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Re-building the Driveway and Clearing Some Land

By Richard - Posted on 07 June 2011


One of the features of our property, which helped us make a decision about whether or not to purchase it, was that it already had a roughed-in driveway and culvert. Most vacant property we looked at did not and, unless you want to just admire your property from the road, you definitely need vehicular access and possibly a culvert if you need to ford a ditch. Many public roads have drainage ditches so it's not uncommon to need one. Having had the experience of jumping across ditches into a thorny patches of wild roses to look at a possible purchase, I can say firsthand that having one already put in is a major plus when looking to purchase vacant land. Needless to say, if you need to put one in, it will add to the cost of your purchase and delay your enjoyment of it.

The driveway on our property slopes up from the road about a hundred yards or so, as you can see from the photo, and then switches back another hundred yards or so. The driveway gets pretty steep, about a 12% grade, after the switchback for a good 30 yards before leveling off and ending at the first bench. The first bench is about 50 feet above the road and the vertical height is steep enough that you don't need to walk back too far from the end of the driveway before you can't see the road at all. The first bench has a good 10 acres of flat, usable land and it was certainly a desirable idea to make this first bench our base camp.

Our desired home building site is on the second bench, which is about 70 feet above the first. That's the bench that contains the majority of the flat land. Up there, you can really feel like you are at one with Mother Nature, except of course for sound. Sound travels and there's not much you can do about that. There is a path that goes up to that bench but it's pretty steep, and even if the Jeep could make it up there, it's too narrow right now.

So, perhaps the second bench is just a pipedream which brings me back to the driveway and the first bench.

The Jeep had no trouble getting up to the driveway to the first bench. There was even a little room up there to turn around. Even the RV was able to make it up. The rub was there was no room to turn that around. It's not much fun backing down a steep grade into a narrow switchback. We thought that it would be great to re-grade the driveway and cut just enough trees to provide a little maneuvering room and a place to set up a small outdoor area. This did mean cutting down about 10 trees but it seemed worth it, considering the benefits. Fortunately, 8 of the trees were pines which were not in such great shape so we felt confident that we would not do any long-term ecological damage to the property. Our intention was to contract with the State Department of Conversation and get a forrester but we hadn't had much luck doing that and we wanted to get it done so we could use it in the Spring.

Front LoaderSo, towards the end of last Autumn, we hired a contractor to regrade the road, add more sand and gravel and level out a spot at the end of the driveway so we could use it come next Spring. Winter came a lot quicker than anyone had thought and we had a little mini-blizzard while the contractor was trying to finish up. It doesn't appear to be much fun sitting on a backhoe loader with snow and ice pelting you and making the trip from the first bench back to the road more exciting as backing up the RV down the road.

As most of us know who live in the northern clime of the U.S., the 2010-2011 winter was pretty rough and we had no reason to venture up for the rest of the season. At the first sign of Spring, we drove up with the Jeep. Well, the winter had not been kind and with a rainy Spring and snow run-off, what had once been our driveway was now a sea of mud. I did try going up with the Jeep but ended up to the running boards in mud.

Can't make it up in the Jeep so I went up on foot, my trusty wallking stick in hand. Managed to get up the driveway, slip, sliding away to the first bench and started walking around in the clearing, which was a network of small streams coming down from the mountain. I took a step and ended up in mud up to my waist. Funny, but I did not remember there being quicksand up there the year before. I later learned from the contractor that I had stepped into a stump hole.

I found that out right away because, as you can imagine, as soon as I extricated myself from the sink hole, I called the contractor and told him how disappointed I was in the work. He assured me that he would make it right and get another load of sand and gravel up there as soon as possible. I am not going to be too hard on the contractor because I did not expect the driveway to be perfect in the middle of Spring run-off but if we can't get the RV up to the first bench  and use it the way we want, then all the money we spent on it would be a waste.

In early May, we drove up to the property in the RV to meet the contractor. By the time we arrived, he had already put down another load of sand and gravel and was up in the clearing with the bulldozer leveling it off. It was still pretty soft but I did want to try to get the RV up to the clearing. I got into the vehicle and started up the first leg of the driveway. I made that pretty good, and made the turn on the switchback, going into the steep part of the road. I actually thought I could make it but as I made the turn I started to slide a bit and the contractor's 12-year-old daughter was standing right at the end of the turn. Having no desire to slide into the young girl, I had to stop. Once I lost momentum, there was no way to re-gain it and instead of making forward progress, I started sliding backwards. Not a fun thing.

The contractor was able to use a chain to pull me up the rest of the hill with his dozer but, once in the clearing, the RV sunk into the mud with no hope of getting it out.

The contractor had to literally drag me around with the dozer so that the RV was pointing nose front. Once I was facing forward again, I was able to drive back down the hill.

So, that's where we stand with our driveway. I think it still needs to settle. Sand and gravel is a standard mixture for road building and it is what everyone uses in the area. We'll just have to see if it is going to work.

Stay tuned.

Hi! Be sure to check out my viewpoint on this "road work" after you read Richard's viewpoint.


Karen Rogers

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