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November 28-
    Winter has arrived in the Keweenaw. When I left off last Monday, I had a pretty strong idea that we were going to turn white this past week and even though that a good chunk of the Keweenaw could see double digit accumulations, but even given that thinking, I was surprised at how much snow fell this week.
    It started out Tuesday with a solid 4 inches of wet and heavy snow, the kind that sticks to everything and can transform the woods into a winter wonderland overnight. There is the front of house shot taken Tuesday morning. The winter wonderland shot was taken out of one of our side windows and here is the view taken from one of the front windows Tuesday morning. I don't think that mother nature missed a single tree in her coating with that snow.
    Tuesday afternoon I had free, so I took the pups to another quiet Keweenaw country road for our afternoon walk. The road had not even been plowed, but a few hunters had been down it, so I was able to walk in their tracks. The pups could care less about having to trounce through the snow and had a blast playing in the snow the entire walk. I think that they might just love the snow as much as I do. All this past week, they would sit at the door and cry to be let out so they could play. Most of the time I let them out and they would romp through the snow for about an hour and then would come to the door to be let in. I sure am glad that we got them both so that they have each other to play with.
    The snow being a wet and heavy one also made for great panking (yes panking, not packing). I performed the early season ritual of panking down the driveway and it was about the perfect amount of snow to provide a protective mat from the gravel driveway. Every time I pank the snow for the mat on the driveway, I sure hope that it will last. It's not that panking is all that difficult. I just drive up and down and pank down all the snow. However, the melting of the mat sure can be a mess and a real hassle to deal with. You can't really push it with the plow and cannot use the snow thrower, I have found that running the ATV in reverse with the plow down (back bladeing) works the best. In any case, it is a real pain to do and is why I always hope that we do not lose the mat.
    On Wednesday, it started to snow by late in the day. It actually started out as a bit of drizzle, but changed over to snow quickly and came down pretty good for a bit and we ended up with about another 4 to 5 inches of wet and heavy snow. In fact, it was so wet and heavy that I had to use the snow thrower for the whole driveway as it was just too much for the plow. If that were not enough, from late Thursday into Friday, it snowed again. This time lake effect snow, which is quite light and powdery, that is unless you get about 10" of it, then it is not so light and powdery. Again, it was too much to plow, so for the second day in a row, I was out moving snow. Only this time it was very cold, very windy and still snowing hard. Quite honestly as I was moving snow Friday morning, it felt more like the middle of January than the end of November.
    The great news is that you really could not order up a much better scenario for building a base of snow up here. 8 inches of wet and heavy snow, followed by a quick freeze and then 10"+ of of LES to put the frosting on the cake. On Friday morning I had 14" of snow on the ground and it has since settled to around 10. We went from the early season flocking of snow on the trees to more of a mid winter flocking in just a few days. Pretty cool if you ask me. Of course the pups were pretty much beside themselves when they woke up and looked out at all the new snow Friday morning, so at first light I let them out to play. Belly deep to a Labrador.
    Even with all the snow we got here at our house, we were not the winner in the snow contest. Calumet pretty much beat everyone this time around. The snows of Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty even across the area, but the LES Thursday night and Friday was not so even. Some places like Ontonagon and Baraga picked up around an inch. Our house picked up around 8-10" as did much of northern Houghton and Keweenaw Counties, but Calumet ended up with 15" of LES. I almost could not believe my eyes when I drove down there on Friday and saw all the snow they had. It really did look like mid winter. I really wished that I had brought my camera along to take pictures of what the town looked like. 
    I did go there yesterday, but again forgot my camera, but did make a special trip this afternoon with camera in tow, just to show some of the snow scenes they have down there. This first shot is behind the schools and I put the truck in the shot just to show how big the piles of snow are. There were actually a few piles that were even bigger than that if you can believe that. This next shot is of the entrance to the old St. Ann's Church, all snowbound for the winter. Here is a shot of one of the side streets and the piles of snow lining it. Here is one of the main drags through town.
