April 28-
    Well, well, well. Looks like auntie spring has finally found us... and in a pretty big way. We did get more snow this past week. 5 1/2" on Tuesday put us over the top for the snowiest April on record and another 2 inches fell Wednesday night and early Thursday, just for good measure. A visitor to the site did a little statistical analysis of the snow data from my records and came up with some interesting charts to show just how unusual the past 4-6 weeks have been. This first chart plots the snow depth for the past 14 years. Interesting to see that this year was setting records for the lowest depth in early January and then set records for the deepest depth from around March 20th to current. The second chart shows the impact that this year has had on the average snow cover. Basically showing it had little impact through the traditional snow on the ground period, but then went ballistic from mid March on- when the snow typically starts to melt in earnest. My thanks to Ari for those charts.
    So much of this week was actually spent in more winter-like weather, but then the warmth hit. Friday was in the mid to upper 40's and yesterday found us in the low 60's and today the upper 60's!
    Needless to say that with the 60 degree temps and strong (as strong as it is in mid-August) late-April sun, the snow has been melting at a pretty brisk pace. It looks like we lost around 5 inches or so yesterday and perhaps will lose as much by the end of today as well. 
    With all the snow melting, the creeks and streams have been rising. There are flood warnings for a host of western UP rivers. Closest to home is the Sturgeon River where it flows close by Chassell. There is a road as well as several homes all in the flood plain that seem to have problems every few years. Currently the river is just shy of minor flood stage and is expected to rise into the moderate to possibly severe stage before dropping some later this week. The Traprock River is also rising towards flood stage and might get there too, although the flooding there may just be in the minor stage. Cooler air is seen as we head through this week, so that will slow the melting some.
    In our direct neck of the woods, no flooding. In fact, there has even been very little in the way of puddles forming. I am actually quite amazed by all of this, but perhaps the ground was just so dry that it is soaking up much of what is going into it. In any case, I am glad that the rapidly melting snow is not causing us any problems at all and so far is not causing anyone else too many problems.
    Yesterday after dinner, the whole family piled into the truck to take a quick waterfall tour. There are a couple that we can go to see all in a pretty short period of time. The first is just upstream from the town of Eagle River and is on the Eagle River itself. The river was flowing pretty good, but not nearly as fast and furious as I have seen it once or twice in the past. None the less, it was fun to hike into through the 2-3 feet of snow still on the ground and snap a few shots of what is known to the locals as "Ten Foot Drop". When the river is tame and warmer in the summer, some go there to swim in the pool at the base of the falls, but when the river is running hard like it is now, the falls nearly disappear in the torrent. With all the snow on the ground and not knowing exactly where the river bank sat underneath the snow, I did not venture into a better spot to take a picture of the river and falls. Perhaps in another entry.
    The most well known (and by far easiest) falls to get to on the Eagle River are the ones right in town. The old highway bridge sits just below the falls and offers a very good view of them. There are two main spots where the river flows over an old wooden dam and with the camera I had it was not possible to get them both framed in the same shot. So here is the left hand (or eastern) side of the falls and here is the western side. Back in the melt of 2001, the river was as high as I have ever seen it. We had snow melt and a bunch of rain at the same time and the water was flowing over the entire dam.
    After viewing the falls, we drove down to the beach. The air was still warm enough, even right down by the lake, to hang out there for a while. The pups wasted no time at all in taking their first dip in the big lake for 2013. It is always amazing to me how they do not seem to be too impacted by the cold water. I know that their fur does protect them to some degree, but that water has to find its way to their skin eventually and their bellies do not have too much protection. Perhaps that is why they did not venture too far into the lake, even with the temptation of a pair of Canada Geese neaby
    While we were at the beach, Nora and I were taking turns with the camera and a couple came by and asked if we wanted to have a picture taken of the whole family together. So we took them up on their offer, minus the two wet labradors. Is this a cute family or what? Ok, maybe just the girls, but someone has to drag down the curve a bit. We then went back to taking turns with the camera and Nora snapped this shot of Grace tossing a rock into the big lake. I thought that one was cool, as she captured the rock in mid-air.
