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Feb 26-
    I'm back, with pictures and stories.  Before I get into things, I got a note from the folks at the store and they were able to downsize the video that was played at the ride-in a bit and have a link to it here: www.johndeestore.com/thinksnow.wmv
    I'm bit tired, so I am not sure how long winded I will get.  But I guess short and sweet can be good too. I got lots of riding in this weekend.  Probably as much this weekend as in any other- except for maybe the weekend we were doing the video shooting.  Conditions are still about as good as they have been all season. The snow is plenty deep and the fresh stuff we picked up later last week was enough to cover most of the tracks we put in on Tuesday.  I had my good friend from high school Mike come up again. With the snow so deep he rode the 700 all weekend while I was on the 8.  We both still managed to get stuck more than once!
    Actually I figured with the snow being so deep that maybe we should not go out as just a pair. It is a lot of work for just two persons to dig out a sled.  Three is better and actually as many as 5 can be kind of nice, depending on the situation of the stuck sled. Anyway, I got us into a couple of KSE rides going out this weekend. An afternoon ride on Saturday and an all day ride today.  On Saturday, Mike and I did a little riding by ourselves. We headed to a field to get in a little carving and for having much practice at it, Mike is really getting the hang of it. The spot we were playing in had about the perfect amount of snow for carving, which to me is at least 18" of soft powdery snow. After carving for a while we headed over to the gully I was talking about in the last entry.  If you remember, I talked about a creek that ran through the middle of the gully. The snow was so deep in there that it was almost like a trap, it looks like just a little low spot in the snow, but you get into it and all the snow collapses and will just suck a sled right in. Mike found out just how well that creek will eat a sled. He was standing in the creek bed in that last shot, that's how deep the snow is in that gully.
    We had a few more stucks to get out of that morning and I did not want to wear us out before we even got going in the KSE ride. Plus it was getting towards lunch time, so we hopped home and had lunch with Nora, dried out and rested a bit and then headed over to meet up with the KSE ride at the gas station in town.  The KSE ride was lots of fun. Lots of digouts, but still lots of fun. My arms felt like Jell-O at the end of the day and when I closed my eyes to go to sleep, all I could see in my mind were ski loops belonging to sleds that needed to be pulled out!  Thankfully they were just visions at that point and I was able to get to sleep and I do not believe I dreamt of any sleds that needed to be pulled out!
    Today we met up with Al and his KSE ride at the usual 10 am starting time. Since I do not do the bookings for KSE and am not even a guide with them this season, I never know who the clients are they taking out. It turns out that Al's group for today was Al from the Hiawatha Motor Lodge in Eagle River along with some of his buddies like Trackside Greg, Groomer John and Jim, as well as some others who I went ahead and forgot the names of, sorry guys!  It did not take long at all to see that this crew were well versed in how to ride a snowmobile. We hit some play spots and all were carving their sleds with excellent results.  Here is a shot of Al (KSE guide Al) carving his big ol' Mountain Cat 162.  Plenty of snow out there for that long track as well as my 159 to lay it over.  There were also two in the group that liked very much to jump and were quite good at it!  Here is Trackside Greg catching some air. They asked Al if there were any "road jumps" around and while Al did not have any road jumps, he did know of a jump on a logging road they might like.  Actually what it is is two berms in the middle of the road with a deep pit in between. The berms are probably about 15-20 feet apart and from the top of the burms to the bottom of the pit is is probably about 10 feet, so falling into the pit is not something you want to do.  I will just mention that there are many of these berm/pits out on the logging roads up here, so if you find yourself out on a logging road and see what looks to be a nice little hill to do a little jumping off of, be sure you know what is on the other side of it.  Go into that pit and you will be lucky to get out yourself and your sled is probably not coming out and I have heard about a sled going in and staying in until they could get a wrecker out there in the spring to haul the sled out.
    Anyway, we got to this particular burm/pit and they jumpers surveyed the setup and deemed it was in fact jump able.  So Greg was first to take a run at it and cleared the far side berm with plenty of room to spare.  Jim was next and also cleared the jump with plenty of room to spare.  They took turns jumping it until most of the nice fluffy snow to land in had been beat down and we moved on. I did get some quick movies of them jumping. Here is Greg and here is Jim.  They made it look so easy that for a minute I thought about taking a run at it and then realized I do not jump anymore. I think it was a good thing that my voice of reason took over. Even if I had made the jump, if Nora would have found out, she would be selling the sleds to the first bidder!  She is pretty smart in things of that nature and things of all nature!
    After the jumping we tried our hand at some Keweenaw Boondocking (where you make your own trail).  That was attempted last Tuesday and I wrote a little bit about the results that day. Today's Keweenaw Boondocking had somewhat similar results. The snow is a little more setup than it was on Tuesday, but is still deep and there are the occasional holes that one can fall into, as Al found out here.  I will add that at the same time Al was stuck I counted 3 other sleds with their rear ends augured in and their noses pointed to the tree tops!  Some were even wise enough not to go into the thickets.
    We got all the sleds out of the thickets and figured since many got good and stuck on the flats, that the hills might be a fun thing to try. Al led the way to some of our play hills and climbed to the top. A few others made the attempt and all made it. By the time I got my chance the snow was all nice and packed down and I looked around for a line to take of my own.  I spotted one and headed for the top.
