March 31-
    Happy Easter! It's been a pretty busy week around here. The first half of the week was spent in pretty ugly weather, with lots of clouds and temps in the 20's. Sure the snow did not melt much at all, but after nearly 6 months straight of overcast skies, the spring sun sure is a welcomed sight around here. It did finally start to pop out Wednesday afternoon and then was out for all day on both Thursday and Friday. 
    I have heard from some medical experts up here that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is actually worse in our neck of the woods than it is in Alaska where the minutes of sunshine in the winter are even shorter. The reason being that much of Alaska see clear skies more than we do, so they may get less actual minutes of sunshine, but many of the minutes they see are of pure sunshine, whereas most of our sunshine is what makes it though the clouds that are almost omni-present from October through the first half of March. 
    In any case, the cobalt blue skies and bright sunshine was a welcomed sight the second half of this week. I even had to do a little looking for my sunglasses! Even the pups seemed to enjoy the sunshine and comfortable temps. The sunshine and warm temps did start to melt and settle the snowpack around here some. Not a ton, but every little bit will help at this point. Here is a shot of Millie. I had asked her to look for the foundation so we could get going on the addition! Still about 4-5 feet on the level on the foundation, with 7-8 feet underneath where it slides off the roof.
    The sun is so strong that it will get to melting the snow long before the temps even rise above the freezing mark. That leads to icicle formation and I just had to stop to snap a picture of a line of them being formed on the edge of roof of a business I visited on Thursday.
    It has also been melting off the roadways, with all of them pretty much snow free at this point. Our driveway has even been opening up in spots. Actually, the snow mat on the driveway never got that thick this year. When we had a bit of a thaw in early January, followed by a quick cool down, there was a layer of ice that I kept scraping down to the rest of the winter. In some years, the mat on the driveway can get to be 4-5 inches thick and can make for some interesting travel when it starts softening up!
    The cabin roof never keeps much snow on it and even the shops had cleared a week or so ago, but the snow on the wood shed was still there and it was deep. I was really hoping it would go soon, so that if we got some rain, it would not get too heavy to be supported. I did build the roof structure very beefy, but sill did not want to challenge nature! That roof did not slide with the sun on Wednesday afternoon or all day Thursday. I could see that a curled over drift on the high side of the roof was keeping it from letting go. The snow was creeping off the edge and actually being stretched out, but that curled over drift was acting like a hook or anchor and not letting it go. So yesterday afternoon in the full day sun and warmth, I got out with a roof rake and started chopping away at the overhanging drift. It did not take long, as my second chop caused most of the drift to come crashing down, which then released the snow on the roof to let go and it did! Unfortunately, there was so much snow and all of it going at the same time caused such force that the wood shed could not survive without harm. 
    If you remember, it was 2 years ago that the whole thing came down due to the snow clearing in the spring and I had then built the thing with tons of reinforcement in the roof and wall structure to keep it from pancaking again. Well, the roof structure held strong, but about half of the 4x4 posts supporting the structure snapped. So the shed is actually still standing, but will need some pretty major repairs and I do not want to see it have to try and support a lot of snow. 
    I have been thinking about how best to fix it and another thought has entered into my mind and that is to ditch the whole wood burning operation all together. It was never my intention to depend on the wood boiler for heat and hot water for ever. I actually thought that in about 7-8 years, I would be swapping it out with a couple of tankless hot water heaters to heat the in-floor water as well as the domestic. This latest development has brought that idea into the picture. The boiler has already paid for itself with the less expensive heat and hot water in the past 7 years and could still fetch some pretty decent coin if I were to sell it now. Plus, with the work on the addition already creating some dust and dirt inside the existing house, I am thinking that this might be a good time to make the switch. I plan to do some research into the cost of the units as well as their estimated operating cost and see what makes the most sense. So stay tuned, there may be a 7 year old outdoor wood boiler for sale this summer!
    Much of the rest of the week was spent working on the kitchen cabinets. I was able to finish assembling all the cases yesterday afternoon and my shop sure is crowded! The assembly of the cases went very smoothly and I even had a helper with me. That was Gracie helping me by putting the pocket screws into the pocket holes and here she is putting in a layout line. Here she is standing in front of the assembled case. It is going to be a bookcase that sits on one end of the center island.
