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March 27-
    I'm back. I actually had planned to write yesterday, but got busy putting together the video of our trip out west. Both Dave and I shot a combined 3 hours of video and I was making a master copy the past 2 days so that I can dub a bunch of copies for the gang. The master was completed last night and I have made 2 copies today, with hopes to make a third this evening and then 4 more tomorrow. I think I will need to make about 9 of them in total this year. Watching the video footage sure did bring back the recent memories of the trip and I am glad that we have this footage to look back on for years to come. Who knows, maybe some day we will have enough free time and resources to be able to put together a little edited one set to music or something. I do have some editing software, but I do not know how to use it and just do not have the spare time to learn at this point. I know there is talk of us taping more of our adventures up here as well. Sure would be fun to look back on some of our rides up here too. Many a memorable event occurs and while I do capture most of them with a still shot, a video would be that much more fun.
     I am getting back into the swing of things around here. It seemed like all last week I was playing catch up on sleep. I did not sleep so well the last Friday of the trip, then Saturday was up most of the night keeping the driver awake in the semi and then Sunday my first night home I did not sleep so well. There was one night last week that I went to sleep at about 7 pm, my alarm did not go off the next morning and I slept about an hour past my wake up time as a result and so I did not get up until about 5:15 in the morning. You would think that 10 hours of sleep would be enough, but I was still tired that day. Finally after being able to sleep in on Saturday I felt rested and all caught up on my sleep.
    Even though I work out of my home that first week back to work always seems to be a bit of a struggle too. I am back in the swing of things now and it also feels good to be on vacation from the forecasting duties of the site. It is not a major task to put out the forecast for the site everyday, but that couple of extra hours of free time in the day is nice! It will be even nicer once the weather is suitable to be able to get some work done outside.
    Actually the weather has been perfectly suitable for doing work outside, but we are still melting off the snow and things are a mess out there. This is by far my least favorite time of the year up here with maybe the exceptions of when we are having a nasty heat and humidity wave. Things are just such a mess that it is difficult to be able to do anything. There is not enough snow left to play in, but it is too deep to do other things. Plus we still have all the dirt from the construction that is emerging from under the snow. Dirt would actually be OK, but in reality we have mud. The septic went in too late to be able to allow for grass to grow. Actually our October was too cold to allow the seed to grow much. It did germinate in most cases and we had a few tiny little needles of grass pop up, but not enough to cover up any of the dirt/mud. I may see about trying to get some straw to put down once the snow is all gone, but I may have a hard time finding any straw as it would have to have been left over from last season.
    The weather was actually beautiful on Saturday. Nora and I did our weekly shopping early in the morning. We also stopped down to try and get the trail cam going again. It did not want to fire up for me, so I will need to get back down there in a few weeks and haul everything back here and get it running again and then put it back down there. All the hardware seems to be functioning, it seems to be a software issue. Those can be the hardest to fix though! Anyway, we got home, had lunch and then took Burt out for our afternoon adventure. With temps in the low 60's and plenty of sunshine, it was decided to head to the beach. I was not sure if the beach would actually be free of ice enough that Burt could swim, but I figured that we would be able to at least walk the beach. Even though we have moved from Lake Linden, we are still almost equal distance from either shore of the peninsula. The north shore has walking beaches that are closer and more plentiful to us so we headed there.
    We had to wade through a snowdrift that was still surviving along the bluff of the shoreline and the shoreline itself still had the winter ice packed into it, but it was still a great day to be at the beach. We walked the beach for a while, but soon Burt was heading out onto the ice pack to see about trying to take a swim. That worried mom a bit, but I had faith in good old Burt. He is a smart dog and also a pretty cautious dog and it did not take him too long to find a way to get down. Ahhh, the first swim of the season! I am not sure if that is a record, but it sure could be. Usually we are still deep in the throws of winter or just starting to break out into spring by March 24th. Not this year. We are about 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule.
    She might have been worried about Burt, but Nora did not have any problems coaxing me to step out onto the ice ledge to get my picture taken. She did ask about the life insurance policy first at least! Actually truth be told that she was concerned about me too, but the water was only about a foot deep there and the worst that would have happened to me is I would have gotten wet and cold had the ledge given way. I obviously would not have gone out there had the water been deep or the drop been too high.
    We played around on the beach some more and then got back into the blazer to head home. We took the long way home so that we could stop by a section of the Eagle River to see how it was coming along. The one bright spot to the mud month up here is the waterfalls. There are plenty to see and now is the time to see them. However, I doubt that they will be as dramatic as they usually are because of the low snow cover that needs to melt off and also due to the fact that we had a pretty big melt occur about 2 weeks ago and then things got cold again and slowed down the re-charging of the rivers. It is suppose to rain and rain quite heavily this coming weekend, so perhaps we will brave the elements to check out some of the falls in hopes that they are flowing harder.
    On Sunday I met up with Brian and Dave to take our last snowmobile ride of the season. Our trio was actually a subset of a larger group of guys congregating in central Keweenaw County for the last ride of the year. For the past decade or more there has been a spring ride-in up there and I have attended at least a half dozen of them. The WY trip has complicated things a bit in the past few years, but we still manage to get that last get together in. Saturday would have been the better of the two days to have the ride in, as Sunday was cloudy, foggy and even some rain, but the plans were for Sunday so we stuck to that.
    The rains moved in overnight and by early Sunday morning it was looking like they would be out of the region by mid morning, so we all headed up to ride. Brian, Dave and I arrived first and unloaded the sleds in the pea soup fog. Temps were in the low 40's, so it was a raw cold. None of those weather conditions phased us much and we hopped on the sleds and took off into the woods. The snow off in the woods was not too great for riding. It had the consistency of mashed potatoes and was just deep enough to cover up stumps and logs that your skis would find, so we pretty much stuck to logging roads where the snow was more packed down. The conditions on those paths through the woods were actually a lot of fun for riding. After about a hour of riding, a few rain drops stated to fall and we decided to head to a friends camp to seek out some shelter from the rain. A good thing we did because just as we were getting there the heavens opened up and it poured rain for about 30 minutes. We were able to find a little covered wood pile to hang out in and stayed out of the rain. The rain let up and we headed back out for some more riding. These last rides of the season can have some very interesting events happen on them. It seems like the attitude is that we have all summer to fix things, so we are less afraid to break things. Not sure if it was the weather, the fact that we all were just coming off a weeks worth of hard riding out west or just the fact that we are all getting longer in the tooth than we used to be several years ago, but the riding this time out was pretty much event free. Brian did have a little difficulty with a log crossing, but that was about the extent of the mishaps for the most part.
