Cabin Build Update #1

We went out to the property on Saturday. Ostensibly, to stake out the cabin and to deliver two water barrels and some bags of gravel for our impending ground breaking of the cabin. (Picture of the water barrels shown below, on the trailer.) The actual breaking ground had to be postponed due to some hurdles we are trying to overcome with digging equipment. We were going to do some test digging on this trip, so that we could get a better idea of what we need to use for digging the holes for the piers.

Anyway, we headed out around 8am. It’s about a 4 hr drive from where we live in Gilbert, AZ. It was a beautiful sunshiny day. What could go wrong? Right?

We got to the turn off from the highway, where we turn onto the dirt road that goes back to our property. You should know that the ever present enemy in these parts is mud. It’s not regular mud. Imagine mud mixed in with a healthy portion of glue. That’s what the mud is like in this part of AZ. So you have to time your trips so that there is a decent amount of time that separates your trip from the last moisture event. It had been 3 days since the last moisture event and in these parts (because it’s so dry here), that is typically PLENTY of time.

Or so we thought. Snow is a different animal than rain.

The snow from three days earlier was getting a bit deeper as we approached the property. So, even though the road was passable (muddy but not impassable), in the back of my mind I was thinking we were toast. The residual snow on the ground was MUCH heavier the further we got out of nearest town (St. Johns.) The ground was more than 50% covered by snow still (not a dusting, but inches) and it was only getting worse as we approached the property.

Midway into the ranch (where our lot is one of dozens of other lots), there is a part of the road that has washed out to the point where there was a large channel (we call them “washes” here in AZ) that goes across the road. I had forgotten it was there and it was really muddy in that location so I took a run at it so as to get through it without getting bogged down in the mud.


We hit that thing so hard I thought for sure our axle would snap. I looked back in my mirror at the trailer and I see our two blue 30 gallon barrels full of water, bounce up off the trailer about 3 feet and then come crashing back down. Luckily they stayed on the trailer. But the damage was done. Turns out it bent the axle of the BRAND NEW utility trailer and now the driver side wheel is canted outward on the bottom. It still rolls okay, but I’ll have to have it checked out.

As we continued to drive, my fears were definitely warranted. We got deeper into the ranch and realized we probably made a very large mistake and wasted an entire day for nothing. By the time we got to our lot, the trailer tires were pretty much caked with mud. My SUV tires were okay, but mud was EVERYWHERE else. Even though we made it to the entrance of our property, there was NO WAY we were going to be able to drive onto it from the dirt access road. We don’t have a road cleared and compacted yet. So we’d have gotten stuck up to our axles almost immediately.

What to do?

This trip was to drop off two 30 gallon barrels of water and 36 bags of crush rock (for the bottom of the cabin footings). So, the trailer was HEAVY. And we absolutely had to drop this off because I needed more room for the next trip to bring cement bags…etc.


So here we are on the road in front of the lot. Can’t go onto the property. Can’t very well just leave stuff here on the side of the road. So we decide to go back to the real estate office in the town (the company that sells the lots on the ranch where we bought our property.) We’d drop off our bags and barrels behind the office and then retrieve them again when we come back with the other stuff.

But how to turn around. Hmmm…

We didn’t actually get to our lot line. We got to the driveway of our neighbor right before our lot. So there is a flat area in front of his driveway that we could use a little bit of before we hit the chain that blocked anyone from driving up his access road. So I backed up into it, right up to the chain. But we have a 12′ trailer and an SUV. So, of course, I’m going to have to drive into the opposite ditch to get it all turned around. And OF COURSE, the mud is so soft and deep that the tires can’t grip enough to turn the vehicle. The weight of the vehicle just drove us deeper into the ditch and berm on the other side.

So I had to just go into the ditch and berm (actually straddling it, with the left tire more on the road and the right tire on the berm, with the ditch in the middle. I just kept moving (sliding every which way, with everyone holding their breathe) and pulled the trailer about 50 feet until there was an area where the ditch kind of became more even with the road. At which point, I could pull it all over to the left, onto the road, through sheer momentum.

We drove back to St. Johns, dropped off our stuff behind the real estate office and headed home with the proverbial tail behind our legs.

And THAT was our lovely day at the ranch.

9 thoughts on “Cabin Build Update #1

    • The kind of truck really doesn’t matter. I’ve heard from other owners at the ranch who have gotten hard core 4x4s stuck. Once the mud is like that, it doesn’t really matter what you have, it’ll get stuck in the mud. Maybe a track tank could get through it all, but that’s about it. It’s because of the kind of mud it is. It’s not just wet dirt. Wish it were. 🙂

  1. “What could possibly go wrong?” was a question we learned the answer to more than a few times throughout the build process. I remember a time when we managed to get a rented box truck stuck in a pretty deep ditch on our land. We called the rental company and they said, “Guess you’ll have to call a tow truck,” So we did.

    I have personally learned that most adventures need to have a moment when you say to yourself “what the heck was I thinking!” Those are the best adventures.

  2. I hope all is well. I have not seen a post in quite a while. My wife and I live in Tucson and i keep checking for new updates. Hope the spirits are up as the weather is finally cooling off.


    • Hi Jeff… yes, all is well. The cabin build has just taken a backseat to the rest of life. Now that we’re into the building season again, I’ll be putting more energy towards it. We’ll see how far I get. ha! Thanks for staying tuned to our progress, though.

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