Rescue Report: Ward Brook/Cold River/Ouluska Pass, Oct 2 – 9

Between October 2 and 9th, an INSANE amount of work got done out in the High Peaks area by a well-oiled machine made up of the DEC Cranberry Lake Crew, Boy Scout Troop 61, the Lake Placid Chapter of the ADKand the usual tangle of maniacs from Lean2Rescue. We rehabbed Cold River Lean-tos 1 and 2, repaired the Ouluska Pass Brook bridge and completely replaced the Ward Brook Bridge.

Do we look tired?

Check out all the photos from the three work sites here at Pete’s photo page: http://petedavispictures.zenfolio.com/f92447085

Read through Paul’s rundown of the weekend after the jump.

Between the dates of October 2 and October 9, we found out what can happen when we pull out all the stops.
I will be typing a lot below, but maybe Pete Davis’ single word embedded in the URL where he has posted his pictures tells the story –  “whatwerewethinking”
The single sentence that might sum it up was from Kris Alberga (DEC Supervising Forester for the High peaks).  He said “If you keep outdoing yourselves like this, we’ll keep expecting more.”  I’m not sure if this was a complement or a warning.
If you don’t read all of this, there are links to pictures at the end.
Here’s the story as best as I can tell it:  Over the first week in October, three major projects were conducted in the Western High Peaks:
  1. Cold River Lean-tos 1 and 2 were raised from the ground, floor boards added, stained.
  2. Ouluska Pass Brook bridge Repair
  3. Ward Brook Bridge Replacement
The first two projects were planned and organized by George Dickover.  The third was planned by Hurricane Irene, organized by me.

The Cold River Lean-tos are restricted in regard to what work can be done, yet with Boy Scout Troop 61 from Skaneateles, enough has been done to assure their continuance for years to come – hopefully the regulations will change in time for a complete rescue.  Several hundred pounds of materials were hauled to the site, and the rescue, although difficult, was a success.

The Ouluska Pass Brook bridge had been washed downstream about 10 feet due to debris washed against it by the spring flood, and further during Hurricane Irene.  The debris has been removed, and the bridge righted and made usable again.  The crew broke two rope come-alongs (the same devices used to raise the 3800 lb logs in Beaver River Station) trying to move it back to its original location.  We expect to return with heavier artillery.  No bridge pushes us around.

I am hoping George will fill in the details of the first two projects, as I cannot.  I will forward George’s report to the DEC for further details and pictures regarding these first two projects, but still hope we hear the whole story.  Here’s what I do know:

Hurricane Irene hit George’s “normal” life schedule particularly hard (he is an insurance adjuster).  Still, after being absent for weeks and weekends, George followed through on a very aggressive rescue for the two Cold River lean-tos, and then added the Ouluska Pass Brook bridge to the itinerary.  When I added the Ward Brook bridge, George said “Are we maybe opening up the scope a little too much? – Hell, we’re lean2Rescue – Maybe we should fix the Duck Hole Dam while we’re in there!”  

From our viewpoint, the Ward Brook Bridge crew witnessed the Cold River crew haul several hundred pounds of materials across Ward Brook (no bridge yet), destined for the Cold River – over five miles down the trail.  Veterans of Camp 4 know  how hard it was to cart materials those first two miles.  When they returned for even more materials, we were told the carting past camp 4 was a steady uphill that could tear the soul out of some of the most hardened volunteers.  We then heard that at least one of the lean-tos had log issues more severe than planned, and rocks might be used to replace a lower log.  The next news was of the imminent success of the lean-tos, the equipment failures at the bridge.  Then, to our exhausted delight, three volunteers were sent from the Cold River crew to help the Ward Brook bridge crew for Sunday.

It is important to note that there were boy scouts in the Cold River crew – The pictures show them working hard and smiling.  We cannot  overestimate the importance of the next generation taking stewardship responsibility.  Boy Scout Troop 61 has been a constant companion and great contributor for Lean2Rescue throughout our tenure, for whom we are truly appreciate and proud of.

