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Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
Feb 29-
    I figured I had better not pass up the chance to write a journal on Feb 29th.  It will be 4 more years before I get to do it again!  Actually, it seems like my weekdays are so busy that trying to get in a journal is a real challenge.  When I first started writing these I had so much free time I did not know what to do with it.  Now days, I could use about 5 more hours in the day or maybe 5 hours less sleep.  Neither seems to be very possible at all, so I guess I will just have to figure something else out.  Actually, I have been thinking of ways to try and slow my life back down a bit.  One of the reasons why I enjoyed moving up here in the first place was because my life went from the rat race of the big city to the laid back pace of small town life.  I have somehow fallen back into more of a rat race pace and do not like it much.  The day's go by too fast and it seems like things are blur- that I do not get to fully take in and enjoy all that I have around me.  Sure I do get out and enjoy living in the Keweenaw, but it seems like I almost have to budget time for it!  The site will be quieting down in the next few weeks and then I will be taking my spring break from updating the forecasts at the end of March.  Summers are not too busy with the site and I am going to spend the summer thinking of ways to lessen the workload during the winter.  Spending 4-5 hours on the site in addition to my regular workload for the day is just WAY too much.  I don't know how I will do it, but I'll figure something out!
    Well, it has been very much like spring around here for the past 5 days.  Our last snow came 6 days ago and the past 5 days have seen temps climb above the freezing mark with tons of sun.  I suppose it has boosted the spirits of a lot of the locals that went through about 6 straight weeks of clouds and snow, but I was not ready for this- not yet.  As much as I love the snow, by the middle of April, I am ready for the warm weather and the fun it brings.  But the end of February is too soon to be melting the snow off.  We still have plenty up here.  January's 112" of snow was compacted down to a very solid 3-4 feet on the ground and there is still 2 1/2 to 3 feet of very solid snow in the woods.  It will make a great base for new snow, if or when that comes.
    The roads are just about completely clear and the folks that take care of them have actually already gone into spring mode.  We actually have about 3 stages of work that the snow removal folks go through.  The first stage is the preparation.  Things like making sure all the equipment is in top working shape, marking the sides of the roads with saplings and sticks and even moving around the early season snows.  Then the second stage comes about the first of December and lasts through February and sometimes well into March and that is just simply keeping up with the snow that falls.  That can mean lots of different things though.  It is not enough to simply run a plow across the roads up here and push the snow to the sides.  That will work for a while, but then the banks need to be cut back with either the wing blade or the snow go, otherwise the roads will slowly close in.  In some cases, the snow is even handled with front end loaders.  They will either push it back and pile it up, or load it into a dump truck and have it hauled off to the snow dumping grounds.  By late in March and sometimes earlier, the third stage starts to kick in and that is to start moving the snow around again so that when the big thaw hits, the drains are clear and the path that the meltwater takes to the drains is not blocked either.  Severe flooding can happen in the wink of an eye around here when the strong spring sun and warmer temps start to melt off the deep snowpack at the rate of inches/day.  Sometimes stage three is interrupted by stage two if a storm or series of storms comes and throws the Keweenaw back into winter for a week or two.  Then stage three is started up all over again until only the most monstrous snow mountains from the season are left standing in the form of a few stubby snow piles.  I guess you could even say there is a fourth and final stage and that is the final clean up.  All the stamp sand that is used during the winter is left behind once the snow has melted and in some cases may be several inches deep.  The folks that maintain the roads then need to get out and clean that up so that over the course of several years there are not piles of stamp sand feet deep on the sides of the roads.  So I bet that a lot of you folks that visit only in the summer, or perhaps just for a few days at a time in the winter never even knew there was such a production going on just to keep the roads open.  I have to say that they folks that take care of the roads up here are true professionals and are very good at what they do.  They make it look very easy handling the snow like they do, but it really is a monumental task every winter.
    Even with the thawing going on I have been getting some riding in.  In the last journal I wrote I talked about my ride with Matt to do some scouting.  I hope to use those paths yet this season for any remaining KSE ride I might be part of or even just for my own purpose.  I also hope to get out and do some more scouting before the winter is up.  I did accompany Al on a KSE ride yesterday.  It was my first "extreme" ride of the season.  I guess you can say that just about anytime we ride without it being an official tour, it ends up being more of an extreme ride than anything else, but it is a little different when we are doing it as guides.  There is more of a sense of responsibility for both the safety of the group and also to try and make sure that the group is having as much fun as we can provide.  Of course most of the KSE tour groups are looking for the deep and untracked powder, but when no significant snows have fallen in over 3 weeks and temps have been rising into the 30's and 40's with lots of sun, the powder is long gone.  I think we still managed to show the group yesterday a good time.  Maybe not as good a time as if they had been here 3 weeks ago, but we did make the most of what we were given.  Before we embarked for the day the group said that they were looking for hill climbs and jumps.  The hill climbs would be easy to accommodate, but the good jumping is limited to just a few spots and the landing is not the softest anymore.
    There are tons of hills to climb in the Keweenaw the only problem is that most of the hills still have plenty of trees on them!  That presents only a minor problem for the group of locals that I ride with, we just pick our way through the trees and find our way to the top.  For riders that have not done much of that type of riding, it can be a different story.  It is not simply a matter of holding the throttle wide open, hanging on and hoping your sled has enough cc's and track to make it to the top.  There are times when you need full throttle, but other times when you need to back off.  There are also times when you need to quickly change your direction to find your way through the trees.  So to make a long story short, Al took us to a fun play spot with some nice hill climbing, but also a fair amount of trees to weave your way through.  It did not take long for a group of 5 very good riders to find their limitations.  With just the first attempt at trying to reach the summit, it looked more like the battlefield beneath the stone wall at Fredricksburg.  We got everyone all dug out and back down.  A few of the guys had a second and third attempt at it and some were successful.  After that first hill we headed through the bush to a logging road and then up to some areas that were a little less forested.  On the way to the logging road we came upon a small hill, probably about 20-30 feet high and not exceptionally steep, but in the course of 6 sleds riding ahead of me, a very deep trench had been carved in the snow up this hill.  There were also several obstacles along the way, so going to one side or another was not an option.  I did my best to try and jump from one side of the trench to the other and keep my track in the snow.  I almost had the hill made- another 5 or 6 feet and I was there.  Only one problem, my sled jumped from one side of the trench to the other and the next thing I knew, a large stump was directly in front of me.  I was able to stop in time, only kissing the snow on the stump.  I also did not spin my track, so the sled was not buried in the snow, but there was the trench that I had to deal with and the stump.  So we pulled the sled back a bit, filled the trench with snow as much as possible.  Got a guy on each ski loop and I got out without any trouble.  Still not fun to get stuck in that type of situation!
