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Jan 30-
    What a weird past couple of days of weather we have had here.  Friday the thermometer in my back yard hit 53 and the airport up on the hill hit 50.  According to my research, that is not only the warmest that January 27th has ever been at the Houghton County Airport, but the warmest that any January day has been at the Houghton County Airport.  Yep, that was the first time that there has ever been a 50 degree reading up here in January. In a strange way, I was actually a little thankful as the freeze thaw cycle we have been having all month was starting to build some ice dams along the roof edges.  I got up there and what the sunshine and warm temps was not removing Friday I got to, so by the end of the day on Friday  there was no more ice left.  Usually I do not have to worry about ice dams on the roof until spring and then all I do is rake the eves and all is ok.  Hopefully the rest of this winter will play out like it should (or colder) and I will only have to worry about raking the March snows off the edges like usual and not have to worry about Feb thaws and refreezes.
    The warm temps did melt about 3-4" of our snowcover and took care of the powder that had accumulated from Tuesday's storm.  Not the best of conditions to be trying to shoot a snowmobiling video of carving and powder busting!  However, after a cool start to Saturday morning, temps warmed above freezing by late morning and the snow softened up enough that we could at least do a little carving for the camera.
    With the riding crew and camera crew heading out to Wyoming in March, there was not as much pressure on any of us to get tons of top notch footage this weekend.  I think we got some great footage and so did Rick and his crew, but usually we have two days to get all the footage in and that is it.  Rick is actually staying here all week and we have some plans to shoot some more footage later in the week and if the current forecast pans out we might even have some honest to goodness powder to ride in.  Not a ton, but we picked up about 4" in the past 24 hours and we could add another 4-8" by the end of the week, so perhaps 8-12" to play in for the camera.  Plus there is WYO with it's powder.
    Rick actually wanted to shoot a lot of the footage using what he calls the Point Of View or "lipstick" cam.  He picked up a new one that can also capture sound, so it seemed like there was almost always someone wearing the cam while we were riding, even if Rick was using his hand held cam.  We did not have any specific plans for shooting this time around either. In the past we had places picked out and things we were planning to do in those places.  If there had been deeper snow up here we did have one spot picked out, but that will have to wait for another time. In any case we just took off from Brian's house and started riding.  It did not take too long for us to encounter a fun place to play, so they mounted the POV cam on Al and we all went into the woods to do some hill climbing.  It did not take too long in there before I had my first stuck. I guess I decided a little too late to make that left turn and carved it a little too sharp! That is really my biggest downfall in the tree covered hills.  I end up picking my line too late.  I'd have to say that about 90% of my stucks are just due to the fact that I end up hesitating and losing momentum or making my decisions too late and then try to make a correction and end up like that last pic or just end up not even being able to execute the decision at all. Then again I am also one to not push my luck. I would rather have to "unstuck" the sled and live to ride-on the rest of the day than go into things with reckless abandon and trash the sled and end the day.
    We finished up in that play spot, moved on and found the next one pretty quickly.  Matt was the next one to take the POV cam on his helmet.  I actually do not remember where that was and what we did, but I do know that it was not where the next series of shots was taken. One part of the group was playing in a sand pit while Rick took some shots.  Brian, Dave and I were up the trail a bit and found some hills to play on so Brian and I went down to have a look.  About the time we were getting ready to climb the hill, Rick showed up, broke out the cam and took some footage.  While I was climbing, Brian took a shot of me heading up the hill.  I think I had just about reached my "highmark" about the time that picture was taken.  Here I am getting ready to turn the sled around.  It did not take Matt too long to show up and give the hill a try.  His first attempt ended up in a similar result as mine.  I made it to the top on my second attempt, well the sled did anyway. The last 10 feet was pretty much straight up and there was enough momentum to carry the sled over, but I did not think we would both make it, so I gave the sled a shove up and forward as I fell back to the snow.  Matt made it up as well and Brian followed my path to the right and pretty much did the same thing when he got to the wall- got the sled up, but not himself.
    The next play spot was a large sand pit where not much took place for most of us, but Matt did decide to jump off the side of the pit. Here he is rearranging his sled before the jump. There was actually a 4-6 foot berm right before the lip of the pit and it looked almost as hard a task to get the sled over the berm without prematurely launching off the edge as it was to launch off the edge when he was ready to. I figured a movie might be a better way to capture this moment than a still shot so here is Matt's drop off that edge.
    Sunday I awoke to about 2 inches of new snow.  It was very wet and heavy, with temps running around 34 degrees. The plan was to meet up at Brian's again and on my way out I crossed one of the bridges that goes over the Traprock River and I snapped a wintry seen shot for you all (FSV). The plans actually got changed and we all took the sleds up north to Keweenaw County in hopes of finding some better snow, bigger terrain and some untouched logging roads.
