Log Trucks: General Logging Operations

In this episode, the Dirty Freehub team goes on a tour to Alder Creek Tree farm with Jennifer Beathe, Forester and Outreach Manager of Starker Forests. During the ride to Alder Creek Tree farm in Corvallis, Oregon, we dive into identifying the recreational and rider safety around logging operations, the dangers involved in this type of work, what to look for as a rider and prioritize safety, and what it means as a recreational user through these areas.

This episode is a part of our multipart series of logging.
Previous episode: https://dirtyfreehub.org/podcasts/log-trucks-rider-safety-part-i/

Starker Forests: https://starkerforests.com/
Recreation Permits: https://starkerforests.com/land-access/


Dirty Freehub 0:06

This is the connection. A Dirty Freehub podcast connecting gravel cyclists to where they ride through short stories about culture, history, people, places, inland.

Dirty Freehub 0:26

Wow is such a huge vehicle. Oh, right.

Log Truck Driver 0:30

Oh, okay. Are we ready? I’m ready. You leave it at landing.

Dirty Freehub 0:36

It’s Kira Corbet with Dirty Freehub in this episode of Log Trucks. We’re jumping into the log truck to get a better understanding of the logging operations. Joining us today is Jennifer Beath of stalker forests and some log truck drivers where we will continue her tour at Alder Creek Tree Farm in starker forests to learn behind the scenes in logging operations.

Log Truck Driver 0:56

I’m through this. These are my scales right here. Oh, Whoa. So the 54 is the truck?

Dirty Freehub 1:02


Log Truck Driver 1:03

And the. What’s the trailer say? 30. That’s the trailer. And then the 87, whatever the combined weight. So we’re 88,000, probably. But fuel and everything. But we use all the road.

Dirty Freehub 1:18

should people really be allowed to be in these areas, Like, I know this one’s closed particularly, but in general, like it’s a very dangerous operation. do they even, have recreational areas, in logging areas or nearby?

Log Truck Driver 1:32

I mean, when nobody’s up here logging, this is a great area. I’m not against that at all. Just when people are up here work and you got enough other things going on, then to worry about people that aren’t paying attention.

Dirty Freehub 1:46

After riding in the log truck, I catch back up with Jennifer to go on site to the active logging site.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 1:53

This is such a great time to be in the forest. There’s such a variety of plants and trees that are growing, and they’re. They’re in the peak of their growing cycle. There’s wildflowers that are blooming. And I notice some wild iris and some lilies that were growing. And sometimes people portray private forest landowners as having like very sterile forests with just one species of tree growing like the Douglas fir. And I always wish that people would make sure to look, you know, beyond just that thought. Like, certainly there are plantations where the predominant tree is Douglas fir and depending upon how old the trees are, there might not be growing the plants growing underneath. It might be pretty, pretty dark. But, you know, this this property is an easy place to see, like all the variety of shrubs that are growing and like, there’s ferns and cherries.

If you’re down by the streams, there might be some willow growing. We’ve got Douglas fir, big leaf maple red alder ground for like several different kinds of cedar. So I think it’s pretty diverse.

Dirty Freehub 3:10

It is. And that actually amazes me because I, I was picturing, you know, coming to a logging area or a place like an active logging site. And I wasn’t really picturing that diversity kind of just on this topic. I feel like a lot of people see some things in forestry like wildfire management and forestry management sometimes see it in a negative view lens.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 3:33


Dirty Freehub 3:34

Do you mind sharing a little bit about kind of the process with.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 3:37

That, this forest that we’re driving through now? I’ve had a pretty decent sized fire in the 1940s and I don’t know the cause of it, but if you’re in a forest in Oregon, you can be pretty confident that a fire has come through that landscape at some point. Now, we know we’ve been putting fires out pretty aggressively for the last 100 years, and that’s put us in the position where we have too much fuels on the landscape and it’s causing our fires that we the wildfires, that we have to become really intense and be really destructive to our our forest lands and wildlife habitat. We aggressively manage our fuels by piling our slash after harvest and then burning that slash. And then we also have a really good road system. And, you know, that works out great for recreation users because then they have a road system for access. But the road system is the way that we’re going to get to our forest if there’s a fire and when we have really large fires on public lands, one of the biggest barriers is the lack of access to those fires to help them fight the fires. And so here we’re getting to the land. And do you think we can walk in front of the yard or to watch or should we come out on this knob.

Log Truck Driver 5:00

Or if you like. Just make sure you let everybody knows where you’re at before you come through.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 5:06

Okey dokey. So when you’re approaching equipment, you want to make sure that I think usually the signage on the equipment often says like stay 100 feet back or 150 feet back. And it depends on what the equipment is and what it’s doing for what that number might be. You’ll want to stay, you know, a good distance back and you can wave your arms, you know, do a little dance or whatever, you know, some kind of movement is probably going to be needed to get their attention. Another way that people can like workers get attention. If you don’t have a radio system or CB or walkie talkie on you, is is throw a stick like past the cab of the of equipment. And then they see that and they’re like, Oh, what was that? Somebody must be trying to get my attention. So that’s a little hokey. But I mean, the key thing is you want to just stay back long enough until it takes for them to, like, have their eyes on you. When I’m working on construction projects in the woods in the summer, the agreement I have with the equipment operators is that they lift their hands off their hand controls and, you know, show me their palms essentially. And then like. So they go like, like this or it’s just like holding their hands up. And then that is their communication to me, that they’re not moving their equipment and that I can walk by just working.