    Even though the snowmobile trails have not officially opened, some of them can be legally ridden on between sunset and sunrise and also between the hours of 11 am and 2 pm. Looking around at some of the trails in the area, there has already been quite a few sleds out. I would suspect that most of the tracks were made by locals, as I can't imagine driving all the way up here to ride at night only or in the few hours at midday. Wednesday will be opening day for the trails and I suspect that as long as our snow holds, they will start grooming pretty quickly and this coming weekend could have more than the token handful of sled up here. On our way home from Calumet, I pulled off to take a picture of the trail near the old Northgate Motel just north of town. It looked like probably a 6-8" base down there and I would say that most of northern Houghton and Keweenaw County trails have a similar setup, with the exceptions of areas on the east side near the lake (Gay mostly). I know I am planning on getting out next weekend. Hoping the new sled is here so I can break it in on a few rides along the trails. I doubt that much off trail riding will be done just yet, but perhaps a few logging roads that I know are clear of obstacles. 
    So the snow was the big excitement up here this past week. It looks like we might lose a bit early this week, with some warmer temps tomorrow and early Tuesday and even a bit of rain Monday night and early Tuesday before it changes over to snow. The way things look right now, the amount of new snow we are suppose to get later Tuesday and into early Wednesday looks to be more than we should lose Monday and early Tuesday, so I'll keep y fingers crossed that the forecast does not change for the worse. It would be nice to keep our great base and just add to it from here on out.
    Before I sign off, I do have one shot of the little girl in the house. We took a walk this afternoon and she was all bundled up. When we got home, Nora started taking her winter clothes off and Grace could not wait to have her hat taken off before she headed over to turn on Baby First on the TV. So here she is, the little Yooper with the remote.
    I guess that will do it for this one. Talk to you all in a week. Hopefully with some riding pics and stories.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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November 22-
    As promised, I am back. Things just took a whole lot longer to get the trail cam back up and running than I though. 6 hours to be exact and then by the time I got home and finished some regular Sunday work I had to do, it was too late to try and squeeze in dinner and a journal, so the journal had to wait.
    I have had so much problems with that trail came in the past few years that as I drove home, I did not even have a sense of relief that it was running. My thoughts were more along the lines of: "I wonder how long it will take this setup to crash". I did not have to wait long to get my answer as by the time I got home it had already stopped updating. I did swap out lots of stuff. Gone is the computer and USB type camera I had been using and that was replaced by a web cam from StarDot. It is the same type of cam that I have seen running pretty reliably in many of the cams in the NCN, so I figured that would be the solution. I also had to upgrade a piece of the networking hardware and though that would also make the system more stable. I have no idea what caused it to stop updating this time, but plan to head down there later today to try and figure things out. I may even put the old computer up in the office for Dave and Lori's cabins out there and have it hooked up to their network so I can remotely go in and see if I can fix the camera, rather than drive the 45 minutes it takes. I have never been a believer of luck, or jinxes or anything like that, but I am starting to think this spot is jinxed. I just don't understand how that can can be such a problem, when things like the AL Cam pretty much run without problems for weeks and weeks. Oh well, I'll just keep hammering away at it.
    It was kind of a short week for me last week, especially activity wise. I got very sick last Sunday night with some kind of gastro-intestinal ailment (stomach flu). I will not gross you out with the details, but I have not been that sick in a long time and I lost 8 1/2 lbs in 5 hours. By Monday daybreak I was done getting sick, but was so weak and tired, I basically spent the whole day in bed. I did ease into some water and then by the end of the day had some Gatorade. Tuesday I still did not have an appetite, but ate a little bit. I was still pretty wobbly legged Tuesday and by Wednesday I felt good enough to eat fairly regularly and did a little more, but still no big out door activity. 
