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April 27-
    Boy, hard to believe that April is almost over. Seems like it just started a few days ago and looking outside at the weather, one might think it is March sometime rather than the end of April. Cold and snowy for the past 24 hours or so. Not a lot of snow, but enough to whiten the ground. Our temp has also been below freezing for about the past 24 hours or so. We did have a taste of spring weather up here this past week, hitting the 60's last Sunday and Monday and even 70 degrees on Wednesday. However, as has been the case with this spring, the warmer temps are just not lasting long. We cooled off on Thursday and then really cooled off later yesterday. The next few days look to keep us well below average and then we look to gradually warm. I suppose the cold temps are a bit of a good thing though as they will slow the snow melt a bit and allow the rivers and creeks to go down a bit. There was some minor flooding up here this past week, with all the snow melt and the rain we picked up. No major flooding and really nothing too out of the ordinary- it could have been worse.
    As I mentioned in the previous journal, we are at a time of the year when outdoor activity is a bit curtailed. There is not enough snow to snowmobile on, but enough snow and wetness exists in the woods to keep us from getting into them to hike or do other activities. The one exception is taking a wet and messy ATV ride, which parts of our snowmobile gang and I took yesterday. For years they have been having the annual "spring ride" and last year I was fortunate enough to borrow one of Dave's ATV's and partake in it. With the arrival of an ATV of our own last summer, I was looking forward to this springs ride. They are always tried to be taken on the weekend where there is still some snow left, but also lots of puddles from the snow melt.
    Lots of debate was done this year as to if this weekend or next would be the best. I told Dave that this weekend would probably provide the best chances for getting into some snow and that by next weekend, we might have to look pretty hard to find it. Based on how much snow we encountered in some of the higher terrain of Keweenaw County and looking at the forecast for next week, it looks like finding snow up there next weekend would not have been much of a challenge at all. In fact, we hit so much snow at one point yesterday that we had to end the trip there and turn around and head back. More on that in a bit, but we could have actually had fun on the sleds in some spots we tried to ATV in yesterday.
    There ended up being 8 of us in all. Dave, Al and Matt and then another Dave, Ed, Mark, Jeremy and myself. We took off from Dave's house like we did last year and did not even get out of his backyard and into his woods before finding the first huge water hole. I have to apologize at this point as the batteries in my camera were dead and I did not realize it when I grabbed the camera to go yesterday. I had not used the camera much at all, so I thought the batteries had plenty of juice, but when I went to take the first picture, it would not even turn on. The only thing I can think of is that I left it on when I was downloading pictures off of it for the last journal and it went dead then. Anyway, I was really upset that I would not be able to take any pics of the ride as there are really some great moments to capture.
    Anyway, as mentioned, we found the first water hole at the edge of Dave's yard and it pretty much set the trend for the rest of the day. There are some deep mud holes in his woods too and even a cedar swamp or two that we found our way through. I have to say that I was extremely pleased by the way our ATV and it's new tires and rims performed. I did end up getting stuck a few times, but the bike seemed to pull me through a lot of sticky situations that others were either not able to get through or had severe difficulties. At one point, Jeremy and I blazed a trail through a foot or more of snow so that others could get through. So thanks to the ATV, I looked like I knew what I was doing yesterday!
    The weather yesterday was OK. A bit on the cold side, especially late in the trip. We headed out from Dave's place at about 9:30 and did not get back until after 8 in the evening. I actually wore some snowmobile gear that has gortex in it. I had the marketing director from Scott/Remia send me some of their gear this season and tried out it's water shedding capabilities on the trip. I am pleased to report that the gortex in the gear he sent worked fine. I stayed perfectly dry the whole ride and also warm up until the very end. Even the gloves kept my hands dry the entire trip. The boots that Nora got me this past Christmas also worked perfectly. Kept my feet perfectly warm and dry the whole trip. Here is a shot of me taken right when I got home. It's kind of hard to see in that picture, but I was coated in mud from head to toe. We put the gear in the washing machine last night and ran it through two cycles and it is looking like new again. So I think I am done wearing the rubber coated rain suits and from here on out it's gortex.
    I am also thankful to report that there were no injuries or breakdowns in yesterday's ride. A tire started to go flat on Ed's bike as we were nearing Dave's house at the end of the ride, but we pumped it up and made it back safe and sound. There was not much snow around Dave's place and really we did not encounter much snow through mid afternoon. We stopped to enjoy a little cookout on one of the guy's families land and I have to admit that with snowflakes starting to fly, it was nice to sit by a fire for a while- even if it was a pretty small one. After making sure that the fire was completely out, we hopped back on the bikes and headed north in search of some snow to play in. It did not take us too long to find the snow and the snow got deep very quickly. As mentioned, we basically hit a spot where we could travel no longer via ATV's and could have taken over on sleds very nicely had we had them. This was an ATV ride, so we turned around and headed back south and into some lower terrain, but not before having to blaze our way up a gradual hill for around 1000 feet (the trail up hill was about 1000 feet, not gaining 1000 feet in elevation). This is where Jeremy and I spent some time blazing a trail to the top. While working on our trail I looked over and saw that some of the other guys might be able to make it up on the other side of the logging road as there was not as much snow and many of them did make it up that way. We all ended up making it to the top of the hill and soon after we were starting to encounter less and less snow and more and more puddles.
    The trip home is always full of attempts to splash the other guy. This is done by hanging back a bit from the rider in front of you and then when you see a large puddle ahead with enough room to ride side by side, you accelerate so that you are passing the other guy just as he is going through the puddle. This results in a pretty good dousing of the other rider. I have seen some pretty good battles in my two years on these trips and Dave and I had a pretty good one ourselves. All the puddles actually helped to wash some of the mud off the ATV's, but by the time I got home, it was still pretty well caked in mud from the trip. I know it seems hard to believe, but that was a big improvement in the bikes condition from earlier in the day. Here is a shot of the front of the ATV. Here is a shot of my helmet, the goggles were cleaned no less than a dozen times during the ride.
