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Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam

Nov 30-
    Gonna sneak one in before the end of the month.  I do have some pictures and at least a few stories to tell, so I figured I would get to it.  At last writing I was waiting for the snow to start accumulating down here in the "banana belt" and it did shortly after I finished off the journal.  We ended up with around 3" of snow that accumulated from that storm.  The higher terrain picked up around 6-10" from the storm and by higher terrain I mean anything higher than my rooftop!  It sure was a weird storm and really a big difference between the lowest elevations and the rest of the peninsula.  The rifle season for deer ended about 90 minutes ago, so the trails open up here tomorrow.  I doubt that they will be grooming just yet.  I know the trail by my house still needs a good solid 5-6" before they would probably start grooming and the trails in the higher terrain probably need an additional 2-4" before they would groom them.  I am not sure if they would ever do some trails and not others.  The bottom line is that if you were so inclined, I suppose you could come up and ride tomorrow, but do not expect conditions to be perfect.  The snow we received over the weekend was perfect for creating a base, it was more like cement than snow.  However, we really need some more snow to get things in shape to groom.  Be advised that some trails may still have the gates up until the groomers go through and there may be some missing signs, so just be extra, extra careful.
    We do look to get some more snow in the coming days.  Looks like at least a couple of inches, so that will push us very close to the grooming stage.  I know I actually plan to do some riding this weekend to break in a belt.  The folks from Goodwin Performance will be coming up soon to clutch and test the RMK and they said that they get better results from the OEM belts than the aftermarket ones, so I will put my Ultimax 3 up for a spare and plan to break in one, maybe two Polaris belts so they are ready to go for the testing.  Ideally it would be nice to get enough snow between now and Saturday that Nora and I can just ride from the garage and put on some miles, but if we have to, I will throw them on the trailer and we can just head over to where there is snow.  I know by the trail cam they have enough already, so that may be an option.
    There was enough snow for a ski on Sunday, so Nora and I strapped on the sticks and headed out with the hounds.  We decided to ski the golf course since the woods were still off limits and the groomed ski trails are off limits to the hounds.  Actually there are some ski trails at Tech that are ok for dogs, but we did not feel like driving over there.  The view from the golf course is really neat, especially looking to the northeast and on a clear day.  We had a nice clear day on Sunday and the ski runs of Mount Bohemia stood out as clear as can be.  Mount Houghton is to it's right in the picture.  The snow was pretty deep up there and with the golf course being pretty open, the snow did drift.  In spots it was all that the hounds could muster.  In fact we tried to find spots where it had not drifted too deep and even ended up skiing the maintenance road that they are keeping open for now with a plow.  The wind was still blowing pretty good and as a result the snow was blowing and drifting as well.  It was nice to be back on skis though.  To be able to be getting the full body workout was great.  Plus it is nice to be able to move along at a faster pace than walking.  I have a feeling that we will be doing a lot more skiing in the near term.
    Today we stayed close to home and just walked out on the Lake Linden sands.  Not that going there is some sort of a sacrifice and the hounds love it.  I think their three favorite words are: "Go", "Ok" and "Park".  To them the word Park means the sands and they get excited every time I say the word.  Along with the snow in the past week or so, is has turned chillier.  That has allowed some of the bodies of water to freeze up for the season, although there are still plenty of bodies of water that are just that- water.  That last shot was the Torch Lake.  It is not a very big lake, but it is deep and usually is one of the last lakes to freeze up here.  Most locals stay off of it until at least the middle of January unless we have had a really cold start to the winter and it has been iced over for a week or two.  My advice is to stay off it all the time, unless you are with someone that knows were to go and not to go.  You will find yourself swimming pretty quickly if you venture into the wrong spots.
    One of the reasons we stuck close to home for the walk was that I had some errands to run this afternoon after the walk.  One of them took me down to Hancock and as I was driving back home, I could see a lakes freighter heading up from the lower entry into the Portage Waterway.  It was just rounding the bend near Pilgrim Point.  I got a little excited as in the 5 1/2 years I have lived up here, this was the first time I have ever personally witnessed a freighter coming through the waterway.  I have seen pictures of them as they passed through while I was living here, but never personally saw one.  So I pulled off the road to wait for it to come so I could take a picture, but when I reached for the camera discovered I had left it at home!  So I shot home and then back down to Ripley.  It was pretty good timing actually as the ship was just coming up on the Hancock Marina where I was stationed to take it's picture.  As it passed me, I caught it's name, it was the Joseph H. Frantz.  I'm sure that a Lakes Freighter buff could tell me all about the ship and even what it was doing in town, but I figured it was dropping off another load of salt for the roadways.  They do use salt up here and ever since the state took over for the county, they use more salt than ever (to my dislike!)
    The ship glided past me like some giant prehistoric sea monster, not even making a sound until the stern was upon me and I could hear the low rumble of the engine room and the splashing of the propeller.  It really was quite a spectacle for me to see.  I have seen plenty of freighters passing off the north shore of the Keweenaw and have spotted ships hiding from storms in the security of Bete Gris, but never witnessed one this close and personal while it was at work.  That is another thing that hit me, here I was in awe of this vessel as it passed through, but for some, it is just a place of business.  I think it would be very neat to ride along on one of these ships passages.  I think I would pass on a November or December trip, probably even a late October one, but there was just something fascinating about seeing this thing pass by that I think a several day trip on one would be quite the experience.  I did take one last shot as it was passing under the lift bridge.
