Found a photo of myself the other day from my days as a wilderness ranger on the Uncompahgre National Forest. This particular image was taken while we were engaged in a project that gave unemployed vanadium miners some temporary work thinning and planting (trees). I got to know my trusty Stihl inside and out, as on our weekends, with overtime, we repaired the whole crew’s saws, replaced worn parts, sharpened chains, etc. When I look at the plug-in saw we have in our garage today, it seems like a toy in comparison.
It being October in the Rockies, we were hit with all kinds of weather, from warm sunny days that had us shedding layers to thunder and lightning in the midst of blizzard-like conditions. As a result of the constant changes, the road into the area we were working was a mess – sometimes a mudhole, other days criss-crossing ruts a foot deep and frozen solid. More than once, we had to get out and put chains on, and on one memorable morning, a bunch of us were spattered with ice and mud while winching out a van that had gotten stuck across a couple of sets of ruts.
Not only did we need to be careful about the saws themselves, but of course had to look out for falling trees and widowmakers, especially with quite a few novice sawyers in the woods. To add insult to possible injury, it was also elk season, and we had to make sure any hunters in the area could see us, which meant that our usual forest green uniforms weren’t very good protection.
The combination of the weather, saw safety and hunting season made for some interesting apparel. Based on my own outfit, I came up with the following catwalk commentary:
Must-have fashion accessories for today’s well-dressed forest ranger:
- Ballistic nylon chaps maintain an attractive leg line by ensuring those limbs stay attached to one’s body
- Flame-orange vest color-coordinates beautifully with one’s chainsaw; also serves to differentiate the sawyer from sneaky elk who masquerade in plaid wool shirts and down vests
- Clear safety goggles show off beautiful eyes; also keep the top half of one’s face free from flying dirt and sawdust
- Hardhats are de rigeur for maintaining one’s sanity, but may need to be lined with wool caps for extra warmth. “Hat hair” is clearly a dire occupational hazard.