    I would like nothing better than to have some nice warm weather to get the bike and other objects muddied in yesterday's ride all cleaned up, but as mentioned that will have to wait for quite some time as it looks like we will struggle to hit even 50 degrees in the next 5-7 days. We were melting the snow and the woods even had quiet a few bare patches in them, but right now all is white again. There is some bare ground up here, the heat from the septic field melted the snow off this afternoon and as you can see, the grass is even trying to green up there.
    All this cold weather will delay the firming up of the ground and thus the removal of the weight restrictions on the roads, so it will take even longer for me to be able to start my project in adding onto the shop. Because of that, I have decided to swap around the order of my projects. I am going to build the deck onto the front of the cabin first and then move onto the shop project. I have the bags of concrete mix ready for the footings for the posts for the deck and the materials for the deck itself will be delivered Tuesday morning. As long as it is not snowing or raining, I will be able to work on it, so hopefully in a week or so I will be done with that project and we will have a nice new deck to enjoy once it finally warms up!
    I have just one more thing I want to cover in this entry and that is to finally get around to thanking the businesses that supplied items for the ride in. Nora and I made every effort to make sure that we did not leave anyone out and if we did, my sincerest apologies. Also there were many individuals who made donations to the ride in and since I do not know who want's to have their name mentioned and who does not, I will not mention anyone by name, but a huge thanks to everyone that came and/or supported the event. This week I will be trying to get the date and location for next years event finalized. For now, have a look at this list and next time you are in the area, try to patronize these generous businesses:
Alticity, AmericInn - Calumet, Applebee's, Ash Trail Lodge, Best Western Copper Crown, Carmilitas, Castle, Centennial Cottages, Chance's Hardware, Cliff View, Copper Country Ford, Copper Country Rental, Copper Crown, Copperland, Copper World, Country Inn Suites, Dan's Polaris, Dobson Entertainment, Dreamland, Everts, Greenland Pit Stop, Keweenaw Motor Sports, Keweenaw Snow Expeditions, Keweenaw Tourism, KLIM, Krupps Mini Mart, Krupps Resort, Lac La Belle Lodge - Bear Belly Bar and Grill, Library Bar, North Shore Grille, Parkview Lodge, Pats Yamaha. Pepsi of Houghton, Polaris Industries, Ramada Inn, Salon 1281, Scortchers, Sled Heads, Sled Solutions, SledNecks, Sounds in Motion, Superior Snowmobile Club, Superior Sport and Rental, Superior Travel, Thunder Struck Films, Toivola Lunch, Travelodge, USI Skis, Vansville Bar, Wildlife Refuge Cabins, Wyondotte Hills, Yooper Lodge, Zik's
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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April 20-
    I would like to start out by offering our sincerest things to everyone that has sent letters and made postings of encouragement and condolences to Nora and I in the loss of Burt. They have played a huge role in us being able to work our way through the grieving process these past several days. It really is a testament to the quality in the character of the persons coming to this site. Even though I have not met many of you, I do consider you my friends and is why I share so much of my life with you all. So thank you again for all your kind words. Burt will be missed, but never fogtotten.
    The healing process is under way and has been almost from the moment we had to say our final good byes. This has been a slightly different experience than the loss of Baileys. I think initially the loss was harder for me to deal with, but after a few days has become easier than it was for Baileys. I believe it was harder initially because even though we knew that Burt did not have a long time to live, the actual circumstances that brought about us having to put him down did come about very quickly. With Baileys, we were given the bad news that she had terminal cancer and while the Dr could not give a specific amount of time she had left with us, we knew it was imminent. So I know I did a lot of grieving while she was still around. Strange as that may sound, I did try and come to terms as best I could with things before she even passed away. I did not let it ruin my time left with her, but I was able to reconsile a bit before hand. In addition, when Baileys passed, we were able to throw ourselves upon Burt and that helped us get through the loss. With Burt we have each other and that has been huge, but no other pup to be able to shower with the kind of attention and affection that we did with Burt and Baileys.
    However, since about Thursday, I believe that the grieving process with Burt has become easier than with Baileys. The reason being is that while Burt was still in good health right up to the day of his passing, he did not get around so well. We had stopped taking our morning walks close to 2 years ago and back in early January, we stopped taking our afternoon walks. So our time together was spent mainly resting here at the cabin. We thus did not have too much different going on in our lives, so when each day comes and passes now, I think back to what we were doing a week ago and it is pretty much the same, whereas with Baileys we had memories of each day's activity right up to the end, which was nice in a way, but also made it difficult for that first week or two to try and not be sad about not being able to do those fun things with her. If that made sense at all.
    I guess the bottom line is that they both were my Angels and will be missed, but never forgotten. A huge chaper in my life has come to a close, but there is a lot more of the book yet to write.
    It was suggested that I write about how they came into my life and I thought that was a great idea. Perhaps one final tribute to them. I was with someone other than Nora at the time and we had just moved into our first home in Lake in the Hills IL. She suggested we go and get a dog to help fill the house. I was initially a little reluctant because I know all the work that it takes to have a dog and how they can tie you down. I was still in my 20's and feeling like I wanted to be able to remain foot loose and fancy free, but I gave into the idea to get a dog, but offered up the idea to get two so that they would have each other to play with and keep each other company while we were away at work. That idea stuck, so after only living in our house for 2 days we were off to Dixon IL to look at a liter of labradors that were born 6 week earlier.
