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Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
Nov 29-
    Next year I am going to try something new.  Instead of holding back my excitement for snow until the end of Nov and beginning of December, I am going to try and hold it back a few more weeks.  My first year up here I got excited by the end of September and then had to grind it out for a few months until the snow fell.  I learned an important lesson that year- that winter really does not arrive around here until sometime around the beginning of December, so don't get all excited just because the first flakes have fallen.  In some years, true winter weather might not arrive until closer to Christmas.  I also realized that a lot of fun can be had in the autumn when the air is chilly, but the snow is not flying.  It is great exploring weather and I have learned to make the most of that time and not even worry about when the snows will fly, at least until we get to deer hunting season.  Then my thoughts turn to snow and piling it up for opening day.  We have actually yet to have opening day be more than a figure of speech since I moved up here and this year looks to be another (barring we do not get under a convergence band tonight!).  Actually, if I would have cared to take a closer look at history, most years do not have enough snow down to provide for the trails to be "open" on opening day.  I use the term open loosely, as there are sections of trail up here that are legal to ride every day except during firearm deer season: Nov 15-20.
    So anyway, with the big storm of last weekend missing us to our left and the favorable pattern indicated to occur beyond that changing dramatically, my mood went into one of a little bit of disgust.  Hopes of riding through feet of fresh snow were put on hold for at least a few more weeks and hopes of a record setting snow year were also put on the back burner.  Now, before you all think I am all down in the dumps, I am actually not anymore.  We keep getting a little bit of snow here and there and what was looking like a pattern that might send in a big thaw this week is now looking like we may not have much of any thaw occur.  We picked up 3" new this afternoon and look to get some more tonight.  There are even some signs that as we get to next week the pattern might be able to throw us some decent snow.  So my mood is much brighter than it was about a week ago and the early part of last week.  Heck about another 3-5" tonight and I am going to take a ride with Nora tomorrow afternoon.  With that said, anyone thinking that Nora and I going out and riding the trails before the groomers get to them will trash them.  Things work a little differently up here.  1st opening day is not when the groomers go out.  In the past, the groomers went out more when they felt like it not when conditions permitted it.  I have seen 18" on the ground and they were not grooming yet.  Then last year we had about 8" down and they were grooming.  So, unlike other areas in the Midwest, you cannot use the start of grooming to dictate when the trails are open.  Plus, many of these trails are trails that are used year round by other vehicles like atv's and trucks, even cars for that matter, so lots of traffic will be on them no matter what.  Lastly, once there is enough snow to groom and they do groom, then you will never even know anyone was down the trail previously.  So don't get your undies all in a bunch thinking that someone riding the trails up here before they start grooming will be trashing the trails.  It is a whole other story up here from other parts of the Midwest.
    Switching gears, I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was wonderful!  Nora's and mine was and memorable too!  We survived just fine with our hosting some of her relatives and most of the left overs are gone.  Friday I turned the timer on the outside lights on and we also decorated the tree.  We opted for an artificial tree.  I am kind of weird, but I just cannot enjoy a real tree anymore.  It all started back about 10 years ago when I went to get a real tree from one of those vendors at the local grocery store.  As we were walking through all the trees propped up, I struck up a conversation with the guy selling the trees.  It turned out he was from the UP and somewhere down near Amasa.  I told him how I had been to the UP several times and how much I loved it and how I wanted to live there someday.  After a few minutes we had picked out the tree we wanted and were carrying it back to our apartment when it hit me... about a week ago, that tree was living in the UP, right where I dreamed of living someday.  It lived through the big lake snows, beautiful autumn colors and nice comfortable summers. It was chopped down and basically killed just so that I could bring it to my house, dress it up and then throw it away on December 26th.  I suddenly started to feel a little guilty about the whole process.  Since then, I have opted for artificial trees.  NOW... before you send me an angry e mail or post something in the Ask John about me being a tree hugger, let me say this.  I have absolutely no problem with others using real trees.  It is a tradition and can be very special to folks.  They smell good and you will never find an artificial tree that looks just like a real one.  I use paper and other wood products without guilt, so I have no problems with cutting trees and using them.  As humans we are consumers- we have no other option but to consume.  So I have no problems with real Christmas trees or the people that grow them or buy them!!!  I just can't enjoy them in my house anymore is all.  I told you I was kind of weird!
    On Friday afternoon before we put up the tree, Nora, the hounds and I took off to Keweenaw county for our walk.  I had seen some reports of fresh snow down overnight and figured it would be a pretty place to walk.  I was hoping that the road that I had chosen to walk down was not too messy and I got my wish.  Not only was it not messy, it had not even been plowed yet!  So we were able to walk down a snow covered road, making snowballs and having a great time.  On the way back, we got an extra special treat, it started to snow.  Not a ton, but just enough to put the icing on the cake.  So my mood was boosted on that walk big time and we had a blast setting up the tree for the first time.  Yesterday and today we took to the Lake Linden Sands for our last two "stay-out-of the-woods" walks.  It was still snowing pretty good this afternoon when we headed out so that made it rather pleasant.  Funny how most folks would find it a problem because it was snowing and for Nora, the hounds and I it only makes it that much better!  We walked through a deserted campground, past some flocked pines and then up into the "sands" area.  It was coming down pretty good all afternoon and at times, should have been categorized as heavy snow.  On our walk, there were periods of light snow and periods of moderate snow.  For those of you wondering what determines the snowfall rating, it is mostly a factor of the visibility that the snow brings.  Light snow is about 3/4ths of a mile or greater, moderate snow is 1/2 to 1/4 mile and heavy snow is less than 1/4 mile.  At times this afternoon we were well below 1/4 mile and the flakes were those big fluffy ones that like to accumulate quickly!
    The smaller lakes and ponds are starting to freeze up again and I have a feeling this time for good.  Of course the larger bodies of water like the Torch Lake and Portage Lake are still wide open and barring any deep freeze that lasts for more than 3 or 4 days, I think they will remain that way for another week or two.  We managed to find some open water meandering through the sands  (fsv).  The snow was also sticking to the dried up strands of vegetation out on the sands and Nora remarked on how it looked like cotton all ready for picking.
