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December 30-
    Attention folks of IA, IL, IN and OH...We seemed to have received your winter this year and I would appreciate it if you took it back! This is getting more and more ridiculous with each passing day. So far my spirits have been OK, but I have a feeling that may change for the worse if things in the weather department do not get more winterlike around here soon. I just found out that due to the passing of President Ford, the markets are closed on Tuesday, which gives me a 4 day weekend. The funny thing is, I could care less for the most part. What I care most about is if we are going to get much snow from the storm tomorrow and Monday. Right now it is looking very "iffy". One of those situations where just a few degrees will make all the difference in the world as to how much snow we get.
    It is really just a matter of when we will get the snow, not if. I keep telling myself that and it is what is keeping my spirits up. Of course, what if? What if this is the year that we do not even get 100" of snow! Life will surely go on, but man o man, would that stink. I have spent some time looking over the historical weather, both in snowfall and temps, but also in the upper air sense. So far, this year is frightenly similar to 1994-1995. I can remember that year as in my opinion, that is the year that the Midwest discovered the Keweenaw. I first starting coming to the Keweenaw in 1991 and on those first few years of trips we had the place nearly to ourselves. I can remember riding from Houghton to Copper Harbor and back and seeing less than a dozen sleds the whole day. Of course we would arrive on Sunday afternoon, rent the sleds Monday through Friday and head back Friday afternoon, but even now the weekdays have a lot more traffic up here than prior to the winter of 1994-1995. That winter I arrived and the Keweenaw had around 10-12" snow on the ground. It was old snow and the trails were beat up pretty bad. There were so many sleds up here that I could not believe it either. Every motel lot was packed with sleds, trucks and trailers. The reason was that the Keweenaw from around Mass City north was the ONLY spot in the entire Midwest that had snow at that time. So everyone was heading here to ride. We talked to lots of folks that had never even heard of the Keweenaw before that winter. Ever since, things have been a lot more busy up here.
    I also remember I lucked out with a storm at the tail end of my trip. In fact, I had brought my laptop computer along with me and was checking out the models from the motel room. A storm was looking to arrive late Thursday and continue into Friday and the weekend. Not of the models were onto the idea and the ones being followed by the NWS and media were not indicating much. But the one that I thought had a better handle on things seemed to indicate at least a foot of snow, maybe more. So I called up Dan's Polaris to see if I could keep the sleds through the weekend and into Monday and he said sure, but questioned my sanity for wanting to continue to ride in the conditions that we had. He was letting folks out of their reservations because he did not want to force folks to come and ride in the poor conditions that existed. When I told him that I was a meteorologist and had been checking things from the model room on my laptop and saw a storm coming, he became very interested in what I had to say. So I gave him the rundown of what I thought would happen with the storm (10-14" of snow beginning Thursday night and continuing into the weekend), versus the forecast from the NWS and media for 1-3" of snow late Thursday into Friday.
    Well, the snow started falling late Thursday night as both forecasts had predicted, but kept up through all of Friday, Saturday and tapered off during the day on Sunday. All told 14.5" of snow fell in that 3 day time frame and the trails went from the worst I had ever seen them to the best I had ever seen them. Things were actually fairly quiet over the weekend, as I think everyone was following the forecast that were out there and they all called for the 1-3".  When I returned the sleds on Monday, I was met by a very happy owner of Dan's Polaris. The first words out of his mouth were: "Boy are you lucky that we got that snow". I was thinking he meant because we were able to turn a very disappointing snowmobile vacation into a very enjoyable one with the new snow. But the real reason why he said that was because all day Thursday he was taking calls from folks that had sleds rented for the weekend. He said that he was not going to hold folks to their reservations because conditions were so poor, but just for a point of information he also said that he had a meteorologist renting from him and that the meteorologist had asked to keep the sleds through the weekend because of the pending snow storm. The owner went on to say that after he told everyone about the meteorologist wanting to keep the sleds, not a single one canceled their reservations. So he said I was lucky the storm hit because if it had not, there would have been an angry mob waiting for me when Ireturn my sled! Needless to say I was thankful for 2 things. 1) That I did not know about all the folks that had decided to keep their reservations and 2) That the forecast panned out!!! I think it was that experience that planted the seed that grew into the idea for this website. It took a few years, but it sure has blossomed! By the way, February of 1995 went on to provide just over 74" of snow with a maximum depth of just about 40" and then the winter of 1995-1996 was a biggy with 329" falling- so there is hope.
    Back to present day in the Keweenaw, Burt had a nice birthday on Wednesday, having his special dinner. I can remember last years birthday being a little bittersweet without Baileys there, but this year was better. Time does do wonders. Truth be told, just about every day is a birthday or Christmas for Burt. Not that he is spoiled rotten. He does not expect things and on the rare occasion that we are not able to provide him with all the treats or fun times that he sees on a typical day, he is just fine and takes it all in stride. Like when we traveled home from Wisconsin. He does not get much attention when the presents are being opened and we are having our traditional breakfast. Then he has to spend the better part of the day in the Blazer with us, but is perfect the whole day. He was excited to be home though, sprinting around the yard, while we unloaded the Blazer and tended to the wood boiler. Plus, the special attention we give to him is something that we gave to both Burt and Baileys and something that makes us happy to do. Right now as I type Burt is taking a nap with his Mom on the bed and to know that he is sleeping with her all content just does wonders for me.
    The one upside to the lack of snow around here is that we can still hike in the woods. Yesterday we took a short drive and then parked the vehicle and headed out into the woods. It was a nice afternoon for a walk, with temps in the low 30's and the treat of snow. All day a band of snow was approaching us from the south and when we headed out the door the radar was picking up precip falling out of the clouds over us, but that was evaporating before it reached the ground. I also was checking out the web cams to our south and saw the snows starting up. So I was hoping that the snows would start while we were on our walks. It is really neat to be out in the woods when the snow starts to fall. As luck would have it, the first flakes started to reach the ground just as we were finishing up our walk. With the winter off to a very slow start, the deer are still quite active in much of the Keweenaw. Typically by this time of the year (usually by the end of November) they have headed to areas where they can "yard up" and have better luck in finding food and surviving the winter. This year we are still seeing plenty of tracks in the snow and yesterday we came across several areas where they had scraped the snow away in hopes of finding some acorns to eat. Upon closer inspection we saw that they had been successful. So I guess that is another upside to this mild winter so far. Unless, things change in a big way soon, the deer heard should be a healthy one next season.