    Upon arrival, we were brought into the basement of this farmhouse to see the mother and the 10 little labrador puppies. It's amazing how you can really get a good idea of what the dog will be like personality wise, just by paying close attention to how they act while they are puppies. Baileys was picked because of the way that she wanted to have all the attention and becase of all of the attention that she gave back. Plus, she was a little cutie. I got to pick Burt and picked him out of his 6 black brothers because he was doing exactly what I would have been doing if I were in his predicament. Out of the 6 black males that were all in a pen, 3 of them were jumping all over each other to try and get to see, smell and touch me. Two others were off in the far corner of the pen and it seemed like the house could have been on fire and they would not have noticed. Then there was Burt. He sat quietly in the middle of the pen, paying close attention to what was going on around him, but not being all hyperactive and what I thought was a bit annoying like the three others.
    So we paid the family and got their "papers" and were on our way home. The naming game took place on the two hour drive home. Burt got his name first. I had initially wanted to get a yellow male and call him Burt. Not sure why, but I just thought that a big old yellow lab named Burt would be cool. The name seemed to fit him well, so that is the name we gave to him. In retrospect, I think that it was perfect for him. Perhaps not the most noble name for such a noble dog, but the name really did seem to fit him like a glove and he seemed to enjoy it as well. Baileys name took a little more doing. We seemed to be trying to come up with a name that fit her look. Her fur was nearly white as snow and soft as down, but names like snowy or honey just did not seem right. I was not too far removed from my years as a bartender and I threw out the name Baileys, after the Irish Creme. The more that I said it, the more it seemed to stick, so that is what I decided to call them.
    Over the course of their decade with me, they gained lots of nicknames. The hounds is one thing I called them for a long time. I made sure to accentuate the "ou" in the word, so it would come out sounding more like hOOOWnds. All I need to do was say that word and they both would come a running. For a long time I called Burt "Hubba Bubba" and Baileys "Beez". Towards the later stages of their lives, I would call Burt "Buddie" or just "Bud" as much as I would his given name. Especially once Baileys was gone, he just became my right hand man and Buddy seemed to fit very well. Nora started calling Bailey "Missy", which turned into Missy-Lu. She loved it and we loved calling her it, so that is what she got called by many a time. Missy-Lu.
    We lived in Lake in the Hills for about a year and a half and then I shared time with them due to a divorice and then I was asked if I wanted to take them full time. Not much of a struggle to answer that one!!! I was living the big city at that point and it was a lot of work to take care of them and balance my full time job, but I lived only a few blocks away from my office, so I went home during the day to let them out to go potty and get a snack and then walked back to work. That did not go on for too long when things happened that allowed us to leave the big city and move up here. We did spend a few months at my folks place in southern WI. They were in FL and I had just lost my main client and I just wanted to get the heck out of Chicago since I did not need to be in their offices anymore, so we made that brief say in WI before heading north to the Keweenaw. I believe the rest is pretty much history that is covered in past journals, so can leave off here, but it was one heck of a journey with them. Over a quarter of my life was spent with them. For those of you with children that are in grade school, I was with them before you children were born. It was a nice long time (4443 days with Burt to be exact)- although it could never have been long enough.
    As mentioned, Nora and I are going to fly solo for a while. Not that we will never get another dog (or dogs as the case may be) again, but we have been given a chance to be able to life a life that we were not able to when we cared for them and want to take advantage of those opportunities while we can. Some might have read between the lines- "while we can". Children? Yes, but that is for another journal in the not too distant future.
    The opportunities I am talking about is being able to be gone all day long and not worry about the dogs being alone. Nora and I can take a trip TOGETHER and not have it have to be one that will accomodate dogs. So we have some adventures planned and I think you all will benefit from these opportunities as well. I know when I first started writing these journal entries they were filled with the adventures of the hounds and I and then Nora when we became blessed with her company. Then they started to slow down a bit and as mentioned, between building the cabin 2 summers ago and Burt's arthritus limiting us to pretty much the same activity (swimming) all last summer, I felt like I really did not have all that much new to talk about the past two summers. That should all change this summer as Nora and I plan to do a lot of exploring- sort of like the old days I guess you could say.
    Only now we will have some help in getting around to all of the spots we want to explore. We got that ATV last summer and took some trips on it, but did not enjoy being away from Burt for too long, so we never strayed too far. Well, we can now go out and be gone all day if we want, so that should allow us to get some good pics and have some fun stories to tell. Speaking of the ATV, I did work on it this week and transformed it from winter mode to summer mode by removing the plow, putting on the other winch cable, removing the windshield and putting on the new "27's" I got for it this spring. Those tires sure do make a difference! With the old ones, you could not really go through the snow at all and it did not even do too well in the really thick mud. I have not had it out in much mud, but I can report it goes through the snow just fine! Now we just need to get rid of a bit more snow and we can start tooling around the back country.
    Speaking of snow, we have been getting rid of that too. In fact when you look at the AL Cam, it looks like we have lost just about all of it. However, looks can be deceiving. The AL Cam is in the vicinity of the septic field and just about all the snow is gone from that area around the cabin. However, away from the "heat" of the septic area, the woods up here still have a foot to foot and a half of snow in them. That is down over a foot from just a week ago, but I figure we still have 10-14 days before all the snow is gone from our woods and it may even be longer than that before all the snow is gone from areas further up the peninsula and up a bit higher. The big pile of snow next to the shop is down quite a bit from just a week ago. If you remember, just last week that pile was right up to the edge of the roof.
