Snow and Chainsaws

  • March 30, 2018
  • Posted by Nate Hess

On the week of March 12, 2018 crew leaders from Montana Conservation Corps in the Greater Yellowstone area split up into two groups and took part in their first official hitch. Our half of the crew went to Ennis, Montana to help with a stream bank restoration project, while the other half went to Sheridan, Montana to get some chainsaw practice and cut junipers. A few forest service sawyers felled, then bucked and limbed trees for us, which we then used the slash to build into fascines to put along the banks of the stream which will help against erosion while improving fish habitat. We worked in the Ennis area for two days with Sunni, the project partner, in which time we collected 83 fascine bundles.

We slept in the comfort of the office floor in Ennis for only one night. After work on Tuesday, we drove to our next project site in Sheridan while the saw folks drove to Ennis, to work with Sunni. One last thing about our stay in Ennis. We cooked dinner on Monday and breakfast on Tuesday in the parking lot. It was easily one of the strangest accommodations I’ve ever had on a hitch. One expects cooking and living in the woods, not an office and a parking lot, which is what made it strange for me.

Our sleeping situation in Sheridan would be a little less comfortable, however, we’d be in our tents the rest of the week. But we would have a garage to hang out and eat in. It got pretty cold at night and it became a common occurrence amongst the crew to make “Nalgene babies” at night, which is just a Nalgene filled with hot water that can be stuffed into one’s sleeping bag to keep them warm throughout a frigid night. The second night we spent in Sheridan, it snowed several inches. It continued during the day and had snowed a couple more inches by the time it stopped, around 3pm on Thursday.

While working in Sheridan on Wednesday and Thursday, we paired off and took a chainsaw to cut down juniper trees along a stream. We scattered the slash to about knee height in the area after bucking and limbing. Though Wednesday was a beautiful day, Thursday was pretty tough on the crew because of the snow fall. It was too dangerous to drive the rigs on the road, so we had to park and hike about a mile with our supplies to the worksite and then use a chainsaw in snow up to our knees at certain places. We were cold and wet and pretty miserable, but I believe we all came out the better for it. Because of that, we all looked forward to our three day weekend, but also looked forward to our next hitch.


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