    Still lots of work to do. I need to build the face frames for all of the cases, then build the drawers, doors and put a finish on everything, but I feel as though I am at least on schedule, if not a bit ahead of the game. I figure another 20 hours or so for the face frame, door and drawer work and then 4-5 hours of work and wait to dry time for the finish work. With a little bit of luck, I will have a bit of downtime between finishing the cabinets and starting the addition.
    So I guess that about covers it for this week. Looks like we will get some later today into tonight and tomorrow. For a number of reasons, which should be pretty clear from reading this journal entry, I am hoping that it is not a lot!
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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March 24-
    Wowza, what a week. When I think back to what was happening at the beginning of the week, it seems like it was 3 weeks ago, not 6! It has been a very busy week for me in all sorts of avenues and I will cover some of them here.
    The first item this week was helping a film crew from New York City shoot some video footage on Monday. I had been contacted by them earlier in the winter and they were planning on doing a documentary on snow plow drivers and wanted to know where the place would be best for them to catch a storm and the plow operators in action. The answer to that one was pretty easy, although I also gave them some options closer to home. I did not hear from them for a while and then late last week, they contacted me to see if we had any prospects for snow. I told them yes, it looked like a big storm was coming, but that they better come for that storm, or they might have to wait until next winter to catch another.
    So, they arrived Sunday and came to meet me on Monday and did some filming of some of the scenery around here. One of the spots we went to was the lake shore. They really lucked out as all of the shore ice that had piled up this winter had already broken free and the water was almost right up to the shoreline, so they were able to get some great shots of the big lake on a day she was behaving herself. Here is the object they happened to be focusing on when I took that shot. They then headed down in the afternoon to set up for the snow plow shooting. Their luck continued as the storm hit on cue and with the promised dramatic effects and they e mailed me to say they got exactly what they were hoping to.
    So, the final days of astronomical winter went out with a bang around here. The north end (including us) was spared the brunt of the storm and "only" ended up with a foot of new snow, but there were areas not too far away that saw double that snow or even a bit more than double that amount. While I have not reached the point where I am totally sick of the snow, I have reached the point where I am content to not get buried by it and believe I have reached the point where I am content if we do not see much more new snow.
    Again, I will not belly ache, at least out loud, if we were to get hit hard with a big storm, but it has been a great second half of the season and more than made up for the poor start and I do have some building awaiting me for when the snow does finally melt, so there is certainly an up side for me to get on with spring and the meltdown.
    I actually did not take too many pictures of the storm. It hit us hardest on Tuesday and then tapered off for Wednesday and Thursday. On Monday evening, our internet service went out (not storm related) and in the middle of the night I went to check if it was still out and was, which got me all worried about how I was going to do my work and kept me up for the night, so Monday night I ended up about 3 1/2 hours short of sleep and then I woke up early to head out to get to a place with internet service so I could do my critical morning work duties. My HUGE thanks to the good folks at the AmericInn in Calumet for letting me hang out in their lobby at 4:30 in the morning to free load on their WiFi to get my work done. I was able to get my critical work done and then spoke with Nora around 7 and she said our internet was back up and running, so I came home and was able to resume the rest of my work duties.
    The lost sleep really hit me hard on Tuesday and even Wednesday. Both days were a bit of a blur, especially Tuesday. The only shot I took of the actual storm was the front of the cabin Tuesday morning when I got back home from the AmericInn. On Wednesday afternoon, I paid my daily visit to the post office and on my way home stopped to take a picture of this snow pile in someone's yard with the truck in front to lend some perspective as to how big it is. I think they have their own front end loader and can make the pile that big.
    Speaking of big piles of snow, I also went by the Laurium Glacier to see how it was doing and to take a picture of it to use in the annual meltdown contest that will start tomorrow at 9 am on the discussion board. As I was taking the picture, it almost seemed as though it was a tidal wave that was coming towards me. It's big this year. Not sure if it's as big as I have ever seen it, but it would rank up there with one of the bigger ones. Probably 20 feet deep. Be sure to cast your guess on the board starting tomorrow at 9 am.