    I honestly do not have much more to share with you on a personal level. The locals are just thrilled as can be with this weather. Lots of smiles being worn (even among the snow lovers) and it also seems to have gotten everyone out and about. Yesterday I had to stop at the hardware store quickly to pick up something and there was not even a parking spot in the lot open! This warmer weather was such a long time coming, that it was like a huge dam just broke and sent everyone outside to play or work on projects.
    I was hoping to get out for a ride this weekend. I really love the spring rides in the warm temps. It is a special treat to not have to get all bundled up and also really nice when you stop to take a break. However, I have been fortunate enough to take many of those types of rides since moving up here and I doubt I would have enjoyed the ride as much- knowing I had some important work left to do, so I chose to stick with the cabinet building and forgo a ride...at least for now. I have little doubt that there will still be enough snow to take a ride next weekend and hopefully by then the cabinets will be done and I can blow off a bit of steam before getting on with the addition.
   The cabinets are nearly done with having the face frames attached. I have cleared out the front shop (the one that houses the toys) and have been moving the completed cabinets into that and arranging them as they will sit in the remodeled kitchen. It has taken me longer to do the face frames than I thought, but I have enjoyed the luxury of being able to take my time and do an extra special job. A lot of the things that have been taking up so much of my time with the face frames will probably not even be noticed by the typical observer, or at least the typical observer will not realize how hard it was to add those special touches, but I will, and each time I look at them, I will be able to appreciate not just the custom look to them, but all the hard work and attention to detail it took to get get them that way. I suppose a lot of you are wondering when I am going to put some pictures of my work up. Hopefully next week. I decided to wait until they were fully completed before I would share them with everyone. Not that I am expecting some prestigious award for kitchen cabinet making or anything, but I just feel that they will look best when they are all done. So hang in there and for now all you get is a picture of me pondering how to get over one of the hurdles encountered today. I did enjoy working in the front shop for a while with the garage door open to the beautiful day!
   Even with the snow melting in earnest, there is still a ton on the ground and a ton still sitting on the slab where the addition will go. It also looks like things will cool off as we head through this week and we may even pick up a bit of "May snow" by the very end of the week, so I think I am at least 10 to maybe 14 days away from getting out with the snow thrower to clear the slab and get the building underway. And to think...at one point I thought it might be possible to have it shelled in by mid-May. Now I am hoping to just get started! WHA!
    So I guess we will see what this week brings. Hopefully a conclusion, or near conclusion to the kitchen cabinet project and perhaps a spring ride or two. We'll see, always an adventure!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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April 21-
    Uncharted Waters...
    That is exactly where we find ourselves up here in the Keweenaw. Last week I talked about how there was only one year in which we had a similar amount of snow on the ground on that date and how there were a handful of other years in which the depth was close. I also talked about how on all of those other years, the depth shrank from that point on. Not this this year.
    Sunday night and early Monday morning, the snows came again and we awoke to 6" of very wet and heavy snow. It came at a perfect time and with a bit of surprise as to the totals and density to cause school to be called off on Monday. I good call as the county road commissions all told the school administrators that there was no way they could get all the roads cleaned off in time for the busses to make their runs. So Nora had her 7th snow day of the winter. Most winters they are luck to get 2 or 3. The snow was so wet and heavy that I decided to chance my luck and not try and move it off of our driveway, hoping that mother nature would giveth and she would also taketh away. 
    It worked some, but by Wednesday, with another storm threatening for Thursday and Friday, and still 3-4" of slop on the driveway in spots, I did get out with the ATV and plow and move it off to the sides, so that the main driving portion of the driveway would at least have a thin base of snow on it to make it easier to move the next round.
