Big Trees Go Boom

During our week in the Glacier Peak Wilderness clearing trees, our goal was to clear three trees during our five workdays.  Anything beyond that was gravy.

When we heard that, we wondered what we had got ourselves into.  That and the thought seemed a bit silly.

Until we walked up to the first two trees, some 2.5 miles uphill from camp.

That’s me, standing in the middle of what was the tread of the Pacific Crest Trail.

That massive fir tree lying on its side in the background fell in high winds, splintering some 8-10′ off the ground and falling towards the trail.  It appeared to have clipped the cedar on its way down, causing the cedar to fall.  The cedar’s rootball undercut the trail, so when it fell, it ripped up the trail with it.  Some 40′ up trail, the massive fir lay across the trail, trapped against other trees and blocking the trail.

This was our job for what would be three full days of work for seven people.

Hikers had made their way around the root ball.  Our initial thought was to trim thr root ball and reroute the trail around it.  But that massive rock on the right would have been right in the middle of the trail, still making it impassive for equestrians and pack animals.  So the trees had to go.

I didn’t document the remainder of the day, mainly because the battery on my phone died right after taking those two pictures. But we were busy, too.

We trimmed and trimmed and trimmed the root ball, cleared as much dirt and rocks as we could from between the roots and dug and dug and dug, trying to sever the remaining roots that were still in the ground.

Day 2 saw more of the same, including some prep work on the massive fir tree.  That work included debarking and digging access channels for the old crosscut saw that we would be using. 

The root ball trimmed and cleaned, ready to roll.  The lever would be joined with several others to help us roll the root ball down the hill once we cut the trunk so that the root ball was free.

Also, we had a little bit of mechanical help.  Our crew leader happened to be an engineer with a rock climbing background. So ropes, harnesses and logs were put to use.

Even with these advantages, once we started, it still took all seven of us the better part of 2 hours to roll the ball down the slope. Levering a few degrees, a few inches at a time, adjusting leverage and push points, then a few more degrees and inches.

Finally, with our strength rapidly evaporating, we got that last big rotation, enough that everyone had that big surge of adrenaline, keeping the momentum going and sending the root ball rolling a few feet down the slope.

Two full days complete, except for the 2.5 mile hike downhill to camp.

The third day meant that we had the big fir to clear. We expected it to take all day to make the three necessary cuts. That was the right call. 

Making the tree look like a porcupine. 

Keeping the saw moving, even in the least ergonomic positions.

Seven people, three cuts, all day, to clear a 43″ circumference tree.

You can see the cleared cedar tree in the background. 

Looking down trail after the trees were cleared and the trail rebuilt. 

And finally, looking up trail.  Note the boulder to the right, which was in the middle of the impromptu trail in the second picture above.

Seven people, all volunteers from different walks of life, taking three days to clear tons of deadfall, turning an absolute mess into a passable, clear trail for hikers and equestrians. 

A great way to spend three days.

A Week In The Woods

My office last week was in the North Cascades, a solid day’s drive across the state.

I was there with six other volunteers to clear deadfall trees off the Pacific Crest Trail  (PCT).  All of the trees that we would eventually clear were new, as neither Goddess or I recall having to hurdle any on that stretch last September. 

The commute to our base camp was nice.  A 10-mile hike in, aided by volunteers from the Backcountry Horsemen, who carried our tools, food and kitchen tent to the site.

They would come in at the end of the week to haul stuff out.  With much lighter panniers, I know a few of the workers took advantage and threw their work boots and things in for a lighter hike out.

Once we arrived at base camp, everyone set up their sleep shelters (tent or hammock), then pitched in to set up the rest of camp.  We were rewarded with a huge pot of chili full of fresh ingredients. 

We wouldn’t be rewarded with a view of Glacier Peak until mid-week.

Little did we know how much work we would have to do before seeing the mountain. 

Gone Fishin’

Heh, not really.  I thought about that too late and didn’t have time to get my license and extra food.  So no fishing.

As always, Goddess is a Goddess and back at the house, taking care of the remainder of the unpacking, organizing and downsizing.

Instead, I am disconnected and in the wilderness for 10 or so days.  Ten days of looking at beautiful landscapes. 

Views that I didn’t pay too much mind to last year, as I was recovering from whatever illness I had on trail. A section where we were lucky to make 10 miles a day, thanks to that illness.

 Not to mention the seemingly unending miles of deadfall on the trail, slowing what little progress we were making.

A section so in need of maintenance for years that pissed me off so bad that I had mentally divorced the Pacific Trail Association  (PCTA), even as we were raising funds so they could get crews out to maintain the trail.

Instead of just moaning about it, I am out there this week fixing what pissed me off about it.

Hopefully you are able to get out and change something that has bothered you.

First Aid

Our poor back country first aid kit had been raided over the past 9 months or so since we finished our thru-hike.

It’s time for it to be replenished.

Actually, rebuilt.

First, some of the important things.

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No, that is not all.  But close. 

The most important part, the training, can’t be shown here.  But a class like the National Outdoor Leadership School’s Wilderness First Aid (WFA, pronounced “Wu-Fa”) helps build the confidence you need to go out in the backcountry with such a minimal kit.

The class was a requirement laid down by Goddess before she would step a single step on the thru-hike. We’re both glad we did, just as we are glad that we didn’t have any serious issues to deal with on the trail.

And before anyone asks – yes, the Spider Man bandages are very important!

Can’t See For The Seagulls

The downside to being at the beach is that these dang seagulls keep popping into the views.

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Even when we visited Haystack Rock to try and see nesting puffins, it was gulls, gulls, gulls.

At least the gulls were easy to pick out amongst the nesting cormorants and common murres.

The puffins?  Just a quick glance of a handful as they flew from the rock.  Even the experienced bird watchers were getting skunked.

At least there were gulls.

Sunset/Sunrise

Different views from the same spot of land.

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Hyatt Lake, Jackson County, Oregon, site of this past weekend’s Pacific Crest Trail Association Trail Skills College, where Goddess and I spent many hours in classes covering various trail rehabilitation topics.

Plus, the pictures are symbolic of our activities this week.  Details soon.