January 25-
    Getting another slightly late start, at least for a school night. Went riding again today and then had to get back, take care of some work things, have dinner, make some phone calls and now I can sit down and write.
    The first order of business is to talk a bit about the Ride In. I just want to thank all of you that have signed up. It looks like our numbers for this year will be pretty similar to previous years. I also wanted to make sure you all knew of the changes for the meeting place for the back country rides, poker run registration and shirt pick up. We are back to meeting at the Ramada Inn in Hancock. It is right on the trail, so makes for an easy meeting place in the mornings. We will be meeting there around 9:30-10 am both Friday and Saturday mornings to put together the groups for the back country rides as well as handing out the sheets for the poker run and shirts. The other change of venue is the Banquet on Saturday. We have moved to the Memorial Union Ballroom at Michigan Tech University. I have made some maps to show you where the Tech campus is located in relation to Houghton and Hancock as well as where the Union Building is on campus. There is sled parking available, but Tech is not allowing us to bring sleds close to the Union. You have to park the sleds down by one of the maintenance buildings and then because of the way the campus is laid out, you have to walk about 1/2 mile to the Union, even though as the crow flies, the sled parking area and the Union Building are only about 1/8th of a mile away from each other. So I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are at odds on if you should ride your sled to the banquet or take your vehicle, I would opt for the vehicle. You'll be more comfortable at the banquet in street cloths than snowmobile gear anyway. In years past most have come to the banquet via vehicle. So those are my announcements for the Ride In at this point. I have one more item related to the Ride In to share and that will come in a bit.
    Topic number two is the weather. Snow and more snow. Actually this week was kind of quiet when compared to other weeks. We did get hit good earlier in the week, but then I did not have to move snow Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and could have moved it on Saturday, but it was just too cold to fiddle with 4" of snow, so I waited until today, which was not any warmer, but at least I did not move snow two days in a row with bitter cold. Back on Monday I took some pics of the "Dee Compound" buried under all the snow. The first shot is of the shop roof. We cleared it back between Christmas and New Years, but from the looks of it now, one would think it has yet to be cleared this winter. The overhanging drifts on the front actually make it look like there is a lot more snow on it than there really is. I knocked down those drifts and there is about 2 feet on the roof, not 4. Knocking down the drifts is pretty cool. I just take the roof rake and jam it into the drift about 4/5ths of the way to the top. The entire drift on one side then comes crashing to the ground. I do the other side and then clean the snow with the snow thrower. The next pic may be a little misleading in the other way. It is of the snow piled on top of the wood pile. I say misleading because the top of the wood pile comes up to my eyes, so there is about 4 feet of snow on top of the wood pile. It is kind of a pain to deal with, but not too bad. I just shave back the snow to expose the next round of wood pieces. Hopefully this next warm season I will get a permanent shelter built for the wood and will not have to deal with snow on the wood pile any more. My last pic of the Dee Compound is of the snow banks on the driveway. These are not plow banks, they are snow on the level banks. I either use the snow thrower only to clear the snow or the ATV plow to push the snow to the sides and then take that snow and throw it with the blower. The blower tosses the snow about 20 feet away from the driveway, so the banks are left untouched and just what has fallen this season so far. The banks are now about 8" taller than the cutter bars on the thrower. I may need to make some extensions or just chop at the top of the banks with a shovel to keep the banks clean.
    I got out to ride 3 times since I last wrote. None of them days in a row, but that is probably a good thing as some of the rides had some digging out to them and after today's ride I am worn out. I actually started to feel worn out about half way through today's ride. I guess you could say I was feeling my age!
   Wednesday's ride was just 4 of us. Teddy picked up a new sled and wanted to break it in, so he, Nick, Brian and I took off for an afternoon ride. The weather was pretty good. It was not bitterly cold and the visibility was pretty good. As has been the case on every single ride (except today) this season, we broke trail through at least a 8-12" of fresh snow the whole day. This sure has been one heck of a year for riding. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single one of my rides has been through fresh powder, except today's, which included some fresh powder, but also some back country pounded to death by the weekend warriors.  We had a good time cruising down some logging roads and the were feeling our oats and decided to do some hill climbing. My first run up was rather unsuccessful as I snagged onto a little sapling that was bent over and stuck in the snow. Nick rode up to help me and then continued up the hill and proceeded to get stuck. I made it up a different way and on my way down took a pic of Nick's stuck in the steep and deep. We played around a bit more in the bush before heading to Phoenix to warm up and then head home.
