Letter Re: The Disappearing Road Quandary

Mr. Rawles:
I own a pretty densely-wooded 40 [acre property] in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) [of Michigan]. The land on 2.5 sides of ours belongs to a timber company, and the land across the road belongs to the state. We live in a typical “stick built” house. It was built in the 1980s, with lots of big windows and two double-glazed sliding [glass] doors. We are four miles out of a town (about 2,000 population) but our house is only 60 feet from a somewhat heavily traveled county road. So our house is what you would probably call a tactical disaster!!!

My wife recently inherited $212,000. We also have about $60,000 saved in silver and gold. We want to use the cash and liquidate a small part of the gold to very quietly (using some contractors from 90 miles away) build a 1,420 square foot aboveground hardened house/shelter at the back end of our property. I’m presently having a civil engineer link up with my architect for the design. My wife calls our little project “The Hatch”, in honor of [the bunker in the television series] Lost. It will be our “fall back”, in case everything goes to heck. It’ll be set up like a regular house with kitchen, bedrooms, and bathroom–all the comforts of home, except windows!

Because we’ve got a high water table here, we plan [to build] it above grade, and then haul in soil to make an artificial hill. The entrance will be hidden by a fiberglass “rock”, like you talked about in one of your old posts [about concealing cave entrances]. (Thanks, for that.) Inside of that [camouflaged door], the main door will be an inward-opening vault door we’ll be getting through Safecastle. The nuclear [fallout protective] ventilator (A.C., with a pedal frame backup) will be out of Ready Made Resources. And we plan to get a Pelton wheel DC generator to power The Hatch. We have a blessing: There is a small river going through the back corner of our land just 90 yards behind [the construction site]. (Yeah, yeah I know, with the [low voltage DC cable] line loss we’ll have to invert to 120 Volts, AC.)

So here is my question: How can I construct a temporary road to the work site, without laying down rock and gravel? It is almost dead level between our house and there. I’ll cut as few trees [to clear the roadway] as possible in a bunch of S-shaped turns so that it won’t look obvious. Here’s what I’m picturing: I want to make the road disappear, after the construction is a done deal. We just want a little footpath that winds through the trees. If I scrape the road gravel back off, it will leave traces of the road, even if I plant trees. And we can’t skip on [using gravel], because the construction will likely start late in June and continue until about October. It would be axle-deep muck if we’ve got all those trucks going back there [with no gravel on the roadway]. So here I am, racking my brain… How do I make a temporary road that I can remove, and not leave a trace? Help! – B.D. in the U.P.

JWR Replies: I believe that the best answer is buying or renting a quantity of military surplus AM-2 airfield matting. These aluminum mats were designed to be laid down on leveled ground and linked together to form military runways and taxiways. Earlier generations were made of steel and are often called Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) or Marsden Matting. (The latter is after the name of the town where it was first produced.) There is also now some Soviet-era Russian military surplus runway matting now available in the U.S.

After you are done with your construction project, you can very likely re-sell the matting, probably at just a slight loss. (Since it is always worth at least its scrap metal value.) AM-2, or its earlier generation steel equivalents can often be found at little more than scrap metal prices through DLA/DRMS sales yards and their auctions.

Good luck with your project.