Cuppa Coffee and a Ponderosa Pine

Yesterday morning, with coffee, surveyed the forest, stretching back and upward along the slope of the mountain.  I studied one tree in particular, a Ponderosa Pine, one of several I have sized-up countless times.   It goes up around 75 feet; 14 inches in diameter.  I have known that the tree needs to come down, but its a beautiful tree, or a handsome tree, one or another.  It is a large tree for my eyes; stands like a bull in a china shop.  East, ten feet away, is the roof.  North, fifty feet, is a power line.  South, twenty feet, runs the phone line. That leaves west.  And even then, the phone line on the south and the power line on the north converge, at an angle,  at the pole (west).

I will cut this Ponderosa Pine six feet above the ground and it will miss the lines that come together at the pole, in theory.  I will use three guide ropes.  One is a tow chain.  The guide ropes will pull the tree downward, into the four-foot space between two aspens, in theory.  After I tie off the guide ropes, I go inside and sip some coffee, tempted to stop this insanity.   I consider this venture risky for an inexperienced woodsman. I drink more coffee, review, reassess, and consider these factors:

  1. A professional tree service?  Too expensive;
  2. The tree is too close to the house, and must come down;
  3. I want to get this done, as painful and as intimidating this may be;
  4. I have everything covered, as long as I cut the tree down correctly;
  5. Finally, I am a wilderman, and wildermen all over the world are depending on me to go for it (sounds a bit grandiose).

There is another slight complication: my chainsaw it not running well, and I cannot depend on it until I get a tune-up and a new chainsaw blade.  Therefore, I will be using my axe and my wedges.

After the fastidious, slow, axe-work, front and back, it is time to go to the ropes.  I begin pulling with a slow, rhythmic, technique, increasing the force, the ponderosa pine swaying further and further, until I hear the first “CRACK!”.  My heart is beating a bit faster, and I wonder if I am about to die. When the tree snaps, there will be less than five seconds before the tree slams against the ground.  I will run at the right time, in the right direction, to the right place, without tripping.  The tree is swaying with more intensity now.  I listen as I continue to pull the tree, and .

“CRACK!” . . .

 An ominous sound it is.  The tree is coming for me.  I sprint northwest, twenty feet, crouch behind two Ponderosa, and watch the mammoth tree, seemingly in slow motion, collide with the earth.  Dirt and needles and branches are flying.  The sound is powerful.

I come to the conclusion that, amidst my thankfulness that there has been no property damage nor injuries, I will seek the assistance of some other seasoned wildermen woodsmen if I have another tree experience so challenging.  I go back inside and I make some fresh coffee.  And I will use three guide ropes.






  1. T, this was just fantastic! A great story well told. “wildermen all over the world are depending on me to go for it”…true. The last two sentences are perfect poetry…I hope I always end my blogs so well!

  2. wow, happy you are okay after that, perhaps it was your caffeine goggles that made you extra brave on this day, and now with a bit of reflection and perspective and the close call of course, you will approach the next tree project a bit differently. a great lesson and a great post.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this…so reminiscent of every time my dad decided he was going to cut a tree down at our cabin in northern WI (jack or white pines). The felling was both frightening & so exciting. Really a great post.

    1. Late with replies, thank you for your encouragement. You know, I love story. And within your two sentences, there is a great story that was wonderful: you dad cutting a tree down in northern WI, the jack pines, the white pines … a little excitement, a little apprehension. So glad you could experience something so wonderful. T

    1. Trapper, I don’t think I ever got back with you regarding your kind words. My laptop is so old that I can’t do replies on my WordPress anymore. It’s so old that it runs on kerosene. I need to get back to you on your blog … I’ve been busting tail trying to the trees down, within 30 feet of the house, for fire mitigation. It’s a wild job, for a wilderman. Peace, T

  4. You my friend are a true wildernessman. No man in his right mind would ever think that he is so perfect that he has nothing to be concerned with. I myself had an old pine to cut down that was near our house and also as close if not closer to our neighbors home as well. I unlike you would not have attempted this feat without a working chainsaw. Had I tried it with an axe I would not have had the strength to run away from the falling tree. As a matter of fact it would have taken me about two to three days of chopping due to my blade being dull.
    Anyway, I told the tree exactly where I wanted it to fall. Between my neighbors fence and the little pond behind our home, because had it landed in the pond that would have been a part of the tree that would have remained in the pond and gotten me in trouble with the HOA.
    Needless to say I spoke to our Father above and with his help and the trees understanding all ended as one would have hoped for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s