January 27-
    42"-65"-62". No, those are not the measurements for me, or anyone that I know for that matter. They are: The amount of snow that fell from the night of January 18th to the morning of 26th; The amount of snow to fall from the evening of the 12th to the 26th (the latest snow cycle). The final number is the long term average snowfall for Houghton County for January. So in the time frame from the 12th to the 26th, I reported more snow than we typically seen for the entire month. One more interesting stat, it snowed non-stop for at least 164 hours. That is 4 hour short of 7 full days. It may have actually snowed non-stop for longer than that, but I could not remember exactly when it started on the 17th or 16th, but could remember it starting around 4 pm on the 17th, so went with that. It then stopped around noon on the 24th, but not for too long, with the flakes resuming later that day and then off and on into Friday and Friday night as well. Yesterday was actually the quietest day we have had snow wise in 2 weeks and I did not have to move snow this morning, only the second time in 13 days.
    It was a good snow cycle, any way you want to measure it. I am actually kind of glad it did let up, as it is nice to be able to take a break from moving it around and also get things in shape for the next round. That looks to start in a few hours, with maybe a bit of a break later tomorrow night and early Tuesday, when something other than snow could actually fall before another round of cold air arrives and starts the lake snow machine again. Once that snow cycle starts, it is possible it may snow nearly non stop for another 8 days, or more!
    So we are making up for lost ground accumulated for the first half of this season. I have no idea how February and March will stack up, but they will have to be fairly rambunctious or this next snow cycle will have to rival that of the last one for us to even have an average snow season up here, but we are in pretty decent shape at the moment.
    My only complaint (and it should be noted that it is a VERY small one) is the bitter cold we had this week. Temps dipped below zero most nights and even struggled to rise above zero some of the days. To me that is just too cold. I realize there may be folks from northern MN or ND thinking that is just another day in January, but not for here. It was too cold to take the pups for their morning walk from Sunday through Friday. Yesterday was the first day we went. The wood boiler seemed to be in "make heat" mode non-stop for around 3-4 days. It may have actually went into "smolder mode", but every time I looked at it, it was making heat. We did go through quite a bit more wood, but still have around 2/3rds of our supply left and we are well past the half way point for the heating season. By the end of Feb into early March, the sun gets stronger and we start to see more direct sunlight and just do not typically go through as much wood as in late Dec and all of Jan and even in many Novembers. So right now I am not worried about running out of wood.
    One of the really nice things to having heated floors is that the colder it gets outside, the warmer the floors get to heat the air inside the cabin. During the really cold air, the floors were almost warm enough to cook an egg and Gracie could run around in her bare feet.
    So, while it was too cold for this guy (and his faithful pups) to go outside and play, it did not keep us shut in the cabin all week. On Wednesday, I had to go out and collect prizes for the ride-in. I handle the "north end", while the gals from the Wildlife Refuge Cabins handle the south side.
So the pups and I scurried from the cabin to the truck and went about the north end, hitting up the local businesses for prizes to enter into the raffle and silent auction for the Ride-In. As is always the case, the local establishments were very generous and every single one I visited donated something.
    I did bring along the camera with me to capture some of the snowy scenery we had while I drove around on Wednesday. The first few shots were taken before we even left our property. Here is a shot of the front of the house Wednesday afternoon. Here is a shot of the topper for the truck with the snow that had accumulated on it since the snow started falling the evening of the 12th. Here is a shot of our woods all decked out in Keweenaw Kamo. Yes, we really are that lucky to look out our windows and see that. I still pinch myself to make sure I am not dreaming. Nope, just living the dream! Here is a shot of the driveway, all nice and clear- temporarily anyway! Here is a shot of the pups playing in the snow before we got into the truck.
    Once out on the road, we came across a neighbors mini-van that had not been used in a day or two- at least! Here is a shot of and old mining building. It is actually the ruins of a powder house. They are pretty easy to recognize as they are typically not too large, have 1-2 foot thick stone walls and the roofs are typically missing because they were made of wood and have disintegrated. They built them that way (thick stone walls, wooden roof) so that if the blasting powder kept inside them went off, the blast would be directed upward and not outward.
    While cruising through Mohawk, I decided to shoot over to the snowmobile trail to take a picture of it, but we had a snow flurry going on at the time and you could not see very far down the trail. We then headed north a bit and I jumped off onto Cliff Drive. It was the subject of some nice wintry shots in a journal from a couple of weeks ago, but the shots taken this week were about as snowy as it gets. Compare that shot with one taken a few weeks ago in roughly the same spot. I am beginning to believe that Cliff Drive holds some mysterious power to bring the snow. I have paid a visit to it several times when we were in the midst of a thaw or some other kind of disappointment in the snow department and in just a short time, it has dumped on us. So on Wednesday's trip, I said a big Thank You to the snow god of Cliff Drive. The drive back to the highway was cool, with the snow falling and the cliffs all frosted in snow. In this shot, in the upper left, there was a gust of wind that caused some of the snow to blow off the trees, but the way the snow poofed out, it almost looked like an avalanche had occurred. Nearing the end of the drive, I took one last shot of the snowy Cliff Range and the woods below it covered in winters wonder.
