January 31, 2016-
    Greetings from a mild Keweenaw! Our January thaw is working its way through day 2. Yesterday we hit 42 and today are in the upper 30's. I have to say that normally, I would not be too happy about this, but we got a lot of snow this past week (27" to be exact) and so the snow loss is not much of a big deal. I suppose those up here and dealing with snow on the trails that is soft and not able to old a groom too well as well as some bare roads are not too happy about things, but I can honestly say that being outside in the mild temps and sunshine was quite a treat. 
    Any time we see sunshine up here is a treat. If there were one thing I could change about our winter weather, is would be more sunshine. I think that is why I believe the mountain climate out west is probably the best winter climate. They get snow, then the sun is out until the next storm arrives. The big lake really keeps us cloudy almost all winter and it can be a bit of a challenge. At least I like to get outside and recreate in the snow. I can imagine that someone just staying inside all winter would be really impacted by the lack of sunshine.
    The first glimpse of sunshine came Friday morning. It was a chilly morning because of the clear skies, but the pups and I braved the cold for our usual morning walk. As we were gallivanting through the neighborhood, the sun was just rising and provided us with a beautiful sky. It sure put a spring in my step and it seemed like the pups had a bit more excitement than usual as well. By later in the day, the clouds rolled in and we ended up with 3" of fresh snow overnight Friday night, but that is how we roll in the Keweenaw!
    Saturday morning also broke with clear skies and mild temps the snows of Friday night were the result of warm air running up and over the cold air we had in place. So the temps at sunrise were right around freezing and were forecasted to head up from there. All the roofs were holding the snow that has fallen in the past 4-5 weeks, so there was a healthy amount up there. With the warm temps, it was a high likelihood that the snow would slide off the metal roofs, but the lean too off the shop had a pretty thick layer of ice on its eaves, so before things got too warm, I got up on the roof of the lean-to and shoveled off the snow on the eaves and also broke up the ice. Neither was that hard of a process, breaking ice off a metal roof is pretty easy, as all I do is use a sledge, or in this case a maul, to hit the ice. The metal roof will flex with the blow of the maul and the ice breaks and slides off pretty easily. I about an hour, I was able to clear the snow off the eave and break up the ice to expose the metal.
    I have learned my lesson on leaving ice on the lean-to. There is some heat that bleeds from the supply lines from the boiler. I have insulated, but it seems like no matter what I do, I still get enough heat to rise up, hit the underside of the metal roof and melt the snow. It hits the eaves that have cold air under them and ice. Several years back, the whole lean-to was destroyed when the snow off that side of the shop roof cleared, ice stuck to the metal roof and that combination caused the roof to be peeled back like a banana. That lean-to was sort of "slapped together", where as this one is build more to speck, but I still did not want to take the chance.
    While I was up on the roof, Grace donned her snow suit and grabbed her tube and headed over to the buried wood pile to do some tubing. She took a few runs and then as many kids will do, did some exploring of things and found a little pocket in the snow right next to the wood pile. At first I was worried that she was going down into the wood pile itself, but turns out there was just a little pocket formed and it became her makeshift fort.
    By midday the sun had hit the west side of the cabin roof and with its 12/12 pitch, the snow did not stick to it for long. The funny thing is I park the truck part way in its slide path, so when the snow slid, some of it slid right into the bed of the truck! No damage, just some shoveling to do next time I was to load the sled into the back of it.
    The rest of the roofs held during the day yesterday, but the north side of the shop roof tried its best to clear. By sunset, a 2 foot gap had formed at the ridge of the roof, as the snow slumped towards the edge. Our temps remained above freezing for much of the night and sometime overnight, that north side of the shop cleared. Its funny how the pups will see something out of place, or new, and just have to check it out. So with noses to the snow, they did a pretty thorough examination of the snow that slid off the shop roof overnight
    When we get into roof clearing mode weather wise I make sure that they, Gracie, Nora and I are never in the path where it will hit when it slides. I can only imagine how bad that would be. Quite honestly, I would not be surprised if it would kill. It is the same concept of an avalanche. Get buried in snow and suffocate. The only saving grace might be that we would know exactly where the burial happened and would be able to dig them out in time. None the less, that is not something I want to find out!!!