    Thursday was a down day, and with the Nytro getting a face lift the week before, the M was feeling a little left out, so I decided to do a little cosmetics to it. No new graphics kit, but a buddy from the Jackson WY area sent me some screens for the vents on the M and I decided to put them on. They seem like a good idea as they go on with velcro, so you can take them off quickly to clean them if you need to, plus if they need to come off permanently, then the velcro just needs to be peeled off the hood. They went on pretty easy and my only concern was the ones for the intake. They had snaps in addition to the velcro and I was concerned about the possibility of snow getting sucked in between the velcro and the snaps, but today's ride had plenty of chances for that snow to be ingested and it did not. If you are interested in picking up a set of these for your own sled (I am not positive that they have them for all hood designs, but would think so), you can contact "Lefty" at Extreme Toy Protection.
    On Friday, I hooked up with Chris (m8man) and Joe (winter_time) for a ride. People have been asking me all season how I like the Nytro and my honest answer has been that I really have not been on it enough to make a strong assessment. So I decided to take the Nytro on Friday and put it through it's paces so that I could give a respectable report on it. At first I did not feel comfortable on it at all. I have gotten so used to the M and the setup on the Nytro is quite different from the M that I just felt like a fish out of water. I did remember that when I rose the sled last February, it took me about 30-45 minutes to really feel comfortable on it, so I stuck with it. Over the course of the afternoon, I did start to feel a little more comfortable on it, but never to the point that I feel on the M. I must clarify things a bit by saying I am talking about feeling comfortable on it in true backcountry riding. Not trail or even just logging roads, but off camber side hilling and deep snow riding. The sled performed just fine. It floats across the snow as well as any 144" tracked sled will. It has plenty of power, but I just could not totally become comfortable with the riding style. There may have been something else going on because I have seen Skylar carve the sled with ease and did so myself last Feb, but on the ride Friday, I could carve it, but just struggled. I can say this though. On the trail, the sled rocks! The setup is very comfortable and the sled handles the twists and turns of the trails awesome. I can also say that when I was not leading and was just following in tracks as we rode through the bush, the sled also performed very well. So as a true crossover sled, I think it a very good option. As a mountain or pure boondocking sled (which is not what it was designed for), I would say you would be better off on something else. Keep in mind a boondocking sled in my opinion is going to see less than 10% of it's miles on the trail and is going to be asked to do a whole lot more than just run some untracked logging roads, so my idea of a boondocking sled may be different from that of others. I can also say that I though the sled really looked cool in it's new graphics!
    Anyway, back to the ride. Chris, Joe and I took off from the gas station in Allouez and found our way through the backcountry up to Lac La Belle. Again, it was one of those rides where we had plenty of fresh power to play in the whole way up. It's been pretty quiet up here during the week, so the back country is able to recharge itself with snow and by the end of the week you can travel in areas that look like they have not been touched all year, when in reality someone could have been through the previous weekend. Our goal was to head up to Lac La Belle and meet up with Troy and Zach and then let them lead us through the backcountry between Lac La Belle and Copper Harbor. We made it in pretty good time, make the hook up and headed out. I really enjoy hooking up with them because then the pressures of having to lead are off and I can just play follow the leader mindlessly and not have to worry about where we go next. We had some stucks as Joe demonstrates here and even an "Omaha Beach" moment, where all sleds were augured in. Troy took us down some secret paths through the woods and to some nice overlooks, although with the snow falling Friday, we could not see much!
  On Saturday it was back up to Lac La Belle to guest bartend at the Bear Belly Bar and raise some funds for the Make A Wish Foundation as part of the ride in. I got there at about 11:30 and snapped this shot of Old Blue on the road to Lac La Belle with the 6 foot snow banks. Things were pretty quiet at the BBB/G when I got there, but by a few minutes after 12, the place was packed with snowmobilers. Bartender Chris and I worked hard to get folks their food and drink orders and manager/chef Dave filled the food orders. Later in the afternoon we had two other bartenders show up and I was able to spend more time meeting and greeting and got to meet lots of great visitors to the site. In addition to being very good folks to chat with, they were very generous. In the roughly 4 hours we collected tips for the Ride In, we made $400 and owners Troy and Cathy matched that and brought the haul for the day to $800. A special thanks goes out to Jennifer and Brett for their generous contribution to the tip jar and the special gift given to Nora and I. We are looking forward to picking out some pics of Burt and Baileys for the custom pillows! I also need to thank Troy and Cathy for their generosity for allowing me to come up there and screw up drink and food orders while raising money for the ride in. Plus their matching contribution is really above and beyond the call. Bartenders Chris, Bud and Marc as well as manager and chef Dave also need to be thanked for their time and hard work in making sure we raised as much money as we did to jump start things for the ride in. It was a very fun afternoon and I am already looking forward to doing it again next year!
