Pioneer Outfitters Survival & Guide Training runs throughout the year. We “train” is as by example. Our training is living our lives, in the bush of Alaska. Survival is a necessity living in the remote Interior of Alaska.
Master Guide Terry Overly flew away in the airplane this morning to haul fuel in for the generators that run everything from power for lights, refrigerators, freezers and the telephone company.
A shanook roared its way up the valley to warn us of the big wind coming before the black and white spruce began swaying and bowing. As we were gathered around my table, talking about the boys (the trainees) wrangling in a few of the horses for an afternoon ride, the wind peaked.
A thunderous CRACK! sounded close to the cabin and we went outside to see which tree had fallen to the tantrum of the wind. As we walked around looking and watching the trees moving to a violent dance, we decided it would be wiser to wait to get the horses until the wind had past by, for walking through the trees would be dangerous and it would be too difficult to pin-point the horse bells in the noise of the wind.
Rounding the cabin again, the mammoth tree that has stood so long as the center of my tiny yard caught our eyes, it was bending to the base of its trunk as it has rarely ever done. Yes, this was a bad wind. Another, smaller CRACK! directed our attention to the big tree and we walked towards it.
Well, this was a problem.
On the back of the big tree, wrapping half way around its big base, was the crack we had heard and mistook for a tree falling. Less than twenty feet from the cabin I and my children had called home for their entire lives, the 100+ foot tree was leaning directly towards my roof.
Should we wait for Boss to return? Could we afford to wait? The tree had to be dropped before the wind finished the job. The tree would have to be notched in such a way to counteract the natural bend, the wide crack that was over four feet in length and the wind.
Logging chains, the extension ladder and cable come-alongs were fetched in a hurry as well as the rest of the crew and chainsaws. Another CRACK! had my son running back to the cabin to grab his little sister who was watching us from the window less than twenty feet from the tree.
The ladder was stretched, chains wrapped and the cable hooked up, adjusted and tightened. Angles were assessed and reassessed, the cable re-adjusted and tightened, the ladder removed and the dog houses, heavy fire ring, and grill were removed out of any perceived path the tree fall may take.
We stood back watching the tree bend further than it had yet and we all knew and agreed, we were out of time. Jeff started his chainsaw with a jerk and approached the old tree. As he touched the target with the tip of the saw, cutting no more than four inches, the tree gave way and started to give in to gravity and the wind. One more small cut and that was all the enormous tree needed.
Down! Laid out on the trail as if it were planned. Safe and clean, the tree lay in the trail only feet from the cabin without touching it.
All told, from the first crack that alerted us in the cabin, twenty minutes had past. Three trainees, my son and myself, working together, using experience and initiative, saved our home and did what had to be done, together.