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March 30-
    I am alive and starting to kick! It has been one heck of a long haul, but I can say that I am for sure on the mend and if the current trend holds, then in a few days I will be back to 100%. I guess to pick up where the story left off on last Sunday. My initial two trips to the ER turned up some mis-diagnosing. The antibiotics they gave me were not working and last Sunday and Monday I really hit rock bottom. Temps running in the 101-103 degree range, tons of body aches, lungs that would fill up with fluid if I did not stay standing or at least fully seated. I was sleeping around 2-3 hours a night and spent the better part of both days in bed trying to rest. On Monday afternoon we did head to my personal Dr's office. He was out of the office, but his partner was there and I have seen him before, so was confident in his abilities. He ran a bunch of tests and determined that I did not have a viral infection, but rather a bacterial infection. It is called Legionnaires Disease (after the more than 40 Legionnaires that died from it back in the 1970's at a convention in Philly). It is actually a type of pneumonia, so the worry was that my lungs would continue to fill with fluids and then very serious problems would result.
    He did send me home, which I was very grateful for, with some antibiotics that were promised to start making me feel better by bed time on Monday and he was spot on. I did not feel good by any means, but the severe body aches started to ease off. I still had to sleep upright Monday and I also had a bad fever on Monday that kept me up for much of the night. All of the Dr's had told me that a fever is actually a good thing, that it is one of the bodies ways of battling infections. So I had decided to try and let the fever run it's course and help with the fight, but I had to break down and take some Advil in the middle of the night to break my fever enough that I could at least become somewhat coherent and get some sleep. Along the lines of a fever being good. You do not want it to get much past 103 as tissue damage can start in at 104. I never rose above 103.
    The slow improvements continued through the rest of last week. By the end of the week I was finally able to sleep laying down, which just about brought tears to my eyes when it could be done. The fever settled to around 101 or less by late Tuesday and by the end of the week was down to below 100. My only problems since Thursday has been a continued fatigue and night sweats. Although I can say that the night sweats last night were pretty manageable (sheets did not need to be changed) and my energy today is as high as it has been for the past 10 days. I also did not have much of an appetite at all. That has come back now, but I lost 16 pounds from the 21st to the 28th. That is actually a good thing in my eyes. I was hoping to drop around 20 pounds this spring and summer with all of the work I am planning on getting done, along with exercise and eating a little better. So now the trick will be to try and keep as much of this off as possible. I am sure some of the weight will come back, but hopefully I can keep at least 10-12 of the pounds off right now and then just work the rest of the 8-10 off this spring and summer.
    With all the nastiness I just went through, I do have lots to be thankful. I am first and formats thankful for being married to such a wonderful wife. She took great care of me, driving me to and from the hospital 3 times as well as all of the special treatments at home. I am also very thankful for having a good pool of Dr's to be able to tap into up here. The first two diagnosis's were off mark, but once I went to my Dr's office then they nailed it. I am also very thankful for the fact that I never had to be admitted to the hospital. I know the Dr was thinking hard about it on Monday, but decided to see how the low level of antibiotics he put me on would work. He said I exceeded his expectations on Tuesday, so the call to let me go home was a good one. Last but not least I am thankful to my faithful friend Burt. I know it may sound silly for me to say such a thing, but when I was really sick, he knew and never left my side. He would lay in bed with me all day and night and every time I moaned, or got into a severe coughing spell, he would watch me closely. So having his companionship was a huge part of my recovery as well. Love and caring can go a long way in the healing process, no matter where it is coming from.
    So that pretty much gets you caught up in my last 10 days or so. It feels so good to be on the road to recovery and in a spot of the recovery where life is not too bad. Obviously I really do not have much else to talk about. Seems almost incredible that for 3 weeks now I have been kept to laying low due to one illness or another. I think I have missed at least a dozen opportunities to ride in those 3 weeks, but there is still snow on the ground, with more to fall this week and I can honestly say that I plan to take it easy all week so that I can be rip roaring ready to go for next weekend. I would say that we probably have at least 2 more weeks of being able to ride in the backcountry, perhaps even 3 if it does not get too warm. However, the snow sure does like to melt once we get into April, so time is running out.