    So we are back to the woods tomorrow!  With a little luck we might be strapping on the skis too.  Needless to say it will be very nice to get back into the woods and no matter if it is on skis or foot, we all will be very glad to be free to go where we choose.  I guess I am about out of things to say, so will sign off for now.  Talk to you all in December.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
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Nov 26-
    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Well, at least happy Thanksgiving Eve!  We will be busy hosting tomorrow so I will not be able to sit down and write a journal, so I thought I would get something out today.  Needless to say, I have much to be thankful for- My health, my home, my companionship with Nora and the hounds and the fact that I am on the verge of another wonderful Keweenaw winter.  I suppose the verdict is still out as to how wonderful it will be, but I can take joy in knowing that even our worst winter would be better than the record for many areas in the Midwest.
    I did get to ride the RMK for a brief time Monday afternoon.  The snow was about 4-5 inches deep and normally I would not even think about riding a long track with 2" paddles on it in snow like that, but I just had to see what that sled was like.  With the woods still off limits I was limited in where I could go.  I did not want to ride up and down the streets, so I just quickly hopped over to the ball yard close by.  Nora followed me with the camera and snapped a few shots of me on my new ride.  I did a few laps out there and then headed back.  The sled ran great and I was pleasantly surprised by it's quickness and even how quiet it was.  I can already tell one thing I am going to love and that's the reverse!  Man was it great to be able to back it into the garage!  I am really excited to be able to take it out into the deep stuff and see what it can do.  Before I headed back Nora snapped one more shot as I was getting ready to cross the road.  In that shot you can see my new color coordinated helmet.  I was actually very happy that it matched the sled perfectly.  I have a new red Klim jacket coming and will wear my same black bibs.
    So it is nice to have the first "ride" under my belt.  I guess it was not really a true ride, more of a test ride, but it should not be too long before a real ride can be taken.  The woods open back up this coming Monday.  I doubt that we will have enough snow to officially open them up, meaning the groomers will be out, but the trails by my house will be perfectly legal to ride on as they are all year long- except the 2 weeks of deer season.  Nora and I were going to go on a quick ride Monday evening, but she got caught up talking to a friend on the phone and it got too late for this early to bed guy.  There is some new snow coming in the next few days so perhaps by Monday we can at least get out on the tracks and take a quick ride so she can see what the Pol-Cat is all about.
    Speaking of the tracks, we did drive by one of the crossings the other day to take a look at them.  Of course the trail cam gives a great view of how things are down there but I wanted to see how things were a little closer to home.  Not too bad, but the trucks and atv's going down it did reveal a few of the wet spots.  As long as we do not get real warm and see a bunch of rain we should be ok as far as wet spots go.  Everything is freezing up pretty well with the cooler night time temps.
    Yesterday Nora, the hounds and I took off for Keweenaw country and the road that we have been walking during deer season.  I figured it would be pretty to walk down with the fresh snow, so we piled in the truck and headed north.  The snow was a bit deeper up there than in Lake Linden, not a lot, but a little.  The road was nice and quiet, so we parked the truck and headed down the snowy lane.  That road (I'm going to keep it a secret for selfish reasons) has really turned out to be a nice road to walk on during deer season.  Almost as good as walking through the woods off trail.  It is quiet, we have only experienced a few trucks carrying hunters to their spots, not too far out of the way and provides some nice scenery.  I sure hope lots of you like snow flocked trees, because I really cannot help but take a picture of them when I see them.
    Thanks to all who have sent your congratulations.  Nora and I are still a little on cloud 9.  We have been discussing things like the where, when and hows of the wedding.  Nothing is set in stone, but we do have some great ideas.  I wish that we could have an open invite so you all could come, but it is actually going to be a rather intimate gathering of family and close friends.  Some have sent the idea of a wedding cam, but I think that we will just share some stills once the event is over.  Some of you have asked to see the ring and I checked with Nora and she had no problems with it.  Some of her friends back down in lower MI wanted to see it, so we took a picture of it for all to see.  Before I posted it, I was trying to find a way to make the stone bigger while not changing the size of her fingers, but could not, so you get the truth!
    I can't totally speak for Nora, but I am getting excited to put up our Christmas tree and decorations.  We actually plan to do most of that on Friday.  When I was growing up, we almost always put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving and I think that will be a tradition carried over into my family.  Nora has wanted to do it that way too.  It's funny to think that since moving up here, I never had a tree and did not even miss it.  Now don't get me wrong, I was not all depressed about being alone during the holidays, I just figured that there was no need to go through the trouble of setting it all up just so that I could be the only one to enjoy it.  Shows what the right person in your life can do to things.  Of course the outside lights have been up for almost a month and I will be letting them go on in the evenings starting Friday as well.  I have some of my Christmas shopping done, but more to do.  Seems strange to think that in a month, it will be over!
