Little Moments

I was hanging out with a friend a few weeks ago. He works at a school, and he was talking about something that they were working on teaching the kids about when writing.
You see kids tend to tell sporadic parts of a story, and maybe focus just a little. So, they have been teaching these kids to focus on one single part of a story and describe that part in detail.

I though this was a cool concept. The part that tripped me out though was that my friend had just now started applying that to his own life – but instead of describing things in details, it was more that he was taking the time to notice “the little Moments” that make life so great.

I was floored. You mean you haven’t been doing that already?

For me some of my favorite things were those ‘little moments’ that you couldn’t describe, nor photograph (another of my hobbies). It is the little moments that if you try to explain it to someone, you end up telling them, “I guess you just had to be there”.

Some of my favorite and most memorable are:

Climbing up the 18% grade of Winding Stair in Winter. During Winter, all the leaves are down, so you can see through the trees at the Mountains that you usually can’t see during the summer – it is like a totally different view. A cool aspect of it too me was that a picture will not come out very well b/c you have to look through the trees to actually see the view. You have to be there to appreciate it!

While out on a Winter Bike League ride, it was about 45 degrees out. We stopped at a ‘mid-ride’ store-stop. It started to rain. A guy walks up to the ride leader (we call him Pops and asks “What is the quickest way back to Athens?” Without missing a beat, Pops says “With Us”. You see we were all in it together. There was no rain-check. Pedaled out & you gotta pedal home.

Find those little moments of Life, recognize them when they happen & appreciate them!
Did you make a random stranger smile?
Did you do something just to surprise someone when they didn’t expect it?
Did you make a friends day?

Did you make a quick connection with a random stranger?

I remember once I was driving home along a 4 lane highway. I looked over and saw a little old lady sitting in the back seat looking very melancholy, so I smiled and waved at her. She sat up in her seat and gave me a Big smile as she waved back. It was just a little moment, but I’m not sure who it had a bigger impact on.

Go out and make some memorable “little” moments, you may just find out that they have Great impact on you and even Greater impact on others!

Cycling Church vs. Religion

I see that some people post comments about attending cycling “church”.

It got me thinking about different rides that I have ridden before – but I like the use of the church vs. religion to convey that meaning I felt.

I used to Mt bike the local Atlanta trails quite often, with the occasional trip to the Mountains to ride the trails there. Doing the 90 minute drive to the Mountains for the day or for the weekend was tough to do.

THEN, I was able to move closer to the Mountains. I started to discover a big difference between Mt biking some local trails and heading up over a mountain with plans to explore trails that only a handful of people may know about.

I found that I could text only 2 or 3 of my friends about where I was starting, and where I expected to come out at. Many others would have no idea where either of these two points were.

My pack changed from tubes & water – to ‘12 long haul essentials‘.

It was after doing this for a summer, and seeing a few friends posts that I started to realize that there was a big difference in the sensations of going for a ride at the local trails (which are Great!) and going for that long haul in the mountains.

I started to figure that for me, going to the local trails and pounding out some miles was the going to ‘church’.

But going to the mountains and exploring, getting lost, finding new trails, landmarks, waterfalls, and barely making it back to the car before sundown – that my friends is my religion.

Racing too seriously

Today I was thinking back over my several years of racing and I was thinking about one of the years I raced the US100K just outside Atlanta, GA.

Here we were rolling along on a fairly hilly course, most of us running a 54 up front ‘Just in case’ we got near the frantic downhill sprint – all the while because the real Pro’s were in town we were going around this course that we didn’t need the 39 up front. Rollin’ it!

I was thinking back to a year that the whole Saturn team was there, they were laughing it up. Talking to each other across the whole pack, even though they were fairly spread out in the group.

I remember one year when I was laughing it up with a buddy of mine. Asking him “does this group do this ride very often?”, “want some of my banana?”. I mean here we were, tucked into the draft doing about 30, and I’m making jokes.

I got thinking about how years before then, how focused I would be on rides. I wouldn’t even talk to anyone because “I was training”. I wasn’t worried about getting dropped, I was worried about who was ‘up the road’, I was worried about where I should attack!