   That brings me to today and today's ride. It was Al, Teddy, Ken, Tom and one other that took to the back country. We actually all drove up to a spot in Keweenaw County to start the ride, figuring we could get more riding done in the high country if we started there. On the way up, I could see lots of tracks put in since my ride up to LLB on Saturday morning. It is amazing how fast things can go from untouched to all tracked up and then back to untouched up here. When I pulled up, Al and Teddy were already there and so were some other guys. Al spoke with the briefly and said they were from Bessemer. Not sure why they would have trailered all the way over from there. Seems to me they have some good snow and terrain to play in over there, but oh well, maybe they were just looking for a change of scenery.
    Ken, Tom and the other showed up in a little bit and we all took off. It did not take long for an early turn down the wrong path to turn into a stuck event for all 6 sleds. Most of them stuck more than once! The only problem with that scenario is that it takes a lot of work to get that many stucks unstuck and you have only been riding for 10 minutes and have used up a bunch of energy. I think that is one reason why I just ran out of steam before today's ride was over. At one point, Ken realized that a weld on his steering post had broke and he needed to limp it back to the trailer and so Tom and their buddy head out of the bush early, which left Al, Ted and I to play the rest of the afternoon. We had to look a little harder than usual this year, but we did find some untracked areas to play in. It's not even that big of a deal to be on totally untracked snow, but is like the icing on the cake when boondocking.
    The snow was kind of funky. There was around 8-10" of power on top and then a layer of firmer snow. Not rock hard or anything, but for the most part the sleds would ride on top of that firmer layer and then occasionally bust through, especially if you were climbing a hill. In any case, we did have fun on the ride today and with the base of firmer snow, we decided to give hill climbing through the trees a try. Some run were successful and some not. Ted had a fun one. He has his limiter strap let all the way out, so the brand new Summit he is on really wheelies. On one of his climbs, he just about came over backwards and the sled came to rest right next to a tree. He did not hit the tree, just came close to leaning up against it. The snow was really deep in there. On my stuck, I dug down to the ground and stepped into the hole and the snow came up to the top of my shoulder!
    After that we played on a few more logging roads and then started working out way back. I was getting pretty tired, so was glad when we were on our way back. Then we came across a nice hill with no trees on it and Ted gave it a shot and had to peel off. He gave it another try and made it, which only egged Al and I on to try. So up the hill we both went. Me first and then him and neither made it. I was almost able to peel off and not get stuck, but unfortunately, almost does not count when getting a sled not stuck!
    I used up about half of the remaining 5% of energy I had left for the day getting unstuck and we got the sleds down and were able to head back to the trucks with no more incidents. I am glad to have the next few days off from riding. I have a few things to take care of for the Ride in the next few days and then will be riding Friday and maybe Wednesday or Thursday as well. So my body will enjoy the rest the next few days as well!
    I guess that about gets you caught up on the goings on. I am looking forward to the Ride In and seeing some of you again and meeting some of you for the first time. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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January 18-
   
I'm getting a late start tonight. Typically I am done with the journal and getting ready for bed by this time of the evening, but I have the day off tomorrow and just got back from a ride, so those of you typically checking in by 7 pm eastern for the journal have learned it was not ready by then. I did not score the hat trick again this weekend, but did get out for two good rides yesterday and today and quite frankly, it was still too cold on Friday to get out. In fact from about late Monday on, it was too cold for this old buck to get out on the sled. I am sure that there are those that laugh when I say single digit temps are too cold to ride in, but we don't see that kind of cold often and I guess living up here, I just get spoiled and can be a little choosy about the conditions I ride in. 
    I am glad that we do not live in an area that gets that kind of cold often. I suppose I would probably get some different riding gear for that kind of cold, maybe some gauntlets for the handlebars and a full face helmet or something, but that kind of cold is just not fun to ride in if you ask me. I guess I really should not be complaining about the cold too much as just about all of the Midwest got colder than we did up here this past week. My coldest temp was 5 below on Wednesday at around 3 in the morning. We never really warmed up much from Tuesday through Friday, basically staying around zero to 5 above, but seeing temps of 47 below zero in MN and even into the -25 to -30 degree range in southern WI did make me feel good about living in a place where extreme cold is pretty rare and it also snowed pretty much non stop from Monday through Friday. On Friday morning we even managed to be the warm spot in the entire Midwest. Yep, I looked at temps from the Dakotas and eastern NE south to the OH River Friday morning and I could not find a reporting temp that was as warm as us. That is a pretty incredible feat if you ask me.
    Saturday was warmer and today was downright balmy with a high of 26! It was still a little chilly when we started the ride yesterday, but did warm to around 15 by the afternoon. We got an early start to make sure that we got to some good snow. With the cold and low traffic all week, plus the steady snow all week, I knew that the backcountry would have some untouched snow in many areas and wanted to be able to be the one to put first tracks in it. Once we hit the bush, we were almost the first ones to make tracks...almost, a coyote or wolf beat us to it by a few hours. I guess that wasn't too bad, plus it only went down the logging road for a half mile or so and then I was really making first tracks.
