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Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
March 29-
    The countdown is t-2.  That is two more days left of snowfall forecasts and other daily updates to the site.  It feels like a vacation is coming!  I was thinking about putting out a little April Fools day forecast and saying something like a major change in the forecast took place and it looks like the seasons biggest snow storm would hit the upper Midwest later this week, bringing 2-3 feet of snow, but then decided to just call it quits after Wednesday's forecast.  It's not like I am busting my rump to get things done now, the forecasts are quite easy, but I guess just knowing that I do not have to get one out will be a nice mental break.  I will still keep tabs on the historical weather and update that and the AL Cam from time to time and of course the Journals will keep rolling out as well.
    I am giving a talk at the library here at the school in Lake Linden tomorrow night and have spent most of the day's spare time today preparing for that.  I actually do not plan to talk much, maybe about 20 minutes, then open up the discussion for questions.  I have given many of these talks and there are usually a ton of questions that get asked, so I usually plan more time for the Q/A than for the actual speech.  I plan to get my taxes done by Wednesday evening, so that I will be a completely free man come Thursday.  Of course I still have to start my regular work day at 4:30 in the am, but it will be nice to have the free time later in the morning and afternoon.
    It's funny, as I look out in to my back yard and see the 15" or so of snow, it just does not seem like that much.  After having over 30" for much of the winter and even hitting 40", 15" just seems like a tiny bit.  Yet, in December, 15" on the ground seems like a pretty decent amount.  Certainly enough to go for a ride and enough that they would be running the groomers.  15" on the ground in most other areas of the Midwest would also seem like a pretty fair amount.  I bet it's been about 4 years since Chicago has had 15" on the ground and before that, who knows how long.  I guess ones mindset and perspective really plays a big role in what we see.  Three months I'd see enough snow to go and play in and today I see the last remnants of winter and am not even interested in trying to play in it.  Don't get me wrong, I am not depressed, just do not view it as the type of snow I would like to play in.
    But play in it we did this weekend.  Or at least Saturday.  We had the annual ride in party up in Keweenaw County on Saturday.  It was moved down the block a bit but was just as fun.  I was initially planning on taking the sled up via trailer and then riding it around up there with the guys, but they all decided they were going to ride up there.  So on Friday, I took the truck and trailer up there and left it.  Nora followed me and drove me home.  Then Al, Brian, Dave, Joe Chico and I rode up north to the party via the trails and the bush.  We rode the bush mainly, but did take a bit of the new trail that runs from the Gay-LL trail up to the snow gauge and then up to Phoenix.  That trail has been in the best shape of all of them all year.  I suppose because it runs almost entirely in the woods and does not get as much traffic.  It was still in very good shape, except for where loggers had decided to plow out a way to their logging site.  I am really surprised that they plowed out a 2 mile section before the season had officially closed.  I realize it was quiet up here, but that was one of the last remaining good sections of trail and would have been in good shape through the rest of the season.  Anyway, we got through where they had plowed up the trail and then hooked up with Matt, BJ, Teddy, Mark and Kevin who rode south a bit to meet up with us.  Then the 11 of us went and played in the woods, climbing hills and whatnot.
    It managed to snow a trace early Saturday morning and then the rest of the day was pretty foggy, at least in the higher terrain.  With the temps remaining below freezing for most of the day in the higher terrain, that meant that the fog would cause hoar frost to form on everything.  Here is a shot of Kevin behind my sled while we were up on top of Praiseville Hill.  That is a spot that I have walked up to with the dogs a few times and one of- if not the highest spots in the Keweenaw.  With the fog and hoar frost, it made it difficult to keep track of everyone, but somehow we managed to all stay together for the most part.  The snow up there was still pretty deep.  2-3 feet in most spots and deep enough for Al to get stuck.  He was not the only or even the first stuck of the day, but it is interesting to see the style of sleds everyone is riding in our group.  Out of the 11 sleds on that ride, only two were short tracks.  A few years ago, it would have been the opposite, 2 long tracks and the rest would have been shorties.  I know I will never go back to a short track!  It's a night and day difference when playing in the deep snow and especially the deep snow and hills.
