So, we took a vacation and went up to Calaveras to visit our lot. We took along our tools, and we took along my sisters, who - lucky for us - are gardening nuts and did not have to be convinced to help us Apply Tools to Landscape.
We did an informal survey after whacking a path from the northwest corner (it's difficult to measure accurately because there are five "sides" to the lot, and only two of them have unobstructed paths from center to edge) and are pretty confident that the "building pad," as we have taken to calling it, which is at the same level as the wellhead, is indeed within the allowable distance from the creek. Even though it is only a seasonal creek - though as we learned, it will transport quite a lot of water after a day of rain! - a structure is required to be a certain distance back.
We can now get around approximately 2/3 of the lot's perimeter. There is so much work yet to be done. And we now have a project that has a certain immediacy. A large double-trunked oak tree came down - or rather, half of it did - and may have been struck by lightning. The other trunk is still upright, but it inclines, and its direction of inclination would land it directly on our neighbor's fence if it also came down. Below, the view from the building pad; the driveway ascends on a diagonal.
Now, our neighbor on that side does not live adjacent to our lot; he/she lives way up the hill on the other side of the creek. But still, we do not want our tree landing on the fence. And there are other trees that should come out before we do any serious building prep.
So on the next trip up, we have to select and mark all the trees we want removed. And chipped. A few trees' worth of wood chips will go a long way to making the driveway more manageable.
Adios, amigo; you were a grand old tree.