Getting Crosscut Certified

This past weekend, I spent 2 nights and 3 days in the Coos Bay area of Oregon with the Trailkeepers of Oregon as part of their Saw School!

Friday afternoon was the big drive from SW Washington to the southern coast of Oregon, about a 5.5 hour endeavor. Almost 2 hours into our drive and having just gotten through Portland traffic before rush hour, I realized we forgot our sleeping bags!! So a quick lane change into the right most lane to the nearest exit and 4 hours tacked onto to our already long afternoon drive later and we made it to our campsite at midnight. TKO hosted all of the saw school attendees at the group campground at Sunset Bay State Park. We quietly set our tent up on the dewy grassy field a little to close to our car and picnic table, but still able to comfortably sleep!

Saturday morning we awoke in a lush field surrounded by trees and ferns and a clear, bright sky. We set up our new camp stove and made oats and tea 🙂 After speaking with a few other TKO members who were surprised to see us (thankfully we woke no one up upon our late arrival!), we headed down the road to the South Slough Estuarine Research Reserve where the saw school was being held. We met at the maintenance shop and gathered camp fire style in camp chairs around a portable power point screen that one could barely see by high noon. We all shared our goals for the class and experience with saw work and surprisingly enough, almost half of us were originally from the East Coast!

Saturday was “Death by Power point” day, learning all of basics about crosscut saws- its parts, how they react with binds, and proper care use safety storage. At lunch time, our South Slough host whipped out his pizza oven and baked fresh pizzas for everyone. I surprisingly opted out for my homemade PB sandwich.

Driving back to our campsite, we stopped at a beach parking lot and took in the setting sun, rocky shores, and tide pools. It was magnificent!

Sunday morning brought with it a quick clean up and break down of camp and sorting wet and dry gear in the trunk of my car before heading to our last day of class. Once at South Slough, we split into 2 working groups, hiked into the Estuary and started our field sawyer day. We started with the plan and our leader set up the situation. We then jumped into OHLEC:

Objective: What is our goal; what are we cutting; why are we cutting; where do we want cut sections of logs to go; etc.

Hazards: What environmental and team hazards do we have present?

Leans/Binds: For bucking, what binds are present in the log being cut? Where is the tension and compression side?

Escape Route: Once determining the “safe side” of the log and whether we are single or double bucking, where is each sawyer’s escape route going to be?

Cut Plan: What are the cuts being made and share that with the group.

Throughout the day, I had the chance to practice cutting with an Axe, finishing buck with a Katana 500 saw, and double buck with multiple partners for starting and finishing cuts. I learned a lot and definitely have a lot of room to grow! I am excited to use this new knowledge moving forward this summer to help with logouts.

After our full day of work, we hiked out uphill back to the parking lot. My blood sugar levels took a major crash and I was chugging gu’s for the last half mile. After a much needed snack break provided by TKO, we got back into our groups to sign paper work and go through areas of needed improvement and areas of strength for us as individuals and as a group.

I can now proudly say that I am USFS certified as a Crosscut Bucking Sawyer A!

And then, we made the long drive back to Washington! However, on our drive back, we took advantage of the daylight and stopped at a few day use areas in the Oregon Dunes! We also drove through a gorge on highway 38 and watched a large herd of grazing elk!!

This weekend was long and filled with very little sleep but was also full of great excitement, exploration, and learning! I am so appreciative of these free opportunities to gain knowledge and certifications with a group of volunteers helping to make our natural spaces more accessible to recreation.

If you are interested in learning more about crosscut sawing, check our your local trail association or USFS to gain experience or training. You can also check University of Montana’s online sawyer course that I completed before my in person training. This course teaches about the basics of crosscut bucking and may give you more insight into whether or not that is something you want to pursue.

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