Switching from hiking to trail work requires a significant change in clothing, although the first time I did trail work, four years ago, I wore my usual hiking clothes, took my hiking pack and usual lunch, and was about as out of place there as I would wearing jeans to a funeral. Well, that’s not quite true, because the last funeral I attended, about twelve years ago, I wore a coat and tie and was overdressed. I’ve never quite been properly dressed for much of anything. I never got the memo on a high school trip to the Cloisters in New York that I needed to wear a coat and tie. I was the only boy who didn’t. I remember the daylong embarrassment 6 decades later.

That day on the trail, I had to carry a Pulaski, rather than a walking stick, climbed 2700 vertical feet, did more sawing than my arms could tolerate, then hiked out. I didn’t have enough food. It was like my transition from canoe tripper to wilderness ranger. I needed better clothing, more rugged, more waterproof, more of it, and I needed a lot more food as well.

That day and ever since, I have watched those around me carefully to see what they brought, what they wore, their tools, what they carried, what they ate.  I look for ideas and then modify my pack. Sometimes, I add things that others don’t have.  My strap, which I carry in a pocket, has led to many more straps being brought, used to pull logs, which is better than using one’s back.  I’m glad for that. Some guys now have a strap in their pocket, like I have, and get it out before I do. The other day, one guy brought a pad to kneel on when he was sawing. More than one has thought about getting a pair of Bucket Boss knee pads that now I frankly don’t want to be out in the woods without.  It takes me a full ten minutes to get ready to work after I arrive at the trailhead, and I am not alone in needing that time. I have to lace up my boots, which I kept loose on the drive there. Then I put on gaiters, which keep my legs free of mud, keep my legs a little warmer, drier, and make it more difficult for my boots to become untied, even with double knots.

I have forearm protectors which are elastic, strong, and also warm.  They prevent my bleeding  on my sleeves from every bump I get.  A balaclava goes around my neck, because it is warm, doesn’t cling, and the thin hat can be worn under my hardhat, should I desire. I bring four pairs of gloves, long rubber ones, a pair of deerskin ones, which are better for sawing and don’t tolerate wetness as well, and thicker pair of warm ones that take forever to dry, so I don’t wear them often, and a pair of $4.95 gloves that I bought at True Value, that I wear most of the time. They are strong, protective, and dry in 2 days if they get wet. 

For lunch, I add an additional sandwich, a protein bar in mid-morning, another one at lunch, a large apple, and if I have any chocolate I wouldn’t normally eat, well, that comes along, too. Amazing how good that tastes. I usually leave something in the vehicle to eat on the drive home.

Rain and mud, Oregon’s autumn duo, is challenging. I used a pair of old rain pants, held together by duct tape, for two seasons. They worked but nothing lasts forever, not even my clothes, much as I try. I have others, but they are for hiking, not for kneeling in the mud that clearing trails requires.  I noted rubber gear some were wearing, the suspender pants, and asked one member of the Crew where he bought them. He told me, and I went to the store, where they had good country clothing, and bought a heavy waterproof jacket. The problem now is we often have warmer temperatures out there, and a heavy coat gets too warm. So, I asked another where he got what he was wearing, and I went the other direction to Springfield and tried on rubber Granyte Gear rain clothing. The first pair I tried on was OK, didn’t quite fit as well as I hoped, but then I saw some on another rack half the price, and when I tried on pants and jacket they both fit, so I brought them home. 

The first day I wore them was at Fall Creek, a wet outing where we were logging out part of the beginning of the long national scenic trail. We had to do trail building around cut out stumps, walk on muddy areas and the gear was great. I fell four times but stayed dry and warm.  I didn’t wear my jacket much, because it wasn’t actively raining most of the time.  I washed off everything when I got home. This was good stuff.

The author at Fall Creek, repairiing the trail after the logout.

A week later, we were a little south at Winberry Tie Trail, off Forest Road 18, and FS 150, a smaller road that led to a not well used road that we logged out last spring just to be able to drive on it. I can get my car up there, although it isn’t what a Camry was designed for.  The day I drove it to the work site, it was raining hard, and when I went up the muddy road, I saw a new indicator light on the dash flashing. It was telling me I was skidding, which was fairly obvious. Still, I got up to the work spot, put on my matching green jacket, and was ready for work. 

Winberry Tie Trail, part III after log out in June

When it rained, I left the jacket on, and I was dry.  None of this trying to figure out what was sweat and what was rain. I was dry, as I dug out the strong side of the trail, scraped organic material off, and knelt down on the muddy tread to throw stuff off the outer side of the trail. I was on my knees for about 40 yards, and with my pads and the pants, I was in good shape.  When the rain stopped, I took the jacket off and draped it over my definitely not waterproof pack. For lunch, I still had my foam pad to sit on, but now it was protecting me from hard points, not wetness, since my pants were able to do that. I was dressed like the other guys, which out there is something I want to do. The one pocket is in the middle at chest level, and I keep my phone in there along with a strap. It is difficult at times extracting my phone from a pocket when I want to take a picture; now it is accessible. 

At Lower Rosary Lake, doing a last minute log out of the PCT, 4 December 2021

The following week, we brushed out the road, so cars and trucks may now easily get to the work site. It took three of us 3 hours to do the nearly two miles, but now the road doesn’t have cut logs that one has to dodge.  The week after, there was an active snow-rain mix when we started, and for once, I wasn’t a bit concerned about the weather. I was warm, dry, and I would get muddy, perhaps, but I wasn’t going to get wet, while I operated the Stihl power brusher.

Clearing the road

That was mostly true, although I had my right hand exposed for awhile trying to get the vest on properly that attaches me to the brusher. My fingers were cold when I put the gloves on, which didn’t warm them much at all. At one point, I adjusted my ear plugs, except I couldn’t feel my ears. That was weird. No frostbite, but no feeling either. I warmed up my fingers by breathing on them, and for the next half hour was most uncomfortable with the needle like sensation of warming fingers. I’ve used hand warmers at the vaccination clinics, and they will now go with me to the work site.

Power brushing the trail in December (2200′ elevation).

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