STRANGE CAMPER

We occasionally get some unusal camper!

We occasionally get some unusual campers at Kasilof RV Park!

SAGA OF THE FIRE PIT CONSTRUCTION

Due to the trees and vegetation between all the parking pads on the park, the local fire department was reluctant to let us have campfires at each of the RV sites unless we cleared large areas of the vegetation.  We didn’t want to do that because the vegetation provides a park-like atmosphere to the campground.  Thus we decided to have a campground fire pit, a place where guests could get together to meet and share stories.

At the end of the season last year, the Post family helped us clear off the area behind the Lodge for a future fire pit.  They cut off the Alder trees that had grown all over the space and then hauled all the scrap limbs down to the tree dump by the well house.  We then  pulled the stumps out with the 4-wheel drive truck.  After setting a year, we were finally ready to start the campground fire pit.

Defining the firepit

Defining the firepit

Kevin and I began the process by laying out the fire pit with sticks.  We wanted an 18 to 20 foot circle with access to the road behind for firewood and to the gravel walkway in front directly behind the Lodge.  After much discussion, broken sticks, removed sticks and replaced sticks we finally came to an agreement on it’s location.  The white box next to me holds the future red concrete block which will form the circle for the fire pit (actually it held part of them as typical with my planning, I was about half short!).

Digging pit with front loader

Digging pit with front loader

Next came the clearing of the excess dirt out of the space down to road and walkway level.  I thought it would be fairly easy digging it out with a shovel and wheel barrow, but Kevin convinced me that it would be a lot easier getting a front-loader and clearing the dirt out with it.  A neighbor down the road had one and he brought it down and dug it out for us.  About 500 wheel barrow loads and 2 huge tree stumps later, I thought it was a pretty good idea! There was one hitch in the process though!  About the third load in from the road, the front-loader discovered an under-ground electric cable feeding the electricity to the back row of RV pads (the one that was supposed to be approximately 25 feet south of there).  Unfortunately, the under-ground cable wasn’t very far under ground and thus our whole beautiful 18 foot circle outline for the fire pit took a hard move to the north and was reduced to a 14 foot squashed circle.  Never fear, all plans are fluid and able to change!  Also fortunately, the front-loader didn’t cut the cable and electrocute the neighbor.

Leveling floor & placing blocks

Leveling floor & placing blocks

Finally about an hour later the fire pit was dug out, well most of the dirt was removed into a ten foot high mound in the RV pad behind the fire pit.  We had to reduce the size of the main fire circle, squash it slightly to make it fit between the slightly buried electric cable and the existing pathway between the next mound behind the Lodge.  The basic area was defined and the depth was approximate although we found it would take a lot of digging and leveling to get it the way we needed it.

Unloading more blocks

Unloading more blocks

By this time, Ryan’s firemen buddies (John, Dave & Jeff) were here to fish and help with the development of the fire pit.   So while Ryan and John started cutting the sides to fit and beginning to level the floor, Paul and Jerod were laying out the rose colored retaining wall blocks to determine how many we needed.

We had to go back to Lowe’s for more concrete and rose blocks to complete the fire pit (50 was just a good start!).  Here Paul and Jerod are unloading the blocks as I was busy looking busy doing something in the cab of the truck (no dummy me).  By the way, the truck is called ‘Brownie’, Kevin’s favorite wheels when he is here.  Brownie is a 4x4  Ford F250 rust bucket.  Unfortunately Brownie decided it didn’t like hauling pallets of blocks from Kenai after a couple of loads and wouldn’t start anymore.  He had us buffaloed for awhile until Todd determined that he needed a new ignition module and Kevin will be happy to know he’s now back in business.

Floor weedbarrier pad

Floor weed barrier pad

Once we had the sides cut to the right dimensions and the floor leveled, we laid a fiberglass barrier pad on the floor.  The pad keeps vegetation from growing through the gravel, but lets rain drain through it.  It also forms a base to lay the blocks to keep them from sinking into the soil.

Front wall placement

Front wall placement

The Stromgren boys, Brandon and Caleb helped me start laying the concrete blocks to the walkway behind the Lodge.  Here they are putting gravel into the back block before we added concrete to set them in place.

