph0 mph29.95 in0.0 inMostly Cloudy

I VOTE FOR STANDARD TIME

March 20, 2022

I like the axial tilt of the Earth.

It gives us seasons, a gradual change in the amount of sunlight—or darkness—we experience throughout the year. In Arizona, where I lived for 37 years, there were easily noted gradual changes.  In June,  sunrise hovered over the Pontatoc Ridge, viewed from my kitchen, for several weeks, and I could actually notice a few seconds difference each day after June 10th, as the sunrise gradually became later.  Sunrise was later than the official time, because of the horizon, it was about 5:15 am, 45 minutes earlier on the valley floor.  About five days after the solstice, I could just notice that the sunrise was a little further to the south than it had been.  You can’t tell the exact solstice by looking at the horizon each day, but you can be close.

At sunset, the changes weren’t quite as visible since the horizon was neither raised nor sharply defined, but starting in early July, the sunset gradually became earlier, after 11 days in a row at 7:34 pm.  After twilight, it was dark by 9 pm, without the long twilight I was used to in the northerly latitudes where I grew up. Darkness comes earlier in the lower latitudes, even more dramatic near the equator. This is because the ecliptic, or the path of the Sun, Moon, and planets as seen from the Earth, is more vertical at the equator, and has a smaller angle with the horizon the further north or south one goes.  That smaller angle is why twilight lasts longer, because after the Sun sets, it is moving significantly north as well, so much of its motion below the horizon is transferred northward and not westward away from the horizon. That results in long twilights.

Now, with the Senate having passed a bill mandating universal daylight savings time, I wonder why we can’t just have universal standard time. As Brian Brettschneider, Alaskan climatologist, posted, “amount of daylight saved: 0.”  We would be better off using the German term “Sommerzeit,” or “summer time.”  We’d be even better off using standard time. That is why it is called standard. 

Arizona will not likely change from being on MST; I never heard an Arizonan complain that there was no daylight savings time. The last thing anybody in the desert wants in June is sunset at 8:34 pm, or in January sunrise at 8:24 am. One of the few pleasures about living in the desert in summer is that it gets dark by 9. It may still be—and it usually is—hot, but with darkness comes hope for cooler temperatures. I live in a world where sun is generally considered good, rain bad, light good, dark bad, and days with rain are dreary and bad whereas sunny days, even with wildfire smoke, are good. To me, summer in the 21st century is overrated, overheated, “overdry,” and “oversmoked.”

In Arizona, I always knew when GMT was—7 hours ahead of local time. Here in Oregon, I can never remember if it is 8 or 9 hours, and I don’t like the sudden change of more darkness in the morning when it had been slowly getting lighter, and more light in the evening, when it had been getting gradually lighter. It grates. I like the gradual change in light throughout the year, especially the gradual lessening of daylight in summer, for up here, summer is no longer on July 5, which is what people told me when I moved here. It’s a five month stretch between May 1 and October 1, just like Arizona, only drier and a little less hot. Unless we have a heat dome.

In Arizona, I knew June 10 that the Sun was going to rise later for the next 7 months. In 11 more days, the solstice would occur, when the Sun would stop getting higher in the sky.  Two weeks later, the Sun would start setting earlier, and I had the sense at least that summer was moving along astronomically, even if not meteorologically.  

I’m not alone. I commented in the NY Times a couple of years ago about an article written near the winter solstice, looking forward to more daylight, and wrote what became one of my 35 “Times Pick”s.  While I didn’t include the replies, they all agreed with me. I struck a chord.

I will be a contrarian and say I like the rain and the dark days. They belong, too.

I think summer is overrated; last summer came with wildfires, smoke that kept me in the house for 10 days, and a concern of evacuation. Three of the last four years there have been significant west Cascade fires. I led a volunteer crew yesterday into the damp woods to repair a trail, creeks and rivers roaring with the water that finally came.  It was lovely.