    Before I sign off, I have a computer help question to ask of any of you that might be in the know.  My problem is this:  Sometimes the trail cam's computer will freeze up and we have to go out and reboot it.  Or sometimes the power will go down and then the machine stays off.  The old computer out there would automatically start back up in the event of a power loss and I actually used that feature to get around the freeze up problem.  I had the computer on a power timer and that would shut down the computer in the evening after it was done taking pictures for the day, then power back up and have a fresh re-boot.  The new machine stays down if it loosed power.  I have looked into the BIOS to see if there was a setting there, but could not find one.  So, what I am looking for is a way to either have the computer reboot (with or without shutdown) at scheduled times, or be able to cut power to the computer, but have it power back up when power is restored.  If anyone knows of ways to accomplish that, I would be very grateful.  Also, if anyone knows of a way to have the modem make a connection to my IP and keep it for a scheduled time and then hang up at a scheduled time, that way it would not have to dial in every time a picture is taken and needs to be uploaded.  Thanks in advance and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 23-
    Fiancé.  That is a word that will be a regular part of my vocabulary for the next few months.  Yep, I popped the question this morning to Nora and lucked out big time with her answer.  She hardly even delayed in her answer!  Actually, I had been thinking about how I wanted to ask her for awhile and knew that the one thing I wanted for sure was to surprise her.  So that meant that no holidays and no anniversaries.  I also knew that I wanted it to be a little more special than just driving down the road or sitting down for dinner and asking her.  But I also did not want to create a big presentation, or she would be on to me.  So this morning, right after we took our family Christmas picture on the property, with a light snow falling and surrounded in snow flocked trees, I pulled out the ring and asked her if she would marry me.  I can say that I did manage to totally surprise her.  She was quiet for about 2 seconds and I think that was because there was a moment of information overflow going on in her head, but as soon as she realized exactly what was happening, she quickly said yes.  The look on her face is one that I will never forget for as long as I live.  It was pure joy and love and made me go a little weak in the knees.  She loves the ring, but will have to get it re-sized a little smaller.  As far as the specifics of a date and place and all that, we have not really sat down to figure that all out.  I think that it will happen within the next 12 months.  Probably not in 3 or 4, but certainly not in years.  There is really no reason to wait and if we could have been married this morning on the property I would have in a heartbeat.  But we do want a small, but traditional wedding and that takes planning.  We need to figure a good time to get folks from southeast MI and folks from southeast WI/northeast IL together as well as the place and lots of other details.  But the important thing is our relationship is one more step towards the ultimate.  I'm sure as we become more clear in our details, I will be sharing them with you.
    Other than that, I really do not have much to say!  We did get 3" of snow overnight, not enough to ride in yet, but it looks like we should get some more tonight and tomorrow.  NWS is saying 5-9 tonight and 5-9 tomorrow and as much as I would love for that to happen, I think it might be a little ambitious.  It is sort of snowing and sleeting out right now and has been since late this morning.  Not what I was hoping for, but better than rain.  At least the snow we got overnight is not going away.  It is making for some tricky driving though.  To me it looks like we will probably transition back to all snow sometime this evening, probably around 7 or 8 pm as the colder air comes in.  The air will actually be cold enough by later tonight or more likely early tomorrow morning that the lake effect will start to kick in and the combined system snow and lake effect from about midnight tonight through tomorrow afternoon should give us at least 4-8", which would be enough to ride on.  The forecast beyond that looks OK, with temps cold enough to preserve the snow and some light snows every few days.  There are some indications of another big storm by the beginning of December, but that is a long way off to get too excited about.
    Looks like sections of MN and NW WI are going pretty good with this storm.  I would actually rather see them get a good base down now, but I know we will eventually get ours- probably sooner rather than later if this pattern keeps up.  That would give people more choices to ride rather than all coming here.  I think everyone wins in that situation.  More choices for the riders, the businesses in those areas get some much needed income and we'll still get a good crowd up here because the snow is so deep and the scenery is so beautiful.  In fact, if there are lots of places to ride other than the Keweenaw this year, THIS will be the season to come up because you can finally enjoy the trails without having to break your back or other items.  I can remember my first time up here in the early 90's.  My brothers and I rode from Houghton to Copper Harbor and back and saw 3 other sleds the whole way !(not counting the sleds we saw while at the harbor having lunch).
    So anyway, it looks like the first big storm was not an A+ in the forecast department, but at least not an F.  I think I would give myself the grade of C+/B-.  A little to ambitious in the snow department in southern MN and maybe in the western UP, but our main snow event has really yet to hit, so perhaps we will get our 12" total and I can give myself a solid B-.  If not, then a C+ might be a little generous!
    No pictures to share with you, but hopefully the next time I will have some shots of the RMK all covered in white!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 21-
    I wonder how many fingers and toes are crossed across the northwest Midwest right now.  However many there are mine are included!  I wonder how many forecasters are pulling their hair out too!  You do not have to worry about putting me in that category.  It's not that I am totally confident that it will play out, but I know all I can do is the best I can do, then hope it turns out.  This storm kind of reminds me of the big one we had in Chicago in January of 1999 when I was still living there.  The models started picking up on it well in advance, even earlier than they did on this one and then made some changes to it over the course of the days leading up to it, but never wavered from it actually happening.  That is the case with this one.  Even so, I can remember the days and even hours leading up to the big one back in 1999- thinking that somehow the storm would not live up the expectations, that somehow things would go wrong and the promises of 12"+ would be broken.  I was not doing any forecasting for any clients in the Chicago area, but did tell several friends and co workers that we could see more than 15" of snow and I even made a video tape the night before the storm was to hit and at that point I could not see why we would not see 18"+ fall.  Still, since that is such a rare event for Chicago, my mind could almost not even comprehend it.  I guess it is the "too good to be true" syndrome", or perhaps it is just a way to protect my emotions.  Whatever the reason I find myself trying to not think too hard about what looks to be unfolding for us in the coming days.  Sure it is my job, but I am actually trying to pretend that it is another region and not one that will impact me.  That way I can take as much emotion out of the forecast as possible.  So far so good, I think my heart rate is only about 130 beats a minute!
    Ever since moving up here I have always wanted to have a huge winter occur, even break the records.  Those big years usually start at the end of November, so I have always looked for the big storm at the end of November to kick things off.  Back in 00-01, we did have a go at it.  We picked up about 8-14" on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and then most of it melted, but we did get more snow in early December and then it was a good season overall, with 300"+.  I know it is still very early in the season and a big storm now does not guarantee us to have a big snow season, but it is a very encouraging sign.  What else is encouraging is the fact that next week looks to be quite snowy up here and so does the first week of Dec.  So if that forecast does pan out we could sure be off to the races early this season and at least have a shot at a big snow total for the season if the pattern can hang in there for much of the rest of the winter.
    I guess I am also a bit nervous for the folks in the northwest Midwest.  They have been skunked by snow so many times in the past few winters that I feel that if this one fizzles out there could be some serious hate from folks out there directed at us weather folks!  But the good news is that I am actually writing this at about midday and the snows are already breaking out across SD at a decent clip.  So part one looks to be coming together OK with this storm.  Part 2 is the main feature and will be getting going tomorrow at this time.  So keep those fingers crossed!