    In a way I am ready for the snow to melt and spring to come. Of course I REALLY want to get in one or two last great rides, but once the snow is gone, then the ATV can be used and that means the annual spring ride will take place. The snow leaving also means that the building season can commence and I am really chomping at the bit to build out the rest of the shop. I am really excited to have a space specifically for the sleds, ATV and any other toys that we may be fortunate to commandeer in the coming years. I am also looking forward to it being one that will be set up specifically for working on those toys- including heat. The shop space that is there is set up for heat, but uninsulated, so I have never heated it. I will be insulating the machine shop first and if I have enough money left over, then will insulate the woodworking shop and keep it heated in the winter as well.
    As far as the website goes, well, the last day of March has traditionally be the last day for snowfall forecasts and because we only have one day left for that day to come, I have decided to just end the snowfall forecasts for the season. There is a storm that will be hitting the Northwoods later tomorrow and tomorrow night, but most areas are closed to riding, with one big exception. The MI DNR has extended the season for at least one more week for all of the UP and will re-examine later this week if they want to go for yet another week. So grooming is still going on and the trails are open in the UP. Pretty cool and I applaud the DNR for making that call. It is not busy up here, but I know any and all visitors to the UP will be welcomed as things get VERY quiet up here in April.
    I guess that gets you pretty caught up in everything. Not sure when plan to write next, but with a bit of luck, there should be some riding pics in a future entry! Ooohp, one last thing. The Laurium Glacier Contest will start at Noon April 1.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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March 23-
    You're not going to believe this, but I am sick again. I seemed to recover from the flu as we went through last week, but then Thursday night got to feeling really bad. I have made two trips to the ER and spent most of the weekend in bed fighting off what they think is a secondary infection. I am on meds and hopefully the kick in soon, but this is about all I have energy for. Sorry.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 16-
    It's not that I thought I would be able to out do the previous two journals with their pics and stories of the trip out west, but I sure was hoping for more content than I have to share tonight. Truth is, I came down with what I thought was a bad cold late Monday last week and I should have listened to my wife as it has blossomed into the flu like she suspected. It was not too bad at first, but has gotten worse rather than better over the past few days. In fact, I have spent most of the day in bed today and feel like it will be an early to bed night tonight as well. If there is anything to be thankful about getting sick now it is that it did not happen while I was out west. That would have been the totals pits. As mentioned in the previous journal, I think I caught it from a guy sitting across the isle from me on the plane from Salt Lake to Minneapolis. He was coughing and sneezing and pretty much spent most of the flight passed out. Nora says that my symptoms match up pretty well with lots of the kids and teachers at the school that have been out for around 7-10 days. If that is true, then hopefully I only have a day or two left with this mess.
    It's not the worst I have ever felt, but it has been a long time since a bug kept me down for more than a few days. I am closing in on a week and I think my cabin fever is about as bad as my flu symptoms. As I have mentioned in previous entries when I have been sick, I am not real good at sitting around and doing nothing. Especially when I am not tired enough to sleep all day, but too weak to do anything but sit around. I have been able to do all of my work duties up until now and am hoping I can do the same tomorrow, but if you are awaiting an e mail from me, please be patient as I am prioritizing my tasks right now. I figured writing a quick journal and talking about my flu bug would be the best way to try and get the word out.
    I am a bit bummed though as I had plans to ride Thursday with Skylar, Friday with some folks from Snow Goer Magazine and then the annual spring ride in up here in the Keweenaw yesterday. We even had pretty good conditions for riding. Not powder over the hood, but temps in the upper 20's to low 30's and plenty of snow on the ground. I have not been on the trails, but have seen them from the roads and they look to be in great shape. Traffic is typically lower in March and even though we will pop our heads above freezing for the day, night time temps drop below freezing and firm things back up. Looks like we will get a bit of fresh snow early this week and then temps should hold the snow through the rest of the week, so anyone hoping for a bit of Easter riding in the Keweenaw should be all set. I know I am hoping to be all over my little ailments by then!
