I finally started cutting some steps into the hill. During the dry season it's pretty easy to hike up the hill but once it gets wet the mud gets really slippery and it's kind of like a treacherous game of chutes and ladders, but with all chutes.
At the suggestion of a friend I used 4x6s with rebar pounded through them into the ground. I still have grand visions of rickety wood staircases winding up the hill like the Mine Ride at Cedar Point, but that would take me forever and I wanted something that would be up quickly. As usual I thought I could get it done in about a 1/3 of the time it actually took.
I was lulled by the first few steps that I put in. It seemed like it was taking me about a half hour a step and the janky calculations I did led me to believe that I would need about 16 steps. That sounded like a weekend's worth of easy work.
I ran into trouble as I moved up the hill. I thought I had figured out what the slope of the steps needed to be but the tread of my first few steps was apparently too long. The steps were at a shallower slope than the hill so I was digging further and further into the hill with each step. And moving a lot of earth to do it. I decided to make the treads gradually shorter so the steps would be more in line with the level of the hill. I still had to do a lot of digging though as you can see from the dirt piled up on each side of the stair way.
My next challenge was this:
A giant piece of sandstone right where my next step was supposed to go. I tried to sledge hammer it out but it just broke off little chips and it was tiring me out. That big hammer is heavy. Luckily I found this beaut in the crawl space under my house:
The rusty pick was totally in keeping with my visions of the Mine Ride, and it dig a great job of breaking up the rock.
I was feeling pretty awesome about my accomplishments up to this point until I uncovered this:
That's the concrete foundation to an old rotted out fence post, and my new friend the pick was totally useless against it. The only thing I could do was bash it with the sledge hammer until it cracked into small enough pieces that I could pry them out.
Inside the concrete where the post would have been I found this old Pepsi bottle. I can't remember the last time I saw Pepsi in a bottle and the logo looked pretty old. I managed to not smash it so maybe I'll keep it for something. Maybe it can be a twee little retro bud vase for all the flowers people give me. :)
Maybe I should have called it quits for the day after that one. My 1/2 hour per step average was totally shot and I was hot, tired and aggravated. I pressed on and almost instantly regretted it. As I was pounding the rebar into the next step I made a bad blow with the hammer and bent the post. There was more sand stone under the step that I was trying to drive the post into. It took a lot of force and obviously better aim than I could muster so late in the day. I belatedly decided to take the rest of the day off.
It ended up taking 20 steps and two weekends to get the thing done. Part of the second weekend was spent redoing the last few steps that were all crooked and ugly from me being too tired to care at the time.
It's been a couple of months since then and the hill is doing it's best to reclaim the stairs. Between the oxalis and grass shooting up after the rains and the gophers sending torrents of loose dirt out of their burrows you almost can't see the stairs anymore.
I went back in and dug out some of the gopher land slides but the stairs still look like they've been there a long time already.
The good news is that they work. Even when it rains I can get up this part of the hill without worrying about sliding back down. Now I only have two more sections of hill to cover and I'll be able to get from my house to the chicken coop like a person instead of a goat.