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Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
Dan's Wilderness 
Journal
December 31-
    I usually try and do a journal on the last day of the month, so I guess that since today is not only the last day of the month, but also the last day of the year, I just had to do one!  And what a year it was, huh?  I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally cannot remember a year with more up's and down's in it.  The great start to the year weather wise, then the leg break, the recovery from that, then Burt gets hurt, then Baileys needs surgery, then they are both healed, then my relationship with Julie ends, then the fall is beautiful, then the early winter stinks, then the winter becomes great.  I guess you can say I am ending it as it started...On a high note.  Looking back on this years journey, I am happy and wiser for all the ups and downs.  Not sure what can be said positive or what I learned about the hounds and my injuries, but we are over them and that is the past.  Overall, 2001 was a good year for me and the hounds.  Right now they are asleep, snoring away, in the bedroom, without a care in the world.
    I am heading out to spend the evening with some friends who are having a get together at one of the local motels pool.  I am not sure if I will make it till midnight, as I had a very full day the past three days and had to start work at 4:30 this morning.  Not making it until midnight is nothing new for me.  My early schedule usually has me and the hounds celebrating with Newfoundland every new years eve.  Seems fitting as that is where the hounds heritage is rooted.
    For those of you who did not catch the news on my Al Cam notes, I lost my digital camera yesterday.  I had plans to go for a ride on the sled, so I wanted to give the hounds some exercise before I left.  So we suited up and went for a sunrise ski.  That is the first time I have ever taken a sunrise ski and I can say with certainty that it will not be the last!  Talk about beautiful, peaceful, spiritual, man was it great.  The woods just had a different sense to them.  Really mystic.  About a 1/4 mile into the ski, I took this shot of the first hints of sun lighting up the eastern sky.  Then, as we got to the top of the hill, the sun was a little higher and was painting the horizon in a crimson glow.  The colors were reflecting in the fresh snow and the trees stood out in dark contrast to the palette of colors around them.  I excitedly reached into my parka to get the camera and it was not there!!!  I could feel my heart sink and I reached into the other pockets of the parka to make sure I had not put it in one of them and it was not in any of them either.  I skied back to where I had taken the last picture and looked for the cam on the way back but could not find it.  I could not figure it out, I have taken spills on the skis and spills on the sled and never lost the cam, yet here all I do is take a picture and put the cam away and it disappears!
    Loosing the cam really was a bummer.  I was planning on upgrading to a better cam in the next few months, but did not want to do it now.  Plus, we had a great ride yesterday.  Tons of bottomless powder, lots of digouts and just a great time.  I was really bummed that I could not share it with you and I know this may sound strange, but that goofy camera has almost become a buddy of mine.  It has been there on most of my adventures, recording the events of our travels inside itself so that it could share them with all of you later.  It did so with an impeccable sense of duty, only asking that I keep fresh enough batteries in it so that it could work.  So today I made a plan that I would head back out to the trail and give one good last look for my buddy the cam (sort of a Tom Hanks and Wilson thing I guess).  As I headed up the trail, I remembered clearing a stick out of the way that was laying across the trail yesterday and thought that is the place where I would have the best luck in finding my cam.  I got to the spot, took my skis off, dropped to my hands and knees and started digging for the cam.  I had moved quite a bit of snow when I came along the limb I had cleared off the trail.  I picked it up to get it even further out the way and there was the cam, it's wrist strap clinging to one of the tines on the branch!  I brushed off the snow, turned it on, it gave a flicker of life, then died.  No worries, the batteries were just froze.  I got it home, let it warm up and it is just fine.
    So I guess that is another reason for the year ending on a high note.  I have my buddy the cam back and we will be able to share our adventures with all of you.  Don't worry, I have not lost my mind here.  Just glad that I did not loose the cam!  I am still a bit sore from Saturday's and Sunday's rides.  Actually, I am not sore at all from the riding part, just the digging out part!  In any rate, I am not sure if I will be taking a ride tomorrow, but I will be taking a ski for sure, so I am sure I will have some shots.  I doubt that it will be a sunrise ski, but I will do one soon.  Sunrise is after 8 am right now and the sooner I do my sunrise ski, the better, because the sunrise is getting earlier and earlier now and I do not really want to get up at the true crack of dawn to ski.  7 or 8 is just fine with me!
    I hope that you all have a very good new year.  I am ready for the ups and downs that this year is sure to provide and hope you all are too.
Good night and HAPPY NEW YEAR from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
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December 29-
    I am tired and a little sore, but it is a good tired and a good sore.  In under a week, we have picked up a month's worth of snow.  Since December 24th, we have picked up 51" of snow here at my house.  A little less in some areas and a little more in others.  In keeping with that theme, I think that I have tried to work a month's worth of snow play into a week!  Skiing, sledding, you name it.  It is truly a winter wonderland up here, but I guess I can give my day late and dollar short trail report...Lots of wet spots, lots!  I have actually not been on the trails for very long, not unusual for me, but I have seen lots of sleds and sledders coated in mud.  The problem is, we had a pretty wet November and first three weeks of December, but it was rain or snow that melted and not snow.  Plus the mild temps have kept swamps and other low areas liquid.  So all the little creeks up here were running pretty good when all the snow hit.  Since the snow hit so hard and piled up so fast, it has really insulated the sources for the running water and that has kept it going.  So there are still plenty of wet spots (the politically correct way to say mud holes) up here and quite frankly, I do not know when they will all freeze up.  Probably the best thing that could happen is for it to stop snowing and stay cold.  Looks like that will happen for the next 24 hours or so, but the LES guns look to fire back up later tomorrow night and then continue into early Tuesday.  Things will freeze up, they always do, but it is a mess out there is spots!
