Construction Journal Entry Week of 7/7/13

7/8-10/13 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday.

On the way I stopped and visited with Uncle Charles. We went for a short walk and then he served me some ice cream. From there I headed up over the mountains and arrived at Camp Serendipity at 12:30. I had my lunch and a nap and then I smeared on some mosquito repellent.

I got my Trapper Nelson backpack and went down to the truck. I loaded up the backpack with a bunch of stuff I had brought with me and brought it up to the cabin. Then I went back down with the wheelbarrow and used it to haul a huge bunch of yard waste from the truck to the compost pile. Then I parked the truck and plugged in the electronic rodent repeller under the hood.

I was happy to see no signs of mice in the cabin and no signs of carpenter ants inside or out. That one little mouse must have been an anomaly and the ant bait sure seems to work. Good news.

Next I turned on the valve on the porch to water the giant sequoia trees and then went into the woods and watered them all. Then I went up to the spring to check it and found that the water level was lower than before. The water was almost below the bottom of the take-off pipe. I could see that I have to do something soon.

Back in the cabin, I hooked up the drain plumbing under the kitchen sink and tried it out. Unfortunately it leaked. I could stop most of the leaks by tightening the joints, but the joint directly below the left-hand sink still had a leak. I took that joint apart, applied some silicone, and put it back together. It was time to quit for the day so I figured I'd just let that joint cure over night.

On Tuesday I decided that fixing the spring was my highest priority. I wasn't exactly sure what my strategy was going to be, but since it might involve some considerable construction and concrete work up there, I was going to need easy access. The winter ice storm had left a lot of downed trees and branches across the trails and the springbox itself was full of tree debris. The first order of business was going to be to clear the trails and the springbox.

I brought Buck, Cindy, (i.e. Buck Saw and Cindy Loppers) and my home-made wood tongs up with me to clear the trails. The mosquitoes were thick and their whine was loud and persistent. I thought about the men who had built the Panama Canal and I was glad that I had better bug juice than they had.

I cut away the fallen branches and the new over-growth from the original "pipe trail" which really needed a trim. I don't think I even walked that trail last year and maybe not even the year before so it was really overgrown.

By noon I had cleared the trail to within 30 feet, or so, of the spring. I had also run into some big trees that would require a chainsaw to clear.

After lunch and a nap, I gassed and oiled the chainsaw and took it up to clear the big logs from the trails. After the trails were cleared, I used my home-made wood tongs to clear the debris out of the springbox area and the creek immediately below it. It worked remarkably well. I had used other tools for this job in the past but these tongs worked better than anything else ever had.

With the creek cleared of debris, the water was free to flow and the water level right at the springbox dropped even further. It was now a couple inches below the level of my take-off pipe. I didn't know for sure whether the water level inside the springbox was above my pipe, but with it so much lower on the outside, I knew that it couldn't be left in this condition.

After looking things over, I came up with a three-stage plan. Since the channel in the first three feet below the springbox narrows to a small channel through the bedrock, no leak under this seems possible. When I had chiseled this opening, on 10/22/93 , to make it big enough to admit the end of a 3" electrical conduit sweep, it seemed clear that the bedrock was continuous all around and below this narrow channel. It was this narrow channel that was the key to my three-stage plan.

To start with, as a temporary stopgap, I planned to dam up this channel with a sandbag. That would raise the level of the water in the pool just below the springbox so that it would be an inch or so above my take-off pipe. That would ensure that I would have a dependable flow of water to my plumbing and it would give me the time to do the next two steps.

The second step would be an experiment, and if it worked, it might also be the final solution. That would be to lift the lid off the springbox, maybe clean the muck from the bottom (or maybe not), and then to dump 40 lb. or so of bentonite into the springbox. The theory being that the bentonite would find its way into the channels through the gravel where the water was leaking and plug them up. It shouldn't take long to learn whether or not that was going to work once the bentonite was dumped in. If it worked, then that might be all I would have to do.

If it didn't work, then the third stage of the plan would be to build a concrete extension to the springbox that would enclose the three feet, or so, of the creek down to that narrow channel where the sandbag dam was to go. I would have to figure out a way of re-routing the water while the concrete was being poured around the nipple that would have to go in the concrete wall right at that narrow channel, but that engineering challenge wouldn't have to be solved right now.

