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December 30-
    Here it is, the last journal for the month AND the year! Hard to believe we will be saying good bye to 2007 already.  All in all I think it was a pretty good year. Our first full one living up here in the cabin and otherwise I cannot really think of any major happenings for the year. Weather wise, we struggled through a rather lack luster winter and then an epic spring snow storm. Summer was one of the driest, but not exceptionally hot. We had a wet autumn and then winter got off to a rather aggressive start this season. No major health issues for Nora or I, but quite a scare with Burt in early Autumn, but all seems to be well with him at the moment. So I guess other than the monster snowstorm of April 07, this past year will probably fade into the memory banks of not supplying anything too exciting or memorable, which I guess is good in a way.
    I have no idea what 2008 will be offering up and I would have it no other way. Life's a journey, not a destination and I have found it best to enjoy the ride and not worry too much about where you are going. 2008 should find some new items up here at the property. Come spring I plan to get going on some projects on the shop and the cabin. For the cabin it will be a coat of Sikkens and a deck for the front. For the shop it will be another 25-30 feet onto the front of it as well as a coat of Sikkens. The addition to the shop will be for the toys. The part that is up right now was designed to only be a woodworking shop and has been temporarily housing things like the sleds, the ATV, snowthrower and lawn mower, but I am looking forward to having a dedicated shop for those items as well as any future items of that nature. It will be insulated and heated and I may even run some water into it so I can wash the vehicles in the middle of winter. I also plan to insulate the woodworking portion of the shop so that we can start heating it and use it in the winter too. So 2008 will have those items to remember it by and hopefully lots of other pleasant memories.
    I really do not have much to share with you this time around. For one I just wrote 3 days ago and secondly, I have been battling a little cold for the past few days. Nothing too major, but I did have a little episode happen to me on Friday night that sent me to the ER. My cold started out with a sore throat Wednesday and then started to find it's way to my head in the way of congestion by later Thursday and into Friday. I decided to go to bed early Friday and try and give my body some rest, plus was planning to ride with some of the gang on Saturday and wanted to be rested for that. So I took some Sudafed before going to bed on Friday and it helped clear up my head that I fell asleep well. Burt then got me up at 10:30 to go out and my head was already stuffed up. I had taken the first dose of Sudafed at 6:30 and could take another in 4-6 hours, so I took a second dose hoping it would lighten up my head and let me get back to sleep. I tossed and turned a bit and then about 20-30 minutes later my lungs started to fill up with fluids. I knew this because two years ago they did the same thing when I developed pulmonary edema out west. I tried sitting up and then standing up and it got no better. Nora was at a friends house for a get together, so I called her to let her know what was going on and that I thought maybe I should go to the hospital so they could see what was up.
    So she left the party and came and picked me up and we drove through the snow to the hospital. By the time we made it there, my breathing had eased and the fluid seemed to not be a problem, but we went in anyway. The took my vitals and my heart rate was quite elevated and my oxygen levels were low, so at least it did not come across as though I was a wimp! The took some x-rays and drew some blood too. Both of those tests coming back negative. However, when I laid back down, the fluid did return to my lungs, so the Dr. in the ER gave me some medication to help my body get rid of it's excess fluids. The diagnosis was that the decongestant in the Sudafed caused some issues with my heart that then brought on what is called a "Flash Pulmonary Edema", or a quick development of fluid in the lungs.
    So the good news is that we know what caused it, but the bad news is I now have to forever stay away from all medications that contain a decongestant, which will stink every time I get a cold! Sinus headaches are no fun and I will not really have anything to combat them with. The other bummer is that I did not ride yesterday with some of the regular gang, nor did I ride today and we have some pretty nice conditions for that. However, I am feeling better today and plan to rest again tomorrow (after getting up at 4:15 to do my regular work duties and the website duties). Some new snows look to fall later tomorrow through Wednesday, so I should be good to go by then.
    So my little cold has curtailed my activity and thus I do not have any pictures or stories to share and am pretty much out of things to write about! Almost. I do need to start reminding you all that the Ride-In is sneaking up quickly. In 5 weeks it will be over. Also folks wanting to be able to receive their commemorative t-shirt at the event need to register by January 13, so you only have two weeks left to do that. After that you will still receive the t-shirt, but it will come after the event is over and there will be an additional shipping charge to get it to you. We have quite a few folks signed up already, but there is room for lots more, so I really hope you will consider coming up and having some fun with us.
    Before I sign off I also want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Hope you all ring in the new year safely and with ones you love, that is our plans!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
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December 27-
    I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, or at least all of those that celebrate it! We sure did. While we missed being with family (first time in my life I was not home for the holidays), it was nice to be in the Keweenaw for Christmas. It was also nice to have a relaxing day in which we could do what ever we wanted when ever we wanted. Typically our Christmas's have included waking up early enough to get things going with the opening of the presents. Then having the traditional Christmas morning breakfast and then packing up and spending the next 7 hours in the car, only to arrive home, fix some dinner, open our presents that Nora and I give each other and then go to sleep. This year we were able to sleep in a bit, have a nice breakfast, open presents at a leisurely pace and then just relax. We took Burt for a walk, went down and spent some time with Nora's grandmother and had a nice relaxing dinner at home.
    It even snowed a tiny bit in the afternoon and evening. Not a huge storm and the weekend bust was not so much fun to deal with, but I can say that my spirits really did not sink too much with the rains. I cannot lie, I was not happy about the rains and warm temps, but the snow held up pretty good and quite honestly I just kept reminding myself what is really important in my life. Those two is what it is all about. Snow is fun, snow can lift my spirits, but Nora and Burt are my life and to have them in it is all that really matters when push comes to shove. It is what made spending Christmas up here not only bearable, but special. I don't think I could have done that one alone!
    Then as if to say she was sorry for the weekend weather, Mother Nature gave us a nice little dumping yesterday. It looked like a pretty solid 3-5" was possible in our area with the system working through yesterday, but we ended up with around 7" new. It started snowing at around noon and by 1 pm it was really starting to come down. I jokingly said to Nora how it would be great if it kept up like that for the rest of the day and wouldn't you know it did! We took Burt for his afternoon walk down at the north shore. We did not walk the beach, but did walk the road that goes along the beach and it was nice to see the trees all flocked again and walking in the heavy snow that was falling really was nice. Looking around now, you would never even know there was a thaw and rain this past weekend. The depth is back to where it was and everything is all nice and fresh white. Even good old Burt seemed to enjoy the new snow.
    Today I hopped on the sled to hook up with a friend of the site and friend of mine Steve. I was anxious to ride as it had been over a week since I took a ride in the bush. I did have a nice little ride with Nora's brother and family last Friday and then there was the quick spin on Christmas, but today's ride was a good old fashioned exploration. I did have to ride up to Phoenix to meet Steve, but that only takes 10-15 minutes- especially when the trails are like this. Here is a shot of the "Snow Gauge" trail on it's way out of Phoenix.