    By Friday, temps had warmed and I had a free afternoon, so on Thursday, there were plans laid to do some riding in all the fresh snow. However, I woke up Friday morning to a house that just did not feel as warm as it usually does. The shower was also not as hot as it typically is, so I went about trying to figure out if there was something was wrong. It turns out that one of the circulation pumps in our heating system was not working. Fortunately it was the one inside the house. I do carry a spare, for just these occasions. However, I decided to play things safe and see if the local heating and cooling contractor could send out a pro to fix things up and in a few hours, the pro was here to replace the pump. He actually came sooner than was expected, which was good, but I also had already canceled the riding for the afternoon because I thought I would have to wait for the repair man to come.
    So no riding on Friday and I was really bummed. The best snow of the season so far and the way this winter has gone, it's not wise to waste such opportunities. Once the pump was fixed, the heat still was not going as good as it should and I discovered that the water level in the boiler was too low and was impacting the ability of it to be circulated properly. Thankfully when we set up the system, I had them do it so that if it needed to have water added to it, we could do it inside, using a spigot from the water supply line to another spigot in the heating system and a washing machine hose. Got the water up to where it should be and all worked well.
    Saturday was the guest bartending event at the Bear Belly Bar and Grill in Lac La Belle, so no riding that day either. As I drove up there Saturday morning, I passed some pick ups parked in some of the staging spots for backcountry riding and I was just a tad bit green with envy. However, it did not take long for the fun of the bartending stint to make me forget about all the fresh powder out there and man were we busy! There were four of us (Cathy, Jana, Me and Megan) taking orders, making drinks and serving the food, while two of Cathy's daughters helped with bussing tables and dishes and Dave and Bud worked the kitchen. With all of that "manpower", we still could do all we could to try and keep our heads above water! Of course I am more of a handicap to the whole system than an asset, but still, it did pay off as we raised over $1100 dollars for the Ride-In and I was able meet lots of friends of the site. Dave even whipped up a special burger for the occasion. Lots were sold, but no one had a grabber-at least while at the bar/grille. My deepest thanks to all who came to the triple-B and a huge thanks to Troy, Cathy and all the staff there for their generosity. As I walked out to my truck on wobbly legs last night, I took a picture of the parking lot with sleds parked in it. At the time this picture was taken, it was the slowest it had been since noon. I wished I had taken a picture of the lot when the place was packed!
    Before leaving last night, I conned Troy into going for a ride today. We both had lots of work to do, but I told him that the work that both of us had to do would still be waiting for us when we finished our ride, so we may as well ride. He bit on the offer and I headed back up there this morning to ride with he and some folks, and friends of the site, that were staying with him. While the snow was still not deep enough to require that I take the long-track sled today, I had to take it because the high country is down getting its arms shortened to make it a little easier for this old man to toss around.
    So today was the maiden voyage on Miss Keweenaw Kamo. Over the off season, the sled did not only get the wrap, but got an EZ Ryde suspension put in it and a set of aftermarket skis put on it. The last time I rode it was out west last March, but my first impressions of the sled today was that it seemed like it did not handle the way I had remembered. It seemed harder to toss around. Upon further review, it turned out the snow was more settled than it looked. Others were struggling a bit to lay their sleds over too. We did get into some snow that was more friendly to the idea of carving and all was well. We never got into snow deep enough and hills big enough for the EZ Ryde to shine, but I could tell that it is different and better than the stock setup in the powder and I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to give it a workout!
    Riding with Troy is always a good time as he knows the land up toward the tip as well as anyone and if we come across some tracked up spots, he takes us on some better hidden gems and are making first tracks. Today's ride was on lots of paths that I have never been on, and ever even knew existed. So lots of new terrain for me to see and lots of pretty scenery, my two favorite reasons for riding the backcountry!
    I guess that just about covers it. We are at t minus 5 days and counting for the ride in. For those that did not see, I have the list of poker run stops available. Also, because there are no backcountry rides being offered, there will be no meeting at the Ramada in the mornings of Friday and Saturday. We will have all the shirts to hand out at the banquet. Be sure to get to the banquet by 5 pm as we will have all the items for the auction and raffle out to look at and bid on in the case of the silent auction. Some very nice prizes, including an Ariens Snow Thrower, a Generac Portable generator, after market skis and other riding gear! See you all soon!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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January 20-
    What a difference a week makes. It has been snowing nearly non-stop for 8 days straight. We have had some periods without snow, but I really don't think those snow-free periods have lasted more than 5-8 hours and while the snow has not yet reached the "obnoxious" levels the snowbelts of the UP are known for by this time of the year, it is piling up and starting to look more like it should for this time of the year. Plus, it is looking like it may not stop snowing for any prolonged period of time for the next 7-8 days.
