Jordan Camber and Dylan Kelley sit on logs, tightly fastening their tree-climbing gaffs or spikes, which will allow them to dig into the soft wood and get a footing on the two 40-foot pine poles they are about to climb at Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show in Trenton.
“[The gaff] needs to feel like a part of you,” said Dylan, a rising Husson University senior who hails from Ellsworth.
The two share jokes and laughs as they prepare to rapidly scale up the spar poles. The pair are demonstrating a skill and competitive sport dating back to the bygone era of logging when trees were harvested with hand tools. Speed-climbing, logrolling, chopping and cross-cut sawing are among the traditional logging skills demonstrated at 7 p.m. daily through Aug. 25 at the Lumberjack show in Trenton. The town of Trenton is on Route 3 midway between Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island.
Dubbed the “Olympics of the Forest” by owner and emcee “Timber Tina” Tina Scheer, the nightly show features a dozen events peppered with a good dose of family-friendly comedy.
With “Timber” as ringmaster, the troupe of young lumberjacks and lumberjills put on a performance that is both skillful and hilarious. It’s probably the only place you can catch a round of hot sawing (the phrase used to describe events with high-powered chainsaws) and a comedy skit back-to-back.
Tina is a force in the global logging sports world. Back in her hometown of Hayward, Wis., the woodswoman performed in her family’s lumberjack road show and competed worldwide before she headed East and set up shop in Maine. She has run her own logging-sports production for 24 seasons, hiring and training new athletes yearly.
Watching Jordan and Dylan in action, the speed climbers are surprisingly graceful. They use the spiked gaffes, a climbing belt, and a thick rope to create leverage against a vertical log, sinking their heels into the wood and scrambling straight up.
For Jordan, a lobsterman who comes from Winter Harbor, the sport is a revelation. He started working this spring for Tina and was surprised at how technical the sport was.
“There’s a freedom to it, you are in total control up there,” the novice climber explained. “It’s a feeling I can’t get anywhere else.”
For many of Tina’s crew, forestry runs in the family. As a teenager, Jordan often worked for his uncle on his tree farm. He learned a work ethic, an appreciation for nature, and some basic logging skills.
“When you’re chopping a piece of wood, you just want to get it split,” the 26-year-old budding lumberjack said. “[Log
ging sports] are a lot more about breathing, accuracy, and speed eventually, but taking your time at first.”
Dylan got his start in logging sports at age 9, when he visited Tina’s facility on a school trip and found he had a particular knack for log rolling. Tina saw his talent and invited him to take lessons and eventually guest-roll in her shows. He sat in the stands until he was invited up on stage.
“[Tina] would say we have a special guest roller, and I would run down from the stands, all ready to go,” the 21-year-old recalled. A few years later, he became a full member of the crew.
While neither plans to pursue work in the forestry industry, both young men take their roles in the show seriously. Jordan even has a tentative eye trained on professional logging sports. He is the first member of Tina’s crew to buy his own gear.
“I’ve met some other climbers here, and I’ve watched the videos,” said Jordan, palpable excitement in his voice. “It takes a certain breed to want to climb up a pole and come back down as quickly as you can.”
The Great Maine Lumberjack Show (127 Bar Harbor Road, Trenton) runs every night, rain or shine. Ticket prices are $13 for adults, $12 for seniors, $9 for children and free for kids under 4. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. Private lumberjack lessons also are available. For more info, call 266-5486, email [email protected] and visit mainelumberjack.com.