March 30-
    Twas the night before Christmas... Well, I guess it's not the night before Christmas, but it sure feels like it to me! This past week has gone by so sloooooooow and now here I am, less than 24 hours away from the tractors arrival! I got a note from Land O' Lakes Recreation that the tractor and implements are all loaded up and ready to head north. It looks like it might even be able to get some use this week as well.
    This past week was a pretty relaxing one for me. My back continues to heal nicely and I did do a little farting around in the woodshop and some other small tasks, but quite honestly, I pretty much relaxed and took it easy. At first it was a little hard for me, as I am not too good at staying still for too long, but then as the week wore on, it got easier to just sit in a comfy chair, have a radio going softly in the background and read some magazines.
    I am one of those persons that- for the most part, feels like everything happens for a reason. I think me breaking my back happened so that I could have this bit of down-time forced upon me. I know I have been going full speed ahead for what seems like a few years now and I knew I really need to get back into the "smell the roses" mode, it just seemed like I had too much stuff to do! So with my back sidelining me from doing much physical activity, I was initially forced to relax and then, by the end of this week, willingly went along with the program. I must admit, it was pretty nice to not stop and think...OK, what's next to do...Takes a lot of stress off.
    I am also not afraid of becoming an addict to just lounging around. All that has happened in my life (cheating death 6 times so far), has turned me into one that really likes to go out and grab life by the horns and hang on for the ride, but I also believe that this sabbatical from going full speed ahead has helped to inject the importance of rest and relaxation as well. So I am returning to a bit of a balance. Full speed ahead at times and then kick back and do next to nothing at other times.
    Winter is still having a hard time going away. I can say that as I type, my thermometer reads 51.6 and we have some beautiful sunshine. Yesterday we got into the upper 30's with the same beautiful sunshine. However, earlier in the week, we had a storm bring us around 5-7" of snow. It was funny, I talked to a lot of locals just after the snow and many of them agreed that it was a very pretty snow. It was wet enough to stick to many things, yet light enough that it did not cause major issues moving around.
    I did move the snow with the ATV Friday around midday, but did so with temps in the upper 20's and sunshine. It was amazing how much nicer it is to move snow in conditions like that, rather than in the below zero temps and strong winds like we had for many of the snow clearing events this winter. I was thinking that if the weather was always that nice when I was clearing it, I would probably not even need the tractor. Whoa...perish the thought! Actually, as I was sitting on the ATV and moving snow and not freezing, I was thinking to myself how this would become the new norm. Sitting in a heated cab, not having the wind bite into my skin or whip the snow back into my face, and doing in the clearing in comfort. I was also thinking while on the ATV Friday that it would probably be my last time in a while that I would be using the ATV to move snow. 
    My back does not really permit me to use the snow thrower to cut back the banks, and with the tractor/blower coming tomorrow, I figured that Nora did not need to get out and cut them back either. So I just left them there. It did not look as neat and it did narrow up the driveway a bit, but it will give me something to do with the tractor tomorrow! In some spots, the banks have gotten very big. Too big to even shoot the snow over with the snow thrower. I have to either point the shoot ahead, or to the other side of the driveway. Here is a shot of Huckie jumping off one.
    It seems like the pups are enjoying the warmer weather. They LOVE to ride in the truck and also love to have a window rolled down enough so that they can stick their heads out. They do seem to understand that when it is too cold out, the window has to stay up. Sometimes I even say that to them when we are in the truck in winter it is too cold. However, the past few days I have been able to roll down the windows and they are happy pups. I can't wait for it to be warm enough to give the truck a good cleaning and detailing. The poor thing is just a mess!
    So with the warmer temps, Nora, Gracie and I strapped on the snow shoes and headed out to see how Old Granddad survived the winter. I always get a little anxious heading out after we have not been back to see it in several months, but upon arrival, we saw he had survived the winter just fine.
    Its kind of weird walking out in the woods with the snow shoes on. They really keep us from sinking in too far and while the snow was pretty set up that even the pups did not sink in too far, it is had to get the idea that you are walking on 50" of snow. The only thing that gives any clue at all is the fact that there are no blow downs anywhere to be seen. They are all buried in the snow!