    I have been really happy with the way the 800 has been performing all season long. Lots of power and that 159" track really has made me look like a better rider than I am. However, there has been one nagging issue all season as well and that has been it tends to load up at idle. I have been working on the issue and in fact on yesterday's ride I never really encountered too many problems.  Most of the time it is not that much of a problem as it clears out once I hit 1/2 throttle for a few seconds.  However, the bog caused by the loading up does have it's moments when it is not welcomed and my attempt up this particular hill was one of them. Right when I went to get on the throttle to build momentum to climb the hill, all I got was a nasty sound like the sled was trying to clear it's throat and about 6500 on the tach.  Not the kind of RPM's wanted to try and build momentum.  I was kind of hoping that it would clear itself out in time to still make the hill, but just took a second or so too long. By the time it did clear itself out, it was too late and all I could do was pray for a miracle.  To make this long story short, I did not make the hill. I did get my RPM's back, but too late.  So here is my sled nice and augured in on the hill. Had I made it another 6-8 feet I would have hit a plateau and would probably have been able to gain speed and momentum enough to make the rest of the hill. I wished I had made the plateau, but as they say, you can wish in one hand and ----- in the other and see which one fills up first!  You can even see all the crud my engine was blowing out as I was climbing up the hill (the darker snow on the right hand side of the trench near the bottom of the photo).  I guess I can be a little proud of my 4 foot deep trench!  I tried another hill (3 times) and finally decided to let the mountain win this time. That particular path has been tried before and with little to no luck- at least on the first attempt and probably not in snow like we had today.  So I am not too disappointed I did not make it on that one and want to thank Mike and Jim for helping me get my sled off the hill all 3 times!!!
    After the hill climbing we rode logging roads for a while and then got to another jumping location. I was not even tempted in this spot as the jumps here are either too small to even draw my attention or WAY to big for me to even think of considering to try. The big air boys (Greg and Jim) did have fun catching big air and here is a shot of Jim climbing to his cruising altitude.  I did not capture it on camera, but one of the jumps that Greg made in that same spot was just as impressive.  Did I mention that those guys liked to jump and were quite good at it?
    After that bit of jumping we headed over to get some food and thaw out for a while. It was actually about 3:30 and by the time we finished our lunch, it was late enough for Mike and I to break off from the group and had home. He wanted to leave late this afternoon to head to Rhinelander to ride with a friend for a day or two before heading back home.  So we made it home safe and sound.  I am a pretty worn out pup, but hope to get in some more riding this week.  Burt's paw is still of some concern to me and hopefully he will not need surgery.  If so, that will put the nix on any riding I had hoped to do until next weekend when Nora can be with him while he recovers from the surgery. In any case, I am a tired, but happy boy and will sleep well tonight.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -

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Feb 22-
    The snow is finally ankle deep up here... If you go in head first! 45" in the past 10 days and 207.5 for the season at my house. Other official measuring sites are over 240" for the season, which is also the seasonal average for some of those spots. I recorded my deepest snow depth of the season so far yesterday morning at 40" and there is about 4 feet up at the property and easily 5-6 feet in the woods. I cannot even remember a day when we did not have at least a trace of snow. Monday night we got just hammered for a few hours. It snowed off and on for most of the day on Monday, but not much accumulation. The about 7 pm it became steadier and by about 8 pm when I was heading off to sleep, we had picked up about 1/2".  At about 10:30 Burt had to go out so I let him out the back. We have motion detection lights in the back and when they went off it was like someone was shining a spotlight right back at me. The light from the motion floods was reflecting off all the snowflakes in the air it was a true whiteout. It seemed like Burt was trudging through quite a bit of fresh snow, so I looked over at the snow station and saw that about 8-9" had come down.  That means that about 8-9" had fallen in just 2 1/2 hours!  I know when Burt came back into the house after only about 2 minutes there was close to 1/2" of snow on his back.
    I tried to get back to sleep, but was not successful. I was actually hoping that we could stay in that snowfall rate for another couple of hours and end up with 2 feet or so of fresh powder by morning. I decided to go into the office and go through some of the e mail notifications from the General Discussions as well as see if I could tell how long the heavy snow might keep up. The LES clouds producing the snow were obscured by higher clouds and the radar is pretty useless for detecting LES- much of the Keweenaw did not even have radar returns over it! So it was just up to mother nature to decide when it was time to lighten up the snowfall. By about midnight the snow was starting to lighten up and there was 11" new on the snow station. By about 1 the snow had stopped completely. I was eventually able to get back to sleep, but it was a short night for me!
    So it is deep up here. Keweenaw deep. If you would like to know how much snow has fallen since about mid December, here is your answer. The last time I used the snowmobile trailer was mid December and I have not moved it or removed snow from it since.  I suppose I will have to pretty soon just to be sure that it does not collapse.  However, it is rated to 1200 lbs and the snow is not that heavy.  By the looks of our roof, it will need it soon. I think I will probably wait until next week, maybe longer, depending on the weather.  If we get a lot of snow in the next week, then for sure.  However, if we don't get a lot then I would like to wait until the second week in March. The sun gets to be so strong that it will pretty much melt any new snow that accumulates on the roof unless we get a huge storm. Plus the snow does insulate the roof some and I would like to take advantage of that insulation for as long as I can.
