Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
Dan's Wilderness 
December 29-
    This will be a short one for sure.  I am expecting a very important visitor to be calling me to tell me she has arrived in the Keweenaw and as soon as that call comes in, I am outta here!  But until then, I will be more than happy to share my thoughts and observations.  One thing I have not been observing any of since coming back up here is snow.  In fact, the last flakes of snow I saw flying were at my folks place in southern WI early, early Christmas morning.  I should not have to wait too much longer, but this really is turning out to be one of these years up here.  On the bright side, we have not lost any snow.  I do not have any pics of the trails, but I have seen them and they are getting more and more beat up.  They are still snow packed in almost all areas, but by the road crossings and in the corners, the coverage is thin or the snow is dirty.  Plus the heavy traffic has left the moguls in place too.  I am sure they are out grooming, it is just one of those things where the groomers cannot keep up with the traffic.
    I have done some cross country skiing the past few days.  Two days ago I skied with my uncle at the school forest, then yesterday we went to the beach at Big Traverse and today I skied the Lake Linden sands.  No pictures of the sands or the school forest, but I do have some shots from Big Traverse.  Yesterday was a very pretty day, with lots of cobalt blue skies and no winds.  A perfect day for the beach in the summer and also a pretty good one in the winter.  The snow cover out there was pretty thin, but was just enough to support our skies, so we took off heading south.  It is really neat to ski in that environment, with the water lapping up on the beach and the sun beating down on my face.  We did not go very fast at all, which was fine with me, it was enjoyable just to lazily ski down the beach and take it all in.  The air was not cold, but was very clear and all the geographical features were clearly visible.  Behind me was Mount Bohemia, sticking up above the rest of the terrain, it's ski runs clearly visible.  I am not sure if it is open yet, they do not have snow making equipment out there yet and this winter has really been short of snow, at least since about the 10th of December.
    Also in that direction, was a commercial fishing boat returning to the harbor at Big Traverse.  Even on a day like today, that has to be one cold job, going out on that big lake and dealing with the cold and all the wet nets and other equipment.  I sure hope they were successful in their ventures, sure would be no fun to head out there and deal with those elements and get skunked!
    We skied down the beach about a mile or so and then decided to turn around.  I really do not want to push Baileys too much.  She is doing pretty good with her hips, but I think that is partly because she does get exercise daily, but also never overdoes it.  It really was the kind of day that we could have kept going all the way down the beach, but you have to always keep in mind that for every yard you ski down the beach, you have to ski back too.  We spotted some driftwood up the beach about an eight of a mile away and decided to make that our turn around point.  Before turning around tough, I decided to snap a shot of the Huron Mountains with the piece of driftwood in the foreground.(FSV).  Yes, it really was that beautiful and tranquil out there.  As I type this, I can still feel the sun beating down on my face.  I guess if it is not going to be snowing, it may as well be a day like yesterday.
    After returning to the truck, I took my uncle over to see the fishing village at Big Traverse.  It really is a unique area to the Keweenaw.  Almost like a New England fishing village, or a fishing village in Newfoundland or something.  I remember the first time I saw it, I was really impressed.  It was the dead of winter too and the boats were locked into the frozen harbor ice, but was still a site to behold.  I think that it is actually even more of a site to behold in the dead of winter.  The snow and ice only adds to the rustic flavor of the area.
    Well, it looks like I have run out of things to say before the phone could ring.  As far as conditions up here, they are worse then they were when I took the pictures on the 26th, but not a disaster.  With a fresh snow of 3-6" things would be in much better shape.  Just such a snow is a possibility later tomorrow night and into Tuesday and then it looks like some more snow could fall by about Thursday and then maybe later next weekend or early next week.  There also does not look to be much in the way of melting that will occur.  I suppose tomorrow early temps could be above freezing and we could even get some non-snow precipitation, but it looks to be light.  The snow on the ground is quite solid and will be a great base for when we get some more.  I sure hope it comes in bunches soon, I am just about ready to play in the powder.  But not this week, I have much more important things to do!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
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December 26-
    Home sweet home!  It is good to be back.  It was great to see my parents and brothers and nephew, but was also great to be back.  To be able to sleep in my own bed, shower in my own shower and even snack on my own food.  Plus the hounds seem to be glad to be back in their home too.  They have their favorite places to take a nap and they have their own food bowls and the other creature comforts of their own place.  Before I go on, I have to announce that I will be entertaining visitors for the next 10 days, so I will not have as much time to spend on the journals as I normally would, especially next week, but I will try and at least get out a paragraph or two every 2-3 days to keep you posted on things up here, especially the trail conditions if I have info to share on them.  Speaking of snow and trail conditions and the like, I really felt a deep sense of sorrow as I was driving through northern WI yesterday.  There was basically a dusting of snow on the ground from Wausau WI all the way north to the WI-MI border.  Maybe a bit more just north of Eagle River WI, but still not enough to ride on.  All the motel lots in Eagle River were empty and I could not help but feel for the businesses and the folks that had to cancel their trips for this time period.  I really hope that those popular places can get some snow, their loss is our gain, but the Keweenaw is never really hurting for winter customers, so it would be great to see some snows fly across the northwoods of MN, WI and lower MI.  I was surprised to see some fairly respectable totals in northern MN while updating the snow cover maps this morning.  It is not way way deep, but there were a handful of 6's and a few 8's that I plotted, so that is probably enough to ride up there too.  I just wish I had more snow to be able to say was coming.  Hopefully soon.
    The conditions up here are not that bad actually.  I did take my sled for a quick spin around the area this afternoon.  I did not go far at all, so obviously I cannot speak for the entire trail system, but I can say that where I rode, the snow is not as deep as in other places in the Keweenaw, so theoretically, the conditions should be better.  Anyway, here is what the trail looked like by my house.  It was groomed and in not that bad of shape.  There were a few little bumps, but all in all, they did not impact my speed.  I was told by the groomers down this way that they will be going out three times in a 24 hour period and that will include night grooming.  I was also told that the groomers out of Phoenix will also be going out more than once in a 24 hour period and that some night grooming will be going on out of that local as well.  I have my fingers crossed, I would be so neat to write that about all that can be done to keep the trails in the best shape possible is being done.  Of course, at the busiest times of the year, no amount of grooming is going to keep up with things, but I am sure that you all share my feelings that as long as all that can be reasonably done is being done, then that is all we can ask.
    I can also say that even though the snow may not be as deep as it was a year ago, because we have been cold since October, things have frozen up well.  One of the reasons why I took my sled out today was so that I could examine one of the mud holes that was there last year.  Not much of a mud hole this year.  The difference this year is not only chalked up to the weather, but the fact that some new culverts have been put in and some low spots filled.  The picture this year was taken in the exact spot as last year, just the opposite side of the mud holes.  This year I was standing where the sleds and people were standing in last years picture.  So I guess I have done my plugging for the Tourism Industry up here for the day, but I do know that people are wanting to know how things are up here.  It is getting busy, there were quite a few sleds that I passed on my short trip and I can hear them off in the distance when I go outside.  So I suppose things will only get worse, not better.  There is a bit of light snow indicated for Saturday.  Not a lot, but an inch or two.  My main worry is for Monday when we could get a little bit of rain.  It would not be heavy enough and would fall with temps in the 30's so that the snow cover would not be ruined, but it is no fun to ride in the rain, no matter how light it is.
    Well, I guess I can say that I am true to my word.  My first visitor has arrived and I need to break away for now, but I promise to be back sometime this weekend for more info on the goings on up here and hopefully some pictures too.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
December 20-
    Sure was nice to have to kick the snow off the boots after the morning walk!  Not a lot about 1-2", but still enough to cover all the dirty snow up and it has been snowing all day, not heavy, but still enough to keep things fresh.  The weekend looks good for at least 8-12 around here, so looks like snow play will be ok next week.  I don't know what it is about this place and the final days before Christmas, but it just seems like it has to snow.  No complaints here!  As said in the previous journal, this one will likely be pretty short.  I do have have a few pictures to share with you as the hounds and I took a nice walk this afternoon, I need to explain the latest saga with the trail cam and will share a Christmas salutation with you all, but then I must really go and pack!  Hitting the trail to go over the river and through the woods pretty early tomorrow.