    Matt really knows that neck of the woods the best as he lived there for about 7 years, so he was pretty much our fearless leader on Sunday.  The first spot of the day was on some hills that recently got logged.  Not sure how they got the equipment into some of the areas they did, but it sure made for some fun playing!  Here is a shot of Matt and Brian on one of the logging roads we were playing on.  I realize that you all probably would like to see more action shots, but when all the action is going on I am busy riding my sled.  Now, if someone could design a still cam that I could mount to my helmet and be triggered to take a picture by some remote by the throttle or something, that would be a whole different story.  We had a blast on the hills and got some good footage from the lipstick cam.  I tried and failed at climbing a nice little clearing in the woods.  Dave tried another area while we all watched and threw some wise guy comments his way every time he got stuck.  It took him quite a few tries, but he ended up making it!
    After the hills we took to the flatter terrain and found some nice untouched logging roads to play on. Once again we hooked up the lipstick cam to capture the excitement. The footage from that bit of riding turned out really neat with all of us taking turns at playing chase with Matt.  Al took a nasty spill, but did not hurt his sled, body or ego.  Then the crowning moment of the weekend came when we came to a hill that had been dug into to "borrow" some sand and gravel to make the logging roads with.  It has a few different terraces and hills on it that provided some fun for us to play on and Rick to get some footage.  The big event was when Matt decided to actually ride his sled down about 30 feet of a tree that had fallen along side the hill.  The tree was not wide enough for either ski to be on and he had to get onto the tree at an angle and then try and ride down it, only to launch off the snow covered root ball and land about 10-15 feet below the root ball. My camera's batteries actually went dead before he tried that, so unfortunately I have no pictures to share with you.  Thankfully Rick is a professional and his batteries did not go dead.  He captured the entire ordeal to tape and I think I will just leave you in suspense as to what the result is.  I can promise you this, you will not be disappointed!
    The day's filming ended with that feat, but the riding continued as we all had to get back to our vehicles.  The ride back was uneventful and then we all headed to the Loading Zone II to watch the raw footage.  It turned out really good, probably better than we all anticipated given the current conditions.  They really are not that bad, but we are used to riding in a foot or two of powder for the cam, so I guess it is all relative. I am a bit sore, but not too bad. I have a friend arriving tomorrow and we plan to ride Tue-Fri and I would not be surprised if I take a weekend ride or two.  So looks like I have a ton of saddle time ahead of me.  The big news is that the 700 is running!  Al got it going Friday and thankfully I did not need it for the weekend. That would have meant that something bad happened to the 800 and I had not broken in the engine yet.  Our plan is to actually ride the trails tomorrow afternoon and evening and break in the 700.  We might even make it as far as Copper Harbor.  I hope we don't get lost, I have not been to the harbor via snowmobile trail in about 4-5 years!  The rest of the week will probably be spent playing off trail.  I know I have been wanting to explore a few spots and this is the perfect opportunity to check them out.  Will bring the cam (batteries fully charged now!) and fill you all in on the details in a few days!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -

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Jan 25-
    Boy, it's almost like the old days when you could expect a journal every day or two or tree (a little yooper talk there).  Of course those were back in the days when things were a whole lot simpler on this site and when I was still a wide eyed city boy taking in all the Keweenaw has to offer.  Of course I still am taking it all in, but I guess I am becoming a little more seasoned and feel like I would be just repeating myself over and over if I talked about my day to day experiences in great depth.  So those are the main reasons why I write once every 5-7 days rather than 2-3.
    I am writing tonight because I think the next few days will be too busy to sit down and get out a journal and I also have some stories and pics to share.  I was able to get out for a ride with Brian and some others yesterday and have some pics to share from that.  Today, Burt and I went up to the property to clear snow and I have some shots and tidbits to share from that experience. Our weather up here has been pretty typical for this neck of the woods at this time of the year. About 8-10 fresh inches of snow in the past 24 hours and if you combine that with the snow that fell last week we have picked up about 2 feet new since the 15th.
    As mentioned, I did take a ride yesterday.  Brian had his brother in law as well as some friends up and/or over and they took off at about noon or there abouts. I have to work until a little after 2, so I met up with them once I could break free from my work day.  The ride up to meet them was really neat.  I usually do not like to ride in the back country by myself.  Way too many things that can happen and lead to a very nasty situation.  However, I just told myself to not rush it, take it easy and enjoy the ride up to meet with them and that is exactly what I did.  Of course it's not that hard to enjoy yourself when you are riding in conditions like this.  Yep, a good old Keweenaw winter wonderland.
    Brian told me that they would most likely be up in the fields by Dave's and to follow their tracks or just listen for them once I got up that way.  Only problem was that it was snowing at the rate of about 1-2" per hour and the winds were blowing at about 20-30 mph, so any tracks they did leave were covered up with the snow and blowing snow and the wind covered up any sound of their sleds. So I just decided to ride over to Dave's and then give Brian a call from my cell phone and just wait for him to check in with me.  Just as I was calling him, I heard a couple of sleds approaching, it turned out to be Brian's brother in law Luke and some of his friends.  He said there had been an "incident" with Kenny's sled and they were in the next field over, so we all headed over there and when I got there they all were just standing around, with some tow straps attached to Kenny's sled.
