This project was a challenging one: developing a waterfront complex for the Boy Scouts on the far side of a lake in the High Sierras. The location brought natural beauty and logistical challenges. Everything had to be taken across the lake on a large pontoon boat: all of the lumber, decking, concrete, siding, railing components, roofing, tools, etc. The concrete footings alone required 3500 bags of concrete, a large amount of reinforcing steel, and plywood. The deck framing was designed for a 500’ snow load, which meant that the structures that were built had to be able to survive the weight of 500’ of snow, just in case there was ever that much snow at one time. The beams that I used for this were 6”x12” and 20’ long. Needless to say they were very heavy, and required a lot of manpower (or in this case, Boy Scout power) to move. The posts that these beams were hung on were telephone poles, cut to the required length. The decking was Trex, and extremely heavy. I had to incorporate Simpson Strong Walls to handle the design loads on the buildings. All of this was moved across the parking lot to the boat, across the lake, approximately 1 mile, up the road and over the hill to the building site. I was fortunate to have the labor force of hundreds of Boy Scouts at my disposal when I needed them. There were also willing parents that donated their time to work on the project in varying ways.
The timetable was come up after the last snow of the season, around May 1, pitch camp and spend 1 to 2 weeks at a time for three months building. The entire project took two summers to complete, and the drive was about 5-1/2 hours from Marin County just north of San Francisco, where I lived at the time, and still live today. I hired two carpenters to help me over the two seasons, and they drove back and forth with me, mostly every week.
The camp had been gifted a two-wheel drive tractor that had a bulldozer setup on it: a front blade and a rear bucket on a digging arm. This was indispensible, but slightly impractical, as it got stuck constantly, and at the most inopportune times in the worst of positions. We waited for parts several weeks one time, and had to work around this precariously perched digging machine at a dangerous angle, parked where it died one day. Life was interesting.
The hillside beachfront where the compound was built was made up of decomposed granite and very large boulders that we had to incorporate into the design when they couldn’t be moved. I found myself drilling rebar into boulders and epoxying them more times than I can recall. The forms to hold the wet concrete had to be cut around the boulders, making for some very creative visualization and cutting to get them to the correct shape, then shoveling the looser sand and gravel through screens to incorporate rocks into the concrete mix and strengthen the footings, while reducing the amount of concrete bags needed for the job. The entire first year (3 months) was spent doing concrete work and setting posts for the framing.
The closest hardware store was 45 minutes away, and the closest lumberyard, where all of the lumber was delivered from, was an hour and a half down the hill in Fresno.
Much of the time was spent coordinating, locating, and moving materials from the Valley up the mountain and across the lake. The balance of time was spent developing a way to do the job, and then working in the blazing sun to dig, mix, pour, haul, frame, deck, and finish the rest of the project. The end result was a v-shaped complex of 5 decks, two buildings, and one lifeguard tower that overlooked a sweet little cove on Huntington Lake.
The Lake itself was a beauty: very deep and cold, it was the site of a particular sailing race each year that brought a lot of visitors to the lake. The second season that I was there, the head chef went overboard late one night while returning from the local watering hole, and didn’t resurface for several weeks. Needless to say, the entire camp was shaken up over that. My workers liked to fish on their off hours, and I enjoyed climbing around the camp, sometimes taking off on a 4-wheel drive road to explore some of the deeper areas around other lakes.
The project turned out great, and I have had several people over the years since then contact me to discuss some of the materials and methods that I employed to complete the project.