    Not much else going on up here.  Firearm deer season is well underway and will be half over by this weekend.  I have not really heard how things are going.  I did follow 2 eight pointers hitching a ride into town in the back of a pickup this afternoon and I think the word from the local paper was that the season was off to about an average start, maybe a bit below.  Yesterday morning as Nora, the hounds and I were getting ready to take our little morning walk, Nora spotted three deer across the street.  The lot across the street contains a vacant house and abandoned car.  I don't really know what they were looking for in the lot. There are no fruit trees over there and nothing more to eat than they could get anywhere else in the woods.  Perhaps they were very smart deer and knew that it is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits!  None of them appeared to have any antlers, but still neat to see some deer right out my front window.  Where I grew up the big excitement was usually a squirrel or if we really got lucky a raccoon.  I am really looking forward to all of the wildlife we will have when we are living up at the property.  I plan to have a cam in the woods that I will have setup to take a picture when it senses motion and maybe even put some goodies out to draw in some of the locals.  I know that deer, bear, coyote and even bobcat frequent the property and who knows what else the cam might see.
    The sleds are all ready to go.  I think that Nora and I should be able to take a ride by later in the weekend or early next week.  I am not sure if we will get up to the trails.  We can only really ride there at night and there can be things like downed trees that have not been taken care of and I would hate to come across one of those and not see it until the last minute.  Anyone else thinking on coming up might want to rethink things.  There really will not be too many places you can go and even those might be strewn with hidden obstacles.  There are a few fields near by that are in the village and I think we might head over there to play.
    I do not have any other pictures to share and am out of anything intelligent or creative to say, so that is the point that I usually try and sign off.  I know I have gone beyond that point in the past, but think I will play it smart this time!
Good night (actually afternoon) from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 18-
    I think my ability to hold down my emotions for the upcoming winter is starting to fade and fade quickly!  I suppose the fact that all of our snow is gone for a while and I have been surfing my favorite web cams out west, seeing and hearing about 4-6 feet of snow fall since Nov 1, has not helped out either.  I have not grown worried or really even frustrated.  The pattern looks to turn really good next week and possibly beyond and if what is being said does pan out then the opening day two weeks from yesterday might just have enough snow to ride in.  I will not get too hopeful as I know that it is actually a fairly rare year that has enough snow to ride in on Dec 1, but it sure does happen.  I guess another reason for my building anticipation is the fact that most of the really big snow seasons started sometime in the Nov 20-26th time frame.  Seasons like 78-79 and 95-96 were two of the most memorable that come to mind and the snow really started to kick in during the second half of November.  However, 88-89 was also a big season and it did not really kick in until the first week of December was over.  At any rate, this is the time of the year when I personally start to look for a pattern that will support snow to fall and any snow that falls to stick around.  That is certainly not the case this week, I may even be in shorts Thursday, but all could change next week and we may not be alone.  You out there in Minnesota that got a little snow and cold early in November may just be in for some more next week.    Anyway, I am getting psyched!  I guess even if it is a bad year, it would be a record year for most other places in the Midwest, so I have that to be thankful for.
    Today we had a lot of rain just like much of the Midwest.  Along with the rain, the higher terrain had fog.  The higher terrain was the site of out afternoon walk today.  It is firearm deer season and that means no walks in the woods.  However, there are enough roads that wander through the woods that we still have some great places to walk and be "in the woods".  I am very lucky that the hounds do not stray far from me and I never have to worry about them running off into the woods and causing a problem with any hunters that might be out there.  Almost every road that we have walked down since the season started has had a few hunters trucks parked on it.  But we stick to the roads and stay out of their way.  The season seems to be off to a bit of a slow start.  Not way slower than normal but the snow we had left and that has caused the deer to stop moving.  Many hunters up here will put their hunting stand or blind close to what is called a migration route or the path that the deer take to get to their yarding areas for the winter.  They were starting to move with the snow of last week but then it melted and they have stopped moving on those routes.  So it has been a bit slower than normal, but there have still been some bucks taken.
    I did not go to camp last weekend and I doubt that I will this weekend.  With Nora here I have an excellent reason to stay home and never really got into going to camp all that much in the first place.  I suppose if I had grown up here and had it as part of my upbringing I would be more into it.  I wonder if I would have been a hunter too?
    So other than dodging raindrops today and taking walks on the quiet roads and at the village park, things are pretty slow up here right now.  I did do a little bit of remodeling of the house.  Nora and I were really hurting for storage space in the kitchen.  I am sure that is a problem that most of you face and in all honesty our kitchen does have lots of cabinet space. But for some reason, it was maxed out.  So one day I noticed an area of wasted space where the stairs go down into the basement.  The steps go down, but the ceiling remains the same height.  As a result, there is a ton of wasted space there.  I thought about it for a while and come up with a way to make use of that space as a pantry.  What I did is built a trap door that can swing down and cover the opening where the stairs go down and then we can walk out on that trapdoor and into our "pantry".  I still need to get a little piece of carpet to put on the trap door, but other than that it is done.  Right now as I type, Nora is getting the pantry and kitchen all organized.  Cool the way we like to have things a little on the organized side.
    Well, sorry this is so short, but it really is a pretty slow time of the year unless the snow is flying and I can take pictures of that.  Maybe next week!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 14-
    I am getting a real early start today.  I have one of those feelings inside me that says if I do not write a journal early today I will really not want to write one later.  I really want to write one today that way I am not pressured to write one over the weekend.  I still may be inspired to write one this weekend, but with a Friday journal out I will not feel like I have to write one on Sat or Sun if I don't want to.  Now don't feel guilty, I know that the world will keep rotating and life will go on if I do not write a journal, but I also know that a lot of you check in fairly regularly to see if I have said anything new and I do not like to disappoint you for too long.