    The nice thing about being a local, is that I know where to go to avoid the mud holes.  Right now you sure can tell which sleds in the parking lots belong to a local, they are the ones without any mud on them!  Anyway, I went on a ride with Chris from the White House Motel, as well as some friends of ours.  My plan was to play in some fields first, then take some back country trails to Gay.  We had plenty of success and fun in finding fields to play in.  Tons of snow and tons of fun.  It was plenty deep out there.  The 51 inches since Sunday night has compacted, with about 2 - 2 1/2 feet out in the fields right now.  Enough to fly a sled and also enough to get good and stuck.
    Once we got into the woods, things got a little more interesting.  The big windstorm we had a few weeks ago brought down a lot of trees.  Even with the snow we have down, it is not enough to cover the trees with enough snow to get over them (believe me, some in our group tried!), so we would be heading down a trail, busting powder and then hit a road block and have to turn the sleds around.  It's a lot of work to get one of those turned around and we all were wishing we had reverse, so that we could do a little three point turn around!  Other than blowing a belt, my sled ran like a top.  I am really amazed at the snow that old girl can get through.  I lead the group and was making first tracks.  The snow was way over the bumper and basically coming over the windshield the whole trip.  Here is a shot I took just after we stopped on one of the trails.  Believe it or not, I was able to just give it gas and go right from that spot.  I did have a few getting stuck moments today, but nothing too dramatic.
    We eventually found our way through the woods and did make it to Gay.  It was nice to be able to get inside, have a few beverages and grab a bite to eat.  Then it was back out into the cold and snow for the return trip.  That went much smoother, as we knew where to go and not to go.  I was not so tired when we got back to town from the ride, so it must have been the combination of the ride and then the hike through the deep snow with the hounds afterward that has pooped me out so much.  But like I say, it is a good tired.  The kind when the couch and bed feel extra good, and man would a hot tub feel good right about now too boot.  Maybe I'll have to get one of those, or better yet, find a cute girl who has one!
    Well, I'm not sure what the fascination with my truck is, but just to let you all know, it does get used from time to time.  It is not my everyday vehicle, but I do start it up almost every day and pull it out so that I can clear the drive.  The other day I did use it to go to the bank and store and decided to take a picture of it all cleared off.  That was yesterday afternoon.  When it snows so much up here, the snow will pile up on it quickly and make it look like I have not used it in weeks, just like it looked this morning.  So hopefully that will end that controversy.  And by the way, I have seen a rabbit under it a few times in the morning.
    So I guess that gets you caught up on things going on up here.  The weather is wonderful and I have been having a ball in it.  Looks like another ride is in order tomorrow, I'll try and take more pictures that I did on today's ride.  Till then...
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 26-
    Whew, good to be back in the saddle.  I have been away for so long, that I am sure I have lots to say.  Problem is, I have just started and am already bushed.  A busy day.  The first day we got to play in the snow and play we did.  I'll get to that in a minute.  First, I hope that everyone's Christmas was great, mine was.  It was great to see my family and hang with them for a few days.  We even got a little bit of snow to make for a white Christmas.  It was fun watching the snow pile up on the AL Cam.  Monday morning, when I looked at it and saw 14", I almost freaked.  I was calling for up to 12", but to tell you the honest truth, the way this winter had been going, I would have been elated to see 6-8" on the snow station.  14 was epic.
    By the time I left to head back, the snow station was reporting 20" and I knew it was time to return.  The whole way back, I was fighting the urge to get back to the land of deep snow with the common sense to not get a speeding ticket.  At times it was a major battle.  Thankfully, the weather and roads were perfect for most of the trip.  However, just north of Merrill WI, it started to snow.  Not heavy at all, just some flurries.  However, that was enough to cause me concern.  You see, for the past 12 years that I have been making that drive north, I have never encountered lake effect snow much further south than Eagle River and usually there all I see are some flurries.  Well, I got to Rhinelander and it was actually snowing hard enough to dust the roadway.  Still not a problem with driving there, but an ominous sign of what lie ahead up the road.  By the time I reached Eagle River, the snow was more than dusting the road.  A coating of an inch or so was down and the snows were a little heavier in nature, actually enough to cause some reduction in driving conditions.  Heading north and crossing the border into MI, the snows only became heavier and then actually leveled off some.  A good sign I thought, the roads will be good all the way home.  I passed through Watersmeet and Bruce Crossing without much problems, but about halfway through Bruce Crossing and Mass City, the intensity made a dramatic increase.  About 5 miles south of Mass City, I was in a complete and total whiteout.  I am not a wimp when it comes to winter driving (just ask the person I passed last night in the snow storm), but it was coming down so hard when I hit Mass City, I was worried if I would make it to Lake Linden.  I could only drive about 25 MPH, I could only see just past my hood and a coating of about 4-5 inches on the roadway and banks caused all the details between the roadway and the banks to be lost.  I was basically guessing where the road was.  I thought to myself that there was no way that I could drive the last 55 miles in conditions like that.  Number one, it was coming down at about the rate of 4-6"/hr and with 4" on the road already, I would not be able to get through the snow with my car in about an hour.  So I placed a call to a friend up here to see how things were and got no answer.  A second friend was home and he revealed to me that it was snowing pretty good in the Keweenaw, but nothing like I was experiencing.  Soon after that call a car came from the other direction (first one in about 15 minutes) and I decided that the band of torrential snow I was in would end shortly.  I guessed right and was soon in just regular old lake effect snow and did make it home.
