Wilderness Wanderings: Family treasures become wilderness workhorses | SteamboatToday.com

Wilderness Wanderings: Family treasures become wilderness workhorses

Bob Korch/Steamboat Today

Volunteer sawyers from Friends of Wilderness this summer have cleared literally hundreds of fallen trees from trails in our nearby wilderness areas — Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and the Flat Tops.

It would not have been possible without the large influx of new volunteers the past two or three years, who, combined with more seasoned volunteers, have stepped up the pace of sawing trees at a time the deadfall from the beetle kills epidemic appears to be peaking.

Just as important as growing our volunteer base has been the need for more saws, specifically, crosscut saws, because chainsaws are prohibited in legally designated wilderness areas. That's why FOW is especially appreciative of the donation last week of two vintage crosscut saws from Steamboat Springs' Dave and Connie Loken.

Dave learned of FOW's trail exploits through his friend, Dick Grant, who happens to be one of our volunteers. That got Dave to thinking about two old crosscut saws hanging in the family cabin in north central Minnesota.

The two bucking saws — a two-person and a one-person — go back at least as far as the first decade of the 1900s. His paternal grandfather had acquired them for cutting firewood at the old family homestead.

What's a "bucking saw?" It's typically a saw with a wider blade that is better used for cutting trees that are no longer standing. A "felling saw" has a thinner blade that is better used for cutting standing trees, which FOW does not do.

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Dave, himself, remembers "hanging on to one end" when he helped his father saw wood as a young boy. It wasn't until the 1960s that these two crosscut saws were phased out in favor of chainsaws. In the more than five decades since, the saws have acquired a little rust, but that will soon be cleaned off, and the saws will be sharpened before being put into use on local trails next year.

Why would decades-old, rusty saws be so prized in today's disposable society? Very simply, it's in the thickness of the steel. Typical saws made after the 1950s are flat ground, whereas vintage saws are either straight taper or crescent taper, and less seldom flat ground. The best vintage saws are crescent taper.

Thus, it's not only the traditions and skills of crosscut sawing that are being carried on by wilderness sawyers such as those with FOW, but the old saws are being preserved, as well.

Bob Korch is president and trail crew leader with Friends of Wilderness which assists the U.S. Forest Service in maintaining trails and educating the public in the Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops Wilderness areas. For more information, visit friendsofwilderness.com.

What’s going on in the forest?

  • Quaking aspens along mountain trails are beginning to hint of a gold rush in a few weeks. Earlier this week, while hiking South Fork Trail, we were pleasantly surprised to see a grove that had already turned yellow.
  • Other early autumn color includes the bright orange mountain ash berries.
  • The purple blossoms of fireweed are pretty well spent, but the leaves are beginning to turn to fire shades of red, orange and yellow, and yellow ferns are turning golden brown.
  • Speaking of color, are you wearing orange? Remember, hunters are also out in the forest.
  • For the latest trail conditions, call the Steamboat office of the U.S. Forest Service at 970-870-2299.