January 29-
    Hard to believe that January is almost all over. Up this way it means we only have about 2 months of winter left, but for areas further south in the Midwest, it means just about a month left. I am always amazed at how we are still in the midst of winter and in some cases having our deepest depth and best conditions in March and a lot of folks have already gone into warm season mode to our south. Of course it's not a guarantee either- we have had Marches where the snow just about all melted, but I would say in about 90% of our winters, the first two weeks of March provides some great snow play in the Keweenaw, so keep that in mind.
    Another thing to keep in mind is that the Ride-In is happening next weekend! I believe things are pretty well set. There are still a few things to take care of, but of the 30 or so things on my to-do list for the event, most have a check mark next to them. For folks that will be up in the area this weekend and could not get into the event itself, a lot of us will be at the Mosquito Bar in Toivola this Friday starting around 8 for Karaoke and other fun stuff. Proceeds made there that night will go towards the Make-A-Wish Foundation as well. After the huge haul from last weekend at Lac La Belle and the potential for a good night of fundraising at the Mosquito, we could be headed for another great total for raised funds this year.
    It's been a busy week. When I last wrote, I talked about the potential for getting around 6-8" of snow Monday and then "few more Monday night". Well, we got all of the 8" on Monday and then another 6-8" Monday night and ended up with around 16" of fresh snow from the storm on Monday. The snows during the day on Monday were a pretty wet and sticky snow, which helped to build up our base very nicely and then the snow Monday night was lake effect champagne powder. 
    By Tuesday morning, everything was frosted in a heavy coating of fresh snow- including the woods. Gracie's playground has pretty much been put out of commission- except for the slide, which is more fun than ever. The plow banks are getting pretty big on the driveway too. One of the coolest things was watching the pups walk around in the fresh snow. Once they got into areas that do not get plowed, they snow was so deep and fresh that all you saw was the very top of their head and their tails going through the snow. The rest of their bodies were either buried in the snow, or lower than the top of the snow. I did not not have my camera while they were doing this, but here is a picture of Millie chilling.
    I also took a ride Tuesday afternoon. The plan was to head up to Copper Harbor and pick up prizes that had been gathered by Syd, a resident of the harbor and one who has been very helpful in gathering prizes from there. She got a bunch of great things for the auction and raffle and I am very lucky to have her help me with gathering things from all of the great businesses up there.
    So a friend of mine came up to our house and then we took off from there Tuesday afternoon in search of the harbor. Our plans were to run some of the "roads less traveled" much of the way and then the groomed trails the rest of the way and all the way home. I was pretty pumped to play in all the fresh snow that had fallen, but found the snow condition to be a little weird. The powder that fell Monday night was awesome, but then below that, the denser snow that fell during the day on Monday was so dense, that it did not allow you to carve into it very well. None the less, it was a lot of fun to be heading down some logging roads and floating on all the fresh snow.
    Then, shortly after that last picture was taken, something unique happened. The bottom started to drop out of the snow and we found ourselves riding in about 2 feet of pure fluff. I think what happened is that we were climbing into the higher terrain up here and the temps there probably were not as warm on Monday as they were at places like our house, so the snow that fell during the day at the higher terrain was pretty fluffy and thus accumulated to a deeper depth. Then they got the fluff Monday night too and led to the 2 foot+ of powder we found. I was all grins behind my helmet riding in this stuff, but that did not last too long as I turned around to see my riding partner about 1/3rd of a mile behind me with his hood up. 
    When I got back to him, he had already discovered that the little copper ring that sits inside the spark plug cap and goes over and around the top of the spark plug had broken in two. This caused the spark plug cap to be able to bounce off the spark plug and cause the sled to only run on one cylinder. We were able to get the plug cap to be secured enough to the plug so that he could ride the sled down to the trail, but we both decided that we should not chance taking it all the way to the harbor and back in that condition, so we headed back south to home base. Which was kind of a bummer, but still not too bad a thing on trails like this. My riding partner felt really bad, but I told him it was no big deal and just how snowmobiling goes sometimes. I have a feeling that we have a few more great powder days left this season and hopefully he and I will be able to take advantage of them.
    So my reason to go to the harbor on Tuesday still existed, so on Wednesday, Grace, the pups and I piled into the truck and headed up there. Nora already had plans to meet a friend for dinner, so Grace and I had a nice dinner "date" at the Mariner. The scenery on the way up was very beautiful, much of the snow was still sticking to the trees and the "covered drive" just southwest of the harbor was beautiful to drive through. The harbor itself was also very pretty. It had iced over after the snow had fallen, so the ice was smooth and clear and the big lake was still wide open beyond.