Yet, years later, I guess I started to realize that even if I got dropped, or even if I didn’t ‘make that break’, it wasn’t the end of my cycling. Maybe I even started to realize that I was near the top of my fitness level – unless someone was going to suddenly start paying me or I started to dope – neither of which was going to happen!

One of the things that always stuck out in my mind was how you could do 1 group ride a week, and chat with one person each time – and pick up the conversation, right where you left off last time. Bumping into friends (literally) from out of state that you haven’t seen all Winter.

I guess that realization started to lower the stress and the pressure that I had been putting on myself. I started to enjoy my fitness level, and enjoying my friends in the field. Those were some of the best years of racing that I had. It wasn’t the races, it wasn’t the miles and miles of training, it was the people that were around you while you are doing those things that in the end impact your memories the most.

A win is great, but mutual cycling friends is greater.

Dumbing down trails

There has been an ongoing trend of dumbing down Mountain bike trails.
Some sections of trails need to be maintained in order to keep the water run-off going properly. Side-Note: I understand that this is the USFS main concern for National Forestry property.

Some trail systems seem to be going in the direction of a smooth roller-coaster ride. Yes, they do great and Fun re-working of trails, but they make most trail systems (that I have ridden around Atlanta) so basic that anyone on most any bike shop bike could ride all of it.

Where is the challenge in that? Where is are the latest trails to challenge your skills? Don’t tell, because seemingly they are coming for those trails also – and they are bringing a big Zamboni to plow through any technical sections that maybe left.

Recently on trails that have been previously re-worked I have noticed that work-groups have gone so far as take out parts of a trail that have been a small obstacle for years. This is what we call ‘dumbing down’ trails so that anyone can ride everything. This happens when people take out parts of a trail because it is too challenging. Never-mind that there is no real danger in these obstacles – or that you could make an ‘easy path’ around an obstacle – they just take it out. Flatten and smooth out the trail so that a good Mountain biker could easily tow a child in a trailer through.

At what point are Mountain bikers going to notice how far they have gotten away from their roots.

Is it a goal to stop Bicycling magazine’s articles about how to bunny-hop, do a wheelie & how to do a track stand – due to the fact that no Mountain biker on an SORBA trail will ever need to know this information?

I have found myself going far away from some of these trails, in fact I would often literally pass 1 trail system to go ride trails that haven’t been bulldozed.

While on a camping trip over the 4th of July, I was shocked to hear that a trail system we were riding has had a sectioned that had been re-worked with a motorized shovel.
It suddenly hit me that the places that we are driving hours to get too are slowly being over-taken by the giant well oiled machinery of SORBA.

Most of the trail work they do is Great! But it seems that they are like a dictator who is getting drunk with power, and now wants to take on other countries – snapping roots, popping rocks, and leaving a dirt mound strategically placed in it’s wake.

I’m hoping that in the near future IMBA/SORBA will realize that in order to grow the likes of Pro Mountain Bikers, they will have to leave some technical sections on the trail.

Please focus more efforts on keeping trails open, and maybe opening more trails. But for the sake of the true Mountain bike passion, stop the insane pursuit of “sterilizing all trail systems”.

Tree down on trail

This past June 2nd was National Trails day. So, after unfortunately missing a couple work parties I made it out to the Bull Mountain work party. I got there and immediately saw David Muse throw up his arms as if to say “yes, you made it!”. David is a guy I’m always happy to see, fun, interesting & knows the Bull Mountain area like no one else that I know!

He knew that I had gotten my USFS chainsaw certification, but little did I know why he was so happy to see me.

Jeep up backroad

He asked me if I was willing to drive about 5 miles on the Forest Service Road (FSR) through a locked gate, and close to a trail, then hike along the trail until I got to where there were 2 trees down. Hmm, drive the Jeep up past a gate where most aren’t allowed to drive? heck yea!

Problem: the key for the gate was about a mile out of the way with people that were cutting another tree. So, off I went. I finally got in touch with the nice lady that had the key – they had hiked the trail to the tree, would cut & hike out. In the meantime I figured it was a good chance to gas up & prestart the saw to make sure she was running. She’s a Husky, so no problems. I met up with the lady that had the key, then headed to find my tree.

