By Spencer Wilson

BASALT, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado has had a windy year so far and has the downed trees to prove it across the Front Range as well as in the high country. U.S. Forest crews have their work cut out for them trying to clear trails right now with sometimes hundreds of downed branches and logs covering popular trails.

“I know one trail they went on, they cut out 107 trees off of like two miles a trail,” said Katherine Bazan, who works at the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District. “That’s a lot of trees.”

(credit: CBS)

In comes the trusty tool, the cross-cut saw. You know, those big saws you see in black and white photos with a lumberjack on either side, pushing and pulling their saw back and forth and cutting down monster-sized trees. The Forest Service is still using those, and holds the antique near and dear to their hearts.

“They’re about six feet long. They’re made from steel. They have sharp teeth all along the edge,” Brazan explained to Mountain Newsroom Reporter Spencer Wilson Thursday morning near Basalt.

The crews there were training 33 students from five different ranger districts across Colorado. Teams took turns learning more about the tool, its importance in history, and how to properly operate it while out in the wilderness.

(credit: CBS)

While it’s not unheard of, Bazan said most crews try not to use a chainsaw for a few reasons. First, a lot more can go wrong with a chainsaw mechanically, and normally you’re not close enough to any civilization to try and get it figured out. Second, it’s a human powered instead of gas powered. Third, it’s quiet (er).

“We always like to think about that one person that maybe has one day off every year and that they just want to go somewhere quiet,” Brazan said. “If we use a chainsaw vs. a cross saw, we can really affect that user’s experience.”

That effort to make sure the wilderness is accessible and a peaceful experience for its users comes from 1964 legislation, The Wilderness Act. Brazan said it has wonderful language designed to protect our nature across the nation and the time we spend in it.

Spencer Wilson