    For a while there, it was looking like that next round was going to spare us, as we had the forecasted mix of rain, sleet and snow on Thursday. Then the change over to all snow Thursday night to give us 5-7" did not take place. The storm had tracked a bit further to the west and we were dry-slotted and kept in a light wintry mix. So we woke up on Friday with about an inch of new snow and some light snow falling. The snow did intensify soon after sunrise on Friday and kept up hard all day, as we got into the snows associated with the upper air feature of the storm and the snow was also enhanced by the lake effect. Add to the heavy snows winds of 35 mph, with gusts to 50 and 60 mph (I even heard of a gust to 70mph at Copper Harbor) and we were in a full on Blizzard. Here is a shot of the front of the house taken at around 1pm when we were about halfway through the snow to fall Friday and here is a shot of Hwy 41 in Mohawk, looking north. I also had the pleasure to have to drive down to Calumet in that stuff Friday afternoon to pick up some things to allow me to keep plugging along on the cabinets. At times the visibility was down to just feet with the heavy snow and blowing snow. Conditions Friday afternoon were easily the worst they have ever been up this way all season. And in this season of snow storm after snow storm, that says a lot. We ended up with 13" new out of the snow Thursday night and Friday 
    Schools were let out early Friday due to the poor conditions as well.
    But, when the weather gives you lemons, you make a vodka and lemonade, right? Or something to that effect. We all just hunkered down here at home. I spent the afternoon in the shop working on the cabinets, wishing I could see out the windows to watch the storm, but only seeing a solid wall of white, and Nora, Gracie and the pups hung out in the house.
    The storm did have some good timing to it though as back last week, I had made plans to ride on Saturday. When we made the plans, I though it might be a true "spring ride" with a light jacket on and temps in the 50's. It ended up being more like a January ride. Temps were in the low teens when I was loading my sled into the truck and as I drove down to meet up with Dave and Lori and the rest of the crew at the Wildlife Refuge cabins, the roads were all snowpacked and the banks on the side of the road freshly piled up high. If I had not known what day it was yesterday and forced to guess, I would have easily guessed late January and not late April. 
    I even dressed a bit to lightly, at least for the start of the ride and was a little chilled, but once we got going and started digging out sleds, I warmed up quickly. Saturday's ride was a special treat for me as it was done almost entirely in "uncharted waters". With the exceptions of the trails that we used to get to the off trail spots, all the areas were completely new to me and I just love seeing new places. Our first stop had us overlooking a bend in the Salmon Trout River. Did that last picture look like late January or late April to you?!
    Most of the rest of the day was spent seeking out hills to play on. The snow conditions were kind of weird, as the rain and freezing rain of Thursday had saturated the top inch or two of the snow and then with temps in the low teens Friday night and early Saturday and still in the low 20's when we were riding Saturday, the old snow had a rock hard crust on it. In spots where the wind had blown all the new snow clear, all that was left was this rock hard surface, like you were riding your sled on a sheet of styrofoam. It did make for some go-anywhere hero snow, but if you punched through the hard layer and the track trenched in, you were stuck very quick, which happened to many of us many times.
    We stayed out until mid afternoon, then dropped into the Mosquito for lunch and then I broke off from the rest of the group and headed back up to the cabins to load the sled onto the truck to head home. On the way back to South Range from Toivola, I stopped at the turn off to Tri Mountain and snapped this shot of the Bill Nichols trail Saturday, late afternoon. With the exceptions of the trails that run through the urban areas of Houghton and Hancock, that last picture is what all the trails up here look like. There will easily be snow to ride on them by next weekend as well. The base on the trails is still easily 2 feet deep. In the woods it is around 4 feet deep on the level.
    With all the snow and winds from that last storm, I though it would be interesting to see how the Laurium Glacier was doing. So we all drove down there this afternoon, but I decided to take my snow shoes along. In all the pictures I have ever taken of it, there has never really been an object to give a good reference as to the true size of it. So I strapped on my snow shoes and walked out to the edge of the drift and Nora snapped this shot of me standing in front of The Laurium Glacier. No joke folks, it really is that big. Here is a shot taken a little further back to show the entirety of it. Keep in mind that I an standing on around 6-7 feet of snow as well. I would estimate its depth to be somewhere in the 18-20 foot range. What makes it so amazing is that it is ALL natural. Snow humans moving snow into the spot, or buildings to drift around. Its just a huge drift at the end of a field, along side the road and it forms to gigantic proportions every year. For anyone thinking they might like to head over there and pull a cornice drop, forget about it. You would have to travel into private property to do that.
