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Spring break up is part of life
REGION- If you've lived in Maine for any amount of time you are well aware of mud season and the spring break up that forces loggers and truckers out of the woods for an average of two months each year. Depending on how soon the break up takes place, that time frame could be anywhere from the beginning of March to mid-June.
In 2009, the area saw the worst year in recent history with above average rainfall beginning in March and not ending until October. The ground was just too wet for many loggers to get in the woods without risking damage to their contracts land.
In 2010, the weather patterns proved to bring a short mud season as the temperatures went from 20 degrees at the onset of March to a record breaking 70 degrees in mid-April. It was an unusual spring, but allowed the wood harvesting to continue with little down time for those that were able to take advantage.
Brian Gross of Hanover was in a much different position last year, as he was recovering from shoulder surgery due to an injury that affects many wood contractors that have made a very physical way of life for themselves in the woods.
Having his surgery in January and then recuperating through the spring months, he lost his winter season, putting him in a difficult predicament for the spring.
“A lot of people don't realize that winter is a loggers time to make hay,” noted Gross. “We do what we can to get ahead of the trucks that are hauling and hope that spring break up doesn't come too early.”
Gross' father, Malcolm, also a life-long woodsman, “always told me that you could figure on March 15 to be the turning point,” Gross stated. “Anything after that you needed to start getting off your winter roads.”
While Gross is on a private road that doesn't get posted to a temperature ban the first of March, he stated, “I have a real good relationship with the landowner, he's in here every day. I would hate to mess up his land or our relationship, so I respect the weather and move my landing closer to the road as soon as things start to get soft.”
As the temperatures hover close to freezing during the early mornings of March this year, it affords time for his truckers, Dan and Kyle Dolloff to get in and get as much quality wood out as they can.
“They can always come back in the summer and pick up the pulp wood,” stated Gross. “But, we really need to be sure to get the quality logs out to the mills before we wind things down for the spring.”
On this particular day, Dan and Kyle had been at at the wheel since 2 a.m. getting in to various contractor landings before the temperature rose and forced them to stay put for the day, or risk getting pulled over and parked by local law enforcement.
“As long as it's below freezing and the water isn't running,” noted Dan. “We're out there pecking away to get things cleaned up.”
While winter is a time to get as much done as possible, loggers and truckers tend to piece-meal their equipment until spring when they have more time to get things repaired.
“It's a hard time of year,” noted Dan. “We need to keep working through the winter and let things slide. Then we spend the spring in the garage working on getting everything ready for summer. With no income in the spring, besides a few odd jobs, you have to pick and choose what you need to do right away and what can wait. Not to mention having to keep insurance and registration on the trucks for the two or three months you're not running them.”
While truckers and loggers alike spend their spring months getting repairs done with limited income and savings, there are many of them that seek employment through local construction outfits. They find work covering mill shut downs as laborers or perfecting their second trade as pipe fitters, welders or carpenters.
For Gross, he stockpiles firewood throughout the year to help get him through the spring months, but mentioned that he has begun to take an annual trip to Polaski, NY for a bit of Steelhead Salmon fishing.
“It's a good time to take a vacation,” stated Gross. “Even though I have a limited income through the spring, I'm with all the other loggers and hope to make enough throughout the rest of the year to afford taking a week or two off.”