    While the north side of the shop cleared overnight, the south just slumped. In some cases, the slump was pretty healthy and left a giant overhanging slab of snow. That is what you call a "Hangfire". It did not take long after the suns energy hit that south side to get it go finish sliding. I did not catch the slide, but did take a picture of the aftermath.
    It is amazing the pile of snow left behind from the shop roof clearing. One clear will make it around 6-7 feet deep and the second will pile it right up to the eaves of the roof. So any more than 2 clearings and it needs to be moved, or it will not slide. I have only had to clear snow from the drop zone twice and both times were on the south side of the shop roof. In the old days, that was quite the chore. The snow was far too deep and firm to use the blower or ATV plow on, so it was a job that needed to be done by hand. 
    That was in the days before my savior: "Big Red". So this morning, after the snow cleared off the south side of the shop roof, I fired up the diesel engine of Big Red and put it to action clearing a path to the wood boiler. It took a off 3 minutes to burrow through the snow and make the path. Just looking at that picture puts a HUGE smile on my face at the amount of work saved.
    Speaking of Big Red. Nora and I thought it would be a good idea if she knew how to operate it well enough to move snow. She has driven it, but not a lot and also have never really used the blower. Our biggest worry was if I bite the big one and there is so much snow that they cannot come in to take away the body. A body can really get to stinking after a short while and she could probably just put me out in the snow, but then the wolves would come and carry my corpse away and the insurance company probably would need a body to issue the payment. So there is a valid reason to have her up to speed! Anyway, I gave her some instructions and we even video taped it, so that she would have a tutorial to go off of if she needed so she is all set. I have to admit, it was pretty strange watching Big Red move snow from the outside. I am pretty much the only one using it, so I never get to see it in this way.
    The last picture I have to share with you is of a nice chimney fire I had in the wood boiler this past week. Normally a chimney fire is not something one wants to have, especially in a chimney in a home, but this is in the wood boiler and the chimney is a double walled, stainless steel one and the fire actually clears out all the creosote and cleans the chimney for me. The sound it makes is pretty cool. Not only does it look a bit like a jet engine with its afterburner on, but sounds kind of like it too.
    So that about covers it, except for one thing... The forecast. When I left off on my forecast last Friday, there were good chances of a pretty big storm to impact portions of the Northwoods early this week. As things stand right now, the forecast does not look too much different. There have been some fluctuations in the track and strength, but overall, the big picture is pretty much the same as it was on Friday. It looks like the storm will lay down a band of 8-12"+ snows from the Denver area through NW KS, SE NE, the NW 2/4rds of IA, southeast corner of MN, much of WI (except for the far SE and far NW) as well as much of the UP and extreme northern lower MI. Cold air looks to follow the storm and create some LES for the second half of the week. So the melting done in much of the Northwoods this weekend looks to be repaired nicely. Not in all areas, but many. 
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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January 24, 2016-
    Seems like I just wrote! I guess that is one of the downsides to a delay in writing the journal. I do have some pics and some stories, but this will probably be a somewhat abbreviated edition due to the fact that I am missing two days of material.
    I can pick up right where I left off last week, by talking about the new snow. It did keep snowing right through Thursday. At times not too hard and at other times it came down pretty good. Here is a shot from Thursday around midday, when we picked up a quick 3" of snow in about 70-80 minutes. That was pretty much the end of the accumulating snow for that cycle.
    However, the snow moving did not stop. The municipals go from keeping streets clear to cutting back the banks to widen things back to normal. It seems like once we finally get into the snow, the folks that move snow for a living always have something to do.
