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December 27-
    I hope everyone's Christmas was a good one and everyone got what they wanted. I suppose those that were asking for the weather forecast for the Midwest to change were left wondering what they did wrong in the past year to deserve what we have as a forecast right now, but unfortunately that is the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. I am not too worried about us right now. We will take it on the chin and the current fair to very good conditions will largely become poor Friday as some rain and warm temps hit, but right now it looks like some lake effect snow could start up early Saturday morning and continue into Sunday and we could be in pretty good shape in a short time. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for other areas of the Midwest, even many of the lake snow belts as the way it looks right now, the lake snows could be confined mainly to the Keweenaw.
    Who knows, the forecast could always change and this nasty rain storm could turn into a major snowstorm, so there is still some room for hope.
    Most of this entry will be centered around the Christmas activities as we did not do much ahead of the holiday and then left town around midday on Thursday and were in southern WI for the weekend, returning yesterday.
    In all of my years living up here, I don't think I have ever seen as much snow down from door to door on our trip. We have had a handful of trips where there has been snow down all the way from here to S. WI, but this year we left with just around a foot or so of snow on the ground and encountered those type totals all the way into central WI and then the totals dropped off a bit into S. WI, but still around a half a foot or more in that neck of the woods. There has also been years when we left and encountered no snow on the ground as soon as we left the lake snow belts. So that makes this pending thaw and rain even more sad to see, in that conditions are about as good as I have seen them in a decade and now they will take a pretty solid hit.
    The trip down was good, although poor Grace is at a really tough age to be taking a trip that takes that long in the car. She is old enough that she does not want to sit still for very long, but too young to just sit and watch a movie or play a game. So after about 2 hours, she is climbing the walls and wanting to get out of her car seat. We do stop when she gets crabby and will let her stretch her legs and get a snack and pray that she will take some nice long naps while we are driving as well.
    We made it safe and sound and that is what is most important. All of my brothers and sister as well as my nephew and niece were there, so it was great to have the whole family together and share the holiday. Grace sure did make out like a bandit. We had way more stuff in the truck on the way home than when we came down. The big gift to her from her aunt and uncles was a tricycle. She is still a bit too small for her feet to reach the peddles, but certainly not too small to be pushed around on it. Hopefully come late spring and summer, she will be big enough to reach the peddles, or we may have to rig something up to the ATV, as that pushing stuff sure can wear you out!
    She got lots of other good stuff and even grasped the concept of unwrapping the presents and enjoyed that (not my glasses in that last shot!). She just loves books and here she is checking out a few new ones for her private library.
    The two an a half days we were there just flew by and before we knew it, we were all packed up and on the road to the great white north again. The trip back was even better than the trip down as we left early and traffic was light the whole way. Plus, she only had one melt down and then slept for a nice chunk of the trip. We even decided to just keep going and not stop for lunch until she was awake and fussing. We ended up making it to Twin Lakes, which was way further than the stop in Rhinelander we had planned. So I put some gas in the truck, grabbed some snacks and hit the road and she did well the rest of the 45 minutes home.
    It is always so nice to get home, unload the truck and just chill. Unfortunately I had work I had to do yesterday when we got home, so I did that while Nora tended to Grace and unpacked as much as she could. We then got a pizza, chilled and opened the presents that we got for ourselves.
   One of the presents that Grace go from Santa while we were gone was a nice wooden sled. We got home too late and were all too tired to play with it yesterday, but today was the perfect day for a sled ride, with sunshine and temps in the 20's. So we put Grace in the sled, bundled her up and took our afternoon walk in the woods with the pups. That neighbor that has been plowing out the road to his camp is still at it and looks like he might have intentions to do it all winter, so we used that path for our walk and it was perfect. Grace had a total blast the entire time and I think we have a new favorite activity. That is until she gets one of those motorized sled contraptions next Christmas!
    The woods were beautiful and the weather perfect. It is pretty rare to get sunshine up here and combine it with temps in the 20's. It seems like it is either brutally cold or a thaw is underway, so we all enjoyed our time in the woods. We passed by Burt's Pond and spotted some tracks going across it. Looked like coyote tracks to me.
