When purchasing your off grid property, the access road, or “driveway” is a priority right up there with the water question. It takes planning and resources to get some road work projects completed before your move. This will pay great “travel rewards” for many years, however, these projects are always expensive by their nature. Unfortunately, that was not our situation, and “getting home” is too often a challenge.
This year’s mud season is shaping up to be interesting, but not too difficult. On a scale of 1-10 where 10 means your walking, and 1 means normal city cars can cruise up, I would rate our situation as a 7. The ruts are long and sometimes menacing.
Normally the weather here changes in March. The temperatures rise, the snow begins to melt, and the wind becomes more
boisterous and consistent. The wind and sun can help evaporate some of the snow pack so that less water runs into the ground. Too much wind can and has created many other problems, so it is a mixed blessing. This year it is all coming early, the warm temperatures and melt off. No real wind yet, so that means moderate to heavy mud pack.
Its a technical term I just made up to describe conditions in mud season around here. You wonder, is mud stacked up over everything like snow? No, but around here every patch of outdoor ground soaks in water into the soil forming mud under pressure of tires or foot! The soil is know
as ancient volcanic ash, which is very fine dusty soil without water. Add water and all the dust sticks together and forms a slippery mud, especially when under pressure. You can walk across an open field here and sink two inches in mud, where there will be spring grass shortly.
During mud season we rely on our mud vehicle, a ’73 Jeep pickup with chains for two, and sometimes for all four wheels. I affectionately call the truck, Jenny the Jeep. She takes us places that are amazing because of their difficulty. Most often these places are uphill snow and mud patches that would stop any lesser vehicle.
Choose your route wisely
Jenny the Jeep, manages to dig some nice long deep ruts on our driveway. This year its especially bad, because many places I can only create two sets of tracks. Each set of tracks, or ruts, is good for a limited time only. The travel in a track ends, when the ruts are so deep that the bottom of the truck hits the dirt! Both sets of tracks are deep this year, and last night we “hit bottom” on one set, while barely getting out of the other. We are fortunate that these spots are less than a half mile from home. The backup plan in this case is park and hike. Not always fun in bad weather, but workable if necessary for a short while.
In the mid summer the soil/mud dries up to be nearly as hard as pavement. Its really important to get your ruts managed before this time. To dig a small hole most anywhere, requires quite a bet of effort, and a pick is helpful. This is not the time to do fence work unless your needs are great or, you just like extra hearty work! (been there and done that)
Yes it would have been nice to have a nice gravel road constructed when we purchased the property, but resources did not allow that. Most people will find themselves in a similar situation. Here are a few tips to help with potential driveway challenges.
- Before you purchase property: Check with neighbors, or local folks about the area’s soil type and about the mud season. In our case, it seemed dry and dusty with a solid single lane dirt ‘road’.
- Always have a backup travel plan if possible. It could be an extra vehicle stationed just for the road, or motorcycle, etc.
- Make sure to carry chains and be well versed in using them.
- Have a driveway emergency box, with food, flashlight, some tools, and extra clothes for the season. This will always give you a little breathing room to analyze any driveway situations.
- A large electric cable winch mounted to the front of your truck can be very helpful and
Having a remote home has many peaceful advantages we all seek. Often the “driveway” is the barrier that keeps the masses from living here, so we must adapt to, and work with it. In fact, for most people in remote homes, the driveway is what takes them “out of the box” that so many in the cities live in.
What tips do you have for your driveway travel? Do you have a mud season too? What is that like? Comment below about your experience or plan!