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May 25-
    I realize I am a day early with this, but doubt I will be writing tomorrow, so Happy Memorial Day everyone! Spring has finally sprung across the Keweenaw. We even have some humidity going today, with a dewpoint of 60 degrees. I can honestly say that I am glad we finally have some warmer temps, but could do without the humidity. I really think that is my main issue with summer weather, the humidity. The upside is that living here the humidity is not as bad as it is further south, but I think the perfect scenario would be to have the kind of summer weather that the mountains out west have. Nice warm days and chilly nights, with very low humidity. I suppose from a weather perspective, the mountains out west really have my idea of a perfect setup, but I love the Midwest and I really love the Keweenaw, so I'm not moving!
    Even though I have been looking forward to the arrival of warmer temps, I am thankful that we did not have them this week. It has been a pretty busy week on the building front. Tuesday morning the excavating contractor dropped off a back hoe and Matt arrived to start doing the work. Matt works for the contractor and it is kind of neat to have someone I know well do the work. Plus we get to chat a bit while he is working. We needed to clear a bit of sod and fill as well as some of the mine rock on the driveway to make room for the sand fill. That process took about an hour or so and then in another hour or so they had the sand put down and packed down. We watered down the sand as we were working to compact it as much as possible. By around 2 pm all of that work was done and in good timing, the truck showed up with the foam board, wire mesh, re-rod and concrete blocks.
    So by Tuesday afternoon, the building spot was all prepped and I had all the materials needed to get working. I have been having some problems with my back and rather than let things get worse, I decided to go to physical therapy for it. I have had such good luck with them for my broken leg recovery as well as the little bout with tennis elbow last spring, that I thought I would let them help me with my back and try and develop an exercise routine to help me keep it strong and from getting any worse. Both my brother and dad had problems with their back. I don't know if that is something that can run in the family, but I was not about to let things get worse. Anyway, I had a PT appointment on Tuesday afternoon, so I could not do any work on things, but got busy on it Wednesday by laying out some reference string and then putting the forms in. After that came digging the trenches for the thickened edges of the slab. I was able to get all of that done by my PT treatment on Wednesday. Thursday, I had my first golf night and then Nora and I got the insulation put down. On Friday I got the re-rod and wire mesh put down and one run of pex. On Saturday Nora helped me put the rest of the runs of pex down and I hooked it all up to the manifolds and pressure tested it. It holds pressure so now all we need is for the inspector to come and sign off on things and then we can pour the concrete. The inspector said he will be by on Tuesday and I have the concrete scheduled for a Friday delivery. Dave is going to come over and supervise the poor and do the finishing work. I am really fortunate to have friends that not only know how to do things like concrete, but offer to come over and help me out.
    I plan to have Dave show me how to lay the block and will get that done. Once that is done, then I can move on to building the shop. I figure if the weather cooperates, we should be able to put the trusses up by the end of next week and then get the whole thing shelled in by the weekend of the 14th of June. I have decided to spend the money and do things right with this shop. I found some spray foam insulation that I am going to use. It is about 3 times as expensive as bat insulation would be, but will give me an R-41 in my walls and ceiling, so I will make up that cost in saved heating costs in a short time. Plus the foam will make the inside air tight and critter proof. I then found the same material that is used on the boards of a hockey rink and will be using that for the lower 4 feet of the shop, with tongue and groove on the upper 4 feet. The plastic will work good against any moisture and the wood will allow me to hang things as well as look good. I also plan to pain the floor with epoxy paint and can then onto filling the shop with tools and toys!
    Speaking of toys, we got the ATV back on Wednesday. We were too busy with the slab prep work to take a ride during the week, but with the pex down and holding pressure by Saturday midday, Nora and I took a ride on the ATV Saturday afternoon. It was a great day for a ride, with mostly sunny skies and temps in the upper 60's. We headed north on the snowmobile trail and it was a lot rougher than it was this past autumn. Perhaps the snow melt causes there to be more potholes that then get smoothed out as the summer progresses. In any case we did not last too long on that trail before we jumped off and took some side trails. One took us to the top of the cliff range where we stopped and Nora took this shot. We then stayed off the main trail and on some logging roads and ended up crossing one of the power lines up that way. It is always a little strange to be out there without snow. I don't spend too much time under the power lines in the winter as they are usually pretty tracked up, but spend way more time out there in the winter than summer, so it is always w little weird to be out there without snow. We then rode more logging roads back home, but stopped off at a pond on the way home to take a break.
