With my lovely crosscut restored to working order, I was more than a little eager to “let her rip”. Winter is a good time for saw work. For the most part, visitor use dwindles significantly due to inclement weather and lower temperatures, and passing storms often leave more than a few blow-downs across our system trails. Early in January, I found one such obstacle on the Sheltowee Trace off of Corner Ridge, a little over a half mile into the Clifty Wilderness. I came back the following day with a fellow co-worker to buck it out. “Bucking” in sawyer jargon is the action of removing a tree that is already downed (or most of the way). I am only certified for bucking. Felling is a step up and can sometimes be a dangerous affair.
In the above photo I am under-bucking (after making initial top cut) to relieve the tension caused by top bind. Note the axe technique used to help steady the saw in the kerf. This Eastern White Pine had a rotten exterior, though the wood was sound on the inside, due to the preservative properties of its resin.
After bucking this tree, I learned of another on the following day in an area of the Gorge that I had not yet been to, up on Powder Mill trail. This trail spans 2.25 miles, from Indian Creek (near Rock and Tildy Branch off of 9A) up to Hatton Ridge. It’s rather ironic, but it receives little traffic compared to other trails, despite Indian Creek being an immensely popular place for car campers. On weekends during the busy season (aka “summer-mania”), Indian Creek is often jam-packed. My patrols of Indian Creek have slowed significantly after the summer, and for the sake of my sanity, I personally will only go there when needed. The amount of abuse and trash that place gets is enough to make one sick and lose faith in the human race. But again, now that winter has arrived, that whole area is pretty much vacant.
It took me some time to find a safe place to cross Indian Creek itself, due to all the ice melt. We had a hard cold-snap just before the holidays, but a recent warm front has brought a fair amount of rain and much higher temperatures (50 F) to eastern Kentucky. I came upon the downed tree, a Scarlet Oak, about 100 yards after crossing the creek. My supervisor had attempted to buck it out, but his pulaski handle snapped in the process. He managed to finish the first cut with his Silky saw.
This one wasn’t too large, maybe 9 inches diameter. I could have taken it out with my Silky Bigboy, but I wanted to see how fast this crosscut could cut it. Pretty soon the air was filled with the scent (or should I say “foul odour”) that seasoned Scarlet Oak emits when being sawn. I made it through the log in short order, probably twice as fast as I could do with my Silky.
I decided to hike the whole length of Powder Mill; not only because I hadn’t traversed it before, but I wanted to see if there were any other downed trees to buck out. As luck would have it, there were two more: a 12 inch diameter White Oak, and an 8 inch Black-gum.
I must say, this is the most fun I’ve had near Indian Creek in many months. I didn’t see a soul out there, save for a drove of deer and multiple song birds. The trail was deceivingly slick after all the recent rain, but all the slips and slides couldn’t dishearten the immense feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction one receives after refurbishing an old tool and then putting that tool to work.
That’s all for now. I would like to see how it performs in green wood with regards to raker depth. But as it is, this saw was a pleasure to use. With each stroke it sang in hunger for more, a raspy, rhythmic chime of metal biting wood, echoing across the ‘hollers. I daresay it hasn’t sung for many a year, but now it has someone who will not only feed it, but also sing with it.