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February 27-
    Unfortunately this will be another quick one. I am pretty busy getting ready for the ride-in and have a list of things to do, but I figured I would not leave you all high and dry. I did take my two rides last Friday and Saturday and they were fun. I was hoping to be able to ride yesterday or today, but time just did not allow. Friday afternoon I met up with some folks from the site and then with Scott and an even bigger crew and we ended up having 15 riders in all. At first I was worried that a disaster was in the making. Having that many sleds in one group usually leads to some kind of mechanical problems, a crash or something to throw a monkey wrench into the operation. Thankfully nothing went wrong, all sleds ran fine and the ride was a success. We hooked up with Scott and let him lead us to Lac La Belle through the bush. We rode through some areas that I had not been through in a few years and was glad to be back. My biggest passion in riding is really exploring and seeing new things. Even though I had been through all the areas we rode before, some had changed because of logging or other factors, so it was sort of like seeing them for the first time. One spot that was logged was a nice hilly area and will make for an excellent play spot with more snow. Lots of things still sticking up out of the snow right now, so it will probably have to wait until next season, but with the right amount of snow it will be a must-play area!
    We got to Lac La Belle and took a break. It got too late to take the backcountry home, so we ended up taking the trail all the way back from Lac La Belle. I had been hearing so many mixed reports from folks that were up here riding that I was interested to see what conditions would be like for the ride home. The trail coming out of Lac La Belle was fine. A few turns had some spots where the throttle jockeys had worn the snow down, but other than that the snow was still white and nothing more than a few studder bumps from time to time. Once hopping on the main trail to head south the quality of the snow on the trail went down hill. You sure can tell where the majority of riders up here go! Still no spots on the trail that had no snow, but there were spots where the snow was quite snirty and then there were others where little to no snirt existed. As for the bumps, there were a few studder bumps, but nothing that would really cause a person to have major issues. The snow quality on the trail was that of sugar though and a grooming would have only knocked down any bumps and not held. As is almost always the case the worst spots were in the turns and also at the bridge crossings. I can understand the turns, but have always wondered why the trail will have larger bumps and poorer snow conditions right at the bridge crossings. Anyway, we were able to make it back to Mohawk from Lac La Belle in less than an hour without even pressing the issue, so that should tell you that things were not too bad. Perfect, no way, not even close. But certainly ride able without too many issues. I guess to put it in a nutshell, conditions had improved from my Wednesday ride of last week. Even though the 5-6" of snow we picked up on Thursday was pure fluff, it was enough to blend in with the very old snow that existed on the trails Wednesday to at least make things a bit better. Sorry no pics and they would now be 5 days old anyway.
    On Saturday I hooked up with one of the KSE rides going out for the day. Obviously conditions were not optimal for deep powder riding in the back country, but to me just about any day of riding in the backcountry is a blast, deep snow or not. Matt was the guide for the days ride, we started out in Lake Linden and hit the backcountry. It felt a little strange, but yet fully familiar to be riding the backcountry down there again. I had yet to ride any of the usual haunts this year that for me were a regular routine when I lived down that way. The fields were usually some of my favorite spots to play down there, but the bit of rain last Wednesday evening and then the cold temps immediately following built a nice crust on them and almost made riding in the fields dangerous! I know at one point, I had my skis dig through the crust and turn a bit, I corrected and they dug again and it turned into a little game to try and keep from being flipped off the snow while trying to bring the sled under control. I was thankful that I was only going about 35 mph, for if I had been going any faster I know I would have come off the sled! The rest of the fields I just rode like a grandma and stayed seated just in case the darting game started again.
    Without any kind of real meaningful snows in about 2-3 weeks, the backcountry is getting tracked up and it's getting harder and harder to find a trail that does not dead end that does not have a track on it, but the snow is still plenty deep and there are worse things to be riding on than this. The warmer temps last week did finally allow the snow to set up a bit and provide a little more support for riding in it, so Matt took us to some small hills to play on and get the group stuck in. A bunch of very good riders, but it is interesting to see how trees will take the most experienced rider and add some fear to their riding. We finished up the ride with no casualties and some good memories and I headed home to put the sled away.
    As mentioned, I wanted to ride today or yesterday to take some pictures. We did pick up about 5-6" of snow from the big storm that hit the Midwest over the weekend. It was a more dense type of snow and has helped to make further repairs to the trails up here. On my travels today I did bring my camera to take some shots of the trails. Keep in mind these were only at the road crossings and only a small snapshot of things up here, but I figure the pics will be better than nothing when trying to figure out what things are like up here. This first shot is not far from our house. I have come to the realization that this section of trail is usually as bad as it gets in the trail system from about Calumet north. Anyway, conditions there were better than they were a week ago, but still far from perfect. Not far away from that last shot is the crossing of the trail at hwy 41 outside Mohawk. Better, but not perfect either. The last pic I took today was where the trail crosses hwy 41 just north of Calumet near the Northgate Motel. Probably the best of what I saw today, but then again I did not see much!
