The AT’s Newest Sawyer

a344707c-6a76-4f66-8b0a-ce9e50ec5f96.jpeg

Appalachian Trail, The Rollercoaster, Virginia, December 28, 2019 —  Some folks who spend time preserving and protecting hiking trails are possessed by the demons of perfectionism.

Knowing something isn’t right is like an itch they can’t scratch.  They obsess about it until whatever ‘it’ is, is fixed.  In this case ‘it’ was blowdowns.

Pair uncleared blowdowns with a newly certified sawyer itching to practice, and a chainsaw gets to go for a hike along with a couple of enthusiastic swampers !

DSC00666

By way of introduction, our sawyer is Witt Wisebram who was last season’s ridgerunner in Northern Virginia and ultra distance runner.  The Atlanta native is now the winter caretaker at the Blackburn Trail Center.

866AE45F-16AA-41BA-AA45-0CCC6595BFAB

A “pie cut,” sometimes called a wedge cut, is used because the bind is on top and the log isn’t thick enough to use wedges.  It’s too close to the ground to attack from underneath.

The first few blowdowns were little more than a nuisance to hikers.  They are step-overs that can be ignored, at least the small ones can.  They are removed because they can cause erosion.  The greater challenge for the sawyer on this type of blowdown is to avoid sawing rocks and dirt.

14418FA1-E26F-49F2-984C-BEE47F591CC9

This tree trunk blocks the trail.  There’s no way around it.  It’s equally difficult to crawl over or under.  Because it’s a “leaner,” care is taken to read it in terms of bind, how the log will behave once the tension is released, including whether it might roll.

You also want to keep your feet out from under the top section of the trunk which will hit the ground with a heavy thud.

62E6BCD9-58EB-41BA-B68F-395D7D484B21

The pie cut missed but the angle cut worked anyway.  Experience gained.  Witt’s friend Jason congratulates!

2E788618-107F-445D-B2A9-37CCC3B88ACA

Clean up.

B8CCD5F6-9430-4AB5-BD64-FF4E268DC3F2

Finishing the job.

24E9335A-2CA4-4E9A-A1E3-F8E59FEA27A9

Funny how they seem to fall perpendicular to the treadway.

D6BA37E9-C4D4-4907-AF4F-82E917BFE277

Blowdowns come in all sizes.  Witt captured the white blaze for display at Blackburn.

5AA2DFFE-E093-44D0-BF8B-AEE48AD909A1

People have been painting rocks and leaving them along the trail as decorations.  Now it’s golf balls.

54FF6CA8-3E17-4BD4-8047-CE6A1C9F3EFF

This is how we found it.  Needless to say we packed it out.

6B5D5AB6-EEDB-47A7-A508-CCC76EC7AEED

This large branch buried itself more than a foot into the ground.  It was too big to move without being reduced to bite-size chunks.

E11AEFEC-DA06-4888-B3FF-4B6E180BB541

Mother nature saved the tenth and best blowdown for last.  The bigger ones are more fun to cut.

1EEEA5A2-62B1-4E4B-AD94-B8FD49587276

A log this large – in this case about three inches thicker than the length of the chainsaw bar – sometimes the round will bind and not drop to the ground.  An inverse keystone cut is used to ensure the cut out section falls to the ground.

5AFA2BDC-78A9-485A-A30F-D8DAFE6485FF

Note the end of the bar is not sticking out. That means the sawyer has to cut from both sides.

967168D7-C9E5-4441-B0C5-8B965435C083

We used wedges to keep the kerf open. It worked as planned.

656612D4-B836-4052-9615-F9729C5EE912

The trail is clear.

Stay tuned for the Gang of Four’s First Day Hike.

Sisu