    With the fog being so thick and the conditions of the ice on the lakes unknown, we decided to stay off of them, which meant that we could not go to some of the favored water skipping spots up there, but we still managed to find a few little patches of water to be able to skip as Dave illustrates in this video here. At one point we were riding along a logging road when out of nowhere this nut comes riding at us on an ATV going about 30-35 mph across the top of the snow. After a spit second I was able to recognize the helmet as Matt's. He had to move to his right a bit to keep from hitting us and his right hand tires sunk into the snow and next thing you know he is hitting the ejection button and getting tossed into the snow! Ahh that Matt. Always one to add a little excitement and entertainment to the show! He was fine and we had a good laugh about it. He said that he could not load up his sled because he was out of snow where he lives, so he brought his 4 wheeler. He said he saw our tracks and decided to follow them to see if he could meet up with us and did! He said the rest of the gang was out riding somewhere in the area so Brian, Dave and I decided to see if we could meet up with them and after about 30 minutes we did. As you can see from that last shot it was still foggy. What you could not see was that the temps were still in the low 40's and another thing you could not see was that I had dressed for upper 50's to low 60's and sunshine! So I was about half frozen at that point. I had checked the weather a bit before heading out and saw that the warm front was already into northern WI with places like Eagle River WI and Ironwood MI in the mid 50's and partly sunny skies. For whatever reason the front decided to take it's time reaching into the Keweenaw and I froze as a result of it. I had decided not to wear my Klim parka, but rather a motocross type jacket from another brand (who will remain nameless). That garment was not gortex (big mistake number 1) and so when we had to ride in the little bit of rain it let some of that rain through. In addition, I was expecting the temps to rise into the upper 50's or low 60's, so all I had on underneath this light jacket was some polypropylene long underwear, about the same thickness of dress socks (mistake number 2). So I did not have much to insulate me from the cold. It was already about 3 in the afternoon and the gang was not planning to ride too much longer, so I broke off from them and headed back to the truck. Got loaded up and headed home for a nice hot shower. Just about the time I got home, the sun broke out and the temps shot up into the low 60's. Figures! Lesson learned, if you are not wearing gortex, you may as well be wearing nothing! Never again for this old boy! I don't know what I was thinking! The funny thing is I have been a strong advocate of gortex for many years and was the only one in our circle wearing it for a long time. Dave and Brian both had it Sunday and sure did rub it in!
    So the last ride of the season is under my belt. I have two fully functional sleds sitting the shop, which is a nice thing. I will get them both greased up in the next day or so, drop some sea foam into the tanks and run them for a bit. Then I will just start them up every few weeks all summer and they will be fine. That is what I have done in years past and been fine with things. I have a few things I want to do to the 800 for next season and will wait for some warmer weather to get going on those projects. Nothing major and more along the lines of cosmetic rather than mechanical. No nitrous, not yet anyway!
    I know I have already eluded to this, but it just does not seem like it is the end of March by the way things look. If I were to be just waking up from a coma or something and had to guess what time of the year it was I would easily have guessed the second week of April. I think that this season will go down as the worst season for snow play since I have moved here. My first year actually saw the snow depart earlier, but it did come earlier and was more consistent through out the season. So this would be the worst I have seen so far and hope to ever see! The two bright spots are that number one- I did not have to shovel the roof once in Lake Linden (a first since moving up here) and secondly we still have enough wood left to get us through the heating season! It will be close, but we will make it.
   We still have some snow left in the woods, but if you were planning on coming up to ride, you best review those ideas. The woods have lost about 6-8" of snow since I rode on Sunday and we will probably lose another 4-8" before this weekend. Plus it looks like rain for this weekend. And if you were thinking you could hop from one play spot to another via trail, that would probably not be a good idea either. Of course I cannot speak for all areas. Perhaps the situation is a little more favorable in the higher terrain south of Houghton. They had more snow than us all season, but I would definitely call ahead to someone you and trust for the straight scoop (aka Krupps or Wildlife Refuge)!
    I am excited for the weather and conditions up here to become favorable for outside work and play. I have a lot of both to do. It will also be fun to be living up here and seeing the woods make their transformation. So I am not as bummed about things as I might otherwise be, it is just so strange to see almost all the snow gone before April even arrives! Oh well, maybe next year there will still be 4-5 feet on the ground like they had back in 1996!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
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March 21-
    By day three (Tuesday), the riding group had grown considerably, with the addition of Rick and Deb from Dobson, Jim and Mike Lehman and Lori and Dave Sleeman from the Wildlife Refuge Cabins. Nick even joined us after a day of rest. That brought our group number up to 16, with Matt making the 17th sled. The first order of business was to head up to photographers hill and get our group photographed by Lindsay from Windy Ridge Photography. That was the pic that she graciously took with my digital camera, but she also takes photos with her SLR and then has the prints ready by the afternoon at happy hour. Our group were then able to purchase 8 x 10's of the pics she took.
    After the group photo, we headed down the trail and then ended up crossing the road to go play up on the west side of Angle Mountain. Angle is the mountain (or at least part of it) that you can see in the Togwotee Web Cam in the NCN. Angle actually has several peaks and the largest is not in view of the cam. The gang stopped to do some filming, but it was at a jumping spot and me not being a jumper I decided to do a little exploring. My goal was to just keep heading up and up until I ran out of terrain to be able to go up. At the very top levels up there, the hills are more gradual, so I was not doing any serious hill climbing, but I was getting pretty high up. Where I was at there are not too many spots higher in the immediate vicinity and even the sled ran a little fat, with some stuttering and backfiring. Some of the Tetons reach over 13,000 and I think peaks like the Breccia Cliffs, Brooks Range and Two Oceans do rise higher than I was at. I reached a point where I could look north towards the Absoroka Mountains off to the north. Tons of untouched snow lay just ahead of me, calling me, inviting me...but no. The untouched snow was sitting in the Teton Wilderness area, which is off limits to motorized equipment.  I did step foot across the boundary as that is not illegal, but did keep my sled on the correct side of the invisible line. Which actually afforded me a nice photo op of the 800 sitting in front of Two Oceans Mountain- sight of some of the next day's adventures. One thing that is a little strange about being up that high is to come across bare ground. The rule of thumb out west is the higher you climb, the deeper the snow gets in general. However, that area is fully exposed to the winds and they pretty much blow hard all the time, even when the winds are calm further down, so the snow is not able to collect much in the wind exposed areas and thus you end up with bare ground in spots and 10 feet of snow just a few hundred yards away. Pretty cool. The view to the west from up there also provided for a pretty nice look at the Teton Range.
    As mentioned, Nick could not sit idle for more than one day while we rode. I could certainly sympathize with him and even though the Dr. suggested he not ride a sled for several weeks, it was more like several hours before he was back on his ride. I am not sure what I would have done, but I know that even if I had gone out for a ride only two days after separating my shoulder, I would not have been out there carving my sled one handed!
