The Enchanted Valley Chalet is shown precariously over the bank of the changing East Fork Quinault River last March.  —National Park Service photo

The Enchanted Valley Chalet is shown precariously over the bank of the changing East Fork Quinault River last March. —National Park Service photo

How do you save a wilderness chalet? Start with mules to pack in gear

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK –– A team of pack mules set out Saturday to begin efforts to save the Enchanted Valley Chalet from falling in a Quinault River fork.

Work is scheduled to begin Monday to move the historic chalet back from the East Fork Quinault River, which has eroded away the bank beneath the building by about 8 feet.

Larry Bayslinger of Sol Duc Valley Packers in Forks is leading the mule team into the river valley to bring supplies for the team of six workers who will make the move.

Carlsborg’s Monroe House Moving is working to move the structure 50 to 100 feet away from the river under a $124,000 contract with the National Park Service.

“It is different, just in getting the supplies in. But once we’re in there, it won’t be too different from a typical house move,” said Jeff Monroe, owner of the moving company.

The actual move of the historic two-story structure is expected to begin no earlier than next Saturday and more likely will begin next Sunday, said Rainey McKenna, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.

Because the chalet is in a part of the park that is off limits to motorized vehicles, supplies must be packed in for the workers, who will hike 13 miles up the river valley to the remote chalet Monday.

The mules and the workers will bring in with them some of the smaller pieces of hardware needed for the move, and larger pieces will be brought in by helicopter Thursday and Friday, Monroe said.

“Provided the weather cooperates, this should all go smoothly,” he said.

In a telephone interview Friday, Monroe said his crew will band the building to keep it together as they lift it off its current foundation with hydraulic jacks.

Monroe was speaking from Tacoma Steel, where he was picking up specially fabricated steel slide beams, which a helicopter will fly into the job site.

Once the chalet is jacked up, the steel beams will be placed underneath the structure and soaped, Monroe said.

Hydraulic cylinders will then push the building along the beams, where it will stay until the Park Service completes an environmental analysis to find the best site to build a new foundation for the chalet.

Monroe said his company used the same technique as part of efforts to preserve the Yeomalt Cabin, a historic Boy Scout camp site on Bainbridge Island, in 2008.

The Enchanted Valley Chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

Hikers told the Park Service that the river was eroding the bank beneath the chalet in January.

Photos by park visitors showed the main channel of the East Fork Quinault River had migrated to within 18 inches of the 1930s-era chalet.

With storms and high flows, the river continued to shift by another 15 feet.

Park officials’ first decision was to let nature take its course.

That view changed with the realization that if the structure fell into the river, it would threaten such natural and wilderness resources as bull trout living in the water.

The move also will give park officials time to plan for the long-term future of the structure, said Barb Maynes, parks spokeswoman.

An environmental assessment, which was put on a fast-track, found in July no significant impact attached to the move.

For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/PDN-chaletdocuments.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

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