Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bows to the Knees

I've been waiting for this week since I read the NCC position description: Chainsaw Training. Now let’s get this straight, I’m the type of lady who uses electric blowers and push mowers, so power tools, especially sharp flesh tearing power tools, terrify me. But oh my my are they exciting!

The week started with a day of powerpoints explaining the safety and maintenance. It was taught by Nick, a bald man with a great beard. It should be required to have a beard if you are teaching people to use a chainsaw. It wasn't until day 2 when we were in Toiyabe forest that we even touched a chainsaw. We learned how to start the chainsaw (harder than one might think), properly sharpen a chain, fix a flooded chainsaw and other basic maintenance procedures. We were joined by Pete, a Certified Stihl Silver Mechanic and Miguel, a class C sawyer. My crew leader of Team Flash, Corey, also has a deep passion for the chainsaw. If you are going to learn how to use a chainsaw, these are the best people that you can learn from.

The first day of sawing, the sky promised to bring excitement. By the time we began our safety meeting, snow had begun falling, the mountains were erased by clouds and the NCC crew began to shiver. I don’t think any of us had been thinking about the possibility of snow when packing. But what’s a better way to warm up than firing up a chainsaw and cutting down some trees?

The purpose of our work was to take down pinions and juniper trees that were below 5,000 feet, encroaching on the habitat of the endangered Sage Grouse. My crew, Team Flash, began with the largest tree on the site. Corey quite enjoys using the saw so he was happy to take on such a beast. The tree gave a good fight but in the end Corey prevailed. Justin and Lindsay took quickly to limbing and bucking the tree. Then it was my turn, I was still terrified but felt ready. I made some successful cuts, but when bucking the logs I hit a rock and the rest of the day I spent sharpening the chipped chain. It was less than exciting but I did improve exponentially at my sharpening skills.

The next day I was more comfortable with cutting. I also was able to swamp for Lindsay who is the friendliest person to swamp for. Every time she motioned for me to take the brush she looked so gosh dang happy to be sawing. We all got to practice felling trees, which meant we got to yell loud and proud “TREE COMING DOWN” and point in the direction it was falling. Something about making the calls made it seem more official that we were becoming sawyers.

Friday we had very little time to be out in the field. We had a quick hour to complete the quick week of sawing. It was a great experience that pushed us all out of our comfort zones and we all learned so much. On the drive home it felt like the general consensus was that we all wanted to saw more in the future.