    Of course a long track is also a little nicer for water skipping which is another thing we did during Saturday's ride.  Here is Teddy crossing the skipping spot.  He does not like to get his skis wet!  Just kidding, but I'm not sure his skis ever did touch the whole 50-75 yards of the water.  I crossed a few times myself and find it to be a bit more relaxing on the 700 RMK than it was on the old Pol-Cat!  At least the guys do not call me Moses anymore!  Chico was having fun right up until the point his belt got wet, then he did his Captain Nemo impression.  What you don't see in that picture is all of his concerned buddies behind him to the right who all made some close, but high speed passes just to make sure that he was ok and not completely dry anymore.  No he was not wearing gortex.  But Chico had two things going for him that day.  One, the water was not that deep and two, there were plenty of guys around to help pull the sled out of the water.  He was able to get the sled running again and rode the rest of the day.  I even heard he managed to sink it again later that evening after I had left.  Next year I bet we can coax him into going for the hat trick- three sinkings in one day!
    I do have some videos of the water skipping.  The first one is Matt hopping across and the second is of Teddy.  After the water skipping, we took another ride in the back country.  I hung out at the party until the late afternoon, but then loaded up and headed home for a nice dinner and relaxing evening with Nora.  The sled is back in the garage and it may be retired for the rest of the season.  I am not sure if the weather will cooperate for a Trap Rock Valley water skip this year or not.  We really need a quick shot of warm and sunny weather to melt off all but the last few inches of the final foot to foot and a half of snow.  That way we still have enough snow to get to the water skipping spots, but the snow melt happened fast enough to flood the spots to the point where we can water cross.  If not, that's OK, I am not as big into water skipping as some of the other guys.  It's fun and all, but I enjoy riding the sled on snow more is all.
    I took the hounds over to the park today and the ice is starting to break up on the Torch Lake.  I had heard that they were going to bring the Sundew through the Portage Waterway to make sure the navigation aids were all in place and functional.  Nora's grandfather was Captain of the Sundew and I thought that if it docked in Houghton we could head down there and possibly get a tour seeing as though she is a direct descendant of a past captain.  I could then take some pictures and do a journal on it.  Maybe I'll call the Coast Guard so see if they can tell me when it is planning on coming through.
    Well, it looks like I have come to the end of another journal.  I suppose it will also be getting on waterfall season, so perhaps Nora the hounds and I can take some rides and check them out too.  That is always a fun spectacle to take in up here.  I'd really like to get down to the Sturgeon River Falls this spring.  I have never seen them with high water going through.  Hmmm.... So much to see and do!  Just one of the great things about living up here.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
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March 25-
    I have come to the realization that when I started doing these journals about 4 1/2 years ago I had a whole lot more free time.  I can't believe it has been a week since I last wrote!  In a way it seems like it was just a few days ago, but then when I tried to remember what I wrote about it seemed more like it was a few weeks ago!  I haven't been ultra busy, but I guess busy enough to keep me from sitting down and spitting out a journal.  Last Friday Matt and I took a ride and had a frequent visitor to the site, Skylar, and his friends out for a ride.  We rode the DNR trails up to Mohawk to get there as quick as possible, then jumped into the bush just north of Mohawk and rode that all the way to Lac La Belle.  We found some fun hills and showed those guys some of the kind of riding we do when we are just goofing around and also showed them the type of places we take KSE tours.  I even got to see some places I have never seen before.  I blew a belt on the way home.  That was my first time ever completely blowing a belt.  I have had a belt basically fail before, but never completely blow apart like that one did.  Had my spare though.  The funny thing is while at Lac La Belle, Matt was telling us about how you can get more mileage out of your belt if you break it in when you first put it on.  He said to just try and go at a fairly even speed and not too fast for about 20-30 miles on the new belt and it would last a lot longer.  My belt blew while we were still north of Phoenix so I think I put about 15-20 miles of easy riding on it.  I kept it to about 50-55 the whole way home on the new belt and no quick accelerations.
    On Sunday Brian, Matt, myself and two other locals went for a fun ride.  We rode for about 3 or 4 hours, traveling only from Brian's house in the Trap Rock Valley to Copper City about 3 miles away.  Of course we did not take a direct route and probably actually put on about 30 miles on the ride.  It was really fun because the snow was so set up or dense that we could go anywhere we wanted.  We were riding along one logging road and saw a hill off in the distance and decided to see if we could make our way to the top.  We found the base of the hill and just picked our way though the trees and right to the top.  The view was actually fantastic.  To the south was the Trap Rock Valley and the Torch Lake.  To the east we could see Lake Superior.  To the north was Fulton, Mohawk and the Cliff Range beyond.  To the west was Bumbletown Hill and even Lake Superior beyond.  There is no way we would have been able to get up there if the snow was soft and powdery.  I cut out early so that I could get home and have dinner and finish up my regular Sunday work.