    It was also nice to be back on the 800. The 700 is a fun sled, but there is just something about the way the 800 rides and it's low end jumpiness. I met up with Steve at the Vansville and then we wasted no time jumping off trail. I do enjoy riding the trails, but the slower pace of things off trail is nice and most importantly the scenery off trail is what really draws me in. I don't know how many times I have been given the pleasure of riding down a bush trail in similar conditions, but I can say it never gets old! Steve and I wound our way through the woods and up to one of the overlooks along the Cliff Range. It was snowing, but lightly enough to afford us a view up the valley toward Phoenix. We then decided to do some exploring. It seems like many times I go out on a ride it is on familiar trails and we have an pretty set objective. What I really like to do is to just off down a trail and see where it goes. Some dead end after a mile or less and others go on and on and then dead end and then there is the lucky one that you find occasionally that goes on and on and hooks up with other trails. today's adventure took us down more trails that dead ended than went through and the one trail that we knew would go through was being used by some loggers, so rather than get in their way, we turned around- even though the owner of the land was there clearing snow and said we could go through the logging operation. Even though the majority of the trails we explored today ended up being the "turnaround" kind, we still had a blast out there in the fresh snow and winter wonderland, complete with Lake Superior in the background.
    It was getting towards sunset and we did not have much time to do any more serious exploring, but there was still enough light to do a little more riding in the backcountry, so we got on the trail and rode that for a while to a jumping off point I know about and headed back down toward home. While on the trail we pulled off so I could snap another shot of it's condition as well as the fresh snow we picked up just off to the side. We found our way back down toward Mohawk and home and it was still light out, so I took one more picture of the main trail so you all could see it's condition. Traffic is picking up around here, but it is by no means busy for this time of the year. I suppose it will get busier as we reach the weekend. A lot of folks will probably take Monday off and thus have a 4 day weekend. Plus with good snow to ride in areas of MN and WI folks will be going there instead of coming here. So I suppose things will not be as crazy up here as it typically is. I can say that many of the riders we saw today were families with kids. It is great to see kids out riding as that is the future.
    So things are back to being in very good shape up here- not that they ever got that bad. It looks like we will be getting some fresh snow just about every day through New Years, so that will be nice as well. I am a little worried about things towards the end of next week, but it seems like the models are not quiet as aggressive with the warm up as they were previously and hopefully that trend towards cooler temps in the forecast for later next week will continue. We could certainly handle some warm temps with out serious problems, but no snow lover likes to see a January thaw!
    I guess that about covers it for this one, but no December 27th journal entry would be complete without a pic of the Birthday Boy having his spaghetti dinner.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 25-

December 23-
    I was planning to be able to sit down to write a journal today and fill it full of pics of me and my buddies busting a foot of fresh powder, but Mother Nature had other plans for us this time around. This storm sure will be a memorable one, but mainly for the wrong reasons. It decided to track about 50-70 miles to the west of what was forecasted and deepened a bit more than was anticipated and this allowed a finger of warm air to wrap all the way around to the north and even northwest side of the low and we saw rain and not snow. Had the storm been weaker, it would have most likely brought us mainly snow or had it tracked over Green Bay rather than about 50-70 miles to the NW of Green Bay we also would have been in all snow and not rain.
    It was an emotional roller coaster this morning. I woke up and started my Sunday work at around 5 am this morning and it had actually snowed a bit overnight and the temp was just below freezing and more importantly the dewpoint was a few degrees below freezing. So I had hopes that we could stay in the cold air as the storm and it's mass of moisture move in and my spirits were cautiously optimistic. At about 6:30 am the temp and dewpoint rose rapidly to around 35-36 degrees and then the rains hit and my spirits sank as it look like what the latest runs of the models were saying would come true. I kept an eye on things as I thought some dynamic cooling might overcome the finger of warm air being advected into our neck of the woods, but it was not to be. The temp and dewpoint hung out around 35 all morning and we saw some heavy rain. All told it looks like the Airport picked up around .65" of rain. My rain gauge is in the shelter as it is not heated.
    The rains stopped around noon, so I decided to hop in Old Blue with Burt and take a little tour of the Keweenaw to snap some shots of the conditions of the trails up here. I am not going to put too much personal opinion into things as opinions can vary and I would just rather let the pictures show the conditions and let you all decide for yourself if it is worth it to come up here this week. However, I can say that I was pretty surprised at most of what I saw and the surprise was to the good side not the bad. Obviously being above freezing for three days in a row and picking up 2/3rds of an inch of rain this morning was not a good thing and the conditions did deteriorate, but in general things seemed to hold up fairly well.
    I guess I can start out with a shot that illustrates how much snow is still down in my yard. That was a shot of my snowmobile trailer that has not been moved or cleared since the snow started flying around 4 weeks ago. The depth I have in my yard is 14-15". I think one reason why the snow held up so well is that it was already very well settled and thus quite dense and could not be compacted much more by warm temps and rain and could only melt. With the cloudy skies and very low sun angle this time of the year, even with the temps above freezing, the snow loss was not that great in my yard, going from 18" earlier this week to my current 14-15".
    So Burt and I got into Old Blue and headed south through the valley and down into Lake Linden. Our first picture stop was up at the tracks where the hounds and I used to walk all the time. It is where the trail crosses Normand Road just to the north-northwest of downtown of Lake Linden by a mile or two. In that one I decided to show the road crossing as that is where the nastiest conditions I saw were. I do not show any other of the crossings themselves because about 20-40 feet past them, the trails improve and that is what you will be riding on mostly. So here is a shot of the trail beyond the crossing at that same Normand Rd crossing.
    We got some gas in LL and then headed down 26 through Hubbell, Tamarack City, Mason and just before Dollar Bay stopped to take another shot. The snow was thinner down there and there was a bit of snirt mixed in with the snow as well. Almost the worst that I saw today- almost. Here is the shot looking south at that same crossing. When we got down to the thriving metro areas of the big sister cities of Houghton/Hancock we saw the worst conditions. One major question everyone always seems to ask is: "Is the lift bridge passable?". Well, Burt and I crossed over the lift bridge and I parked in the lot for the business incubator and snapped a shot of the approach for the bridge on the Houghton side. Pretty thin, but not bare. I did not walk out and snap a shot of the snow mat on the bridge itself, but it was about the same as the approach I showed in the last shot. The trail coming into Houghton from South Range can also be a bit of a problem with low snow conditions up here. They seem to have addressed that by using the plow bank for the snowmobile trail. Looked to be about 2 feet of base there. We did not go any further than that, so I cannot comment on the condition of the trail from beyond the chutes and ladders to South Range, but can comment that the trail in South Range looks fine via the trail cam shot.
    We then turned around and crossed the bridge into Hancock and other than my shot of the approach to the bridge, I think this next shot has the worst of the conditions we saw today. It is where the trail rides along Hwy 41 near the Citgo gas station on the west end of Hancock. But as you can see the trail basically rides right along the side of the road here for about a block or two and catches all the road grime as well. I was going to take a shot of the trail in the other direction at that spot, but a vehicle was coming up the road and I did not want to block their way. Basically in that direction the trail was better, but still not as good as other areas we saw today.