Along the way I saw a group along an odd place of the FSR – basically if you don’t have David’s knowledge of the trails there you were in for a pretty long FSR ride – so I stopped & they were actually slightly turned around, but I got them headed in the right direction. They came across the creek at the base of FS77A and turned right when they should have turned left, gone around the gate and up bear hair trail – which was where I was heading.

I got the Jeep up to the single-track with no problems. I threw on the normally equipped 70oz. camelback, grabbed the chainsaw, I debated whether I would need the gas & bar oil, but figured for sure it was better to carry it up then have to hike back out and back in again with it, especially since I hadn’t seen what I was getting into.

As I started the hike, I quickly remembered a good trick that I learned at the certification class. Take a belt and wrap it through the saw handle & buckle it – now you have a strap that you can throw over your shoulder.

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Legs were not happy at first and before half a mile I had switched hands with the saw & gas/oil. But soon I got into a steady hike, and after what seemed a couple of miles I found the tree that had fallen. Some branches had been caught by another tree and snapped back into the trail. So, I made a couple of cuts of the branches and was able to quickly get them off the trail. No big deal.

And then there was the trunk!
I figured I would go ahead and save this for later and hiked up the trail to find the other tree.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

I hiked what seemed like another mile before coming across the next tree. This one had been dead for awhile and had come down in a storm. It was a basic couple of cuts to get the weight of itself off the trunk, and then cut sections small enough to be able to move it off the trail. So, I made my first cut on the upper end of the tree, made the second cut back far enough by the bank of dirt that no one would hit it – and then it happened – the tree rolled over towards me, although I wasn’t in any danger, because of the dirt and the trail, it just exposed about a foot of more tree towards the trail. I tried to move this ‘trunk’ section of the tree, but she wasn’t budging. Oh well, just another cut to get that section out.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

After finishing up this tree and cleaning up everything off the trail I hiked maybe another half mile or so of the trail before turning back around and heading back to the first tree that I hadn’t finished yet. The Trunk!

the Trunk

When I got back, I stopped, set everything down, looked at the clock and it was after 1. So, I grabbed a snack bar and drank some more water while going over my plan of action on this tree. But first I really needed to sharpen the saw more – luckily I had remembered to bring along a file. My forearms are still nicked from sharpening the saw without a vise.

Since there were 2 supporting points on either side of the trail, I decided to cut the high side first. I knew the upper part of the tree was supported by 1 side of the trail, so I jammed some hunks of bark under the spot just below my cut and got to work. I was watching my kerf (first section of the cut) to make sure my saw wasn’t going to get pinched that would have sucked w/o having any other tools! As I got really close to finishing the cut I got nervous that it was actually going to pinch, so I stopped and ended up hand sawing it thru the rest of the way.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

I pulled the bark section and stacked them, it would make a great obstacle – and I could double up the tree for an awesome log-over… but I wasn’t sure of the trail rating and how it would work-out on this downhill, so I cleared the trail :(

Next I started cutting just off the trail – I had to go off the trail to get the tree out and reduce chance of getting the blade in the dirt. I did the 1/3 under-cut first, then started with the top cut. I had gotten closer than I expected and the tree jammed on me – the saw was pinched – stuck in place. I’m in a tight spot!. I looked around and was able to find a small dogwood tree that was down & section a 6′ section for leverage, and although it took awhile, I got the tree off the saw. Phew!!

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

So, the rest of the tree I basically cut 2/3 the way through, rolled it, and cut the rest of the way, then rolled the sections out of the trail. Not that it was easy, but it was manageable.

Once I got back to the Jeep I remembered driving around a tree…. crap, I bet our work party organizer Debbie was twittling her thumbs wondering where I was and waiting on this key?! Wait, she has my cell phone number where I wrote out my name & number in case she needed to contact me – free reign!

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Well, since I’m here with all the equipment I might as well make the most of it and decided to go ahead and take off the upper limbs to clear the trail some more. Once I finished that tree, I saw another 1 that I had driven past – might as take a little off the top of this one also. These were both trees that were blown down and there wasn’t anyway that they were beneficial being in the trail.

