On Friday, Judy Read, Doug West and I were transported by boat 9 miles down Stillwater Reservoir, and driven into town by John Roth, the organizer for the fish and game club running this project. Prior to this, I had made two deliveries of equipment, and with help from the Norridgwok barge, John had transported hundreds of pounds of tree climbing gear, punch bars, ropes, pulleys, hammers, and the torture cart. When we showed up to work, John was dismayed that we had yet more ropes and tools.
Before I go any further, I want to reassure those who survived Upper Gull Lake that we did not intend to repeat the torture cart experience of 2008. Back then, the handles of torture cart were not very forward of the cart. This resulted in the wheels nipping at your heels and volunteers getting launched into the woods whenever a wheel hit a substantial obstacle. Earlier this year, Adam Donohue and I installed stronger handles a full 5 feet in front of the torture cart, changing its attitude significantly; (we did not however, change its name).
We arrived at the trail head about noon on Friday and started delivering materials to the site at the river. The lumber carts proved effective once we figured out how to best load and balance the timbers for the foot trail. The torture cart worked better than we expected. It was actually an asset. Still, the task ahead was daunting. We needed to measure, locate, level, and secure the first tier of the cribbing on both the East and West shores. This goal was important because we feared losing the Saturday crew of local help should they be forced to wait (in deer fly swarms) for these meticulous measurements. Adding to the pressure for only a half day left, there were two 55 foot 3200 lb logs in the river; one pointing upstream, one downstream. We needed them positioned across the river in the same orientation, meaning they had to get rotated in opposite directions (also requiring one goes over the other). Did I mention that they were too long to spin without interfering with the trees on both sides of the river? Again, all this had to be done on Friday, because we could not spin these behemoths once the cribbing got tall and/or with people working on the cribbing.
Earlier on Friday, we got some extra local help delivering materials to the river, but all too soon we were down to John Roth and the three Lean2Rescue volunteers. Doug and John worked on the cribbing while Judy and I worked on spinning the logs. I climbed trees and worked the come-along, with Judy doing the heavy lifting (rope pulling and timber placement). After several hours, John asked “How long do you normally work?” I replied that Sam Eddie says there are two 12 hour shifts in every day. John didn’t (know how to) reply. I think John was struggling with the concept of this Sam Eddy guy, and I was struggling with the concept of normal. I went on to say that the days were long this time of year, and since the success of Saturday depended so greatly upon the success of Friday, we were either going to reach our Friday goal or be shut down by nightfall.
As 7:00 PM approached, John needed to take the boat to pick up Adam Donohue. At this point, only the first cribbing base was in place, and only one side of one log was on the bank. Before leaving, John asked how long we were going to work, wondering if we could reach the Friday goal. Seeing the crew running at full speed, I sensed we could.
With John gone, Doug single handed, located and built the second cribbing. Judy was now seasoned ground crew for tree climbing, and we both had a better idea of what did and didn’t work when it came to moving the logs (actually, most things didn’t work and/or got scary very quickly). By 8:15, all was done, and we went to town to get a sorely needed shower. I’m sure the deer flies and mosquitoes missed us. So did John when he returned and could not find us at his camp or the site. I believe John had his first Lean2Rescue moment when he saw the days work completed after such a sore start. Also, he asked why Adam brought even more ropes and tools.
As planned, Saturday AM started with the cribbing started on both sides, and the logs pre-positioned. The only uncertainty for success was not knowing whether we could move 230 cubic feet of rock needed to fill the cribbing. Local volunteers showed up, and soon materials were coming down the trail, the cribbing towers were being assembled, and rocks gathered were being transported down the river – in the torture cart. It worked miraculously, carrying up to ½ ton of rocks at a time.
Better yet, we had a small army of children not really sure of why they were there. Standing near a rock pile, I looked at them and said “Remember your parents told you never to throw rocks?” I then picked up a rock and threw it in the cart. The (expected) result was a barrage of stones filling the cart in less than 2 – 3 minutes. It turns out kids can throw stones faster than adults. This is how the rock crew came to overcome the timber crew. Oh – it turns out we used all but two of the 14 ropes brought to the site.
I think the video tells the rest of the story, but then something happened later that put some things into perspective. On Saturday evening, John Roth treated us to dinner, and we finally got to meet Mary Kunzler-Larmann (Iroquois chapter of the ADK, trail adopter for the Red Horse Trail, resident of Beaver River Station). Mary was surprised to hear the logs were already up, and even more surprised to see only four Lean2Rescuers (one a woman, and one with a bad back). She expressed having the impression that we would be an army of burly woodsmen. From my emails describing the weight of the logs, and knowing the 6 X 6 cribbing would be so heavy, she thought she might not have anything to offer. Concerned about being in the way, she stayed back on Saturday. Hearing of the days details, Mary got a better idea of who we are, and what it takes do do what we do.
The fact is, a group of dedicated volunteers most not so burly, emboldened by several experiences reaching beyond ourselves, had achieved the nearly unbelievable. We made a real difference and some new volunteers got a taste of it.
Overcoming such challenges is what the DEC Operations crews face day in and day out. This is what we learned 7 years ago. I wish the public was more aware of how small the DEC Operations crews have become, and how much still gets done. It makes me think of a quote at the end of one of Hilary Moynihan’s emails that states the trails were not put there by a higher being.
People working together can do the amazing, and when they do, it feels amazing. If we could better communicate this idea to all those that want to give back to the Adirondacks, bolder initiatives would become commonplace and I’m sure that the entire infrastructure within the park would inherit a bright future for the first time. Let’s make that a goal too.
As a closing remark, I want to extend the sincerest thanks to all that have contributed to this project, including the residents of Beaver River Station and the DEC. Standing back just a little, it is clear that a huge thank also goes to those that contributed to all of the previous projects that gave us the confidence and experience to make this one a success.
We have more projects brewing in the intermediate future. Stay tuned…