    There were some cool things to see in the woods as well. Here is the bottom portion of an old white pine that was still draped in a frosting of 4 feet of snow. Here is a look from inside, looking up at all the old branches supporting the snow. While the amount of snow piled on that old, dead tree may have seemed pretty amazing, the real testament to how much snow we get up here is when you see something like this. That was 3-4 feet that had piled up on the top of a single white birch trunk. Getting back to the homestead, we came upon the poor wood shed from the back side, with all the snow piled up from clearing it off 3 times this winter.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. Just a heads up, the site will slowly be creeping into summer mode in the coming weeks/months. I plan to continue the forecast graphics for the week ahead, but will likely drop the text. Depending on the snow potential for next week and beyond will determine if I continue the graphics beyond this coming Friday the 4th. The bottom line is there is still TONS of snow up here and while grooming will stop tomorrow, the trails will still have plenty of snow to ride for the next 2 weeks, maybe more, the bush even longer. I know that trails up this way that run on state owned land are legal to ride on beyond tomorrow, but do not have a definitive answer for all the others. 
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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March 23-
    Welcome to the dead of winter! Cripes! March 23rd and we have over 4 feet of snow on the ground, our early morning low was 3 below zero and the temp right now is 18. At least the suns rays are getting pretty strong and it is staying light until past 8 pm, but that is about all we have to go on right now as far as spring goes. It really is amazing how winter just does not want to loosen its grip on us, even after the death grip it had on us all winter.
    Before I forget with all of my "winter thoughts", I will be starting the Laurium Glacier meltdown contest tomorrow on the discussion board. I will make an official thread at around 8 am eastern time and will keep the guessing open for a week or so. This past week I did drive by the Laurium Glacier and snapped a few shots of it. I have to say that in all the years I have been keeping an eye on it, this is the biggest I have ever seen it. Even the plow banks on the side of the highway were bigger than I have ever seen. So big, that in order to be able to get a good look at the glacier, I had to climb into the bed of my truck. 
    The weather in April and May are probably the most important factor in the date of it melting, as I have seen some pretty big ones go fast and some smaller ones hang around long, but we sure are going to have to have a much warmer than average April and early May to melt it off by the average date, which seems to fall somewhere in the 2nd to 3rd week of April. In any case, here she is, in all her glory.
    It was another pretty slow week for me, although my back continues to get better. I am getting through most of the day without any pain pills. Only the mornings when I first wake up does it hurt enough to warrant taking a pill. I also started physical therapy this week. It looks like that will be more about working our any knots in my back as gently as possible, rather than any hard physical exercise. I guess the best thing is to just let the back heal. So I may actually enjoy going to PT this time around!
    Probably the biggest and most exciting thing for me this week was to travel down to Land O' Lakes WI and visit the good folks at Land O' Lakes Recreation and have a closer look at the tractors. I still have the one that was dropped off for me sitting in the shop, but I was pretty certain that I wanted to get a tractor with a cab and also wanted to check out some different sizes. So here I am in the 36hp cabbed model. The whole family traveled with me and so Gracie joined me in the cab to check things out. I am sure she will be riding along with me quite a bit when I move snow. The cab is heated and air conditioned and also is wired for a radio, all that needs to be done is to have a radio installed. Here we are in our pre-flight check before taking it for a spin around the parking lot.
    We also looked at the 28 hp model, which probably would have been enough for my needs, but I had been given the same advice from just about everyone I spoke with about tractors and that was like building a garage, figure out what is the biggest you will need and then double it! So we opted for the 36 hp model, with the cab, hydrostatic transmission. It will also come with a quick change front loader, snow thrower, forks and I also plan to get a backhoe. So with the front loader and backhoe, it will look like this and with the blower, it will look like this. To switch from the loader to the blower, it takes less than 5 minutes and is not done with any special tools. Just pull/re-attach some pins as well as the quick connect hydrolic lines.
    If all goes as currently planned, it should be arriving in a week or so. Too late to handle all that was thrown at us this winter (my fault), but perhaps not too late to clean up some spring snow and certainly not too late to move some piles of snow around to help keep flooding from being an issue. All I know is that moving snow will be going from something that just has to be done, to something that will be a ton of fun to do! My huge thanks to Land O' Lakes Recreation for letting me demo the tractor this winter as well as for working with me so hard to get me the tractor of my dreams!
    Even with temps so cold today, the sun was out (was, it is now cloudy and flurrying!) and that made for a nice enough day to take a little walk. This winter has been so harsh that very little in the way of walking has been done since around Thanksgiving. I know I have put on about 7-8 pounds because of that and I really feel sorry for the pups. They do not complain at all, but I know how much they love the walks and we have just not done much at all for the past 4 months! 