    The latest thing for long tracks is to "punch out" the track, which is to either drill out or bunch out some holes in the track to lighten it up a little as well as allow for the snow to escape it more effectively.  Well, Kenny though that rather than punching out his track, he would just remove the whole thing!  Problem is, even though they are quite a bit lighter, they don't go real well without the track.  Actually what happened was that Kenny had done some work to his drivers and suspension and something was not put back together right and his track was wearing on the suspension wrong and eventually gave out.  The ironic thing was that Brian was driving it at the time it happened.  I don't think Brian was held accountable (as is the case when you borrow another persons sled in our group) because it was determined that the track was going to go if Brian was riding it or not.  Anyway, here is a shot of the sled and the track.  I stopped in at Al's this afternoon to check on the 700's status (should be ready tomorrow!) and they were already getting ready to put a new track under Kenny's sled that he picked up from Keweenaw Motor Sports this morning.  As our group of riders gets bigger, Al's shop gets busier!
    Once Matt came with Kenny's truck and trailer and all were on their way, we all headed back into the woods to have some fun. I was actually surprised to see how much powder was out in the fields and the woods.  At least a foot in both, with a bit more in the woods in spots.  Brian was our fearless leader and took us down some paths I have yet to be down and I have been riding with the guys for about 5-6 years now.  Thought I had seen it all, but guess I was wrong.  A few of the paths we went down I suppose I will not likely see again as they turned out to be dead ends, but hey, that is how you find the good ones, you have to weed through the bad ones.  Sometimes just turning around at the end of a dead end can prove to be a bit of a challenge as Brian illustrates here and Jerry demonstrates here.  Those were two long tracks, so it is deep out there!  Many a time I was happy to have the amount of track under me that I did!  It wasn't all getting stuck yesterday though.  Many a time we had the pleasure to be breaking trail on some nice logging roads.
    We never once touched the trails yesterday, but I know that there are at least a few of you wanting to know how they are up here and so in my travels today I did take two shots.  This first one is a section of the trail system that seems to take it very hard.  It is up just south of Mohawk and basically sees just about every sled that goes from Calumet north, so it gets a ton of traffic. As you can see it was in not too bad of shape. Not pristine snow, but much better than a week ago and the condition of the snow on the trail was that of something that would take a grooming, not sugar snow.  I can also say that it was flat and traffic was pretty slow when I was up there.  Here is a shot of the trail up above Lake Linden.  That section is usually about as good as it gets- at least snow condition wise.  It may get bumped up, but as for the actual condition of the snow on the trail, that is a good representation of the good sections up here.  Now before someone decides to pass judgment on the folks in the middle of the trail, it is a section of trail that is straight for almost a mile, visibility was good that day, so they were not causing any danger to themselves or other by being there.  That is unless they did not get out of the way when a sled approached, but I think it's safe to assume they did!
    So at the risk of sounding like the Chamber of Commerce, things are actually in pretty decent shape up.  It has not been the best winter we have ever had, but actually not too far off average as far as snowfall goes for this point in the season.  It's just been the thaws. We will be above freezing tomorrow, but with dewpoints in the 20's we should actually see little in the way of snow loss.  Friday will be another day above freezing and the dewpoints look to rise into the 30's, so I think there will be some snow loss Friday, but not enough to cause any serious issues.  Temps look to drop back below freezing by Friday night and then stay there through the weekend and next week.  Plus some new snow could start to fall by the weekend and into next week, so I would not fret too much if I were you and were planning on coming up.  I think much of the UP snow belt areas are in a similar situation.  We may have the most snow on the ground of the UP, but most trail systems are probably in a similar situation as ours.
    I did mention that Burt and I went to the property to clear snow today.  Funny, he actually knows exactly what that means and is very good about sticking right with me as I run the snow thrower up and down the driveway.  It takes about 8-10 passes up and down it to get it all cleared and he just walks right behind me the whole time.  It had been about a week since we were last up there to clear the drive way and there was about 8-10" of snow on it.  Just about the perfect amount.  Not too much that it takes forever, but not too little that it is a waste of time.  Not that I do not enjoy going up there, but it can get to be a bit of a drag to have to load the snow thrower into the back of Ol' Blue and then unload it.  If I were rolling in dough I would just get a snow thrower for up there and keep the other down here, but then I would be left with two once we move up there.  In any case the driveway did get cleared and we are good for another few days at least. The roof of the shop still has a long ways to go before it needs to be cleared, although I am actually looking forward to the day when that has to happen again.  I think I will be sure to have Nora come out and she can capture the event on video, it really is something to behold when all that snow comes roaring off the roof in a matter of seconds.
    After clearing the driveway, Burt and I took a little walk.  There are several quiet roads there, which will make for good walking paths once we live up.  The final shot of the day is from that walk down the quiet Keweenaw back road. Yes it was still snowing when we took the walk, the LES was pretty stubborn to quit today and yes the snowbanks really are about 6 feet high.  After all, it is the snow capital of the Midwest!