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Phew, it had been a good and challenging, Fun day in the woods! So, I packed the gear back in the Jeep and headed out. Out the gate, locked her behind me, and back up FS77A. Once I got to the intersection with FS77, I vaguely remembered a girl named Polly asking if you can say you cleaned a climb if you have to stop and climb over a downed tree. Well, that heinous climb was directly on my right. I parked the Jeep, hopped out, gas up, and hiked up in search of this tree that came down over the heinous climb.

It was a dogwood. Not sure why it had fallen, but it was quick to get cut and out of the trail.
I hiked back down and headed back to the Jake parking lot to see if anyone (Beuller?) was around….. it was about 5 o’clock. Bueller?!

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I headed back on down the road and in true mt bike fashion stopped at the local Mexican restaurant for dinner. Today was a good day, I got things done, I spent time in the woods, I helped improve the trails for other riders, and no one was hurt!

Jackrabbit over Memorial Day weekend

Over Memorial day weekend some friends and me did a Mt biking – camping trip (back) to Jackrabbit campground in Hayesville, NC. This is such a great location to ride and camp at due to it also being directly on lake Chatuge.

Apollo is dog gone tired.

Ride report: Friday was Noon Dog loop out 2 Saba beach – unfortunately for Apollo I took a wrong turn and we ended up doing an extra 2 miles before actually getting to the beach – this had him tuckered out for the rest of the weekend! Friday afternoon the Faster group went out for all trails, followed by a lake swim.

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Friday evening there was some discrepancies about who’s campsite was where, and who had reservations and at what location (luckily we were not at all involved in any of this). The park rangers showed up and went about attempting to get things sorted out – luckily for our ‘camp neighbors’ it all got sorted out and they did not need to re-pack and move to a different campsite because they spent about 3 hours setting up their campsite. Yeah, they had a BUNCH of stuff – but hey, they are out camping w/ their kids and they were really cool about us having our dogs – so everyone was happy.

Saturday was ‘no drop’ on all trails, lunch, Faster group (all trails), lake swim, dinner & some folks went out for a night ride. (some folks didn’t tell other folks to bring their night lights).

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Sunday was Kid’s day – Dale brought up his 2 boys and we rode at their pace. 1 of whom had the most awesome crash that I may have ever witnessed. Coming off the blue loop there is a double hump, he rode the first 1 well, but the 2nd 1 threw him – somehow, he appeared to be off the bike landing hand first, which turned into a cartwheel, then flopped onto the ground – the whole time the bike soloed away from him for about 30 yards into the woods before stopping – it was the craziest dis-mount I had ever seen! He wanted to be upset about it, but we were all patting him on the back & cheering so much I think he ended up taking some pride in it.

We followed that ride up with another lake swim, then afternoon ‘no drop’ ride.
Sunday afternoon several people went back to Greenville for the USPro race – although I really wanted to go, I had been there the past 2 years, and since the campsite was all set-up ‘sleep-in & recover’ on Monday morning with out all the driving sounded a little more appealing.

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Monday morning my friend Carey packed up early and headed home, so I decided to go out and explore the surrounding area some more.

I headed out to check out a friends cabin that is in the area. I originally drove directly past it. Came to the end of the road and turned around and came back. The directions were go South on the road – green gate, before the bridge. So, I saw a gate, but it looked very unused, so I kept driving, and ended up going over the bridge before realizing that must have been the gate. I hiked in through the tall grass a little nervous due to the fact that there isn’t an address, so I wasn’t really sure if this was the correct cabin or not.

old cabin

I’m not sure how old the cabin is, but it was definitely rustic in nature. I was nervous when I walked across the deck. Each of the boards looked like they could give way at any time.
The nice thing about the cabin was that it was just up from a pretty good size creek. It looks like you could at least walk down to the creek and cool off if you wanted too – not that you could do laps or anything, but at least soak a little bit.

I ended up going for a walk with Apollo since we were on a quiet road. We went past the bridge and up the hill – Apollo was running from shade tree to shade tree now due to the sun. We were stopped under 1 of the big trees beside the road when I noticed a Solar panel in the pasture. This was the 2nd time on this trip that I had seen what appeared to be a field of solar panels.

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After I got back home, I did a little research into these solar panels in Hayesville, NC. I came across Green States Energy website which talked about 2 different projects in the Hayesville area – so I’m sure that I saw one of these 2 projects, but I can’t tell for certain which one…. although I would guess it was Hindsman, since the one I saw from the road was on a slight hill – unfortunately didn’t get a chance to get a picture of that one.