    A lot of it depends on what our weather is like in the next 2 weeks. I do not see any real snow to fly in the next 2 weeks, other than a few flurries by later this week or next weekend. However, I also do not see a ton of warm temps. There will be a few fingers of warmth that pop up here from time to time, but there also looks to be some colder temps by later next week and into the following weekend. Today is a nice day with lots of sunshine and temps in the 50's, but yesterday was just nasty, nasty, nasty. Temps in the 30's, with a heavy overcast, areas of fog and it rained all day. At times it was more of a sprinkle, but it really did not stop for most of the day. Nora and I shot down to Twin Lakes to pick up the two donation buckets that I had out for the Ride-In. I had wanted to pick them up in mid March, but then my health issues delayed that and then Burt's health issues delayed it a bit more. We had a nice lunch at the Parkview and then headed home in the fog and rain. This really is the ONLY time of the year when I think I might be happier to be somewhere else for about 2 weeks. It is called the "mud month", but thank goodness it only usually lasts about 2 weeks.
    Our wood pile is down to the last couple of dozen logs. In reality we probably had about 2 weeks of wood still left in that pile and that would have taken us almost out of the heating season and most likely into the time of the year when we could have gone out and picked some more to get us through the rest of the heating season, but Matt was kind enough to let us come down and make a load of wood at his place. He has a lot of timber on the ground at his place that needs to be used up before it rots and so was nice enough to lend me a hand in cutting up a tree that actually fell in the past month or so. So we filled up Old Blue and headed home. That load will for sure extend our burning time through the next 3 to maybe 4 weeks, which should pretty much get us through the heating season up here.
    I have no idea what the next week will bring as far as adventures. As mentioned we are really in the "in between time" right now, where riding a snowmobile is a bit of a challenge (although not impossible) and riding an ATV or walking in the woods needs to wait for the snow to leave. Perhaps Nora and I can take a waterfall tour and snap some shots of those. I know it was always a tradition to take the spring waterfall tour with the hounds, so it may sting a bit at first, but we will have many of those moments for a while and I know they would never want us to not have fun. So stay tuned... There are lots of exciting times ahead for all of us!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
April 16-

    The journal that I dreaded to have to write, but was starting to fear was approaching, is finally here. Nora and I had to lay Burt to rest yesterday. He had another flare up with his arthritis on Monday and it was more severe and longer lasting than the one he had Monday of last week. It got so bad that he could not walk and could barely even stand. I called around to see if we could have him put down on Monday, but all of the Vet's offices were booked with appointments and the earliest we could get in was on Tuesday. I suppose if we had just showed up with him and insisted on it taking place Monday they probably would have been able to accommodate us.
    Thankfully on our visit to the vet last week, he gave us some pretty strong pain pills and when the flare up hit this past Monday and it became obvious that we would be putting him down, I called the vet to find out the maximum dosage he could be on, knowing that we did not have to worry about any long term side effects and immediately put him on that dosage. That seemed to relax him pretty good, but he still did not have much usage out of his rear legs. His right rear leg was totally lame and because his left leg was also in a very weakened state, he just could not support his weight on it. So I had to carry him where ever he needed to go all day Monday and even into Monday night. Nora helped Monday night by getting the door for us as I carried him from the bed out to where he went potty. At about 10 pm Monday Burt just wanted to sit outside. I think the cold evening air helped to make him feel better. So Nora and I both got bundled up and sat outside under the stars with him for around an hour. It was pretty chilly to be sitting out there, with temps in the low 30's, but it was also very peaceful and will be a memory of him that both Nora and I will carry forever.
    Yesterday he remained comfortable and even started to get around on his own, but still struggled and even fell a few times, so there was no question that putting him down was the best thing to do. I was happy that he was pretty comfortable yesterday and had a good day. I laid on the bed with him from around 8:30 to 10:30 and then we went outside for around an hour. It was sunny and the temps were climbing through the 40's, so it was very comfortable to be out there. He even got up and walked around a bit, finding some clean snow to eat a bit. Nora came home from work early and we spent some more time on the bed with him and outside in the sunny and warm air (was in the upper 50's by the afternoon). I was glad that he also retained his appetite too. That was the one thing that saddened me about the final day and a half with Baileys that she did not want to eat much at all. They both loved to eat, so being able to give him some turkey for breakfast was nice and I cooked him up a nice big steak for this early dinner yesterday. He loved both of them, which only added to the nice day he had yesterday.
    So far the loss of Burt has been harder on me than it was for Baileys. Not because I loved him any more, but I think that when Baileys passed, I was able to lean on Nora and Burt for support and really just throw all of the attention I paid to Baileys into Burt. It still hurt a ton loosing Baileys, but my final good bye to Burt at the vet was THE HARDEST thing I have ever had to do in my life. He was already put to sleep, so it was just his body laying there, but I just could not leave him. I must have turned to leave at least a half dozen times and then dropped to my knees to lay with him one last time. I was actually having a hard time breathing, it felt like my heart was barely able to pump blood through my body and my legs could barely hold me up. It has been 17 hours since I last saw him, but the memory of him laying there is still etched in my mind and I still crave to be laying next to him.
    The one thing that Baileys passing showed to Nora and I is that time will heal everything and make all good again. I do feel better now than when we got home yesterday and I do know that things will get better day by day, so I am not depressed or void of hope. In fact, I do have lots to be thankful for. First and foremost I am grateful to have Nora in my life. I honestly do not know how I would get through this without her. She is just as deeply impacted by the loss of Burt as I am and we will be a perfect support team for each other. Secondly I am grateful for the chance to spend the last 12+ years with Burt. He and Baileys changed my life profoundly in ways that I know no others could. They taught me to live life one moment at a time. Not even one day at a time, but one moment at a time. They also gave unconditional love, which I tried my best to return to them. Many have told us that when they die, if they come back to this world, they want to come back as a dog in our house. That is a wonderful compliment, but the truth is, for as much as we did for them, they paid it back 10 fold. That is what makes their loss so hard. Our time with them was so special.