    We ended up making it out of the deeper bush and on to some logging roads and then on to some clearer pasture so to speak.  But then came upon some really good hill climbing with trees.  I must admit that when I first started riding with Al and the guys, I thought they were nuts for not only climbing the hills they were, but the fact that the hills still had what I thought to be a rather dense forest growing on them!  But after some time, I started trying to climb a few and my confidence grew.  Now, I am on the lookout for some good hills just like the rest of the guys.  So when Al and I saw a nice 200 footer with just enough room between the trees to pick our way up, up we both went.  We both made it to the top and I was expecting to see some more sleds behind us, but some of the guys decided to sit that one out, a few got stuck and the rest stopped to help him out.
    After that we headed out of the woods and back to civilization for some lunch and a fuel stop.  Following lunch, I think we finally were able to give the guy's what they were looking for.  Some hills and jumps without trees!  These guys really liked to jump.  I think we probably could have taken them to one of the jump spots and let them go for a few hours and then move on to another jump spot and do the same and then call it a day!  They would just jump, then get back in line and jump again and again and again.  I almost got tired just watching them!  Al got into some of the jumping action and here is a video of one of Al's jumps.  We were able to find a few more play spots to their liking and then ran out of day and had to head back to Lake Linden.  I am thinking that a few of them had to be at least a little sore.  I was a little sore after the ride and I did not even do as much as most of them- choosing to sit out most of the jumping.
    With the weather we have had, the snow we have has really firmed up.  It happens all the time near this time of the year.  Burt and Baileys love it as they can just walk right across the snow and go anywhere.  Today I was out clearing some of the snow off of the bush protectors and Burt hopped up on the snow and decided to check out the other bush protectors.  Unfortunately he saw me taking his picture without his permission and decided to give me the eye as a little warning to cut it out.  So rather than tempt fate, I handed the camera to Nora and told her to get some shots of Burt and Baileys playing on the snow piles.  Burt had moved on to the big pile at the end of the street, when Nora snapped this shot of him.  I think Burt realized what I had done to Nora and was not upset at her.  Baileys likes to rub her head against the snow banks made by the snow thrower and Nora was able to capture her doing just that.
    Well, I think that about covers it for another one.  I am rapidly closing in on my bed time anyway.  I am hoping very much that the forecast for this week and it's snow pans out.  I have already been dealt one set back, the storm for tomorrow looks to bring us rain first, then some snow.  It was the one thing that was keeping my spirits up last week with the thaw going on.  Friday was a tough one for me once it looked like mostly rain.  There could be a big storm for this Friday though and I know I will go to sleep tonight with all fingers and toes crossed for it to be in the cards in tomorrow mornings model runs.  Temps will be below freezing from tomorrow night on, but it would really be nice to get some decent snow as well.  I am not ready for spring.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
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Feb 25-
    Holy smokes!  What has gotten into me?!  3 journal entries in less than a week!  Somebody check me for a temperature!  Actually, I got back from an awesome ride and I just had to share some of the pics as well as give my ideas on coming up here this weekend if folks were interested.  Plus, if 3 journals in one week was not enough, I got a new woodworking toy...er tool today from the UPS man and I have not even taken it out of the box yet!!!  So this is true dedication!!!  Seriously though, I don't know how long this will be and I only have 6 pics to share, but I really did want to show you the trail conditions right now and talk about my feelings for folks wondering of they should come up this weekend.
    Yesterday I went up to Keweenaw Motor Sports in Calumet and had a cigarette lighter put on my sled.  I actually bought it from Dan's Polaris and would have gone down there to have it put in, but Calumet is much closer.  I must thank the guys up there for taking care of me so quickly and not charging me!!!  I was certainly not expecting that and it was a very pleasant surprise.  Anyway, the reason I had the lighter put on was so that I could plug my GPS unit into it and do some exploring with it.  The first shot I have to share with you was of the trail just north of Calumet taken yesterday late afternoon on my way home from Keweenaw Motor Sports.  The trails are in awesome shape and even with the warmer temps are holding up very well in most spots.  They are grooming all sections at least once a day, but it seems like they are hitting them both in the day and overnight too.  At any rate, all of the trails I have been on for the past 3-4 weeks have been flat as a pool table and folks that know me know that if that was not true I would have no problem writing about it!!!  But really, my hat (or helmet as the case may be) is really off to the trail boss, Don, and the crews on the groomers, they are doing an awesome job.  Almost too good to believe after the past few years!
    So today, Matt (a friend and KSE guide) and I decided to do a little scouting for KSE with the GPS.  It was really a perfect day for it.  Lots of sun and warm too.  For scouting, it is nice to have it sunny, or at least not dumping snow so that you can have good visibility.  The warm temps also made it comfortable to be able to stop and have a look around.  With the snow deep but setup and our long tracks, there really was no where we could not go.  It was really a nice feeling to be riding along and not have to worry one bit about getting stuck.  I am sure that we could have found a few spots to do just that, but today was about finding some new trails, not hill climbing.  One of the reasons why I am so giddy tonight is because we were able to accomplish our mission and also find some bonus trails.  I am not going to give the details to where we went, but I was looking for a few paths between some specific locals and found them!  Another nice thing was that for much of the day Matt and I were riding in areas where there were little to no tracks.  Believe it or not, that is getting to be a real task since we have not had any big snows in the past 2-3 weeks and snowmobile tracks made a few weeks ago can still be seen.  The paths we found were mostly logging road type trails, but in a few spots they were pretty grown in.  As a matter of fact, we got faked out on one as we were following some other sled tracks and they turned around where it looked like the trail ended, so we turned around too.  A little later after more turn around's, I stopped and took a close look at where we had been via the GPS and it turns out we were actually on the right trail when we turned around at that one point, so we went back there and found out that the trail did continue on, but was just more grown in.  Still, we got through and made it to where I wanted to. So mission number one was accomplished.