    We made it back safe and sound and the bike performed just fine. It was a whole lot more mellow ride than the one I took with the boys a few weeks ago, but was just as fun and it was nice to be out riding with Nora. We actually have another ATV coming our way. My brother actually is paying for most of it and will be keeping it up here as there are no good places to ride it where he lives. So Nora and I will each have a bike to ride when we want to head out, which will be fun for both of us. There is lots of exploring I want to do this summer and I look forward to taking afternoon and evening rides with Nora.
    As mentioned, spring has sprung up here, but by looking at the trees you would never know. That shot was taken just a few hours ago and illustrates what most of the trees up here look like. The cold spring we have had has really caused all the vegetation to be around 2 weeks behind schedule. I looked back at the journal for May last year and at this time last year the trees were just about fully filled out and our apple trees had flowers on them. This year, the buds on the trees are just starting to open up and the apple trees are at least a week to ten days away from having any flowers on them. As mentioned, the cold temps were nice to work in this week and more importantly, they kept the bugs away. However, yesterday's warm temps brought them out and the blackflys are out in full force now. Every year as we approach the season for them, I think about how much I dislike them and then when they finally appear, I dislike them even more than I remembered. I am just glad that I was not trying to do all that work for the foundation when they were out. They will be bad for a couple of weeks and then begin to tail off as we head through the second half of June and then usually by the 4th of July are pretty much gone.
    The final issue I have this evening is the Laurium Glacier. It is still hanging on, but I do believe it is in it's final days. That picture was taken Friday afternoon and I figured it had about 5-6 days left. It would be neat if it could make it to June, but I seriously doubt it will. Temps are suppose to cool back down some this week, but will still be warm enough to bring about some melting. This past week temps were in the 40's and some low 50's for highs, so the melt down was slower. I do plan to make daily visits now until it is gone and I would say look for an announcement sometime this week.
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this time around. Enjoy the holiday!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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May 18-
    Seems hard to believe another week has come and gone and even harder to believe that Memorial Day Weekend is just a week away. I think part of the reason why it seems hard to believe that Memorial Day is just a week away is that the weather still seems more like mid April or early November than like mid May. I can say that when the sun is out, you can really feel the heat in it and it does warm temps significantly. However, on cloudy days it sure can be chilly. We have had several days when the temps fell over 20 degrees because clouds rolled in. Yesterday was one of those days and this morning we even had some flakes of snow fall. No accumulation, but still snow falling from the skies! Speaking of snow, the last of it finally melted from the Allouez Township Glacier (aka. the spot where snow cleared off the shop roof). Now all that is left is the mashed down grass. However, as you could see in that shot, the grass has already greened up elsewhere on the lawn and it is just amazing to me that in two weeks I can go from what looks like dirt to a green lawn.
    There is still snow up here though. Yesterday I was down in the vicinity of the Laurium Glacier, so I swung by it to snap a shot of it. Still hanging out and I would say that it looks to have at least 7-10 days left in it. Perhaps more if we stay cloudy and cool. That would make it the latest melt off since I have been keeping score. Of course I have not been following it for decades, but I would have to say that this years final melt off will be later than most. Heck, there is still snow on the sides of Hwy 41 between Mohawk and Copper Harbor. Just in patches, but the patch in that last shot looks like it has several days left, perhaps a week. We even saw some patches of snow in the woods near Lac La Belle. Pretty impressive as that snow is just naturally occurring and not piled up by man as the stuff along the side of the highway is. I did not get any pictures of that snow though, so you are just going to have to trust me! :)
    This past Wednesday marked the 9 year anniversary of me moving up to the Keweenaw. I am sure I have said it over and over, but I can still remember many of the details from that day vividly. I also remember the first morning up here, I let the dogs out and breathed in the crisp, clear air and just could not believe that I was going to be able to smell that air every day! It sure has been an incredible 9 years and I do have to keep pinching myself when I think that I will have many, many more years up here. It is truly a dream come true, every day.