     Snows like we had Monday night and the snowcover we had Tuesday morning are what I moved here for and I could not pass up the opportunity to play in it. I figured even if I could not find anyone to ride with me I was going to head off into some fields and do some carving. My first call was to Brian and he needed no arm twisting to head out for a ride. So after my work was done for the day, I met up with him, Matt, Kenny, Chico and another guy who I had never met before for some snowplay. I cannot break free until the afternoon, so they had already been playing for an hour or two by the time I met up with them. Long enough for Matt to blow a belt!
    There is an area not far from Lake Linden where there are some hills and gullies.  Nothing too large, probably about 50 feet from bottom to top, but most of the hills are quite steep and like just about all the terrain around here there are trees to have to work around. I'm not going to say the name that we call this area as it might give it away, and good play spots are like good fishing holes, you just don't give them out to everyone and in my case in this journal, that would be just about everyone!  Anyway, the gullies were our first play spot for the day and they were fun. I can remember seeing these gullies when I first moved here and seeing some tracks in them and thinking the folks going in there must be nuts!  Now they really are no big deal to me.  Just a place to go have some fun for a while, especially when the snow is deep.  Funny how your perspective on things can change as your confidence level changes. Here is a shot of Kenny riding up a section of the gully.  Oh, did I mention that a creek flows through the bottom of the gully? Just a little something to make your run up the other side a little more interesting!  When the snow is deep in the gully it makes hopping over the creek easier, but never a no brainer.  Here is Brian hopping across the creek.  My next shot is of Matt climbing up out of the gully.  Don't know why the framing on that one was so poor, you can only see about 1/3rd of the hill and Matt is so far away. Not sure if Matt made that climb either.  I think just about everyone ended up getting stuck at least once.
    After the gully, we headed through some fields a few logging roads and then some more fields. Then Brian decided to take us on a bushwhacking adventure. No logging road, no skidder trail, not even a footpath.  You just find a path wide enough to get your sled through and go.  It's a fun thing to do most of the time, but in conditions like we had yesterday it became a case of "let's get the heck out of here!" quickly.  We all got stuck multiple times. The snow in the woods was very deep and in spots small trees or even brush was holding the snow up and was super deep and super soft. I know on one of my stucks, I was riding long when all of the sudden it seemed like I just fell into a hole. The snow being held up by the brush just collapsed and when I went to get off my sled I sunk up to my chest. The sled was pretty much on the level and not stuck too bad, but try working to get your sled unstuck when your eyes are level with the seat!  Here is Brian giving us an example of that!  I REALLY felt sorry for the guys with the short tracks!  They rode in the back and stayed in our tracks, but at times the trenches we were leaving for them were 2-3 feet deep. I think that is why they quit and headed to the bar soon after that little bit of bushwhacking!
    Brian goal was to get us to a logging road that he had found once before and we did eventually reach that goal. I was the first one out of the thickets and stopped to catch my breath, cool off and snap a shot of the 800 taking a break too. Here is a shot of Brian emerging from the thickets. The snow was not as deep on the logging road, in fact in that last shot you can see how it is about 1 1/2 to 2 feet deeper in the woods behind Brian than it was on the logging road.  Really strange how the snow is kept from settling so much in the thickets like that.  The "shallower" snow on the logging roads was still plenty deep and tons of fun. Kenny was running low on gas so he left with the short tracks and that just left Matt, Brian and I.  We played on some more logging roads and did a bit of hill climbing through the trees.  Both Matt and Brian got stuck and I somehow managed to avoid that fate, but still got to partake in the fun of walking a hundred yards or so to Matt's sled to help him out.  I think I can say that my heart is doing just fine.  I was huffing and puffing, but did fine.  Whoever says snowmobiling is not exercise has never ridden with us!  It stays light until about 7 pm these days, but Brian needed to get home earlier than that, so he and Matt split off to go to his house and I took some fields home to Lake Linden. I do not like to ride in the backcountry too far by myself, but I took it easy and had I broken down or something I would never have been too far from a road. Plus I had my cell phone.
    I made it home safe and sound. The ride was a blast and the snow about as good as it gets.  The funny thing is that I am so spoiled up here that this ride may not even turn out to be one to remember.  I suppose we will all remember our trip through the thickets for some time, but we usually get to ride in stuff like this several times a year and the best part is all I had to do was open my garage door up and ride.  Sorry, I just had to twist the knife!
    Today, Burt and I took a ride in the Blazer for our afternoon adventure. He has a problem with his paw and needs to keep it dry. We have a booty for him, but sometimes his paw still gets wet, or it falls off, so I decided to play it safe and just take a quick tour of the region and take some shots of how the snow has transformed things. This first shot is of the snowbanks in my neighborhood. That is a Ford Explorer behind the snowbank. The banks are about as big as I have seen them in a few years.  I know the year I broke my leg they got pretty big too. That year we went over 300".  I'll keep my fingers crossed! Burt and I headed up the valley and came across an old log cabin draped in the winters snowfall (fsv). Makes me wonder how long that has been there and what it was built for. It really seems too small to live in, but not really designed for storage.  Up the road a piece we came across some mail boxes that have been entombed in snow, but still functional!
