March 27-
    Sure is hard to believe that the month of March is almost over. In some ways it never even really felt like it was March to me. I think part of the reason was spending most of the first 10 days in WY and then another part is that the past 5-6 days is has been pretty chilly up this way for late March standards. Early morning lows in the single digits and teens and highs in the low to mid 20's. We even had lake effect snow fall the middle of last week, as the big storm was hitting areas of northern WI. 
    Boy, what a disappointer that storm turned out to be for many folks. I know that those that got hit hard were sure not disappointed and it may have been one of the biggest storms to hit some of those areas in years, but I think a lot of folks were hoping that areas of the UP and far northern WI that still had some kind of a base would get hit hard and provide excellent conditions for this weekend. Such is life this winter!
    I personally am glad that we did not get hit hard. I did start to feel better by Tuesday, but still was glad that the remaining wood for the boiler did not get buried under a foot or two of snow. Plus, while I have not had to move any snow since the end of January, it was nice to not have to worry about plowing and snow throwing any more snow. Right now the forecast does not hold much more new snow and that will take us through the first week of April, so I believe I may just not have to move snow for the rest of this season. Even a good 8-12" snow storm in mid April does not really need much plow work done to it, Mother Nature will take care of it a few days later, with the stronger sun and warmer temps. With that said, I think I will wait another week or two before I take the plow off the ATV and summarize the snow thrower!
    It has been another quiet week here in the Dee household. I was still not feeling too good on Monday and then began to feel better by Tuesday and was pretty much back to 100% by Wednesday. However, it was also quite chilly by then and Millie still needs to lay low, so we did not do anything too exciting this week. We have around 2 more weeks until Millie can start to go for short walks on a leash. Then we gradually increase the walk distances for a few weeks and then she is free to do anything she wants. The pups have adjusted well to their sedate life, although I can tell they are chomping at the bit to cut lose and play hard. Every once in a while they will get into it and I have to stop it. I guess the timing will be pretty good with when she can start getting exercise as the weather will be getting pretty nice to be out in for longer periods of time. I know I am looking forward to getting back into some exercise. I am starting to get a little more pudgy. Notice I said "more"?!
    As I sat down to write, I realized that I did not even have a picture to share with you all this week. Not doing much outside will cause that to happen for me as I guess I really like to share the outdoors pictures with you all. I promise that I will have pics for next week's entry. 
   The big buzz locally this week has been the MI Tech Woman's basketball team that went to St. Joseph MO for the elite eight in division 2 basketball, then won against the number one division 2 team to make it to the final four. They then went on to beat their first game of the final 4, but ended up losing pretty handily in the championship game Friday night. The team was filled with senior starters, so I think they will not have quite the team next year.
    Well, I think that about covers it for this one. Looks like our snow is going to be sticking around for at least the next week or more as temps are not really indicated to warm too much, but most of the trails are shot and woods riding can be done, but is going to be done on pretty hard snow, so not a ton of fun. I guess it is just a waiting game until the snow melts enough to allow us to have our big spring ATV ride. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..  
-JD-

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March 20-
    For those astronomers and others that like to follow the mindless media's notion that the equinox is the first day of spring... Happy Spring! I don't have a bunch to talk about this time around. I have been battling a nasty cold all week that has just zapped my energy. The other symptoms have been fairly mild, but this no energy thing is no fun for me. That combined with the fact that Millie is still in rehab mode kept us all close to home for the past week.
    I don't even have a single picture to share with you this time around, so those that come only to look at the pics may as well sign off now. Sorry!
   It has also been a pretty quiet week weather wise. Temps did slowly warm as we went through the week and we ended up in the 40's by the end of the week. We also had quite a bit of sunshine, so we did lose snow. Not a ton of snow loss in the woods, but the driveway is showing more and more open spots and there are now large sections of trail south of Mohawk that are snow free. I would say anyone wanting to come up to ride right now will be pretty limited in where they can go. There appears to be two main islands with snow still on the trails. One is in the immediate Twin Lakes area. You can probably ride 10-15 miles in either direction from there. The other island would be from Mohawk north in the Keweenaw. I cannot even say if you can get into places like Copper Harbor, Lac La Belle and Eagle Harbor with the loss of snow this week.
    The woods riding is pretty typical of what you would expect at spring time. Hard, icy snow early in the morning and then the soft, packed base as temps warm in the afternoon. I was hoping to get out for a ride this week, but just did not have the energy to do so. There are some ideas that some significant snows could fall in portions of northern MN, the UP and far northern WI later Tuesday and into Wednesday, so who knows, maybe a ride is still in the offing.