    As you might have been able to determine from my writings so far, I am in better spirits. I forget actually when I started feeling better, but it was sometime early last week. I still miss Burt and Baileys and there is not an hour that goes by when I do not think of him, which makes me think of her, but the thoughts do not get me down anymore. I suppose with time I will pass through an hour without thinking of them and then several hours, but I would be willing to bet the farm that there will never be a day when I do not think of them in some way. But like I say, the thoughts do not make me sad anymore and generally make me happy, so it is a good thing as Martha would say.
    I have been a little busy this week preparing for the building onto the shop. I have the front of the current shop all cleaned up and did remove enough sand from the front of it to give us a grade to shoot off of for the rest of the sand pad. The road restrictions came down on Friday, so now I just have to wait for my number to come up and the contractor to show up with some sand and the excavator to level out a building pad for me. That should only take a half day and then I can get the forms up, the trenches for the thickened edges dug, the insulation down, rebar put in and wire mesh down in around 4-5 hours. I figure another 4 hours or so to lay the pex tubing and get it pressurized so that the inspector can come over and have a look at it. Then the concrete can get poured. So if the excavating contractor were to show up tomorrow then we could be pouring the slab this weekend. If it comes on Tuesday, then there is a slight chance. Anytime after Tuesday this week and we will have to wait until the next week for the inspection (the inspector is only up here on Wednesday's and Thursday's). My friend Dave is going to help me with the concrete and we both have afternoons off, so we do not have to wait until a weekend to do the pour. I have everything ordered except for the concrete and that can be done with as little as 24 hours to go, so things are in place and should go pretty fast once the pad is in place. I am really excited to get going on it and it should be a lot of fun seeing as though I have been through it all before and know all the tricks.
    This morning Nora and I took a drive north and ended up in Copper Harbor. The thought of hiking in the Estivant Pines Preserve actually entered into my mind this morning as I was doing some work and so I asked Nora if she wanted to head up there to go for a hike and she said sure. The day was overcast and the previously mentioned snow flakes came down on our drive up there, but no precip fell while we were there. I have to say that my initial impression of the place was a little bit off. I really had expected bigger pine trees, but I guess those old growth do grow much more slowly. All kidding aside, this was my 4th or 5th time up there and this is an old growth pine, a giant. Maybe not the giants that the redwoods are out in California, but these trees have been growing in that neck of the woods since before Christopher Columbus came to the New World. Really is neat to be in the presence of such age and beauty.
    It was also nice to be just hiking in the woods. There is just so much to see if you slow down and take the time. Nora spotted this unique tree, perhaps it is where the Copper Harbor Football team could practice their field goals if there was a Copper Harbor Football team. We also came along an old white pine that has been dead for many years. The trunk of the tree has become hollowed out by some natural forces and Nora was brave enough to climb inside it so that I could get a shot.
    I realize that the death of these trees is as natural as the death of any living thing, but since their numbers are limited, it seems extra sad every time we come across one that reached it's end of the road. While hiking one of the steeper stretches of the trail today, we came across a mass of broken limbs and a little bit further up the hill it was revealed what was the reason for all of those broken branches. An entire tree had snapped about 1/4th of the way up. This must have happened within the past few months as the needles on the branches were still green and I know that they do not stay that way for more than around 6 months before turning brown. We did have several wind storms in the past 6-8 months and I would imagine one of them did in this tree. I could not tell if it was an old growth or not. The tree was big and the other 3/4ths of it was lying on the ground pretty much still intact. However, the bulk of the wood in the trunk seemed to be rotted to some degree and I would imagine that is why it snapped like it did. I do know that new growth white pines can get pretty big. We have several on our property that have trunk diameters of three to four feet. So perhaps this was not an old growth. One reason why old growth trees live to be 500+ years old is that they grow very slowly and that very slow growth causes them to be very strong. In any case a pretty impressive site to see that tree snapped off like that and I bet it make one heck of a sound when it happened.