Cementing blocks in place

Cementing blocks in place

Next we added concrete mix in the holes and stirred up the mixture to let it set.  We left a space at the top so I could come back and put in a cement topping to finish off the surface of the blocks.

Craig laying blocks

Craig laying blocks

In the mean-time, Craig was bringing in gravel and setting the rose block base.  He used the gravel to level out the block around the circle.  He continued adding blocks until he had three layers on the right (north) side and two layers on the left.

Backfilling dirt

Backfilling dirt

The initial layer is done and most of the floor is covered with gravel.  John and Jeff began hauling in dirt to back fill the first level of blocks so we could then place the next level.  In the meantime, Dave, Ryan and I were preparing to lay the concrete blocks at the back of the fire pit which would connect to the road in the back.  These blocks would eventually be the sides for the firewood that we would use in the fire pit.

Firepit placement

Firepit placement

The fire pit blocks have been laid and the gravel floor completed.  More dirt fill would be required to finish filling behind the blocks, but Craig, Jan and I were discussing where to place the pit itself such that we would receive the most benefit from the heat around the fire circle.

Placing fire ring

Placing fire ring

Kevin ordered the fire ring from Cabelas. We wanted to have moose and bears, but Cabelas didn’t have those.  They did have elk so we have a very cool fire ring showing female and male elk with spruce trees surrounding our fire.  Jeff dug the fire pit and placed the ring filling it part way with sand.  He then readied the wood for the initial fire.

Finishing block wall

Finishing block wall

Meanwhile, Ryan and I were busy finishing off the tops of the concrete blocks by the road.  While we were doing this the remaining firemen, Dave, John and Jeff were busy behind us cutting up dead spruce trees and splitting it for our fire wood.

Firemen enjoying new fire

Firemen enjoying new fire

It was completed and to celebrate we took photos of those who helped build it enjoying the fire.  Here are Dave, Jeff, Ryan and John setting on the north blocks. Unfortunately, the Stromgrens (Craig, Caleb and Brandon) and the Posts (Paul, Jerod, Debbie, Jordan and Jacob) who had also done so much to help build it were not there to enjoy the inaugural fire.

Pyle family enjoying fire

Pyle family enjoying fire

Here is the Pyle clan, Jon, Jan, Ryan and Kevin. We sure did enjoy that initial fire (and the celebration Chardonnay) ; however, we found that for a long cool evening the rose blocks are cold and HARD!  Therefore, Jan and I have decided to purchase for ourselves two Jayhawk stadium seat bottoms.  You know the kind that are foam covered with a sturdy plastic cover with a picture of a KU Jayhawk on it.  So we think that those of you from the Big 12 that would like to have your butts warmed with your own stadium seat bottoms, there are plenty of rose blocks and a fire each evening when it isn’t raining!

Sunset around the campfire

Sunset around the campfire

We do enjoy it!  Our friends Dave and Shirley (she’s the one wrapped up like a mummy in a blanket) enjoyed a beautiful sunset one evening warmed by the fire.   They were here for nine days the first week of August and we spent almost evening by the fire then retired to the Lodge for resounding games of Mexican Train.  (Note that we had to resort to crummy plastic chairs because we haven’t had time to get our seat warmers)

A follow-up note.  While Ryan’s firemen friends were here, they also built two gravel walkways to our kitchen and deck (sorry no photos).  It has sure made things a lot easier for us and has kept a lot of dirt and grass out of the kitchen.  Thanks a lot guys!

Next is a narrative by our granddaughter, Marissa Stromgren about their trip to visit us at the Kasilof RV Park.  It will accompanied by photos that were taken by all of us during their visit.  It will take a few days for this one to get posted because there are a ton of photos to go through and modify for the blog.  You will be informed when it is posted (if you are getting the notifications from the publisher).

As another aside, our Princess Marissa is now in Czech Republic in the small town of Olomouc for the next 10 months to teach conversational English to students in a school for languages.  It’s her first trip abroad and she just graduated from KU last spring.  It will be quite an experience for her and fun for us home bodies to hear what all is going on in that part of the world.  Till the next post!