    Our next shot did not take place until we had passed through Calumet, but I figured the trail between Hancock and Calumet travels through the countryside and it would be in no worse shape that the other shots I have of the trail through the country side. I also figured that the few road crossings through Calumet would be no worse than any of the crossings through Hancock. So we pulled off the side of Hwy 41 and snapped a shot of where the trail crosses Hwy 41 near the Northgate Motel just north of Calumet. The next shot is of where the trail crosses Hwy 41 again, this time just immediately south of Mohawk.
    I decided to head northeast up 41 a bit and see how things were in Phoenix. I actually rode the trail up to the Vanesville in Phoenix on Thursday afternoon. Nora's brother and family are in town, so I rode double with my niece on the back of the 700 and Nora's brother and his wife rode double on the back of the 800. Conditions on Thursday were fine, even though the temp was near or even a bit above freezing. We even passed the groomer heading down from up north. Conditions today in Phoenix were not quite as good as on Thursday, but were still not bad at all. By the way, those were snow chunks, not rocks on the trail! Burt and I were then growing a bit tired of driving around, so we headed back home, but not before taking a picture of the trail not far from our place, just outside of Mohawk.
    So that is what we saw today. I can say that I did not sugar coat what we saw. I only had road crossings to work with, but tried to show as much as what I saw without any bias. I realize that this is not the same as riding the trails, but I did not want to mess them up by riding on them, although I could have. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of conditions up here. Certainly not as good as they were just a few days ago, but also certainly not a disaster. I will go on to say that the rains have stopped, the temp has fallen to below freezing and it is lightly snowing. Mother nature has decided to throw some salt in our wounds today by putting us in the dry slot of the storm this afternoon and pushing all the snow off to our west and even south. We will likely get into a bit of that snow as the storm lifts off to the northeast. We could even see a bit of LES occur tonight and early tomorrow and all told, maybe around 1-3" by sunrise tonight. The forecast for the week ahead sees a bit of light snow possible with a front on Wednesday and maybe even a bit of LES behind that front Wed night and Thursday, but nothing more than a couple of inches with that activity. There are ideas of a more meaningful snow by next weekend and temps all of this week look to remain below freezing. I am not going to get into the business of saying if you should come or not. I know I would, but opinions can vary. Hopefully all of this info will be of use to you if you were wondering if you should come up here or not.
    My final two shots revolve around the only bright side to the warmer temps. On Thursday morning, the cabins roof cleared of all it's snow and by the afternoon, the shops roof had also self cleared itself. We missed the north side (right side in the last pic) as it cleared when we were on our short snowmobile ride Thursday, but we were able to catch the south side clearing as we sat outside and chatted after the ride. So now there is a big pile of snow next to the shop too!
    So I guess that will about do it for this time. Not the journal I was expecting to write, but that's the way it goes sometimes!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 20-
    Sneaking in a short one today. I have some other things to attend to with the website, but figured I would try and put out a few paragraphs and share a few pictures since I have them and a bit of time. We continue to be in a bit of a holding pattern here with winter. The snow settles a few inches and then we get a few inches. It settles again and we replenish it again. The nice layer of fluff we had is gone, but that is ok because we now have an awesome base and our depth really has not changed much in the past week or so. Plus there are signs that quite a bit could fall later this weekend. The models have really been having a time with this storm and I am sure it will pull surprises right up to the very end, but it does look like some pretty serious snow will fall later Saturday through Sunday.
    With Christmas early next week, we might normally not even be around to partake in the storm for this weekend, but Nora, Burt and I are staying put this year. Yep, Christmas in the Keweenaw for the Dee's this year. It is actually a little bittersweet as this will be the first time in my life that I have never been with my family for Christmas. A 41 year streak comes to an end this year. That is the bad part. The good parts are we are pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas and we do not have to spend the better part of Christmas Day in the car driving home like we usually do. It will be very strange not being down there for Christmas and partaking in all of the traditions, but Nora and I will be starting some traditions of our own and are looking forward to a nice relaxing day at home.
    I did get out for a ride on Tuesday. I met up with "Groomer" John and his friend Brian. I have ridden with John on several occasions and they were up riding the area, so we hooked up on Tuesday afternoon for a ride. As mentioned, the snow was getting more and more setup, although we actually found some spots where the snow would come up over the bumper. I did not get a chance to fix the 800 on Monday, so took the 700 again. We rode northeast through the backcountry as far as light would permit and then when it got dark, headed for a trail and the closest pit stop, which happened to be Lac LaBelle. It also started to snow as it got dark and after a nice dinner and a bit of a warm up, it was back into the snow for the ride home. It snowed pretty good the whole way home, which made it fun to ride the twisty trail from Lac LaBelle to the main trail and then the main trail was also fun to be on with the snow falling into the headlights of the sled. We got back not too late and they headed back to their cabin they rented at Krupps, while I slipped out of my gear and into bed with Nora and Burt.
    So far I think I have put more miles on this season than I did through all of December and January last year and I still have almost a full weeks worth of riding to do yet for this month. I do not think I will be riding tomorrow, but plan to ride either Saturday, or now with the storm to hit Saturday night and Sunday, perhaps it will be Sunday, or maybe both! Then I plan to ride next Wednesday and I bet I can find someone to ride with the weekend before New Years too. I did get down to Al's shop and replaced the steering post on the 800. It did require me taking the engine out, or at least getting it out of the way. I guess there is one good thing to all the rebuilds I did on the 700 and that is I learned all the tricks to removing the engine. Both the 700 and 800 are pretty much identical and I was able to get the engine out, replace the post, put the engine back in in about 2 hours. Al helped me get the tension set on the chain and I took a bit of slack out of my track as it skipped a bit the last time I was on it and climbed a good sized hill. So the 800 is back in the batters box and the 700 is ever willing in the on-deck circle. The 700 is actually running very good and since it is still setup with bogies, I will probably take it when I plan to do riding in areas that may have more packed down snow and save the 800 for the true powder days.
    The snow we picked up on Tuesday evening ended up being around 2 1/2" and it was a denser snow. Not that it really matters all that much anymore with the terrific base we have, but I guess if we are just going to pick up a few inches every few days, then the denser stuff might be a little better. The snow was enough to freshen everything up again. I really like it when we get fresh snow as it covers up all the nasties from the crap they put on the roads. Our driveway was a nice pristine white on Wednesday. That was the view driving in, here is what we are blessed with as a view as we reach the end of the driveway and reach the road we live on. I have to say I never grow tired of that view, even in the summer, but especially in the winter.
    The trails we rode on Tuesday were in mint condition. Things have been pretty quiet up here. There are some riders out, but not huge volumes. The snow we have and the grooming they are doing is keeping things in really great shape. There were about 6-8 sleds and riders at Lac LaBelle on Tuesday and we passed one guy who was broke down near Phoenix (buddy was on his way to help and he did not need our assistance) and that was all the sleds we saw Thursday. Of course the whole trip up was spent in the backcountry. Anyway, if you have been up here the past 3 weeks to ride in our conditions, you know what I mean, but it really does not get any better than is has been so far. Uncrowded trails that are in great shape. I suspect that the period between the holidays will be a whole different story, but I think anyone coming up during that time period is to expect that. For now this is what we got, taken this afternoon.