    Go I guess that about covers it.  Winter seems to be settling her way into the Keweenaw.  The forecast looks promising for more snows in the coming days.  I sure wish the forecast that The Weather Channel has for us would pan out.  They are calling for 1-3" tomorrow night and 4-7" on Thursday!  Wha!  I'm thinking around 1-3 tomorrow, 1-3 tomorrow night and maybe an inch or two Thursday, but probably some more Fri and Sat.  Nice way to sign off.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -

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Nov 27-
    Live by the sword, die by the sword.  Ok, maybe that is taking things a little too seriously.  Perhaps what I should have said is: "The Lake Giveth...and the Lake Taketh Away".  Sooooo close!  This storm I mean.  "If" is a small word with huge meaning, but if the temps had been about 3 degrees cooler today, I would be looking out at about 6" of snow on the ground and not the 1/2" I have right now, but the big lake has kept us just above the freezing mark for most of the day.  I had a feeling that I was not going to like the result of this storm when I awoke at about 5 am to find it raining.  There was a chance that some rain could mix in with the snow by this afternoon, but we were fully suppose to start out as snow and pick up at least a few inches before any (if any) liquid crap mixed in.  The storm is not over and colder air is on it's way.  Temps to our NW are in the low 20's and that air should be here in a few hours.  We did change over to snow between about 9:30 and 10 this morning and it did snow for most of the day.  The higher terrain even picked up about 2-4".  Here in Lake Linden we got the snow to cover the ground and then it seemed to melt as fast as it came down.  Nora, the hounds and I went up to the higher terrain in Keweenaw County to take in the "drier" snow for our afternoon walk.  We were gone about 2 hours and in that time little if any of the snow that fell accumulated.  It was accumulating in the higher terrain, even on the parked truck while we walked.
    So it's been a bit of a frustrating day, although I am glad that at least it did snow for most of the day rather than rain.  Rain up here at this time of the year is just flat out depressing- and wrong!  Right now it actually is back to sort of a rain/snow mix.  Not quite rain, but not quite snow either.  Sort of a falling slush.  I bet if I went up the Calumet hill, I would only need to drive up the hill by less than a mile and gain less than 100 feet and it would be all snow.  For as much as I love Lake Linden and the Traprock Valley, I will not miss this type of setup once we move to the higher ground!
    In my last journal I threatened to get very upset if it did not snow.  Not that Mother Nature even cares to listen to me, but I did get my thirst for snow quenched later that night.  Lake Effect Snow started up about midnight and kept up until after daybreak.  We actually had flurries until the mid afternoon.  I awoke at about 2:30 in the morning to find these perfect flakes just gently falling to the ground and the ground frosted in about 2".  All told we picked up about 2 1/2 to 3" of snow from that event and it was classic LES, light enough to push away with a broom.  Some folks don't think that is real snow or that the heavy system snow is much better.  Well, if all I got was 40-60" then I suppose I would feel that way too, but when you average 240" a year, it's nice to have about 60% of it fall as the light and fluffy variety.
    That morning was Thanksgiving morning and thus the snow seemed to make it even that much more special.  Once there was enough light in the day, I wasted no time in lacing up my new snow boots and taking a snowy "Front of House Shot".  Maybe I should have waited a while longer to take the shot as it did end up being a little blurry.  Oh well!
    With the seasons first fluffy snow, I also decided that I had better take advantage of it to try and burn as much of the brush piles up at the property as I could.  So after the morning walk I drove up to the property to see what I could burn.  It was so beautiful up there with the new fallen snow that I almost did not want to disturb it, but I knew a storm was possible for this weekend and that the snow might get too deep to be able to work around, so I got busy building a fire and hauling the brush over to it.  Starting the fire was a breeze.  One match to one of those compressed sawdust fire starter logs and then some scraps from the woodworking shop and I had a good base fire going.  The brush did have some snow on it, but it was so dried from the months of sitting there that it went up like it had been soaking in gasoline.  I also tossed some of the bigger logs on, especially the ones that seemed to already be in the process of some kind of decay.  Nora and I decided to save the others for use in the outdoor wood boiler that we plan to use as our main source of heat at the property.  Next spring we will round up some wood pallets (there is always some company offering them up for free) and stack the logs on the pallets and that should keep them from going bad in the next 2-3 years.
    I have to say, the next time I plan to build some brush piles for burning, I will build them right where I intend to burn them!  It was quite the undertaking to untangle the branches and haul them to the fire.  About an hour and a half into it I was running out of steam and also getting very dehydrated.  Even though the temps were in the low to mid 20's, the fire was so hot and I was working so hard that I was sweating quite a bit.  Nora had stayed home with the hounds to start to prepare the Thanksgiving feast, so I called her to see if she wanted to take a break, come up with the hounds and some water for me.  She said sure and probably saved me from passing out!  With the snow on the ground, I probably could have zipped over to the gas station or general store in Mohawk, but I really did not want to leave the fire unattended while it  was going with such enthusiasm.  Plus it gave us an opportunity to take a short walk around the property and let the dogs do some exploring.
    After two bottles of water and a 30 minute rest, I told Nora that I was going to do a little more cleaning up and let the fire burn down some more, but that I would be home by 1 to take the afternoon walk and help her finish up the preparations for Thanksgiving.  I did not get too all the brush piles that morning, but I was able to eliminate 4 out of the 8 and make a dent in the 5th.  So with the fire down to just a smolder and plenty of snow on the ground to keep any flare up from causing a problem, I packed it up for the day and headed home for a much needed and much welcomed hot shower and clean set of clothes.
    We did take an afternoon walk, this time going up to the golf course.  The woods are still off limits and we have been going to the Lake Linden and Hubbell sands quite often, so I figured the golf course would be a nice place to take a stroll in the snow.  We stayed clear of the greens, for some reason I remember the grass on the greens not being able to withstand someone walking on it.  I have seen greens with a pair of cross country ski tracks burned into them as well as foot prints.  There were already some cross country ski tracks in the snow by the time we got up there, but they too had avoided the greens.
    After the walk we came home and had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Nora's grandmother.  Nora gave me the option of choosing the desert, so we had the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls and vegetables, plus brownies for desert!  I am not a big pumpkin pie guy.  Ever since Baileys near death experience with the pancreatitis, we have refrained from giving them human food.  An occasional plain noodle (that was one of her recovery foods, so it is safe), but that is about it.  I also know that plain old white meat turkey is low enough in fat that they can have that without any problems.  It was cute, all it took was a good heart walk, some turkey and the Chicago Bears game to put Baileys down for the count!