The first thing to do was to build that sandbag dam. I went back to the cabin, got a plastic bag and a half-bucket of sand that I happened to have in the crawlspace. I brought them back up to the spring and made the dam.

I started by slitting the two ends of the plastic bag from the handles down to about 3 inches from the bottom. Then I poured a little sand into the bottom of the bag and pushed it down into the pool below my pipe and a foot upstream from where the dam needed to go. I pushed one side of the split bag under the pipe and up on the other side of it. Then I pulled the bag up so that the bottom of each slit hugged the pipe and the bottom of the bag sagged down in the pool because of the sand.

Then I worked the sandbag downstream toward the constricted channel as I added more sand little by little. When the bag was finally wedged in the small channel I filled it to the top with sand.

The water level came up immediately and began to wash the sand out of the bag. But I pulled the sides of the bag over the sand to contain it and it seemed to hold. I also got a big rock and a piece of bark to hold the downstream side of the sandbag in its place.

With the dam in place, the spillway that was formed was over the side of my original concrete ridge that separated the channel of water coming out of the springbox from the channel of groundwater running around the outside of the springbox. These two channels join just a foot or so below my sandbag dam. With the water at this level, the pipe was submerged a couple inches. As long as it stayed that way, my water system was back in reliable operation. I could now proceed on to stage two of my plan.

Back in the cabin, I went to work on the kitchen sink plumbing. I was able to stop all the leaks except for a slow oozing leak right under the left-hand sink. Aggravating. It was the end of the day so I decided just to leave it that way. I could still use the right-hand sink, and I could keep a bucket underneath to catch the drips. I wasn't going to spend any more time on it right now.

On Wednesday morning, I got the chainsaw back out and took it up to the trail between the spring and the giant sequoia named Andrew. That was the last of the clearing needed for the trails up in that area. While I was up there, I checked on my sandbag dam and was pleased to see that it was still holding fine.

Since I had the chainsaw out, and I had some time I decided to take on a low-priority project I had had in mind for quite a long time. There was a big left-over piece of the big log I had used to make the loft staircase stringer still sitting up by the salt lick. It was a half-log about 14 inches in diameter and about 10 feet long. I hadn't known what to do with it until I came up with a good idea.

The idea was to make chocks out of it. These would be for use at home in Seattle to prop up the front wheels of my truck when it is parked in the carport. The bed of the truck slopes down toward the cab when it is parked on the level, so when I bring it home with snow or water in the bed, it doesn't run out unless the front wheels are propped up a little. I had been using short pieces of 2x12s, but they get broken up and scattered and are a nuisance.

The new plan was to make a pair of fairly substantial and fairly long chocks that would have a nice gently sloping ramp up to a level deck for the tires and with a bump on the front to keep from rolling too far. This piece of wood was perfect for that job.

I marked the piece up for the cuts and then proceeded to cut the parts out with the chainsaw. In the process, I looked up and saw Byron Williams standing there watching me. I took off my earmuffs and respirator and the two of us went in to the cabin for a nice visit. He told me that he and Barb had been in the Headwaters Pub when the recent earthquake struck in that area.

It occurred to me that it might have been that earthquake that had disturbed the ground up at the spring and caused the leak. I asked Byron about the date of the earthquake and he couldn't remember exactly. I also couldn't remember exactly when I first noticed the leak at the spring.

As it turned out, I first discovered the leak on 6/18/13 and the 4.3 earthquake had happened on 6/21/13 so it was probably not the cause.

After Byron left, I finished making the chocks and wheelbarrowed them down to the truck where I loaded them up. I went back up to the cabin soaking wet in sweat.

I took off my work clothes and my t-shirt and had just gotten cleaned up and cooled down a little when Phil Leatherman rang the doorbell. I invited him in and we had a nice visit with me still in my underwear.

After he left, I had my lunch and left for home at 1:30 feeling pretty good about the week's progress.

Go to Next Journal Entry
Previous Journal Entry

Index to all Journal Entries
Go To Home Page

©2013 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.