    We still have our own big snow piles to deal with at our place. Here is a shot of where the addition will connect with the existing home. Someday. The snow there is still around 8-9 feet deep and actually seems to just be getting deeper as we go deeper into April! My depth on the ground yesterday morning was 44". That was 1" shy of tying the deepest depth of the entire season! Interestingly enough, the 45" depth was made on March 20th. So we progressed through a whole months time from mid March to mid April and only lost one inch of snow depth in our woods! We are 4.5" away from tying the record for all time snowiest April. The standing record was set back in 2007 and ALL of that snow (44") fell in the single event in early April of that year. At one point this winter, I had my serious doubts that we would break the 200" mark for the season and now we are just 26.5" shy of going over 300" for the season. I have my doubts we will actually break the 300" mark for the season- at our place anyway. I think that up the road from us, the official count for Keweenaw county might be just 15" shy of 300". Of course, the way this season is going, we may just break that 300" mark.
    The sentiment among most of the locals seems to be that of pure submission. A week ago, the question I was asked the most was: "When is this going to stop and spring weather to finally arrive in earnest?" to, by the end of this past week being: "How much are we going to get out of this one?". Very few locals are even thinking about spring anymore. Sure they know it will come, but it is just too painful to entertain the thoughts of grass greening, flowers flowering and birds chirping. They will just embrace it when it finally happens.
    And when will that come? Well... It does not look like it will be this week. Looks like we are going to get some mixed precip tonight and tomorrow and then accumulating snows tomorrow night. Perhaps as much as 5-8" of the white stuff. Some areas in the higher terrain between L'Anse and Marquette may see double digit accumulations occur. Then it's quiet, but cold, with very little in the way of melting. 
    I am starting to get very concerned about flooding. On Monday morning, I took a snow core sample and measured 8.5" of moisture locked in the current snow pack. That is before the 1.5" of precip fell Thur-Friday. I am not that concerned for us, all of our structures are build on concrete slabs that sit on 2-3 feet of sand. So no basements to flood and they also do not sit in low areas. Although I am also not completely throwing out the idea that I may have to run a pump or two to keep some areas that puddle from getting too out of hand. I do think that some areas up here that have not seen flooding ever, or have not seen flooding in a very long time stand a chance to see flooding this year and those that are prone to flooding...well... I would seriously be in the process of moving my belongings into a storage unit and leaving only the bare essentials to get out at the last minute. I just have this feeling that it's going to be bad, very, very bad. On the up side, all the inland lakes and ponds will jump back to very healthy levels and Lake Superior will also likely make a big jump in it's levels once all the snow in it's drainage basin melts. There is also very deep snow still on the ground in the Superior drainage areas of MN and Canada.
    This highly unusual persistence of wintry weather up here also has to be taking it's toll on the wildlife up here. We typically have bare ground, or just a few inches hanging on, by now and the snow is still far too deep for an animal like a deer to get around in and most of the forage for the other animals is still deeply buried. We did take a family trip to Eagle River today to see the deer heard there. It is one of the spots where the deer go to yard up for the winter and they also feed the deer there to help them survive the winter. We brought along some special treats for them and here is a shot of Gracie getting ready to toss them a piece of apple. Here is one of them enjoying that piece of apple. Hopefully they will be able to get back into the woods and things will green up and they can give birth to the next crop of hood ornaments. :)
    On our way back to the house, we drove by the lake and did see a faint sign of spring. A lakes freighter making the turn around the tip of the Keweenaw, likely heading to Duluth or perhaps Thunder Bay.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
April 14-
    Happy Tax Day Eve! Not the day I would like to be an accountant. Actually, I don't think that I would enjoy being an accountant on any day. No offence to any accountants out there, I have all the respect in the world for you and your profession. It's just that I really am not fond, or very good, with numbers. I am able to keep from bouncing my checks, but that is about as far as I am going to go with bragging about being good with numbers.