    Upon arrival at my house, I was treated to a cleared driveway.  Well mostly clear anyway.  My friend and KSE guide Al had come over and plowed out my drive yesterday morning.  It had snowed all day, so there was a fresh 8" on the driveway, but I could make it up and into the garage.  I then spent the rest of the evening, eating dinner, unpacking and clearing my driveway and walk ways.  This morning I had to clear my drive again and got the truck cleared off as well.  We have already picked up enough snow that I know I will have to move snow again tomorrow.  Ahhh, it's nice to be back! and have winter back!  I was wondering just when it would come.  I did not get to take our Christmas picture in the snow and I also wanted to get a picture of the house with the holiday lights up when the house was all coated is snow.  Yesterday evening I was able to get a shot of the Dee house on Christmas night.
    Today the hounds and I got to take our first ski of the season.  I though that we would go to the trail that the groomer uses to get from his home to the trails, my thinking was that they must be out grooming and he would have the trail all packed down for us.  Oops, I guessed wrong.  He was out grooming, but did not start out from his house and had not yet been through.  So we headed off down the trail and into the knee deep snow.  Knee deep to me that is!  To the hounds it was up to their ears!  To my surprise, they even took the lead.  Usually when the snow is that deep, they tag along behind me and let me break trail.  Today they seemed as excited as me to be out in the snow and took the lead.  Of course what would a hike through the snow be without some exploration of a creek.
    We did not go too far today.  Despite all the enthusiasm displayed by the hounds, it was a real workout for them and I did not want to overdo it on the first day.  So after about a half mile, we turned around and headed back.  This time they followed me and let me pack things down a little more.  Here is a shot of the trail we were heading down.
    I also did a little bit of snowmobiling today.  Not a lot, but it was fun.  I headed over to a meadow that I knew would be full of untracked snow and played in it for about 30 minutes.  After making about 3, 1/4 mile lines of powder 8's, I headed off to check out the trails.  The groomer had just been down.  There were still a few wet spots and things were not in great shape.  But is is the first day of grooming, so the cold temps and new snow in the next few days will help out a lot.  I would suspect that things should be in pretty good shape, not perfect by any means, but considering last Saturday there was bare ground up here, pretty good.
    Needless to say I will be getting out in the coming days and will report more on the trails.  Our first KSE tour is tomorrow and I hope to meet up with them in the afternoon.  For now, this boy needs to head to sleep and dream of all the snow to come!
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 17-
    I believe this will be a rather short journal tonight.  I have begun to make a list of things I need to get done before I head south Friday and it is getting rather lengthy.  To top it off, I realized I only have one evening besides tonight to get it done.  Tomorrow is bowling night and then I leave Friday at noon.  So, I am going to crank this out, then answer the Ask John's and then get some of the chores done.  Sheesh, where did the time go?  Here I have been complaining how late it is getting without snow and I have not even been paying attention to how close to Christmas it was.  Thankfully I have all my shopping done, so I don't have to worry about that.
    Not much going on up here.  Still lots of green, but we might be hours away from that ending, do I dare say for the rest of the season?  Ooh, I better not.  Not with the way this winter is going!  But seriously, things are looking pretty good.  Not ideal, but really good.  What would make it ideal would be for the heaviest snows to start before Christmas, that way we could have a base down before all of you come to play in it.  As it stands now, the heaviest snow will be coming just about the time you all arrive, so we'll be fighting the traffic to build a base.  Too bad we can't just keep the trails crossed until a foot or so is down so that we can pank 'er down, but no way would I want to do that to you poor folks.  Drive all the way up here and then watch it snow, without riding?  Ya right!!!
    Took the hounds for a walk along the north shore today.  I did not bring the camera because I thought that there would not be too much to see.  I was half right and half wrong.  There were lots of blow downs.  With the lake providing very little friction, that is where the strongest winds were likely found with the wind storm a few weeks ago.  Some trees had trunks of about 2 feet in diameter and the trees were not rotten.  That takes some kind of power to snap a tree like that.  There was also quite a bit of new driftwood on the beach, some very big pieces, placed very high up the shore.  It sure would have been neat to see the waves at their peak during that event.  Another thing noteworthy about the picture at the beach today was the lake itself.  Calm, very calm for this time of the year.  It reminded me of the lake in the summer.  Almost like glass, with just a few little waves lapping at the shore.  I even saw someone out on a sea kayak.  A sea kayak - out on Lake Superior - in the middle of December? Crazy.
    Anyway, it was a fine afternoon walk.  Just my two buddies and I.  Strolling down a quiet road through the woods, then out onto the beach.  They even found it agreeable enough to go for a swim.  How they can do that is just amazing.  Really a feat of nature the way their coats protect them from the cold.  Wish I had one of those sometimes!
    So I guess this will be it until after the holidays.  I am heading down Friday afternoon to my parents place in southern WI.  The car is good to go, or at least should be.  Having some work done on it tomorrow.  I will be bringing my laptop and hope to be able to answer the ask John's and I also plan on updating the site's forecasts on Christmas Eve.  I realize that a lot of you will be dying to know what the outlook is and I can't let you down.
    About three weeks ago when we got that storm and about 12" of snow, I thought I would wait just a bit longer to take the family Christmas picture of the hounds and I in the snow.  That was a poor decision, as it all melted before I could take a shot.  So no picture this year.  I guess I could have done it in the green and brown, but it just did not seem right.  Even with no picture, I want to wish all of you a safe and Merry Christmas.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 16-
    Two years ago, it was my first winter living up here and the beginning of the season was pure torture.  The first accumulation did not come until two days before Thanksgiving, then we struggled to produce more than some light accumulations until the middle of December.  Well, so far this season season looks to be getting off to a worse start than that one.  Two years ago on this date we began our climb into winter with about 6" of snow and it never left until the spring.  Of course the spring came historically early as well, so I am praying that maybe our late start this year will lead to a late ending and all will even out.