    I think that Nora was feeling a little left out of the work duty at the property on Thanksgiving morning.  She is certainly not afraid to get into the dirty work of ground clearing- that was proven this summer and I think that she wants to be as much a part of the work to make a home up there as possible.  So on Friday morning, with the snowcover still as deep as it was on Thursday, and the treat for some deeper snow beginning today, we decided to put off putting up the Christmas Tree until today so that we could finish up with the burning at the property Friday.  It was so much easier and pleasant having her up there with me and in about an hour we had the other 3 piles taken care of.  I snapped a shot of things as we sat, watched and waited for the pile to get to the smolder phase.  All that is left is the logs.  Today on our way up to take the afternoon walk, we stopped by to check things out and the snow was already starting to cover things up.  It's almost starting to look like a driveway!  Of course for now it is just a logging run.
    Today we put up the tree and decorations, so with that done and the little bit of white on the ground it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas 'round here!  I was hoping for a good dump that might allow us to start riding on the 1st and who knows, perhaps with a little luck that still might happen.  Since I started typing, the temp has dropped 0.4 degrees F and the slush that was falling has turned back to snow.  There are a few more chances for snow this week so it should not be too much longer before we are out playing in it.
    I can also admit that I am almost done with my Christmas shopping for this year.  Of course it was pretty easy this year.  All I had to do was go to my computer and type www.johndeestore.com and I was able to find all I needed!  But seriously everyone, if you do want to get some ThinkSnow/JohnDee.com merchandise for Christmas, you only have until Dec 10th to do so in order to be guaranteed deliver by the 24th, so waste no more time!  Head over and stock up!  You will be doing a very good thing for the animals without homes in the Keweenaw at the same time!
    And now I have a beautiful wife sitting by the fire in the other room and she needs some company, so...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 24-
    The Keweenaw has snow!  Well... at least in patches on Mt Ripley we do.  My patience is running thin and if we miss the snow chances seen for the next 2-3 days I think I may just blow a gasket.  The only silver lining to things are that my forecast pretty much panned out.  The areas of the central Midwest that I thought would get snow are getting snow.  The bittersweet thing to that is the fact that about a week ago it looked like that would be our storm.  Oh well, we will get snow, that is a given.  It will also get pretty deep, that too is a given.  That is one thing that is truly great about living up here, even when it is the end of November and the month has yet to produce more than a few flakes.
    Now don't get me wrong, I am not going off the deep end and I am happy for the folks to our south that are getting the white.  But to put things in perspective, some of the areas getting snow today see less snow on average for the entire season than we see for the month of November!  So for us to not have even seen an inch of snow to this point in November, is quite unusual.  If it were not for the snow event we had back in October, this might even be a record breaking season so far.  Not the type of record I like to be flirting with!  I suppose one thing that is also eating at me is the fact that the really big snow seasons never have a poor November.  Of course a poor November does not automatically mean a poor snow season up here, but it does seem to stack the deck.  That is probably what is eating at me more than the fact that I do not look out and see white all over.
    So I guess I am at that point where I am bouncing between the worrisome attitude that this season is off to a slow start and that may spell issues further down the road and the more positive attitude that I know that things can change in a big way and in a big hurry around here.  I also know that the atmosphere is loaded for bear.  It really has transitioned into a favorable setup for snow in the Midwest- not just the central Midwest, but all areas north of a line from about Kansas City to Chicago to Detroit.  In fact, not only is the atmosphere loaded for bear, but it is taking shots at us.  This first shot missed the upper Midwest, but more shots are indicated in the future.  So perhaps the next time I sit down to write, I will be looking out at a blanket of white covering everything.  Perhaps I will even see the flakes falling and adding to the depth of that blanket.
    For now though, all is just different shades of brown.  And blue I guess you could say.  The clouds in that last shot were actually all that the lake can produce right now.  It's cold enough to make snow both with machine (Ripley snow guns) and naturally (via the lake), but the atmosphere is just too dry and too stable.  That is suppose to change tonight and into tomorrow.  The NWS is calling for 1-3 tonight and 1-3 tomorrow.  My forecast for the area is for an inch or two tonight and another inch or two tomorrow, but I just have this sneaky feeling that this could be one of those skunks that we have to deal with a few times a season.  I do think that the event for tomorrow night and into Friday could give us a good solid 2-4" and more may fall over the weekend and next week too.  A few inches would be perfect as I still have the burn piles to take care of at the property.  A big dumping and that chore might get to be a pretty hard process.  A few inches of fluffy snow would be ideal.
    In other news up here, Huey, Dooey and Louie are still hanging around.  Not sure if it's natural to have swans up here in the first place, but I am thinking that it is not natural to have them up here at the end of November.  They will likely have to move off the little Torch Lake into the main one as I bet the little one will freeze over tonight and stay that way for the rest of the season.  The snows may be somewhat questionable, but the cold isn't.  Average to below average for the next week to ten days.  That will start to freeze things up for good around here.  I have been checking some of the cams in MN and northern WI and ice is starting to be made on some of the lakes there.  Very good news for them as they use the lakes for trails.  None of the trails up here use the lakes and the trails are usually open a week or two before many of the smaller lakes up here are even froze.  So I guess that could be a silver lining to the fact that the Northwoods has not seen a big dumping of snow.
    On a personal note my good friends at CrashedToys set me up with a very nice snowmobile trailer.  I was chatting with Joe about some things and happened to mention needing a snowmobile trailer and before I knew it he was e mailing me some photos of the trailer and asking if it would do.  Now I suppose some of you will wonder why a guy who can open up his garage door and ride in some of the best conditions in the world would need a trailer.  The answer to that is that it will make it easier for me to take it in for some work if I need to.  Plus late season riding can many times mean trailering to a drop off point and then riding and now I won't have to borrow one to do that.  Plus I will not have to try and cram 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and other pieces of lumber I get up at the lumber yard into the blazer anymore. I can just put them on the trailer.  Who knows, maybe some day it will be hauling some 4 wheelers around too!