    Anyway, the NWS did issue the kiss of death to us Wednesday for upwards of a foot of snow possible.  I think their low end guesses were in the 6-8" range.  Once again I'd have to say that the kiss of death theory worked!  We did get some snow, but only about 3-5" in most cases.  Some of the higher terrain from Calumet to Delaware picked up 6-8", but that was about it.  Further east, the places under the Blizzard warning were skunked even more.  Now, I must point out that a blizzard has to do more with blowing snow than falling snow, but the forecasted snowfall totals for those areas were in the 8-12" range as well.  Most areas seemed to get about 2-4".  I must say that it is highly uncharacteristic of the NWS Marquee to be skunked like they have been for 3 storms in a row.  They are usually very good about handling the weather up here and at times it seems like they underplay the snows more than overplay it.  I am sure that they are taking a look at what went wrong with their forecasts and I hope they do not feel too bad about things.  The forecasts are tough enough up here with the lake complicating things, then you throw in the conditions that occur many times this time of the year, where just a few degrees difference in temperatures can make all the difference as to if we get rain or snow.  That was the case with this system.  The majority of the system precip ended up falling as rain rather than snow and that kept snow totals down initially.  Then the lake effect snow kicked in, but not to the intensity that was anticipated, so that was the double whammy of snow miss we had.
    Another thing that was sort of interesting about this storm was how quickly the transition from rain to snow took place.  It was almost instantaneous.  At about 2:15 it was still raining and by 2:25 the ground was already turning white.  An hour later and we had about 1 1/2 " of snow down.  Up on the hill, the transition was just as dramatic, with a few inches down by the time it changed to snow here.  Nora was in a store in Laurium for 15 minutes and came out to an inch of snow on her car.  When she went into the store it was raining.
    The changeover was also well timed, as it was just as I was able to leave my duties at work and head out for a walk.  Walking in the snow, even wet snow, is so much better than walking in the rain.  We have been sticking to the forest all week, as today is the last day we can really go in there.  Most of our forest walks have also been out at the School Forest and that was the case on Wednesday.  It had only been snowing there for about 20 minutes, but already you can see the ground was white.  It snowed pretty good through out the entire walk.  It was still a very wet snow, so it was sticking to everything, but also getting us pretty wet.  But as I have said snow is better than rain to walk in any day and while it was wet, it was also very pretty.
    Yesterday morning I fired up the snowthrower for the first time.  Normally a 3-4" snowfall this early in the season would mean just shoveling it.  But since it was such a wet snow when it fell and then froze, it would have been a real challenge to shovel.  I even thought about not shoveling the driveway, knowing that we had a 3-4 day thaw coming today through the weekend at least and that would take care of it, but decided to clear it anyway.  I must say that when I opened the garage door and saw the snow sitting right in front of my new sled, it was very, very tempting to take it for a spin.  In fact, the deciding factor was that I had to go inside the house to get my helmet and that was just the item that tilted the scale in favor of not riding.  Nora was not home either, and I think she would have been a little disappointed that I took a quick spin without her.  Although we have not formally made a pact that we will take the first ride together, I think that is what we both are thinking.  So the RMK stayed in the garage for at least another week or so.  There are some indications of a big storm about a week from now, but that is also a bit too far out in the forecast to be too confident in.  The problem with that storm will be the fact that we will have to wait until after sunset to ride.  I guess we can cross that bridge when we get to it.
    Yesterday afternoon all the snows were over and we even had a few peaks of sun out.  The temps were still in the upper 20's, but it was a perfect day for a walk.  We also debated about a ski, but I thought there might not be enough snow to ski in, so we kept the skis home.  As it turned out there was probably enough snow to ski in. So we missed a ski opportunity but that's ok, there will be plenty of time for that in about a month or less.
    The winds blew pretty hard Wednesday night and that knocked out power in some spots and also knocked down some trees.  That was a big old birch that fell across the trail at the school forest.  It sure would have made for some tricky skiing!  The winds were even worse in the eastern UP and power was out in a lot of locals there for most of the day yesterday.  That's why a lot of the cams in my NCN were out yesterday.  Anyway, the walk was very nice with the weather about perfect, the company great and lots of snow covered trees.
    We are headed out there in about 30 minutes for one last walk before the hunters get the woods for 15 days.  We have plenty of options on where to go instead of the woods, so I am not bothered by the fact that we have to avoid the woods.  We might even stay out of the school forest for muzzle loading season as well.  That sort of depends on how much snow is down and other factors.  The time we would go (early afternoons) would not really interfere with most hunters that might be out there. But, I also do not want to chance it.  So we'll see what is going on come Dec 1.  But for the next 2 weeks and 2 days it will be the Lake Linden sands, the Hubbell Sands, the north shore, a few other roads I know about and maybe even some beaches.  No shortage of places to go up here, even with the woods off limits.
Good night (technically afternoon) from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 11-
    Well, storm #3 is headed our way and so far so good, the kiss of death has not been placed on us- the NWS has issued a winter storm watch for almost all of the western and northern UP, except for Houghton and Keweenaw Counties!  I know I am going to keep my fingers crossed on this one!  My ideas on this system are for about 2-5" to fall, although some areas may pick up a bit more. It will be an interesting late afternoon around here.  I have a feeling that most of the snow will come down in a 2-3 hour period, that means more than 1"/hr snow and in some cases, maybe 3-4"/hr snow.  It's amazing to me how much back and forth we have had with snow cover/no snow cover so far this late autumn.  Seems like one day will be white and the next brown.  I suppose that is actually more par for the course than the past couple of early Novembers when we either had all white or all brown for most of the time.  Anyway, after a brown day today, it sure looks like a couple of white ones are on tap for tomorrow and Thursday.  It would be great to keep this storm movement across the region all winter.  We would do very well with snow.
    I'm not too sure how long this one will be.  I am actually a little surprised I talked myself into sitting down to write one.  I must have woke up on the wrong side of the bed today because ever since I started my work at 4:45 am, I have just not been very bright and cheery.  Not that I have been a total grouch, but usually when I am feeling this way, I just keep my big mouth shut as much as possible, that way I stay out of trouble!  I do have quite a few pictures to share.  Most of them are from our burn pile experience this past Saturday.  Since we had a few inches of snow on the ground and winds were to be pretty light on Saturday, I had planned on trying to get the pile of wood burned on the property.
