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October 28-
    As far as Tuesdays at the end of October go, I had me a pretty exciting one. As fate would have it, both sleds came in to me on the same day, so I was busy picking them both up and bringing them to their new home. It is kind of funny and I am sure that there are those that may be a bit skeptical that both sleds really did come to me on the same day, but they did. I am glad because I get to reveal them to you at the same time, which is what I was hoping I would be able to do. I really did not put much thought to exactly how I would live up to all the hype about what my new rides would be for this season, so I guess I can just show you here.
    Yep, went Old School Baby! Was talking to some good ol boys up here and they sure talked me out of having all that horsepower and suspension that the new sleds have. I got a pretty good deal on these two beauties and Nora and I will be set. Of course I am going to take the long track and Nora will get the Wildcat as well as it serving as my backup for when the occasional breakdown happens with the long track. I'm pretty pumped and cannot wait for the snow to fly!
    Ok, Ok, joke is over. Of course I did not sell both my RMK's to get sleds 5 and 10 years older than them. I did go brand new this year and here they are. Opps, that was just the keys to the sleds. Any guess as to what sleds the fit? Well, if you guessed these two you were absolutely correct! Yep, I got me those two brand new rocket ships to carve up the powder this season.
    Having fun yet? I am, kind of chuckling to myself as I type. Sorry, but this little game came to me in the past few days when it became clear to me that I would be taking them in this week. I guess I have been a little flattered and embarrassed and surprised at all the talk and wondering about what two sleds I was going to be riding this season. Those were really them. One is a 2009 Arctic Cat M8 SnowPro LE and the other is a 2009 Yamaha Nytro XTX.
    I have to admit that it is still very strange to look at even the pictures of the sleds sitting in the garage, let alone go into the garage and see them sitting there. Not one, but two completely foreign sleds to me and the shop. Like I say, it was a very exciting Tuesday, October 28th for me. I did take a shot of each sled separately, so here is the Cat and here is the Yammy. Shrunk the font down for those two links to try and keep things a little hidden to those that just scan for the photo links.
    I am sure that there are still some questions about me acquiring these two new beauties and while some may think I could just keep this process to myself, much of my life is an open book anyway, so I may as well spill the beans on that two. This past spring I was contacted by several entities about possibly working out something with them along the lines of me getting a new sled. For the past couple of years, many have asked me why I did not approach the manufacturers about trying to get a sled to use and I just did not feel right about doing it. Partly too chicken to ask as well. I guess I always figured that if someone wanted to do a deal like that that they would contact me. As fate would have it, my wait paid off. The Cat came to me via the good folks at RT12 Rental in Arlington Heights IL. I was contacted by them and they said I could have the pick of the litter for 2009. In exchange they simply get exposure on the site. Technically, the sled is not mine. At least at the moment. I get to use it for the season and then can either return it to them or purchase it outright. At this point I have no clue what I will do and to tell you the truth, I may not have that answer until spring! They understand that I am not going to put shameless plugs in for them in every journal, it is not my style. However, if you live in the Chicago area, especially the NW side, and are interested in Cats, stop in and say hi and thank them again for me! They are good guys there.
    The sled came in to their shop about 2 weeks ago and we spent much of that time trying to figure out when it would be arriving up here. There are some connections between some of the guys at RT12 and Eagle Harbor up here and one of them came up and brought the sled with them yesterday. It arrived in the evening and I snuck out of the office for an hour this morning to drive up to Eagle Harbor and pick it up. Here is a shot of it waiting for it's new daddy! I have not been able to spend a lot of time with it, but can say that from the little time I have been with it, it is going to be one sweet ride. I played around with the adjustable handlebar riser a bit and was glad to see it goes up high enough for me. I thought that I might still have to put a set of risers on it. I can also say that it is even lighter than I expected. We had to move it about 6" to get aligned with the ramp to the back of Old Blue this morning and when I went to go move the front, I almost wondered if a motor was in it. Of course it was, but there was a significant difference in moving the front end of that sled around compared to the old RMK's. The Boss seat and high end shocks will also be very nice.
    The Yamaha Nytro came to me via Yamaha itself. I actually bought this sled outright. I did have a similar offer to have the sled for the season as a loaner, but I did not want to promise two businesses the same thing at the same time, so I just ended up buying that one. If you remember back last winter I was able to spend the better part of an afternoon on the sled and really loved it. The sled has so much power for it's engine class, you just have to get on one to see for yourself. I was also impressed by how stable it felt, yet was able to be tossed around and also quite frankly how light it felt. I know, I know, there are those that are rolling their eyes right now saying I have drank the punch or something. I know what the weight is and you cannot argue with the scales, but also you do not ride printed numbers in a brochure or in a snowmobile magazine, you ride a sled and how the sled feel to you is what is most important. I considered myself to be one of the least likely guys to be on a 4-stroke with the way I ride. That is why this sled and it's performance surprised me so much. I did upgrade the track to a 1.75" lug versus the 1.25" track that comes standard. That will help in the deep snow we get and I am going to be perfectly honest with you. When there is 2 feet of fresh powder out there, I will very likely be reaching for the keys to the M and not the XTX. However, I will certainly be putting it through it's paces in all the various conditions we have up here and who knows, it may even surprise me in that 2 feet of fresh. I also thought that Nora would like the Yamaha, with it's electric start and quieter 4 stroke motor. She got on it this evening and is excited to take it for a ride as soon as possible.