    Before I get into the nitty gritty of this entry, I would just like to remind everyone that there is still some room for more to sign up for the Ride-In, we are closing in on the max, but still have room for more, so if you have been on the fence so far, it does not look like we will be lacking for snow and it's a great time. I also will be guest "bartending" at the Bear Belly Bar and Grille up at Lac La Belle next Saturday, the 26th from around noon until 5. So if you are up in the area then, be sure to stop in. And the final note on the ride-in (at least for now) is that due to the difficulty in getting the sled into the Mosquito, I have decided not to repeat it at the Mariner and Vansville. So the restored sled will stay at the Mosquito through next weekend and then I plan to move it back to M & M Powersports in Hancock, where it will stay until I bring it to the ride-in. I just spoke with Donna from the Mosquito and they have sold close to 200 tickets so far and I am heading down there tomorrow to drop off another fist full! That brings total sales of tickets to date to around 300. That's 3000 dollars raised for the Make A Wish foundation!
    So now back to the snow. As mentioned, we picked up accumulations every day since it started on the evening of the 12th. Some days just an inch or so and others considerably more. The past 48 hours we have picked up around 14" here at our place and I would suspect that there have been some other places- especially in the eastern UP that have seen more, with the longer fetch of water the air can travel over, picking up moisture and heat to make the lake effect clouds and precip.
    I had friends arrive in the area late this week and we all congregated up at our place Friday afternoon for a bit of riding. The snow at that point in the week was still considered "early season" by our standards, with around 14" on the ground, but still enough to head out and have some fun on the sleds. Friday was also "records day" for the Calumet, Laurium and Keweenaw school district, which meant that some of the local boys were out riding on Friday and did manage to beat us to some of the favorite backwoods riding areas, but since the powder was not exactly over the hood to begin with, it really did not make that big of a difference that we made first tracks. It was just good to finally be out riding the home-turf. I think January 18 has to be an all time record for latest start to home riding a sled since I have lived here and I also suspect (or at least strongly hope) that it is by far the latest it will ever be for getting out on the first ride in this neck of the woods. In any case, I fully enjoyed myself riding with good friends in the fresh snow, and we did even managed to find some untracked snow and even some stuff that might have been able to be called "up to the hood" deep.
    Saturday found me heading out with the same group of buds, only this time it would be "sout-of-da-bridge". They all came up this way on Friday because I had to work and if we had waited for me to finish work, then get suited up to ride and drive down south to meet up with them, half the afternoon would have been over. Saturday, we all started out on the same page. So we chose to meet up at the Mosquito Bar in Toivola.
    Temps had actually warmed a bit overnight Friday night, so my morning walk with the pups was in pretty pleasant conditions. Temps in the mid 20's and a light east-northeast breeze. There were even some flakes of snow falling, but nothing too out of hand. The forecast did call for some decent snows on Saturday and Saturday night as a strong clipper system moved through, so I was a little anxious for those snows to start up. As I would learn soon enough, my wait would not be too long.
    I got into my riding gear, kissed the ladies good-bye, patted the puppies on the head and headed out in the truck to go meet up with the boys. As I headed down our driveway, I noticed the snow had started to pick up in it's intensity a bit. Not what you would call heavy snow, but steady enough that it would accumulate. By the time I got to Calumet, the intensity had dropped off significantly, but the flakes were HUGE! Probably some of the biggest flakes I have ever seen. I guess you could say they were more like snow-bombs, than snow flakes. Probably the size of tennis balls- no lie. 
    A little past Calumet, the flakes grew smaller, but the intensity picked up and it was coming down pretty hard. In meteorological terms, it would have been what we call "three star snow", or moderate snow. That is a snowfall rate where the visibility is less than around 2/3rds of a mile, but greater than around 1/3rd of a mile. The roads were covered in snow and driving was slower. The snow did let up a tiny bit as I dropped down the hill into Hancock and crossed over the bridge into Houghton. Then as I climbed the hill out of Houghton and passed all the shopping areas, the snowfall intensified. By the time I got to South Range, it was dumping. Heavy snow, 4 star snow. I don't think there is a snow lover among us who would not have their heart rate quicken, eyes widen and smile grow seeing that kind of snow. All of that was happening to me because the thoughts of having that kind of snow occur just in advance of me riding is about as exciting as it gets. I stopped into the gas station in South Range to pick up a few snacks for the ride and before hopping back into the truck to head to Toivola, I snapped this shot of it dumping. In the time it took me to walk from the inside of the gas station, take that shot quickly and get back into the truck, my hair was soaked from the snow. As I drove by the trail cam in South Range, I could barely even see it!