Good night from the Keweenaw!!
-JD -
Jan 22-
    Seems hard to believe it's been a week, but I guess when your having fun...  It also seems hard to believe it has now been over a week since I was last on my snowmobile.  Not going through any withdrawals, but I do hope I can get some saddle time in before next weekend.  The video crew from Dobson Entertainment is coming up to shoot some footage for their next video, so I do not want to be too rusty!  Al is working on the 700 and said he will have it going this week.  I really wanted to make sure I had it running for a backup when Dobson is up.  Hate to miss out on that fun if something were to happen to the 800!  I think that is all I have to talk about for this entry as far as snowmobiling is concerned as well.
    My brother made his annual winter pilgrimage to the northland to visit us.  He arrived on Wednesday as the sun was setting, so it was too late to do anything that day, other than order up a pizza and do some catching up.  Thursday I had to do my regular work, so we could not head out until the early afternoon, but did head up to the property to clear snow from the driveway as well as show him around.  He had not been up there since we did all the clearing and construction work.  We tried to take a walk up there as well, but Burt sort of overdid himself on an evening walk Wednesday, so we had to keep our activity to a bit of a minimum Thursday.
    Friday Burt was back in good shape and the rest of us were also ready for some real exercise so we strapped on the skis and headed out to the School Forest for a ski.  As much as I love snowmobiling, I also love to ski.  I think I just love to be out in the snow is all it is.  Really does not matter what I am doing, as long as it's playing in the snow somehow.  I always think it is funny that I like them all, as most cross country skiers do not like snowmobiles (thinking they are dirty, noisy, whatever...)  Snowmobilers don't really have a problem with cross country skiers as long as they leave them and their activity alone and yet so few like both.  The thing that is neat about cross country skiing is that everything happens in slow motion compared to snowmobiling.  You really get to notice the surroundings you are in fully.  On a snowmobile I can get to places that I would probably never get to on ski, at least all in one day, but on skis I get to take in more of the area I am currently in.  They both have their plusses.
    Nora and I had been out to the School Forest last Sunday, but we had picked up enough snow between then and Friday to cover those tracks up.  However, someone else had been out there, so there were some tracks in the snow to follow for a while. There are a number of trails out there and they hardly get skied on, so soon we were breaking our own trail, which is not that bad if you have 6 foot long skis to help keep you from sinking into the snow, but if you have a small paw as the dogs do, then it is a bit more of a struggle. I can remember back when it was just Burt, Baileys and I skiing out there, sometimes I would have to stomp my feet down in the skis to try and pack a trail down so that they would not sink all the way up to their bellies in the snow.  Once a tail is packed then as long as it gets skied on before a foot or more of snow falls, then there is always a decent enough base for the dogs.  Anyway, we broke open (or as was the case there reopened) just about all the trails out there over the weekend and now should be able to keep most of them open the rest of the winter unless we get into a really snowy cycle and I end up playing on my sled more than I ski in the afternoons! It has been known to happen!!!
    The "home stretch" out at the School Forest is a section of red pine that tower above the ground like soldiers at attention and while I believe I have captured this view before, I figured it was time for another look (fsv).  Even though we have been in a bit of a snow drought since a few days before Christmas, it's still plenty deep up here and there are still some sights that you will see in very few places in the Midwest- such as this.
    There are several rituals that are played out every time my brother visits. Such as doing lots of cross country skiing, eating like pigs (none of us eat like that regularly) and on Saturday we got down to one of the other rituals, clearing the roof of snow.  For a while I was really thinking that this would be the year that he would not have to help me, but the snow we got last week made for enough to be up there to at least clear the front half.  The winds blew pretty good with one of the storms last week and the front got pretty wind loaded, while the back was actually cleared of snow somewhat.  So the front is all we had to do on Saturday.  Here is a shot of my brother up on the roof with the scoop, here is a shot of me cleaning up the mess that he makes below and here is a shot of him dumping a load on me.  Some how I get the feeling that is the main reason why he is so enthusiastic to help me clear the roof on all of his visits!  I have learned to wear a coat with a hood though!
    After the roof was cleared Saturday morning we all ran down to Hancock to watch the Heikinpäivä Parade.  It usually seems like when this festival and it's events like the parade take place, the temps are struggling to climb out of the single digits and the wind is blowing somewhere just below hurricane strength.  This year the sun was peaking out between some lake effect clouds and the temps were in the upper 20's so you don't get much better weather for a parade around here!  I think we have had some 4th of July parades up here when the weather was worse!  It's not a very big parade, I think this year's lasted about 15 minutes, but a parade is a parade and they are always fun in my book (unless you are in a hurry and behind one!). The only thing is I wish I had know the parade was only 15 minutes long and I would have been a little busier with my camera.  I only took two shots, this one of some folks dressed in authentic garb of the old world and this one of a giant pike, or musky, or...
