06 November 2013

Thorn Point

Los Padres National Forest

Locate the trail head.

After reacquiring permission to head up to Thorn Point to attend to the trees crossing the trail, we gather at the intersection of Lockwood Valley and Grade Valley, the ranks shrunken to only four. I have never been on one of these, but will still get to hold onto the big saw under the watchful eye of someone who is certified to the correct level. We call into service and head down the road, which is looking excellent if ignoring the first, and currently only, water crossing which is an ever deepening bowl of slush. There are a couple hunters out actually hunting, but no one is parked at Thorn Meadows. We get out the tools and have a safety talk. It is extensive, and boils down to:
  1. Respect the saw, especially the teeth, for they are long and sharp and will bite if given the chance.
  2. Respect the ax, and always swing it so that if it deflects, it must go through some great obstacle like a trunk or the ground to get to you.
  3. Respect the tree, for it may suddenly try to fight back in an unexpected way.
  4. Check for death from above before sitting down below.
  5. Communicate everything.
There's obviously quite a few details that go into each of those, like not placing yourself in a position where the saw teeth could rake across a body part even if it seems unlikely to be able to reach. With paperwork signed and safety gear tallied, we start up the trail and into the Sespe Wilderness. The trees come quickly. My first thought at hearing about a crew going up the Thorn Point Trail was, "That trail hasn't got any trees on it," but when I get there, the thought changes to, "Oh, right, THAT tree." The first one is huge. It has a hiker trail going down the slope a little way and then under it and a second that goes down a little further and over. We scope out the local hazards and settle into the work. First, we clear the trail of debris and remove all limbs hanging over it, then we get out the big saw and get to work on the tree itself.

tree trunk stretched across the trail with many limbs removed and a few more vanishing
Ax and Silky saws for limb removal on the trunk prior to trunk removal. The collapsible McLeod in the foreground is quite nice, too, although we aren't doing any tread work.

getting the big saw started on getting through the trunk
Getting the cut started with the big saw.

the tree is cut, and the log rolled
The finished cut leaves plenty of room to pass on the trail. The trail tread is now clear. The tread developing below it can now return to brush.

I got to do the last half of the second cut on this tree, first helping with two man operation until the creaking got to be too much, and then standing well away from the tree and just using the end of the long saw to finish it off. It took a little over an hour total to clear. While cleaning up, one guy (Alan?) went off to "just Silky saw" a short trunk sticking into the trail that would have been a worry to stock. A broken up tree lies in the trail soon after, which is mostly cleared by moving out the pieces. The next tree is just a little under a foot, thigh high across the trail, and the Silky saw finishes it off, too. After that, the trail is beautiful except for some branch debris until the ridge nearly to the lookout. The tread is still narrow and solid. If feels like it has more loose dirt on top in the still dry fall, but there are only a couple places to be careful of footing.

trail snaking along the south facing slope
Once the trail starts climbing, it snakes along generally south facing slopes for a while and it is easy to see why trees aren't a problem in this section.

view over Grade Valley
Getting higher on the ridge, there's quite a few trees with good variety, and the land occasionally seems to go vertical.

Thorn Point Fire Lookout
First look at the lookout up on the ridge. It seems to still be standing.

upper reaches of Cedar Creek
The flat below the one last haul up to the ridge. There is no water in the creek today.

There's a small tree across the trail just before the trail hits the ridge, and then a group of three, then one last bit of small down tree poking into the trail. I stopped to eat a little in the flat, and when I get to the ridge, Alan's already got one cut through the first small tree and is having lunch. He suggests brushing the last of the trail. The others are still below so I grab the loppers.

rocky and brushy south facing slopes visible
A southeast facing view showing the brushy south facing slopes.

Thorn Point Fire Lookout
The Thorn Point Fire Lookout, always looking like it hasn't got more than five years left on it. The outbuildings aren't looking well, either.

view out to the north
The view out to the north from next to the shed.

I sign the log book "cutting trees!" and head back down without climbing the steep steps to the still generally intact cab above. I've been there, I don't need to risk life and limb again. Back down at the trees, sawing is under way on the first large one. The second large one looks extremely knotty, especially in the area near the tread, and the expert eye thinks it could be half a day on its own. I don't get much of a turn on this one because my weakling arms, which were feeling empty enough on the first log, were even less responsive for this work. It doesn't help that since the cut is so low, I'm sitting and can't use my legs for some of the work.

sawing a log to allow the trail through
The largest log of the day getting its first cut.

It takes another hour and a bit to get the log cut, but it gets there. It is getting late and the shortened days don't allow for any overtime. We don't have time to go after the greatest challenge of the day and still be back by sunset, so it is left for another day in the midst of plotting exactly which equipment to bring for it later. We clear the branches from a shorter path around the remaining tree, pack up, and head down a path clear of any detours. At the bottom, cookies!

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 8 November 2013


Mark Subbotin said...

Great photos Val, and glad you could join us. Hope you come back for more!

bardley said...

val, welcome to the world of sawyering.

great write up. beautiful pix.

sorry i couldn't attend the day's festivities. :-)

-= bardley =-

Valerie Norton said...

It was fun, and my shoulders still seem operable.

Derek (100 Peaks) said...

Oh yea, THAT tree! Thanks for your hard work!