reconnaissance ~ a preliminary inspection or survey of a forest or range area to gain general information (e.g., timber volumes) useful for future management —see cruise
And that's what we were hired to do ~ to go walk the forest, assess the health of the trees and surrounding area, measure the trees, and record it all. We do this in what they call " taking plots"; predetermined specific spots or locations on a map so that you can get a general overall assessment of what's out there. On average we can do approx. 25 to 30 plots (about 200 acres walked) per day; the more detailed information needed, the less amount of plots per day as you need to spend more time on the plot. Accuracy is everything when doing Timber Reconnaissance work.
The equipment I carry to do this kind of work can be simple, but it can also be sophisticated. I always carry a silva compass, a folding pocketknife, and a lighter, basic woodsman tools. But then in my Orange cruisers vest, I carry some pretty neat equipment; we use a palm pocket computer that has special software for Forestry inventory. I keep it in a waterproof and "drop"-proof box called an "otter" box. I also carry a leather holster with an increment borer in it. This is used to age trees, or more specifically, drill a tiny core into a tree, extricate the core and count the rings to see how old it is. If done right, this does not harm the tree and the tree will naturally seal up the hole in a few seasons of growing. Then there's the little flags I mark the location and number of each plot on; I love it when the contract calls for bright pink...and we can't forget lunch; the calories I eat while cruising would make a teenage boy proud...although I have to remember when I'm not cruising that I can't still eat that way...Then there's lip gloss - can't forget the lip gloss.
So this all sounds simple, right? "A wonderful day hiking in the woods..."
Well, just because there's a map doesn't mean there's a trail or a walking path to it. So we walk. Through downed trees, rocky cliffs, talus, thick underbrush, a relatively straight line to where we need to go for our next plot. After all, we are mapping the direction to these plots on the map as we go along. The locations of the plots are the same, but we determine how to get to them. And sometimes it's a walk in the park, other times it is a death march. Just depends on the location. And yes, that's why I don't walk for exercise lol.
And the dangers we have on the job are kind of different than most...
Sometimes it storms out. Lightning and hail storms are dangerous, esp. when you are above 6000 ft', there is no manmade cover to hide under and your truck is parked miles away. That's where you need to find a low lying area to squat without touching any roots under the shortest group of trees, or find a low lying rock outcrop that has a shelf you can slide under praying there are no snakes...or absolutely last resort - pray & run from the lowest tree to lowest tree to the truck like Alan Arkin in "The In-laws"...SERPENTINE!!!
Anyhow the key here is you want to be in the low-lying area. The highest point is not a good place to be.
Then there are the windy days. When you are standing and watching the trees sway from the bottom of the trunk up back and forth, you are what they call an idiot if you do not vacate. More deaths are reported from timber falls than any other casualty in Forestry. Plain and simple, a tree that weighs a ton and is gaining momentum as it falls will pound you into the ground. So we don't work on high wind days, period.
Wild animals are another story. Black bears in NW WI generally are afraid of people as there is a dog hunting season in Wisconsin. They don't care if you have a dog or not, they want to get away from you. So when we work in the woods, they hear us coming and they climb a tree unbeknownst to us. We stop to take our plot, and then they decide they will flee at that moment, dropping like a rock out of the tree and taking off. I had this happen three plots in a row once. Even though all I saw was the large backside of a black furred critter, it still is unnerving to say the least as 200 lbs of bear drops 20 feet alongside you. Now I look up right away when I stop... and then there's Elk. Sleeping in dense cover on Northern slopes of spruce during the hottest part of the day, they are A LOT bigger than you think when you surprise them (and you!) from their slumber. Like the size of my horse, but with HORNS. Although it is amazing when you see them tuck those massive horns so that they lay across their back and they crash through the brush with their nose in the air...
Then there are cats. If you see a fresh kill of rabbit or larger, you can bet someone was just interrupted from their meal and is now watching you, assessing how you might taste. Best bet, move along. And can't forget the bees. If I had a quarter every time I have stepped or kicked a rotten log accidently, heard the buzz and then heard Mr. Foresterman yell "RUN", I would be a very rich girl. Mr. Foresterman is a very quiet laid back guy. So if he gets excited, you bet I'm going to listen. The most I have been stung is 4 times in one shot, but there are other times I have stood in the middle of the buzz going "wha?" looking at Mr. Forestermans horrified face and never got stung. So it's a crapshoot when it comes to bees. And we always carry antihistamine just in case. And Mr. Foresterman does not walk alongside me.
Then there's temperature ~ I have cruised in snow
I have cruised in Heat
I have not cruised in fog, however...
silly, you can't see the trees!