    They also have a polar bear plunge as part of the festival.  Needless to say this old boy did not partake in that event (and never will) and it being at 3 pm (the parade at 11 am) we did not stick around town long enough to see it.  There are some shots on pasty.com though if you would like to see some folks taking a jump into the Portage Lake by the Ramada.
    After the parade we had lunch and then took to the School Forest for another ski. The sun was shining, which is a rare treat up here in the winter and it was about as perfect day for a ski as you can get.  Our goal for Saturday afternoon's ski was to take the outer most loops. In fact, one of the loops is one that I have never skied on before.  The trail itself has only been around for 3 or 4 years and it is a bit of a trip  just to get to the beginning of it, so heading all the way out on it and back will make for quite a journey.  As with most "more difficult" journeys, this one was well worth it.  Nora, the hounds and I have walked it plenty of times and it was neat to be out there with all the snow for the first time.  There are a few hills that made things interesting and a few twists and turns, but all very well worth it to see sights like this(fsv)and like this(fsv).  The last item that I have to share with you is a short video of Nora coming down one of the hills.
    So I guess that gets you caught up on the doings up here.  I am sure that I will be getting out a quick journal before the video shoot and then the shoot always provides enough material to cover an entire entry and then the month will be just about over.  Hard to believe that January 2006 is almost history.  For most snow lovers in the Midwest it will probably be good riddance!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Jan 15-
    I sure hope this is the start of winter!  This is the third day in a row with snow.  Not much, but enough to freshen things up a bit.  I think since Friday evening we have picked up around 2" new, most of it coming today.  The forecast has promise for some more, so perhaps our snow drought is finally coming to an end.  That would nice and none too soon!  The snow in the woods was still good, but very set up.  The trails had snow on them, but it was more like brown sugar than snow.  I was actually surprised at the conditions of the trails themselves.  The snow quality was not all that great, but the trails themselves were not too terribly bumpy.  Usually when the snow is like that, it takes about 6 sleds across it to create some monster moguls, but for some reason they were not really getting too out of hand where I rode over the past few days.  Sure there were bumps, but they were fairly tolerable. Of course as usual, my trail riding was pretty limited but that is what I found.
    On Wednesday Burt and I headed up to the property to reset the property cam and then take a walk.  Turns out the cam is having some issues that need attention beyond just a simple reboot.  Those issues will be taken care of and the cam will return, but I do not know when.  Sorry.  Our walk that afternoon was pleasant.  Skies were mostly cloudy, but with the mild temps and lack of wind, it did make for a nice afternoon for a walk.  I keep talking about the snow situation up here like it is some kind of a disaster.  It really is not, in fact I would venture to guess that most snow lovers in the Midwest, if not the US, would feel very fortunate to be able to enjoy a snowscape like this right outside their door.
    So I guess things are all relative.  Lots of folks are sitting and looking at brown or perhaps even green grass and bummed that things have gone so sour in the past 3 weeks.  I get to look out and see snow, but snow that is in serious need of some freshening up and am bummed as well.  I did go back and read my journals from the winter of 2000-2001.  That was the year I broke my leg, but also the last big snow year we had up here.  It turns out I had forgotten that after a big start in December, January of that year also was a bit of a disappointment.  Things did turn around towards the end of the month and February and March proved to be very snowy.  So there is still plenty of hope left and as I look at the date and see that we are just 1/2 way through the month of January, I really should not be too worried, I guess I was just hoping that with the fast start we got off to that this would be the really, really, really big year up here. That is not likely to happen, but we can still end up having a really big year- perhaps even really, really big!
    Joe, the crew from CrashedToys.com and some of his friends came up to ride this weekend.  They arrived in town early Friday afternoon and we headed out to do some riding.  There was 12 of us in all, but we all managed to remain one solid group and had only one breakdown, so all in all it was a successful trip.  I was surprised to see how much water there still is in the woods.  I guess up to this point my back country riding has been done in areas that must not be very wet because the places we went Friday sure were!  Nothing that was impossible to either get through or go around, but still about as wet as I have ever encountered in those areas.
    On Saturday we awoke to a fresh 1/2" of new snow!!!  I guess I really should not be such a wise guy and believe it or not the 1/2" new did help a bit with the road crossings and getting to places like the gas station in town.  Plus it at least freshened things up.  Being able to ride all day on Saturday also opened up my options on where to go a little more, so I was able to pick some terrain that I knew would not have too many problems with water.  One of those being some fields up the valley. Not the best conditions for carving, but one could lay down a carve if one tried hard enough.  I sure hope things are a wee bit deeper when we are shooting the video in two weeks!
    We did find our way up to the higher terrain of Keweenaw County, in fact Joe and I both got our RMK's stuck about 20 feet from the highest point in Keweenaw County!  At least I was able to blow by the spot that got me stuck twice while riding about 10 days ago.  And in defense of the sled (and myself maybe a bit), it was not so much a stuck as it was running out of treeless space to ride it!  No pictures, so I guess you will just have to believe me on that one!
