February 28, 2016-
    Greetings from a somewhat snowy Keweenaw. We still have plenty on the ground, but I was referring to the fresh, when I said "somewhat". So far we have picked up around 3" of new snow from this system. On the low side of the 3-6" expected, but we will take it. Looks like the eastern UP might be doing a little better with this event as it seems to have come together a little later than expected. It is nice to see all the dirty snow on the sides of the roads all nice and white again. It also looks like another 2-3" should fall tomorrow, so that will freshen things up even more. 
    I have not been out on the trails or even in the bush. I was hoping to get out yesterday with my younger brother and spend about half the time on and the other half off trail and get ourselves up to Copper Harbor to take in the festivities with the Copper Dog dog sled race (CD). With the warm temps and already sugar snow on the trails, I decided to forgo the snowmobile trip and tag along with Gracie, Nora and my older brother via vehicle up to the Harbor. I am also planning to get out tomorrow and as long as some last minute stuff does not take too long.
    Despite not getting out on sled, we have been pretty active the past week. Much of the activity happening since Friday, but sill busy. As I mentioned, my two brothers are up visiting and with the CD going on, there has been plenty for us to do. Friday night we met up with friends and had dinner and then headed down to Calumet to catch the start of the race. We got there in pretty good time, as we were able to catch the first team heading out and then stayed to watch all the rest.
    The weather was about perfect for the start. Temps around 30 and not much wind. Far better than the single digits and maybe even below zero we have had to deal with in some previous years. We found our way down to the start and then went a bit beyond to the staging area. This is where they bring the team and sled up to just shy of the starting gate. I think that the dogs don't quite understand that this is not the actual start and that they are next in line to start, as they are SO wound up to go. It takes at least 6-8 volunteers to help keep things in order as they bring the team and sled up. Here is a shot I took of one of the teams moving into the "on-deck circle". Half the dogs are airborne and some of the handlers are really struggling to keep things under control!
   With the exception of one team, all the mushers got off without an issue. The one that did was pretty minor (or at least it seemed to be). He was late in being ready by around a minute or so, just before the start he lost his break pad and then just went through the gate on the fly. The break pad was handed to one of his chase team and I suspect they got it back on later that evening.
    There is a lot going on at the race, besides the race. They have bonfires and food vendors, along with some local charitable organizations giving away things like cookies and hot chocolate. Pretty much all the shop are open and there were at least 3 different live bands at local establishments in town. Once all the dogs have been launched, then they have a fireworks display. Not the biggest, or grandest, but it is neat to watch them in the dead of winter and helps bridge the 365 day wait between Independence Days. Gracie was thrilled as ever to watch them go off.
    On Saturday, all of the action takes place in Eagle River for the start of the second leg of the race to Copper Harbor (the long way). The Copper Country Curling Club was also having a free demonstration day, so my brothers and I went up to see what that sport was all about. The club has set up inside the old drilling house for the C/H mine in Calumet. A few years back, the roof was blown in by a thunderstorm, but the community and some grants helped them to build a new one. They also have since made a nice, heated, clubhouse. Inside are restrooms, a kitchen and plenty of room for seating as well as an area with viewing of the two lanes
    One of the members spent a few minutes going over the techniques for getting one of the stones going. He then did a few launches himself and then assisted us in trying to do it. All I can say is that it is WAY harder than it looks! Here is my brothers first attempt that went well. Mine not so much, but Gracie picked it up way faster than me and maybe even as fast as my brother. Pretty impressive considering the stone weighs as much as she does, 42 lbs! My brother is pretty sold on the idea of joining the club and I am pretty sure I do to. The main issue would be the second round of matches finish up at 10:40 pm. So unless it is not tough to get a sub or be a no-show, then I think I am in too!
    After the curling experience and a quick lunch, we headed up the spine of the Keweenaw on Hwy 41 to Copper Harbor. They had a busy day with the racers coming in and spending the night, as well as some other things. One of the other things was free rides for kids. So of course Gracie had to see what this was all about! Not as a musher, but as a passenger.
