Chatting Around The Campfire Bill White’s Alaskan Timber Cutting Venture: The Wager XI

Bill White taking a moment to rest.

Bill’s challenger was very pleased with how things had gone that fine summer day in 1973 — everything had gone according to plan. He was supremely confident that no one, not even Bill, could top the numbers he had etched inside his hard hat at the end of his six hours of work he had labored this day. After all, he had fell and bucked 13 huge Sitka spruce trees with a total of 113,000 board feet, according to his figures.

By the time he met Bill to settle this day’s bet, he had calculated his earnings, his personal volume would net him a sum of at least $340. Now he just needed to find out how much would be added to this from Bill’s earnings, this being how this bet would be settled.

Soon after this fellow timber cutter had proudly showed his tally to Bill, it goes without saying that he was very astonished to see Bill’s total cut. At this point, he had no recourse but to lay his earnings onto Bill’s eager hand. Only a wood’s scale examination by the bullbuck of each of their claimed tallies could now grant this opponent a reversal of this initial judgment. Next week we’ll look at how this was done.

While we’re waiting for that scaling process to be completed, let’s scrutinize details about the photo attached to this episode. It was taken in July  2014 at around 1,300 feet along the north fork of the Bogachiel River inside Olympic National Park. That elevation would put this scene somewhere between 15 mile shelter and Hyak shelter — notice evidence that recent trail crew work reveals that upon reaching this somewhat remote site, their gas containers were empty.

However, this observation is not one of the main two reasons for this photo. It was taken firstly, to illustrate that Bill White — after a recent cancer scare — is now so blessed that he is again able to enjoy hiking with a dear friend in this magnificent area.

In addition, take note that within an elevation corridor along both sides of the river here, there is a great stand of timber, many over 4 feet in diameter at chest height. This photo, though, falls very short of revealing what this photographer could see while standing behind this camera — sorry. This corridor, by the way, is at least a quarter mile wide.

The primary tree species here consist of a scattering of Sitka spruce along with a good quantity of western hemlock, western red cedar and Douglas-fir — the latter comprising nearly half of this forest and being the most impressive. Over 75 percent of these trees are at least 4 feet in diameter at breast height (DBH), making this a largely mature timber stand.

When I recently described these trees to Forks resident Darryl Dillard,  retired DNR timber cruiser, and he stated that they could be as young as 90 years. Could this present tree stand have been caused by an earlier wind storm such as the renowned  “’21 Blow”? Further scrutiny into this possibility also reveals that there are no young Douglas-firs here — these not being very shade tolerant — just can’t survive under such a dense forest canopy. If a prior forest had once been hit by a high wind, perhaps it had been a predominately hemlock and spruce stand, which would account for the current scarcity of windfalls here — for these two species decay very rapidly compared to cedar and fir.

None of the above observations are the primary reason for bring up these subjects of tree size and related issues, though.

Next time I’ll share the real reason. Perhaps a few of you readers won’t be surprised at what you read. To be continued …

May light for your feet guide you on the path of life until we meet again.