    We also came across some potential play spots once the snow gets deep enough. A few moderately steep hills to pick our way through the trees to the top of and one nice steep rock outcropping that would provide some fun in a very big snow year. I don't think I will be attempting that one this winter, but have it's location etched into my memory bank for future times! I can't believe that I have only been on my sled once so far this season. What is even more incredible to me is that it has been 4 1/2 weeks since I have seen at least 1" of snow fall. Areas just to our south saw that and more yesterday (we picked up a dusting). Plus I missed the snows just prior to Christmas, but there are not too many years where we will go over 4 weeks without an inch of snow falling. In fact, it is way more common for us to see snow accumulate every day for over 4 weeks straight than to go without it for 4 weeks. It was also a bit weird to travel through central and northern WI and see more snow there than we have in the Keweenaw. For as long as I have lived here and made the trip south for Christmas, I have never experienced that. I am very happy for them and glad that at least some areas have enough snow to support snow play, even if conditions are just marginal enough to actually play in the snow.
    So it looks like this will be the final writing for 2006. It was a pretty eventful year for us. We had some joys and some sorrows and events happen that I will never forget for the rest of my life. I am looking forward to 2007 and all that it will bring (well, most of what it will bring anyway!). So from Burt, Nora and I- Happy New Year Everyone! May all your dreams for 2007 come true!
-JD-
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December 26-
    We're back! Hope everyone's Christmas was as wonderful as ours. It was great to get down and see my family, but Nora and I were also very excited to get back and spend our first Christmas in the cabin. Thankfully the trip down and back went very uneventful, but there was an event that took place in between our trips. On the way down we started out in overcast skies with a bit of left over snow on the ground. We ran out of snow by about the time we hit Eagle River and it started to rain a little south of Rhinelander. And then it started to pour after that. We drove in a torrential downpour from about Wausau all the way to my Mom's house and did not even unpack the blazer when we got there as it was raining so hard. We visited with my mom, had dinner, then unpacked the blazer. I then went to her computer and checked things out up here via my site. It was about 9 pm Keweenaw time and the rain had just changed over to snow. The snow extended almost all the way to Madison, so everything looked good for the 6-10" of snow that was to fall across the western UP. I woke up at about 5 am Keweenaw time and went and checked the AL Cam and there was very little additional snow since checking it 8 hours earlier. At first I just thought the cam had malfunctioned, but then checked the date and it was from 5 am on the 23rd and my heart just sank.
    It always stinks to have a forecast not pan out, but stinks even more when the forecast is something that I wanted to have happen! As the morning went on, and the light came up across the UP and other cams in the NCN, I started checking them out to see if anyone else had done any better in the snow department. Krupps seemed to have done pretty good. Not 10", but perhaps close to 6. The cams in northern WI also seemed to have done pretty well. Again, not 10" or more that could have fallen, but a solid 6" in many cases. I was feeling a little better about my forecast and then I saw where portions of the western UP (Wakefield area) had picked up 12". So the forecast was not a complete bust, but still was not one I was proud of and I could not believe that the AL Cam had only picked up about 3" of snow. I looked to the positive side that at least we would return to the cabin and have a white Christmas, rather than brown.
    The weekend went by pretty quickly as we had many activities to do and had fun with my Mom, brothers, niece, nephew, aunts, uncles and cousins. Christmas morning we opened presents with my family, had out traditional breakfast feast and then hit the road to come back home. The weather was perfect for driving home- cloudy but dry. We came across the first bit of snow on the ground about 40-50 miles north of Madison and then it gradually increased every 20 miles or so, peaking out at about 6-8" in the WI/UP border region. The Twin Lakes are also seemed to have picked up about 6-8" since we left. They also had about 3" on the ground when we left, so all told they had about 10-11" on the ground when we drove through yesterday. Snowmobile tracks were on most of the trails we saw from the road from around Tomahawk north to just about Houghton. Most trail conditions that I saw would be what I called marginal. Meaning that they were at least 85% snow covered, but the snow was thin in most cases and there were some bare spots. As we were traveling around Tomahawk and Rhinelander I saw quite a few persons on snowmobiles without helmets. I was actually very surprised by this. I don't know if that is legal or not, but it did not seem to smart to me, even if they were just cruising around some fields. In one instance on the outskirts of Rhinelander I saw a guy riding with not one, but two children on his lap. One on each side and none of them was wearing a helmet. I am not one to preach much and really do not mean to make a big deal out of this other than to say I have very rarely seen anyone not wearing a helmet, even if they were just put-putting around the yard, and yesterday I saw at least a half dozen if not more!
    Anyway, we got back to the cabin safe and sound. It was dark out and I did have one thing to be grateful about with the storm not giving us a foot of wet and heavy snow and that was that we could just drive right into the property and did not have to park at the road and open up the drive way to get in. A foot of fluff and we could have gotten in, but a foot of the wet stuff would have produced a big bank at the road where the county plows. So we drove right in, parked the blazer and while Nora unloaded things I checked on the wood boiler. As I walked to the boiler, I could see some smoke rising from the chimney and I thought to myself: "I'll be darned, we did not even burn all the wood in the boiler". When we left Friday, Nora and I had loaded it as full as we could- including two giant pieces that were just small enough to allow me to put them in the boiler. After about 84 hours of burning, there was actually enough wood still in the boiler Christmas evening that all I had to do was rearrange the pieces a little and close the door and it would be all set for the night time. I went out today and there was enough wood this morning that I let things go until this evening. When I opened the door at about 5 pm this evening the boiler was cycling (making fire) and it looked like that cycle would use up the last of the wood in there. But that is about 104 hours after loading it up on Friday.  Not too shabby! We did not lower the temp inside the cabin and of course the temps up here were not brutally cold, but we also burnt some of the softwoods and not the slower burning hardwoods. So I think that we could probably go at least 2 1/2 -3 days on a fully loaded boiler, even with very cold temps. I guess I must have insulated the this place correctly!