    Well, I guess that gets you all caught up on things up here.  I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.  I know I will and have a list of many, many things to be thankful for this year, that's for sure!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 21-
    T-40 hours.  That's about how long I think we have until things start to look a little more like winter around here.  It does not look like the big dump is coming, at least a big dumping in 24 hours time.  The models have been all over the road this weekend and it's probably a good thing that I was not having to put out a snowfall forecast because my forecast may have been a little all over the road as well.  There were ideas that ranged from a band of 1-2 feet of snow falling from northeast IA and SE MN into western WI and the western UP to the storm missing the entire Midwest and heading up the Appalachians.  The models do seem to be onto the same general idea now and that means that places like northern IL, southern WI into central and northern MI may end up with a general 3-8", with some locals possibly picking up more.  We look to see little if any system snow, but the lake effect does look to kick in as we go through the day Tuesday and it could continue through Thanksgiving day, only to give way to a bit of light system snow Friday, with more LES into Saturday and Sunday.  It may not dump on us during that 6-7 day period, but a steady accumulation will likely occur and we could have as much as a foot down by the time all is said and done.  The pattern next week also looks to provide opportunity for snows in much of the Midwest, so we might just be able to ride on opening day this year.  That's your forecast for tonight!
    Today Nora and I headed up to the property to cut a bit of wood to burn in the fireplace this winter.  I still have some wood left over from past seasons but I did not want to run out and there was a huge birch that fell over a year ago and in the process took out a smaller maple tree.  So we harvested some of that wood and got it all stacked in the garage for final drying out and burning if we need it this winter.  It all was off the ground by several feet so it was already drying out plus we do not have to worry as much about insects being in the wood and thus getting into the garage or rest of the house.  On the way up we noticed a new path into the woods and speculated on what it was for.  I figured it was either a driveway to a new house or possibly even a new section of the snowmobile trail.  On the way back we drove by again, this time a little slower to get a closer look and saw it was a new section of trail for snowmobiles.  Now before you all get excited about a new trail up here, I will tell you that it really is more of an access trail and is probably about 1/3rd of a mile in length.  Basically what they did was eliminate a section of trail where you had to ride the shoulders of the Normand Rd (gravel) and the Cemetery Rd. (paved) in order to get from the main trail 3 to the trail 122 that runs from Lake Linden to Gay.  So now instead of having to ride the shoulders of those two roads, plus possibly get a little confused in the process, you just have to take that new section of trail and it brings you to where you jumped off the Cemetery Rd back onto the trail 122.
    It's little things like this that will make a noticeable difference in the riding experience up here and when all combined will really make for a big difference in the overall trail system up here.  It's great to see all of these improvements unfold and Don Kauppi really needs to be patted on the back for his never ending work to improve things up here.  I would not be surprised at all if there were some other new sections of trail up here, if not a whole new trail.  I know there were trails that he wanted to build in the next few years, I just don't know if any of them were able to be accomplished this year.
    Last night Nora and I decided to get a little cultured and went to a concert at the Calumet Theater.  That was actually the first time I had ever been in the theater.  I tried a few years ago to go and take a look, but they were not open to visitors and then a year or so ago Nora, my parents and I tried to see it but you could only go in with one of the tours and there was a fee.  We just wanted to see the main portion of the theater and not the whole 9 yards, so we passed.  The concert was great, I really do enjoy live music more than just listening to it on a stereo and the Calumet Theater was built in a manner to allow the room to fill with the sounds coming from the stage.  It was neat to be able to close my eyes and listen to the sounds coming from 360 degrees.  The concert was 4 artists that have albums on the Windom Hill label.  2 played acoustic guitar, one on the piano and the fourth was from Uganda and played some instruments that are native to his land.  He was also an incredible vocalist.  I will have to keep my eyes open for other concerts at that theater that we would like.  Plus we want to get to see a show at the Rosa Center at Michigan Tech.  It too was build with acoustics in high priority.
    Nora and I are getting excited to decorate the house for Christmas.  As mentioned the lights are all up and all they need is a flick of the switch when the time comes.  The tree will likely go up Friday or Saturday and Nora will take care of the other decorations around the house.  It's funny, before she was living with me I was not all that excited to have any decorations up.  I was not depressed or anything, nor was I afraid it would make me depressed.  I love the holidays and was a  happy soul before she came into my life.  Of course not that she's in my life I'm a very happy soul! I think it was as much to do with laziness as anything.  Why put up a tree if I am going to be the only one who sees it?  But now it is an experience that we can share together and build memories.  Plus it is nice to look at.
    I guess that about covers it for this one, but before I go I would just like to clear one thing up.  In the last journal I called Huey, Dooey and Louie geese and they were swans.  I can say with a clear conscience that I did know they were swans, but was a little tired while writing the journal and it just slipped past me and my editor.  I would like to thank those that wrote in to alert me to my oversight though!  Now...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 18-
    It's a good thing I decided to become a meteorologist.  For as much as I love the weather and snow, I think I would have really gone off the deep end by now.  But because I can see some light at the end of this tunnel, my spirits are still very good.  In fact, it is more than just a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, it looks like a full blown floodlight.  If you have been following my forecasts you know that I have been predicting the current mild pattern to give way to a more wintry one as we go through the weekend and next week.  Then the overnight computer runs got onto the idea of a fairly sizeable storm to hit the Midwest in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  The storm may not necessarily hit the Keweenaw head on, but someone looks to get some decent snow.  As of this writing the models are still having a problem coming to a consensus with where the storm will go and exactly how much snow it will produce, but all of them are in pretty good agreement on the fact that it will occur.  So my confidence is pretty good (about 67-33) that it will occur, it is just a matter of who gets hit and how hard.  Beyond that the pattern looks to remain favorable for snows across the upper Midwest, so I am thankful that I have the ability to see this and keep my mind at ease.
    I remember about 3 years ago when I broke my leg and had to spend a week in the hospital how it almost drove me nuts to not be able to see the computer guidance and have to rely on things like the weather channel to try and figure out what was going to happen.  No offense to the weather channel, but it just did not cut it for me.  I don't know how a TV channel can broadcast the weather forecasts 24 hours a day and still say so little about what is actually going to happen.  They just do not seem to be passionate about the weather.  Oh well, that's them and I am not going to worry myself too much with that.