    I really am so very lucky to be able to live the life that I have.  Today I was talking to someone about a possible magazine article that may be done about me and some other yoopers and felt a little corny going on about how I felt so blessed to have a job I love, live where I have dreamed about living, a beautiful and super smart future wife and two wonderful hounds.  Plus, all I have to do is open my garage door, start the sled and I have one of the best playgrounds for snowmobiling in the entire country right at the end of my driveway!  I have been trying to figure out the words to use to fit this next picture in, but just can't seem to come up with anything clever, so here is one of the logging roads Matt and I were riding down today.  The thing I think is neat about that pic is that you can see we both came off the little dip and gave it a little throttle at the same spot and lifted our skis a bit and then the skis cam down in the same exact spot.  As mentioned, at least 30% of the riding we did today was on trails that had not been touched in a while and may not have been all season.
    Of course being able to break trail is just one of the great things to back country riding, another great thing is the scenery.  I suppose that one could really deserve a full sized version.  Yes, the snow is really that deep up here.  We were riding in the spot that probably gets some of the most snow in all of the Keweenaw and the snow on the banks of that river was about 4-5 feet deep.  In another month an a half that little creek will probably be about 3 feet deep and about 5 times as wide as it is right now!
    We finished up the ride in the bush at about 4:30 which was about perfect for me.  That allowed me to get back on the groomed trail and get home before it got dark and cold out.  It has only been dark for about an hour, but the temperature is already about 12 degrees cooler.  This morning it was 3 above in my back yard and even at about 10:30 was only 15.  I think we did manage to reach the mid 30's though.  Anyway, I did snap this photo of the groomed trail just north of Phoenix.  That is what I got to take all the way home today!  What a joy!  Now, there were a few spots where the snow on the trail was a bit thin, especially in the turns.  But for the most part, the trails up here away from the road crossings and towns will be just fine through this thaw we have going on.
    Now about that weekend weather.  It looks like most of the UP will be just fine for the balance of the weekend.  The precip really does not look to arrive until later on Sunday in the first place.  Sure there could be a bit of very light precip late Saturday and into Sunday and that could fall as something other than snow, but the way things look right now, the precip would be so light (a few sprinkles or flurries) that it would not cause much discomfort while outside at all.  Things can change, but right now, if I were planning on coming up this weekend, I would not cancel.  And please do not think that the chambers of commerce put me up to this.  I have just been getting some e mails about what to do this weekend and unless I change my forecast dramatically for the weekend, I would not worry about the weather up here.  It may be above freezing, but the precip does not look to be a problem.  For those of you with plans to come up and play in the snow next week, you look to be in even better shape as it still looks like the UP will pick up some pretty decent snow.  Not the biggest storm we have ever seen, but a good 4-8" looks to fall and there is the potential that even more than that could fall in some locals.
    The weather for northern MN and far northern WI looks about the same as it does for the UP, but I cannot comment on their trail conditions, so you will just have to trust the words of others on that.
    Well, I guess that gets you all caught up on my doings for the past few days.  Don't know if I will ride tomorrow or Friday, but I would imagine one of the two days I will get some riding in.  There are a few more routes I would like to find.  Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 22-
    Well I really do not have much to say but I do have a rare moment of free time. So rather then wait until I have more to say and no time to write, I figured I would just say what I have to say right now.  After a very snowy 6 weeks things have quieted down for the past 2 weeks.  Storms have passed to the north of us, west of us and just this past Friday, one passed just to the south.  We did pick up about 3 1/2" of snow, but some areas just to our southeast picked up over a foot.  It would have been great to get that snow!  Not much fresh stuff out there.  Sure we have picked up 18 1/2" in the past 2 weeks, but 10 of that came in one fluffy dump almost two weeks ago and we have had more days without snow than with recently.  I suppose that's OK.  We have plenty on the ground and a hearty batch of folks up here that endure the long and snowy winters really did need a bit of a break.  I was not tired of the snow and would have been happy if we had kept up our January clip through Feb and March- even early April, but I am a bit unusual from most.  It does look like we could start to get some more snow as we reach the end of this week or the following weekend and possibly keep the snows flying into early March at least.  March usually provides a good dump the veritable "St. Patty's Day Storm" as it is called.  It does not matter if the storm hits 10 day before St. Patrick's Day or 10 days after that storm is called the St. Patrick's Day Storm!  Who am I to argue!
    I have been able to get some good riding in in the past week or so.  As mentioned in the last journal I rode last Sunday, then on Wednesday and then most of the day yesterday and even took a short ride today.  I am still running behind in miles for the season with just about 800 under my belt. But, I still have at least 5-6 weeks of riding left and if this March follows previous March's then I could easily be doubling my miles for the season so far.  There is a great base down and there are tons of places to go and have fun.  Actually, with the snow setup like it is, there are more places I can ride than when the snow is all powdery.  The powder is great in the fields and even the logging roads, but for the hills and gullies as well as just picking your way down a grown in skidder trail the firm snow is the best.
    Our riding today was on the skidder roads up the valley just a bit from me.  Most folks would not like this type of riding and quite frankly when I first started following the guys into the woods to do it I did not like it that much either.  It is very technical- about as technical as riding gets.  You need to apply the right amount of throttle at the right time and also make the decision on which way you are going to travel to pick your way through the trees very quickly.  There can always be trouble hiding just beneath the snows surface in the form of a stump or large branch that can not only stop your trip very quickly and can also ruin a perfectly good front suspension!  But there is the adrenaline rush you get when you are climbing a steep, but short hill, picking your way through the trees and make it to the top and the RMK has made getting to the top a whole lot easier!  With the Pol-Cat, I just basically squeezed the throttle as much as it would go and did my best to get up the hills.  Now I actually get to just "burp" my way up most hills and only need to hold it wide open on the biggest and steepest ones.  I still get stuck (did it twice yesterday and once today!), but there are places I am going with this sled that I could only dream of going with the good old Pol-Cat.  Plus, the sled is running great.  On Wednesday's ride, the temp rose close to 40's so it was a little boggy, but by the end of the ride, the sun was getting low in the sky and the temp was dropping and it woke right up.  On yesterday's ride it ran great and today seemed to be running as good as I can ever remember it running.