    As I was walking back to the cabin from the boiler I felt the camera in my pocket and decided to take a picture of the Cabin on Christmas Evening. The only thing that would have made that picture even more perfect would have been to have 3-4 feet of snow on top of everything, but I won't complain about that one, that is for sure! Nora and I finished unpacking the blazer and threw a frozen pizza in the oven and got ready for our little Christmas celebration. I am like a little kid when it comes to Christmas and Nora and I really spoil each other. The tree was loaded with presents under it and it took us about 45 minutes for us to open them one at a time. I made out very well, getting some new boots for snowmobiling. Although I have been set as far as what to wear for snowmobiling on my legs and upper half of my body, I have had some problems with boots. They either seem to be warm, but too big; the right size, but too cold or not waterproof. I have tried just about every boot out there and many only wore once or twice. I think I took about 3 or 4 pair over to the local Goodwill store during the move. These boots that Nora got me are ones that I did a lot of research on and they seem to be the ticket for me. I have not tried them out, but have tried them on and they sure seemed like the ticket in the try on process. They are not cheap, but if they perform like my Klim gear, then they will be worth every penny. So what kind where they?  They were the Bill Townsend boots from RU Outside. I was browsing through the catalog that came with the boots and saw they have spare liners for the boots for $35 and that may be the ticket  as well.
    I also got some books on local history, some winter socks a pair of binoculars, some DVD's, CD's and assorted other goodies. After dinner and presents I was pretty worn out and we both headed off to bed for the night. 4:30 came too early as it always does, but fortunately I did not fall into the trap of sleeping in too much over the holiday weekend, so it was not too much of a shock to my system to start work at 4:30. Even though school is out, Nora worked today too. She did get to get home a little earlier by working through her lunch and breaks and we were able to all take our afternoon walk together today. I guess that is another good thing about not getting hit too hard with the storm is that we were able to take off from the cabin and just head into the woods for our walk this afternoon. We crossed the snowmobile trail and things did not look too good. In fact this is the least amount of snow that we have had up here for Christmas since I moved here. Certainly not enough to ride for most folks. The lower terrain up here has even less. Here is the trail down by Lake Linden. I can say that from about South Range south there was considerably more snow. Not enough to provide for good conditions, but if someone were desperate enough you could ride and I would suggest you ride south and west. Seems like the Ironwood area was the winner with this past storm.
    There are some hopes for this weekend. A storm is coming and there is the chance that we could be hit along with the west of the western UP and into northern MN. Things are still up for grabs as to what exactly will occur, but at least there is some hope. Although I have this feeling that the forecast will flop around like a fish out of water in the next several days and emotions will rise and fall like a roller coaster. My hopes for snow are much more than personal though. In fact they are more for the businesses up here. I know the snow will come to the Keweenaw eventually and I will have some great rides. However, the businesses up here (and in just about all other parts of the Northwoods) are in hurting shape with the weather this season so far. My heart really goes out to them and I hope things can turn around quickly. I heard from friends today that own a resort up here and they are losing $1000 a day with no visitors staying at their resort. That is money that is lost. It cannot be recouped when the snow arrives as they are pretty well booked all season long. So while I am sad that my two rides are sitting in their stalls waiting for the snow to get deep enough to play in, I have not lost sight of how lucky I am and the hardships that others are experiencing right now. Let's all do a snowdance tonight before going to bed- it can't make things any worse. I think I will see about selling some new bumper stickers in the store. They will read: Stupid El Nino!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 19-
    Well, at least the thaw has stopped. We have not picked up too much new snow, but it is nice to have stopped the snow loss. Of course there really was not too much left to lose, but I can say that the ground has really firmed up well with the cooler temps. We are still in making lemonade mode with the lemons that Mother Nature is throwing at us. On Sunday Burt, Nora and I actually went to the beach for our afternoon walk. Surprisingly we had the place to ourselves. I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact that the winds were blowing at 30-40 mph and temps were in the low 30's and there was no sunshine to battle the temps and winds, but we had the place to ourselves! As you can see from that last shot the surf was up good that day, but you would have either had to have had a screw loose or be incredibly desperate to be out there surfing in that water. That is actually a great beach to go to and swim in the summer. One time several year ago I went there with the dogs and the winds were blowing just right so that a pool of very warm surface water blew into that little bay. The water temps had to have been in the low 80's as the water felt almost like bath water. I ended up swimming with the hounds in my shorts because I did not think conditions in July would have allowed me to swim in the big lake. Strange how little events like that will stick with me. I will probably never forget that afternoon at the beach with the hounds, yet there are many other times at the beach where the details have slipped from my memory bank.
    So there were no surfers out braving the waters of Lake Superior that cold and windy day, but there was a Lakes Freighter heading up wind and likely up bound to a port in either Minnesota or perhaps Thunder Bay. She looked to be a "tousand footer" and even though she was probably a few miles off shore, the lake did not seem to be impacting her too much. I have seen freighters out there that had waves breaking over their bow and even cases where the spray was going above the superstructure on the deck. I can't imagine that is much of a fun place to be when the lake in throwing a fit. I can also remember a big November storm several years ago where a bunch of freighters went and hid behind Mount Bohemia and Mount Houghton in Bete Gris. One of them was a cargo ship and it was clear that a large chunk of cargo towards the front of the ship had been torn off by the lake.
    We did not last too long on the beach Sunday and came back to the comforts of the cabin. My only regret with the cabin was that we did not make room to fit a fireplace in. I mean we could have forced one into one of the open spaces on the wall in the living room, but it really would have been forced in there and would not have looked or probably even served it's purpose correctly. The log home will have at least one fireplace in it-  a nice big one with a Rumford firebox. I know there are those out there that will e mail be about how inefficient a wood burning fireplace is, but save your breath, I am not looking for efficiency here, it is pure aesthetics. Plus a fireplace is a tricky thing to do with a full scribe log home, but I know it can be done and have actually devised a way to do it.