    Not sure when I will be riding again.  My brother is arriving Wednesday and so we will be skiing a lot.  I will be sure to take pictures of that, in fact it is easier to take shots while skiing than sledding.  Don't have to stop, break the camera out and hope everyone waits for me!  Who knows, maybe even some nice fresh snow shots!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Jan 10-
    Well, we are still in a holding pattern as far as new snow goes.  Picked up a few inches between some light stuff Friday and again Sunday/Sunday night, but it has been 12 days since our last biggie and seems forever since we really had true winter weather around here.  It does look like things might start to be changing by later this week or more likely next week and I am ready!  We will be filming the next installment of the Dobson DVD in a little over 2 weeks and I sure hope things are a little fluffier up here for that or there will be some very interesting carving segments.  Perhaps more of a crash and burn segment!  I have my friends from Crashed Toys coming this weekend and would like some fresh snow for them, my brother is coming next week and he usually helps me shovel the roof and unless it gets very busy snowing soon, looks like he will not have to worry too much about that.  There is only about 10" up there right now and it makes for good insulation, so I do not want to clear it off unless it needs it.  The boys at KSE have an "All Hands on Deck" weekend, this weekend, and I know Al has been getting in touch with all the folks coming up to ride just to see if they want to still do it.  There is still plenty of snow up here as my pictures will show, but there is no powder left and we probably will not have any powder for this weekend.
    We did take a nice ride on Saturday.  Dave and I hooked up with some guys from MN and WI that he has ridden with in the past and then we all hooked up with Brian, Matt, Kenny and a few others to make a group of at least 10.  Pretty big to be tooling through the backcountry, but fortunately we had only two breakdowns.  Matt actually snapped his driveshaft (titanium) before even getting over to Brian's to hook up with us and Dave snapped a bolt and bent an "A" arm on his sled at the end of the day.  So Matt was able to get a back up and ride all day and Dave was able to limp home as the ride was ending.  So a pretty good day all in all.
    Before Dave, the guys from MN and WI (sorry forget all your names and would be too lazy to type them all in anyway!) and I headed over to Brian's, we played some in the woods riding some logging roads and playing on some hills. Here is a shot of Dave stuck about midway up.  He claims he was actually not stuck, but rather a tree got in his way so he had to stop. When ever that happened to me, they always called it getting stuck.  Don't know why it would be different for him?!  I hope you noticed that the picture was taken from the top looking down.  Yep, the good old 800 got me to the top again.  However, I must say that 98 times out of 100, it would be Dave looking down on me- just to set the record straight.  But I am having fun riding past them as they are stuck, er stopped! Here is a shot of Dave having some more fun on the hills.
    Once we got the 10 sleds and riders together we headed north for some fun in the snow.  With a group that large we pretty much stick to logging roads and try not to do anything too tricky.  Too easy to get everyone stuck or wreck a few sleds- basically bring the ride to a grinding halt.  Most of the logging roads we traveled on had been traveled on by others, but we did manage to find a few that were untouched.  The one thing about riding a trail no one has been down yet is that you occasionally have to do some scouting.  Here are the lead sleds checking out a culvert crossing that was flooded.  We were able to traverse that section, but did come to a beaver dam that proved to be too much of an obstacle to try and get around, which caused us all to have to turn around.  Some were able to use their reverse, while others snaked their way through the woods in an attempt to make a U-turn, which resulted in some interesting travels.  Everyone got turned around and the rest of the ride was successful, with the exception of Dave's "A" arm mishap.  I got to learn how low my fuel gauge goes.  I did not run out of fuel, but did put 10.7 gallons in an 11.8 gallon tank!  Sure thought I was going to have to get pulled out when Brian took the long way out of the bush!
    On Sunday, we took to the woods again, but this time in a quieter and slower manner, on skis!  Nora got to try out her new skies, boots, bindings and poles, Burt got to romp around in the school forest and we all got some exercise.  It is a really nice switch up to go from snowmobile to skis.  I love them both and they both have their good and bad points.  You can cover a whole lot of ground on a sled and the hills are actually lots of fun.  On skis you get to take in the surroundings more- including the sounds or lack thereof in the woods.  There had been a lot of activity in the school forest before us.  Looks like they had the kids out there on snowshoes.  It was the first ski of the season, so we did not go too far, but I hope to get some more skiing in and even get out there to break more trails.  That is pretty much all we do when my brother comes up, so I better get into slightly better skiing shape!
    I did do one more modification to the sled today.  I had 2" risers on the sleds steering post, but that was still not quite enough to allow me to be able to stand straight up while riding. So last Friday I broke out my catalogs and looked at what was available and the prices, then I remembered that a guy that rode with us during the DVD shooting last year, Rocky, had some cool billet aluminum ones and he actually owned the company (www.roxspeedfx.com) that sold them, so I looked him up, gave the company a call and got them on their way. They arrived today I got them mounted and not only to they work sweet, they look sweet too!  Oh, I did make one more slight modification to the sled.  Since it runs so sweet, almost flies really, I figured it needed this!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Jan 6-
    "I have been accused of being a little too optimistic in my perception of things which is fine by me, I would rather be accused
     of being an optimist than a pessimist, but even I am having a hard time seeing much to be optimistic in the current forecast.