Waterfall near Unicoi.

On the way back from Jackrabbit I decided to stop along the way at the top of Unicoi gap and reheat some lunch. After eating, I took Apollo for another short hike and hiked back to a waterfall that I had been too before – I particularly like this waterfall because it has a man-made ‘basin’ near the base of it that fills with water and has a little run-off.

12 Long Haul Essentials for Mt Biking

Recently this year I have been doing much longer and often solo rides.
These are Mt bike rides in the Chattahoochee National Forest where I am out exploring new (to me) areas of the forest. I will look at a map of an area and sometimes wonder how to connect different sections of this vast forest, or I will see a trail/old logging road and explore where it goes. Often the only signs of life I come across are wild-life and Army Rangers in training. So far this year I have seen many deer, several turkey, a couple hogs and a bear.

As it was well phrased recently in Outside magazine: “No one knows the sorrow of being stranded without tools like a cyclist.”

For these reasons I realized that I needed to start planning out what I have in my pack that is not the norm for a 2 hour mt bike ride. But for those longer rides, I am adding some items that I deem necessary in a worst case situation. And since I’m in remote areas this means more self-reliance.

River crossing.

The norm for my pack is 70oz water, a pump (just more reliable and reusable than CO2), 2 tubes, clifbar, gel flask, salt tablets, Master Link, cycling specific multi-tool, a RoadID.

First thing – I always tell a friend that knows the general area, where I am going too and what area I’m planning on exploring and where I’m hoping to get back too a more civilized area. And I always let them know when I’m done!

1. Water tablets. I have gotten back to the car several times either with no water or very little left – and since we are coming into the hotter days of summer I figure that having iodine or water purification tablets in my pack might really save me from dehydration.
They are light, do not take up much room, and will be there when you need them – however, make sure you read the label before you have to use them. Most require 30 minutes to 4 hours to completely purify the water.

1A. Nuun tablets. A. I really like Nuun tablets that add a little flavor to any water – whether on the bike or not – but I strongly Dislike the flavor of Iodine – this is a good masking of it & bonus of added electrolytes!!!

2. Hemorrhage Control Compression Bandage – Something that has happened to a friend before was getting a pretty bad cut, and I know of a person that probably lived only because he was life-flighted out of an area. But imagine how scary that would be and how expensive the after-math was. What if all that could have been avoided? Having a compression bandage (and knowing how to apply it) can help stop the bleeding which will save your own or someone’s else life. When I did my CPR class recently Celox was highly recommended by the EMT teaching the cert. and I have seen it listed in many of the first-aid kits sold at local outfitters.

3. multi-tool – I know most Mt bikers carry a cyclist specific multi, but I also carry a regular leather-man multi-tool. They have pliers, knife, screw drivers, file, etc. Any of these tools can come in very handy to fix ‘on the trail’ problems.

4. Emergency blanket. seriously, these are very light and very inexpensive (about $7-15) and reflect 90% of your body heat. Even those hot summer days can end with really cold nights.
4A: I will often carry a windvest and even arm warmers, temperatures can change quickly on a mountain.

Mt Biking @ Lake Fontana, NC

5. compass or compass app. Although I have a good sense of direction and figuring out which way I need to be going – I usually do so based on the sun positioning. I have a back-up plan though – a Free compass App on my smart-phone. It is a great idea to learn how to use a compass in training before you need it in an ‘episode of lost’.

6. chain tool. and not just any chain tool, the Park chain tool that I used when I worked as a bicycle mechanic. Yes, it’s heavy. Yes, it will be worth lugging it around if I ever have to use it. I have broken my chain several times and the current multi-tool I have does not have a chain tool that works very well. This is a ‘better safe & be able to cycle 10 miles to the car than have to walk’ item. Besides that master link isn’t going to be useful if you don’t have a chain-tool.

7. Extra Food. Most anytime I get on the bike I have a gel flask and a cliff bar – when I know I’m going out for 4-6 hour ride, hike-a-bike, exploration trip – I will add a sandwich, an at least 1 extra cliff bar, a pop-tart or another kind of energy bar. I have found that I am more likely to eat and less likely to cramp if I have variety of things to eat.

