My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rebuilding Project

Warning!!! Long post.

Last week,  I got a wonderful e-mail from Susan, one of the staffers.  It said I could go over to the west side the following Thursday and help rebuild Mixon's Hammock Shelter.  I just had to show up at the maintenance shop at 7:00 A.M. Of course, I said yes.

Thursday was going to be quite cold, so I dressed in long underwear tops and bottoms, nylon pants and a fleece top, a light windbreaker, and two hats - one that my friend Tracy made me for Christmas topped by my sun hat, which also makes a good windbreak.  I had my usual smart wool socks on my feet.  I thought about wearing my canoeing boots, but then remembered that we can get in and out of the boats without getting wet, so I just wore my old low hikers that are now falling apart.(Shoulda taken the boots.) And I had my dry bag all packed with food, water, and my fleece pants, in case the weather was colder than I thought it would be. I also remembered to pack my leather work gloves.

Not long after I got to the departure site, two young volunteer guys and Wild Bill, another resident volunteer, showed up and we loaded up for the hour plus drive. Steve and I shared the back seat of the truck.  I read a book while he slept. We finally got to the other side where we met JD, the staffer who was the building foreman, and Bruce, another volunteer who is living at Banks Lake.  We divided ourselves into three boats and started off. The young guys fitted themselves among the tools in JD's work boat.  I went with Wild Bill, and Bruce went to get another boat.

Getting ready for a cold ride

JD, Steve and Tyler among the equipment and tools

Too cold to fly
Soon we were at Mixon's Hammock Shelter, which is only a few miles from the boat launch, down the Suwannee River.  I was excited to see more of this area. (If you didn't read about my first foray, click here.)

Arriving at the work site- behind Tyler is the porta potty and it's tank, in two pieces
The plan for the day was to get the piles driven, then add the cross ties, being sure to make a place for the porta-potty tank. The guys sawed the four corners of one end of each post off to make a point, then lined it up where it needed to go Tyler, and later Steve ,balanced on cross ties or a piece of lumber across the cross ties to drive the post down through the peat with a sledge hammer.

Tyler driving a post
As soon as the post got a little stable, the guys attached a pile driver.  This ran from an air compressor in the boat and made short work of driving the pies several feet into the peat. But the cold made the compressor cranky and it took several minutes to start.

Bruce setting up the pile driver

JD and Tyler holding the post straight while the pile driver works
Meanwhile, Bill and I hauled the old lumber away.  This platform is being completely rebuilt.
Most of what we walked on was the old platform, but the builders balanced on new cross ties to set new piles. The back part had been torn completely down and this was the part being rebuilt. The old wood was stacked on the front part or was just lying around on the (wet ground behind the platform.

Bill hauling a load of boards off the hammock
I hadn't been told to bring boots - and JD didn't bring me any waders.  So I mostly only hauled lumber from the platform to the boat, while Bill did the long hauls. When our boat was full, we took it back to the boat house area to dump it.

Besides the heavy photography work, I hauled wood across the platform to the boat


Capt. Wild Bill with a load of lumber and me

A few of at least 1000 ibis we passed 

We hauled three of  these 12'" X 3" X 12' boards back 
Back at the work site, we found the guys had started to connect the posts they had just set. It took a person at each end to hold them in place while JD or another volunteer screwed them in. The generator had to run the rest of the day to keep recharging batteries for the drill.

Hauling in the heavy cross tie

Hang tight, there

Drill master
Even though I took about 400 pictures, after a while I was sure I had documented everything worth showing.. When I got bored, I went for a walk and took some artsy pictures, then came back and sat in our boat and read a book.

This camp is mostly used by boy scouts and has a fire pit and walk-around room
The guys continued to add posts and then connect them until they had all the posts driven and connected in the back area. They got half or more of the supporting cross ties in as well. JD, Steve. and Tyler made good use of their waders.

Building from the water up

The only bad time was when they checked the measurements for the porta potty tank and found one was way too big and the other too small. JD solved the problem by deciding to rotate the tank. This then only required adding one piece of a board to make that side smaller, and then moving an internal cross piece and relocating it a bit further apart from its neighbor.  This done, they gathered up their equipment and we all prepared to leave.

Bruce leaving with his load

Looking all done, there, Steve

Two and a half boat loads of lumber waiting for the dump truck

I had so much fun that I'm planning to go back next Wednesday, one of my days off.  I'm hoping to get to tear down the front portion.  I may have to bring my own crowbar or fight Steve, since that's his favorite job as well. JD expects this to take four more days - but the first three days next week are expected to be rainy so it may not get finished next week. But soon it will be a great place for young boy scouts to come and enjoy the swamp.