    The Allouez Township Glacier is also no slouch this year. Of course that is not a naturally occurring pile of snow, but is created largely by the snow sliding off the shop roof- which is completely clear at this point. The roof of the wood shed has yet to clear since the middle of January and I am very glad that I build it to never have to be shoveled off. I guess I should say RE-built it! Anyway, I suppose the first warm day we have will likely set that snow to sliding. As mentioned, the shop has cleared, except for where it piles up on the side where the lean-to is. Remember a few weeks back when Lenny and Brad came up with that blue monster of a snow thrower from Yamaha and cleared a bunch of the snow away from the edge of the lean to? One would never know that even occurred the way things look now.
    Wednesday afternoon I did get out with Brian and Dave for a ride on the sleds. The trails were flat as pool tables and not a sled to be seen. The woods were nice too, although after about my 5th stuck, I really had wished I brought the long track. My arms were sore until Saturday morning from digging, pulling or rolling out of stucks! It was amazing how much snow was out there. Very easy to sink up to your armpits, and probably beyond if you tried hard enough. What we like to call "Ankle Deep Snow...if you go in head first"!
    We did get a quick peak of sun late this week too. It did not last long, but was a welcomed sight and is something I am looking forward to as spring starts to slowly creep into the picture. Gracie even decided it would be a good idea for Millie and Huck to wear her sunglasses.
    Then on Saturday, the start of the remodeling project began (the start for me at least). My buddy Jeff arrived with a "Kitchen in a Truck". That picture was taken after we had already unloaded around 25% of the cabinet pieces. We then spent about an hour unloading and sorting all the pieces and then commenced on the "Cabinet Clinic". 
    Jeff is the friend that built and then came up and assembled our current kitchen in the cabin and volunteered his services again for the remodel project. This time around it is on a much grander and complex scale. I believe there are something like 20+ cabinets involved and nearly each one is a little different in some regard.
    So after getting all the pieces unloaded and sorted, we put a few of them together so that he could school me on some of the tricks of the trade. Especially on the hardware I wanted to use as I have never installed it before and rather than spend the hours it would take for me to even get a rough understanding of how to do it, I was able to learn from a pro in around 15 minutes. Here is a shot of Jeff putting together the corner cabinet what will house the lazy Susan.
    We put together two others and also put in some of the drawer glides and hinges. So I still have to assemble the remaining cases and then make and attach all the face frames and then build, assemble and attach all the doors and drawers. I have my work cut out for me, but have a wealth of new found knowledge thanks to Jeff and am also WAY, WAY, WAY ahead of the ball game having all the case pieces already cut up, set up with pocket holes for assembly and bored for hardware and/or shelves. I am pretty psyched to spend hours in the shop each day doing the work and making the new kitchen some to life. Thanks a ton Jeff!
    It was not all work though as we did get out today for a ride on the sleds. I rode the M and Jeff road the highcountry. We rode mostly the bush and had a good time, although I felt bad as conditions could have been better. We had some freezing drizzle fall Friday and again today, so there was a crust on the top of the snow, which all but eliminated the ability to do any real carving. Plus the freezing drizzle made for some stops to clean or swap goggles.
    We did make it to Lac La Belle in time to have a nice relaxing lunch. However, just before getting to LLB, I heard a loud bang come from inside the engine compartment and it turned out that the bolt holding my secondary on had backed out. The secondary was still on, but the belt was in the process of shredding. We could not get the bolt back in, not sure if the threads on the end of the jackshaft were stripped or what, so Nora had to come and rescue me...once again! and Jeff rode back by himself from LLB.
    So I guess that about covers it. Hard to believe next Sunday will be Easter and the final day of March already. Not much at all in the way of new snow for these parts or all of the northern Midwest for that matter, but no real melting either. So this week and next weekend will still be great for getting out and riding. I know on Thursday the trail (which is the main trail) not far from me saw no sleds on it for over an hour as it has been freshly groomed when I went by it on my way to town to pick up some things and was still untouched over an hour later. Not too many times when you can ride on trails like that for so long and have them all to yourself!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 17-
    Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I am sure that most of the actual celebrating took place yesterday and most are feeling the effects of it today, but thought I would send out the greetings anyway. I spent most of the morning and the first part of the afternoon feeling as though I had whooped it up, but did not. So not sure what that was all about. We did get outside for some exercise after lunch and that seemed to help a lot, so I am writing this with a better state of being that I had this morning- which is very good for us all!