    Grace has always been very adventuresome and even the new sled ride got a little slow for her by the end. At one point I looked down at her to see her leaning way back in the sled to see everything upside down. Something tells me that not long after she gets that motorized sled, she will be asking me to build her some jumps! I think mom is just going to have to start looking the other way when that happens. 
    We got back to the cabin after our walk and it was just too nice to go inside right away, so we decided to hook up Huck to the sled and see how he would do as a sled dog. I had bought a harness soon after ordering the sled and was hoping he would not mind pulling her around. So we got things all hooked up, I also put a leash on Huck just incase he saw a squirrel or something and decided to take Grace on a ride through the woods at mach 3.
   I called him over and went to put on his harness and it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. It was like he knew what was coming as he stood there patiently (something that just about never happens with these two dogs) and let me struggle with the harness. After I got the harness figured out, he then stood there very nicely and let me hook the sled and leash up and once hooked up, he was the perfect gentleman. Even with Millie egging him on to play and rough house, all he did was pull when I asked him to and was very careful to not pull too fast or hard. It was as if he had been trained his whole life to pull that sled with Grace in it, but in reality had never seen any of the elements involved until today. I think we may have a champion baby sled puller here and I look forward to lots of walks and maybe even some skis in the woods with that setup. For those of you worrying, I will always keep him on a leash or the sled tethered to me to avoid an incident like the two of them dashing through the snow...then across a frozen Burt's pond!
    After her pull by Huck, Grace decide she would take a turn at pulling the sled, so we let her pull it around the parking area for a while. If that were not enough exercise, she then wanted to push it around the driveway. Last weekend she went for a dogsled ride and the musher stood on the back of the sled and I have no doubt that she remembered that and wanted to copy it. She is very perceptive and loves to do things that others do. The only bad moment came when we had to go inside. She just did not want to go in and had a bit of a meltdown when we came in and got her undressed. It did not last long and she found something else to make her happy, but she sure does love the outdoors!
    So here we are, sitting and relaxing and enjoying the "between the holidays" period. Nora has off the entire week and I sure wish I had the same, but at least I am able to work out of the house, so even though I have to work, I get to be with everyone. I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful New Year and I will talk to you all again next year!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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December 19-
    Here we are, the entry before Christmas. Wow, I don't know about all of you, but December has just flown by. Seems like just a day or two ago I was waiting for the first of the month to come around so that the snowmobile season would open. I guess I have been having just too much fun, or perhaps been very busy. Actually, I think it is a combination of the two.
    It was another week of leash walks for the pups and I. The verdict is still out on Millie. She seems to be doing better, but every once in a while still seems to favor her leg, so we'll see. I think that even though her "quiet time" is suppose to end tomorrow, we will continue to take it easy this week and see how things go. At any rate, no pictures of our afternoon adventures from this week, as they were just leash walks down the road.
    I did get in two rides this week. I rode Friday afternoon and Saturday, with Skylar and his band of merry men. On Friday I tossed "greenie" into the back of the truck and drove down to the bug bar (Mosquito) to hook up with the others. I got there around 2 and the others were well fed and watered and ready to ride, so I just tossed on the rest of my gear, unloaded the sled and away we went. 
    It's funny how you can get out into the bush and ride for several hours, have a total blast, never cross your own tracks twice, but never travel more than around 5-7 miles from your starting point. Skylar was our fearless leader and took us to several different play spots. One was a field where the group all got busy carving the powder up. Here is a shot of Skylar leaning it over. After about 20 minutes we had just about every square inch of the field tracked up, so we moved on to the next play spot.
    The snow was very good down there, with about a 16" base of snow covered by another foot or so of powder. We found our way through some logging roads, into some hill climbing spots and even a beaver dam crossing. One in our group, Scott, decided he would do some beaver hunting, but forgot the adage that cat's can't swim. After pulling his sled out, we resumed the riding and had much fun exploring logging roads covered in fresh snow. Here is a shot of our group at one of our rest spots. Gotta love the fresh powder on the hoods in mid-December.