8. Another ‘smart’ phone app is MyTracks When exploring I currently use MyTracks – and I try to remember to keep my phone is ‘airport’ mode to save battery. This is a great app that can help you figure out where you are and what direction you want to go and where you have been. CAUTION: using an app on your phone uses up your battery life which maybe precious in a bad situation. I have had to turn off MyTracks in order to save my battery life.

9. chem-light – this is something I watched the rangers use. They store for a long period, but you just pop the middle and they light up for about 8 hours. This is a great tool if you get lost and people are attempting to find you. I wouldn’t say that it doubles as a flashlight by any means, although if tied to a walking stick (as I’ve seen the Rangers do) it may aid you if you are walking and there isn’t any worries about batteries dying on you.

Long haul home

10. para-cord or similar string – I know that many people are wearing the para-chord bracelets, but if you are really in the outback wilderness, there can be many uses for such an item. Tying a splint to hold a broken bone in place or a twisted ankle, tie a sling in case someone breaks a collarbone, tie down broken shoe straps, tie down things onto your pack.

Originally designed for paratroopers, paracord is a kernmantle rope: a braided sheath over a bundle of seven inner cords. This mantle makes paracord very resistant to abrasion. 550 paracord is rated for 550 pounds: 300 pounds for the sheath and 35 pounds for each strand. The cords can be removed from the sheath and divided into two strands if finer string is needed.

Read more: 550 Paracord uses

11. Matches. If you get turned around/lost or have to settle in for the night lighting a fire will cause smoke to rise – which can keep you warm and also been seen for over a mile.

12. Know how. Ok, maybe this isn’t something you pack, but it is something that helps – it is practice for using all the things that you pack, and face it, if can have all the tools with you, but what good is it if you don’t know how to use them.

For me, several seasons of camping, reading books/articles, CPR certification, shared knowledge and experience have helped me put together this list. And the list changes occasionally.

Anything I missed?? I would like to hear your input and specifics of what you pack for your longer ride/adventures!

chainsaw practice

After attaining my US Forestry Chainsaw certification I had to go back to my Mother’s house in SC, which just happened to give me a chance to practice some of the techniques that they had just taught us.

The yard has/had 2 dead trees that I have been needing to cut down (fell).
1 of which was a pine tree which was further away from the house – so I conveniently choose to practice with this tree first. I found an old flag and placed it out in front of the tree based on where I wanted to drop it and about where I figured the top of the tree would be.

final Faceplate cut.  Maybe over 70 degrees?

This also gave me a specific location to aim for. After doing that I lined up the saw and made the initial face cut, as usual I think I dug-in too deep. Then I lined up the first cut to make the 2nd cut to finish the face-plate. I was shooting for over 70 degrees and probably just got that much. More would not have hurt tho.

Next I scored both sides of the tree – again, something specific to aim for when I make the bore cut. Then I went ahead with the bore cut (being very careful to use the ‘attack’ part of the blade and avoid the ‘kickback’ area) and also being very careful not to cut the ‘hinge’ of the trunk. Since this is a softer pine tree, I planned for a 2″ hinge. My angle was a little low, but I was satisfied with it. Standing on 1 side of a big pine tree and attempting to bore a chainsaw straight through is a little more challenging than you may think.

Scored, then bored.  A lil low, but not bad.

Now I started the wedging. I placed a wedge on either side of the bore cut, and drove them slightly into the tree facing in the general direction what I wanted the tree to fall. After ensuring that both of them were snug – I cut the back-strap.

I finished the back-strap cut, but the tree didn’t move. At this point all that is holding the tree upright is the hinge and the wedges. So, I started hitting the wedges and having them dig deeper into the trunk. After several hits on each the tree suddenly started to topple.

Faceplate and hinge, doing it's job.  Guide the tree until she is down.

Now that I have the tree down on the ground, I was surveying my face-plate cut, and the Hinge that is used to guide the tree during the fall.

I was thinking about the steps that I had just taken to fall this tree. It seemed so calculated. I had made a plan, then executed that plan. The only difference was that the tree didn’t fall as soon as I cut the back-strap.