    We traveled up the valley a bit more and came across a camper that should really have the snow removed from it's roof if they want it to have a roof and sides much longer. There was about 5 feet of snow on top of it!  I decided to swing by the property to check on things there. All was well. About a foot of snow on the roof of the shop and I am not sure if it will need to be cleared again this season. I am hoping so, because I want to get a video of the process, but don't think it will be as impressive unless there is 2 foot + of snow on it.  My neighbor up there keeps some heavy equipment  on his property and here is a shot of his dump truck frosted in 3-4 feet of snow. Burt and I then started heading back to Lake Linden, but initially took the road less traveled to enjoy the scenery a bit more (fsv). That will be one of our walking roads once we move up to the property.  Lucky, lucky us! We ended up getting on Hwy 41 and I wanted to see how big the snowbanks were in Calumet.  They always have some doozies and this year is no different.  Hwy 41 is starting to get that canyon effect. I cannot wait to see what they do in a really big snow year!  Heck I can't wait to see what everyone does in a really big snow year!  Maybe I just want to see a really big snow year!!!  My last shot of the day and this entry is of the Laurium Glacier.  No the contest has not started yet. I will get that going in a few weeks, but thought you all might like to get a peak at it.  Looking good!
    So I think that about wraps it up for this one.  It's funny though as I was taking the pictures today I thought to myself that if I were not forcing myself to look through the eyes of someone that would be amazed at the snow scenes around this area, I would just be taking it all in stride as another winter in the Keweenaw. That is pretty much how everyone up here is taking it. Of course it's closing in on March and even with a big March the light at the end of the tunnel for the non snow lovers is growing brighter. That means I may only have 7 or 8 more weeks of riding left.  I better get busy!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 19-
    Well, the first ever JohnDee.com SnowFest Ride is in the books and I'd have to say that it was a success. Brian took folks out into the back country Thursday, Dave and Lori Sleeman of the Wildlife Refuge Cabins took folks out Friday and Al and I took folks out yesterday. A lot of the riders opted to stick to the trails and either went out in the groups they came up with or paired up and headed out for a day of riding. The weather could have cooperated just a bit better.  Plenty of snow, but Friday was a blizzard up here with heavy snow, strong winds and very cold temps. Saturday had plenty of snow falling too, but the winds died down to a more respectable level, but Saturday was also quite cold, with early morning temps below zero and daytime highs in the low double digits.  I actually was comfortable all day riding Saturday and with the exception of a fouled spark plug, did not have any equipment problems. My group of 10 also did not seem to have any comfort issues and with the exception of 2 sleds having froze carbs or something to that effect right at the beginning of the ride, did not have any equipment problems. We even made less pit stops than I thought we would need to. I think because the afternoon temps did rise into the low double digits allowed us to remain outdoors for most of the afternoon.  We did ride the trails a bit as well and for a weekend, they were about as good as it gets.  I did not encounter one single trail that was not in good to excellent condition and in fact the only bumpy part of the ride was one section of off trail stuff that was pretty bad. To the best of my knowledge there were no accidents during the ride in event. I did hear about one pre-ride in accident, but both rider and sled were not seriously injured. I brought my camera along for the ride, but the combination of not freshly charged batteries and the cold caused my camera to give up the ghost, so I was not able to get any shots of the ride Saturday.
    The Saturday evening events also seemed to go very well. Folks gathered in the Upper Deck Restaurant in the Ramada Inn close to 7. I gave a quick welcoming speech and thanked John Stachler, Lori Sleeman and her friend Cathy for all of their help in planning and organizing the event. After my brief gibbering, we all got down to the order of eating. There was a salad and rolls, as well as roast beef, chicken, vegetables, rice, mashed potatoes and gravy, plus cookies for desert. I saw a whole lot of empty plates when folks were finished eating so either the food was good or folks were very hungry or both. I know in my case it was both.
    Once dinner was finished, we moved on to the raffle. The participants in the ride- in were all very generous and I think we ended up selling about 1500 raffle tickets. We sold an arm's length for 5 dollars. The total receipts have not been counted up yet, but there was an envelope with a lot of money in it at the end of the night!  Here is a shot of John S and an unnamed participant at the raffle bucket. We had a ton of raffle prizes and while everyone may not have ended up with a prize, I think there were very few that did not and I also know of several folks that won many prizes.  There was also a silent auction which was for some of the more expensive prizes donated to the ride in, things like an Apple Ipod, Satellite Radio and Klim Snowmobile Gloves.  Again, I do not know how much was raised by the silent auction and I did not really have any firm goal in mind when it was decided to have this ride in.  All I wanted to do was to help out a worthy charity and that mission was accomplished.  I will have final numbers in fairly soon and will let you all know how much was raised by your fellow JohnDee'rs.  Every participant was given a long sleeved t-shirt to remember the event by as well.  My thanks to the folks at the JohnDee Store for making that happen.
