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March 28-
    Ok, I think I have enough steam in the boiler right now to get this entry out. I could probably have squeezed it out last night, but I really did not want to try and "force" this one because it should be one of the more special ones I do with all the pictures and stories from out west. I still do not know what is ailing me and neither do the Dr's. We have ruled some things out like the flu, a cold and lung cancer.  Yes, I know that is a bit of a wide margin of ailments, but they did run a ton of tests yesterday (one of the reasons I did not write last night too tired from being at the hospital until about 6 pm) and the x-rays did seem to indicate some fluid build up in my chest. My regular Dr. is out of the office for the week (spring break for the schools up here) so I was seen by the Dr. on call. He said that he was very firm with the radiologist to find out whether or not what was seen was cancer or not and the radiologist said a firm "no".  So I have that to be thankful for!  I also was sent home with some medicine to help take some of the fluid out and I think I worked because for the first time in about a week, I did not wake up in the middle of the night gasping for breath. That happened to me several times while out in WY but I just figured it was the altitude. When I happened here I figured something more serious was up and that is one reason why I decided to go see the doc.  I go back in tomorrow, but some how I think the diagnosis will still not be reached as I have to go to Marquette on Monday for a test that can not be done locally. I guess if there is one silver lining to all of this so far, at least I do not have to feel like a wimp anymore! I used to pride myself on my ability to not get sick and to recover from illnesses like the flu or a cold very quickly and this winter I have really been down more than up. So I was starting to think that I was just getting soft!  It looks like I may at least have a legitimate excuse for being so out of it for much of this winter, let's hope it is not too serious of an excuse!!!
    My flight out to WY was nice and uneventful. The weather was cloudy here in the Keweenaw, but they were lake effect clouds and skies became clear as we headed over Ontonagon County and stayed clear to Minneapolis. I had a 3 hour layover in MSP and was tempted to mention it in the journal before I left to see if any of you in the area wanted to have a little meet and greet to kill the time, but then figured I would be able to kill that time without too much trouble. I did and then hopped on the flight to Jackson Hole. Since I flew right from MSP to Jackson Hole this time, I got into Jackson much earlier. In fact it was still light out when the plane landed. Last year I got in about 9 pm. I always opt for a window seat and with the Plains storm still wrapping up last Monday, things were pretty cloudy from western MN through all of SD, so I just napped as best I could. Then once into central and western WY the clouds started to become more broken and lower in nature. I could see the Bighorns and then the northern end of the Wind River Range at which point I knew I was getting close. The plane started it's decent and we still remained above the clouds. Up ahead I could see that the there was an area of enhanced cloud development and figured that whoever that cloud was over was getting a nice little snow shower.  We ended up flying straight through the thicker clouds and snow shower and when we emerged we were right over Moran Junction which is due north of Jackson and due west of Togwotee, so that meant that the snow shower was either right over the lodge or very close.
    We landed fine and I met the driver from the lodge and we headed up to the lodge in one of their jacked up 4 wheel drive vans. They actually have step stools available for folks to get into these things! Anyway, the weather in the valley Jackson sits in was partly cloudy, we hit Moran Junction and took the right to head east up into the mountains and to Togwotee and not long after that right we hit snow. The snow became heavier and heavier to the point where you could hardly see 100 feet. I was familiar with how far the lodge was up the road from Moran and knew that the heavier snow we were in was also very close to the lodge. We pulled into the lodges parking lot in a full blown snow squall and there was about 3 new inches covering everything. The snow falling and new snow was exciting, but I really did not want a ton of snow as that could make conditions unsafe to play in the steep and deep and I was really hoping to get to the steep and the deep.
    As luck would have it the snows tapered off not long after my arrival. My first order of business was to get my laptop up, running and talking to the lodges wireless network. I had planned to do work on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and really needed their wireless internet service and even though I had never dealt with using a wireless network card, all worked well within about 10 minutes of firing things up and I could breathe a sigh of relief. At about the same time I was getting things with the computer squared up, Rick and Deb from Dobson Entertainment came into the lobby from the bar and we chatted for a while. Then Luke (Brian's brother in law and one of the riders in our group) came out. By that time it was getting late enough for me to be hitting the hay, so I went up to my room. I was actually in the room directly above the lobby and thus had the wireless internet access there and did not have to go into the lobby to do my work, which was very nice.
    I did not sleep too well Monday night. I tried and tried, but was just too excited. Last year I was excited to be there, but also did not know what to expect, so I slept a little better. This year I knew full well what to expect as far as fun went for the next day, so I think I dosed off about midnight and then awoke at about 3:30 am and could not get back to sleep. My plans were to get up at 4:30 to start my work anyway, so I just got an earlier start. I got my work done and then met up with the group for breakfast. Made a complete pig of myself at that (fueling up for the day you know) and then shot back up to the room to get dressed for the ride.
    We ended up heading out on the sleds a little later than was expected. Rick and Deb had to get their rentals, we all had to rent avalanche beacons and fill out some other forms. In any case I think by about 9:30 or so we were all heading down the trail towards the first shooting spot of the day. It ended up being a little meadow that was pretty much a secret and had been untouched in many weeks. Before we got to the meadow, we stopped briefly and I took a quick group photo, figuring that might be on of the few times everyone was sitting still on the sleds in one spot and that ended up being pretty true. The meadow was fun, but I was a little cautious as I did not know it very well and it was small enough that you really had to make some quick decisions. The snow was deep, about 2-3 feet of very soft powder with a base of who knows how much underneath. We all took turns carving it up and in about 10-15 minutes there was not much untouched snow left. About that time Dave, our guide Matt and a couple others headed through some trees to do some exploring or something. Dave ended up coming back up through the trees, but had one jump out at him and thus the first stuck of the day!
