Monday, April 11, 2011

Trail Maintenance, Canty Trail

April 3, 2011

I hike and backpack quite a bit. Weekly my feet hit a trail someplace. I find it relaxing, peaceful, spiritual and very therapeutic.  Have you ever hiked a trail and wondered with all the trees down in the forest how none seem to cross the trails? It's the trail stewards who make sure that we have a decent foot path to travel along. I also enjoy helping the local chapter of the Green Mountain Club maintain the trails in the area. Usually work parties are organized to hike a section of trail and clear waterways, trim/prune excessive foliage, paint the blazes if needed etc. Usually large trees are left and reported so a sawyer(s) can come back and take care of them. I recently had the opportunity to attend and learn a few things from a master sawyer and arborist on the Canty trail.

As of the beginning of this year, I became the sector checker for the Canty Trail; a side trail of the Long Trail system. In  February, I took my first assessment trip up the trail to find 3 decent sized "blowdowns" blocking the trail that I couldn't clear out of the way alone. At a later date, during a hike with the Killington section, arrangements with the section sawyer were made to take care of these. A group of 6 of us went up on a mild and sunny Sunday morning to clear the trail before Spring. Four workers and two hiking the trail ahead to report where the last tree down was.

When we got to the trailhead surprisingly there was still a lot of snow. A lot. Snowshoes were definitely needed.We loaded up a five foot, two man saw, a three foot saw, about 30 pounds of steel wedges, axes & hatchets and all sorts of neat tree clearing gadgets and headed in. The first tree we saw was resting on a suspension wire that lead to an abandoned resort. It was clearly burned from the power line that was obviously severed. This was not here on my last trip. We skipped this tree until the end of the day. The next set of trees, (luckily there were 3 in a row within 30 feet of each other) were located within a quarter mile. One of the trees had fallen since my last trip up.Larry, the sawyer, gladly assigned our tasks, instructing us the proper way to stand and draw on the saw. We all took turns sawing, clearing away brush, barking the area to be cut.  Before too long we were ready to head up the trail further. After entering the Green Mountain National Forest, a set of four trees was our next task. We took a break, had some lunch and told trail stories. A group of hikers on snowshoes passed us by. My friend Jeff and his friend who had hiked ahead, returned and reported that there were no more trees down; well at least to the water falls. After our break we tackled the set of trees. Once again, with a team effort it didn't take long to open the trail. We packed up and headed back to the tree on the wire. I thought this would be a good opportunity to step back and watch (and take a video). I was amazed at how much tension was on this wire especially when the tree did a 180 in the air before hitting the ground.

The day was great. I am glad that I got to participate in this part of trail maintenance. I now understand why a large manual saw is easier than a it's not noisy. I learned a lot about trees in general. There is a lot more involved to cutting away a tree than what I ever imagined. But it went safely, it was fun, the company was good and now the trail is safer for the public. Happy trails!