    I did take the camera along on yesterday's ride.  It was a KSE tour that Brian and I took out.  Some of the riders were on their 3rd or 4th ride with KSE since it's onset and for others it was the first experience with our tours.  Even though we have not had much fresh snow in the past 2 weeks the conditions out there are still pretty good.  I was the sweeper, meaning that I brought up the rear and made sure everyone in the tour stayed part of the tour.  Even after 11 sleds (our biggest tour of the season and about as big as they get) had passed through, the condition of the snow for me was not bad at all.  At times I was even able to find some fresh untracked snow.  The tour was a mix of everything and towards the end of the trip Brian took us up into some hills where everyone could try their hand at getting stuck.  We got all 10 sleds and both guides back safe and sound and were treated to dinner.  Today's ride was just some close quarter hill riding, but was cut short as one of the guides out on a KSE tour blew his chain and needed to have the backup sled delivered to him and his sled picked up.  That was Matt who had the misfortune today and I hope all he needs is to throw a new chain on and maybe replace the case, because he and I were planning to do some riding this week in the afternoons.  Scouting missions you could call them.
    Well, I guess that gets you all caught up on things for now.  Hopefully Matt and I will be able to take some rides this week and I will be able to share some of them with you all. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 19-
    I'm going to try and get an early start on this journal so that I can have as much of it done before Nora gets home from work.  She works different schedules just about every week and this is her early schedule week, so the hounds and I have been waiting for her to get home so that we all can do something.  I took a KSE ride yesterday afternoon so we did not do anything together yesterday, but will do something today.  So I am going to try and get as much written before she comes home, but you will not likely know the difference as it will not likely get posted until this evening.
    We have broken out of the deep freeze and yesterday we had our first above freezing day in over 45 days.  We actually shot quite a bit above 32, with a high at the airport of 39 and I bet some local temps in the low 40's.  It was also sunny, so there was some melting.  However, due to the fact that the dewpoints were in the low to mid 20's, that heat energy in the air was not transfered to the snow as well and we lost only about an inch of snowcover and that may have been due more to settling than actual melting.  The main roads lost a lot of snow and are clear now.  Even many of the side roads we crossed or ran the side of yesterday were losing their mat of snow.  Today is cloudy and threatens snow in the sky.  We could get some flakes before the day is over and then it looks like a couple of inches should fall by tomorrow evening.  That would be nice as our snow is getting a little old.  It is getting harder and harder to find fresh snow out there, but not impossible as this picture shows.  That was taken on the KSE ride yesterday afternoon.  I have to admit that most of the trip was not down logging roads with snow conditions like that, but we still had a good time.  I guess while I am on the topic of riding up here, I must say that the groomed trails have been in awesome condition.  Our KSE rides do take us on them for short little runs every once in a while and so far this season I have yet to hit anything that was too nasty.  Just back in January a few times things were rough, but it could have been because the equipment was broke.  Even yesterday we encountered a freshly groomed trail and I cannot remember the last time I saw too many bumps on the trail cam.  So congrats to the groomers who have been keeping the trails in such great shape this season.  Sure we have had help with lower traffic volume and decent weather locally, but the trails have also been maintained well this year.  I have actually yet to hear anyone complain about the trails up here this year.  Let's hope the trend continues for years to come!
    On Monday, Nora, the hounds and I took to the woods for our walk.  No we did not try and trudge through 3 feet of snow, we just drove out to a little road that snakes it's way through the forest, parked the truck and took a nice walk.  Walking down that road with Nora and the hounds, the snow piled deep on either side and a mix of pine and birch trees flanking it really helped to drive home how lucky I am.  I think that we all have things to be greatful for in our lives and many times it is easy to overlook them.  However, in times like that, it is almost impossible to overlook the blessings.  I also felt that way while cruising through the woods on the RMK yesterday!
    On Tuesday we took to the north shore for our walk.  Again, we did not actually walk the shoreline, but did walk down to it to have a look.  The ice castles are well formed along the shoreline and pack ice extended about as far as the eye could see.  I have determined that the eye cannot see very far, as the satellite imagery indicates the pack ice to extend about 3-4 miles off shore, then the lake is pretty much wide open.  That is a good thing as we are not yet done with the LES season.  It does begin to taper off some as we head out of February and into March, but we can still get cold enough to bring on the LES into March.  So it is nice to have lots of open water off to our west.
    We did spot a wolf doing some hunting out on the frozen lake shore.  Looks to be one of those well fed yellow labrador wolves!  But seriously, I did spot some wild animal tracks on the snow.  I am not sure what made them, but they looked to be the size of a bobcat, but looking at that picture I am not that sure.
    Even though our temperature had been below freezing for over 45 days straight and some of them hanging in the single digits, there is still running water that can be found up here.  The deep snow pack insulates the small creeks and allows the water to keep from freezing.  It makes for a pretty photograph (courtesy of Nora), but can make for some tricky riding if you come across them!  There is a trick to getting across creeks like that and it is funny to come along folks out doing some off trail riding that have encountered them and do not know how to cross them.  I have seen sleds upside down in the creeks, sleds burried up to their windshiled in the snowbank on the other side and a ton of sleds with the rear of their sled buried up to the top of the seat in mud.  It is easier to show than to describe the technique, so I guess you will just have to sign up for a KSE ride and ask for some creek crossings to learn how.  However, the rest of the KSE season is just about booked solid.  All of our weekends are booked and we only have a handful of week days left.  We are shutting things down after March 14th to give the guides some weekends to play before the season is over.  Plus it gets harder and harder to provide the clients with the type of riding we like to give them after that date.  We can have some great storms hit after that date, but the March sun and occasional thaws can lead to pretty packed snow.
