Big Bear’s Mountain Rescue

Our 4-wheeler is a Yamaha 350, called “Big Bear”.  That’s not the name we gave it – it’s the model name.  4-wheelers are also referred to as “quads” and “all-terrain vehicles” or “ATVs”.  All-terrain vehicle seems like a misnomer for our 4-wheeler, since the terrain on the climb to the top of Sunrise Mountain sent it into early retirement.  Obviously our Big Bear can’t handle all terrain!!  Read about Big Bear’s trip on my second day as a logger to learn about why it needed to be rescued.  George tried to drain the fuel and get it started for a week – but it seemed as traumatized as I was by the trip.  So it sat under the cover of brush and leaves waiting for yesterday’s rescue.

I was very brave this week and went back up the mountain on the skidder with George.  I wore my own boots, so I didn’t have clown’s feet.  That gave my feet a little more room jammed in between the gears on the right and behind the emergency brake on the left.  I also kept myself distracted by videotaping.  I made a 3-minute video depicting a tamer part of our ride up the mountain – just before we “go over the cliff”, as George likes to say. Unfortunately, the video doesn’t capture the steep slope because the skidder stays level with the ground – so it seems that everything is “flat” in the video.  Maybe that’s why George and I define “flat” differently.  For any of you who think I’m exaggerating, I just learned this afternoon that my son, Erik, tried to catch a glimpse of me cutting trees last Saturday.  He rode up the mountain on a dirt bike – something he thought would be an easy ride.  He never made it.  He reached the part called “the cliff” and his wheels spun on the steep incline with the sand-covered, flat rocks.  Erik doesn’t quit or accept defeat easily.  So I feel some validation.

In the video, you can see the top of George’s head and also a good view of the ceiling in the cab of the skidder, since that is approximately where my head rests while straddling George on the back of his broken seat.  My face occasionally bounces off the back of George’s hardhat, once-in-a-while my head bangs against the ceiling and sometimes smashes against the cage on either side of the cab.  George suggested wearing my hardhat for the ride, but there is not enough clearance above my head to wear a hat of any kind. Riding in that manner in the skidder is kind of like being a bobblehead doll.  I LOVE bobblehead dolls – I just never wanted to be one!!

This is the view looking south across Ellis Mine Hollow towards Massachusetts.

So, day three was another day with no tears – ending the day with Big Bear’s mountain rescue (stay tuned, it’s coming!).  A successful day of logging.  Still no lessons on notching.  I earned some fresh cuts and bruises.  George obviously has no concerns over my abilities.  He doesn’t understand the “supervise” part of the title “supervisor”.  It’s nearly impossible to get his attention once we’re in the woods.  For years he has bragged to me about his heightened senses and keen awareness – honed from his lifetime working in the woods and wanting to be extra cautious at all times.  He likes to tell me and the kids how he can sense danger from great distances.  I thought he was like a ninja.  He says he hears things other people can’t hear – but most of us who have lived with him believe he only hears voices…. women’s voices…. but never mine!!

Since I couldn't get his attention, I took his picture.

I needed gas for my saw and was expecting George to come up in the skidder at any moment.  At one point, he got off the skidder and glanced in my direction and I quickly waved to get his attention.  He smiled, waved back and immediately turned his back to me.  I yelled, “HEEEYYY!!  HEEEYYY!! GEORGE!! GEEEOOORRRGGGEEE!!!!” Then I waited for him to shut off the skidder and stop running his saw so that my voice was not competing with the sound of the machinery.  The forest was silent and he was standing next to the skidder when I started yelling his name again.  Nothing.  I screamed as loud as I could.  I used my very loud and somewhat piercing two-fingered whistle.  Nothing.  I started getting angry.  I started wondering what would happen if I was injured and REALLY needed him.  I sat on a log and waited.  I tried calling him a few more times.  Then I finally decided to drag myself through the web of tree tops covering my trail and make my way down to him.  Just as I got through the tree tops, my white shirt and shins speckled with blood, George looked up and told me to wait because he was coming up.  Ugh!!

I waited and when he arrived on the skidder I told him I was trying to get his attention.  I told him it was not a friendly wave we exchanged… I needed him.  I advised him to remove his ear protection every once in a while so he could hear me.  I asked him what would happen if I got hurt.  He didn’t answer.  He thanked me for my valuable advice, grinned, said he didn’t know what he would do without my helpful coaching and asked where the cooler was.  He told me I waved the wrong way – and demonstrated the hand motions used to signal an emergency stop on airport runways.  That’s how I should have signaled him. Hmmpphhh!

Our first attempt.

This is the one that worked.

We quit logging early so that we could spend the rest of our time securing the 4-wheeler to the skidder.  We expected this to be a time-consuming ordeal.  George tried one final time to start it, but no luck. First, we tried to strap it on the skidder blade facing forward, but couldn’t get enough leverage to lift it properly.  Then we attached it sideways and, after a few adjustments, realized this was the best option.  George uses the blade in emergencies – ie. if the brakes fail, if the skidder is flipping over, etc.  So having the 4-wheeler attached to it made the blade otherwise useless.  Plus it impeded his visibility.  Not to mention he was pulling a load of firewood behind him.  More than a little scary for those of us who are faint of heart.  I didn’t want to follow the dusty trail of the skidder, so I left on foot beforehand.  I made it “over the cliff” and into a clearing when I could hear George coming from behind.  Here is a 1-minute video showing “Big Bear’s Mountain Rescue”.

By the time we reached the landing, the log truck was loading firewood.  George unloaded his hitch and waited for the truck driver to leave before beginning the last stage of Big Bear’s mountain rescue.  His plan baffled me.  I was sure it would fail.  I expected something to break.  He attached a strap to the 4-wheeler and lifted it with the teeth of his little excavator.  With amazing precision, he swung the 4-wheeler over the bed of his pickup truck and set it gently inside the bed – with only inches to spare.  The truck windows were intact, nothing was scratched, the 4-wheeler body was without damage.  It was a miracle.  Mission accomplished….. rescue complete!   We’ll call it a day!

 [Click on any photo in the post to view full-size image]

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