    So there you have it. Those are my two sleds for this season. Hope it lived up to all the hype! It was really not my intention to cause such a global event, I just thought it would be fun to let every guess what they would be is all. In a little over a month, the real fun will start for all of us. I have just two more pictures to share with you tonight and they are two examples of how I increased the value of Old Blue by a factor of 10. Example 1 and Example 2. Trust me, there will be lots more pictures of these to sleds in the coming months!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

October 26-
    Wow. Here we are. Last journal for October 2008. Seems like a week or so ago I was creating the page for this month. I guess time flies when you are having fun! It was another busy week for me. The main jobs for this week were to get organized for the trail work session. We met with a guy from the DNR and all the groomers on Monday to get briefed on what the DNR is looking for as far as the proper way to sign the trails. There are certain setbacks that they want for some signs and also the proper usage of the signs. Most of the rules were pretty straight forward, while others we just the way they want things done. All points made at the meeting were good and also just made sense. On Thursday I went over to the groomer barn and loaded Old Blue up with a bunch of signs and then loaded the snowmobile trailer up with about 50 posts and some concrete block. There are spots here in the Keweenaw that are so rocky that you cannot even dig a hole into the ground to set the post in, you have to set them in concrete blocks. Earlier in the week I took some PVC pipe and cut it to 18" lengths and then put them in one side of the block, filled the air space around the PVC and inside the block cavity with concrete. Then filled the other side with cement to really get that block weighted down. We then can set the post right in the PVC and it stays put well.
    Friday morning we gathered at the Lac La Belle Lodge to get all the workers organized. We had 11 workers in all and broke the groups into two groups of 3 and one group of 5. Before heading out to do the brushing and signing, I gave a quicker and slightly more condensed version of the program the DNR gave on Monday, just to bring everyone up to speed on what the guidelines were. We then made up some stringlines that were 350 feet long as that is the distance the DNR wants all caution signs put from the hazards they are warning for. Once the stringlines were made, we got over to the trailer to load up with the various signs used and then headed out onto the trails to get busy signing and brushing.
    Our goal was to try and get all the trails between Lac La Belle and Copper Harbor done. I'm really not sure how many miles of trail that is, but would guess it to be over 50. To complicate things, the trails up that way have a lot of curves and even some hills and bridges, so there are lots of hazards that need to be signed for. A lot of the other trails have longer stretches of straight sections to them and are a lot easier to mark, because all you typically need are the confidence markers every 1/4 mile or so to let folks know they are still on the trail and what number they are on. In addition to all the curves is the amount of rock in the ground. As mentioned, we had some blocks made up, but in most cases, you just dig and then use a 6 foot section of iron pipe called a spud to break up the rock and then dig some more.
    Skylar his brother Kim and I were one of the crews of three and got into a groove pretty quickly. The first few signs we did too a bit of time because we were trying to develop a rhythm, but once we found that rhythm, then we were able to get things done pretty quickly. It also became easier and easier to just get a good feel for where a sign would be needed and it also became pretty easy to use the rear view mirror to make sure that things were OK in the other direction. We met up with the other group of 3 coming towards us from the other direction at around 3 and thus completed a pretty big chunk of the work we wanted to get done. It was still light, so we picked up Troy from the Lac La Belle Lodge who had just gotten home from work and then headed out to get some work done on the trail that comes in to Lac La Belle from the west. There was some miscommunication as to where we would be meeting and it was getting dark and starting to rain. Plus I had pretty much hit the wall as far as energy goes, so instead of meeting up with Troy and his working partners, we packed it in and headed home. The group of 5 which made up the Copper Harbor crew cranked and were able to do both trails (17 miles total) heading out of Copper Harbor towards the trail that Skylar, Kim and I worked on, so that meant there was a small section of trail (about 5 miles) out to High Rock Point that needed to be done, and a few miles on the west Lac La Belle trail that needed to be done on Saturday and we would be done with all that we had set out to do.
    Saturday found us with even more workers, 14 total, so we decided to do some trails that were not even planned to be done. The weather was kind of ugly Saturday morning, so we waited it out for a while at the LLB Lodge and then when the rains eased up, we all headed out. The Copper Harbor crew were able to eat up their 5 miles pretty quickly and with two more added to the work group I was in, we were able to move along quickly and Troy and his group were able to make sure the LLB west trail was in good shape and by the late afternoon, all trails (with the exception of Brockway Mountain) from Delaware east were done. After all the work was done on Saturday, we enjoyed a cook out at the LLB Lodge, with chef Troy manning the grill. That leaves the main trail from Delaware to Calumet that needs to be done as well as the Eagles loop, the Snow gauge trail and the LLB to Gay trail that needs to be done by the groomers.
    Things went very well and my huge thanks to all of those that came up to lend a hand. You all were great workers and I hope that you had a little fun out in the bush. I know I had fun. It was hard work, but it sure beats sitting at a desk. The weather was pretty good, with some rain late on Friday and then on Saturday morning as well, but nothing that was too much of a pain. We got to see some interesting sights as well. One was a snowmobile sitting up in a tree. It was about 20 feet up in the tree and we speculated that it had been put there and not ridden there! The thing I found most interesting about the guys that came up to help out with the trail work was that they were ALL boondockers. Meaning they use the trails we were working on as little as possible! Not trying to imply that trail riders do not care about taking care of the trails or anything, just that it was interesting that every one of the workers was a boondocker. I hear the same thing happens when they have their work session south of the bridge around Twin Lakes and south.
    The other chores for me this week were to insulate the shop ceiling and get the heat hooked up as well as to get the trail cam going. Nora and I insulated the shop ceiling Tuesday evening and I just got smart and had some pros come over and hook up the heat. What took them 2 hours would have probably taken me 2 days and lots of frustration. So now the shop is all nice and warm (if you call 55 degrees warm) and ready for cold weather action.
