Program Name: Finger Lakes National Forest
Brushed and cleared Interloken trail (2 miles)
Brushed and cleared Backbone trail (1 mile)
Brushed and cleared South Slope trail (.5 miles)
Brushed and cleared George trail (.25 miles)
Brushed and cleared Finger Lakes trail (.5 miles)
Installed Drain Dips (2)
Prepped turnpike materials
Cut rebar (70 pcs.), landscape fabric (140 feet)
Carried turnpike materials to worksite (20 6X6’s .5 miles)
We spent our first day setting up base camp, meeting the USFS staff, and scouting worksites. Rebecca Wright, our agency contact pointed out some trouble spots where horse users were complaining they could not get through the trail. We spent the first few days brushing and clearing these trouble spots on the Interloken and Backbone trails. Scott used the chainsaw to clear a large (14 inch) tree that had fallen across the north end of the Interloken trail blocking access to horseback riders. Both the north end of the Interloken trail and the Backbone trail were completely overgrown with multi-flora rose. We were all pretty scratched up by the rose thorns by the end, but we managed to cut back the multi flora rose off the trail.
After taking care of the trouble areas we moved on to one of our top priorities, the southern end of the Interloken trail to the Burnt Hill trail. The trail runs through mature forest so brushing and clearing the corridor was fairly easy. There wasn’t much underbrush like on the Backbone and the north end of the Interloken, and thankfully no multi flora rose. On Saturday the 5th of June we started building two uphill-side ditches to help dry up so very muddy areas on the Interloken trail. We have not finished them because it rained for the rest of the hitch and the soil became too muddy to work with.
We spent the rest of the hitch brushing and clearing the Southslope trail, the Gorge trail, and prepping turnpiking materials for future projects. The crew spent about a day and a half on the Southslope and Gorge trails. Scott left one afternoon to pick up 6X6’s for turnpiking. On the 7th and 8th day of the hitch we carried 20 6X6’s up the Gorge trail and the Interloken trail to our turnpiking sites. We had to do the half-mile trek 10 times to get all the 6X6’s in. It was hard work. We had to climb some pretty steep hills and navigate some narrow trails to get them in. Everybody was exhausted. We couldn’t even stay awake long enough to watch the sun go down on those nights.
The Ramsey’s Draft team is set to become a band of regular lumberjacks. The place is littered with downed trees. All of which seemed to sacrifice themselves across the main trail in a last ditched effort to keep us away. The photos of what lies ahead are ominous to say the least. Trees that you couldn’t wrap your arms around one after another like track hurdles. Might as well have plopped the Spanish armada down in front of us.
Our job this summer would be no easy task even with a supercharged Stihl and a car eating dinosaur at our disposal. Unfortunately the use of both car eating dinosaurs and chainsaws are strictly prohibited in the wilderness so as to minimize the impact of man and keep things the way that they should be. Fair enough, Looks like we will have to kick it old school. When men (or women) were men (or women). Time to master the lost art of the crosscut saw.
The fine folks at the Forrest Service provided us with three days to learn how to properly use one of these bad boys and pick the brains of the experts. It was by far the most anticipated portion of our SCA training. The restlessness of the previous night was comparable only to Christmas eve 94’ on the brink of a new Huffy.
The first day was in the classroom. We went over everything. Safety. The anatomy of the crosscut saw. Different styles of saws and their uses. Different types of tooth patterns, all the types of handles and how they work. Safety. Then there was saw maintenance. How to sheath your saw. How to carry it properly. How to store and transport it. Safety. We went over bucking techniques. The four bind brothers (top, bottom, side and end). Went over some limbing techniques. Safety. We learned how to swing an axe without swinging it into your shin. There were also a few videos on what to do and what not to do when bucking and felling. And a lot, lot more. Other highlights include me getting stung in the forehead by a hornet and a delicious cake courtesy of Mrs. Irvine.
Day two was bucking. Finally got to go out in the field and cut stuff. We started with axes. Limbed a few downed trees and chopped up the log. The rest of the day we played with the saws. Experimenting with the four bind brothers and how to mitigate them. Learned how and when the wedges come in handy. Encounterd a hive of ground bees that were not stoked on us cutting on their log. Everyone made it out unstung. Exausted, we called it a day.