    Well, I promised a short one and that is what you get this time. However, I suspect I will have some pictures and stories to tell come Sunday. I hope to ride with my usual crew on at least one of the days this weekend. So until then...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 16-
    I hope I did not jinx things with my opening statements in the last entry. Not much new snow in the past week. We did pick up about 4 inches Thursday night and have picked up an inch or two today, but for the most part, the past 7 days have been fairly quiet around here. Actually I am not too worried at all. Every winter up here has a quiet period or two, even the record breakers. Plus the forecast does have some snow in it, especially as well get to the end of this week and beyond. There is even the potential for a lot of snow around these parts and in some other parts of the Midwest in the days leading up to Christmas as well as around Christmas and the days after. So so far it looks like the "Christmas Curse" that has plagued so much of the northern Midwest the past few years, with meltdowns between Christmas and New Years, will not be happening this year.
    I had hoped to write before this, but a quiet first half of the week did not give me much to say and then the second half of the week was too busy to write! Funny how that works. I did not do much on Monday and Tuesday, other than work, tend to the daily events of the website and take Burt for his afternoon walks. Then on Wednesday I met up with Skylar and his friend Joe (who I suppose I could call my friend too, as I have ridden with him on several occasions) to ride south of the bridge. I put the 700 in the back of Old Blue and drove down to the Wildlife Refuge Cabins, where owners Dave and Lori were nice enough to let me park and drop off the sled and ride. We decided to first do a bit of trail riding and went up to the Freda Loop and took that around and back to the main trail. Skylar was hesitant at first to take that as it had 4 foot deep water holes on it back in October, but I had heard that things had frozen up pretty good on it, so we took it. The reports were correct, all the wet spots had frozen up and the trail was in good shape. They could use a bit more snow on the spots where things had been wet as the snow was thin in a few areas, but in general one can ride that trail with absolutely no problems. The main trail south from South Range to Toivola was like a giant white pool table top.
    Even with the trails being in such good shape, we did not spend much time on it. Skylar and Joe like to ride the backcountry more- just like I do, so we spent most of the day on Wednesday playing in the back country between South Range and Toivola and all took turns getting stuck. Here I am stuck for the first time of the day and third time of the season. I picked up a new backpack from Klim that you can see in that shot. It houses a shovel nicely and the shovel was put to use in that stuck. My old pack did not really have a special place for a shovel. You could put it inside the main storage area for the pack, but then you take up most of the room for other things. At the risk of sounding like a paid salesman, I really like that pack from Klim. Not only does it have the spot for the shovel and the shovels shaft, but a spot for avalanche probe, a built in water bladder and several smaller storage areas in addition to the main storage area. It is about 1/2 the size of my other pack, but yet seems to be able to store more. Plus when I wear it, I do not even know it is there. I am sure there are other packs out there that are very good too, but I really loved the one from Klim and just thought I would let everyone know if you are thinking about getting a backpack, I can highly recommend the one from Klim.
    Anyway, we played around in the backcountry for a few hours and then when it started to get dark made for the main trail and then stopped at the Mosquito for some pizza, pop and to smoke a few packs of cigarettes second handily. I think Joe, Skylar and I were the only ones in that bar not drinking and smoking! It is getting dark pretty early up here and was as dark as it would ever get by the time we finished with our dinner and smokes. It was also getting pretty cold out and the hand warmers on the 700 do not work at the moment. Actually they do not even exist at the moment! Thankfully I found a way to double up with my gloves to keep my hands nice and toasty and they did not get cold at all. Although I was glad the trip from the Mosquito to South Range was not too long as it was pretty chilly out! It even took the truck about 10 minutes to finally start kicking out heat on the way home!
    On Thursday, Skylar and Joe came up my way to ride. So we took off from our house and jumped into the backcountry right away. Well, almost right away. We did ride about 1/2 mile of trail and then jumped off. It almost seems like a waste of nice trails to get off them, but the back country was beckoning! In fact our joke was after riding the trail for a bit and stopping we would say: "You know...I am not sure, but I think I might have hit a bump back there!". I did have to stop where we jumped off the trail and take a picture of it, just to show how nice things are. I can also say that I did not look for the best spot of trail to take the picture at. ALL of the trails up here are exactly like that. Perfectly flat and 100 percent snow covered. It is really strange to be driving down a perfect trail and encounter the groomer coming towards us. They are basically grooming trails that are already perfect. All the snow we got early and the fact that traffic has been very minimal has allowed them to pack down an excellent base. Now I cannot guarantee that things will remain perfect during the busy holiday period, but I think the fact that we do have a hard packed and flat base could lead to the trails holding up much better than they typically do.
    As nice as the trails are, the backcountry is also very nice. Still plenty of untracked logging roads to find and the snow is still soft enough to pretty much carve your way down them. We headed up the spine of the Keweenaw and then decided to head back south for fear of getting caught in the backcountry with darkness setting in and gas gauges getting low. On our way back, it started to snow much like it did the previous Thursday ride, only harder. We actually ended up having a mini-Blizzard or perhaps a Blizzard with ADD. In any case, it came down pretty hard for a while. Here is a shot of my sled covered in snow after only about 10 minutes of sitting still. It was not quite dark out yet so I decided to take a side track home and we went up on top of the Cliff Range. Not much to see from up there with the falling snow, but still a fun side track. We got back to our house as it was getting dark, had some dinner and then Skylar and Joe took off to head south to Twin Lakes where they were staying.
    On Friday Nora and I were invited out to the pre-opening party for the Bear Belly Bar and Grill up at Lac LaBelle. Owners Troy and Cathy closed down the restaurant for a few months so that they could remodel things a bit and they did an excellent job. They moved the bar from the "store" area and it now takes up one full wall inside the restaurant area. There are about a dozen or so seats at the bar and the rest of the bar area has tables and chairs to sit at and enjoy the views. They have scaled down the menu there to include sandwiches and sides. Keeping it very satisfying, but simpler too. They are now open full time again and the store has been expanded now that the bar is no longer in that room. They also have gas, which will come in very handy for my backcountry excursions into the tip of the Keweenaw. I also got their web cam going as well as fixing the links to two other cams in the area. They also added a cam to the inside of their bar, which you can access through their website.
    Speaking of webcams. I spent about 4 hours auditing the NCN and all cams on it now should be working. Some of the links to the images had been broken and some of the cams were no longer in service, so were removed. I had thought it would only take me about an hour or so and it turned out to be a much larger job! Thankfully I had allotted all afternoon to get that done. I started around 12:30 and did not finish until 4:30, after which I was completely spent! We had dinner, I fell asleep on the couch and then moved to the bed at around 7:30 and slept all night (except for the times I let Burt out). So, if you should still find a cam that does not work (other than the one in Mayville NY, which said theirs should be up and going soon), let me know- but perhaps wait a day or two, I am not quite ready to jump into that arena just yet.