    Well, back to the weather. As mentioned, the thaw has pretty much stopped. We did warm into the upper 30's today, but with the air being dry the snow was not really impacted too much. We even managed to pick up a bit yesterday morning and on our afternoon walk yesterday, Burt and I found the snowmobile trail to be in fairly decent shape. Now let me clarify that last statement. I did not mean that one could come up here and ride the trail, but I did mean that considering our serious lack of snow for the last 2 weeks and the fact that we spent about 10 days with highs above freezing, the fact that the trail was completely snow covered was pretty impressive. The other thing that has happened with the cooler temps as of late is that everything has froze up nicely. I decided to take Burt down a trail that was nothing but mud holes this past October when we were getting all the rain and snow and yesterday afternoon I found no water what so ever on that trail. There were actually several puddles that had frozen and then drained, so as I walked across them I broke through the 1/2-1" of ice, but things were hollow underneath the ice. I am sure that if someone wanted to, they could probably find a hole that still had water in it or that was not froze over enough that you could break through to water, but overall, things are in very good shape up here for when we do finally get some snow. And the nice thing about living up here is not "if", but "when" it will come. The other nice thing is that usually after a spell like we are in right now, when it comes, it comes like gangbusters. Right now I do not see a "gangbuster" scenario to play out, but perhaps some fairly meaningful snows by later this week and maybe a bit more next week. Who knows we may even be riding by New Years. Wha! Did I really say that in all seriousness?! Oh well you have to take them as they come!
    We are working on the final details of our Wyoming trip this spring and right now it is looking like we are headed out the week of March 11-17. Things are not set in stone, but are close to it. I know I am excited to go again and so are the rest of the boys. It looks like we will be having our sleds hauled out on a semi like last year and will be filming for most of the trip again. We gained some experience in how to prepare for the trip last year that will help a lot this year, like what setup to use for our sleds. My sled was setup fine, but the one thing that will be different this spring will be that my power valves will be so clean you will be able to eat off them! Not like last year where I could barely get them out when I got home. No fun trying to hill climb out there when the engine will only rev to 7200! Sort of like trying to go up a steep hill in your vehicle in 4th gear. Momentum only takes you so far and after that you are out of luck! They have been getting some pretty good snow out there and it looks like more is to come for next week. March is a long way off, but it is still nice to see them building a solid base now.
    I had hoped to write a journal yesterday, but I got caught up with other activities. One of my hopes in writing yesterday was that I could stay on track with updating more frequently and also give enough time to write once more before heading off for Christmas, but it looks like this will probably be the final journal before Christmas, so I will have to wish you all a Merry Christmas in this one. Plus Mother Nature never really did cooperate with providing the backdrop for our outdoor Christmas picture this year. Actually about 2 weeks ago things looked very wintry out there, but we just did not take advantage of it and missed out. So no holiday picture this year either :( Sorry, I did not mean to be such a slacker! So here is wishing you all a safe and happy holiday. I will be back in a week to catch you all up on what is happening up here in the Keweenaw. Until then...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 14-
    Day 6 of the meltdown. The dripping has stopped, but the puddles remain. So does the dirt, the leaves all the spots of bare ground. We dropped below freezing for about 3 hours this morning. First time in 96 hours. The whiskey ran out this morning and I am not sure how much longer I can go on. All these darn song birds are chirping like it is spring, don't they know they should be having to scavenge on tree bark by now?! A bit of snow is forecasted for the next 12 hours or so. If we get that then perhaps I can go on. Otherwise this may just be the final end...
    Well, things are not really that desperate up here. Not yet anyway! My spirits are actually pretty good considering. I think it has a lot to do with the excitement of living in the new place. Even with most of the snow melted, I am living my dream. Living in the deep woods of God's country. Perhaps the good Lord above really does know what he is doing when he gave me over 100" of snow in less than 30 days last year following Baileys death. That was a nice distraction from the sadness of her leaving us. Now this year I have the distraction of the new place and that is helping me get through this slacker of a winter we are having so far.
    It seems hard to believe that just a week ago I was getting ready to take my first ride up here. It seems like that happened a month ago. Time sure goes by slowly when there is no snow to play in. Perhaps that is why folks that do not play in the snow do not like winter so much. If I had to be kept inside with little to do but watch the crummy shows on the 387 channels of TV I get, I might not like winter either! It really amazes me how people can be so different. Some love the snow and some hate it. Some love the heat and some hate it. 'Tis what makes the world go round I guess!
    It also seems hard to believe that we are less than 2 weeks away from Christmas and in under a 8 days Nora, Burt and I will be headed south to spend Christmas with my family. Although the occurrence of a brown Christmas up here is extremely rare (less than 1% I believe), if the forecast does not change much this might be one. I believe in the 80's they awoke to no snow on Christmas morning, but then a storm hit and they had a foot down by the time the 26th rolled around. I also know that in 2001 up here we had a December much like this one, with a bit in the beginning and then a stretch of nothing. On the 23rd it rained about an inch and then changed to snow the night of the 23rd and they picked up 2 feet from the 24th to the 25th and the last 10 days of the month of December produced about 70" up here and some folks down around Rockland picked up over 100" in the last 10 days. So things can and do change in a hurry around these parts, but right now the forecast does not hold much snow for the next week to possibly ten days.
    Burt and I have also been busy making lemonade out of the lemons mother nature is throwing us. We have taken some nice walks in the back country the past few days. I did share with you our Monday adventure. On Tuesday we headed out to the same general area and took some of the side trails going off the main one. We did not go all the way down most of them. A few had locked gates and I did not have permission to past them. Others I just knew where they would end up anyway, but it was still fun to be out and about in the bush. Yesterday we took the truck to a spot near by that I wanted to explore further. I have been studying my USGS Quadrangle maps of the area and saw a potential path to one of my favorite play spots around there. So Burt and I took to truck to a good place to park it and then walked the rest of the way and sure enough, we found the way through, so I should be good to go once the snow gets deep enough that I want to head in there and play.
    The thaw has just about done in the mat of snow on the driveway. Actually, that was the lower part, the part in the "higher terrain" still has at least a bit of a mat down on it and it is currently snowing out, so perhaps that section will be salvaged. And just to clear things up, our driveway is not that long, the higher terrain is about 10 feet higher and is 50-75 feet away from the "lower terrain". It is actually the higher part is more shaded. That is why the snow was sticking around better there.
