Construction Journal Entry Week of 12/20/15

12/22-24/15 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

Since this was Christmas week, I was planning on going up on Monday. But since Monday was supposed to be the worst weather over the pass, I decided to stick to my normal schedule and go up on Tuesday. On the way I stopped and played a game of checkers with Charles. He put up a good fight but I ended up beating him.

There had been a lot of snow. Chains or 4wd were required going over the pass so it was a slow trip, but beautiful. I arrived at the Dickinsonís at 1:05 and delivered a jar of Ellenís Christmas jam to them. I also fed their four dogs some biscuits before I proceeded on to the Tutinos.

I found Mike in his shop and we chatted a while after I gave him some jam too. I gave Ernie a dog biscuit and then headed for the Williamsís. As I drove past Camp Serendipity I could see that the driveway hadnít been plowed and there was a couple feet of snow on it plus the snowplow berm.

When I got to the base of the hill below the Williamsís, I was happy to see Barb out walking. I didnít have to drive, or walk up that hill after all. I just handed the jam to her. She had a young boy with her named Moishes who is from Colombia. I told them the story of the mix-up at the Miss Universe contest which they had not heard about. Then I turned around and headed for Camp Serendipity.

I arrived at 1:45, parked in the road, and began shoveling snow. It was very hard going because the snow was wet and heavy underneath even though it was lighter and drier on top. The conditions were just right to cause the snow to freeze and stick to my shovel so I couldnít easily throw the snow. It would just cling to the scoop.

After a lot of hard work, I got a space dug out that was big enough to move the truck into so it was off the road. Then I tackled making the trails.

My first attempt was to snowshoe from the truck to the creek so that I could close the water valve as I usually do. But I gave up after only about 50 feet. Even with my big snowshoes on, I would sink knee deep in the snow with each step. And when I tried to lift my foot out for the next step, the wet snow would avalanche down on top of the snowshoe so I had to lift 10 lb. or so of snow up to the surface for the next step. The snow on the snowshoes was hard to shake off, but if I didnít, it just started accumulating. It was awful.

I decided to forget the valve at the creek and use the valve in the crawl space instead. That could cause the hose to freeze, but I was willing to take the risk and the consequences. I turned around and went back 20 feet or so and headed up to the concrete stairs.

When I had a trail broken to the foot of the stairs, I went back and got my aluminum scoop shovel and used it to clear off the stairs. The same problem of snow sticking to the shovel made that job extra hard, but eventually I cleared off all 36 steps and the two landings.

From the top, I just postholed with my boots the rest of the way to the cabin. It was about 3:30 when I finally got into the cabin and had a very welcome drink of water. I also had had no lunch but I was too exhausted to feel hungry. Instead of eating right away, I built a fire in the wood stove and then went down to the truck to get my gear. I slept very well that evening after I got around to having my shower, then fixing and eating my dinner.

Before I turned in for the night I got to thinking that I should open the valve in the crawl space in an attempt to keep the hose at the creek from freezing. After opening the valve, in theory there should be no water pressure in the cabin. Yet there was. But it wasnít the full pressure. I took that as good news. I reasoned that the partial pressure meant that the hose had partially frozen but it still allowed enough flow to reduce the cabin pressure. If that were true, then it should thaw completely by morning now that the valve in the crawl space was open. I went to bed with that expectation.

On Wednesday morning, there was about 8 inches of new snow that had fallen over night. I used the scoop shovel to make a trail to the flag pole so I could hoist the flag. Then I shoveled the new snow off the entire concrete staircase again, and used the shovel to beat down and re-establish the trail to the truck.

My intention was to enlarge the parking place by digging out another six feet of snow in front of the truck. I was afraid that the back of the truck might be in the way of the snowplow.

After digging away a couple yards of snow, I was happy to see Mike Dickinson coming down the road in his tractor. He stopped and said he could do my driveway right now. He scooped the snowplow berm away from the back of the truck while I got it started and scraped the snow off the windows.

I backed the truck into the road and Mike went to work clearing the driveway and the parking area. I asked him to widen the front part of the driveway so that the Scout troop bus could pull in. He did that while I took some pictures and a video.

When he left, I got in the truck to get it off the road but it wouldnít start. I just heard some clicking under the hood when I tried. I tried to call Mike Tutino for help but his line was busy.

With nothing else to do, I walked to Mikeís shop and knocked on the door. When I described my problem, he offered to drive his tractor down there and see what he could do.

After some testing, he figured that my battery cable connectors had corroded enough so that the alternator was unable to charge the battery properly. I told him that I had noticed that on the last couple trips the voltmeter had not quite been up to the center of the gauge but was a little down to the left. That was probably a signal that I should have paid attention to.

Mike used his tractor to pull my truck out of the road and park it safely in my nicely plowed driveway. Then he took my battery back to his shop where he cleaned the connectors and charged the battery.

I went into the cabin for lunch and a nap. When I got up I went out and split the last four or five big rounds of firewood that I had. By then it was 3:00 and Mike came back with my battery. He put it back in the truck, which now started and ran fine, but he pointed out that a couple wires were dangling loose that should have been screwed to the truck body. He wasnít sure whether or not that was important, but he thought I should at least clamp them together or else attach them to the hole in the fender.

I thanked him and when he left I went to work trying to fasten the wires down. I didnít have a machine screw or sheet metal screw that fit the threads in the hole, plus I could barely get my hand down to that hole anyway. So I ended up drilling a new hole higher up, where I could reach, and I fastened the wires with a sheet metal screw into that hole.

Next I checked the water pressure in the cabin and found that it was still not zero like I had expected. If the hose were frozen solid, I should have full pressure. If it were wide open, I should have no pressure. It didnít make sense. I decided to go down to the creek to find out.

Now that Mike had cleared the driveway, and there was only 10 inches of fluffy snow on it now, it was easy to walk up to the hose and check it out. I found good news. The hose was spraying a substantial flow of water, just the amount I had left it at last week. The valve was not wide open. It was constricted enough to keep the hose from freezing and it still provided enough pressure in the cabin for drinking, washing, cooking, and flushing the toilet. The shower was only at 50% so to take a proper shower, the valve in the crawl space needed to be closed.

That meant that I can leave that hose valve just like it is for the entire winter. Iíll close the crawl space valve for my showers and put up with the lower pressure in the rest of the fixtures. That will simplify things.

On Thursday morning, there was an additional 10 inches of new snow on the ground and it was still snowing. I decided that I better leave for home a little earlier than usual. I cleared a bunch of lumber from the porch deck and stacked it on the rack in back of the cabin, and on the stack on the ground in front of the cabin.

Then I groomed the trails and shoveled the concrete staircase one more time. I closed up the cabin at about 10:30, loaded my gear into the truck, and started brushing the snow off the windshield and hood. Just then the snowplow roared by and threw up another berm right in front of me. I was a little chagrined, but instead of getting my shovel out again, I decided to go for it.

Good choice. The truck was still in 4wd and it was able to crawl right over that berm and get onto the road.

The road was covered with compact snow so I left the 4wd on all the way to Highway 2. There the semis were zooming by at 60 mph and the road was bare and wet. Great, I thought, the worst is over.

No such luck. After cruising at the speed limit for 2 miles, all the traffic stopped. There were vehicles stopped in the road as far as I could see, and they soon accumulated behind me as far as I could see. I learned from Ellen that there had been an accident and also an avalanche hazard.

The short story is that I waited there from about 11:00 until 1:45 when the line of traffic began slowly to crawl up the road. It got better the further I went so I got home with no further problem. Itís just that the trip took about 6 hours and I was exhausted and happy to be home when I finally arrived.

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