My husband and I had an exhilarating, exhausting, fulfilling day yesterday hauling wood with our neighbor. And because we’re now in relatively decent shape, we survived to tell the tale.
In the wintertime, one of my favorite things to do is reading a book while sitting in front of the beautiful fireplace in our living room. I don’t build a fire very often because we’ve been using Duraflame logs, which aren’t exactly cheap. Small bundles of real firewood are crazy expensive at the market. We haven’t made the effort figure out how to purchase larger amounts of firewood; I’ve only heard rumors that it’s possible. 🙂
About a month ago our next-door neighbor backed into his driveway with a huge load of firewood. I experienced serious envy. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a load like that.
I grew up in the Oregon woods; the closest neighbor was about a mile away. Our home was heated with a wood-burning stove. One of our major chores was gathering firewood from the surrounding forest. Dad and my brothers would cut the trees down and trim off the branches, mostly Douglas fir and Alder. The logs would be cut into fireplace-size pieces and we’d throw them into the back of a trailer hitched to an old, orange Jeep. My Dad or brothers would expertly back the trailer next to the house, and we would unload the wood a few feet away from the front door. My Mom would always have beef stew or hot chocolate ready for us when we were all finished. In the spring, we’d have “burn” days to get rid of all the dead branches.
So… seeing my neighbor’s load of wood made me feel nostalgic. My husband and I asked where he’d gotten it. He found out he could gather wood from our local mountains by harvesting fallen trees. He had to go to the Ranger Station to purchase a one-day Adventure Pass for $5 and a Personal FuelWood Permit for $20 (minimum price for 2 cords of wood). There are a few rules to follow, but overall it’s pretty simple. You park on the side of the road and grab what you can.
Our neighbor had spent that entire day cutting and hauling wood by himself. My husband and I felt compelled to help him unload, so we grabbed our work gloves and make a quick job of it with him. He offered us a bunch of wood as thanks; we accepted reluctantly but gratefully. I told him the next time he goes on a firewood run, I’d like to go with him. He could tell I was serious. I was pretty enthusiastic.
Sure enough, yesterday he took my husband and I up to the mountains to the same spot where he had found the wood last time. It was an adventure! After an hour-plus drive, we discovered there was snow on the ground and the access road was gated. We also didn’t have chains so we had to be cautious. At an elevation of about 7,500 feet, it was about 22 degrees and slightly windy, but beautiful and sunny.
We parked on the side of the main road and scouted for fallen trees: pine, eucalyptus, and oak. Our neighbor had his chainsaw and went to work on the first log we found.
The smell of the chainsaw exhaust and freshly cut wood brought back such a familiar, comforting feeling… of working hard, of being out in the woods with my Dad and brothers. I never liked that chore when I was a kid. I was perplexed why I was feeling so nostalgic about it now. They were the smells of home and familiarity, of working hard for our warmth and shelter. Of working hard together.
The easy-to-get-to wood—the “low hanging fruit”—had already been gathered by others, so we had to go higher and higher into the forest, creating a greater distance from the truck. We threw the pieces as far as we could, then carried them the rest of the way. Some pieces were handled four or five times before they were finally thrown in the trailer.
I didn’t mind because we were getting a great workout and we were also getting firewood for the winter ahead. I was so glad I’d pulled my old hiking boots out of the garage, although my feet were pretty soaked by the time we were done. (The boots fit me again! They would have been too small 5 months ago.)
After we had gathered as much as possible from that spot, we went hunting for another. We found an access road where someone had torn away the gate, so our neighbor braved the snow and drove his truck in.
There were several huge, fallen trees there—but they were across a wide gully and up a very steep hill. Our neighbor said, “We’re here. Let’s just do it.” We hiked up the hill and our neighbor went to work on a log.
Oh my goodness, it was a rough job. We were even further from the truck this time and had to throw the wood many, many times; it didn’t make sense to carry each piece one at a time all the way to the trailer. We just methodically worked away at it. There was a lot more snow, and my feet were frozen and painful. Then there was that deep gully. We threw all the pieces in, one at a time. Then I stood halfway up the other side of the gully while my husband lifted each piece to me. I carried the wood up the rest of the way and threw it in a pile.
By that time I was saying, “Honey, it would be worth every single penny to pay someone for a cord of wood. This sucks. But at least now we know what it takes.”
By the time we got back home and had unloaded all the wood—half to our backyard, half to our neighbor’s, I have a whole different view. The day had been hard, but fun. And immensely satisfying. We were completely, totally exhausted. Spent. We had left at 8 am and weren’t completely finished until 5 pm—with no meal breaks.
This morning, I feel like I did after my first few workouts at the gym. Every muscle is complaining, especially my shoulders and calves. Even my ribs hurt. My husband and I keep commenting on how we’d never have been able to do this before we started working out. Our neighbor would have had to carry us off that mountain.
It was a phenomenal workout. And a great bonding experience with both my husband and our neighbor. And my fire this evening was luxuriously wonderful and well deserved. 🙂