    As for the snowmobile trail, it will need a whole lot more than just a fresh coating to bring it back up to speed. Nuttin' but rocks now. Just keep in mind things can and do change in a hurry around here. Actually that can be said for many areas in the Northwoods. A single storm can take things from bare ground to good riding in less than a day. So for all of you sitting around all depressed about things just keep that in mind. It may not look very good right now, but just a week ago it was looking pretty good for quite a few spots in the Northwoods and look how fast things moved in that direction. Snow typically piles up in the Northwoods this time of the year faster than it melts, so at least we have that in our favor. Another think I keep telling myself is that last December was very good for much of the Midwest with cold and snow and then January and February was really bad. Perhaps this year the bad month will be December and will will make a good January and February out of it. That is when the majority of you all come to play anyway! OK, enough of the pep talk, just hang in there. Remember- it is not what you achieve that counts, but what you overcome.
    As mentioned, it started snowing this afternoon. Actually it started out as a bit of rain and snow mixed and then changed over to snow. At times it was coming down pretty good. Those nice big flakes that like to pile up quickly. It has pretty much tapered off now, but we did pick up enough to whiten things up again and there is still a bit off to our west so perhaps we will be able to at least enjoy a white blanket on everything once again. I still love to just sit and watch it snow. There is something so relaxing in it. Today as I was watching the flakes fall to the ground I spotted a woodpecker searching a birch tree for dinner. My apologies on the graininess of the pic, that is what digital zoom will do for you! We have had some more wild life up here. I have not seen the actual animals, but have seen their tracks. I would like to put up a winter time bird feeder. I like to help out the birds in the winter as the pickens can be pretty slim. In the summer, there is plenty of food for them and you can also spread diseases easier with the summer feeders. Plus now that we are in the woods I will have to worry about black bear coming to dine on the feeders in the summer. So I think we will be winter feeders for the birds and I need to get some up for them.
    Well, I can't really think of anything else I need or want to say, so I will sign off for this one.
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 11-
    Yep, getting back into the swing of things all right. Who knows, maybe some day I will even write a back to backer! It is so nice to be settling back into the lifestyle that I moved up here for. I did enjoy the building process and LOVE the cabin that Nora, Burt and I built this summer and autumn, but it is so nice to have the free time once again to get out and do what ever the heck I want to. That creates stories for me to write about and share with you in pictures too!  I also am not either working right up until bedtime or too exhausted to write a journal in the evenings anymore as well. As I type this, Christmas music is playing in the background and the smell of the Christmas cookies that Nora is baking is rising from the kitchen into the loft. All we need is some heavy snow to be falling and everything would be Christmas card perfect. Ah, but alas, in the battle of the sexes, Mother Nature is kicking Old Man Winters rear end right now. We are on day 3 of our thaw, having hit 44 both Saturday and Sunday and then 41 today. The snow is trying it's best to hold out, the low December sun angle helping to the snows struggle to try and hang around.
    I have actually been handling this thaw OK so far. A week ago it looked like winter was arriving in full fashion, but just as fast as it arrived it has decided to take a break. I know it is still very early in the season and we have had head fakes like this in the past. What I am actually hoping for is that since last December was a near record breaker up here and then January was stinko for snow that this December will come and go and lead to a January that is worthy of being called January around here. Throw in a good February and the winter season will go down as a success in many a book. Those really are the two most important months for winter recreation and that entire industry in the Midwest. I realize that there are the early birds that come up to play in the first 3 weeks of December and of course the week between Christmas and New Years is always a busy time, but I think about 90% of the trips "up north" to go and play in the snow happen in January and February. So here is to hoping that those two months are cold and plenty snowy in not just the Keweenaw, but all of the Northwoods.
    We have been taking advantage of the milder weather by hauling some more stuff up from Lake Linden. We did not leave a lot behind, but more than I thought! On Saturday Burt, Nora and I went south to pick up some more stuff and haul it up here. Before doing that, we swung over to the School Forest for a hike in the woods. The sun was shining and temps were in the low 40's and there was still plenty of snow on the ground- a great day to be in the woods. It sure was quiet out there. Most of the deer are heading to the yarding areas, their tracks in the snow showing the most popular way to the yards. The trees are bare except for a few berries.
    We took a nice walk but did not see any critters, then headed over to the old house and loaded up Old Blue and the Blazer. All I can say is thank goodness we have the shop! It has been so nice to be able to use it as a sort of clearing house for all the stuff we bring from Lake Linden. All we have to do is load up the trucks and spill everything out into the shop to sort and decide what to do with later. So far we have been pretty good about sorting through things and the shop is actually pretty clean. I am also very grateful to have a wife that is like me and does not like clutter and also does not like to put off things that need to be done. Other than all of the cherry wood that we loaded into the basement in Lake Linden a few years ago, I'd say that we have about 2 more trips to make and then the house will be empty...ok maybe 3!
    It may sound strange, but my biggest fear in all of this melt down is that we will lose the snow mat down on the driveway! It sure was nice to not have to worry about any dirt being tracked into the house anymore and I would hate to have to deal with that again. Plus I had even gone over the mat with the snowthrower and shaved some of the high spots down so it was all nice and smooth. It is hanging in there so far and as long as we do not stay too warm for too long then I think we will be ok. Here is how the driveway looked this morning. It was just about a year ago at this time that I was trying to move all the snow we were getting with Al's ATV and plow and Old Blue was pushing snow with the bumper. That was some incredible snow for early December and something to look forward to up here in hopefully not too long!
    Our driveway may be holding up pretty good so far, but the trails sure aren't. That picture was taken this morning as well, so I can only imagine that things look even worse out there now after dealing with a brief period of sunshine this afternoon as well as temps in the upper 30's. Burt and I actually walked down the trail a bit and the thing that I found interesting was that the last few sets of tracks all go right down the middle of the trail- right were the conditions were worst! That could not have been good on the sled! It sure would be nice if we could hang onto at least a bit of base on the trails before the next snow comes. They really were pretty dry and it would be a shame to melt off the snow, make puddles and then have to start over. We'll do what we have to I guess.