    So first things first I guess, the latest trail cam saga.  I was planning to actually spill all the details of what when down, but have decided to keep the majority of the details under wrap.  No need to air that kind of stuff to the whole world.  But suffice to say that the location had become unsecure.  Not from an outside source, but from the owner of the property where the cam was located.  I am sure that he feel he had a right to do what he did, but the bottom line is the functionality of the cam was compromised and I could no longer keep it in that situation.  So the cam is down.  However, as luck would have it, about 20 minutes after taking it down and bringing all the equipment home, I secured a new spot for it.  It will be on the same trail, about 1 mile or so away from it's initial spot.  I am a lot more comfortable about this new location and the person who is providing the spot.  Things will be a lot more stable.  The only bad part is that I will not be able to get to bringing it back on line until the week of Jan 5-11.  So it will be down for the next 2 weeks.  I may take some shots of the trail by my house a few times a day and post them in place of the web cam image for the time being but that will not happen until I return here on the 26th.  Another good thing about the new cam site is that there may be enough ambient light at night to have it go even when the sun has set.  We'll see.  So that is what happened with the trail cam.  Never a dull moment with this thing that is for sure!
    I had some errands to run today, so the hounds and I could not go too far, but thankfully living where I do, I do not have to travel too far to be in some beautiful country.  I can actually just walk a few hundred feet from my front door and be in some of the most beautiful country in the whole Midwest, but with the snow, we needed a trail to walk on, so I went over to the old path that the Lake Linden groomer used to use to get from his house to the trail.  That is a very pretty spot and I knew we would have it to ourselves, the perfect combination if you ask me.  I do not have a ton of shots to share, but I guess it will be a matter of quality not quantity.  The snow we have been getting was a sticky snow, with temps in the low 30's, so I did not have to do much work, mother nature really provided all my material.  The first photo op I was given was of a creek meandering out of the snow dusted woods.(FSV).  Of course the creek goes through a culvert, so the hounds had to explore the culvert for about 5 minutes.  I did not mind at all, this walk was just about getting out and taking in all that was around us.  Not about getting a bunch of exercise in or getting to a specific destination.  I will have to say that this was the perfect day for taking such a leisurely walk.  As I took this shot,(FSV), the song "I'll be home for Christmas" kept running through my mind and I expected to see a horse drawn sleigh to come over the hill.  But no horse, no sleigh, just the hounds and I, some flakes falling gently from the sky, the quiet-snow laden woods and some deer tracks.  And some people actually wonder why I love snow so much!!!  The deer have been migrating to their winter herding grounds for the past 2 weeks or so and when we came along one of their migration trails, Burt picked up on it and decided to follow it into the woods.  I am blessed with two dogs that do not stray too far from me.  Burt may go 50 yards or so into the woods, but he seems to know where and who butters his bread, so he sticks close by and always comes running to Baileys and I in a minute or two.  Burt seemed to take a few extra moments on this particular expedition, but that was OK, because it allowed me to take take notice of some snow laden balsam trees.(FSV).
    So the afternoon walk was just awesome.  A great ending to a pretty eventful week.  Tomorrow I will be heading south, always a bittersweet happening for me.  I really hate to leave this place, even for just a few days, but it will be wonderful to see my family and perhaps some friends.  Christmas with the family, all the traditions and all the memories.  I have much to be grateful for at the close of this year.  The most wonderful woman in the world to share my life with, my family, friends, health and last but certainly not least Burt and Baileys. Oh, and to live in God's Country.  I am a lucky, lucky man and I am grateful that I have an audience to be able to share it with.  Even though I may not know you - the person on the other end of this magical thing we call the internet, who comes to read my little journal - I can sense you are there, feel your presence, as I type these words.  As I write, I feel as if I am speaking to you in person, telling you about my adventures and what I have seen and done the past few days.  Not a day goes by that I do not get a e mail (or twenty) from persons such as yourself - wishing me well and thanking me for my work.  The e mails are full of praise and thanks for all the work I do to keep the site alive.  It is a lot of work, but in truth, the site would be nothing without you all.  You are the real reason why the site is here and why I do what I do.  A day never goes by that I am not amazed by all the activity the site generates and how great everyone that visits is.  Occasionally a little dust is stirred up, but with the numbers of people coming to the site, it is amazing that it happens as little as it does.  Besides, stirring up a little dust is good every once in a while.  Keeps us all on our toes and allows us to see things from a different perspective.  So at this holiday season, when we are all either with our family's or at least thinking of them, I would like to wish you, my extended family, a very Happy Holiday season.  I am very, very excited for the new year and all it promises.  Of course I will be sure to share all the joys and surprises it has to offer with you.  I am also getting very excited to share with you the details of this mystery woman who has so captured my heart and sole.  The first time I was made aware of her, the person doing the introducing said she was beautiful both inside and out and more truthful words were never uttered.  She is most certainly a gift and a treasure and I never stop wondering what I ever did to deserve her.  I am a lucky, lucky, lucky man.
    So from Baileys, Burt and I, here is wishing you a most wonderful holiday!  Talk to you next week.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
December 17-
    Well, it is grin and bear it time!  Temps will be on the rise tomorrow and it looks like we will get some freezing rain and then rain.  Hopefully the snow we have will not be hit too hard, because we actually have a pretty good base.  I was up at the trail cam yesterday and the trail there was covered with about 3 inches of snowment, a hard packed snow that will provide a great base for the rest of the season if it can survive tomorrow.  I think it will.  Our temps should not get all that warm and it will start to cool off by Thursday morning.  Actually, I am most worried about tomorrow night.  It seems like every time we have one of these thaws, we make it through the day fine, but then I wake up to see most of the snow gone!  Regardless, looks like some decent snow coming from the 20th through Christmas and maybe even into New Years, so I am not worried about this areas snow potential in the least.  My main concern will be to be able to get up my driveway upon my arrival Christmas night from being back down south for 5 days!  Last year Al plowed me out, so maybe I can hope for the same this year!
    Yesterday the hounds and I headed out to the school forest.  The temps had dropped back below freezing and I decided to take the risk and suit up for a ski.  It is a risk because if I cannot ski, walking in the boots is really not much of an option.  Now, as I sit here and type this, I think that I could have just brought along my walking boots too and then all bases would have been covered, but hindsight is always 20/20 right?!  As luck would have it, there was enough snow to ski on.  This time of the year, it really takes a lot to melt the snow from the woods.  The sun is so low in the sky that even on a sunny day that is above freezing, it cannot melt much.  It does not get light until about 8 am and then gets dark at about 4:30, so there is not a lot of sunlight in the day to even melt the snow.  The worse thing is temps above freezing all day and night.  That hurts.  Anyway, there was still about 4-5" of snow down in the woods of the school forest and it was a pretty hard packed and icy snow too boot, so the ski went rather quickly!  Thankfully there are not a lot of hills out there, or I would have been in a bit of trouble.  Cross country skis are not designed to allow you to stop that well, so I am sure that it would have been one of the thousands of trees out there that would have ended up stopping me.  So as it were, the little hills out there only provided a quick little run down the hills and through the woods.  We did finish the ski in about half the time it usually takes and I did not even break a sweat.  Nice contrast to the workout I get when we are breaking trail through a foot of fresh.  Of course, a foot of fresh would be a very nice thing about now!   It is not just the woods that have a solid snowcover to them, the fields out there also are still covered in the white stuff too.
    Today, I decided to try my luck without the skis and since I had to do some business in Calumet, I decided to head up north a bit and find a place to hike in the woods.  With the snow in the school forest, my yard and just about everywhere else so hard and packed down, I figured I would be able to walk just about anywhere I chose.  I did a bit of thinking and then decided I would opt for a place that would likely have had some sleds go down it, so the snow would be even more packed down.  I decided upon one of the trails to the top of the Cliff Range near Phoenix.  My assumption that some sleds had been through there was correct, it looked like some sleds went through there this past weekend.  There were also some fresh foot prints in the snow, either a woman, or a man with very small feet and their dog had been through earlier today.  One set of prints pointed up to the top and another pointed down, so I knew we would not encounter who ever made them.  The trail was perfect for walking.  A hard pack snow that provided firm footing.  I figured that if the snow was soft and difficult to walk in, we would still go, but just not as far.
    I was glad that the footing was good though, because the dogs would have wanted to go further and there are also some fairly steep spots in the trail.  It was in that exact spot, two years ago- almost to the day, that me and some others tried making it to the top and failed after many, many attempts.  The snow was just too deep for my sled at the time.  With the modifications that have been made to it since then, I am confident I would have made it.  Amazing to look back at how things were that year.  What a great December we had that year, man did it snow!  15" on that day alone!  Wa!