    To tell you the honest truth, I personally would be more happy with spring arriving in earnest than winter returning at this point. Since the end of January, things have been very quiet up here snow wise and I guess it has been so long since we had any decent, fresh snow to play in, I just sort of have given up on the season and have put my mind in a place where I am looking forward to all the warm season activities we will be doing. Plus at this time of the year any fresh snow does not stay fresh too long. We are just at that time of the year when above freezing temps and sunshine are very common and unless you can get out and play either as the storm is ending or has just ended, you will not be playing in powder.
   Don't get me wrong, I still love snow and love winter, but the reality of it is this winter is over. Any snow we get will be from a spring storm and not a winter storm and the days of snow play are numbered, no matter how much falls in the near future. So I am not all down in the dumps, quite the opposite really. I am excited for the change in season to play out fully and for our family to be able to go out and play in the woods and beaches. I can't wait for Grace to be able to get out and experience all this area has to offer again. She loved all we did outdoors last summer and I know she will love it even more this summer.
    Speaking of the little tooter, she gets cuter and cuter every day. She is really trying to learn how to say more words. We are working on everyone's names and also on recognition of things like colors. She loves animals and has most of them down pretty good. Even to the sounds that they make. She also has really changed her behavior. Just a month or so ago, she was so defiant and just really wanted to see how far she could go and now is a very good listener and is taking pride in doing what we ask of her. I know there will be lots of challenges down the road, but she seems to have learned that when we say no or ask her to do something, we are not going to back down. Of course Nora and I are both very quick to praise her for good behavior. I guess the bottom line is I am one proud pappa in all aspects of her life. She seems exceptionally smart and daring, but also loves to please and give love. I can't wait to see what the future brings!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

March 14-
    Ok, here we go. It has been a pretty eventful past 10 days or so. I spent the time from March 5th to 12th in WY snowmobiling at Togwotee. I will get to that in just a minute, but before I left, the CopperDog 150 sled dog race started the Friday before I left, so Grace, Nora and I went down to Calumet to watch the start of the race. The put snow on the main street that runs through Calumet and then set up fences to allow a path for the dogs and mushers to ride through that is lined by persons watching the start. I was not able to be there last year, but this year, both sides of the street were lined with viewers for about 5 blocks. I guess they estimated several thousand persons were there and most of the mushers stated that this is the most organized and supported race that they attend, including the Iditarod. 
    I can say first hand that it was a really cool thing to see and be part of. The dogs are so pumped up to go before the race. They can really sense what is going on and are like pro athletes before the start of a championship game. Nora, Grace and I grabbed a spot along the fence and waited for the dogs to come by. I'm not sure Grace understood what was going on prior to the start of the race, but once the first team raced by us, she was all excited for the next teams to come roaring by. The organizers also had a neat little festival going on, with a live band and vendors selling hot chocolate and cold beer. There was even a fireworks display that went on. I understand that the race was a complete success, with the weather holding for the teams and no issues to cause problems. If you are in the area snowmobiling next year while the race is going on, I strongly suggest that you check out the start or even the finish. They are really something to watch and the dogs are true athletes.
    The next day I was off to Wyoming to go play in the mountains. My travel plans hit a few hiccups. The first was my flight out of Houghton being cancelled due to mechanical problems with the aircraft. So I got rescheduled on a flight out of Iron Mountain a little later in the day. Not the convienence of Houghton County Airport, but still only about 2 hours away. Got that flight just fine, but the flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake was delayed because of mechanical issues and I ended up missing my connection to Jackson WY. So I had to spend the night in Salt Lake City and miss a day of riding, but did get there without further incident Sunday afternoon.
    So Monday was my first day of riding and it actually started out with the traditional group photo on photographers hill. We had a good view of the Tetons that morning and were not sure if we would have any more good views that week, so we took advantage of the clear sky and view of the mountains. some jumping by some of the guys in our group and a guy named Cody from Cheyenne WY. Here is a shot of Cody on one of his jumps. Here is a shot of Chuck catching some air and here is Ted and Matt on the same table top jump.
    We really nailed the weather this time around. It really could not have been much more perfect. We had snow fall every single night we were there and then most of the days cleared out by mid morning and then sunshine prevailed through the rest of the day. Saturday night they got hit pretty hard with about 6 inches of new snow at the lodge, which can translate to 12-18" "up top". As mentioned, I did not get to ride Sunday, but did plenty of drooling at dinner that night, listening to all the stories of 2-3 feet of powder and everyone getting stuck multiple times.
