Friday, September 28, 2012

The tree that almost hit the bridge...

        Nancy's Note: If you haven't read the previous post written on September 27, please scroll back and read it before you read this one.

As I walked into Wildwood on Wednesday afternoon, September 26, I began hearing the noise of a chainsaw. "I wonder what's up - or maybe down," I thought as I hurried a bit faster. When I got almost to the Outdoor Classroom shelter, I saw a huge crane, and it was lifting a very big tree trunk. The tree that almost hit the middle footbridge during the June wind storm had been cut and was being lifted out! I had arrived just in time to get photos of the action. My adrenalin flowed into high gear.

The kiosk (message board) was blocking my view, and I couldn't see the crane cab. However, I had no problem seeing the crane extended high above the tree tops as it seemed to brush the blue of the sky.

As I hurried on down toward the bridge, I stopped to ask one of the workers whether I could take pictures of the rest of the work. He said that I could and that it would be safe for me to stand on the bridge. Oh, boy - a front row position! From the bridge, I had a closeup view of Mr. H.T. Bowling who was operating the crane from his seat high in the cab.

From the bridge, I could see how big the crane really was. It had extended supports (out-riggers according to my husband) to keep it from toppling over  as heavy weights were lifted and shifted. And it even had a sunroof!

The remaining stump of the tree had been wrapped and secured with wide fabric straps like the ones used on the trunk. Two of Mr. Bowling's workers were on the bridge to talk with the guy (who worked with Mr. Dundas) in charge of the chainsaw and to give hand signals for the crane operator. Each move and cut would have to be carefully thought out.

Mr. Charlie Dundas was on the west slope to guide operations with his view from behind the stump. His bright yellow hardhat and shirt made it easy to keep him in sight!

                                Cuts were made through roots that were holding the tree in place.

                                                             More roots were sawed.

       Then the crane would try a lift and workers could see where more cuts needed to made.

And more cuts...

After much thought, cutting, more thought and cutting, and hand signals to the crane, the stump was finally free of all the roots that had held it in the ground. It was slowly lifted up and over the the bridge...

...and creek...

                                              ...and placed finally on the meadow creek bank.

With a wave from the cab, Mr Bowling announced that job was complete and that the stump had weighed 5,000 lbs. Wow!

            The crane boom was retracted to tuck back in place over the back of the vehicle.

The bindings were removed from the stump, rolled, and stored in their compartments. The outriggers were retracted and parts of those were put in their places. It was sort of like watching big boys put away their big toys except that this was serious business.

Charlie Dundas hiked down from the slope, smiling over a job well done. I finally could read his shirt's message and held my camera to record it. With a big smiled he boomed, "Bazinga!!!"

Seriously, I had an opportunity to see first-hand how co-operation and respect for each other's work have allowed Mr. Dundas and Mr. Bowling to accomplish difficult tasks together. Those are lessons that all of us strive to learn.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trail Repair in Wildwood

While walking along the bike path early in September, I saw a truck pulling a trailer. Trucks are not usual sights in the middle of Wildwood so I took a picture. That's what I always do when I see unusual sights in the Park.

 I soon began asking one of  the men questions about why the equipment had been brought into the Park. (I think that having a camera in my hand makes me more curious than usual. It also makes some folks more willing to answer my questions.) Charlie Dundas, the fellow with the beard (And yes, I agree that he looks a lot like Santa Claus!) introduced himself. He told me that he was the owner of Tri-State Company, Inc. and that he had been hired by the City of Radford to repair some of the damage that the wind storm had caused at the end of June. He and a member of  his crew began to closely inspect the tree that had almost fallen on the footbridge in the middle of the Park. He also told me that he had built the Middle Footbridge, the Grand Staircase, and trails that had stairs. I was impressed - who should know better how to repair the damage?

 The trailer and the equipment were left parked by the side of the bike path. Hmm, I thought, that Caterpillar is very different from the ones I usually see here. I got used to seeing it each day as I walked with my camera.

Then one day, I noticed that it was gone - where could it be? That question was soon answered when I passed the Outdoor Classroom shelter, heard an engine, and looked up through the trees and into the woods. There it was - on the upper trail!

Charlie Dundas waved to me from high above. I crossed the middle footbridge, walked up the stairs,
and soon saw the Caterpillar hard at work.

This was the place where the huge tree uprooted by the wind had pulled out a large portion of the trail, breaking up rocks and leaving a big ditch where the trail had been. Dirt was being rearranged as the shovel lifted out dirt and dumped in it another place. The blade on the front was then used to smooth out the area.