The face-plate is at the bottom of the picture – the fibers are left from the hinge, then the bore-cut.

Good hinge on this, about 2" across the pine.

I had to hit the wedges but this fact proved how effective it was that the tree didn’t topple backwards.
Look almost in the center of the picture, just to the left of the trunk.

Suddenly, as I looked up the tree I remembered that I had put a flag out to use as a guide. I walked up the tree and started to look around, when I found it surprisingly closer to the tree than I had even expected.

That is pretty darn close to the flag - beginners luck!

Beginners Luck is what I figured…. I mean I have experience cutting down trees, but that tree fell really close to the flag.

Well, that was the fun part….. next is clean-up. I ‘bucked’ up the tree and started loading it into the trailer. We won’t use this soft pine for firewood, so I was free to cut it up into what ever was manageable.

Pine tree all loaded up, no firewood here.

With some work I was able to drop this tree and since it was already dead there weren’t any pine needles or smaller twigs – this made the clean-up process much quicker than usual. So, it wasn’t much later that I got that tractor stuck in the woods while attempting to unload. Luckily I was stuck right where I unload brush and just had to unload the trailer to get it all unstuck and cruising back to the house for a cold beverage.

Track Rock Gap

Since I was already in North GA for my chainsaw cert, and we finished earlier than I had expected, I decided to drive a little further North in an attempt to find the supposed Mayan ruins. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about searching for the ruins ahead of time.

I was basically driving blind with my ‘smart no-phone’ searching the internet for the article and the maps for location. All the time knowing that the article that mentions the location is saved in my old email… but my phone only keeps current email.

Luckily my memory of the area from riding the Gaps (local info: you turn North before the base of Jacks Gap) was able to lead me pretty close to where it is. I pulled into what was listed at TrackRock campgrounds.

Entrance to TrackRock area

After about 10 minutes of driving back through this area, I stop and asked where the Mayan ruin site is, luckily this person knew and I headed back up the road. Just as I think this lady sent me on a wild goose chase, I come across the TrackRock Archaeology sign, and pull into the parking lot.

TrackRock sign

I head off down the trail which looks quite well traveled, and come up to the spot of all the Petroglyphs (fancy name for old etching on rocks). And the USFS? has put up signage to explain what you are looking at and what the symbols supposedly mean.

Main description sign at Archaelogical site

I check out the different rock drawings, and read each signage…. yet, I was expecting more.
As I’m looking around, I hear voices coming from across the street. A couple is walking down a trail on the other side of the road. I chat with them about the trail, they said it was steep, but magnificent views along the ridge line. This is the start of the Arkaquah trail, which leads up to Brasstown Bald.

Arkaquah trail.

Unfortunately for me, since I did the chainsaw certification until about 3, I don’t have enough time to explore that side of the road.
So, I continue to explore what I am lead to believe is the Mayan ruins area. As I look and hike around the area I come across many large rocks that seem to be closely piled, but nothing to be suspicious of. As I explore some more I realize that there are some actual areas to take notice of, but are covered up in leaves. I’m sure the pictures will not do these justice for that reason.

First, I was curious if these were part of the irrigation system.
part of the Irrigation system?

Then there were several places where there were large depressions? I’m not sure if these were natural depression or archaelogical digs, from scavangers or what?

This was the only picture I got that seemed to convey the depth of the area.
Sunken area above the Petroglyph site.

Either way it was pretty interesting and I headed off down the trail less traveled to see if I could find more. Later I found what appeared to be a terraced area that seemed to match what the article had described. Although it was on the other side of the parking lot from the stones that were engraved.

I also found a trail that started to lead up the hill. As I followed it, I started to pick up some trash that had been left behind by other people. The last several weeks of picking up trash have been some interesting finds for me. And this trip was no exception.
How old would a can have to be to be a pull-top beer can?

Back in the day this was the High Life. Notice the pull tab.