    Friday night we had light snow falling off the lake as we drove up to Lac LaBelle and on the way home, the skies had cleared and that allowed the temps to drop. One would think that living so far north we would be accustomed to the really cold temps, but because of the lakes modifying effect on the air temp we rarely see temps get that cold. In fact some of our coldest temps in the winter come when the winds are just lightly blowing from the south as it brings all the really cold air up from northern WI. That is what happened late Friday. The thermometer on the Blazer was reading right around zero the whole way home. Plus an inversion formed as as we drove into Mohawk, we hit a wall of smoke that was trapped under the temperature inversion. It looked like the whole town was on fire, but actually was just the smoke from the few folks that burn wood for heat.
    The clear skies of Friday night continued into Saturday. I have to admit that as much as I love the snow, it takes clouds to produce them and when we have a rare sunny day up here, it really is a nice treat. That last shot was taken as we were heading out for our afternoon walk. It was really before noon and the air temp was still only about 15 degrees, but the sunshine was warm and the winds were not blowing too bad, so it was quite pleasant. We decided to head up north a bit more and walk one of our favorite quiet country roads up here. As I was downloading and resizing the images for today's journal, Nora had Christmas music on and as if to match up perfectly with the next image, the song "Winter Wonderland" was playing. The snow is quite deep in spots up here. I have been with several persons that have ridden both north of the bridge and south and all have said that it is deeper in spots north than south. In areas of the woods that are sheltered from the winds, the snow has piled up so thickly on the trees that it looks like a wall of snow.
    Our sunshine on Saturday came the result of southerly winds. It was still plenty cold enough for the lake to make clouds and LES, but it was blowing in nearly the opposite direction from which it usually does. So on Saturday we got to experience what Canada and Minnesota experience. That being mainly clear skies, cold temps and watching the lake effect clouds blow away from you. In that last shot, the little area of white on the top edge of the lakes surface is actually Isle Royal. So I guess those lake effect clouds were not producing much lake effect snow as we could see all the way to Isle Royal clearly.
    This morning the winds shifted direction and the lake clouds and snows started to blow back in over us. It has been snowing steadily since around 6 am this morning. Never all that heavily, but we have picked up around 2" of the fluff and it is nice to see it snowing again. I actually get used to seeing it snow and when it doesn't, something just does not seem right! Sounds strange to say, but it really is true. We probably see snow fall in around 70% of the hours up here from early December through early March, so it really is a strange thing to see it not snowing. Along with the snow, the winds are blowing a bit more today, so we stuck to the low ground for our afternoon walk with Burt. I am glad we did because it was still pretty chilly out, with temps in the upper teens and the winds blowing, but somehow it always seems to be a bit warmer when the flakes are falling. While we were walking Burt decided to climb over the snowbanks and do some off trail exploring. We watched as he struggled to wade through the snow that was well over his head. At times he was able to get on top of it and we wondered what he smelled that caused him to go in there. Turns out there was some kind of an animal that was dead and lying on it's back almost completely buried in the snow. I went over to take a closer look and it was frozen into the snow, so I could not pull it out to see exactly what it was, but it looked like either a small coyote or perhaps even a dog. Only one family lives on the road we were on and we were still about a mile from their house. Plus the next closest home is several miles away, so I don't think it was a dog. I would speculate that it was a small coyote that was hit by the plow truck and thrown into the woods and Burt's sensitive sniffer found it. Really amazes me at how much more sensitive their smell is.
    Well, I guess this will cover it for this time. Hard to believe that Christmas is just a little over a week away. Actually it seems like it should already be over with the amount of snow we have and the amount of riding I have done so far. Hoping to get out at least once if not twice this week and perhaps even a weekend ride or two next weekend. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 9-
    So far this winter has been perfect... Knock on wood, but when asked what I would consider a perfect snow season I always say to get the first snows out of the way sometime in October, then have a mile autumn and then right around the start of firearm deer season Nov 15th, let it start to snow and never look back. We did not really start getting the snow until about a week after the start of the firearm deer season, but once it started it has almost never stopped! Since the 20th of November we have only had one day in which it did not snow. That is 19 out of the last 20 days. This past Friday was the first day in I cannot even remember how long that I have not had to move snow. It was actually a welcome break, but I also do not mind having to move snow. Most of the snow we have picked up in the past week has been the lake effect fluff. That snow that is so light and fluffy you can almost use a broom to clear it. We have a great base of snow down now, so I actually prefer to pick up the fluff from here on out. It really makes for great riding on. The older snow gets compacted, while the snow on top is champagne powder. Perfect for floating across and carving with a snowmobile.
    Speaking of snowmobiling. I did get out yesterday. I rode with Scott again and some friends from the Minneapolis area that come up to ride with him several times a year. I had actually ridden with one or two of them in the past as well. Anyway, we took off from the White House Motel and rode the backcountry all day, most of the time making first tracks, which is still pretty amazing to me that the backcountry is still so untracked. That is untracked until we come through! We played around for about an hour and then headed to the Vansville in Phoenix to fuel up the sleds and grab a quick bite to eat. It was back into the snow to do some more playing. We were temporarily stopped by a sled that decided to quit working. It was actually a local teenager that Scott knows. We were not sure what happened, other than it "blew up". I thought it dropped a piston skirt, or perhaps a connecting rod because the crank would spin up to a point and then freeze. I am sure that I will hear what happened to it in a few days. We got that sled towed to the road, Scott's daughter came with a truck and we loaded the sled into the back of it and went on our merry way. We found our way to a section of the pole line and stopped for a photo op. From that pic it is pretty easy to tell that the group from the MSP area was a fun one. Kind of reminded me of our riding crew. Teasing one another, but all in fun and always ready to lend a helping hand when needed.
    That section of the pole line had not a single track on it yet, so we wasted no time in putting some tracks of our own on it. The guys were all very good riders and also very smart, knowing that there could still be some hidden nasties under the snow and taking it kind of easy in spots and letting it rip where it was sure to be safe. I took it pretty easy too. This winter is off to such a great start I do not want to cause a big problem this early. That does not mean I rode like a grandma either, in fact I did manage to produce my first stuck of the season out on the pole line. About 2 minutes later I had the sled unstuck and gave the hill another try and had my second stuck of the season! That second stuck took a little more effort to get me out of and I was pretty well rung out after it, so I did not give the hill third try. Probably a smart move on my part!
    We did encounter a few other sleds out there yesterday. I did not recognize them as locals, but that section of the pole line is not exactly a big secret anymore. In fact I was very surprised to see no other tracks on it when we got to it. Of course it is possible that someone had already been down it and with all the new snow the tracks were just covered up. In any case, we did not tear up the pole line too much, moving on to some other play spots. It was in one of these other play spots that we encountered the deepest snow of the ride. It was easily 3 feet deep, with around a foot or so (bumper deep) of fresh fluff on top of a 2 foot (or more) base. Again, not a track to be found on any of the logging roads we rode on and we all took turns being the first, second or third sled to head down, as they were the ones that had the freshest snow to work with. Somewhere along this time I discovered my handle bars were a bit loose. I gave a quick check and all the bolts were still tight and discovered that the weld at the top of the steering post had been weakened. It was not cracked, but there was enough play in it that I did not want to put too much pressure on it. So I stayed in the back of the pack and gave up carving for the rest of the day.