Mind you, I counted 65 different species of wildflowers on my spring walks, I am an avid canoeist, and autumn is my favorite season. But leaving the trail yesterday with dark clouds overhead, an early sunset, and rain starting to fall, I was happy.

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In Oregon, the end of standard time will mean that for 3 1/2 months a year, from mid-October to the end of January, sunrise will occur on or after 8:30 am. Children will be walking to a school bus with a flashlight. True, sunset will be later, but what is wrong with sunrise at 7:30 and sunset at 4:30? Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, whom I otherwise deeply respect, dislikes the 4:30 sunsets in Rhode Island. Well, he lives in a northern state at the eastern end of the Eastern Time Zone. Go to New Brunswick, the next stop east of Maine, and you are on Atlantic Time. That’s why it is dark there early. There is no way you can change the fact that there are 9 hours of daylight. Please stop trying to.

“White man thinks if he cuts off a foot from the top of the blanket and puts it at the bottom of the blanket, that somehow the blanket is longer.”

I take my canoe trips near the autumnal equinox. When I base camp, I can watch the change and time in sunset and sunrise location nightly, weather permitting. It’s interesting to see it, and viewing is an important part of each day on the water.

In January, the sun runs slow relative to the clock. That is why sunsets are noticeably later in early January than they were in December. But it is also why sunrise is delayed and it is dark in the morning. Add another hour to this already delayed sunrise, and it is going to look more like night than it will morning.  Not only does the white man think the blanket is longer, he (and probably should be he, here, since women are smarter) thinks sun time and clock time are the same, when they are most definitely not.

From “Our Environment, How We Adapt Ourselves to It,” Revised by my father, Paul E. Smith, Allyn and Bacon, 1964.”

Equation of Time. This shows how the sun time varies relative to clock time throughout the year. When negative, or slow, the sun “appears” to be slower to rise and slower to set, so dark mornings and lighter evenings in January. When strongly positive, like October and early November, the sun “appears” to run faster, and sunset occurs earlier, so hence the suddenly appearing dark evenings in October.

THE MOSS

February 20, 2022

We had had an interesting morning on the Middle Fork Trail of the Willamette River, beginning the job of building a railing for the new bridge over Indian Creek, a free flowing tributary of the Middle Fork. We found our own materials, Red cedar, in the nearby woods, stripped the bark off it and then took the bare logs to the bridge area to eventually place as one of the smaller posts or a larger railing.  

We split into two groups, one to work on the trail tread, the other to search for hopefully nearby cedar, where we could strip and carry them a short distance. Red Cedar is not heavy, about 27 lb per cubic foot dry, a lot more wet, which these were. We had to fell the trees, take the limbs off them, then it was possible to move the definitely heavy log from the woods to the trail, where we made precise measurements, cutting the logs into four foot lengths for posts. Then it was time to start de-barking.

I had at my disposal various types of scrapers, knives, axes, other sharp implements to slice through the bark to the fascia over the cambium layer, then cutting through the fascia to the cambium itself, what we wanted exposed. I didn’t know that trees had fascia like we do.

I hadn’t seen tree felling in thirty years, back when I spent a season as a wilderness canoe ranger in the Boundary Waters, and we used crosscut saws to fell trees that were potential dangers to campsites. I remembered to look up at the branches of the tree we were going to fell to see where most of the weight was, so we could predict where it would fall. Fortunately, many of the Crew had backgrounds with the Park Service, Forest Service, or BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and they were certified fellers.  One of us put pink ribbon on cedars we were to cut, we had one sawyer, and I was the swamper, working with the cutter and doing the limbing.  Cutting is a lot different from bucking on the ground. Tree falls, limbing, or removing the limbs is necessary, and instead of pushing logs off the trail, we brought logs to the trail, in order to carry them to the bridge.