    Not much else to say as I have been pretty much stuck inside since Monday. I have taken a few quick trips to the store, but for the most part I have been leading a pretty boring life and not one that really warrants being covered in this forum! So until I get better and can share more...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 11-
    The snow we played in on Tuesday was awesome. Over the hood most of the day and it seemed like every time we stopped you had to spend a few minutes cleaning the running boards off. It did snow most of the day on Tuesday and into Tuesday night and on Wednesday, we awoke to some more fresh snow at the lodge, which likely meant a lot more snow up in the higher terrain. The amount of fresh powder on Tuesday in the hills was around 12-16" and on Wednesday it was easily 2 feet! It was still snowing and blowing pretty hard on Wednesday, so we stuck to the more sheltered areas- mainly the trees and some smaller meadows inside the trees. Just imagine riding through that meadow with snow flying over the hood and windshield and hitting you in the face and chest. That is what we got to do all day. If you are having problems imagining that, here is a full sized version for you. As we rode for the camera and played in the deep snow it was actually hard to tell who was riding at times. The sled would be completely buried in the snow or shrouded behind the billowing snow. Such was the case here with Brian coming up and over a little hill.
    I added to the mystery of who I was on Wednesday as I was riding a different sled all together. While warming up my sled for the start of the ride, my throttle cable broke. We were suppose to be heading out in about 10 minutes, so rather than try and fiddle with things to get it fixed, I was lucky enough to have Togwotee lend me an M8 to ride for the day. I was also trying out some clothing from Scott/Remia, so here I was in different gear and on a different sled and really confused those in our group for moments during the day. My opinions of the M8 were that it was a lot easier to throw around than my Edge chassis. It needed some clutch work to liven up the low end, but had plenty of pull in the midrange. The skis that come stock with those things are pretty much junk and that would be one of the first things I would replace if I owned one, but otherwise I found the sled to be fun to ride.
    The deep powder did not keep us from climbing the hills. The snow was deep, but fairly stable and avalanche risk was low according to the avalanche forecast center out there. Here is a shot of one of the hill climbing spots we played in. What is most interesting about that shot is you can see where the first few riders made it to and then had to turn out towards the bottom of the hill. Then as a route was packed down, we were able to climb a bit higher and the turn out's about midway up the hill show that. Then by the time a dozen or so attempts had been made, there was enough of a route to track poach to get to the higher parts of the hill.
    Riding in all that deep snow is hard work and the altitude certainly did not make it any easier. Here is a shot of some of us taking a break. Dave is in the foreground with the blue gloves. I am in the back on the M8 and in the Scott jacket, looking a bit like RoboCop. Some of the "younger bucks" in our group did not need as much rest. Here is Matt getting ready to make a climb. Notice the deep and fresh snow in that shot? Here is Matt making a climb, no track poaching going on there! Here he is turning around at the bottom to make another run, while some of us that are a bit "longer in the tooth" look on. We had anywhere from 16-20 riders in our group each day and with that amount of sleds, the areas we played in were fairly used up by the time we left. Here is a shot of one of those areas, with barely a flake of snow left untouched. Just about 40 minutes earlier there was 2 feet of untracked snow in that same exact spot. I guess the good thing for others riding out there is that we never saw another group out riding the entire trip and we usually hit only one or two play areas in a day, so we did not trash the entire million or so acres of backcountry the Togwotee area has!
    When we got back, I took to trying to fix my throttle cable. It was actually part of my "lefty" setup that broke. The left hand throttle cable was fine, so I just took out the right hand side (the side that broke) and swapped it out with the left hand side and I was good to go on the 800 once again. While fixing the sled, I looked around at the cabins and all the snow on them and thought that it would make for a nice picture. It's hard to even imagine what it looks like out there with no snow. Before heading out into the backcountry to do some riding and filming, Rick wanted to do some filming of a local on his ride on top of photographers hill. Photographers hill is a spot right near the lodge where there is a panoramic view of the Teton Range in the background. Rick's videos may not contain the extreme riding that some of the others do, but I think he makes up for it with his creativity and shooting skills. The other videos seem to really lack any creativity and seem to be done more in the context of some guy standing there with a camera as the riders do their thing. In any case, Rick's creativity led to the scene shooting Thursday morning of little Anthony on his ride. It looks to be where the SnowHawk got their idea.