    I am also grateful that Burt and Baileys had such a wonderful life- especially once we moved up here. We all lived the dream life of being able to explore all the wonders this area has to offer. They got to swim all summer long, then take to the woods to explore when it cooled off and once the snows started to pile up, we could ski or hike the woods. Nora and I made a lot of sacrifices for them, but it joys me to no end to know that they had the best life that we could offer. I can sit back and recall all the fun time we had and do not wish things were different at all. I am grateful that we have tons of pictures and hours and hours of video to watch of them, so the memories will always be able to kept alive. I am grateful that Burt did not suffer much in the end. He did have some discomfort with the two flare ups, but the first one only lasted about 6 hours and then the second we were able to ease the pain with the medication in just a few hours as well. His last day was actually spent in relative comfort as he did get around better- even walking all around the vets office while we waited. He also got to do some of his favorite things with us on his last day and it was even warm enough that we could have the window rolled down all the way to the vets, so he could have one last ride with his head out the window.
    I am grateful that this all did not happen when I was in Wyoming. I would have come home immediately, but the stress that it would have put on all of us would have been very bad. I am grateful that this did not happen when we were sick. I physically would not have had the strength to carry him around for one and the combined effects of how the illness made me feel and the sadness of his loss would have compounded on each other to make life as miserable as it gets. So although there is never a good time for this to happen, we really did luck out that we were all physically and emotionally at full strength to handle it.
    There is likely lots more that I could list that I/we are grateful for, but the last one is that we were able to be at his side holding him and telling him how special he is and how much we love him when he passed. We can only all pray to be so lucky when it is our time. As with Baileys, it was very special to be able to spend those last moments with him. It is very difficult for us, but for him I can picture no better way. I know that the last feelings he felt were the full force of all the love Nora and I could give him. The process is also very peaceful. It would have been great to have had the process take place at home like it did for Baileys, but that was an extra special gift given to us by an extra special Dr that is no longer in the area. I can say that the vet's office did have the room nicely set up, with a big blanket on the floor for us to lay on with Burt. They did sedate him a bit and he was fully relaxed when the time came. The actually process is very quick. His heart stopped beating and he stopped breathing even before all the drugs had been injected into his body.
    I am sure that many of you feel like you knew Burt through these writings, but many of you never met him and althoug it would be an impossible thing to do completly, I feel the need to try and share with you all what a wonderful dog he was. I know every parent thinks their child is the best and most special and that goes for pet owners as well, but Burt really was a special guy. Baileys was the most outwardly loving dog I have ever known and Burt was the most gentile, kind and caring dog I have ever known. Most persons that had the pleasure to get to know him would all say the same thing that he seemed to be human. He could understand most of what was being said and he always knew the right thing to do. He came to the rescue of Baileys many a times and even to the rescue (or thought she needed a rescue) of Nora. He never put himself first, always giving way to Baileys and also giving way to Nora and I. In his entire life, I think I can count the number of times I ever got mad a him on one hand. He was really just that good and that special. It might have taken a little longer for him to fully warm up to someone, but he was never cold to anyone and once he let you into his inner circle, you were treated with the up most respect and love. He genuinely cared for us more than I think is humanly possible. If I would get upset at something, he would come running to find out what and to calm me down and say everything would be just fine. I think that had he known that he was about to be laid to rest yesterday, he would have been very upset, wondering who would take care of us once he was gone. He was just that smart and that caring of a being.
    He is missed and it will take some time for the pain to wear off and only the good memories to be left behind, but that is what will happen. It stings to look around and see some of his items still lying around in the house and to see his paw prints made in the snow over the past few days brings shortness of breath to me. But I know I feel this way because he was so special and such a huge part of my life and for that I am actually grateful. So the pain is hard, but the root of the pain actually brings joy.
    I am sure that there are those out there that would like to recommend a new dog for us, we had some very generous offers when Baileys passed away, but for now Nora and I are going to swing it alone. To be selfish about it all, there are now things that we can do with each other that we could not do when the dogs were around. Things like take an all day ATV or snowmobile ride together, head to the beach to spend all day there. The dogs loved the beach, but would just not relax, especially Burt. We had to throw a stick into the water the whole time we were there, or he would go nuts! We can go to dinner and not worry about being gone too long. We can take a short vacation somewhere that does not have to include the dogs. Heck, we will even sleep the entire night without having to let them out. These are all things that I do not regret not being able to do for the past 12+ years, but things that we will look forward to doing now that we have the opportunity. So for now, no new dogs. I am sure the day will come and if we need assistance in that department, then I will be sure to ask for it.
    So he is now with his sister and they are having a blast to be sure. Someday Nora and I will be reunited with them as well, but we still have a whole lot more living to do before that happens! They taught us to live life to the fullest, each and every day and each and every moment. To play with reckless abandon and sleep with the same intensity. I do not know all that the future has in store for us and am not all that concerned about it either. We have today and we have this moment and that is all that really matters.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
April 13-
    Well, winter is not going down without a fight this year. Sort of like last year, but instead of one giant storm, we are getting the snows in several installments. On Tuesday we picked up about 4" of snow and then Thursday night through Saturday morning we picked up about 11". That on top of the snows we had the week before and this April will go down as a very snowy one. The good news for the kids, the teachers and others that work at the schools is that this latest storm provided a 3 day weekend for them, with schools canceled on Friday. Nora being one that works at the schools had Friday off to hang out with Burt and I.
    It really came down for most of the day on Friday. We had about 3-4" on the ground at daybreak and picked up another 6" during the day on Friday and then another 2" overnight Friday night. It was a pretty wet and heavy snow and so I had to use the snow thrower to clear the driveway. It ended up taking me about a hour to clear the driveway and I was pretty well soaked by the time I was done. Plus I ended up breaking one of the shear pins for the front auger of the snow thrower. They are there to break rather than put all that stress on the gear box and engine, but that is the first one that I sheared all winter this year. Thankfully it happened as I was just finishing up and I was able to finish up the last little bit with only one side of the front auger spinning.
