Construction Journal Entry Week of 12/11/16

12/13-15/16 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There had been a lot of snow in the mountains so chains or 4WD were required to get over the pass. There was 13 inches of snow on the ground when I arrived at 12:40 but fortunately Mike had been there and plowed the driveway and parking area. I drove right in, turned around and parked heading out at the foot of the concrete staircase.

Then it took me until 1:50 to shovel off the steps and to pack down the trails on either end of the stairs. Once up at the cabin, I hoisted the flag, built a fire in the stove, and disposed of the mouse that I had caught in the trap behind the stove. I checked the rest of the traps and found that the one in the bedroom had sprung but was empty. No mouse or bait.

Then, after bringing up my gear, I had my lunch and a nap. When I got up, I did my rock-lifting exercises and then went to lower the flag. I discovered that the rope had jammed in the pulley so that I couldn't get the flag down no matter how hard I pulled. I realized that I had only made the jam worse by pulling on it so I left the flag up over night without knowing what to do about it.

On Wednesday, it was 10 outside when I got up. I checked the traps again and found a mouse in the trap in the bedroom. The mice seem to travel in pairs so I wasn't surprised that there was a second mouse. I dumped the carcass and reset the trap.

After I had had my breakfast, Dave called and we had another delightful conversation.

Since the weather was so cold and I had closed the valve to increase the water pressure like I usually do, I was worried that the hose to the creek might have frozen. I got my snowshoes on and made trails from the truck to the hose and up the upper roadway to the cabin. The hose had indeed frozen and there was nothing I could do about it except disconnect it from the copper pipe. I could have replaced it with an empty hose, but I decided instead to put the valve on the end of the copper pipe and let it discharge from there.

I went back to the cabin and got a gallon of hot water and brought it down to the creek. I used it to get the valve off the frozen hose and to thaw it out. Then I used more of the hot water to loosen the hose fitting to the copper pipe so I could uncouple them. Then I waited until all the ice came out of the copper pipe and the water was running freely. I was surprised and somewhat puzzled by the amount of air that was gurgling out. I still can't explain why.

After putting the valve on the pipe, I realized that it needed a washer so I went back up to the cabin to get one. On this trip, the trail was packed down enough so that I didn't need the snowshoes any more. After getting the valve on the pipe and leaving it open and spraying about what I thought was the right amount to give me some cabin pressure and still flow enough to keep the pipe from freezing, I went back to the cabin.

I was puzzled and dismayed that the pressure in the cabin was not 100% like I thought it should be. I was getting both hot and cold water, but the pressure in both was reduced, especially the hot water. I let it run for a while thinking that if there were some ice in the pipes, it should eventually melt. It didn't. Or maybe I didn't give it enough time. In any case I was concerned and started investigating.

The temperature in the crawl space was 40 so I couldn't see how any of the pipes down there could have frozen. But still the input pipe to the water heater felt very cold to the touch and I suspected it might have been partially frozen. I noticed that there were three 16-inch sections of pex pipe that were un-insulated and which were the direct take-off from the 1-inch copper supply pipe, which was insulated and always flowing some amount.

I insulated those exposed sections of pex and then built a Styrofoam box enclosing the water heater feeder hoses. The supply hose was the one that was so cold and which I was worried about. The hot output pipe was warm because I had been running hot water. The idea of the box was to use the heat of the output pipe to keep the input pipe warm. There is a portal in the box which I can stick my hand in and it was gratifying to me after the box was built to feel the nice warm air inside the box. If the problem was there, this box should fix it.

The water pressure in the cabin was still lower than usual, but I left the creek valve open and decided to wait and see whether the pressure went back up after a while.

I tried to get the flag down again, but I only jammed it tighter. Then, after lunch and a nap, I went to work on the knuckle notch and deepened it about an inch.

When I went in for a shower, I was pleased that after closing the creek valve, the pressure in the shower was back to 100%. During my shower, I began to worry that maybe the valve down at the creek was frozen again. So as soon as I finished my shower, I closed the valve in the cabin and hoped that the pressure in the shower would drop to near zero as it should. I was disappointed that it only dropped to about 80%. That meant, to me, that the copper pipe was freezing up again.

I got dressed, put on my warm gear, and took another gallon of hot water down to the creek. By the time I got there, the flowing water had evidently melted whatever ice had formed and the valve was spraying water at full force. It had fixed itself and I didn't need the gallon of hot water, which I then dumped out. I returned to the cabin happy that the water problems had been solved and the system was working normally again. In the process, I learned that when the weather is 10 or even close, I need to leave the valve in the cabin set to 'LO' and turn it to 'HI' only when I am in the shower. For washing dishes, or flushing the toilet or anything else, 'LO' provides plenty of pressure.

On Thursday morning, after having slept on the flag problem for two nights, I developed a plan for rescuing the flag. The plan was to use a 20-foot extension ladder, but since the flagpole was too weak to support the ladder, I would rig up two guy ropes to hold the ladder out away from the pole. Then I could climb up there and work the rope loose.

After having my breakfast, I put the plan into action and it worked like a charm. It took quite a bit of effort to work the rope loose from the pulley and it was precarious doing it from the top of the ladder which was a little wiggly, but I succeeded without much of a problem. I took some pictures of the rigging before I went up.

It had snowed about an inch overnight so I shoveled the concrete steps off, returned the shovel and the snowshoes to the truck, and went over and checked on the discharge valve at the creek. It was still squirting out full blast making a nice ice sculpture just like it was supposed to.

Next I dug out and uncovered the end of the log that is intended to be the gate log. I plan to cut off a couple feet of that log to use as part of the front porch stair rail system. The end of the log is 10 inches in diameter so it will work nicely.

I was a little concerned that I am burning through my firewood too fast. So, the previous night I set the thermostats in the electric heaters up from 63 to 65 to see if I could get by without building a fire in the wood stove. It was noticeably warmer when I got up and I put on an extra shirt. It was comfortable enough so I may have fewer fires from now on and use more electricity. We'll see.

I left for home at 12:45 happy about another pleasant time in the woods even though I didn't get much work done

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