    The next play/filming spot was one of the 1000's of drifted hills that were out there. I really do not exaggerate when I say 1000's. Just about anywhere there is a slight change in elevation or another reason to change the wind speed/direction, you end up with a drift of some height. Some are only about 2-3 feet and others are 20-30 feet. Our guide Matt loved to jump and seemed to know right were the best ones and untouched ones were. Here is a shot of guide Matt (we also had Matt from our group, so that is how I will keep the two differentiated) catching some air. The camera was rolling and others were pretty quick to follow. We have some pretty good jumpers in our group, but I could tell that pretty much all the guys were just a bit timid at the onset of the riding. New terrain and very different terrain had them all riding just a bit to the cautious side. They are not used to riding like that much and actually looked pretty bad at first. The video of the first jumps resulting in tracks not even leaving the snow and riders falling off cracks me up. I really should not be one to talk, I am lucky to get my track off the snow on a good day, but it really was something to see these guys ride like... well, like me for a change! Something I never see back home!  I figured they would get their confidence pretty quickly and was right, soon they were riding like the gang that I know and proving to the guide that they were worthy of having a camera lens point at them while they rode.
    We played on some more jumps for a while and then I started lobbying for some hill climbing. I know it does not make for the best of picture taking, but the jumps we were taking were all something that we have back here at home and I figured the main reason we were in WY was for the terrain. Read: BIG hills to climb and sidehill. It was either my keen lobbying skills or just an attempt to get me to stop whining, but we left the jumping spot for a bit of hill climbing. It was snowing off and on during the morning on Tuesday and when it snowed, the visibility was pretty bad and the light very flat, so conditions were really not optimal for riding, let along climbing a big hill. Many of the hills or side of the hills had a cornice on them and you might find yourself going right off one if you were not careful. So we at first stayed on the small hills to play. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the ability of our group of riders to take what might normally be a rather uneventful spot to play in and make it eventful. They will find an unusually hard aspect to climb, or sidehill or perhaps a little nuance in the snow to be able to launch off of. Our guide Matt proved to be excellent at that task as well. He would find a nice line or jump and then we were all following behind him. Here is a shot of our Matt (from now on known as "Matty") catching some air off one of the snow lips that could be hidden in the flat light out there. The sun was out at that point and so it was not dangerous to be hitting that jump like that. I guess he must have thought that he did not go high enough on that first one, so here he is again with even more air underneath the track. That is Rick with the camera in the lower right.  Ok, one more, but no one likes a show off Matty! :)
    With the weather still holding we shot down the little ravine we were in a bit more to where the walls of it got a little steeper and a little higher. At first we took some runs straight up, but then grew tired of that so we moved on to sidehilling up to the top and when the side hilling grew tiresome for a few of the group, then they moved onto jumping the lip at the top of the hill as Al demonstrates here.  Looked like he was trying to jump that mountain behind him, eh? The view from the top of the hill was pretty nice too. Here is your first scenic shot for this journal- the Breccia Cliffs cast in sunshine (FSV). That range and Two Oceans Mountain (the one Al was trying to jump) are the two main points of reference in a lot of the Togwotee area. Not all were successful at climbing that hill, as Kenny demonstrates here. The one thing I will point out is that the camera really has a hard time capturing how steep the terrain is out there. If it looks not too steep in the picture, it is steep. If it looks somewhat steep in the picture, then it is really steep and if it looks steep in the picture, then it is insanely steep! The hill Kenny was stuck on was somewhere between steep and really steep as this shot from the side shows.
    After gaining our guides confidence in hill climbing and with the weather still hanging on, Matt took us to some even bigger hill climbs beneath the Breccia Cliffs or I guess you could say up the bottom of them. This was the biggest and best hill climbing of the day and we all took turns trying to out do each other and put the high mark on the hill. For a very brief moment I had the second highest, but the old 800 was just not dialed in quite right. It would only rev to about 7100 on the tachometer, which is about 1000 rpms less than it should to give full power with my engine setup (exhaust tuning etc...). Al's 900cc/162" was not running too much better that first day, but he managed to put some tracks up pretty high. Even Matty's 900cc/166" did not put the high mark up that day. The prize for that hill belonged to Dave on his M6/141"!  His mark is not even in that shot, but he ride up and made the cut about a foot below that rock so that no one could out do him for that hill. Here is a full sized version of that hill with all of the cliffs in view.
    With Dave taking king of the hill, Al and I went to work the next morning trying to get our sleds better dialed in.  Dave is a much better rider than me and I don't have a problem with him out riding me, but that hill was pretty much a point and shoot one and I should have been able to get much higher than him. We dropped a few more jet sizes on my carbs, making it 17 in all since the setup here and also went to a lighter spring. I was told that doing that should wake my sled right up. It stirred it, but I would not say it woke it right up. I did gain 300 more rpms, making my top end 7400, but still far short of the 8100 that would have been optimal. Heck I would have been happy with 7800 which is the powerband for a stock sled.  Al was pretty much stumped as to why mine did not rev higher than the 7400, but did manage to get his to rev to 78-7900 with his tuning.  Quite honestly it may have even been my power valves that decided to stick a little.  We'll never know.
    On Wednesday, we headed right for the hills for some more sidehilling and hill climbing. We stopped in a spot that afforded us a view of the other reference point I talked about Two Oceans Mountain (FSV). Last year my guide Carter and I rode darn near to the top of that mountain from the other side and this was our view looking back up the valley towards the lodge (FSV).