    So the family piled into the vehicle and drove to Cliff Drive to take a little walk. I am not sure how, but the pups just knew that we were not going for just a car ride and were very excited. It was great to let them out and watch them bound out of the vehicle and romp around in the snow. I was actually surprised that they were able to go as hard as they did for as long as they did, but they did it! Of course both are now sound asleep and probably will be for the rest of the day!
    It was also nice to be outside and taking in the fresh air. Poor Gracie has been battling a cold for a week or two and was a little run down, so we did not stay out long, but enough to get some vitamin D and take in some scenery along the Cliff Range.
    With all the cold and snow we have had this winter and this month, the snowmobile trails are still in mid-season form. Anyone wanting to come up and ride them next weekend should find them in excellent condition. I know that they are still grooming them and will be doing so up until the last day they can- March 31. Here is a shot of of the main trail just south of Phoenix, complete with a sledder!
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. I have a pretty busy week with PT, a doctors visit and some other stuff, but I do have some plans to get back into the shop and start the process going to finish off what little is left to do on the addition. Much of it does not involve any heavy lifting, so I will be able to get it done while I am still healing. That and maybe another walk or two with the pups, as well as anxiously awaiting the tractor is what I will be up to!
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
March 16-
    Well, if you were expecting this entry to be really short and limited with pictures, you are in luck!  Har, har. Truth is, it was a pretty uneventful week for me. Lots of laying low and doing nothing. I did go to see my primary care doctor, just to sort of "hand him the ball" with regards to my back. He wrote me another script for some pain pills and also filled my request to start up with physical therapy. 
    My back has slowly been getting better and better every day. The day to day improvements are not large, but when I think back to where I was just a week ago, I am doing much  better. In fact, I believe that in not too long, the big problem will be to not do things I am not suppose to. Most of my restrictions are about lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk. I suppose they do not want me hitting any 200 foot jumps on my sled or perhaps parachuting, but no worries there. 
   The two main reasons why I wanted to get signed up with physical therapy is that #1 it has always been good to me in the past. Be it a broken leg or open heart surgery, it really did speed up the recovery. The second reason is that I will fully know what I can and cannot do and never have to guess if my back is ready for that particular activity. Plus, I am very lucky to have a top notch physical therapist located right in Calumet. He has worked wonders with two other back issues I had.
    So, other than doing my regular work duties, I really have not done much at all. I did have a few things to attend to, work wise, that popped up with work while I was busy in Wyoming breaking my back and got them done. Sleep was a little rough earlier in the week, so a few naps were needed earlier in the week. Otherwise, it was a week of doing close to nothing. Which for many may sound like an awesome week, but for me, it was hard. I am sure it is no surprise to anyone that has been following this journal for a while that I am not good at laying around and doing nothing...at least for too long. I do like to kick back and relax and I am looking forward to a much more relaxing summer than I had last summer, but I also love to stay active.
    Much of my free time was spent this past week reading magazines. I am not much of a book reader, but do love magazines. Short attention span I guess. I do subscribe to probably close to a dozen magazines, mostly woodworking and snowmobiling and then my subscription to Lake Superior Magazine. I had a stack of probably 30 of them backed up going back to last autumn. My summer and autumn were so busy that I fell behind on reading them. On Friday, I got to two of my favorites. As I have mentioned in the past, I am a tool junkie and while most folks (probably including anyone in the trades that uses woodworking tools) would probably browse through the Tool Guide in around 20 minutes, I spent around 2 1/2 hours going through it Friday and am only half way through it! 
    With Gracie and Nora home, we had to find something that I could do with Gracie for fun. Much of our typical activities are physical in nature. Be it a game of kick ball in the great room, hide and go seek in the whole house, or doing something outside. My back issues have taken them all out of play, so Gracie went and got some Legos from her room and we played a bit with them, but then on Saturday, we went and got a new set that you can build several types of "cabins in the woods" with and Saturday afternoon we spent around 4 hours together building a cabin, Kayak and ATV. 
    Last night we picked up another kit to make a Coast Guard rescue helicopter and spent the morning doing that. I understand there was just a little accident and the main rotor has come off, but Gracie has informed me that it still flies pretty good without it! As soon as I am done writing here, we are going to build another cabin. I grew up playing with Lego and it seems my love for it has not gone away. Things have changed since I played with them. You just bought a big box of them and built your own things, whereas these days, it seems like everything comes in a kit and you follow directions. Hopefully she will continue to enjoy the Legos, as they will sure last long enough that her kids and probably grandkids will be able to play with the ones we got this weekend.