    The weather up here has really been something the past several days.  Our early morning lows have been running about 9-10 degrees above the average highs for the day up here!  The daytime highs have been running about 15-20 degrees above the average highs for the day.  Folks are commenting on how nice the weather has been, but I have this feeling that they have lost sight of what we should really be having right now.  I have been trying to drive that point home during my radio segments, just so folks do not go into shock when average or even below average temps arrive by next week.
    The weather really has made for some nice outdoor activity.  I mean as long as it's not going to be snowing then we may as well have temps in the upper 40's to low 50's and dry conditions as well.  The hounds and I have been taking full advantage of it.  This is my 5th year up here during deer season and we have compiled quite a list of places to go and walk that are safe for us.  I remember the first year we were at a bit of a loss on where to go, but not anymore.  We do not have to sacrifice quality during deer season anymore.  Our first two days this week took us to the Lake Linden Sands.  It's about 2 1/2 miles all the way around and I had some chores do to those days so we walked half of the trail Monday and the other half on Tuesday.  On Monday we came across a trio of geese paddling their way around a bit of ice still remaining from the overnight period.  I did not catch their names, but the hounds thought they looked like Huey, Dooey and Louie.  As we came across the little hill and looked south, the afternoon's suns rays were making the Torch Lake just sparkle.
    The next day took us around the back side of the sands.  There was actually quite a bit of animal sign out there.  I'm not an expert in animal droppings, but it looked to me to be coyote.  I have also seen deer prints out there, but because it is village property, there is no hunting allowed out there.  It is illegal to discharge a firearm within the village limits.  There is a little creek that runs along that stretch, the hounds wanted to take a dip, but I was able to talk them out of it.
    Not only has it been so mild up here lately, it has also been calm.  For this time of the year, that is almost as unusual as the mild temps. November in the Lake Superior basin is infamous for winds.  Many a ship has met her doom on the big lake on these days in past years, but not right now.  On Wednesday the hounds and I went down to the north shore for our walk and I snapped a shot of a very calm Lake Superior.  A very rare sight this time of the year.  I'm not sure where we will go tomorrow, but it looks like another good day for walking, with temps in the 40's and dry conditions.  Next week might be Keweenaw County exploring time.  Then the week after that, who knows, maybe skiing at the school forest!
    If it does snow, I am now fully ready for it.  About 10 days ago I got all the items that I had to do off my list and now all the items off my want to list are done as well.  Nora and I put up a few more Christmas Lights today, the snowthrower was fueled up and started.  I also got the carbs on the sled cleaned and it was also started up again just for good measure.  I really can't think of anything that still needs to be done before any snow flies, so bring it on!
    It seems hard to believe that in one week it will be Thanksgiving and November will almost be over.  Except for the fact that the sun is setting earlier and rising later, it still seems like October up here.  I read where Barrow Alaska had it's final sunset for 2004 today.  The sun will not rise there until we are into 2005.  There is no way I could handle that.  In fact that is the only thing I would change about our winter- give us more hours of daylight.  Of course all that darkness in the polar region is what helps to manufacture the cold air that drops down and makes our Lake Effect Snow, so it's ok with me that they in the eternal night time up there now!
    Well, I guess that about does it for another one.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 14-
    'Twas the night before deer camp...  Actually I think that deer camp started Friday or Saturday this year, seeing as how opening day is on a Monday this year.  With the weather being a little on the mild side, it also sounds like next weekend might be a bigger time for "goin to camp" than this weekend is.  No goin to camp for me.  Nora, the hounds and I have been busy using up our final few days in the woods to their fullest.  We have not gone anywhere exotic, mainly the school forest, but we have been taking some long walks out there and walking slowly too.  If it isn't snowing, then we may as well have the weather we have been having.  Temps have been in the 40's and low 50's for highs, with early morning lows in the teens and low 20's.  Those overnight temps have been cold to make "night ice", although that picture was taken in the afternoon, so I suppose it may as well be called ice!  What I call Little Torch Lake (the small body of water separated, but not cut off, from the Torch Lake) has been making ice every night, but then most of it has melted in the daytime.  It has also been dry, so all the soggy spots in the woods are either drying up or freezing up or both.
    Da bucks are in rut too.  On one of our walks through the school forest we came across a nice little scrape.  Did not see any fresh rubs, but then again we did not look in too many spots off the trail either.  It's pretty cool to be walking in the woods and see such obvious signs of other creatures that have been there before us.  I have not seen any deer in some time though.  Not sure if they were sensing that it's that time of the year or not, but it would not surprise me.  The woods are pretty quiet for 48-49 weeks of the year, then about a week or two ahead of opening day there is a surge of folks riding their 4WD vehicles or ATV's into the bush to bait and then you have the 2 weeks of main firearm season when the woods are also active with hunters, then things quiet down, with only the die hards going out for second bow or muzzle loading season.  Of course you have the snowmobilers, but most of them are on the designated trails, so it is almost like there are just a few more highways added to the geography up here and not this massive influx of humans into the deeper reaches of the backcountry.
    I sure does not seem like the eve of deer season. I guess with the weather being so mild, maybe that is why it seems more like October than the middle of November.  Almost impossible to imagine that snowmobile season will start in just 17 days- mother nature willing.  My patience is still hanging in there very strong.  Of course it is getting a little help from the fact that it looks to turn a little more wintry up here by next week. But I am actually quite amazed at my attitude towards the fact that we have not had much snow here so far and the week ahead looks to be more like the end of October rather than the end of November.  I'm not going to get into the details of the forecast here, I will save that for the forecast section tomorrow, but suffice to say that those looking for a little stronger sign that winter is almost here should have something to be a little more excited about starting the week of Thanksgiving.
    I have been taking advantage of the mild weather doing some extra projects.  Yesterday I added a little something to the snow station for this year.  A little reminder to ThinkSnow!  I will also make the announcement that for those of you wanting to purchase something from the ThinkSnow! JohnDee.com Store for Christmas, I was told by my partners running the store that you should order by December 10th to be sure you receive it in time for Christmas.  So I would not delay!  Order up and get some nice clothes, hats or stickers and make some very deserving animals in the Copper Country lives better too!
