The Epic Trail Work Day

The objective: Log 9.3 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area and hike back to the starting point in one long day.

The players: Jai Ralls, 34 year old, works in construction, three 100s under his belt; Derek Snelling, 39 year old lawyer, attempted first 100 at WS this year, doesn’t know what he’s getting into; Me, uhh, 45 year old computer nerd who doesn’t know what too much is.

Derek and Jai on a big log

The tools: A seven-foot cross-cut saw (a.k.a. misery whip), a single-bit axe, a polaski, wedges, DEET.

The why: Somebody thought it would be a good idea if Where’s Waldo adopted a section of the PCT.  I think it was Rob Cain (SLF) back in 2007 who initially brought the idea up.   The Pacific Crest Trail Association is responsible for the whole PCT and assigns stewards for each section, and in mid-Oregon those average about 7 miles each.  When I was interviewed this spring I told them my preference would be some of the 18 miles the trail uses in the race.  However, because those sections are coveted (i.e. easy access and outside of wilderness area) we got assigned a remote 9 mile section in the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Jai and I starting an undercut

Jai and I starting an undercut

The count: 99 trees cleared ranging from 6″ to 33″.

The time: 18 hours on the trail.  With 2 hours travel each direction, my total was 20 hours and Derek and Jai drove home at 1am for a total of 22 hours each.

Cutting by headlamp.  Where's my helmet?

Cutting by headlamp

The encore: The next day, Jeff Riley joined me to repair the damaged tread on the Mt Ray trail which is part of the Where’s Waldo 100km course.

Mt Ray Trail pre-work

Mt Ray Trail pre-work

Mt Ray Trail repaired

Mt Ray Trail repaired

The lesson: Never ever complain about how heavy my chainsaw is.

No Comments

  1. @AJW – Maybe you should try it sometime? Perhaps when you’re not doing 5 hundreds a year?

    @Meghan – Jeff worked harder than I did on Sunday on Mt Ray. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than it was as there were 2 foot sink holes! Somebody (maybe a guy that only has one eye) would have fallen into them on race day.

  2. 99 trees! Sheesh. We had 4 trees this year on our 15 mile section for SOB. We thought it was a ridiculously mild year. Evidently not the case in your neck of the woods! At any rate-great job. Was the misery whip a requirement for bucking trees in Wilderness? (SLF would hate that as it would deprive him of the opportunity to wear ass-less chaps)

  3. Craig,
    You call your self a computer nerd, and I will agree. But we really need more guys like you to step up to the bat and take care of are great trails and wilderness! You motivate me to do more my self,
    Keep setting the example!

  4. @BK – We could probably find an opportunity for you to cut while you’re up here for Waldo. Maybe you could cut the trees in Monkeyboy’s yard with the misery whip? Just a thought.

    @Robert Blair – There is a restriction on Californians moving to Oregon. If you wanted to move up here we’d have to check to see if the state is over the allowed quota.

    @lowercase – I don’t get it. A to R? Is this some hip lingo I don’t understand?

  5. Craig:

    Funny. After I wrote that comment the thought crossed my mind that a comment like the one you just wrote might be coming. 🙂 I’m sure Oregon is WAY over its quota for Californians!

    No worries. When it comes to actual domeciles, I’m probably stuck here in SoCal for a while for the sake of my kids’grandparents.

    Yes, what is meant by A to R?

  6. Way to go guys! Awesome work! I wish I could have been out there to help out, but that’s the way it goes I guess. Nice reconstruction on Mt. Ray, too. I saw first-hand how bad it was. Well done!

  7. Nice 2-man saw work. Makes that wilderness stuff a load of fun. You might actually develop an arm muscle doing that. We hired the smokejumpers to clear the Picayune Trail out of Alpine Meadows (historic WS trail). They’re pretty good at that stuff and they have all the equipment. Someday that’ll be a classic training run. From French Meadows up to Squaw on Road 96 and Hodgson’s Cabin to the PCT, then south to Picayune and back to French Meadows. It’s about 40 miles and Picayune is gorgeous in July when the flowers are blooming.

  8. @hairclub – I don’t think this would have been possible in your shorts and chaps. Those females would have chewed you up.

    @Twiet – I don’t spend much time in that area, and when I do it is usually exclusively on the WS trail. Although we did get to run out of Alpine to the PCT last year when WS was canceled. Maybe I’ll have to explore that more this fall.

  9. You almost made me feel bad but then I realized you probably could have adopted the PCT north of the North Sister, near 242. Lots of lava fields, no trees. What’s with your thinking? Wilderness area? Shit Craig, if putting on a 100K race in the middle of no where isn’t hard enough, you’ve got to adopt a tough section of the PCT, one that you can only work on for a very short period of time. The same time you need to get the race organized.

    I, like John, want to know if you can wear crotchless chaps using a misery whip? That’s the only way you’d get me up there.

    Thanks for keeping the date quiet.

    OK, you know I’m kidding. By the way, do you think you would have had more of a turn out if you were to require trail work for Waldo??

    Also, could you comment on how difficult it was to keep the saw sharp?


  10. @SLF – I was hoping you’d chime in. Lots of questions. Yeah, it wasn’t my intent to get a wilderness section but it is kinda fun, and, really, ultrarunners are ideal for covering lots of miles and working hard for a long day.

    I could have worn my orange crotchless chaps with the misery whip but there are just a few mosquitoes in that southern part of the wilderness area so wearing panties (with DEET) underneath would be suggested.

    As for requiring the trail work. That’s a good question and one I thought about these last two weekends. You know my philosophy is very different from WS and all the 100 milers that have blindly followed suit and made trail work or other “volunteer” work a requirement. No, I do not believe it is the way to get help. I want to motivate and lead by example. And, since these last two posts, I’ve had at least four people ask when I was going out again and if they could help. Would more people have helped on Saturday? I only have one misery whip and we still had to cover 18.6 miles so I don’t know how much faster it would have been with more people. Sunday was different and we could have gotten more done with more bodies. Would a requirement have helped that? Perhaps, but I still think it is the wrong way to go about working on the trails we use. And, really, I don’t care if everybody who runs Waldo works on the trails this year or ever. But I think it is good to share with all trail runners how much work is actually required to put these kinds of races on.

    Finally, the saw. We were very careful not to touch the earth or put the saw in dirty logs and it cut just as well on the 99th log as it did on the 1st log. The one problem we did have is I dropped the saw on one of the undercuts and broke the bolt that held the handle. I should have had an extra handle with me. It worked out because we could put a screwdriver through the hole in the saw and still cut with a second person but it wasn’t ideal.

  11. Holy f’ing sheet! That is awesome Craig, Jai, Derek, and Jeff. We are all deeply indebted to you all. I’ll forever remember the lesson you learned when I’m out clearing the Rumble and other trails around Sisters with a heavy chainsaw. Thanks, guys.

  12. I am so impressed by all of you volunteering out on the trails,working so hard to make it so nice for everyone who explores, hiking, walking, running! YES….look at the muscles you are building! You folks are awesome!!!

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