    Not much else has gone on. It has still be pretty cold up this way. This morning we dropped to -13 and were below zero several mornings this past week. The daytime highs have managed to pop into at least the teens and we did rise to above freezing Thursday and Friday. What is most noticeable is the amount of daylight. It is now staying light well past 8 pm and the first peaks of sunlight in the morning pop up shortly after 7 am.
    It looks like we will be getting some pretty meaningful snows this week and stay cold enough to keep a major meltdown from happening, so those of you hoping to get in one last ride in some decent powder might be able to get that in up this way the second half of this week and I guess we will continue to keep tossing wood into the boiler. Or should I say NORA will continue to keep tossing wood into the boiler! We did have the boys come over yesterday and cut enough for us to get through the rest of the heating season. By then, my back will be well enough for me to take over cutting and loading the wood. Gotta keep that pool water warm!
    So I guess that about covers it. My deepest thanks goes out to all the well wishes sent my way. I am on the mend and it really is just a matter of time and patience. I am very fortunate that things were not worse and that I have such a loving wife and family to help me mend.
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
March 9-
    Well, if you were expecting this entry to be the annual Togwotee Wyoming trip entry, you are in luck! I am actually trying something different this year. Instead of waiting to get home and then spending 3-5 hours choosing and editing the photos and then writing the entry, I am actually writing this while out here. That way I can better remember the details of each day. I always think I will be able to remember the details of each day, but when I get home, the 5-6 days of riding all seem to blend into one. The pics do refresh my memory some, but still, things are just one big bowl of great memories.
   So, it is Tuesday morning. My flight out was great. I actually had one of the guys in our group fly out with me. Tim had to work on Saturday, so we both flew out on Sunday. It was bitterly cold when we left, but the weather was good. Chicago had picked up an inch or two of snow just before we arrived, but we arrived so early, there were no issues. Our flight out to Jackson from Chicago was also uneventful, we even were able to upgrade to first class for around 100 bucks more, as there were quite a few seats available on the flight.
   We arrived in Jackson a bit late, but only by around 20 minutes. The drive from the airport to the lodge is always a neat one. First, your emotions are running high, thinking of all the fun to come in the next few says. Second, the views are magnificent (unless it is snowing) as you have the Tetons just off to your left for around 30 of the 40 minute trip. Third, Jackson Hole (the valley Jackson sits in) is the wintering ground for many of the animals that live out here. So it is common to see elk, moose and even a wolf or two. This trip, we saw some buffalo, but they were not out in the snow covered field trying to get a meal, they were walking right down the highway! They passed by us without harm, although the knucklehead in the vehicle coming from the other direction help honking his horn like he had a pizza to deliver or something and that kind of freaked the poor animals out a bit, but no real harm done.
    We got to the lodge and the rest of our crew had just arrived, so we unpacked and then headed to happy hour, had dinner and then it was off to bed for me, as I still do some work when I am out here and even though it does not take me as long, because of the time change, I am still waking up at 4:30 WY time to get things done.
    On Monday we rode without a guide. Lefty had been booked with a couple of groups and we have been coming out for long enough that we knew that we could get to enough places to have fun, so we went guideless. The day was fun, the snow was great. Two days of pretty heavy snow had put down anywhere from 12-18" in most cases and upwards of 24-30" in select spots. I had the first stuck of the day. Mainly due to flat light. I was coming down off a side hill and at the bottom of the hill was a depression and I just pig-stuck it. Mine was not the only stuck though. I believe just about everyone got stuck and if you didn't, then you were not making the most of the snow. Here is the infamous "King of Mountain". Dave showing that sometimes the mountain does win. There were quite a few more glorious stucks, such as Matt here and I had a few more unremarkable stucks the rest of the day too!
   The rest of the day was spent side hilling, climbing and jumping. We got to one spot where Matt and Chuck found a nice drift to do some whips off of. Here is Matt testing the waters, to make sure that the approach and landing was sufficient. Then came the real thing. I don't think he was able to ride out the landing successfully in that one, as was also the case with Chuck in this one. However, they were not to be discouraged and tried again. Here is Matt up and in the whip and here he is sticking the landing. Same for Chuck. Here he is on the launch pad, I missed the whip, but here is the point of re-entry and the follow through.
