Trip Start Dec 28, 2006
15Trip End Mar 01, 2007
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Since Northeastern University had invited me to attend their graduate recruitment weekend during the same few days as Illinois, and since I had already purchased my airline ticket for Urbana, I was forced to skip out on Boston. Fortunately after communicating with faculty at NEU I was able to set up a recruitment weekend for myself a week after the official one. Our tentative plans were to visit the Janickis on our way to Canada, ski in Canada, then visit more people in Washington, Montana, and Colorado as we snaked our way back east. This meant, however, that I would fly to Boston instead of skiing in Canada. In January we had promised to take at least a day and visit the Janickis in Sedro-Woolley, and damnit, we weren't about to break our promise.
A Jeep Grand Cherokee plowed through two protective wire barriers and struck a coach head-on while traveling on I-5 north of Seattle. The Jeep burst into flames, the driver died, and the wreck blocked traffic in the entire city for several hours. Peter and I saw the wreck on T.V. and, absentmindedly, got in the car heading north on I-5 to Sedro-Woolley. When we finally made it through the inching traffic we realized the next day was Valentine's Day and we hadn't gotten them anything. Mike called wondering if we were lost, and I told him we were filling up with gas (even though we were really signing a giant Valentine's Day card in the gas station). The attendent even humored me after I asked her to tag the shitty little box of chocolates with a $19.99 price tag.
After a fantastic supper in their kitchen, a wonderful sleep in Patrick's bed, and a well received breakfast we hopped in the truck to spend a day in the life of Mike. He drove us deep into the forest surrounding the town, pointing out the local populations of trees and describing the workings of the logging industry. We meandered up a narrow unmarked road so wet and muddy nothing less than a heavy 4WD pickup could have made it beyond sight of the county pavement. We came to a stop alongside a stack of logs that, Mike told us, were earmarked for making pulp for paper. The trees around the road were unevenly distanced about 16 feet, which Mike informed us is the optimum spacing for commercial logging. The vegetation on the ground consisted of ferns, blackberrys, and other bushes crunched by the tracks of the logging machinery and the tree trunks they had fallen. Beyond the piles of logs and scattered stumps, almost out of view, was an impossibly dense wall of green. It was the border of the logging property, a thickness of trees and vines and bushes no machete-less man could walk through. Fifty yards from the truck, in the midst of the towering trees, was a backhoe from another planet. It had tracks for navigating uneven ground, a long arm for reaching out to trees, and a mechanism at the end of the arm to cut down, strip, and section each tree. It was like no piece of farm equipment Peter or I had ever seen. It took one man in an air-conditioned, computerized cab fifteen seconds to do what used to take dozens of men hours to do. What's even more amazing is that I forgot my camera.
We spent the rest of the day with Mike and Lisa on the grand tour of Janicki Industries. Several large buildings house enormous milling rooms where molds and precision parts for aerospace and marine companies are fabricated. The first room we saw there were people spraying a layer of foam on a massive mold for the hull of a yaght. The second room had a giant slow-moving mill that cut a steel o-ring for a jumbo jet fuselage. Several more rooms had 5-axis cutters and cavernous curing ovens, parts marked Boeing or Lockheed-Martin, and hundreds of rolls of carbon fiber. Think of all the jump skis you could make! Janicki Industries also does contract work for the Department of Defense. There were a few pieces and molds that Mike simply said "I can't tell you what that is" or "I don't even want to know what that is". It's probably good that I didn't have my camera.
All in all we had a fantastic day with the Janickis. Beyond their kindness to us they seem to care a lot about supporting the local economy and are very patient and altruistic to young people in general. I was surprised to hear Mike, in spite of the historic exploitive attitude of loggers, express and utilize knowledge of sustainability within the timber industry. He knows which trees leave a nutritional debt in the soil, and in turn, which trees have a nutritional surplus that can naturally counter that soil debt. Think of it as a crop rotation for loggers. He understands that in an industry like logging, sustainability is key. "For every tree we cut down, we plant three".