    We did make it to the top of that hill this year and the next hill as well.  On foot of course, but still, we made it to the top.  Today was a very windy day as well.  Winds were out of the southeast at about 20-30 mph and I would have to say that when we got to the top of the Cliff Range, the southeast exposure and elevation allowed the winds to be even stronger, with gusts to about 40 mph I would have to estimate.  At times I was a little worried about a tree falling on us.  It is really impossible to take a walk in the woods up here and not see a fallen tree.  I have yet to actually witness one falling, but I suppose that is because I am usually smart enough to be inside when the big blows are going on.  Not today, but we still made it through the woods without a tree falling on us.  Once on top the low sun also provided a neat back drop for our walk to the overlook.  The other day I mentioned that the sun is so low that even in the midday, it looks like it is about ready to set in an hour or so.  Here is what it looked like at about 2:30 this afternoon.  Of course in 2 hours it was setting, but it really does not look much different at noon.  We did manage to make it to the overlook and that is where the wind was really howling.  So much so it was actually hard to stand still enough to take a picture. I found that I had to lean up against a tree to take a picture out there and usually the dogs love to go up to the edge of the overlook and look over, but today, they seemed to be content to stay out of the gale that was going on out there.  Thanks to the tree, I was able to snap a few shots.  Here is the frozen West Branch of the Eagle River, meandering it's way a few hundred feet below us.  Tilting the camera up and to the left, I was able to capture a shot of the south end of Phoenix, including the establishments of the Cliff View and Vansville, two of my favorite stopping points when out snowmobiling in those parts.  In that shot, at the lower right, is the intersection of Cliff Drive and Hwy. 41.  The patch of white just above that is the snowmobile trail and way off in the distance on the left is east end of the Cliff Range up near Delaware.
    I could not stand to be in the wind in that exposed spot any longer (literally and figuratively), so we headed back down.  One of the many nice things about this hike is it is almost all up hill the way in and down hill the way out, so the way out is more relaxing.  We made go time, but also stopped to smell the roses, or what ever it was the dogs would get interest in from time to time.  I really do get a kick out of watching them check things out with their noses.  Sometimes I think that they spend a bit too much time sniffing and not enough time looking.  There are tons of critters that I see, but they only smell the trail of when we get to where it crossed.  Of course, they do get to smell tons of things that I never saw, so I guess it all evens out in the end.  Upon emerging from the woods edging the Cliff Range, we have to walk through the area that the West Branch of the Eagle River traverses.  It is one of my favorite photo op spots.  It seems no matter what the weather or time of year is, I am always blessed with a great sight to capture with the camera.  Today was no different, with the yellow and orange sky reflecting off the frozen waters of the creek.(FSV).  I guess that last shot should ease the concern of any rider that had to dodge the mud holes up here between Christmas and New Years last year.  Yes, things are still frozen up pretty solid.  I suppose there might be a wet spot or two still out there, but nothing at all like last year and the liquid stuff we are going to get tomorrow will not change things up here at all.
    So all in all, it was a very nice afternoon.  We got in some great exercise, took in some very pretty scenery and was even able to share some of it with you.  Even with the temporary interruption in winter we have had the past week or so, things still seemed very winterlike.  Maybe not the feet of snow this area is used to in the middle of winter, but it is still early and I am sure we will get our fair share.  The drive home was a very relaxing one and one filled with a feeling of happiness for being able to do what we do in our afternoons.  It also provided one last piece of scenery that I was able to catch for you.  For some reason I found myself looking up at the rocky face of the Cliff Range on the way home.  I suppose because for the entire summer, much of the view is hidden in the trees.  But with the trees now bare, the whole face of the range is in view and I get to see things that I have not yet seen.  In one spot some water had been flowing down the face of the cliff and had build a neat ice formation.(FSV)  Thanks to the telephoto lens, I was able to zoom in on it pretty good.  If you look closely, it actually is pretty big, the trees along side it are mature pines, so the upper ice formation was about 20 feet tall and the lower one about 15-20 feet tall.
    So I guess that will do it for another entry.  This is the second to last one before I head south for 5 days with the family.  I will put out the final one on Friday.  I have to pack and do other things to get ready for the trip, so it promises to be a short one.  Probably more of a prayer of thanks than anything.  But I will post this years Christmas picture of the hounds and I.  A nice snowy one at that.  And who knows, maybe I will have some fresh snow shots to share with you by then too.  Until then...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
December 15-
    Wow, I had no idea I had been away for so long, but I guess I have been a little busy, plus I have really been hurting for new material to write about.  I guess I get in a bit of a funk when we hit these mild spells and I am just not my normal self.  So we have not been all that adventurous, resulting in not a whole lot of stories to tell and pictures to share.  Although I figured I better get a journal out tonight.  Even if I do not write a big entry, filled with lots of pictures, I figure that you all would rather have something small than to wait a few more days for that longer entry with lots of pictures.  So this will likely be a short one, but also a sweet one.
    It's funny, even though I could see this period of mild weather and lack of snow coming and could try and mentally prepare for it, it still was really hard to endure.  I do have to admit that we faired pretty well for as much warm temps as we had and even two full days of sunshine.  My snow depth is at about 2.5", down from 6 before the mild weather arrived.  I was really thinking that I would loose it all, but now it looks as though it might survive.  It looks like there is only one final hurdle and that will be Wednesday and Wednesday night, when temps look like they will be at to above freezing and we could get some rain or even freezing rain.  Right now it does not look like a lot of rain will fall and if the temps are in the mid to low 30's and we only get a quarter of an inch of rain or less, then the snow could actually survive, and I must point out that the snow is deeper in most other spots up here than it is at my house.  Even my front yard has about 4-5" down, while the back has 2-3.  The forecast still looks pretty good.  Not ideal, but snows do look to fall and we should get enough, so that by Christmas, there will be enough down to play in for those of you coming up.  There were actually folks up here this weekend riding.  The trails were thin/bare in spots and actually OK in others.  The trail cam spot is actually one of those OK spots.
    I can't believe that in less than a week, I will be heading south to spend time with my family for Christmas, where does the time go?  I think December has to be the quickest month to go through there is.  Even though I will be away, I do plan to update the forecasts on the 23rd and 24th and will be back in the Keweenaw Christmas evening, so the entire site will resume updating on the 26th.  I will be taking time off from the journal for almost a week and I will also not be updating the snowfall and snow cover data, as that is all stuff you can get by going to my links section.  Also I guess I will say that there will be no forecasts on the 30th, I will be a bit busy that morning with some very important stuff.
    I did manage to get all my Christmas shopping done over the weekend.  Sort of nice when the list is not too long, plus I had been thinking about what I wanted to get everyone, so it was just a matter of going out there and getting the items.  Plus, the item I am making for "N" is past the construction phase and all I need to do it put the stain and finish on, so it will be done this week too.  So it is a big relief to have that stuff out of the way!  I was up in Calumet Friday evening doing some of my shopping and as I drove by the Armory, I could not believe the cars!  The Calumet High School Hockey team had a home game against Big Rapids and the place was packed.  I wished I had had my camera, it would have been neat so show the Armory all lit up, with all the cars and people buzzing around it.  Hockey Night in Calumet.
    The only two pictures I have to share with you are of the ice castles forming out on the North Shore.  On Thursday or Friday, the hounds and I went out to the north shore for our walk.  Things were starting to melt a little around here, so skiing was not really an option and even walking around the neighborhood did not sound like much fun, the dogs would get all wet and it would just not be much fun to walk on the slushy roads.  So we went to the north shore.  We did not walk the beach, but did make it out to the beach to have a look.  Our January type weather we had from Thanksgiving through the first week of December had already put the lake shoreline into January mode, with the big piles of frozen slush packed in tight along the beach.  I was actually a little surprised to see them already there.  It had been cold, but I did not think it had been that cold.  Heck, last December we went to the north shore and saw a person in a kayak out on the waters of the big lake.  So I guess this season really has been much colder, even though we do not have a whole lot of snow to show for it, so far at least.  Anyway, here is what I am talking about when I say an ice castle.  I guess that one could also be called an ice volcano.  When the waves are rolling in, they will shoot up through the opening in that pile and it will look just like a volcano erupting, only with frigid Lake Superior water and chunks of slush and ice.