    Before we closed the event out, I was treated to several very nice surprises.  The first was a video presentation put together by the folks at the JohnDee Store. It really was a great piece and was all I could do to keep myself together as all the images of my life in the past 7 years flashed before my eyes. As if I needed anything else to cause me to fight back the tears, I was then presented with a painting done by Lori Sleeman of Baileys.  The final surprise of the night was a custom ThinkSnow hat that the folks at the JohnDee Store made up for me.
    It was a bit sad to then announce that the very first JohnDee.com SnowFest Ride in had come to a close.  It was great to be able to meet so many of you that visit this site and barring any major disaster, there will be a second annual ride in next year.  Bigger and better.  In fact as I lie awake this morning in bed, I came up with a neat activity that would be fun for anyone/everyone to participate in next year.  I do not want to give up details of the plans for next years ride in just yet.  I want to make sure that they are something that can be pulled off, but I can say the one detail that will chance is that there will be no limit to the amount of persons that can register.  We kept it small this first one just so that we could manage it and learn from it, but next year will be open to one and all.
    Before I close I want to say two things.  First, for anyone still wanting to make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the name of the First Annual SnowFest Ride In, you may still go to the registration page and make your contribution of any amount through the rest of this month.  You will not be able to receive a t-shirt, but you will have my gratitude and also be helping to make a persons final wish in life come true. The final thing I would like to say is thank you to all that made this possible and thank you to the following for their contributions: Advance Tech Auto Repair, Baraga County Snowdrifters, Black Bear Cabins, Butch Adams Woodworks, Car Quest, Copper Country Ford, CrashedToys.com, Curves, Daily Mining Gazette, Danís Polaris, Dreamland Hotel, Everts Motor Sales, 41 Lumber , Green Bay Police Dept, Keweenaw Automotive, Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce, Keweenaw Motor Sports, Klim Aggressive Sled Wear, Krupps Mini Mart, Krupps Resort, M&M Sports, Napa Auto Parts, Pat's Yamaha, Pepsi of Houghton, Ramada Inn, Sounds & Motion, Superior Snowmobile Club, Superior Travel, Toivola Lunch, Upper Deck Restaurant, Wildlife Refuge Cabins. There were also some participants that brought prizes for the auction/raffle and I am very sorry, but I did not get your information, please forgive me, but thanks!!!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 16-
    Sometimes when I start out by saying "This will be a short journal", nine paragraphs later I finally finish up.  However, I think I can say with the up most confidence that this will be a short journal!  Even though it has been 5 days since my last journal I really do not have much to share with you and not a single picture.  I figure those last 4 words probably got about 50% of the folks to stop reading, but for the rest of you, thanks for sticking around!
    The ride in has officially started. I have not been down to see how things are going.  I really wished that I could have been there to meet and greet and kick things off, but I have had to work today.  I will probably not get down there tomorrow either- especially if the weather is as nasty as it's suppose to be.  However, I did check in and things were said to be running smoothly.  It looks to be a chilly ride for Saturday, but not brutal cold and should be some decent snow.
    I guess I can talk a bit about the weather. We have been getting pretty steady doses of snow for the past several days. Since I last wrote we have picked up 18.5" of snow.  However, most of that has been the very light and fluffy variety of lake effect. There are many different forms of lake effect and one type I call "broom snow" because you can move a few inches of it with your broom if you had to.  Personally, I would much rather have that type of snow than the wet and heavy type, especially since we already have about 2.5 to 3.5 feet of snow on the ground.  When we are early in the season and trying to build a base, then the wet and heavy stuff is great, but sure is a pain otherwise.  Not even fun to play in because it is too sticky and too hard to move around in or through.  I'd say that we have about 8-10 inches of very nice powder on top of the old snow right now, which is almost enough to really have fun in, but about another 6-8 would make things perfect.  See how spoiled one can get living up here.  Most folks would give their left arm to have a base of 2.5-3.5 feet of snow with another 8-10" of powder on top, but I can still find the need to improve things!