    The plan for Saturday was for the group to ride north, cross the bridge and come play in my neck of the woods, but it started to snow pretty hard while we were riding in the greater Toivola area Friday and continued to come down pretty hard all the while we ate dinner at the Parkview in Twin Lakes. So I told the gang that I would just leave my sled in the truck and we would access the situation Saturday morning to see where the best riding would be. As I headed home from Twin Lakes, the snow kept up at a decent pace and I figured it would probably taper off somewhere between Painesdale and Houghton. Usually when the convergent bands form that make the heavier snow, they are not too wide, about 20-30 miles. So I continued northeast up towards Houghton and to my surprise it did not taper off before getting to Houghton. In fact, as I crossed the bridge and then climbed the hill to Quincy hill behind Hancock, the snow got even heavier. So heavy that I could only drive about 25 miles an hour and had to almost guess where the road was at that speed. I started to think that maybe the fairly heavy snows to the south of the bridge were not the main band and that the main band was actually north of the bridge. Well, a few miles up the road, the snows tapered off significantly and from around the airport to my house it just snowed lightly. 
    After I got home, we did get some bursts of heavier snow and they were enough to give us around 3" of new snow overnight Friday, but I wiped about 2" off my truck in Twin Lakes while eating dinner and figured that just a few more hours of that would lead to some decent powder for the next day. So we touched base on Saturday and it was decided that I would head south again, where the better snow had fallen the night before. We decided to meet up at the Wildlife Refuge Cabins as I knew that Dave and Lori would let me unload there and keep my truck parked in their lot while we rode. As luck would have it, Dave was not doing any too special, so he joined our group and got to even be the tour guide for the day!
    Dave knows tons of places to ride between South Range and Twin Lakes and I don't think that I have seen too many of the same places twice while riding with him. He took us to some really neat hill climb places and every logging road we hit was untouched in at least a week, some probably never ridden for the season. I was lucky enough to ride directly behind him on a few of the runs and the sled just floated across the fresh snow that sat on the foot and a half of base. We did get to a few play areas where you could take small jumps or pop a wheelie as Dave demonstrates here. In one of the play spots I pulled a wheelie that ended up with a rather ugly dismount. Thankfully neither rider or sled were injured. I believe that some pictures and even a video were taken of my miscue, so perhaps they will show up on the site in the next few days to incriminate me.
    We rode into the early afternoon and then Dave and I broke off to attend to other things on our social calendars. The rest of the group I am sure put more miles on as they had to all go home today. I have to admit I am a bit sore today. Perhaps a little from my little wheelie incident, but I think more from just tossing the sled around all day. My arms are what is most sore and that is understandable as these are muscles that I have not asked to perform like that for almost 2 years. I sure as heck did not ride like that all of last year. So I am sore, but it is that soreness that is sort of a good one. Plus it will only cause my muscles to strengthen and get me back into shape for the rest of the season. I know that there are those that swear by weight training, but to me, there is no better way to get into shape for riding that to ride and I plan to get into great riding shape this season!
    While I was out riding my sled, Gracie was our riding a sled of a different kind yesterday. Nora heard that they were giving dog sled rides in Calumet as part of a promotion for the Copper Dog 150 dog sled race to happen up here in March. All I can say is that as much fun as I had riding yesterday, I sure wish that I could have been there to see Grace ride the dog sled. She loves adventure and is pretty much fearless. In fact the more scary something is, the more she seems to enjoy it. I suppose that is good and bad, but it sure is fun to watch her get all excited about something rather than scared.
    Growing up around Huck and Millie, Grace has sure come to love animals. She just loves to see other dogs and interact with them, so when they got to the staging area for the dog sled rides, Grace just had to go say hi to the sled dogs. Of course Nora asked the dogs owners if it was OK and they said absolutely, that the dogs love attention. I really do not have a clever description for this next picture, other than to say it speaks for it's self and is priceless. Here she is giving one of the dogs a belly rub.
    They had a nice track set up in the park at Calumet to take people on a short ride and Nora said that Grace had a total blast being pulled around the track by the team of sled dogs. Here is an action shot of Grace and her aunt riding in the sled. Every time I see those last two pictures, I can't help but get a grin ear to ear and chuckle. I think we might have to get some harnesses for Huck and Millie!
