Witt’s Chainsaw Rides Again!

674FD479-3B12-4A64-B575-3B54601B9B63_1_201_a

That white glaze isn’t frosting.  It’s ice which atomizes when the teeth bite in.

Appalachian Trail, Northern Virginia, January 21, 2020 — The thermometer was slinking past 19 degrees this morning when we crunched gravel in the Keys Gap trailhead parking lot.  We were on a search and destroy mission to clear six blowdowns on the AT.

8C779691-6A3A-4D77-A6D0-A72E1EC5A83F

The frosty air pinched our noses as we rucked up the chainsaw and all its trimmings.  The first blowdown was quick on the march.  The white stuff is ice.

BEE09B30-F4AD-4C54-B1BB-4FD1D23BDC36

The chainsaw makes quick work of these guys.

7BE44550-831D-423E-AFBD-43567D83F7E2

All clear.  The next five were attacked in quick succession.

CAAA9CC5-A0EA-400A-8F2F-46BAA76156AB

One side down.

2CCCC99D-6C56-4653-B81E-C62879A959D4_1_201_a

Side two.  The round, or the middle chunk of log we removed, had to be cut in half.  It was too heavy to manhandle out of the way.

485484E1-FBE6-4812-AD00-2023A81F85EA_1_201_a

The formula is simple.  Convert gasoline to noise.  Noise is a catalyst that converts wood to sawdust.  Done.

Sisu

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

 

 

 

 

Govmint is shutdown. Now what?

fullsizeoutput_1d5c

My chainsaw weighs 11 lbs. including the hard plastic sheath on the bar.  If you carry one far enough on your shoulder, it can rub you raw.

Home, January 8, 2019 — Part of the federal government is shutdown over a political dispute.  I have strong views, but won’t share them here.  This blog is about protecting and preserving hiking trails and related matters.

The 31 maintaining clubs that perform trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail (AT) operate under agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the nonprofit tasked by the NPS to manage the trail.

My club, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), is responsible for maintaining most of the hiking trails in the Washington, D.C. region including 240 miles of the AT, 102 of which are in Shenandoah National Park.

The club’s activities in Shenandoah are sanctioned under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for maintenance activities and for managing rental cabins.  We have a separate Cooperative Agreement to manage the ridgerunner program.  These are legal documents that spell out the rules of the road for us and for the park.

One benefit of volunteering in the park is that we are covered under the Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program.  There is a similar VIF program for national forests.  Essentially we have workman’s comp coverage when engaged in officially sanctioned activities.

With the government shutdown, our VIP coverage is suspended.  Accordingly, we aren’t allowed to volunteer.  The last thing I would want is to get kicked out of the park and probably out of the club for doing something I’ve been officially asked not to do.

img_3365

Hiking with my Kevlar safety chaps on backward.

Back to humping chainsaws.  When you have to hike in a long way, some of us stuff our saws in old frame packs for easier carrying.  The also make it easier to carry the safety gear, first aid kit, lunch, plus extra fuel and bar oil.

But, there are times when throwing the saw on your shoulder happens.

img_3396

With little to do today, I decided to make a chainsaw pad out of leftover carpet pad from the recently installed carpet in the basement.

fullsizeoutput_1d9a

First I cut a hunk of spare pad to size.

fullsizeoutput_1d9d

Checking the fit.

fullsizeoutput_1da0

Preparing to tape it together.  The plastic vapor barrier side goes on the inside.

fullsizeoutput_1da5

So far, so good.

fullsizeoutput_1da9

After taping the seam, duct tape makes the outer layer.

fullsizeoutput_1daa

Done.

img_3408

It fits.

 

Storm Clean up

fullsizeoutput_1d5b

South District, Shenandoah National Park, Appalachian Trail, November 30, 2018 — The east coast got smacked with an early season snow storm a little more than a week ago.  The Washington area escaped major impact, but it hammered the south district of Shenandoah between Stanardsville and Waynesboro, VA. and cities to our north.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature

Photo courtesy Shenandoah National Park

Heavy snow and high winds crushed the softer trees leaving hundreds of them blocking  Skyline Dr., the road that runs 105 miles from one end of the park to the other.  The park trail crews report that the downed trees resembled a military abitis that runs for miles along the road.  Abitis definition at this link.

Leave it to the park crews to painstakingly clear the road quarter mile at a time.  Each tree must be bucked and chipped.  That’s a slow process.

Meanwhile, enough of Skyline, from Swift Run Gap south, had been cleared to permit the PATC to begin clearing the AT.  The supervisor of trails in coordination with the south district manager called for sawyers and swampers.

Sawyers are club members certified by the National Park Service to safely operate a chainsaw.  Swampers help the sawyers by removing slash and trunk rounds from the trail.  The plan was to attack the afflicted area from both ends.

As the supervisor of trails reported yesterday:  “We met at Swift Run Gap at 8:30am today and had 22 PATC members ready to work. Ten were certified chain saw operators including six District Managers.

We were limited as to parking shuttle cars because of the clearing of Skyline Drive and this constrained the amount of trail we could cover. The AT is clear from Swift Run Gap to Simmons Gap a distance of nine miles.

There is another group working from Rockfish Gap north and I don’t have any information on their progress right now. The main problem appears to be further south toward Rockfish Gap where the blow downs are quite severe.

Skyline Drive is not open for other than emergency travel and the clearing is very slow. The park maintenance crews and back country trail staff are responsible for that clearing. We will schedule another work trip later this week.”

IMG_3323

Sawyers are distinguished by their red Kevlar chaps.

We divided into crews.  My crew consisted of three sawyers and three swampers.  We worked northward from Powell Gap to Smith-Roach Gap – about a mile and one-third. Other crews worked elsewhere.

The swampers were all experienced trail overseers and knew how to get after the work at hand.  They brought their pruning saws, loppers and other trail tools which allowed them cleared several blowdowns by themselves.

IMG_3329

With one exception, our blowdowns were smaller trees snapped or bent over across the trail.  These are tedious to clear, our three two-person sawyer/swamper teams worked quickly and efficiently.

IMG_3328

This is one blowdown we tackled with two sawyers, one on each side.  Hidden within these tangles are branches loaded with weight called spring poles.  They can whip around hard enough to cause serious injury when their energy is released.  Sawyers are trained to find them, but they are hard to read in tangles like this.  Each sawyer reported being surprised by more than one, including me.

IMG_3322

All told, our crew removed 27 blowdowns in just over one mile.

fullsizeoutput_1d5c

Sawyer PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) consists of leather boots, Kevlar chaps, leather gloves, helmet, face shield, and ear muffs.

Stay tuned for follow on trips.  We’ll be at this for awhile.

Sisu