    It's funny, you would think that it would be possible for me to get my fill of snow too, but I just can't seem to.  When it is snowing I wish it was snowing harder.  When it is snowing very hard, I don't want it to stop and when it stops, I get sad for a moment.  It does not matter if we have just picked up 2 feet of new snow, as soon as it stops, there is always this sort of a let down for me!  I suppose I really just want to experience the "storm of the century" up here.  Something like 4 feet in a day or two.  The kind of storm that would even bring this region to it's knees for a time.  The type of storm that you need to move snow in 3 times while it is coming down.  The kind of storm that completely changes the look of the landscape that it hits.  The kind of storm that buries automobiles so completely that you do not even know they are there.  Some of the locals up here speak of storms like that in the "old days".  I always have to take such stories with a little grain of salt as I do have very accurate weather records (including snowfall) that date back to the late 1940's for this region and that type of a storm does not show up in there.  The all time 24 hour snowfall record for this area is about 36" of snow and that happened back in January of 1996. I actually arrived up here about a week after it happened and in the 5 days that I was here that time in January, they picked up over 40" of snow.  By the time I left, there were vehicles that were nothing but lumps in the snow and many first floor windows were slowly being covered up.  Who knows there is still some time left in this season and we do have at least chances for some big dumpings in the near term, so I will keep dreaming about the big one.  Told you this would be short!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 11-
    Boy, is it nice to be back among the living!  Actually what I had was not too bad from a pure discomfort point of view.  I did not have any severe aches and pains or any bad sore throats or severe chest congestion.  What I did have was incredible fatigue.  I mean to the point where I would be sitting in my chair in front of my computer doing work one minute and the next be waking up from a quick nap still in the chair- and I had not even realized I had fallen to sleep!  Thankfully I was able to get all my regular work duties done this past week.  One of the good things about working at home, I pretty much have to be comatose to legitimize "calling in sick"!  Of course that could be considered a bad thing too as I pretty much have to work through most sicknesses.  I did have a mild sore throat from time to time and also a bit of a headache from time to time and many times was so weak that my legs would literally shake while trying to walk or stand.  I actually felt like I was coming down with something for the past 10 days or so and finally Wed evening it hit and I was down for the count yesterday and Thursday.  This morning when I woke up and stood up out of bed I knew I was on the mend as my legs did not wobble!  I still do not feel 100%, but I do feel tons better!  Thanks to all that wished me well in the General Discussions.  I have no idea what it was I had, but am glad to be putting it behind me.  I am just not one that takes to laying around the house doing nothing all day very well.
    I suppose if I had to pick a week do be down with a bug, last week would probably been a good one.  Not much going on.  I did manage to run some errands Mon, Tue and Wed to pick up some prizes for the ride in.  Thursday and Friday were spent either doing my regular work or sleeping or watching snowmobile DVD's.  I was loaned 12 of them a few weeks ago and will be returning them next week, so I needed to watch them and I only have 2 left to watch.  Picked up some neat moves that I plan to try when we are out west next month.  Like the 150 foot cornice drops. Yea right!  Those guys are really something what they do on those sleds.  But I think they need to show more of the bloopers just to that folks do not get the idea that these guys make perfect landings all the time.  Would make guys like me feel a little better about my abilities!
    From a weather standpoint I think it was a good week to be sick as well.  Very little happened in the way of weather.  Our weekend last weekend was pretty much a skunking from the snow.  Other areas picked up significant amounts of snow like the east end of the UP with a foot to foot and a half common.  Even out west in the Ironwood area they picked up around 9-10" last weekend.  All we managed to pick up was around 2-3".  The weekdays this past week really did not provide much either, a dusting here and a dusting there, but nothing substantial.  In fact I think we saw more sun than snow this past week.  Thankfully the temps were in the low 20's for highs with lows dipping into the single digits. That pretty much preserved the snow we had.  Plus the silver lining to the no snow, but cold temps is that we are finally freezing things up around here!  The Portage Lake by the bridge is frozen.  I will not say that it is safe, but there is no more open water out there.  I have not been in the back country, but I would bet that the weather this past week has also frozen up most of the wet areas out there.  There are always spots where the creeks flow all winter, but at least the smaller little low areas should be pretty well frozen up. The forecast holds some pretty decent snows to occur ahead of the ride in, so conditions could be about as good as it gets up here for that.  I am hoping the forecast pans out, it sure would be nice to have ideal conditions for the ride in.
    Speaking of the ride in, things seem to be pretty well set.  There are still some last minute items that need to be taken care of and the event organizer John Stachler has those handled.  One thing I need to point out is that even though my name is all over this event, I really have not done much work on it.  That is not something that I just pulled by surprise, when John contacted me about wanting to organize it, I told him that I could help in some ways, but really did not have the kind of free time to be able to do much work on it.  He has done a ton as has Lori Sleeman from the Wildlife Refuge Cabins, so they really need to be thanked for all of their hard work.  I am excited to meet all the folks coming up for the ride in and also raising some money for the Make-A-Wish foundation.  I am hoping that it is something we can pull off in future years and am already thinking of some things to do if we have a repeat next year.
    Don't know if you all caught this (I'm sure CNN, FOX News and the networks covered it), but Houghton officially became the "Snow Capital of the World" this past Friday, breaking 3 World records; The largest snow angel (most folks making a snow angel at one time), the largest snowball fight and also the largest snowball.  They were able to get 4,400+ folks to have a snowball fight and then once the snowball fight was over (about 2 minutes later) they all dropped into the snow on their backs and all made a snow angel. They also made a 6 foot 9 inch snowball.  The previous record for the snow angel was 1,796 set by the town of Bismarck ND, who I understand are a little miffed that their record no longer stands.  The old record for a snowball fight was 3,100, not sure by where.  The old record for a snowball size was a meezely 5 feet 4 inches.  Of course it is not official until Guinness recognizes it and it was stated in local paper that Guinness wanted 13,000-14,000 dollars for transportation fees to observe the event.  They must have to fly in from the moon or something, or perhaps like to make a little on the side...hmmmmm....I'll let you figure that one out on your own.  Anyway, I guess the event was well documented by aerial photographs and video as well as land based photos and video and every participant had to sign a waiver.  I figure Guinness will go ahead an verify the new record as if they play hard ball, we have an ace in the hole.  Michigan's Lt. Governor John Cherry was one of the participants and could probably do a little arm twisting if need be.  My only regret was that I was still too sick to partake in the event.  I sure would have loved to have been part of a world record that involved snow!!!  Who knows maybe next year we will have to set a new one!