    So that was the excitement up here this week. I do have some exciting news for the upcoming ride in. I was contacted by the Ariens Company and they wanted to donate a prize to the ride in for the silent auction. It is going to be a model number 921017, Platinum Series, 24" two stage snow thrower. The retail value on it is $1,299. So anyone coming to the ride in and in need of a new snow thrower. If you can hold off until Feb 4th and 5th, you could take this baby home with you. I can vouch for the quality of the products that Ariens makes. I have a 24" 2 stage machine that has moved 2000+ feet of snow in the past 10 years I have had it and it has been trouble free. Come to think of it, I think that is the ONLY machine I can say I have owned that has been trouble free since the day I brought it home! Anyway, I am thrilled to have this prize as part of the list of great prizes being collected for the event. I know we have some other great prizes already collected like skis, DVD's, riding gear and gift certificates to restaurant and lodging up here.
    I guess that about covers it. Since this will be the last entry before Christmas, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Hope Santa brings you everything on your list!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 12-
    Well, it's been another week of wintry weather up here, although not as wintry this weekend as I had hoped and certainly not as wintry as areas to our south. My congratulations to the folks that were hammered across MN, WI and now lower MI. We did get some snow from the storm. About an inch and a half during the day yesterday and then about three and a half overnight and some pretty good snow squalls are going on right now and if it keeps up we should get at least several more inches of snow by daybreak. 
    The new snow continues to pack down the older snow, so the depth has not increased a ton since a week ago, but we are developing a great base and if you know where to look, you can find some pretty deep snow up this way.
    I do not have any pictures from the pups adventures with me, because we did not take any adventures. Millie started really limping on her right rear wheel last weekend, so we did not do much on Monday at all and then took her in to see the Dr on Tuesday. The "so far" good news is that the Dr did not seem to believe that she had blown a knee out or that she was having problems with her hip. He seemed to think that she just sprained her knee and gave us some anti-inflammatory medicine for her to take and also said to take just a couple of short one mile leashed walks a day. So that is what we have been doing all week, just taking short walks down the road on the leashes and nothing exciting. So far it looks like it is working as she is not favoring in too much anymore and really does seem to be on the road to recovery.
    Up until this point, they both got around so well, I was hoping that no joint problems would surface with them. Poor Burt and Baileys were orthopedic nightmares and did not even get past their first birthdays before having to go under the knife for elbow problems. The Dr did say that we should give the medicine and do the short leashed walks for 2 weeks and if at the end of that period she was not any better, then x-rays would be needed. He also said that if she is doing good at the end of 2 weeks, but then starts to limp again, she will need x-rays. So there is reason to be optimistic as she is doing better, but we will not know anything for sure for a while longer.
    I did get out for a ride yesterday. A friend from the site (Keith) was coming up from the Chicago area and had room on his trailer and was gracious enough to bring the new ride from Rt!2 Arctic Cat with him. It worked out well, because initially I was going to meet someone from Rt12 about half way between here and Chicago last week, but then was able to work out having Keith bring it up and as luck would have it, the owner of Rt12 lived only about 10 minutes from Keith, so Rt12 and I did not have to make the long drives to get the sled up here.
    In the Keweenaw area, there are two spots where the snow is deepest right now. One is in the immediate Calumet area and the other is in the higher terrain along highway 26 from around Painesdale to just a bit south of Twin Lakes. Since it is not a lot of fun to ride around the village of Calumet all day, it was decided to meet up at Twin Lakes for the ride yesterday. So I drove down in the morning and hooked up with Keith, Kris, Mike and another, who I have forgotten the name of, sorry!
    When I got there, Keith had already fired up his sled and the new M and had them warming up, so we pulled it out of his trailer and there I was able to feast my eyes on the new ride- courtesy of Rt Arctic Cat in Arlington Heights IL. I have to admit that when I saw the bring lime green in the AC marketing material last spring, I was a little hesitant to go that route, but then heard from a few that it looked better in person and went ahead. I am glad that I did, because it does look better in person and has already really grown on me and I actually love the color now. It would be best that I not use it to rob any banks, but it sure will make it easy to pick out in a group of sleds! Another cool thing is that this model already came with the hand guards, a handle bar bag, tunnel bag, under the hood goggle holder and ice scratchers. The scratchers, goggle bag and handle bar bag all would have been things I would have added to the sled right away and the tunnel bag is nice as it can hold a ton of stuff. So my sincerest thanks to the boys at Rt12 for setting me up again this year and to Keith for bring the sled with him. If you really and truly appreciate things, you are not a spoiled brat, right?