   My riding partners were three from downstate. Paul who owns Sled Solutions, his friend Jordan who owns Arctic FX and Matt, who I did not get to learn what he does! We had a good time carving through the fresh snow up here and pretty much made a bee line straight for the higher terrain to find the steep and deep. Here is a shot of Jordan in some of that steep and deep. I'd say that were was a solid foot of fresh powder out there, which was plenty fun to play in. Here is a shot of my sled at rest in the bumper+ deep snow. Here is a shot of Paul taking a break and giving the thumbs up. Paul had his camera out from time to time as well and sent me a few shots from the ride. Here is one of me on my way up a hill and here is one of Matt playing in the powder. Here is another one of Jordan stuck. I'm not picking on Jordan at all, we all got stuck yesterday, it's just that the pictures Paul and I had of him were of him stuck.
    We worked our way up the peninsula and stopped off at Lac La Belle for lunch. Which by the way, I will be guest bartending at this coming Saturday the 24th from around noonish or 1 until around 4 pm. All of my tips will go to the Make A Wish money we raise at the Ride-in, so if you are up this way next weekend, be sure to stop in at the Bear Belly Bar and Grill in Lac La Belle- I'd love to meet ya! Anyway, after lunch we headed back out into the bush and had no problems finding some fresh powder to play in. In fact we found a spot where there was about 18" of fresh powder on top of the 3-4 foot base. Much of that snow must have fallen pretty recently too, as it was quite powdery and had not settled much. We had a SW wind the night before and were in an area of the Keweenaw that could be hit pretty good with just the right SW wind, so it is possible that the area we were in had been hit with most of that 18" in the 12 hours prior to our arrival up there. In any case, it was plenty deep and deep enough for me to get stuck on relatively flat ground! I can add that I was turning around to help the others get unstuck on a hill I had just climbed and encountered a downed tree that was buried under all the fresh snow that the skis got stuck on, but a stuck is a stuck! The bummer part about that stuck is that the others were still back down the hill about an 1/8th of a mile back and I was left to my own resources to get myself unstuck. Just as I had gotten the track on fresh snow and the snow packed down a bit in front of the sled, the others came riding up and for good insurance I had one give a tug on the ski just to make sure I popped out of my stuck spot.
    We played around some more in the 18" of fresh and then began to work our way back down to the cabin. As I mentioned, Jordan owns a company called Arctic FX, which makes custom sled graphics and our plan was to ride for the day and then head back and give the XTX a bit of a face lift with some custom graphics. I love the XTX, but the graphics on it were just not my cup of tea. I understand that things like graphics are really a personal thing, so if you have a black and white XTX and like the graphics, please do not feel offended. In fact, I am sure that there will be those that do not like the new look I chose for it, I just hope Nora is not one! Actually the new look is pretty bold and might take some getting use to for Nora, but I am pretty sure she will like it.
    It was cool to see Jordan take the graphics kit out of the box. It came in one 20 foot long roll, with all the different graphics pieces on it. I had already removed all the stock graphics from the sled and also gave it a good cleaning, but just to be sure all the adhesive and other surface contaminants, he used some cleaner he brought with him and gave the sled a once over. After that, he got to work applying the graphics. It's not too hard, but I was happy to be sitting in a chair watching him! It's like anything else, there are a few tricks to make things go smoother and they actually shot some footage for a video they are going to put out to help show some of the tricks to applying the graphics. It took him about 2 hours to put all of the graphics on the sled and before I show you the after, here is a look back at the sled when it first arrived in my shop, now here is the after. The graphics that Jordan creates for the sleds are not generic, once size fits all. They are custom made for each sleds display areas. So they fit perfectly onto the different surfaces of each make and model of sled. Here is one of the graphics that went on a section of the sled just behind the seat and here is a piece that went on the gas tank. Jordan printed up a couple of graphic bearing his company name too and we put one on each side of the rear portion of the tunnel. I was thrilled at how it turned out and think the Nytro is now one of a kind, at least in the Keweenaw! Be sure to check out his website, lots of cool sleds he did on it!
    Today's ride was actually a KSE ride that I tagged along on. Matt was the guide and there were 4 guys from Brainerd MN that he was leading. I stuck to the back and played "sweeper". I actually did not take too many pictures. We were too busy having fun for me to stop, get out the camera and take pics. However, we did get to a spot where Matt started some jumping and I got into position to capture one of his jumps. Kind of a cool shot with him coming right at you. My only question is what was he looking at?! I know it sure as heck was not his landing spot and I know if that were me, my eyes would have been as big as saucers and looking right where I was going to be landing! The other shot from today was at one of the scenic overlook stops. Things slowed down enough then too that I could break out the camera and take some shots. It was a good trip today and fun was had by all. The 4 from MN were pretty tired at the end of the day, but all said they would be back again. That was actually my first ride with Matt for the season and that just leaves Al and Dave left from our group that I have yet to ride with. It sure would be neat if we could get the whole gang together for a ride before we leave for WY. I guess if we don't, then we will all be riding together for 6 days!
