Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
Dan's Wilderness 
November 29-
    I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  I did, it was very relaxing.  Got to sleep in a little, took the hounds for a nice relaxing morning stroll and then went over to the Lake Linden Sands for an afternoon ski.  Got the turkey in after that, watched a little football, did a little work and then fed our faces.  The hounds sure do love turkey!  I do believe that may be their favorite "people food".  I can tell because they do not even sniff it before eating it.  Most other foods they at least take a quick sniff to see what it smells like before chowing down and with turkey it is just gimme, gimme, gimme!  I must say that it was nice to have such a relaxing day.  It was still winter out, so the ski was a lot of fun, we had the whole sands to ourselves.  There was about 6" of snow down so it was perfect for a ski.  It also sure did not seem like Thanksgiving!  Even for up here.  It really felt more like the middle of December.  It snowed all morning and tapered to flurries by the afternoon.  After the ski, I built a nice big fire and just hung out on the couch, except for the time I had to put in at the office doing a report.  The turkey took a little longer to cook than I had anticipated, but we still ate only about 45 minutes later than I had planned.  Now we have lots of leftovers, so it will be turkey omelets for breakfast, turkey sandwiches for lunch and maybe turkey lasagna for dinner!  Actually it was only a 7lb breast so I bet it will be gone by later tomorrow, then I can make some soup.
    Today winter decided to go away.  Actually, the disappearance started last night.  Temps went from about 26 degrees at 6 pm to 28 by 8 and 9 pm and by 1 am the temp was 37 and stayed there all night and even warmed to 39 for a few hours today.  It took a toll on the snow.  It was pretty light and fluffy snow to begin with and had actually compressed from 10" on Wednesday morning to 6" Thursday morning and with above freezing temps for almost 24 hours now, I am down to just a few patches of snow.  But the front came through about 45 minutes ago, marked by a few sprinkles and then a burst of heavy snow and now a few flurries are falling.  Looks like a long stint of lake effect snows will start in a few hours and continue through Wednesday, so I am not concerned at all about the loss of the snow today.  I was just looking at some of the atmospheric parameters by Sunday and some of the numbers are off the charts.  There is a measurement called Convective Available Potential Energy, basically a measurement of how much energy will be available due to the difference in the lake temp and the colder air aloft.  Some of the numbers being spit out by the computers are at levels I have never seen before, ever.  Not in 12 years of forecasting the weather.  So even though we are under a winter storm warning for later tonight through tomorrow, I think the real action around the Keweenaw will be Sunday.  I guess all told, between now and Wednesday, I would not be surprised to hear that most areas in the UP snow belts will have picked up 14-24" of snow.  That sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that is a 5 day period.
    So now the question is will I be able to take a ride Sunday.  I suppose the answer to that is: Yes, if I am desperate enough!  I am fairly positive that there will be a good coating of at least a few inches down on the trail.  The trail cam was actually showing a few inches down in most spots as of 4:30 pm today.  Plus some trucks!  I know one of them was the truck belonging to the person who owns the land the cam is on.  He was out putting up the candy cane tree.  When you are going by the cam, you can stop, and grab a candy cane, sign his guest book and even make a small donation to him for the cane if you want.  The tree will be lit and we are hoping that it will put out enough light to to allow the cam to update into the evening hours.  We will have to test that out.  Speaking of lights, my Christmas lights just clicked on.  I have them on a photo cell timer.  So when it gets dark enough they come on and then will stay on as long as I tell the timer to keep them on.  Currently are set to go off about 6 hours after they go on.  Now back to my potential ride Sunday.  The sled is in Al's shop.  He has not gotten started on it, he said he is waiting for parts, but if you ask me, I think that his Thanksgiving vacation started a day or two early!  No problem.  I'm sure that I can get over there on Sunday and grab it and take it for a spin if the conditions are good, but they will have to be pretty good.  I am not going to go out there and beat on it just to ride it.  If the forecast holds, we could have mid season conditions up here by the 10 of December or so.  It looks like clipper system after clipper system will drop out of Canada and bring some light system snows, followed by heavier lake effect snows.  So I will just play it cool, for now anyway!