    Anyway, we all got geared up and ready to ride and hit the trail. Kris was our leader for most of the day and knew a spot just up the trail from Twin Lakes where we could jump off and head into the bush. It is still a little thin to just be going anywhere off trail, but as long as you know the route you are going to be on is free from land mines, then you have have a bunch of fun off trail, which is what we did. Here we are taking a little break at our first pit stop. After the quick break, we got back to riding and reached a little creek crossing. Here is Kris our fearless leader checking to make sure we could pass through without problems.
    Before we started out, I had explained to the others that it was still early in the season and I was on a brand new ride, so I was just going to take it easy while riding. I was true to my words for at least the first 7 miles or so and then figured the sled was pretty well broken in and decided to let lose a bit. Another two feet and I would have had that hill, but you know that maneuver was part of a practice session that Keith and I were having. We hear that in the 2014 Winter Olympics they are going to have a synchronized snowmobiling event, so we were just getting in a little practicing for that. Look at this form folks, we have a real shot at the gold if we can just keep in sync like that through our whole routine. Sochi here we come!
    Of course they do have a singles event and Keith spent part of the afternoon practicing for that. Here is a shot of Kris heading up the hill.
   After about 2 1/2 hours of playing in the woods, we popped out in scenic Toivola and headed over to see Don and Donna at the Mosquito Inn. It was my first visit in the place since they had taken over and I really like the subtle changes they have made to the place. It is much brighter inside and with Don and Donna being such friendly persons, the place just seems to have a much more cheery atmosphere to it. We all sat down, had a few sodas and enjoyed a great lunch. I sure am glad that they have done what they did to the place and will look forward to future stops there to warm up and grab a bite to eat.
    Back out into the cold we went for a few more hours of riding. It is amazing how less agile one gets on a snowmobile after filling their belly with 3 diet cokes, an order of nachos and a cheeseburger. My mind was telling my body things that it just did not seem to want to do. No serious problems were encountered, but I did feel a little more sluggish on the afternoon part of the ride. It also seemed chillier than when we rode in the morning, I guess sitting right next to the woodstove in the Skeeter can have that effect. In any case, I do not have any more pictures to share with you from the ride yesterday. I can report that we all made it back safe and sound and that the little bit of trail we rode on was in mid-season form. Flat as a pancake and plenty of base.
    I have not been out on the trails up this way since last Sunday, but have made some drive-by's in the truck and it looks like our base is also pretty good and the trails have all been groomed. The only thin spot I know of for sure is where they just finished the re-route last Tuesday. That is from just south of Mohawk down towards Calumet for about a mile and a half. There is snow down and a base that is building, but it is still thin, at least for what we are used to up here. The snow mat under the lift bridge between Houghton and Hancock is not down yet, but the last day for the bridge tenders was Friday, so it can be placed when ever the cities can get to it. Plus you can cross the bridge just fine without the snow mat. When I first started coming up here to ride, they never put the snow mat down. So I guess what I am saying is that one should not really be frightened of crossing the bridge right now and hopefully the mat will be placed this week.
    Not much else going on up here. I have been moving snow on a nearly daily basis. Not tons of it, but a couple of inches a day. It all adds up. I'd say that we are at about average or even slightly better than average snow conditions for this time of the year. In most years, the first part of December is always a little touch and go and then things really start to get going the second half of the month and into January. Right now it looks like some LES will continue to fall for the next two days or so, then a break, but perhaps some more light system snow and LES for the end of the week, with temps plenty cold. So our conditions will only improve in the next week to ten day, not get worse.
    I almost started writing the journal today without a single picture of Gracie. However, just as I was going up stairs to start writing, Nora gave her a banana to snack on. She took it and promptly headed over to sit down with her two buddies to eat it. By the time I had gotten upstairs into the loft where my office is, she had made herself comfortable with her good friend Huckelberry.