    It is still looking like we will pick up some significant system snow starting early Thursday and continuing into Friday, then the lake effect looks to kick in for the weekend and Monday. Still some differences in the models on the exact details as to how much. Right now at the low end of things it looks like around 8" and at the high end around 18" for system snow and then perhaps another 4-8" of lake effect. The timing could not be much better for the ride in. I suppose if the storm were starting right now and finishing later tomorrow that would be better for all the folks driving up for the event, but once here the snow sure will be fresh! I know I am looking forward to busting some fresh powder!
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. I am looking forward to meeting all of you headed up for the ride in and for those that cannot make it I wish you could, perhaps another time! I will be sure to take plenty of pics of the event for all.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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February 21-
    Gonna get out a quick one. I took a short ride today. I had to go to the Keweenaw County Courthouse for some business and I figured I would take the sled. Kind of neat to have that option to take the sled to do some business rather than the truck. Anyway, the main subject of this entry will be what I encountered trail conditions wise on my travels today. Please keep in mind that I only traveled a very small percentage of what I would consider the "Keweenaw Trail System", so I guess you could consider this to be my disclosure statement that I am not trying to describe the entire trail system up here, just showing you what I saw. I would imagine there is better than what I saw and may be worse too, although the worst I saw could not have been much worse!
    Anyway, these first two pics were taken this morning. A few posts came in on the General Discussions that you cannot ride north of Houghton/Hancock anymore and rather than try and prove things with words, I just ran over to the trail in the truck and snapped off two shots and posted the pics there. So here is a shot of the trail near Mohawk looking south and here is the same trail about 100 yards to the north, looking north. Not beautiful, pristine, pure white snow on the trails, but if anyone thinks that you cannot ride in those conditions, well....I really do not know what to say to that!
    I had to wait until this afternoon until I was done with my work to take my ride. Temps started the day at about 25 degrees and we even had a dusting of snow overnight. By about 11 am the temp had climbed above the freezing mark and then shot up to around 37 by the time I saddled up for my ride. I headed north on trail 3 and things were really not too bad. Here is a shot of the trail as it passes just to the NW of Mohawk. However, now that the entire ride is over I can say in hindsight that those were some of the best conditions I encountered on my whole trip! I can also say I was pretty surprised to see how fast conditions would change as I headed down the trail The trip from Mohawk to Phoenix is less than 10 miles and in that space the conditions made noticeable changes at least 5 times! The change to worse conditions happened about 3 miles north of Mohawk as more dirt was mixed in with the snow on the trail. Then in another mile or so, they got better, then worse, then better. You get the story.
    I arrived in Phoenix about 15 minutes after going through Mohawk and then hopped the highway to head down the trail to Eagle River. My biggest concern was this section of trail as I know the lowest snow conditions all winter have been down along the lake. So I was actually a little concerned about running out of snow before I got to Eagle River. Anyway, the conditions at the beginning of the trail to Eagle River were really not that much different from those I experienced on the main trail I could tell that this trail had seen much less traffic as it was much less "worn down", but still was not what I would call in great shape. The trail from Phoenix to Eagle River is only like 3-4 miles and for the first 3 to 4 miles of things the conditions were like I just posted. Then as I got down right next to town and the lake, the snow levels dropped dramatically and the trail conditions also worsened dramatically. That was by far the worst of the conditions I saw all day and even in that 1/4 mile stretch right down by town that spot where I stopped to take the picture was as bad as things got. So you can consider that last shot to be the worst of the worst.
    I parked my sled near the government buildings in Eagle River, took care of the business I needed to and then marveled at the sight of bare ground! Even though this snow season has been pretty paltry by our standards, we have not seen bare ground around our house for about 3 months, so the sight of that bare ground in the fields down by the lake was a little strange to see! I got back on my sled and headed home. On the way up I had passed through a section of the main trail that was noticeably worse than the rest. I can only speculate why that section was so much worse than the rest, but I did make a mental note to stop and take a picture of it on the way back. So here is the worst of the conditions I encountered on the main trail between Mohawk and Phoenix today. It's kind of hard to summarize what the average conditions were like on that same trail, but I tried my best to find a spot that did just that and stopped to take a picture to show you what the average condition of the trail between Mohawk and Phoenix was like today. The distance between those last two shots could not have been more than 2 miles.
    So I guess that covers things in that small part of the entire trail system up here. Like I say, you are bound to find better and bound to find worse. If I had to say where the better is, I could only guess way up north on the Mandan. So many folks ride from Houghton/Hancock to Copper via the Brockway Mountain trail that the Mandan really can hold up well. Not that I would say to avoid the Brockway Mountain trail as the views from it are unparalleled in our trail system, but don't be afraid to venture off the beaten path. I would also guess that most of the "Eagles Loop" would be pretty good. I do not know trail numbers, but it is the one that loops from just off the trail to Eagle River over to Eagle Harbor and then back up to the main trail up near Delaware. Much of that trail runs the high ground and should be in OK shape.