    Some of my other extra projects included making some more storage space in the garage for items that were cluttering up the floorspace and washing all the front windows inside and out and then putting up some of that clear plastic film to help insulate a bit more.  The price of heating oil has really shot up and I am going to try to lower my usage a bit.  New windows would really be the way to go and I have thought about it plenty of times and I may just make that a project for next summer.  The ones in the house now are circa early 70's which means single pane and pretty drafty.  In fact on the really cold mornings my hands will get cold typing here in the office!  That should be less of a problem this year with that plastic film up.  At least I hope!
    I also did a bit more work on the sled, although that was work that I had planned to do before the season arrived.  I wanted to clean the carbs to make sure that end of the powerplant was in tip top shape.  As soon as we have enough snow to ride on, the guys from Goodwin Performance are coming up to do some testing and they will be bringing some goodies to add a little more zip to the RMK.  So I wanted to make sure that the sled is running about as good as it can so when they go to dial it in they will not have to deal with other issues.  I also found the right clutch weights for the Pol-Cat.  They were part of the magic Al did to it two seasons ago and once they are back in, Nora had better hang on when she squeezes the throttle.  Plus my buddy Joe at CrashedToys.com sent over a new front end for the Pol-Cat, so it will have a better ride on the front end too.  We have to get Nora a lot more time in the saddle this season than last.  I think she'll enjoy the mods.
    Looks like I have run out of things to share, so will sign off for now.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 10-
    Some days I can start these things with no problems and then there are days like today where I sit for 20 minutes trying to come up with a good way to get the ball rolling.  Things are slow up here right now.  I suppose if I were a hunter then that would be an entirely different story.  I's probably be busy running to the camp to get it stocked for the weekend and the opener on Monday.  I'd also be heading out to the stand or blind to bait and would also be busy getting my gear ready.  Instead I am just quietly biding my time until the rifle season for deer is over, then things could get busy for me in a hurry.
    I am still doing very well with my patience for some real snow.  I suppose the storm we had back in October really helped me get the first flakes craving satisfied.  We have had a few dustings since and we look to get another one of those dustings tonight and maybe another tomorrow night.  Then things look to be quiet for all of next week.  I am still not concerned or bummed at all.  One of the many things to love about living up here is that I really never have to worry about how much snow we will get for the winter.  Even our worst year will end up being about twice as good as the best year that places like Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit have ever seen.  The snow will come and it will get deep.  The question is not if, but how much.  Sure I am hoping that this year will be the big one.  It will be the year that we finally break the 400" mark, but if not I will still be able to look back on things come May and have lots of fond memories.  I have fond memories from every winter since I move up here and even before I moved up.  Plus, with having the boat, I will not get all bummed about the end of the winter.  I will have a new toy to play with in the "off season" and a reason to enjoy the no snow months.
    Nora and I are actually planning on becoming good anglers.  The way I see it we can head out a couple of times a week and at the end of the season be somewhat accomplished at it and after another season or two maybe be down right good at it.  Nora probably enjoys fishing more than I do.  I love the boating aspect of it all.  Being out on the water is really a passion of mine.  I am also looking forward to being able to show you new views of the region.  I feel like my pool of interesting views is growing shallower with each passing year I live up here and write these journals.  I suppose you all probably do not mind looking at the same things from time to time and I really should take more photos, even if they are repeats.  I just feel the need to want to show something new each time.
    Speaking of shots, I did head down to the big lake today.  I was almost 29 years ago to the minute when the Edmund Fitzgearld was last heard from.  Ever since moving up here I try to get down to the big lake for a moment of respect to the sailors lost on that stormy night as well as all sailors lost on this inland sea.  The lake was in a fairly good mood today, with a bit of a chop from a growing breeze, but nothing like the mountains of water created 29 years ago during that wicked storm.  In talking with the morning DJ today, he told me that he was actually afraid to drive his van across the Portage Lake Lift Bridge for fear of being blown off of it by the winds that day.  We've had some wind storms up here since I've lived here.  Even some that produced gusts to 90 mph, but I don't think we have had a storm that can match the ferocity and duration of that November 10th, 1975 storm.  Perhaps something to be grateful for and not long for.
    Our other stop of the day this afternoon was to the sight of a new bridge for one of the snowmobile trails up here.  Actually it is more than just a bridge, I think the proper term would be a trestle.  It is located in the very spot where the old train trestle once stood.  In fact the trains were running up here about 25 years ago, so the old trestle has not been gone that long.  For those of you familiar with the trail system up here, the new trestle will carry you over the Hungarian Creek, just down stream from the Hungarian Falls.  The old trail took you up above the lower and middle falls on a trail with lots of twists and turns.  There was also a lot of elevation change in a short distance and that caused that section of trail to not only be in poor shape much of the time, but it was a little dangerous.  I believe a person was killed there years ago when they missed the first turn and hit some trees. I know I never really liked going through there as I was afraid to come across someone on the wrong side of the trail.
    But fear no more.  This is the new way to get across the Hungarian.  That was a shot looking south across the trestle.  Incidentally it is about 1/4 mile north of where the trail cam used to be located.  I wanted to show the height of the trestle above the creek, so I climbed off to the side of it a bit, but the terrain was so steep that I did not want to venture too far for fear of never coming back.  At any rate, I did manage to get a shot that shows you pretty well how high up it is.  Here is a shot taken from the middle of the bridge, looking upstream.  The lower falls (the ones that drop about 100 feet) would be located not far from where the pine trees are on the right hand side of the bank, about 1000 feet or so upstream.  The last shot is from the south side of the trestle looking north.  Nora is actually standing on the trestle at about the mid point.  She really helps to lend some perspective as to how large it is.  If you ask me it rivals the spans further south across the Firesteel Rivers north of Mass City.