    The hill that Rick picked out for us to side hill right at the camera had a beautiful backdrop, but was quite a doosy to hide hill and even proved to be too steep at the onset for some sleds to even get into view of the camera. I managed to make it to the start of the filming spot, but then managed to slide down the hill a bit as I sidehilled and my track ended up going into another's ruts and the rear end of my sled washed out. We all made excuses for our riding mishaps and that one I labeled excuse #397. Here is a picture of Matty sidehilling below me on that hill. Here is Brian riding to my rescue and looking good...right up to the point where he got stuck. Dave rode up and helped him out after he got unstuck. Here is a shot of my sled washed out on the hill.  I believe it to be one of my more scenic stucks! Worth of a full sized version!
    After digging out everyone and getting each other off the hill, we moved on to a new play spot. This one being directly beneath another spot on the Breccia Cliffs. Rick wanted to try and get a shot of someone carving up the meadow that lead to the hill by riding on the back of a sled, so while they prepped for that shot, I snapped a shot of the group under the cliffs (FSV). After the meadow filming was over, a nice big hillclimb loomed directly above us. I believe Matt took the first run up, then Matty. At which point he ended up getting stuck just about at the top where it looked like it leveled out, but only just was not as steep. With the 800 running a little better, I decided to ride to Matty's rescue. About 2/3rds of the way up Matty started coming down and it did not appear he knew which side of me he was going to go on and at moments it looked like maybe he would not pick a side, but go over the top of me. This caused me to back off my throttle (excuse #884) and make ready to break off my climb to the right or left, which ever seemed the least likely way Matty would go. A split second later Matty got things under control on his dowhill and it was clear he was going to pass to my left. With that known, I got back on my throttle, but by that time it was too late, I tried to peal off to my right and loop back down, but yep... you guessed it... another stuck high up. This was the ugly stuck for the entire trip. It was so high up that some could not make it. It was in a spot so steep that you could not stop next to me without auguring in your own sled. Al rode up to help me, but could not stop and had to loop back down. Matty and Matt both tried several times to do the same thing to no avail. Finally Matty and Matt rode up to the spot where the hill was not as steep and Matty had gotten stuck the first time, they managed to stop their sleds right where it got steep and walked down the 50-60 feet to me an my sled. We managed to get the sled unstuck, but it was quite the chore for the three of us. One false move and my sled was doing about 100 barrel rolls down that hill and that would be all for it! I managed to take a picture from my stuck spot looking down hill. The little dots at the bottom of the hill were the rest of the gang.
    Rick said that his GPS read 10,200 or something like that when we were at the base of that hill. I figure my stuck was another 700-800 feet up. I was so out of breath from digging out and then trying to start my flooded out sled that when I finally got to the bottom of the hill, shut off my sled and took my helmet off, the gang all gasped at my purple face and neck. I have a feeling that only worsened whatever is ailing me as I really did not feel too good the rest of the trip. In fact I did not even ride the next day.
    After that nasty, ugly, stupid stuck, I think the objective was to keep me off any really big hills, so the next spot we went to was a lot more timid.  At least in the hill climbing department. It did have some good cornice jumps and we all enjoyed our lunch while Rick filmed Matt and Matty jumping off them. Here is a shot of Matty getting ready to launch off the cornice. I never did get a shot of either of them in the air, it was difficult because I could not see them until they were just at the edge and if I took the shot at that instant, the delay in my digital camera would cause the picture to be snapped as they hit.  So that is the best I could do with those jumps.
    Wednesday afternoon proved to be a pretty clear day and so the idea was to keep heading up and up and get to a spot where we could do some things with the Tetons in the background (FSV). The only problem was that as you reach the top of the peaks around there, the snow really starts to be impacted by the wind and in spots there was bare ground showing and in others just a hard, windblown snowpack.  Not the best to be jumping onto or trying to carve on.  Matt did find us a spot directly downwind of the last storm and the snow was plenty deep for carving and Rick got his Tetons in the background. Just about everyone took turns carving around Rick, here is Dave doing just that. Everyone but me that is. I was still trying to recover from my Barney impersonation.
    As mentioned, I did not even ride Thursday. Wednesday night I woke up at about midnight freezing cold, so I threw on a bunch of my fleece riding gear and climbed back under the sheets. I did manage to shiver myself back to sleep and then woke up about 3 hours later sweating like the pig that knows he's for dinner. I had barely the energy to get down to breakfast and did not eat very well. So I spent all morning and most of the afternoon in my room. My room was on the front of the lodge and as I watched (and heard) from my window just about everyone staying at the lodge heading off for a day of riding, I felt like the little kid that could not go out and play with all of his friends because he was sick.  One of the most frustrating things I could imagine!  By late in the afternoon I could stand without my legs wobbling, so I actually hopped on my sled and rode the 1/4 mile up onto "Photographers Hill" to take a shot of the lodge and it's support buildings with the Tetons in the background (FSV). And thus concluded my riding for that day.
    By dinner Thursday, I was feeling good enough that I told everyone that if I felt the same on Friday (our last day of riding) I was going to tag along. I may not do any riding for the camera, but just to tag along would not be too hard. As luck would have it I had my best night sleep on Thursday and Friday morning I woke up feeling good enough to ride. We all headed out and played in a few spots close to the lodge at first, then Matt said he had a place he wanted to take us where we could play for 6 hours straight and still not hit all there was to hit as far as hills and jumps and what have you. It took a bit of riding and I am not going to mention the spot to protect the innocent, but I can say that Matt sure was right about there being enough terrain to keep us busy. I'm not sure if we were there 6 hours, but a solid 4 hours for sure, probably 5. When we left, there were still a few spots left.
    My first shot from this area is actually of a little oops that could have turned out very bad. I will not mention the riders name as it is not my intention to embarrass the riders in my group (poke fun sure that's part of our group) that did this, but as you can see he went up a little hill with not much room to turn around and then ended up bouncing off the dead tree on the left. He hit pretty hard, but thankfully both rider and sled were ok. Just to let you know, this rider I think is one of our best line pickers and also very good at executing that line, so I really could not believe he did that and I think he was scratching his head too, but did not dwell on it too long.