    As for the weather, we rose above 40 today and things were a melting. All the roads are bare, even most of the less traveled ones. The temp as I type is 33 degrees and falling. We had about a 5 minute rain shower late this afternoon that dampened the trucks, but that was about it. We are suppose to pick up a few inches of snow tonight- but then again you know how weather forecast can go. Anything would be a blessing at this point as you can see from the journal pics. High temps the rest of the week and weekend look to be in the mid to upper 20's and not a lot of sun, so I don't think there will be any further snow loss. Snows with the storm are suppose to start around here Saturday morning and then continue through the weekend. I'd say if we get at least 8" of the more dense system snow then we would be good to go in all areas. The forecast beyond that actually looks as wintry or even more (from a snow standpoint) for the entire Northwoods area than I have seen all winter so far, so that too would be good news as I sure would like conditions to be better for the ride in! It would also be good news for other areas of the Northwoods in need of winter going out with a bang rather than a whimper.
    One thing I can say about today's ride was that even though I did not like to see what the temps were doing to the snow conditions, I did love the temps to ride in! It was so nice to not have to wear a balaclava and not bundle way up to ride! I even rode with my jacket unzipped (still had my fleece jacket underneath zipped) for much of the time. Even the 800 seemed to like it a lot. Started on the first pull after sitting for almost two weeks and ran like a charm all day. I have some rides planned in the next few days and will be sure to try and bring my camera along for all the action. I have most of my duties taken care of for the ride in with just the organizing of the prizes to do next Wednesday. Thanks to all who have been sending in those and I am really getting excited for the ride in to take place. In just one week and 2 days, the first day's activities will be under our belt!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
February 18-
    Just when I though I was going to make it through a winter without getting sick, bam! I take one head on. It was not the flu, but was a bad cold. It started with a scratchy throat on Tuesday morning. I still felt fine otherwise and even went for a ski with Burt in the afternoon and then had Rick and Deb from Dobson Entertainment over to watch the raw footage from last weekends filming. Then we went out for dinner and right at the end of the dinner I was slammed. Nora drove home and I had just enough energy to get out of the Blazer and climb into bed. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent either working or in bed. Wednesday afternoon I did clear the 7 inches of snow we got Tuesday and even took a short walk with Burt. Thursday I managed another short walk with Burt, but Friday seemed to be the worst, so Nora talked me into going down to the walk in clinic in Lake Linden. The Doc there said it was just one of the cold viruses running around. He said that it was a particularly nasty one with the hospitals pretty full with cases of them and even some deaths in children around the country. He sent me home with a prescription for an antibiotic if things got worse over the weekend, but said that I would probably feel better in a few days.
    I had actually been sleeping pretty well, thanks to Nyquill, but the days were rough. I asked the Dr. if there was a daytime medication that would help relieve the symptoms and he said I should try mucinex. So Saturday I took two of those in the morning and did not have a stuffy head or much of a runny nose, but still had the aches and was knocked out for most of the day. Today was the first day that I have really felt like I am on the mend and I have a feeling that other than a cough and maybe a runny nose, I will feel back to normal by tomorrow. The worst thing about this has been the fatigue. I have not been so tired that I want to sleep all day, but I have not had the energy to do much more than my work and then just lay around. I am not good at sitting still for too long. I can handle about 30 minutes of TV and that is about it. So it has been a trying time for me the past few days trying not to go crazy by just sitting around doing nothing. Sounds like it would be nice for most folks, but for me it is a prison.
    Anyway, I am on the mend and will take it easy for another day or two so that I do not cause a relapse, but am looking forward to getting out and enjoying the snow. I missed out on rides the past 4 days and am looking forward to playing some catch up. A couple of chances for some light snow this week and then maybe a big storm by the weekend. Still some questions on the track, we might even have something other than snow fall at the onset of the storm depending on the track, but then the way things look right now we change over to snow and get hit pretty hard. It's a good thing that the pattern is looking better and better for system snow in our neck of the woods because there is a growing accumulation of ice on the western end of Lake Superior. That was a pic taken earlier today, the bright white near the Apostle Islands and along the shoreline from the Porkies to about Eagle Harbor is "fast ice" or ice that is pretty solid and not going anywhere until spring is here for good. The other milky white area from Duluth through the area just to the north of the Apostle Islands and then over to the Keweenaw is pack ice. Something more like chunks of ice floating in water. Pack ice can actually still make lake effect snow, although not as well as open water. LES will not form over fast ice. Pack ice also moves and can dissipate under the right conditions, only spring makes fast ice go away. So our LES season is not over, but will be stunted that is for sure. Then again the LES season usually starts to draw to a close once we get into March, as the cold air masses dropping in from the north become less common.
    Really not much else to say, other than time is running out to be able to register for the ride-in and attend the banquet. I would imagine that sometime this week we will be closing off the banquet to be able to give the facility the count. You can still register and partake in all the other events and if you want to help, but cannot attend at all, you can still make a donation. It can be sent to me at PO Box 182, Mohawk MI 49950. Seems hard to believe that in just 2 weeks the event will be over and in 3 weeks I will have my first day of riding out west under my belt! They are getting some fresh snow out there and that is good to see too!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
February 12-
     I'm getting old. 4 days of riding and I could not even lift my arms at the end of the day yesterday. Friday's ride was barely even that, only lasting about an hour. In reality though, I can tell by the parts that were sore on me were due more to all the digouts than the riding. My arms were most sore, with my abbs next and then the legs and back were just a bit sore. I don't know how many times I had to dig my sled out and help others, but it was at least a dozen times. By the end of the day yesterday I was toast and my riding showed. My last two climbs were more of a battle than a ride and I called it quits for the challenging riding after that. I figured I had better save some strength to get me out of the woods and then down the trail to the truck and then home. All of our riding this weekend was south of the bridge (Portage Lake Lift Bridge), with Dave Sleeman from the Wildlife Refuge cabins leading us to the spots to shoot for the DVD.