    The only thing I can think of that caused it was on my first stuck on the hill, as I was pulling it down off the hill, it decided to roll over. It only rolled once and did not roll violently and there was enough snow on the ground that it should have been OK, but my handle bars stick up much higher than anything else on the sled, so they would take the impact of the sled rolling over and that has to have been what did it. I was able to ride it fine the rest of the day- just took it easy. I will be calling up the local Polaris dealer to get a new one. It looks like the engine will have to come out to replace the steering post, but that is not as big a job as it sounds- especially if I can keep the coolant and oil lines still hooked up to the engine and just lift the engine up and out of the way. We'll see.
    With a ride planned for this Wednesday and Thursday the 700 got called up into action, so I went out there to give it the once over and let it run for a while. I had been starting it through the course of the summer, although it had been about 2 months since it was last started. It did not want to start with the first few dozen pulls on the starter chord, so I tried a bit of gas down the spark plug holes. It fired on that gas, but would not run after burning up that fuel, so I called into Nora to see if she could give me a hand- literally. I had her put her hands over the intakes for the carbs and in a few pulls the sled was running. So the 700 is all ready for it debut in the snow for this 07/08 season and I am grateful to have a back up sled!
    I can give a quick trail report. Even though we spent about 90% of the day in the backcountry we did ride some of the trail system to get back home yesterday. First off, there is plenty of snow. I would guess that the base on the trails is at least a foot deep, if not more. Traffic has been pretty light so far, they are grooming at their usual pace and it has been cold. All of these factors mean some very nice trails. On the way home yesterday they were perfect where we were riding. Then we caught up to the groomer! However, once we passed it and were out ahead of it, the trails were still very good. A few small stutter bumps in a few spots, but nothing that would ever cause you to change your speed. Obviously I have not been on the entire trail system, but I do know they are grooming all the trails, the snow mat is down across the lift bridge, so there really is no reason not to come up and play. We have mid January conditions in early December and it only looks to get better.
    With all the snow, we have been pretty busy keeping our own trail system open. It is just a little foot path that takes us out to Burt's Pond, but it about 1/2 mile long and we have had to walk it just about every day to keep it passable. While I was out riding yesterday Nora and Burt walked a bit of it, but Nora said Burt did not seem too interested in walking it, so they turned around. The snows of yesterday and today just about caused our little path through the woods to be buried. There has not been too much wind the past few days which has allowed the snow to pile up on the trees and make what I call snow ghosts. It also looks like cotton candy, although Nora says it tastes a little differently. You know it has been snowing a lot when you look around and see the snow piled up on not just the horizontal surfaces, but the vertical ones too. That was snow sticking to the side of a birch tree that was growing pretty much straight up and down. I have actually seen snow accumulate to the tune of 5-6" on power lines up here!
    Everywhere you look it is a winter wonderland (FSV) up here. Snow drapes everything and only the most heavily traveled and heavily salted roads are free of snow. Yep, salt. A few years ago push came to shove and the state took over the snow removal of the state highways. The county still plows the county roads, but gone are the snow packed roads with a coating of stamp sand on them for traction and control. Now we get blessed with the wet roadways and salt spray on all the state highways. If you haven't been able to tell, I am not a big fan of salt on the roadways. I know a wet road is safer than one that is snow packed- even with stamp sand on it, but folks had been driving on the roads that way since the roads were first around and there were no more accidents with that system than there are now, we just go through a lot more windshield cleaning solvent these days and our vehicles do not last as long. I am not criticizing those doing work for the state up here, just the brains down state that brought their way of doing things to an area that were professionals at dealing with winter.
    Ahh, but enough of that. There is more beauty to be shared around here. It is just amazing to be traveling through the woods up here and come across an old relic from the mining era. You can't really tell, but that building is not a simple 2 story building. It it at least 30 feet high and the walls made entirely out of rock and mortar. It just amazes me at how large everything in that era was. Seems like nothing was petite.
    We accomplished our task for the afternoon in keeping the trail to Burt's Pond open. As the snow gets deeper, the path through the snow gets deeper. In spots it is already up to Burt's back. I am not sure if we will be able to keep it open all winter, but we sure will try! It would really be something to be walking down a path that is set 3 feet deep into the snow.
    Well, I have reached the end of another entry. The old mind is starting to wander and the eyelids are growing heavier. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 7-
    Well, I was planning to write yesterday, but had a narrow window in which to get things done and after a few chores and a long phone call, that window closed. So I had to postpone until tonight. I was actually hoping to write this afternoon, but again got busy so here I am! I do not know how long this will be as I am already fighting to keep my eyelids open and Nora is all alone on the couch, so there are some pretty solid reasons to get this over and done with!
    Winter continues up here. Thursday was the only day that I did not have to clear snow all week. All the snow clearing has given me lots of practice in learning the best way to do things. As I am sure you all know, this is the first year with the ATV plow so there were some new techniques to get figured out. I have them all figured out and what used to take about 45 minutes with the snow thrower alone now takes me around 20 minutes with the ATV plow and snow thrower combined. Plus the mat on the driveway is solid enough that all I have to do now is drop the plow all the way down on it and can plow. Up to this point I had to keep the plow just a bit above the surface I was plowing so that I did not scrape the driveway and kick up rocks. In any case I have all my methods figured out with the plow and ATV and can clear the driveway with much less effort and much less time. Speaking of the driveway, it has taken on a mid winter look already. So has our walking path into the woods. We have been taking it pretty regularly this week to keep it packed down. Today was the first day that we did not have to pack down the snow on it, so Burt and I actually walked the road we live on. It is not a very busy road at all and also leads to some even quieter roads, so we occasionally will just head out that way for some variety.
    With all the snow we have picked up and the fact that they are grooming on a regular basis, I have been chomping at the bit to ride. Differing activities kept me from getting out until yesterday. I hooked up with John Stachler who is responsible for starting the charity ride in and continues to be a big help with it. As mentioned, they are grooming on a regular basis now and with all the snow the trails are in mid winter form as well. Perhaps even better because there has been very little traffic on them. That was the trail not far from our house and here is the trail just north of Mohawk.
    Unlike last Saturday when our shakedown ride plans were to just ride the trails, the objective yesterday was to ride as little of the trails as possible and spend as much time off trail. I figured it would be pretty good out there with all the snow we picked up, I was just worried about how many tracks might be out there. Seems this early snow has caught quite a few locals off guard. I know there are three in my regular riding group that still have sleds in a myriad of pieces because they did not expect the snow to be so good so early. Their loss is my gain! For everywhere we went in the backcountry we were treated to this. Fresh, deep, untracked snow! The snow was a little setup, but still had enough fluff to it that we were able to carve every turn rather than use the skis to turn. I must admit that I was really surprised that we did not encounter any tracks out there the entire day. Just miles and miles of untracked logging roads. Almost seemed surreal, like suddenly we owned all of southern Keweenaw County!
