By Andrea Watts
On a Pacific Logging and Processing job site outside of Raymond, Washington, Floyd Livingston mans the cab of a Skagit yarder, hauling logs at a steady clip up the landing where they’re handed off to Steve Tobin who runs a Link-Belt 4040. The third member of the team is Louie Lebon in the John Deere 2656G, loading the logs onto the waiting Peterbilt log truck driven by Jon Litlecoon.
Hard to believe that in 2014 the company’s crew numbered less than five employees before owner Darren Hall decided to expand his one-side, shovel-based logging company into tower logging. The gamble paid off, and six years later, Pacific Logging and Processing is a multi-side, ground-based and tower-based logging outfit.
For his first tower job, Darren and his crew traded the green timber of western Washington for blackened timber outside of Leavenworth, where they did salvage logging following a wildfire. Darren credits Don VonMoos, a Weyerhaeuser contract representative, for connecting him with the job opportunity, and he describes the job as a “learning experience,” because compared to working in green timber, “we weren’t nearly as productive [working] in a burn.”
Once the salvage was finished, Darren and the crew returned to western Washington where they found steady work with Hancock. Over the next four years they worked throughout southwest Washington in the Ashford area. While Darren appreciated the steady work, the higher elevations meant shutting down in the winter when the snow arrived.
“I wanted to be out on the coast, so I took a job with Rayonier,” he says. After purchasing a second yarder, Darren could run two sides. He also found work with American Forest Management, and in hindsight, Darren says the logistics were difficult with the job sites three-and-a-half hours apart, which provided challenges for the mechanic when machinery broke down.
For the past three years, Darren and his crew have worked for Sierra Pacific, a partnership he appreciates. “They keep us very steady in nice timber,” he says. And with logs going to the company’s Shelton, Aberdeen, or Centralia mills, the drivers average three trips a day and appreciate the local hauls.
Building and Maintaining Capacity
Running a multi-side logging operation requires the capacity to pair machines with the job, and Darren has built an equipment portfolio of around 25 pieces of equipment that provides him flexibility.
For the jobs that require towers, “I have four yarders depending on what’s needed,” he says. His options are a 100-foot 1978 Skagit yarder, which provides him with the line size and horsepower needed on large jobs. He also runs a Skagit BU-737 and a Thunderbird Tsy-155 swing yarder purchased from Weyerhaeuser, and a West Coast Falcon. In the near future, another yarder will be added to the roster. Darren is partnering with DC Equipment in New Zealand to build a yarder prototype that will be completely automated, and he is looking forward to testing it out.
For jobs that require tethered logging, Darren has a DC Falcon winch on a Tigercat85e. Darren praises Tigercat equipment as being “very nimble and well built.”
Darren also credits Martin Hinderlie, a mechanic with Triad Machinery, for handling any mechanical issues that arise. Darren comments that Triad has been good to them, and he has purchased five shovels, three processors, and a handful of motorized carriages from the dealership over the years. All the major companies — Link-Belt, Tigercat, Southstar, and Waratah — are represented in his equipment roster. When the machines aren’t at a job site, you’ll find them staged at Pacific Logging and Processing’s shop, a three-acre facility, located in south Aberdeen.
A crucial reason why Darren can run multiple sides is because of the 18 employees who work for Pacific Logging and Processing. These employees include operators, drivers, and a mechanic, all of whom he is quick to praise. “I’ve got a really good group of guys,” he says, adding that there’s much less stress in running the business by having a core group of guys he can depend on. Those who do cycle through the company are generally the rigging crew.
What keeps the guys on his crew is that Darren pays far above the industry standard and offers different perks from the standard benefits. One of those perks: Darren purchased all the pickups driven to the job site, and he invests in new equipment.
A result of having a close-knit, experienced crew is meeting production goals. Darren estimates the average production is 20-30 loads a day, moving 25-27 million board feet a year.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for these guys,” Darren says. Louie Lebon, the lead shovel operator, “can never get enough log trucks. He loves to load them.” Floyd Livingston is a yarder engineer who brings 40 years of experience to the landing. The site supervisor is Chance Allen, who has worked for Darren for nearly five years. Lonnie Hovren and Joe Flores are the hook tenders, and Nick Strachota is the rigging slinger. “Nick had a passion to come out to the Pacific Northwest and log,” Darren says. “He’s also an excellent climber.” Other crew members are drivers Mike Bragg, Dan Febreche, and Jeff Stevens, and mechanic Aaron Frizell who keeps all the machinery working.
“These guys are all hand selected not just a spot to fill,” he explains. “I will work shorthanded if the person is not the right one.”
Another member of his crew who keeps everything running is Darren’s girlfriend Mandy. “She’s instrumental in all the clerical work and is very proactive in filing applications and paperwork,” he says. “Really, I’ve got the easiest job out here.”
The summer of 2021 presented Darren and his crew with circumstances they hadn’t worked in before: the heat dome that drove temperatures into the 90s even along the coast. “I didn’t run the sites for the health of the crews and machines,” he explains, “Humidity was in our favor, but it was hot.”
For the foreseeable future, Darren expects to continue working in southwest Washington in the second-growth timber, which he appreciates. “It’s nice working with larger logs” because it makes the crew happy, he says. After the Raymond job, the crew headed to eastern Grays Harbor County for a job on the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ Capitol Forest. “We’ve found our niche with tower logging out here,” he explains.
ON THE COVER
Photo taken by Andrea Watts of Pacific Logging and Processing
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