    I honestly do not remember a ton of the details to what happened for much of the first part of the riding day on Tuesday. I do have one pick to share with you and that is of one of the Lehman brothers stuck in a creek bed, with Kenny looking on. I do remember the afternoons activity. We had lunch and then they put a helmet cam on someone and a group took off to do some boondocking. Rick asked that just 3 sleds and then sled with the helmet cam head up into the woods and I must have been one of the only ones to hear that as soon there were around 6 or 7 sleds heading up. I figured that was plenty and stayed back where we ate lunch. I got bored and did a little riding around, playing on some smaller hills and just tooting around on the sled. I spotted Dave Sleeman riding not too far off in the distance so rode over to him with the thought that the two of us could do a little exploring. Without any verbal communication we agreed to do that and were soon heading off into the woods to do some exploring of our own. It did not take long for Dave to experience his first stuck of the day. The snow was pretty firm in the open areas, but once you got into the woods it was still pretty much powder. Plus the downwind slopes can get pretty wind loaded, so it was easy to find spots that had well over 5 feet of powder in them and Dave found one while heading up a steep hill!
    I climbed up to help him and we both started digging. He has a pretty big sled and it was a nasty spot to be stuck, with some trees near by. We tried to bring the sled around, and after several failed attempts and about 30 minutes of time, his sled was sitting upside down and it was determined that I should go get some others to help. I went back to where the group had been when we ate lunch (also the last spot where I saw anyone when Dave and I took off) and there was no one there anymore!  I could not believe my eyes that they had all left us, but it was true. So I rode back to Dave with the bad news that we were on our own. We dug out a huge shelf to right the sled onto and were able to get the sled right side up and pointing in a direction that would allow him to ride out. Just as he was getting ready to start his sled and ride out, the search party from our group was head. We waited for the sound of their sleds to stop and then yelled over to them It took a few turns of yelling, but they found us. Luke, Jerry and our guide Jeff (Matt was at the dentist) came over and it was fortunate that they did because Dave got sucked into a tree hole on  the way down and needed some help again. We all rode out and joined up with the rest of the group, but it took us about an hour to get that sled unstuck. Just for the heck of it we dug down to bare ground and when I stood on it, the snow where Dave was stuck came up to my eyes. So we shoveled out an area about 10 feet by 20 feet which was about 6 feet deep on the uphill side and about 2-3 feet on the down hill side. Wha!
    We did head over to some hills to play on and here is a shot of me me heading up one of them (dot in about the middle of the picture). That was actually my second run at the hill and I had hoped to be able to get up and above the rock field. Things were going pretty good but then I felt a "bump" under my track and then another and soon the track was spinning and I was not going forward any more and this is not a good feeling to have when climbing a biggie hill. I think this pic was taken right about the time I was encountering the second "bump" and I was trying to turn out before the rocks. Too little too late. I had the High Hole for the day! I also figured that I probably had the Tin Horn wrapped up to boot! I got my shovel out and went to start to dig a platform to slide the sled into to get it pointing towards the side of the hill so I could ride down and my shovel went down about 2" and stopped with a hard "tink"! I had managed to high hole it right in the rock field, with most of the rocks being covered by just a few inches of snow. I decided to set the brakes and pull the sled backwards a bit and that worked pretty well. I slid the sled down about 15 feet and was in deep enough snow that I could dig out a little ledge to slide the sled onto and then gather my wits and drive down.
    This was another spot where someone could not come to help. I was on my own. Matty did ride up (and above me) to say hi and wish me well. That was nice of him- only I wish that he had not made going that high look so easy, especially with the cameras going! The ledge building went pretty smoothly and in about 15-20 minutes I was ready to head down. It is amazing how the cameras just do not show how steep it was. In that last shot it looks like I could have just grabbed a hold of a ski and tugged the sled around and pointed it in a direction to head down, but in reality, the sled would have tumbled down the mountain with little problems from there and would have been a total loss. I was even a little nervous about sliding the sled onto the ledge. I had built a nice 2 foot bank to catch it from sliding down past the ledge, but was still worried about it rolling and not sliding onto the ledge. I must have done things right or had luck on my side or both because the sled did not roll and I was able to get out of my pickle. I am pretty sure that was the last of the major action for that day and I did end up with the Tin Horn for the day on that one!
    The next day saw a smaller group. Dave and Lori did not ride with us. About a mile or two after heading out from the lodge, Brian's track started to come apart and Dave blew a belt so bad it gummed up his clutches so bad that both he and Brian headed back to the lodge to skip the days ride. Not long into the ride Nick's secondary clutch had problems, so he, Luke and Jerry headed back. That left us with a much smaller group. We stopped in a spot where Rick did some filming of some of the guys coming out of the woods and catching some air on some bumps. I snapped a still shot of things, but the video looked much better- especially in slow motion.
    We then went to a spot with a cornice running the length of a ridge line. The goal here was to ride up a 100 ft or so steep hill and then jump up the cornice and then turn your sled in mid air and land on the down slope. Seemed simple enough, but I along with just about everyone else sat that trick out. Matty was the only one in our group that went for it and ended up nailing it several times for the camera.  What you don't see in that shot is that it is about 20 feet straight down from where Matty is sitting in the air, then you land and have a 45 degree slope or so (still very, very steep) to ride down for a while until reaching the bottom of the hill. Pretty nuts.
    Later that day as we were getting ready to head back to the lodge. Matty spied one last hill climb. Most of the group had actually already taken off to head back, with me, Matty, Al and Lefty (a guide for another outfit out there, he lost his left arm in a motorcycle accident over a decade ago and can ride is sled with just his right arm better than just about anyone I have seen do it with both arms!) holding up to watch Matty climb the hill. I said if he was really going to climb it that I wanted a video record of it. I also advised him to have just enough speed to carry the hill, because we did not know what was on the other side of it. I fired up my cam and Matty headed up the hill. I think he was doing about 40 when he reached the top of the hill (so much for just barely carrying it!). His sled and body shot about 10-15 feet into the air, he did a superman and disappeared over the top. In about a half second, both Al and Lefty had started their sleds and were going to ride up to see if Matty survived his ordeal (not kidding here, we thought he might have launched off a 500 foot cliff or something on the other side), when through the viewfinder of the cam I saw Matty come to the edge of the hill he had just climbed and signal he was OK. His sled flew about 30-40 feet and landed at the base of some trees. I do not know how close he came to actually going over the other side and off the cliffs, but it was probably closer than he wanted to and the trees might have saved the whole show.
    Lefty decided to ride up and give Matty a hand. He did not make it on his first attempt, but did on his second. Al decided to ride up and ended up getting stuck on an icy spot between two trees. Just then the rest of the group had arrived back to see what was keeping us. Our guide Matt rode up to help out Al and then Matt, but the hill was so steep and so icy that they had to manually break through the crust of the snow and break a path that would allow them to ride down without losing all control. That process probably took about 45 minutes and the whole ordeal won Matty the Tin Horn for the day.