Having my hands full as I hiked, I decided to set down the cans since I could grab them on my way out and continued hiking up the mountain for awhile. I saw a fairly interesting rock ledge, but nothing else really worth mentioning. After a half mile or so, the sun was dropping behind the Mt., and I decided that it was getting a bit late. As I headed back down I suddenly heard some rustling noises & stopped to try to figure out what it was. As I stood there the rustling leaves got closer and closer. Then suddenly 2 Turkeys crossed about 50 yards ahead of me in the direction I was heading. As I stood there motionless, they meandered along their way. Fortunately I was far enough away that I don’t think they noticed me. I still heard rustling so, I got out my camera-phone and waited until, to my left another Turkey crossed in nearly the same spot. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t zoom much and you really can’t see the turkey, but he is there, just over the cans that I set down. After he was on his way I picked the trash back up and headed back down the Mountain.

Turkey crossing.  Look just over the can in the center.

Shortly after this I hopped back in the car and started the drive back. But suddenly I had to stop along the road, and I quickly got this picture.

Mother Natures way of saying “come back soon”.
Mother Natures way of saying 'come back soon'

US Forestry Chainsaw Certification

This past weekend I attended the US Forestry Service (USFS) chainsaw certification class/workshop in Blairsville, GA. This class was recommended to me by David so that we would have more trail volunteers capable (certified) to do more maintenance. This class was Free from the USFS and a volunteer, FOR volunteers.

In attendance was 1 new USFS employee, 6 Appalachian Trail volunteers, and 9 local Mt bike volunteers – in attendance was Mike Palmeri, Joe Palmeri, Todd Lyons, Seth Owens, Jason Brousche, Tony Stevens, Gary Monk, Jim Townsend and myself.

Forestry Morning Meeting

On the Forestry side, it became obvious that (as you can expect) these guys are overwhelmed with the amount of land that they have to maintain, manage. They are thankful for the volunteers. The USFS in their efforts to gain assistance, while volunteering, a certified sawyer is considered an employee of the USFS and falls under their insurance. They said to date, that no one has needed to take them up on the offer of the insurance, and hope no one would need too.
Oak slice

Side Note: For those of you that don’t know, each Spring/Summer I cut & Split 3-4 cords of firewood for my Mom to heat her house all Winter. So, going into this class I felt quite confident, but was also hoping to fill in some areas of my knowledge. Well, it was pretty shocking that having someone that is basically grading you and hanging over your shoulder as you work made me more nervous than I would have expected. Suddenly, I’m not out there doing things my way & just my dog watching. But still I was able to attain ‘B’ cert. or the 2nd level of certification.

Getting Instructions

One of the greatest things that I learned from the class was Safety! Of course, working with chainsaws is Dangerous – period! The moment you relax and/or get ahead of yourself is when you will get hurt.

They are insistent that you use the brake on the chainsaw. This was something I wasn’t used to – heck, only 1 of my 3 chainsaws even has a brake on it.

Speaking of Safety, 1 of the things they were insistent on was a pair of chaps – and this is why:

Since most of what trail volunteers deal with is blow-downs (trees that the wind knocked over) they showed us how to best cut that tree with out getting your saw stuck, which is very easy to do & also dangerous.

How to properly cut a tree to better control which way the log goes once it has been cut.

How to maintain more control over a tree that has been blown down on the trail.

Dawg demonstrating a leaner cut

Another great technique was how to deal with Spring trees – these are trees that the tops got pulled over by another tree and the trunk is still rooted, but the top of the tree is pulled over & down. They are a dangerous situation, because the force of the tree wants to ‘spring’ it back up.

How you approach a situation where multiple trees are down and you need to clear the trail. Access the situation from all angles – and do some limbing if you need to get a better understanding of where to start.

How to determine the amount of lean a standing Tree has. This will determine which direction a tree naturally wants to fall, and what it would take to make it drop in a different direction if needed.

Since I do cut firewood & have to cut down dead trees I learned a ‘felling’ technique that I am anxious to try out.

Here is an example of a compound tree that I cut up for firewood. Notice it has a ‘Spring tree’ on the right, and that it is a compound situation where the downed tree is interlocked with the standing tree. It was a tricky situation to say the least.
Compound Fell Tree

Again, remember taking your time for safety and accessing the situation are the 2 greatest points – we are volunteers out there and in some situations even the Pro’s have to walk away.

Also, if you ride Mt bike trails – you should volunteer, if you are good with chainsaws, this class was Free from the USFS and volunteers, FOR volunteers.