    Speaking of numbers, the snowfall totals just keep climbing up and up. We did have an inch less snow on the ground this morning than we had last Sunday morning, but also had about 5 more inches on the ground yesterday morning that we had last Saturday morning, so timing of the measurements in relation to new snow fallen played a key role in those comparisons. The bottom line is, we did little to get rid of any of the old snow and did pile on 8 1/2" of new snow Thursday night through Saturday morning. Actually, it snowed pretty much all day yesterday, but was done with any meaningful accumulating by late morning.
    The persistence of the cold and snow is edging us into nearly uncharted waters. I saw it  mentioned in a daily historical fact sheet that on April the 9th, the last significant snow hit the Keweenaw back in 1979. For those of you unfamiliar with the winter of 78-79, that was the record setter up here, with just shy of 400". We did go wire to wire at full steam that season and this season are still around 140" shy of the all time record, but it does have to be mentioned that by January 11th, we had only picked up around 40" of snow. So that means that around 215 inches of snow has fallen in less than 3 months up here. Combine that with the fact that we are now at the time of the year when about 50% of the years have little to no snow on the ground and the other 48-49% are in the process of melting off the last 12-15". 
    I say 48-49% of the other years, because I did take a look back through the past snow records for Houghton County (basically the airport up until the mid 2000's) and since the late 40's there has only been a handfull of years when we still had considerable snow on the ground at this time of the year. Back in 1972, there was 36" on the ground on April 13th. By the 26th of that year it was down to 12". By the 30th of April it was down to 4" and all the snow was gone by May 5th. In 1950, there was 31" on the ground on the 13th, with 11 on the 30th and all was gone by May 5th. In the record setting year of 78-79, there was 18" on the ground on the 13th, with 4 on the 20th and bare ground by the 25th of April. Another stand out year was the winter of 1995-96. That currently stands as the second snowiest winter in modern times and also featured a cold and somewhat snowy spring. I know friends I ride with now said they took their last snowmobile ride of the season on Mothers Day, which I believe was around the 14th of May that year. It was not a gimmick ride either. They had to trailer to the drop off point, but then rode all day and had plenty of places to go. In that year, the official measuring spot at the airport had 21" on the 13th of April, with 4 by the 30th and then all the snow had left the airport by the 5th of May.
    Looking at our forecast, I would have to say that getting in a ride in early May should be a relatively safe bet. I still have 3 feet of snow on the level in my woods and that would likely mean that the higher terrain up this way has 4, possibly more on the ground. We look to see some snow arrive in a few hours, with 2-5" of accumulation before it likely changes to sleet and/or rain overnight. There is another storm seen for later Wednesday into Thursday and early Friday and right now the main idea is for heavy snows to fall in our area, with the potential for double digit accumulations. The rain/snow line is not too far off to our east and south with that system for later this week, so it is possible things could change and we do not get snow, but right now the idea is for snow, which could mean that when I type the next entry on the 21st, we could still have 3 feet of snow on the ground.
    The other thing that all of this lingering snow presents is the potential for some pretty bad flooding. There are not too many flood prone areas up here, with all the changing of terrain and the fact that most of the building was done in areas that are not prone to flooding. I also can say that there is no guarantee that there will be severe flooding, but with 3 feet of snow on the ground (I measured 7" of water in that snow Monday morning) and the fact that within the next 2-3 weeks, there is going to be a monumental shift in our temperatures- not a forecast, just what happens EVERY year as we go into the final parts of April and into May, means that much of that 7" of water in the snow is likely to be released in a very short period of time. Add to that any rain that might fall as the snow melts and we could be talking about an input of 10" of water into the watershed in a 10-14 days time. I am thankful that we do not live in a flood prone area. We get puddles to form in low spots, but we have no rivers or streams near-by that can spill over their banks and bring the serious variety of flooding. The perfect scenario to avoid flooding would be for sunny days with highs in the 40's and clear nights with lows in the 20's. That way we melt off a few inches every day, but then halt the melting overnight, to allow the water to be absorbed into the system. I guess only time will tell.
