Logging the High Timber (Magazine Article)

Logging the High Timber

By Jackie Lyons, Sayward, B.C.

Our day finally arrives. Excitement and anxiousness abounds.

It's very dark at three am and we are up having breakfast and a couple of double espresso's. Lunch will be made and packed up neatly, then my Husband Darryl and I will head off to meet our host of the day, Kelly Arkell, Supervisor of Dyer logging in Sayward, B.C. Meeting time at the yard 4.30 am.

For 8 years now we have lived in Sayward B.C. Vancouver Island. I have always been very intrigued with the logging industry. Sayward is home to Western Forest Products Dry Land Sort employing many of the locals. Dyer Logging being a family run company for generations and decades have employed many locals in the industry. Over the years of watching the big logging trucks coming and going I have been left in awe of their size, loads and sounds. Often thinking to myself how exciting it would be to be part of it all and really find out how it all evolves. Yet one more to stroke off my bucket list.

After asking a few of the local retired loggers how this might happen, the same name resounded. That name would be to contact Kelly Arkell of Dyer Logging. The best man for the job so I was told. A quick call, some conversation, a few questions and an explanation and Kelly said he would talk to his boss and get back to me. His boss I found out later was his father, Ted, but a distinct line is drawn during work hours, first his Boss and after hours his father. I was quick to pick this up throughout the day. The word "my boss" was always used in reference to the business.

At the yard introductions are made, Kelly is a great guy and puts us both at ease and we are fitted with our High Vis vests and Hard Hats.

Safety first, and that seems to be drilled into us throughout the day and our ride. Dressed for mountain weather off we head in Kelly's truck. The workers are well ahead of us up the mountain awaiting that first peek of the sun as it starts to rise. Kelly shows us maps on his Ipad of the area's we are going to be loading in today. My head spins with all he has to say. How large the area is, and the loads, what the workers are doing, and so much more. It seems there is a lot more to logging than simply cutting and milling trees. I really cannot take it all in, plus I am in constant amazement at the beauty that surrounds. Constantly throughout our conversations Kelly mentions safety. Number one at all times. Three point contact. Entering or exiting machinery of any sort. Be it two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand.

As the sun is now rising Kelly and I continue our ride up and I can almost sense the luminous, smooth dim dense cover of low cloud that hovers the higher we drive, one of earthy damp scents. These roads consist of cut backs that fall deep to gorges below. The peaks shrouded inside the cloud as ghost on the mountain side. Quite a chill for me but what seems to be a breeze for Kelly, an every day occurrence. The sun now and then peeking through as so we feel it's warmth.

A constant as we continue up, are all the stops we make and the radio contact with all the men working high above us. Kelly advises them of our location, we wait for their acknowledgement, then later head up. This is done as not to have any timber come crashing down upon us. Also to alert the trucks heading down. Again, constant safety.

For me the ride up keeps me in awe. Kelly is very knowledgeable and a wealth of information, At times so much it boggles my mind. For Kelly it comes from years of experience and knowledge of the business. I am sure Dyer Logging are very proud to have Kelly as their Supervisor.

I see around each corner we drive, elevated peaks of land, containing no doubt many types trees. The gnarly Hemlock, Douglas Fir. Sitka Spruce and our Western Red and Yellow Cedars, just to mention a few. One can also see the mountains woody coarse debris left mounded. Drab, dull, grey, standing area,s offering life to much we may not be aware of. Beauty lies within, a home to many forms of wildlife. Feathered friends as well as four legged ones can be seen daily.

The lands, the valley, and mountain sides. The timber we log stands tall amid them all. Throughout the year, the rain soaked earth beneath our feet as storms blow in. The summers heat, making us so aware of the fierceness of the fires. These rounded, wooded sentinels of time. Nature,s protective walls, along with the sheltering guardians of rock raising high. Those working in the industry contend with this all.