    Winter still looks to rear it's head by the end of this week or more likely next week.  The one model that goes out beyond 10 days is still very aggressive with the cold, so there is hope.  Not a whole lot seen for the Midwest for the next 4-5 days.  A few light snow events may actually insure a white Christmas so that is also something to hope for.  We are now on day 45 out of the last 46 in being above average.  Man, when we finally do get some average or below average temps, it's going to feel brutal!
    For those of you hoping to be able to come up here between Christmas and New Years to ride, there is still hope.  It looks like things may be a little thin right around Christmas, but as we go through next week, the potential for fresh snow just about every day could lead to pretty decent conditions by the end of the week.  Keep in mind it is still a bit out there in the forecast, so don't count on it just yet, but there is plenty to be hopeful for.  I would much rather be seeing what I am seeing in the models now than no hope for cold and snow.
    In the last journal I talked about hoe regardless of the warm temps the bodies of water are still starting to freeze up.  On Friday, the hounds and I took a walk in the woods up by the old quarry.  It was frozen over.  Burt wanted to go out on it, but I called him back in, I did not want to get involved with an ice rescue!  The ground is also fairly frozen.  Today we were above freezing all day and had some rain, but it just sort of puddled up on the ground and after the rain we took a walk and the ground was a little spongy, but I could tell that it was still frozen down about inch below the surface.  So once we slip back below freezing, the top layer of the ground will quickly re-freeze and then the snows should pile up rather quickly.  I'm not sounding too overly optimistic am I ?!
    Yesterday the hounds and I took a walk in the woods and were almost run over by a buck!  We went up on the tracks and were minding our own business when I heard this rustling in the woods off to my left.  I looked over to see what was causing all the commotion and saw this buck running towards, very much towards us!  For a moment, I thought the thing had lost it's mind and we were going to become one of those weird stories about a human being gored by a buck.  It was about 30 yards from us and closing fast when I saw us and diverted a little so that it would cross the tracks about 20 feet behind us.  The dogs were pretty freaked out at first as well, but then took to pursuit.  That did not last long as the deer was soon out of sight.  Sure was a little exciting there for a moment!  I don't know why that animal did what it did.  Maybe something was chasing it, maybe it still was in rut and needed to get something out of it's system.  Whatever it was, it was on a mission and we barely phased it.
    A little later on in the walk we came across the tree I have seen in the past.  I tried to get a picture of it the last time I was out there, but the cameras battery died.  What makes this tree so unusual is that it grows vertically (like any other tree) for the first ten feet.  Then it takes a 90 degree turn and grows horizontally for about 4 feet, then resumes it's vertical growth again.  The jog in the growth direction is not due to a branch that became the main trunk, the jog occurs in the main trunk.  What is also interesting about this feature is that another smaller tree actually grows up through the jog and has basically been wrapped by the larger tree.  Another of mother nature's mysteries.  The only thing I can think of with this one is that the tree with the jog in it had another tree fall on it a while back and caused it to bend horizontally.  As the tree grew, it resumed it's vertical growth pattern again.  Then the tree that fell eventually rotted or fell and left this weird 90 degree jog in the other tree.  Never a dull moment up here in the Keweenaw, if you look hard enough!
    Well, I guess that about does it for this one.  This week is going to be a busy one for me.  I travel south Friday and need to get things in order before I do so.  I will get off a journal between now and then, but it may just be one.  We'll see.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 13-
    Looks like I caught everyone's attention with yesterday's forecast!  I guess when I use words like "epic" and record breaking, that is prone to happen.  I toned things down just a bit today.  Not because I felt any different about the forecast, but I did not want to whip everyone into a frenzy and then have the forecast bust.  No, I don't think the forecast will bust.  There is every indication that the pattern will indeed change beginning the second half of next week and could really get going with cold by Christmas week.  Finally.
    On one of our morning walks the past few days, I passed a house that had it's bush protectors out.  Actually, everyone has had these out for several weeks.  But is just struck me as odd, almost out of place the way this winter has been going so far.  It kind of reminds me more of how winters were down in Chicago.  You get a few inches of snow, then temps warm a few days later and it melts.  Then you get a few more inches, it stays for a few days, then melts.  A vicious cycle for a snow lover.  That is what is suppose to be so great about this place, after December 1st, the snow typically stays and is only added to.  So for the past 3 weeks, it has seemed more like a Chicago winter than a UP winter and the bush protectors seem out of place.  I have a feeling that they will be very much en' vogue in just a few weeks.
    Before I forget, I can make a little update on the whole Keweenaw Tourism Council issue.  I have been in contact with some of the right people and it looks like some issues will be addressed soon.  I really do not want to spill the beans about what is going to change, because I am not sure exactly which issues will be addressed first.  However, I can say that for the first time since deciding to do something about this, I am encouraged by the direction things seem to be taking.  As soon as I feel it is right to say what issues will be addressed, I will tell you all, but for now, just know that it looks like things are beginning to move in the right direction and this place will be an even better place to ride.
    I decided to take a look at the weather data for the Airport and noticed that since Halloween, there has only been one day, November 10th, when the average temperature for the day (high for the day + low for the day divided by 2) was below average.  And that day was only 2 degrees below average.  That is no small feat, 42 out of the past 43 days!  So it seems a little surprising to me that ice is starting to form on the smaller lakes.  Here is a shot of Little Torch Lake with a sheet of ice on it.  I don't know if it is really called Little Torch Lake, but that is what I call it.  It is the section of Torch Lake to the north of the old stamp sand area.  The main section of the Torch Lake is still wide open as is Portage Lake (the canal) and they will likely be that way for a while to come, even with the colder temps headed their in way next week.