    There were bigger fish to carve or shall I say bigger hills. That last shot was only about 1/4 of the terrain that was at our immediate disposal in this spot. There was so much terrain, that Matt told us to make sure that we went off in at least groups of two, preferably 3, so that no one got stuck alone. Again, the picture really does not do things justice, plus there was 4 times as many play terrain as I could show in that single shot.  I do have some close ups of some of the play spots, but it sure would be neat to be able to accurately convey exactly what was there! Rick had to have a permit to film in the National Forest that we were in and that permit did not cover Friday, so we pretty much just got to play without worrying about ruining the snow for a shot or going one at a time so that he could capture the rider the whole trip.
    This first shot is of one of the sub play spots in the entire area (I tweaked the image in photoshop to make the tracks in the snow stand out better). I would estimate that there were probably close to 100 of these sub play spots there for the taking. The high mark (if you can call it that) in the dead center of the image is mine. I was actually just having fun sidehilling with Brian following me and broke off when he turned around, so I (he says with full modesty) could have gone at least a bit higher. The other track off to the left and a bit higher is another attempt of mine and the one shooting just about straight up to the top is Matt's he put on Matty's 900. I guess I could say that I was also using excuse #1030 all day Friday, that one being the "Avoid the Barney Stuck" excuse.  Who knows I may have been able to have seen the inside of the Jackson Hole Hospital had I had another purple headed stuck.
    Hills were not the only thing this area had to offer up. There were some jumps too. Here is Dave and Jerry catching some air. Jerry is on the switchback and is the truck driver who hauled all of our sleds all the way out there. Here is Matt and Matty going off a jump that also included some hill climbing and then some side hilling before the jump. That might be called the Triad Jump. I actually ended up taking an unintentional nap while out there. Rick, Deb and a few more of us stopped to rest and I put my head on my handlebars to rest for a minute and next thing I knew I was waking up about 30 minutes later when some other sleds drove up!  I did feel a little rejuvenated after my nap, but while I was napping, Al, Matt, Brian, Kenny and Matty were all out carving up a dilly of a hill. I was pretty worn out by the time we got to it and I figured I had better leave something in my bodies tank to get me back to the lodge, so I just watched the guys put their final touches on the hills and gullies.  Here is one of those spots and here is the other right next to it. If I am lucky enough to get out to Togwotee again, this is a spot I am going to go to for sure. I know how to get there and the only thing stopping me would be avalanche danger!
    We made it back safe and sound, loaded the sleds onto the semi trailer, bottoned them up, had dinner and then I went up to the room to pack and get some sleep.  All in all it was just about a perfect trip. Had I not been sick, it would have been perfect. No one was injured too badly and no sleds were damaged. I would like to take the time to thank our guide Matt, the General Manager of the lodge Jeff and the rest of the staff at the lodge. I know the whole crew had a blast and we'll be talking about this for some time to come. Some are already saving up for next year! If you would like to head out and take it all in, you can check out the lodge's website at: www.togwoteelodge.com. All I can say is that words and even the pictures really do not do it justice. I hate to sound like a salesman, but the only way to really know what it is like out there is to experience it. It may be more expensive to get all the way out there from the Midwest, but I can guarantee your only disappointment will come when it's time to leave.  For me leaving was bittersweet. I had to leave one of the best snowmobiling places in the world (no exaggeration), but I got to come home to the best wife in the world (no exaggeration either) and my best buddy Burt. With those two waiting for me the trip home seemed to drag on longer than the trip out, but it was well worth the wait.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -

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March 27-
    My apologies, I was planning on getting out a journal tonight, but am struggling with an illness I started coming down with while still in Wyoming. I have been to the Dr's and had a ton of tests, but do not know what is wrong and still not feeling too good. I promise there is a good one waiting in the wings, including 30+ pictures.  So hang in there, I should be able to get to it very soon.  Thanks for your patience and understanding!!! - John
March 19-
    I figured I had better get one last journal entry out before I am gone for the week. All the rest of the crew has left and I am going a little stir crazy at the moment. I was doing very good until Friday afternoon when I drove by Al's shop and saw the semi that hauling the sleds out to Togwotee for us sitting out side the shop. That told me we were getting pretty close to "go time" and got the blood pumping inside me a bit faster. Now that everyone but me has left I am even more anxious. The rest of the crew should arrive by around midday tomorrow and will have the afternoon to get their sled all dialed in. A lot of tuning was done here, but the final bit of tuning will take place tomorrow afternoon. I have asked Al to give my sled a quick test to make sure it is dialed in pretty good for me. Tomorrow afternoon I will be a little jealous of them being out there already, but by the time they arrive, I will be on my way out, so I will have enough going on in my life to keep my mind off them and what they will be doing. Then I know Saturday when we all leave and I know I will be sleeping in my own bed that night and they will still have a 24 hour+ drive until they get home I will be happy that I flew out!  That is about the only drawback to living up here at the end of the road. Anytime you want to go somewhere else, it usually involves quite a trip.
    Yesterday we loaded up the sleds onto the semi. There are 7 of us heading out, but 8 sleds in all as we are bringing the 700 for a backup. It was pretty cool to see all those long tracks up on that semi. We loaded them up in a parking lot where a section of the trail passes by and all the heads of the riders on the sleds that went turned to look to see what was going on. It's going to be a messy ride through the Dakotas and portions of WY with the current storm hammering those areas, so we all put our covers on the sleds and then Jerry the owner/driver of the semi covered them all up with his tarp. So they are all "snug as a bug" under the tarp and on their way to Togwotee as I type. Jerry and his backup driver are also bringing their sleds, so there are actually two more sleds on board and that made a full trailer.