    That was about all the excitement we had in the woods this week. Last Monday I took the ATV in to have it fixed. It turns out it was a seal on the front differential and the mechanic said that if they had the part in stock it would be fixed in about 2 days. If he had to order the part, then about a week. So we were without the ATV this week, which was kind of a shame as we did have some nice afternoons for riding this past week. The bugs are not out yet, but I can sense that the blackflys are on the verge of cutting loose. They would not be too much of a problem on the bike though as they need to sense you are there to strike and unless you spend too much time not moving, they will not find you while out riding. I figure the bike will be ready for pick up sometime early this week, but like I told Nora, the way it will probably happen is that the contractor will arrive to put the pad in for the shop addition and then the ATV place will call and say the bike is done! Oh well, in either case it looks like I should have some material to talk about next weekend. So until then...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
May 11-
    Happy Mothers Day Moms! Seems hard to believe that another week has come and gone. I guess when you are busy that happens. It has been a different week for me. A bit of an emotional roller coaster. I am not sure what triggered it, but last Sunday I started to really miss Burt, things only got worse on Monday and Tuesday and then started to get a little better on Wednesday into Thursday and by Friday I seemed to be back to normal. That lasted for most of Saturday, but by late Saturday and all of today I have been feeling a little glum again. Like I say there does not seem to be a triggering mechanism, or at least not one that I can identify. I also do not remember having these types of relapses with Baileys. I know I missed he dearly for weeks and still miss her a lot, but I do not remember having it impact my feelings the way I have been feeling this past week or so. As much as I do not like to feel this way, I am not going to bury those feelings either. I have always been one to face my feelings head on and just endure the downs and make the most of the ups. I know the way I am feeling will pass and that helps.
    I suppose part of the reason why I seem to be missing him more than ever is that the weather is starting to change a bit. Not dramatically, but the woods are drying up and we have had some days that conditions at the beach might not have been too bad. So perhaps knowing that we might be taking our afternoon walks in the woods or heading to the beach for a swim has me missing him. I have been in the woods a few times and have found the experience to be a mix of sadness for missing Burt, but also joy of being able to be in the woods. Yesterday Nora and I went to the beach for our daily walk. It was not the nicest of conditions, with temps in the low 40's and a stiff breeze off the 34 degree lake water, but we walked up the beach for a little more than 2 miles and then back and for much of the time I could not help imagine all the walks that the hounds and I took on the beaches up here. They sure were special friends and that is why I miss them so.
    As mentioned, it has been a busy week. I finished the deck and celebrated with a "hockey pop". Nora and I got a pair of old geezer rocking chairs and have spent some nice time sitting in them and enjoying the view off the deck. As the weather warms it will become even more enjoyable to sit out there. I just wish we could skip the blackfly season! It is nice to be done with the deck and it really has added a nice element to the cabin. We used to sit out in front in some beach chairs, but is it really nice to be on the wooden deck and up off the ground. One thing is for sure, Burt sure would have loved that deck! I am sure that we would have spent hours every day out there and might be out there right now if he was around.
    I also got the shop straightened up and ready for action. On Saturday I even picked up some rough cut 2 x 4's for the addition to the shop. Rumor has it that the road restrictions will be coming down this week and that means the boys can come up, drop some sand and level out a pad for the slab. That would be great because I really want to get that shop addition done before the heart of the summer comes. I also was hoping to have the foundation work done before the blackfly season kicks in. Just something about digging in the dirt with those nasty little buggers flying into your ears and your eyes that I want to avoid as much as possible. So I hope that the rumors of the restrictions coming off this week are true. I am glad that I did get the deck done first. That went pretty smoothly and is one of three major projects that is out of the way.