    As mentioned, we did pick up 8.5" of snow late this week. Not the biggest storm of the season by any means, but for the locals it was like twisting the knife that had been stuck in their backs. I would have to say that it is nearly unanimous among the locals that they are sick of winter and ready for spring. The reactions to the storm this past week varied from scratching their heads in amazement, drawing the shades and just pretending it was not happening, to outright denial it was even happening. By Friday morning (just hours after the storm had gotten its late start), there was just a few inches on the ground and much of the buzz in public an on social media was that the "storm had missed us". The only problem with that thinking was that we were in hour 5 of a 30 hour storm. Despite its late start, it did end up providing pretty much what was forecasted by all of us "weather guessers".  
    My reaction to the snow was not what I had expected. I have grown tired of it too. Not to the point that it is making me sad or depressed. Heck, if I were not so busy building the kitchen cabinets, I would probably be out putting tracks in the snow with my sled. However, it is just the time of the year when we should be seeing spring like weather up here and it is not happening and I really do feel for those that do not have a fondness to the snow at any time of the year. I guess a good comparison to us snow lovers would be to have 50 and 60 degree temps extend into late November and early December.
    Anyway, as the snow fell and once again painted everything in a fresh coating of white, I actually fully enjoyed watching it fall from the sky. It was a very similar feeling to when the snows fall in mid-season. Not the utter joy of the first flakes of the season or the first good storm, but yet, the joy and peacefulness of watching the flakes drift down. I can honestly say I felt no negative feelings towards the snow that was falling. I did not ask the pups what they thought, but from the way they played in it, I would guess they also were enjoying the event.
    Of course the new snow and that which slides off the cabin roof set the date for starting the addition back a few more days, but at this point it is no longer of great concern to me when we start. The snow will melt. It is not a question of if, but when. And we have gone past the time when I will have much hope to get things shelled in before the black fly season arrives. So I will just have to deal with them when they show up. Perhaps because of the late arrival of spring, their season will be abbreviated too.
    I have been pretty busy in the shop and it has been a lot of fun to be in there working and looking out at all the snow. However, by late yesterday, the snow slid off the shop roof and covered up the last bit of view I had. So for the time being, I have more of a basement shop, with no clear view of the great outdoors
    Anyway, from the looks of the state of the cabinets when compared to last week, one would not think I have been very busy this week, but there has been a lot of "figuring out" going on and even some trial and error work with inexpensive plywood going on to figure out the exact dimensions, and thus look, to things like the face frames and the door and draw rails and stiles. I did get all of the "figuring out" done and have 6 pages of cut list diagrams to help me make all the drawer bottoms, as well as the panels for the doors and drawers and cabinet end panels. I sure am glad to have that program that helps me generate the cutting diagrams. If it were not for it's help, I would likely be using a lot more sheet goods and at over $100 for a single 4x8 sheet of cherry ply, it is saving me money too.
    I also will be using a considerable amount of solid stock for the face frames and doors and drawers. Years ago, I bought a bunch of rough sawn cherry from a local sawmill to have on hand when I build projects. I love cherry so much that when it comes to building out of solid stock, I pretty much exclusively use it. If I had an easy source to Douglas fir I would probably use that too, but we live about 1500 miles east of the closest source for that.
    Today's work involved pulling some of the rough sawn stock out of the storage racks and staging it for the dimensioning work. I already had a few dozen board feet of the cherry s4s (surfaced four sides) and was able to get all of the rough stock jointed on on edge and flattened on one face and had to stop planeing it to thickness to do some weather-related work and write this entry. If I have the energy after dinner, I may go back out and finish running the rest of the boards through the planer and then can rip them through the table saw to finish out the milling process.
    There is a bit a learning curve left to work with a bit I have never used to make perfectly mitred corners for the face frames, but once that process is learned, then I figure I have about 3-4 hours of work to accomplish the face frames, another 2-3 hours to build the drawers and 2-3 hours to build the drawers. Another 1-2 hours to mount the hardware and the cabinets will be done! If all goes well, then in around 2 weeks I should be all done. I know what you are thinking 9-13 hours of work left and you hope to be done in 2 weeks?! The problem is, I really do not like to just go out there and work for 20-30 minutes at a time and that is how much of my free time is working right now. I have my regular job to do and then the different odds and ends jobs to do (including still having to move snow!) and this week I have a dentist appointment and have to take the pups to the vet for their annual "lube, oil and filter". I wish I could just go out and spend 8-10 hours a day in the shop getting things done, but gotta pay the bills too! 