    One of the things keeping my spirits up today is that Burt and I had a very fun afternoon. I decided to take advantage of the low snow pack and mild temps to do a little exploring around the property. I then decided to see if we could figure out a nice ski trail that we could use frequently and not have to drive to. So Burt and I took off on a little foot path that runs into the property and then continue on until it intersected a larger trail that took us past "Burt's Pond". That is not really the name of it, but what Nora and I called it after discovering it this summer and watching Burt swim in it. After passing Burt's Pond we kept on going down the old two track. Some pickup trucks have been using it for some reason, probably muzzle loading or second bow season for deer. Their tracks peeled off to the left, but we kept going straight. Until we spotted our real adventure for the day. Off to the right a little skidder trail wound it's way up through the trees and ended at the face of some rock outcroppings. Those may have stopped the dozer, but did not stop Burt and I. Up and over the rocks we went and made it all the way to the top. The top of the hill was covered in trees and did not really provide for a very good picture, otherwise I would have taken one. However, it did provide a nice view of the surrounding area. We could see Bumbletown off to the southwest, Mohawk and the Cliff Range off to the northwest, Burt's pond off in the distance below us and even some of the property, although we could not see any of our buildings. It's been a while since I have gone on an adventure like that. The hounds and I used to do it several times a week when we first moved up here and I think that Burt and I (and Nora when she can join us) will need to get back into the habit of doing that. It is like being a kid again, going off into the woods and exploring places we have never been to yet. There were several little trails that spurred off the one we were walking on, so perhaps we will head off to those next!
    I am getting ready to wrap this one up, but want to cover two more items.  The first is that I am getting ready to convert the Guest Shots section of the site into a self-posting affair. This was one of those "it seemed simple enough" ideas when I started it and turned into a tremendous amount of work. Nora was kind enough to help me, but each entry would take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to do and because all of the resources of my computer needed to do it, I had to reboot after doing them. Thus I would not want to do just one, but a batch of them. So I would really need an hour or two of free time to update them and that is why they were updated in the manner they were. By moving them over to the Guest Shots, persons will not have to wait for me to get to their pics to see them on the site and they will have the added bonus of adding some text to each shot (or not). In fact I am hoping that some persons get ambitious to write their own mini-journals. So if you were planning on sending me some pics for the Guest Shots in the next few days, wait and you will be able to post them yourselves. I have added some instructions on how to post pictures in the General Discussion board, the link is on the rules page. If you send me pics to be posted by me and are still waiting for them to be posted, I will post them soon in the old guest shots section. Of course if you want to post them in the new section when it is up and running go ahead and let me know so that I do not post them in the old section. I will keep all the galleries in the old Guest Shot up as well as it is fun to go through them and look at the 1000's of shots in there.
    The final item is of a little more serious note. I don't know how many of you knew this, but because they found it financially unprofitable, the ambulance service up here decided to end their service of going off road to do any rescues. Which meant that if you had an accident on the snowmobile trail, it might be a serious undertaking to get you out of the woods and to the ambulance waiting for you at the nearest plowed road. Both Houghton and Keweenaw Counties are taking matters into their own hands to remedy this problem. Keweenaw County will be purchasing vehicles that can be used to help move an injured person from the woods to the road. I was contacted by Dick Powers from the Keweenaw County 9-1-1 about trying to get the word out and let folks know that there will be rescue service available and about a fund raising event underway to purchase equipment even better for off road rescue. Here is a copy of the letter he wrote to me:

"Basically the Keweenaw 911 Committee was the springboard that got the
ball rolling in Keweenaw County.  With a combination of grants and
donations Keweenaw County will be equipped to handle winter and
summer rescue operations.  For this winter we will have a rescue
sled, similar to the one that was used by Mercy Ambulance, a
snowmobile to pull it furnished by Sheriff Lahti,  a double wide
snowmobile trailer to pull  it, and a DNR loaner pickup truck to pull
it.  The unit will be manned by the Ahmeek Village Fire Department
backed up by Allouez Township and the Keweenaw Sheriff's Department.
The equipment that I just described is being purchased by a grants
and donations from the local Medical Control Group and area
Hospitals.  That will be for the 2006-07 winter season.  At the same
time we have submitted a pre-application to the USDA Rural
Development for a 55/45 grant to purchase a Ranger 4x4 with equipped
with tracks for winter use.  For the summer it  will  have the normal
wheel arrangement.  The Ranger will have a drop in unit in the box
which will accommodate a patient on a back  board and an attendant.
This should be read for use in the summer of 2007 and for the 2007-08
winter season in addition to the rescue sled equipment we used for
the 2006-07 winter season.
To raise cash for the local match ($6,750) for 55/45 grant the 6
Keweenaw Fire Departments have agreed to sponsor a fund drive.  Each
winter business in Keweenaw County which does business with
snowmobilers has made donation.  In addition we will have donation
envelopes and posters in each cooperating  business (they should be
well identified)."

So be sure to keep an eye out for those posters and envelopes while up here. They also have a website that you can go to and make a donation to obtain this rescue equipment: If you snowmobile, ATV, hike, bike or any other activity off road up here, you will want to make a donation to insure that this equipment is there in case not just someone needs it, but YOU need it. I have provided a link to their website on the main page of my site as well. Here is another opportunity to show folks that the snowmobile community is a great bunch of folks.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 8-
    Gonna sneak in a short one tonight. Now that things are settling down I am going to try to get back into the swing of things and update this more than just once a week. No promises as my life is still plenty busy, but hopefully I will also have more fun stuff to talk about on a regular basis. Yesterday I took my first ride of the season. The conditions were what I would call marginal, but as I was driving down the trail I was looking at things and said to myself that there are plenty of places around the Midwest that would actually consider these conditions pretty good!  I certainly do not mean to sound arrogant about this area or condescending towards the places that do not see the snow like us, just trying to point out how everything is relative. Anyway, Skylar came up from central WI to try out his new sled and had to come alone this time, so I mentioned to him that if he was able to make it up to my place in the early afternoon we could ride together for the rest of the day. My plan was to actually head up to the harbor (Copper Harbor), kick back, relax and have a nice meal then head back. It has been one of those weeks for me. Nothing really big and bad happened, just lots of little things that seemed to come one after another. In any case, I need to just get away and take a little break and going to the harbor- even since I have lived up here- has always been like a mini getaway for me.
    So Skylar got here at about 3 and we hopped on the sleds and headed north. It was nice to be on the sled again and I find that every year that I ride the sled feels less and less foreign to me on the first ride. I can remember the first year I lived here and hopped on the sled it was like riding for the first time. Then the next year it was not quite like getting on a sled for the first time, but it still felt strange and I really felt like I needed to take it easy until I felt comfortable again. With each passing year the "comfortable" feeling has come quicker and quicker and I think this year I did not even get to the end of my 200 foot driveway before I was feeling at home on the sled. Skylar was up to heading north and having some dinner at the harbor and then heading back. He was actually staying in Twin Lakes, so he had a pretty long ride even after we got back to my house. Which worked good for me because I have to start work at 4:30 in the morning, so I could not say out too late either.