    After getting the footage of Anthony, we hit the snow ourselves to get to the play spot. It was a bit of a ride just to get there and we ended up staying in that one spot all day. The spot was probably around 2 miles long with many chutes and clearings that we could play in. Here is a shot of yours truly making a side hilling climb. Here I am heading up for another run and here is Al turning out. The snow was not as deep in that area, but still deep enough to carve and deep enough to get stuck if you were not real careful. The shallower snow did allow us to highmark with a bit more effectiveness. Here is a shot from above of a meadow that we rode up through to get to a play spot. I think it is kind of funny that there was not a single straight line in the bunch! Here is another shot from above of Brian and Al taking a break. Here is a shot of me with a mouth full of lunch and here is Deb and Rick from Dobson Entertainment. We had stopped for lunch and while we ate, Matt was kind enough to put on a little entertainment. He started out by making a great hill climb, then climbing up and over a cornice. He then proceeded to jump off another cornice and had some problems with the landing. The sled got a little squirrly on him and ended up rolling over him and then rolling down over about a dozen times down the hill. Neither the sled or Matt was injured, which was a very good thing and let us all have a good laugh about it. Here is a shot of Matt getting is sled ready to ride the rest of the way down, you can follow the tracks in the snow up the hill to replay what happened to him and his sled. Matt did redeem himself, with a bit of a jumping show later on in the day.
    On the way home, we got to see some of the local wildlife. A moose was grazing on some vegetation near a creek and when we rode up was hanging out in the creek bed, probably to try and hide as well a for protection. I have seen plenty of moose driving to and from the airport to the lodge, but that is all at lower elevations where the snow is not nearly as deep and there is easier access to the vegetation. This moose was up at around 9500 feet and a long way from any real source of a meal. I sure hope he/she makes it through the rest of the winter.
    Friday was our last day of riding and my body was telling me it was happy about that. 6 days in a row of some pretty aggressive riding and I was feeling it. I was not too tired to get out and play hard for the last day though and with clear blue skies and all the fresh snow from the previous few days, it was shaping up to be a great day for riding. We rode back up to photographers hill again, but this time to get a group picture taken by the professional photographer at the lodge. She takes a picture of your group in the morning and then can have prints ready for you in the afternoon. I ordered up a nice 11x16 of our group and also got a shot of the group to put in the journal. Here is one without all the riff-raff in front of the mountains (FSV).
    Like the day before, our riding on Friday took us to a spot that we have never been to before. A winding trail through the woods that went directly underneath a cliff formation and then up and on top of Sublette Pass. That was the Brooks Range on the left and the idea was to have Rick film us sidehilling beneath the rock formations. So Rick rode up on the back of a sled and had a rather humorous dismount, tumbling down the hill for 50-75 feet. He then hiked up the mountain a bit more and got into position to shoot. He was the little black speck in the middle of that last shot. Matt B was the first to give it a try. One of the hardest things in that shot was to actually get high enough to make the shot for side hilling. The snow was 2-3 feet deep beneath the rock formations and Matt got stuck on his first try, but then made it up the second time. I was next to go and used Matt's tracks to get me the momentum to get high enough for a good side hill shot. I have to say that not only was that the highest up on a hill that I have ever side hilled, but probably also the longest side hill I have ever done. It must have been 1/2 to 1/3rd of a mile laying the sled down on the right hand side and riding the side of the hill.