    The trail cam turned into a real mess. Someone found it within themselves to hank out the phone line that is used, so I decided to set things up so that I could just use the wireless router that they have at the Wildlife Refuge cabins. The cam was also malfunctioning, so I had to get a new one and get that all set up. That does not sound like much, but issues like the trail cam being located about 45 minutes away from where I live/work as well as being located outside in the elements really can add complications to the setup. On Wednesday I was able to get things all running. Just as I was leaving the signal to the wireless hub was lost, but Lori said that she will place the router in a spot that it will give a better signal to the trail cam. So the Trail Cam is all set to go, we just need to get the wireless connection in better shape. That may not happen in the next week or so as Lori is VERY busy with another project. She and Dave have taken on the task of re-opening the gas station in South Range. It has been closed for several years and really leaves a hole in that area as far as gas for vehicles, sleds and ATV's go. There was basically no gas between Houghton and Twin Lakes. Now you can stop in and fuel up in South Range, or at least will once they re-open. The plan to re-open by Nov. 1. They are big time snowmobilers and Dave is a groomer driver for the club that takes care of the trails from Toivola south past areas like Mass City. So they will be carrying a good supply of belts, plugs and oil as well as having food like subs, dogs and chips. When I stopped in on Wednesday, they were getting pretty close to being ready to open. Pretty cool inside too, so be sure to stop in.
    So with the trail cam basically taken care of at my end, the trail work session out of the way, the shop done and heated, there is just one more job for me to get done before winter sets in and that is finish making wood. Nora and I plan to tackle that job in the next week or so. The weather looks a little iffy for it tomorrow, with some snow and maybe even some rain, but by Tuesday we should be able to get at it and hopefully should be done or close to it by the next time I write.
    For those of you hoping this entry would finally reveal what my sled choices for this season were, you are going to have to wait a bit longer. No I am not stringing this out on purpose! I do believe that if all goes as planned, by around midweek this week, they both should be sitting in the shop and I will be able to spill the beans. With the shop heated now and the potential for the first bit of accumulating snow, I am starting to get really excited to get the sleds in the shop. I have been excited for a while, but have been trying to not think about it to help with the patience thing. So like I say, if all goes well, the reveal will be within the next 7 days.
    The last issue I have has to do with frost. I am sure many of you are wondering why I would be making an issue about frost. Well, we had our second heavy frost of the season this past Wednesday. It is a little unusual to only have had 2 of them by the end of October, but not really worthy of it's own paragraph in the journal! However, I was outside Wednesday morning getting a few things done and took the time to see some cool things the frost had done to the local vegetation. So I got out the new camera and started taking some shots. One of the many cool features this camera has is a super macro setting which basically allows me to put the lens pretty much right up to the object I want to take a picture of and it will be in focus. Most cameras are only able to focus in to around 6-12 inches or so. Anyway, this first shot is of the frost on some crabgrass by the driveway. Here is the frost on some raspberry leaves. Here is a singular birch leaf, with frost just around it's edges. This is just a pile of maple leaves. I thought it would make a good picture to use as a puzzle, or a computer screen background (FSV). Last, but not least is of a flower from Nora's annual garden (FSV). Not sure what kind of a flower it is, but thought it looked cool.
    I guess that about covers it. I am kind of wrung out from everything I have been doing in the past 7 days. The next 7 look to be quieter, so I am not worried about catching up on rest!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 19-
    This will probably be a short one as I have some other things to do before I go to bed and I really do not have a ton of things to talk about. Autumn is continuing to roll on. We went from full color last weekend to about 50% of the leaves down in a little over 24 hours. This is a picture taken from the deck on Tuesday morning. Strong winds late Monday and Monday night took most of the leaves off the trees up high and some of them down low too. More winds and the continued death of this seasons growth from the trees and this is the look off the deck as of about an hour ago. Darned wood pile has not cut itself up yet either!
    There are pockets out there were the trees still have some leaves on them, but they will not last long. This is a windy time of the year and we look to see some wet weather as well. I would suspect that by the end of this week, the woods will be pretty much bare. Not unusual though. What is kind of unusual is the fact that we have not seen any snow fall as of yet. There are some chances for some flakes of snow tomorrow night and then maybe early next week some snows as well. I am fine with not having snow yet. In fact, it can hold off for another 2-3 weeks as far as I am concerned. I still have some work to get done before the snow can start piling up.
    I have been working this past week, but on other things. The work session on the trails is taking place this Friday and Saturday the 24th and 25th. Anybody wanting to come up and help us brush and sign the trails at the far end of the Keweenaw is more than welcome to. There is free lodging in Copper Harbor and Lac La Belle for all workers. Talk to the Lac La Belle Lodge or the Pines in Copper Harbor for that. On Tuesday, Nora and I got in Old Blue and went and took down 3 dozen signs and posts from a trail that is no loner in use up here. We wanted to make use of the posts and any signs that were still good too. On Thursday and Friday I spent about 10 hours organizing the groomer barn a bit. Things were not too bad, but I could see the potential was there to get things in tip top shape as far as the storage for posts, building materials and signs go. It will make getting all the materials needed for this work session together very easy and hopefully any further straightening up will not be too much of a job. I am a bit of an organizational freak and actually enjoyed getting things all straightened up.
    In addition to that, I tended to my regular work duties this week, although I did take Thursday and Friday off, which was nice. Then on Saturday, Nora and two of her friends had planned an overnight ATV trip to Copper Harbor and back and I asked if they wanted me to take them up there through the bush. We could stage Old Blue there and then I would put the ATV I was riding into the back of Old Blue and head home, leaving the girls to their fun at the harbor. They agreed to that idea, so I was tour guide yesterday. We left our place at about 11 am yesterday and arrived in the harbor at about 6:30. We rode the back country most of the way to Lac La Belle, had lunch there and then got on the Mandan and worked our way east towards the tip of the Keweenaw.