    Before I sign off, I can announce that the Super 8 Hotel in Houghton and the Best Western in Hancock are offering lodging specials for anyone attending the Ride-In. So folks planning to stay there need to mention they are up for the ride-in to receive the discount. Guess that about covers it.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
December 5-
    It sure seems like it has been a long week. I guess that's what happens after a holiday shortened week before. Honestly though, the thaw we had back on Monday and Tuesday seems like it was a month ago. We did take it on the chin up here, although did not lose all of our snow. The Friday after Thanksgiving I measured 14" on the ground. We dropped a few inches due to settling and then lost about 5 inches due to the warm temps and rain. Then it got cold late Tuesday and even started to snow. That really froze up the old snow to a hard pack base, although I was surprised that even as late as Wednesday afternoon, I was plowing with the ATV and pushed back some plow banks from the Thanksgiving storm and the snow down towards the bottom of the bank was still soft and wet. All of that has since frozen up and we picked up a few inches here and there this week and in the past 12 hours have picked up around 3-4" of snow. 
    So we are rebuilding things, but not where we were on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The good news is more snow just about all this week, with perhaps a brief break Wednesday and early Thursday and then more snow for later Thursday into Friday and the weekend. So it is winter up here and looks to stay that way for the forecastable future. That's good, because it seems like there is a growing number of sledders that want to come up here next weekend to ride. I am not saying that conditions will be perfect, but if all the snow that is suppose to does, then most areas in the Keweenaw will be in pretty good shape.
    This week also marked the end of main firearm deer season, so the pups and I were able to get out and enjoy the woods again. I was a little leery to go too deep into the woods right away because some are still hunting with muzzle loaders and I did not want to bother them, so on Wednesday, we just stayed on an unplowed road in Keweenaw County. There was about 8-10" of hard and thick snow on it, but the truck had no problems making it through. Then we just walked in the tracks for about a mile or two, turned around and walked in the tracks on the way back. That worked out pretty good, although the pups did not stay in the tracks much. They were happy to be back in the woods and free.
    On Friday, I decided to break out the cross country skis and give them a whirl. I don't know exactly how long it had been since I was on them, but I know for sure that I did not use them once last winter and I think my skis were pretty limited the winter before because I did not have my usual skiing partner with me (Burt) anymore and we got Huck and Millie as the snow was melting and they were too small to try and keep up with me on skis in the soft and deep snow. 
    So it was close to two years between my last ski and my ski on Friday, but cross country skiing is not too difficult and is like riding a bike. It all comes back to you very quickly- after you crash a few times (just kidding about the crashing part!). What was funny was to see the pups reaction to the skis at first. They had never seen them and when I laid them on the ground to put on, they were sniffing them and trying to figure out just what the heck I was doing. Then when I first got going, they looked at me like "what the heck!", but after about 20 seconds, they caught on and it was business as usual. We skied over to a section of the snowmobile trail that is no longer being used due to a re-route. I was actually a little surprised that no ATV or sled had been down it as I figured some locals would still be using it, but I guess not. At least not yet. Anyway, we had a beautiful ribbon of white in front of us and got on with the afternoon adventure. The skiing was pretty easy on the trail as there was around 7-8" of hard pack snow underneath around 3" of fluff. However, the easy skiing did not last all that long as I decided to cut back through the bush and over to our property to get back to the cabin. That route provided some downed trees and other obstacles to have to either go around or over. So by the end of the ski, I had felt like I got a bit of a work out and on Saturday, the back of my arms were a bit sore from having to help get me over some of the trees. That and the fact that I took Nora's poles instead of mine, so they were around 5" too short!
    Yesterday Nora and Grace joined the pups and I on our afternoon walk. A neighbor is still plowing out a path to his camp and we decided to walk that path as we could be in the woods and let the pups do their romping, but also still be able to push Gracie in the stroller. It has nice big pneumatic tires and goes through the snow pretty good. We all had a good time and Grace sure does love the outdoors. She really hates to have to come in even after being out in the cold for 30-45 minutes. The walk yesterday also took us past a pretty special place for me. A place that Burt and I used to go to a lot in our afternoon adventures. A little pond in the woods that I gave the name Burt's Pond to. Poor Baileys, all she has named after her is a big hole in the ground left over from the mining era on our property. She loved to climb down into it and explore, so we call it Beezy's hole.