    So I sit here in the sunny Keweenaw checking the radars and web cams out west trying to take in as much of the situation out there as possible. I am sort of the routing coordinator for the two trucks with the guys (and all my gear!) in them as well as the semi hauling the sleds out. Right now the plan has been changed to take them across North Dakota on I-94 rather than South Dakota on I-90 because the storm will be tapering off across ND later today and will be at it's worse across SD later today, tonight and early tomorrow. The debate right now is whether to drop south into Rapid City and then eastern WY or to head to Billings and then head south. I am recommending the Billings route. A little more in miles, but lots more interstate driving and better weather/road conditions.  We'll see.
    Other than getting ready for the trip, things have been quiet around here. The storm finished up very quickly and we have been in sunshine every day since Wednesday. We had a few flurries occur from time to time, but for the most part just lots of sunshine. Temps have remained below freezing for the most part, so the snow has not been melting much. I have lost a bit in my yard due to some settling and melting, but it sits in the full sun all day, so it experiences the full melt all day. Looking at the property cam it looks like there is 3 1/2 feet up there. I do have one last picture to share with your from the storm. I actually posted it in the General Discussions board, but I figure that there were some of you that may have not seen it. In any case, it is a picture taken by the Daily Mining Gazette of the South Range Elementary School the day after the storm. Yes, there really should be a right hand side of that school visible, but it is buried under a massive snow drift!
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. The next journal will sure be a doosy, I may even have to do more than one part to cover all that will be happening in the next week. One final note, since I will be out of town and not able to interact with everyone, I would appreciate it if folks would hold their e mail questions, ask John question and guest shot submissions until I get back next week.  Nora will be here and like last year will have some family visiting to keep her company, but I really do not want to come back to dozens of things to have to handle. Thanks!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 14-
    I'm back already!  I figured that the storm we just had really deserved more recognition than I gave it yesterday. There are several ways that I could tell that it was really a monster of a storm, even for this neck of the woods. The first was the fact that in the nearly 7 years I have been living up here, yesterday was the first time that I had ever heard all the plows were pulled off the roads in Houghton and Keweenaw Counties. You know it has to be bad when those seasoned professionals declare it unfit to be out in. I heard that there were cars off the roads all over the place up here. See, even Yoopers can have problems driving in the snow! The second sign to me it was a monster was that in the entire time I have lived up here I have taken the local paper and yesterday was the first time that it was not delivered. The third sign was that yesterday was the first time I have ever started out on a walk, got the 200 feet to the end of my block and turned around because it is too nasty out. The winds yesterday afternoon were so strong and it was snowing so hard that at times visibility dropped to zero. I was worried that someone trying to get home would not see us and would run into Burt, Nora or I, or all three. Plus you had to try and walk where a vehicle had been down because the snow was well over a foot deep on the roads and the snow would just pelt you in the face. So yesterday it was actually too nasty to even take a walk and that has never happened before, we are all pretty tough when it comes to the weather elements. I sure was glad that the storm hit yesterday instead of next Monday. That is when I am flying out west to Wyoming!  Would have been a real bummer to be snowed in and not be able to get out there on time!
    Things quieted down a bunch today. It was still snowing and blowing pretty good early this morning and with the roads still in pretty rough shape so school was canceled for everyone, which also meant that Nora had the day off. Ever since taking the job she has hoped for a snow day. She loves her job, the folks she works with, but still was hoping for that "snow day". There have been some near misses, with a storm back in February actually being bad enough that it could have been canceled, but the storm did not get going until around midday. Another storm happened on a weekend and thus school was already out. Anyway, Burt and I enjoyed having Nora home with us today. She rewarded us with a nice special breakfast and lunch and helped out some with the clearing of the snow.
    I actually had cleared the driveway for her when she was coming home yesterday afternoon. The trusty Ariens ate through the 14" of snow like a hot knife through butter, but when I woke up this morning it looked like I had never even touched the snow on the driveway. Here is me clearing a path out to the road early this morning so that I could haul the garbage out to be picked up today. The snow on the driveway was that which fell from about 4pm yesterday until this morning, after I had already cleared the 14" off yesterday afternoon. It was blowing around so hard overnight it was difficult to get an accurate measurement. The snow on the snow station was only about an inch deeper from when we went to bed, but then there was about 6" more on the ground near the snow stick and about 12" new on the driveway. I decided to go more with the snow stick accumulation as the driveway may have just gotten blown in. So my official depth for the storm was 19", but that could have been a little conservative. There were other reports of totals in the low 20's and Painesdale just a bit south of Houghton reported 32" of new snow in the 24 hour period ending 7 am this morning and had a depth of 48" on the ground at 7 am this morning. That was not the deepest depth around these parts though. That honor went to Phoenix Farm with a 55" on the ground reported as of this morning. That is just 5" shy of 6 feet of snow on the ground on the level- truly ankle deep...if you go in head first!  Unless we have a really big thaw happen in the next few weeks, I bet we will be taking our last ride of the season deep into April this year.
    The previous picture really was me just making a path out to the end of the driveway so I could haul the garbage out. I went back inside and finished my morning work and then had breakfast before venturing back out to finish clearing the drive way.  Here is a shot of me finishing up the driveway this morning. The banks are Keweenaw deep again in my neighborhood as well as everywhere else. Burt and Nora joined me in helping clear the driveway. Burt loves to flop down in the snow. I call it a Fosbury Flop as in the kind of flop a high jumper does in track and field. I can actually ask him to do it and he will oblige me. When there is a few inches of snow on the ground he will do it and make snow angles. The funny thing is he does it several times during the course of a walk and Baileys never did it. Of course after rolling around in the snow, a labrador has to shake himself off.
