EUREKA, Montana –
Pat and Mike Stoken discovered a harvester attachment that worked well for their logging company nearly 20 years ago – Log Max. They have stayed with the same brand since then.
Log Max has just proven itself to be a good fit, explained Pat. “As far as our company is concerned, they fit us the best. We have had the heads for years and know a lot about them. And they have good service.”
Pat and Mike, twin brothers and 63, own Stoken Logging. Pat, who spoke with TimberLine about Stoken Logging, said he and his brother think a lot alike. The fact that the brothers have enjoyed good rapport with each other is evidenced by the fact they have been in business together for so long. “We started the business in 1978, and this is our 41st,” said Pat. “And I couldn’t have done it without him,” he added, referring to Mike.
Even before becoming business partners, Pat and Mike were working together. After graduating from high school in 1972, they began working for a company they would eventually buy.
Eureka, where Pat lives and the company was started and is based, is located in the northwest corner of Montana, only about 13 miles from the Canadian border. Stoken Logging has a second base of operations in Kalispell, 65 miles southeast. There are several national forests in the region, notably Flathead National Forest and Kootenai National Forest, and also Glacier National Park.
Most of the work for Stoken Logging is within a one and one-half hour driving distance of Kalispell. However, the closest interstate highway, I-90, is 250 miles away.
Stoken Logging runs two tree-length logging crews and one cut-to-length logging crew in the region of the northern Rockies. The company uses Log Max harvester heads for both crews. The tree-length crews are equipped with two Log Max 7000XT heads; one is mounted on a new Cat 538 Forest Machine, and the other is paired with a Timbco 425 carrier. The cut-to-length crew has two Log Max 6000 attachments, one mounted on a Timbco 425 and the other on a TimberPro 725. All the carriers for the attachments are track machines.
Stoken Logging purchased its first Log Max in 2001. “We were running stroke delimbers,” recalled Pat. “We wanted to try the Log Max. We wanted to try the dangle head.”
The trial of the Log Max went so well that Stoken Logging has been using Log Max heads ever since. “Could not make it without them,” said Pat, summing up the importance of the Log Max harvester attachments.
Log Max, based in Sweden, manufactures a line of single-grip harvester heads for felling and processing. The company’s North American office is in Vancouver, Washington.
Throughout its 18-year long history with Log Max, Stoken Logging has worked with both Andreas Karlsson, president of Log Max in the U.S., and Modern Machinery, an equipment dealer with locations throughout the Northwest.
It’s not just the performance of the Log Max heads that Stoken Logging appreciates. “They are very good as far as service – and fit us very well,” said Pat.
Over the years Stoken Logging has purchased new Log Max heads and carriers from both Modern Machinery and Western States Cat. Both equipment dealers have locations in Kalispell. Modern Machinery represents Komatsu and Western States Cat is a dealer for Caterpillar. Cat is the dominant brand in the fleet of equipment for Stoken Logging, whose forestry operations typically include road building.
Pat and Mike do not just oversee the company. They also operate machines. Working with a crew that does tree-length logging, each man runs either a Cat 527 track skidder with a swing grapple or a Cat 525B or 525C skidder.
Mechanization has greatly changed Stoken Logging across the decades. When Pat and Mike bought their company, they had 25 men with chain saws working for them. They used cable skidders to get the wood to a landing. By 1982 they had switched to stroke boom delimbers for processing and grapple skidders, which served them well until they made the big switch some 19 years later to cut-to-length harvester attachments.
A chain saw occasionally is still needed for some tasks. “We have one 65-year old sawyer left,” said Pat.
Pat and Mike knew how to use a chain saw before they got out of high school. They logged in summer when they were not in school, and they helped their father cut Christmas trees when it was time to harvest them.
When Pat and Mike began logging, they worked as both sawyers and skidder operators. They were paid by the log. Stihl is the only brand of chain saw that Pat has ever used. And the one sawyer on the Stoken Logging roster continues to use a Stihl.
The company actually had its start in Eureka, which is Pat’s home. Their father homesteaded in Eureka in 1919. “Dad and mom lived on a ranch, had a few cattle,” he said.
When Pat skidded logs for his father, it was with a tractor. Across the years he has been logging, he has seen and welcomed the significant transition to mechanization in logging and Christmas tree farming.
Four decades ago most of the work Stoken Logging did was for Plum Creek Timber Co. Plum Creek later merged with Weyerhaeuser, and Stoken Logging continued working for Weyerhaeuser. Today the company operates one tree-length crew and one cut-to-length crew for Weyerhaeuser, and it also does tree-length logging for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service.
Tree species vary with sites, but they include pine, Douglas fir, white fir, Engelmann spruce, and larch. Using its four logging tucks – three short mule train and one long truck – and some independent truckers, Stoken Logging delivers wood to a mill in Evergreen and to a fiberboard pulp mill in Columbia Falls.
The four Log Max harvesters give the company a great deal of flexibility. The Log Max 6000B, for example, is a light-weight head suitable for final felling. It is built to have excellent power yet weighs low enough to be a good fit on a wheeled carrier.
The Log Max 7000XT, which belongs to the XTreme series of heavy-duty attachments made for the toughest logging conditions, has a maximum cutting diameter of 31.5 inches. The Log Max 7000XT features a top saw, minimized saw box, and fixed protection plate.
The XTreme series of harvesters were developed to be paired with a track carrier and are available in a range of sizes. The Log Max 10000XT, for example, has a maximum cutting diameter of 35.4 inches. The Log Max 12000XT is the largest model in the series, built to handle even bigger trees or multi-stem processing of softwood. Its aggressive roller is made of V-steel and has studs that sink deeper in the trunk.
The Log Max harvesters get a lot of hours of work with Stoken Logging. They also get good service, not only from Log Max, but also from Stoken Logging. The company spends time servicing equipment during the spring breakup, from about March 1 to May 1, when many county roads are closed. The equipment is brought to the Stoken Logging shop for servicing.
Over the years the company has had about 15 Log Max harvesters, so the Stokens and their employees know the equipment very well, noted Pat.
In addition to leading Stoken Logging, Pat and Mike operate a convenience store and gas station in Eureka, and they grow hay on their ranch.
Until last year, Pat was a championship drag race driver and travelled on the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA) Pro Nitrous circuit. To compete in PDRA events, Pat left a truck and trailer in North Carolina, flew to the East Coast, then drove to Florida or another racing site. However, although he enjoyed racing very much, he decided to give it up. “I got tired of all that travel once or twice a month,” said Pat.
Pat’s sons, Cory and Casey, work in the business as well as Casey’s son, Tavien. Cory, 43, runs the cut-to-length crew and operates the TimberPro 725. He previously learned to become an electrician and did electrical work for a few years before deciding he was more interested in logging. Casey, 42, operates the Cat 538 FM with Log Max harvester attachment. Tavien, 17, operates a skidder when he is not in school.
Terri Stoken, Pat’s wife of 43 years, does not work in the business. But he said the support Terri has given to him as a life’s partner, mother of their children and wife has truly made all that he does possible.
Stoken Logging is a member of the Montana Loggers Association, which is based in Kalispell.
“It’s been a good living, but we’ve worked at it,” said Pat. He likes “the challenge” of the work, which can be pretty consuming at times. There are periods when he works seven days a week, which doesn’t leave much free time.
Pat and Mike are thankful for their employees and the people with whom they work. “The good Lord has been good to us – that we’ve been able to do what we’re trying to do.”