    I think that about covers it for this one. Just a heads up that we are keeping the registration for the Ride-In open for another week or so. You will not be able to get a shirt as it just complicates things too much to send shirts out after the event, but you will be able to attend, take part in all of the events like the backcountry tours and the banquet. So you have not missed out on the event yet, if you have not registered, but don't wait too much longer!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

January 11-
    If I could put a sound track to the journal (and who knows, maybe some day I will!), I would be playing the song Back in the Saddle Again. I am thinking of the one done by Aerosmith I believe it is and not Gene Autry. The leg is not yet 100%, but was good enough that I could get back on the sled and ride. And ride I did. I scored the hat trick- riding Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Not sure how many miles I put on and I really do not care. All three rides were great and I have 23 pics and one movie to share.
    I guess the first order of business is the new site look. By now you all have seen the new look and I hope you like it. I realize that with the volume of visitors to the site I am not going to make everyone happy, but I just felt like it was time for a change of color. I got help from Jim Formanek with things and did some work myself. Rather than get into who did what, if you see something that looks professionally done, there is a good chance Jim did it. If something looks like it was done by a hack, then it was probably me! I realize one of the issues is the size of the text links in the left hand navigation menu. I do have plans to try a few things to try and make them easier for you all to read. If you want to fix it right away yourself, you can change the screen resolution of your computer. In Windows XP, you just right click on the desktop and choose properties and then click the settings tab and you will see a sliding bar that lets you choose the screen area or screen resolution. Set it to 1024 x 768 and that should help. I created the left hand navigation menu to match what was there, but a little better organized. The problem is, the amount of items there is more now and also I did not want to make the menu so big that you would have to have a special scroll bar just for the menu. You will see the scroll bar if your screen resolution is 800 x 600 or less, but if you want to get rid of it, then change your resolution to at least 1024 x 768. There are a few more enhancements I want to make to a few spots on the site, but they will not change the look, just some additional features to help you with the site, like mouse overs which will tell you what cam is associated with what snowflake, just by moving your mouse pointer over that flake. Anyway, hope you all like the new look. I do not see it changing much from this setup anytime soon.
    The second order of business would be the Ride-In. The deadline to register is this Thursday, January 15th. We might still be able to sneak you in after that, but you will not be able to get a commerative shirt. Things have been a little quiet up here with snowmobile traffic, so I hope everyone is just saving their pennies to come up for it. I have been on the horn collecting some great prizes for the silent auction and raffle. So far I have a pair of SLP Powder Pro Skis. They will work with all sled makes, we will just get the right mounts for the winner of them. I also have a Klim Valdez Jacket (sized to the winner), and DVD's from Dobson Entertainment, Team Summit and Dan Gardiner (Boondockers). I know others like John Stachler and Lori/Cathy from the Wildlife Refuge Cabins are also collecting prizes. If you would like to send something up for the event, just contact me! I am getting excited for the event. Usually it is a pretty stressful event, but I think after the site remodel and trail cam issues, this years Ride-in will be a breeze- especially with the help I get from John, Lori, Cathy and Nora.
    Third on the list of items is the SNOW we have been getting. Another 26.5" in the past week. School was suppose to start up again this past Monday, but they got the day off because of snow and winds. We did actually have a 24 hour period with no snow this past week. I believe it was Tuesday. It was the first time in 37 days that we did not have at least a trace of snow fall from 8 am to 8 am! The new streak is at 5 days and counting. The snow is deep too. I have 3 feet on the ground at our house, but in the higher terrain during Friday's ride, we dug down to the ground and the snow came up to just below a certain object on my chest (too scared to use the "N" word!). When we got home, I took out a tape measure and measured from the floor to just below my "N" and it was 55"! So in the higher terrain up here, we found 55" on the ground. That's a lot of snow for January 9th!
    On Wednesday I had to dig out the snowmobile trailer. It was last clear of snow on December 9th when I put it into it's parking place and here is what I had to clear off of it by January 7th, less than a month later! It only took me about 30 minutes to shove it out! Not sure when the next time I will be using it, but it is sitting in it's spot collecting snow again.
    Here is shot of the front of the cabin Thursday morning. It was coming down pretty good and all told from that event we got around 11" of new snow. The banks are getting pretty big around there. In fact most cities have already had to resort to clearing the plow banks with a front end loader and dump truck. I don't think I will have to resort so such means, but there is already around 18" of snow on the shop roof and a the next clearing will likely take the snow right up to the eaves, which means the clearing after that will not likely fully clear. That would be my only problem with too much snow. Otherwise old Mother Nature can bring it on!
