Monday, October 21, 2013

Chainsaw Training and Trail Building with the NCC

 Nighttime fun at the campground
Our week started off with a day in the classroom at our Field Office. Throughout the lesson, we learned felling techniques as well as different parts of the saw, and safety instruction. It was a lot of information that was thrown at us the first day of training, but a must before we were allowed to operate the saw. That evening, we made the 4-and-a-half hour trek to Indian Valley, set up camp and cooked dinner. The next day was focused on maintenance and troubleshooting on the saws. We were ready by our usual time of 7 am, with our breakfast eaten and ready to learn more about the saw. It was a cold morning, probably in the high 30's, yet the warmest morning that we would experience that week.

The morning started as usual, with our safety circle (because it was our first day with the chainsaw it was longer than usual), and a stretch to get our muscles moving and blood pumping. In the safety circle we discussed all the hazards related to the chainsaw and felling trees, as well as how to mitigate those hazards. That first day, we learned the ins and outs of the saw with regard to maintenance and cleaning, as well as chain sharpening. It was cold, and the 5 of us were huddled around the saw, taking it apart and learning troubleshooting from our Crew Supervisor, KV. Once we were versed on maintenance, troubleshooting, safety and felling techniques we were ready to operate the saw.

Chainsaw safety and operation
Wednesday morning, we woke up with our normal routine, and drove out to the site for our first day operating the chainsaws. Once at the site, we started with stretch and safety circle, which we do every day, so we do not get complacent, ensuring a safe work environment. Wednesday and Thursday, as well as Friday morning, involved limbing and bucking of the trees. Limbing is the process of cutting off the limbs, and bucking is cutting the fallen limbs into appropriate lengths. We were critiqued on our technique, as well as our body mechanics, to make us feel confident for future tree felling projects. On an additional note, it snowed on Wednesday, and when we woke up Thursday morning there was even more snow on the ground, which got me stoked for winter. Thursday morning was probably the coldest of the mornings, with temperatures dipping into the mid 20s, but even with the cold it was a fun and exciting week.

Limbing and bucking practice
The next week, the week of 10/15-10/18, we were scheduled to be in the only location we could work at, the Spring Mountains. Because of the federal government shutdown, we were not able to work with any of our other project partners. All 6 of the Las Vegas crews and the 2 Reno crews would be sent to The Springs mountains to work. Our crew, Crew 6, was sent up to Mack's Canyon along with 3 others crews. Mack's Canyon is an offshoot canyon accessible from Lee Canyon. There is beautiful dispersed camping available there with no facilities, so if you want to get away from the summer crowds, here is the place to camp/hike/relax. There are plenty of trails and peaks to be summited here such as Mack's Peak (easy class 3 scramble), and The Sisters, which consists of 3 peaks.

Our crew was designated to work on a reroute section in Mack's Canyon. Reroutes are done for a number of reasons such as increasing/decreasing the length of the trail, or creating better tread (walking surface) that is less steep and more sustainable (which allows for the trail to exist without having a large impact on the environment). The hike into the reroute was just under 2 miles, a nice warm-up for the long workday.

Return to trail work
Once on site, the reroute we worked on over the course of the week was a bit more intensive than our previous trail builds; this trail contains limestone rock in the tread. Much of the time was spent on chipping away at the rock in the tread to make sure it was at a reasonable level and safe for horses and hikers, to minimize the tripping hazard. Not everybody on the team enjoyed the rock work. I personally enjoyed sitting at the rock chipping away at it, making it into my vision of how it will blend into the tread. One thing we all try to keep in mind is what we refer to as PMA (positive mental attitude), because sometimes the work can be frustrating. Keeping a PMA is a skill that will not only help us in trail building, but I believe it is a skill we can take with us and use in our future careers. With all of the intense work we did, we still had fun as a crew and enjoyed our time with the other crews in close proximity - sharing tools, talking and enjoying our time in the mountains together.  

Trail reroute in Mack's Canyon - before and after

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