May 2 – 9, 2012
After a short break, we were back; this time, with chainsaws in our hands. I admit that we were all excited and anxious to fire up those machines. We were lucky to have Hotshot Captain Stenmo as our S212 instructor; he filled our first day with a vast amount of information, covering chainsaw maintenance and safety, all incorporated through stories from his years of experience running a saw. The second day we turned on the saws, learned to start reading the trees, calculating tension, compression, and potential movement in every piece of timber before we began to cut. Everyone passed the final test and despite the PDB in the work area, we all successfully avoided it.
Once we were done with training, we said good-bye to Chilao Fire Station and set up camp at Vogel Flats picnic area in Big Tujunga Canyon. Cool, windy nights and tall Ponderosas were replaced with warm evenings and acres of chaparral. The fire season was getting under way, and Engine 13 out of Big Tujunga Fire Station welcomed us to the area, offering a place for showers and laundry. And good company.
It was hard the first few days, working in the sun, clearing away the trails that through years of neglect had completely grown over. The erosion in some areas required the team to think together on the best way to incorporate long-term solutions in a landscape still recovering from the devastation of a fire. We began on Stone Canyon Trail; we couldn’t find the trailhead and the first mile was completely overgrown. We finished clearing the first mile, building a beautiful 25ft drainage, and flagging sections that required further attention; then we moved to Trail Canyon. The trail was even more overgrown and the clearing went slowly; yet the days were easier, as the trail follows the creek for the first mile and a cool breeze occasionally came from it.
By the end of the hitch, everyone was exhausted and a few shades darker. Showers were salvation on days when poison oak and ashy dust clung to our skin. Upon return to Chilao Wednesday evening, we were working together to become prepared for a hot, sunny summer of work.