In Lower Rock Creek stands a giant, old growth Jeffrey Pine. “I find [it] really aesthetically amazing,” said Bill Ossofsky. It’s his favorite tree in the area.
Ossofsky is one of the partners of Eastern Sierra Tree Service. The company does “basically whatever you need for tree care [and] tree health,” Ossofsky explained. Want a branch removed? Easy. What about a trim? It’s already done.
These days, Ossofsky’s busy and booked. His jobs vary.
The past five years, he’s been seeing a lot of tree mortality and stress due to drought. Couple that with physical damage caused by an extreme winter, and it becomes clear why the local trees need so much attention.
“We’re going to probably be working this entire summer on cleaning up after [that winter],” said Ossofsky. “Between tree breakage, and trees being uprooted, and trees getting overstressed from the big winter directly following all that drought …” Ossofsky trailed off. “I mean, I’m looking at a tree right as we speak [over the phone] that’s uprooting and leaning over a neighbor’s Jacuzzi that we’ll have to take care of,” he said.
The winter’s runoff hasn’t helped. Oversaturated trees stand tall. “If we get a wind event right now, I suspect we’ll be cleaning up trees all over the place,” he said.
Ossofsky, born and raised in Bishop, ventured out to Colorado for college before returning home to the Eastern Sierra where, in the ‘90s, he got a job for Eastern Sierra Tree Service.
In 2002, the owner wanted to retire. Ossofsky and another employee bought the company. He’s been an owner for over 20 years.
A lot can change in that time.
“The biggest thing, especially in the town of Mammoth, is that there’s been a lot of build out,” said Ossofsky. “When I was a kid, there were a lot of empty lots in Mammoth … even when I was first an owner of this business twenty years ago, there was a lot more space to work in.”
Now, less space. Harder to park the truck at the site. Harder to bring in heavy equipment.
There are more restaurants in town. The mountain’s more developed. There are more people. Summer recreation tourism. Running camps. “The mountain bike park was not a thing when I was growing up here,” he said.
Ossofsky bore witness from the treeline. “When you get up high in a tall tree, pretty much anywhere in town, you can gain that 360 view that you just don’t have anywhere else.” Crowley Lake, the Mountain, the Inyo Craters, the Sherwins. “It’s definitely a whole different perspective,” he said.
As far as the work itself goes, when he’s up in the tree and cutting off a branch or doing a removal, the tree isn’t stationary. It sways. “A lot’s gonna happen all at once – when you’re at that stage of things, it’s about double, triple checking that everything you’re doing is right so that nothing goes wrong … if you were working for the forest service, and you’re cutting down a tree in the woods and something goes wrong, for the most part, you can kind of run away and get out of the way,” explained Ossofsky. “When you’re tied to the tree, that’s no longer an option.”
Ossofsky aims the target limb’s fall by cutting it a certain way. If the cut can’t get the job done well enough, or if there’s no way to aim the target area to an empty spot on the ground, one can use ropes and other techniques to guide the limb or section safely to the ground.
His time with trees has changed the way Ossofsky moves through life. When he hikes, he takes a closer look at tree health than he did when he was younger.
“Maybe that’s just part of growing up and being more aware,” he said. “If I’m walking on a trail in the forest, I tend to look up in the air a little bit more.”
A man of the trees, noticing the life and death in the Eastern Sierra.
Unsure whether a tree on your property might need service? Ossofsky says to look out for trees within a few feet of your house, or trees with dead limbs.