    I also got out to play in the snow yesterday. Hey, I need to make up for the past two seasons! Anyway, a good chunk of the "Old Gang" actually got together (Dave, Brian, Al), plus a couple of guys I have never ridden with and a few that have ridden with the the regular gang from time to time. We all met up near our house and then headed off to ride. Just as everyone was congregating, the skies darkened and the snow started to fly. At times it was snowing so hard you had to slow way down just to make sure you could react in time and at other times it was snowing lightly.
    It's funny, I have taken the past 2 years almost completely off from riding the backcountry up here and have actually forgotten a lot of the routes. Not sure why, but I was put in charge of leading for parts of the day as well, which made it all the more interesting. I managed to lead the group through some of the old haunts and at other times came to a dead end or ended up making a big loop. If it was any consolation, nobody else riding in the group seemed to remember much better than me! Still a great day to be in the woods on a sled. Here is a shot of some of the group taking a break during one of the heavier snow squalls. I pulled up to them after taking that shot and when we took off to ride again, I had about an inch or two of snow on me in the 20-30 minutes we sat and chatted.
    We all made it back safe and sound, which is pretty good for a group of 8. I am loving the new sled more and more and while I cannot say for sure, the odds are increasing at an alarming rate that the 09 M8 will be up for sale this spring. I can't see myself ever wanting to go back to riding it- unless I have to. I have been letting other ride the new sled and each time I do, I really wish I could get back onto the new sled! I just feel so comfortable on it and other that have ridden it also say they like it a lot.
    I guess that just about covers it for this one. More snows look to fall up here (and in much of the Northwoods) this week. A bit for Monday, some more later Tuesday and Tuesday night and then it looks like some more by later Thursday into Friday and Saturday. Not sure if conditions will be "epic" for the ride in, but at this point they look to be very good.
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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January 22-
    Boy, it sure seems like longer than a week since I have last written. I guess it was a pretty busy week for me, so that might explain it.
    First off, I need to send out a HUGE thanks to Troy, Cathy and the entire crew at the Bear Belly Bar and Grille in Lac La Belle as well as all of those that came out for my guest bartending stint yesterday. We had a pretty packed house from wire to wire and made a ton of money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The tips raised for the day were $715 and then Troy and Cathy match that, so I went home with a check in the amount of $1430!!! That is the biggest haul we have made in all the years doing it. I always feel kind of guilty when I do this because I really do not work very hard. I find that I get in the way more than help, so I do more schmoozing than anything and I am not even very good at that! But thanks to the professionals behind the bar of Marc, Janna and Christin as well as cheff Dave and sous chef Jeff, things ran very smoothly the entire afternoon and early evening and we got our fundraising for this years event off to a great start. I even got a t-shirt out of the deal! Here I am posing in it with Troy.
    As I mentioned, the place was pretty packed all day, here is a shot of some of the crowd and here is another. Later in the day, local entertainer Tom Katlin stopped in to play some songs for us all. He does a great job of covering all kinds of tunes and will also be helping out with some of the entertainment at the ride in (along with Big Vin and perhaps another entertainer). Not long after Tom started playing, Grace, Nora, Nora's aunt and cousin arrived and Grace was absolutely captivated by the live music. It did not take long for her to start dancing on one of the tables. Then she danced with me. After dancing to the rest of the songs Tom played and doing a few shots of Jagermeister, she was done for the night.
    So all in all, it was a very successful afternoon at Lac La Belle. I am thrilled that we are off to such a great start with the fundraising and grateful to all that came up and to Troy, Cathy and staff.
    When I last wrote, I mentioned how I thought I might be coming down with something and I was right. I was coming down with a cold, my second of the season. The first one had me feeling off for almost 4 weeks, but thankfully this one hit hard and in a few days I was feeling better. On Monday I had to travel to Marquette for an appointment with the cardiologist and then spent much of the day Tuesday licking my wounds from the cold. By Wednesday I was feeling better, but still not great and then the bitterly cold air hit us for Thursday and Friday. Schools were even called on Thursday due to the cold. That is the first time in over 2 years that the weather has cancelled school up here.
    Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say here is that I did not do much this week to write about. I am thankful that I got feeling better in time for the event at Lac La Belle and then this morning I got a call from one of the gang saying some were planning on heading out for a ride. We did pick up some pretty decent snow this week, about 18" fell from Tuesday through Saturday morning and 34" have fallen since Jan 11. It's starting to look more like it should around here. Still not obnoxiously deep like it typically is, but still pretty deep. Around 2 feet on the ground in most spots and the plow banks are starting to get a bit taller too. Here is a shot of my truck on a quiet country road Friday afternoon. I meant to take some more shots of the snow piling up around here, but forgot the camera on the trip I was planning to do it on. So I guess you will just have to wait until next week. We have an advisory for snow for tomorrow and to me it actually looks like we could see 6-8" tomorrow, with another few inches tomorrow night and early Tuesday. That will be perfect, as I have a ride planned for Tuesday afternoon!
    I had fun today too. There was around 8 or 9 in our group when we started out, but it did not take long for the first casualty to occur. Then a little while later we had another have to split and head for home, but then picked up a rider and stayed at that number the rest of the day. The fresh show we had this week and the grooming job the boys up here do have put the trails in great shape. That was the main trail near Phoenix. We were not on the trails a lot, but I did break off from the group to head home early and took the main trail home from up north and it was in very good shape all the way home. Traffic was heavier than I would have thought for a non-holiday Sunday afternoon, but not too busy either.
    We did hit the backcountry for most of the day and despite all the weekend boondockers hitting the area were still able to sniff out some untracked snow. Here is a shot of Teddy laying down a carve and here is a shot of Scott getting ready to head down a logging road. I Still love the new sled and am looking forward to Tuesday's ride- especially if we can pick up the high end totals.
    A quick note on the Ride-In, we are just about at capacity, with only a few spots left. So if you are planning on coming and have not registered yet, better get to it, or you may miss out. I have just about finished up with my prize collecting and if you missed it, we will have another honking 2 stage Ariens snowthrower for the silent auction- among lots of other goodies. I will also mention again that there will be another pre-banquet fund raising event the Friday of the event. It will be at the Mosquito Bar in Toivola, with Karaoke and other fun things going on. I will be there from 8 in the evening for a few hours. I wish I could stay there the whole night, but have a pretty busy day the next day! Still, I am looking forward to it and hope to see lots of you there!
    So I guess that about covers it for this one.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
January 15-
    I'm thinking that this is probably going to be a short one. I am either coming down with cold number 2, or am just worn down from a busy weekend. In either case, I am a tired pup and getting a late start and have a busy day tomorrow.
    I guess I can start with the weather this past week. It started with another thaw and record high temps. Both Monday and Tuesday were new records for the day and those were the second and third record highs for the month and the year and both were only 10 days old! However, by later Wednesday, old man winter cam a visiting with some snows that continue into most of Friday. All told, we ended up with around 16" of new snow, which did wonders for the trails up here. We sure needed it as on Wednesday I drove down to Hancock and some of the trails that go through town were bare. I even had my first double snow clearing day on Thursday!
    I guess one good thing about all the mild temps we have had so far this winter is that we still have plenty of wood left for heat and hot water. I don't think we have any concerns about having to call for some more this spring like we did last spring. As of that picture taking this past Tuesday, we still had about 2/3rds of what we cut for this heating season and are around halfway or more through the heating season. Another good thing has been our morning walks have been rather enjoyable. Not too many days with bitterly cold air and nasty winds.
    I did not get any riding in around here once the fresh snows fell, but I did get some riding done in fresh snows. This past autumn I was invited to ride with some friends out of the Marquette area and this was the weekend that had been picked back a month or two ago. There were some nervous moments a few weeks back when there was little new snow there, but they got hit pretty hard around New Years and also picked up a foot + snow out of this latest storm, so we were treated to some very nice conditions.
    I drove over on Friday and rode the afternoon with the others. We then rode all day on Saturday and even got in a bit of riding this morning before heading home. It was really fun to ride in an area that I had never been to before. To me a huge part of why I ride is to explore and see new things and while I have not yet seen all there is to see in the Keweenaw, much of it is pretty familiar. So this weekends riding was all in uncharted territory for me. It was also a joy to be making tracks like Keith is here in this shot, no matter where you are!
    We rode a mix of trails, some groomed and some just logging roads. The terrain in the area was also filled with hills to climb and vistas to take in. It was weird to be in such unknown country. Usually I am either riding in areas that I am very familiar with, or riding with someone that is very familiar with the area, so there is not a lot of backtracking done. This weekend had a lot of backtracking, but we did manage to find some good long tracks through the woods too. Here we are taking a break on one of the longer running tracks.
    One of the trails we were on took us by this rock wall that is in the process of getting covered in ice by slowly running water.
