My Logging Journey Continues…

“Focus on the journey, not the destination.” – Greg Anderson

Our journey up and down Sunrise Mountain is typically the highlight of my day of logging and today was no different. This morning on our way up the mountain, I enjoyed the views and absorbed the beauty of our surroundings.  It’s nice to not feel so terrified on our skidder ride up the mountain – over rocks and washed out roads.  When passing the first clearing, I saw a beautiful scarlet tanager perched on a thin branch – the first I’ve ever seen in the wild.  A short distance later, I spotted a small black bear in a large pine tree. George stopped the skidder and we watched as the bear scooched its way down the tree and lumbered off on the ground. Only twenty feet further uphill, we watched an instant replay of the exact same scene as we saw the bear’s twin in another pine tree.  It also lowered itself out of the tree and disappeared into the brush.  At the next clearing we saw a doe cross the logging road above us.  All of this before we even reached the job site. Surrounded by nature’s splendor – what a magnificent way to start the day!

George has started working on a new section – a site further up the mountain and closer to Lincoln Peak.  I finally learned how to notch trees!  George did two demonstration notches for me and sent me off with my saw.  I really tore up those beeches today!! Tore up my shins a bit too – wading through the fallen limbs and treetops.  I was impressed at how a little notch in the tree can direct the way it falls.  Until now, I’ve been cutting willy-nilly, letting the trees fall where they may – hoping I properly predict the path so I can be out of the way.  I feel a new dominance in the forest!  Not ready for the big boy trees, but maybe someday.

George told me that I needed to “man up” and drive the skidder one day.  Machismo is not a trait I desire, so I politely declined his suggestion.  Okay, actually I said, “If you make me drive the skidder down the death ridge, I will quit!”  Again today he tried to get me to climb onto the hood of the skidder and join him for the trip down.  See the photo to the right??  Yeah, he wants me to sit with my legs around that bar in the very front while the skidder goes down the mountain at a terrifying angle.  He’s insane if he thinks I will get up there.  My feet are just fine for the descent.  I don’t care how hot, stiff, sore or tired I am – walking is the only way I’m going down.

George doesn’t recognize how his passing comments in the woods only feed my paranoia about the skidder ride down the mountain.  There’s a little scoreboard in my head listing all of George’s comments.  The column entitled “Reasons to walk down the mountain” includes a collection of George’s quotes: “I didn’t know that the hydraulic hose leading to my brakes was leaking”; “the road is getting worse”; “it was pretty scary going down without a load behind me the other day”; “the skidder has been making a strange sound”; “I used to call this Shit Your Pants Mountain“; and more.   He made me get off the skidder going up this morning because there’s a bad section leading to the new site.  I walked behind the skidder and watched with trepidation while the tires on the outside edge of the road clung for dear life.  The road was actually falling out beneath it – dirt and rocks just slid down the mountain from beneath his two left tires.  It seemed the road was not wide enough – the outer edge of the road dropped steeply into the hollow, the inner edge was a rising rock cliff preventing the skidder from moving away from the drop-off. Walking is just fine for me, thank you very much!!

Each time I sat on the ground and took a water break, I admired the gorgeous views across Ellis Mine Hollow (otherwise known as “the abyss”).  It’s much more satisfying to look across the hollow as opposed to looking into the hollow.  That’s just scary. Years ago my oldest son, Shawn, was riding on a 4-wheeler on the south side of Ellis Mine Hollow.  He was around 12 years old and was traveling with George, my brother and some of my brother’s friends.  George was riding behind him as Shawn’s 4-wheeler slipped on a flat, rocky surface and slid sideways toward the steep cliff.  As the 4-wheeler continued to slide sideways off the road and onto the cliff – Shawn jumped. Thank God!!  The 4-wheeler rolled over and over and over, down the cliff all the way to the valley floor.  George, my brother, Shawn and the other guys dragged themselves down to the 4-wheeler which ended its descent upright, on all four tires.  My brother got on to see if it would start. He noticed the 4-wheeler had an unusual bounce to it and looked beneath it to see that it had landed on top of a deer.  He felt the deer – it was still warm.  Shawn killed a deer with a runaway 4-wheeler!!  Shawn insists it was already dead.

The 4-wheeler started – but there was no way to get it out.  The cliff was too steep and the valley too low.  A whole crew went in to recover it and George ended up cutting trees to clear a path out through the valley floor.  Thoughts of what could have happened to Shawn that day are permanently imprinted in my memory.  I’m sure that adds to my fear – but I still think my fears are pretty reasonable.

I had some concerns about seeing the bears again on my hike down the mountain.  On one hand, I really wanted to see them. On the other hand, I worried that they were cubs and have always heard that you should never get between a mother and her cubs. My ears and eyes were on high alert.  I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough this morning when we saw the bears.  So I was very excited when I saw this pile of fresh bear scat on my path – the next best thing to document my bear sighting!  The forest is full of blueberries and raspberries and this specimen is evidence that the berries are a significant part of the bears’ diets.  This was a fascinating discovery for me and I couldn’t wait to get home and learn more about bears, their diet, their habitat and more.

Not everybody gets so excited when they find a pile of shit.  After our lunch on the mountain, George stepped in some and was not at all pleased.  He complained about the smell, cursed himself for stepping in it and cursed the creature that left it there for him!  I found the whole thing very amusing and it became another highlight of my day.  “Focus on the journey, not the destination.”

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