Part of living in a beautiful remote location is taking care of the “entrance” fees. The snow is gone, the mud is drying up, and we can drive our 4WD Jimmies all the way up to the house now. I’m never fond of mud season at all. Since we live near a popular summer vacation destination, Lake Chelan, we know many “snow birds” as we call them. They stay here during the balmy summer months, and head south for the winter (typically to Arizona). I don’t really envy that at all because winter has a beauty all its own! I’d consider becoming a “mud bird” if it were practical. You know, live somewhere else for about 4 weeks a year when the snow melts, welcoming mud season, and travel is a challenge. Alas, we have animals to care for, kids to school, and most importantly, no budget for this imagined yearly pilgrimage.
A couple months from now is the wrong time for road work because the dirt around here hardens quite a bit. Ancient volcanic ash is the primary component of the dirt, probably from Mt Rainier a long time ago. Once it drys in the summer, you need a pick to get through the first 6 inches, before you can even dig a post hole! Road work at this time will just stir up, and add to the major dust puddles that accumulate in late summer.
All the muddy trenches in the driveway start to harden about now. Now is the the right time for road/driveway work. Unfortunately, we bought 2 new sets of tires for the rigs and there is no bulldozer rental money available now. Today I used plan B, the borrowed and home made road grader. Our friendly neighbors a mile away let me borrow their road grading tool. It’s a very large piece of steel I beam that must weigh about 250 pounds or more and is 8 or 9 feet wide.
The idea is to use sturdy logging chains and extra weight on the beam, and drag it over all the rutted dirt roads. We used an old L16 battery to add and extra 125 pounds to the arrangement. Hearing all the screeching noise as we go over rocks, and the shuddering motion of the truck can be unnerving. You have to go slow, and pray the truck hitch and bumper hold up through the abuse!
The two new (chicken guard dogs) we rescued this summer, just love riding in the truck, so I brought them along. In 4 wheel drive low range, I carefully idled over about 4 miles of rutted roads for a couple hours. Calling them roads is rather generous, as most folks would call them single lane truck trails. Many are no longer flat, but tend to tilt downhill. (no fun in the snow, apply brakes, and gravity wants you to slide over the edge!)
The I beam knocked down many of the high spots, but not quite enough to actually fill the ruts. However, the ruts are not as deep now that they have a few inches of fresh dirt in the bottom. Now as we continue to drive these roads, the ruts will slowly round out and fade away somewhat, and if we get a little rain it will pack the dirt down before everything hardens.
Sure it would be nice to have a big old tractor with a back blade, or a bulldozer rental, but this year we’ll be thankful that mud season is over, and we have a small grading tool to help the driveway a little.
I’d love to hear what other implements you have heard of, or used to smooth out a dirt road. Be creative, how would you improve a rutted dirt road? Lets share our ideas below in the comments!