    The hard part about taking pictures of of those things is to capture their scale.  That one was actually about 20 feet higher than the lakes surface and about 10 feet higher than the rest of the frozen slush.  Burt decided to help me out a little, by venturing out onto the frozen slush a bit.  He did not go near the big pile featured in that last shot, but you can still get some idea of the size of things out there by looking at this shot of him on the ice.  In that shot I was up on a bluff, about 10 feet above the beach as well, so my position up high also makes things look kind of smaller than they really are.  It's funny, as I was overlooking the frozen shoreline, it really did feel like it was the middle of winter, even though it is not the middle of winter, it was just the very beginning.  So maybe that is a good sign of things to come too.
    We were back to the chill today, with temps falling throughout the day on northerly winds.  Right now my thermometer reads 18 degrees.  It was even cold enough to get some light lake effect snow going.  Not enough to even coat the ground, but still nice to see some flakes flying.  It seems like forever since they last flew, but it was not even a week.  Amazing how if it does not snow up here for more than a few days, it is really a big thing, or seems really strange.  When I lived down south, it was not that unusual for it to go weeks without even a flake falling.  We did get a dusting overnight up here.  Just enough to freshen up things a bit, which was also nice.  So now I am in wait mode.  The only hurdle left is Wednesday and then we look to get some snow.  Actually one of the forecast models is indicating a big storm for us by Friday.  Folks in MN and NW WI would see pretty big snows too, or at least 6-12".  However, the other models are not of the same opinion that the storm will be as impressive, so it is just best to see what pans out in future model runs.  I can say that this year is much different from last.  There is no more standing water out there, so once we get snow, then the trails will recover nicely.  The groomers had already been out, so there is a bit of a base, or was.  So even with the few days of mild air, there will be no mud bogs this year for you folks coming up in a week and a half.  But we do need snow!  All in all, I think we are in much better shape this year than last.  It does not look like we will get the 40-60" between Christmas and New Years like we got last year, but all we really need is about 8-10" of regular snow or a foot or two of lake effect and things will be in very good shape.  Neither of those two situations are out of the realm of possibilities, and there is even the chance that BOTH will happen.
    Well I guess that will do it for another one.  I figure there will be two more journals before leave.  Either a Tuesday or Wednesday one and then a Friday one.  The Friday's one will likely be pretty short, because I will be getting ready to head south, but that will also be my annual Christmas greeting one, including the picture.  It might be a little mushy, especially with all the wonderful things that have been happening in my life recently, but what the heck, Christmas is about getting a little mushy from time to time, right?.  So until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
and PS - Hey Jeff!
- JD-
December 11-
    So far not so bad.  Thanks to the low December sun angle we survived day one of the melt rather unscathed.  I am actually starting this journal a little early because I have some plans for the evening and want to get one out.  So I guess I have not yet seen what today's thaw will provide.  Already we have lost about a little, but yesterday we only lost about a half inch or even less.  Like I say, the low December sun really cannot do much melting.  It is weird, but the sun sits low enough on the horizon all day now that it seems like if it were summer, the sun would be setting in about 2 hours, even though it may be midday and we might still have 5 or 6 hours of daylight left.  The low sun allows the shadows to be a lot longer too, so that also protects the precious snow.  Yesterday and hounds and I took a ski in the woods and the snow was actually still powdery out there, even at about 2:30 in the afternoon.  Powdery snow is not melting snow, that is for sure.  Plus, our night time temps are getting cold, at least here in the valley.  I have bottomed out at about 15 degrees the past 2 mornings.  It has been warmer in the higher elevations.  Today the airport was 30 while I was at 15.  Good old valley cold air pooling.  Quite the inversion this morning too.  When I took the hounds for the morning quick walk, the smell of burning wood was thick and there was even a noticeable smoke seen in the air.  I guess that is the yooper version of air pollution, smoke from wood burning fireplaces and furnaces.  I'll take it, I love that smell, especially on a crisp, clear winters morning.  Even a little fog, but nothing like I see is still happening in areas of IA and MN.  It is the middle of the day and folks out there still have fog!
    I must say that even though I would rather have clouds and big snowflakes falling right now than the clear blue skies, but it is a little nice to have the sunshine.  That is really a rare commodity around here from about the end of September through the end of March.  So I guess I am just making the most of whatever Mother Nature decides to give us.  The sunshine is a nice thing, for now!
    Well, as mentioned, I took the hounds for a ski yesterday.  I actually went to one of our old ski areas.  That is the trail that the old Lake Linden groomer used to use to get from the his house to the trail.  That used to be the most perfect place to go.  No other skiers, or sleds, the only thing I had to worry about was encountering the groomer himself and I believe in all the times I was out there, we only encountered him once.  That groomer operator is not driving the Lake Linden groomer anymore, so that trail has slowly begun to go back to the woods.  Last season a bunch of trees fell across the trail in a wind storm and most of them were never cleared.  This year I don't think any new trees are down and I have found ways around the others so maybe I will be heading out there more often, or at least until the snow gets too deep.  I still like the school forest and it would be pretty hard to keep both areas all packed down.
    It was a very nice day for a ski.  Not too warm and certainly not too cold.  It was actually nice to be able to go without a hat and also to have to wear sunglasses to keep the warm sun off my face.  I don't really mind when the flakes are hitting my face, but the sun did feel nice.  Got to keep the yooper tan going you know!  The hounds also seemed to be having a good time.  Of course, they seem to have a good time no matter where we go, a trait that I have been trying to add to my personality too.  They are still as excited as ever to check out every culvert they can.  I am not really sure why it is do, I suppose that maybe some forest critters use the culverts to travel and they can pick up the left over scents, whatever the reason, it does not matter, they trounce down through the snow and stick their heads in.  If there is enough room, they will actually climb through.  So far they have not gotten stuck, but sometimes when one or both are in one of the culverts for a long time I start to worry a little.  I picture myself having to crawl through the culvert and get them unstuck.  Every time they reemerge from the culvert, I breathe a sigh of relief.
    So we would ski a little, then I would wait while they checked out the next culvert, then ski some more then culvert explore and so it went on for most of the afternoon.  It does not even seem to matter if they had checked out the culvert on the way out, they have to go back down into it on the way back in.  Between all the skiing and culvert exploring, I did manage to capture a shot of the hounds on the trail we were skiing on, then back to more skiing and whatnot.  As I rounded a bend in the trail, the sun was shining through a stand of red pine and the needles of the fir trees in the foreground were illuminated by the sunshine, making for a very beautiful winters scene.  I decided to see how the camera would capture all that was going on in that moment and I think it did a pretty good job. (FSV).  I am really liking that camera and cant wait to take some shots out in the bush riding and even some video.
    Well, you would never know from reading this, but about 5 hours have passed since I finished that last paragraph.  I took a walk with the hounds at the Lake Linden sands and found my lost car keys.  It was weird, but as I was walking out towards the scene of last Friday's mishap, I just had a feeling that I would find them.  No, actually I just knew I would find them.  The day was so nice and warm I figured I would not have any problems looking for them for as long as I wanted.  It did not take long at all and I saw them sitting in the snow.  So that helped to brighten my day, after finding them I thought about how it is weird that I can get such a strong feeling that something is going to happen.  I don't know if the rest of you ever get the same feeling, if not maybe it is because I make predictions for a living and somehow develop a sixth sense.  At any rate I also have a very good feeling about something else in my life!  I guess I really should not tease all of you, but I know that she will like to read that in the journal.  I know, I know, you all want to know more and someday you will, I can promise you that.  Heck, I may even be able to sneak some pictures into the journal someday.  I might get the frying pan upside the head, but it may be worth it, she really is beautiful!
    Ok enough teasing, and back to my my afternoon.  After finding the keys, I walked with the dogs on the sands.  There were a few wind blown spots, so skiing would have been a problem.  It was a great day for a walk.  Nice and mild, with lots of sunshine.  Again, I would have maybe preferred 1/8th of a mile visibility with heavy snow, but sunshine is nice too.  With the low sun angle the shadows are very noticeable, even the tiny ripples in the snow cast a visible shadow.  Being in the sun all afternoon, I think I even got a little bit of a tan!
    After the walk, I went and picked up my snowmobile.  I had intentions of riding it down to the trail cam today to fix the cam, but was running late, so I just drove it straight home and then took the truck to the trail cam.  Man, I still cannot believe how quick it is.  I know what I am about to say to folks with a new sled is probably no big deal, but for me and my old 94 XLT, it is a pretty big thing, but at any rate from a stand still, I can give it full throttle and on a really hard pack snow, like the road, the track will spin and the speedometer will read about 85 is just over a second.  Now, of course it the track hooked up, the sled would not go from 0-85 in one second, but that is still some major acceleration.  The final little tid bit is that at about 50 mph, I can give it full throttle and still lift the skis off the snow.  Again, maybe not a big deal for someone on the high performance sleds out now, but for a 8 or 9 year old 580, I think that is pretty good.  I can't wait to see how she does in the big drifts out at Phil's fields.  I doubt that you be seeing too many pictures of me like this anymore, at least I hope not!