    I pretty much decided to put the sled away for the rest of the week.  There were a handful of things I needed to take care of and I also started seeing a Chiropractor.  My little spill that led to the ghost ride back in early February caused me some neck pain and I finally decided to get in and have it looked at.  I actually called at the beginning of March, but could not get in for 3 weeks.  He is a good Dr and lots of folks go to see him.  I saw him on Monday and then he scheduled me for Wed and Friday of this week and then Mon, Wed, Friday next week too.  So that pretty much nixes any chances of riding those days.  It also uses up time that I might do some other things and so I have had to do them in the evenings which has take up the journal time.  So that is a big reason why it has been a week since I last wrote.
    There is one last ride for sure that I will be taking.  The annual ride in up in Keweenaw County is this Saturday and I am actually going to take my truck and trailer up there tomorrow evening so that I do not have to worry about trying to ride back from there on Saturday.  We will ride up there, then ride some more when we get there and then I can just load up on the trailer and head home Saturday before it gets too late.  I suppose there might be waterskipping event or two left in the season, but this might be the last SNOWmobile ride of the season.  I am actually in pretty good spirits about spring arriving.  Usually I get a bit depressed, but this spring I am just fine.  I am actually looking forward to golfing and being able to hang out at the beach with Nora and the hounds.  I also have some woodworking projects planned for the spring thaw and am getting excited to do that.  This summer I plan to do a major overhaul on the sled.  I need to replace both trailing arms, a radius rod, the steering post and I also plan to pull the rear suspension out and give that a good going over.  To replace the steering post I need to pull the engine, so I am sure while I do that I will give that a good looking over before I put it back in.  I am looking forward to doing that in the comfort of a nice warm garage as well.
    Nora and I are also ordering about 100 trees and about 50 berry bushes from the Houghton/Keweenaw County Conservation District.  We plan to plant most of the trees and some of the berry bushes on the property and the rest of the berry bushes at the house here, plus I am sure Nora and I will be doing some more clearing at the property.  Then I would like to build a little storage shed for the house here and of course we have all the wedding stuff to take care of.  Oh, I almost forgot I need to finally get the weather station that my brothers gave me for Christmas going fully and up into the site.  So it sounds like I will have plenty to keep myself occupied until next winter!
    However, I bet I can explain why this spring is not depressing me with one word...Nora.  It is just so great to not only have her in my life, but have her HERE!  I don't know what I ever did without her and do not know what I would do without her!  We just have so much fun together, my only wish is that she could have the summer off from work so that we could spend as much time together this summer as we did last.  The nice thing is that it stays light out so late up here in the summer that we can still do tons when she gets home from work.  I just may need to take a nap on the days she has to work late!  Speaking of naps, I did not take one today, but got home late from a Log Home Building seminar held in Lake Linden yesterday and I still need to make some calls to plan things out for Saturday's ride, so I am going to sign off for now.  I forgot the camera on Friday's ride and the batteries died on me on Sunday's ride, or I would have had some great shots to share with you.  The batteries are all charged and I will do my best to not forget it for Saturday's festivities.  So I should have some fun pics to view and stories to tell and hopefully it will not be another full week before I post again!  Plus, next Wednesday will be the last day of snowfall forecasts (or lack there of as the case may be currently!).  I do plan to get hammering away at the guest shots that are backlogged while I am not doing any forecasting for the site.  So I thank all of you who sent in shots for being so patient.  They all will get in and hopefully in a few weeks will be.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 18-
    I'm gonna get out a quick one tonight.  I do not have much to say but think I will be too busy the next 2-3 days to get one out and that would mean a week between journals and I do not really like to go that long between entries.  Anyway, I was hoping to have some nice bush riding shots from a ride on Tuesday.  Matt called me in the late morning and asked me if I wanted to go for a ride.  I decided that the chores I was planning to do could wait, so right after work, I headed out to meet up with him.  I got to our meeting point and saw that he had his hood up.  My first thought was not good.  Seeing a hood up is never a very good thing, unless the sled is in a garage!  My fears were validated as I discovered upon stopping that Matt's lower mounting point for his steering had come apart.  He tried to get it back together where we were, but was unable to.  He did get it put back together enough that he was able to limp it back to my house where he tried to get it the rest of the way back together.  About 2 1/2 hours later he finally gave up, so I drove him back to his house way up in Keweenaw County and he got his truck, came down to my house and loaded his sled in the trucks bed and took it home.  I saw him today and his sled is all back together.  We suspected that the bracket for the lower steering mount may have gotten bent and that was why he was not able to get it back together.  The problem is that lower mount sits under the engine and you have to remove the engine to see the whole assembly.  You can get the bracket out without removing the engine and that is what he did yesterday.  We do plan to ride tomorrow, so hopefully we will be able to get some decent pictures.
