Caroline is a beast!
Shenandoah National Park, March 19, 2022 — The daffodils are up and so is the Hoodlums trail crew. Yesterday 26 Hoodlums gathered in three different places to begin spring cleaning on the north district’s hiking trails.
The three groups gathered at the North Marshall trail head, Piney Ridge and the Pass Mountain blue blaze trail. My assignment was to report to North Marshall where Caroline and I won the bonus prize of breaking big rocks into little ones with sledgehammers!
Ultimately fate spared us and our mission changed. We were dispatched on a blowdown search and destroy mission. So, that’s the story we can tell.
Photo by Mike Gergely
The Pass Mountain crew, led by Head Hoodlum and north district blue blaze district manager, Noel Freeman, removes a large locust blocking the trail. The trail is in a federally designated wilderness, so muscle-powered tools are required.
While everyone else was “working,” Caroline and I were eating blowdowns for lunch with my Stihl MS 261 with a 20″ bar. That’s the military equivalent of an 8 inch howitzer.
Our itinerary included a big honker on the Gravel Spring hut blue blaze access trail, a smaller one on the AT near the Keyser Run parking access trail and several near Beahms Gap and Neighbor Mountain. We left for our first objective at 0920.
A hiker told us the blowdown at Gravel was near the bottom so we used the fire road to get closer. Oops. Not so fast. The tree broke apart after we sawed it. Made it easier to move for sure.
The tree we were after was a hundred yards up hill from the hut. The double trunk and the slope made bucking this one a little more challenging than normal. The base was about 20″, making the salami slices large and heavy. Caution required.
We’re not fake news. Not every chunk we moved went as smoothly as the one at the top of this page.
In this case, Caroline is the “swamper” or sawyer’s helper. Her job is to caddy the saw, and help remove the debris.
Ultimately the path was cleared. The two blowdowns near Gravel Spring consumed nearly an entire tank of gas. In comparison, I can usually saw for an entire day on a single tank. We finished at 1140 and drove to Keyser Run parking for lunch.
Our next objective seemed fairly simple, but it wasn’t. The fall created several spring poles, live trees bent over and held down. Spring poles can be very dangerous. The amount of energy stored in any one of them can be shocking. Don’t let the size of these saplings fool you.
Caroline checks out one of the spring poles. She was surprised at how much energy was released when I demonstrated an improper cut on one of the tiny ones.
The first blowdown at Beahms Gap. It was a single cut. The rest were similar. Nothing found on the hike over Neighbor Mountain. Time out: 1530.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Mother Nature never seems to run out of blowdowns. That said, Caroline was disappointed that she didn’t get to bust rocks. Maybe next time…