    Saturday's group was huge, we had 20 sleds in all. I was a little worried about the ability for the group to stay together and sleds to not break down and all the other things that can complicate a ride when there are 20 sleds, but things worked out very well. No breakdowns, no one got lost or seperated and all 20 sleds returned safe and sound at the end of the day. Much of the credit goes to Dave for being a great leader and knowing when to make sure everyone was still in one group. The other credit needs to go to the riders in the group. Many are guides themselves, so know how keep the group together and the others were experienced riders that have participated in large group rides. This may seem like a big deal, but riding the backcountry in a group is way different than riding the trails. I have been involved with groups of 4 that have never ridden the backcountry and in less than 30 minutes the group is separated.
    We started out in some gravel pits and other play areas. One of them had a fun little play spot behind it, so while the filming was going on some of us snuck off to do a little playing. It did not take long for some of us to get into a little bit of "trouble". I think that was Matt checking the integrity of his track. We managed to get out of the play area after a few more stucks. I felt bad because we held up the group for a few minutes. Normally we are very disciplined when shooting and do not wander off, but seeing those hills off in the distance was like dangling a T-bone steak in front of a starving dog. The discipline can only go so far! Anyway, we moved on to the next filming spot and the gang got some jumping shots in. Here is Al catching some air and here is Dave Sleeman.
    In the afternoon we headed to play on some hills. There sure are a lot of them south of the bridge and there sure is a lot of snow on the ground there too! The snow has still not formed a "bottom" to it, meaning the snow is still pretty much the same density all the way to the ground. Fun to play in, but also a challenge when you start climbing hills. Dave found a spot where Rick could sit on top of the hill and film us trying to climb it. Brian was first and augured in. I went next and got oh so close to the top, but close does not count. While stuck, I snapped a shot of the hill we were climbing, with Brian and Speedy (friend of Dave S.) getting their sleds unstuck. Three trenches, but not a single ski mark! I got my sled turned around with the help of Dave S and then rode back down. It did not take too long for someone to make the hill. I would have loved to have been able to get right back on it and conquer the hill, but we take turns while filming. Just for the record, attempting that climb was probably the most fun I have had on my sled this season!
    The next spot we went to was a gnarly spot on a pole line down there. Some nice off camber hill climbs, with the snow deep and the hills steep. Here is a shot of Kenny on one of the hills and here is Matt checking his track again. He seemed to do that a lot this weekend! Here is a video of Matt trying to get up the hill. After a bunch more stucks and some good footage for the DVD, we packed it in and headed to grab a bite to eat. Some of the group went to Toivola Lunch and others went to the Mosquito Inn. I unfortunately was with the group that went to the Mosquito. I say unfortunately because the bartender there was unwilling to make us anything to eat from the grill. Some guys got a Tombstone Pizza and I munched down on some pretzels and downed a few diet cokes before heading back to the Wildlife Refuge Cabins to load up and head home.
    The next day we met up at 10 am again. A much smaller group, as some that had rode the day before had actually headed back south and Nick from our group was MIA. Even so, we still had about 12 sleds in the group and once again, all sleds and riders returned in one piece, even if the pieces of some of the sleds were not the same looking as when the day started! I bent a radius rod and Brian redesigned his A-arms on the right hand side of his sled. Before all of that happened though Rick got some good footage of us busting some drifts as Dave does here. A little bit later Dave took us to a nice spot to do some carving. It was a perfect little spot that no one had been to all season. Incredibly easy to find once you know it is there and even though it is at least an hours drive by sled from my house my lips are sealed! I got to be one of the first to carve in the previous spot, so I just decided to sit this one out and take pictures of the guys. As I watched each guy go, I wished that I had taken a turn as this was probably the best spot of all of them that we had been in to carve. That is the one thing that the valley can lay claim to over the land south of the bridge- we have some great carving fields! Anyway, Brian got to go first, then Dave (looks like he was about ready to pull a .... don't worry Dave I won't say what!), then Matty and last but not least Al.
    After that we got back into the woods for some helmet cam action. I did not take any pics of that action, but it was when Brian blew out his A-arms and I bent my radius rod and also whooped my rear end having to perform several digouts, two of them right in a row due to really stupid riding! All I can say is that those guys in the videos that carve through the powder going down a steep slope sure can handle their sleds! Granted they do not have to worry nearly as much about trees out west in the mountains, but that is a very difficult thing to do, carve while going steeply down hill. Hopefully I get to give it a try when we are out west.
