Chilcotin Chainsaw Gang

This was not a typical back-country bike weekend in the South Chilcotin mountains. Instead of epic long days and big alpine descents, we chose to give back to this place that has given us so many memorable adventures. Our goal on this early season trip was to remove as much blowdown as possible as far as we can get in two days. Riding was replaced with hiking and sawdust. Our bikes became oxen to move gear and our group of three, the chainsaw gang.

The pine beetle is the main cause of blowdown that covers the trails every year. The more popular trails in the Chilcotins are cleared by the good folks from Tyax or mountain bikers and other trail users that clear what they can when out. It’s the more remote or lesser known trails that are at risk of surrendering to dead wood unless they find champions for their cause.

Although it wasn’t our first time doing this, it was our first overnight trail maintenance venture. Adding a chainsaw, related tools and fuel to our camp gear and food challenged the mantra of pack ‘right and light’. My 30 pound backpack was light in comparison to the weight carried by my companions, but considering my main payload was food, one could argue I was at the greater disadvantage if Mr. Bear showed up hungry.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to clear it, does the trail still exist? Yes, based on the large number of wildlife tracks and the walk-unders, overs and arounds we saw.

Blowdown clearing would have continued on day two except for one small nut – the one that held the chainsaw bar in place. It disappeared and didn’t want to be found. For all the careful planning and gear we brought, we did not have a spare. No nut, no cut. The chainsaw was put away and we hiked to the alpine, clearing what we could with hands saws and brute strength. It was still a good day.

Forty nine trees later and flow has been restored. The number isn’t important and it doesn’t matter who did the work. What matters is that the trail is open again and those who come behind us will be smiling.

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