    By Thursday I was back to 100% and the pups were sure glad to see that. The poor dogs had to lay around with me all week and did not get to take their morning or afternoon walks. Thursday we did both. It is hunting season, so we had to stay out of the wood, but we did venture to  "A Quiet Keweenaw Country Road" for our walk. They were almost jumping out of their skin to get out of the truck and play and had a blast running up and down the road. No one lives on the road anymore, so we pretty much had it to ourselves. There was a light dusting of snow on the road and the woods and it just felt good to be outside again and breathing fresh air.
    We finished up the walk and then headed back for home, but decided to take the long way home. With things being so busy the past month or two and then getting so sick, I really needed to just kick back, slow it down and enjoy the beautiful area that I live in. Sometimes I can get caught up in all of life's dealings and forget what a magical place I live in and a slow drive down Cliff Drive on Thursday helped me to get back into the Keweenaw swing of things. Cliff Drive is a nice side road that basically parallels highway 41. Not that the highway is ugly, but as it's name gives away, Cliff Drive follows the Cliffs of the Cliff Range and there are some very pretty views along it in all 4 seasons. At one end the west branch of the Eagle River meanders through some swamps on it's way to hook up with the east branch and form the main branch of the Eagle River. The swamps below the cliffs were starting to freeze up and had the dusting of snow on them.
    A little further down the road we came to the Gratiot River. This is one of the prettier rivers in the Keweenaw, second only to the Montreal River in my opinion. Anyway, the crossing gave a nice view of the water still running down through the river bed. This river never really freezes up, although it's banks close in on each other as the snow deepens up here. Still quite a bit of water flowing down it for this time of the year. We finished up the lazy drive down the Cliff Drive and then headed for home, feeling a little refreshed and rejuvenated- if not for a little while anyway.
    Friday it was back to the hustle and bustle that has been my schedule since about as long as I can remember this summer and autumn. I had to do my regular morning work, then take the pups for a walk and then head down to install a new welcoming sign that we had made for the snowmobile trail near the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. I have always felt like this area was missing a sort of handshake type sign, welcoming snowmobilers to the Keweenaw and our trail system, so I proposed the idea to our board and they thought it was a good idea. They also thought it was a good idea that I handle things, so I did. 
    At first it was thought that I would build the sign, but then it was suggested to me that we get a local craftsman that does carved signs and wooden doors to make the sign. The price came in higher than I though the board was willing to pay, but they gave it the green light and the sign was built and finished several weeks ago. I then had to find out who owned the land we were wanting to put it on. I knew it was some government entity, but was not sure if it was the city, county or state and it ended up being the state. So I got permission from the DOT and DNRE and then had Miss Dig go out and mark things and was finally able to put the sign in the ground on Friday. So as you cross the lift bridge into Hancock, keep an eye out for this welcome sign and know that you are truly welcomed to the Keweenaw.
    In the weather department, we keep getting light snow events. In fact, with the exception of last Tuesday, we have had snow on the ground for the past 9 days. Never more than an inch or so at our place, but the Hancock area did pick up some heavier snows last Monday and at one point at nearly a half a foot on the ground up on top of the hill. It has continued to snow lightly off and on over the weekend and Grace has been enjoying getting out and playing in it. I am really looking forward to the time when there is a nice mat down on the driveway and the snow is drier, so she does not get all soaking wet.
    I mentioned that she really loves to go outside and yesterday when we finished up breakfast, she knew the routine was to take the pups for their morning walk, so she went about getting her boots and putting them on while Nora and I finished up eating. The funny part is that she has not quite grasped the concept that it is best to bring the boot to the foot, rather than the foot to the boot. So she will struggle with lifting her foot up to the boot and trying to put it in. After a while, she gives up and lets us do it for her, but I have a feeling we are not too far away from her dressing herself to go out and play.
    It was pretty cold Saturday morning, so we bundled her up good and she does not even mind getting all bundled up, especially if it means going outside to play. Just wait until she gets a load of snowmobiling and skiing! I know I have said this previously, but I sure am glad that she loves the outdoors.
