Name: Adam LaSalle
Vocation: Forester for the US Forest Service, Professional Lumberjack
Hometown: Tower, Minnesota
MWG: How do you respond when people ask, “what do you do?”
Adam: Depending on what forum I am in, I respond with the appropriate response…..I am a Forester. Half of the people I talk to kind of vaguely know what it is and the other half don’t know at all. The follow up question usually is “..and what does a Forester do?”. I take the time to explain the inner workings of my day-to- day and that generally leads into a lengthy conversation based off of whatever opinions that person has of cutting trees. Sometimes that conversation goes really well and sometimes I just leave it at “I am a forester”. All in all, I tend to try to educate some folks on what I do and why I do it. Its when I am in the Lumberjack setting that I often am asked if I actually work in the woods or not. And yes, Ive worked in the woods all my life.
Preferred spirit or drink to finish a day with?
Haha well that would depend on the day I’ve had. I do fancy a glass of whiskey or bourbon at the end of the day. I will put back a cool glass of Pendleton or Makers Mark when I am feeling classy or just some good old fashioned Windsor Canadian. That is a typical fall and winter routine for me. Spring and summer, I generally just have a beer or two to unwind. I am a fan of the Grainbelt Nordeast or Summit Extra Pale Ale. No sense doing it if it’s not done right, ya know.
What about the Midwest helped define you? Makes it special?
Well, I don’t know. Get in where you fit in I guess. The Midwest is a medley of rural and blue collar opportunity as well as stuffy white collar environments. I naturally gravitated towards the Northwoods. Big timbered landscapes and a vast expanse of lakes and streams. What makes it special to me is the people that live here and the ways of life that are consistent with the Midwest. Farming, Logging, construction, mining, etc. All things that shape the landscape and the people on it. The result is a culture of hard working American’s that are willing to help a stranger but not tell you where the walleyes are biting. Sportsmen and women, adventurers, and city slickers looking for a reprieve from their hectic life all make their way up north for some peace and quiet, and a little home away from home.
How would ‘you’ define a Midwestern Gentleman?
I would define a Midwestern gentleman in many ways but to put it as succinctly as possible, hearty. A Midwestern gentleman is strong, savvy in the ways of the natural world, mechanically inclined, physically evolved to handle the harsh conditions that Mother Nature doles out. He can hunt, fish, navigate through the woods by the cover darkness, work a job that he is proud of, raise a family of respectable humans, never turn down a game of horse shoes and always have a beer chaser with his bloody mary.
In respect to your passion for forestry work — and also years of competing in Timbersports: What were your most formative years, why?
I’d like to think that I am just getting into my most formative years. I am cutting wood as hard and often as ever, I am in shape and poised to fight the good fight. I started chopping wood and studying forestry at the same time. I grew up in a timber family working the woods with my father and my uncle. It wasn’t until my tour in the navy ended that I decided to pursue a career in forestry. I started when I was 24 and have been working towards a successful career in both ever since. I turned professional after college and have been training and steadily progressing through the ranks of the pro-circuit each year. I am doing the same in my forestry career. I view things as everything good comes in time and if you work hard at it then that time may be quicker. Actually, once I got the taste of success in both of my professional careers, then I just focused on continuing forward with it.
When I started chopping wood in college (2004) I had a buddy who was training to compete in the STIHL collegiate series. Being new to the whole world of competing, I had no idea what that meant but I trained with him. He competed, I watched, and I told myself “this is what I am going to do”. I spent the next year training for my opportunity. It came the following spring, I won the regional collegiate qualifier and moved onto the finals. I decided that from that point on that I was invested in the sport and my development. That was 11 years ago. Since then I have collegiate national lumberjack title to my name and I am working towards my goal of a world title. It will come.
As a man who spends much of his time in the woods, do you have a certain morning ritual you follow, or an album/podcast you can’t live without?
Haha yeah I guess I do have a routine. I get up at 0430 am every morning for work. I let the dog out, make coffee, shower, get dressed and go warm up my truck. I am at work by 6 am….breakfast eaten in the truck. It’s not much of a routine but being a creature of habit I generally don’t like to break away from my norms. When I do, my day if just a little bit kitty-wampus.
One rule of thumb for those looking to get into the competitive Lumberjacking?
You don’t know what you don’t know so listen to people who do and learn from them. Then, Hit it hard and hit it often. That last one could be taken many different ways.
Do you have a go-to axe / chainsaw brand?
I prefer to use a Tuitahi axe to chop with. I have many other brands and have used them. Tuitahi axes are easy to maintain and are able to take different forms of abuse. For powersaws I prefer a STIHL. It’s a decision derived from many things but I really like the ergonomics and user features on a STIHL saw more than any other brand out there.
We’re sure each day brings on a variety of elements to deal with. But, for those who may not know much about forestry… describe a day in the life for you — whether it be your preparation to daily work life?