    Here in town the snow is all but gone.  Only the piles created by the shovels and plows still exist.  However, the hounds and I took to the woods today and I was surprised to find some snow still hanging on out there.  Not enough to play in obviously, but still neat to see and walk in, especially since today we remained below freezing and the snow was all crunchy, the ground frozen solid and the puddles frozen.  Actually, that last picture was not a very good representation of how much snow was still left in most areas, it was a bit of an over representation.  Here is a something more along the lines of what we were walking through.
    A few flakes were flying which also added to the enjoyment of the walk today.  With things being so agreeable weatherwise, and nothing else we had to do this afternoon, we stayed out there for over an hour.  Saw some deer and birds and a few other critters.  Very nice, very peaceful and I was soaking up the moment as much as possible.
    We were walking on the trail that the groomer uses to get from his house to the trails.  It is about 2 miles long and is also a favorite cross country ski trail of mine.  Since the groomer uses it, the snow is always packed down and in perfect shape for skiing.  However, he is going to need to do a bit of brushing his trail to get the groomer through.  I did not count, but I would have to say that there were at least a dozen of these buggers down (red pine) and one of these jobbers (white birch).  I did not bring my little hand saw, otherwise I would have cleaned them up for him.  Yea, RIGHT!  I'll try and get the word to him somehow, maybe a "local" reading this will even pass along the word.
    It's funny, the pattern has not changed yet and maybe I am just wishful thinking, but with the cooler temps today, it seemed like winter was really arriving.  There was that chill in the air, the dull gray overcast and even a few flurries.  Now we just need to get the four feet of snow on the ground part and it will look like winter!
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 11-
    Knowing I was going to do a journal tonight, I was thinking early on in the day that this was probably going to be one filled with belly aching about this winter so far.  Seems to be a fairly major subject around the eastern 1/2 of US so far and is a real sore subject with me.  However, as the day went on, I started to make a mental list of all the things I have to be thankful for at this moment and before I knew it, it had grown into a rather large list.  First off I have my health.  A lot can be said for that, especially with the events of last winter.  I can walk, run, hike, climb, jump, do anything that I want to.  The simple things in life, like putting on my shoes and socks or going to the bathroom are just that, simple things.  Plus the hounds have their health.  Both of them are getting around pretty good.  Baileys may still need to have a hip done as she is a little slower to get around that Burt, but I'll hold off on that until this spring.  My family and friends are also in good health.  So there is lots of good health things going on around me.  I am living in my dream location, in a great house and get to work out of it, doing a job that I love.  I get to go out every afternoon and explore the great outdoors with my two best friends.  And finally, business is good.  I know of some that are going through some hard times right now and I can thankfully say that my business is as strong as it has ever been in the 11 years I have been doing it.
    So after taking stock in all the things that are good in my life, and also being reminded that thousands of lives were forever altered just 3 months ago today, the lack of snow seemed really insignificant in the whole scope of things.  Plus, I know it will come.  I took a look at some past slow start years and many of them turned out just fine.  In 1998 the first 16 days of the month were spent in the upper 30's to upper 40's, and on the 14th it was 51.  On the 17th no snow was on the ground for the morning report, but by the morning of Christmas, 30" was being reported on the ground and the month saw about 80" total.  The year before, got off to a good start and finished like a snail.  So I am not worried at all.  Plus, the forecast looks pretty good.  It is no longer a case of "if we will get snow", but "how much".
    I do have some pictures taken over the past couple of days.  Saturday night/Sunday morning was our coldest of the season so far, with temps dropping into the teens.  The overnight temps have been so warm that the poor folks at the ski hills up here have not been able to even make snow.  They got busy with it Saturday night though, and were still going strong when I headed down to do some shopping in Houghton Sunday morning.  It is amazing how much snow one of those things can put down.  It must have been about 3-4 feet deep in areas where they blew all night.  A couple more cold nights and they should be ready to open that run at least.  Then Sunday afternoon the hounds and I took to the woods to walk the trails.  I brought a little saw with me this time to finish the brushing job that I started last Friday.  The 3-4" of snow we got on Saturday was still on the trails Sunday and it made for a very pleasant walk.  As I was walking along I thought that if I were really desperate to go riding, there was actually enough snow down.
    Unfortunately, we've had more warm temps and the snow is just about gone.  Thanks to the low December sun angle, the snow does persist a little longer given the circumstances.  There is still a few patches left around my house and the woods still have some.  This shot was taken this afternoon.  Not enough to ride on, no matter how desperate I was, but still hanging onto some white.
    So I am actually in a very good mood, considering the lack of winter weather.  I really do feel pretty good about the longer term forecast too.  Hopefully tomorrow will the hat trick with the models indicating the major pattern change and I will feel very good about it happening.  Should not have too much of a problem waking up tomorrow morning to check things out.  Will have good info on how much snow for tomorrow night and early Thursday, plus the weekend system and then the pending change in the pattern.  Jeez, when I put it that way, I hope I can fall asleep!