    That heavy snow continued until around Trimountain and then eased off a bit, but was still coming down pretty good through Painesdale and into Toivola. The weather conditions had caused me to have to drive slower and even though I was there to unload at the time we all agreed (10 am), I was the last to arrive and most everyone else had already gotten their sleds off trucks and trailers and were ready to roll. 
    The Toivola to South Range area had seen the heaviest snow fall last weekend and early in the week, with around 2 feet coming down. Much of it was fluffy lake effect, which settled to around half that depth pretty soon after falling, and even managed to cause quite the stir on the discussion board earlier in the week with some folks who had evidently never encountered how fast and dramatically some of the fluffier LES can settle. 
    Anyway, there had been fresh snow down that way all week too, so by the time we headed out to ride on Saturday morning, there was a pretty decent base down. Still considered more like mid-December snow than mid-January, but deeper than the ride the day before up this way and a lot of fun. Here is a shot of the group taking a quick break and here is a shot of what lie ahead.
    Most of the time when I ride in my neck of the woods, I am the leader. All of the time when I ride to the south of the bridge, I don't have to. Our guide for most of the day yesterday was a friend I had made from the site, Matt. He was kind enough to take us to some of his "hidden gems" and it was a blast for me. Not just because I did not have to lead, but also because in all the years I have ridden to the south of the bridge, I had never ridden in this area and one of my favorite things to do on a sled or not, is to explore and see new sights.
    At the next stopping point, Matt explained that just up ahead was a small meadow to do some carving in and he said that he wanted to take some shots of us all carving up the field, so he would lead, go into the meadow, stop on one edge of it and get setup and then we would all take turns hamming it up for the camera. The meadow was not too big, but was big enough and also pristine, with around 18" of powder just begging us to lay track in, or at least that is what I thought it was saying to us!
    I was lucky enough and got to go first. Layed it over, made a cookie or two and then flopped it over on it's side! It's still early in the season right?! Skylar was next on his "Lead Cow" Polaris RMK. You will have to visit the board to ask him what that's all about, but not only did he do a dairy cow wrap for his sled, but it also has a cow bell hanging from the rear of his seat. After Skylar came his brother Kim, then Keith, Kris, Kris again and last but not least Eric. By the time poor Matt got to put the camera back in it's bag, the field looked like a war zone! Matt, I promise, if the next time we ride together we hit a powder filled field (I know where there are a few!), you get first turns and I will take the shots!
    We finished off the day cruising the back country and having a good time. Even got to chow down on some warm snacks, courtesy of all the guys with hot-doggers uner their hood. We made it back to the Mosquito with no damaged sleds or bodies, which was a pretty good accomplishment given the early season type conditions we were in, loaded up the sleds and then went inside for dinner. Dinner turned to chatting and around 2-3 hours later I was headed back north to home base. This time in the second snow storm of the day.
    The arctic air arrived in the Keweenaw in the late afternoon and it did not take too long for the lake effect to get going again. By the time I headed home, there was already a couple of new inches having fallen and it snowed hard all the way home. The only place it seemed to lighten up a bit was as I dropped down into Houghton and Hancock and intensified again heading up to the top of Quincy Hill on the outskirts of Hancock (where the shaft house of the Quincy mine stands prominantly). 
    I arrived to find at least 5-6" of new snow having fallen since I was gone earlier in the day and it must have kept up for most of the night, as another 3 or so inches were on my truck this morning. So I had around 8-9" of snow to clear this morning and had actually not done a very comprehensive job moving snow since earlier last week, so there was quite the snow moving job waiting for me this morning. Temps were pretty cold this morning at around 2 above, so I dressed warm and then got on it pretty early this morning. Around 2 hours later, I finally had all the snow cleared from the driveway, sidewalk and my path out to the wood boiler and place I dump the ashes from the boiler. So I am good with having to do the full clearing job for another day or two, but it has been snowing all day and looks like an inch or two are already waiting to be cleared tomorrow and I suspect more will fall tonight. So before last Saturday, I had only cleared snow off the driveway 4 times for the season, but since then have had to clear snow 6 times!
    So it is finally looking more and more like winter around here. As mentioned, the snow scene is not the extreme look that we have in most seasons by now, but we have come a long way in just 8 days and the forecast looks really good for more. So things are good.