Limbing a fallen Red cedar

It was a busy morning, with several crossings of the incomplete bridge with no rails, fast flowing water 12-15 feet below. I didn’t want to slip, and I was a more afraid than I thought I should be. I certainly did not want to be the person leaning out over the stream putting the posts in.  

Incomplete bridge over Indian Creek. We still need to learn how it got put there.

A little after noon, later than I like, since I have been up since 5, we broke for lunch. I was on the opposite side of the stream from where others were eating, and while I had my lunch in my pack, it was too shady and cool on the side of the stream where I had been working.  I made yet another crossing of the bridge, again watching my footing carefully, and walked up the small rise on the other side. I didn’t see anybody eating until I was about 50 yards from the stream, when I saw three of the Crew near the trail. They were in shade eating their lunch, but a nearby brilliant green area between two logs, in full sunlight, caught my attention. I headed into the woods towards it.

I really should have stayed away and left the area alone, but I told myself I would be careful. This was a 25-50 square foot area of thick moss, a few inches thick.  It was damp, but nothing was going pass through my rubberized work clothes. I put my gray foam pad on the moss against one of the logs and sat down. 

What relief. I sank into the moss, carefully extended my legs, being careful not to kick any of the moss loose, took off my hardhat and leaned back looking up at the sky.  The sun was warm, the stream could be clearly heard, the conversations a few yards away were inaudible, and I took a long drink before beginning my lunch. I have several parts of my lunch, beginning with a sandwich and a half, followed by raisins, some German chocolate a friend sent me, occasionally some Russian chocolate another sends mw for my birthday, some Lindt’s that I buy here, a protein bar, and half an apple I bought from Detering Orchards up in Linn County last October. It takes me a good 20 minutes, emphasis on good, to go through all of this, staring at the sky, the trees, the clouds, even at one plane that went through a small clear gap in the branches, heading to Portland or Seattle.

After putting my lunch bag away and taking another drink, I reversed the sitting down process, carefully lifting my feet and putting them under me.  When I stood up.  I put my hardhat on, carefully lifted the pack and put in on. The moss was compressed, but it would come right back. Nothing was obviously dug up. I took one step on it, and the next step I was off.  It was obvious I had been there, but it looked like it would do fine.

A week later. The other plants are Oregon grape, which is an early bloomer with yellow flowers.

I don’t know what got into me. I am usually much more careful about moss, which takes years to grow and seconds to destroy.  This was a special place.  I bowed my head and apologized to the plants for their putting up with my compression, and slowly walked back to the trail where the others had just finished their lunch.

The following week, we would come back, but I ate lunch by the trail, my back against a tree.  I sat on bare ground. The mossy area looked good, and I left it alone.

Scraping the cedar log

About 17 of the 20 posts we will need.

SAVOR

January 25, 2022

Working nearly a mile up Hardesty Trail, I was amazed that I had fallen in the mud only once, a  slow motion deconstruction of my vertical posture arrested by a nearby bank, and which nobody else fortunately saw. The Stihl Brusher was working fine, the trail was cleared of branches by others in front of me, and it was being raked behind me. There were three brushers at work here and a fourth 3 miles up nearby Eagle’s Rest Trail.  I had a double layer of ear plugs, and when I couldn’t hear myself or others talk, I figured I was well protected.

Hardesty gets a lot of traffic, especially from mountain bikes. Sword ferns and Salal grow over the trail and need to be trimmed. We were doing a purported 5-year trim, but I suspect in 2 years it will need to be redone.

The Crew working Hardesty, January 2022

The brusher quickly shut down. Stihl brushers don’t give any warning when they are low on gas. On the other hand, nobody who does much brushing ever complains when they have to stop. The harness helps, but brushing is hard on the upper back. I gassed up and took a break. What a beautiful woods we were in. The darkness of the stratiform rain had lessened, replaced by mist, and the trees stood like tall sentinels. There are huge trees on Hardesty, three century old ones, already big when the country was born, somehow surviving storms, fire, and saws, although a few didn’t survive last summer’s small 20 acre fire just up the trail. Others had blackened bark but would do fine. The first hike I took up here in 2014, my 19th in Oregon, I said that protecting just one of those big trees would be a good legacy. I had hoped we might make the area wilderness, but there is too much recreational mountain biking and it is too close to main roads, although both the Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, and Menagerie wildernesses abut US 20.

