Christine Byl spent more than ten years clearing trails and building rock walls as a seasonal worker in Glacier National and Denali National Parks. She talks with Phoebe Judge about her new book, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods. Here's an excerpt:
How to fell a tree: first, size it up. Thump the trunk, listen for rot’s dull thud. Scan the upper half for lean, for twin-tops, widow-makers, a strong wind visible in branches. Check your escape routes, safety zones. Then take your saw in both hands. The chain should be sharp, yesterday’s work. Flip choke on for a cold start. Pull cord until engine fires, one (choke off), two, three, times, don’t flood. Feather trigger, throttle to full rev, listen – high wine, low idle. Choose your lay, set your sights. Begin face cut: bottom cut, one-third the tree’s width. Check sights again. Match slant cut to face cut, protect your holding wood. Aim for smooth edges, exact angles.
Take a deep breath. Look up again. Braches feather the sky, clouds, a squirrel high up plans its exit. Any wind?