    On Thursday, our second to last day of riding, we were pretty much back to full strength. Nick fixed his clutch, Dave cleaned up his and Brian was able to ride one of the rentals that Togwotee so graciously loaned out to him. One of the filming spots we came to was a little climbing through the trees. Rick was able to ride up and around the back side of the hill and be on top, while we took turns getting to the top. Here is a pic of Matty on his way up. Kind of neat to see the snow sprayed about 8 feet into the trees behind him by others that were heading up. Here is a video of Al taking a different route up through the trees. Here is a video of Lefty coming up. I almost feel bad having that video of Lefty being the only representation of his riding with us Thursday and Friday as he sure can ride. So I guess you will just have to wait until Born To Ride 6 comes out next autumn to see what he is capable of. I think he is also in some other videos out there from other producers. Pretty amazing stuff!
    We moved onto another play spot with some bigger hills. This was actually a spot we played in on our last day there last year and I am glad we went back to it this year as it is one of my favorite spots. My lips are sealed as to its location. So far every time we go there we are making the first tracks in the snow that is there. Obviously others have been there before us, but not since the last good snow, which in this case was about 2 weeks prior to our arrival. Nick was getting braver and braver with his one handed riding. I think he was inspired by watching Lefty go. In any case, Nick ended up sticking it pretty good up high. Not much chance for help on that one as another sled might have brought the hill down. There was already a little fracture in the snow showing up right above Nick in that last shot. Thankfully Nick is a big boy (meaning strong like a bull) and was able to muscle his sled out of the stuck with his one good arm. We played around on the hills for most of the afternoon and here is a video of Al doing some climbing. After the late return the day before we headed back to the lodge. I did not see the incident that won Luke the Tin Horn award as I went to bed too early to see Rick's video footage from the day, but from what I understand it was quite entertaining and was fitting of the tin horn. Something to the effect of him coming off his sled, getting his boot hooked in the sled and then being dragged down the hill on his booty by his sled.
    By Friday (our last day of riding) I think a lot of the gang was already to head back. I know many of them have families and were missing their wives and little ones. I missed Nora and Burt and was also looking forward to heading back. That did not stop us from having fun the last day. I did not take too may pictures that last day, concentrating more on video footage. However our first stop of the day was along a ridgeline. To the west were the Tetons and to the east were the Breccia Cliffs, hey, I can actually spot right where I put my high hole underneath the cliff wall! Most of the riders took it easy too. I know I figured I had used up a lot of my good luck with my ghost ride through the trees and did not want to push things too much further. I did climb some hills as did all the other guys, but Friday's riding was for the most part a lot more timid than the start of the trip. The only one who really should have taken it easy as Nick and he did the opposite. In fact he ended up yanking his arm out of it's socket again. So he took his second trip to the hospital for the week. I don't know if the staff were happy to see him, but did recognize him. When asked how it happened, Nick told a nice story about how he had slipped on the ice and fallen. I think the Doctors and nurses might have bought the story except for when they took his jacket off and he was still wearing his avalanche beacon! Busted!
      So Nick pulled the Tin Horn for the second time of the trip and he also won the award for the entire trip and gets to hang onto the trophy until next time. All in all we had a blast this year and I know we all hope that we will be able to return next year- to maybe a bit more fresh snow. Here is a shot of the semi all loaded and ready to head home Saturday morning. We made good time getting back, even beating the pickups back. It felt really good to be home. This sure is my home and feels that way. It is so nice to be able to come back to a place that I love to much. I was actually more excited to get back to see Nora, Burt and the Keweenaw than I was to head out west!
    I am not dying to ride at the moment, but it would be neat to take one last spin. There is talk of some water skipping this weekend, but I am not sure we will have any flooded fields to skip, which would mean we have to head over to one of the lakes that open up by the creek heads. So we'll see what transpires. We are running out of snow. There is still around 1-2 feet in the woods, but for the most part the trails are done. On our way up Sunday I did notice that they still have enough snow to groom from South Range down to a little south of Twin Lakes and they were grooming. However, the trails just outside of Mass City were cooked, so that leaves you with about 30-40 miles of railroad grade to ride in one direction and back if you want to stick to the trails. I would imagine there may be some trails left to ride on north of Phoenix too, but again it would probably be limited places you can go. Hard to believe that the season is ending and it is only mid March, but the way this winter went, I guess that is not too surprising. I think this is the worst season we have had since I moved up.
    Not much else to say, but I did see that a false start to the Laurium Glacier contest was created today on the General Discussion Board. Just a heads up that I will be heading down that way to take a pic of it and will officially start the contest on Thursday. So be patient and hang in there, the contest will start soon!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 20-
    Ok, here we go! First off, I would like to say how happy I am to be home and to have such a special place to be able to come back to as well as a special wife and special dog. I missed them all very much while I was away and knowing that I would be returning to them made the end of the trip just as exciting as the beginning. Even more so really. I did not sleep so well Friday night knowing I was going home, while I slept like a baby in the nights leading up to my heading out west. I would also like to thank the staff at the Togwotee Mountain Resort for another wonderful and memorable trip. They sure know how to spoil a person out there and the entire crew I was with just goes on and on about the staff and service. So to Jeff, Ben, Beth, Matt and the rest of the good folks at the lodge, thanks!!! It was a blast!
    I will actually be covering the trips events in two journals as there is a lot to cover. I went out with two still cameras and my video camera. I gave one of the still cameras to Brian and kept the other still and the video camera. The video cameras contents will not be shared in the journal as I would have to read up on how to do that. However, both Brian and I did shoot some video clips with the still cams and I have 4 of those to share as well as 79 still images to share with you. Between Brian and I we took 170 still photos, which I whittled down to the 79 to share with you.
    Friday we loaded the sleds onto the semi-trailer out at Dave's. He had built a nice ramp for us to be able to drive the sleds right onto the trailer with. With the sleds all loaded, we then tarped them up to protect them from the elements. All tarped and ready to hit the road.
    The trip out was actually pretty fun. I thought we would all be traveling in a caravan, with Dave, Jerry and I in the semi, Brian, Luke and Nick in one of the pickup trucks and Al, Kenny and Matt in the other pickup, but the two pickups broke off from the group at the onset, so Dave, Jerry and I went out solo. We had to stop in northwest WI to pick up Jerry's sled and then headed through MN and into SD. We left the Lake Linden area at about 5 pm local time, so most of the first 12-14 hours were spent in the dark. I was in the sleeper when we started out, but not too sleepy at the onset of the trip, so I just sat back there and listened to Jerry and Dave talk and watched out the windows. I wished I had been able to take a nap as soon I was in the co-pilot seat and traveling through the middle of the night trying to keep the driver up. I did not do a very good job as I fell asleep pretty soundly and was awoken when we made a driver switch. I was able to stay awake for most of the next drivers shift and at about 3 am got to climb back into the sleeper and was gone in la-la land for the next 3-4 hours in deep sleep. I woke up at about 7 am while we were traveling in the middle of South Dakota. Our travels down I-90 would take us along the northern edge of the Badlands of South Dakota. I have seen them from the air and was hoping to catch a glimpse of them from the road. We did not get too see much, I think we passed two small sections right on the edge of them, here is a pick of one of the sections. We stopped for breakfast at a truck stop in Rapid City and Dave and I were hazed by Jerry for getting the buffet. The true punishment came when we tried to eat the food in the buffet. Actually it was not that bad. I had walked by and scouted things out and things looked fine, but it was late in the morning and things were not as fresh as they were a few hours earlier. Trucker lesson number 1- order off the menu, skip the buffet!