    Another thing happened this weekend, I fell in love with the new sled. Up until this point, I was holding back my opinion on things as I really have not had much good snow to ride it in. The very first ride was in some pretty nice powder, but it had no base to it. All the rest of the rides were on snow that was pretty good as a base, but lacking in depth. So I really could not get the feel for how it was to carve it. In fact, the limited carving I tried to do on it I had found rather difficult. Turns out it was just the snow conditions as once I got into the good snow of this weekend, it was a total joy to ride and really not much different than the older M chassis. What makes this sled so much better than the old M chassis is how it handles the bumps as well as how much better it rides and handles when you are keeping both skis on the snow. So now the big dilemma this spring will be if I should buy this one and sell the old M, or not. Such a terrible problem to have! One thing is for sure, I am going to pretty much spend the rest of this season on the new ride!
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. Looks like some good lake effect snows coming this week. Looks to start up later tomorrow and continue almost non stop through Friday or perhaps even the following weekend. Could be some pretty hefty totals in some of the LES belts of the UP and northwest lower MI. Also looks to be a bit of fresh snow for the rest of the northern 1/2 of the Midwest this week as well. So perhaps winter has finally decided to stick around for a while.
Good night from the Keweenaw.. 
-JD-
January 8-
    A profound change has occurred with me recently. Normally the way this winter is going, I would be completely down in the dumps. This is by far the most unusual winter the region has seen since 97-98. What is most unusual is the warm temps. On Friday we set a new record high for the day of 42 and that was before the sun even rose!
    Maybe it's all the medication talking, but I have really not been too down in the dumps by what is happening. I am not happy with it by any means, but my mood really is not way down during the thaws or way up during the snows. Of course I am joking about the medication. I am not on any meds that would influence my mood. I actually think that all that I have been through, medical wise, in the past 2 years has really re-arranged my priorities as to what is important. There is nothing I can do about the weather and I think I have finally stopped fretting too much about what is happening or even what is going to happen. With all that said, I sure with it would start dumping and not stop until early April!!! :)
    Actually, now that I say that, I have this growing feeling in my bones that something not too dissimilar from that is actually going to happen. Perhaps not snow every day until early April, but that the second half of Jan and most of Feb and March will all but erase the memories of this mild winter we have been having so far. Only time will tell I guess.
    Needless to say with temps so mild and little fresh snow all week, I did not do a lot of playing in the snow this past week. I did get out for a ride on Tuesday with a friend. The fresh snow over the weekend had set up trails very nicely and traffic was pretty low this week, so we found them to be in pretty good shape Tuesday afternoon. I had hoped to get out again this past week, but other things took up my free time. Probably a good thing as we started the melting process Thursday and really got it going on Friday. Friday morning when I awoke to start work at 4:15, we had already set a new record high for the day of 42 degrees! We actually backed down on temps a bit soon after sunrise, but still managed to stay in the upper 30's all day and that really took a toll on trails- especially in town. Here is a shot of the ugliness in Hancock Friday afternoon. We have since picked up around 3-4" of snow, so things have improved from what was going on Friday, but they would be far from what I would call good.
    There are signs that we could get into a pretty good snow cycle starting up this Wednesday and then continue off and on for the next week to ten days after that. It sure would be nice to get into one of those, it has been about a year since we did and I have almost forgotten what it is like to live in the Keweenaw in an average winter. Plus, the Ride-In is coming up in less than 4 weeks and I sure do not want what we have here now for that event!
    Speaking of the Ride-In, I will remind folks to not delay in registering. We do have a limited amount of persons that we can host and are getting closer to that number. I would also like to make two announcements regarding some special activities that will be going on in advance of the event. On January 21st, I will be doing my annual "Guest Bartending" at the Bear Belly Bar and Grille in Lac La Belle. All of the tips gathered for the day are donated to the event and then owners Troy and Cathy match the tips made do double the donation. So if you are in the Keweenaw on the 21st, be sure to stop in for some great food and great fun! Also, on Friday the 3rd of February, which is the Friday of the event, I will be down at the Mosquito Bar in Toivola for a few hours starting at 8. There will be a friend of the website having his DJ and Karaoke equipment set up and as mentioned, I will be there hanging out with everyone for a few hours and even signing some t-shirts that will be getting sold to raise money for Make-A-Wish. The party will likely go on until late, but I will have to leave early because the next day is a pretty busy one for me! and my day will have started at 4:15 in the morning that day! At any rate, I hope to see lots of folks there too!
