Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

March 22, 2014

The Neilton Disaster

So the Neilton property out in Washington.  I have made references to it here from time to time but I never really got into the nitty and/or gritty of that utter and complete disaster, and one of the stupidest financial decisions EVER made in the history of mankind.

Early in the spring of 2005, we decided to look for property near Lake Quinault.  We'd vacationed there twice and loved the solitude of the rainforests on the Olympic Peninsula.  To our surprise, a 7 acre parcel with a livable trailer was on the market for $69,000.  It was pretty cheap, considering the location and whatnot, so we made an appointment with the realtor and made the 3.5 hour, one way trip out there in the pouring rain to see it.  Here is a map with the red A on Neilton, to show how close it is to Lake Quinault at the top of the picture.


But to give you scale, the red X on the right was where we lived, and the one on the left is Neilton.  It was a long, long, LONG trip.  Follow that yellow line from where I lived, past Lakewood and to the left of Olympia and you'll see how it curves north at Aberdeen, in an L shape.  128 miles, one way.




But it was also a scenic trip, for the most part, especially after you got past the wretchedness that are Aberdeen and Hoquiam, twin cities that are decaying and poverty stricken since the mills closed.  We ended up figuring out a way to bypass those 2 places by taking some curvy (and in places gravel) roads that wound their way northwest, joining Highway 101 a few miles north of Hoquiam.

Times were booming in early 2005, and our house was appraised quite high.  We both had good jobs and could afford to refinance and withdraw $69,000 from the equity to buy the Grays Harbor County property outright.  So we agreed to meet the sales price and were underway when the seller ripped the rug out from under us and decided to keep it in the family.  I was uneasy with the whole thing to begin with, but as usual, I was trying to give Brian what he wanted in the hopes he'd finally settle on something without jumping from expensive hobby to expensive hobby.  I was relieved when the buyer pulled out of the deal.  

Then a week or so later, the realtor calls me and said the buyer's sons didn't want the place after all, so he would offer it to us again.  This was my out....I could have said, 'No thanks', but then I figured if Brian ever found out I said no without at least talking to him, he'd be really pissed, and how would I feel if he kept that kind of info from me so I told him and yes, he wanted it.  Unfortunately.  I did argue against it but, as always, I caved in, and reluctantly agreed to move forward with it.

We closed in late May or early June, 2005 and the place was ours outright.  We'd gotten a little bit more from the equity so that we could pay for some work to be done on the place.  There were four buildings, total.  The main one was a single wide trailer, around which a huge metal building had been constructed, giving it a one car garage inside.  I figured OK that's good...with all the rain that area gets, it's best not to have a flat roofed trailer.  We would furnish it and I could make it cozy, but first we had to clean it and that was a major undertaking in and of itself.  There was another single wide trailer on the property that was a total mess and had to be removed.  There were also 2 large wood shed-like structures, also in bad shape. One looked like it could have been a small cabin, maybe a hunting cabin.  McCalla Creek ran through the property, and the 7 acres backed up to the Quinault Indian Reservation property & Olympic National Forest.  It was pretty desolate and wild, with only a few people kinda clustered on that small road we were on, called Old Mill Lane.

This is Highway 101 headed up there.  Have I mentioned what a long drive it was from Bonney Lake? 


This is the main building.

There's my car.  We hired a local handyman to dismantle the old trailer and that's his truck.  He met us out there a few times and eventually we just let him park his camper on the property during the week he was taking down and hauling away debris. 

It was a pretty location.  We went up a few times that summer to work on the trailer and furnish it.  It made for a long day, especially when we were doing round trips.  Out the door at 6:30 AM on a Saturday and didn't get home often till 6 PM.


We started to run into a huge amount of problems almost right away.  For one thing, there were a couple of neighbours, so we couldn't let the grass in the yard go wild all summer.  It got so much rain that the grass grew extremely fast and before you knew it, it was knee deep.  It happened at my house every spring too, where I couldn't get out to cut the lawn and eventually would have to weed whack it first.  So that meant paying the handyman to keep it cut.  I had to buy furniture for the place too like two cheap twin beds & a loveseat that came from Old Cannery Furniture in Sumner and some other odds and ends.  I got most everything else at thrift shops.  

Then we started a huge comedy of errors.  The day we rented the UHaul truck to bring all the heavy furniture, the UHaul had no record of our reservation.  I rescheduled for the next weekend and the Bonney Lake store was locked up tight when we went there.  We called and called and someone at UHaul told us we had to go down to Buckley to get the truck.  After a several hour delay, we finally got rolling.  There was also the time that we forgot to bring the keys and Brian had to kick the door in, breaking the lock, which meant ANOTHER trip out there to put a new lock on the door.