    Once I finished clearing the driveway, I took a front of the house shot. The roof had already cleared once for the day, but the snows piled back up on it and later in the day another big blob came off. The wet and heavy snow stuck to everything. Here is a shot of the back yard, with the trees all frosted as well as the satellite dish and the corner of the snow station. Good old Burt actually seemed to enjoy the storm. He has always enjoyed rolling around in the snow and when the driveway went from being bare to having snow back on it, he took the opportunity to do some rolling in the snow.
    Burt actually gave us a bit of a scare on Monday. We were going to Marquette because I had a dermatologist and cardiologist appointment and also set up a visit to the vet for Burt's annual vaccinations. Early Monday morning he suddenly became very restless, was panting a lot and seemed very agitated. He was also not able to stand up on his own. We called and got an earlier appointment at the vet. The vet told us that his arthritis had gotten so bad that he could no longer get up and was in pain. That seemed kind of weird to me as it seemed like it was a very sudden thing that hit Burt, not something like arthritis that seems a bit more gradual. However he did say that it is possible for things to just change like that. I was not able to stay for Burt's appointment as I had to go to the dermatologist, but he gave Nora some stronger pain medication for Burt to see if it would help. Well, when I returned to pick them up, they were outside in the parking lot and he was all relaxed. I told Nora that at least it was good that the pain meds helped him out and she said he had not even had any yet. They said to take with some food, so we went and got some submarine sandwiches and gave Burt a bit of the meat on mine and then a few pills. He was fine the rest of the day, even being able to get up and around all by himself. We gave him some more pain meds for another day or so, but then stopped them and he has been his regular old self. He is still on some pain medication for his joints, but it is the same stuff he has been on for years (something similar to Rymidal). So I am wondering if he had a mini stroke or something, because the Dr said his heart was fine at his visit and seemed to think his arthritis was so bad that he had a very short time left before we would be forced to put him down and that just does not seem to be happening (knock on wood). He gets around as well as he was before- which is not all that good, but at least he can stand up on his own and walk around outside for 5-10 minutes and show no signs of fatigue. So really not sure what happened on Monday, but we are glad that he is back to being his old self. We have been living life one moment at a time with him for a long time now, but it was still pretty sickening to be in that mode where we thought we would have to say good by shortly.
    The shop roof cleared itself as well, as it has done all winter long. I always wondered how big the snow pile would get from the snow sliding off the shop roof in a decent winter. I'd say we are having a pretty decent winter when you add up all the snow that has fallen since it started and here is my answer to how big the snow pile would get. Right up to the eaves of the roof. That is about 10 feet of snow there. I suppose I could call that the Allouez Township Glacier and hold a contest to see when it would melt. It sure would be a whole lot easier to keep an eye on! I meant to take a picture of the Laurium Glacier when Nora and I went to town today, but forgot to bring the camera. I will be heading down that way tomorrow, so will try and remember the camera to take a shot of the current status. Although because we now live about 20 minutes away vs. the 5 minutes away we were before, do not count on the updates to be as frequent as they were before.
    I had really thought that last Saturday's ride would be the last ride of the season and I guess in a way you can say it was- especially if you call the ride that I took yesterday, the last, last ride of the season. I got a call from Brian Friday night asking me if I wanted to go for a ride on Saturday and with all the snow I figured it would be silly to say no. So I met up with him and Chico at Brian's house and we took off from there. It was snowing, windy and a bit chilly when I woke up on Saturday, but by the time we took off on our sleds, the snows had stopped and the sun was even beginning to pop it's head out, making for a nice day for a ride. It's fun to ride when it is snowing heavily and there is fresh powder coming over the hood, but it is also very nice to ride when it is sunny and not too cold out. That is what we had on Saturday. The temp climbed into the low 30's, but with the strong April sun, we were able to stop and chat and never get cold. Plus the fresh snow allowed us to make first tracks in conditions like this all day.
    The snow is still deep in the woods up this way. Brian took us on some less traveled routes that proved to get us into some of that deep snow. Here we are making our way through a river bottom, with about 3 feet of snow still in it. It looks like Brian was stuck there, but he actually stopped to help Chico out and was able to get out of that spot he was in. We played around back in the woods behind Brian's house for about 2 hours and then headed over to Dave's house to pick him up. He had to stick around until about 12:30. We got there at a little after noon, hung out with him and then headed out with our group now a foursome.
    The plan was to head to Gay and then up to Gratiot Lake and then eventually work our way back down into the valley. On the way to Gay we passed some hills that we will play on from time to time and Dave took the opportunity to have a go at them. The snow was not only still deep out there, but pretty sticky too and Dave did not quite make it to the top. Here he is stuck on his second attempt at the hill. The funny thing is he thought I did not take a shot of him stuck here, because he did not see me get the camera out, but this camera is smaller and easier to break out, take a shot and then put a way, so I was able to get that all done without his even knowing. To be fair to Dave, we all got stuck at least once yesterday, some several times. My stuck was purely operator error and had nothing to do with the equipment or conditions. My had just came off the throttle on accident and by the time I was able to get back on the throttle, it was too late.