    Today was our day to volunteer to help the CD go on. We were the safety team at one of the road crossings near Mohawk. It is not a busy road, so the work is not hard or stressful. It does take around 2 hours for all of the teams to pass through. We put someone around 100 yards down the trail as a lookout and they they radio to us and we then make a human wall by standing with our arms stretched out. All went very well and I was so happy and proud to watch all the snowmobilers being so courteous to the teams as they passed them. If you were one of those sledders this weekend or in any of the previous years, I applaud you for your responsibility and courtesy. It really sheds a nice light on the snowmobile community.
    So I think that about covers it for this one. Not a ton of new snow on the horizon, but some fresh from time to time and no meltdowns (for us anyway) any time soon.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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February 21, 2016-
    Whew, survived another week! My little sickness decided to hang on for the week. The symptoms changed a bit, but never got serious enough that I felt I needed to go and get checked out and today, I am finally feeling better. Not 100%, but a far cry from wanting to lay in bed most of the day/night and only eating about 1/3rd of what I typically eat. I did manage to lose around 6 lbs, but am not worried. I should be able to put those back on in short order this week! :P
    Anyway, I did not do a ton of activity this week, but still have some things to share. I guess the first order of business is to let you all know the Keweenaw survived the warm temps and rains just fine. We actually picked up an inch or so of new snow Thursday night into Friday morning and then did not get much rain on Friday itself. Saturday was probably the hardest on the snow up here, as we were in the mid 30's all day and picked up about 1/4" of rain. None the less, the snow settled more than it melted and things still look fine in the woods up here. Nora always makes fun of me when I put my little disclaimer after an attempt at humor like that, but that pic was from last June.
    We really did survive in OK fashion. I have not seen the entire trail system but have seen enough to know that we still have plenty of snow. The quality of the snow on the trails took a hit and we will need some fresh to get rid of the layer of "snow cone" snow we have now. We have picked up a bit of fresh today (not enough) and some more looks to fall at times this week, but the forecast for most of the week does not look too promising for a ton of new snow for most of the week, but no more thaws and some arctic air/les to fall next weekend.
    It's hard to believe that in a week and a day, February will be over and we will be getting closer to spring. I am not quiet ready for winter to end. I have been seriously lacking in my playing in the snow so far this season, but it seems like March is the month that I seem to be out in it the most anyway. So I would personally like to see us freshen up the snow we have ASAP with 3-6". Then...before the season ends, I think we need a whopper. One of those 2 foot plus storms with tons of wind and school closures. Then we can start easing into spring, especially in the sun department. I know Nora is chomping at the bit to get the side by side out and I am looking forward to taking excursions with the whole family as well.
    The warm temps caused most of the roofs to self clear and I think we are good for the rest of the season, as far as worried about collapse go. Of course, in some cases, there is no more room at the Inn for it too slide into, but I am not concerned. The same cannot be said for all buildings in the area. A roof collapsed in a building in Houghton. I believe it was vacant and no one was injured, but sad to see these old buildings and their ties to history get lost.
    For the roofs of ours that did not clear, we had some locals who are now in college come and help the snow find the ground Saturday. I think my days of doing any serious clearing are over. I may still go and clear small areas, but am listening to my body better these days and am not pushing things. Even the pups enjoyed watching the work get done from ground level. So now we are all safe from any roof collapsing in our compound for the season!
    Once the snow was off the roof and the piles that needed to be moved were moved (with the huge assistance of Big Red), it was decided to have some fun with one of the remaining snow piles. So Gracie and I broke out the winter wear and garden tools and went about the business of building a snow fort. My younger brother and I built a few of those back in our days. I think the big snow year of 78-79 allowed us to build some multi-chambered ones! So digging into the snow and eventually laying flat on our backs to do some of the work sure brought back some memories. As did the way your voice is so muffled by the snow once you are inside. 
    Huck and Millie were just dieing to see what we were digging for, so we popped out for enough time for them to go in an investigate. I am not sure what prompted Millie to start digging with such vigor, but she really did a lot of work in short order! I am so thrilled to see Gracie have so much enthusiasm for doing things like these. She does like her games on the iPad and such, but will jump at the opportunity to play outside. It did not take too long and we had a pretty decent fort dug out. Today, one of Gracie's friends came over to play and they both had fun playing in it and doing lots of other imaginative things outside.
