Blazing a trail again through downed woods

By Dylan J. Darling The Bulletin

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To find out more about work parties with the Central Oregon Nordic Club, and more about the club itself, go online to http://conc.freehosting.net .

EDISON BUTTE SNO-PARK — The combination of a beetle outbreak about a decade ago and strong winds early this month left hundreds of trees down on nordic and snowshoe trails near Bend.

Winds on Dec. 1 and 2 toppled trees throughout the sno-parks on and near the Cascade Lakes Highway, with trees falling onto trails originally cleared of logs by volunteers last fall, said Chris Sabo, trails specialist with the Deschutes National Forest. Volunteers were out again last Sunday, clearing about 300 logs from five miles of trail at Edison Butte Sno-Park off of Forest Road 45 south of the highway.

Sabo led the crew Sunday and said the Forest Service counts on the volunteer help from groups like the Central Oregon Nordic Club.

“We don’t just have the employee power to log it out this time of year,” he said.

Sabo and a volunteer each had chainsaws and cut through logs laying across the trail. Five volunteers followed them and moved the cut wood off the trail. Volunteers also had handsaws to cut through smaller material.

The downed trees are 90 percent lodgepole pine, Sabo said, most killed by mountain pine beetles 10 to 15 years ago. The beetles killed trees at Edison, Swampy, and other sno-parks west of Bend.

“Those trees are now to the point of decay at the base that even a modest wind can bring them down,” Sabo said.

The month started with much more than modest winds. On Dec. 1 gusts of nearly 50 mph were clocked in Sisters when wind pushed a ponderosa pine tree onto the Ski Inn restaurant. Similar strong winds that day and the next brought down trees at the sno-parks west of Bend.

Low snow both helped and hurt the volunteer work party Sunday. The light amount of snow on the trail, about 6 inches in most places, made it easy to find and saw through the logs. But icy snow made for a trudge from log to log, particularly when pulling sleds loaded with 50 pounds of gear, as Steve Williams, 69, of Bend, was doing.

“That’s been a real drag, literally a drag,” he said.

Williams is a member of the Central Oregon Nordic Club, a Bend-based nonprofit group. The club has about 170 members and another 50 or so people who aren’t members but are on an email list for people interested in volunteering at work parties, said Gary Kelley, co-president of the Central Oregon Nordic Club.

He said the group isn’t focused on racing like other ski clubs in Central Oregon.

“We’re just people who go out and ski in the woods for fun,” he said.

Along with folks from the nordic club, the volunteer crew Sunday also included a couple of members of the Deschutes County Search and Rescue.

Most of the logs cleared by the volunteers Sunday were skinny lodgepole pines, but they also removed a section of a sizable ponderosa pine. The tree was about 28 inches across where they cut out a piece to allow the trail to pass through.

“That’s the biggest (log so far),” said Bonnie Dickman, 57, of Bend, who with her husband, Paul Dickman, 60, volunteers with Search and Rescue. “That’s a big ponderosa.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7812; ddarling@bendbulletin.com.

Joe Kline / The Bulletin Bob Timmer, of Bend, left, saws branches as he works to remove a section of a fallen tree that Deschutes National Forest trails specialist Chris Sabo, right, cut up with a chainsaw during a trail-clearing day on Sunday at Edison Sno-park west of Bend.