    I did snap a few shots of the trails on my way up to meet with Matt.  Here is a shot of the trail near my house.  These trails are usually in some of the best shape of all the trails up here and Tuesday afternoon was no exception.  The trails I rode Tuesday up to Mohawk were basically in that same general shape.  A few spots were a tiny bit rougher, but not by much.  In fact, here is a picture of the corner by the old trail from Mohawk to Gay.  Even that corner was not too bad.  The snows we got Saturday evening and then most of the day Sunday really made a difference.  However, both yesterday and today we had quite a bit of sunshine and temps did rise above freezing so there has been some melting of the snows and I am sure that the trails are not in quite as good of shape.
    I suppose it does not matter as much that the trails are fighting to hang on, things have really quieted down up here.  There are still a few  sleds up here and things may get busier over the weekend, but I suppose most folks living down south have used up their vacation time and may just be ready for the warm weather sports to kick in.  Up here most folks are ready for spring to come and while I am not exactly looking forward to it, I have resigned myself to the fact that it is coming very soon.  Maybe even next week if the current forecast holds.  One last taste of true winter looks to come later this weekend and into Monday, but then the flood gates of spring may finally open as we go through next week.  One strange thing has been going on the past few weeks, Baileys has been shedding.  She usually does not start until the middle to end of April, but for some reason really got going early this year.  In fact I think she started before March was even over.  She is probably about 1/3rd of the way through the loss of her winter coat.  I was a little concerned that maybe something with her health was going on, but we were just at the vet on Monday and he said her health was just fine and being sick of winter he said he thought it was a good sign that she was shedding early this year!
    They are having the clean snowmobile challenge up here again this year.  The weather is much better this year than last.  Last year we had temps in the 40's and low 50's and even some rain.  It may be a bit warm this year- especially in the afternoon, but at least it is not raining!  I was hoping to be able to get up to see some of the activities, but looks like I will not have time in my busy schedule.  I must say that while I am never very happy for spring to come, I will be a bit relieved to take a break from the forecasts at the end of this month.  I have already backed off a bit on the text forecasts because there is not much to talk about and because I know the interest is dropping.  But I will stick it out though the end of the month and then take some time off from the forecasts.
    Well, it looks like I am out of things to say...Almost.  I have one last picture to share with you.  It is of the "Laurium Glacier".  I will start the contest to guess when it will melt completely tomorrow in the Ask John.  The first post in that is closest to the date of melting will win a prize.  Good luck to all.  My final words this evening are to wish my beautiful bride to be a Happy Birthday!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 14-
    I'm definitely not on a very brisk pace with the journal updates lately!  However, to my credit, I did do a handful of Guest Shots late last week on a couple of evenings.  It is usually update some guest shots or do a journal, not both.  Plus, I really did not have much to say at the end of last week.  I had not been riding since the previous weekend and I was kept pretty busy with my regular work during the day, so there really was not much that was exciting to talk about.  I must also admit that I am really running on fumes at the moment.  Usually my regular work slows down as we go through Feb and into early March so that can give me a bit less work to do and make the final stretch of snow forecasting on the website a little easier.  Well this year there has been no late winter break from my regular work, in fact if anything things have gotten busier as we headed through Feb and into March.  So I am still putting in my 10 hours or so with my regular job, then the 4-5 on the website and that is why I am running on fumes right now!  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  My regular jobs workload should be backing off within the week and the snowfall forecasts will be ending just over 2 weeks, then I will finally be able to take it a bit easier and recharge my batteries.
    Now, before you all think that I am just having a big old pity party for myself, I am not really complaining, just trying to let you all know my current state of mind.  I have been able to get out and have some fun too and could have gone riding this past week, but opted out because conditions were getting a little bad.  Especially for just trying to get from my house to the trails.  The village snow removal crew has done such a great job on the roads this winter and the stronger March sun has left most of the roads bare and I really hate the sound of carbides scraping on the pavement.  It is almost like watching money fly out of my pocket.  I guess I get a little spoiled up here with the fact that our roads are basically snow packed from about mid December through early spring that just having to run a few hundred feet on bare pavement is not my idea of fun.  But for the time being, they are bare no longer.  We picked up about 6-8" of snow in the past 24 hours, much of it came with a burst of heavy snow yesterday afternoon.  I would say we picked up about 4" in 2 hours.
