Thursday, March 13, 2008

Canoe Trail Blockage

Most of today was spent doing battle with cold water, strong currents, and a dead-but-incredibly-heavy bald cypress tree that had fallen on the canoe trail. The 50- to 60-foot cypress didn't just fall on the canoe trail, it was a participant in a "perfect storm" of downed trees.

Of the 360 degrees through which the tree could have fallen, it fell in the one direction that would have it perfectly aligned with and completely block the narrow canoe trail. Did we mention that the long, straight trunk fell along the canoe trail at an L-shaped curve? The combination of the long, heavy tree, the numerous cypress knees poking from the water preventing, the sharp turn, and a smaller cypress crushed beneath and gripping the larger cypress made removal of the obstacle a challenge of Rubik-cube proportions. Using come-alongs, we were able to eventually move the giant cypress a few feet upstream in the canoe trail channel before meeting the stump of a previous faller. Again, the numerous knees prevented us from spinning the trunk to either the left or the right. By hacking away the shattered end of the trunk nearest its stump, that end of the truck was able to clear a knee and begin a slight swing downstream with the aid of the current. Unfortunately, the overall length of the trunk prevented it from negotiating the L-shaped turn. Unable to push the trunk downstream with the current, unable to pull the trunk upstream and clear with the come-alongs, and unable to move the trunk to either side of the canoe trail, we accepted partial victory be securing the trunk to one side of the canoe trail.

Eventually, the water level will drop and our short-term solution will no longer work. However, lower water levels will likely expose more of the trunk and allow an attack by chainsaw. Once in smaller pieces, we should be able to move the segments in any direction off of the canoe trail for permanent sequestration in the "fields" of cypress knees.

Images by Brad Dalton

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