Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Trail Keepers, Sawyers, and Volunteers ~ A Study in the Field

This is Crabtree Falls. It is not in our section, but is a nearby trail and waterfall.
I thought with the upcoming "Big Push" volunteer weekend near this would be motivational!
(see side bar for information on the Big Push and how you can volunteer to help too).
On Sunday a team of volunteers (bikers, hikers, helpers, and yours truly :) led by Greg and Chase (two mentors from the National Forest Service, NFS) worked to clear the trail to the falls. After the winter storms the trail was nearly impassable at some points.
The first tree fall we worked was a straight forward cut.
Shaun began bucking this tree at the center of the trail.
Good form and skill cut right through this tree.
Finishing off the second cut was as easy as the first cut had been.
Until, when in the drop, the saw blade was pinched.
This problem was simple and solved quickly with a wedge hammered in to gain release.
Does anyone know this wildflower? It was in abundance in the section we were working last Sunday. I also spotted wild sarsaparilla, dwarf crested iris, and pink ladies slippers.
(I have been informed this is Wood Betony, or Lousewort.) Thanks Jim and Paul!
This Ice fall dropped a tremendous tree right in the middle of the trail and along the length. This was an oak, about 30 inches in diameter, and must have been at least 75 years old.
The trunk size and lay was only part of the story. The entire top landed in the trail as well!
It is important to take a break frequently and we gave it up for a few minutes. In the break Chase provided one of the best demonstrations of "in the field chain sharpening" I have ever seen done.
He talked us through his technique
and we were able to see the edge being repaired before our eyes as he explained the process.
A firm stroke, a roll to the file, and on to the next tooth.
We cleaned it up good and moved forward on the trail toward the falls.
As we approached the falls a decision was made to make one last cut for the day. As trail lore and logger tales have it, that is always the most difficult problem of the day. And so did this turn out to be.
In this picture you can see a classic problem, chainsaw pinched in a bind between cuts. It is not a problem caused by mistakes necessarily, but a reality of the variety of challenges trail work incurs.

If you know sawing, you will note there was a slip notch (wedge cut) made above in the compression. This lay produced compression on the top and tension on the bottom. But when the undercut was made, the upper piece slid downhill and pinched the blade.
With the use of a wedge and an amazing understanding and knowledge of chainsawing Chase demonstrated how to solve the problem. He made a high cut, drove in the wedge with an axe, and voila'....
Out drops the saw!
Finishing up the challenge before an audience is always pressure. We had held back several groups of hikers who wanted to pass but the work area was not secure or safe yet.
Chase finished cleaning up and we let the hikers pass, problem solved.
And now the falls for your viewing pleasure.
I had never seen these falls, so it was quite a nice reward after 2 hours of driving and 6 hours of cutting to stand cool and refreshed beneath this 75 foot waterfall.

Can you hear the sounds of rushing, falling, cascading waters?

This weekend sawyers from across the state will come to work on the Watauga Section and the South Ashe section of the MST. Allen DeHart, John Lanman, and Jim Hallsey are co-ordinating this opportunity.
Contact information can be found in the Big Push Saw information at the top of this blog.
Volunteers are needed in many ways and I hope you will come out to help us.

Thanks in advance to all the volunteers. May your weekend be safe, and cool, and inspiring, and exhausting. Enjoy your time in the high country.

Check the weather at the top right corner of the opening page. Rays Weather is the best and most accurate source for weather information in these mountains. It will be cool, chilly if wet, but you will work up a sweat in the heat of the day. Bring layers you can peel off, wear clothe that wick, and expect a shower at any moment day or night~!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Building and Recovering our Trail

There is so much going on this month on our trail. While most of what we see is the trail construction process. Building a trail also involves planning, organizing, politicking, and cooperation.
Recently John Lanman, Jim Hallsey, Shelton Wilder, and David Anderson met and walked sections of the trail in preparation for approval requests.
Discussions of details for completion and surveys and access were held in the field.
John, on the left above is the Watauga Task Force Leader and Jim, on the right above is the Ashe County Task Force Leader. These two have been coordinating efforts to open a 26 mile stretch of the MST in the High Country by October. The countless hours of planning and work that they give to this project is commendable at the highest level of appreciation.
David works for the NPS and is charged with many duties. This day he was assisting us in planning and GPS coordinating the walkable sections for future mapping.
Here David is checking the coordinates for a parkway boundary marker at the edge of a right of way along our trail.
But, getting there is no fast process. Our sawyers continue to remove winter debris.
Gerry has worked hard on the first three sections and made tremendous progress.
Here is an example of a Level 3 challenge on the Big Wall Section that Sawyer Chris has been clearing.
Chris had to examine this pickup stick pile of large hardwoods that have criss crossed and blocked our trail.
Just to give you a scale of the challenge, Shelton compares the size of this huge locust.
Here Chris takes a much needed break. Chris has the most skill and is the best sawyer in our team. I am amazed at the work he and Marietta and friends have been able to get done this month.
Here Marietta follows up behind Chris as he cuts, she clears. Such excellent team work moves our trail forward and southward!
This time of year it is not all work. One of the joys of being on the trail and in nature is the discovery of the wildflowers coming into blossom. This trillium above is one of many varieties we have along our trail.
The native dogwoods are in bloom this first week in May.
Here is a challenge, don't scroll down yet!
What is this wildflower which is about to unfold?

Yep, a Jack in the Pulpit blossom.
For a sense of scale an insight to the beauty, this calyx has been pulled back so you might see "Jack"
in his pulpit. Hope to see you on the trail soon!