    Jerry knew all the roads to take to get to Togwotee with the greatest of ease and swiftest of motion. Routes that I would have thought would have taken too much time because they were not interstate turned out to be just as good as an interstate, with 4 lane divided highways and no traffic as well as very few towns to slow down for. Our travels took us south from Rapid City to Hot Springs and then west into WY to the town of Lusk. We checked in at the weigh station there and then headed on west past Douglas, Casper and then just north of Riverton up to Dubois. We stopped in Dubois to pick up some supplies for the week and then headed up the grade into the mountains. I had promised to myself to not get too excited until we were heading up and over Togwotee Pass just east of the lodge and I was able to keep my excitement down until just past Dubois, then the sight of the snow capped peaks off to the west got the blood pumping.
    We arrived at the lodge about 90 minutes after the others had arrived, which is not too bad considering we spent about an hour loading up Jerry's sled and then did not travel at the same speed as the pickups. A testament to Jerry's choice of routes to get there. It was only about 4:30 local time, so we unloaded the sleds off the trailer, I hauled all my gear up to the room and made sure that my internet connection at the lodge was working. They have a T1 connection at the lodge and a wireless network to tap into, so I was able to perform all my work duties for my customers while out there. It was not so much fun to wake up at 4 in the morning every day (including Sunday) to get my forecast out, but I was able to play the rest of the day! We had dinner and then some went to the bar to unwind, while others to their cabins and me to my room.
    The snow conditions out there this year were different from the past two years. I would have to call it late-spring conditions whereas the previous two trips the conditions were more early spring. The difference being the snow this year was pretty hard packed. We did find some powder, even some very deep powder, but for the most part we started out on pretty hard packed snow in the mornings and then by the afternoon the sun had softened things up nicely. I can note that the conditions we had were very atypical for that area for that time of the year. They had some unusually warm temps the week before we arrived and that settled the snow and then when temps got back to more average levels, froze everything up. Typically the first 2-3 weeks of March are the best time to head out there. The snow is at it's deepest and they are still getting fresh snow (like the last two years). Plus the temps are not nearly as cold as they are in January and February. Even thought the snow conditions were not the best, our guide Matt showed us to some fantastic play spots and the group all had a blast. It is so enjoyable to go with a group of friends that get along so well. We will tease each other from time to time, but nothing malicious and there were no arguments the entire trip. Plus everyone just took what Mother Nature handed us in stride and made the most of it. No complaining about a lack of powder or hard pack snow in the mornings.
    Day one of riding started out with the 8 of us and our guide Matt. To keep him straight with the Matt in our group, I will call the Matt in our group Matty. I could call him "Daisy", but that is an inside joke! Anyway, we wasted no time heading up into the mountains to ride the first day. After about an hour of riding we came to our first stop for the day and I hoped off my sled to snap a shot of the group with a section of the Breccia Cliffs in the background. A little while later and I found myself in my first stuck of the trip.  See, there was some powder out there! That first shot was taken by me and here is a shot of me and the hill taken by Brian. Looks like I waited just a bit too long to turn out and then was forced to try and make it past the trees. No dice. I was not alone in the getting stuck department. Seems like there was a pretty strong stuck fever running through the group when we hit the first set of hills to play on. I think everyone wanted to see what their sleds were capable of. Here is is a log jam of sleds stuck while boondocking through the trees and here is a pic of Matty sled and a group of guys unsticking it. Dave managed to stick it pretty good too.
    We then got to some larger hills, but the snow was also a lot firmer. Great for going up, but not so great for coming back down. On one of his climbs, Nick launched off some rocks, but the rear of his sled ended up bucking upwards as he came off the rocks, the sled went end over end with him still on it. I did not see the incident, but when we got there he was about 100 feet below his sled holding his left arm and the word was he had broken it. Not a real good thing to hear. We were not all that far from the road and trail, but still to have as serious an injury as that within the first 2 hours of riding was not good at all. Here is a shot of his sled were it came to rest after hitting the snow nose first and flipping twice. The sled ended up being fine and after some more examination the news on Nick was not as serious as a broken arm, but looked very much like a dislocated shoulder. We combined the resources we had to try and stabilize the arm/shoulder that Nick injured and then he rode double down with Matt to the road while Al and Luke headed back with his sled and to get the one of the trucks to take Nick down to the hospital in Jackson.
    With all of that taken care of we headed back into the hills to do some more playing. At first the atmosphere was a little subdued, but soon we were all back at it climbing hills and getting stuck and even rolling over. Kind of hard to tell who that was in the last photo, let's see if they pop up out of the snow so that we can see. Yep, it was Matty! Not all of the riding was done to see who was the best hill climber or side hiller or deep snow carver. Some was done to just take in the beautiful vistas that are given at just about every spot you go out there- as Dave illustrates here. Ok, enough of that wimpy scenery stuff :) here is Matty stuck, with Dave chatting with him. I wonder what they were talking about?!
    With me taking many of the pictures for these journals, there are not too many pics of me in them, so I was hoping that Brian would snap some of me and he did. Here is a shot of me doing a little sidehilling. Here is a shot of Dave in the same spot, he ended up sticking it good. Here is guide Matt carving his sled while going down hill. Tried this briefly last year and it is the hardest thing I have ever done on a snowmobile, hands down. Of course I have not tried to do a back flip either, but of the safer, more realistic things I could do, this was just downright hard! Here is Kenny having a go at one of the hills. High holed it too! The snow was pretty stable, but not avalanche free. Matt was riding through a spot that had been carved up by three other sleds when the hill came down behind him. Not a big avalanche and nothing that would have caused major problems unless he had fallen off his sled and managed to end up head first, but it was the first avalanche I had ever seen in real life and Brian did manage to capture a bit of it with this video. Here is a still shot of the slide area.
    And so concludes day 1. There was some more riding that was done, but neither Brian nor I captured any other pics or movies and to tell you the truth, I cannot remember the rest of the day. Day two started as innocent as day 1. We were down to 7 riders plus the guide, with Nick having to sit the day out with a separated shoulder. Here is a shot of the pre ride goings on down at the cabins. Looks like Matty, Al and Jerry were doing a little chatting. The one thing that amazes me about it out there is that there is all this snow on the roofs of the cabins and on the ground, but yet in all the time I have spent out there in the past 3 years I have not seen that much snow fall from the sky! That is actually the way you want it when out there riding off trail- so I am not complaining. You want sunny skies and great visibility, not snow and poor visibility. I think we got a slower start on Monday as we decided to wait for the snow to soften up a bit. We still got off before 10 am, but usually we are wanting to hit the snow by 9 or even sooner.