    As mentioned, there are still a few pockets out there were the trees still have some leaves on them, but they are in areas that are sheltered from the wind. We had hoped to see some of the sights along the way to the tip of the Keweenaw, but were at the crossing of the Montreal River and it was about 4:30, so we decided to just press on to High Rock, which is what we did. They have done some road grading up that way and the road to High Rock is quite nice now. There were spots that before the grading I was surprised that they could even take a groomer out there. Now someone could take a car out there with little problems. We made it to High Rock and relaxed there for a bit. I have only been there a few times, but it is cool to stand there and know that you are about as far up the peninsula as you can get. Only Keweenaw Point is further east than High Rock. From that point, you can see the Gull Rock Lighthouse and Manitou Island. In that shot it looked like Gull Rock and Manitou were joined, but they are actually separated by about 1/2 mile and the lighthouse is about 1 mile and a quarter from High Rock.
    The sun was starting to sink lower and lower in the horizon, so we got back on the bikes and headed to the harbor. The trip from High Rock to the harbor was nice and smooth and we made good time. We reached a point where we were approaching the harbor from the east and it afforded us a view of Brockway Mountain (FSV) that you do not see very often. That was Lake Fanny Hooe in the foreground.
    We arrived in the harbor safe and sound. I loaded the ATV into the back of Old Blue, helped the ladies get their stuff into the cabin and then headed home. It was kind of weird to come home from an adventure in the woods and find myself in the cabin alone. I did not have too much problem falling asleep though and got a good nights sleep. Nora and the crew made it back from the harbor fine today and the weather cooperated for them as well. There was a chance for some light rain, but it managed to hold off for them. So now we are all home safe and sound. Nora put on about 130 miles in two days. That is quite a bit for an ATV.
    So this week will be spent getting things together for the work session. We have a meeting with a DNR officer tomorrow who will be giving us a presentation on things they are looking for when it comes to sineage. Then on Thursday I plan to get the posts, cement blocks to put them in where we cannot dig a hole and the signs loaded up so that all we need to do is drive up to Lac La Belle on Friday morning. It will be fun to get out on the trails and do some work. That is something I have wanted to do since moving up here and am glad I finally get the chance to do it. Yesterday, we did ride on some of the trails we will be working on this upcoming weekend and it did not look like there were major problems. Most of the signs from last season are still there, so it will be more about putting in any additional signs that are needed or can help and doing any brushing that needs to be done. However, most of those trails do not need much brushing either.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. I will be sure to bring my camera along and cover all the fun this weekend. One last thing before I go, I put up the information/registration pages for this seasons Snowfest Snowmobile Ride-in. It will be January 30 and 31. Last years event was a huge success and I sure hope that we can repeat the success this season. You can check out the pages for the event here.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 12-
    I thought I had put away my shorts for the season, but I was wrong. Broke them out again today as temps climbed into the upper 60's and even a few low 70's. Kind of humid too. Not sultry, but dewpoints have climbed into the low 60's. which is pretty rare for this time of the year. I'm not complaining though. As I have said previously, this is about the only time of the year when I am perfectly fine with above average temps. It looks like tomorrow will be another warm one and then back to reality after that. Seems strange to have the windows open in the cabin and look out and see all the colors though. Even swatted a few bugs today!
    The color show has reached it's peak up here. I think the actual peak was this Thursday or Friday, but things are still holding on right now. We did have some very strong winds on Thursday and that did clear any leaves that were thinking of coming down, plus a lot of the leaves that are high up in the trees. Many trees are bare in the top 1/4 of their height, with leaves below. I have a feeling though that the leaves will fall quickly this year. Not sure why that happens in some years and not in others, but it seems that once the trees reach full color, it is only a few days before they start to drop and only a few more days before the trees are bare. Many of the trees near the road by our house are already bare and they were at their peak less than a week ago. So I guess a word to the wise. Next weekend there will still be color to see up here, but there will also be a fair amount of bare branches.
    Nora and I actually skipped town for a short little get away on Thursday. This is the time of the year when I take a few days off, usually in the form of some long weekends. Nora had a day that she could take off on Friday, so I picked her up from work on Thursday and then we headed east. Our destination was the Munising area, but we did stop off in Marquette to have dinner at one of their nicer restaurants in the downtown area near the waterfront. The meal was good and it was a nice break in the drive, giving us just a little over 30 minutes to complete the trip to Munising after dinner. We got checked into the motel and pretty much sacked out. It was not that late, but we both had a pretty full day and so we decided to just relax and hang out in the room. I don't remember when I fell asleep, but I think it was pretty early!
    The next morning we got a pretty early start. Both Nora and I were up and leisurely getting ready before the sun even rose. That is really not as dramatic as it seems, with the sun rise being around 8 am this time of the year. At any rate, one of the neat things to waking up before the sun rise is that you get to watch it rise and that is what we did- sat and watched the sun rise over South Bay, Grand Island and the Pictured Rocks Shoreline. A few minutes the sun was up and illuminating everything and we got a good look at the bay and Grand Island.
    After breakfast, we finished packing the bags and headed out to do our exploring for the day. I have done more than passed through the Munising area and I know that there are many different natural wonders to see there, so the plan was to try and see as many of them as we could on Friday. The first stop was at the information center for the National Park. I wanted to get a map with most of the sights of interest on it, so that I could lay out a plan of attack. Plans were changed immediately when we discovered that H58, the main highway between Munising and Grand Marais is under major re-construction and flat out closed in spots. I noted the areas which were closed and then we moved on to the first stop of the day.
