Elbe Work Party Apr 2010

Dateline – ELBE
The Most recent Elbe Work Party – by the numbers.
Thousands – of rocks used to fill problem trail areas
13 – Timber Tamers in attendance
6 (or so) – different areas that received our attention
3 – flat trailer tires thanks to the very sharp rocks on the 92 road that penetrated them
2 – loaders loading 2 trucks so we didn’t have to haul rock by hand
1 – really swell day in the woods with the Tamers.

Oddly enough – it is not at first evident that you can have fun at Elbe without your hard core wheeling rig.  But – put enough Tamers on the trail, some holes to fill, some shovels to lean on, and some good natured kibbitzing – well – it’s not quite wheeling, but it’s still a good time.

Things were much more welcoming and temperate than last month’s work party.  Instead of a day of cold, fog and drizzle – it was sun, warmer temps, and not quite so much mud.  Ed Tenny and Mike Robinson were the loader drivers, having brought their tractors, pulling rock off the pile and loading it into Gary’s white Dodge, and my veteran Ford – Ol’ Blew – the bone stock 4WD – pizza cutter thin bias-ply tires and all.  The rock we were hauling was about twice the size of my head – which – when you consider having a giant brain like mine – you can imagine – these were quite the large hunks of rock.  First we went to stabilize the rock we put in last month at the winch pull “T” in the Sunrise Trail.  It was pretty hacked out and muddy last time, but that all stayed in place pretty well.  Just here and there, the geotextile underlayment fabric (yeah – sorry Mark – I know those big words are gonna make your head explode) was poking out in spots, and we covered that with some more rock to make sure it stayed put.  Gary got the first load of rock down, and then it was Blew’s turn.  Backing down a hill with a ton of rock isn’t much of a deal.  Gravity helps progress quite a bit – although your aim has to be true.  With Blew’s lack of power, or gears, or even a decent clutch – there is no coming back up the hill until the extra 2,000 lbs or so of rock comes off.  Fortunately all went well, and some quick application of the brakes with the tail pointed down the hill made short work of unloading.  To come back up the hill, Rudi headed up to Terry Crawford’s new (to him) wa-aaa-a-yyy too pretty 97 TJ to pull the winch to assist Blew in getting back up the hill.  I waved him off, knowing it wouldn’t be pretty, but neither would it be futile.  1st gear granny low, and a little goose on the gas, and that 60 lbs of air in the pizza cutters just about sent my kidneys up into my uvula  but he grappled, and bounced, and just kept going until the trail leveled out, and  Blew rolled back up to the rock pile.  (Apparently – wheeling is still quite a lot about the spirit of the driver in the rig, and not necessarily only how the rig is built under the driver.)

Once back at the rock pile, my eyes were greeted by a curious sight.  Gary TJ was kinda squirming around a bit like he was trying to catch a glimpse of Angelina Jolie  sneaking up behind him just out of his line of vision.  It took a few moments to figure what he was up to.  I suppose it could have been duct tape, or tie wraps – but this time it was another time-honored do-it-all wheeling fixit he was employing as personal apparel.  Gary had a bungee firmly secured into one of his back belt loops, and was in the process of looping it over his shoulder, heading diagonally to a belt loop on the front side of his jeans.  He almost sheepishly commented, “Tough to keep your pants up when you’re round.”  Well amen to that, brother  – but I thought for a wheeler – the bungee-spenders was a fabulous bit of accessorizing.

So – that hole was done.  Ed went down the trail a bit to do a little backhoe work – installing some water bars.  That was a combination of digging ditch, and also making a pile of rock across the trail in order to direct runoff sideways off the trail, instead of it just washing straight down.  Mike stayed at the pile to load rock – and the next challenge was another soft area about half the way between the “T” we’d been filling, and the end of the Sunrise Trail.  See – one of the problems on the trails at that moment – is that there were just springs of water just oozing out of the hills all over.  I this particular area, there were some deep, wet holes that were just getting all chewed up, and with the water not draining well, it was causing a lot of deep churning of sediment that the DNR is trying to avoid.  In order to stabilize things, the protocol is to scrape out the mud and level the bottom off the hole out, dig as much drainage out of the low side of the trail as possible, and then laying fabric at the bottom of the hole, and then covering it with a layer of rocks.  Simple – right?  Well – Mike did not have a backhoe – just a front bucket – and he did a masterful job or trying to scoop out the loosest area of mud.  But with having only a bucket, and not a backhoe, he churned up quite the frappe’ of goo, and very nearly almost buried himself in the quagmire.  By the time I went to see what he was up to, his front tires on his tractor were totally under mud, and the rears were almost half-under.  He was still moving, but not by much.  But finally – he did get out, and it was time to put down some more fabric and rock.