    I don't do it for a living, but when we get into those snow cycles where it has to be moved at least once every 24 hours, it can feel like it. I know that starting on the 6th of January, we had 16 days in a row with measurable snow and in most cases, moveable snow. I don't think that I had to move snow 16 days in a row, but I bet there was not more than 2 days when I did not. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining at all. Moving snow is such a joy now, I actually look forward to it sometimes and never really dread it. It does take me about an hour to do all the clearing I do, including: our driveway, our neighbors and the ice rink. So that is the only down side, the time involved. 
    The upside is that unless I am moving more than a foot or so, it does not take me any more time to move a few inches than it does 8-10". Using the old method, my moving times could double with amounts over 6" and triple with amounts over 12-14". The commute time probably takes up around 1/4 of the hour needed to clear the snow. Its right around a 6 minute drive to the rink, then another 5 or 6 minute trip from the rink to my neighbors and then a few minutes from the neighbors back home. I can't complain about the commute though, traffic is usually light and the views are outstanding.
    I have been able to develop a pretty good pattern for cleaning the rink. When I first started, it would take me as long as 30-40 minutes to clear it and now I am down to about 20 minutes in most cases. I have a few different patterns to work with the prevailing winds for that day. It does still feel like I am driving a Zamboni, especially when I am driving right next to the boards. I still cannot get right into the corners and do leave a bit that might need to be scraped off, but the bulk of the snow is removed and it is great to see the rink getting re-energized by a group of folks taking care of it and manning it during open skating times.
    So other than clearing snow and taking care of the other regular business around here, it was a pretty uneventful week in the Keweenaw since Tuesday. We did have some much welcomed visits from sunshine on Friday and Saturday. Clear skies are a real rarity up here from October through early March, so when we do get clear skies, it is a real treat and you have to look for where you last put your sunglasses! Huck even took advantage of Saturday morning sunshine to sit in the doorway to my office and catch some rays.
    Looking at that last picture, it did remind me of another thing I did this week and that was to finish a little desk for Nora. I have my work space, Gracie has pretty much the whole house for her space, but Nora was lacking an area for her laptop and other things, so she asked me if I could build her a little desk to fit in the space underneath the stairway and I got started on it a week or two ago, but then got too busy to finish it. I was able to take advantage of some free time this week to get it done. She plans to paint it and I will try and remember to take a picture of it when it is all painted. However, you can see a bit of it in that last shot of Hucky.
    The other big event for the week was Gracie and I going over to the tubing hill they put in on Mt Ripley in Hancock. Mt Ripley has been a ski hill for a very long time and about 15 years or so ago, they put in a great snowmaking operation. They have since put in another lift as well a terrain park. New this year is their tubing hill. Had heard a few things about it and it sure sounded like something Gracie would enjoy. So when Nora went to a "ladies gathering" Saturday afternoon, Grace and I headed down to tube. It's a ton of fun. They have a rope tow set up that takes you and your tube to the top of the hill, so there is no hiking up involved (except to get to the start of the tow). 
    Since it was both Gracie's and my first time ever doing this, we took the first run down together on the same tube. Then next run she went on her own tube, with me hanging on to it while on a tube of my own. After that, it was all solo runs, except for the final one, which I insisted it be that way and she cordially excepted. 
    I have to say that the first few trips down were actually a bit scary. You really get going pretty fast. I would estimate it to be around 30 mph or even a bit more. They do have it set up nicely so you will both; stay in your own lane and come to a stop, but both of those issues do pop into your head the first run or two! I tried to snap a few shots of us going down the hill, but they just did not turn out very well. With luck, two of the three videos I took did. Here is a video of Gracie heading down the hill and here is a first person view of me going down. The other was taken of her when we were going down side by side on separate lanes, but I did not hit the button properly and quite honestly, it did not take too long for me to be way out ahead of her. With all other variables being equal, gravity does favor things with more mass!
    We both had a ton of fun and I am sure we will be heading over there another time or two before the winter is over. We had a bit of freezing drizzle this morning, so I wonder if they were even letting anyone go down it today. I suppose they can probably groom it and make it less icy, but I can only imagine how fast you would go with the track being icy!