    Boy, in sharp contrast to last year when we were in day 2 of a 6 day run of temps in the 70's (totally unheard of in this neck of the woods at this time of the year), things since my return home have been very winter-like. The only differences is in between storms, we do get some sunshine and the strong March sun really settles the new snow as well as clears the roads up very quickly. Otherwise it has been snow, snow and more snow. We awoke to a fresh 6 or so inches of snow Monday morning and schools were closed due to the weather. I spent most of the morning moving the snow around and then awoke Tuesday to a very similar situation. Schools were in session, but still plenty of new snow to plow. It snowed at a healthy clip for most of Tuesday and when Nora got home from school, there was already around 6-8" of fresh snow on the driveway and Nora had thought something bad had happened to me and I did not move snow in the morning! So, the only difference for Wednesday morning was that it had pretty much stopped snowing, but there was another healthy dose of snow to have to move. 
    I sure was glad that I did my regular job of moving snow on Monday, as I actually had thoughts of just moving the snow out of the way and not pushing it into piles and ramping it to make room for more. Had I done that, I sure would have boxed myself into a corner for Tuesday and Wednesdays snow moving as well as any that is still in the pipeline the rest of this season. At times, the storm earlier this week seemed to be a mini version of the big April storm we had in '07, in that it just kept coming and coming and surpassed the forecasts each day that it fell. The April '07 storm brought 40-65"+ snows in 3-4 days and the one early this past week brought me around 20" of fresh, but was still of the "energizer bunny" type!
    Typically when we get to mid March, the snows start to taper off and we go into meltdown mode. Some years are a full blown meltdown, like last year, but more often it is a gradual meltdown. So with all the new snow falling and the winter since early January being very snowy, most of the locals have passed the tipping point and are sick of seeing it snow and want sunshine and warmer temps to come and stay. I would not say I am sick of it yet, but the moving around of the snow has gotten to be a bit old and I sure do enjoy the days with sunshine a lot! The pups just seem to make the most of what ever happens. Here they are, a couple of "powder hounds" trenching through the snow Tuesday afternoon. Keep in mind that just 36 hours before that picture was taken, they could pretty much walk around on the set up 3 feet of snow we had on the ground without sinking in at all.
    The banks on the side of my driveway are big, above the cutter bars in most cases and in some spots are around 5-6 feet high. They have almost reached the point where I need to shoot the snow across to the other side of the driveway because the snow thrower cannot shoot the snow high enough to toss it over the near side bank. The pile along side the house is even taller. Of course this is where the snow drops off the roof, so there is a lot more there, but I have to shoot the snow pretty much straight ahead and not off to the side, as I did here on Wednesday. Any more significant snow and I may have to give up on trying to keep that walkway clear for the rest of this season, which would mean I might not be able to get to the snow station to clear it off.
    In a past entry, I showed how the view out the windows were pretty much all snow, with only the very top affording a look into the world beyond the snow piles. With the snow this week, there is no more daylight- just snow as far as you can look up. On the one side I am not keeping clear, the snow was actually starting to pile up against the window. I was worried about that and the potential for water to seep into the walls, but the pups ran through there and packed it down some and it also settled some, so no worries for now.
    The big piles of snow around here are completely dwarfing Grace. I can only imagine how big they must seem to her and I suppose in 20 years she will be saying what lots of adults say: "Boy, we just don't get the snow and snow piles we used to have when I was a kid." !
    She has outsmarted the snow banks though. We acquired a pair of snow shoes for her from some friends and on Thursday we tried them out on her. She took to them like a fish to water and in no time was cruising around all over the place, even climbing the big piles and blazing a trail to her playground. She asked me for a shovel so that she could dig it out and play on it! We passed on that idea, but it sure would have worn her out trying!