    So things are quite well up here. The warm temps were not a big deal. I could have done without the rain, but such is life. Looking forward, the big story will be the cold for next weekend. The Copper Dog race is happening up here next weekend, so it looks like another chilly night for the start in Calumet Friday night. If you have never been up here during the race, I STRONGLY suggest you check it out. It really is a cool thing.
   It looks like that covers it for this one, have a great week and talk to you all next Sunday!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
February 14, 2016-
    This will also probably be a short one, as I have come down with something. I am not sure what it is, seems a lot like Mono. The only real symptom I have is being really tired. I came down with that in college and although it has been close to 30 years since I had it, I do remember feeling like this back then. The virus that causes it remains in your body after you catch and recover from it. Although rare, it is possible to have it break dormancy and impact you again, so we'll see. In any case, low on energy = short journal.
    It was another snowy week to be sure. It fell like the energizer bunny and we picked up 27 1/2" since last Monday. It has stopped. In fact, we have had clear skies since late last night. That made for a cold morning (-8), but also for a pretty nice day, with sunshine and a high of 20.
    The snow situation up here has really been something. It was just a little over a month ago the big talk was if we were ever going to even have winter this year. Now the big talk around town is everyone is ready for spring. Typically, a 5 1/2 week stretch of winter weather would not phase the hearty folks that live here year round, but in that 5 1/2 week stretch, we have picked up 141.5" of snow! I have probably had no more than 3 or 4 days when it did not need to be moved. I certainly am not complaining about having to move it. I actually love it. The time in the tractor actually seems a bit meditative. I do have to pay attention, but am not stressed out. I am warm, I am listening to some good tunes and am getting the rewards of being able to not only keep our driveway free from snow, but our neighbors and the ice rink. So I really do not mind it at all. The only down side is that it can take up to an hour to do all that clearing. 
    Most of the roofs cleared with the brief warm up we had two weeks ago, but it has not taken them long to fill back up. Those that did not clear were in need of some help. My main concern was the addition to the woodshed. I did build it to hold a lot of snow, but I have also learned my lesson about tempting fate. The addition sits on what is typically the down wind side of things during a snow event and it had gotten pretty deep. I did not go up and measure, but it looked to be around 4-5 feet deep. So this past Tuesday, I broke out the roof rake and knocked down the large overhanging drift, as well as pulled a couple of feet off of the eaves of the roof. There is still a healthy amount up there, but the stress load has been reduced a bunch and I do have some boys coming over to do the final clearing on it as well as the foyer and addition roofs. They were planning on coming yesterday, but with temps in the low single digits and wind chills of -25, it was decided to wait until friendlier weather. 
    The ice rink clearing has taken on a a new dimension with all the snow as well. The snow has gotten deep enough on the level that it is reaching the tops of the boards. That is causing it to drift over the boards. I guess it wouldn't be all that bad of a thing to get checked over the boards there now. Nice soft and fluffy landing. 
    So, with all this snow, I bet you are wondering if I have gotten out to play in it? Well, I can say that I did have plans to, but decided to stay indoors instead. I was suppose to hook up with friends and ride yesterday, but it was a unanimous decision to not go out in the bitter cold and wind chill. Some might call that being wimpy, but I call it being smart. Sure the snow would have been REALLY good and we would have most likely had the woods to ourselves. However, time and experience has taught me that sometimes it is best to just not try and force fun to happen. So no regrets, but I am looking forward to getting out.
    There have been some "modifications" made to the Rt12 sled since I last rode it. EZ Ryde slipped one of their Helo's into the rear suspension and I added an adjustable riser. Both can be removed and things put back to stock without any issues, so in the event I give this sled back to Rt12, it can be returned to them stock. Although I have to admit that I have been strongly thinking about selling the Kamo sled and keeping this one. It seems like it would be the right thing to do. The Kamo sled is still in excellent condition and has around 1300 miles on it, so I could probably get some decent money for it, plus know that I am not selling a "problem" sled to someone, not that I have done that in the past. 
