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By Melissa Gearman
A week for the water trails crew is quite a bit different than the other crews located in the Central District.
The week begins at the Hamm’s shop in St. Paul. We pack up the truck with all of our gear (and we have a lot of it), pick up the boats, and hit the road. On our way to where we will be camping and working for the week we’ll stop and do some grocery shopping (and don’t forget the La Croix!!).
As a crew we work all over Minnesota from the upper portions of the St. Louis River north of Duluth to the Redwood near Marshall to the Zumbro in Rochester. We like to set up camp before we head out on the river on Mondays.
We start work on the rivers Monday afternoons. If the water is deep enough we will use the jon boat, if not the canoes are used. Once we find an access it’s time to gear up!
Now we just have to launch and load the boat.
Since we’re out on the boat all day we have to take everything we might need for the day.
Our typical boat packing list includes three chainsaws, two loppers, two handsaws, water jug, lunch cooler, biodegradable bar oil, chainsaw gas, boat gas, paddles, chainsaw helmets, regular helmets, med kit and tool box. Being good at Tetris has come in very handy.
As soon as everything is ready to go we head out looking for snags. When we approach a snag, a lot more happens than you might think. First we ask ourselves, “Does this snag need to be addressed and is it safe to address?” If the answer to both of those questions is yes then we decide how to go about addressing the snag. Which side of the river should we work on? Is one side easier than the other? How strong is the current here? Is where we want to cut safe and reasonable for a paddler? While this conversation is taking place amongst the crew members, one person is taking a point using the Nomad GPS device. Information such as river, work required, description of snag and a photo is gathered.
Now it’s time to cut! Some people are surprised to find out we use normal chainsaws when cutting in the water.
The water does create some issues such as greater resistance and reduced visibility but overall chainsaws get the work done well.
At some point in the day we break for lunch. We really like to take this time to relax and enjoy the nice weather.
Sometimes we have to get creative when we forget a knife.
After lunch, it’s back to work.
At the end of the day we head back to the access, pack up the gear, get the boat back onto the trailer and clean our saws. The rest of the evening is spent eating, relaxing, eating, hiking, eating and sleeping.
Repeat the workday another two and a half days and you have yourself a full week on the water trails crew. It is exhausting work but it is also the most fun work I have ever had the privilege to do.