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
January 13-

    HALLELUJAH ! I think that one word pretty much sums it all up and while the picture was staged soon after the snow started yesterday evening, the look on my face and the sheer joy I felt as the flakes hit my face and melted, was pure exaltation. For nearly I week I have seen in the models the change in the pattern that would result in an extended period of lake effect snow for us and this week was a hard one to get through, with the warm temps and rain. I knew the snow with this pattern change would come, the questions were just exactly when and how much. The answer to the first question has been answered. It started in earnest around sunset yesterday. The answer to the second question may not be answered for another 10-14 days!
    Actually, it did flurry most of the day, but nothing more than a trace fell. Once the real deal started, it was game on! Nora had to run to pick something up around 5 minutes away and she said that her drive there was on dry roads and by the time she returned, the roads were already fully snow covered and getting slick. Not long after she got home, I asked if she would snap the shot I shared at the beginning of this post. It has been snowing steadily since that picture was snapped. We picked up around 6-7" overnight and have picked up another 3-4" so far and it's still coming down and really does not look to let up for any longer than maybe 5-8 hours for the next 10 days, perhaps 2 weeks or more. When I had all of my health issues, they gave me some pretty good narcotics to help with the pain and since it started snowing last night, I have felt like I have been popping those pills like Pez candy.
    I think the crummy winter up to this point has been really hard for me to handle for two reasons. First, I love snow. I mean, if I had to choose to have awesome winters every season and give up snowmobiling (but no other winter activities), or be able to snowmobile, but deal with dud winters, I would choose the former. I love snowmobiling, but I love snow more. The other reason why this dud of a winter has been so hard is that sometimes I actually feel kind of responsible for the weather. I know that my sound ridiculous and deep down I know I cannot control the weather, but I am so closely connected to it on a 24 hour basis and so many folks joke and ask me to do something about the weather, that I can actually get the feeling that I am somehow responsible for what happens. Take that thought and combine it with the fact that I have so many good friends who have been struggling so hard financially with the lack of snow causing no business and this winter was really eating at me big time. So I am happy from a selfish standpoint that my beloved snow is falling, but I am even more happy that soon the region will be filled with visitors having fun and allowing my friends to be able to make their well deserved income. Now, the only thing that would make it better is for all areas that depend so heavily on winter tourism to get enough snow for their areas to see the visitors arrive as well.
    As mentioned, this week was a difficult and stressful one to get through. There were some bright spots too. One was Wednesday, which was Huck and Millies 4th birthday! Gracie was really cute. She is big into planning out and carrying out parties. It seems like we are celebrating a birthday for one of her dollies every day. So when a real birthday came around, she was all about throwing a party. We did not get too crazy, in fact, about all we did is give them their special dinner. Burt and Baileys got spaghetti and for Huck and Millie it is salmon. So here is a shot of Gracie giving the pups their birthday dinner and here are the pups wolfing down the dinner.
    Watching the snow slooooooooly melt this week was not much fun. On Monday we actually had enough snow that if someone were desperate enough, they could have rode. I actually took a ride to see how conditions were and while they were far from being good, I was never in fear of doing any damage to the sled. By the end of the week, it was a different story. I would not have taken ANY sled out on the trails.
    There are some cool things that happen when we have a slow melt. One thing is that the snow slowly melts or even slowly creeps off the metal roofs on the buildings. While loading the wood boiler on Wednesday, I saw how the snow was creeping off the roof of the wood shed and snapped this shot of the ribbon of snow hanging off the side of the roof.
    Had there been 3 feet of snow on the ground, Thursday would have actually been a beautiful day up here. The sun was shining, the winds were light and the temp rose to 43 degrees- one degree short of tying the record high for the day that was made...last year! Anyway, as big of a bummer it was to have the warm temps and snow melting, I still live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet and there is always beauty to be seen up here, no matter what the weather is doing. So the pups and I piled into the truck to head out into the great outdoors of the Keweenaw to enjoy the day.
    Cliff Drive seems to get the call when the winter weather is giving me the blues. I think one reason is that only a portion of it gets plowed, so it gets little to no use in the winter, which makes it safe for us to walk on with the pups being off their leashes. The other reason is it is a very beautiful road to be on. The pups did not care one way or the other about the scenery, but were happy to be off leash and free to explore. I, on the other hand, took in all that I could. The majestic (for the Midwest anyway) Cliff Range off to my north and the woodland forest to my east, south and west. The Cliff Range has some pretty cool rock formations in it. I think most folks miss seeing them, because while driving in a car you are going to fast to see all the details. However, on foot, moving at a brisk 3 mph, I am able to see things like this rock outcropping. Or this small frozen waterfall. Or this larger frozen waterfall. Actually, to be totally correct, I don't think those are genuine waterfalls, rather trickles of water that grow into large icefalls over a long period of time. None the less, pretty cool to look at. On the way back, I concentrated a bit more to my south and out into the hardwood forest, rather than exclusively to the north at the Cliff Range. A pretty view itself as well. The item I saw that I thought would be of most interest to those reading this was a set of snowmobile tracks in the snow from a solo boondocker.