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. Looks like a bit of fresh to fall this week. Probably not a ton, but I suspect that Big Red will be getting fired up a time or two before the week is over.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
January 19, 2016-
   So here we go...My apologies for not writing, but things were pretty busy. Sunday I still had friends and after riding, we went and had dinner with Nora and Gracie. Got home too late and tired to write. Yesterday was a day off I would prefer not to have again! Aside from my regular work, I cleared snow and had to go to Marquette and back for a doctors appointment. Lots of snow to drive through and was too tired when I got back. If it were a slow week, I probably would have just skipped one, but it has been anything but a slow week up here!
    We got into a very healthy snow cycle, picking up 47" in the past 9 days. So I have some nice pics to share and a few stories as well. Most of the snows that fell were lake effect in variety, which meant that it was nice and fluffy. Not the best to build a base with, but we were already past that stage, so the fluff made it easy to move around and also very fun to play in! To me, the perfect winter scenario (once we have a good base built) is to get 3-4" a day of lake effect. 
    That makes moving it around a lot less challenging and also you end up with around 9-12" in a 3 day period. That is almost exactly what happened last week, with the exception that it did not last 3 days, but rather 8-9 and there was also a big dumping Saturday. I can say that with Big Red, moving snow is really not an issue anymore. Adding the rink-clearing has upped my clearing time to around an hour, but that is better than the hour+ I had in the cold on an ATV and walking behind a blower. It now really does not matter how much snow and how cold. Just yesterday I cleared a path into the woods where I dump my ashes from the wood boiler and the snow was over 2 feet deep there and it cut through it like soft butter.
    We were not the only ones getting hit hard with snow. Most areas in the western UP from around Twin Lakes to Delaware/Copper Harbor as well as in the central UP from Munising to just west of Paradise all picked up 2-3 feet plus in the past 7-9 days. Areas further west of Twin Lakes have also picked up 1-2 feet and a general 6-12" have fallen in the rest of the UP snow belts.
    So we went from looking like early December to looking like the middle of winter in just a week. While I had gotten use to not seeing it snow, I am now fully use to seeing the flakes fall on a non-stop basis. They have been doing just that for the past 8-9 days, with any breaks lasting just a few hours. As I type, the flakes are still falling nicely, but it does look like we might quiet down a bit for the second half of this week...but then again, maybe not completely!
    I know that the "unbalanced" feeling I had with the slow start and low snow through early January is gone. It finally looks like it should around here in the second half of January. Roofs are draped with 2-3 feet of snow, the banks on the sides of the roads are 6-8+ feet tall and have narrowed the roadways considerably. The snow-go's will likely be out in force this week, cutting back the banks and widening the roads to their normal width. One of my favorite things to see with all the snow are the Snow Ghosts in the woods. Last year they showed up the second half of November, this year around 8 weeks later.
    I had some friends come up and ride for the holiday weekend. On Friday we all met up in the Twin Lakes area and rode with some others that call that their home base. The snow was good down there and the temps were delightful, with highs in the upper 20's on Friday. I really enjoy riding down that was, as I am never in the lead, which means I just get to mindlessly follow others and not worry about finding the fun stuff. We finished up around sunset and then headed to go get a bite to eat and then headed home for as much rest as we could get, as the next day promised lots more riding!
    As the gang gathered themselves at our house Saturday morning, the snows flew nicely, accumulating as we watched. Once out into the woods, it was fresh powder every where we went. In some spots there was a foot of fresh to play on top of the base and in others, closer to 2 feet. Most of the day was spent heading down snowy lanes like these. One of the crew wandered off into the stickers and got a little hung up, so while helping him extradite from that position, I snapped a shot of the new RT12 ride waiting for me just a few feet away. We did have some plans for Saturday evening, so we had to wrap it up a bit sooner than we might normally have, but I don't think that anyone in the group felt gypped out with what we did on Saturday. 