    I did get over to fix the trail cam.  Yesterday I was over trying to get the temperature sensor running and accidentally pulled out the phone connection.  I tried to re-splice the connection, but it did not work and it was getting late, the sun was going down and it was also getting pretty cold, so I figured I would just leave it for today.  It is not fixed and I should not have the same problem again.  More phone cord out there now, so it will not get ripped out.  I was not able to get the temperature sensor to work, but I did get some different software to run and upload the picture.  I think that this other software takes a slightly better picture.  Maybe it is just my imagination, but it does seem a bit more clear.  If all goes well this year, I will have a better camera out there next year.  I also hope to get it setup so that the cam takes a picture every minute or so.  It really cannot take one more often than that because it takes about 30 seconds or so to upload the image, but I think every minute is pretty good.  Some sleds rode by when I was up there and yesterday the groomer came by.  Here is what the trail looked like this afternoon.  Man would that be nice to have THAT as the trail cam image!
    So that brings me to my next topic, whether someone should come up here to ride this weekend.  My honest answer to that is I do not have a definitive answer.  Of course the selfish side would say no, let what snow we have last as long as possible so that we can have at least some base for when the snows return.  But in reality, there is no law that says you cannot come up and ride.  The trails are open and at least in the area from Hancock to Calumet, they are grooming, I would imagine they are grooming elsewhere.  RIght now we have enough snow and it does not look like the next 3-5 days will be as warm as we got yesterday and today, so further snow loss does not look to be that bad.  I guess if you are really desperate to ride, then you could.  Just be forewarned that the conditions are marginal.  I can say that I seriously doubt that all the trails look like the shot I provided.  In fact, that is probably as good as it gets.  But there is snow and the trails are open, I just ask, if you do come, how about taking it easy and not tearing up the snow in the corners or after the stops.  Plus, taking it easy the first trip is a wise move.  Take it from someone who crashed his first time on the sled this season, you need to get those sled feet back before you ride like it is mid season.
    And so my final bit to share with you is actually a word of thanks from a visitor to the site.  He had a bit of a misfortune recently and was helped by some good folks who are also fans of the site (getting to be a pretty small world in the land of snowmobiling).  He sent me this email:
My snomo-buddy and I ventured up last Friday to the Keweenaw Peninsula -- our first time past Houghton.  On our way to Copper Harbor we took several logging roads to their end and back to the trail.  The snow was spectacular.  Several miles outside of Copper Harbor I got separated from my fellow rider and in my search for him ran out of gas.  This was around 4 pm.  By sundown, there had been no other sledders pass by and I was slowly becoming concerned whether I'd be found before long or if I'd be spending the night on the trail.  I dug a hole in the snow to provide a wind block and proceeded to sleep off and on for the next four hours.  By 10 o'clock I was cold.  Bitter cold.  I moved off the ground and back to my sled where I napped between periods of stretching and jumping around to keep adequate blood flow to my extremities.  At midnight I was reserved to the fact that I'd be there until morning.  More importantly, I seriously doubted my ability to maintain a safe body temperature.  I fell asleep again.  Around 2 am I awoke to the distant sound of a pair of sleds.  A few moments later I could see their headlamps.  They stopped and asked if they could assist as
I proceeded to tell them my story.  A little to cold to do much of anything, I stood by as they removed my drive belt, hooked up a tow rope and hauled me to Copper Harbor.  I got a room at Lake Fanny Hooe Resort where I regained my much desired 98.6.  In the morning they helped again by towing me to the fueling station and directing me to the shortest route back toward Calumet.  Somewhat in a state of shock, I forgot to ask them their names.  I do know they are from Hoffman Estates and Bensonville, IL and they are avid viewers of your site as well as readers of your journal.  I tried to tell them as often as I could what their help meant to me but I was wondering if you could insert another thanks in your journal.  They'll know who they are and who it's from.  It just so happens that they are pictured in today's still shot from Lake Fanny Hooe Resort (shot has been updated now). Their assistance was invaluable and appreciated more than words can say.  I only hope that I can pass on the favor to someone else.
    That seems like a good enough way to end this one.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
December 8-
    Well, we seem to have missed the latest snow event here in the Keweenaw.  I went through the morning snow reports and did see that areas of southern Houghton County picked up 4-5" but about all I got was an inch.  It was a little hard to tell just how much we picked up because the wind was blowing so hard that it did not accumulate on the snow station, but there was an even inch across most of my driveway, so that became the official measuring spot today.  It looks like it was the places off to our east that faired the best with this event.  Areas from about Munising to Paradise seem to have picked up 4-10" so far.  I am starting to learn that in cases where the winds are strong, we usually do not get as much snow as it looks like we will get.  In fact, some of our heaviest snows have come in very light wind regimes.  It seems like on days with light winds, the lake effect clouds just sort of meander out over the lake and since the Keweenaw Peninsula sticks out into the lake, then those lake snow clouds meander over us too.  So I am still stuck at about 6" on the ground at my house and other areas are between 8 and 12" up here.  A pretty respectable snow cover, but as always...I want more!  And we will get it.  Am not too worried.  It does look like some warmer temps are headed our way for the next week or so.  Maybe even above freezing, so we might loose some of our snow, but I will say that the snow on the ground is pretty packed down and dense.  The 25" or so that we have picked up since Thanksgiving has done it's usual compacting and that is why I am sitting at 6 on the ground.  The period beyond this week still looks encouraging, so I am not too concerned.
    I am afraid that this will be a pretty short journal.  The lack of any new snow of significance did not help me in trying to take pictures, so I do not have any of those to share with you.  I actually have been busy making one of my Christmas presents.  It was suppose to be a surprise, but in a funny twist of events, she was able to find out that I am making something for her, but she does not have any idea what, so it will still be a bit of a surprise.  I guess the reason I am mentioning this to you all is that I have been spending a lot of time in my woodworking shop in my basement and now out exploring.  It is really nice to be working in the shop again and the object I am making is really turning out well, so it has really been a pleasant experience.  I am actually compiling a list of projects to keep me busy during the spring melt.  Stuff that the house needs and I have been wanting to make for some time now.  I doubt that I could really enjoy working in the shop in the dead of winter.  Most folks would, but I need to get out and play!
    Speaking of play.  Al finished most of the work on my sled.  We still have a few little things like hot grips to do, but the clutch work is done and did it ever make a difference.  There is a real funny story to tell about that though.  Al called me on Friday to see when I was coming over to test it, he seemed really anxious for me to get over there and when I arrived, he seemed even more anxious for me to try it.  He said that he was really amazed by the results and was really looking forward to seeing what I thought.  So I hopped on the sled and took off towards the Lake Linden sands to do some sprints and see how she ran.  Well, I got out there and hit the throttle, I could tell that it was running differently, but still seemed to be a bit slow and unresponsive.  I thought that maybe because I was riding in untracked powder that it was a little slow, but it sure seemed to be running no better than before or even a little worse!  I started to think that maybe Al's grin was because he had pulled a fast one and wanted to tease me by making it temporarily slower, then would do something to make it run right.  So I headed back to his shop, but before I could get back, I hit an embankment and actually ended up flying off the sled.  I was not going that fast, maybe 15-20 MPH, but it was fast enough so that when the sled came to a sudden stop, I went flying over the handle bars and into the snow.  Unfortunately the snow was not deep enough to totally cushion the fall and I ended up banging my knee a little, but not too bad, I am walking on it fine and any soreness is almost totally gone as I type.  Anyway, the other misfortune to the little crash on the sands was that I lost my car keys.  In my excitement to ride the sled, I put my keys in my coat pocket, but failed to zip up the pocket.  So they are out there on the sands somewhere.  I went back and tried to find them, but had no luck.  I am not even positive that they fell out when I took my tumble, so they could be almost anywhere.  Again, not a major problem.  I did not have a ton of keys on the ring, but the one thing I will miss is the remote door lock control.