    It actually worked out pretty good Nora having the day off. We were able to get an early start on our planned snowmobile ride. I swapped out the old belts for the brand new ones and we were able to take a nice ride up to Phoenix, stopped in at the Vansville for a Diet Coke and then headed back. About the perfect distance to break in a belt. Plus the riding speed was perfect too. Mostly 30-40 mph and occasionally up to 50-55 on the straight aways.  Nora did very good, it being her first ride of the season and about 3rd or 4th ride in her life. The trails south of Mohawk were actually not groomed yet. Not sure why, perhaps a mechanical problem. It was not an issue for most of the time as just a few sleds had been down and things were not bumpy at all. In fact it was a little like riding the backcountry with just a few tracks and all the deep snow on the trail. The trails did get a little rough where they went through or by an open field as the drifts were pretty big in spots and the grooming would have been welcomed to flatten them out. I like drifts, they are fun to launch off of, but not when they are packed down by other sleds and basically just big moguls. Two groomers come out of Mohawk and the trail that we rode north of Mohawk to Phoenix was in great shape. With the storms big totals in the past 24 hours, Jerry had to call out the heavy artillery to move the snow around his lot.
    We did not spend too much time warming up and taking a break as we wanted to get home in time for Burt's feeding time. On the way back we came across some rather large drifts building up off the side of the trail where a field ended in a tree line near the trail. There is a bit of a hill where the drifts are formed, so they are not 20 feet high, but I would venture to guess at least 10-15 feet high. Wonder how long those will be lasting? Speaking of lasting drifts, tonight I will be starting up the contest to tell when the "Laurium Glacier" will be melting. For those of you new to this. The Laurium Glacier is not an actual glacier, it is a giant snow drift that forms on Hwy 26 just south of Laurium and up the hill from Lake Linden. The contest I have in the General Discussions is to guess when the last bit of snow will finally melt there. Past dates are located in the "Firsts and Lasts" link found in the Historical Weather section of the site.  So look for the "Official Laurium Glacier Contest" post in the Misc section of the General Discussions board and place your guess. Here is a shot of the Laurium Glacier taken this evening.
    That just about covers it for this time around. The "Clean Snowmobile Challenge" is taking place today and today was actually the day for the endurance ride to Copper Harbor and back. I hope to be able to get over to see them and share some pictures with you. There are actually two electric snowmobiles this year. They cannot travel the full distance to the Harbor and back, but still a neat idea and I would like to see them.  Hope I can get up there and get some shots to share with you. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 13-
    Whew, quite the storm we have going today. When I woke up to barely even a dusting I had figured that something was terribly wrong and the models has busted. A quick review of the radar indicated that most of the energy with the first piece of energy was used up producing the thunderstorms in the southern and central Midwest and as a result the 2-5 inches of snow we were to get overnight fell apart and all we managed was a trace of new snow. The interesting thing was that the early morning runs of the models actually picked up on this drier trend for us in the overnight period, but were still indicating as much as 1.5-2" of liquid equivalent precip to fall today and tonight.  Even with wet and heavy snow that would work out to around 12-16" of snow. That is a lot of precip to fall in that amount of time, especially when it fall as snow.  Not an impossible feat to accomplish, but not something I see occur in the Midwest too often. So I had my suspicions about the big totals falling in our neck of the woods.
    It did not even snow from about 5 am through 7 am and then just some light snow started up between 7 and 8.  Then at about 9:30 the intensity picked up and it has not really let up since. So far we have picked up 14" in those 8 1/2 hours and it is still coming down pretty good. Here is a shot looking down my road, that is what it looked like for most of the day, with the visibility sitting at about a block. Here is a shot of the front of the house. I did have plans to drive around and take some more pictures of the storm, but it is so nasty out that I decided to just stay off the roads. I have heard that Keweenaw County has actually pulled it's plows off the roads. You know it has to be pretty bad when the the snowiest county in MI pulls it's snow plows off the road! Had we not lost so much snow in the days leading up to this storm it would have provided the deepest depth of the season, but it looks like the depth of 41" on Feb 23rd will take that prize this season.
    Nora and I were going to take a ride on the sleds today, but the conditions were really not even good for that.  Sure I would love to go and play in some fields, but our plan was to take a nice easy ride on the trails to break in some spare belts I bought for out west. I figure we will go tomorrow when things calm down. Conditions should be very good as temps are dropping now and look to remain cool the rest of the week. Plus all this new snow will be groomed and the traffic is very low during the week at this time of the year. I'll be sure to take the camera along to show you what conditions are like. We will probably not go too far, but should be able to give you a good representation of things.
    I did not ride this weekend. It was actually the weekend for the annual spring ride in up north. However, after feeling back to 100% on Friday, I woke up on Saturday not feeling too good and had the old wobbly legs back, so I just took it east both Saturday and Sunday. I felt 100% again today and took it pretty easy. I did drive to the post office and over to Al's shop, but that was about it. I should have brought my camera to Al's today. Normally he has a an auto or truck in there for repair as well as maybe a sled awaiting some work. Today I went in and the shop was full of sleds. Several of the crew had their sleds in there getting them ready for the trip out west. Some were just working on clutching and jetting adjustments and other were more serious like drive gears and slide rails. I have some lighter weights coming for my primary clutch for the 800 and don't really plan to do anything with the 700's clutching as it will just be a back up. I do have some slightly lighter weights laying around that plan to bring along and could put in the 700 if need be, but they are still too heavy for the elevations we will be riding at. Poor Al, he has really been burdened with the task of getting everyone's sled set up for out west. As mentioned most of the changes are just clutching and he is the clutch magician, so I know I have no worries.