    I did go out riding for most of the day yesterday.  Nora is just great about letting me have my fun with the boys on Saturday's and actually any day for that matter.  The day started out with some high clouds, but then as the afternoon progressed the cloud bases lowered and the sky looked more and more threatening for snow.  Yesterday's ride was with a bunch of guys that could really be best described as "the gang" or perhaps "the boys".  The faces may vary a bit from week to week, but there is about 8-10 of us that are usually looking for some kind of ride on the weekends.  Yesterday's group totaled 8 and we basically did the usual thing, which meant looking for hills with enough breaks between the trees to be able to climb up the hills.  After the warmer temps early in the week and then a good chill Thursday and Friday, the snow on Saturday was almost rock hard.  Good for climbing steep slopes, but also not very fun to fall on.  We also had a few creek crossings which are getting to be more and more interesting as they not only open up, but also become a little deeper with the snow melt.
    At any rate, we did find our fair share of hills to climb and here is part of the crew surveying one of the hills.  This one looked to provide a good decent, but then not much else to do but turn around and come right back up, so we decided to ride on to some other spots.  After about 2-3 hours of climbing hills we shot back down through the valley and then over to where some other locals were holding a water skipping get together.  As we rode down the Torch Lake towards the spot where the water skipping was taking place, a curtain of white was working north towards us.  We hit the band of snow before arriving at the water skipping spot and then it proceeded to snow pretty heavily the whole time we were there.  I chose not to do any water skipping as it was not really the best weather to be doing it in.  Even if you do not sink your sled you are bound to get a little wet and with temps in the upper 20's, a brisk northeast wind and snow falling at the rate of 2"/hr, I did not want to be standing around in wet clothes.  So I just stood by like most of the rest of the folks and watched the few that braved the elements skip the water.  There was a pretty good crowd on hand.  With the addition of our group of 8, I'd have to say that there were about 25-30 persons gathered.  One of the more entertaining moments of the day was when someone decided to be pulled behind a snowmobile while on a snowboard and have both the sled and snowboard water skip.  He tried it twice, each time with what I would call "limited success".  Here is a video of his second attempt.  Here he is climbing out of the water after his second attempt.  For those of you who could not see the video, the water there was about a foot deep, so there was little risk for him other than to get really wet and then cold.  He lived not too far away and actually went home and got into dry clothes after his snowboard water cross attempt, then came back to join back in on the festivities.
    Darkness was getting closer and closer and standing out in the elements for 2 1/2 or 3 hours was starting to cause a bit of a chill to enter into my body, so a neighbor of mine and I split and headed for home.  It was snowing so hard that we did not ride the lake back.  The amount of spots that can get you into trouble on the lake are getting more and more numerous and with visibility down to just a few hundred feet, it would be very easy to get turned around and end up in one of those trouble spots.  So we headed for the trail.  Before we could get there I ended up going over the handlebars.  We were on a path were the spring runoff had carved some openings in the snow.  So I would be riding along and all of the sudden have to hop my sled over a 2 foot deep and 1-2 foot wide opening in the snow.  I made the first couple ok, but with the falling snow and lighting poor, I miss judged the layout of the last little ravine and ended up hitting the other side a little off kilter and that caused my sled to come to a dead stop and me to continue on, but end up ahead of the sled and a bit to the left.  I was unhurt and the sled was not damaged either.  I did not really have to muscle it out of trouble either, so we continued on, found the trail and then made it home safe and sound.
    Even though I can look out my window as I type and see a near blizzard going on outside, I know that my riding days for this season are numbered.  Nora, the hounds and I have to travel to Marquette tomorrow and then I have a meeting on Wednesday, so that leaves Tue, Thur and then the weekend as possible riding dates.  There is a big ride in party the weekend of the 27th-28th so I know I will be riding then.  Plus I am sure that once the real spring melt commences then there will be a nice 40-50 degree day with sunshine that a few of us will choose to do our water skipping on.  So a few more miles will be put on this season, but I have begun to mentally prepare myself for the end of the snowmobile season.  A season that I think can best be described as "unusual", at least for me.  It started a bit slow, having to wait for good snow to arrive until about the middle of December and then having conditions deteriorate around the holidays.  Then the month of January it did nothing but snow, but I had all my problems with the sled.  The highlight of the season had to have been the video shoot.  I could have done without the header and subsequent ghost ride and sled crash, but the other parts were a total blast.  Then the rest of February was spent trying to find decent riding conditions and March so far has been a pretty typical March.  Snow, then some melting, then more snow, then some melting.  All in all, I can't complain (would not do any good anyway), but will hope for a season with a little more consistency next year.  My plans are to stick with the current sled.  It is running great and I just love it.  However, I also want to see what becomes available for 05-06 and may have to jump into something with a bit more track and perhaps a bit more horsepower.  There have been a few times when in the steep and deep up here that I wished I had both!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
March 8-
    Wow, almost a week since last writing.  Time sure flies I guess!  I have actually been pretty busy playing mostly, but last week my business activities got pretty busy too.  Anyway, here I am and have some pictures and even video to share with you.  I believe I have as many video as pictures to share with you this time around, so hopefully you all have you high speed internet connections fired up!  I wish that there was a way for the videos to not take up as much memory as they do, but I don't think there really is.
