Burning Wood

Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse

Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse

This will be my latest day yet – up at 7:13, and on the road by 7:30. Hotel rooms will do that to me – Caleb’s second reason for liking hotels, his first being able to take a shower. I stop at False Klamath Cove – first spot the road hits the beach driving south from Crescent City. The car’s thermometer says it’s 50 degrees. I’ve been in 42 degree water so my feet don’t mind some cold sand – they enjoy it while I enjoy the view.

I stop in Trinidad to use the bathroom and there is a line at the gas station. Only upon walking out do I remember parking here before and last time I left with a giant donut in my hands. Then we went across the street to the grocery store to get a few things – probably chocolate bars. I thought I would try that again, but the sign posted said no public restroom and I didn’t need to do any shopping. I would have to look elsewhere.

"You don't listen - You get the hose!"

“You don’t listen – You get the hose!”

I thought I might try another part of town. I might’ve succeeded at the café around the corner, but the lighthouse at the end of the street got voted more important. It’s actually just a memorial of some historic parts as the original got modernized. The fog bell next to it now tolls every day at noon for those lost and/or buried at sea. It’s beautiful, but not a place I can pee. I will make it to McKinleyville for that.

With my bladder empty, and the recent news that I’m in for two delays, possibly an hour each, I decide on a coffee. I traveled the 299 a month ago with my dad and we saw the CAT tractors moving dirt on the side of the hill. Now there are sections of road that are dirt and the pilot truck is not there to guide us around the construction, most of it is clearly off the road (that used to be there), but to keep cars from racing around the gravel corner and causing a mess of rocks and metal that would only delay the road improvement.

Waddle - partly torched

Waddle – partly torched

I get lucky. The first wait is maybe two minutes before the one car from the other side drives past. The second wait will be five minutes before we wait for the line of cars to pass. Both of these delays are within 40 miles of Redding. Driving through the Shasta State Historic Park I remember when Caleb and I stopped here eight months ago. I will get gas in Redding and continue on the 299 east. I had planned a different route, but I had a bear that was now dry and needed to be torched.

I could’ve done the torching myself. I could’ve paid another shop to do it. I could’ve stained him instead, but I wanted the original artist to finish the bear he signed. I pass another construction zone on the 44 east just outside of Old Station, but there is no wait before my arrival to the chainsaw carvings shop at 2:30pm. Jeff, the guy that made my bear was taking his after-lunch nap. The boss, Dan, was on break while Stacy and his dog, Chalay, were outside in the heat – one cutting wood and the other playing ball with me.

Dan and Stacy

Dan sectioning and Stacy de-branching

This job seems like a nice one. There is no real set schedule, but items sold must be replaced and the boss likes to have so many available. Jeff torches my bear and we all get to talking. Dan invites me to follow them into the woods – three guys and two chainsaws – to take some pictures of them working. It’s not every day that a girl shows up with a big camera that’s willing to hang out with this crowd – that’s probably what they tell all of us.

I agree to go, but end up in the truck with them. I’m glad I did. They turned rubble into road, and though I do have four-wheel drive, it was nice to not have to follow over branches and stumps near cliff edge. Instead I get to bounce around as we find our way to some decent cedars. I get out in my slip-on shoes with my Canon around my neck. Their safety gear consists of boots, t-shirts, and sunglasses.

Jeff working on the chainsaw

Jeff working on a chainsaw

Dan grabs the 18-inch MS 660 STIHL Magnum chainsaw. This tool costs over a $1,000 and it’s worth every penny according to the ease of felling these trees and other reviews of professional saw users. Growing up, my step-dad wanted a dream wood cabin. To get that we moved out to a farm where he cut down trees and my siblings and I drug them into piles. That instinct wanted to kick in when I saw branches, but we weren’t here for the small stuff. They wanted the trunk for substantial pieces – like a 100 pound owl.

Even so, I took some pictures and was going to help load the logs into the truck, but when Stacy picked one up and it stood as tall as him, I figured I’d let them do their job and I would do what had been asked of me. Soon they are covered in sweat, saw dust, and ash. All these trees have seen a fire which is good for drying out the wood for quicker use. It was neat to see them all work together and make it look easy. There was smiling, smoking, and a bit of blood clearing a clean patch in a dirty arm.

Dan cutting tree into sections

Dan cutting tree into sections

The return trip to the shop gives us an amazing view of Lassen Peak. They have a permit on the truck of when and where they can get wood, but I know there are other trails out here, though they may need a park pass, they would be worth it. This is beautiful country out here and though the men are working they enjoy the scenery too. They also take the time to learn about the different plants they are working near – good to know which ones will give you a rash.

Upon our return, Chalay has found a stick twice his length and carries it away with pride. They don’t have to unload the truck as Dan will be taking it, and the owl, to Oroville. Across the street a truck hauling a trailer full of bees pulls up. Stacy used to be a beekeeper and tells me and Jeff to follow him in hopes that we can get some fresh honey. I love bees and I put my face real close to look at them. Jeff asks if we will get bit and Stacy assures us WE wont as he gets attacked near his eye.

Stacy posing with chainsaw

Stacy posing with chainsaw

The bee drivers come back and there will be no honey for us. Back across the street and it’s closing time. They move all the carved wood inside to keep it safe over night, but they didn’t lock it up while on the road. Not looking forward to all the highway driving I have ahead of me, I decide to stay the night at Hat Creek Resort where for $20 I get a tent site, hot shower, and flush toilet. Jeff is not ready to go home yet, so him and Stacy invite me and Tasha, a local girl, over for drinks around the campfire.

Jeff passes out and Tasha goes home. I go back to my tent and though it may not be next to the creek I can still hear the water running. The stars are out and the RVs dim and quiet. The campground has hotel rooms, cottages, yurts, extended stay trailers, and a day-use clubhouse that can be rented for $50. It’s also close to the Pacific Crest Trail and sometimes thru-hikers can be seen calling this spot home for the night.

Lassen Peak

Lassen Peak

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