    We did stop for a few rest breaks and here is John and our sleds on one of them. The 800 is running perfect and I really like how it handles without the bogeys. Seems even easier to throw around, which is still a good thing. I do not want a sled that is "tippy", but with all of that track underneath and behind me, the 800 has always been a bit more of a chore to throw around than the 700 is and way more work than the old Pol-Cat was. We did not spend too much time chatting, what with the awesome conditions we had all around us. As we rode, I thought to myself the only thing that would make this ride even better was if it were snowing. And with that, my wishes were granted. It started to snow and actually came down pretty good for a while. So the almost perfect riding conditions became perfect! The only bummer part was that it gets dark so soon that we had to head back after riding for just a few hours. But another fun and memorial ride and tomorrow I will be heading out again.
    Along with the snow, the temps have been pretty cold. January cold actually, with highs in the teens and 20's and lows in the single digits and teens. It was interesting to see that while we were in the low teens for a low yesterday morning, sub zero readings reached as far south as northern IL. Areas of northern MN and northern WI were in the teens and 20's below zero! I am not a big fan of the bitter cold and that is just another reason to be thankful for living here, that we do not get too cold too often. The cold has been causing us to use a bit more firewood than we normally would at this time of the year, but the starter pile did last until yesterday and I was hoping it would last through November. So we made it almost a week past when I was hoping to with that pile and now we have the main pile to last us through the rest of the winter. Plenty of wood in that pile, but it is also buried under 2 feet of snow! In a few years when we have everything figured out (and maybe even built) as far as other buildings go, then I will build a shelter to store the firewood in.
    The final shots I have to share with you are of the Christmas decorations Nora and I have going for this year. Nora decorated the staircase railings and the railings for the loft with lighted garland and we are hanging the stockings there too. Still hanging one for Baileys, seems too hard to not do it just yet. Oh an every once in a while I like to mess with Nora and re arrange the letters to spell L E O N, rather than NOEL. The tree is the same one we have used for several year now, only we go keep adding to the amounts of ornaments that we put on. One of our traditions has been for Nora and I to exchange ornaments at Christmas. She is very good at remembering the ones she gave me and I gave her and the only one I remember giving her is this ugly one that I bought in a panic at the last minute one year! The outside lights were completed this week, with the addition of the 60" wreath. Can you believe that Nora bought that hand made natural wreath for only $25?! It was a fund raiser for one of the hockey leagues up here. It has a very sturdy metal frame and I think we will just return the frame to them and keep getting a wreath from them every year. My final shot tonight is of the trees that we planted this autumn. Nora, Burt and I decorated them with lights and Nora even put a few ornaments on them, although I am not sure if you can even see the ornaments anymore. One thing is for sure, they sure are beautiful at night, all lit up and flocked in snow.
    Well, I really need to sign off. It has been a long day and I need my beauty rest!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 2-
    Welcome to winter everyone! Not only did meteorological winter start yesterday, the weather has been everything about winter up here for about the past week. Before I go on though I need to let anyone that missed it know that I wrote a journal last Wednesday the 28th. You can find it in the "Past Journals" link above. Now that the snow is flying and I have more to write about, I will try to sit down and put out an entry more than once a week. I may even get off the every Sunday routine and just write when the material is present and I have the time, so I guess what I am trying to say is you might want to check every few days now to see if I have written something new.
    Now back to our regularly scheduled program... As I was saying, winter has arrived in the Keweenaw! Since last Tuesday I have picked up 36.5" of snow and many areas from Calumet north as well as some of the higher terrain south of Houghton have seen similar totals. It looks like the beginning of January, not the beginning of December! It is just amazing how fast things can change around here. Around a week ago we were close to 20" below average for the month of November on snowfall. I knew that the week was going to bring some decent snow, but I was wondering how far below average we would end up being for the month. It turns out we were 10" ABOVE average for this November. That is what I call making up ground! It has been a week of plowing snow and throwing snow as well. In fact that is about all I did today, other than heading to Houghton to do a little shopping with Nora and Burt. Today has been pretty quiet so far and I am actually thankful for the break. I love snow, but after getting so much so quickly it is nice to have a little intermission to get things cleaned up and the snow pushed back enough to make room for the next round. I was also glad to see much of the northern Midwest get some snow from the storm yesterday. It would really be nice for there to be good conditions for snow play across all of the northern Midwest. The forecast looks to keep things cold and bring some more snows, so perhaps we will end up with one of those winters to remember fondly.
    The snows up here for most of the week were lake effect and that meant some areas got hit one day and then others the next. It is always such a challenge to try and forecast that locally. I think a lot of folks (including locals who have lived through 100's if not 1000's of LES events) just do not understand how localized LES can be. For instance, Friday afternoon Burt and I did some traveling in the Calumet and Lake Linden area. We probably spent a hour in Calumet and it never stopped snowing heavily. I talked to some guys at the hardware store and they said it had been snowing heavily like that for almost the entire day. Yet here were we live, we had light snow all day, with periodic bursts of heavier snow. We ended up with a couple of inches for the day, while Calumet had 10". Calumet is around 10 miles away as the crow flies and there was no real strong reason for them to be in a heavier band. The wind direction could have just as easily favored us. I was not too upset though as the snows Thursday night hit us the hardest, with around 10" of the white stuff. I rode all the way to Copper Harbor via sled yesterday and our travels today took us as far south as Trimountain. So I have covered areas from Trimountain north to Copper Harbor in the past 2 days and it seems like everyone within that area has at least 14-16" of snow on the ground, with areas from Calumet north to just inland from Copper Harbor having 18-22" on the ground. The snows last night were very dense. Not a wet snow, but a heavy, dry snow. The snow on the ground is pretty dense now and is a great base.
    They are grooming some of the trails up here. On Friday as Burt and I were getting ready to do our chores and take our afternoon walk, we spotted one of the groomers getting ready in Mohawk. On our ride to Copper Harbor and back yesterday we passed the groomers 3 times, two separate groomers and one we passed twice. As we were driving through Hancock we saw that the groomer had passed through town and I saw where he had traveled across the bridge. On our way home today the groomer had not yet hit the trails up near Calumet, but it is possible the groomer we saw in Hancock had not yet made it to Calumet yet.
    Part of our chores on Friday were to clear the snow from the driveway and sidewalk in Lake Linden. Before heading over to do that though, Burt and I went to the park to take a walk. It was a very cold, very snowy and very windy day. Needless to say we had the park to ourselves. In fact we did not even stay too long. I was fighting the cold and winds and looked back to see Burt who did not look too comfortable, so we actually turned around and headed back to the comfort of Old Blue. After getting warmed up, we got back out into the cold and snow and cleared the snow off the driveway and sidewalk in Lake Linden. The snow there was pretty deep, about as deep as I have ever seen it for November 30th, and that was before the 7-10" fell last night! Something tells me I will be clearing the snow off the roof there before the month of December is over. Did not have to clear it off once last year.
    As mentioned, I went for my first snowmobile ride of the season yesterday. Before doing so, Burt and I took to the woods right out our front door. It was funny to watch Burt's reaction when he saw me walk right towards the woods and not towards the truck. He really loves being able to just walk right from the cabin into the woods and not have to drive to get to our walking spot. I can say I really enjoy being able to do that too. And when this is what you get to walk through after about 50 steps out of the cabins front door who wouldn't?! We waddled through the snow for a while and then got to the snowmobile trail and decided to walk down it for a while. A few sleds had been down it, so it made for easier walking for both of us. I do not make it a regular practice to walk down the snowmobile trail during the season, but I figured it was the first day and would be pretty quiet. It was not nearly as quiet as I thought and I felt bad that folks had to slow down for us (which every single sled did), so we turned around after walking just a few hundred yards and went back into the bush to finish our walk.
