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July 10, 2016

Windfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just past midnight on November 18, 2015, the worst windstorm I've lived through passed through Seeley Lake.  Being a lover of storms, I went out for a walk.  Seven miles along the road and my driveway had me climbing over dozens of downed trees and hearing at least 100 fall.  I also saw one, from the time that it's trunk first bent to its hitting the ground. 

Some were toppled roots and all.  Some broke at the trunk. The storm had no size preference.  Any tree more than a couple of feet tall was vulnerable.  There are a few aspen that fell, but the dominant species here is lodgepole and almost all of the trees laying on the ground were these.  And, unlike the aspen all of which had lost their leaves a month earlier, the evergreen lodgepoles hit the ground with their needles intact.   

Windfall from the storm knocked out one of the power-line poles at the corner of Boy Scout Road, the road I live on, and Highway 83.  That pole was replaced and power restored to my house in less than two days. Before it was, I could get water from public wells in Seeley Lake itself, my house was heated by a wood stove, and I have half a dozen backpacking stoves.  The hanging stove in my mudroom worked great. 

Almost all of the roads and trails I use are either used year round for cars, or are snowmobile trails.  With this, all were cleared within a week of the storm.  Even this, however, has left unusual scars.  I see sawed off sections left behind every few yards rather than every few hundred yards. 

I am now training to run a 10k race in July.  With this, I'm both running and hiking through the forest.   The number of downed trees, all from that storm, is astounding.  Where people haven't yet cleared out the windfall, the ground is covered with trees.  As much as anything, that's the difference between this springs' post-winter thaw and previous years'.  Usually, there's a fallen tree from the most recent winter, then some space, then a tree from a couple of winters ago, then some more space, and so on.  Now, there's space, but there are also acres of trees piled up on top of other downed trees. 

Silly Lake, the pond I own is in a depression on the shallow slope west of the Clearwater River.  The depression is well protected from the wind.   With this, along with the power company being diligent about clearing any questionable tree that's near the power lines running alongside my driveway, I had never had to clear a tree off of it.  That changed on the 18th.  A tree fell and it did block my truck.  Embarrassingly, I didn't have a working chainsaw.  Still, it wasn't a big tree and an hour later, including breaks, I had axed my way through it.  I bought a power saw a week after the storm, and while I cut up the tree and moved 9' logs from it around, I never cleared them.  That is on my summer to-do list. 

Seeley Lake has the Bob Marshall Wilderness east of it, the Mission Mountains Wilderness northwest of it and the Rattlesnake Wilderness southwest of it.  I live on the frontier between the developed world and wilderness.  Yes, I have road access and power, but a single storm made it clear that none of it is permanent.  In contrast to that, while individual trees died, the forest survived.  Actually, it thrived---any tree that fell was weaker than a neighboring tree that didn't.  I really am very lucky.  I get to see that anytime I walk or hike or run. 

  

   
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