Only one problem  – while I would have had no hesitation in taking Moosenstein through that mud hole, running Ol’ Blew through it with another ton of rock was out of the question.  And it wasn’t like I could drive forward up to the hole and turn around – there was no room to turn a longbed pickup – with no gears, and Armstrong steering.  The solution?  Well – I could just back up all the way from the road, down across the “T”, up around the stump, down over the bridge, down the hill, sneak around the big rock that couldn’t be driven over in a stock rig – and finally to the hole, and drop the first load of rock.  Yeah – that’s a fabulous plan….  Well – it was one long, cautious, drawn out reverse.  First of all – I just don’t turn around at the waist like I used to – so backing up was more a task of trusting my mirrors than actually looking over my shoulder.  Melissa valiantly was also spotting for me – but the truck had to more be aimed, than actually steered down the path.  After about 10 minutes or so – Blew’s tail was finally hanging over the seemingly bottomless bog.  Before dropping the rocks into the pit, I cut a few 25 foot long pieces of road fabric, and Josh and Mellisa helped me lay them over the hole which had since filled up with water again in the 20 minutes that took me to get back to it.  Throwing the rock on it had a peculiar effect.  It was like throwing Sumo wrestlers onto a big wad of jello.  Every rock hit the fabric with a satisfying “THA-WHACK”, and the mud under the fabric jiggled like Pamela Anderson at the beginning of a Baywatch episode.  After the first load of rock came off, Gary headed down in his truck with the next load.  He figured to try his luck driving head on through the hole, now that fabric and some rock was down.  His truck has better gears and wider tires, and he indeed crossed the bog without much problem.  By this time, Dirtball, John and Gina had joined the band of rock tossers (yes – we were getting our rocks off) to help Gary unload.  Mark was talking about how he’d hurt his wrist while trying to roll his fenders using 2 hammers.  He missed a strike with 1 small sledge against a bigger one, and instead hit his wrist.  He said it really hurt, whereupon Josh was heard to say, “See – Mark IS sensitive.”  My response to this was, “Oh yeah – when I think of sensitivity on the trail, Dirtball is the FIRST thing that comes to mind.”

Well – I think it was another 4 truck loads of rock we put in.  The next time I took Blew down, it was face first.  The first time, I did make it across okay.  The 2nd time, I found a soft spot with the pizza cutters, and I sunk the front right wheel past the hub into the rock.  If you’ve seen the lockout hubs on an old Ford – you know those things stick out farther than Marty Feldman’s eyeballs.  Blew was having problems going back or forwards, and I didn’t want to break him – so Rudi  pulled up behind me with a trailer full of rock.  We hooked his winch onto the rear bumper – and it didn’t take much of a tug to get Blew moving again.

Anyway – there was a little rock left, and one more hole to fill.  While Gary and Rudi and the Tamer’s went to finish that up – I stopped at the trailer (yes – Blew was a trailer queen this time around) so I could stop to check my blood sugar, and load Blew up and tie him down.  But just before I did that, I noticed – like Mike Robinson – I also had a flat tire on my trailer.  There was a stone about the size of my thumbnail, impudently sticking out of the tire, kinda like it was giving me the geologic middle finger of the ages.  Fortunately – when I left the house, almost as an afterthought, I had thrown the trailer spare and the highlift in the van.  The spare was on in about 5 minutes, and Blew a few more minutes after that.

Not too long after, the rest of the Tamers started to wrap it up.  It was closing in on a little past 4:00PM, and while the good company and the sunny weather had made for a pleasant day of trail maintenance – it was getting on time to head for the barn.  Rudi stopped by with air compressor and tire plugs for Mike Robinson – who had NOT brought a spare for his trailer – and got him all fixed up.

The trip home was mostly uneventful, except for the few seconds an oncoming Dodge pickup crossed the centerline right in front of me just before I got into Eatonville.  Fortunately, he got himself back over on his side of the road before our paths had a critical convergence – but I was beginning to think that whatever looked like was about to happen – was going to hurt – a LOT!

Upon getting home to my lovely Auto-M – I got home just as about the last of the air had escaped from a 2nd trailer tire – victim of another stone on the road.  Fortunately – it had not gotten to the point of shredding, and ultimately, my buddy Les (Les Schwab, you know) was able to save that at no cost to me.  But as I unloaded Blew, it became obvious that the day of mud and rock rubbing against the skin on my hands, had turned the surface of my fingers to something that had the grit of about 180 grade sandpaper.  I held them up to Mary, with a lascivious leer and suggestive intent – I mentioned that I could provide some first class exfoliation.  Without batting an eye, and with a smolder of “I dare you” in her voice, she said, “Mister – I suggest you just get to business.”

And with that – I think I’ll end this tail here.  Obviously – my  hands have some higher and better work to do…….

Thanks for reading – and keep on wheeling……