    The other big event up here is Winter Carnival at Michigan Tech and the means the snow statues have been going up the past few weeks.  I was really a little worried that I might not be able to get over to see them this year, but thankfully I was feeling good enough to get over there with Nora and Burt this morning.  The theme of this years snow statue building was: "Cartoon Art for the Young at Heart". I think a lot of planning goes into these themes to make sure that the builders have a lot of possible characters or items that they can use in their construction.  This was the first time that we have ever taken Burt to see the sculptures and I was a little worried he might decide to do a little "painting" if you know what I mean, but he was a good boy and behaved himself.  Oh, and I was too!
    The first statue we came across was in the theme of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas".  I have to admit that when I go about trying to take a picture of the statues, it is always a struggle to try and capture the entire statue yet also try and capture some of the finer details.  So I have some "wide angle" shots and some close ups.  My first shot is actually of the back side of the Grinch statue. What was on the left I cannot remember, but on the right he is stealing the Christmas tree by shoving it up the chimney.  The front side of the statue was even more impressive in details and size.  One of the details that impressed me was the Grinch playing the horn.  Looks like it could have taken a whole day just for someone to make the horn. The next statue was based on the Flintstones, a favorite of mine when I was a little boy, that laugh of Barney's would always get me laughing along with him. I don't believe I found any details to zoom in on that one, so we'll move onto the next one, which was based on the Smurfs.  There were some details in this statue that were worthy of some close ups, like the bowl of fruit on the table and some other items on a table, with a vase in the foreground.
    This next statue I did not recognize the cartoon it was based on, Burt seemed to be more interested in his dad than the statue and Nora was just plain hiding from the camera!  I also did not recognize the cartoon this next statue was based on, even though each statue does have a little explanation by them.  I was impressed by it's design though.  You must keep in mind that these statues can only be made of snow or ice.  No other materials can be used to support them, so those wings were standing on their own strength, no internal bracing.  The next statue was another Flintstones theme, this one with Fred just getting off from work and sliding down the tail of his brontosaurus excavator. With the folks standing in front of it, you can also get some sense of size of these things, they are huge!  The next statue was off the Snow White theme.  I don't remember Snow White being a cartoon.  I suppose I just never saw it or perhaps the entry could have been from an animated movie as well.  Does not really matter to me, it was a neat statue to look at.
    This next one I did not immediately recognize, but once I read the description plaque I was able to recognize the theme of Inspector Gadget. That one was at least 20 feet high as the car was life sized. That leads us to the biggest one we saw today. The participants for this one always do one of the largest and are always in the top 2 of their division.  I think the one thing that helps them a little is the fact that their front yard is the building spot, so they do not have far to go to work on it or warm up.  Even so, they always manage to build a very impressive statue year after year and this year was no different.  I usually have to cross the street to be able to take in the whole statue and this year was no different!  The theme was Aladdin and not only did the statue have incredible size, but it also had incredible details; like balconies complete with chain railings (keep in mind, no internal supports can be used), a genie with a magic bottle and a snake charmer.
    As impressive as that last one was, it was not my favorite.  Nope, I saved the best for last and it was a no brainier for me to judge this one as the best of the best, king of the hill and nearly impossible to beat.
    So I guess that covers it for this one.  It started to snow a few hours ago.  Not heavily, but still some flakes.  The forecast looks good for more, perhaps a ton more and I should be able to be able to get out and enjoy it.  So stay tuned...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 5-
    Busy, busy times.  Some work, some play and some play that is work or some work that is play. Things have quieted down a bit and I finally have some time to write. I can say that with the almost week between writings I do have some stories to share and some pictures to go along, so that is the up side.  On the weather front we have finally seen temps drop to where they should be this time of the year and it is almost strange to hear the snow crunch under foot.  We missed most of the snow over the weekend.  Picked up a few inches, but fell short of the 6-10 that had looked to be a good possibility. Best I could tell the air was drier than was anticipated and thus the old lake just could not pump enough moisture into it to really get the flakes big enough allow for meaningful accumulation.  Further east they got help from the storm that impacted lower MI and I also heard that far western sections of the UP did pretty good. We did get enough snow to freshen things up and the potential for some pretty big totals are still in the offing, so the weekend's bust is not too much of an issue.
    I had a very good friend from high school come up last week.  As most high school boys are prone to do, we all had nick names for each other and his was Deuce. He and I had actually been up here on a snowmobile trip way back in the early 90's. Back when this area was still somewhat undiscovered.  I can actually remember riding from Houghton to Copper Harbor and back and being able to count the number of sleds we saw all day on one hand.  Of course that was during the week, but still, a slightly different scenario these days.  However, we made a trip this past Tuesday and I bet that I could have counted all the sleds we saw on the trip up and back with only having to take one boot off!