The well-known Oregon trail author William Sullivan discusses Hardesty briefly at the end of his book on the Middle Cascades, barely mentioning it in the Mt. June section with the comment, regarding lack of views on Hardesty, “These hikers obviously don’t know about Mt. June.” I found that quotation in my once-got-it-soaking-wet edition (I have two later editions), the day I hiked Obsidian loop in a heavy November rain seven years ago with no pack cover. This is because while Hardesty trailhead is right off Highway 58, easy to access, climbs a full vertical kilometer to the summit, there are no views at the summit. In the few years I have climbed Hardesty, regrowth has taken away what was at best a limited view of South Sister. If you want high mountain or ocean views, yes, go elsewhere. If you want to get into shape in one day for summer hiking, on the other hand, this is your trail—11 miles round trip with a lot of elevation gain. Drop down Eula Ridge trail near the top for 4 miles, and take the flatter South Willamette, still with a thousand feet cumulative vertical to connect back to Hardesty, and it is a nice 14 mile loop. Trail runners race the Hardesty Hardcore loop, which one has do under 4 hours to be considered a finisher. I hiked it once in four and a half, figured I could probably find thirty minutes somewhere to take off, but then asked myself why I would want to do that.  I never did the race. 

One November, I led a Club hike to Hardesty, over on the Sawtooth Trail to Mt. June and back to Hardesty, an 18 miler with about 5600 feet of elevation gain–“the junk food hike.”  I got to the half way point at Mt. June—no views because of fog—was cramping, probably pre-bonk stage, and as hike leader, l was leading from the back, not letting anybody know that there was no other spot in the group I could lead from at that moment.  I simply could not go any faster. Fortunately, one guy gave away a pack of Cheet-Os at lunch, nutritionally awful, with the salt and the corn syrup, but oh so good for the bonks, and I somehow got my body back to the car. 

Hardesty was only my second time in the Willamette National Forest. I liked the wetness of the first part of the trail, huge trees, constant climbing and the feeling of accomplishment when I reached the concrete ruins at the top. There are some nice views on the way up; one just has to look out and down at Eagles Rest or Lookout Reservoir below.  Hardesty Lookout itself was removed in 1968; the trail has existed since 1910. I learned just recently the parking area was once an informal resting spot for truckers and full of trash. Nice the world changes for the good occasionally.

View of Lookout Point Reservoir from upper Hardesty trail, June 2014

Lunch time for the Crew. As I turned off the brusher, Louise, retired from 32 years in the Forest Service and a newcomer to the group, commented how pretty the trail was. It is. I don’t hear that said much by the Crew, in part while I think we know it, perhaps we forget it in the press of bucking out another log, digging a drain for a trail, or moving rocks. Hardesty is pretty. I hadn’t even reached the section of the huge trees. I like this place.  I picked a log to sit on, then as I usually do at lunch, lay down while I ate in order to be flat and to look up for a change. I don’t look up enough in the forest, although both bucking big logs and eating lunches on the trail are rapidly curing me of that oversight, the first for safety and the second for comfort. I savor my food, my reclining, and my view. The dictionary defines savor as to enjoy something completely, but to me, savor speaks to the second level: we are enjoying the fact that we are enjoying, acknowledging at that moment, not later, that we are happy, a higher level of happiness as well, that we sometimes miss. When we savor, we are grateful for this exceptional moment and good fortune that we are alive, know we are alive, glad we are, savoring life itself, recognizing and appreciating our current feelings right now, not taking them for granted.

Tiger Lilies in spring, near Hardesty summit, June 2020