    The weather has been pretty good to us up here.  We did get most of the snow that was forecasted.  We also ran the low range, but since last Wednesday I think we have picked up a foot of fresh snow.  It would have been great to get the snow that areas of the central UP got.  The Marquette area picked up about 14" on Friday and then another 4 yesterday and even the southern UP and northeast WI got hammered pretty good.  Some of the snow cover reports from those areas are as healthy as mine!  Of course this is the time of the year when the snow starts to leave my yard faster than just about anywhere in the area.  The sun gets to it and just bakes it away all day long.  Even on days when it is cloudy there is enough solar radiation getting through to do some melting.  So keep in mind when you look at the AL Cam and see the snow depth in my yard that there is more in the woods.
    Another thing I wanted to mention before I get into my riding exploits is that the warmer weather we had at the end of February triggered Baileys to start shedding and she continues to do so even though the temp has cooled some the past 10 days or so.  I figure it must be global warming.  I mean just about everything else is being blamed on a theory that no one can prove is correct. So why not Baileys shedding her winter coat about 2 months early!  I sure hope she is not onto something that I don't know about!
    Anyway, as mentioned we did get some fresh snow late last week and it came not a moment too soon.  We had a pretty busy weekend for KSE and were going to have to probably cancel most of the tours if we did not get snow.  We canceled (or let the groups decide) a number of rides early and midweek last week due to the conditions not being the best.  There is still plenty of snow out in the bush, but it is so set up that it just was not fun to ride in and I did not feel like it was worthy of having people pay to ride on.  I did not go on any of the KSE rides, but did do a lot of back country riding.  Joe, the gang from CrashedToys.com and two friends came up for the weekend, so I took them out on Friday afternoon and again all day Saturday.  Friday we lucked out because some of places I took them we had to ride the shoulders of the roads.  Well, the roads had not yet been plowed and we got to cruise down them with 7-8" of fresh snow on top.  Then we got to the beach and the waves were pretty big.  Usually the water is pretty calm on the east side of the peninsula but because the storm was blowing 20-30 mph northeast winds the waves were pretty big on the east shore.  It was weird to be riding along and have a big wave come crashing up on the beach next to you!  The next day we came up the same stretch of beach in the morning and all was calm again.  However, the lake was littered with the chucks of "fast ice" that had been broken off the shoreline.
    Saturdays ride took us through the bush all the way up to Lac La Belle where we had lunch.  Usually we do not ride that far north on a back country tour because to ride the back country back to Lake Linden would put us in town by about 8 pm.  However, this was me taking some friends out and so I figured we may as well have a nice ride up to Lac La Belle, then ride some groomed trail south a bit, then hop back into the bush around Phoenix and ride that back to Lake Linden.  We did make it back to LL ok and in good time, all the sleds and riders got back in one piece.  We relaxed a bit, then had a nice dinner that Nora had made for us and then they went back to the hotel to soak their bones in the hot tub and I pretty much fell asleep!  The one thing I have learned is that when I am leading the group I do not take as many pictures.  When I am following I really just sort of ride mindlessly or at least I just do not worry about where to go.  I just follow the leader.  That leads my mind to have more free time and I can remember to take some pictures.  There were probably some nice shots to be taken on Saturday's ride that I missed.  I know the guys got one of me stuck and some of the others stuck, but there were also some rather fresh trails and nice overlooks.  Oh well, I will have to do better to remember to take more photos when I am leading.
    Sunday's ride was with Brian, Matt and some other friends and was a true "bush" ride".  Most of it was not even on any kind of a logging road, we just picked our way through the trees.  Our main objective was to find some hills to climb.  When most folks think of hill climbing on a snowmobile they picture a nice wide open hill, free of trees or other objects- perhaps a ski hill that has closed for the season.  Our hill climbing usually entails trees.  I have talked about this in the past so will not dive too deep into it, but do have lots of pictures and video to share of our hill climbing experience.  Most of the hills we climb are not giants, but with the trees still on them, it does make for some technical, but fun riding!  Here is a shot of both Brian and Matt stuck on one of the hills.  Here is a video of Brian making it to the top of one of the hills.  Here is Matt making it to the top.  The one thing this video illustrates is that sometimes the top is not very large and if you are going too fast when you reach it you run the risk of going over the other side.  That was him yelling "whoa" at the end of the video clip.  Here is a video of me climbing the hill and having to make a little veer to the right to avoid a tree near the top.
