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We have stairs!!!

Much has happened since our last visit in early July. Our neighbor and friend, Nick, arranged for crushed granite to be brought in, which he leveled out with his equipment. We had to remove dead oak trees a few months ago that had died from oak wilt along the start of the driveway into the property.... which is also up a hill... that got pretty torn up by taking out trees and brush. It was becoming difficult to get up that hill, especially with all of the rain there, but Nick helped us keep that drive able and then installed the rock driveway up the hill. What a great help this was for us!

The stairs, to ease the trip from the top of the bluff to the water and back up, was also being installed, and Nick's work on the rock driveway allowed those people to get in and out of the property more easily. He even had to do a re-do on the driveway after four inches of rain washed some of it out before it had a chance to settle. Thanks, Nick!!

We had worked with two other contractors on the stairs before we met Dan Schnabel. The personal connection was just not there with the other two, but when Ron and I met with Dan on our trip in early June, I knew he was our guy. We actually met with Dan twice before he started work on the stairway.

The stairs were an emotional thing for me. On one hand, I did not want to destroy the beauty of the view from the water, nor the view of my neighbors across the water from us. My property is their view, and I want to respect that just as I want them to understand that their property is our view. The shoreline ordinances in Jackson County, as well as the state, really are there to prevent encroachment of structures to the waterways and retain the natural beauty. When you paddle Hall's or the Black, you enjoy those areas that do not have someone's yard or house..... or stairs.... detracting from your experience.

The ordinances also require as little ground disturbed as possible. These bluffs are primarily sandstone (although some is granite), and we all know that sandstone turns into sand, and the sand clogs up the waterways and affects the fish population and their ability to traverse the waters. I also have beautiful trees and rock outcroppings that I did not want negatively impacted by the stairway.

The stairs had to be strong. They had to look strong and feel strong. They had to be safe. The "old path" to the water was a bit treacherous; we needed a safe path to the water.

As such, we wanted the posts to be 6x6; 4x4 posts always look like toothpicks to me. We wanted full 2x6 deck boards and stair treads. We wanted 2x6 capped railings and safety boards between the railings and treads. There were certain views we wanted to have at landings. There were certain trees and rock outcroppings we wanted to meander through. I wanted quite a bit, but if it could be done it would make the stairway blend into the landscape and make it a part of the overall experience, and be functional at the same time.

I prefer quality over price. I am willing to pay a bit extra for something better. I don't take shortcuts. Dan exceeded my expectations; the stairs are wonderful, and you can see the craftsmanship, vision and creativity he put into the construction. It is always those small details that separate a set of stairs to a structure worthy of something more than "just a set of stairs".

The landings all provide a nice place to rest or just hang out, and each has a unique view and perspective to the beauty that surrounds you. While anyone can find something here and something there that you can critique, any of these were so insignificant that I would call the stairway nearly perfect.

So here is my plug for Schnabel Carpentry. Nice job, Dan... we love it.

I am getting ahead of myself here. Lorraine and I planned on coming up this weekend in order to check out the driveway and the stairs. We wanted to be able to inspect the stairs before we paid for them. So we threw out an invitation for couples to come up. Many of the spouses of our helpers have seen pictures and heard the stories, but have not been there. So we threw this invitation out to a few people knowing that on such short notice that it would be unlikely many would be able to come. Fortunately, Ron and Jill decided to come up, so we were happy to have them there.

Molly and Nate also came over.

We were only at the property for five minutes before Ron and Jill arrived, so they were able to see and inspect the stairway at the same time we did. I had Ron, who is a general contractor, with me during my meetings with Dan, and it was downright fun watching those two guys brainstorm on the side of the bluff about the stairway. That is what I really liked about Dan. He had his ideas, and he would listen to Ron's ideas while still considering the overall stairway I had envisioned. After a while, though, I realized that not talking and letting those guys brainstorm would get us the right solution, and it surely did. I value Ron's opinion, and having him involved was quite valuable to me.

I believe the stairway met with Ron's and Jill's approval also. I know it met with Molly's and Nate's approval, as we had made that difficult trip down and up the switch-back trails way too often.

After some lunch, we decided we would take a water-hike up to the third drop and tube back down. This is a nice little water-hike, but it is a bit of a stretch... in the water... with slippery rocks.... and big boulders.... and about 3/4 of a mile.... but this is what you get to see.....

Just a note on drops like this. There is usually a deep hole in spots immediately below the falls. The holes have hydraulics, or back-circulation of water that can pull you in and not let you out. Always be careful around any area that demonstrates a disruption of water flows such as this.

We really did not prepare everyone for what we were getting them into, and it really was a tiring long hike up. The water was much lower than it had been a month before, but it was still a chore, and bruises were apparent on Jill's feet.... sorry, Jill!!! But we had a nice time, and it was a nice float back down. Nate and I departed the water at the property, while the others continued down to the canoe landing. We had to get vehicles to pick them up at the canoe landing as I don't think they would have wanted to walk a mile back to the property.

After supper at Rozario's, we headed over to Oxbow Pond to show that to everyone and do a bit of fishing. There were thunderstorms right beside us but the fish really weren't hitting. I had caught a few trout there at the beginning of June. This night I caught a nice-sized crappie and a bluegill the size of a baby's hand. Ron and Molly.... no such good luck..... or inferior fishing skills? Yeah, I shouldn't say that because they'll give it back to me ten-fold. We had a really fun time there and headed back before the storms came upon us. Molly and Nate took off for home.

A bit of time by the fire, but we were all pretty tired and took off to get some sleep.

Ron and I went out early the next morning to do a bit of work and planning for the pavilion. I just love mornings out there; it is without a doubt my favorite time to be there. And now I can experience it on the stairs!!

Back into town for breakfast and we were on the road back home.

I was happy that Ron, Jill, Molly and Nate could come. We had a really nice time together, accomplished some things, and just had a fun time with them. I look forward to them coming again.

Here are some pictures of Oxbow Pond:

The sky with the thunderstorms was beautiful. Too bad it is with a highway and utility wires, but sometimes you have to take the shot when you can get it.

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