    I thought I had things pretty well planned out.  I called the county sheriff, the township fire department, brought a couple of fire extinguishers and a shovel and rake.  The problem did not turn out to be keeping the fire under control, but trying to get it going in the first place.  I also brought some of those compressed sawdust fire starter logs and some charcoal starter fluid to help things along.  The first few fire started logs I lit burned well, but just did not seem to be getting the logs started.  I lit a few more and saw similar results.  I did put them low enough in the pile that their flames would rise and catch the logs on fire, but they just did not want to get going.  As you can see, I also brought some cardboard boxes to burn and decided to throw them on while I still had any flames going.  I sure did not want to have to haul them back home and then down to the transfer station.
    Just about the time I was about to give up and let the starter logs go out and save the burn for another day with another approach (more and higher volatility fluids!) when all of the sudden one are started to get going.  Sensing a possible break in the situation, I packed a few more started logs into the pile and lit them up.  Soon the pile was going at a pretty good clip.  I still had to work at keeping it going.  Even with the snow cover, I did not want to leave it with any real flames still going.  It probably would have burned down pretty well all on it's own, but might have taken into the overnight period to do so.  So I moved logs around, poked at the fire and kept things going pretty well.  Nora shot over and got some lunch and then down to get the hounds so they could help us.  Upon her return, she started laughing at me and ask if I had been sticking my face in the fire.  Well, I had not been sticking it completely into the fire, but I think my sweat mixed with the smoke of the fire and made me look a bit like a smoke jumper.
    Burt wasted no time in getting to work.  He really loves to do things that have a purpose, or should I say is really work.  I think he would have made a great guide dog, as he is very smart and loves to do something that is productive and makes a difference. Baileys jumped into the work at hand too.  But I can say that her personality is different from that of Burt.  She is all about fun.  If it's fun or looks like fun, she is all over it.  If it is no fun or boring, she does not want much to do with it.
    Nora took the hounds for a little walk around the property and I tended to the fire.  She took another one of her close up shots, this time of some snow covered mushrooms growing on a birch.  Once she got back, I decided to take a little break from the fire and the hounds and I went for a little walk around the property while Nora tended to the fire.  Just about the time I was getting tired of tending to the fire, it was on it's last stages.  An hour or so later and it was down to ashes and time to go home.
    On Sunday we found ourselves driving by the Laurium Glacier.  It has started to grow again.  I drove by it today and while there is little to no snow anywhere else in the Calumet/Laurium/Lake Linden region, there was still snow there!  It will be interesting to see if the snow there sticks around for the rest of the season.  Depending on how much we get tomorrow and any warm temps this weekend and early next week, it might!
    Well, I think that does it for this one.  Only 3 more days left of walking in the woods, then Nora, the hounds and I will have to go elsewhere.  I wish we could even go out and be on the property without risk.  I think I have the layout for where the home and pole barn will go and would like to stake them out, just to help imagine what it will look like.  However, I I did not post my property and I know that one of my neighbors out there has a blind set up not too far away, and it is just not worth the chance.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 7-
    I think the snow has inspired me to be a little more frequent with my writings!  We'll see how long that lasts, but for now you will be getting 2 journals in 3 days!  The Lake Superior snow guns kicked on overnight and we picked up about 2-3" in most places.  Not as much as was called for from the NWS or I, but I am glad that I was a little more timid with the totals than them.  The system is not done yet, but we are about halfway through the time period for the snow to fall and I think we may get another inch or two.  LES is so fickle, especially for the Keweenaw.  We need the right wind directions and speeds and of course the temps and atmospheric stability (or more correctly instability).  We had most of these except the wind speeds and maybe the humidity.  The winds have been so strong that the air is moving too quickly over the big lake to really be allowed to be able to pick up enough moisture to really dump on us.  It has been spitting snow on us for all of the day, but if the winds from the surface to about 5000 feet were about 15-20 miles per hour slower, we would most likely be getting dumped on pretty good.  I have been contantly checking the radar, satellite and web cams across the UP, chasing the LES and it does not look like anyone picked up a ton of snow.  Paradise looked to have about 6", but most of the other reports from across the snow belts were in the 1-4" range.  I can tell you another thing...It's COLD!  Our temps have been hovering in the low 20's all day and the winds have been making it feel like it is in the single digits.  We did take both our morning and afternoon walks and of course the dogs were not phased by the cold and winds at all, but I think Nora and I were glad to get out of the elements when we were done.  I can personally say that I enjoyed the walk a ton but sitting in the warm house is also nice!
    Yesterday for our afternoon walk I wanted to walk in snow so we headed up to the higher elevations in Keweenaw County.  The highest elevation to be exact.  It was about a year ago that the hounds and I set out with GPS in hand to find one of three spots in the Keweenaw that rise above 1540 feet.  Our destination last year, Praiseville Hill, was our destination this year.  Interestingly enough the conditions both last year and yesterday were almost exactly the same- a few inches of snow on the ground, temps in the upper 20's and some newly frozen puddles.  Only difference was this year Nora was along for the adventure and I knew where we were going.  Last year I did not have a clue how we would get to the top, but lucked out with one form of a trail or another pretty much the whole way.  This year I was able to remember the way up and we made it up and back in good time.
    It was pretty chilly yesterday too and the one thought that was entering into my mind was what I started the last journal off with, that it felt like autumn was handing the batton over to winter.  The funny thing is, in Lake Linden all was brown and it really seemed like it was still autumn.  However, as we got into the higher elevations of the Keweenaw there was about 3-4" of snow down and it seemed like winter.  When the snow had fallen it was warm enough for the snow to stick to everything but with the temps yesterday in the 20's it was not wet anymore, but nice a dry and perfect to walk in.  Of course, not all of the walking was nice and dry, there were a few creeks to have to traverse.  We made it to the top and had a good look around but did not stay too long as the winds were pretty strong up there.  The hill is completely covered in trees so you do not get a real good view, at least not one that is photo worthy.  The 360 degree panorama from the top is pretty neat to see in person.  The nice thing about making that hike is that it is all downhill on the way back, so you have gravity helping you get back to the vehicle!