    Our big plans for Saturday night were to go to dinner and then take in the MI Tech Hockey game. They were playing MN State-Mankato, the #1 ranked team in the conference. Tech is no slouch either, so it promised to be a great game. The main issue was getting from here to there. Normally the drive down to Houghton is about 25 minutes for me, but the weather was anything but normal Saturday evening. Conditions were about as optimum for lake effect snow as we can get. There was a nice band of heavy snow falling from just south of Houghton up to Calumet or so and places there reported 2 feet of snow from Saturday into Saturday night. I was glad that I was not driving and was able to snap this shot from the shotgun seat. As we drove through Hancock and got ready to cross the lift bridge, I shot a short video and it can be viewed here
    We did make it safe and sound, enjoyed a great dinner at one of the local establishments in Houghton and then made the quick trip back to the tech campus and up the hill to the "Mac" to take in the game. Dinner took a little longer than was planned, so we were just a tad bit late, but I was happy when I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that they were winning 1-0 already. We had good seats and I have to admit that the players looked a bit small for Division 1 college hockey, but none the less, it was a fun game to watch. Tech ended up playing a great game and beating the Mavericks 3-1 to take 3 out of 4 points for the weekend series.
    On Sunday, it was back out into the cold and snow and while getting going on the trip, my sled seemed to be running a bit funny. It seemed like the clutch was slipping some, as I would be going along and all of the sudden the engine would rev, but I would slow down, and then things would grab again and put load back on the engine. I did not want to get too deep into the woods with that situation going, so I had Nora pick me up in Phoenix, while the other two headed out to play in the snow. As a footnote, I did drop off the sled yesterday to have it looked at and it looks like the clutch conversion from high altitude to low was not done completely. I was sent up heavier weights, but evidently you also need to change out the helix and spring, so the belt is slipping. Pretty easy fix and I will be back on action with it soon.
    We had promised Gracie that we would all be home in time for her to do a little riding with us. I obviously was home in plenty of time, but she was really wanting to ride with the others too. They kept their promise and were back in plenty of time to let us all go out to bust some power. Grace was really pumped to ride with us all and show the others her stuff, I also like how she listens to every instruction I give her and does not think she knows it all.
    So it was off into the woods we went. We put to adult, long track, sleds in lead to pack things down for her. We did let her try and make her own trail through the deep snow, but she was not able to get too far! No problem, as Kris was stuck in that shot too...or at least pretended to be to make Gracie feel good! She did do pretty good riding in the already packed down snow though and it was pretty cool to see her traveling through a 2 foot deep trench in the snow. You can catch a little video of that here.
    We rode around our property for a bit and then headed over to a field I knew would be OK to play in and not hit anything. The adults were not wearing our helmets, so the lack of obstacles and 3 feet of snow made things pretty safe to do some slow speed carving. Here is a shot of Kris and here is Keith. Gracie was right behind me when I took those and I heard her giggle when Keith came by us carving. The biggest issue they had while carving was getting a face full of powder, as Kris shows here and Keith here.
    After the carving display, we headed back to the homestead. The boys loaded their sleds on their trucks and then came in and got cleaned up and we went to dinner. Gracie parked her sled in the shop to let it thaw out. It is still cold out, but looks to warm as we head through the rest of this week, so I suspect that we will be getting out on the sleds some more and perhaps even some skiing and/or snow shoeing. 
    I guess that about covers it for this one. It sure is great to finally have things looking like they typically do around here in mid-January and the forecast might not hold a ton of new snow the rest of this week, but no thaws and some more snows look possible next week.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
January 10, 2016-
    Two main themes to this entry: The weather and the pups. Both have good themes to them. First, the weather. Winter has finally arrived in earnest up here. We picked up some snow last week, much of it wet and heavy, but since we were really still trying to build a base, that was a good thing. It did present some challenges for me when I was clearing the ice rink. The wet snow would clump together and create large slabs that would break off, rather than go into the pick up area for the blower. It was not too much of a problem as long as I took 1/2 cuts into the snow, but did make for a longer cleaning time.