    Sunday night we only picked up about 2-3" of new snow, but that translated to 4-8" up top and when combined with the snow from the night before, we still found plenty of honey holes during Monday's ride. Here is a shot of Ted augured in pretty good. Here is another shot of that stuck, only zoomed out and showing the hill he was on. Pictures never do hills any justice, but trust me, it was steep.
    By late in the day we found ourselves over by Grouse Mountain and did some hill climbing there. The snow was plenty deep there. High marking was really different this year with the powder. In previous years, we either had hero snow where you can go about as high as your nerves will take your or a bit of fresh snow on top of a set up base and could still keep on climbing until you were just about out of momentum. This year, you had to turn out the minute you felt like your momentum was slipping, or you would get stuck real quick. I really like to high mark more than anything while out there, but because of the avalanche risk, did not want to get into anything too gnarly and also did not want to end up having to dig myself out on my own. The avalanche risk caused by putting two sleds in the same spot was too high this year, so in most cases you were on your own. 
    Anyway, I did climb some hills and on the way back down from one, stopped, set the brake and took a picture of my sled in all the powder. A little later, some of the guys were up high marking a hill. Ted put a nice mark up pretty high on a slope and then Matt was just goofing around and under cut Ted's mark by a hundred yards or so and as soon as Matt made his cut in the snow, the hill slid between Ted's mark and Matt's mark. Matt was able to easily get down in front of the slide, but it as a fairly respectable one, at least one that you would not want to have been caught up in.
    With all this talk of avalanches, our group was given a private course in avalanche safety while we were out there. It was a much more abbreviated course than the guides take, but still very informative and I think some points hit home with the guys in our group as I could hear them talking about aspects and snow conditions and other avalanche info while we were out riding. The course was put on by a person named Mike, who is one of the forecasters at the Bridger Teton Avalanche Forecast Center. They put out daily weather forecasts and avalanche info for the greater Jackson area, including Togwotee. I have added a link to their site to the NCN page for Togwotee and I strongly urge anyone planning to ride in the Togwotee area to check out their site for info. I also strongly urge everyone to take a course in avalanche safety. It really is a must if you plan to ride in the back country out west.
   Back to the fun. After the slide Monday afternoon, they guys stuck to smaller hills as there were many runs that had a similar snow setup as the hill that just slid. Here is a picture of Nick in a bit of a predicament. I think there you can get an idea of how steep the hill was.
    We all made it home safe and sound after Monday's ride and then awoke to a few more inches of fresh snow Tuesday morning. It was still snowing lightly when we prepared to leave, so there was not a huge rush to get out as the forecast called for clearing skies. I drove around the Togwotee complex a bit and snapped this shot of the snow piled onto one of the cabins.
   As promised the snow let up and the clouds started to break up just as we headed out of the parking lot to ride. In not too long, we found ourselves in a spot with a beautiful view of the Tetons. Here is a full sized version of that pic for those of you wanting to use it as a screen saver or something. I think that is one of the many cool things about riding in the Togwotee area. You are almost always given a view of some majestic mountain range. Be it the Tetons, the Breccia Cliffs, the Brooks range, Mt. Austin or one of the others, it is just amazing. Sometimes hard to keep an eye on where you are headed. That is why we all stopped to take in the view here.
    As with any group of riders, our group has some that love to jump and some that don't. The main jumpers are Chuck, Matt, Ted and Tim, with me at the absolute bottom of the list! Anyway, we do try and accommodate the wishes of all the riders as we are out there and found a spot where Chuck wanted to jump from one drift to another. So he took off and launched and did not quite make it his first time. However, subsequent attempts did prove to be successful, as they also did for Ted and Matt. I did not get pics of those jumps as I was actually way busier shooting video for what is to be our first full length feature DVD. I am shooting to have it done in time for the kick off to the season at Haydays this Sept. So stay tuned for that little ditty.
   Wednesday came in with you guessed it, more fresh snow and blue bird skies. Nothing like looking out over a blanket of powder 1-2 feet deep every where you go. This was one view we had just a few moments after leaving the lodge. (FSV) I guess that brings me to another great point about riding Togwotee. You do not need to trailer, or haul gas or stage gas to ride. You just head out of the parking lot and in 2 minutes can be up in the backcountry having the time of your life. We were going to go to another spot to ride this year, but one thing I did not like was where town (and we were going to stay) is, it is a 15 mile ride just to get to the point where you can go and play in the back country. That's a lot of gas and time to waste just getting to the play spot. Here is a shot of part of the group in a spot not far from where that last picture was taken. Here is a shot of Dave and I enjoying the fresh powder and blue bird skies. Just across the meadow from that spot, we found a spot where the fresh snow was easily 2 feet deep and took turns doing some slow carves in it, with the powder flowing up and over the hood and hitting you in the face. Here is a shot of my sled after one of those runs. Here is a shot of our guide and friend "Lefty" hitting that pow. For those that do not know him, he is not holding his left arm behind him, he lost it in a motorcycle accident several years ago, but can out ride many with just his right arm. A little further over was some guys putting some tracks on a hill, with the Breccia Cliffs in the backgound.
