Black Friday at the Pines

Alice and I set the alarm for 6:00 am in eager anticipation of the day’s festivities. When it went off, we quickly and quietly got dressed and got out the door, eager for this long awaited day and the pleasures it had in store.

As we drove by Walmart and Shopko, we smiled at the full parking lots. We continued north and stopped in Mohawk for breakfast at one of our favorite Keweenaw restaurants, Slims. Then it was on to Copper Harbor and into the parking lot at the Estivant Pines. At last, we’d reached our Black Friday destination.

Every late fall, we like to make a last trip to the pines before the road closes due to snowfall. We store the toilet paper in the outhouse in a wire cage I built to avoid (as much as possible) rodent damage to the paper. Then we like to hike the trails with the chainsaw to do any trail clearing that is needed.

Looking at the patterns in the snow and ice in the parking lot, we could tell that visitation had been light lately, and that we’d likely have the place to ourselves. Yes, Black Friday was shaping up to be a perfect day. The weather was cool but not cold, and there was a mist hanging over the pines that gave it the primeval feeling that so often typifies the place.

The first tree we came upon was big enough that I had to start the saw to clear it off the trail. It took a few cuts and I felt the shot of adrenalin that one should any time a tree of this size is cut while leaning. You’d think gravity would always cause them to fall down when cut. They can fall unexpectedly, though, pinching the saw, or worse they can spring out at you if they happen to have pinched between two trees just right when falling. This one fell as expected, and we probably only spent 10 minutes from start to finish here. But the next one was a different story…

Unfortunately, one of the old growth pines fell this autumn, and right across the trail to boot. This tree and its nearest neighbor succumbed to a wind storm earlier this year, but didn’t fall to the ground. Some friendly downwind trees held both of them up, even though their windward roots were broken and lifted out of the ground. We worried about these trees, and it turned out our concerns were justified. We always hate to see these beautiful old guys die. They’ve witnessed hundreds of seasons and numerous events that could have caused their downfall, but always scraped by until this year.

This picture shows how the big pine finally fell. Instead of pulling its roots out of the ground, the trunk shattered just above the root mass. On the left side of the picture, you can see the roots of its nearest neighbor sticking out of the dirt.

This is my first cut. As I feared, the saw’s 20″ bar would not go all the way through this tree, meaning I’d have to crawl over the tree after each cut to finish up the other side. I learned with this cut that the tree had a rotten section typical of these big old trees. I’d say at least half of the trunk at this point in the tree was rotten.

Having finished cutting this side, I moved to the other side by sliding over the tree trunk. In years gone by, I could have vaulted this tree, but now scrape my butt across. There was snow on this tree. My butt got cold and wet.

Here I’m completing the first cut on the back side of the tree.

I managed to get the first cut completed without getting my saw stuck, and am starting the second cut here.

I decided to cut a wedge out of this one in hopes that it would fall when I made it through. It didn’t work.

…so I started a third cut. Not a bad idea anyway, because even if the piece between the first two cuts had fallen, it would have been too heavy to move.

Even with all three cuts complete, the sections would not fall. This is a critical point, because you can forget that hundreds of pounds of dead wood are hanging above you by just a thread. You have to be ready to get out of the way in case something lets go. I kept moving from side to side, cutting a bit here and a bit there, and kicking the sections getting to move ever so slightly until…

Down it came. Now all I had to do was roll them out of the trail. I was puffing like a steam engine by this time.

The trail is all cleared and I am tired.

Many thanks to Alice for the photography in this post.

One Response to “Black Friday at the Pines”

  1. Karla says:

    Cool. Thanks for pointing me to it.

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