    We got back to the truck after completing the 3 mile round trip walk, but I did not feel quite like going home yet, so I drove up HWY 41 a little further and took the left to head down to the town of Eagle River. A little down that road, I pulled off to the side of the road and parked to explore a section of the Eagle River. There is a set of falls there, but they were pretty well frozen over. In spots, the river was still able to be seen, bubbling through pockets in the ice. I did try and climb down to see if any water could be seen cascading over the falls, but in the process, hit some ice of my own and took a tumble. It was one of those ones were your feet come all the way up to around chest level and you have enough time to think to yourself: "man, this is going to hurt when I hit the surface".  Sure enough, it hurt. Wind knocked out, shooting pain in my hip, but I got up and shook it off like a pro. I did not go any further as it looked like the last person before me might have had their own bit of bad luck and had broken through the ice into the 3-4 foot deep pool of water beneath the falls. However, I did snap this shot of the river heading down towards the town of Eagle River and it's final destiny...the big lake. 
    I had kept the pups in the truck while taking these photos, as I did not want risk them getting into trouble with the ice and river and as I hobbled back to the truck, this is the sight I was given. Poor pups, I think had I called out to them when I fell, they both would have bounded through that open window to their daddy's rescue!
    Down in town, I stopped to see what the Eagle River Falls looked like and although this winter has been lacking in snow, our temps have not been exceptionally warm, so the falls were pretty frozen and what is left of the old dam looked to be frozen in time.
    Down by the big lake, the strong winds we had on Wednesday and low snow winter had allowed the beach to be free of snow, but the constant splashing of the big lake upon the shoreline created the ice volcanoes that are ever present along the northern shoreline of the Keweenaw in winter. Out on the big lake, there was pretty much all open water, except for a few miniature icebergs. The lack of ice was of little surprise, but also a good thing as it is wide open for lake effect snow business now that the atmosphere is finally providing the ingredients needed for that lake effect. 
    I let the pups explore down by the lake some and then we all jumped into the truck to head home. As we crossed the bridge for the Eagle River up by Phoenix, the sun was getting lower in the sky and the river looked very beautiful as it ran through the Northwoods, nearly iced over for the winter.
    When Nora and Gracie got home, it was still mild out and we still had enough daylight to allow us to take to the woods to see Old Granddad one last time before the snow got too deep (hopefully!). My hip said it did not want to go, but the rest of me overruled and off we went. I am glad that the hip was overruled as it was fun to be out in the woods with my family and watch Grace enjoy being out in the woods. Her and Nora even got into a bit of a snowball fight. The pups did not show any signs of the hours worth of running around on the Cliff Drive adventure and proceeded to run around at full speed while on the walk in our woods. On the way back, we passed through a section of our neighbors land. They do not live there, but he stores next seasons firewood there to season.
    So Friday was just ugly. Even the locals that do not like the snow and cold we get were all making it a point to say how unusual this winter was and how they actually wished we would get some to brighten things up and get our local economy going at it's normal winter clip. As I went out and about on Friday, it just seemed like mid to late April, with temps again in the low 40's, light rain and drizzle and just a few inches of snow slowly melting away.
    Yesterday was a tad big better as at least the temps fell to below freezing by around midday and we did have a few flurries fall from the sky. Today as been just wonderful. I fully loved my morning walk with the pups and when I got back, Gracie was all suited up for some fun in the snow. First on the docket was to make some snow angels. Then it was time to go bust some powder. She has not asked much to ride her snowmobile, which is fine with me at this stage. I would really like to see her understand steering and throttle a bit more and there will be plenty of snowmobiling to do down the road. No, the powder busting was done on her saucer behind the ATV and bust powder she did. After that, it was time to kick the beach ball around a bit and then over to the playground for a bit and we finished up with a small walk in the woods before heading in for come hot chocolate.
    The pups had their fun too. Running around and wrestling each other to the ground, all the while the flakes kept falling to the ground. I've been upstairs writing this entry for over two hours now, so it will be interesting to go down and see how much we have picked up since.
    I guess that about covers it, except for a reminder about the Ride-in. I know just a few days ago, I was actually starting to formulate a plan on how things would be handled in the event we had to cancel, but as it stands now, it looks like we should have plenty of snow for the event. I think I will be closing down the registration for the event in around 10 days, so I am sure that there were a few that were waiting to see what the snow might be like and while I cannot promise it will be over the hood deep, it looks like we should have enough to have fun out there. 