    This afternoon Nora and I donned our snow shoes and joined Grace on a walk through the woods. We figured "Old Granddad" was pretty lonely, so we paid him a visit. It was fun to be walking around the woods with so much snow on the ground. In many cases, it is hard to tell exactly how deep it is, as it is all uniform, but then you come upon a stump which has around 3 feet of snow piled on top of it and it rings home how much snow is down. It was also a perfect day to be out there, with temps in the low 20's and cobalt blue skies. I know winters like this and even days like this will forever be etched into my memory and I hope they will be for Grace too. We made it back to the cabin and I snapped a shot of Nora and Gracie before they climbed down from the untouched snow onto the cleared driveway.
    It looks like another storm is in the offing for us starting later Monday and continuing into Monday night, with 3-6" of system snow and then lake snows to take over for Tuesday through early Thursday morning, with at least another 3-6" to fall, if not significantly more. The rest of the week looks pretty quiet, but I think I am going to try hard to get out Tuesday or Wednesday to ride in some powder. We will be for sure riding into the first week or two of April, maybe longer- unless a major meltdown occurs. By mid-April, the weather typically turns decidedly warmer and the snows tend to go quickly no matter how much is down. That's will be fine with me as I really want to get the addition shelled in before the black fly season kicks in.
    The addition work has already been put into motion though. I have finished getting the shop set up to build the kitchen cabinets, I have been to the lumber yard to check in on a timeline to get the roof trusses and windows/doors ordered in time to get things shelled in when I hope to. 
    The biggest development is that the friend that built and installed the kitchen cabinets for our current kitchen has been busy the past few weeks helping me with the final drafting work for the kitchen remodel and will be cutting up all the casework pieces on his CNC machine in N. IL this week and then driving up here with all of those pieces late this week. We will then put a few cabinets together and fit some mock up doors and drawers. I will be using some drawer slides and door hinges that I have never used before and it will be a huge help to have a pro help me learn the tricks. It is something that I could learn on my own, but might take a few days or more to finally get it right and with his knowledge and experience, should be able to get me "schooled" on things in a few hours. We then plan to spend the rest of the time playing in the snow on the sleds!
    It's been fun to be in the woodshop this past week and I am really excited to be getting this tutoring by a pro and advance my skill sets to a higher level. One day I would love to take a class in how to properly setup, maintain and use hand tools like hand planes, saws, chisels. I guess for now I will stick with the power tools.
    Tomorrow is Nora's birthday, but we decided that since it was a work day for all of us, we would just go ahead and celebrate it today. That was just fine with Gracie. She is always looking for a reason to have a party and has several a week for her Barbies. So she broke out the party hats and got things going. Then during the present opening, she wanted "Tinker Bell" to be able to open one of the presents...because it was her birthday too!
    This morning when we were making out the cards, I worked with Grace to help her sign her name to the card and address the envelope she gave Nora and was blown away by how well she did. The only help I gave her was to show her on a separate sheet of paper how to draw the different elements of each letter. She drew her own letters all by herself. I don't know exactly when kids start writing the alphabet, but probably not at 3 1/2 years old! The cake baking did not go as well. Actually the cakes turned out great, but I did not realize that you need to take them out of the baking pans right away to cool and left them in there. That resulted in the near complete disintegration of each half of the cake as they came out of the pans. It did not stop Gracie and I from enjoying some of the cake before it went into the trash and we picked up one from the bakery! 
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. Just one quick note. I few entries back I mentioned how we have a bunch of extra ride-in shirts left over, due to a mix up in the order. I am going to be selling them with all proceeds to go towards next years fund raising. If you would like one, you can send a check for $18 (which includes shipping) for each shirt you want. The check can be made out to "John Dee's Snowfest" and send it to me at: PO Box 182, Mohawk, MI 49950. Or, hopefully in a few days I will be setting up an ordering page and you can use paypal or a credit card through paypal to order up a shirt(s). The shirts are a Kiwi Green and we have sized Large, XL and 2XL available.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 12-
    Thank you for being patient with me. The entry covering the Togwotee trip is always a big one and involves lots of picture arranging and the whole process usually takes twice the 2-3 hours that a typical journal takes to write. So I did not want to force the issue yesterday and put out a piece of junk. This entry may still end up being a piece of junk, but at least it will be all my fault and not the fault of time or tiredness.
