[shift] verb.

1. to transfer from one place, position…to another

2. to put aside and replace it by another or others; to change or exchange

3. to get along by indirect methods; use any expediency, trick, or evasion to get along or succeed.

During Tuesday’s forestry adventures, the day’s theme centered upon different types of shifts.

1. Shift – To Transfer

Two representatives from the Sierra National Forest OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) department came to give my forest recreation class a presentation Tuesday morning.

But I’m getting a head of myself actually…

To get to the oak grove on campus, where we were to have our OHV  presentation, we were transferred hence by vintage bus.  (*Note – we have walked to this grove on numerous occasions but hey – why not travel in style instead?)  The ride felt a fusion of The Magic School Bus meets The Knight Bus.  For that, and many other reasons, our entire class found this ride wildly entertaining.  I haven’t laughed quite so hard in a good long while.


Anyways, once arrived at the oak grove, the two representatives from the Sierra National Forest OHV talked to us about employment opportunities within their department.  We also heard about the typical day on the job (which could include things like trail maintenance, construction projects, law enforcement, etc.) and they provided time for question/answers.

Then they gave us a demonstration of how a jeep winch can be used to move a large tree off a trail or out of a wilderness area.  They engaged the class in operating the winch, everything from attaching the tree saver (i.e. the thick, fabric strap that reduces friction), how to properly unwind and rewind the winch rope, and the commands used to engage the winch itself.  When operating the winch, the OHV rangers use a remote control to apply and release tension (that is the part I got to try).  It was rather impressive to see how much force the winch could apply.

2. Shift – To Change or Exchange

That afternoon our forest recreation class had a demonstration in using a gas powered rock drill and boulder buster.  These tools take together can change a trail’s construction, exchanging it for a version that is better suited for recreational visitors.

As a class, we were involved in gassing it up, putting in a stake driver, and using it to drill on concrete slabs.  You start it up like a chain saw and then apply it to a confined area to drill a hole.

I didn’t get to use the drill itself, but some of my class mates did:

After we drilled a hole down into the concrete, we filled it with water in preparation to use the boulder buster.  This is used for what it sounds like : to bust open large rocks or concrete.


To prepare the boulder buster, you put in a cartridge in the hole of the support plate that goes down into the impulse barrel.  You then you lay down a mat (to keep the buster from flying into the air after the explosion) and a loop of the firing lanyard (to engage the explosion from a safe distance) and screw on the firing mechanism.  Once a safe distance away, you pull the lanyard which engages a spring mechanism inside the firing mechanism, which engages the cartrage…and boom.

The two items together are used on trails to bust boulders in order to use the stone pieces to construct water bars or granite steps, etc.

3. Shift – To Get Along by Indirect Methods

In all sincerity, I think the most valuable experience of the day for me was learning how to “make it work” in the field when things aren’t working as planned.  While working as a class with the rock drill and boulder buster, several things went wrong.  The equipment broke down, the concrete we drilled through proved thinner than expected (which meant we drilled all the way through the concrete piece and hence had to start over with drilling a whole in a different piece of concrete), the explosion portion took 4-times-a-charm.

However, I for one was glad it didn’t all go smooth.  Seeing our instructor work determinedly to make it work and not just call it a day or end class when something went wrong was a great illustration to the entire class of the kind of gumption we should each develop within ourselves to apply in the field when we are employed in the future.   As the saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way, and I couldn’t have asked for a better model of dedicated will then what we got that afternoon with each snafu in the demonstration.

And, after all, we still succeeded in blowing something up 🙂


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