    Anyway, I did make it back to Al's shop and it was sort of a strange meeting, because he was expecting me to be all giddy with how well it ran and I was not giddy and actually almost disappointed.  We went inside and I started talking about how it ran, things like the top speed and top RPM's the engine had.  The numbers were so low that Al wondered if it had a fouled plug.  I sort of doubted that, because before he worked on it, if it had a fouled plug I knew.  The sled would only run about 20 MPH and would almost die if I gave it anything less than half throttle.  For those of you not in the know, a fouled plug is when one of the spark plugs gets too much fuel mixture on it and does not spark.  Since the plug does not spark, then the situation only gets worse and worse and the only solution to fix it is to replace the spark plug.  The sled then usually runs great.  So we went out and looked under the hood and sure enough, it was clear that one of the plugs was fouled.  It then hit me, if that sled was running only a little worse on 2 cylinders than it did before, how the heck was it going to run when all three were firing?!!!  We replaced the fouled plug and I headed out to the sands and could tell even before getting there that things were way different with this sled.  Out on the sands it just screamed!  It was like there was a brand new engine under the hood.  I almost could not believe that this was the same sled!  It seemed like there was a brand new 700 cc engine in there rather than an 8 year old 580.
    The engine actually did not have any adjustments made to it.  All the work was in the carbs and clutches.  I know the carbs were just tuned and we did not mess with the jetting (air fuel mixture ratio).  I really have no idea exactly what he did to the clutches, but I suppose I will ask.  I do know that springs and weights were changed because I had to pick up some weights and he mentioned the trying some different springs, but man does this sled scream.  The top speed is not any higher, but it just has such quickness.  I can actually be going about 40-50 mph, grab a handful of throttle and lift the skis off the snow!  I could barely do that when it was standing still before!  All I can say is that Al really is a magician when it comes to getting the most from a sled.  The sled does not even sound like it used to!
    I did not ride it this weekend because I did a little touchup paint work on it and just left it in his shop for the weekend.  I will likely get it out of there tomorrow or Tuesday after we finish the rest of the little things left.  I really cannot wait to get it into the deep stuff and let that "new" engine rip!  Wow, it has been over 48 hours since I was on it, but I still cannot believe it is the same sled!  I'll tell you this, if you are a local and want to get the most from your sled, bring it to him!  Heck I bet he could even do it for a non local if you were willing to wait for the work to be done and called ahead so that he could prepare for the job.  I am going to further plug him by saying you can reach him at 906-296-0747.  But please do not call him unless you want to schedule work.  Please do not call him to ask what you can do to your sled yourself to get these types of results.  A lot of trial and error goes on and it is impossible to give you the exact setup over the phone.
    So I guess that will do it for this one.  Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
December 5-
    Normally when I write the journal, I do it in chronological order, meaning that I start with the events furthest in the past and work my way to the current goings on.  But today I think I will do things a little in reverse.  I just got back with the hounds from the Lake Linden Sands.  I had planned to go out to the School Forest, but stopped by to see how my sled was coming along and Al said that looks like tomorrow will be a testing day, so I figured I would go and ski the sands to make sure there was enough snow to test things out on.  Thankfully there is plenty of snow out there to do some quick runs to test his work.  In addition to the snow already there, we were adding to the snow cover at a pretty good clip this afternoon.  It has been snowing since the wee hours this morning, but about 1 pm, it really started to pick up in intensity and in those three hours we have picked up about 4" new.  It is the super fluffy lake effect variety, but the flakes are huge, so it is really neat to watch it come down.  One of those days that is great for looking out the window and get hypnotized by the falling flakes.  Out on the sands we did not get hypnotized, but did fully enjoy the snow already on the ground and the falling snow from the sky.  From this point on, if I have a full sized version of the shot, I will just put "FSV" in ( ).  So here is your test (FSV).  It was really coming down, I'm not sure if it was heavy enough to qualify as "heavy" snow, but most definitely "moderate" snow.  We were less than a quarter of a mile away from St. Joseph's Church, but I could barely even see it, so I guess that would qualify as heavy snow.  After taking that last picture I looked down at Burt and saw the snow accumulating on him, that snow had piled up on him in just about 10-15 seconds.
    It has since tapered off a little, but every once in a while, the big flakes will hit and it will start to really come down.  After the ski I took the truck up to the snowmobile trail to see if the groomer had been down.  To tell you the honest truth, I could not tell for sure.  There was about 4-5" of fresh snow on it and when I scraped that away with my boot, I could not really tell.  It did sort of look like it, but then again it did not.  Regardless, the trail looked pretty good and I do believe that I will be taking a spin this weekend.  If anything, down to the trail cam so that I can see what a sled looks like in front of it.  Plus I can grab a candy cane while I am out there!
    It sure is great to add to the snow pack up here.  Actually, I believe that the snow cover in my backyard is about as low as you will find in most of the Keweenaw, except some areas right up against the lake like Eagle River, Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor.  But I was down in Houghton and Hancock yesterday evening and it looked like they had more than twice as much as I had and the observer down there is reporting 17" on the ground.  I was also up at my property near Mohawk yesterday taking our Christmas picture and it looked like I had about a foot down there in the woods.  So there is quite a bit of snow up here, enough to play in, that's for sure.  If we don't have enough to groom right now, we should by either the end of tonight or later Saturday.  We should pick up another 2-5" by tomorrow morning and then another 3-8" with the weekend event.  Actually the weekend event could bring us more, but 3-8" is the conservative estimate.  It would really be great to pick up the high end with both of those events.  That way when it warms up a bit next week it will not have that much of an impact.  I am not that worried about the warm up, it looks like temps will not make it much past the mid 30's for highs and with the sun angle at almost it's lowest point of the year, the melting should not be too bad.  If we can manage some clouds, we might not melt much at all.  Temps would likely remain below freezing until about 11 am and then drop back below freezing by about 4.  And right now it looks like temps could cool off by the following weekend, so the milder air might just help solidify the snow base for the deeper snows to pile up on for the rest of the winter.  How's that for optimism?!
    So jumping back to yesterday's events.  I took the hound out to the property to shoot our annual Christmas picture.  Actually, if I think about it, I don't think that we did take one last year.  The weather last December was so weird that the snow would melt before I could really get out there and take the picture.  I know 3 years ago we had to wait until about the 2nd or third week of December, just to have 4-5" on the ground to shoot in and 2 years ago I took our picture on about the 10th of December with about 2 feet on the ground.  At any rate, I did get a winner, which is no small feat, trying to keep the dogs still and looking at the camera, while I use the timer and a tripod.  Thankfully I was able to review the shots after they were taken to see if I had a good one.  But to be truthful, I did not even think of that until the 4th one was taken.  It really did not matter though, as the first three were no good.  The first one was not framed good, the second had Baileys jumping up and giving me a kiss and the third one had Baileys and Burt watching a partridge that had decided to fly off just as the camera was taking the shot.  In the old days when I used a film camera, I would shoot 10-12 shots in hopes of a good one.  Ah, the wonders of digital photography.  I think I will bring the camera down with me for Christmas so that the family photo with my parents, brothers and nephew will not have to be a 10 shot ordeal.  Of course in that one we are usually trying to make each other laugh and look stupid so it still may be a 10 shot ordeal, but at least we will know when we have a good one!  Oh and by the way, I will share the hounds and mine Christmas photo with you in about two weeks before I head south for a few days to be with my family.
    So after the photo op, I decided to check out the Gratiot River off the Farmers Block Rd.  I had a feeling that it could provide some very beautiful wintertime shots with the snow, ice and water.  So we drove out to where the road stops getting plowed and parked the truck.  I could have drove down the road, but wanted to give the dogs and I some exercise and also just did not have the heart to take a nice snow covered trail and mark it all up with my truck.  There was a good snow cover down there as well.  I would have to estimate between 8 and 10 inches.  Made for a rather invigorating walk, sort of like walking in sand, with the ground being so soft with the snow.  It also made for a very pretty walk, with the snow laden trees.  However, the real visual treat was when we got to the river.  It was just as I had imagined it, partly ice covered and lined with snow laden trees(FSV).  I have to admit that walking in those silent and snow covered woods, with some flakes falling to the ground and seeing that ice covered river, I was again thrown into that feeling of knowing that I was in my perfect place.  I felt like the hounds and I were back 150 years ago and were fur trappers or expeditioners, following ancient deer migration trails or Native American foot trails through the northwoods of the untamed Midwest.  We did see quite a bit of deer tracks in the snow and I do believe a set of wolf tracks as well.  The were really too big to be coyote tracks as they were about 20% bigger than Burt's prints and his are pretty big.  The hounds also seem to be having a blast.  They would weave in an out of the trees, at a faster than normal pace, tails wagging wildly.  I just love to see them having a good time too.  Really makes my good time extra special.