    Before sitting down to write this part of the entry, I did some research to refresh my memory on how to shoot video with my camera as well as take shots in "burst mode", where it will take up to 4 shots per second. So hopefully today's shots will be even better as I have those tools at my disposal.
    Well, it is getting on breakfast time and around 8" of fresh powder fell at the lodge this morning, which in many cases can be doubled or even tripled as you get "up top", so it looks like it will be a dandy!
    My last paragraph proved to be pretty spot on. Soon after finishing that paragraph, I went outside and surveyed the new snow. The lodge was blanketed under all the old and fresh snow, there was some big film crew getting ready to shoot footage of some fancy car and the heavy snow that had fallen in the wee morning hours was in the process of tapering off. I walked over to my sled and it was nicely buried under the fresh 8" of snow that had fallen. I brushed it off and then went in and joined the crew for breakfast.
    We took off from the lodge and headed through Muskrat Meadow and then started to climb up a bit. It did not take much climbing for the 8" that fell at the lodge to transform into 12"+. Most of the tracks that had been made the day before were pretty much filled in and in spots that had not seen a sled in a day or so, it was deep, really deep. We stopped to take a break and enjoy the sunshine that had broken out and I peeled off from the group a bit to take a shot of the Keweenaw Kamo sled trying to hide out in an alpine meadow in WY. It did not take long for the break to end and the crew to get at making some tracks in the fresh snow. Here is Tim doing just that.
    I did not have the first stuck of the day for our gang. There was a stuck or two from a group that was riding with us, but the prize for the first stuck from anyone in our gang went to Dave. A pretty legitamate one, as we were heading down through the trees into a meadow and there was about a 9 foot drift right at the edge of the tree line.
    We came upon a few wind lips and of course Matt and Chuck had to take their turns pulling some whips off of them and then Lefty finished off the show by dropping off the wind lip. Then it was off to a nice table top to do some jumping, which pretty much featured Matt and Chuck and Matt/Chuck!
   It was then off to do some more exploring and we came upon a familiar play spot, one that I even remember going to the first time I ever came out here around 10 years ago.
    Lunch time arrived, so we found a spot that was in the sun and out of the wind and Matt was even kind enough to build a little fire out of some branches from some dead standing trees. The day was beautiful and the fire really only was needed for ambiance...and to dry out some wet gloves.
    So, as mentioned, I did not have the first stuck of the day and quite honestly, I did not have many, but what I lacked in quantity, I made up for in quality. We hit a spot where we had to drop down a steep hill through the trees. The hill was not too large, but it was steep and at the bottom, there was a grouping of three trees on the left and one big one on the right. The path led through the trees, with a few inches or so to spare for your skis and sled to make it through. To complicate things even more, the path we had to take did not follow the fall line of the hill perfectly, it cut across it to the right a bit, so gravity wanted to pull your sled to the left a bit. Can you see where this is going? :) Two more complicating factors were the final nail in the coffin for me. First, the 4 sleds that went before me had pretty much scraped all the loose snow off of the hill, which impacted my breaking ability. Secondly, as great at the Power Claw tracks on the Arctic Cat mountain sleds are for climbing, they are just as bad for breaking downhill. 
    So I eased myself into the hill and the sled immediately picked up speed, even with me on the break. The fall line caused me to start drifting left (towards the grouping of trees), so I quickly let off the break and got back on it to try and get the rear of the sled to fishtail left so that I would be pointed right enough to hit the gas and get me more centered in the path that was needed to get through the trees, but it was a no go. I went screaming down the rest of the hill and came to rest in the group of trees on the left!
    I came to a pretty quick stop alright, with the sled firmly wedged in the trees and my helmet hit something, either the trees, or the handle bar. In any case, I had a bit of blood coming from a scratch on the outside of my nose and some dripping from the inside, but otherwise I was fine. I was really worried about the sled though. I could see the hood was OK, but figured there would be a new upper, and possibly lower A-arm in my future. It took 8 of us to pull the sled up and out of the trees and then we just ended up backing it up and around the other side of the trees to get it into the clearing.
    Amazingly, there was not a lick of damage done to the sled. Before coming out, I had a hefty front bumper put on the sled and I think it was that and a lot of luck that kept any damage from happening. 