    Perhaps I should just skip taking the pups to the vet and see if Gracie can squeeze them into her schedule. She spent around an hour fixing up one of her stuffed toys the other day, in full veterinarian garb. The operation was a total success and the patient is expected to live many more happy years.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. Before I sign off, I will leave you with a final picture, it is of Gracie enjoying "Bootjack Chicken" at the semi annual chicken BBQ to benefit the Bootjack Fire and Rescue.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
April 7-
    Welcome to April everyone! Looking outside, it would be very hard to tell it was the 7th of April. A fresh 7" of snow on top of the nearly 3 feet we had on the ground before that and it looks more like the middle of winter, except that the spring sun is shining nicely now and that is helping to soften the winter view outside right now.
    Nora, Gracie and I actually busted out of town last Sunday for a wild and crazy spring break trip to Duluth! Florida is so over rated, as is the Caribbean or Mexico or any of those tropical places. Besides, the beaches are full of persons and we had them to ourselves in Duluth! Plus, we heard that they were filming the next in the series of girls gone wild in Duluth this spring and sure enough, here is some of the crazy action caught Sunday evening at one of the local establishments. Or perhaps what 4 hours in the truck will do to you!
    Huck and Millie stayed behind to watch over the place as well as take care of Nora's cousin that hung out at our place while we were gone and while we missed them while we were gone, it was nice to be a little more footloose and fancy free. We stayed at a pretty nice motel (that actually did allow pets), that had a pool and both Nora and I were able to be with Grace, rather than one staying back to watch the pups.
    The main reason for heading to Duluth was to shop. The girls too to the craft stores and the clothes stores, while I headed off to the tool stores. It was a very good thing we brought the truck! Almost needed to rent a trailer! Actually, it was not that bad, but man-oh-man, I sure am a tool nut. I ended up at three stores in Duluth, the Northern Tools, the local Home Depot and then last, but not least Acme Tools. I am sure I said it before, but as they say in therapy, it's always good to admit your weakness, so I will say it again. I am a tool addict. I will say that I do not buy tools that I don't have an immediate need for and do perform a lot of research into getting the best make/model for the best price, but it is truly my weakness. The folks at Acme like seeing me so much, they created a special parking spot just for me. Coincidently, it is right next to the loading dock!  Just looking at that last picture puts me in a very happy place. I think I will have to make it my screen saver.
    We did not stay long in Duluth. We got there Sunday afternoon and left Tuesday afternoon, but we accomplished what we set out to do and despite what I said earlier in this entry, the 4 hour drive is really not too bad. Gracie travels very well and Nora and I typically switch off driving, although this trip she drove all the way to Superior and then I took over to cross the bridge and then I ended up driving all the way home.
    It was, as usual, very nice to get back home. Especially since we had left the pups behind. Nora's cousin has sat for them in the past and she does an awesome job, taking them for walks and playing with them, so I know they are leading the good life while we are away, but I am so used to them being in my life all day long, that it is weird and a little uncomforting to be away from them.
    The schools were on spring break, so Nora had the week off, so she and Gracie stayed home all week. I was busy playing a bit of catch up Wednesday and Thursday and then went out to play on Friday afternoon. Some buddies were up riding and asked if I wanted to hook up with them, so Friday after work, I headed south to Toivola and met them at the Mosquito and we headed out from there. The snow is still plenty deep in all areas up here and in the mornings following cold nights, it is nearly rock hard. The pups can walk right across it without sinking in and I bet I probably could too. By Friday afternoon, the temps had warmed enough to soften the snow a bit, but for the most part it was still "hero snow", meaning it is firm enough to make a hero out of just about anyone trying to do what ever they wanted...most of the time. We were taken to some pretty good play spots by our fearless leader and we all managed to get stuck more than once. I can blame two of my stucks for not enough track (took the highcountry), but the rest were because of not enough talent. All good though, with no sled or rider damage in the entire group and it was fun to be out in the woods, playing on the hills. The highcountry went home to Rt12 today, but I will be picking up the M from the shop tomorrow and I seriously doubt that I am done for the season. Just way too much snow still on the ground to sit out the next 2-3 weeks without a ride. It would be really nice to get in one of those 50 degree day rides when just a light windbreaker and base layer is needed. I guess we will have to see what time and the weather provide!