    It still does not seem like it is almost mid May at all up here. Perhaps not November like it did a week ago, maybe more like mid April, but certainly not mid May. All of the natural snow piles around the house melted off in the last week. I did see one spot of snow in the woods on Thursday, but went to go and look for it yesterday and all I found was a puddle. Most of the snow piled up from moving it has melted too. There is just one tiny patch along side the driveway that should melt in the next day or so. The "Allouez Township Glacier" is also shrinking fast. Just 4 weeks ago that pile of snow was up to the edge of the roof. Looking at our temperature forecast it looks like a bit of snow in that pile may just be left at the end of this week too. As you could see in that last shot though, the grass is turning green. In fact I gave it a shot of fertilizer this afternoon. That is something that I stopped doing with our lawns when the dogs started having all their problems with allergies as well as cancers. Not sure if there was a connection, but a green and weed free lawn was certainly not worth the health of the hounds. Now with Burt gone I can go back to dropping chemicals all over it!
    Not much else to say really. I found some fluid leaking from the ATV's front differential or transfer case, which ever it is, so Nora and I did not take a ride on it this week. I plan to get it down to Al's shop as soon as he has time for it so that he can take a look at it. I did take off the skid plate and did not see a hole or crack in the case, but it is leaking fluid for sure. I cringe when I think how much that repair bill might be. I'll prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Today would be too cold to enjoy a ride on the bike, but yesterday evening would have been nice. I know Nora is excited to go for a ride and I did put the rear seat back on, so it is all ready as soon as we figure out what is causing the leak and get that fixed.
    I guess this one is short, but sweet. Hopefully we will be doing things that will give me more material to write about soon!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
May 4-
    Well, it was a pretty busy week, but more work than play. As mentioned, I was planning to get going on the deck for the front of the cabin this week and that is what I did. Monday I was able to dig the footings and get the concrete poured into them. I suppose that I really did not need to dig footing for it as it will not be attached to the cabin, but I figured I may as well build it over what is needed. On Tuesday morning the lumber arrived and then on Tuesday afternoon and evening I was able to get the framing done. On Wednesday I got the posts for the railing and all the decking done and then on Thursday I build the stairs and got the railings up. It was at that point that the weather went down hill. It rained just about all day on Friday and then Saturday we had some sprinkles in the morning that changed to snow and then it snowed from around noon to 6 pm. We ended up with around an inch of snow Saturday afternoon, so things have actually been stalled with the deck building since Thursday. All I have left to do is to put the top cap on the railing and put the spindles up. That will be a few hours work. I could have done some work on it this afternoon, but decided to clean up the ATV instead. It was still a mess from last weekend's ride and I hated to see it that way, so I broke out the hose and bucket of suds and cleaned it all up. It was even dirtier than I had remembered and took me almost 2 hours to clean, but it is all nice and clean now- all ready for it's next mud bath!
    This has to have been the coldest spring since I move up here 9 years ago. We have had a few days were we were in the low 60's and a handful of days in the 50's, but most days have been in the 40's and even a few in the 30's. I actually did not mind working on the deck with temps in the 30's and 40's. I was in the sun (if it was shining) and also wearing a coat, so I stayed plenty warm. I would rather be able to take my coat off or put on a lighter one than be hot and have no way of cooling off. However, I would also like to be able to do some yard work, but we still have a few piles of snow laying around and the grass is not even greened up in all areas, so that will have to wait for a few more days at least.
    Nora and I took a road trip up to Copper Harbor today. It was a while since we have been up there and it seemed like a good day to head up there. I also figured that we could do a mini waterfall tour. Most of the main snow melt is over, but we did pick up over 1 1/2" of rain on Friday and about another 1/4" of precip with the wet snow on Saturday, so there is still plenty of water flowing through the creeks and rivers up here. Our first stop of the tour today was at the Eagle River. There is a set of falls about halfway between Eagle River and Phoenix and we stopped there to take the first pic of the day. The falls are not particularly large, but that is sort of a special place for us as we stopped there many times with the hounds in all the seasons to take pics or explore. It did feel kind of weird to be walking around down there and not have a labrador exploring with me.
