March may bring the official beginning of Spring, but the the Trail Crew workday still felt very much like winter with rain, mud, and temps never getting above the mid-40's but we still had a great turnout of 12 people for a long workday. We were able to split into three crews, with one removing a large Doug fir on Creeping Forest at Dool, one making the long drive to the Berry Creek Falls area and the final crew driving out Johansen to the upper Hollow Tree area.
Chris’ Crew work around the Falls
Kurt Leal, John Martin and myself headed out toward Berry Creek Falls. It would be the last trail crew day where we would be able to use chain saws before noise restrictions go into effect to protect the Marbled Murrelet during their nesting season. Two good sized Doug Firs were blocking the trail above Berry Creek Falls, the flagship destination of the Big Basin back country. So even though the forecast was for rain and the fire roads were likely to be a mess, we very much thought it worth the effort to get the job done while the opportunity existed. I was very glad that Kurt volunteered to drive his 4Runner, sporting mud tires, four wheel drive, an elevated suspension and a 12,000 pound winch on the front in case we got stuck. Not to mention heated seats and smooth jazz serenading us while we made the drive out on Johansen road to the Sunset Trail camp. Gazos was blocked halfway up by a boulder so we had to go China Grade to Johansen and come down.
We made excellent time to the trail camp, arriving at 10:30am. It was drizzling at times but it did let up by noon which I was very thankful for. John Martin had been to Berry Creek just the week before so he had first hand knowledge of where the downed trees were. He offered to lag behind and deal with some brushing problems while Kurt and I went ahead to start the chainsaw work. John also took care of clearing debris off the Silver Falls stairs and mending some places where the trail had slipped out from runoff.
Kurt and I dutifully ignored the first two obstructions we came across, leaving them for John to tackle. The third one we did opt to clean ourselves where a small redwood had scattered branches all over the trail. A passing hiker confirmed that a couple large trees were blocking the trail just ahead. We continued forward after we had cleaned up a bit.
We came to the two Doug Firs. The larger of the two was just a little over 2 feet in diameter. The crew saw with the 24" bar on it was suitable to the task.
I made a couple cuts and got the center piece to drop. Kurt found a nice branch to use as a lever and pried the center free and rolled it off the trail. Half way there!
I was having a little trouble with the saw. The pull cord wasn't retracting after starting the saw. Also vapor lock in the gas tank made it exceeding difficult to get the cap off. The cap actually cracked when I was getting it open. This would come back to haunt me later. I had dipped the chain in the dirt finishing up the first tree so I swapped out to the spare chain I had in my pack, only to learn that it was duller than the first one! I guess I had forgot to sharpen it the last time I swapped them out. Oops! I did have a round file with me so I spent a few minutes filling the teeth on the first chain and got it cutting decently again.
I had finished a first cut on the larger tree and the whole downhill section dropped. I was surprised that the weight of all the downhill trunk had been suspended in the air. The bad part of that is now the trunk was in dirt which would be trickier to cut through. I finished cutting through a second round and Kurt and I were just wiggling it free when I noticed that the gas cap on the saw which had cracked earlier had broken. Gas was now leaking out of the saw and I immediately told Kurt that we had to stop. It was discouraging to get so close to finishing only to have to stop shy of completion. Frustrating that the larger tree will probably be blocking the tree for some time to come. Maybe we can hit it with a crosscut saw during the spring or summer months. Still the trail was much more accessible than it had been and that, I was thankful for.
We stopped work at the site around 2:30pm. Hiked back up Silver and Golden Falls to the campground to get to the vehicle and then had a pleasant drive back to the tool shed. We arrived around 5pm and found we were the last ones to return. I'll have some maintenance to tend to on the saw but perhaps next month we use John Collin's crosscut for a change!
Mike’s Crew on Hollow Tree and Meteor Trails
Mike's crew included Janie, David P, and first timers Carolyn and Miranda, and the goal was to follow-up on reports from early February of trail issues on the upper stretch of Hollow Tree and Meteor. Trails. The plan was to drive out Johansen Fire Rd and then drop down onto the trail and though the road was muddy there were no problems on the drive in. We found the old mill that is along Johansen then went in search of a small trail that would drop us onto Hollow Tree.
We eventually resorted to walking sections of the road looking for possible access areas before finding what looked like a faint game trail that led us down to Hollow Tree. Although we had Kurt Leal's trail report, there were several newer problems not shown on the report that we needed to deal with along with a couple of narrow sections that needed brushing.
By the time we actually reached our intended destination it was after mid-afternoon, we were cold and wet and still faced a 90 minute hike and drive back to the tool shed, so decided it was time to head home.
John’s Crew on Dool Trail
Michele, Peter, Dale P. and I made the short drive up Gazos Creek Rd. to check out a report of a fallen douglas fir where the Dool Trail intersects the Creeping Forest Trail. As expected, the huge doug fir laid waste to about 100 feet of the Creeping Forest Trail and completely blocked the Dool Trail. This work was made easy with our newest crew member, a Stihl MS 461.
The rain was starting, the ground muddy and our small crew of four had their work cut out. Unfortunately there are no before photos, I think we were too anxious to get started and distracted by the weather. First order of business was to clear the trail from Gazos up to the tree blocking Dool, we would later come back and rake the trail so it could drain. The main trunk of the tree involved cutting numerous rounds that we could stache on the trailside.
Dale and Michele moved up the trail to clear out a tan oak with the newly refurbished Homelite while Paul and I finished up on Dool.
With the Dool Trail open for business we set out to find the Creeping Forest Trail that was buried under a hundred square feet of down trees and brush. Dale and Peter found the start of the trail and we started peeling the rubble off the trail with fierce determination. Lucky for us the main trunk of the doug fir landed just parallel to the trail. While Creeping Forest was being cleared, Michele cleaned out the drainage ditch on Gazos.
It was rewarding when the first hikers passed by us on the newly cleared trail. By mid-afternoon we were wet, cold, and tired so we decided to head back to the tool shed. I don't think I've ever been wetter and dirtier, even as a child, than I was this day.
Mike’s crew got back to the tool shed a little before 4, the Creeping Forest folks returned about 3 and Chris’ crew didn't get back from Berry Creek Falls until about 5. The crew put in 113 hours and thanks to Trail Crew regulars John Collins, Michele and Peter Gelblum, Kurt Leal, Janie Liefhelm, John Martin, Mike Peasland, Dale Petersen, David Philleo and Chris Young, along with first timers Carolyn Hogg and Miranda Schwartz, for coming out on a damp and cold day.
by Chris, Mike, John, and Jeff
photos by Chris, Mike, John, Peter, Michele, and David P.