    With the different temps over the past few days it allowed the snow to do some pretty neat things in spots.  Nora really has an eye for catching the smaller details around us.  I seem to be more of a big picture person, but she can spot things that I miss that are on a smaller scale.  I'm glad because it allows me to continue to go around in life like I always have, but with the added bonus of seeing things I would have otherwise missed.  Sort of like having the best of both worlds!  Anyway, she spotted where the snow had started to droop off a small branch, but before it could fall to the ground, it froze- creating several loops.  On the drive home, we passed through Phoenix and the Church of the Assumption.  Right next to it the east branch of the Eagle River flows by and with the snows down in the foreground and the pines and birch in the background I thought it would make for a nice picture.
    Today I had hoped to maybe take the first ski of the season.  I suppose we could have just gone back to the same general area we were yesterday.  The 3-4" base, plus the 2" today would have been enough, but with the winds and icy roads, we stuck closer to home and just went out to the school forest.  I was interested to see if the snows we have had recently might get the deer to move a little, but there was barely even a track out there.  When they start to move the migration trails stand out very good out there.  As we were walking along, Nora stopped and looked into the woods and asked me: "what's that?".  I did not even see what she was referring to.  She started into the woods a bit, stepping over a few blow downs and then got to within a few feet of what she saw.  There on a small branch, was a birds nest hanging, with a little cap of snow on it.  It was about 20-30 feet into the woods and could not have been any bigger than a base ball, but somehow she was able to spot it and once again I was treated to something that I probably would have never seen walking through there a hundred times!  Of course I could not talk about this without sharing it with you all.  But the pictures full credit goes to Nora, because she not only spotted it, but snapped the photo.
    So, not only does it feel like winter around here but looks like it too.  I'm not sure if it will last.  In fact if I had to bet I would say that it will not.  That is not because I am thinking negative, rather the snows this early in the season never really do.  We always seem to get some kind of thaw or rain or both to come before the first of December, when we historically hang on to the white ground for the rest of the year.  But for now it's white and we will make use of it.  Nora and I plan to head to the property and light the burn pile we made a few weeks back.  The winds will be down and it will be a little warmer, plus the snows will keep the fire from spreading.  I just hope the pile burns completely and fairly quickly, I don't feel like staying out there ALL day!  Will let you know how it goes.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 5-
    Starting to feel like autum is about ready to hand the batton over to winter.  Does not look quite like it up here, at least in the valley, but there is a little more of a bite to the air and some flakes have been flying in all areas and accumulating in the higher terrain.  We sort of got skunked by our first potential "big storm" of the season the other day.  The NWS had winter storm warnings up for 8-12" of snow and I hate to say it, but that is almost the kiss of death for us.  As soon as those WSW are posted I should just as soon forget about getting a lot of snow.  Now, I do need to make it clear that it is not the NWS's fault and it is not like they are doing anything wrong.  More times than not I do agree with them.  The models were looking pretty impressive with that storm.  I was a little worried about reaching the 8-12" mark with that storm, but for different reasons than why we did not get it.  I thought that the totals would be held down by the temps causing the snow to be so wet it would not accumulate as effectively, or that some rains would even mix in.  The Monday night/Tue morning snow was a bust because the moisture never made it up here.  Temps were fine.  So I was a little less wrong but for the wrong reasons.  Anyway, it just seems like mother nature just waits for the NWS to hoist the warnings and then pulls her fast one!
    As I mentioned the higher elevations did get some snow though so the forecast was not a complete bust.  Mohawk picked up about 4" total and that is where we decided to go for a walk yesterday afternoon.  It was actually a mix of rain and snow yesterday afternoon here in the valley and that is not much fun to walk in.  I would much rather walk in a wet snow than any rain!  I knew of a road that was not too far from Mohawk that would not have much traffic on it at all and figured it would be a good place to walk.  I was really hoping it was snow covered and to my happiness it was.  I also like to walk on a snow covered road, rather than one where the snow is melting and the road is all wet.  It's funny with all the times I have experienced little or no snow here at my house, while the higher elevations are getting accumulating snow, I still cannot get fully use to it.  I guess I spend 30+ years of my life living in a place where you would have to drive for miles to get out of the snow when it was falling that it just seems too odd to me to drive 2 miles and go from rain in the air and brown on the ground to snow in the air and white on the ground.
    It was a very sticky snow, so that usually makes for some pretty scenery and one of my favorite sights, snow flocked pines.  I am still awaiting the winter where we have a period that has so much snow and so little wind that the trees actually become encased in the snow.  Those trees are called snow ghosts and it happens more frequently out west in the mountains.  We have come close up here, but never fully encased any.  I actually wonder if it is possible.  Maybe the conditions or trees out west are different enough that it can happen there, but not here.  It sure seems like we get enough snow at times to do it.  A few years back I drove through the Mass City area after they had picked up nearly 100" in one week and they did not have any snow ghosts.  Seems to me that 100" in a week should be enough!
    Nora and I really seem to think the same things a lot of the time.  On our walk I spotted some bushes that were coated in snow and thought it would make a neat picture.  Just as I was sending the signal to my had to reach into my pocket and take out the cam, she asked for the cam so she could take a picture.  It turns out that she wanted to take the same exact picture I wanted to.  I'm sure the same happens to her when I get the jump by a second or two.  I have thought about getting her a cam, but it seems like we can share pretty well so far, so no need to spend the money just yet.  Anyway, here is the shot that we both spotted at about the same time.  Of course, almost every time she has the cam she has to point it in my direction.  That is something that we differ in!  I don't think much about taking a shot of her.  Not because I do not want to but because I have been trained very well to not even consider it!  I'm not real big into getting my picture taken either, but figure I can never have too many shots of me and the hounds to look back on, so here is one more.  About the same time I got the camera back, Burt took off trying to catch a little bird.  The bird was much quicker and seemed to enjoy teasing Burt a bit by landing a few feet away and then landing.  Burt is pretty smart and saw what was going on and went on to something else pretty quickly.  That allowed me the opportunity to be able to take a picture of the bird.  Neither Nora or I knew what kind of bird it was, but I am sure a few of you will be able to tell us.