    Now to the snowmobiling. Skylar came for the weekend and was to arrive around midday and then we would take off once I was done with my work. I got a call Friday morning from Brian and he said that he and some others were going to be heading out for the day and heard I might be finally able to start riding again, so he gave me a call and we all ended up meeting up here at our house and took off from there. The snow on Friday was just fabulous. The 11"+ that had fallen the day or so before was still fresh and once we got into the higher terrain it was over the hood all day and still falling at a good clip.
    As mentioned, it has been pretty quiet up here, especially during the week, so any tracks that might have been put in the snow in the backcountry were long buried by the snow we had all week, so we pretty much made first tracks all day. As we rode through the woods, I had a hard time believing it was only early January. The base is 2-3 feet of snow, with the foot or more of fluff on top. I was a little leery at first, worried I might hit something and end up hitting my leg on the handle bars again, but as I drove by snow mushroom after snow mushroom, I was able to chase away the fears of hitting something and just have fun. The leg actually got better as the day went on as well. When we first started out, I could feel it and knew it would impact my riding, but after about an hour, it actually felt better and while it was never 100%, it did not negatively impact my ability too much.
    It was my first ride with some of the old gang and felt good to be out with them as well as riding with Skylar again. Even though Skylar had never even met the others, he fit in well and we had a good time riding. Here is a shot of Brian, Chico and then my sled. Skylar and Bob were behind us and did not make the pic. 
    We worked our way up the spine of the Keweenaw and into the higher terrain. Snows always deepest up there and as mentioned, we measured 55" on the ground, with the top 18-20" of it providing snow over the hood, as Skylar demonstrates here. The Yamaha really did well. When we started off I told Skylar that Friday's ride would be the acid test for that sled to see how it would do in the steep and deep and it never lost a step to the other sleds. It got stuck a few times but was not really any worse to dig out than the others. Get the track on the snow, a pull on the ski loops and it popped right out in every occasion. 
    As for the M, it is just awesome! From the running boards that NEVER load up to the way the chassis rolls over with the greatest of east to the way it can climb a hill loaded in snow- I just love that thing. Arctic Cat would be pretty silly in my eyes to change much with that sled. Some talk about it not having as much power as other 8's and I suppose more power would not be a bad thing, but I think they have hit it out of the park with this sled's features for deep snow boondocking and just need to get more folks on it. The whole afternoon I was trying to think of a way to thank Route 12 Arctic Cat without sounding like a butt kisser and never came up with anything, but the honest truth I am very lucky to have been able to use that sled from them and I can say that everyone that I have talked to about the sled and who have dealt with them all say to a tee that they are awesome to deal with. Every single person has had nothing but a rave reviews about their shop there in Arlington Heights IL and my only beef with them is they need to get up here and ride with me! But seriously, a HUGE thank you goes out to Rt 12 Arctic Cat for the sled and if you are in the Chicago area and wanting to be on a Cat, they seem like a no brainer to work with.
    As mentioned, Skylar did have a couple of stucks on the XTX (we all got stuck) and here is one of them. Yep, he really is standing there. In fact it was at that stuck that I dug down through the snow to find the ground to take the 55" snow depth measurement. That was a you-know-what grin on his face and we all had them on Friday in that snow. I did say we all got stuck on Friday, including my first stuck of the season. Here it is. Both Brian and I pulled up onto the snow bank and had our sleds teeter on top and then slip back a bit. The application of power to the track only caused us to dig in deeper, but not much effort was needed to pull the sleds out of the bank.
    I had my helmet cam with me on Friday, but actually ended up losing it, only to find it again. It was quite the miracle that we found it, but Chico said he thought he saw it laying in the snow behind me, but thought it was a branch or something. Anyway we did find it and the cam and footage on it was fine, but I still have not dialed in the mounting for it. I am going to move it from the top of the helmet to the side so that I can get it aimed in the right vertical reference. I REALLY wish I had been able to use the footage shot on Friday. Some cool footage of Brian and I riding side by side, carving our way down some logging roads. Sort of like synchronized snowmobiling!
    On Saturday, Skylar and I loaded the sled onto the trailer and hauled them south to Greenland to hook up with Lenny and Dan (Mr. Freeze). As we were loading them up I told Skylar that we must really be nuts that we were loading our sleds on the trailer to head away from the awesome conditions we rode in just the day before, but I had promised Lenny that we would ride with him and one of my loves is to see new areas and I knew the snow would be good down there too- which it was.