    Yes, I actually rode the trails all the way up to Copper Harbor and back!  That is probably the first time in 5 years that I have taken the snowmobile and the groomed trails all the way to the harbor and back and probably the first time in 4 years that I have been to the harbor via snowmobile.  So why did I do such a crazy thing?  Well, the 700 needed some breaking in and I did not want to do it off trail. If something had gone wrong we might have been in a tough spot to try and get the sled out to a spot where we could load it back into the truck and bring it home.  Plus the mileage to the harbor and back from Lake Linden is about perfect for breaking in the motor.  So Tuesday afternoon Deuce and I hopped on the sleds and headed north. At first I was on the 700 and he was on the 800, but a little north of Phoenix I asked if he wanted to switch and he said "sure".  The 800 is really set up well for off trail, but not a great trail sled, mainly because of the handle bars being so high.  It's really like you are riding a chopper with big old ape hangers out front.  To make matters worse for sit down riding, the throttle is setup for stand up riding and so your wrist is cocked at a very uncomfortable angle while sitting.  The left handed throttle is actually a lot more comfortable to use while sitting than the right, but that is sort of strange and also not advised for the section of trails where you need to use the brake as well.  The handle bar riser on the 800 is actually an articulating one and had I been thinking I would have just swung it down into a more comfortable trail riding position, but alas, I was not thinking!
    Anyway, we made it to the harbor, had a nice dinner and then back safe and sound. The trails were actually in pretty decent shape, especially on the way up. I had thought that if they were bad, we probably would not go too far or maybe hop off on the less traveled trails in hopes of better conditions, but we were able to ride the main trail all the way up to the Brockway Mountain trail and then take that into the harbor.  Here is a shot of the main trail near my house Tuesday afternoon and here is the main trail just north of Phoenix a little later Tuesday. The Brockway Mountain trail was in worse shape. I do not have any pictures of the trail itself, but the whole way up on the main trail, the only thing that regulated our speed was any twists and turns, while once on the Brockway trail the bumps did slow us down a bit.  I suppose because the Brockway trail is a very popular one and also maybe because it had not been groomed as recently.  In any case it was not a disaster, but was bumpier.  However, it was also worth it for the view from the top.  Here is the ever popular shot overlooking Copper Harbor (just to prove we really did make it) and here is a late afternoon shot looking southwest towards the trio of highest peaks in the Keweenaw; Praiseville, Buffalo and Horace Greely  (fsv).  I must stay that I had a lot of fun on the trails. Traffic was low and those that we did come across were really well manered, slowing down while we passed and also letting us know how many were in their group.  I still enjoy boondocking better, but it was a lot of fun to be able to shoot up the trails, have a nice dinner and return.
    The 700 ran just fine and the tank of premix was burned up, so it was pretty well broken in.  So on Wednesday we took to the backcountry for some honest to goodness boondocking. There are places I have been wanting to explore and learn some trails in and this was the perfect opportunity for it.  We were not able to get to all the areas I want to explore, but I did learn some new routes and will need to get back to them soon so I don't forget! It really is lots of fun to explore the unbeaten path. At times we are riding through an area like in the past picture and in a little bit we break out into an open area and are granted this vista.  Still quite a few wet spots out there, so in a way I am glad we did not get dumped on this weekend. This cold will be able to get to some of those and freeze things up and make it that much better for when we do get dumped on!
    On Thursday we did some more shooting with Dobson for BTR 5. Deuce came along and was treated to the crew and their riding abilities. There is also quite a bit of riding that is done getting from one spot to another, so he did not have to sit around and watch all afternoon.  Friday we took some time off from riding.  Deuce made a few adjustments to his sled and wanted to try them out on the trail, so he did do a bit of riding Friday morning while I worked, but then in the afternoon we went up to the property with Burt for a walk, plus we hooked the property cam back up (Thanks Paul!) and Deuce got to view the shop and see where the other buildings will be going.  Had a nice dinner at the Dreamland Friday night with Nora and then Saturday morning Deuce took off for home while I tagged along on a KSE ride.
    I decided to take the season off from KSE to free up some time. They have been very busy this season, but this is the first ride that I have been on this season.  The temps on Saturday were colder and it was nice to have the crispness back in the 800. I think I was actually coming down with something during the ride as I just felt a little weak.  I still had lots of fun, but I just did not feel like partaking in events like pit riding or rock pile climbing.  Matt was the leader and at times was just taking us through the woods on no trail at all.  I have done that, but have always waited until spring when the snow is more set up. Never had the courage to do it on my own while the snow is still pretty soft. The crew we were riding with were all very good riders and while there were some stucks (me and Matt included) nothing too ugly and they all knew how to help each other out, which is always a plus on one of those rides.  At one point we were up in some of the highest terrain around here and the day before it must have been in the clouds because all the trees were coated in hoar frost. That one would have made for a nice full sized shot had it not been for the two flakes of snow blurring some of the image.
    The KSE ride went well and we were treated to dinner by the group of riders (thanks Dean and everyone else!). I came home and spent the rest of the evening with Burt and Nora.  Today has been a pretty quiet day. I actually felt even worse today and even took an afternoon nap (something pretty rare for me).  I feel better, but also plan to get to sleep very early tonight and then take it easy for a day or so.  Speaking of getting to sleep, I think I need to get ready for that, so will sign off for now.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
 
 
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