The old GL didn't last long in our hands - in protest of its fate, it gradually lost power until it would start but refused to move - so it's been about twenty years since anyone drove a car out here. In the meantime, nature's been busy. Two decades of persistent photosynthesis have obliterated the trails I used to drive. And my goal isn't simply to hack out a rutted four-by-four trail. I want a smooth road with fun corners. And a jump. We definitely need a jump.
First, I walk the path that I intend to use for the course, which I dub Forest Stage 3. (Why stage three? Because it sounds cool and implies that there are two other, undoubtedly less dangerous, stages.) It's all a mess, with felled trees crisscrossing the trail and thick underbrush crowding in from both directions. I reach out to shove a rotten tree out of the way, and a sapling snaps back and whips me across the eyeball. My contact lens is sliced in half. Great. I've nearly lacerated my cornea, and I haven't even fired up the chain saw yet. Mother nature, it seems, is not happy to see me.
Graham and I decide that he'll run the brush cutter while I clear the larger trees with the chain saw. I'm terrified of the chain saw. The owners' manual cautions that there's a part of the chain called the "kickback zone," and if you touch that part to a tree, the chain saw will probably plow halfway through your femoral artery before the motor hydrolocks on your gushing blood. So I grip the chain saw like it's a rabid raccoon, keeping it as far away from my body as possible.
And yet, it's an awesome tool. Trail-obstructing trees are obliterated in a cloud of sawdust and noise. Branches that crowd the path are surgically removed. I even get low and flatten out a few stumps that look like they could imperil a rally-car tire. It turns out that I needn't have worried about those. Because tree stumps, I soon learn, are no match for an angry Bobcat.
The Bobcat is like a Tonka toy scaled up for adults. It's an incredible machine - a grader, an earthmover, a stump-digger that's able to turn on its own axis and crush anything in its path. There's something fundamentally appealing about rearranging the landscape with a bucket loader. But there's a bit of a learning curve. My initial stint in the driver's seat is a neck-snapping procession of jerky movements as I learn to manipulate the controls. My first project is to cover a narrow rock that juts up out of the trail in the perfect position to decimate a suspension arm. The rock is adjacent to a steep banking, so I use the Bobcat to scoop earth from the hill and cover the rock. When I'm done, the rock is covered, the trail is widened, and we have our first piece of terrain that actually looks like a road.