    As the day wore on, the sunshine became more crisp and stronger and the snow started to get more and more like mashed potatoes, but it was still pretty awesome to be riding in conditions like this on April 12th. The fresh snow was deep enough in many places to be able to carve around the corners and plenty deep enough to jump off the snow pillows and have a soft landing. We made our way to Gay, but did not even stop for gas or refreshments, but rather continued on our way up towards Gratiot Lake. Matt had gone up there to plow snow and was going to ride down and meet up with us. I was wondering if we would actually meet up with him on the first attempt as there are a few different ways to go along the route that we were taking. On our way up, we passed some hills that Dave and Chico decided to stop and play on. Brian and I circled back and played on them, which is were I proceeded to get stuck as did Chico and Brian, but I do not believe Dave got stuck on those hills. While we were all stopped and digging ourselves out, we heard Matt's sled off in the distance, so once dug out we headed up to meet up with him. We actually came upon his tracks, but they turned around about 200 yards from where Brian and I circled back to go meet up with Dave and Chico on the hills.
    We followed Matt's tracks through the woods and in about 5-10 minutes met up with him. It was great to see him again. I had actually not seen him since Wyoming. I got sick soon after we got back and missed all the rides the gang took in the weeks after we got back. I had seen Brian, Dave, Al and Kenny at Al's shop on several occasions since being back and getting feeling better. So now the riding group was up to 5 and of the regulars in our group, only Al and Kenny were missing. It was too bad that they could not be with us as it was a fun ride. Plus I think it is really neat how our gang really enjoys riding with each other. Not to sound sappy or anything, but we really have a lot of fun when we are out with each other. We will poke fun at each other a bit, but it is all in jest and there are never any arguments or negative feelings that occur. That make's all the more fun to be with all of these guys and speaks a lot about the character of each one of them as well.
    Anyway, we had fun the rest of the afternoon and early evening riding logging roads, playing on some hills and in one of the jumping spots. After my near disaster of nearly face planting it out in Wyoming on a jump, I have pretty much gone back to taking only baby jumps off things like berms on logging roads or stumps buried under a few feet of snow. So when we got to this jumping spot, I just shut off the sled, replaced my helmet with a hat and grabbed my camera for some action shots. It was a good thing I did because the jumping spot we were at can be good some days and not so good for jumping others. Yesterday it was good. Here is a shot of Matt "stretching out" and getting ready to catch some air. As any good athlete will tell you it is always a good thing to go through a stretching routine before partaking in the real deal. Here is a shot of Matt partaking in the real deal. The others also did some jumping at that spot and here is a pic of Dave catching some pretty good air. I don't put too many videos in the journal because the use up a ton of bandwidth, but I did capture one of Matt jumping and it is really worth giving up the bandwidth for and worth downloading if you enjoy jumping shots. Anyway here is the video of Matt jumping.
    Soon after that we parted ways with Matt as he had parked up that way and we still needed to make it back down to the valley. We found our way to the main trail and took it down to Phoenix, got some gas at the Vanesville and then I decided to just head home from there rather than ride the bush all the way back to the valley. It was already about 6:15 and I had been riding for over 8 hours and I figured I could get home in about 15 minutes. Have dinner with Nora and then we could drive down to Brian's and pick up Old Blue. So that is what I did. On the way back I snapped a shot of the main trail just south of Phoenix. Grooming has been over for a week now, but the trail was still in very good shape. There looked to have been a handful of sleds down the trail already, although other than one group of sleds we passed just north of Phoenix, we did not see a single sled or even another track from a sled all day.
    So the last, last ride of the season is over and it was a good one. Will there be a last, last, last ride? Who knows. Like I felt after the last ride, I am content and do not need to ride again. There will still be enough snow to ride on in the backcountry next weekend. Up where we were yesterday north of here, there is still 3-4 feet on the ground and depending on the weather in the next 2 weeks, there might even be enough snow left up there to ride on the weekend of the 26th/27th. The trails will likely be shot in many areas before we get to next weekend. I think our gang has had it's fill of riding. That is unless next weekend provides for some decent waterskipping, then there may be that last, last, last ride for the season next weekend. Only time will tell. It has been a great season and with some genuine spring weather coming this week, it will be nice to start getting ready for the warm season activities.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
April 6-
    Welcome to April everyone. Not one of my favorite months, but so far I am in pretty good spirits about it's arrival and the pending departure of winter. Actually, spring has sprung around here. We have been warming into the 40's and even low 50's just about every day and have lost about a foot of snow since last Wednesday morning. How do I know that? Well, we have a vent for the septic field and on Wednesday morning, it was still completely buried under the snow, but as of right now, there is at least a foot of it showing above the snow. There is probably still close to 2 feet of snow on the ground, but is is going. We have entire sections of our driveway that are snow free and there is no snow above the septic tank and snow is missing from where the water line runs. That last one is pretty amazing to me as the water line is buried 6 feet below the surface and it should not be putting out that much heat in the first place, but it does, at least enough to melt the snow some. That is also the reason why the snow by the snow stick on the AL Cam is not as deep. The snow stick is sitting right on top of the water line! I thought the lack of depth was because of the trees behind the snow station, but it is actually a combination of the trees and the water line. In this shot you can actually see where there is bare ground where the water line runs behind the snow stick.
    It is always a little weird to see the first patches of bare ground. It has been 137 days since we last had bare ground around here and it will likely be another 10-14 before the majority of the snow is gone and could be another 3 weeks or more before all the snow around the cabin is gone. There is a pretty large pile of snow on the north side of the shop where it came off the roof. This past Tuesday it was all the way up to the eaves of the roof so that means it was about 9 feet deep. It has settled and melted some and is down about a foot and a half right now, but that means there is still 7 1/2 feet of snow to be melted there and that area does sit in the shade for a good portion of the day.
    The one thing that will be nice about this spring as opposed to last spring is that once the snow melts, we will have a lawn to green up. Last spring the snow melted and we had mud to deal with. Both Nora and I are looking forward to being able to sit outside with Burt in the evenings again and he is probably not thinking about it but if he knew we were probably less than 2 weeks away from him being able to sit outside with us, Burt would be very excited for the snow to melt. That was one of his favorite things to do in the autumn and I am sure it will be this spring too.