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. Hopefully talk to you next time with lots of snow pictures. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
November 21-
    Just got back from spending 6 hours getting the trail cam going (it's up and running) and my brain is a little frazzled, so will put off the journal until tomorrow.
-John

November 14-
    It's been a week of some pretty big changes in the weather up here. Perhaps not as big as in other areas of the Midwest- especially the western Midwest, but still, our week started out more like early October than early November and finished more like what is expected around here this time of the year.
    The first three days up here were beautiful and with the weather being so nice, the pups and I were sure to take advantage of it as best we could. Monday I had a dentist appointment, so we could not venture too far, but then took to the beach for a couple of days. Wednesday found us on the shores of the big lake at Great Sand Bay. Temps were in the upper 50's, with blue skies and barely any wind. As I walked along the beach with the pups and looked out onto the glassy surface of the big lake, it was hard imagine the same day 35 years ago and how bad conditions were to sink a 700 foot plus lakes carrier. There have been past November 10ths that did resemble that day in 1975. The 30th anniversary was almost a near repeat performance with winds to 55-60 mph. Just amazing how the lake can show such different moods on the same day, yet in different years.
    Even with the beautiful weather, we had the place to ourselves. The tourists have stopped coming until the snow piles up and the snowmobile trails open. Many of the part-time residents have packed it up and flown south for the winter and most locals were busy working. The pups and I had a very nice hour long walk along the beach and were all pretty happy to take a seat in the truck for the ride home.
    Thursday was still pretty nice out as well, with temps in the low 50's and still quite a bit of sunshine. So we took to the woods in what is to likely be one of our last walks in the woods for this season and year. The woods were also very quiet. I have said this before, but at this time of the year, it just seems like they are waiting for something. Is it the snowflakes or perhaps the great hunter in search of the elusive 16 pointer? In either case, they did not have to wait too long. The snows arrived Saturday morning and while no shots have been fired yet, the deer camps in the woods up here are all full of hunters getting ready for the season tomorrow.
    Today would have been our last chance to get into the woods on foot (assuming the snow will be too deep by December 1st), but the weather did not cooperate. As I write, the temps are in the 30's and we have a pretty steady rain falling, sometimes mixed in with a slushy snowflake or two. Not exactly the best weather to be tromping around in the woods. So I write and the pups and Grace nap. We still have plenty of fun places we can go when the hunters are in the woods, so I am not too upset that today's weather did not cooperate.
    As mentioned, the snows started falling on our morning walk around the neighborhood. Grace and Nora joined the pups and I and about half way through the walk, a few flakes started to drift to the ground. A short while later they increased in numbers and soon the ground was starting to try and turn white. I say try because the temps were in the mid to upper 30's and the sun was up, so the were fighting the melting process, but it did come down hard enough for a few hours to overcome the melting forces and we got enough to whiten the ground.
   Just about as fast as it started up, we hit the dry slot of the storm and it stopped. However, while the flakes were still falling at a good pace, the whole family got out for an afternoon romp in the snow. It was so wet that poor Grace was soaked to the bone in short order, so we had to go inside after only about 20 minutes of being out there, but she seemed to enjoy the snow, although it also did not seem to be too big of a deal to her. I don't know if she can remember the snows from last winter, I am guessing not, but I also think that her reaction to the snow might be a little different when we get enough to really cover everything up and play in.
    Upon going back inside, we all got into dry clothes and I though a cup of hot chocolate sounded pretty good. So I made a cup of the instant kind and was enjoying it, when along came little Miss Muffet to see just what had me smiling so much. So I first dipped her pacifier in the hot chocolate and then gave it to her. I actually do not like my hot chocolate so hot that you nearly burn your tongue, so there was no worry about her getting burned. She took the passie and put it in her mouth and smiled. About 10 seconds later she was handing it back to me for another dip. So I dipped it again. That lasted about another 10 seconds, but this time she decided that she would get better service if she was sitting on my lap, so she made the effort to climb up and I helped her a little and we continued to dip and suck and dip and suck. The requests for dipping started to come more frequently, until it was pretty much instantaneous. So I figured we would step it up a notch and nix the passie and move up to a spoon. That worked very well, except for the fact that she wanted more as soon as she had sucked the spoon dry, which meant that dear old dad did not get a chance to have some for himself. I did manage to get in a few quick gulps between spoonfuls for her and soon the cup was empty and there was a little girl that was very happy to have discovered hot chocolate. She sure is a fun little peanut!