     Forecasts can change and right now that would be the main hope for us in the next week to ten days! The season is not over
     by any means, but the next week to ten days may be tough to swallow."
That was my "Bottom Line" statement from today's forecast.  I realize I am preaching to the choir here and that I really should not complain at all because I can look out my window and see about 2 feet of snow on the ground and travel about 10 minutes to the property and be in almost 3 feet of snow on the ground, but I think like all snow lovers the season got off to such a rousing start that I was really thinking that this would be the big one.  The winter to remember for the ages.  Well, as I mentioned at the end of that bottom line statement winter is not over yet.  I do believe that it will return and that there could still be some pretty big storms in the works.  Not that everyone is in store for those big storms, but I do think that there are at least a couple "doozies" that are in the pipeline.  So hang in there everyone, this is no fun, but it is still just the first week of January and there have been some years where we were still waiting for winter to come at this point!
    I did get out for a ride yesterday afternoon.  Skylar, his brother and friend Rick were up in my neck of the woods so we joined up for an afternoon ride.  I was hoping that we could stay local (the valley and surrounding areas) to play in, but the snow down here was pretty set up so that meant carving up some fields was not going to happen and it might even be a little questionable for playing on the hills.  The snow was deeper in the higher terrain up north, so I figured we would just run up the groomed trail and then hop off to play.
    The first few shots I have are of the trails up here.  Obviously we did not ride too much of the trail system, but did manage to come across the groomer on our way up and also on the way back down.  I was glad to come across it as the trails were pretty bumpy.  Not outrageous, but those pesky 6-10" studder bumps that are a pain in the rear (figuratively and literally) to ride on.  The snow condition on the trails was not the best so the grooming did not hold up all that well.  The freeze thaw cycle had produced sugar snow and the only way to remedy that is for fresh snow to fall along with nice cold temps to freeze everything up.  Here is a shot of about the worst we rode in and here is a shot of the average conditions we encountered.  The camera did not do the bumps true justice, but in the "average conditions" shot the bumps were probably only around 3-4", which to me is perfectly tolerable with today's sled suspensions. Again, this is just a small sampling of things up here, you are bound to run into something worse and probably would encounter some areas that are better.  Today Burt and I headed up to the property for our afternoon walk and I snapped this shot of the trail up there this afternoon.  Pretty flat, but also really sugary.  Quite a few sleds too.  Not a mad house, but certainly not quiet!
    Back to our ride yesterday.  We got off trail and the plan was to go play in the steep and deep.  Not the steepest, but probably the deepest the Keweenaw has to offer right now.  The average snow depth where we were riding was about 3-4 feet and was pretty well set up, but not the "Hero Snow" that I thought we might have encountered.  It's called hero snow because it is firm enough that just about anyone can go anywhere, thus making a hero out of them.  It did not take long and we had the first stucks of the day.  I won't mention his name, but come to think of it he did not buy the first round when we were done for the day!  Guess he will have to make that payment the next time.  I managed to get the 800 stuck twice.  Looking back on both stucks, I can say with pretty good certainty I know what happened.  It was the nut behind the handle bars fault!  Yep, I really cannot place the blame on the sled, it was all my fault.  Here is a shot of the first stuck. In that shot you can see a small tree hanging down ahead of my sled and off to the left a bit.  That was the path that I was heading and I saw that tree, hesitated a bit to decide if I should try and brush past it or go around it and in that moment of hesitation the momentum was lost enough that I was not going to make it much further.  So I tried to peel off to the right and head back down but could not even accomplish that.  But that will give you an idea of how deep is was up there, I was standing in my trench and the snow was just about up to my chest.
    We all managed to get good and stuck in that play area.  Here is a picture of Skylar in one of his stucks.  Funny how a few stucks like that will make a person want a longer track and bigger engine!  I can honestly say that I am perfectly satisfied with my current ride.  Of course I make no promises how long that feeling will last, but I think it's safe to say the rest of this season and probably most of next at least!  Funny to think that at one point I thought anything bigger than a 136" track would be overkill.
    So here I sit waiting for the snows to start piling up again.  There is a ride planned for tomorrow and I would imagine that Nora would like to try out her new cross country skis that she got for Christmas, so maybe a trek to the School Forest will also be in order.  For now I think I am going to step back from the computer, head into the living room with my beautiful wife and noble buddy Burt, build a fire and read one of the three snowmobile magazines that came in the mail yesterday.  Even without fresh snow, life is grand.