    Saturday morning, the arctic air started to dump in and has continued to this writing. We are now at a balmy 8 above, which is the coldest we have been in this current cold snap. Along with the cold air, we have also had lake effect snows fall. Not a ton, but not a paltry amount either. So far we are up to around 6" new since yesterday and the snow has picked up in its intensity and is coming down at the rate of at least 1"/hr. It would be nice if it kept up like this the whole night, but I will take even a few more hours.
    The time frame that I have been watching the most for the past 3-4 days is later tomorrow into the first half of Tuesday. There is the potential for the famed Bayfield Bomber to set up and burry someone from around Toivola to Delaware. I kind of stuck my neck out with my forecast late last week that showed at least 24" of new snow to fall from Saturday night through Thursday. So far we are on track for that. While 24" seems like a ton of snow, over a 6 day time frame, that is only an average of 4" every 24 hours. We are actually a bit over that pace at the moment and the Bayfield Bomber would just about seal the deal. Although it looks like even once the bomber is over Tuesday morning, it will keep snowing into Thursday morning, with a brief break and then more snow over the weekend.
    So conditions are not "epic" up here, but with the cold and the new snow, the trails are really starting to shape up and will only get better in the next 4-5 days. I get the pleasure to pass by one of the worst stretches up here on my travels. Just about all week, it was a mix of snow and some dirt/small rocks. It is a short stretch, but was still pretty ugly to drive through. Here is what it looked like this morning
    The other news this week was the celebration of Huck and Millies 7th birthday! They said they really did not want to make a big deal of it, but we did splurge and get them some gigantic bones to chew on. They were like hip bones or something like that. They were made in the USA, something we are all sure of before we give them any treat. Anyway, the grabbed the bones nice and gently and made their way into the living room. A big treat like that needed to be chewed on in a special setting! Here is Huck ripping into his bone and here is Millie tearing into hers.
    They did not let another candle on their cake get them to feeling old though, as this morning Gracie found one of their balls and was playing with them and soon they were by the kitchen door, playing with each other like a couple of puppies. I wish we had shot some video, as the grunting and cooing sounds they were making was as funny as anything. No video, but I do have one more shot, taken the moment Huck dropped the ball into my shoe.
    So, it seems like I should have more to share with you, but I am drawing a blank. I am sure that the snows projected this week will provide some good material for next week and I will do my best to take more pictures to share. It is also looking highly likely that I will be riding before the next time I write as well, so I look forward to taking the new RT12 ride out and seeing how the improvements made for this seasons sleds worked out. I have heard nothing by good things from all that have been out on them.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
January 3, 2016-
    Well, welcome to 2016 everyone. A new year, with new hopes, dreams and hopefully some new snow! Truth be told, it is snowing as I type and the forecast is looking fairly good for the next week or two...more on that in a bit.
    I can say that I was a little disappointed in the storm that never came early last week. I guess I should not say that it never came, it just tracked around 150 miles to the south, which may seem to be a sizeable miss to most folks, but in meteorological terms, when you are talking about storms developing and then tracking for 1000's of miles, it was more like a near miss. None the less, it sure would have been nice, but such is life!
    I can say that while I was disappointed, I really have been able to keep a pretty positive attitude about things so far. In years past, I think I would have really been in despair by now, but have been able to keep any real depressing feelings at bay. I actually thought about this some this week. Why am I not getting too upset that we have had such a wimpy winter so far (one of the least snowy and warmest to date on record)? The one thing I can say for sure is it is NOT because I have lost my love for snow. It is as strong as ever and now that the main down side to it (moving it off the driveway) is more of a joy than a chore, I really have no reason not to want all that Mother Nature will give us. I did spend the week looking back at pictures of some of the more memorable snow dumps and winters we have had and found myself smiling at them and longing for that kind of snow, but still not in any kind of a truly negative mood.