    So now you all have a new reason to take the lower trail when heading north from Houghton and Hancock!  Not that you really needed one in the first place, but it will really be a neat thing to cross.  Plus it will probably knock off about 5 minutes of time for riding from Hancock to Lake Linden.  The upper trail may still be a little quicker, but not by much and the lower trail sure does beat the upper trail as far as scenery!  I am not positive of the fate of the old trail, but I would imagine that it will still be open to take if one wants.  I can say with almost 100% certainty that it will not be groomed, the groomer will be taking the trestle.
    Well, I guess that gets you all caught up on the goings on for now.  However, before signing off I would like to remind everyone that the ThinkSnow! JohnDee.com Store is open.  I have seen the log file from the site and the numbers are quite impressive!  Much larger than this site was producing in it's first month.  I am going to start plugging the store a lot more in the coming day's weeks and months.  Don't forget Christmas is coming and the items on the store would make wonderful Christmas gifts.  I know I will be doing a lot of shopping on the store's site for my Christmas giving this year and I hope you all will be too.  Keep in mind that all of my profits will be going to the local animal shelter- the Copper Country Humane Society.  So even if you can't play in the snow right now, it's never too early to ThinkSnow!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 6-
    Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!  There, I can say it!  All the pre-winter chores are done, it can commence dumping!  Actually, I have yet to fire up the snow thrower, but I don't have too many concerns with that.  I ran all the gas out of it before putting it away.  All it needs is to get filled with some fresh gas and then fired up.  I must also admit that Nora and I were setting out to put up the Christmas lights and ran into lots of strands that did not work.  I think we both looked at the task at hand and then at the limited rewards of putting up the lights along the fascia and decided to forgo that part of the decorations.  We will still have some lights up and a wreath too, but are going to skip the lights that require me to climb up on the roof, so the Christmas light job has actually not been finished yet, but can be done in the snow and cold if need be.
    All the other chores are done.  The grass is cut, the sled is all put back together and runs fine, the trail cam's issues have been rectified, so it can snow if it wants to.  It looks like mother nature might provide a bit of the white for us tomorrow and then again by later Wed into Thur and Fri.  Probably not any big snows, but enough to perhaps coat things.  Not only am I ready for the snow, but it looks like the woods are too.  That was a picture taken at the School Forest on Wednesday and as you can see, not a leaf left in the trees.  They came down pretty quickly in the past week or so.  There are still a few stragglers that have some leaves on them, especially some of the apple trees, but I have seen the tree in my neighbors yard hang onto it's leaves well into December.  Wednesday was actually a perfect autumn day, with temps in the upper 40's to around 50 degrees, ample sunshine and a little breeze.  Those types of days are growing more and more limited when we get this time of the year and it is also rare to have too many of those days occur next to each other.  That one went solo, with some rains and temps in the upper 30's to low 40's on Thursday.
    I have been doing pretty good with my anticipation levels for the upcoming winter.  I have not felt a single moment of anxiety waiting for the snows to come.  I had been telling myself that it will come and not to worry.  I also have been under the mindset that any snow that comes now usually does not last for the season anyway, so instead of watching is snow and then melt, it may as well hold off for another 10 days or so when it can start to stick around more easily.  I have even been able to keep any jealous feelings at bay when seeing other areas in the nation get snow.  This past week western TX got several inches and it did not phase me at all.  I watched snows fly in the mountains of Vermont and into northern Maine yesterday and again, I just enjoyed seeing the snow and felt good for the folks in those places.  I suppose if in two weeks we have not seen much snow and the forecast does not look that good, it may be an entirely different story and you may not even want to be reading my rants and raves in this journal, but I'm not going to worry about that until it happens!
    Today after fixing the trail cam (the camera was plugged into the wrong USB port) and then grocery shopping, Nora, the hounds and I headed up to the property to have a look around and then went for a hike up in the Cliff Range.  It was a fairly typical early November day in the Keweenaw, with temps in the low 40's, clouds and the threat for rain- a threat that did not pan out while we were hiking thankfully!  We made it to the top of one of the overlooks on the Cliff Range.  There are three that I know of and the one we went to is one that you really cannot get to in the winter because the last few hundred feet is a steep climb through the trees.  Too steep to get a sled up and once the snow is deep, there is no way someone is going to walk up there!
    Once at the overlook, we all sat down and took it all in for a while.  The hounds really scare me when we go up there.  The like to walk up to the edge sort of casually and look over.  It would not bother me so much except for the fact that when they were about 5 months old, Baileys fell of the pier and into the water not once but twice in the same day, with that same casual manner of walking up to the edge.  Well, falling off the edge of where we were would have not have meant a swim, but rather a 150-200 foot fall, so I do not let them get too close!  The view is quite dramatic from up there though.  In some spots there are pine trees hanging on for dear life as the cling to the rocky cliffs and in other spots the vista is more open, with just an occasional tree in front of the grand backdrop of the Keweenaw's forested hills.  That knob in the background to the right of the tree in the last shot is Praiseville Hill, one of the highest spots in the Keweenaw and a place I have taken you all in the past at this time of the year.  The trail to that hill is rather wet and with all the wet weather we have had, we all would have likely needed waders to traverse it.
    We took our cue to get down from the rock outcropping we were sitting on when a squirrel darted out from one of the rocks near us and caused the dogs to jump to attention.  I had nasty visions of them chasing some dumb squirrel off the edge of the cliff, so we quickly grabbed their collar and walked them off the ledge and into the woods and back down.  On the way down, I spotted some mining ruins that I have never seen before.  I don't know how many times I have been on that trail, either on foot, ski or sled, but never noticed those ruins before.  It's kind of strange to be walking down a trail that is so familiar and all of the sudden see something as dramatic as some mining ruins and see them for the first time.  They were off the trail by about 100 yards and the trip to them included crossing a little creek, but the 4 of us were not about to let a few minor challenges stop us from doing some exploring.  Nora and Burt led the way, but Nora got slowed up a bit at the creek.  Eventually we all got there and Baileys took to checking out the old smoke stack made of hand stacked mine rocks.  I can't begin to imagine how long it took to make that!  Right next to the smoke stack was an old foundation made from the same mine rock.  There was also a small trench that went through the center of the old foundation through an archway made of brick into the smoke stack.  I am sure that someone that is more familiar with the mining works back in those days could explain what it was that we were looking at.  All I knew is that it was old.  Not as old as the hills, but old.  I am pretty sure we were looking at part of the ruins of the old Cliff Mine.  That mine started up in 1845 and by 1890's was shut down.  There was actually an entire town at the base of the cliffs in that area, it was called Clifton.  Anyway, it is really neat to come along some old ruins like that and then sit there and try to imagine what things looked like 150 years ago.