Day three was felling a certification day. First we went over some felling techniques. My instructor “Slick” demonstrated how use your axe handle as a plumb bob in determining which way the tree wants to fall. He also showed us a trick using a stick to figure out how far away the tree will land. The Slick stick trick if you will. I was skeptical, but I’ll be a monkeys uncle if that tree did not land exactly where we thought it would. Then we went over face cuts and “Gunning” your cut in order to aim where it will fall. Finally it was time to apply what we learned and cut down our own tree under the eyes of Slick and his clipboard for our certification.
Trust me. You haven’t lived until you have brought down a tree the old fashioned way. It is quite rewarding. The whole crosscut certification experience turned more into a lesson on ourselves and what we are capable of than a lesson on cutting down trees. I was honored to participate. Big thanks to Warren, John, and “Slick” for letting us tap into their wealth of knowledge. The Ramseys Draft team is set to become a band of regular lumberjacks. Not even the Spanish Armada can stop us.
This short little five day hitch was to be an exercise in trail corridor clearing, and given that we are one of two28 week looooonnnngggg term teams here in the GWJeff, food purchasing, base camp. And you cant very well have a crosscut saw team sawing un-certified, un-clear, and walking about all willy-nilly in the Wilderness. So with the anticipation of crosscut training looming over our heads we head into the Ramseys Draft (big W) Wilderness, and emerge five days later with a cleaner ,clearer, more structured path on where we are going, the expectations of our crew leader and the desire to get to some big old-timie saws.
Bring on the Misery Whips.
It’s been just over a month since the start of our 6 month journey and our second hitch of the season is nearly over. From our training at the Augusta Hot Shot Base, to getting to know the new neighbors and communities of both Verona and Staunton, Virginia, and finally setting up camp which was recently taken down by our dear friend Brutus the bear, we’ve been through quite a lot in past few weeks. Condensing even the past 10 days of trail work, camping, and wildlife encounters into 3 short paragraphs would be considered quite a feat for many, so I’ll do my best not to digress too much.
I feel it’s necessary to begin with the mass of mating tree frogs and toads which made their nightly rendezvous’ just 15 feet from our tents, which wasn’t the most soothing lullaby at bedtime. On the other hand, for a wildlife photographer who’s obsessed with reptiles and amphibians, it was one of those rare occasions one dreams about. As I made my way to the water’s edge, just a few of the bug-eyed amphibians were singing their eardrum-rattling songs of love. It wasn’t long before the mad dash of mating mongrels was directly at me from all directions. Hundreds of Cope’s/ Common Gray Tree Frogs and American Toads were literally hopping across my feet on their way to revitalizing the dwindling amphibian population. Oh right, digression. I could write about this chaotic yet ever so peaceful occurrence for days, but I suppose I might lose a few readers. Now the quick and dirty on trail work.
With a crew of 6 and the project leader being the only one with any trail work experience whatsoever, I’d have to say we’re off to a great start. We’ve surely faced some challenges and run into a few minor setbacks from dialing in our finished trail to avoiding Brutus and his love for tires but all in all a great learning experience and way to get us accustomed to life in the wild.
In the wilds of Virginia we saw 3 bears, turkeys and a baby copperhead! We completed 300' of trail restoration and finished 560' of new tread.
The team started out the week working on restoring tread that had been constructed 2 years ago. It was a good introduction into how to make a 24" wide out sloped tread with a 45 degree back slope. Our next task was to begin making a new trail. The team is quickly learning how to walk in the woods, shoot the grade, lay out a flag line and build a trail. There is nothing like walking on a beautiful new trail that didn't exist a few days earlier.
On our first day of work we found a small baby copperhead coiled up in the leaves near the trail. The snake stayed in that same spot for the next 2 days. The wildlife is abundant where we are living and working. On our evening walks we saw turkeys, 3 bears, frogs and deer. There is a beautiful meadow a short walk from our camp. Upon further exploration of the meadow we found a small grove of old apple trees. We have big plans for all the fresh apples we will be picking in a few months.
It rained almost every day. But except for one bad thunderstorm the rain didn’t stop us from working. The rain storms are short and refreshing. Even in the pouring rain it’s still hot so getting wet while work just feels great. After the storm the sun comes out again and we dry out all our stuff. The team has a new name, thanks to Amanda, The Mystery Gang. Amanda made us a flag that we keep with us at our campsites all summer.