Monday, April 14, 2014

Tree Work at Upper Goose Pond Cabin

April 14, 2014

They say there's nothing that AT Volunteers can't accomplish--while I have seen the truth of statement, maybe there are still some things we shouldn't undertake...

Upper Goose Pond Cabin is set on a hillside overlooking Upper Goose Pond, one of the last sizable ponds in Mass that does not have any houses built on it.  Thanks to the efforts of the National Park Service and local donors, the entire shore line of the pond is part of the A.T. Corridor.  The cabin sits in and "oak and laurel" forest surrounded by mature White Oak trees that are approaching 100ft tall.  The thing with oaks is that as the tree grows, the lower branches naturally die off, and eventually fall to the ground--or the roof of the cabin, or onto tent platforms.  

When I say "lower" branches, I'm talking about branches that are 30ft up the trunk, impossible to access from the ground in this remote area.  At your house, you'd call the tree company and they'd roll up in their bucket truck and take the branches down in a few hours.  Upper Goose Pond Cabin is about a mile from the nearest road--so you call an Arborist--a guy that climbs trees, hauls up his chainsaw and cuts off the dead branches and lowers them to the ground.  

We called on Caleb Turner, an experienced arborist from the southern Berkshires.  Earlier, on a very cold January day we met to assess the work.  We picked several trees with dead or aging branches that were over the cabin and tent platforms at the two adjacent campsites.  This week, Caleb returned while we served as the ground crew.  While ordinarily, hikers are responsible for their own safety in choosing a tentsite, because we provide platforms--"forcing" them to camp in specific locations--it's incumbent on us to remove any known hazards.

So, how do you get up 30 feet of branchless trunk?  You toss a small line with a weighted bag up to into the tree, catching a branch that's strong enough to hold your weight while climbing--just like hanging a bear bag (sort of).  Then use that small line to pull up your climbing line, then climb the rope using a prussic knot for a hand hold and grabbing the rope with your feet and pushing up a foot or two at a time.

Once you're up the tree, just hang on and cut off the branches...

Then it's just a question of lowering them down where we're waiting to cut them up for firewood.

After clearing the branches, it's just a quick slide down the rope and onto the next tree.  While we had a crew on site, we also felled two other trees that were overhanging the privy.  Plenty of firewood available for next year and a safer campsite in the next big storm.

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