    My plans were to arrive home Saturday night around 9:30, but some snow and dense fog cancelled that flight, so I got to spend Saturday night in dear old Chicago. Des Plains would be more correct, but at any rate, mine was not the only flight that day to be cancelled. The afternoon flight was also cancelled, so there were a bunch of Keweenawites stuck in the windy city trying to get home ASAP. Fortunately I got hooked up with an acquaintance from up this way and we pooled our resources and knowledge (mostly his!) and got on a flight to Green Bay Sunday afternoon, rented a car and got back home around 7:30 on Sunday. So the travel issues did away with the ability to get caught up on Sunday and write on Monday.
    I have, for the most part, gotten caught up. Although mother nature has been making getting caught up more difficult. We are in the midst of a multi-day snow event. The snows started up late Sunday night and have fallen pretty much non stop since and I am closing in on 20" new since then. Very pretty to look at and all but assures us of great trail riding and even decent boondocking through the rest of this month and probably into early April at least. On the down side, I have been pretty busy moving it around. I am just grateful that this weather did not happen while I was gone. It was enough for Nora to have to man the fort all on her own, without having to bother with moving snow.
    The flight out went perfectly and I arrived in Jackson around midday on the 2nd and then rode the courtesy van up to the lodge. There was a group of around 18 that were also being brought up in the three vans brought down from the lodge to get us all and they wanted to stop at a place just north of the airport to have a bite to eat. I knew the rest of my group, and thus my sleds and gear, were not going to be arriving until the evening, so I opted to have lunch with the rest of them. A neat place, just above the Snake River with a magnificent view of the Tetons. Once at the lodge, I got checked in and then went over to the bar to see if I could find anyone I knew there and immediately ran into "Lefty" our guide for the week. He has been guiding our group for many years now and has gotten to be good friends with us all too. He has even paid a visit to the Keweenaw, although I missed him as I was being shuttled to the Mayo for my second open heart surgery back in May of '11.
    Anyway, Lefty and I got caught up and had some dinner and I went to bed early, so I could get up, get my work done and be ready to ride by the morning. There hadn't been much meaningful snow that had fallen in the week or so prior to our arrival, but that did not have much of an impact on us. Lefty knows we enjoy riding in the thick trees as much as anywhere else, so that is where we started first. We then got down into a section of the Blackrock basin, where we did a little bit of climbing and then turning out. That was Matt in those two shots and here is Mike. He joined our out west group last season and has been a welcome addition in both entertainment (great rider) and helping guys like me get unstuck!
    Here is a shot of Mike dropping in and then side hilling out of a nice little bowl. For the first time in probably 4-5 years, I was finally feeling my oats on this trip. The old ticker was running fine and I had not injured myself prior to the trip, so was good to go. It was a nice feeling to finally be able to go at it to the degree I felt I wanted to, with no health issues holding me back. So after watching the guys play around in the bowl, I decided to attack a section that had a nice sized roll of powder snow at the bottom and then some nice regular powder the rest of the way up. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so I will let this "filmstrip" display of 5 shots tell it's side of the story. Basically, as was illustrated by the shots, I had a little problem with over-rotating. I did my best to stay with it to ride it out, but those guys in the DVD's that do the whip turns sure make it look easy. Plus, my sled was not whipping around as much as it was just flipping over on top of me. So I hit the ejection button and got away from the sled. It did land completely upside down and had its throttle pinned open, but I had remembered a story Lefty told me of a guy in a similar situation that lost his arm because as he was digging out to get the sled shut down, it rolled over, he put his arm out to stop it and got it shredded by the track. So I cautiously tried to get to the kill switch, but ended up waiting for Lefty to arrive, so I could hold the sled from rolling further as he dug for the throttle block. A tether would have not allowed that problem to even happen, but quite frankly, I am pretty much slipping away from the riding style that would really necessitate a tether. The bottom line is I was just fine, the sled just fine and Lefty got a quick scare when he saw the throttle was pinned with the sled upside down.
