Seeing the forest (games) for the trees
Fernanda Chamorro / Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 4, 2011
I woke up to a cold late autumn morning Oct. 1 extremely nervous, thinking of freezing water chilling my skin. There were still a couple of hours left to consider chickening out. I dressed up in layers of warm clothing and headed out. In a few short hours I would compete in the 14th Annual Farthest North Forest Sports Festival. The School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences has held the event every year since 1998.
By 11a.m., dozens of people had shown up for the first part of the competition at the Fairbanks Experiment Farm. In two hours they would move to Ballaine Lake for the birling competition, where contestants balanced on a floating log. For now the participants moved between various events: axe throwing, the pulp toss, the bow saw and double buck saw, and log rolling. They also stopped for hot chocolate and coffee at the registration table.
I signed in and bumped into two other people who were signing up. I met one of them — Erika Tobin — earlier for another story, but didn’t recognize her. Erika, the president of the UAF Society of Mining Engineering, wore a stylish blue hat to the event. Suvi Autio, a student from Finland, had red dreadlocks and glasses that made her green eyes stand out. I asked if they needed another teammate, they said it was their first time participating and they were not sure how many teammates there had to be. Since it had to be a team of four to six, they let me join and asked another guy to join us, too. Jesse Cervin, a UAF mining engineer, had dark hair, green eyes and a plaid shirt. Since Erika and Suvi were teammates, Jesse was my partner for the two-person events. We became “Team Awesome.”
Teams had to decide the order they wanted to register for events, so we headed to wherever the line was short.
We began with the axe throw in which we hurled the axe of our choice about 10 feet to attempt hitting the center of a target. Competitors make it seem so easy, but the axes are heavy and one has to try to throw it exactly right, not too soft and not too hard either. Imuya Dooley, winner of the axe throwing competition, described it as similar to batting a ball because it has to be so precise.
Only one of my axes made it near the target, but it didn’t stick. Jesse made all three of his throws within the target and came very close to the center on two of them.
The pulp toss came next. There were four approximately 3-foot-long logs and we tossed each, trying to land them between two stakes about 10 feet away to score a point. Each team was timed for how long it took the four members to score 16 points. It is almost like horseshoe pitching, event host David Valentine said.
Next, we decided to saw. There was an individual competition performed with a bow saw, which required some arm strength, and a partner competition done with a buck saw that required cooperation. The partner competition was a ton of fun because the two members had to work together. The trick was to pull, because pushing caused the saw to get stuck. Suvi and Erika won first place in the women’s double buck competition.
Before driving over to the lake, we ended with the log rolling competition. Teammates had to use peaveys to roll a log to a determined finish line by touching two stakes, one on each end of the log. Thanks to our strategy, Jesse and I took less than two minutes — we hooked one end of the log with peaveys to pull it and then pushed it, turn it in in such a way that it touched the stakes. Sadly, it did not work out so well for our teammates. It took Erika and Suvi about 10 minutes to finish the same event. They didn’t give up, and managed to get a big crowd cheering for them.
Contestants had the fortune of it being a sunny, windless day at the lake. The parking lot was full and vehicles lined the shoulders of the road. The fire building competition was first so that there would be a big fire going once birling was over. There were not enough logs so only two members of each team could participate. Suvi and Erika built ours. All the fires were then piled together to form one big fire.
Our team signed up for the birling competition and I ended up competing against my teammate, Erika.
I quickly changed to light clothes and stepped into the cold, dark water to hop onto the huge old log that is used every year, according to Erika.We came so close to falling in at the same time, but Erika held out longer than me. It was so much fun and did not take long to get warmed up again. We had hot dogs and stayed near the fire afterwards. Emily Hemenway defended her title as she said she would, taking first place in the woman’s birling contest. “Balance prevails over all,” she said.