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Jan 2-
    Happy New Year everyone!  Hope everyone's entry into 2006 was safe and fun.  Ours here at the Dee household was.  We got a nice little New Years Eve present in the form of 12" of new snow that fell from Friday into Saturday morning.  It was a bit of a high end surprise.  I had figured on 4-8" and the extra 4" was just fine by me and the rest of my snow loving friends.  Things were starting to look a little dreary around here and it was starting to feel and look more like April than the end of December.  But the 12" of fresh snow took care of all of that and it looks like mid winter again.
    I have not seen much of the trail system since my tour last week.  I can say that we did survive the mild temps last week and all the traffic, but survive is probably the best way to put it.  Temps were above freezing by a degree or two today and will be there again tomorrow.  The fresh snow Fri. and Fri. night did help a lot, but would have been even better had it been followed by cold as it usually is.  Looks like some fresh snow for the second half of this week and some honest to goodness cold.  That combined with the fact that traffic will be light for the rest of this week and things should recover nicely around here.
    I did take advantage of the new snow by going for a ride with the crew Saturday.  I met up with Brian and we both rode up to Teddy's new place where we met up with Al and some others.  Ted has some great hills to play on in his backyard and we all joked about how nice it was that he showed us all where they were at so we could come an play on them anytime we want!  Obviously that is not the case, even the KSE guides ask the other KSE guides if it's ok that they ride in their yards before they do it.  None the less, the hills were big enough and snow deep enough to get just about everyone stuck.  That was Al and his stuck pumpkin (900 Mountain Cat 162), the sled stuck below Al's is BJ's old sled now owned by Nick (BJ is without sled this year- something I almost cannot believe) and you can see a pair of skis directly behind Al, that is Brian's M6.  The face peaking between the clump of trees just below Al is Brian's.  I say just about everyone got stuck Saturday because there was one that did not and that is me!  I mention that because it will probably the only time this year I will be able to do so and I have to give the credit where credit is due, that 800 of mine is like a mountain goat!  Tons of power and a track that just keeps digging and digging and just does not want to let the sled auger in.  I know my time will come, but I am just amazed by this sled!  Twice I made it to the top of hills that others were stuck at about the 1/2 way point.  Again, I say this not really to brag, because my time will come, more really because I am still in a bit of amazement!  I am really loving this sled!
    After playing in the hills we headed down to the flatter terrain.  Not perfectly flat, more like a snowcross track and again I loved how the sled performed.  What helps me the most in this type of riding is that I finally have the handlebars at the correct height for me.  The 700 was up as high as it could go without adding an extension to the throttle cable and I had plans to do that, but did not get it completed before the end of this season.  I did raise the 800's 3" and was able to do so without having to extend the throttle cable and love being able to ride standing STRAIGHT up, not hunched over or bending my legs.  Al and I swapped out sleds for a while and his handlebars were way too low for me, but that 900 sure has some legs on it!  Something tells me he will be making a lot of the high marks when we head out west.  Ted also tried out Al's sled.  Ted will be in the market for a new ride next season, so he is kicking tires right now.  This is how Ted demos sleds.
    Our group of 6 met up with Matt and 2 others to make a group of 9.  That is reaching the upper limits of size when you want to be able to keep moving and not deal with the issues that 9 sleds and 9 riders can bring.  We did not have any breakdowns, but did have some creek flips and stucks that would grind things to a halt.  Here is a shot of some of the gang heading down a section of pole line Saturday.  The goal in that last shot was to try and catch all the sleds flying a jump or something, but that is easier said than done!  Saturday was a warm day, I don't know if we actually broke the freezing mark, but had to have come close. I was very happy to have been dressed in layers. All I had to do was remove a layer and I went from sweating a ton to being perfectly comfortable. Then when it was time to take the trail home part of the way and the sun sank lower and temps cooled all I had to do was put the layer back on and I did not get cold.
    On the way home we came across a few boys that had a little bad luck on one of the water holes along the side of the trail.  The trail uses a bridge and these guys must have decided they were going to do a little showing off and this was the result. Not a show stopper, but it sure did slow it down!  I don't know about you, but I get chilled just looking at those bare feet and legs in that ice water.  I lent out my tow strap and another in our group had one and our gang helped the guys pull their sled out of the water.  We did not sit around to wait to see if they got it started, there were running sleds in their group so even if they could not get the sunken sled started, they could get out of there and warm up.
    I arrived home in time for a nice New Years Eve dinner with Nora and Burt and then we all proceeded to make it to about 8:30 before falling asleep!  Nothing too new for me, I have always viewed New Years Eve as amateur night and while I have attended my share of New Years celebrations, I do not have much of a desire to do so now.  Thankfully Nora feels the same way and we allow the year to end very quietly.  Plus New Years Day is always much nicer when New Years Even is quiet.  We woke up early, had a productive day- including clearing snow from the driveway up at the property in the morning, then lunch with John, the person running the ride in this February and then a nice afternoon walk with Burt.
    I guess that gets you caught up on things up here.  I do hope to ride at least once before the weekend is here and there is already talk about a ride this weekend, so hopefully we get some decent new snow and I have some fun pictures to share with you.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
 
 
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