    This week also marked a milestone for me. I finally got all the work that HAD to be done before the snow flies, which was a nice relief- especially since it looks like the snows are going to continue fly up here for the forecast able future. Perhaps not enough to really have to worry about, but the forecast can change in a hurry and the resultant weather can too and you are really playing with fire if you wait much past the end of November to be ready for it.
    The last big thing that needed to be done was to replace the broken winch on the ATV with a new one I picked up back in October. The previous one (along with the one before that) was a cheap internet warn knock off. The first one actually worked pretty good- lasting two plow seasons. The second one really did not even make it through last season. So I decided to stop messing around with these cheap-o knock off's and get the real deal. I knew that one of the advertisers on the site sold them, so I sent an e mail off to see if he was interested in working out a deal for advertising for the unit and he graciously said yes, so the winch arrived a few days later and had been sitting on my workbench for the past month or more (thanks Paul at Sled Solutions!). Finally I had the time needed to swap things out this week and got onto taking out the old one and putting in the new one. The good thing about the previous two units being Warn rip-offs was that they really did rip off Warn as much as they could. All of the mounts, wires, switches, you name it were exactly the same. Had I known that these rip off companies were actually copying the Warn equipment to a tee, I would not have gotten them as I don't like that kind of pirating. 
    Anyway, it did make it easier to replace the old one with the new as I used the same mounting bracket for the winch and the same bracket for the thumb switch. However, I did swap out all the wiring and the commutator (or what ever it is called) just to be safe and know that I had the real deal where it was critical to. So by Friday morning, the winch was mounted, running and the bike put back together. I then swapped out the summer tires for the big 27" mudders to help get me through the snow and slipped the plow onto the bike and she is all ready to move snow. I also picked up a pair of gauntlets for the handlebars from Paul and am really going to love those as I have used them before when Al kept his bike up here for the winter for storage and I was able to use it to plow snow. There is nothing more efficient at keeping your hands warm than a nice set of gauntlets- in my opinion.
   With the HAVE to work done, I finally got the chance to some WANT to work on Saturday. After our morning walk, Grace went down for her morning nap, so I headed out into the shop and did a little "wrenching" on the 09 M. It was really not true wrenching as the sled is running fine and I was not even doing what you could call modding out the sled. It was really more like accessorizing the sled. Last autumn I bought a gas rack system for the rear tunnel as well as some hold downs for the hood and vents for the side panels. Yesterday morning I was able to mount the gas racks and put the cans on it as well as attach the hood straps for when I take those 50 foot cornice drops out west (just kidding of course). I hope to be able to put the side vents on this week.
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. The words in my writings are getting more and more winter like, we'll see what next Sunday brings!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

November 7-
    Boy, getting a late start, especially since my engine is still running on Daylight Savings Time! Usually I would be heading off to bed right now. I do have things to talk about, so hopefully that will allow me to just zip along in my writings.
