Friday, September 19, 2008

North Country Trail Bridge Built near Hodenpyl

bridge builders at work (photo credit John Heiam)

by Arlen Matson (Grand Traverse Hikers Club and chapter of the North Country Trail Association)
This article describes part of the work done to build one of the bridges required to complete the North Country Trail re-route near Hodenypyl Pond and Mesick, Michigan. Ed.

The first phase in transporting the materials to the bridge site went quite well; good weather, 9 in our crew plus 2 boats and a canoe. Three trips took all the stringers (6), sills (6), planking (8), decking (100) and more sills (12) plus the tools and the workers. A nice boat ride at slow speeds.

We set 3 sills and 5 stringers in place for Saturday's assembly. Will use 2 boats and the canoe again. Workers will need hammers and lunches. I'm planning on the major portion done by noon.

The September 11 session was a most interesting one with the boats loaded to the hilt with materials. At the site, that 6" of water and 6" of muck turned out to be more like12 to 18" of muck. It had a tendency to claim its walkers by not releasing their feet from a set position. In one hole, I went all the way up to the top of my hip boots. Fortunately, I was holding onto the boat. There were compensations, however, such as the 3 flowers right at the site; turtle's head, blue gentian, and fleabane. By Saturday, our soreness should be releaved enough for setting the stringers exactly, decking and doing the boardwalk.

note the boat used to bring in materials (photo credit John Heiam)
Our 3 boats headed west on Hodenpyl Pond loaded with passengers and tools while 3 others walked in the 30 min. to the bridge site. Now with all of the sailors on land and a 5 minute walk from the boats, we commenced the anchoring of the 6 stringers and 4 sills. Quickly we found out that our battery operated drills were no match (ie. Mich. vs. Notre Dame) drilling through 12" of oily utility poles supplied by Consumer's Energy (Greg Mortenson) in Traverse City. Thanks to Sherman Atkinson and his generator we were able to drill and drive the 4' rerod through all of the sills & stringers. And thanks to whomever brought along the 2 big drills also.

The chainsaw was a buzzing like bees in the spring on dandelions as Dick Naperala ground away dulling 2 chainsaws in the process of making the stringers fit closely. And then there was Greg's come-a-long tool work which pulled the stringers too heavy to lift now and the other one not yet in place. Everyone found something to do and then the magic of placing the decking boards on the stringers put a new team in place nailing up a storm (not quite...a drizzle) the 100 pieces of 2'x8"x4' treated wood.

While more drilling and rerod pounding continued on the next stringers, some of us started placing the 2"x12"x16' boardwalk planking and sills in place.

Around noon it didn't look like we were quite half way, but we really were farther along than that; however, since I'm obviously not a prophet one o'clock came and I was wondering if we would have to come back. We poured the coals, actually the slimy muck, to the last phase of the boardwalks 5 sections listening to the woodpecker hammers of the decking boys coming towards us. Now we really were in high gear and by 2 o'clock more or less we were beginning to gather-up tools & load boats again. Oh yes, we did put 2'x4' bull rails along the edges of the bridge in keeping with the NPS Handbook.

Thanks to Jerry Heiman's tried and tested fishing boat, which moved like a tank through the mucky inlet, we reloaded the canoe he was to pull and hooked them both up at the mouth of the inlet. Traveling at turtles speed, he returned to Northern Exposure Campground beach area where the rest of us were waiting to unload him.

Now, you can walk from Woodpecker Creek all the way to Glengary. The 2 bridges are in place and with the exception of the blaze marks from the NE Campground to Fletcher Creek CG, you shouldn't get lost.

Yours, drenched to the gills,


See Grand Traverse Hikers Chapter of the North Country Trail Association
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