    The main reason why I think I am able to keep my attitude positive so far is the fact that even in a really bad snow year, we pick up 130-140 inches of snow and since we have only picked up around 35" so far this season, it means that we are either going to have an unbelievably bad snow year, or we are going to get at least 100" of snow before things are over, with the vast majority of it likely coming in the next 8-10 weeks. So I am holding onto the idea that nearly 100" of snow still needs to fall here and that is a pretty good amount of snow.
    I think 2 other things that have helped to keep my spirits up is that: 1) We do have enough snow to play in and, 2) The temps in the past 10 days have been delightful. Highs in the 20's and lows in the upper teens. Cold enough to fully preserve the snow that has fallen, yet not so cold that we cannot get out and enjoy it (much like the past 2 winters were).
    Speaking of getting out and enjoying it, that is exactly what Gracie, Nora and I did on Tuesday after I was done with my work. She had asked if she could go for a snowmobile ride and with the temps comfortable, some light snow falling and an anxious riding partner, how could I say no? 
    We picked up a few more acres of land right next to ours this past spring. The previous owner had done some clearing on it with plans to build there, but his plans changed and he offered up the land to us, so we bought it from him to give us a little bit more of a buffer from any potential development next to the house. There has always been a little footpath between the area where the house and shops sit to the land he cleared, so we can use it to ride the sleds to, without going on the road. The clearing is not that big, but is big enough and also free from things (other than trees) for Gracie to run into on her sled, so it works out perfect for her to tool around in. I rode over there with her on my sled and Nora hoofed it on foot and the two of us enjoyed watching Gracie ride around, while the pups sniffed all they could while avoiding getting run over at the same time.
    The section of land also connects to a stretch of old abandoned rail road grade that was part of the snowmobile trail system up here years ago, but has since been blocked off and made for a perfect spot for her and I to do a little more exploring and riding. Because it is blocked off at each end and is difficult to get to even on foot, unless you use the path from our property, it does not see much activity on it at all. There were a few blow-downs on it that needed to be cleared, but I always carry a little pruning saw in my sled and was able to make pretty quick work of a cedar that had fallen and blocked our way. Gracie patiently watched as I huffed and puffed while sawing off the dozen or so limbs. The trail only goes around a 1/4 mile or so before the next barrier is up and we turned around there, but had fun and I know we both look forward to the next run through there. 
    I must say that she is really getting the hang of riding the sled. She has learned all on her own to throw her weight around to help keep her balance when turning or a little off level. She uses the throttle very well now and is also making pretty good use of the break when needed. I am guess that either this winter, or for sure next, will be her final one on the 120 and she will need something a little bigger. Probably a few years after that and we will be tooling around on some logging roads. 
    Some of the other outdoor activity done this week involved a new role for Big Red, that of Zamboni! The rink that Gracie learned to ride her bike in this summer becomes a nice rink in the winter. All the upkeep is done by local volunteers and on one of my walks, I came across one of them and offered up the services of Big Red to keep the snow off with. They do have a truckload of shovels and two walk behind blowers that they keep in the rinks warming hut, but in a typical year, it is quite the job even with all of that equipment and a bunch of manpower to keep it free of snow. So now Big Red is assigned the task of keeping our driveway and parking area open, our neighbors and the local skating rink! I have been thinking hard all week on how to most easily rig up a resurfacer for the 3-point on the rear. It probably would not be too hard of a thing to do, but I guess we will see just how often the ice really needs resurfacing. I was told that it only takes around 30-45 minutes to put a flood on it, so that might be the best solution for this year.
    In any case, we did have to open up the doorway a bit more to make it big enough for Big Red to fit through and I am really pumped to be able to help out in keeping the rink skate-able. I know growing up in the Chicago area, we had plenty of resources available to put up and maintain outdoor rinks  and in the optimal winter, there were several within a short drive. However, even in the bet of winter, I can only remember the ice being around for a few weeks before the weather took them out. In an average year, we should be able to have that rink open for business from early December to mid-March. Inside the warming hut, they have pictures of the winners of the annual tournament and it is neat to see the names listed. Some are now my good friends and there is even a few that are a few steps away from making the NHL. I am not trying to take anything away from Minnesota by saying this, but the UP is surely hockey country too!