Dirty Freehub 6:28

So it’s good to stay back.

Dirty Freehub 6:29

And also probably just assume that they don’t see you at all times until you make that contact. Yeah.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 6:36

So we’ll go around the left side of this guy and he knows we’re coming.

Dirty Freehub 6:50

Jennifer starts to explain the actual logging operations. There are two crews strategically placed on the side of the slope. The yarder here at the top with us, along with other equipment and a second crew at the bottom, the rigging crew all connected through a cable system and communicating through the talkie tutors or radio frequency communication system.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 7:10

It’s called a yard logging system. And a yard here is that machine. And then the furthest one and this machine is called a processor and that’s called a carriage. And the carriage is pulling the logs up here to the landing flow.

All right. So the lines you hear called it’s a radio frequency communication system and the slang name is talkie tutors. This is really popular mountain bike road that we’re on. It’s called they call it the Contour Road. It’s a nice flat road with some nice curves. So the cable logging systems have been in place for about a hundred years. Mm hmm. Or we can kind of see down. Wow.

Dirty Freehub 7:57

So you have a whole crew all the way down there?

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 7:59

Yeah, there’ll be a crew of people down there.

Dirty Freehub 8:02

So from the start, like On a day operation like this.

Dirty Freehub 8:06

Do they coordinate two crew groups? So one’s at the bottom, one’s at the top of this?

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 8:11

Yeah. The crew working down in the brush is called the Rigging Crew, and they’ll be a choker setter. Who is going to set the cable around the log? Well, identify a harvest unit. And in Oregon, the law is that your harvest unit of a clear cut like this, where you’re cutting nearly all the trees has to be less than 120 acres. But our clear cut average circle for us is about 35 acres. That might mean we still have some that are 20 and some that are 60. But our overall average is quite a bit smaller than what’s permitted by by law. Then we measure the trees to see what would volume is involved in that and how much would that we expect the harvest unit to produce. And then we’ll set up to figure out which logger we want. So all the loggers have different types of equipment and some are better fit to do certain kinds of logging and others are better fit to do other kinds of logging. There’s different names for these yard or jobs, yard or job skyline logging. We can do this kind of harvest on our steeper, steeper ground. And so you couldn’t get machinery. You know, down into this slope. It’s just it’s just too steep. There is a method of logging called cable assist where they actually would anchor a cable onto a tree stump like any one of these, and then lower or lower the machine down the hill. That’s become more popular in the last ten years or so, but this is our more traditional type of logging that’s here right now is this cable logging. So you’ll have a skylight line, which is the top cable line, and that goes all the way down, maybe even across the canyon to the other side, because it’s general physics. You have to get some some lift. You can’t just anchor it down into the bottom. And then the main line is below the skyline, and it has the yellow device on it, and that’s called the carriage. And so these guys are using the whistle system to talk to each other about whether they hit the yarder. Operator should pull ahead on the main line or slow down or pull ahead slowly or go ahead full steam ahead. That’s how they can communicate to each other during the day.

Dirty Freehub 10:34

It’s like a morse code.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 10:36

Exactly. Exactly.

Dirty Freehub 10:37

How do they set up the cable system? Like getting it from this top part all the way down there.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 10:44

It’s then manually or like a cable, but they use what’s called a strong line. So a really thin light, lighter way. I’ll say lightweight, but it’s probably still heavy that cable. And they’ll pull that down to their anchor point and then they’ll use a block and a block as the same as a can be, can be the same as a pulley to pull their skyline or their main line down across.

Dirty Freehub 11:07

How do they navigate it down the terrain?

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 11:09

Generally, a guy that’s going to hike down through this slash. So they’re on what is called a setting right now. And so they can only go to the left and to the right of their skyline a certain distance and then once they have that all along, now they’re going to have to move the yard or down, down to where we are. So this is a this spot right here is a little bit wider. So this might be their next setting where they’ll well, then they’ll be able to log this and all the machinery all pull back and the log tracks will have to back up down this road. We’re going to be leaving some of these bigger trees for a wildlife habitat. And our founder, TJ Starker, when we started in 1936, he was a professor of forestry at Oregon Agricultural College, which is Oregon State. Now. He hated leave trees and snags being left behind. You know, today we see them for their high value for wildlife habitat, but he saw them as potential fire starters. If you had a lightning strike and a summer storm, that lightning might be more likely to strike. The snag, which in turn is going to turn it into like a Roman candle that could light the forest on fire. So his view was focused on preventing wildfires, and he would cut the snags out of out of the forest. But today we’re leaving them for wildlife habitat. We drove through probably 15 different stands of timber that were also clear cut logging at one time that don’t look that way anymore. Yeah. So, yeah, you know, as as gardeners, we’re used to reaping the beauty of our efforts within like a few months, right? Like if I’m going to grow carrots, like I’m or I’m planting them and then I’ll be harvesting them and, you know, that’ll be that cycle. But our cycle in forestry is so long, it’s 50 plus years. Yeah. And that’s longer than most of our careers.

Dirty Freehub 13:15

That’s kind of nice to see this passion a little bit is that is a long cycle.

Jennifer Beathe – Starker Forests 13:19

I’m like, wait a minute, why are we doing this? I remember when I walked around that with my GPS, there was like this giant backpack thing. In the late 1990s, and with this huge antenna corded antenna with the GPS so that we could GPS our harvest unit, so we knew exactly how many acres they were,

Thanks again for this ride this morning.

Dirty Freehub

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