    We met back up with the rest of the group and then all rode off to the next play area. As luck would have it, more hills to climb! I was pretty worn out by that time and I think some of the others were getting that way because usually when Rick gets out his camera to shoot we are all getting ready to ride, but there were a few of us that kept our helmets off and decided to take a break. Matt, Speedy and some of the other young pups kept the show going though. Here is a short video of Matt doing some climbing. We moved on to another spot and I stuck it good again. Dug it out and a few minutes later make the hill. I could not keep the line I wanted (need to work on sidehilling through the trees too!), but made the hill. I parked the sled and watched the others from up on top with Rick and some others. The sleds were sort of hard to see in that last shot, but there were three of them down there. Here is Dave taking a line up the hill.
    After that last play spot we packed it in and headed out to the trail. Dave took us down some nice untouched logging roads and ATV paths through the woods. We hopped out on the trail that runs from South Range to Twin Lakes and head north for the quick trip back to the cabins where we all loaded up. Most of the gang went to Dave and Lori's to watch the day's footage, but I had to get home to finish up my Sunday work.
    As mentioned, I was so tired by the evening that I barely could pull the sheets over my body once I climbed into bed. I woke up pretty sore this morning, but have been recovering as I went through the day. I even mustarded up the strength to take a ski with Burt this afternoon. After 4 days of riding the sled it was nice to be silently making my way through the snowy woods. It had been at least 10 days and about 30" of snow since our last ski, so the trail that we had been keeping open was completely snow-covered. We did not go too far as I had to stomp my skis down every 6" to try and make a firm enough base for Burt to walk on, but we did blaze a trail to where some locals are likely to take their snowmobiles through from time to time, so the snow should already be packed down there. We'll probably find out on tomorrow's ski.
    All in all it seemed like the video shooting went well. It sure was obvious that Dave S had put a lot of thought into where he would take us those two days. We did not even cross our tracks twice the entire time and went to some awesome spots. Dave knows the backcountry south of the bridge that is for sure. I know the guys want to have him up here to ride north of the bridge. We could use some more snow to make the fields a little more primo, but I am confident that he would have a good time riding up this way too. Then again, when do you not have a fun time riding?!
    I am going to lay low as far as snowmobiling goes for the next 2 more days. Going to meet up with Rick and Deb from Dobson Entertainment to have dinner tomorrow and then Nora and I will be having a nice valentines day dinner Wednesday. Thursday I plan to hook up with Skylar and his crew. Not sure if I will be heading south or they will be coming north. I know there is a spot that he wants to show me down there, so perhaps that will be in order. No plans for the weekend either, but I am sure something will materialize.
    My final note for tonight is to let everyone know that the JohnDee.com Store is now carrying a new line of bumper stickers. Get yours today!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
February 9-
    My how time flies. I figured I had better get out a journal tonight or it would be a week between writings. I have been pretty busy the past few days and will be very busy tomorrow and Sunday. With fun stuff mostly. I took a ride Tuesday afternoon, Thursday afternoon and this afternoon and tomorrow and Sunday will be shooting the DVD, so lots of saddle time. The poor 800 has really been struggling with carb problems. Earlier this season I had a couple of plugged air channels on the front of the carbs that was making it run poorly, then last weekend the cold and powdery snow was causing the intakes to clog up with snow and then yesterday one of the carbs was froze because the poor sled ran on one lung the whole trip. Interesting boondocking on one cylinder. I had some iso in the gas and thought it would clear up, but never did. I got home, put a hair drier on the carbs and that worked, so I ran it for a while longer to make sure the iso would run through where ever it was frozen and the sled ran fine today. Only I did not ride the 800 today, just tested it to make sure it would run ok. I took the 700 today and ended up busting a radius rod. Strange how it happened. I took a little jump (I only take little jumps) and when I landed, I heard a little crack and then the left side ski was off camber. I was able to ride the sled out of the bush and down to civilization where Nora was able to meet me with Old Blue and we brought the 700 home. I plan to get a replacement radius rod tomorrow morning on my way down to meet up with everyone for the DVD filming.
    With all the riding I have been doing, I should really have more pictures, but yesterday and today I forgot to bring the camera. I do have 4 pics and one video. They are all from the Tuesday ride. I hooked up with Al, Greg and John from the Eagle River area. I rode with them up here last year and they sent me an e mail saying that they were going to be in the area Tuesday and wanted to see if I wanted to go for a ride. So we met up, headed into the bush. Conditions were pretty good, there was about 4-6" of fresh snow on top of the packed snow from the weekend traffic. In spots it was even deeper which made for some nice landing spots for John and Greg. They enjoy jumping (especially Greg) and we found some pretty good spots for them to have at it. Here is Greg again and one more time. As promised I have a video as well. It is an mpeg which I believe should be handled pretty well by most browsers. If not, I apologize! Anyway, it is the video version of Greg jumping in that last shot. The shape of the jump caused him to not get too high in the air, but he sure did travel a long way! I would have to estimate about 50 feet through the air.