    I probably would not have even gone for my first ride with the amount of snow we have right now, but Skylar is always fun to ride with and as mentioned, I really needed to take a break, so it was pretty much a no brainer to head out. The trails had been groomed, which was a good thing and a bit of a bad thing. The good thing was that any hazards like trees down across the trail had been taken care of, but the bad thing was that what little snow we have up here (is a foot really little?) was packed down even more. Here is a shot of the main trail heading north between Mohawk and Phoenix. Like I say, some folks would look at that and say: "hey, those conditions were pretty good". I will say that there were spots that had less snow on the trail than those and that the base there was no more than a few inches. But it was snow and we had the trails to ourselves. We only passed two sleds the whole way from my house to the harbor and back. Great for riding, but a little worrisome for having a breakdown or something like that.
    I had to chuckle while on the ride too. Here are two guys heading down the trail that has a few inches of snow on it, riding souped up mountain sleds! At first I was even concerned a bit about over heating and also burning up the slides, but neither turned out to be a problem. Plus once we got off the main trail and onto the trail that heads up and over Brockway Mountain, the conditions improved significantly. I don't know why, but there was a lot more snow on that trail and it was also bump free. If I had not known any better, I would have thought that we were actually in mid winter conditions with as good as things were with that section. When we got to the section of trail that actually runs the closed Brockway Mountain Road, the conditions got even better because very few sleds had been on the trail, the trail itself has the perfect base underneath, a roadbed and there was about 6-8" of snow on it. In fact I think that the conditions of that section of trail were as good as I have ever experienced. That is a very popular trail and it seems to have it's share of bumps on it most of the season. Yesterday it was flat as a pool table and wide open for us. I as very glad that we had decided to take that section of trail yesterday! Not only were we rewarded with just fantastic conditions for this time of the year (and any time of the year for that matter), but we were also rewarded with a beautiful sunset from the top.
    The only negative thing about that moment was that it was only about 10 degrees out and the wind on top of Brockway was blowing off the lake at about 30-40 mph, so it was a bit chilly. My hands just about froze solid in the 60 seconds it took to take that last picture. So we did not spend too much time taking in the sights up there. We still had the other half of the mountain to ride and then a warm seat in one of Copper Harbors watering holes to occupy. I had forgotten that many businesses up here go weekends only at this time of the year, so we were actually fortunate to have that warm seat waiting for us in the harbor yesterday! Ziks was open and to no surprise we had the place to ourselves for the first 30 minutes before a few locals came in for an evening refreshment. We chatted with the locals a bit, had a burger and then got back on the sleds to head home. Bedtime comes pretty early for me and Skylar still had a 90-120 minute ride beyond my house until he got back to Twin Lakes. I am still amazed at how quickly we can get from the harbor to where we live now. It seems like it should take a lot longer and even with traveling an average of about 35-40 miles per hour we made it home in right around an hour. That left me plenty of time to wind down from the ride before trying to get to sleep and allowed Skylar enough time to let him get back to Twin Lakes before it got too late. He called about 90 minutes later to let me know he made it OK and then I drifted off to sleep with visions of the riding to come this season in my head.
    So my first ride of the season is in the books. I believe that is the first time that I have ever ridden with Skylar where both of us did not get stuck! I suppose if we had really wanted to, we could have found a way, but we stayed out of the bush and stuck to the trails. Still way too many things to end a trip prematurely for that type of riding. Hopefully we can get into another snow cycle soon and get enough down to make a trip into the bush a safe option. Things can change in a big hurry around here. We can go from conditions like we have right now to conditions like this and like this in a very short time (just a few days) and I hope that just that is repeated again this December! Just one of the many magical things about living up here. I will sign off on that note.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 4-
    Welcome to December and happy winter everyone! For those of you new to the site or these journals you have to know that I go by meteorological winter (Dec-March) rather than astronomical winter (Dec 21-March 21, or there abouts). For a more lengthy reason why just look back to past December Journals and I am sure you will find it written several times, but I will spare everyone the explanation all over again this time!
    It has been a slower past week, but still busy. I have been playing catch up on all my regular duties and still have some to do on this site. Plus early last week I came down with something, seemed to get over it by the end of the week, only to feel pretty bad last night again (the reason for no journal last night). I actually felt so tired last night that I fell asleep on the couch at about 5:30 in the evening and only woke up long enough around 9 pm to walk to bed and sleep for the rest of the night. I wake up at 4:30 every morning and so I was able to get about 11 hours of sleep last night, but still have felt a little out of it today. I am getting an early start on things today, so I should not have any problems finishing before running out of steam.
    I think one of the reasons why I may have had a bit of a relapse with my cold was that on Saturday I spent about half of the day out in the cold working on the burn pile. On Friday we had about 3 inches of fluff on the ground which was perfect for lighting things up. The burn pile had gotten rather large as I had never burned anything from the entire building process. Well, actually some of the larger pieces had gone into the wood boiler, but everything else was just sitting there under the tarps waiting to be burned. It was not a problem getting the pile started, I removed the tarps, found a good spot on the upwind side of the pile and after one match strike and about 2 minutes I had a pretty good fire going. After about an hour most of the scraps from building had burned off and the flames were trying to eat into all the wood shavings from all the dimensioning of the lumber we did. You would think that wood shavings would burn pretty good, but my past experience with them is that they burn very slowly. You need three things for fire: fuel, oxygen and heat. The shavings actually do not allow much air to penetrate, so they fire can only burn at the surface. The fire does burn and the pile of shavings will eventually burn down to nothing, but will do so very slowly. Now, get the wood shavings wet and it becomes even more difficult to burn them down. That is what I had. We had a big windstorm a few weeks ago and rains fell along with it and after it and the winds helped remove the tarps in spots, so the shavings got wet.