    We ran most of the hills on that side of the valley so we decided to head over to the other side for more fun.  The hills were a tad larger over there and as this video shows, Brian needed a bit more speed to get him ALL the way to the top.  Dave tried having a go at it and got a kick to the right and also not enough speed, so he peeled off to try again.  A few moments later, Dave was back at it and made it.  You can see that as we watch the sleds climb up the hill, we are all standing behind the biggest tree we can find!  No need to give the rider another object to have to worry about hitting.  I decided to have another go at it and made it almost all the way, missing the top by about 2 feet.  Actually a small tree was closing in on my right ski and I did not want to hook it, so I stopped short and we were able to get it the rest of the way to the top with a guy on each ski loop giving a quick tug.  Matt was next and made it look easy!  For those of you without the ability to see the videos I did take a few still shots.  Here is Dave climbing to the top.  He must have been on his second or maybe third attempt at that line as he had is jacket off and was serious about it now!  Here is Brian trying to make it to the top, but got suck in a trench from a previous run by someone and made it only about 6" further after the picture was taken.  Here is a shot of me after getting stuck and another of me getting ready to find a way down.  Seems like I was stuck a lot yesterday!  We all were actually, but after all the dig outs, that Polaris 900 with the 166 x 2.4" track is looking better and better all the time!  Think I will wait a year though.  I have an unwritten rule about 1st year sleds- let the others work out the bugs that the manufacturer could not find with their testing!
    I hit the exhaustion point at the end of yesterday's ride too.  My forearms were so tired that I could barely hang onto the drink at dinner time!  I went to bed and my hands were shaking a bit from the sore muscles in my arms and hands.  That is why I took today off. But I think that Matt and I are planning a ride tomorrow or maybe Wednesday and then I bet there will be weekend riding to be had.  I am hoping the forecasts of snow in the next week or two pan out.  It would be nice to keep adding to things for another two weeks, rather than loosing snow.  March is usually our deepest depth month, so I hope this month follows suit!
    I have one last picture to share with you.  It was taken by Nora this morning out of our picture window in the front of the house.  Nora tells me that Burt ran over to see what was going on, saw the squirrel, growled at it and the squirrel just looked at him and did not move.  Either a very brave little animal, or smart enough to know Burt was not going through the window to get him!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
March 2-
      I guess you can say that this will not be your typical journal.  The sole purpose of it is to show the condition of the trails up here.  Before I get into the pics I will say that I did not use my sled to get a look at the trails.  I figured I could cover more ground by truck and would be able to get a fairly good idea of the general condition that way.  Obviously it is not as good a picture as if I had been on my sled, but I know of a lot of trail crossings via the road and know of where things can be pretty nasty.  Plus I figured that the areas in the woods would be at least as good or better than what I saw at the trail crossings, so I would be presenting you with some of the worst spots.  Please note that I chose my spots because I thought that they would give a good representation.  I am not trying to get folks to come up here or stay away with this journal.  I am just simply trying to give you information from which you can base your on decision on.  No one put me up to this. I just thought it would help.
    So, with that preface said I guess I can get into the hounds and my tour of at least some of the Keweenaw today.  We started out heading south towards Houghton/Hancock.  The first shot I took was just north of Dollar Bay.  The groomer had just been through and when I took the shot all I could think was "Oh man, the folks that see this are going to think I was following the groomer around!"  I jumped back in the truck and headed south and took the next shot just south of Dollar Bay.  I must have passed the groomer along the way but did not see it.  In any case, this section had not been groomed yet, but were still not in that bad of shape.  I will point out that this section of trail is directly along busy Hwy. 26 and also exposed to the sun for most of the day.  So I was actually a little surprised to the condition as OK as it was.