    The rest of the first day went pretty much without incident. We played in the bowls a bit more and then headed for the trees and the untouched powder they held. That night, it snowed, with the lodge picking up around 6" of fresh. For those that have not been to Togwotee, it sits right in the mountains, at "elevation", but most of the riding is done in terrain higher than the lodge. So what ever the lodge gets, you can pretty much double and in some cases triple that amount to come up with the fresh snow "up top". We found that 12" of fresh pretty quickly Monday morning and did not waste too much time putting in some tracks. There was some more small hill climbing, with the token wheelie at the top as Tim demonstrates here and Matt here. Within those little thinned out sections of hillside, there are also some knobs that are fun to catch a little air off of, which Matt did, Dave did (on the Crossfire High Country) and Tim did. Much of the rest of rest of day 2 was spent in and out of the trees and pecking at some of the fresh powder.
    No new fresh snow on day three, but we still found plenty of untracked snow to play in. It was not all untracked all day, as we sometimes had to ride the more popular back country routes for a while, but Lefty seems to know a ton of unconventional short cuts and knows the ability of each rider in our group and is not afraid to take us just about anywhere. We did find a few small meadows to play in and Tim put on a little carving clinic. He's still pretty young and in great shape and is like the energizer bunny. Always going. One or two doughnuts are not enough for him. He just keeps going and going, until there is no more snow left to carve up. Oh, and by the way, he did pull off that last picture and did not stay flopped on his side. Those RMK pros are pretty sweet rides.
    Speaking of rides, we did bring both my M and the crossfire high country out for the trip. The cross fire was as a back up, but proved to be quite a fun sled out there. Dave rode it for 2-3 days and I rode it for the final two days (as my M had some issues with the instrument display and running in stutter mode) and it was able to keep up with the longer tracked sleds pretty well. You did have to stay on the throttle more and it like to tail walk and dance around a bit more that my M, but was still a solid contender. I did also love the EZ Ryde in the M. It really kept the sled from wheeling and also seemed to allow it to both climb and float better. Any stucks it had were because of the nut behind the handlebars, not the sled. I am starting to think that the ultimate UP boondocking sled (at least as far as Arctic Cat is concerned) is the Crossfire High Country, with the a-arms narrowed up to the M's 38" stance with an EZ Ryde under it. That setup would also hold it's own very well in the mountains out west, only struggling in the deepest and steepest stuff.
    Day four gave us some fresh snow to play in. Around 4-5" at the lodge equated to 8-12" up top. We spent a little less time in the trees that day and a bit more time in the open. That allowed for some side hilling and even a "Superman" from Matt. There was one "oops" in the group and it came from Lefty. We were dropping into a little meadow through some very tight trees and his right a-arm nipped a tree. Not hard, but enough to push the a-arm into the coil-over spring. However, a little Cowboy and Yooper thinking took place and a fix was put into motion. After a half dozen or so reverses, the a-arm was pulled back enough so that it was not hitting the spring and we were good to go, but not before a little warming up around a small campfire.
    Back to playing, the was some more small hill climbing and some wheelies to finish up the climb. Here is Dave showing how its done on the high country and then how its not suppose to be done. Redeaming himself off a little drop, here is Dave coming right at you. Here is Lefty proving that one-armed Mexicans really can fly! (Don't worry, he makes similar jokes about himself all the time, so no disrespect was meant, just the opposite actually). Before we could finish off day 4, we had a funny thing happen. We were again riding through the trees, taking one of Lefty's short cuts and when we popped out into the meadow, we were all met with this scene. Even though his rip-chord hand for the avy pack was in the secure position, a tree branch grabbed it hard enough to deploy the bags. There were some jokes made and Lefty claimed that it was actually the timer going off to tell him that his teriyaki chicken cooking in his hotdogger was done. After having lunch and re-packing the avy bag, we headed off to finish up the day, which was a mix of thick trees, meadows and some thinned out tree climbing
    After arriving safe and sound back at the lodge and gassing up the sled, I came across Lefty's personal sled, all decked out in Keweenaw Kamo.