  We arrived in Greenland at around 10:30 and actually chased Dan from the trail to Lenny's house. We did not waste too much time getting out into the backcountry there, Lenny leading us through the backcountry down there. The snow as good, probably around a foot of fresh on top of their base, which was plenty enough to carve our way down the logging roads Lenny took us on. Here is a shot of us during one of the breaks during our morning riding. Lenny had sacrificed riding in some of his favorite spots so that we would have some good snow to ride in with him and I know I was thankful. Any backcountry riding is fun, but it is just like your favorite frosting on the cake to have untracked snow and that is what we had for just about the whole day on Saturday. Just before lunch, we took a side trail to some property that Dan owns with a million dollar view. You can see the Big Lake, the Porkies, Ontonagon and Rockland from that point where he hopes to build a house some day. Awesome spot.
    We stopped for lunch and had some belly busters at Bobs in Greenland and then Lenny and Dan took us to some more scenic overlooks. The first one we went to was the Mass Bluff that overlooks the town of Mass City. Here is a shot of the M and XTX and Skylar on top of the Bluff looking south. After that we got back on the sleds and headed to the South Bluff, which had equally beautiful views of the land around it. Here is a shot looking to the north from the South Bluff and here is a shot looking to the south (FSV). That view to the south was almost like being out west with all the hills in it. We all sat up there and picked out what looked to be fun play areas for us. Mine was way off in the distance and I am not sure if it would be OK to ride in the spot I saw, but if so and if Lenny and Dan can find the way to it, I would like to get in here and do some side hilling.
    Darkness was setting in and Skylar and I had over an hours drive to get back home, so we closed out the day around 5 or so and headed north. My thanks to Lenny and Dan for showing us a good time. They are both super nice guys and fun to ride with and I hope they can find their way up north sometime soon so I can return the favor.
    Today it was just Skylar and I riding some of my favorite haunts just outside my front door. The snow from the work week had settled a bit, but we still had over a foot of powder to work with. Funny how in a year like this a foot of powder to ride in just seems ok!, but that is the way it has been. Except for the weekend between Christmas and New Years, we have had fresh powder to play in and the way it is coming down outside right now and suppose to all week, it looks like this week will continue that trend. 
    We did encounter some tracks today, but I know a few spots that are a bit more hidden and we were able to spend about half of our 4 hours of riding on logging roads that looked like this. We even found ourselves on one of the groomed trails for about a mile today and found it to be pool table flat. The day's travels also took us by a few little knobs to jump off of, so we took the bait and had a little fun. Here is Skylar on the XTX and here is me on the M. Here is one more of me, I think I actually had some air between the ground and my track on that last one! I think. At one point we came across a little hill where I could put in a mini high mark and sidehill at the same time. I tried it yesterday while riding with Lenny and Dan, but hit some shallow snow and washed out. Today no wash out and you can watch it here on this video.
    Skylar had to travel back to Cheeseland today, so as much as we both wanted to ride all day, we had to call it and be back by around noon to 1 pm, so we worked our way back towards the Dee compound, but not before finding a few more logging roads to put our marks in.
   It's was a long three weeks to wait to get back on the sleds, but the past three days were worth the wait and now with a little luck I can be injury free for the rest of the season and get plenty more saddle time in all the wonderful snow we have. It really is turning out to be a winter to remember this season. It just seems like it never wants to stop snowing and that is fine by me!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-


January 4-

    Happy New Year to you all! I don't know about all of you reading this, but 2008 sure did fly by, yet some things that happened in the year seem a long time ago. It does not seem like it has only been 8 1/2 months since we lost Burt, it seems a lot longer for some reason. He and Baileys sure are missed and Nora and I plan to adopt a dog this spring, once the snow stops falling and I am done running off to play. I think that will also help me get excited for spring, which is not a very usual thing for me to be sure.
    It's been a pretty slow week for journal content. My leg has continued to keep me from getting out much, although it has improved. I was able to stop taking pain meds on Monday, on Tuesday night I could finally stop sleeping flat on my back and like a board and by Wednesday was able to put the sock on my left leg all by my self. A rather momentous occasion for me! By Friday I was able to even bring my injured leg up enough to just barely cross it over my right knee. So it is definitely on the mend, although it just does not want to do anything with much speed. The swelling has gone down enough that I can see my kneecap and I can also make out where the point of main impact was. With the swelling down, I can feel a knot about mid thigh where the main impact was. Hard to believe that is has been over 2 weeks with this stupid injury, but I am very thankful to have such a great wife to help me get by. Nora has really been a huge help with moving snow. I get on the ATV and do the plowing and she does the footwork behind the snowthrower. I can add that she has gotten very good at working that thing and as a team it usually only takes us around 20 minutes to get the entire driveway cleared.