    After freeing my sled, we rode on to a play spot, but on the way there, my head really started to hurt. I don't know why it chose then, perhaps the adrenaline had finally wore off, but in any case, I just sat with a view of the play area and watched. It then came up on the time to head back, so Chuck and I decided to leave a bit before the group and take a less strenuous way back to the lodge, while the rest of the gang too a more adventurous way back.
    I think I probably got a mild concussion from my little incident, as the headache did not go away all evening and I even had a bit of dizziness, but I am feeling a bit better this morning. Still a bit of a headache and now a bit of a stiff neck, but no dizziness. So my point in telling you all of this is I think I am going to take it easy today. There are a ton of my friends from the site out here right now and one of them blew up his secondary clutch yesterday, so he and another buddy are heading to Jackson for the day and I think I am going to skip riding and join them. I all my years of coming out here, I have never been to town and would like to see it, so I think all the stars have aligned to make that a good option for today. So talk to you tomorrow with some pics from town.
    Well, the trip to town went well. Jackson is a neat little town and I am glad I went, but I also have no burning desire to return. Not that there is anything wrong with the town, just that I really did want to see it and now I have and do not have any strong reason to return. I guess the main part of the town is the main square. It is your old fashioned basic town square, with one exception. At each of the corners of the square are arches made out of elk antlers. It is estimated that to construct each arch, nearly 1000 elk/auto accidents are needed.....just kidding! Most of the antlers are harvested by the local boy scouts in Jackson and come from the National Elk Refuge that sits just to the northeast of town. Elk naturally shed their antlers each autumn, so no Elk is ever harmed in getting the antlers. It does take around 2000 antlers to make one arch.
    It was a really nice day to be in town as well. Loads of sunshine and temps in the low 40's. We went into a couple of shops. I picked up some gifts for Nora and Gracie and then we had lunch at the Snake River Brewery. A pretty cool place almost at the base of Storm King Mountain, the local ski area in Jackson and also home to the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb later in March. The run that is used for the hill climb is the one that goes from the bottom all the way to the top in the center of that last shot. We also picked up the part for the friends secondary and stopped at the grocery store to pick up some goodies for tomorrow's wilderness cook out. My group, as well as another group are going to rendezvous at a specific location tomorrow and have a little cookout over a bonfire. We did the same thing last year and it was fun.
    So I guess that about covers it for this day, but there are still two more days of adventure left, so I am sure there will be plenty of pictures to share and stories to tell! 
    I am not sure of how many of you read about my little adventure on Thursday, but I guess the day can best be classified as yeeeee haaaaaa for most of the day and then ending in OUCH! I will get to the ouch part in a moment, but the ye-haw part consisted of traversing through the mountains in some deep snow and stopping in some spots to play. The plan for the day was to hook up with another group and then have a bonfire/cook out. 
    Lefty took our group one way and the other guide, Nate, took that group another way and we met up at a perfect place to gather some wood and build a bonfire.
    If you are thinking to yourself: "that sure looked like a lot of wood", it was. It took a bit of doing to get it going, but once we did, the dried wood from the dead standing pine really took off. Once things calmed down a bit, then we commenced upon cooking some hot dogs and pre-cooked brats and sausage.
    After filling our bellies and chatting for a while, the groups each went our separate ways and headed back to the lodge. We found a few hills to safely play on, as Matt demonstrates here. It's funny how the picture does not show the steepness of the hill, but it was pretty steep. Here is a shot from the same general location, overlooking one of the alpine meadows we rode through. Here is a shot from one of the meadows.
    As you can see, it was snowing most of the day and at times, it came down pretty hard. The light was also very flat at times and it made it very difficult to see the details in the terrain. This is what lead to my "ouch!". We were heading through the last meadow before we would get to the trees and then drop the final way into the lodge. Most of the group went left, opting to stay high on a rounded over hill, but I chose to stay a bit lower on that same hill. The light was exceptionally flat at the moment, so I was not going particularly fast, but I still managed to come upon a cut in the hillside and while it was not a true wind lip that was curled over, it did drop pretty much straight down around 22-25 feet and then had a pretty quick transition to where it started to go back up. I was not able to stop in time, but also did not want to drop nose first 22-25 feet as that held the potential to do some great damage to both the sled and myself. So just as I was coming off, it pinned the throttle to keep the sled as horizontal as possible. That worked, but I hit hard, very hard.