    One of the things I like so much about that stretch of the river is that is flows through a pretty narrow canyon.  The walls of the canyon are only about 25-50 feet high in most spots, but are also very steep in most places.  Too steep to climb up and down in the summer and way too steep to climb in the winter, with snow on the ground.  The canyon-like topography also presents a challenge to be able to photograph the river, but when an opportunity is granted, it is usually very rewarding(FSV).  There are a few spots where the banks are sloped gentile enough so that I was able to climb down to the rivers edge to snap some shots of it.  I wish that I could have provided some sound to this shot (FSV), the gurgling of the water underneath the ice and was about as relaxing as it gets.  I suppose a close up of the gurgling water (FSV) might help you imagine just what it sounded like.  We hiked down the river bank for about a quarter mile and then turned around and hiked back to the point where we came in and decided to hike up stream a little.  There are some gentle falls in this area and I thought they might still be open.  It turns out that they were already frozen up, but a little window made by the branches of some fir trees framed the river perfectly (FSV) for the last shot of the day.
    So thus ended another magical moment in my life up here.  I just love when those moments hit- and the best thing about them is that they blind side me.  I never see them coming, they just find me, overwhelm me and carry me off into a state of bliss.  There was only one thing, or shall I say one person, missing to make the experience perfect, she knows who she is and you will too someday, trust me!
Good Night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
December 3-
    Today has been the quintessential Keweenaw winters day.  It has snowed all day, not very heavy, at least not very heavy for very long, but the flakes have been coming down all day.  The snow station is indicating about 2" new since I cleaned it off at about 10:30 this morning.  There were few bursts of heavier snow, but they never really lasted for more than 10 minutes or so.  It has also been cold, so that means the snow has been the Keweenaw fluff variety.  The stuff that you can almost push away with a broom.  Also the stuff that compacts a ton and leads persons to ask me how I could have had 10" on the ground Sunday morning, pick up 11" the next two days and be at 7 and a half inches today!  Well, that snow is so full of air, that it will compact down in a ratio of about 6:1, and compacting it is doing.  But that is ok, it is building a nice base.  The snow on the ground is actually pretty dense, so it will last a little better if we were to get a thaw.  Not like the snowcover last week, when we had 10" on the ground Wednesday morning that compacted to 6" by Thursday only to melt completely on Friday.  It has also been cold, well cold for Keweenaw standards.  Our high yesterday was 14 degrees and today I don't think we made it out of the teens either.  Not as bad as International Falls, which made it all the way to 1 above yesterday for a high and even Lansing Michigan which dropped to 18 below zero this morning.  I would imagine that a lot of folks in the Midwest are about a month ahead on their heating bill.  I know I plan to keep a close eye on the forecast in about two weeks and what it looks like the temps will do for the end of December.  If it looks like this current pattern will not be broken much, then I am filling my oil tank.  I can almost guarantee that prices will go through the roof if we get to the end of December or beginning of January and it looks like the mild "El Nino" winter forecast is a bust.  One of the benefits of providing meteorological services to commodity traders, I can stay one step ahead of the crowd.
    I got some pictures sent to me by my roving reporter.  Actually he is a friend who lived up here last year, but moved down to the flatlands of northern WI.  He came to the UP this past weekend and went riding.  All of his riding was in the Watersmeet-Bruce Crossing area and here are some shots he provided.  These were taken last weekend.  Here is shot one, shot two and shot three.  Sorry I could not be more descriptive about the shots, but I did not take them so it is kind of hard to go into detail about what you are looking at.  I guess no real explanation was needed, they were different shots of the snowmobile trails in those areas.  Didn't look to bad huh?  Yesterday I decided to take the hounds for a walk on the trail up by my house.  I figured they would be pretty quiet, so we would be safe.  I would never even think of walking them out there in a couple of weeks, when the trail is busier, but we actually only saw three sleds and they were not even on the trail, but were heading up the road to the trail.  They scooted by too fast for me to get the camera out and take a picture of them.  I suppose you all know what a snowmobile looks like anyway.  Although I must say, it was pretty strange to see some sleds running down the road.  In a few weeks, that will be just a part of the scenery around here, but it did look pretty foreign yesterday!
    Once at the trail, I was glad that it had been used, that way the snow was packed down and made for much easier walking.  The trail was actually in pretty decent shape.  Totally covered in snow and had about 3-4" of packed down base on it.  I'm not really sure if it was enough to run the groomer, at least with the drag down and using the blades.  I suppose if they had taken the groomer through and just used the weight at the back of the drag, then that would have flattened out the trail some and further packed down the snow.  Looking at the midday shot off of the trail cam, it did look like the groomer might have been down the trail.  I meant to drive by the trail to see, but forgot.  One problem with grooming down this way is there are some gates that need to be opened.  The gates are there to keep the morons from driving down the trails in the warmer months and dumping garbage into the woods.  Yes, not every person in the UP has my utmost respect.  Anyone going out into the woods and dumping their garbage like old tires, stoves, refrigerators, bed mattresses should be banished from the UP for life - if you ask me.  Thankfully it is not a huge problem up here, but it only takes the actions of a very few to really ruin it for everyone.  Anyway....I did not find a single speck of water on the trail we were walking.  Now, that does not mean that there is no water to be found anywhere up here on the trails, but I can say that there are two monster puddles that occur where I was walking and when we were up on the trail last (November 14th) they were large enough to take up the whole trail and were about a foot deep.  This is what those two puddles looked like now.  I could tell that a lot of the water had drained from them during deer season and then the rest had frozen solid.
    So things are getting off to a great start up here.  The cold air is freezing things up and we are building a decent base on a daily basis.  The question on everyone's mind is: "Will it last?".  My honest answer to that is: "I really don't know".  But I will say this.  I have been treating the middle of December as a sort of crossroads for what the rest of the winter might provide.  I think that if we get to the second week of December and there are no signs of a significant and sustained bout of mild weather, then I do believe this years seasonal forecast for a mild winter will bust as bad as last winters forecast for a cold one.  Now, that does not mean this winter will be as cold as it has been so far, or that it will even be free from thaws.  Thaws happen every year, usually a few times every year.  But what I am saying is that this winter will not be one that sees above average temperatures reign, but quite the opposite, there will be more days that the temps are below average.  Below average temps always lead to decent snow play, no matter what some of the folks in central MN and WI might be thinking right now!  If we stay cold, you folks there will get your snow, trust me.  So besides the cold and snow up here, another good sign for the trails up here has been the signs on the trails.  Any snowmobilier that is at that point and is confused as to where they are, or which way they need to go to get where they are going, should not be on the trails in the first place!  I can say that this area has not had the best signage up until now.  But now, at least in the area between Hancock and Mohawk, things are looking good.
    At that point in our walk, the hounds and I took a right and headed down Normand road to get back to the house.  However I need to say something else about that spot.  It was at that same spot a few months back that I parked the truck to take the dogs for a walk on the tracks.  We had just taken a few steps down the trail when I saw a huge black bear run across the trail.  Thankfully the hounds were behind me, examining something else and did not even see it.  I have not seen a ton of bears up here, but I knew this one was large.  I believe I wrote about it in a journal entry, but at any rate, it was so large that it's snout was just reaching the right side of the trail and it hind end was about 2 feet from the side of the trail.  The trail is about 10 feet wide...you do the math.  I know that there is a bait pile about 1/3 of a mile from where we saw it and it was headed in the direction of the bait pile, so I had been meaning to ask the hunter if they got a big bear this season.  I finally ran into the hunter at the post office yesterday and asked him and he got a big smile and said that they had shot a big bear.  It turned out to be 7 feet long and weighed 470 lbs!  For those of you not in the know, most bears in the Keweenaw run about 150-250 lbs.  So that was a BIG bear!  If we had been 30 seconds earlier or it was 30 seconds later, our paths would have intersected at the same time!  Holy WA!  Back to yesterday's walk, I have one last shot to share with you.  It is of the Baccus farm on the other side of the valley.  It is one of the few remaining dairy farms left in the Keweenaw and helps supply the mild to Jilberts so that they can make their delicious ice creme.
    After our walk I had to run some errands in Houghton and was surprised to see ice forming on the Portage Lake.  It is not completely frozen, but this has to be one of the earliest times that is has made ice.  Another sign that winter is here early and looks to be here to stay.  Pulling into the parking lot for the Office Max I was pretty impressed with the piles of snow already forming from the plows.  I was so impressed that I decided to park the truck near one and show you just how big.  Remember, it was only December 2nd when that shot was taken.  The rest of my travels yesterday afternoon in Houghton took me through the heart of the city and as I was waiting for the light to change, I snapped a shot of the elevated cross walk and the snow piling up on the sign greeting visitors to Houghton.