    We had a little bit of light snow today, just enough to dust the ground for a brief time this morning.  We were able to head to the school forest for our afternoon walk.  Only a few more of those types of walks left.  9 to be exact.  I cannot believe it will be main deer season so soon.  That's good because that means that riding season and skiing season is just around the corner too.  Hmmm.  Maybe I'll read the Nov and Dec 00 journals soon to get me all excited about what could be just around the corner.  A bit of lake effect snow coming later tomorrow into Friday.  Looks to be about 1-3" tomorrow night and another 1-2 Friday.  Temps in the 20's and wind chills in the single digits.  Maybe it will feel and look like winter is here in a few days!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 1-
    Well, I came close to loosing my cool in the wait for snow.  Nora and I decided to fire up the sleds, just to keep things lubed up with them and as I was standing on the RMK, with the engine running and the blue smoke rising all around me, it was all I could do to keep from squeezing the throttle to the tape and hanging on for dear life!  I suppose the fact that Nora's car was directly in front of me might have had something to do with me not doing a little grass dragging, but I think I could have probably lifted the skis above the hood and let the 144" track do the rest!  Probably a good thing I did not try it.  The sleds started up pretty good and I think I will start them about every week now so that they will be in good running shape for when the season starts in just 4 weeks and 2 days!  If there's snow that is.  I put a new seat cover on the Pol-Cat, the second one in two years.  What happened was the foam cushion that sits under the seat cover ripped right at the point that I put my knee and my knee ended up ripping the seat cushion.  Probably a good thing because I decided to get fancy with the seat cover last year and had the sides done in a color that I thought would match the sled.  Well, it did not and it really did not look that good on the sled, even with the custom graphics I put on to try and match the seat.  The graphics matched fine but the seat still looked pretty bad.  This time around I just ordered a seat cover that  was suppose to be a custom fit one for my sled make, model and year.  I am always a little worried about such claims.  Some of my past experience with "custom fitted" products have proven to be a real trick to get to fit.  I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed with the fit of that cover.  It could not have fit any better.  Everything matched up perfectly, even the little holes where the bolts that hold down the rear of the seat go matched up perfectly.  All told it probably took me about an hour to take the old seat off and put the new one on.  I could have probably done it even quicker but I wanted to try and fix the cut in the foam to keep the new seat cover from ripping in the same manner.  The new seat cover is from "Saddle Skin".  I cannot speak for all of the covers they make for all the different models but I can say that the one for the Pol-Cat could really not have fit any better.  So now all the Pol-Cat needs is to have the secondary clutch replaced and I will be all ready to go.  I  already have the replacement so it is just a matter of taking the old one off and taking them both down to Al's shop so that he can get the replacement setup like the old one was.
    So I am back to my regular cool self about the whole snow thing.  I am keeping my eye out for the potential for some real snow and it actually looks like there are several chances in the next week to ten days for at least a little bit of snow.  From time to time the models even throw in a rather meaningful snow event, so I suppose it will not be too long before our ground is white.
    The other night I went back and read the very first few journals that I wrote 4 years ago.  It was funny because at times I could remember the things I wrote about as if they had just happened a few days ago.  The old journals also helped me to remember just how much I was dying for the snow to come that first winter.  It was pretty rough!  I know that all of you are very appreciative of these journals, but it is also a lot of fun for me to go back and read the past journals and relive my first few years up here.  It will most likely be even more fun 20 years from now to go back and read them.  I wonder if I will still be writing these 20 years from now?  If so, I wonder what I will be writing about?  I'm sure that it will have something to do with the upcoming winter and the snow.  Perhaps I will be writing about how excited I am to ride my new electric powered hover-snowmobile.
    Nora, the hounds and I have been taking to the woods for our walks.  Less than 2 weeks left before we give up the woods to the deer hunters.  Technically we could still go out there, but I would not chance it, especially with the dogs.  We were rained out on Thursday.  It started to rain about 10 am and did not stop all day.  We picked up about 1/2 inch of rain and a month later, that storm would have been a great snow storm.  The only reason why we got rain was the time of the year.  The track of the low was perfect for snow for us, it was just that it was still October and even up here a regular low pressure will generally not bring snow to us, we need a low with an unusual amount of cold air.  That is one of the neat things about the weather up here.  From about the middle of October through the middle of December we go from most storms bringing rain, with the occasional snow event to just the opposite, most bringing snow with the occasional rain event.
    I just realized that I have been talking a lot about snow recently and that may conflict with me saying I am keeping a cool head about things.  Well, I really am, I just feel like I do not have that much else to talk about!  Plus, I figure me talking about snow is something most of you will not object to!  Anyway, Nora, the hounds and I did get out yesterday to be able to take a walk before we had to come home and man the candy bowl.  We headed up to the Cliff Range to take in the view from the top.  The trees are pretty much completely bare, but the tamaracks are still putting on a show and the evergreens provided their color too, so the hike to the top was still worth it.  A little further up the range lies the hamlet of Phoenix and the Church of the Assumption.  Pretty sleepy this time of the year, but in a few weeks things will be picking up with the hunting season and the hunter's ball.  Then the snowmobilers will start to roll in and make their stops at the Vansville and Cliff View.  I've only been up here for about 4 1/2 years, but I think I already have a lifetime of memories at both places!  We wandered around the top of the cliffs for a while and then after taking it all in for one last time, headed back down.
    Halloween was pretty quiet, even for me.  I normally do not get a lot of trick or treaters. I think being at the end of the block is a deterrent.  Yesterday it started to drizzle about an hour after the start of the hours for trick or treating and it actually drizzled pretty hard.  So with temps in the upper 30's, drizzle and darkness, I think most trick or treaters just decided to call it in.  Too bad, but we did end up with a nice big bowl of candy and we also bought all the stuff we like, so there will be no struggling around here for something to snack on.
    Well, I really do not have much else to talk about and Nora has been keeping the fire going, so I think I will sign off and go join her for the rest of the evening.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
 
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