    We made it back safe and sound, with no casualties.  All in all a good ride. Yesterday I hooked up with the afternoon portion of a KSE ride. Matt had a gang out from the Milwaukee area, so I met up with them in the afternoon after my work. As mentioned, the 800 did not run all that well yesterday, which was strange because when I put it away on Tuesday it was running pretty good. I did change the plugs on Wednesday and I suppose one of them could have been bad or had a bad gap. Because not only did I put the hair drier on the carbs yesterday, but I also changed the plugs and it ran great. The KSE ride was a good time. Matt is always fun to ride with and the gang from Milwaukee were also fun to be with. They were on short tracks and Matt took us into some pretty deep stuff, so they got stuck some, but did not mind at all and were a big help to each other getting the sleds unstuck. I only rode for a couple of hours yesterday, but seeing the workout that those guys got in just the time I was with them I have no doubt that they all slept well last night!
    This afternoon I hooked up with John Stachler (the person helping with the ride in) and some of his buddies. Unfortunately that ride had to be cut short as the radius rod gave out about an hour into the ride. We still managed to have some fun in that hours time and had one sled-tree casualty, but I felt bad that I was not able to take them to some of the places I had planned. There is a field that I know about in the middle of nowhere. I have not touched it yet because I thought we might need it for the DVD shooting, but all the shooting will be taking place south of the lift bridge this year, so I figured we could head over to the field and tear it up. Guess that will have to wait until next time!
    I am excited for the video shoot tomorrow. It will actually be the first time that the entire gang will be riding together. A few weeks ago we had a good portion of the gang, but Brian and Dave were not riding with us. Always fun to have the gang together. Plus we will be riding with Dave Sleeman from the Wildlife Refuge Cabins and he will be doing all the leading around to his favorite play spots. So we will get to experience all new terrain to play in- always a fun thing. Seems hard to believe that in 4 weeks we will be all packed and perhaps even on our way to Wyoming. We are not sure if we are going to leave Friday night or early Saturday morning. Either way the sleds will be loaded and bags will be packed! Nice to see them getting some fresh snow and the forecast looks pretty good.
    The forecast looks OK for us too. Not big time dumpings of snow, but a strong westerly component to the winds in the next 3-4 days which is best for us. We had a nice period of snow fall this afternoon. Picked up about 2-3" in just over an hour. Looks like some more periods of snow will occur in the next several days. Just perfect to keep things fresh. I have to admit that I have been watching the snows pile up on the east end of Lake Ontario and have been a little envious. Those are some honking snows, with some places picking up over 100" since Sunday. Of course with that much snow there is a lot of work involved and that would cut into the play time. So I am happy with our situation. Never too much snow for me, but at times "enough for now" and for now I am happy with our snow situation.
    Not much else to say except to remind everyone once again that in 3 weeks the ride in will be taking place. The numbers of registered guests continues to grow and it looks like we could very well have as many folks as last year. Plus many you that cannot attend have sent in donations, for which I am extremely grateful. Plus the shirt sales on the stores site have been going well. I still do not have a cut off date for the banquet, but if you are still on the fence about things I would not wait too much longer as I believe in another 10 days we will have to have our numbers in to the folks hosting the banquet. So again a huge thanks to everyone that has signed up or made donations so far and I hope that the participation will continue to grow as the event draws closer. It sure will be neat of us to be able to send 6 year old Morghan and her family down to Florida to get away from it all. Getting away from it all is something I think everyone reading this can identify with, even if many of our ideas are to head north rather than south in winter!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
February 5-
    Got Snow ?  We do! I guess all my belly aching finally was heard by the snow gods and they have delivered. Things are not obscene up here, but they are getting nice and deep and I temporarily have my snow fix.  Today was actually the 14th day in a row with flakes falling, although it has been the past 7 that have provided meaningful snow. It looks like we should have at least another 4-5 days with snow in them, perhaps another week or more. The snowfall rates have been varied and some places have seen more than us in the past few days, but I am perfectly happy with our weather in the past week. It all started with that snow last Tuesday. Remember the one I talked about seeming like it was a snowfall that was natural to this area? Strange.
    The only down side is the cold! I really should not be complaining too much about that either as about 2/3rds of the Midwest was colder than us this morning and just about every locale in the Northwoods has been colder than us for 3 days straight. But it has been chilly up here too. I did ride Friday and Saturday, but then on Sunday we decided to just take it easy and stay warm too. On Friday, my friend Skylar arrived to spend the weekend and we had enough time on Friday to sneak in a ride. We did not go too far as it would be getting dark in about 2 hours, but we still managed to find some new trails and had a blast. Came home, had dinner and visited and then went to bed. On Saturday we got a pretty early start as it was my plan to ride the back country up to the Lac La Belle area, have lunch there and then ride some of the back country up there and head home.
    It has snowed all day Friday, all night Friday night and was snowing on Saturday when we left. I knew that getting an early start would allow us a good chance to make the first tracks where we would be going and we did the whole day actually. It doesn't get any better than this! About a foot and a half of base, with a foot of fresh on top and just the two of us getting to float across it. We pressed on and encountered some even deeper snow. The over the bumper stuff is really fun. The strange thing about this is that 5 years ago, to the day this was a photo taken within 1/2 mile of that last shot taken Saturday. Deja Vu! It was sunny on that day back in 2002 and snowing this past Saturday, but otherwise the snow conditions were nearly identical. It sure was a treat to be riding through the frosted woods in all that snow.