Then there was the time we went out there for the sole purpose of waiting for DirecTV to install satelite service because there was no cable out that far.  We waited all damn day and they never showed.  We couldn't get any cell service so we drove down to Humptulips to use the pay phone, only to find out that they'd had to cancel, but couldn't get ahold of us to tell us.  Another wasted trip.  Brian ended up taking a half day off work, and driving out there to meet them.  I think he finally got home at 10:00 PM.

He went out there to stay one weekend when hunting season opened.  There was such a torrential downpour that weekend that no one was hunting, so he came home.

The next time we decide to go up there and stay was right after Thanksgiving.  We loaded Pepper and all our stuff in Brian's truck and set out from work (Brian used to work down the street from my office).  We weren't on I-5 more than 10 minutes when all lanes came to a complete stop.  It took us an hour to go ONE exit.  We heard on the radio that there was a bad accident near Olympia (which was, at that point, still 30 miles away) and traffic was backed up all that way.  We bailed in Lakewood as soon as we could and went home.  So much for that.

Meanwhile, I kept having recurring creepy dreams about the place.  It was always dark, and the buildings were always covered in cob webs and were kinda scary.  There was always something very sinister lurking in the shadows at the edges of those dreams.  I dreamt of floods and power outages and trying to get there but always running into overgrown highways or muddy dirty roads.

We decided to ring in the new year (2006) at Lake Quinault, so, once again we packed up all our crap and Pepper and left for Neilton after work.  It was December 30, and we were going to stay the weekend, coming home on the 2nd.  About halfway there, and again it's pouring rain, panic washed over me.  I shouted, "OH SHIT THE KEYS PLEASE TELL ME YOU GRABBED THE KEYS!"  Brian pulled over to the side of the road and we started searching every bag and back pack.  No. Fucking. Keys.  AGAIN. Brian said, 'We are NOT blowing off this trip this time', so he turned around and we drove 2 hours back to Bonney Lake, only to begin the damn trip from 20 miles farther away than when we'd started out from Tacoma.  We got there around 8 pm, 4 hours later than expected.  It was my first night in the trailer and I'd made my room as cozy as possible, but I didn't like how spongy the bathroom floor felt (we just hadn't had the money to fix it yet), and I began to feel very creeped out by the fact that this was Sasquatch country, and as bad as I wanted to see one, I felt very vulnerable.  Pepper did not like the place at all and spent the night shivering miserably next to my tiny twin bed.  

So December 31st was fine....I went around shooting some pictures and we had a nice dinner at Lake Quinault Lodge.  It was really storming too.  We went to bed and Pepper was a wreck.  As I slept, I would occasionally be woken up by this strange booming sound.  I didn't know what it was.  When I finally threw in the towel and got up at 5:30, Brian was already awake too.  The power was out and the place was ice cold. He went out to see what made all that noise and the back part of the metal building had been torn loose in the storm and was flapping around.  He re-secured it and we decided to head home.  There was nothing else that could be done.  As we headed back, lines and poles were down everywhere. 

The next time we decided to spend the weekend was for President's Day in February 2006.  We now had Sagan, and I'd taken that Friday before off so that I could pack up everything we needed.  Brian couldn't take the day off and was gonna drive in, load us up and we'd head out.  However, we had a huge wind storm the night before and now our power was out in Bonney Lake!!!!!  It took him over 2 hours to get to work b/c all the traffic lights were out and due to detours from downed lines and trees.  I sat in the house all day waiting for the power to come back on and it never did.  Brian didn't get home till close to 6 and it was obvious we weren't going anywhere, so we scrapped the trip.  Again.  We got our power back the next day, midday, and yeah we could have headed out but we were just so frustrated with this constant issue.  It was like fate was thwarting us at every turn.

That spring we were burned out.  Sick of it.  What seemed like a good idea in theory, having vacation property near Lake Quinault, was in fact a complete nightmare and financial failure, when you factor in everything we went through just to even get out there half the time.  We grossed just $10,000 more than what we paid, and after the realtors and everyone else took their cut, we walked away with maybe $4,000 over the initial sales price, but we'd borrowed more than that against the equity in the house, so we came out really far behind.  We did use a good portion of the net proceeds towards the balance on the loan, but not near as much as we'd taken out.  And that is why, when the economy tanked, my house sold inn 2011, owing more than it was worth.