    Well, I guess that gets you caught up on the latest goings on up here.  I do have some riding planned in the next few days and will be sure to bring the camera along.  I can leave you with one last shot to gaze over, it is of your's truely and the hounds on the walk Tuesday afternoon.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 15-
    Well, it looks like I have been slacking again the past week or so.  I cannot believe it has been almost a full week since my last writing.  The worst part about things is that I really do not have much material for this go around.  The sled was on dry dock all week and I did not take any skis with the hounds.  The weather has been rather uneventful in the past week or so and to tell you the honest truth I really cannot recall doing anything all that interesting in the past 6 days!  I actually have to think pretty hard to try and remember just what the heck I have been doing the past week or so.  I know I have been spending some of my time dealing with the sled issues.  I also shoveled the roof and also did some more "on camera" work for the DVD.  Rick wants to have a segment on the DVD that is about me and my site. So he came over the other evening and shot some footage of me in my office and I talked a little about how I make my forecasts as well as about the site a bit.  Nora and I also went to dinner with Rick his friends and family and then we all soaked our bones in the hot tub at his motel.  It was nice to be able to soak my neck.  It is still a little sore and I might actually have it looked at.  It seems like it is just a muscular issue and it actually gets most sore by the end of the day having supported my head all day.  My neck actually feels best in the morning when the muscles in it have been resting all night.
    So that pretty much capsulizes the week that I have had.  I suppose I can go into a little more detail.  I am not going to get into great detail about the sled issues just yet because some things still need to be squared away, but I have a feeling that those issues could be all taken care of as soon as tomorrow.  I really do want to get things squared away.  As technically, we are really only about 1/2 way through our season.  In most years we have to wait until about the middle of December to start riding and can go until about the middle of April.  So in reality we are just 2 months into a 4 month season.  Of course the season can end sooner than the middle of April, or like in 1996, we can ride into May!  My perfect season would be to have decent riding until about April 15th-18th, then let it all melt and by May 1st we can have nice 50 and 60 degree days and enjoy spring without the bugs and messy woods.  We actually had that about 2 years ago and with the snow pack we have now I think that we could have a pretty good chance of having the snow stick around until at least the first week or two of April.
    As mentioned I did get the roof shoveled this week.  Nora gave me a hand by running the snow thrower and clearing away the snow I was shoveling off the roof.  However, the snow thrower started to act up, so we called it quits.  I did manage to get about 2/3rds of the roof done that day and all that was wrong with the snow thrower was a fouled plug.  Threw a new one in and got the rest of the roof done on my own on Friday.  It will be interesting to see if it needs it again before spring.  If it does, this will have been one heck of a snow season, over 300", that's for sure.  When the roof is all done I sure like to drive up to the house and see it clear!  Not just for the satisfaction of having it done, but also for the fact that I know I do not have to worry about it for about another 100" of snowfall.
    If the pace of snowfall that we have been in for the past week or so keeps up I will not have to worry about it much.  With the exception of the 10" of fluff we got Monday night, things have been kind of slow in the snow department.  It looks like we lucked out pretty good with the timing of the video shoot as there is not a lot of fresh powder out there.  Sure there are spots where the snow have not been tracked up in some time, but the snow has really settled and is not that soft.  I doubt that we would have been able to do the same type of riding this past weekend as we did last weekend for the video.  I am not that worried about the current slow pace and it will allow the locals to sort of catch their second wind before what I hope will be a good last third of the season.  There is the potential for a fairly decent storm later this week, that would be about perfect timing for KSE as well.  The end of the week and next weekend are very busy for us with rides and it is always nice to get some decent snow during the busy times.
    Speaking of KSE, I think that my last journal really spurred on some interest in it.  The phone reservation line was ringing off the hook all week once that journal was out.  It reminded me of the first year that we were doing KSE and the bookings were slow until Brian and I took a ride like KSE would provide and I took a bunch of picture and put them in the Journal.  The next few days after that I think we booked about 15 tours.  The KSE schedule is actually pretty full for the rest of the season.  We also decided to end the season for KSE on March 13th or 14th, that way we can have the rest of the season to ourselves to play and even have the annual ride in party.  Spring riding is lots of fun and I know I am looking forward to my first spring with a long track.  Go anywhere and not be intimidated by any water crossings.
    I would also like to apologize to all of those waiting for their guest shots to get posted.  I actually have been busy with things this week, even though I do not have a lot of exciting stuff to write about.  My regular job is keeping me busy, the ask John has been busy and I still get about 30 e mails that I have to respond to a day.  Think about it, 30 e mails that I respond to and each one takes 2-3 minutes to read and respond to, that is 60-90 minutes a day- just in the e mails!  I think that a lot of folks do not believe me when I tell them I spend at least 4 hours a day on this site and many days 5 and 6 hours.  I think that even Nora did not think so, but she sure does now!  Things will be slowing down in another few weeks and then I will be taking my spring break. That is what gets me through this time of the year.  It can get rather grueling day in and day out.  I cannot just take a day off, as the e mails and ask Johns will still be there.  It is like someone coming in and dropping off more work for you to do at fairly regular intervals 24 hours a day.  If you put it off, it just piles up more and more.  So I really need to stay on top of things.  I did sacrifice the Guest Shots the past few weeks, but need to get going on those very soon.  There are over 3 dozen waiting to get in and the list will only get longer!  But I sacrificed that section because I figured that it is something that is not as time sensitive as everything else on the site.  In fact, when the warmer months come, it is sometimes nice to have new snow shots to look at.  I am pretty sure I will get caught up on them before this season is even over, but that was just my thought process in putting the guest shot updating on the back burner for now.  So I thank all of you for hanging in there.  They will all get in, I just cannot promise when!