    That first stop ended up being only a mile or two from downtown Munising. There are quite a few waterfalls within a few miles of downtown Munising, so for you waterfall junkies out there, this might be a good place to visit. Our first stop was at Munising Falls and I was surprised to see that much water going over them. This is typically one of the lowest stream flow times of the year for the UP and some creeks around here are basically dry. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the creek flowing and a set of falls happening.
    After that, we hopped back into the Blazer and made our way towards the showpiece of the area, Miners Castle. I think that a trip to Copper Harbor is not complete with a trip up Brockway Mountain. A trip to the Porkies is not complete without a visit to the Lake of the Clouds. A trip to the Newberry/Paradise area is not complete without a visit of Tahquamenon Falls. All these areas have much more to see than what I just mentioned, but it would almost be considered foolish to go to these areas and not see at least what I just mentioned. On the way to Miners Castle, we made a side trip to see Miners Falls. The colors around the Munising area this weekend were also right about at peak and here is a shot of the road to Miners Falls. It was a little bit of a hike in to see the falls, but well worth it as the falls were very impressive and had a lot of water flowing over them (FSV). The new camera I got allows me to control things like the shutter speed and f-stop, so I decided to see if I could step down the shutter speed enough to get one of those shots where the water in the falls is all blurred. It worked! (FSV).
    We then hiked back to the Blazer and drove the rest of the way to the shoreline to see Miners Castle. I actually hesitated a bit to take a picture of it as I have seen so many pictures, but I figured that one more picture of it was not going to hurt any. The only problem was that the sun was rising above the trees and was shinning on the rock formation, but not on anything else, so the actual rock formations were all washed out. We did not feel like hanging around for the hour or so it would have taken to let the sun get higher and not cause such a problem with the lighting in the area, so I snapped a flawed shot of the shoreline and rock formation and moved on.
    The hike in to see Miners Falls and back was about a mile and a half and while we did not have time to do a full day hike, I did want to get some hiking in while we explored on Friday, so we decided to go and hike in to see Chapel Falls. It is a little more than a mile and a half in, so round trip it would be three miles. Combine that with the hike to Miners Falls and the other walking around that we would do on Friday and it would end up being a fair amount of exercise. So we headed up H58 past all the signs warning us the road would be closed soon and took the side road down to the parking area for the Chapel Basin. There was another hike to a Mosquito Falls that was about as long as the one to Chapel Falls, but the sound of Chapel Falls was more enticing than that of Mosquito Falls. Plus our hike to Chapel Falls would also take us close enough by Chapel Lake that we would be able to see that. The hike in was pleasant enough, through a heavily wooded maple forest and also through fairly flat terrain. After about a mile of hiking we reached the turn off to the Chapel Lake overlook. However, the trees have grown in around that overlook enough that you cannot see anything other than a few peaks of the lake through the leaves, so we turned around and headed on towards the falls. After another 10 minutes or so of hiking, we could hear the sound of some falls and the sound grew louder and louder with each few steps we took. I was getting excited to see these falls and that excitement may have over-hyped what I expected to see, because as we got to the falls, the seemed less impressive than what I expected. Still pretty though and certainly worthy of a photo. I did find it ironic that the falls that took the most effort- both in foot travel and auto travel turned out to be the least impressive. Had we not been on such a busy schedule and also been better prepared for hiking, then we would have continued on to the lake to see Chapel Beach and Chapel Rock and maybe even continued on along the lake shore to see Spray Falls. There is a ton of hiking trails in the Chapel Basin area, but we had more to see that day, so we turned around at Chapel Falls and headed back.
    Back in the Blazer we headed back to H58 and then back to Melstrand. Melstrand is really just a general store and a few (about 3) homes. I figured we would get a snack and talk to the person in the general store to see if there was any way of getting to Grand Marais without backtracking all the way to where we would have to take the end around through Shingleton, Seney and then back north to Grand Marais- a trip of about 70 miles. The answer we got from the gentleman in the general store in Melstrand was not what I was hoping for. He said the road was closed and there was no getting through that way. When asked about any other way other than the end around that I just described, his answer was a more shaky no. Meaning that I got the feeling from him that there was a way, but he either did not want to take the time to tell us what that other route was, or was afraid that our backcountry navigation skills were not good enough to actually see us complete the journey.
    So we paid for our snacks and then got into the Blazer. Armed with a good map of the area, I started plotting out what I thought would be a fairly decent route through the backcountry, utilizing the only stretch of H58 in the construction zone that was not utterly closed to non construction vehicles. As luck would have it, there were some detour signs through the area as well and that helped us get through the bush on the bush roads and to H58. It was a pretty, but bumpy ride through the backcountry. We got to travel the southern edge of the Kingston Plains and saw some pretty country. About 60 minutes later we were pulling into Grand Marais, happy to be there and back on paved roads.
    My main objectives in getting to Grand Marais were two part. First to see the town itself. I know that this is a pretty popular spot with winter and summer visitors alike and wanted to see what it was all about. The second reason was to see the Grand Sable Dunes. I have been to the sand dunes in NW IN and SW MI and have even been to the Great Sand Dunes in south central CO, but I have always wanted to see the Grand Sable Dunes. They just seemed so majestic. So Nora and I tooled around the town of Grand Marais a bit. They seemed to be in the stage like many of the smaller tourist towns in the Keweenaw- wrapping up the warm season and getting ready to hunker down for the winter. After seeing the town, we headed towards the dunes, but before going to see them, we stopped off to see the Sable Falls. After the little let down of the Chapel Falls, I was really not getting my hopes up too much for Sable Falls, but they ended up surprising me in all ways. In fact, I would have to say that they ended up being my favorite falls (FSV) of the entire trip. I can't say exactly why they were my favorite, but I think the fact that they had a lot of water going over them, plus the fact that they had multiple drops and were also very rugged were the main points liked about them so much. Once again, I put the camera into manual mode and slowed the shutter down enough to get the feathery effect of the waterfall (FSV). Here is another(FSV).