   I have a couple of reasons for sitting down to write at this time of the evening. First, I wanted to cut the grass one last time before the snows came and today was a perfect day for it with temps in the 50's and lots of sunshine. The grass did not really need it too bad, but I bagged as well, so now all the leaves are off of it and the grass is nice and short, so hopefully it will not be too mashed down in the spring. Secondly, I tried my hand at making home made raviolis. I picked up a pasta roller for the front of our blender and have been wanting to try it out. I used to work at a very good Italian restaurant in Chicago and they made all of their own pasta and it was much better than the store bought kind. I started the red sauce at around 2 and once it was to the simmering point, I went out and cut the grass and did a few other things to get ready for winter. I then came in and started making the pasta at around 3:30. It does need to rest for 20 minutes after the kneading process, but we were not sitting down to eat until around 5:20! It sure took a whole lot longer to make the pasta and then stuff the ravioli than I thought it would. It did turn out awesome. I usually do not care much for store bought or even restaurant ravioli as the filling seems to have the consistency of canned dog food (and some tastes like it!). So I filled it with stuff that I would like (grilled chicken, bacon, mozzarella and parmesan cheese). Once it was filled, it took only about 6 minutes to cook it and then we sat down and chowed. I even made some regular noodles for Grace and topped them with the red sauce and she polished off about a half cup in less than 10 minutes! In any case, cutting the grass and making dinner put me well behind schedule, but here I am!
    Nora had to go down state for three days this week for a conference for work, so that left me to tend to the fort and all the soldiers. Things went well. We drop Grace off at a sitters for much of the day, so I was still free to get my work done and take the pups for their morning and afternoon walks. Then I picked her up at 4 and tended to her the rest of the day, which is usually until around 7:30 or 8 and then we all go to bed!
   The weather this week was a little more winter-like than autumn-like for most of the week. We had snows fly both Wednesday and Thursday. They were lake effect in nature and we did end up having our first accumulation of snow on Thursday. It was only a dusting, but things were white for a brief moment. So we are getting closer. Actually the forecast for the end of this week does hold a snow storm for portions of the upper Midwest. The models have not been in the best of agreement with themselves and each other, so the exact details of who is going to get what is still a little up for grabs, but the western UP has been one of the areas favored for several inches (if not more) from this storm in many of the latest model runs. So we'll see, but it could be a white deer season opener. Perhaps even the start of the snow cover for the season. Snowfall forecasts will start up tomorrow, so be sure to check in.
   In other website related announcements, the registration for the ride-in is up and running on the site. I also created an FAQ page for the event. If you have any other questions that you feel should be in the FAQ page, let me know. I will also be making some maps for the new banquet venue. It is only about 5 minutes outside of Houghton by car and you will be able to ride a snowmobile right up to the banquet facility for those that have wanted to do that. I will also have maps of how to get from the trail to the banquet spot.
    As mentioned, the pups and I were able to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It's getting harder and harder to find a spot where deer hunters are not setting up a blind or stand and once I know one is there, I like to stay out of the area, so as to not leave a scent that might cause the deer to stay away. Once the season starts then we stay completely out of the woods. Anyway, to get you all geared up for the upcoming holiday season, our walk on Wednesday was over the river and through the woods. And believe it or not, I just thought of that as I was writing this very moment! Anyway, we were exploring a logging road that we had never been down before and came across some good buck signs, such as this rub that Millie is checking out and this scrape. The rub was very fresh, within the past day or so as the bark was still wet and the scrape had to be pretty fresh too with all the wind we have had of late. As luck would have it, when we were parking in there to walk the next day, a guy drove by in his pickup with some bait and a deer stand. He did pull off on a different side road, but we are still going to stay out of there. I have a few other places I want to explore before deer season starts next Monday, then it will be off to the beaches or quiet and plowed country roads up here for the pups and I.
    Speaking of beaches, with the sunny skies and temps in the 50's, I bet you can guess where the family headed to today for the afternoon adventure. Yep, the beach! I bet you will not even be surprised when I say that we had the place to ourselves. I actually thought we might see other there and have to go to our regular beach that is less popular and pretty much always open for us to enjoy to ourselves, but this one stayed person and dog free, so Huck and Millie were free to romp all they wanted. Here is Millie returning from one of her tennis ball fetches and here is Huck headed out to sea to fetch the kong. Of course we cannot forget about Grace-EJ, all decked out in her proper Yooper beach attire. She even helped out with getting the kong from the beach to give to me so I could throw it.
    I guess that about covers it for this one. Hard to believe in just 3 weeks and one day, I could be getting ready to take the first ride of the season (weather permitting).

Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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