    Well, I guess that gets you caught up for now.  Hopefully all the sled issues will be resolved in the next 24 hours and I can start taking pictures and sharing stories.  Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 9-
    Wow what a weekend!  The video shoot went great. I wish I could say it went off without a hitch, but I can't.  I will get into the details of the "hitch" in a bit, but first I have a bunch of photos and videos of my own to share.  We all got together at my house yesterday to watch all the footage that Rick shot in the two days and I don't know about the others, but I was amazed by Rick's talent in taking the shots and the gangs riding abilities!  The guys did not really do much more than they would normally do when we go out to play, but I guess watching it on the TV with the action captured a little more close up and sometimes in slow motion, just really enhances the action a ton.  I think that one thing that made the riding so awesome was the fact that we went to places we were saving all winter for the shoot and I got to try them out for the first time on the new sled.  I can say one thing, I love that sled!!!  I cannot even begin to imagine riding anything less anymore.  The track length is just fine for me, no need for a longer one.  The cc's are just fine too.  Sure an 800 would be nice, but the 700 was able to keep right up with the 800's.  After watching the all the footage last night I think that I will actually be in some of the shots!  My riding talents are nowhere near some of the other guys who have been riding for their whole lives.  I really have only 4 years under my belt.  Sure I came up here once a year and rode for 4 or 5 days, but that was puttering around on rentals on the groomed trails.  Plus that was it, no other riding the rest of the year.  I'm not sure if I will ever catch up to the other guys and that is not really that important.  I am just the type of person that likes to always be improving myself, no matter what it is.  So my goal to improve my riding ability is really just driven from within, not to be competitive.
    Anyway, we were all given new helmets, jackets, bibs, goggles and gloves to wear for the shoot.  Color coordinated to match our sleds and as a bonus we got to keep all the stuff!  Thanks Castle!!!!  That was extremely generous and I think the boys made your stuff look really good.  One thing we were joking about is that we all look like tourists now!  Usually you can spot the local as they are riding a sled that does not even come close to matching the outerwear!  Not anymore!  I am not going to divulge any of our play spots as they are local secrets, but in the last shot you can see that we all had to trailer up to the starting point.  As you can probably see as well the snow banks were very large!  I did not take any pictures of the first play spot, but it is a hill climb that is about 400 feet high and about 45 degrees most the way.  The snow was untracked, but believe it or not we all made it up and most of us were carving new track part way or all the way up.  I can remember just a few years back when we were all on short tracks we could only dream of making it up, but even I made it without any serious difficulties.  Although while waiting for my turn my heart was sitting just below my tonsils!  My goal was just to make it to the top.  I made it with no problems and the second time up was less stressful and I even tossed the sled around a little bit on the way up.
    Rick being a professional had fantastic equipment.  Obviously a professional camera but then all kinds of special lenses and he even has what he calls a lipstick cam.  It is a mini cam that is about the size of a tube of lipstick and can be mounted on the helmet, hood or just about anywhere you want.  We came to a logging road that had about 18" of untracked powder on it and decided to put the lipstick cam on Brian and let he and Matt ride ahead and carve their way through the forest on this logging road.  The footage was awesome and I am sure it will be on the final edited product.  That riding segment ended with the day's first crash.  Not a bad one at all, just Matt going off the logging road a bit.  We got him out and there was no damage to the sled or rider.  Not long after getting Matt back on the trail we arrived at the next play spot.  I don't know whether to call them play spots or work spots! but it hardly seemed like work, so I guess I will stick to the term play.  It was a hill that we climb and pick our way through the trees.  I took a shot of some of the guys getting ready, but had a bit of a brain cramp and did not take a shot of the hill!  Just picture a 150 foot hill in place of the relatively flat landscape behind the sleds and guys in that shot.  The tree spacing is about the same.  I got to be the first one up that hill and managed to make it about half way before peeling off and riding back down.  I was thinking that I did not do so well until I saw some of the other guys get stuck or turn around lower than I had made it.  Of course they were not going to let the hill win and most of them made it to the top.  I actually ended up getting stuck on my second try and by the time I got it unstuck and caught my breath, we were packing it up and heading off to the next play spot.
    That next spot happened to be a little sand pit that has some nice hills to climb and side hill.  Even a few lips that one can catch a bit of air.  Here is a shot of Dave landing a jump.  We did not spend a lot of time a lot of time at that play spot either, but I think that Rick managed to get some good shots just the same.  The next play area was also full of hills to climb and drifts to bust.  In fact, BJ took the first swing at busting the drift and the drift won as this video shows.  Here is a picture of him after he wiggled himself out from underneath his sled.  Ted took the next shot at the hill and made the drift, but then got stuck on the topAl had a go at it and made it.  Brian had a go at it, almost making it, but then performing a tricky little pirouette at the top and coming back down.  Next it was BJ's turn again and this time he made it.
Matt also managed to make it to the top and they all got going to help Ted out of his stuck.  I believe Dave made it to the top as well, but on the way back down took a detour and ended up picking some apples.  Brian tried one more attempt, it looked like another pirouette was about to take place, but instead a roll over occurred.  Brian too was just fine.
    They moved the shooting over to another spot in that area.  It had a better launch site for some jumping.  They guys are all as competitive as the next guy, but also very friendly about it.  There are no hard feelings when one guy out does another guy or anger when someone is outdone.  In fact there are cheers, thumbs up and high fives when a new mark is set.  None the less, I can see the competitiveness in these guys and it sure was showing Saturday as well.  Here is Al taking a jump, nice air!  Then BJ comes along and has to do him one better.  Teddy could not be left out of this friendly competition and showed us all what catching some air was about.  Strangely enough there were no more takers to try and out do Ted.  We did get a call from the Houghton County Airport and they told us that we needed to get clearance from the tower before the next take off though.
    After that bit of playing we headed over to the Lac La Belle Lodge for some lunch.  They were having snowmobile drag races and the place was packed!  Thankfully we were there a bit late for lunch and were able to get a table right away.  Great food and then headed back out for the rest of the afternoon shoot.  Finished that up and got back to the trucks and headed home for a hot shower and some dinner.  I slept like a baby that night and woke up the next morning not sore at all.  I was a bit surprised by that, but then again, I took almost the whole afternoon off as I was not really up to doing most of the stuff the other guys were doing.  I like to do a little jumping now and then, but I have this stainless steel rod in my left femur that reminds me to take it easy!