    After my sidehill, Al and I spotted a nice hill to go and play on, so we headed over to it to put some marks on it. The rest of the gang showed up a little bit later and each took their turn trying to put the highest mark on the hill. The types of sleds were pretty well represented from all the manufacturers and included some old iron like my 800 and Al's 900 mountain cat, to some new XP's, M's and even an 800 Dragon. In the end, it was the 800 Dragon that proved time and time that it could climb the highest. If it did not put the highest mark on the hill, it was because Mark the rider did not feel like putting it there. I had some highest marks myself, but that was only because others did not try! My trusty old 800 ran great once I had the clutching set up right, but still was no match for some of the other sleds, especially the Ski-Doo's and their wider track and of course the 800 Dragon. Here is a shot of Dave putting a respectable mark up there for riding a 600. I think he was trying to perform the switchback maneuver (the move that won him "king of the Hill" two years ago), but did not have enough momentum to make the turn to the right and head up the hill in the opposite direction. Here he is coming back down. Here is a shot of the entire hill that we were playing on. It got pretty steep there at the top!
    Along with the great hill climbing, there was also some very pretty scenery. Here is a shot of Brooks Lake, with a section of the Pinnacle Buttes in the background (FSV). We then climbed up and up and up and made it to the top of Austin's Peak. Not sure of the elevation, but we seemed to be looking down or over onto most of the other peaks in the area, so I would venture to guess we were up around 11,000 feet or so. Lots of wind and little snow, here is a picture of Dave taking a picture of Brian. The Pinnacle Buttes and Jules Bowl are behind Dave. Here is a shot I took of the Tetons behind the Pinneacle Buttes. Here is a shot of the Brooks Range from on top of Austin. Brian even managed to take a series of shots that I was able to meld into a panoramic view from on top. Just before we headed down, someone in the group spotted some big horn sheep grazing on what little vegetation was up there and not covered in the snow. That was my first ever experience seeing big horn sheep, pretty cool!
    Our trip back took us past the Brooks Lake Lodge. It is owned by the same folks that own the Togwotee Mountain Lodge. It is a little more upscale than TML and also requires you to either ride your own sled in or take a snow coach in as there is no plowed road into the BLL. Pretty neat setup and tons of snow, about 6 feet on the level. We did do some playing in the trees on Friday as well and Dave points to where he left a bit of red paint from his hand guards on one of the trees.
    We made it back to the lodge safe and sound Friday afternoon and other than Kenny dropping a power valve and shutting down his sled, there were no serious mishaps and no hospital visits. I don't even think there were any meaningful bumps or bruises. We rolled out the Tin Horn award again. I actually cannot remember who all won it. I know Rick one it one day and I also know that I avoided it this year. We did initiate a new award this year- the "High Hole" award. A high hole is similar to a high mark, but you do not make it back down in one movement, rather you stick you sled way up high in a hole created by your sled, thus the high hole. Now, the reason why I have a picture of the high hole award is because I won it the last day. It was not a very impressive high hole, at least not like I have done the previous 2 years, but still a stuck up pretty high. Because I took the award on the last day, I got to keep it for the year.
    My flight back was nice and uneventful. I had such a short layover in Salt Lake City that I walked from one plane to the other and got right on. In Minneapolis I had enough time to grab a quick bite to eat and then then took off for Houghton. All told, the trip back took 7 hours and I was back in the company of Nora and Burt. I think the week of getting up at 4:30 and then riding hard for most of the day finally caught up to me because Saturday night I went to sleep at around 7 pm and slept for 13 hours! Now I think I caught the cold of the guy across the aisle from me on the plane from Salt Lake to Minneapolis. He as coughing and sneezing for most of the flight home and when he wasn't doing that, he was asleep with his head in his lap. I hope it is just a cold and not the flu, but right now I am feeling a bit worn down and have a sore throat and cough. We'll see.
    Sunday Nora, Burt and I went up to Eagle River to check out the deer herd. That is one place that they "yard up" during the winter up here. I believe that they are even fed some supplemental feed up there. Most of them looked pretty healthy and there was quite a few down there. Soon the snows will be melting and they will be returning to the woods to have babies and fatten up. Speaking of spring, we have had a spring like day today. Quite a bit of sunshine and temps hit 40 degrees. The main roads are all clear and the backroads are clearing up, or at least becoming mushy. I don't think we are done with winter weather yet, but this time of the year we can certainly have a day like this quite easily. I have not been out on the sled up here. It is all de-tuned for this altitude, but I have not taken it out yet. I am hoping that this bug I am dealing with can get out of my system by Thursday as I have plans to ride. There is also talk that this Saturday is the annual spring ride in up north, so it would be nice to be healthy for that as well. Looks like I will need to drink lots of fluids and get lots of sleep in the next few days.