    Anyway, the rink only started getting flooded this week and on my morning walk with the pups today, I saw where they had flooded it again last night. It looks like maybe one or two more floods, along with a bit of scraping and it will be in good shape. Nora, Gracie and I did head down there yesterday afternoon to do a little skating. Before we did, we headed to the local pro shop to get the girls skates sharpened and to pick up a stick for Gracie and I. I must say that it has probably been around 25-28 years since I had to buy my last hockey stick and was blown away by what there is now. Pretty much all composite now, finding a wooden one is not impossible, but the choices are few. The composite are a huge step up, they probably only weigh about 1/4 of a wooden one, but are way stronger. In fact, the one I bought came with a 30 day warrantee. I joked with the person running the pro shop about the warrantee covering "all reasons for breakage" and he told me with a straight face: "Yep". Just bring it in with your receipt and we will give you a new one!
    Sheesh! The down side is the price. While I did not purchase the most expensive model there, I was amazed that such a stick was about as expensive as my first car! I know I am getting up there in age, but I can still remember going to the big hockey equipment sale at Johnsons Sporting Goods in Des Plains IL every autumn and picking up a dozen wooden ones for about the price of that $250 stick. The one I got was not even 100 dollars though and I was told that for casual play like I will be using it, it will probably outlast me.
   If how my feet felt after just 20 minutes on the ice is any indication of how things will go in my hockey career at this point, I think that there is little doubt that the stick will outlast me! Actually, it will get better. I do remember the first few skates of the season and they were pretty painful by the end of the practice, even when I was just a young buck. I also remember it being a lot easier to bend over and tie the skates, even with equipment on!!!
    So anyway, we got all geared up, I showed Gracie how (beware, there is some foul language at around the 27 second mark of this video) to put on the foil and we took to the ice and took some warm up laps. Then it was time to do some face-off drills. She ended up with a winning percentage of 97%. Looks like dad has some work to do. Hey, I was a winger, not center! She had a blast and was thrilled to be skating with mom and dad and even playing hockey. Even the falls were met with smiles. Well, most of them. The last one she banged her cheek pretty hard and decided it was time to head to the locker room. No stitches were needed and she is already wanting to go some more. She said she cannot wait to get to school tomorrow to tell all the boys in her class that she plays hockey! We will be getting her a helmet before the next skate and I think if we really do end up skating a bunch, we will swap out the figure skates for some of the hockey variety.
    So, now...how about that forecast... In the past 3-4 days there has been a fairly large change in the upper air pattern across North America and even other areas of the northern Hemisphere. While it may not seem like it so much, the change is looking like it will present much more noticeable changes in the weather across the northern Midwest as we reach the second half of this week and into the weekend/early next week at least. Those changes will include the seasons first arctic air outbreak for the central and possibly the eastern US. This will set off some heavy lake effect snows (LES) across the LES belts of the Great Lakes and also likely support at least some light to moderate system snows from later this week into the first half of next week. My confidence is quite high that the cold air and LES will occur, it is just a matter of who gets what. At this point it looks like the winds will be moving around in direction, which is good, it means that the snows will not be confined to just one area of the LES belts of the UP and NWL MI. I also cannot say just how much will fall, but feel that the idea of a foot for many areas of the UP LES belts is not a far fetched idea. The system snows are a bit more questionable, but not if they will occur, but how much. On the high end, perhaps as much as 6-10", on the low end maybe only 2-4. The bottom line is, it is going to get quite cold by later this weekend and early next week and snows will be flying across much of the northern Midwest later this week into next. So get ready to take advantage of it, I cannot promise what happens after!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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