    I am still chomping at the bit to get going on building out the rest of the shop, but that will have to wait even longer than for the snow to melt off. The road restrictions need to come down so that the contractor can come in with the truck loads of sand and the machinery to create the pad for the slab that the rest of the shop will sit on. I am right at the top of the list to get that work done. Typically the road restrictions come off the second or third week of May, so we still have over a month to go before work will be starting. In the mean time I guess we will just have to rest up and maybe play around on the ATV.
    I had a pretty quiet week. I did that on purpose so that I could play this weekend. I did go to the doctor's on Monday and had some tests done just to make sure I was on the road to recovery, but I could already tell that I was. Being able to lay all the way down to sleep and being done with my fever and any body aches pretty much spelled it out for me. Even so it is always nice to have the medical tests confirm that my lungs were clearing up and other ailments were getting better.
    My resting all week did pay off as I felt ready to play by Thursday. I still took it easy on Thursday and most of the day Friday, but then Friday evening Skylar and his brother arrived up here and we went out for an evening ride. That is one of the unique things about still being able to ride at this time of the year. We took off to go riding at 6:30 in the evening and still had a few hours of daylight to be able to ride in. Here is a shot of me getting ready to unload the 800 off of Old Blue at 6:30 in the evening. We could have just ridden from the cabin, but they already had their sleds on the trailer and the 800 was also loaded because I wanted to fuel it up before they arrived, so we just decided to head up to a drop off spot and then ride from there. Here we are taking a break at about 7:30 in the evening. Still plenty of sun and still pretty warm. I think it was about 50 degrees when that pic was taken. However, by the time we finished riding the temp had fallen into the 30's and when we got home the snow was already starting to be crunchy under foot.
    There is still plenty of snow to ride in up here, especially off trail. Baring some major meltdown this week, I would imagine that even next weekend will provide the opportunity to ride. I doubt that I will be heading out as I feel like I have gotten my fill of riding for the season, but I never say never until all the snow is completely gone, so we'll see. In any case, there was about 3 feet on the ground where we rode Friday evening and that was enough to get stuck in while trying to climb through the trees in the steep stuff. Actually most of the reasons I got stuck this weekend were because of my track slipping on the drivers. The track is plenty tight and I even tightened it up after Friday's ride. Skylar's track was ratcheting too, so we figured it must have been the thicker snow that was causing it to happen. In any case, a stuck is a stuck and I have more than a handful this weekend!
    On Saturday we trailered up to Lac La Belle to ride with Troy and his son Zach. It was a beautiful day for riding, with temps in the upper 30's to low 40's and lots of sunshine. We headed off from the lodge at around 10 am and made a b-line to go play on some hills up that way. My first run up did not turn out like I had planned. I reached a large rock out cropping that still had some snow on it, but not enough for me to climb. The track spun out on the rock and the sled just sort of bunny hopped to the right about 6 feet. Zach came next and got his sled stuck about 10 feet from mine. Next came Skylar and he made it all the way to the top. He stopped on the way down to help Zach and I get our sleds unstuck. I made a second run of the hill and made it to the top that time.
    After that we headed over to some other play spots including some hills and Lake Addie and Lost Lake. The hills again proved to be too much for some of us. Here is a shot of Skylar helping out Zach from a stuck. Riding in that mashed potato snow can be a real challenge sometimes. You are riding along on top of the snow and all of the sudden your sled sinks up past it's bumper in wet heavy snow. It also seems to be an extra work out when you do get stuck because the snow is so wet and heavy as well as sticky. Still a lot of fun to ride in though.
    After playing on enough hills we stuck to some logging roads and even played on a few of the lakes. Here is a shot of the gang taking a break at Lost Lake. The lakes still had plenty of ice on the, but were starting to get a little slushy on top, so we did not play on them too much. No fun getting your sled stuck in deep slush on a lake. Actually that has never happened to me, but I have heard some real horror stories from others and it does not take too much imagination to picture what it would be like to get your sled stuck in knee deep (or deeper) slush on a lake. We also ventured our way to the big lake and spent about a half hour sitting and relaxing on the beach Saturday afternoon. Not too many places where you can ride your sled down to the beach and sit and relax, catch some rays and have a little snack.
    We did not ride any trails on Friday and did not ride a lot of trails on Saturday. However, the trails we did ride on Saturday were in really good shape. They had not been groomed in almost a week, but were still flat and completely snow covered. The snow did get soft in the afternoon, but that really did not make that much of a difference, other than you wanted to put a few more feet between you and the sled in front of you so that you would stay out of their spray. Now I cannot speak for all of the trails up here, just those that we rode, but I would venture to guess that from around Mohawk north, most of the trails were in the same shape as those we rode on Saturday. I can say that the trail that runs through Hancock is completely bare where it follows the road near the Citgo station. That is about a 4-5 block stretch and it has been bare for over a week. Not sure how the trail is holding up on the Houghton side and we did cross the lift bridge today and I would strongly suggest persons stay off the lake (most folks call it the "canal") between Houghton and Hancock. There is already some open water starting to appear on it.
    So I got my "final" ride of the season in. It was a fun one and even better than no one was hurt and no sleds were damaged. I can honestly say that I feel very content in my riding season and would be perfectly fine with all the snow being gone when I wake up tomorrow morning. That is not going to happen in fact there are some ideas of us getting some fresh snow Tuesday of this week and then again by later Friday into Saturday. I have not reached the point where I am sick of snow and probably never will as long as I live, but at this point I do not need to see any more and am ready for it to be all gone. I hope that everyone has that same feeling of contentment and if not, then I guess you could still get up here this week and play in the snow. The trails may be closing though and you would need to make sure that you can ride where you are riding, but there will be snow to play in up here for at least another week.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-