    After enjoying the falls for a bit, we hiked back to the Blazer and headed to the west end of the dunes to a spot called Log Slide. It is so named because it is the spot where they built a wooden chute to slide logs that had been cut from the forest down to the beach where they would be picked up by boats and transported to the mills. As we walked from the car towards the edge of the dunes I have to admit my anticipation grew. Not sure why these dunes held such a fascination for me, but upon my first look at them, I was not disappointed. They were as big and awe inspiring as I thought they would be. Over 300 feet high and several miles long. Now for those of you that have not been here, I will caution you that you may not have quite as dramatic experience as I did. As mentioned, for some reason I just had what I believe was an unusually high fascination with seeing them. It was very neat to be standing at the top of them and looking down at the lake far below. They caution persons from going down them as it only takes a few minutes to get down, but may take more than an hour to get back up. I can see as my experience with climbing sand dunes is that it is a 2 steps up, one step back mode of movement. Nora and I passed on the hike down and subsequent climb back up, but did sneak in a shot of the Au Sable Light just up the shoreline to the west about 2 miles.
    After taking in the dunes, we got back in the car and headed back towards Munising. Upon arrival in town, we settled into the motel room for a bit, then had dinner, came back, took a dip in the hot tub and pool and then settled in for the night. The trip back we again stopped in Marquette, only this time to do some shopping. The Houghton area is gaining in retail, although Marquette still out ranks us and probably always will. Seems like we can never go there or pass through there without going to the Menards (and will be adding Lowes to that soon). Nora likes to go to the Kohls and Target. Plus she wanted to stop in and pick up a few bars of sauna soap at Touch of Finland.
    We made it back home in good time and it was pretty nice out on Saturday afternoon, so rather than unpack and do the other chores that awaited us from being away for a few days, we fired up the ATV's and took a spin on them. I wanted to get some shots of the colors up here in their peak and figured that would be a good way to do that. It was a great day for a ride, with temps in the 60's and some filtered sunshine. The colors in the woods were a little past peak, but still pretty. Plus as you could see in the last shot, the tops of the trees were bare due to the stronger winds on Thursday. Here is another shot taken while we were going down hill. I was really hoping to capture the colors in the trees off in the distance, but they were a bit washed out. Here is a shot of the trees from one of the higher spots in Keweenaw County.
    We tooled around the county a bit, exploring some trails never traveled before and taking some familiar ones as well. We worked our way through Phoenix and then up to the base of the Cliff Range for the next photo op. We then headed up into the Cliff Range and to one of the three overlooks that I know about. This one requires some hiking at the very end and even though our legs were a bit sore from the hiking and travel involved in the trip to Munising, we made it up to the overlook and took it all in. I really like the contrast in the colors of the hardwoods and softwoods at this time of the year. In the summer, it is more of a factor of light green vs. dark green, but this time of the year is is yellows, oranges and reds vs. dark green. Here is a shot looking northeast towards Phoenix (FSV).
    This morning as I looked out at all the colors surrounding the cabin, I saw that the smallest of breezes would cause a near blizzard of leaves to fall from the trees and figured I had better get out and take some shots from our yard before too much changed. So here is a shot of the front of the cabin from this morning. Here is a shot taken from the deck. After taking those shots, Nora and I actually got busy and did cut some wood. It ended up being a bit of a sweat fest, as the humidity climbed quickly once the sun rose. We got another month's worth of wood cut this morning and now have enough to get us to about Christmas or New Years. I figure a few more cutting sessions and we will have enough to get us through the winter.
    After making wood, we had lunch and then jumped into the Blazer for some more color touring. We headed down into the valley first to see what it would present. Again, colors a bit past peak, but still a sight to see. We then drove to one of the spots that we would regularly visit during the color show. The colors there were not as vibrant and full as I have seen them in the past, but still worth the price of admission. Here is a shot from that same general area back in 2002. We then decided to do a bit of hiking and hoofed it over to the old quarry above Lake Linden. We were both very surprised to see the water in it so low. There is actually a drain in it and that drain was opened some time ago to allow the water level to drop about 20 feet. Here is a shot of it when it was full. We then snaked our way back north, trying to get some shots in of the valley from above. However, the humidity in the air really washed out the colors in the background. Here is one that the colors in the background turned out a little better.
    So the color show has reached it's peak and will become less and less dramatic in the coming week and will be all over in about 2 weeks. It has certainly been better than the past 2 seasons, but not as good as the one in 2002. I think that was the show of all shows so far. Like I say, if you were planning on coming up next weekend to see the colors, I would not tell you to stay away, just be aware that there will be a certain percentage of limbs that will be bare. If I had to guess, I would say around 35% will be bare, the rest full of color. This has been a long one and I need to get my beauty sleep, so.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 8-
    Sneaking in a special mid-week journal. I cannot even remember the last time I did this, but the color show is nearing peak and yesterday after running to errands, I took the long way home and took some shots of the scenes around here. I figure that as beautiful as things are now, they will only be getting better in the next few days, so I should have plenty of pics to share with you on Sunday. This will be a rather short one as I just wrote Sunday, but I do have 12 pictures to share with you.