    Today I was tending to some indoor chores, Nora had finished taking the pups for a morning walk and was playing outside with Gracie, when she came in said that Grace wanted to go for a snowmobile ride. So I put on a coat, boots, hat and gloves and then fired up the 2012 and we took a spin around the yard. After about 20 laps, I think we were both getting a little bored of the limited area to ride around our yard, so I decided I would see if we could toss the sled in the back of the truck and head down to Dave's to play in his fields. I gave Dave a quick call and he said: "sure, come on down". 
    So after lunch lunch, we got the sled loaded and headed down. Driving over to his place, I was amazed to see some farm fields with the stubble still poking through the snow. We had the 50+ mph winds occur last weekend and that scoured most of the snow off of the fields and piled it up into the fence rows and lines of trees put in to be wind breaks. Still, very strange to see almost bare fields at this time of the year.
    Dave has trees sheltering much of the land around his house, so there was plenty of snow to ride on and so Grace and I suited up (including her new pink snowmobile helmet) and headed off for a ride. She sure took to the higher speeds we could go in the fields! We did not go real fast, but a few times got it up to around 45. Maybe 50 in this shot. Anyway, she loved every minute of it and was wanting more. It was really cute to see the big grin from inside the helmet. It was also funny to watch her eyes grow heavier and heavier on the way home. She did not even make it the 10 minutes or so to our house without falling asleep. I think we have a new full fledged snowmobiler in the family. 
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. I know I keep saying this, but hopefully next week I will have some nice deep snow shots to share with you all, sure looks to be a possibility!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

January 1-
     I'm sure I am not the first, but I am going to say it anyway, Happy New Year everyone! I know for me, 2011 had a few bumps in the road, but all in all was a good year and I am hoping that 2012 can have all the joys of 2011, minus the health related bumps in the road.
    I don't have a ton to write about this week. I had my mom and brother come up to visit us this week, they arrived Monday evening and stayed until Thursday morning. The main purpose of the visit was to celebrate a belated Christmas with us and of course get some "Gracie-time". Both were accomplished very successfuly.
    Even though snows had been severely lacking for December, we still had enough snow on the ground to facilitate a snowmobile ride, so my brother and I took off on Tuesday afternoon in hopes of making it to the harbor (Copper Harbor). Trails were a mix of being very thin to actually quiet good. The thinnest snowcover was right next to the lake, but even in those areas there was just enough to ride on. Here is a shot of Brockway Mountain Drive on our way up.
    We had a nice pit stop at Zik's, chatted with Ken a bit and then headed back down. The trails inland on the way back from the Harbor were the best we found for the day. Here is a shot of the Powderhouse trail just outside of Copper Harbor. This is the Mandan and was in very good shape. It did not have it's traditional 2 foot snow banks on either side of it, but it was flat and fast.
    On Thursday the north end picked up anywhere from 3-6" of new snow, with the heaviest falling the further up the Keweenaw you went (6" both at Lac La Belle and Copper Harbor). Early this morning all of the Keweenaw picked up around 4-5" of new snow, so we are getting ourselves into better shape snow cover wise and we are to get some more lake effect later today into tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night. In fact, it is possible that double digit accumulations of lake effect could occur in that time frame. It sure would be nice and I hope to get out on Tuesday for a ride. Of course if we were to wake up with 2 feet of fresh tomorrow morning, I could probably be talked into a ride tomorrow too!
    Yesterday, Nora, Grace and I partook in an event that was really a special thing. Back in mid-December, a friend of ours was hit by a car and had massive head injuries. She underwent 2 brain surgeries that day and has since been in a coma. Everyone is hopeful that she will pull through and be able to return to good healthy, but meanwhile the costs of everything are adding up. So there was a benefit run/walk for her yesterday morning in Laurium and we headed out for that. The turn out was just amazing, here is a picture of the line to get in to register for the event. I did not hear if they gave numbers of folks that attended, but it had to have been 500-600+. Pretty amazing for a cold and damp December 31st morning, but not surprising given how many folks know her and how this community really comes to the aid of one of it's own when the need arises. There is a long list of things I love about the Keweenaw and that is just one of the things that makes me proud to be a member of this community.
    I guess my last order of business can be to remind everyone that the annual SnowFest Ride in is coming up quickly! In just a little more than a month it will be all wrapped up. I know I have a big long list of things to take care of in the coming week or so and if you have not registered, best not delay too long as we can only handle about 130 persons and will have to cut off registration after that. The page to learn more is here.
    So until next time...    
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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