Tom Sawyer – Not exactly


Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Kensington, MD, Monday November 10, 2014 — “Are they making us into monsters or serial killers?” I asked on Halloween as our group of would be chainsaw operators gathered in a hidden cabin deep in the Virginia woods on the night before our official AT sawyer classes began.

The cabin is primitive sans plumbing and electricity.  The outside fog cloaked the night while our puny candles barely dented the dark inside.  It was perfect for Halloween night.  In a couple of days, if all went according to plan, our class of four men and one woman would be official card carrying chainsaw operators sanctioned by the U.S. National Park Service.

Halloween prompted vivid recollections of chainsaw genre movies.  Of course we were good guys, weren’t we?


Gerry Taylor chops firewood

There’s a lot to know about chainsaws.  As one who has owned one for decades, I learned I knew almost nothing worthwhile.  I must attract ignorance.  Turns out my homeowner’s model saw is almost a toy in comparison to the profession models used to maintain the Appalachian Trail.  Fortunately, my toy is almost idiot proof with every safety feature possible to help keep hapless operators from hacking off useful body parts, Darwin awards aside. It’s also not nearly as efficient as the big guys.

The classroom instruction was Saturday with the practical exercise in tree chopping on deck for Sunday.  Unfortunately Sunday dawned rain drenched with ice and snow decorating the higher elevations in Shenandoah Park where we were to demonstrate feats of daring.  So we had to return Wednesday.  Everyone passed so here’s a heads-up:  All ya’ll fallin’ down trees across the trail better beware.  We’re comin’ for ya.

Here’s a short video of my trail crew making short work of a “complex” blowdown this past August.  It consisted of three large live trees with dynamic tension on the various limbs and trunks in multiple direction.  Our most experienced sawyer was tagged to attack it.  Keeping the trail clear is serious business.

Tomorrow is my volunteer day at the Appalachian Trail Conference in Harpers Ferry.  Many people who visit ask what local hikes we might recommend.  Last week I walked the Jefferson Rock route which was a fairly easy hike of about 45 minutes.  The history in the area is remarkable.  These photos are of the cemetery Robert Harper established when he founded the town in 1820.

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