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 8-
    I'm going to start this entry out with one last item from the big windstorm we had the other day.  I mentioned how the rain cap on my roof was damaged by the wind.  Yesterday I climbed up on the roof to take look at it and see if I could fix it.  Ever since breaking my leg, I have been a little shy about going up on the roof.  My neighbor fell off a roof not too long ago and broke his ankle and I am just a bit afraid that something will happen to me.  I am not so much concerned about things once I am up there, my main concern is taking that last step off the ladder onto the roof and worse yet, that first step off the roof and onto the ladder.  It just seems like a situation that could lead to problems.  Well, I did not have any problems and was able to survey the damage.  The power of the wind sure can amaze me.  It actually just ripped the sheet steel that the rain cap was attached to.  I was able to get over to the hardware store and get things to fix it and all is well up there now.
    Yesterday the hounds and I took a walk up on the tracks.  We had no snow, but I decided you all might be interested to see what kind of shape the trails were in.  Temps had been below freezing for at least 24 hours so I thought things would not be too messy out there.  Luckily I was right.  There were still some puddles, but they were in the process of freezing up and the ground itself was frozen solid, so it was not messy at all.  Oop, you know what?  I lied.  There was more than one last item to deal with regarding the windstorm Thursday.  The other reason why I went up to the tracks was to see what kind of blowdowns too place up there.  I was hoping that things were not too bad because that would just take more time to get the trails in shape.  Usually what happens is the groomers put a saw on the groomer and when they come along a blowdown, they will take care of it.  So if things were a real mess, then it would take an unusually long time to get the trails groomed for the first time.
    At first things were not bad at all.  A few limbs down here and there, but no major problems.  Then we did come across a tree that had fallen and blocked part of the trail.  That was a pretty easy fix, I just grabbed hold of the one end and pulled it off to the side.  The next blow down we came across proved to be a little more of a challenge.  Actually, I had thoughts of just passing by this one and continuing on with the walk.  I did have more things to do that afternoon, so I could not spend all day in the woods, cleaning up things.  The hounds found a culvert to explore, so while waiting for them to finish with that, I started picking apart that mess of limbs.  Before I knew it, I was fully entrenched in the task and even when the hounds were done exploring the culvert, I kept up with it.  I asked them for some help, but they did not seem to interested.  After about 15 minutes, I got most of it taken care of.  At least all that I could without a saw.  I'll head back up there in a few days with a little hand saw and take care of the rest.  So at least that section will be clear and the groomer will not have to worry about things.  The trails actually get quite a bit of usage by hunters before they get all snow covered, so I would not be surprised that many of the other blowdowns on the trails that I did not go on will be cleared up by them.
    As I said, the temps have been below freezing since Wednesday evening, so things are freezing up.  The ground is frozen solid and the puddles are in the process of freezing solid.  Even some of the ponds are freezing up.  I checked some of the cams in the NCN and saw that lakes in view of them are also freezing up.  Just remember, I don't get into the "when is the ice safe" forecasting game.  My standard answer is: "Ice is NEVER SAFE, there are just varying degrees of risk associated with going out on it".
    I awoke to a nice little snowfall occurring this morning, it was system snow, but I also knew that we could get some lake effect by later in the day.  Seeing the snow fall made it hard to go back to sleep, even on a weekend morning, so the hounds and I had breakfast and then headed out in the snow to take our morning walk.  Initially I thought that it would be a short walk, but walking in the snow was such a wonderful experience we turned the short walk into a long one, heading out to the local snowmobile access trail and then following it for a while.  It is just amazing how something like snow falling can really perk up my spirit.  Weird.
    We did end up getting our lake effect this afternoon.  For a while it was really coming down.  Not hard enough to be technically called heavy snow, but definitely moderate snow.  All told we picked up 4" of the white stuff.  The neighborhood is all nice and white again and even the roads are all snowpacked, as the snow accumulated on everything, with the temps being so cool lately.
    The forecast still does not hold any major storms.  The European Model is indicating a cat 3 storm for much of MN, northern WI and the UP by later Wednesday and into Thursday, but it is sort of on it's own in indicating this, so I am not holding my breath.  The other models are not as snowy, but do indicate that temps will only warm into the mid 30's tomorrow and then cool back into the 20's and low 30's for highs for the rest of the week, so that is a plus at least.  It is still hard to feel good about things, especially when I read in last years journal about taking a ride at this time last year and getting stuck!  Patience, I know.  I suppose that one thing that might be the silver lining is that many times when winter gets off to a really slow start up here, when it does come, we get hammered.  A glimmer of hope I guess.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 6-
    Funny how things work.  Yesterday we started the day with at least an inch or two of snow in most spots with a few more in other spots.  However, we rose to 52 degrees and had rain and that took of all of the snow.  The funny thing is that the last vestiges of snow left just as the temps went from 50 degrees to 32 yesterday evening!  Mother nature can have a sick sense of humor.  It's also amazing how much the perspective can change in a few days.  Late last week we had about 9" on the ground and the forecast called for at least 2-4, maybe as much as 4-8 in the next week.  I had visions of trails opening up and riding taking place and an all around general good start to the season.  By Tuesday of this week, all that had changed.  Much of the snow was gone and there was not much promise in the future.  Still not a whole lot of promise in the future, but it does not look quite as dim.  Things do not need to change much at all for us to pick up 1-3" of LES with a mini event Saturday, then a storm arriving next Wednesday to give us another 3-6".  However, I will say that things do need to change, maybe not a lot, but change for that to happen.  The way it looks right now, the LES event Saturday would bring an inch or so and the system Wednesday currently looks to bring us rain, with snows in western MN and the Dakotas.  There also some bright spots on the horizon for later down the road.  I am being cautious about putting too much faith on these other bright spots.  It is not the first time that real winter weather has been forecasted, but some of those other forecasts did not verify.  So I am still hopeful, but also well aware that in December 1998 and 1999, winter did not really arrive until a week before Christmas.