Yeah, variety is a good way to put it. That’s the spice of life though, right? I think this is a big reason why I got into forestry to begin with. To be a good forester you have to know a little bit about everything that is going on in the woods. You need to know about and understand wildlife, stream and lake ecosystems, soil structure and function, etc. It’s a constant learning environment. I get to work at 6am and check a few emails then coordinate the day with my crew of 5-6 people. When we figure out our plan as a team we divide and conquer the week’s tasks. So, depending on what part of a timber sale we are currently working on, we can be performing the initial layout of harvest units, delineating those units with boundary paint or cruising the timber to acquire the overall volume of the timber sale. That was a brief overview of a month and a half to two month process by the way. It definitely isn’t that simple. We work till 0600am to 430pm Monday thru Thursday. I also get to work with the purchasers (Loggers) who are operating on the timber sales I set up. This is good and bad…Haha sometimes you get an ear full about the way you’ve set up a sale.
Sometimes you get positive feedback and you can take that into future timber sales. The difficulty in my job isn’t the field work. That part is the best part. I get to go to the woods, hike around and explore new country all the time. No, the hard part is managing the people and the other conflicting tasks associated with setting up federal timber for harvest. Mostly things ebb and flow and you have to get used to rolling with the punches. Sometimes, it can be downright maddening and other times it is tolerable. The beauty part is still the variety. I am always shuckin’ and jivin’ on something new and there is never a dull moment. It’s a challenge and like I mentioned before, a constant learning environment.
What, if anything, has surprised you the most about competitive Lumberjacking?
I suppose the biggest thing that has surprised me over the last decade of competing is the ability for all of us to compete head to head in all these events in a cut throat manner yet in the same breathe be there to help each other out if someone is struggling or slipping in an event. It’s like we need each other to push us individually. If all the other competitors just stop caring and slip into mediocrity then who do I have to compete against? Who is going to push me to perform the best I can. It’s a very large (nationwide), small family. And it truly is a family. Competitors swinging through other people’s neighborhood to train a bit here and there, others traveling across the country and being put up by competitors without hesitation. There are very few competitors that don’t extend a helping hand. That is true across the international stage as well. Many US competitors host lumberjacks and jills from other countries to compete here and that treatment is reciprocated in other countries across the globe to US competitors. Its what makes this fun.
What’s your wildest forestry or competition story?
Wild stories…hmm, well I’m not sure I can tell tales outside of school here…but I can try. I do remember having a fairly exciting trip to Montana one year. It was exciting because of what happened during the competition and what happened after the comp. Sooo, I was living in Colorado at the time and traveling impressive distances to compete. Some trips were 25 hours one way….well over 2000 mile trips in the pickup. Exhausting drives. In those days I was logging 19-20,000 miles a season from march to October. This prompted a need for a partner in crime. I had a buddy who also lived in Colorado and competed. We became traveling partners and boogied down the road quite a bit together. He was used to competing more on the west coast circuit and I mostly focused on the Midwest and Eastern side of the country.
When we teamed up we convinced each other of traveling to the others respective competitions to get a bit more experience. So I find myself driving down the road with my buddy Adrian who coincidentally looks and like the lead singer from Canned Heat…(but much taller) and his dog Aretha. She is a rescue dog with a troubled past and needless to say she was hesitant of new people. So I’m in the front seat of the truck with a dog in the back seat who would growl and/or lunge at me every time I turned around.
Anyways, we make our way the 16 hours up to Montana for the Libby Timber days. Ive never been to this show before but it is steeped with legend and lore including the infamous Bull/Babe of the woods competition. Picture a large log about 4ft in diameter laying in the middle of the infield with people standing on it wearing boxing gloves. Last one standing, wins. It had the full complement of events on wood that I’ve never cut before in my life. Not to be intimidated, I swiftly jumped into the competition and ended up winning several events outright and ending up tied for the overall lumberjack title. (That’s just the person with the most overall points at the end of the competition.) So it was a good run in Libby. We packed up our gear after the show and headed over to the street dance being held in town. I mean there was a lot going on here. Lumberjack contest, carnival, and street dance. All the necessary evils were there. So after listening to the band, getting over served, and doing some dancing with a few gals indigenous to the area, it was deemed necessary to call it a night. I just crashed for the night in the truck. I was awoke in the middle of the night to the sounds of gun shots and people yelling and screaming. Haha I just rolled over and fell back to sleep. Everything I’ve been told about Montana is pointing me towards this being standard operating procedure at these kind of shindigs.
I later inquired about it and it turns out that a bunch of over-served people from the dance wandered over to the carnival and took advantage of no lines for the super slide. The owner came out brandishing a shotgun and touched off a few rounds. Good stuff.
If we gave you a week long free pass to go off the grid in the Midwest, where are you exploring, and what would you be doing?
Awe geeze, that could be a number of places. If I had a week long pass to get out and get weird, I would paddle into the boundary waters canoe area wilderness in northeast MN. Pristine lakes, fabulous fishing, and I would be able to get away from all the accoutrements of modern society. No brainer.
Lastly, if you had your choice to wrestle one of these two in competition, who would it be: Paul Bunyan or Sasquatch?
Hmmm, Samsquatch or big Paul? Does Paul have his big blue ox? I would go with Samsquatch.
Photo Credit: DL Weatherhead Timberworks