    So we will see how things go in another month or so. Poor Huck hurt his left knee earlier this week. They way he was not putting any weight on it, I was worried that he totally blew it out, but we had him visit the Dr and she said that she could not tell for sure and it was possible that he just wrenched it and it would not need surgery. She sent us home with some pain killers for him and told us to take it easy and if at the end of this week he is doing better, then he will not likely need surgery. He is already getting around pretty good, so at the moment, it looks like we are avoiding surgery this time. So that, a tax refund rather than payment and the truck repairs that need to be done are not too expensive and I think I will be able to pull off the purchase of the 2016 with the sale of the 2013.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. Feeling sleepy!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
February 7, 2016-
    This will probably be a short one, as I am still trying to recover from a rather adventurous trip I took. I skipped town for business, and a little bit of pleasure, the second half of this week. The weather sure did play some havoc on things. A long story short, this was my view out of the airplane window Friday afternoon, as our plane sat at the gate for 3 1/2 hours before finally departing. That was after the first flight I was suppose to be on was cancelled and resulted in a 2 hour bus ride to a different airport! All told, it ended up being a 24 hour day, having to get up at 3:30 in the morning Friday to get rolling and not arriving home until 3:30 on Saturday morning. 
    For some strange reason I am more tired today than I was yesterday, after getting only around 4 hours of sleep. I suppose maybe it is like sore muscles, they always seem to be more sore two days later than they are the next day.
    At any rate, it was a good trip and is even better to be back home. It's really something that no matter where I go or what I do, I cannot wait to get back to the Keweenaw. It just further shows me that I really have found the perfect place for me to live and I am so lucky to be able to live here.
    So with leaving Tuesday afternoon and not getting back until Saturday morning, I do not have a ton of stories and pictures to share with you. I can say that they got a good deal of snow while I was away. 12" fell Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, with another 5-6 falling on Wednesday. We have a solid 3 feet on the ground and it looks like snows will fall pretty steadily all this week and add quite a bit more. It also looks like we will get chilly by the middle to end of the week, but not brutally cold. 
    This weekend was Winter Carnival at MI Tech, so they were busy finishing up all the snow statues this week and Grace, Nora and I headed down to look at them yesterday. I did take some pics and will share them with you, but we did not go around all of campus and even into Hancock and Chassell to see them all. So if you want to see all of them (some of the best we missed seeing), then I strongly suggest heading over to the official MTU Winter Carnival webpage.
   This first one is obviously not made of snow, but Gracie wanted to go up and stand next to it, so we let her and took a picture of her with Blizzard. The theme to every years carnival is put into the form of a rhyme. I can never seem to remember the exact wording every year, but in a nutshell, this year's theme had to do with the 50 states. So all of the statues had something to do with the 50 states. As I mentioned above, the ones we saw were not the biggest or best, but still pretty good, especially when you think about the fact that they can only be built from snow and ice. 
    One of the nicer ones we saw was in tribute to Alaska. It had a mountain range, a dog sled team and a totem poll. This one paid homage to Vermont. A lakes freighter does not automatically connect it to just one state, but I think when most folks see this name on its side, they think of the state of the UP. :) We spent about an hour on campus viewing them and started to get chilly and tired, so we did not cross the busy highway to see one of the bigger and better ones up close, but it is actually so big, that it is probably better photographed from the other side of the road anyway
    I am also happy to report that the Huskies hockey team swept Lake Superior State over the weekend and will likely move up in the polls. That has put them in a tie for second place in their conference and just 2 points (one win) away from being in first. They really seem to be gelling this second half of the season, so hopefully it will carry them deep into the tournament seasons. I know I am hoping to get to a few more games this season.
    So after a very slow start, it is full on winter up here. We are not breaking any records for snow, but sure have made a nice recovery. We have a lot of snow on the ground, the trails are in great shape and it looks like the next 7-10 days will only bless this area even more. There does not look to be a whole lot of new snow that will fall outside of most of the LES belts of the Great Lakes in the next 7-10 days, but no snow loss in the Northwoods or even the northern 1/2 of the Midwest in that time frame. I guess the only potential downside for us is the fact that Gracie will probably not be using her swing set any time soon!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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