I haven’t worked in the woods for years, but yesterday I took a day off of work to hang out with a local forester and two of his employees.
It was a foggy, damp, rainy day. We spent about 4 hours walking in a couple areas that were harvested 11-15 years ago and are ready for the clearing saw crews this season.
Most of it was wall to wall balsam fir and spruce, higher than our heads, and so thick.
It was so good to get in the woods, smell the woods, smell the brush saw, gear up in my work boots, gloves, and hardhat, and hang out with like-minded folk for the day.
Now the next part here is just between you and I, so hush up about it.
I am desperately out of shape. Luckily I’ve been standing at work all day since November so I have some leg musculature again. My cardio and endurance is pitiful.
I started the day in Jeff’s raingear, because mine no longer fit. What a mistake. I couldn’t keep his rain pants hitched up high enough, and as soon as I had to lift my leg to walk over some slash, the crotch in the rainpants would be too low. That was what led to my right knee slamming into the slashpile the first time. No time for tears or whining, I am forester!
I eventually ditched the rainpants, for safety sake. Which meant I was just going to get wet. Which I used to do all the time. When I spent a summer on a clearing saw I never wore rain gear and I never wore sleeves. That was 1997 though, and now I’m an old woman and not nearly as tough. I also forgot that decent fitting cotton pants still need a belt when they are going to soak up all the rain. I was pulling them up all day and was afraid to stop for a pee because I knew I’d never get them back up again.
My feet stayed dry for a long time, but that battle wasn’t meant to be won.
We all took turns falling. It just couldn’t be helped. The trees were so thick you had to just push your way through. I pulled my face mask screen down in the front of my hard hat and charged. But you couldn’t see the slash left behind from the last harvest, so it was just a matter of time before the thick trees wrapped around your legs, or you got your leg stuck between two old logs, or your leg found a hole in a slash pile. I think I had the most ridiculous fall of the day when I slipped on a wet piece of wood. My hard hat flew off my head, the forester’s GPS I had in my hand flew in another direction, and since we were on a slope, I couldn’t stop myself from rolling down that slope like a log, gaining speed as I went. Real classy.
For the most part, I did a decent job keeping up to the guys, until we paired off and I had to follow the young 20′ish guy walk for a few kilometres, in what I swear was a series of circles. I was seriously running out of steam. If I stopped for a breather though, I’d lose the glimpse of his blaze orange gear in the trees and I didn’t have a compass, GPS, or map of my own so I had to keep going! Don’t tell anyone, but once I had to use my hands to help lift my left leg over a high hanging log.
By the time we were done for the day, my feet were swimming like goldfish in my boots. I was wet everywhere. I was hungry and thirsty but in a fantastic mood! Maybe because I knew I didn’t have to do it again tomorrow Maybe because it was April and there were no bugs yet!
However I am a broken mess today. My legs are purple and blue and scraped from above my knees to my ankles. My muscles are sore everywhere. I was so sore last night in bed that I kept waking myself up every time I moved, so at 3am I came downstairs and slept in the recliner with the leg rest pulled out. My shins are sore, my knees are swollen from being banged so many times on trees, my thighs are sore, my hips are sore, my ribs are sore, and oddly enough my forearms are sore. The only thing I can think that I did with my arms was grab on to trees to stop from falling. I started the day with a new pair of workgloves, but they got so wet I was squeezing my fists to drain out some of the water each time we stopped for a test plot, and by the end of the day one of my fingers had already ripped through the end of one of the fingers.
It was perhaps a great reminder why a desk job isn’t the worst fate a person can have.
But I’d do it all again.
Maybe not for a few days though.