Good night from a wonderfully snowy Keweenaw!!
-JD-
January 6-
    Well...Happy New Year everyone! Hope all of your new years celebrations were good. We had the usual huge bash up here, with me going to bed around 9 pm, Gracie a few moments later and who knows when that rebel Nora finally hit the sack. Having to start work at a little after 4 am kind of puts the kybosh on any kind of late night revelry. No worries, I have had a few rowdy new years celebrations in my past and don't miss having them now.
    Anyway, while I don't have a ton of fun snow stories to tell, I do have a few and more importantly, some reminders and announcements, so this could be a rather lengthily one. So sit back, relax grab a cool one or a hot one and enjoy.
    As I am sure you all know the new year came in pretty similar to how the old one ended. Pretty quiet in the snow department. I think it is safe to say that we are now off to probably the poorest start to snow on the ground that this area has seen in many years. I do know that back in 1994-95, things were really bad too. In fact, when I took my annual snowmobile vacation up here around the third week of January, they only had a bit more snow on the ground than we do now and it was very old and very tired snow. Up until that year, this area had lived in relative obscurity as far as the snowmobile world was concerned. Then that year was the year when the Keweenaw was the ONLY place in the Midwest (and perhaps east of the Rockies) that had enough snow to ride on. Even other areas of the UP did not have enough snow to play in. I can remember arriving up here to very dull and dingy looking snow and MOBS of snowmobilers everywhere. Prior to that season, we could come up here and ride from Monday through Thursday and see maybe a dozen or so other sledders on the trails. That year while up here, the trails were like the Chicago expressways during rush hour- bumper to bumper.
    That season ended up being a very poor one for total snow, but it did have it's bright spots. In fact, on that trip back in Jan 95, I had brought along my laptop and was checking the models and saw a storm coming for the day we were to leave, so I extended my stay and the storm hit with about 12 inches of system snow and another 4-6 inches of LES and conditions went from very poor to very good in the matter of around 24 hours. The final week of January and first few weeks of February actually saw some decent snows continue to fall and I had some friends come up in Feb and had great snow to play in, so while we wallow in this very poor start to our snow season...hope springs eternal.
    Actually even this past week had a brief bright spot of snow occur. New Years Eve and New Years day saw some LES fall as a mini Bayfield Bomber set up. I call that setup in the satellite a Bayfield Bomber as a band of LES originates at the Bayfield Peninsula and streaks across the Keweenaw. They typically hit areas from around Houghton north and have been known to produce snowfall totals measured in feet, not inches, while the sun shines in the rest of the UP, even areas as close by as Twin Lakes, as was the case with the Wednesday event. One back in 1999 dropped around 3-4 feet of snow right where we are living right now. The one on Wednesday was a mini one because the air was somewhat stable and thus the snowfall rates were only in the 1-2"/hour range vs. the 4-6"/hr rates that have occurred with the full fledged events. There was another time back in December of 2005 where back to back events hit and also combined with a couple of more "generic" LES events and lead to over 100" of snow falling in the Mohawk area in around 14 days time. Here is a picture I took back on Dec 8th of 2005 during the first one. Old Blue was pushing snow with it's bumper. Here is a picture of the mighty Ariens eating into the snow on the driveway 9 days later, here is a shot of me playing in the snow a few days later and a shot of the sled taking a break on that same day. Ahhh, the good old days!
    Anyway, my morning walk with the pups on New Years Day was a nice snowy one and it did continue to snow off and on for the remainder of the day, sometimes at a pretty good clip. We ended up with around 7-8" for the whole event New Years eve night and New Years Day. That afternoon we all went out to play and Gracie headed straight for her playground. She sure has gotten a lot of miles out of that thing!
    She did seem to be growing a little tired of climbing up to slide down the slide and asked if she could go sledding. I said we did not have a hill, to which she pointed to the small grade on our driveway. I said that that hill was not big or steep enough to sled on, but that I had an idea. So off into the shop we went and I fetched her saucer, a section of rope and attached them to the ATV and away we went! She had an absolute blast being pulled around the yard on it and while there were a few tosses and tumbles, all I ever heard out of her mouth was: "Hey Daddy...GO FASTER!". So I put her into a few whips and even some small jumps and after about 30 minutes it was time to go in for some hot chocolate.
    Then sometime around 11 pm on New Years night, I awoke to some aches from most of my body and struggled to get back to sleep. I did manage, but then woke up again a few hours later to much more discomfort and by the time my alarm was going off to wake me up to start work, I knew I was suffering from the flu. Totals body aches, a head that felt like a meat cleaver had been jammed into it, severe chills and even some lower GI fun. Wednesday is actually a total blur to me. I did not work or do much of anything but lay in bed. We did go to see the Dr just to be safe. Because of my past medical history, they want me do when ever I come down with the flu or a really bad bug. All checked out well and by Thursday I was feeling about 40% of total strength, Friday around 80% and Saturday back to my full strength. So it was a quick hitter and that could be because I got the flu shot. I know you can still get the flu even with the shot, but they say that it can also lessen the effects. Either way, it felt really good to get back to full strength so fast. None, the less, I did not do much of anything on Thursday or Friday either.
