Ax throw, log climb at Adirondack lumberjack class - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ax throw, log climb at Adirondack lumberjack class

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Tommy Grunow of Riverside, Conn., peels the bark from a white pine log at the Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Tommy Grunow of Riverside, Conn., peels the bark from a white pine log at the Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y.
(AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Bevin Rainwalker, left, of West Rupert, Vt., and Liam Gilbert of Blue Bell, Penn., saw a log at the cross cut station at the Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Bevin Rainwalker, left, of West Rupert, Vt., and Liam Gilbert of Blue Bell, Penn., saw a log at the cross cut station at the Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y.
(AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Zach Brown, a guest athlete, demonstrates the boom run for students during Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Zach Brown, a guest athlete, demonstrates the boom run for students during Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y.
(AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Emily Eidman, of New City, N.Y., performs the boom run on Lower St. (AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Emily Eidman, of New City, N.Y., performs the boom run on Lower St.
(AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Madison Lemoine, of Chepachet, R.I., checks the tape on her fingers before using a hand saw on a log at the Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll). In this July 10, 2014 photo, Madison Lemoine, of Chepachet, R.I., checks the tape on her fingers before using a hand saw on a log at the Adirondack Woodsmen's School at Paul Smith's College in Paul Smiths, N.Y.
  • NationalMore>>

  • Broken water main floods UCLA; 5 people rescued

    Broken water main floods UCLA; 5 people rescued

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 12:27 AM EDT2014-07-30 04:27:07 GMT
    A broken water main near the UCLA campus Tuesday sent a geyser of water some 30 feet into the air, forced the rescue of people trapped in underground parking garages and covered some of the best-known parts of...More >>
    A broken water main near the UCLA campus Tuesday sent a geyser of water some 30 feet into the air, trapping people in underground parking garages and covering some of the best-known parts of campus in water, including the...More >>
  • 4 teens charged with murder in USC student's death

    4 teens charged with murder in USC student's death

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 11:21 PM EDT2014-07-30 03:21:42 GMT
    Four teens were charged Tuesday with murder in the fatal beating of a University of Southern California graduate student with a baseball bat and wrench as he walked to his off-campus apartment after meeting with a...More >>
    Four teens were charged Tuesday with murder in the beating of a University of Southern California graduate student with a baseball bat and wrench as he walked to his off-campus apartment after meeting with a study group.More >>
  • Man wrongly imprisoned seeks millions from state

    Man wrongly imprisoned seeks millions from state

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:15 PM EDT2014-07-30 02:15:45 GMT
    A man who was imprisoned 21 years for a rape and murder he didn't commit is set to testify at a first-ever Connecticut hearing to determine how much he should be compensated.More >>
    A man cleared of murder and rape charges after being locked up for two decades made an emotional appeal for millions of dollars in compensation on Tuesday, telling the state claims commissioner about the fear he endured in...More >>
By MICHAEL HILL
Associated Press

PAUL SMITHS, N.Y. (AP) - Ax throwing is encouraged in lumberjack class. It's also OK to dump your classmate in the lake - as long as you're both frantically trying to stay upright on a floating log.

The annual Adirondack Woodsmen's School is being held this summer amid the tall pines and placid waters of Paul Smith's College. Despite the course's name, there are no bushy beards here, no flannel shirts, no suspenders, no oxen.

Instead, 18 young students in matching gray sports shirts took part recently in a weeklong crash course on old-school lumberjack skills such as sawing, chopping, ax throwing, log boom running and pole climbing. While the course is for college credit, many participants echo Tommy Grunow, who said he wanted to learn the "lost art of lumberjacking."

"I looked at the list of what we'd be doing ... and I got to ax throwing and I lost it. I had to come," said the incoming Paul Smith's freshman from Riverside, Connecticut.

Paul Smith's focuses on environmental studies, and the woodsmen's summer curriculum includes the "history of axes" and the "art and science of hand-hewing logs," but there's also a lot of fun stuff with axes and saws.

On a recent afternoon at a lakeside clearing on campus, students strapped spikes around their boots to scramble up a 45-foot pole and raised long-handled axes over their heads, executioner style, to send the tools tumbling into a bull's-eye painted on a log end. They sawed solo with a bow saw and in pairs with a 6-foot crosscut saw. They practiced their underhand chop, which required them to stand on the log they were axing (with metal booties to protect against errant swings).

"It's like a brave new world out here," Liam Gilbert, of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, said with a smile. "I had not thrown an ax, and on my first throw I managed to break a handle. So I have not thrown one since."

Later on at the lake, the students, in their late teens and 20s, took turns trying to dash across a log boom stretching from the shore and climbed on a floating log two at a time to see whose fast footwork could keep him or her vertical on the spinning lumber the longest.

Instructor Brett McLeod oversaw all of it, offering occasional tips on fluid ax swings or crosscut techniques. McLeod is a former logger who chopped and sawed in woodsmen competitions, as do some of these students. Late in the afternoon, he divvied up the students into relay teams involving cutting, climbing and throwing, which looked sort of like the Hunger Games as imagined by Paul Bunyan. The races hone students' timber sports skills, though McLeod sees a larger value in the course.

Students, he said, will need these skills if they go on to work as park rangers in wilderness areas that don't allow mechanized equipment. Others could use their newfound skills to build their own log cabins. And all of them will get a (calloused) hands-on experience about natural-resources management and the history of the Adirondacks, where loggers have been swinging axes for centuries.

"The idea was basically to get students to think about things besides video games and really sort of bring them back to nature," McLeod said.

The first one-week course is for beginners, with more advanced training this week. Many students will attend both weeks. The first week's group included three female students. One, Madison Lemoine, of Chepachet, Rhode Island, said she's used to competing with males in lumberjack competitions.

"It's tough, actually. You have big guys, and I'm like, 'OK, give me an ax, and I'll do my best.' But you just try as hard as you can," she said. "It's like God's fury raining down with that ax. You put in everything you have."

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.