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Tales from the road

Part Two of “Where the Motor Pool fleet cannot go”

March 16th, 2012

Snowmobile to the Rescue

Snowmobile to the Rescue

Jay Sexton

Forest Ecosystems and Society

College of Forestry

A recent trip to the H.J. Andrews had two tasks:

  1. Sunday–training scientists on safe operation of the OSU snowmobile used at the research forest.
  2. Monday–using the Oregon State University H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest based snowcat to maintain high elevation stream gauging stations and meteorological instrumentation.

Getting to work

On Monday, after a previous classroom training, snowmobile trainees met me at Ray Benson Snowpark, near Hoodoo Ski Area. During each training time, a pair of trainees and I went through 2 1/2 hours of hands-on machine time training covering, trailering, loading and un-loading, basic operation, maneuvering, travel over trails and slopes, getting stuck and un-stuck, and safe operation considerations. This provides the trainees with a workable knowledge of the capability and limitations of snowmobiles in a structured training framework in safer conditions than the narrow forest roads through steep country existing on the H.J. Andrews Forest, itself.

Saving the day

During this trip we met a resort owned snowcat that had suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure where the front axle had broken, allowing the front, left “paw” to fall off and be run over by the back, left “paw”. The trainees and I and four other recreational snowmobilers ferried the passengers of the disabled snowcat to the parking area and their cars. Many of these passengers were not clothed for the conditions since they expected comfortable, enclosed snowcat transport.

Stranded snowcat and operators found by OSU personnel doing snowmobile training

Stranded snowcat and operators found by OSU personnel doing snowmobile training

Back to work

Monday I continued my snowcat operator training by assisting the H.J. Andrews hydrologic technician, Greg Downing, in his regular maintenance of the high elevation stream and weather instrumentation at the Experimental Forest. We trailered the snowcat to the edge of the snow and then traveled by snowcat up into the high areas of the forest.

OSU Snowcat at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

OSU Snowcat at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

Our tasks included collecting water samples from both precipitation and stream automated samplers, downloading of data, changing 45 pound batteries on instruments, testing for normal operation, checking for and correcting malfunctions, and measuring the snow depth at “snow stakes”. I added almost 8 hours of driving time to my snowcat operators training log this day.

Researcher measures snow depth at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

Researcher measures snow depth at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

Why did the newt cross the road (in the winter)

While traveling in the snow-covered but lower elevations we encountered an adventurous rough-skinned newt – the H.J. Andrews Mascot – bravely walking across a snow covered road. Not bad for a cold-blooded creature.

Rough-skinned Newt

Rough-skinned Newt: Mascot of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

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