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Yeah, this is a sweet slope compared to mine! My space is also a lot more limited. I'm crammed into a pretty narrow strip. What are the dimensions of your yard? The bottom of your trackplan doesn't show, so it's hard to tell exactly how long a run you could get.

If it was me, I'd probably run the river downslope about halfway, then over to the middle of the block wall and put your waterfall in there. Not as spectacular a drop but you'd get a lot more scenic use out of the river and wouldn't risk your concrete retaining wall.
 

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Those steps are looking great, and probably much more skillfully laid than mine! BTW, that concrete wall is much more substantial than it looked from the other angle, in your first photo. No worries there.

Sorry to hear about the job loss. Sad to say, there's a lot of that going around these days. Good luck and best wishes!
 

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Nice progress! Looking real good so far. It's hard to say for sure without actually being there and seeing what it's like when it rains, but my guess is you could be just fine without putting that tube under the top step. It would take a heck of a lot of runoff to wash away your steps, much more than it appears possible from your photo. Most likely the runoff would just soak in -- and/or seep through the steps since the blocks are quite porous.

Just my two cents...
 

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Nice work, it's really coming along!

Try to use a variety of rocks sizes and shapes as you build your mountains, from top to bottom. If you use all the large rocks at the base of the mountains, and put only smaller ones on top, it won't look as natural. Study full-size mountains. In many cases the largest sections of solid rock on a real mountain, are at the top. Smaller rocks tend to end up lower, because they have broken off the main mass. Of course, if you put only small ones at the bottom and only large ones at the top, that won't look natural either.
 

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Standard foil sprayed with Pam will work. Just make sure you coat the whole thing. For applying texture to the steps, you don't don't need more than a single layer of foil. I recommend doing it in sections. Anything bigger than about 12" x 16" gets too hard to control when applying it to the surface.

I used high-strength mortar mix without any additional Portland cement. The only additive was the coloring agents. Only a tiny amount of color is needed to properly tint the mortar to a good stone-like color. Don't mix it too dry. You don't want it runny, like gravy, either. More of a pudding consistency. Smear it onto the Pam'd foil, about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Wet the steps a little before applying the texture to insure good adhesion. Lift the foil by two corners, and slap it up against the step. Then press the foil down, smooshing the mortar into the surface a bit.

Remove the foil after the mortar has reached the "green" stage of the cure -- solid, but not fully hardened. You can wait until it's completely hard but it might be a little more difficult to pull the foil out of the creases. I sometimes used a small wire brush to blend the seams between foil-textured sections.

On my steps, I used the foil method on the front of the steps, and just spread a thin layer of tinted mortar over the top of the steps with my hand. This produces a surface which was rough enough to provide good traction even when wet. However, you could use the foil method on the tops too, it's up to you.

BTW, Bob Treat's article on using concrete to simulate stone on his layout is what gave me the idea for texturing my steps and tunnel interiors. I've seen his layout in person and the simulated stone mountains look great. I would have used his method on my layout if I couldn't get real stone. One thing I might have done differently than him, is add a small amount of color to the concrete mix. I think this would prevent chipped or worn areas from standing out.
 
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