    Day 2 involved some bigger hill climbs and some true high-holing (rather than high marking). Here is Kenny stuck up towards the top above the small pine trees. One of the problems with getting stuck that high up (and I speak from experience) is that you are pretty much on your own when it comes to getting yourself unstuck. The hill is usually way to steep for someone to stop on without getting stuck yourself. In some cases an additional sled and rider in the same spot may also overload the snow and bring it sliding down along with it's occupants. So all of us became spectators of the event and Kenny was up there without a shovel, so that really stinks! Matt tried to ride up and over the hill from behind and then stop his sled near Kenny by putting his sled into reverse as he was coming down the hill, but he could not stop in time to be close enough to help Kenny out. Al the while I picked a spot in the shade and behind some trees (in case the sled ghost rode down the hill towards us) to watch the whole event unfold. It seemed like 45 minutes to an hour that it took Ken to unstick his sled, but in reality it was about 25-30 minutes. Matt did end up parking his sled above Ken and climbing down to help as well.
    Back to the climbing action, here is Matty having a go at it. Here he is making a mark that will be hard to beat. Here goes yours truly heading up and here I am making a nice big wide turn out near the top, but Matty's mark is perfectly safe. A little later on we moved over to the next play spot and put some new tracks into it. Here I am headed up, my plan was to make it up past the last bunch of trees near the top. I just barely managed to get past them when a new challenge was presented. On my way back down I ended up in a little depression in the hill, a tiny ravine if you will. That prevented me from taking the line down I wanted to take and pointed me right towards a bunch of pine trees. It is at times like this that I am amazed at how fast a mind can work. My first thought was of Nora and Burt and how I was going to do everything in my power to make sure I got to see them again (half joking, but half serious here). Once I had that figured out, my second thought was how to keep the damage as minimal as possible to the sled. In what was probably less than a second or two I was able to formulate a plan that included me riding the sled until the last possible second in an attempt to try and steer it in a direction that would put it in contact with the smallest trees below me and in my path. Part two to the plan was for me to bail off at the last minute, saving myself from harm and wishing the sled all the best of luck in the world. The final part was for me to pin the throttle in hopes that it would get the nose of the sled up enough that it, the bottom of the skis and the track would make contact with the trees and not the trailing arm, hood or other more fragile parts of the sled. Lady luck was on my side big time as the plan worked pretty much flawlessly. All I saw was the trees getting closer and closer and then as I bailed and met up with a small pine, I saw the sled ride through and hear it come to a stop on the other side. I got around the trees as fast as possible to see what had happened to the sled and how much damage was done and was grateful to see the sled sitting stuck in the snow. Mind you it was not sitting perfectly flat in the snow, but it was safe and pretty much free from damage. Here I am posing with the sled. Here is another shot of me with the trees the sled went through just above me. I managed to get the sled upright, then lost control of it for a moment and watched it barrel roll down the hill a bit, but this did not do any damage either. The push pins for the windshield did pop out and the shield was left dangling, but that was the extent of the damage. Did I mention I was very lucky on this one?! Plus I got to slide down the hill a bit on my rear end to get to the sled after it tumbled down from it's first stuck spot. Just to help illustrate a bit more what happened, here is a shot of the hill, with my route traced in pink and my intended route in blue. My incident did not slow the group down at all, with Matty taking another run at it and here is Dave. Fearless group we are! :) Here is a shot of the hill when we were done with it. I would not want to be someone happening along a place our group had been last week!
    Brian probably had the most unique stuck of the day. Not going up hill, or side hill. He just pulled up next to a pine tree and got stuck. Brian was pretty quick to give us all a razzing for getting stuck, so this one is for you Brian... Nice low hole!
    The day ended with some of the boys taking turns on a jump. Some of our group like to jump and others (like me) pretty much sit and watch. Here is a shot of Ken catching some air and here is Matty. Just as we were returning to the lodge, Rick and Deb from Dobson Entertainment were pulling in from the airport. We said hi, gassed up our sleds and got ready for happy hour and dinner. Dave had a really neat idea for this years trip. When some one does a bone headed thing on their sled we call it a "Tin Horn". So he created a Tin Horn Trophy out of an old snowmobile trophy and an old boat horn. Nick received the award for the first day, with his trip to the hospital. Each day the group does an informal vote on who would be the winner and then the previous days winner gets to present the new winner with the trophy. Then at the end of the trip a person is elected to be the Tin Horn for the trip. Day two's competition seemed to be locked up by Kenny with his high hole and 30 minute dig out. Then I stole it away with my ghost ride through the trees. However, Ken did not see my ordeal and the gang decided to just let Ken think he was getting it. He was not too happy to be the one to be getting it so just before dinner, Brian felt sorry for him and spilled the beans about my event. So at the awards presentation Monday night, there was Kenny sitting nervously as he listened to Nick giving the presentation speech. Then Nick turned to me and I thought for sure I was getting it, but as fast as Nick turned to me, he turned away and walked to Brian and said as good (or bad) as my tin horn was, loose lips sink ships and gave the award to Brian. Some last minute decision making amongst the gang resulted in the idea to give the award to Brian for spilling the beans to Brian. In Brian's defense he was just feeling sorry for Ken and trying to make him feel better. Anyway, Brian was all set to be taking pics of me or Ken getting the award, but here is the shot he took of the gang as Nick announced his name as the winner. A great idea by Dave and we are already putting plans in the works for next years new award- the High Holler.
    That covers days one and two. I plan to cover days 3-6 tomorrow. A few less pictures, but three more videos and you will get to learn who wins the Tin Horn for the rest of the 4 days of riding. So stay tuned!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 19-
    I had hoped to be able to write installment one covering our trip out west, but I just finished 4 1/2 hour marathon getting all the pics in order (there will be 79 in total) as well as the video clips (4 of them) and am ready for bed! Unless something unforseen happens, I plan to write back to back entries the next 2 days covering the trip and other items. So for now...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
March 8-
    This I can promise will be a short one, but I wanted to get one last entry out before heading out west. I have been pretty busy this week getting ready, so I am glad I took my ride on Sunday and did not try to squeeze in a ride Monday or Tuesday of this week. On Monday I ran down to Houghon/Hancock to pick up a few things and then Tuesday spent the afternoon in Al's shop re-clutching and re-jetting for the altitude out west. A bunch of the guys were there so it took me a little longer than I had planned on. I wanted to add some stiffer springs for the suspension, but ran out of time Tuesday. I also felt like I was getting sick Tuesday morning, which really worried me and made me angry. Here I figured I had already picked up the cold for the season and would be home free. Not sure what happened, but while working on my sled I started to feel better and felt fine by Tuesday evening.
