Brandon and Gwen's Adventure

Brandon and Gwen's Adventure

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Big Tree vs. the Libby's

This little outing happened about two months ago….So we were excited about our new Jeep JK and the winch which was promptly installed shortly after driving her home. That's when we felt the need to take an afternoon to picnic down some forest service roads here in Alabama. When we we were a good many miles down a particular road, far enough that we didn't want to have to turn around and retrace our muddy tire tracks, we came upon a large pine tree that had fallen across the road after a recent storm. 
It rains a lot in Alabama. We're from coastal South Carolina and still can't believe the amount of rainfall (and tornado scares) we've experienced in the short time we've been here. Typically, the rain comes down in massive amounts in a very short period of time which creates flash flooding all over the Tennessee Valley area. This had been one of those storms. The ground had become so saturated that the roots of the tree lost their grip in the squishy mud. When we reached the ill fated tree, it had only been on the ground for maybe 24hrs. Before this day, I had never attempted to clear an obstacle with a winch. I saw this as an opportunity to practice using the Warn M8000 that was pulled off of our recently sold Jeep Cherokee to try my hand at it. After closely inspecting the tree from the road, I opened the tailgate and pulled my gloves, winch remote, and a tree strap from the small storage cubby in the trunk floorboard. Then I spooled the winch cable out to the TIQ (tree in question). 
The branches were close together and covered in fresh tree sap -which resulted in some clever dance moves to navigate the labrynth. 

First, I wrapped the tree strap around the body of the tree between some hefty branches. The branches kept the strap from sliding up the trunk once the winch was deployed. It's important to keep at least one full wrap of winch line around the drum. This ensures that the friction of the drum does the work of holding the line in place, as opposed to the bolt at the end of the line. Next, I hung a weighted vest over the middle of the winch cable to help reduce the energy of the cable if it broke. With everything in place, I plugged the remote in and made sure my wife and I were safely out of the way. 

The winch quickly spooled up the slack in the cable and began pulling the tree forward. It was working! Well, not really. The tree was only bending and once it got to a certain point the winch began to groan -as did I. I should have been in the Jeep holding the brake, but I didn't even think about it. Previously, I had only winched my vehicle or another vehicle from a sticky situation -as I said before, I had never attempted to clear an obstacle from the road. The Jeep let out three clicks from underneath as it lunged forward in park. I was terrified that I had broken the parking pawl in my new Jeep. Luckily, it was fine. As the pit in my stomach began to fade, I called myself a few choice names under my breath and moved on. 

The tree was bending rather than moving. Clearly this meant I needed more power. So I moved the Jeep closer to the tree and looped the cable through a pulley and back to the shackle on my bumper. Gwen climbed into the Jeep and held the brake. It was time to try again. 

This time the winch moved the tree slower, but pulled the it much farther. It was obvious how much leverage the pulley provided, but it still only moved the tree a few feet. I relieved the stress on the line, pulled again and moved it a couple more feet. 

Remember when I said the ground was squishy? Well the trunk had pushed the ground in on the corner of the road which made a nice pocket to hold it in place

Due to the muddy divot, the our opponent had some serious traction. I let the slack out again and let the winch cool off for a minute. I tried again with similar results -the tree moved a couple of feet, then stopped. Again, I tried, a couple of inches and then …nothing, it just stopped. By this time, a native Alabamian in a red Dodge Dakota had pulled up on the other side of the tree, hopped out, and began to tug on a can of Bud Light. I let the slack out and walked over to say hi and to look at the tree again. I introduced myself and my wife and explained that we were just out exploring until this tree put an end to our fun. He said his name ws, "Bubba" (you can't make this stuff up) and he was out drinking beer and driving the back roads as well -at least he wasn't driving on city streets. 

While we were talking, I looked at the base of the tree and noticed it had become wedged between two other, much larger trees. I wasn't going to be able to finish extracting it without a chainsaw. Oh well. I learned a lot and got some much needed clearing practice and I had done it in the appropriate low-stress, safe setting. I bid Bubba adieu, then we headed on our seperate ways. On second thought, that tree may have kept us from a head on collision with Bubba and his case of Bud Light. Perhaps there was a different type of recovery happening right under our noses.