    I forgot my camera for Thursday, but Friday awoke to about 4-5 inches new and still snowing heavily, so upon first light, I grabbed the camera and snapped a shot of the lodge getting dumped on.
    It did let up by the time we headed out to ride and just like all the days before, the sun was even poking out from time to time as we left the parking lot. Friday was going to be a short day of riding as the guys wanted to head out in the late afternoon, which meant that we had to be in by early afternoon to get packed and the sleds and gear loaded. The idea of a short day was perfectly fine by me as my arms were about to fall off by Friday and I seriously doubt I could have gone a full day. The 6 or so inches of new snow at the lodge again translated to around a foot to foot and a half of powder up a bit higher and it did not take long for some stucks to happen. I believe I had the first stuck of the day. We were taking some short cuts between switch backs of a mountain road and the terrain was pretty steep and the snow very deep. We came to a part where we finished climbing up the short cut and were turning onto the forest road and I decided to try and put the highest mark on the side of the snow as we made the turn to the right. The sled lost momentum and as much as much as I wanted to rock it back and forth with vigor, my arms would have nothing to do with it and I stuck it. Not bad though as all I needed was a quick ski tug and I was out. Here is a shot of me standing next to the cut in the snow made by myself and others as we made the right hand turn. Dave got stuck a little further back, just as he was cresting the hill and turning onto the road cut. Here is a shot of Brian and Luke helping him out. The last shot I have from Friday was of a little meadow that we tore up pretty good.
    That is not the only shots I have to share with you though. Several others brought cameras with them and Brian gave me his camera to download pictures of the trip from. I was not there for some of the pics he took, so I may not have full explanations, but they will still be fun to look at. Here is a shot of Dave stuck in some deep snow on Sunday. Here is a shot of Tim helping Dave out of a stuck. I think Brian likes to rub it in every time Dave gets stuck. Here is a shot of yours truly. I don't think I was stuck at that point, but it looks like someone behind me was!
    Here is a shot of our fearless leader Lefty. If I am reading his mind right, at that moment he was thinking: "What in the he...double tooth picks are they thinking". There were a lot of those moments on our trip! He is an awesome guide and if you ever want to be humbled, hook up with him as a guide and let him school you with just one arm. Even if you don't want to be schooled, he is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and a ton of fun to ride with.
   In this shot, it looks like Ted, Luke and some others are there to help Ted get his sled unstuck. Here is a shot of Luke getting Dave G unstuck. Some deep snow there. Here is Luke at that same spot trying to climb back up the hill. And again. Here is Brian self-incriminating himself with a stuck-roll over of his own sled. A little focusing problem with this next shot, but I could not leave out a "powder over the hood" shot. This next one can be titled; "Look before you leap". Dave decided to jump off a drift at the bottom of a hill and all went well until his landing spot ended up being in a little ravine. Sled stopped very quickly and Dave went over the bars- after slamming into his sled. A few bruises were made on that one.
    This next shot probably best illustrates what we were riding in for most of our trip this year. Everywhere we went, we hit untracked snow that was at least a foot deep and in some cases 2 and 3 feet deep. Made hill climbing a bit more challenging, but a lot more fun! Here is a shot of Luke wiggling himself free from the powder.
    So the trip was about as successful as can be. Matt did end up having his sled blow up on Thursday, which was not a good thing, but other than some bumps and bruises, no injuries and lots of powder inhalation. I would like to thank the staff at Togwotee Mountain Lodge for all of their professional hospitality. As always, the food and lodging was perfect and even though my muscles are still a bit sore from all the fun we had, I am already looking forward to next year.
    I would also like to thank my beautiful wife who stayed home and manned the fort while I was away. Not an easy task by any means with a 18 month old Texas Tornado and two energetic labs to add fuel to the fire. Thanks Sweetie!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

March 13-
    Was planning to write tonight, but feeling a bit under the weather, so will take the night off and write tomorrow. Sorry!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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