    After I got home on Tuesday I pulled the power valves off the sled to clean them up. I have tried a number of methods to try and get them clean and the best way I have found is to just soak them in a de-greaser solution I get from Wal Mart. It takes a little while as I let them soak for a few hours, then scrub them with a tooth brush, then soak some more and scrub a little and soak some more and scrub. You get the picture. The scrubbing only takes a few minutes and the de-greaser really does most of the work. The last little bit can be a little stubborn and sometimes I get at that with a plastic knife. By this morning they were clean enough to eat off of, well, almost!. Yesterday I spent about 2 1/2 hours cleaning up the ports for the valves and got them pretty clean as well. I used a rag soaked in carb cleaner for that. I did not want the de-greaser getting into the engine. Today I put the valves back in and they slid in "like budda". So At least I will not have those to blame for any poor performance while out west! I am trying a slightly different clutch setup than I had last year too. Al is the clutching magician and recommended this setup to me. I am looking forward to see how it will run. It can't be any worse than last year. 7300 rpms! Yikes!
    Last night I decided to change out those springs and went about thawing out the rear suspension to do that and also so that I could give it the once-over and grease all the points that can take grease. The springs went in pretty well, but I noticed I was missing a bolt and spacer for my rear idler wheel assembly. As luck would have it the aftermarket kit I bought would allow me to run 2, 3 or 4 wheels in the rear and I was only running 2, so I had some extra bolts and some extra spacers and slipped them in this morning. So the 800's is all ready to go. Tomorrow afternoon I will drive down to Dave's and we will load it onto the semi. I'll head back home to do some final packing and then later tomorrow afternoon or early evening will be hitting the dusty trail. I am not too excited about the long drive, but am excited to be going. I am riding in the semi and plan to do a lot of sleeping in the sleeper. There is also a TV/DVD so perhaps I will have to watch some snowmobile videos on the way out. Plus I plan to do some reviewing of the avalanche book that Nora gave me for Christmas two years ago, although it looks like the avy risk is dropping pretty substantially from where it was about 2 weeks ago.
    Speaking of Nora, she is kind of excited too. Not to get rid of me, but she will be taking the week off next week and will also have some friends visiting so it will be a mini vacation for her too. I just hope her parties while I am away do not get too crazy. She rented Risky Business the other day, I hope that is not an omen. Seriously though I wish that her and Burt could come along. That would make the trip perfect. It is the only think I do not like about going away is that I do not get to be with them.
    The weather the past 2 days has really started to feel like spring. Actually it reminds me a lot of March in Wyoming. A strong sun, dry air and temps still below freezing. If I could have a winter anyway I could it would be one with about 75% of the days having snow in them, with about 20% of them being fairly heavy snow (greater than 6"). The other 25% of the days would be just like we have had today, with lots of warm sunshine, but dry air and temps below freezing so that the snow does not melt. It is really amazing how strong the sun starts to get in March, even early March. Today was the first day in a long time that I did not need a hat or gloves on my afternoon walk with Burt.
    The trails are holding up very well so far as temps have remained below freezing and the traffic has been way down. I can not make any promises as to how things will be this weekend as the temps are suppose to rise above freezing during the day and I am sure there will be more riders around. For now the trails are pool table flat and nice and white. This sure would have been the week ride up here this season!
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. I guess the next journal will be a monster with 6 days of riding and 2 days of travel to talk about. Who knows, I may have to break it into two entries to cover everything! Talk to you in a little over a week!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 5-
    Wow, I can't believe that is has been nearly a week since last writing. Needless to say I have been a pretty busy guy, but for some reason I thought I had written earlier. I had hoped to write yesterday evening, but ran out of steam. I can feel my energy slipping as I write, but hopefully I can hang in there as I have quite a bit to write and nearly 2 dozen pics to share.
    The first order of business is the weather. The storm came and the storm hit. It was not the biggest or the baddest storm the area has even seen, but it was certainly respectable. We had lightning and thunder Thursday night and winds to 50 mph. I personally saw some of the largest snow drifts I have ever seen. A 7-8 footer blocked off a land and a half of hwy 41 near the airport and there were some doozies in the back country as well. By Friday afternoon though you would have never known much of a storm had hit and once things tapered off by Saturday things were pretty much back to normal. On Thursday afternoon as the storm was drawing near, I was taking care of some chores outside and looked to the west to see it approaching. It was not long after that shot was taken that the snows started up. We picked up a quick inch or so and then things quieted down for a period around 8 pm. I got a little worried but looked at the radar and saw things filling in to our south and also saw the latest computer guidance still sticking to their guns with quite a bit of snow to fall, so I went to sleep and did not worry too much about things. I actually slept through the lightning and thunder, but was glad to wake up to about 6" of snow at 4:30 in the morning with it still coming down pretty hard.
    The trip down to Hancock for the Ride-In registration was a fun one, but as bad as the weather was the main highway was fully travel worthy. The road crews really know how to handle things up here. Unfortunately other roads in the UP and northern WI were not able to be kept open and thus some folks were not able to make it up to the Ride-In. So the storm was a bit of a blessing and a curse, but for those that made it, they were treated to the best conditions we have had so far this season. I ended up taking a group of five out on a back country ride Friday. We made a b-line to Lake Linden on the trail so that we could be first to hit some of the fields in the valley. Previous to this storm, the snowcover in the valley had not really been deep enough to get any good carving in, but all that changed for Friday. The wind was still blowing pretty good, but we nestled in close to the trees and and found some good carving snow. It was also deep enough to provide for some stucks. I do believe that everyone got stuck on the ride, including me. Although my stuck was on a road. I stopped on it to look back and see how the rest of the group was making their way across a field and when I went to take off the carbides grabbed the ice on the road nicely, but the track just spun. Not sure what I would have done had I not been given a hand. Most stucks I could eventually dig my way out of, but this one needed a tug on the ski and a hand on the throttle at the same time and my arms are not that long!
    We continued our way north through the valley. Got a little turned around in one spot, got just about everyone stuck again and then headed to Calumet to stop in at Keweenaw Motorsports for some quick sled repairs and lunch. Back into the valley to bust some drifts and then down to Hancock to call it a day. All in all a pretty successful day in the back country. Tons of fresh snow and some fun places to play in it. I ended up having a tree branch rip a piece of my throttle block off. Thankfully one of the riders in the group has some zip ties that we used to get things back to a stage where I could use my throttle and I picked up a used one at KMS when we stopped there. Although I should have replaced it before yesterday's ride as I will describe in a bit.
    Saturday for me was spent in the truck or moving snow. I woke up and moved about 9 inches of new snow off the driveway, had breakfast, showered and then drove down to Hancock in the morning to help with the registrations and then took care of some shopping while in town. Drove back to the house, then down to Lake Linden to move over a foot of snow from that driveway, then back up to here and then back down to Houghton for the banquet.