    So I guess that gets you all caught up in the goings on up here.  The deer hunters are all getting ready for the big day in just a little over a week.  I have not heard too many rifles being sighted in, but I am sure that is not too far off in the future.  I was asked to mention to any folks going to the snowmobile show in Novi this weekend that you will be able to get the DVD shot up here with our group at the show.  Dobson Entertainment is in booth #30.  So stop in and say hi, they are really great folks-  Oh, and buy a video too!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Nov 2-
    Happy Election Day everyone!  Hope everyone did their American Duty and placed their bets...er, I mean placed their votes.  Nora and I did.  It's neat to live in a small and close community.  When I went to vote, I saw no less than 4 persons I know and sat next to someone that I know.  Pretty neat thing I think.  I was lucky as there was no line when I got there, but when I left there was about 8 people waiting to vote.  I know that is probably nothing like some of the more populated areas have to deal with, but waiting in line behind more than 3 persons for anything up here is a pretty big deal.  I have a feeling voter turnout was pretty big up here and bet it will be across the nation.  A lot riding on this election- either way you look at it.
    I was planning on starting out this journal by saying "Let it snow, Let is snow, Let it snow".  That meaning I was finally done with all of my pre-winter chores and did not have to be concerned any more, but the weather has put some delays into the works and I still need to get the Christmas lights up as well as cut the grass for the last time.  Nora and I did rake the leaves last Sunday afternoon and the gutter guards are up.  I did start in on the Chritsmas lights and probably have about 45 minutes to an hour left.  The grass will not take that long either.  I was hoping to have Nora help me with the lights, but she is working the late shift this week and does not get home until about 5:45 and it is getting pretty dark at that point, so it looks like I may have to go it alone.
    The other task that needs to be finished before winter sets in is the trail cam.  Notice I said "needs to be finished" and not "needs to get done"?  The trail cam is up and running, Nora helped me out with that yesterday, but the image quality is rather poor and the size is too small and I cannot make it larger.  I tried everything I could think of while out at the cam yesterday.  I even downloaded the latest driver for the cam, but nothing worked.  Then I got home and it hit me, the camera requires USB 2.0 to give the large and high quality image.  So at first I thought that the extension cable I got for the camera was not USB 2.0 and that was the issue, but the more I thought about it the more I really felt that I had been sure to get a USB 2.0 extension cable.  Then I thought that I may have plugged in the camera to the wrong USB port.  I seem to remember a similar problem when I was first setting up the camera and I needed to have a USB 2.0 port.  Once I got that then the cam worked like it was suppose to.  So I plan to get out to the cam in the next day or two and see what is the problem.  I really hope that it is just a case of it being plugged into the wrong port, that sure would be an easier fix that having the wrong type of extension cable.  Either way, look for the image quality to improve dramatically in the coming days an to double in size like it was the past 2 years.
    Getting back to the election for a moment, living in one of the battle ground states, we have been just hammered with commercials for the past 3-4 months.  It almost gets to the point where I want to vote for the guy who produces the most entertaining commercial, or better yet the guy that does not bug me the most with their campaign commercials.  I don't even watch that much TV, so I can't imagine what it must be like for someone that does watch a lot of TV.  Well, that is all over now.  The campaign comercials are all over.  Now it's Christmas!  For real, I have already seen two Christmas Commercials and like I said, I do not watch that much TV.  Probably less than 2 hours a day all told, including the cable news in the morning and evening news.
    We look like we might have a little snow in our future.  Nothing major, but maybe enough to cover the ground later Thursday or Thursday night and then again towards Sunday night and Monday.  We may not be the only ones getting a little taste of things to come with those events.  Other areas may get a little of the white with those events.  Speaking of a little of the white.  I have been keeping tabs on one of my favorite big snow areas out west.  It is the Alta Ski Resort in the mountains east of Salt Lake City.  As of October 30th they needed 1" to reach the 100" mark for the month of October.  Well, they got 23" to bring the October 2004 snowfall total to 122" and Sunday were reporting 80" on the ground.  The snow has settled a bit and is at 72" now, but can you imagine getting 122" in October?!  I know what it is like to get nearly that much in a month as we did it just this past January, but October!  That is a lot of snow even for them.  Their seasonal average is around 500", so that means that the received nearly 25% of their average annual total in October.  That would be like the Keweenaw getting around 60" in October.  To make that even more impressive, most of that snow came in the last 3 weeks of October.  All that and they don't plan to open for another 2 weeks.  I skied out there about 10 years ago and I know some runs I would pay big bucks to go and play on with my sled!
    If you did not notice, another big snow area out west has been added to the NCN.  I was contacted by the Togwotee Lodge to see if they could be part of the network and so I added their cam.  It is a place that also receives about 500" of snow a season and is actually setup for snowmobiling.  So if you really need your snow fix, you can go visit that cam and look at a nice wintery scene.  The cam does update all day and night, so you have to check when the sun is up to see the snow.  There are some pretty serious plans in the works for the KSE gang to go out west riding this spring .  That is one area that has been brought up, but I think we may have something else that gets the call.  I will talk more about it when plans are more finalized.
    I do not have any fresh pictures to share with you, so I figured I would share some of the wedding photos.  Nora has been busy scanning them in and I figure I may as well grab a few of them to share with you.  Here is a shot of Nora and I during the ceremony and here is a shot of the whole wedding party during the ceremony.  A few of the post ceremony shots include Nora and I at the property.  A shot of the Dee family at the property and Nora and I smooching in front of the "Proposal  Tree".
    Well, I think that about covers it for this time.  With a little luck I might have some snow shots to share with you in the next entry or two.  Seems like a good thought to end on!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
 
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