Leveling the Deck Foundation

No Trespassing. Not my favorite sign, but Washington State requires they be posted “conspicuously.”

Saturday, March 7, 2020

I had a double-header planned for the weekend: Saturday at River Song, and Sunday snowshoeing at Mount Rainier. I headed out to River Song early Saturday morning. I didn’t have any firm plans and just decided to let the day unfold organically. I brought all my tools, just in case. More than anything, I wanted to see how my little cabin withstood the storm two weeks previously.

My little cabin is untouched by the storm two weeks ago.I was happy to find it untouched. All of the tarps were secure and in place, and everything was bone dry. I wandered around the property for a bit, checking things out. There were more branches on the ground, but otherwise, everything was just as I left it two weeks ago.

I didn’t really want to do any building today, mainly because of the hassle of removing all the tarps. Those bloody tarps take an hour to remove and then an hour–or more–to rehang. I couldn’t think of any building project I could start today and be guaranteed of finishing today.

But, there was one thing that needed to be done: The area in front of the cabin needed to be leveled, not only for the installation of the deck at some point, but also to make it safer for using a ladder during roof installation. Currently, the northwestern corner of the building is up against a mound of fern-covered earth. Any time I’ve had to use the ladder, I’ve had to lean it up against the front of the building, using it like an extension ladder. It’s just not safe, especially since it’s so close to the edge of the bluff. Nor is it efficient because I can’t get the angle I need for the most leverage.

Leveling the area for the front deckNow seemed as good a time as any, especially since it was pouring down rain, so the dirt would be soft. I grabbed my shovel and started digging.

I needed to dig out and level an area to four feet in front of the cabin and a foot or two to the side for any steps. The southwest corner is already relatively level, so it made sense flatten the rest of the area to match it. That would be sufficient for now, and when I actually put in the deck, I can then fine-tune it as needed.

Surprisingly, there weren’t too many roots, and it didn’t take long to dig out the area. There were a couple of larger roots, and I was able to dig underneath and around them. Hopefully, the installation of the deck won’t disturb them anymore and they can reattach themselves to the ground or whatever roots do, and it won’t affect the health of the trees. In some areas, I had to dig down about six inches, to the point where the soft topsoil turned more claylike. I piled the dirt to the side in case I need to use it to fill in any areas once I start building.

Cedar boughs cover the muddy pathIt created quite a muddy mess in front of the cabin, so I cut a bunch of ferns and laid them down on the mud. Although it did help, I could see the ferns were a bit fragile and might not survive my boots long, so I cut some cedar boughs from the fallen cedar at the north end of the lot. Not only did it provide a better walking surface, but it looked great, too. And, it created a firm, level surface for my ladder.

That only took a couple of hours. I didn’t feel quite like leaving yet, nor did I feel too ambitious, partly because I didn’t want to be worn out or sore for my snowshoe trip on Sunday. There were still quite a few branches piled up from the fallen cedar at the north end of the property, so I grabbed my chainsaw and nippers.

Unfortunately, as soon as I started pulling the first large branch from the pile of tree debris, I felt a twinge in my back. D’oh! I kept working, hoping it was just a brief spasm, but sadly, that wasn’t the case. I continued to work for a bit and finished clearing out most of the branches from the fallen cedar, saving the larger pieces and chopping up the smaller ones for easier disposal later.

I also used the chainsaw to clear away the fallen vine maples blocking my path to the northern creek. This winter’s record rainfall had washed away the foliage that had grown over the debris, giving me a much better view of exactly what has been discarded in the ravine. Sadly, there are more tires than I had thought, as well as car parts and tons of broken glass. And, much of it is inaccessible because of rotting tree stumps and logs. I’m not sure this is something I can ever clean up.

After a couple of hours, I loaded up my tools and locked up the cabin. Time to head home! Sadly, my back issues caused me to cancel my Sunday snowshoe trip. But, it gave me a good opportunity to draw up plans for building next weekend. I may even be able to assemble some of it at home during the week, saving me time on site!

The river has changed over the winter. It's deeper in the middle, and more shallow on my side.
The river has changed over the winter. It’s deeper in the middle, and more shallow on my side.