    Today the hounds and I took a nice ski in the school forest.  It was a different day from Sunday, at least weather wise.  Sunday was mostly sunny and today was lotsa snowy!  Big flakes tumbled down from the sky the whole time we were out there and added to the coating of snow that already existed on everything.  The winds have been pretty light the past few days and that has allowed the snows to collect on everything.  That collecting snow really seemed to add a special touch to a stand of red pine out at the school forest, almost like some kind of a geometric design.  Here is a full sized version for those that like them.  Even though the temp was in the teens, the lack of wind made it very comfortable for a ski.  I can always tell if I am dress right by if I am cold when I first start.  Then as I get going, the blood starts pumping and by the end I have a good little sweat going, but am not drenched in sweat.  I have found being dressed right really adds to the enjoyment.  Also adding to the enjoyment was the fact that I had given the ski bases a coating so that they would move across the snow better, so I was able to have a pretty fast paced ski too.  Of course, the largest enjoyment came from just being able to ski through scenery like this, a winter wonderland.  Again, here is a full sized version.  I mentioned how we did have some heavier snow bursts today and a few of them occurred while I was skiing, so I thought I would snap a shot of one of them.  Is this typical Keweenaw back country or what?  If I stare at that shot hard enough, I can actually feel the flakes hitting me in the face.  Nice.  Here is a full size of that last one.
    On the final leg of the ski I cam across a sure sign a buck has been frequenting that area of the school forest.  Nice little rub, huh hunters?  For those of you wondering about that.  A buck will rub his antlers on a smaller tree and even sometimes on a larger tree to mark it as his territory.  They only do it in the fall, as they are going into rut.  The things some guys will do for a girl!  I guess I need to watch what I say, as there is incriminating evidence growing about me on a daily basis!  More on that someday.
    It looks like I should have my sled back by Friday.  Just in time to play in all the snow we look to get.  Actually it looks pretty good for about 2-5" tonight, then another 1-3 tomorrow then more Thursday and Friday and Saturday and Sunday.  So it looks like the seasons first ride could be in the offing.  Actually as you saw in my pictures posted earlier in this journal, one could ride right now.  However, I will say to those of you thinking about coming up, we are still in early season conditions.  I am not sure when they will start grooming and I am not sure that all the wet spots have frozen up.  So you are bound to find some hazards.  But it looks like more snow will come between now and the weekend, so if you have the itch, you may as well scratch it up here!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-
December 1-
    Wow, December 1st.  I can honestly say that this date snuck up on me a bit.  Sort of blind sided me I guess would be a good way to put it.  Mother nature has delivered too.  We picked up some nice snow yesterday and then again today.  All told about a foot fell and there is about 8" on the ground now.  It was a light and fluffy snow and so it has compacted some, but was enough for me to ski on and also enough to ride on.  I did not take a ride, but I did see some sleds tooling around.  The hounds and I took a ski at the school forest, which was also very delightful.  I can say that I think I might have been right under the snow gun for the activity that occurred early this morning, as I picked up about 6-8" and checking reports from other areas around the UP and even the Keweenaw, amounts were more in the 2-4" range.  I does make some sense as a convergence band set up in the pre dawn hours and ran almost straight from west to east, cutting the Keweenaw peninsula about in half and then that band extended out into the eastern lake, to the north of places like Marquette and Munising.  It snowed pretty hard from about 2 am until about 9 am this morning, pretty much at the rate of an inch an hour.  It is always nice to pick up the heaviest snow of the entire Keweenaw and UP!
    I have been giving the new snowthrower a workout the past few days and have now mastered the controls.  It is quite the piece of machinery and actually makes clearing the snow a total pleasure.  Not that I minded it too much before, but it is actually lots of fun now.  I am really looking forward to the first big dump, when the pile left by the plow it about 2-3 feet deep and about 5 feet across.  It will be neat to see how that things gets through it.  Already I can see that it has some serious snow throwing capability, it goes through the 1-2 foot plow banks without even hesitating.  The engine does not even sound strained.  I am also amazed at how much lighter it is than my old one.  I can wheel this new one around with one hand, whereas the old one too both hands and a lot of persuasion to keep in line.  So it was definitely money well spent.
    With all the cold and snow up here the past week or so, Mt. Ripley was able to open the day after Thanksgiving.  It was not the only hill up here to be able to do so, but certainly a first for them.  Probably by quite a large margin.  Now, the do not have to rely on the snow that mother nature provides, but with the cold air can make their own.  That was a shot from early yesterday morning and I would not doubt that most of the hill is covered now.  Those snow guns can really make the snow and it has been plenty cold enough for them to have them going 24 hours a day.  It looked like where the guns have been going for the past few days, there was about a 3-4 foot base down.  Throw the natural snow we got on top of it and you have perfect conditions.  I may just have to get over there soon to try out the skis I got last year and never even used.
    Today was the annual return to the bush day for the hounds and I.  Main rifle season is over and things are fairly safe now.  So with the snows, the school forest got the call.  I strapped on the skis and headed out into the woods.  It always feels so good to get back into the woods.  Almost like we are doing it for the first time.  Even Burt and Baileys got excited when they realized where we were going.  They could not wait to jump out of the truck and run into the woods.  Plenty of deer tracks for them to sniff too.  The deer seem to be making their way to the winter herding spots.  At several locations in the school forest were their migration trails.  Areas where many deer had all traveled the same path and packed down the snow.  Much different behavior from when they are just meandering around the woods in search of their next meal.  It was really a great day for a ski in the woods too.  The snow actually stopped right as we headed out there and the sun was even out.  As much as I love the snow falling, when I am skiing, it is really nice to have the sun out.  Plus the wind was pretty light today.  A far cry from yesterday when the hounds and I went out to the Lake Linden Sands to ski.  The winds were blowing at about 30-35 mph and the temps were in the low 20's, so it made for some really chilly skiing!  Plus the winds had blown the snow into some deep drifts and left other areas virtually bare, so that presented it's own set of challenges.  But today was great.  The snow had flocked all the trees, and even created the first snow ghost of the season.  There was about a foot of snow down out there and my skis needed a re-coating because the snow was sticking to them a bit, and those two things made the ski a bigger workout that it normally would be, so we did not go quite as far as we normally would.  Usually the ski is about 2.5 miles long, but today's trip was about 2 miles.  Here is a shot of the "home stretch" through the stand of red pine.  At the end of that tunnel through the trees is where the cabin is at and then it is just a quick few hundred yards to the road and where the truck was parked.
    So it looks like this winter is off to a great start.  The snow is piling up and looks to fall for the next week at least.  Temps are cold, so any wet spots are either frozen up or will be soon.  I would suspect that some limited grooming might start soon.  Maybe even just the groomers without the drags, so they can do any brushing and pack down the snow a bit.  I did go by the local club trail to see what it looked like.  The closed sign was still on the trail, but I think that they are technically open.  I am talking about our local club trails, not the main trails.  The main trails are open to ride.  They may not be getting groomed just yet, but it is legal.  I think that the local club trails just need to have the closed signs taken down. I also decided to take a ride up to the main trail, up behind my house, to see what it looked like and things looked pretty good there.  I'm not sure if there was enough snow to pull the drag through, but there was plenty to take a sled across, if one should so desire.  They continued to improve on the trail sineage up there.  Adding new signs to show which towns can be reached by which trail, and did so with nice lettering.  A very good job!  I did see some guys riding through some fields and the snow was flying up and over their hoods at times and I came very close to getting my sled from Al's shop.  He even called me to see if I wanted to get it, but I decided to just wait.  Had he wanted to go for a ride, then I would surely have gone with him, but I guess I just did not feel like riding alone, nor did I feel like taking a big long trip.  A run out to Gay or something would have been just perfect.  Soon enough.
    Well, I guess that will do it for another one.  It really seems like winter is here now!  As I type, my thermometer is actually reading 0.  Brrr, that is cold.  Lots of snowthrowers working on the morning walks, and lots of plow trucks busy clearing driveways and lawns too boot.  It seems like when we get these early snows, the piles are pushed back a little further than they are when the snows hold off until later in December to start sticking around.  I hope that proves to be a very wise thing to do.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
- JD-