    I guess now would be a great time to thank everyone for a very successful 2nd Annual SnowFest Ride in. I know I am going to leave some folks out and for that I apologize, but here is the list I was able to compile: Everyone that was able to attend the ride in, those that were not able to attend, but sent donations, the good visitors to the site that supplied items for the auction/raffle, Lori and Cathy from the Wildlife Refuge Cabins. John Stachler and his girlfriend Donna. Greg and Ron from the JohnDee.com Store, Jim Fromanek, Spica Restaurant, Ramada of Hancock, Lac La Belle Lodge, Northern Recreation, Keweenaw Motor Sports, Mariner North, Michigan House, Copper World, Klim Sledwear, Library Restaurant, Dobson Entertainment, Rt 12 Arctic Cat Dealer, 4 Season's Cabins, Applebee's, Toivola Lunch, Carlson Travel, Evert's, Ramada Inn, Travelodge, Wyndotte Resort, Parkview Lodge, Chance's Hardware, Pat's Yamaha, Cozy Corner, Tom's Polaris, Superior Sports & Rentals, Salon1281, Krupp's Mini Mart, Krupp's Resort, Super8, Superior Aquatics, Car Quest, Dan's Polaris, Franklin Square Inn, Copper Crown, NAPPA, Copper Country Ford, Sounds in Motion.
    Because of the generosity of the visitors to the site and the local businesses, we really had the prizes this year. That was less than half of the total amount of prizes we had to auction off and raffle off. We did a quick count and were able to raise over $1200 dollars in just the silent auction and raffle. What also was nice was that we had enough prizes that everyone that attended the event was able to go home with something. Sure some items may not have been a persons favorite color or the perfect size, but everyone got to take something home! Greg and Ron from the store also had a personalized vest and hat made up for Morghan the little girl that we were raising the money for this year. She will be leaving for Florida Wednesday to spend some fun time in the sun with her family and all those that took part in this years event can go to bed tonight knowing that they were an important part of making this little girls wish come true.
    It was great to be able to visit with folks that attended the banquet. The banquet facilities were perfect. We were able to watch sleds racing up and down the Portage Lake and then once the sunset, the slopes of Mt. Ripley illuminated the background. The food was delicious, we had chicken parmesan, roast beef, pasta with marinara, a vegetable dish, salad bar, rolls and dessert. I know I went home with a full belly!
    I did take a lot more pictures, including a shot of every table. I plan to put together a special page that will include all of the shots I took. Plus anyone that attended and took their own shots feel free to send them to me and I will include them on that page. They do not have to be from the banquet only, they can be from one of the back country tours or any of the riding you did. Just be sure to include a name that you want associated with the pics you send or tell me if you want a name left off. I do have one last shot to share with you and that is of the entire group that attended the banquet. It was a lot of fun for me and it seemed like everyone there also had a great time. Lots of laughs and some new friends were made as well and most importantly some money was raised for a very good cause. We do not have the final numbers in, but it is looking like we were able to raise more money this year than last, so a pat on the back too all that made that possible!!!
    With all the nice snow we have right now I was really hoping to be able to get out on one last ride before I head out to WY this Friday. My initial thoughts were to rest on Sunday and then see about riding today or tomorrow, but Brian called me yesterday morning and asked if I wanted to take a ride with some of the crew and I jumped at the chance, figuring a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or I had better ride when I have the offer rather than wait for when I had planned and then hope to find someone to be able to ride with!
    Remember my throttle incident and temporary fix? Well, about 5 minutes into yesterday's ride we were climbing a little 20 foot hill and I was second up. On the way up, I hit a rock which threw the sled off to the left (downhill side) a bit and also towards some trees. I spotted a clearing in the trees that would have allowed me to make a u-turn on the hill and come back down unscathed. I let off the throttle a little to make the navigation through the trees and the throttle did not let off! The next thing I knew I was headed straight for the trees and ended up parking the 700 in the trees! As bad as that looked, I was not hurt at all, the sled sustained no damage either. Because the front of the sled was a few feet off the ground when I went into the trees, the skis and belly pan took the brunt of the collision and all was fine. The sled was actually still running and track spinning even after getting caught up in the trees. You can see in the previous shot how the track dug into the snow. Not sure what happened exactly, but I was a whole lot more careful the rest of the day!
    The snow was great for a ride as well. We were able to find lots of spots that had not been touched yet. We came upon an area that had a nice big drift running for about 200 yards and the boys had fun taking turns carving it up, jumping it and as Brian shows here, surfing it. We headed north and into the backcountry to do some true boondocking. Played a little on some logging roads and then back into the bush to make our own trails. When I say make our own trails, I am not saying that lightly. Some of the places we rode I don't think the deer have even been to yet! Some fun hill climbs through the trees, creek crossings and other various obstacles one has to get around or over while making their own path through the woods. All in all a great ride and some more memories made. I'm not sure I will be going back to some of the places we went! but still loads of fun and I am glad that I got that ride under my belt. Now I can concentrate on all that needs to be done before I head out west.
    I have all my gear to wash and pack. I will be doing my regular work (not website work) while out there, so I need to make sure the new laptop I got for Nora for Christmas is all set up for that. I also need to set up the carburation and clutching for the 800 and need to pull the power valves and get them spiffy clean before heading out. We will be loading the sleds onto the semi Friday afternoon and then driving out Friday evening. I am actually driving this time and will be hanging out in the sleeper of the semi. Hoping to get a lot of sleeping and some reading done in the 24 hours it takes!
    The snow up here is as deep as it has been all season. We just about reached the 3 foot mark on the level Saturday morning. Since then the snow has settled some, but is still plenty deep. Here is a shot of our burn barrel to show how deep it it. That is actually sitting on some cinder blocks as well. The banks of snow are all up past the tailgate on Old Blue now, so I can pick and choose anywhere I want to load the sleds into the back of it! The wood pile for the boiler is getting smaller and smaller and it is going to be a close call to see if we can make it through the season with what I have stacked there. I am not concerned if we run out there. A tree came down with some strong winds last week and there are a couple more standing dead ones all in close proximity to the driveway that can be taken for fuel easily enough if we need it. Temps today were cold (high below 10 above), but by the end of the week we will be pushing the mid 30's and soon milder temps will be here to stay, so I am not worried.
    My last item for tonight is to mention a fund raiser for a friend of mine that has recently been diagnosed with a very serious condition called Myelodysplastic Syndrome. It is a precursor to a very aggressive type of leukemia. They are having a fund raiser for him at the Loading Zone II on April 1st, so if you are in the neighborhood and want to help out a local in need, please do so. You can read more about this situation here.
    I do plan to sit down and write once more before heading out west. I had thought about trying to write a journal while out west, but with having to get up way before the crack of dawn (probably around 3 am WY time) to my regular work and then play all day, I think I will need to get to bed early while I am out there! So until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
 
 
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