    Saturday's riding was about hill climbs and jumping, while Sunday's riding was going to be all about carving fields of powder and some gully riding and small jumps.  That is really more of my kind of riding, so I was looking forward to doing a whole lot more riding.  Rick wanted to get the first shot of two sleds coming up the field and carving back and forth.  Brian and Matt volunteered to take the first ride up and I think that they made their turns a little too wide as they were not close to each other for most of the way up.  I did manage to get a shot of them as they were coming up the field though.  Rick then said he wanted us to just come up the field one at a time, so we all headed down to take our runs.  Some of us spilled and some did not.  I spilled on my first trip up, but it was early enough in the run that I was able to carve some good turns and I think (hope) that they will make the finished product.  My next run up I was carving some nice turns when on one of my carves to the right, my right hand ski encountered the trench of one of the previous riders.  That caused it to bite on the snow a bit more, which in turn caused the sled to want to level out.  That quick leveling out caused me to be tossed off the sled to the left.  I ended up landing on my head, but with the snow over 3 feet deep and the first foot of it very soft powder, I was ok.  I pulled my head out of the snow and expected to see the sled a few feet from me, but instead it was about 50 feet from me and still going!  The throttle had stuck and it was off to the races.  The throttle was not stuck wide open, actually it was barely even past idle, but enough to keep the clutches engaged and sled moving.  Almost instantly, Ted fired up his sled and took off in pursuit.  Matt was right behind and Brian was not too far behind Matt.  I watched as the sled headed for a gully.  The gully actually runs the length of the field and it was heading into the part up at one end.  There were a few trees in the gully and my thought was: "please just miss the trees!".  I figured if the sled missed the trees, it would probably flip in the gully (I know it would have if I were still on it!) and be ok with the snow so deep.  The flip would then shut it down, or at least stop it.  Well, about 5 seconds later, I saw the sled emerge into view, still going just fine - rider less.  It sort of reminded me of a wild horse running from three cowboys trying to catch it.  It actually just ran down the length of the gully, running up one side a bit and then the other.  I was actually sort of amused by the whole thing, that was certainly something I had never seen before with any sled, let alone mine!  With the sled basically running the length of the gully, running up one side a bit, then heading back down and up the other side a bit, it was difficult for the guys to get close to it.  It was also picking up speed as it went.  Brian almost made contact with the sled, when it almost climbed up the side of the gully, but it headed back down for what would be it's final few hundred feet before running out of gully.
    I lost sight of the action as the sled and it's pesuers traveled down the slope.  I did hear all the sleds come to a stop and their engines stop too.  Al came and picked me up and we headed for where Ted, Brian and Matt had stopped.  It turns out the sled reached the end of the gully, got to a part where there was no snow, hooked a ski and flipped over, hitting the bank and finally coming to a rest.  In this shot, you can see the tracks the sled made, it is the track leading down into the wet area from the field.  Off in the distance you can see where it almost made it out of the gully and where Brian almost was able to hit the kill switch.  Here I am, posing next to the sled as it came to rest.  The bank to the left of me is where the sled impacted.
    At first it looked like I had gotten very lucky, with no visible damage to the sled.  We flipped it over and did see some damage.  I am not going to get into all the details of things, but it started up fine, so I limped it home with Bill, who was part of the film crew.  Bill and I joined up with the rest of the crew and I was on the Pol-Cat.  I sure have gotten spoiled with the RMK because riding the Pol-Cat is like driving a golf cart compared to the RMK being a sports car.  I did try and work into some of the shots for the rest of Sunday, but it was pretty much a lost cause.  I am thankful that I was not hurt, but really, falling off a sled going about 15 mph into deep powder snow is not that dangerous.  I am glad that the sled did not take off at full speed and head to where the film crew was located or where some of the other riders were located.  But what are the odds that all of that would happen like it did!!!!  Rick captured me falling off, bouncing off my head, then panned to follow the sled until it went into the gully.  He then put the camera back on me to make sure I was ok and then stopped filming.
    So I am working on getting the situation all squared away.  Hopefully in a week or so, I will be back in action.  I do have the Pol-Cat if I feel the urge to ride, but right now I really don't.  Of course if I keep waking up to 10" of fresh powder like I did this morning, that feeling may change pretty quickly!  Lake Linden actually did as well as anywhere else with the LES overnight.  Actually more than most reports up here.  Bootjack reported about 3-4".  Houghton/Hancock about 5-6" and even the usual king of the hill Phoenix Farms had 7.  Painesdale tied us with 10".  Lake effect snows can really be strange!
    So we have have started to add to the snowpack once again.  In fact, the depth this morning was the deepest of the season at 40".  It has already settled a bit since the snow was so fluffy, but Brian told me a new phrase to use to describe the snow cover up here.  He says for me to just tell everyone that the snow is ankle deep up here... if you go in head first!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 4-
    My apologies for being away for so long but I can honestly say that it has been really busy around here in the past week or so.  Much of it work, but also a fair amount of play.  I have been on 3 good rides in the past 6 days so I have nothing to complain about there.  I am resting my bones and sled for the big video shoot this weekend.  Hopefully both the sled and I will come out of it in healthy shape.  Not that I plan to do anything stupid but anything can happen.  I am sure we will both be just fine and I am actually not even concerned.  I am actually looking forward to the fun I will have, both in the riding and the watching.  Some of the guys that are going to be in the video shoot can really handle a sled!
    As far as the riding the past few days goes it has been mostly off trail and the conditions have been just about perfect.  Lots of deep stuff and we are still finding some untouched places to play.  Actually with the regular snows and the winds it really does not take that long to turn a spot that has been ridden on to a spot that looks like it has yet to be touched.  Just yesterday we went through an area that Brian had gone through with about 10 other sleds on Saturday and you could not even see a track.  Makes taking a KSE tour pretty easy. Not like last year in Feb and March when the lake froze and the snows stopped.  The lake is freezing up this year, but I did get a good look at it this afternoon and the ice cover is not too bad right now.  Lots of ice from Duluth to the Apostle Islands. But then mostly open water the rest of the western lake.  In the east, Whitefish Bay is solid and has been for several weeks, but the rest of the lake is open.  We had lake effect snow almost all day today with fairly marginal conditions in the atmosphere. So it looks like our LES machine will not be too hindered anytime soon.  Although I could do without any more serious arctic blasts.  Just give us temps cold enough for LES or even system snow and that is fine by me.