Charlie was watching the progress as he stood behind the machine.

He soon was able to come across the trail to stand beside me and answer my questions. Remember, I  had my camera in my hand so I was very curious. When I asked how he got the machine up to the trail, he said that it was driven up there! The tractor wheels can be moved in or out to make the machine narrow or wide.  It is called an excavator and is powerful enough to move dirt and rocks but small enough to be driven up the trail. In addition to the shovel or bucket, there is a jack-hammer for breaking up rocks.

        The bucket has claws on one side that can be used to dig out trees that need to be moved.

                   Another crew member is always ready with a chain saw to cut the trees into smaller pieces.

The front attachments are designed to be changed out easily and rapidly. Well, they made it look easy, and it didn't take long. 

As we watched the trail gap begin to be smoothed out and closed up, I asked Charlie how he got started in the business of building trails and bridges and such. He said that he and  several other Boy Scouts, over a period of several years, built a 31 mile trail along the Kanawha River in West Virginia. That trail became a part of the Kanawha River Trace that will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October. After serving in the Marines, he became owner of his own company and has built and repaired trails all over the region. He specializes in being as gentle with the environment as possible. 
During our conversation he received a call that H.T. Bowling had arrived at the Main Street entrance and someone was sent to open the gate for his truck. The crew took a break from the construction work and went to conference with Mr. Bowling and his crew.

A large crane would be needed when it was time to remove the huge tree that had fallen beside the Middle Bridge and was lying tightly beside it. The crane would have to hold the tree trunk in place to keep it from slamming into the bridge and Mr. Bowling would be the expert to do that task. I was getting hungry so I said "Good-bye" to all and headed home for lunch.

Several days later, as I hiked the upper west slope trail, I saw that Mr. Dundas and his crew had completed their work there. The ground under my feet was even more level than before because the path did not have to go over big roots. The big tree at the middle bridge was still waiting to be removed.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Very Hungry Caterpillar(s)

I think that Eric Carle may have visited Wildwood Park before he wrote his book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and here is why:
One day in July, my friend Clyde Kessler told me about some caterpillars that were feasting on the leaves of a Catalpa Tree growing at the North Bridge. So I set out with my camera to find them.
When I arrived at the bridge, I immediately saw the tree. As I got closer, I also saw caterpillars crawling on the branches. 
They were Catalpa Sphinx Caterpillars and most of them were large, black critters with a white stripe long their side and a long spine or horn on the back end.

The younger ones were much smaller and were mostly white with black dots. They also had spiny horns.

 Just like the caterpillar in Eric Carle's book, I could tell that these were very hungry. They were eating leaves instead of apple and oranges and ice cream, but the leaves were disappearing .

                                          The leaves had almost all been eaten...

                                                                    very hungry caterpillars!

When all of the leaves were gone and there were only bare branches left, I didn't see any more cats.
However, I did keep checking on the tree as I crossed the bridge to and from the tunnel. I was very pleased to see that new leaves began to cover the twigs and branches.

Then one day in early September, I saw that the caterpillars had returned! The young ones made lovely designs as they rested on the underside of the leaves.

                                                       They were ready to feast again!

                                          And ready to grow larger and larger...

                                                                    they ate more and more!

They did not stay on the bare branches after the leaves disappeared. Perhaps they knew that fishermen love to use them for fish bait.
Unlike the caterpillars in the book, these "worms" will grow up to be Catalpa Sphinx Moths instead of butterflies.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Any Questions?

During the school year, students are often asked, "Does anyone have any questions?"

When I am wandering through Wildwood Park, I often wonder, "What's that?"
One day, I spotted a butterfly and after taking its picture, I wondered what kind it was.

On another day, I saw another of the same kind so I took its picture and still wondered
what kind of butterfly it was.

Fortunately, this one also let me see its underwing, and I was able to see two white marks that looked 
very much like a question mark turned upside down.

 Ah-ha! I had found a Question Mark (Polygonnia interrogationis)!
  This butterfly does not nectar on flowers but prefers to sip sap.

 The Question Mark above is enjoying the Cup Plants but is ignoring the yellow flowers and sipping from 
one that has lost its petals but has a sappy bud remaining. Notice its proboscis "straw".

This butterfly was so focused on the plant that I was able to focus my camera and get one more
 good shot of its identifying "tattoo"!

The Questions in Wildwood can be quite lovely!!!