    After the walk with Burt, it was time for a ride with my friend Scott. Last year Scott and I had grandiose plans to ride several times a week and put on 1000's of miles in the backcountry of Keweenaw County. Unfortunately the weather had different plans. We did get out and take some rides, but not nearly the amounts that we were both hoping for, so I think we were both glad to get out on opening day this year for the first ride. It is always a bit of a strange feeling to be on the sled for the first time of the year. It feels strange- yet familiar. I know my first few years of living here and riding it almost seemed like the beginning of the season was like starting all over again. This year it only took about 30 minutes for me to feel like I had never been off the sled for more than a week.
    Getting ready for the first ride of the season is also a bit of an experience. Making sure the sled is mechanically sound usually happens in the autumn and Al helped me get my carbs dialed in. I covered all the other mods I made to the 800 for this season, so will not get into them. However, just finding all the riding gear and making sure it is ready to go can be a bit of a task. This year I searched high and low for my boots and could not find them. Finally last Thursday or Friday I found them in a storage bin in the attic of the shop. I was sure I had checked that bin in an earlier search, but must not have. So yesterday the sled was ready, all my gear was ready, I was ready, so I hopped on the sled to take off. Just as I was about to squeeze the throttle and head down the driveway, something felt wrong. It was then I realized that I did not have any goggles on! Riding on the ATV this summer and autumn had made me accustomed to riding without goggles. So I went back inside grabbed a pair and then headed out!
    I met up with Scott and we headed northeast towards the harbor. The trails were in pretty decent shape for December 1st. The groomers had been out and had panned down the snow on the trails. Some sleds had been down too, but overall, traffic was very thin. We saw about a half dozen sleds at the harbor and we passed 3 sleds that were pulled off to the side of the trail on our way up and did not encounter another sled the entire trip up and back yesterday. Kind of nice to have the place nearly to ourselves! It was early season riding so things were not perfect and there were things you had to keep an eye out for. We passed several rocks that were on the trail as well as a few logs. There were a few wet spots too, but all told I think we passed by about 5 of them and none were any worse that that one was in that last pic. There were some stretches of the trail that were as good as they could ever get as well.
    We got to the fork in the trail system where you can either go up and over Brockway Mountain to get to the harbor or continue on straight on the Mandan and into the harbor. We opted for the Brockway Mountain trail as I figured there would be some pretty fun riding up there as it is a closed road and so would be flat. However, it was very tempting to take the Mandan as it had only one track on it. The mountain trail turned out to be lots of fun too. There were more sled tracks on it than the Mandan, but most of them had stayed right down the middle, so there was a 15-20" off to the side to carve in and some fun drifts in spots to bust through.
    We arrived safely in the harbor and I was actually a little surprised to see so much snow there. Typically early in the season they can be a little lower in snowcover as they are lower in elevation and also right up against the lake, but they had a solid 12-14" on the ground yesterday afternoon. Again, that was before the snows hit overnight last night. We went in and warmed up for a while. Chatted with some folks up from WI to ride and then headed back. We decided to take the Mandan back and that proved to be a good idea too, as we were first tracks on the Clark Mine trail and then the second and third tracks on the Mandan. The snow was plenty deep enough to do some carving on and the Mandan gets a lot of traffic all year long, so I did not really worry too much about something lurking under the snow. Although I did keep my eye out for any suspicious lumps in the snow! After about 5-8 miles of being able to carve up the Mandan trail we came across the groomer. It is not very often I am disappointed to see the groomer, but that moment was one. Still though we had a nice flat trail with no other tracks on it to take us back down to the main trail and then back down to Mohawk.
    They are still doing some logging out there. Behind Phoenix was the main area. I think the loggers have been spoiled in the past few years with the weak starts to winter that they got caught a bit this year. They do log all year long up here, but typically move to the lower elevations and areas that do not see much snow once winter sets in. It is a very rare occasion where they are logging on a busy trail once the season really gets underway. I would imagine that they are just trying to finish up grabbing the rest of the logs off the decks stacked along side the trail and then will be off to other, less snowy areas up here. In any case, it is a bit weird to be riding your sled through the woods up here and come across a logging truck loading up!
    We made it back safe and sound and as we were heading back it started to snow. Very lightly at first, but then the snow fell heavier and the flakes got bigger and by the time I got home, it was coming down at a pretty decent clip. Nora and I had dinner and then retired to bed early for a long winters nap. It came down hard all night and then at about 4 am tapered off, but not before depositing another 10" of fresh on top of our already deep early December snowpack. The snow that fell overnight was not light and fluffy at all. It fell with temps in the low 20's, but for some reason ended up being very dense for dry snow. Usually I can clear the driveway with the snowthrower in 3rd gear or higher and this morning I had to keep it in 1st or 2nd. While I cleared snow, Nora fed Burt his breakfast and made ours. After his breakfast Burt went out to go to the bathroom and Nora took a shot of him as he was wading through the snow on his way back. He looks like he was stalking something, but the snow was just that deep- belly deep we call it.
    There was a lot of snow to clear. In fact it typically takes me about 45 minutes to clear the driveway and today it was almost 2 hours. I had to use the snow thrower for most of the clearing as it was just too deep to effectively move with the ATV plow. Here is a drift that had formed on the side of the cabin. Here I am clearing the driveway. After clearing the snow from the driveway, I decided to break out the ATV and plow out an area for Burt to go potty. Unfortunately the snow was so deep that when I used the snow thrower, it just piled the snow up around 20 feet off the driveway in a very dense snowpack. When the ATV hit that dense and deep snow, it would not go any further. I actually ended up getting it stuck twice, but was able to pull it out easily with Old Blue the work horse.
    This afternoon Nora, Burt and I took to the woods for our walk. We traveled the same path Burt and I took yesterday, but you would have never known. All the snow overnight along with the winds completely covered up any sign we had been through just 24 hours ago. So I actually went ahead and packed down a trail and then doubled back and met up with Nora and Burt and Nora and I packed it down further for Burt. 8 years ago he would have been hopping like a bunny through the deep snow, but these days his old and tired joints need all the help the can get. Still though it is great he can get out and walk through that deep snow. We made it to Burt's Pond. A trip that might take 10 minutes in the summer took us over 30 today. It is deep. The whole time I was breaking trail I was sinking up to the bottom of my knees and when I dug down to find bare ground the snow would be up to the top of my knees and in some cases to mid thigh. Pretty amazing for December 2nd. I don't know if this is the deepest it has ever been this early. I'll have to look through the database and see if it has ever been deeper this early in December.
    Well, that about covers it for this one. All my exercise has worn be down and I am just about falling asleep at the computer tonight. Before I go I would like to let you all know that I have put a light back up by the AL Cam, so you can view that image 24 hours a day now.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
 
 
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