    In case you did not catch my comment in the AL Cam we did set a new all time January record for snowfall.  The 112" measured eclipsed the old record by a whopping 1.1".  I will point out that the snowfall for Houghton County is being measured in a new location.  Well, at least new for being the official Houghton County site.  It has actually been a Coop Observer site for decades and decades but just became the official site for the county this year due to the passing of the Tech professor that did it for the two years following the automation of the airport observations.  The new location is in Painesdale and they do get lots of snow. So the numbers are likely to be higher and I am sure that the averages might go up too. But I also think that this is a better representation of the true snowfall we get up here.  I always thought that the numbers recorded from the airport for all those years were low.  Not due to lack of effort mind you!  Those observers did a great job with what they had to work with, but an airport is really not a good place to try and measure snow.  Especially that one.  It sits up on the hill, fully exposed to the winds.  The observation spot was a little sheltered. But that is like the Hawaii Islands are some land in the Pacific Ocean.  I have always wondered what the numbers would be like from the Keweenaw County site if they measured at least twice a day and I think I will get an idea with these Painesdale numbers.  We had day number 39 with measurable snow today, but the string is in serious jeopardy tomorrow.  Some light snows look to arrive tomorrow night, but I do not know if they will come before midnight.  I may just have to set my alarm to see!
    Back to the riding, Saturday's ride was sort of a pseudo-KSE ride.  I took a person who has written some articles about me and about KSE that have been published by some of the state snowmobile magazines.  As a thank you, I took him and his friends out for a full day tour.  The day started out playing in some fields not too far from town and then we hit some of the bush trails.  We did not get too far down one bush road before we came upon a tree that had been down since before the snow started to fly.  How did I know that this tree had been down that long?  Well, for one it had about 4 feet of snow on top of it and secondly, there was no snow underneath it.  We got the snow off of it, broke out the bow saw I keep under my hood and started cutting away.  The tree was actually only about 8" in diameter, so it was not too tough to clear away.  I will say that I was glad to have some help though.  I cut one end of the tree away and then handed the saw over to one of the guys.  He was sawing and sawing and sawing and we were all wondering what was taking so long.  It almost seemed like he was getting some kind of enjoyment out of it he was going so slow.  Upon further inspection, we discovered his source of pleasure.  Ok, all kidding aside, the branches were really in that spot, but he was not getting much enjoyment from them.  Or at least if he was, he was not leading on that he was!
    We got the tree cleared out and busted through the untracked snow up to the upper Dreamland Trail.  Took that south for a while and stopped for a brief break.  After the trail break it was on to Gay for lunch via the back country and a little bit of the beach.  We had a great lunch in Gay, met some fans of the site and then headed out for the afternoon portion of the ride.  They have moved the trails around a bit this year and when we got to the turn off to the old Gay-Mohawk trail we came across this sign.  I could not remember a bridge that was even on that trail, at least one that if it was out could not be circumnavigated some how. So I decided to take the gang down the trail and see if we could get through.  Well, the sign did not lie.  There is a bridge out and a pretty big one at that.  The trail had about a 25-30 foot gap in it that was about 15-20 feet deep and very steep on both sides.  We looked for ways to get around it but decided there was really no good way, so we turned around.  The unfortunate part was that the bridge out was only about a few hundred feet from where I wanted to go in the first place!  So we had to double back and run the regular trail for a bit until we could jump off and play in the fresh powder.
    Jump off and play in the fresh we did.  Made our way up to the steep and deep and had some fun. Then headed down for a quick warm up before heading out for the final leg of the excursion.  As can happen with any sled ride, one of the sleds developed a potential problem.  The rider noticed the speedometer not working and that can be the signal of a more serious problem with the bearing for the drive shaft. So we left the sled and rider at the bar and headed back down to Lake Linden so that the guys could drive up there with a trailer and pick up the sled and rider.  That feat was accomplished and then Nora and I joined them for a nice dinner up in Calumet.
    On one of our walks through the neighborhood Nora grabbed the camera and decided to take some shots of all the interesting things the snow is doing to the neighborhood.  Well, maybe not all of the interesting things, but some!  As you can imagine having close to 200" for the season so far is bound to cause just about anything to be buried.  This stack of firewood was actually put there back in late December, so the snow on it has fallen in the past few weeks.  Some of the drifts on the homes and outbuildings are slowly overtaking those structures.  Of course most of the houses up here have had their roofs cleared, but a few, especially of those out of town (wink: Pat and Dean!) are still carrying the load.  In some cases I am pretty amazed at what the overhang of a roof can handle!  If the snow banks get any taller, the guys that do the plowing will have to get out and shovel the snow away so that we can see the stop signs!
    One thing about living up here in the winter is that you really learn how to deal with the snow.  It did take me about 3 seasons to get my bush protection system to a point where it could withstand the snow and I still need to clear the snow off of it from time to time.  I also have a system setup for keeping the driveway and path to the front door clear and even have a system to keep a path cleared out for the hounds to do their numbers in the back yard.  One thing is for sure, if you plan on using something in the winter, you either need to keep it inside or keep clearing the snow off of it.  Wait too long and it could look like this very quickly!  There is a car lot in Mason that is closed for the season (at least I hope so!) and every vehicle on the lot is covered in as much snow or more, but are also buried up to at least the bottom of their door windows in snow.  Hope they do not plan on selling any of those cars until May!
    Well, it looks like I am out of pictures and stories to tell.  The pressure is on tomorrow to see if we break a record (at least by the local newspapers guidelines).  They are not using a trace of snow as measurable.  That's ok with me. I am less exact with the actual numbers when it comes to fractions of an inch of snow.  A trace to me is anything less than 1/4 of an inch.  The trace they are using is anything less than .10".  That is more accurate and probably a better way to do things. But I really find it hard to believe you can distinguish between .10 and a trace.  Just my 2 cents.  By my count we already beat the old record. But again that is just my reports, nothing official.  Pray for at least .10" of snow to fall in Painesdale tomorrow!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
 
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