    If you have not heard, we had quite a blow last night.  I believe it was the biggest one since I moved up here.  I was actually a little unnerved early this morning as the house actually shook in the winds.  I have never experienced that before, feeling the house shake.  Even the dogs were uneasy.  The winds ripped my snow station out of the ground.  I had it secured with 6" stakes pounded in to the ground and it had withstood every storm prior to that one.  Plus, the rain cap on my chimney got mangled by the wind.  That was all the damage done to my property, and I never lost power.  Others were not so lucky.  I heard lots of reports of power out, even out until this afternoon.  I did not hear of any major structure damage, so that is good.  I wonder if the trails have trees down across them?  It would not surprise me at all.  The peak wind gust at the airport was 63 MPH, but I heard of wind gusts to over 70 MPH out on the lake.  I would not be surprised if we had gusts over 70 MPH, it was really blowing out there.
    I wished that I did not have to work this morning, it would have been neat to have seen the waves on the lake.  The hounds and I did head to the lake this afternoon.  We had some business to attend to in Houghton so we ended up going to the north entry park.  The waves were still pretty big.  That breakwater was about 10-15 feet above the waters surface and a few of them were crashing over it.  However, they were a lot smaller than they must have been during the height of the storm because in this pic, you can see how far up the beach the waves were making it, but at the peak of their height, the waves were making it all the way up and over the incline, which is past where the color of the beach goes from dark to a little lighter, in the left center of the image.  To put things in perspective, that wave breaking on the beach may not seem too big, but in reality, it was about 7 feet high.  Had I been standing right were it was curling, it would have gone right over the top of me. I tried to get the hounds in the picture, to help give the waves some perspective, but things did not work out.  I did not want them getting to close to the water anyway.  Here is another shot looking back at the break water and looking down the length of the wave.  I thought that might also help show how big the waves were.
    The hike up the beach actually was a bit of a workout.  The sand was giving way under foot, which made it difficult to propel myself, plus we were traveling into the wind to start out and that also caused for some resistance.  About a half mile down the beach, I stopped to take a short break and looked back to see three sets of tracks, the three musketeers, all for one and one for all.
    Our travels took us about 3/4 of a mile down the beach.  The hike was worth it though.  I know of some cliffs that are at the end of the beach and thought the waves crashing into them would make for a neat picture.  I was not disappointed.  The trip back was much easier, walking with the wind was a big help.  My leg is actually a little sore, so it was a good workout.
    The winds have calmed down and temps were below freezing all day.  That is beginning to freeze things up.  Some puddles on our morning walk were already froze.  It may not look like winter, but at least it feels like it.  Time to go build a fire and settle into the couch with the hounds.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 4-
    Up until now, I feel like I have been the beacon of hope for the beleaguered snow lovers in the Midwest.  For weeks I have been saying: "Hang in there, things will change, winter is coming".  For those in the northwest Midwest, it did, but then decided to go away almost as fast.  For the southern and eastern Midwest, it has yet to show it's face.  I have not given up hope just yet, but I fear that as a beacon, I may be fading just a bit.  I am not really so despondent because of the current thaw going on, more because the cold that keeps being promised in the extended period continues to be weakened.  I will not divulge all of my forecasting tools and methods (don't want to show my hand to my competitors), but there are a few signals coming in to me that things may not pan out as initially thought.  Actually, they already have not, but I guess there is still a few weeks to allow for some redemption.
    Now don't get me wrong, I am not thinking that this winter will be a disaster.  I still believe that the Midwest as a whole is in for a period of some pretty cold temps and above average snowfall that will last 3-4 weeks.  When?  Haven't a clue.  Up until a few days ago, it appeared as though that period might be upon us, just like last year.  Now, I believe it is at least a week away, possibly more.  My current thinking is that the period of cold and snow may not be as intense as last Decembers, but also when that period is over, things may not be as mild and snowless as last Jan and Feb were either.  So from one snow lover to all you others, I still believe that we will get some decent snows.  I really wish that I could say why, but I know that there are some competitors that check in to see what I am saying in the forecast section and they might just be reading this.  Plus, I don't want to get into e mailing everyone who wants to know why I think what I think, so please don't go down that avenue either.  Just keep the faith, that's all I can say.  I know it's not easy, especially with temps in record territory, but it is not any easier for me.
    I must also admit, I got into quite a funk today.  Mostly due to the weather.  I think that much of the problems started when I realized that it was about this time last year when things started to go into action across the Midwest.  If you check out my historical weather page from last year, you will see that it was on this date that we started our climb into the deep snowpack.  A few days later, the rest of the Midwest also started their buildup of snow.  Up until today, this years weather was not going that differently than last years.  I guess I was holding out some hope that this year would continue to follow suit and I would be busting powder by the 10th and getting seriously stuck by the 16th.  Then I looked at the snow history for the year before and got really depressed!  I do remember that year, it was pure torture.  No real snow until the second week of December and not enough to really ride on until the 20th!  I pray that we will not follow that path and beg and plead and pray that if we do, we do not loose all the rideable snow by the third week of February!!!  Don't know if I can handle 3 - 8 week seasons in a row!  Last years was my fault, but it still counts!
    Needless to say that with all of our warm temps, the snows of last week have been melting away.  Took the hounds into the woods yesterday to get in our afternoon walk.  There are spots where you could have ridden if you really wanted to, but then down the trail just a bit, you would have wished you were in a swamp buggy.  The one problem with getting snows before the puddles freeze up and also before deer season ends is that the hunters take their 4x4's out and really dig in some serious ruts in spots.  It does not make me angry, they get their time in the woods and all is fair.  After the first few storms up here, you never know the ruts were even there.  Just makes me very glad that we get the snow we get!