Back at the Ward Brook Bridge………

To summarize, above all predictions, the Ward brook Bridge structure is essentially completed!!!  

Some replacement u-bolts need to be fabricated, and some minor final grading needs to be done.  At the onset, we would have considered it a success had only a single cribbing been replaced.  We replaced both cribbings, the stringers, and even decked the bridge.  Oops.

As for the Ward Brook Bridge project, I can try to explain – but as happens so often, the events and accomplishment can be so hard to describe.  To put it in perspective, we estimate the Ward brook Bridge materials weigh over 100 tons – all moved at least once by humans.  If you consider materials moved several times (ex. timbers onto the horse cart, off the horse cart, onto the bridge or Rocks taken out of the old cribbing and back into the new), it is a conservative estimate to say that humans moved between 208 and 237 tons.  Yes, I said tons.  That’s nearly half a million pounds!  The cribbing timbers alone exceeded 22.5 tons.  Even the horse was tired.

How did this happen?  

In our original plans, we were hoping to get the North cribbing back up to stabilize that shore.  For this to succeed, we needed an early start to get the cribbing base stable and level.  This way, the big crew arriving Thursday would only need to cut / stack timbers and fill the cribbing with rocks.  

Before this could happen, the bridge needed to be removed.  Bob Liseno, from the Northville Placid chapter of the ADK heard about the project and the need for an early start.   So the preceding Sunday, Bob 4.5 miles in and removed just over a ton of bridge decking – alone in the rain.  

Then, for Tuesday, not only did we get six Lean2Rescue Volunteers, but also the lean2Rescue Northern Crew (DEC Cranberry Lake Crew) to stay on the job for the first three days (leaving family behind, and working long days).  It is hard to overstate the contribution by the DEC Cranberry Lake Crew.  They know bridges like we know lean-tos (and they also know lean-tos like we know lean-tos).  As such, the design, logistics, efficiency, and scope of the project got an tremendous boost.
Without hesitation, they tore into both the North and South Cribbing.  Every morning, they after having breakfast in the dark, around 6:00 AM there was a swooshing sound as the Cranberry Lake Crew would head down the trail to the site (still in the dark). to start the days work.  Days were long, work was hard, but all knew how to laugh and have fun while working.
Of course, starting the South cribbing committed us to twice the rock work, so the DEC region 5 office sent in some Americore workers for Friday – and this was their day off – but they came and worked hard anyway.
At this point, we now had many highly motivated groups brought to bear.  The result was both the North and South cribbing capped by end of day Saturday.  Keep in mind, this is now over twice our minimal objective.
Before quitting on Saturday, I asked if we could stretch the first stringer across the span, just to show we could, and for yet another milestone. The crew agreed – on the condition that we place all of them across!  - So we did!
Reaching this milestone brought us within striking range of completing the structure.  Many decided to work Sunday, some working to the end of the day and leaving late, others taking Monday off to help evacuate the hundreds of pounds of equipment from the site. As a final boost, Saturday night, three volunteers from the Cold River crew came up the trail to seal the deal.
At the end of Sunday, the structure was complete again.
Monday, showed the bridge to Ranger Burns, we moved out, and started the process of licking our wounds and healing our bodies.  On the way home, out of sheer coincidence, we ran into John Fraser, DEC Cranberry Lake Crew.  It turns out that he had been doing unrelated hard work over the weekend ever since he left Ward brook as well.  We went to his house for a beer, and reflected on the preceding week.
Looking back over that week, it seems like it went on forever and like it happened in a flash at the same time.  I remember those seven consecutive days of intense push-as-hard-as-you-can work, with each day getting further ahead than expected until we achieved the impossible.  Most of all, I remember so many people putting in everything they had to fix a bridge we would never cross again except for future rescues.    I never thought we could finish the structure – but we did.

All those who contributed to all three projects deserve a special thanks, and should be proud of such herculean accomplishments.  I don’t know what else to say.

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