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 !
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.
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.
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.
The pie cut missed but the angle cut worked anyway. Experience gained. Witt’s friend Jason congratulates!
Finishing the job.
Funny how they seem to fall perpendicular to the treadway.
Blowdowns come in all sizes. Witt captured the white blaze for display at Blackburn.
People have been painting rocks and leaving them along the trail as decorations. Now it’s golf balls.
This is how we found it. Needless to say we packed it out.
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.
Mother nature saved the tenth and best blowdown for last. The bigger ones are more fun to cut.
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.
Note the end of the bar is not sticking out. That means the sawyer has to cut from both sides.
We used wedges to keep the kerf open. It worked as planned.
The trail is clear.
Stay tuned for the Gang of Four’s First Day Hike.