    Today was more melting, so the hounds and I stayed out of the mud.  They are not fond of baths and I am not fond of mud all over my house, so we stuck to the village sands.  Just some puddles out there, but no mud.  Not much to take any pictures of either, so I did not.  I guess the bright spot to the weather we are having is it is great for walks.  40's are about the perfect temp if you ask me.  At least if it's below 65, which I think it the perfect temp to walk with shorts and a t shirt.  Of course I would not complain to be out in the single digits and skiing across a few feet of snow!
    We do have some cold and snow coming.  Not a ton, but just about anything would be nice at this point.  Especially the cold.  It will not take long to freeze things up.  Some of the ponds are already froze and I bet that the shallower lakes will go pretty fast.  I also know the snows will come and it will get deep.  I guess I just need to follow my own advice and hang in there!
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
December 2-
    All the weekends festivities are over and I can finally do a little chatting.  We're hanging onto our snow.  Today was actually below freezing for most of the day and we did not have much melting yesterday.  On Friday we actually picked up a little surprise snow.  At about noon it started to rain.  The temps were about 34 and the dewpoint was about 30.  Soon the rains mixed in with snow and then all snow.  It actually started to really come down.  Big silver dollar flakes.  However, the temps were still above freezing, so the snow was having a hard time accumulating.  Even so, it was still a great day to take the hounds for a walk on the Lake Linden Sands.  We did end up picking up about an inch of new snow here in Lake Linden and about 2-3" in the higher elevations, so that was a nice surprise.
    Yesterday was a rather uneventful day.  Not much to talk about weather wise.  A few flurries from time to time, but no big deal.  It was the first day of December, so that meant we could head back into the woods.  The hounds and I went to go hike in the school forest.  There are still lots of puddles out there and I remembered most of the trails in the school forest being rather dry, so we headed out there.  It was a good call, as there was plenty of snow to walk through, but very little in the way of puddles.  Not much snow on the metal roof of the cabin out there though.
    Not enough snow to ride on in most places here.  I have a friend who has been going out since Tuesday, riding from South Range south towards Toivola and points south.  It is his first year up here and is really itching to ride.  I have not gone out since my ride Tuesday night.  We really need more snow by my house.  I also had a friend that went to Marquette to shop.  She said that the motel parking lots were full with sled trailers, so there were folks out there who made the trip up there to ride.  It would be interesting to hear from anyone that made the pilgrimage.
    I don't have much else to say in a typical journal sense, so I guess that I will just talk a minute about the weather.  Several week ago I started talking about a potential pattern change.  A change that would do away with the abnormally warm weather in the mid section of the country and replace it with something that was more winterlike.  The change did unfold, but slightly different from what was indicated.  For those folks in the Dakotas and much of MN, no words from me needed to be uttered about the change.  They went from highs in the 50's and 60's to almost 2 feet of snow on the ground when the change unfolded early last week.  However, I feel sorry for the folks in places like central and southern WI and even more so across much of lower MI.  You folks have been stuck in the warm temps through this change.
    Looking at the computer guidance over the past few days, it looks like the changes will become more noticeable across all of the Midwest in the next week or so.  Now, I do want to caution that I am not totally sold on this "second change" playing out, but the models are onto the idea that a large ridge will build in across the west coast of North America.  The buckling of the jet northward there will allow the jet to turn in more out of the north across the midsection of North America and that will allow temps to cool.  Right now they only look to cool to average, maybe a bit below average.  That would be enough to start up the LES machine off of Lake Superior and northern Lake Michigan and also help to freeze up the inland lakes.  No major storms are indicated to roll through, but as I said last year at about this time, the most important thing is to get the cold air in.  The snows will come if the cold air is in place.  We got into a cold pattern last December 7-8th and the snows came.
    So I will continue to repeat myself for everyone out there still not in a very good mood on the current pattern change.  Hang in there.  I also want to make the point that it is only the second of December.  For some reason, I think that people have a much colder and snowier vision of years past for their location.  I spent about 30 years of my life living in Chicago and even my recollection of the winters there were of snow always on the ground and it being cold.  In reality, snow does not last on the ground too long there.  A few weeks is usually the norm.  1979 was an abnormal year, with snow accumulating in early December and lasting into March, but when I really think back to things, I remember being a kid and praying for the big one to come, only to see them pass off to the north or west.  Occasionally we did get a good one, but more times than not, the winters were not so great.  Heck if they were that good (snow on the ground from Thanksgiving through March) I likely would not have moved up here.  I also think that people jump the gun as to when winter should start in their location.  At this time of the year, the only places that see average highs of freezing or below are North Dakota, much of MN, the UP and northern WI.  Chicago's average high is 40, Detroit's is 39, even Traverse City's is 37.  Kind of hard to have the dead of winter start with temps like that!  Here is a map of average highs for Dec 2 to more fully illustrate my point.
    Lastly, it seems like persons thoughts of how much snow falls is also over inflated.  Chicago's seasonal snowfall is about 38".  Head north towards Minneapolis and it increases to about 45-50" and places like Rhinelander are about 65-70".  Not exactly a ton of snow.  For Chicago, a December or January that produces about 20" of snow is TWICE the average!  So I guess what I am trying to do is force a more realistic perspective on things.  Sure temps have been above average in much of the Midwest up until a week ago and have hung onto above average levels in the east since, but the pattern has changed and I personally think that is is better to get the above average stuff out of the way now, rather than in January and February when we are trying to play in the snows we get in December and January.  So hang in there.  I still think that this winter will be one that most think was pretty good.  Maybe not the best ever, but not a disaster.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
 
 
 
 
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