On Friday, July 7th I had not planned to hike at all after several strenuous days clearing the Big Pond to Alder Lake Trail. As the afternoon rolled around, I realized that it was a beautiful day and I was encouraged by Sheila to go for a hike. I decided to head across the street to Round Top since it was close and I had not been there to inspect the trails in over a week. I got dressed, grabbed my poles and put Sheila on her leash to walk down the driveway and cross the street at just after 3:00 PM. I had decided not to bring my pack as I did not want to carry the extra weight and wanted to have the “freedom” from taking pictures. We walked across the field to the back of the church to begin the ascent of the steepest hill behind the church. The hill is short but really gets the circulation pumping and is the steepest and longest climb on the “trail”. When we got to the top of the hill, we started out on the trail by turning left at the trailhead. As soon as we entered the trees I released Sheila from her leash. At the first trail junction Sheila chose the trail to the right which is the less strenuous climb. At the sharp left turn at the top of the hill we turned left and followed the yellow blazed lower trail as it skirted Round Top. When the trail turned left again, we turned right and started up the hill to the summit of Round Top on the new blue blazed upper trail. The trails and only a few new sticks on them which I picked up as we walked. Sheila feels comfortable on these trails and ranges a little too far for my comfort. We followed the trail across the summit and down the other side. There were a few places where some lopping was needed and several where the string trimmer might be sued to cut the ferns and grass. When we came down to the yellow trail, we turned right and followed the trails around to the sharp left turn. This time we turned left and walked downhill through the ferns toward the lookout. As we approached the viewpoint something looked amiss to me. On closer inspection there were8 or 9 trees that had been cut down! Whoever cut them used something like a hatchet since it was obvious many strikes were needed to cut the trees. Most were small but there was one cherry tree that was at least 8 inches in diameter. The trees had been left where they fell and there was evidence of a small fire on the viewpoint. I was appalled that someone would vandalize a public forest and trail system in this way. Several possibilities went through my mind. W walked down the hill to the first trail junction and out to the trailhead. I had intended to do several more loops but I knew my first priority was to report this act. At the trailhead we turned right and walked down the hill to the church and across the field to our driveway. I put Sheila in the house and called the town supervisor to make my report. He seemed disgusted that someone would spoil a public attraction for no apparent reason. I promised him I would clean up the mess on Saturday.
The more I though about the situation the more I knew I wanted to clean it up immediately. I got my pack with my small Silky saw and machete. I also grabbed my Council Tools felling axe and my bigger KatanaBoy Silky saw. I put Sheila in the backseat and my tools in the trunk and drove across the road to the top of the cemetery. I parked there, let Sheila out of the back seat and retried my tools from the trunk. We headed up the trail directly to the lookout. I leashed Sheila to a tree and put my tools down. Just before I started, I realized I had not brought a camera and pictures would have been nice. As usual I surveyed the job and formed a plan. I would cut and drag away the trees closest to the edge of the clearing. As I did this I made sure to drag the first trees far back into the woods so that I would have room for all of them. Some were small enough that I could just drag them away whole while others needed one or more cuts. The work was going faster than I expected but I was saving the biggest trees for last. The last tree I cut was a cherry tree with a diameter of about 8 inches at the base. For this one I used the felling axe. I am used to the Fiskars axe and was surprised that the Council Tools Velvicut, although much heavier, did not cut much better than the Fiskars. Once the cut was made I carried away the butt end of the tree which was almost heavier than I could handle. I used a saw to make another cut so that I could remove another piece of the trunk. Now that all the trees were cut up and dragged away, I turned my attention to the jagged stumps left behind. I grabbed the KatanaBoy and sawed all the stumps off at ground level and threw the pieces onto the brush piles. I looked at my watch and found it had taken about an hour to do the work. I will be making more frequent trips to the trails but it doesn’t take someone very long to do this kind of damage. I hope the report to the State Police and Sheriff’s Department will help find the culprits or at least dissuade then from doing any more damage. I also let several people, around town know what happened and asked them to let me know if they hear anything.