    About the only problems encountered Saturday was the occasional fogging of the goggles. It was so cold and the snow was deep enough that the powder would come up and over the windshield at times and fog things up. Nothing that a quick stop to thaw the goggles out on the engine can't handle. We made a few quick stops and then were off to have some more fun in the powder as Skylar demonstrates here and I demonstrate here.
    I am still learning the back country up this way (and will be for years to come), but am proud to say that we were able to ride from my house to Lac La Belle and only spend about 1 mile on the trail from my house and then about 2 miles on the trail riding into Lac La Belle. We did not have to turn around once and make fresh tracks the whole way up. The time we did spend on the trails was not too bad either. The traffic was way down due to the cold. The cold also allowed the grooming to hold well and as a result we had pool table flat trails to ride on when we did ride the trails. That was the trail leading into Lac La Belle. A trail that had a few small rocks to still have to dodge every once in a while just a week prior. Not any more! Snow is no longer an issue up here. It only took until February this year!
    We had a great lunch at Seasons Restaurant at the Lac La Belle Lodge. They were having drag races that day and I really felt sorry for those poor drivers. I can't imagine trying to make adjustments to a sled in that weather! After lunch, we gassed up and hit the powdery trail again. We played some in the backcountry up around Lac La Belle and then decided to head for home. A quick pit stop in Phoenix to warm up and then we made it home as the sun was setting. I have no idea how many miles. It's funny I really could care less how many miles, I really do. I can say that it was a great ride, a memorable ride. This season may not be one where I have had a ton of rides, but I can say that the quality sure has been there! I plan to ride tomorrow and then possibility Friday and then we will be shooting some footage for the DVD this weekend. So I guess some saddle time is in my future. Strange to think that in 4 weeks we will be packing up to head out west. Kind of bittersweet as that will be sort the 3/4 mark for the season. We will be getting home from Wyoming in plenty of time to still have a few weeks of riding left, but strange to think that the trip out west is drawing closer and closer.
    I have been pretty busy moving snow of late. I guess that is one thing I can be grateful for that the snows have been so short for Dec and Jan this year. I have not had to shovel off the roof in Lake Linden and yesterday was actually the first day that I had to use the snowthrower down there to clean the driveway. Sort of a strange, but yet distantly familiar feeling to be using the snowthrower down there. I sure had some fun clearing the snow from that driveway! It does look like the roof will have to be shoveled in the not too distant future, but I sure am going to wait a little longer and also wait for it to warm up some. That is not a fun job to begin with (the only thing I do not like about all the snow we get up here) and does not need anything else (like bitter cold) to make it any less pleasant.
    Speaking of roofs, the shop roof will need to be relieved of it's snow soon. That shot was a little deceiving as it has drifted on the front of the shop, so there is not 3 feet of snow on the roof, but a solid 18" is up there. I will also wait for a bit more snow to accumulate and also for temps to warm. My procedure for that roof is to warm the inside of the shop and then either let the snow slide on it's own once the roof melts the snow a bit or help the process out by drawing a string line through the snow from the front of the shop to the back to cause a weak spot. It was quite a dramatic event when I did that last year and have been hoping to do it this year and catch it on video. Been trying to shave the mat of snow on the driveway a bit lately too. The 1-2" snows are the worst to deal with as it just is not enough to make me want to get out there and blow it off. It would be too much work to shovel it off. What I really need is an ATV with a plow to push the lighter snows to the side and then run the blower through that plow pile. That is how I handled the lighter snows in Lake Linden. Sounds like I have a good excuse to get an ATV!
    Guess that covers it for this one. Don't forget that time is running out to register for the ride in!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
February 1-
    Well, it looks like all my complaining about the snow situation up here might have done some good!  Since I last complained...er, wrote we have picked up around 15" of new snow. It has all be fluff, what I call "broom snow" because you can move as much as 4-5" of it with a broom, but hey, it all adds up in the end. Actually the broom snow is the best to get once you have a base and we do have a base. Out west they call that kind of snow "Champagne Powder" and I will drink that up. It is snowing pretty good right now and even though we have the dreaded "Winter Storm Warning" (snow jinx), we could wake up to 6-10" by tomorrow, with more tomorrow night and more through the weekend and early part of next week for that matter. Finally, it has come.
    A strange thing happened to me the other day. First I have to say that ever since mid December, this winter has just felt different. Even when it did snow, it just seemed like such a struggle. Normally you just look out the window and it is snowing up here. Well about 80% of the time anyway. So you just get used to seeing it snow. Ever since I had put my first winter in the books, the winters and snow up here just had a certain feel to them. I don't know how to explain it, but they did. This winter actually felt different from the norm. Like I say it seemed like the winter was really struggling to make it snow, even when we would pick up some decent snows, it just seemed like such a struggle. Then on Tuesday I took a ride with my friend Scott and as we were out there it started to snow. I did not pay a ton of attention to that snow, but it is hard not to notice it snowing at the rate of an inch or so an hour when you are snowmobiling. Anyway, when that snow started I suddenly had that feeling I got with the other winters up here. I really cannot say what caused me to feel that way. We did not get a ton of snow, but it just seemed like the way it was falling and blowing around is how it should have and was not struggling to do so. The snows since then have also had that feel to them. Just a weird observation is all.