   Enough reminiscing for now I guess. I was going to take a short ride on the sled yesterday. In the morning I had gone to get gas and trail stickers for it, but then as we were finishing up our afternoon walk, a nap just seemed to be too strong of a pull, so I decided to put off the ride until today. I really was not planning on going too far, just enough to "scratch the itch" so to speak. Then I got an e mail from a friend that said he and another were planning on coming up my way and wanted to know if I would join them. So I decided to hook up with them and take a little ride. As I got to the point where the groomers come in from Mohawk, I was happily surprised to see that the groomers had been out. A beautiful and flat ribbon of white stretched out ahead of me and I can claim to be the first sled down the groomed trail in Keweenaw County this year. Maybe I have a plaque made or something!
    I met up with Joe and Chris as they were unloading their sleds, so I zipped around a bit and stopped to take a shot of the trusty camo M out for the inaugural ride of 2010. There is a 2011 coming from Rt 12 Arctic Cat at the end of this week, so you may not see too many pictures of the camo M this season. 
    In addition to it feeling good to be back out on the sled, I can say that it felt really good to be doing it in good health. Last year was really a struggle to even just ride down the trail and any off trail stuff would just about knock me down for the count, but even though this was the first ride of the season, I felt really good while out there and really good once it was all over. Now I was only out for about 2 hours, but could have kept on riding with no problems.
    Once Joe and Chris were ready to ride, we headed off into the bush. They wanted to do some exploring of a few logging roads in the backwoods not far from me, so I said they could go ahead and lead and find all the land mines and I would bring up the rear and pick up the pieces. No land mines were found, but it is very early in the season to be riding the backcountry. Still tons to look out for and some creeks and wet spots to have to get through. We all had a good time, the sleds performed well and no mishaps were had. Here is a shot of the sleds and Chris at one of our brief stopping points.
    We wound our way northeast up the spine of the Keweenaw a bit and stopped again for a brief break. While out there, we got into a pretty good snow squall, so I decided to take a shot of the logging road we were on during the squall.
    That is what is has done just about all day here. Snow like crazy for about 5 minutes and then taper off some to a lighter, but still steady snow. Pretty typical of what we call wind parallel lake snow bands. If you are under the main band, it is snowing like crazy. If you get out from underneath the band, it tapers off, but still snows. As mentioned earlier, we have picked up around 3" of new snow here at our house since this morning.
    We also encountered the banding to the snow on our drive to Hancock this evening. There was a Christmas party that we needed to go to and we drove through about 3 bands of the heavier snow between our house and Hancock. The party went well and Grace got to meet Santa, although she was not too thrilled to sit on his lap. Maybe next year.
    Well, I think that about covers it for this one. I will just make a quick comment on the little bit of trails I was on today. As mentioned, the groomers are out from Mohawk north. All they did is run with the drags and use the rear pans to try and pack down the snow. There are still plenty of bumps on the trails as the trail underneath the snow is very bumpy. I did not encounter any grooves left by the trucks from hunting season, but there are a few wet spots that will be freezing up now that the snow has been packed down and temps are in the teens tonight. I would say where the trails have been panned by the groomers another 4 inches of dense snow or about another 6-8" of the fluffy LES will be enough to allow them to start using the blades on the drags and that will shave down the bumps, but just beware that next weekend will likely still be early season riding up here. As for the re-route. It is done and will be groomed as soon as enough snow is on it. You can ride at your own risk on it. I do not know when the protective mat of snow will go down on the bridge, but hopefully soon. Again, it is open for crossing, but you do so at your own risk. I also do not know when the trails from around Calumet south to Toivola will start getting groomed, but I would say soon as they are very close to having enough snow and new snow looks to fall early this week. I guess the best advice I can give is if you are planning to ride next weekend, be prepared for lots of different conditions. Unless we get dumped on and in that case it could be awesome!
    I do plan to ride next weekend as well and as mentioned it should be on the new ride! Until then...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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