    My travels took me to Calumet yesterday afternoon and I brought my camera along, just in case I saw some shots to take. I did, but decided to wait until my chores were done and I was on my way home to take some shots. Then the mood struck me to just keep on exploring the roads for more shots and soon I was a good distance from home, but also had some decent shots. My first shot was taken on Cliff Drive. I think the thing that amazed me the most is the fact that the sun was hidden behind clouds the entire afternoon, but even that could not extinguish the vibrancy of the colors. The Gratiot River crosses under Cliff Drive and that was the spot for my next photo. Cliff Drive gets it's name because it travels along the base of the Cliff Range. A stretch of higher ground that stretches it's way northeast up the spine of the Keweenaw. There are lots of birch trees on the slopes of the Cliff Range and they are not as far along in color as the maples, but that area will be in full color by late this weekend and early next week.
    Cliff Drive hooks back up with hwy 41 just southwest of Phoenix. I took 41 up to where it branches off and stops teaming up with hwy 26 and lets 26 head down to Eagle River. 26 follows the Eagle River down to the town named after the river and there are some pretty spots along it to grab a photo. Once in Eagle River, I decided to swing by and have a look at the big lake. Not too many times you can go down to the north shore in October and find the big lake so quiet. Further out in the lake was a lakes freighter upbound to ports in MN or Ontario.
    About that time I figured I had better start working my way back home, but did not feel like doubling back over the same way I came, so I took the Garden City Cut Off Road out of Eagle River and headed back up the hill. While down by the lake in Eagle River, you would have never known that we were nearing the peak of the color season. The big lake keeps temps a bit warmer there and the trees were just beginning to change. Head up the hill and away from the lake and the colors exploded again.
    The Garden City Cut Off hooks up with the Eagle Harbor Cut Off road (never even heard of a cut off road before living here!), so once to the Eagle Harbor C.O. I took that back to why 41 and headed SW back towards home. One more detour up the Phoenix Farms Road to see what things looked like in some of the highest terrain of Keweenaw County. Pretty good I'd say.
    The trip back provided a view of trees in different stages of color change. I would have to say that in general the maples are 80-85% changed, with the birches only around 35-45% changed. We have lots more maples than anything else and that is what makes this area so special when it comes to color. They produce the bright yellows, oranges and reds. So it was back to home sweet home and quite frankly some of the best colors I saw for the day. I have said it plenty of times, but I am going to say it again. We are so lucky to be living in such a beautiful spot in the Keweenaw. It is just amazing to look out the windows and see the whole forest ablaze in color. This is the view from the deck on the front of the cabin just this morning. It was cloudy and raining, but still the woods were just beautiful. Here is another shot looking straight ahead.
    So that concludes this little mid week quickie. Like I say, I will be armed with camera in hand for the next week to ten days to capture the wonderful show going on around here. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 5-
    It is early October, so that means the color show is nearing it's pinnacle and that means I usually have no problems providing interesting pictures for you all to view. However, the forces of nature gave me a challenge this past week. The first challenge was the fact that it was cloudy, rainy and cold almost all week. Lake effect clouds and rain fell for most of the week and there was even a report of some wintery precip (sleet) a little up the road from us. I did not see any sleet here at our place, just some raindrops. Then once the weather did clear enough and I got out to take some shots, the batteries in the camera died and I was unprepared with no backup set. I then got a new set of batteries on Saturday, which ended up dying after taking only a half dozen or so shots. There was a good set added today and between the shots taken on Friday, Saturday and today, I do have 21 to share with you.
    We are not a peak, at least in most places. I would have to judge it at about 75% in most places, which is about where I thought we would be for this weekend. There are still spots that are probably more like 35% changed and other that are past peak. At any rate, folks that came up this weekend should not have been too disappointed with the sights and folks that come up next weekend will see a good show as well.
    For as nasty as the weather was all week, the weekend sure did turn out to be fantastic. Temps were in the 50's yesterday and 60's today and we had lots of sunshine. Not crystal clear skies, but lots more sun than clouds and I would have to characterize it as a perfect autumn weather. A light jacket and sunglasses were the needed equipment. It was a reminder of why I love this season so much. So comfortable to be out and about and even comfortable to do work in. I got a little more work done this week. The sauna was completed and Nora and I took our first one on Wednesday night. Then we were joined by her brother and niece on Friday for another sauna. It works great and I was actually pretty chilled to the bone on Friday and it warmed me right up. I think that thing will be getting a lot of use in the years to come.
    Well, not much happened this week, other than finishing and then using the sauna and then the color trips we took. I covered the sauna talk, so that leaves the leaves. On Friday I hooked up with Skylar and family for an ATV ride. We actually took a pretty similar route as Nora and I did a few weeks back. We trailered up to just about Delaware and then unloaded and took the trail down into Lac La Belle. The trip down took us through a variety of colors, but the first real good photo op was when we were passing the Lac La Belle Post Office. We then stopped into the Bear Belly Bar and Grill and had a quick lunch before heading back out onto the trail for the rest of the afternoon.
    Actually before heading into the woods, we rode the side of the road out to Bete Gris Beach and took in the sights of the beach and Bear Bluffs. That is a beautiful place in any season, although I cannot remember if I have ever been out there in the winter. No way to get there by sled unless you ride the side of the road and I am usually up that way via sled and not vehicle. Maybe the next time I am out at Lac La Belle in a vehicle in the winter, I will have to head out to the beach to see what I can see.
    We then doubled back and jumped into the woods and came across Paddy's Pond, which is always a good photo op at this time of the year. After that, it was up to some of the highlands to take in the colors from above. I really need to remember to use the camera's manual focus in some of these shots, so that the correct focal point is used. That last shot would have been better had the focus been on the trees in the background, not the branches right in front of me. There is another shot like that coming up- even more dramatically off than this first one, oh well! It was at this point that the batteries in my camera called it quits, so no more shots of the ATV ride- sorry!