    Once the flames hit the wet wood shavings it was very slow going. I actually broke out two box fans and focused their breeze on the fire to help get oxygen to the fire and that helped, but overnight Friday the flames went out and my attempts to get things going Saturday morning were not too successful and so I decided to just haul all the shavings that did not burn over to a hole in the ground that is left over from some mining activity many, many years ago. At first I tried to put some shavings onto a tarp and drag them over to the hole, but even filling the tarp 1/4 of the way made it almost too heavy for me to get it over to the hole. So I decided to just use the wheel barrel to haul the shavings over. 43 trips with the wheel barrel later and the pile was gone. I actually did not feel too bad after all that work (a little sore) and then we had some friends over for dinner on Saturday and felt fine then. I did not sleep too well Saturday night and all day yesterday felt really bad. So I think the combination of the work Saturday with the poor sleep that night was enough to send me into a relapse. I plan to get to sleep early tonight and hopefully will be back to 100% by tomorrow.
    Other than not feeling so well in the past week, it has been great to be living out here. We are getting more and more used to this being our new home- Burt included. Now that the snow is falling the woods are just beautiful and I am looking forward to the snow being feet deep up here and the cabin taking on the look of a true Northwoods cabin. On Saturday and Saturday night we picked up another 4-5 inches of snow and that was enough to use to "pank" down the snow and create a mat. I would like to pank the snow down a bit more to create a 2 inch thick mat and then will start using the snow thrower to keep the drive way clear.
    On Friday Burt and I could take to the woods, so we took some time off from tending to the burn pile and headed off into the woods for our afternoon walk. As we headed into the snowy woods, and looked around at how beautiful everything was I just could not help myself from wondering why so many people do not like snow. I realize that most of the folks that come to this site are just the opposite and are like me and love snow, but let's face it, we are in the minority when it comes to the general population. I would like to ask what is so wrong with snow? Is it because it is more difficult to drive in? Just slow down a bit, what is the rush? Is it the cold? Well, if it is going to be cold anyway, why not cover up all the brown. And if you do not like the cold at all, what the heck are you doing living in an area that gets cold in the first place? There is no way I could live in a place like Phoenix or Florida. I cannot stand the heat! I suppose I may hear from the few folks that visit the site and are not snow lovers, but for the life or me, I just cannot understand why someone could not love something that is so beautiful and so much fun.
    Yesterday Nora, Burt and I took to the woods for a nice walk in the snow. There was more snow down, about 8" and that is getting pretty close to the maximum amount that you can walk in without a bunch of exertion. I am not against exertion, but we were not wanting that yesterday with me feeling not so well. Anyway, not only was there more snow on the ground, but it was coming down pretty good too. Nora, Burt and I actually started out on a road not too far from the cabin and then saw a logging road and decided to follow that for a while. We did not go too far down that logging road, but I think I may have to see where it goes by taking my sled down it sometime this winter. Perhaps we can even use it as one of our ski trails up here this winter. We have only moved about 10 miles north of where we used to live, but have a whole new set of back country trails to discover and explore.
    Today Burt and I did not even get in the truck to take our afternoon walk in the woods. Nope, that picture was taken about 100 feet east of the cabin. If I choose someday to put a little access trail right from the cabin to the snowmobile trail, that is one way that I might make it go. There would be more clearing that would be need to be done further up as that is just a small section that is left over from when they did a bit of logging on the property years ago. We do have a little footpath that takes us from the cabin to the trail and Nora, Burt, Baileys (when she was alive) and I have been using it for a few years now. Speaking of the snowmobile trail, we did make it out to that today and then followed it for about a mile today and then took the road back home. I figured that the trail would still be very quiet right now and we could get out on it and walk on it without putting ourselves at risk and causing problems for snowmobilers. I did hear a couple of sleds off in the distance and we got off the trail to the side, but they must have taken the road and not the trail as they never came by us. We probably have a few days left before we will have to stay off the trail though. The only thing we saw today was a guy on a 4 wheeler.
    Well, I have only one more topic that I want to cover before I sign off, but first I need to climb up on my soapbox. I try very hard to not do this when I write a journal or do anything on this site for that matter, but I feel this is important enough for me to break my own rules for a brief moment. I just received information today that only 16 persons have registered for the Ride-In so far. Now before I go on I want to just make it clear that this slow registration does not hurt my feelings. The purpose of this ride-in is not to boost my ego, it is to raise money for a very worthy charity. I have plenty of other things on my plate that I do not need to undertake such an event to give me something to do or make me feel  important. I do look forward to the event and meeting all the good folks that come up to participate in it and am thrilled to know that the event will ultimately support a cause near and dear to my heart. I have felt that it is a win-win-win situation. The charity wins because they receive some support from our efforts. The participants win because they have fun at the event, get to make some new friends and also gain the satisfaction of knowing that they did something good for people in need. The final winner is the sport of snowmobiling. It gets some positive exposure, rather than just a blurb in the newspaper about this property damage or this accident or unfortunately this death. We all know that our sport can use all the positive exposure that it can get.
    So my feelings have not been hurt by the lack of participation in this years event so far, but rather I am a little disappointed, no a lot disappointed. Disappointed that folks have the opportunity to do some good for folks in need, do some good for the image of snowmobiling and have some fun at the same time. I am also a little confused as to why folks are not signing up? There are 25,000-30,000 different visitors that come to this site a day and it sure seems like it should not be too hard to get 1 percent of them to sign up. Or should it? I would love to know the reasons you all have for not signing up. If they were things I could fix then I would as soon as possible. I am not trying to guilt folks into signing up for the ride in. If you do not want to, don't. I only want it to be a fun thing. Something where the participants WANT to be there. WANT to do something good for others and feel good from it and have fun at the same time. If we stay at 16 persons signed up, fine. We all will have fun and know we did some good and I will be able to look out at the group and know that they are there because they want to and that is all I need to make me happy. It was a fun event last year and we learned some lessons on how to make it more fun for this year and will be applying those lessons learned. We had over 100 folks sign up last year and many were turned away. For those that came last year I thank you. Hopefully I can see you again this year. If not, I understand. For those of you that wanted to and were turned away, now is your chance. For those that are on the fence- live a little, take a chance. You never know where your next great life experience will come from, but I can almost guarantee it will not come from sitting there doing nothing. OK, I will step down from my soapbox now. Perhaps in my next journal I will let you all know why I picked the charity I did.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
 
 
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