    Yesterday was a nice day with sunshine and temps approaching the freezing mark. It would have been an even nicer day had we had 3 feet of snow on the ground, but "sea la vie". The silver lining to the shallow snowpack was the fact that we could take a walk into the woods and go visit Old Granddad, give him a hug and tell him we'll see him in the spring (hopefully!). Grace seemed to not be in a big hurry to get back to the cabin as she stopped to hug just about every tree in the woods on the way back!
    Gracie also got a special Christmas present in the mail this week. It was a pair of her very own Klim snowmobile gloves. Our friends at Sled Solutions sent them her way and said that she is officially one of their sponsored riders now. How cool! Thanks to Paul and the rest of the gang at Sled Solutions for that!
    As many of you had probably noticed, the trail cam (1) had gone down on the day after Christmas. It is a bit of a drive for me to get to, but I was planning on heading down there on Wednesday, but the flu kind of go in the way. I did get down there on Saturday and thankfully the issues were minor enough that my computer abilities could remedy the outage. So it is up and running and I got to visit with Dave and Lori at the cabins a bit. I really feel for the good folks like them who are really being stung by this slow start to the winter we are in. I know that there are lot of folks just chomping at the bit to get up here to ride, so as soon as the flakes start piling up, their cabins and the rooms of other businesses up here will fill up faster than you can flip a light switch. I just hope that happens soon.
    By the way, I will make a quick comment here. While have yet to ride the trails here, I have seen many of them from the road crossings and there is snow. It's thin to be sure and I am not going to sugar coat things, but one could ride if they wanted to. Plus, you would actually have the trails practically to yourself. Just check out the two trail cams and you can see for yourself that there is snow on the trails. Thin in spots, but actually not bad in others. In fact, had I not gotten the flu, I was planning on taking a spin this past Wednesday. So just tossing that info out there that it's not like we have no snow, we are just used to having 2-3 feet on the ground and a 1-2 foot base on the trails, so 6-12" on the ground and a couple of inch base is very thin to us. From where we stand right now, if we were to get around 5-6" of denser system snow or 10-12" of the fluffy LES, our trails would probably jump into the good to very good category.
    With that said, be sure to check my forecast tomorrow morning, as there could be some weather that harms our current snowpack this week, but then some potentially good news for the weekend.
    While at Dave and Lori's yesterday, I also got to see their new "rec room". It is really something to behold. They both have to much talent, I don't even know where to start to try and explain all the cool details that are in the room, so you will just have to stop by or even better, book a cabin to check things out. 
    There has been a lot of back and forth banter on the discussion board about the new trail signing methods the state of Michigan has instituted. It seems like there are quite a few that miss their beloved signs and I can say that for those of you missing them so much, I have the answer... just head over to Dave and Lori's and hang out in their rec room and look up at the ceiling to get your fix! I got a huge laugh when I saw that, but the biggest laugh came when they showed me how they are telling folks how to find the bathroom. Hope nobody misses the direction of that last chevron!
    So, my final bit of business tonight is to remind everyone that the Ride in is coming up quickly. In fact, in just 4 weeks, it will be all over with! So if you have not yet signed up to be part, now would be an excellent time. I will need to close the registration in about 2 weeks or so, so that we can finalize the shirt order and get the final numbers to the caterer. I know with the snow being so thin there are probably folks that are waiting for it to pile up enough to insure that they can actually ride at the ride in! But just beware that we do only have a set number of spots available and that I will be closing registration down in about 2 weeks.
    Some other notes regarding the ride in, as I have posted on the pages for the event, there will be no guided backcountry rides. A few spoiled it for the rest of us by going back to where they were told not to and I do not want to be an accessory to trespassing. So, that also means that there will be no morning gatherings at the Ramada in Hancock. I will be putting up a link to download the list of locations for the poker run and folks will be able to pick up their shirts at the banquet.
   I will also be doing my guest bartending at the Bear Belly Bar at Lac La Belle on January 26th from noon to 5 pm, so if you are up here that weekend, be sure to stop in and support us all. Also, the second annual Karaoke party will take place on February 1st at the Mosquito bar in Toivola. I think things will be starting around 7 with that event and ending whenever Don and Donna kick us all out. 
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. If you don't mind, when you have the chance, pray for a full fledged Bayfield Bomber! Please!!!
:)  
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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