Shenandoah National Park, Skyline Drive near Thornton Gap, December 29, 2022 — Could a wood chipper be a bird? The name sounds like it might be. In this case the yellow breasted wood chipper is a machine whose song sounds like it is loudly clearing its throat every time you stuff a chunk of wood into its famished gut. Hearing protection required.
A dozen Hoodlums gathered Thursday to answer the park’s call for volunteer help.
We come organized teams, trained, equipped with organic leadership and experience following park safety protocols. We require no supervision in most cases, but we’re used to working along side our park service counterparts. It really doesn’t get better than that.
On Thursday, we divided into two teams, a small chainsaw team and the larger group to feed the chipper starting at Thornton Gap, headed north toward Beahms Gap.
There’s more wood down than one would imagine. It’s important to clear, not only the drive, but the road margins where seasonal mowers need to work. In some places, that doubles the area requiring clean up.
It’s a slow, mind-numbing stoop labor dance done to the brrrrrrrt and rhythm of the wood chipper’s song. Hey, somebody’s got to do it and it brings us together for another adventure.
In some places the sun has melted the ice and snow while in those mostly shady areas, in spite of the higher temperatures the past couple of days, it’s going to be awhile before the ice and snow are gone.
It’s like a chain gang on an endless play loop – see stick, walk to stick, pick up stick, take stick to chipper, put stick into chipper, chipper burps thank you – played over and over.
The park served us a warm lunch at the Pass Mountain overlook. We could finally reminisce with our ear muffs off. Then we were back at it.
Team work as Wayne Limberg, AT District Manager, and Caroline Egli stuff the chipper.
At one point the chipper broke. My completely uninformed guess is a sheer pin. Fortunately a spare was strategically located at Thornton Gap. Unfortunately is was a less powerful model that seemed to regurgitate mulch rather than spray it. While we were waiting we decided to dump some logs into the woods.
Looking at the large logs, I was thinking it was a good time to capture some video for this blog. For the record, I rolled my share over the edge. Note the sound of the frozen green log as it hits the icy pavement.
Not all logs are equal.
New chipper at work. The flywheel takes a bit to recover energy. The line looks like restroom queue.
Shortly after 3 p.m., we called it a day. The Hoodlums would be back in the morning.