    Day 5 also started out well, the group was starting to show the effects of the past 4 days or hard riding, but we still pressed on. The plan was to head out to a spot called Carmichael. It is a pretty good haul from the lodge, but is also a very expansive play area. We were to meet up with another group of riders with another guide Nate. Those riders consisted of some of my riding buddies that I hook up with back here in the UP, like Skylar and Kris. We took a somewhat indirect way of getting there for about half the trip and then Dave developed an issue with a leak in the break line of his personal sled and Lefty had an issue with his recoil, so they spit off and headed back to the lodge and Lefty gave us directions on how to make it the rest of the way to Carmichael. We got there and were the first ones there. Even though I know some riders were there the day before, the combination of some fresh snow and the size of the area allowed us to play in untracked snow just about anywhere we went. Matt and I broke off from the main group to do some exploring and the flat light got the best of Matt and put him in the bottom of a little ravine, buried up to his windshield. Here is a shot showing the terrain he was in when he got stuck and the depth of the powder in that spot. 
    It did not take him too long to get out of that spot and we did a bit more cruising around through the powder and worked our way back to see if the rest of the group had arrived. They did, so I hooked up with Kris and Skylar and we did some playing around with others from the group. A large bonfire was started and as the wood burned down some to coals, the hot dogs were broken out and we had lunch. Not long after lunch, Nate's group was headed back to the lodge, but not before Kris could put in a high-hole.
    By day 6 we were all pretty wooped. I generally do not even put 2 days of riding back to back in the winter, let alone 6 of pretty hard core riding, so myself and the others were pretty worn out, but still did not want to pass on the final day of riding, especially since it started to snow early in the morning and really came down at times through the rest of the morning and early afternoon. At one point, in some spots, were were breaking through a foot of new snow in areas I know had been ridden just the day before as they are very popular spots. The mission for day 6 was to head out to Brooks Lake Lodge, have lunch and then head back. Of course it was not going to be a simple trail ride there and back, Lefty did his best to keep us off the beaten path and was very successful. To get there, you do have to go through an area called Squaw Basin. It is a large, nearly treeless, area that also has some hills and gullies in it. Matt and I teamed up to take a picture of him pulling a wheelie with a peak near Sublette Pass providing the background. It almost looks as though Matt is trying to wheelie over the peak. After taking that shot, I sat and looked at all the beautiful mountains surrounding me and decided to take a series of shots and turn it into a panorama.
    We made it over Sublette Pass, and onto Brooks in decent time, enjoyed a relaxing and tasty lunch and hung out for a little bit before getting back on the sleds. Brooks Lake Lodge and it's complex of cabins is nothing short of spectacular (and no, I did not get a free lunch to say that!). It is something straight out of the old west and reminds me a lot of the homestead used in the movie "A River Runs Though It. The inside has several wood burning fireplaces, such as this one in the main lobby. Here is the one in the main dinning room, with Matt and Dave sitting at our table. As magnificent as the lodge is, the setting it sits in is even more impressive. Majestic mountains nearly surround the compound and this is one shot taken from the window of the lodges main lobby and here is another, looking a bit more to the south. Snow squalls came and went as we were in the lodge and we had to dust off a fresh inch or two of snow from the sleds and then headed back in a not-so-direct manner to the lodge.
    So as Timmy side hills off into the sunset, so does another entry for our western trip. Another awesome trip, filled with tons of fun and great hosting by the folks at Togwotee. I know I say this every year, but if you have not been yet, you must really try hard to go. It is an experience you will keep with you for the rest of your life. I have been given the chance to be put up at other places out west and for now have graciously turned them down because in my opinion, you can do no better than Togwotee, be it your first trip or in my case, 8th.
    It being Tuesday already, I will forgo much of what is going on here and save it for the Sunday entry next week, but we are still chest deep in winter up here and the forecast only looks to keep it snowing off and on for the next week to ten days. 
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
March 11-
    I haven't forgotten about you all, but it has been a very busy day getting caught up. I have finally gotten on top of things, but it's too late to write the annual Togwotee trip entry tonight, so will write tomorrow.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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