Sunday, February 13, 2011

the hills are alive, with the sound of..chainsaws?

Last week at work I was visited by two men who are enroute to plead their case with a Congressman. They want the Wilderness Act amended, or in some other way force us to agree to the temporary use of chainsaws to log out the wilderness trails. If they got this pushed through, they say, they would "help" us, a chainsaw army of citizens! Of course, the option to use a crosscut saw is always out there for them, but in this they are not interested. This Chainsaw Rebellion makes me a little nervous.

There are those who belong to the "You don't hear it, it didn't happen" school of thought. Sort of the wilderness version of don't ask, don't tell. Just do it when the visitors aren't around! End result? The trails get cleared faster. Instant gratification! Nobody has to sweat on the hard end of a misery whip. Who cares if only a few old men know how to sharpen one anymore? Open trails! No waiting!

I can't help but think of the men who wrote the Wilderness Act, all men of a certain age who had come to adulthood before helicopters, before saws, a much different world. All around them they saw places they had played in as children disappearing, woods cut over, the constant drone of mechanization taking over those lovely dark, secret places. They believed in not just the physical wilderness but the spirit of it. A snapshot of the world that was, before it got bulldozed, hacked at, tilled over, smothered under layers of human made sound. It is that spirit that is hard to explain to people like my visitors. A touch feely Barry Manilow-esque rant does nothing for them. They want access. My continued clinging to what many believe is an obsolete, back-breaking, outdated way of doing things does not make sense. We have become so used to replacing things, making our lives less difficult. Who wants to work hard when you don't have to?

I for one need places that are hard to reach. Places that are scary. Places where your cell phone doesn't work. Places where you have to ford streams in sandals, holding your breath from cold and current. Places where god forbid you actually have to work at it a little. Climb over a tree or two, confront the result of winter storms, get a little irritated, figure things out.  Places you return from thinking that you have accomplished something. We aren't doing people any favors by making things easy in wilderness. Our lives are easy enough. That's why we have to go to the gym.

No excuses! My partner on the misery whip is 70 years old.


  1. Interesting topic. I can definitely see both sides of this. Sometimes around here avalanche debris so completely covers a trail that you would seem to need a bulldozer to clear the trail. A friend and I have debated whether one such section of trail is exciting and should be preserved or a giant PITA.

  2. Danni--I agree, in a case such as that, there would definitely be a consideration as to whether a chainsaw is the minimum tool. These guys are just talking about routine maintenance, which is a little harder to swallow.

  3. Is it my suspicious nature that thinks this "offer" might be tied to also using ATVs in the wilderness? If offered a chance to walk in X number of miles to cut a blowdown, would the volunteer offer still hold?


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