JACKSON, Wyo. — It was a perfect fall day as two trucks sped up Shadow Mountain. There was coffee, country music and the prospect of hauling back freshly cut wood for the winter.
It was perfect until the snow started falling, heavy and wet.
Up near the top of Shadow a debacle ensued. The trio of Jackson men had found a giant downed pine tree more than 100 yards from the road that they were “so stoked on,” in Mikey Harris’ terms. They had decided to try to bring the truck a little closer. It was a great idea until the truck became thoroughly stuck.
“Well, this turned into an adventure,” Nat Sandner said, staring at his roommate Brandon Haltom’s vehicle, which was stuck in a foot of snow 50 yards or so from the road near the top of the mountain.
“It always does,” Harris said, as he let out a laugh and shoved the truck without it budging.
After about an hour of trying the men were able to free the truck, even when a sudden snowstorm buried it further. Not once did they stop smiling.
“Another day in the life of a Wyomingite,” Haltom said.
The four-hour excursion was a lot of work for a load of wood, even without the truck problem, reported the Jackson Hole News and Guide (http://bit.ly/2dpaJyP).
Every year Haltom and Sandner make trips like this into the woods. For a couple of weeks in the fall they go out whenever they have time, armed with a chain saw and ax, to collect as much wood as their truck beds can contain.
Their house has electric heating, so they don’t need the wood to survive. Plus, it’s not hard to go pick up bundles at a gas station or grocery store.
But they like doing it the old-fashioned way.
The process is more complicated than just wildly taking an ax to a dead tree. You want to find large trees, so you get more wood out of them, and preferably ones near the road so you can back a truck right up to the downed tree.
You have to use a chain saw or ax to cut off extra limbs — save those for kindling — and saw the tree into even rounds you can stack in the bed.
It’s pure manual labor, done outside in the cold, but there’s something in the ritual that keeps Sandner and Haltom coming back year after year.
The men were quiet as they started chopping apart the first tree they found. Sandner put in earplugs and started chainsawing the downed tree into rounds while Haltom used the ax to de-limb it.
Harris ran around in the snow to see if there was another dead pine nearby.
Each of them knows his roles and does them efficiently and with a grin. Snowballs were thrown as constantly as jokes were told. This, for them, is a fun day out in nature.
“It’s cheap and it’s a lot of fun,” Haltom said about the yearly excursion. “It’s a team-building exercise with my roommates.”
There is another reason they choose to chop their own wood: money.
A permit to cut firewood in the Bridger-Teton National Forest runs $7 a cord. A cord measures out to 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet, roughly the size of a truck bed but taller.
It’s considerably cheaper than purchasing cut wood from someone. To have a service bring you cut wood can cost $200 or more per cord in Jackson, according to classified ads in this newspaper.
“Once you pay for wood a couple of times you get sick of it,” Haltom said.
By the end of the trip the bed of the truck was full of giant logs. The men were sweaty and soaked, and their shirts were covered with pine dust and dirt. Despite the cold Harris tore off his wet, muddy sweater.
It took a lot of chopping and sawing, and some ingenuity and strength, to get the job done. But they had wood and were happy with their decision.
Still to come was hours’ worth of splitting the rounds into logs and stacking them for use.
“It takes a couple of weeks to get all the wood, but it’s fun,” Haltom said. “I don’t know, it teaches you to be a man.”
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com