    It did not knock the wind out of me and I was not knocked out either, but I had some tremendous pain coming from my lower back. So there I sat, sled perfectly fine, but me moaning in agony and waiting for the crew to come back to help me out. The pain in the first 3-4 minutes was unbelievable. I have been through a lot and have had to endure many different episodes of pain, but I think that pretty much ranked right up there with the worst. Luke was the first to arrive and he just let me fight off the pain, as I really was not able to do anything else. Lefty and the rest of the gang arrived around 30 seconds later and by then at least I was able to talk a bit.
    It was getting pretty late in the day and after accessing my situation, Lefty asked me if I thought I would need to be brought out of there (via search and rescue), of if I would be able to ride out. I said to give me around 5 minutes to let me sort things out and after those five minutes, I felt as though I could ride the sled out. So we took the easiest route back down off the mountain and although I was seeing stars pretty much the whole way back, we did make it back to the lodge OK.
    I really felt that I had done more than the average back "tweak" and thought it would be a good idea if I saw a doctor, so Matt and Chuck drove me down to Jackson to get some medical attention. They started an IV and pumped in some dilaudid and soon I was feeling pretty good. What was even funnier and kind of ironic was the words that were put on the door to my room in the emergency department. I guess you can expect things like that in a ski-town hospital!
    I had blood work done as well as a CT scan and it was revealed that I broke my back in the incident. I had done a compression fracture of my L1 vertebrae and had decreased the thickness of it by around 50%. The good news is that it was a stable fracture, so there was no fear of any damage to the spinal column. The bad news was that the Dr told me it was also a very uncomfortable break to have to go through and to heal. They kept me overnight as they saw what looked to be a bit of abdominal bleeding and with me on a blood thinner for my heart valves, they wanted to make sure everything was ok with that as well. There were no more issues with the abdomen overnight, so I got released Friday afternoon.
    I guess I will be in some pretty nasty pain for 1-2 weeks and it will take around 3-5 months for it to fully heal, but all things considered, I think I got off pretty good.
    So other than my mishap on Thursday, it was another great trip to Togwotee. The snow was fantastic, as was the riding. Although I am glad to be getting on a plane in about 2 hours to head home and see my family.
    Home, sweet home! The trip back was uneventful and Tim and I arrived around 10 pm. It is always great to be home, but given the circumstances, this time was extra special. It looks like my season is pretty much done with as far as riding is concerned. Moving snow is also not something that I should be doing, so I have gone into "spring mode". Hoping for not a lot of new snow and even some gradual melting.
    I do have two wonderful girls here to take care of me and in a few weeks, I will probably be back to being able to do most of my daily chores. Although I will be getting in contact with my doctor here at home and also plan to get on a physical therapy regime. So all things considered, I consider myself to be a very luck person. Sure I broke my back, but it could have been a lot worse and the prognosis for a complete recovery is good. 
    Good night from the Keweenaw..  
JD-
March 2-
    March 2nd? MARCH 2ND! Are you kidding me? Does it not seem like March 2nd to the rest of you? I am not sure why it does not feel like March second to me, other than to say that February just FLEW by and our weather has been more like mid January than the beginning of March. 
    Before I go on, I would like to make the announcement that this years Ride-In did, in fact, break a new fund raising record. All the bills have now been paid and this years take was $18,401! There will actually be more money that comes in from the students at the Washington Middle School in Calumet. They hold some fund raising events and for the past 2 years have donated their funds to the Ride-in. So in truth, the number raised will be more than the $18,401, I just do not know how much more.
    I am so thrilled that this year was so successful. I never set a goal to reach, only to raise as much as we can and to have as much fun as we can doing it. Needless to say, I think this year we rocked it on both accounts. My huge thanks to all that participated, it just really makes me feel so good about things that there are so many wonderful persons out there that want to do for others. I have also finished the list of donators to this years event. At the top of that page, you will notice that I put a note in to say that I did not include the names of those that attended the event, because I did not feel comfortable doing it without their permission, but if you are OK, with me doing that, please let me know and I will put you on the list. Also, if you or know of someone that donated items and is not on the list, please let me know. I do my best to try and keep track of everyone, but it is possible to miss a few!
    It was brutally cold up here Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. School was closed on Thursday for the 9th time this winter and let me just say that it takes some kind of weather up here to close schools. There are plenty of times when we will get foot or more of snow and things are business as usual. Our air temp Thursday morning got down to -25 and the wind chill reached -40. I did not do the "toss the cup of water in the air and watch it freeze" trick, but I bet it might have worked.