    I am getting really excited to head out west as are the rest of the crew. They have been having a really good winter out there and I just talked to a friend out there that said they rode in 2 feet of fresh powder this past weekend. Looks like Togwotee will get a storm later Tuesday and into Wednesday and again later this weekend. Not huge storms, but the lodge could pick up several inches and the higher elevations out there would see double that, maybe even up to a foot of fresh with each event. Even better news than that the new snow is sticking well to the old snow, so the avalanche danger has been low and will probably remain that way. Not that there is NO avalanche risk, but low is better than moderate, or considerable or high or extreme! I think we should be able to go just about anywhere we would like to, or at least like to try!
    Well, I guess that gets you caught up in things for this time.  Will be at least one more journal before I go and then the doosy when I return. We will be riding for 4 days and I should have tons of stories and tons of pictures. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 9-
    Gonna get out a journal tonight even though I do not have much to write. I am still wrestling with this flu bug I came down with a week ago. Things are getting better. Yesterday I was down to just one nap for the day (down from 2-3 from previous days) and today I did not even need to take a nap.  I still really do not have any other symptoms other than fatigue and today that never really hit.  Needless to say that I have been staying in, not riding the sled and not even taking walks with Burt. Poor guy, he really misses his walks, but it is probably best to let his paw heal up before he puts too many miles on it.  It is healing very well and he is raring to go. The few times he does go out he just wants to run around and act like nothing even happened.  Once he is all healed up I don't think he will even know that digit is gone from his paw.
    I suppose I picked a pretty good time to get sick.  Had it been in the previous two weeks I would have been sick for the ride in and even missed some of the best snow we had all season. Had it been in another week I would be worrying about getting better before heading out to Togwotee and had it been in two weeks I would have been sick while at Togwotee.  So I am really not complaining too much at all, as things could be worse and I does look like I am just about over this thing.
    The weather has been pretty spring like the past several days.  Not blazing hot, but warm enough to melt off some of the snow. All the main roads are bare and the secondarys are becoming bare too. Even my driveway is starting to show some spots of asphalt, although in other areas there is still a 2-3" thick mat.
    I was actually hoping to get out and take come pics of the trails up here just so folks could see what was happening, but just never got the head of steam to be able to do it. I did have to run to Houghton today and did take some hard looks at the trails between here and there and I can say that the trails are holding up very well. Not that there has been any kind of a huge melt off up here, but still plenty of snow on the trails, even near the towns. Now, as mentioned the roads are bare and I suppose that some of the trail between Houghton and South Range could be in rough shape as it always is one of the first to go, but the trails through Ripley, Dollar Bay and then up to Lake Linden were still completely snow covered and the snowpack on the wooden bridges just south of Dollar Bay was about 12-16", so that would be the base in those areas.  I would venture to guess that the base on the trails further north is even larger as temps are colder up there and they had more snow.  So we still have riding up here and based on what I can see in the forecast, should be fine for the rest of the month. Looks like the potential for some pretty serious snows early next week with cold temps to follow for a week, maybe more. That puts us in the final week of the month with as much or maybe more snow than we have right now.  I am not placing odds on if I have seen my deepest depth just yet, but maybe.
    I can say that I am glad that I did not shovel off the roof. I was going to last week and then got sick and have not been able to do it this week, so it really was as much an issue of not being able to do it vs. choosing to not do it, but in either case mother nature has lightened the load up there and done the work for me. Still over a foot, but unless we get the storm of the century next week I should be able to forgo having to shovel the roof for the rest of this season.  Between you and me I really would not cry about it even if I did have to! Of course in a way I am looking forward to spring.  Yes, you really did hear that from me. This year I have something to really look forward to when the snow melts, I get to built the cabin up at the property! So it can snow all it wants, but I will not be too depressed once it finally starts to go.
    Despite the warmer temps, there is the Jr. Olympics going on. It is actually a cross country ski event for the youth, so bobsled, luge, hockey or figure skating.  It's a pretty big deal none the less though, with lots of folks in town for it. They are holding it up at the tech trails and I bet they are wishing for some cooler temps, although you can ski in this kind of snow, you just need to prepare the base of your skis properly. I have not been able to get over to see any of the competition and speaking of the luge, they did bring in a bunch of snow and pile it on the street by the Library Restaurant and made a "luge" run for the opening days of the Jr. Olympics.  It was actually a tubing run, but looked fun and had I been feel better would have enjoyed taking a run on it.  Even in the winter it seems like there is always something going on up here.
    Well, I guess that covers it for this one.  Hopefully the next time I will have some fun snow shots!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 5-
    Ahhhh, nice to be back among the living again!.  That is the second time this winter that I have been knocked down by some kind of a bug.  I am not used to that as it seems like I am usually just getting admitted to the hospital for something life threatening rather than catching the flu or a virus!  I'm still not 100% (as if I am ever 100%), but at least I can walk around again and function close to that of a normal human being.  Kind of stinks to be so weak you cannot hardly stand and can't even open a pop bottle. I can be thankful that I did not have any other symtoms though.  Just chills and severe aches for the first 12 hours or so and then lots of weakness for the rest of the time. I think one thing that drives me nuts about things like this is that I am not real good and sitting (or laying as the case was this time) around and doing nothing.  I am not one of those hyper roosters that bounces around like a ping pong ball, but I spend almost no time sitting in front of the TV and just like to be doing something that I can look back and see some accomplishment from.  So lying in bed for 2 1/2 days makes me extremely stir crazy!  But enough of that, I am on the mend and hopefully that will be it as far as illnesses go this winter.