We never returned to Lake Quinault again, although I did pass the area on my way out to Kalaloch in 2010, but I didn't stop.  Just too many bad memories.

I leave you with pictures of boulders on tree stumps, that were alongside Highway 101 on the way to Quinault.  We have no idea where they came from or how they were placed on the stumps.  


Very close to the road as you can see from this shot.  There was no sign of human intervention; no scrapes on the rocks from chains, no evidence of tire or heavy equipment tread tracks.

I have heard stories...theories....that Sasquatch will mark territory with giant rocks or even trees plucked from the ground and replanted, root side up.  Did a Sasquatch leave these?  It would have to be a mighty strong being if it did!

This one was just beyond eerie. I don't know how they got it to balance.

And these are pics of the one and only time I actually stayed overnight, in December 2005.

The Olympic Peninsula is beautiful....I highly recommend it for vacation.


Just don't buy any land out there!!!!


20 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing that story. It's a great read. I can't imagine how hard it was to live somewhere with no power during a storm. Those rock photos are amazing. I'd stay away, though. HeHe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really was a great location, but unrealistic when we lived so far away. There was no work. I really could kick myself for letting Brian get away with so much crap that cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars.

      Delete
  2. Sometimes we just want our dream, no matter how impractical. Boats, and cabins can be a drain on income, as many friends of ours found out. I would hate a drive like that. Good things it's behind you now. . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PS - re the stones, maybe it is the Sasquatch, I always liked that movie Harry and the Hendersons (I think that was the name)

      Or, there are some artistic bears living in that land. . .

      Delete
    2. It did seem like a good idea in theory, but I was never fully convinced we should do this. As I said I was trying to be a supportive partner. As a result, I'm financially gutted at age 50 with nothing to my name except a 10 year old car with 112,000 miles on it. Pretty pathetic no?

      Delete
  3. Wow. Talk about Murphy (Law) sitting on your shoulders. What could go wrong, did. To bad, too, because of how beautiful it is.

    I'm a little concerned about those rocks and Sasquatch. Just saying. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never did find out what put them there....when I went to Kalaloch in 2010 the rocks were gone. I couldn't budge them at all....they really were huge.

      Delete
  4. It looks lovely - but I wouldn't want to live there. I keep hearing 'Dualing Banjos' in my head..... ;0)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL Diane!! It actually wasn't like that at all out there, but I can see what you mean.

      Delete
  5. Why is it only the greedy bad guys who make money out of deals like this? Poor JoJo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And here's the kicker Val: We used the same realtor to sell it as the guy we bought it from, so she made a commission on 2 sales of the same property, and almost exactly one year apart.

      Delete
  6. Wow, JoJo...
    That really was a nightmare!!! Kathy and I have never bought vacation property, talked about it...decided 2 hrs. was our limit! Close enough to be easy to get to, far enough away for no "drop in" guests! Lol
    I'm so sorry it didn't work out for you guys, the pics. are beautiful...and I'm sure Sasquatch wanted to see you too!!! Lol. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I think of how much money Brian cost us over the years....and my letting him do it.....I could really kill myself. I didn't feel scared of Sasquatch when staying at Lake Quinault Lodge and also the Rainforest Resort, but I sure was uneasy at the trailer.

      Delete
  7. I think I like the idea of having property out in the country more than I would actually like doing it. I'm too used to having everything within five minutes of my house. And, cobwebs…um, no thanks!!! That means spiders!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The cobwebby'ness was just in my nightmares/dreams. It wasn't that bad in the trailer itself. But yeah, it just wasn't practical to let it sit there for weeks at a time, and it was too far to go for a weekend. Not that we could ever actually get there!!!!

      Delete
  8. Yeah, I have often toyed with the idea of a cottage; but all the work, driving, and worry that comes with it isn't relaxing in my mind! My sister had a whole island with a cabin and sold it after a few years. Not worth it...

    Your photos are lovely though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree it was a beautiful area but it's not worth it unless you can go to the place regularly, or can rent it out. My dad owned a beach cottage that was about 3 miles from our house. THAT was the way to go! Even though we never spent a night there!

      Delete
  9. Gosh what an expensive nightmare that turned out to be. Glad it is behind you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes....but I can't help but cry over all that lost money. :(

      Delete
  10. Sounds like we have traveled in opposite directions! I was born and grew up in Massachusetts and now live in Olympia, WA! Gail at Making Life An Art

    ReplyDelete