    So the trip was a rousing success and tons of fun. The conditions were the best by far that we have had and that will make the decision to go out next year pretty easy (if we are invited). I would like to thank the staff at Togwotee Mountain Lodge for all of their hospitality. If you are wanting to head out west and experience the riding that they have out there, then you can do no better than at Togwotee. Sure there are places that are less expensive, but you have it all at Togwotee. Ride right from your door. 600 miles of groomed trails and tons of back country riding. The back country riding starts just feet from the lodge, not miles and the food and accommodations at the lodge as well as the staff are top notch. It really is the perfect setup for western riding.
    As fun as the trip was, I am thrilled to be home. The Keweenaw is my true home and I cannot imagine being anywhere else. There is just something magical about this place and there is nothing better than returning to it. I am so thankful that I get to live in such a wonderful area.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

March 10-
    I'm back and it is great to be back! I have said this in the past and will continue to say it for as long as I live here and go away. That is I am so fortunate to live in a place that I love so much. It is never a sad occasion when a trip away from the area ends and it is time to come home. In fact it is just the opposite, I am always excited to be coming home. Of course a big part of that is coming home to my beautiful and wonderful wife. I really need to say a special thanks to Nora for not only staying home while I went out west to play, but also using a week of her vacation to be able to stay home with Burt. That is really above and beyond the call of duty and it certainly does not go un-noticed.
    The trip was a blast. The trip out had a few hiccups. I flew out of Houghton ok and made it to Minneapolis fine. The flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City was also trouble free. When we landed in Salt Lake City, it was just starting to drizzle a bit. A bit later it started to pour rain that then changed to big silver dollar snowflakes. Those snowflakes then continued to fall for a few hours. The ground was still warm enough that the snow did not accumulate on the runways or taxi ways, but did collect on the aircraft and did reduce visibility enough to delay flights. The crew that was going to take our plane from Salt Lake City to Jackson was stuck in the air and thus our departure was delayed. We did not push back from the gate until about 30 minutes after we were suppose to. We then spent about 2 1/2 hours on the tarmac waiting to be de-iced, so in all, we were about 3 hours late in taking off. I was then worried that it might be snowing too hard in Jackson for us to land there and in that event I was told that we would circle back to Salt Lake and not go to a closer airport like Idaho Falls. The trip from Salt Lake to Jackson was a bumpy one. I counted three times that I became weightless and if it were not for the seat belt, I would have floated up and hit my head on the overhead compartment. Needless to say it was nice to finally put down in Jackson and the driver from Togwotee was as happy to see me as I was to see him. He had been there for the three hours that I was delayed.
    The ride to the lodge was a bit of a nail biter as well. It was not snowing too hard at the airport, but by the time we got about half way between the airport and lodge, it started to really come down. It snowed heavily the rest of the way to the lodge and by the time I arrived there was a pretty solid 4-5" of new snow down. It did lighten up that evening, but still we ended up with around 5-6" new by Sunday morning. That new snow would end up being a major blessing as the snow they had out there had become very setup and in some spots very tracked up. The rest of the gang drove out with the sleds in a six place and four place trailer. They arrived about 2-3 hours before me, taking around 27 hours to get from here to there.
    As mentioned, Sunday we awoke to around 5-6" of fresh snow at the lodge, which meant that there was more up in the higher terrain around the lodge. We did not end up going too high on Sunday, but it was still nice to be riding in the fresh snow. Here is a shot of part of the group at one of our first stopping points. The snow the previous night had been accompanied by some wind and when that happens out west, you end up with some rather large drifts. Al found one of those drifted over creek beds and had one of the first stucks of the day.