    Yesterday Nora and I were joined by her brother and his family for a color tour up the Keweenaw. We started out by going down Cliff Drive, which did have some colors to it, but were not quite at peak and so I did not take any shots there. I figured that is close enough to home that I can sneak out there this week and get some shots. After that we took the Eagle Harbor cut off down to Eagle Harbor and then to the Delaware cut off. In my opinion, some of the best leaf viewing from a vehicle can be done on roads like the Cliff Drive, the Garden City cut off road (which runs from Eagle River up to the Eagle River cut off) and then the Delaware cut off. The sun was getting to a higher angle which does not always present the best photo taking light when you are on the ground, so I only took one shot while on the Delaware cut off road and even it did not show the true beauty that was out there.
    After the Delaware cut off, we got back on the highway and then on down to Lac La Belle. One of the big reasons why we went to Lac La Belle was to ride the chair lift to the top of Mt Bohemia. For the past few years they have been having weekend char lift rides to the top during the color season, but many of the weekends in the past few color seasons have been pretty nasty, so we were fortunate to have such a nice day for our trip to the top. It's funny, the colors on the hill itself were OK, but nothing spectacular. Part of the reason is that for some reason there are a lot of oak trees on Mt Bohemia and oaks really do not provide too vibrant of a color. The pretty much turn a rusty brown and then drop. Plus they change a bit later than the maples. In any case the ride up did not really provide much of a color show, but was still tons of fun. It was when we turned around on the lift to see the view below that we saw the true show. The trees around Mt Bohemia were probably 75-85% changed and the view was magnificent (more on that in a bit).
    Once at the top, we disembarked from the lift and walked around a bit. We were there a little early, so there were not too many other people up there. By the time we headed down though, there were a lot of folks coming up and the parking lot was also filling up. In any case. I did go to the east side of the hill and snapped a shot of Mt. Houghton, but that turned out to be my most dramatic example of the camera's auto focus dialing in on the wrong subject. Another shot was of the mouth of the Little Gratiot where it dumps into Lac La Belle. You can also get a feel for just how steep that ski hill is. In some spots if you are hiking up it, you are hand over foot. While up on the top of Bohemia, I spotted a freighter passing to the north of the Keweenaw about 10 miles away and decided to zoom in as much as I could and then used the cropping feature of photoshop to "digitally" zoom in on it further. The pic was a little grainy, but still not too bad for an object that was about 10 miles away.
    After mulling around at the top for a while, we once again boarded the chair lift, this time for the ride down. It was the ride down that provided the best views of the colors below us. Here is a shot of the rolling hills of the Keweenaw, with Gratiot Lake off in the distance. I think that one deserves a full sized version. Here is another shot of the colors in the Keweenaw (fsv). Lots more reds in the trees this year than in past years. Usually the sugar maples turn a yellow or orange, but for some reason more of them are red. Perhaps that means we are going to have a very snowy winter! It was after that last shot that the brand new batteries purchased Saturday morning gave out and so no more shots were taken that day.
    We did however, go down and have lunch at the Bear Belly Bar and Grill (second time in two days- lucky me!) and then headed up to Copper Harbor. Without my camera working I could not take any shots of "the tunnel", that stretch of hwy 41 between the turn off to Lac La Belle and Lake Medora. It was pretty though and would make for a great show in the next 10 days or so. The harbor was bustling with visitors. I don't get up there much when tourists are hanging out, so it is a little weird for me to be up there and see so many folks walking around and going inside the shops, but it was also good to see. Tourism is still alive and well in this neck of the woods. In two weeks the harbor will be a ghost town until the snow flies.
    Today I got my Sunday work done in the morning and also threw a set of rechargeable batteries in the charger and then put those into the camera once they were fully charged. Then Nora and I headed down to Lake Linden for lunch and to take in the colors in the Valley and areas near our old stomping ground. The valley was pretty far along in it's colors too. Not quite a peak, but still a good show none the less. Interesting hunting blind eh? After lunch at the Zone, Nora and I headed over to the School Forest for a walk. It was actually the first time we have been there since Burt's passing and it did stir up some emotions. It also felt strange to be walking those woods without a lab or two running around with nose to ground. The colors at the School Forest were less changed than many other places around, but I guess that just means anyone coming up in a week or two will have them to go to for a good show. There were some spots that had bursts of color though. Some interesting sights were also seen down low. Not sure what kind of plant that was, but it was pretty neat in it's color, shape and leaf pattern. It's also neat to see the actual change in leaf color take shape on some of the trees, with the chlorophyl hanging on in the veins of the leaf, but the rest of the leaf showing the color that is hidden by the green of the chlorophyl all summer. While the shot two previous was taken while looking down, sometime a good shot is provided by looking straight up. Then there is always the shot taken at eye level.
    It was a fun weekend of leaf viewing. We saw lots and had great weather. We are really blessed to live in an area with so much to view with wonderment. I think that there are quite a few that take such privileges for granted and I have to really remind myself sometimes of how lucky we are to live here. That process of reminding is good though as I do appreciate things even more when I take the time to realize how lucky we really are. Plus with all of our travels to see the sights this weekend, Nora and I are blessed to be living amongst some of the most beautiful sights up here, as evidenced by the road we live on and the view from our deck. I know, I know. I still have lots of wood to chop, but when asked by Nora today if we were going to get to it I said "It will still be there tomorrow, today is too beautiful a day to waste doing work". I got no argument!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-