Monday, June 8, 2009

Catch up time!

Apologies for the complete lack of posts lately, but I've been away from internet access and sleeping in tents for most of the past two weeks. So to play a little catch up...

First, above, are a couple more pictures from our first backcountry trip to Horse Creek. After we got back, I went camping for two nights at Goldbug Hot Springs, which was awesome once again. The water was a little colder because there's so much more runoff from the mountains--(snow is finally melting! the pass from here to Salmon is now pretty much snow free, and the road to Challis (which is closer to us than Salmon but until now had been snowed in) is also open!)--but there was still one pool that was super hot and seriously nice to relax in under the moonlight when the sun went down. It's been staying light until about 10:30pm here, which is crazy and has been causing me to go to bed really late every night! But at least it's finally warm(er), so no complaints. There were also a lot of beautiful flowers blooming in the desert that we hiked through to get to Goldbug, which was cool because I've never really associated that brown arid landscape with a whole lot of beauty. It doesn't look as good in pictures, I guess, but in real life it's actually stunning to see the sun setting purple over an endless sea of sagebrush hills that are dotted with bright pink paintbushes, dusky bitteroots and countless other flowers. Plus the sage smells amazing.

Let see... got back from camping on Tuesday evening and started chainsaw training with the forest service on Wednesday (my birthday!). It was a pretty uneventful birthday, as we spent most of the time just *enjoying* Forest Service powerpoints on proper chainsaw safety. But that evening I played some volleyball, had a cake and two pies made in my honor, and attempted a game of capture the flag but got shut down because we had visitors staying with us and apparently we were being too loud.

But back to chainsaw training: first, I now have so much more respect for the SCA after being trained by them for a week (during work skills training) and then switching over to the Forest Service, who, in comparison, was disorganized, boring and simply didn't care. All us SCA folks got mixed in with some other FS employees who already had chainsaw experience, and the trainer dude had absolutely no patience or consideration for our relative lack of experience. Basically, I held the chainsaw in my hands for all of three minutes, total (during which I learned how to start it and throttle it, then cut one limb off a felled tree and bucked one section of log), after which I was asked to cut down a tree as a test for my certification. Nevermind that I got no practice whatsoever on how to even hold the saw prior to this first test. I ended up doing OK on my first face cut, but on my back cut I misjudged and cut into the 'holding wood' (a big no no) and, to make a long story short, almost got taken out by the tree, which feel 180 degrees from where I intended it to fall.

My second tree that I felled the following day went much better, but I might still get restrictions put on my certification because *I* messed up the first tree. But on the bright side, after we complained on how shitty the Forest Service training was, this wonderful, wonderful woman named Rebecca from the SCA who was visiting us decided to take a day out of her schedule to give us some extra training, since she has a "C" certification (way up there) from the FS for both chain- and crosscut sawyering. Apparently, our project manager, Brian, is also a highly experienced and talened sawyer, so the two of them started from scratch and gave us the basic training that we should have gotten prior to chopping down 60-foot-tall dead pines. We started out taking the saws apart and talking about care and maitenance and it was increeibly interesting--I actually comprehend how a two-stroke engine works and feel fairly confident troubleshooting what the problem might be if my chainsaw were to have issues! For example, I understand the purpose of a sparkplug and what the choke does to the input of fuel and oxygen to the engine and how to make sure the mixture of oil and gas is accurate and all kinds of other grungy mechanical knowledge and it's so exciting!
Ok, maybe not quite so exciting to you all, but it was a revelation to me. So then we practiced different ways to start the saw, practiced bucking and limbing and different felling techniques, and now I feel 100% better about my skills, so even if my certifications sucks, at least I know what I'm doing for the future.
After chainsaw training, a group of about 10 of us went back to Horse Creek to do some trailwork. A trail that had previously been muddy was now, thanks to all the snowmelt, completely submerged. My group was put in charge of a section about an eigth of a mile long that was totally, 100% hidden under mucky, standing water. When I first saw it, my heart fell. I did not think it would be possible to even remotely turn this icky pond back into a trail... and not only into a trail, but into one that would last for, hopefully, decades. But we hauled ass and I am now so, so proud of our work! We constructed a rock turnpike across the whole thing, which involved rolling huge rocks off the mountainside, digging them out and setting them (i.e. digging perfect holes that they'll sit in without rocking--harder than it sounds) in the muck in two lines, then filling in the middle with pounds of pounds of rock crush that we made with sledgehammers and hauled in buckets. Then covering it all up with sand, which we also dug and hauled. I felt like a pack mule of a while (I swear, I must've carried at least 100 buckets of rocks and dirt) and got completely soaked and filthy covered with mud, but it was soo satisfying to see the results of our hard work and we got the whole thing down in 3 days. My camera batteries died, so I have to wait to post pictures (this kid Tyler has them all on his camera). Also, I've just been informed that there's a corndog waiting for me in the over, so I gotta run, but I'll continue this post later this evening, because I still need to write about the music festival from hell and my upcoming week.
Much love

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