    As mentioned, I took a ride Tuesday afternoon. I rode with Scott who I rode with to Lac La Belle a few weeks ago. We rode primarily in the back country and had the place to ourselves. Not only did we have the place to ourselves, but we also were able to find some untouched snow. Scott knows the backcountry about as good as anyone I know and was able to lead us into some fun play spots. We managed to put tracks on a dozen or so logging roads and I was able to learn a little more of the back country. The snow was about 16-20" deep and although the powder on top was not quite bumper deep yet, it was still plenty deep enough to have a bunch of fun in. We even managed to get to a spot where we could do some carving. My guess it is plenty past bumper deep out there now.
    The trails up here are coming along too. I have not been on a bunch of them, but the snows have been hitting all the areas. Not all at the same time, but the bands of snow have gotten to just about everyone up here and you would be hard pressed to find a spot that has not seen about 12-18" of new snow since last Saturday. The snow has been powdery, so there could still be some spots that are considered "thin", but they are getting harder and harder to find and with the snows coming in the next 4-5 days all areas should have plenty of snow by then. Here is a shot of the trail up by me, taken yesterday on our ski. No more of those little golf ball sized rocks mixed in with the snow.
    Here is another shot taken yesterday. That was the snow we had picked from Sunday evening to Wednesday afternoon. You can add another 6" to that pile on top of the burn barrel. Even the shop roof is starting to show the signs of the recent snows. That is not the snow for the entire season, just in the past few weeks. If you look down at the bumps of snow in front of the shop on the left, one is a hose reel and the other an outdoor swing. That snow is from the entire season. Not yet ready to be coaxed off the roof yet. I will wait for it to get another foot or 18" deeper and then will heat the inside of the shop and create the avalanche off the roof. This time I will get it on video!
    I have a weekend full of riding planned. Some friends are coming up to ride and we plan to ride all three days. I don't know about all of you, but it seems to take me a few rides to feel 100% comfortable again. I do ride a little differently. My rear is almost never on the seat and I am hopping from one side of the sled to the other, using my body to steer the sled as much as I am using the skis. But still it is strange how I just do not feel totally at ease on the sled the first few rides. On Tuesday's ride that feeling of confidence finally came to me. Not that I am 100% confident. I am always pushing to learn more and do more and step outside of my comfort zone, but to do the regular stuff I finally feel at east. That is good because in one week we will be trying to shoot some footage for the DVD again and this time I have a feeling that we will have enough snow. So I had better feel comfortable on the sled!
    The last item on the agenda for tonight is to once again plug the ride in. I am afraid that I will probably be talking about it in just about every journal until it happens. To items to talk about tonight. One, I have more information on the little girl that we will be helping. Her name is Morghan, she is 6 years old, lives in Marquette MI, is just adorable and unfortunately has cystic fibrosis. It is her wish to take her Mom, Dad and two brothers to Orlando to visit the Disney Theme Parks. I have not yet heard if they will be able to make it to the ride in or not. It would be neat to meet her in person, but is certainly not necessary for me to feel the joy of knowing that we are helping her to be able to live her wish. I spoke with John Stachler tonight and he said that many donations have come in from folks that cannot attend this years ride in, but still wanted to help. I have also received donations from persons in the same boat. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I sure wish that you all were able to attend and hopefully we will do it again next year and you will be able to make it up. For those of you still still sitting on the fence or perhaps just now reading about this, we have sweetened the pot. At last years event we offered participants the opportunity to be able to go on a back country snowmobile ride. I chose not to do that this year because I though that the numbers would be just too big to be able to facilitate that. Well, with the numbers still struggling to reach last years total, we have decided to add the back country rides to the list of activities. However, because of the nature of back country guiding, we cannot send unlimited amounts of riders out with each guide, so it is entirely possible that we will have too many riders for the available guides. Some of the the boys from KSE will be on hand to help out and I will be able to take a group and I have a few other friends that I will be asking to see if they can help out. In the event that we have too many riders for the available guides, then we will have a raffle to determine who can ride. The back country tours will be on Friday only as well, none on Saturday- at least none done by guides from KSE or myself.
    I forgot a third item to discuss about the ride in. Several deadlines will be approaching with regards to the ride in. One is the deadline this Saturday the 3rd. You must register by then to be able to receive your ride in shirt at the event. If you register after that you will still receive your shirt, but it will come at a later date. The other deadline will be the one to be able to attend the banquet. That will be here in about 3 weeks (I do not have the exact date just yet). Again, you can still register after that date, receive the t-shirt, partake in any of the activities, except you will not be able to attend the banquet.  So if you have not done so yet, sign up! Hope to meet you!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
 
 
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