    We continued on down Hwy 26 to the hamlet of Eagle River to view the Eagle River Falls. They were going pretty good. Not the most water that I have ever seen go over them, but still enough to make for a dramatic sight. A bit up the road is the Jacobs Creek Falls. They are a smaller falls, with a smaller river and are actually a bit difficult to get a good shot of, so Nora and I slowed down to look at them, but did not take any pictures.
    Staying on 26 we arrived in Eagle Harbor and then continued up the coast towards Copper Harbor. It has actually been several years since I took the highway from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor. I do not know how many years, but I think it has been at least 3, maybe 4. There is a beautiful B&B just west of Copper Harbor in a massive log home right on the big lake. It is called the Dapple-Gray. Since I had not been down that stretch of Hwy 26 in years, I had not seen it yet. Nora has actually been in it, but today was my first view of it. Pretty impressive. If you are interested in knowing more about it, they advertise in the Northwoods Directory. I have met the owners Ruth and Ollie and they are very nice folks.
    The day was still nice out and so Nora and I decided to take a side track up Brockway Mountain Drive before heading into the harbor. The sign at the bottom of the hill said the road was closed, but I know that there was a bird migration watching event up there this weekend, so Nora and I drove past the sign and headed up onto the mountain. I hope we do not get ourselves into trouble by me writing about it, but we did encounter lots of other up there, so perhaps the county just has not gotten around to removing that sign yet. I guess one other reason it may still be closed is that there were still a few patches of snow on the road. The road is closed in the winter and actually doubles as a snowmobile trail during the season.
    Anyway, as mentioned it was a nice day out, with a few high clouds, but good visibility. There is still quite a bit of snow in the high country up there. The ground is covered in most cases. Not sure if there would have been enough to ride in that spot, but we did come across an area where some sledding could still be done, more on that in a bit. We stopped at the top of Brockway and looked for some migrating birds. We did see a few, golden eagles I think, but there were more bird watchers than birds. Perhaps things are a week or so behind schedule this year because it has been so cold. From the top of Brockway we could see over towards Lake Medora and it is still sporting it's ice from this past winter.
    We doubled back towards the harbor and as we reached the overlook there was a freighter coming around the tip, so I took a shot of it with the lighthouse in the foreground. After that, we drove down the hill and into town and had a nice lunch at Zik's, chatted with Ken a bit and then headed back south and west. One of the things I talked to Ken about is a work session they plan to have on the trails this next autumn. I guess the person that used to do all the signing will not be doing it this year and so they plan to have a work session and do it all using volunteers. It is still many months off, but I will be sure to let you all know when that work session will be taking place. I know that the Superior Snowmobile Club south of the bridge has some work sessions and gets some good help from volunteers and persons coming to this site, so hopefully we can get some folks to come across the bridge and help this end out.
    On the way home, Nora and I took one more side track to head to the high ground of Keweenaw County. Last weekend when we were on ATV's we had to turn around before we even got to the highest ground up there because the snow got to deep. It did not get that warm this week and so I figured that there was probably not that much snow loss and wanted to see what things were like. I even had some aspirations of possibly sneaking in one last, last last ride this week. Basically just to brag about the ability to ride in May. Friends that I ride with now were able to ride well into May in 1996. Brian and others actually took their last ride on Mothers Day that year. I do not know the exact date, but it think it was something like the 13th or 16th and he as a picture of them out there riding. That was a very big snow year (360") and also a very cold spring. Anyway, we did find some areas that one could ride a sled, but I am not sure how far I would be able to ride and I have things going on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, so it looks like that last, last, last MAY RIDE will not take place. But it could have if I wanted to force it to happen.
    I have just two final items to cover. The first is that I have the date for next seasons SnowFest Ride-In for the Make A Wish Foundation. It will be Friday and Saturday, January 30 and 31. Like this last event that is Super Bowl Weekend. So you can all mark your calendars for that weekend to attend next years event if you want. I am going to try and get a lot more planned earlier this time around so that you all know what is going on months ahead of the event. The final item is a picture of the Laurium Glacier. It was taken yesterday at around noon.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-