Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Team Buzzsaw

Jeff carries a cross-cut saw across a log spanning a creek.
I left you hanging with me stranded at a trailhead with a bunch of strangers and Amanda driving off to Seattle. Technically, it was true, these were a bunch of strangers, but being part of a Washington Trails Association (WTA) work party, clearly they were good people.

Gary was leading this expedition, eleven of us in total. Our mission: To log out the Pacific Crest Trail from Lemah Meadows to Solo Tarn where we heard reports of countless trees blocking the trail. We were loggers.

Gary separated us into smaller groups--three groups of three and one group of two--and I was hooked up with the husband and wife team of Larry and Marcella. Each team would carry one cross-cut saw (kind of a requirement for logging, no two ways around that!), so Larry carried the saw. Marcella carried an axe. And I grabbed the grub-hoe and loppers. I worried about the loppers--I wanted to log out trails, I didn't want to be stuck cutting back vegetation, and really, that's all the loppers were good for. So I was a little hesitant about taking those at all, but Marcella seemed keen on bringing them along and since my pack was unusually light (I left most of my backpacking here four miles up the trail at Pete Lake), I volunteered to carry it.

I had the choice of a pulaski and a grub-ho for the other tool I would carry, and ultimately settled on the grub-ho because it was lighter. I kind of assumed that a pulaski would be more useful since it had an axe on one side, but that seemed redundant since Marcella already carried a dedicated axe. So I wound up carrying two tools that I felt better suited for building tread and cutting back vegetation than logging.

All of our tools were hand tools. We would be hiking into a wilderness area where gas-powered tools such as chainsaws are not permitted. Everything had to be done the old fashioned way, which frankly, is the way I like it best. Chainsaws are so loud, obnoxious, and noisy. A cross-cut saw might be slower, but I enjoyed it more.

We all carried Corona handsaws--perhaps the most useful tool for loggers other than the cross-cut saw itself.

This little fellow decided to visit me while
I was sitting in the sun waiting for the
rest of Team Buzzsaw to catch up. =)
It wasn't until a couple of days later that I got to thinking about our team--Larry, Marcella, and myself--and brought up the idea of a team name. Larry suggested Team Buzzsaw, and I immediately agreed. I think Marcella rolled her eyes at this point, which I took as her sign of "Okay, whatever." =) So we became Team Buzzsaw, but for the first couple of days, we had no name.

Gary asked me how the trail ahead was and if there were any logs blocking the Pete Lake Trail--our side trail to the PCT. I told him about one log crossing the trail, suspended about chest high stuck between several trees, just past Pete Lake. Beyond that, I didn't know the condition of the trail.

"Well, maybe we can do something about that tree."

Yes, maybe we could. We had cross-cut saws now. =)

With safety talks over, tools handed out, and teams assigned, we headed out.

The hike was non-eventful. We all hiked at our own pace, and I jumped ahead near the end to retrieve the gear I left at Pete Lake. I was stunned, however, to see that the tree blocking the trail I had described so vividly to the others had already been cut down! What the hell happened? It was there four hours earlier when I hiked out, and it was obvious that someone had come along and cut it out, but who? Where? The only people around was the camp of Boy Scouts on Pete Lake. Did they do that for a merit badge or something? At least they would have done something useful than take up large quantities of space in the backcountry, but I was a little disappointed that we couldn't cut it out ourselves.

I repacked my backpack with all my gear--all 42 pounds of it--and walked back to the tree where the rest of Team Buzzsaw was admiring the work.

"Is this the tree you were talking about?" they asked.

This would be Team Buzzsaw's first challenge.
"Yep, and I'm absolutely baffled at what happened. I swear, just four hours ago, this tree was BLOCKING the trail!"

We continued up the trail where, a short ways up, we caught up with two woman who were logging out another tree blocking the trail. The tree fairies! I knew they existed! They worked for the forest service or something and had been told that a pack string of horses needed to get up to Lemah Meadows so they were sent in to clear the trail for horses. A misunderstanding, to be sure, and they were doing all of the work we intended to do. Once that was all settled, though, they left the rest of the trees for us and they started working on other trail maintenance projects.

Team Buzzsaw did cut out two logs blocking the trail that afternoon on our way to Lemah Meadows, and the sheer number of logs blocking the short path between Pete Lake and Lemah Meadows was encouraging. Looks like we'd have plenty of work ahead. =)

The trees we cut out weren't particularly noteworthy. The rested on largely flat ground, they weren't especially large, nor posed any technical difficulties. Just a couple of average, run-of-the-mill fallen trees for Team Buzzsaw to get its hands dirty and get used to working together. =)

In related news, if you want to help fund this kind of important trail work, please consider sponsoring Amanda and myself in the WTA's annual Hike-a-Thon! These tools aren't free, and it helps enormously to keep our hiking trails open for business--especially as state and federal governments get stingier about funding trail maintenance.

Here we've cut out the log and put a skidder under it to help us roll it off the trail.

The view from camp near Lemah Meadows.


Anonymous said...

The butterfly is called a "Question Mark." Lucky!

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert, but it may well be a comma. Either one is nice on a sleeve.

Ryan said...

Question marks and commas? =) Ha! Let's just call it an exclamation mark!!!!! =)

-- Ryan