    My next stop was actually south of the bridge.  In my rides when spring weather hits I have found that the section of trail between Houghton and South Range can be very worn and in some cases I have found almost bare ground.  So I headed to where the trail drops down to cross the Old Mill Hill Rd.  Anyone that has rode the trail from South Range to Houghton can recognize that spot I bet.  I climbed the hill and snapped a shot looking towards South Range and was again surprised to find a trail completely covered in snow there.  The snow was dirty, but it was snow.  After climbing back down the hill and into the truck we again crossed over the bridge and into Hancock.  I wanted to show how trails were that run directly through some of the towns and I figured the section of trail that runs next to Gino's and the Citgo in Hancock would be a good one.  That trail can actually be dirty and nasty looking when conditions are excellent everywhere else!  Anyway, that section of trail was nasty!  There was still snow on it, but I think it was really half/half.  Or half snow and half road grime!
    After the big city tour we headed up the Quincy Hill and jumped off 41 onto the Boston Road.  I wanted to get a good shot or two of the main trail that runs from Hancock to Calumet, figuring it sits in the sun for most of the day and also gets a lot of traffic.  There were actually two groups of sleds at that intersection, one heading south and one heading north.  In this shot you can see that the trail had plenty of snow on it. But I can tell you that this was also the bumpiest section of trail I saw all day.  It had about 1 foot moguls on it.  The snow was soft, but there were still moguls.  If the groomer that we passed near Dollar Bay does this loop, then it would be going over that section about an hour or so after we passed it.  We wove our way up to Calumet, passing several other trail crossings and they all looked the same, so I did not take any more pictures.
    Back on 41 we made the run for the border and up into Keweenaw County.  Again, I have not been on my sled across all of the trail system, but it is my experience that the trails north of Mohawk hold up the best of anywhere up here.  Because of the different loops up there, they see the least amount of traffic and also most of the trails run in the woods where the snow lasts better.  The main trail from Mohawk to Phoenix can be in rough shape sometimes and that is actually where I stopped to take my picture.  It was where the trail crosses 41 just south of Phoenix.  Again I was pleasantly surprised.  The snow was soft and sugary because of the temps.  But it was at least snow and not snirt (snow/dirt), the trails were pretty flat and there looked to be a pretty decent base down.  Something that I would not even have too much of a problem riding in.  That last shot was looking north and here is the trail at the US 41 - Phoenix crossing looking south.
    After taking those two shots (and one scenic one that I will share in a moment), we headed back south.  I know of a corner in the trail that always gets beat up.  Not sure why, but it does.  It is very near the number 5 road crossing just south of Mohawk and on the way to Fulton (also about 200 feet from my property!).  Anyway, I figured it would make another ugly photo and it sure did!  I would not be surprised if there were a few other spots up here like that, but I would be surprised if there was anything more than just "spots" like that.  Based on the trails I saw, they should all be pretty well snow covered.
    After touring scenic Fulton we headed back down through the valley.  There was one last trail crossing I wanted to hit and that was the new trail that runs from the Gay-Lake Linden trail up to the snowmometer and then Phoenix.  We were on that for a bit Saturday on our way home from the KSE ride and it was actually in great shape.  Flat, white and fast.  I figure it probably does not get as much traffic as most of the other trails up here because it does not exactly go anywhere specific and is the long way to get from one place to the other.  Plus it is so new it is not even on any maps!  On our way south Saturday we did not pass any sleds the whole time.  Granted we were not on the trail for miles and miles, but still, no sleds on a Saturday?!  In any case, this was what that trail crossing looked like at the Gay-Lake Linden Road.
    So that covers my little trail crossing tour.  Like I said I did it to give you an idea of conditions up here.  I sure could have missed some things out there, but I doubt that there was anything MAJOR that I missed.  Temps have dropped below freezing as I typed this and will remain there until later tomorrow morning and we look to hit a high of about 33-35 tomorrow.  We also look to get some snow by late in the day and into the overnight period, with about 2-4" to fall.  Thursday looks to be cool, with a high in the mid to upper 20's and maybe even some light lake effect snow.  There is still a pretty decent storm possible for Friday, maybe as much as 8-12" of snow, but hopefully at least another 3-6".  Another 2-5" is possible for Saturday and some light LES might fall Sunday, with some more snow on Monday.  So the way I see it things should only get better.  Friday's question marks are about how much snow, not if it snows or rains.  So I hope that I have provided some useful info for you folks that are trying to decide whether to come up or not.  I am not going to give my personal opinion because what I would do might be different from what you would do.  I will leave you with two last shots.  They are not trail condition related, but I thought you might enjoy it.  The first one was taken while driving through Calumet.  The banks on 41 are still rather huge and it is like driving through a mini canyon.  The second one was taken while up near Phoenix.  It is of a section of the Cliff Range.  The higher elevations had some snow earlier this morning and the trees up on the Cliff Range were still flocked from that early morning snow this afternoon.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
 
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