    I actually have around 88 pictures to share with you in this journal. Like last year I loaned out a spare camera to Brian, so we had double the shooting power. I am hoping I will be able to write the whole journal tonight, but may have to make this a two parter, we'll see. With Brian taking some of the pics, there are a few of me in here too, such as this one. Looks like I was having a good time. I promise that most of the pics in this entry will be a whole lot more exciting that that though!
    Speaking of exciting, we found a spot where some cornice dropping could be done. I did some drops on a baby cornice, which had me dropping around 3-4 feet. Matt and some of the others found the grown-up cornices to play on. Here is a shot of Matt coming off one. Here is Chuck and here is Matt B surfing the top of one of them. Matt B had been our guide the previous two trips to Togwotee. He does not guide for them anymore, but heard we were in town and decided to hook up with us. Another guide that rode with us last year was Joe or "Lefty". He lost his arm many years ago in a motorcycle accident, but can ride just about as good as anyone in our group. Here is Joe getting ready to take on the hill and here he putting in a nice side hill.
    Part of what makes riding with our gang so much fun is stopping to watch some of them do their thing. Matt is probably the best and more daring of our group. Occasionally he will do things that draw an "OH Man" and every once in a while he will do something that draws a chuckle. Here is a shot of him recovering from one of the OH Man's that went awry and became a chuckle. Wanting to redeem himself, he decided to go for another cornice drop. Here he is taking a look at the launch pad and landing area. Here is his flying off the cornice. He caught pretty good air on that one, but as soon as the cameras were put away, he decided to do one more and that was the grand daddy of them all. If you go back to that last shot and look about 2/3rds of the way down the hill, that is where he landed! Would have made an awesome pic and an even better video. I have to more pics to share with you for the first day. Here is a pic of Dave looking like he bit off a little more than he could chew on the hill. That pic really does not do him or his ride justice though. His sled was running great. To watch him climb what he did, you would have thought he was on an M8 and not an M6. The final pic of the day is of Joe. We were on our way home and came upon a little cornice that we could jump up rather than off of and he got a little "over rotated", but he and the sled were just fine.
    The second day of riding (Monday) had me breaking off from the group. I have made friends with the director of marketing for Klim over the years and we have been trying to hook up and ride for as long as I have been going out west to ride. This year our schedules finally matched up, so I rode with him (John) as well as Rob and Paul from Klim. Our guide was Carter and we also had three other riders with us from the Imlay City area of down state MI. 8 riders in all, which sounds like a pretty big group, but not nearly as large as the 17-20 that we had in our other group and the 8 of us were able to move along just fine. When you ride with Carter, you ride. He does not spend much time sitting around shooting the bull. We stopped for brief breaks, but most of them lasted single digits in the minutes rather than the double digits. That was just fine with me as we got to cover a lot of ground and saw a lot of cool stuff, but I sure was tired at the end of the day!
    Carter took us to several places I had never been before, including some really nice play spots, and some spots with a nice view. Here is some more spectacular scenery we saw along the way on Monday. We then got to a fairly technical part of the ride. It involved dropping off a bit of a cornice and down into a chute. Before performing that little task, Carter made sure to explain to us all what he wanted us to do as well as where to go should part of the hill decide to follow us down. Here he is giving one in the group just that tutoring. We all made it down safe and sound and then were introduced to what the locals call "drag race hill". Not much of a mystery how that hill got it's name. It was perfect for the impromptu drag race. You could probably line up around 10-12 sleds and let them all race up the hill. We lined up around 6 and for some reason I won both races! I say for some reason because the 800 was still not running right my first two days of riding. It was only revving to around 7400. When we got back Carter introduced me to the mechanic for the lodge and as luck would have it the mechanic rode that exact same sled last year and so he knew just what to put in it as far as weights and a spring goes. We tossed them in and the sled ran mint the rest of the trip. It jumped right to 8000 rpm and held it in all the climbs. What a difference those extra 600 rpm's made! Anyway, back to the ride on Monday, Carter took us into "Kettle", short for Kettle Creek, via the back door. I could never find that back door again on my own, but we did get into Kettle later in the week via the front door and I could find that again without too much difficulty. Part of that back door venture took us along a ridgeline of one of the higher peaks and at the top of this one and many others were some large drifts. In this case you had to do a bit of side hilling just below the drifts for if you went too far to the left, the terrain dropped off rather abruptly and down you went into a ravine. Made for an interesting moment.
