Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Singing Saw"

The "Sing Saw"
You can tell a lot about horsemen by what they carry on their saddles. Most serious riders always have a slicker or rain coat tied on back. If you ride with Dangerous, inclement weather usually doesn’t discourage him. We have dropped over 2,000 feet in elevation on more than one occasion at a fast trot to avoid thunderheads rolling in. Even I know that the back of a horse is no place to be during a lightning storm. Utah Jack’s mount is easily recognizable without him seated in the saddle. Whichever horse he is riding has saddle bags stuffed with sandwiches, apples, jerky, candy, cookies, cheese, and etc. for lunch. He won’t ride unless assured there is plenty to eat. Every time we stop for lunch, Utah and Fremont have the same argument, or at least, I think it’s an argument. “No, you have the extra sandwich.” “I can’t possibly eat another bite!” “You take it!” “Oh, well, I don’t want it to go to waste.”

Ready for Lunch

In places, the High Plateau trails are a bit tricky. Some steep, rocky spots require a fair rider and sensible horse to pass safely through both of which are in short supply in our little group. Unless you are riding the rim, the trails are cut through thick pine or aspen groves which make cross-country travel difficult if not impossible. Occasionally, dead-fall across the trail traps you in a tight spot. Most of the time, Dottie and Little Guy can step over or walk around logs in the trail, but when the logs are chest high or tangled together with no way around you have to either go back the way you came or cut your way out. On those occasions, you need Dangerous’ “singing saw” that you can see hanging from Dottie’s saddle.

His “singing saw” is indispensible because Dangerous always tries to start the riding reason a bit too early. After a long winter with me as company, I guess I can understand his desire to get out. However, trying to ride through snow drifts is not my idea of fun, and I know that Dottie and Little Guy prefer a later start. Most of the time, however, he can’t be deterred, so armed with his trusty saw, we start the riding season before the Forest Service can put its seasonal trail crews to work. In fact, many times the Forest Service will ask Dangerous or his buddies about the condition of trails since we have already ridden them.

Trail Maintenance

Supposedly, the Forest Service has a trail maintenance budget, but in recent years it has been limited. Dangerous never misses an opportunity to press the District Rangers to keep his favorite trails open. Depending on the ranger, he has some success. Since he is on good terms with one District Ranger where we ride, the Ranger or his trail boss usually listens to his appeals to clear our favorite trails. However, Dangerous’ constant nagging doesn’t seem to work on the other District where we spend a lot of time. I like to listen while Dangerous talks with the Recreation Manger in that District about a number of trails we ride regularly. She basically tells him to quit whining, and her trail crew will cut them when they have time. Last summer, we developed a shortcut around one bad spot because the “singing saw” wasn’t adequate to cut our way through, and the Forest Service ignored Dangerous’ requests to do something about it

Cutting Through

We don’t spend the time to clear trails for easy passage for everyone. The saw comes out to open a space wide enough for a horse or hiker. As you may have guessed, Dangerous doesn’t care for four-wheelers or motorcycles. He figures anyone riding an ATV is on his own. In fact, Dangerous has been known to strategically drop dead-fall to discourage motorized travel on his favorite supposedly non-motorized trails.

So, if you meet an aging horseman while in the backcountry with a saw swinging from his saddle, it’s most likely Dangerous. If you are stuck on a tangled trail covered with dead-fall, just ask to borrow his saw. Watch out though, he may try to get you to do all the cutting, so we can get through to whoever knows where. Love to hear from you!


Saw Lady said...

I chanced upon your blog through a Google search for "singing saw"... and I just want to say that I wish I could be there with you, walking the beautiful trails. Though if I was there I would have asked to borrow your saw for...playing it :)

All the best,

Saw Lady

Max said...

As you are well aware, I have had a little experience with Dangerous' "singing saw." Although I'm one of those aging boomers you hear so much about, I try to keep in shape. My standard exercise routine is to do six eight-minute miles three days a week and circuit training with weight machines twice a week. On top of that, I ride at least one day a week, summer and winter. The point being, I'm not a couch potato. However, the "singing saw" at 10,000+ feet, on a narrow trail, with a 1,000+ pound horse keeping close company, got my attention. In fact, it whipped me pretty good. My hat's off to anyone traveling to the top of a mountain with Ole Dangerous when there’s likely to be dead fall on the way!

Bluester said...

The trees are getting blown down today....windy as all get out. So Dangerous, get your saw sharpened up because the good weather will be here in about two and a half months. It's just around the corner! Eight months of winter and four months of summertime here on the High Plateau. Best Regards from the Fremont