    I think if the healing of the leg continues on it's current pace then it should be near 100% by next weekend. I plan to stay off of it as much as possible this week and just continue to rest it. I think that is one reason why it did not heal much in the first week and why I had such a bad flare up on the 26th because I just did not let it rest and heal. It has been a bit of a challenge not to get too down watching all the snow fly (26.5" in the past 6 days) and know that I cannot go out and play in it, but it looks like this is going to be one of those winters where lots of opportunities for snow play will be had. So best to get healed up now, rather than keep aggravating it and have it give me problems longer into the season.
    The one bright spot to having the bum leg has been that I have been able to get a ton of work that needed to be done, done. On New Years Day I spent 14 hours on the computer taking care of things that had piled up and then on the 2nd, I spent another 7 hours, which was in addition to the regular 8 hours of work done earlier in the day on Friday. Then yesterday I went out to get the trail cam going and Nora and I spent 7 hours out there with Dave and Lori (in the office mainly) trying to get all the bugs with it worked out. We got dangerously close! I now have a setup where the wireless connection to the trail cam computer is nice and strong. I have the camera hooked up to a brand new computer and running. I just need to change some settings on the machine so that the computer can communicate to the world wide web. So long as the weather is not too nasty tomorrow, I plan to get out there in the afternoon, give a call to a IT guy and have him walk me through the procedures needed.
    When Nora and I first pulled up to the Wildlife Refuge Cabins office yesterday, I saw one of Dave and Lori's brand new sleds sitting out in front and got a little jealous thinking that Dave was all clear to ride and would be heading out for a ride. The truth was actually a bit different. Lori had brought the sled down for me to use because she knew that it is hard for me to get around in the deeper snow with my bad leg. So I got to ride the sled down to the trail cam to shuttle the old equipment out and bring the new equipment in. Here is a shot of me bringing the new computer down to the trail cam shelter on Lori's shinny new Skidoo. It's a good thing I did not have all my gear on, or I think I would have just taken off for a ride! In any case, hang in there trail cam fans. I think we are finally getting close to getting this thing to update on a more regular basis! Before I forget, I'd also like to thank Lori and Dave for lunch. We all had food from their new station in South Range and it was excellent.
    I really do not have much more to talk about. As I mentioned, it has been a pretty lay low week for me. Other than moving snow and sitting at my computer. I guess I have been eating and sleeping. One thing is for sure, once my leg is all healed up, I think I am going to just go nuts with activity! I am not one that is good at sitting around and doing nothing and I can feel all of this pent up energy just waiting to explode.
    As I sat down to write today, I realized that I only had the one picture of me on Lori's sled to share with you, so I put on some boots, my jacket and hat and snuck outside to snap a few shots of the snow around here. I mentioned how we have picked up over 26" in the past 6 days and our seasonal total to date is now at 142.5. We are on a pace to get over 300" if the pattern stays as active as it has. Whether or not we reach 300", it looks more like late season out there than early season. Here is a shot of the snow piling up between the shop and the cabin. I wonder come March how much snow will be there. I just hope that the shop roof will be able to clear all season!
    The wood piles are becoming gigantic snow mushrooms. The hope is that this summer I will be able to build permanent shelters for the wood piles and the task of digging the snow out before you can toss it in the boiler will become a thing of the past. So far we have gone through about half of that stack, which is not too bad, given the fact that we started in November and December was very cold. I think the rest of this pile will last through Jan at least and this pile will last through Feb and March and part of April. That is if we can find it come Feb! Probably a good thing I am not a jumper on my snowmobile. That looks like it would make a pretty decent jump and I don't think Nora would be happy with me doing that! I mentioned how Nora has been working the snowthrower and cutting back the banks that I make with the ATV plow. Here is a picture of her handiwork. I've always dreamt of having the driveway go through a tunnel of snow 5-6 feet deep on either side and the way this winter is going, that may just be realized. As mentioned we have had over 26" of snow in the past 6 days, although a lot of it has been total lake effect fluff. The shop roof was totally clear just a week ago and now has about a foot of snow on it. That fluff really compacts down over time, but so long as you are not trying to build a base, is still the best snow there is- if you ask me.
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. My final duty is to remind everyone that the clock is ticking to sign up for the ride in. Only 11 more days to get your name in to be able to partake in the event! You can also look for the donation cans while you are up here. I dropped off one to Dave and Lori and they will have it at the station in South Range. I plan to get one to Krupps Mini Mart in Twin Lakes. I am hoping to get them to M&M powersports, Quincys, Eagle Harbor Inn, Bear Belly Bar and Grille in Lac La Belle and Ziks and the Mariner in Copper Harbor. So keep an eye out for them and toss a buck or some change into them to help us raise funds for this years event! Plus I hope to see all of you up here for the event. Some great prizes and I plan to start hitting the pavement and phones to get some more prizes for the silent auction and raffle. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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