    As mentioned at the start of this entry. Winter just does not want to let go this season. After a highly unusual, warm-spring last year and many of the past several winters also coming to a premature end, this one is doing all it can to hang on. In fact, we have more snow on the ground today than we had 10 days ago! Here is a picture of the front of the cabin from this morning
    This latest batch of snow was very wet and heavy and flocked the woods in Keweenaw Kamo and while I really am of the mindset that spring can come and take the snow away so that the locals can keep their sanity and I can get on with building the addition, I am nowhere close to being sick of looking at sights like in that last picture and this one. I was also very happy to look out and see the wood shed still standing. I did spend most of Thursday afternoon picking up some materials and then fabricating some bracing for it, but my track record with wood shed engineering is not too stellar right now! Most of the snow that fell in the past 24 hours has melted and slid off of it, so no more concerns for it until the next snow comes this season, if there is one.
    The new snow probably set me back another 3-4 days in the start date for the addition. For many years (including this one) I have been holding a contest as to when a large snowdrift just outside of Laurium will melt (the Laurium Glacier Meltdown Contest), but perhaps this year I should add another contest as to when I will be able to start building the addition! They way it looks right now based on both the amount of snow and the forecast for the next 10 days. I would be surprised if it will be happening in the next 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. I will help the snow leave once we get down to the last foot or so, but we still have a long way to go until we get to that point! Those eaves are around 9 feet off the ground.
    The pups did not seem to mind the snow at all. I often wonder if they realize that the season is hanging around with such vigor this year, or if they just take one day at a time and deal with what is happening in the moment. I am guessing the latter, which is the best way to live life if you ask me! The neighborhood was very quiet and very beautiful on our morning walk as well.
    Despite the 7" of wet and heavy snow that fell, I decided not to bother moving it off the driveway. Before the snow, it was about half down to bare ground and half covered with packed snow and ice. This was the look of it this morning. The sun has been out since early afternoon and temps are in the low 40's, so it is already melting down and most of the days this week look to rise to above freezing, so between the temps and the vehicle traffic, it should be plenty worn down by later in the week, if not back to where we were before this latest round of snow.
    Of course I consider this pure coincidence, but Nora likes to hang decorative flags outside. We have many. Some for specific holidays and others for the time of the year. For the very early start of the snow season, we had a "Thanksgiving" type flag flying. Then it went to a "Christmas" themed one. That one stayed up through the first of January and when the snows were still failing to fly around here, she changed the flag out to this one. The day she changed the flag was January 12th. That evening she took this picture of me embracing the arrival of a snow storm and the rest of the snow season is history...until today. We dug down through the snow to the mounting bracket (7 feet above the ground) and replaced the snow flag with a spring one. An hour later the sun came out and temps warmed into the 40's. Well see how this flag goes with the weather, but one thing is for sure, that snow flag is getting put out MUCH earlier next snow season! :)
    The sun and warmth it gave sure felt good this afternoon. Nora, Gracie, the Pups and I all sat out in it and soaked up some much needed, naturally provided Vitamin D. A few snowball fights even broke out! If you look close enough, you can see where Grace got hit in the forehead section of her hat. I can't believe the ball that I packed rock hard even came apart when it hit her! Just kidding of course. I did not even toss the one that made that mark!
    With a taste of spring in the air, the girls picked up some seeds and got a few of them going early. They can be started up to 8 weeks ahead of being put outside, so they should be pretty safe. Although it just seems hard to believe that there will even be a growing season this year!

Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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