   As you might expect, the locals are really sick of the winter. Surprisingly though, the complaining is not rampant. I guess because most would figure they are just preaching to the choir anyway. I think most folks also look at the calendar and see that it is now March and it will be getting more and more difficult for the weather to manufacture the bitterly cold air that we have seen so frequently this winter and soon, even the chances of a big snow event will be getting slimmer and slimmer. I still feel that we are do for one, perhaps two, maybe even more big spring snow storms up here. We'll see.
    I would actually not mind more snow so much, but I feel the locals would not share in my opinion. My biggest concern is where I would put any new snow that falls. The driveway is not so much a problem, but the parking area has banks so high that the snow thrower cannot throw it up and over them anymore. The road crews has worked pretty much non-stop all winter moving snow. If they are not moving it off the roads to make travel safe for all of us, then they are cutting back the banks to make room to move more snow. The cut-back banks through Mohawk now stand about 7 feet tall
    Keep in mind that these are not banks that they build into monsters and then cut through them and toss the snow up into yards or driveways. These are banks that have been built up to some degree by the plows, but they actually avoid trying to let them get too big, as it makes pulling out onto the highway very difficult. They actually take the snow-go and use it to eat into the bank and toss the snow into a truck. That truck then brings it to a dumping area. This is a process that has been repeated at least 4-5 times so far this winter and possibly more.
    So it has been another week of mainly hunkering down, staying inside and staying warm. The poor pups are not even going to remember which way we go when we are able to resume our morning walks. I know I have put on 5 lbs in the past 2-3 months, due to the absence of our 2 mile morning walk. We have gotten some shorter walks down the road and back, that probably amount to around 2/3rds of a mile, but that just does not do it.
    I did manage to get in a bit of exercise this week though, in the form of roof shoveling. The house roofs were done just a few weeks back and are fine and the shop roof cleared around 10 days ago, so it is fine too. The roof over the wood shed did not clear and needed some attention. So earlier this week, I got up onto it and did some shoveling. 
    This was the third time for the season and also the third time that I encountered around 3 feet of snow that needed to be moved. Thankfully gravity really helps out in shoveling a roof. I was able to get about halfway done in about 35 minutes and the whole thing in about an hour and a half. Once done, I took a minute to stand on top of the roof and admire my work, as well as look down on the parking area and the pups. In that last picture, if you look a little right of the exact center of the shot, you will see a bump in the snow. That is the topper to my truck. It sits on some horses custom made so that all I need to do is back the truck up to them and slide the topper on to or off of the bed without much lifting. So the bottom of the topper sits around 4 1/2 feet off the ground and I did move the topper to its storage spot there just a few days after the ride-in. Now, I did pile snow that came off the house roof in front of it with the tractor a few weeks back, so we have not naturally piled up 7 feet of snow since the ride-in, but it is something to think that just around 3 weeks ago, I could back the truck right up to the topper.
    While up there admiring the view, I called out to the pups, they saw me and came running. The next thing I knew, they were climbing through the snow that I had just shoveled off the roof and ended up being able to climb all the way onto the roof to join me. Here is a shot of Millie taking in the view. I tried to take a picture of Huck (just to be canine  correct), but the phone battery died in the cold after taking the shot of Millie.
    The bitter cold did ease just enough to allow the 5th annual Copper Dog 150, sled dog race to go on. When that storm was raging last Fri-Sat-Sun, one of the things I thought about was what would they do about the race. I doubt that it would have been able to go on. I know that they would not have been able to use Brockway Mountain Drive like they do because of the blowing and drifting. But as luck would have it, temps warmed to above zero and the winds were not too bad last night for the first stage. Nora, Gracie and I met up with some friends and took in the start in downtown Calumet. Even though it had warmed up some, it was still pretty cold, but we managed to duck into a few businesses that stay open for the event and warmed up a bit. We then stuck around to catch the fireworks display that they do after the teams have all left the starting gate. It was really neat to be standing out in the snow, with snow falling, and watching the fireworks go off. It sure is a great place we live in.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. There are signs that the temps will be warming as we go through the week. Not to above freezing, but at least to levels where they should be at this time of the year- upper 20's. There are even ideas that the temps could stay there into the following weekend and beyond, with some fresh snow to boot. That would be wonderful. I am looking forward to some spring riding and even strapping on the cross country skis and snow shoes and head out into the woods with the pups.

   Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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