    We dropped into Kettle briefly and then climbed back out and headed back. One of the sleds in our group had broken down and we needed to put a plastic sled underneath it and haul it out of the backcountry before it got dark. We made it back around 4 pm and the other group was already back. Some of them returning as early as 2. I was glad that we got our full day in riding, but as mentioned, I was very sore and tired and a bit worried that I might have to cut the next day short, or even sit it out!
    Brian rode with the other group and took some pictures of their day 2 riding. Since I was not along, I have to sort of punt as to where they went and exactly what they did, but based on this first shot, it looks like they climbed to a pretty high elevation. One would think I should be able to recognize where they were, but I cannot. Here is a shot of them heading to what looks to be the top of one of the hills out there. What is really amazing out there is that in some cases, when you get to the top of some of these peaks, there is very little snow. The wind blows so hard that the snow just can never really stick around up there, so you end up with spots with almost no snow. Here is the group on top of the mountain taking it all in. Here is a shot of a pretty nice play area and I bet you all can make a pretty good guess as to what the next shot is. Yep, them playing in the play spot! Here is a shot of Kenny augured in and looking for someone to come help. The funny thing about that shot is that it was taken by Brian who was on a stock M6 and Kenny was riding a modded 8, yet Brian was looking down at Ken. Hmmm. Wonder what is up with that! Here is a shot of Chuck heading back down. Looks like a lot of snow was piled up in that spot! Here is a shot of Luke checking the track and carbides out on his Yammie.
    All made it back safe and sound and we all ate a robust dinner and then I know I took some tylenol and went to sleep! As mentioned, I was a bit worried about the shape I would be in the next day, but morning came and I felt pretty good. Not 100 percent, but still way better than I did the day before. Plus it snowed a few more inches at the lodge and was still snowing. I was hoping that the higher terrain had picked up it's 200-300 percent more than the lodge picks up and once we got out and hit the hills, those hopes were realized. Here is a shot of the group at our first stop of the day. As you can see, there was not a dry hood in the group and here is a close up shot of my sled and Chuck's sled. The deeper snow (about 12-15" of fresh powder) did make for a ton of fun in the flats and a bigger challenge in the steeps. Still though we were able to make some pretty decent climbs and here is a pic of a dead end we found on one of those climbs. Here is a shot of my sled where we stopped. It was pretty cool heading down hill as the snow would pile up and flow out ahead of your sled like a mini avalanche. Here they are rolling Brian's sled over to get it pointed down hill. Note the fresh powder is just about waist deep there.
    Back down in the flats, it was a carvers delight, with around a foot and a half of fresh powder to float the sled across and with just a little lean to one side or the other, the sled was rolling over for you. I had to stop and take a picture of the front of my sled at one point, just to show you how great the snow was and so you could imagine how much fun it was. Here is a shot of Al carving his 900 King Cat. Here he is jumping it and here is the end result of all of his fun. There were actually many times we all had to shake our heads to get all the snow off our goggles. Almost too much fun! We did have one mishap on Tuesday. Nick was climbing a hill through the trees and ended up getting bucked off his sled. The sled then proceeded to ghost ride down the hill until it found a tree. Here is another angle of the wreck. It actually ended up looking much worse than it was. For one the sled only traveled 50 feet or so on it's own, so it did not have time to build up enough speed to really crash into the tree hard. Plus the deeper snow probably slowed it's decent as well. In any case, all he ended up with was a broken bumper. All else was fine and he rode the sled the rest of the week. The last shot for the day was actually taken from my room at the lodge. The snow was piled up so deep on the roof that it pretty much blocked out the window. Glad I did not have to use that window for an emergency!
    Well, I am half way through the trip and about half way through the pics and rather than trying to finish up tonight, I think I will save the rest for tomorrow and end up with a better product. So tune in again tomorrow for the rest of the story!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-