Saturday, June 27, 2009

Forks Logging Tour Worth the Time

Every now and then, you stumble across a bargain and you just have to brag on it. It this case, it was more a display of culture than anything else.

The Forks Logging Tour has a number of happy sponsors that want to be a part of the story.

The Forks area Chamber of Commerce must be among the most active in the region. A stop by their offices this last week revealed that they are swamped with visitors thrilled to see the sights described in Stephanie Meyers "Twilight and subsequent editions. One of the Chamber representatives told me that visitation in 2009 had already exceed 2008 and the fans from overseas were just starting to arrive.

My son Jared, our guide and other families from North Carolina and Maryland on the Forks Logging Tour.

Still trying to be relevant right next door to the Chamber office and a replica of Bella's truck is the Fork;s Logging Museum. Perhaps that story will come in another post, but a service of the Chamber and Museum is an occasional Logging tour. My son, who has become an avid fan of the History Channel's "Axmen" was was beyond excited to take this tour. All it took was a phone call to reserve the spots. The tour is free of charge! (Please see notes to follow....)

On Monday morning, at 9:00am sharp, our tour departed the Chamber parking lot and headed south. Our guide, a retired Forester from the Washington Department of Natural Resources attempted to find an active logging site, but had no luck initially. Instead, we crossed the Hoh River and pulled into the parking lot of Allen's Lumber Mill. It was described as a modest production site that has only incurred minor technology upgrades since the 1950s.

As our tour talked in the log yard, a load was taken into the mill.

The hemlock logs are stripped of bark by this machine.

We stood just feet from Hemlock logs being stripped of bark, and cut to proper size by huge radial saws. We watched intently as pieces of lumber were created from logs and sorters graded and placed them into proper collections before their time in the kiln. It was a slow, methodical tour of yesteryear. There was no hurry. Admittedly, there were moments when I was bored, but my son was enthralled the entire time and it was good not to be rushed in such a venture.

This saw cut logs into 96" sections.

We were so close to the action that you could hear insurance agents squirm in the distance.

Finally, the log was cut into board widths by this saw.

Our guide showed great care in the story of change that turned the area logging industry to near irrelevance behind tourism and the current "Twilight" craze referring to the time of the "spotted owl". He acknowledged that Forks once stared with displeasure at tourists, but now find it as the next stage of life.

For some unknown reason, this logging site was not active.

At the same time, private timberlands are being worked like farms without the farmhouse. Our guide had a dogged determination to find and show us an active logging site. We drove east of town up the Calwah drainage to find "wood down" but nobody working at a site complete with a "yarder" and "skyline". On good information, we were driven about 15 miles northwest of Forks where a small operation was working what appeared to be a 20 acre site.

The logs were picked up and piled near the "delimber".

First, the log is roller through a cutter that removes all of the limbs from the tree.

After stripping the tree of limbs, the machine "bucked" it by cutting it into smaller lengths.

The Olympic Peninsula has a long history in the logging industry and the careful consideration of the rest of the nation has forced Forks to align itself with multiple uses of area forests. The preservation of federal lands in Olympic National Park put definate limits and the success of the industry itself began to put pressure on the available resource as it sucombs at a faster pace to far more efficient harvesting techniques. The bottom line is that fewer and fewer people are working in the Forks area timber industry. The Forks Chamber of Commerece and the Forks Timber Musuem are just reminding everyone that the community and the generations that built it had their collective roots in the harvest.

In the 25 minutes or so we were on site, we watched two truck loads depart for area mills.

The three and a half hour tour had its slow moments but in the end, I donated the Chamber a $20 bill. Still an absolute steal for a real look into an area culture and history. I may be noted for my chilly reception of the timber industry, but sometimes a little respect is due.


Mossy Mom said...

You paid for that? Gee come to the Skokomish drainage and you can get a free logging tour any day. They just logged my favorite winter hike.

Gregg P said...

I left a donation in appreciation for a volunteer making extra effort to show us something. While I may despise logging practices and what it does to our playground, we all live in homes made of wood, read books and perhaps use toilet paper. It is a nesseceray evil in my mind and my son is fascinated by the business. In true objective form, I am not going to stomp on my child's interests just because I don't like them (I make the exception if he ever wanted to play with guns however). Again, I tried to remain objective. It is a common tactic that we in education have to level. Thanks for coming by!

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