Today I rented a jackhammer again, and removed part of the walk in front of the house. Katarina and I had decided to remove it after I'd discovered and starting fixing the problems with the foundation and rot in the sill plate and rim joists. We're going to raise the remaining area up to match the level of the bottom step down (on the left in the picture) from the front walk, as well as slope it away from the door, but Katarina wants a more natural look around her office door.
I'd forgotten how much stuff makes up the walk. Going back 3 years (!), I find that I had known this fact, but I rediscovered today that the walk is thick: 1.5 inches of pavers, 2 inches of mortar, and 5.5 inches of concrete. The stone and cement came out pretty quickly, but the concrete took me all afternoon and into the evening. Given the space to work, I had to remove a lot of the debris to make room so I could chip away the next patch, and that slowed me down considerably.
While working away, I had the chisel of the jackhammer stick in the concrete a number of times, which is pretty normal with dirt beneath. But then it dropped quickly and got stuck, and I knew something was different. It turned out there was a fairly large space underneath part of walk. The opening looks like the home of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, or maybe a false tomb (to fool grave robbers) of the pharoah Ratsrkhamun.
Some years back during an El Niño year, we had water flowing down the hillside and some flooding in the basement. Since then we'd added a French drain around part of the house, and with the addition and its drainage, pretty much eliminated the flooding. But that particularly wet year, and some of the normal winters that followed had clearly eroded a bunch of soil. I plan to add some more drainage up hill from the front walk, so hopefully this won't be a problem any more.