    I did get to take a fun ride last Tuesday and was excited to talk about it. I got home too late on Tuesday to write a journal and then had to go be the featured speaker at a gathering on Wednesday evening, then got sick on Thursday and remained too ill to do much until today, so here I am.  My ride on Tuesday was something that I have tried to have happen for at least 2 years now, but for one reason or another (all having to do with me or the weather) we have not been able to make it happen. The ride I am talking about is a ride with Dave Sleeman the owner (with his wife Lori) of the Wildlife Refuge Cabins in South Range.  He rides primarily south of the bridge and knows that neck of the woods as well as the gang I ride with knows the real estate north of the bridge.  There is some great off trail riding south of the bridge and in some cases it might be said there is better off trail riding south of the bridge.  Just to be clear about things, the "bridge" I am talking about is the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock. I did not want folks to think I was talking about the Mackinac Bridge.
    It's always a special treat to go and ride in areas never seen before and with a person who really knows where they are going.  I don't mind having to turn around and double back and if you ride with me that is standard operating procedure, but to be following a leader that just takes all the right turns and can find all the best spots does make it that much more fun. I have ridden south of the bridge a few times before this and I am amazed at how many logging roads there are out there.  I suppose like up here, a good portion of them might just lead to a dead end, but you can sure ride for miles and miles.  We started out at the cabins and rode the groomed trail south a bit and then jumped off. At first the trails we jumped onto had tracks on them, but slowly it became apperant the amount of traffic that had been to the off trail spots we were riding on was dropping off and soon we got to a 4 way intersection, Dave stopped the sled and when we pulled up along side him he grinned and said; "Ah... no one has been back here yet".  If you are ever riding in the back country and your guide utters those words, it is a magical moment.
    Before going on I snapped a shot of our group for the afternoon. It was the "3 Daves and I".  For the rest of the afternoon we were pretty much riding on conditions just like this.  It doesn't get any better than that! The snow was plenty deep and the top poweder still fluffy enough to pretty much just carve your way around all the corners.  Some nice little lumps to jump off of on the sides of the trails a well.
    After about an hour or so of making first tracks Dave asked if I wanted to see a frozen waterfall and I said absolutely, so we headed off for the Sante Falls. Upon arrival, the other two Daves chose to remain back with the sleds while Dave and I headed down to the falls. It became appearant to me pretty quickly why the others had decided to sit the hike down to the falls out as we pretty much had to drop straight down into the gorge the falls drop into to get there. However, it was not the drop down that concerned me, but rather the climb back up. Irreguardless, it was well worth the trip down and back up to take in the ice incased falls of the Sante. There was still some water flowing inside the ice as the stream below the falls had water running through it. However, the ice around the water had to be a few feet thick at least.  Dave said that they will have hot dog roasts out there sometimes and will even bring a rope to assist in the climb back up the gorge. The falls were not the only place that large ice formations had developed. Anywhere water trickled over the edge of the sandstone formation it eventually froze and formed some giant iceicles.
    After the falls, Dave said we could head down south a bit to a place where there were "some pretty nice hills to play on". That sentance ended up being the understatement of the day, for when we got to his hill climbing play spot, my jaw hit the gas tank and stayed there for a good 60 seconds.  I could not believe my eyes. It was like a hill climbing nirvana!  Mind you the hills still had trees on them, so you are Keweenaw hill climbing. But man where there the hills!  There seemed to be one main cut that ran through the hills, with several large branches and even more smaller branches. The hills seem to vary in size from 50-100 feet to some that looked to be around 200-300 feet high.  Not Wyoming, Colorado, Montana or other out west types of terrain changes, but very respectable for the Keweenaw.
    We got busy climbing hills and each got stuck more than once, but it seemed like we were all coming to the rescue of one another and none of the stucks were all that bad.  I actually do not have any stuck pictures and do not have any action shots either. I did take some shots of the hills, but to try and capture the entirety of the whole spot was impossible with one single photo.  So here is a shot of the middle ground hills- probably around 100-125 feet high. Here is a shot of the smaller hills- probably around 50-75 feet high. Here is a shot of Dave riding up the the valley down by the little hills section.  This was a huge area too, probably running a mile in one direction and being 1/3rd to 1/2 of a mile wide, plus there were almost no tracks in the whole spot, which ment it has not really been discovered yet and I doubt it ever will be.  You are never going to get it's location out of me and I would have a pretty difficult time finding it again myself!
    After the hill climbing, we found our way back to the main trail, it was getting late so we just rode back to the cabins and I loaded the sled back onto Old Blue, talked with Dave for a while and then headed back north to home. As you can well understand there really has not been much else in my life left to write about. Burt did need some surgery to remove a growth on his right front paw. It was not possible to remove all of the growth and save the digit it was on, so the Dr had to remove his "index finger" on his right front paw.  The bad news is that he is now without that digit, the good news is that by removing the digit all the way to the knuckle joint, there is a very good possibilty that they will have what is called a clean medium, which means that all of the growth was removed and if it was cancerous it cannot regrow and spread to other parts of his body.  The entire digit was sent off for a biopsy and we'll know the results in a little over a week. The other good news is that he is doing very, very well in his recovery.  He came home on Friday afternoon and was walking around on it like nothing even happend.  It is bandaged and he has a bunch of stitches that need to come out in 2 weeks, but the Dr said he can go for some mild walks and he has already been out with Nora on Saturday and then Nora and I today.  His ability to recover from these things just amazes me.  We will be keeping our fingers and toes crossed for a good report back from the biopsy.
    I guess that pretty well gets you caught up on things around here.  Myself and the rest of my riding crew is getting excited to head out west. In just 2 weeks the sleds and others will be on their way and I will be flying out the next day.  Things have been pretty slow in our snow department for the past week, but I know winter is not over for us yet!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
 
 
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