We have finally reached our local, about a 1000 meters up the mountain. Kelly mentions they normally have about 15 to 20 men working this area. Here will sit and wait for the stakes of our truck to be piled high. My excitement now is like that of a youthful child. The truck for the day is a Western Star, 4900SB, 18 speeds. 22 wheels and 470 Horsepower. I can hardly wait.

Refreshed momentarily by the magnificent vistas, blue skies, white clouds, a myriad of colour upon the mountain tops and valleys below. My attention is brought back to the machinery hard at work. I gasp at the dexterity of the hydraulic log loaders and the Snorkel loaders, at work in two different areas. They haul down the logs to the roadside where the snorkel picks them up, it's fingers gently placing them upon the bunks, between the stakes of the truck. For Eric Harper the operator of the log loader, it seems this noisy and ungainly machine he treats as a magician would, waving his wand. It's gangly arm waves to and fro.

Logging the High Timber

Each log placed with precision as not to fall on the ride down are tightly stacked. Off in another area more logs continue to be brought down to the road.

It is all quite the show and I feel dwarfed in comparison to the size of the equipment and expanse of the wilderness that abounds. A Beauty to behold.

Now the truck is loaded and secured and I get to meet yet another new friend of the day.

His name is Aaron King, with 17 years of experience behind him and he is going to be the driver of this Western Star.

A really pleasant man, and more than willing to again explain all the ins and outs of the trip down. I remember the Three Point Contact rule as I get a big boost up into the passengers side. The rig starts up and I love the sounds the engine makes. Aaron being an old hat at this, thinks nothing of it, where as I am all a twitter. In no time I gaze sideways only to see the sheer cliffs, left and right. Aaron helps me feel more at ease as I gaze behind to see only large plumes of dust being cast by the wheels and a brown haze about to settle no doubt around the valley. The gears continue to mesh into place.

Our load will weigh in about 39,000 pounds plus the weight of the truck, which has a G.V.W, of 60.000. The huge diesel engine growls as we exhale and inhale as the gears are grabbed. Momentum is built on the inclines and I can feel the brakes as we round the corners. Aaron and I joke as we rumble down over the rocky road. Aaron drivers seat is an air seat, of course, mine just a regular one so it seems I feel the jostle more. Also the fact that I am unfamiliar with being in a truck such as this. On the corners and rough spots I hang on for dear life, chuckling to myself and enjoying it all. Loving the sounds the engine breaks make.

Aaron does not seem to mind all my silly little questions, and with each rounded corner the vistas change and leave me breathless. I keep thinking that huge heavy load behind us might just run right over us on the way down. With each turn Aaron names the mountain peaks and valleys and talks often of all the wildlife they see day to day.

In no time at all it seems we are back on what I see as a familiar highway and I know exactly where we are heading. Kelsey Bay Log Sort not even one block from where I live.

We begin to gear down, oh, how I love that sound. To the scales we proceed. Hearing, "Inbound Complete" we proceed. Weighing in loaded upon arrival and weighing out empty, before he leaves is the difference of the size of his payload.

We drive in and the load is unsecured. We head over to where the Wagoner awaits who will unload us. The Wagoner extends it's gigantic claws atop and below the trucks load.

Logging the High Timber

It tightens its grip and in one full lift, lightens the trucks load. I can almost feel the quiver and the slight shake as the load is free from the stakes. We then head to the hydraulic truck hoist, where we will load the trailer onto the top of the truck. To me this always looks like it is getting a piggy back ride. As we head back over the scales we hear, "Out Bound Complete".

Now the truck will head back up the mountainous road for yet another load. Meanwhile it is nearing 3.00 and Kelly has arrived in his truck. Offering to take us back to the yard, we pile in. Each day different factors of which at times enter into the industry, may throw a wrench into a otherwise normal day. Today we had a great day.!!!!!

Such is the life of the West Coast Logging Industry and all its crew.

Many Thanks to Dyer Logging, Sayward B.C. With Special Thanks to Supervisor, Kelly Arkell. Driver, Aaron King. Log Loader Operator Eric Harper and the hard working crew on the mountain.