    Today was too sloppy for a ski and there might not have even been enough snow, so I took the hounds to the north shore for a look at the waves and a nice afternoon walk.  Today was the first "day after Thanksgiving" that I have worked in a long time, maybe ever!  Since I did not travel south, I figured I may as well work it.  It was a pretty easy day, so I am not complaining.  Anyway, back to the big lake and the big waves today.  The winds were out of the west at about 25 to 30, with some gusts to 45.  So I figured that the waves would be pretty big.  They were up there, but not as big as I had thought.  I tried several times to catch the waves hitting what remains of the old pier at the Calumet Waterworks and my timing was a bit off each time.  I need to get used to the slight delay from when I push the button to when the camera takes the picture.  I think the cam has a rapid-fire setting where it will take a burst of 5 shots in a second or so, maybe I should have tried to find how to get that going.  At any rate, here is about the best shot, a brief moment after the wave hit.  The top of the pier is about 8 feet above the surface of the lake and some of the waves were going over the top, so the waves were pretty big.  The buoys out in the middle of the lake have been taken out for the winter.  Too bad, it would have been neat to see what they were registering.  I saw where the winds at Passage Island Light, located at the eastern tip of Isle Royal were recording 51 mph winds.  That is likely kicking up some big waves out on the big lake.  Wonder if any lakers are out there right now.  So I did not get any stills of the waves crashing into the old pier, but I decided to shoot a video of it and was able to catch a wave hitting it and shooting about 20 feet into the air.  Keep in mind the video is about 4 meg, so it will take a while to download if you are on a dial up connection!
    Well, I guess that sort of gets you caught up on things going on up here.  Hopefully the next entry will have some nice snow shots in it.  If not from riding then maybe from skiing in the school forest Sunday.  Yep, the woods are ours again Sunday.  The hounds do not realize it, but I am sure they will get very excited as we drive up the road to it!  Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
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November 27-
    At this eve of Thanksgiving, I do believe I have never had more to be thankful for.  My health, the health of the hounds, my family and friends, my ability to live and work up here, my friends up here and a blossoming relationship with someone I am coming to realize is the most incredible person I have ever known in my life.  I really do not mean to tease you all, I am sure that you are wondering who the heck I am talking about and in time I am positive you will come to know all about her, but I am just going to keep this personal aspect of my life personal right now.  I did not even intend to mention it here in the first place, but I am just overflowing with happiness and could not restrain myself.  So be patient, in do time I am sure that I will reveal more.  She has left it totally up to me as to what I can share and I just want to do everything right, so I will take it slow.
    Anyway, my turkey is thawing in the fridge and I am looking forward to sleeping in and having a relaxing day with the hounds.  I actually have to do some work in the afternoon, but it will not be that bad. As most of you have noticed, we have begun to build our snow base for the season.  For a while, I was not sure if the Keweenaw was going to join the party for deep snows going on in other parts of the UP.  Tales of 12"+ snows to our south, west and east had me a little green with envy.  We did get about 4" on Monday so we were not totally skunked, but it was one of those deals where the reports from other areas were a lot more impressive that what we were reporting.  Then yesterday, overnight and today we picked up about 8" and I now feel like we are running with the big snow dogs on this event.  On my morning walk Monday, I was treated to the view of an approaching snow squall from the north.  I really got some interesting looks at the clouds with this event and I have more to share, but usually the lake snows we get occur with total overcast, so I never get to see the cloud development.  This event was pretty unique.  It seemed like the bands of snow were pretty intense, but in between was almost nothing and in some cases clear skies.
    We did get enough to play in, or at least ski in.  I suppose I could have taken the sled for a ride, but it is illegal to ride it during the day right now with hunting season going on and actually it is down at Al's shop getting all prepared to play in the snow this year.  I did get to ride it down to his shop on Monday and I have to say, it really got the blood pumping!  I am now officially chomping at the bit to do some real riding.  But for now the snow play has been cross country skiing.  Monday we headed out to the Hubbell Sands for our afternoon walk.  The fresh fallen snow sure did add a special element to some of the otherwise ordinary elements of geography up here.  I am not sure exactly what happens to my body physiologically to adapt to the cold.  I know my blood does not really thicken, but I can say that while temps in the 20's and winds creating wind chills of near zero would have froze me to the bone just a few weeks ago, it now just feels "crisp" out.  My body has done it's adaptation to the cold thing and I am ready for the long winter up here.  And with sights like this before Thanksgiving, it looks like it could very well be a long winter.  If those last two shots did not put a little chill in your spine, perhaps this one will.  Of course I am not the only one up here that has been getting ready for the cold and snows.  Burt and Baileys have been thickening up their coats and they seemed to be just as happy to see the snow as I was.  They sure do get a kick out of frolicking in the snow.  I could not leave out Burt!
    Getting back to the interesting snow cloud formations.  Yesterday provided the best show and also the most interesting lake effect snow setup that I have seen since moving up here.  The day dawned with my house under blue skies, but also being basically surrounded by clouds.  In every direction, 360 degrees, there were towering lake effect clouds.  And towering I mean.  That one was off to my southeast about an hour after sunrise and looked more like a thunderstorm than a lake effect cloud. I could only imagine what it must have been like to be underneath it.  Later on in the morning, I snapped this shot of the lake effect clouds directly off to my east, some pretty serious updrafts going on there, with those pretty hard and well defined edges to the clouds.  At the same time, it looked like areas to my north were also getting hit pretty hard.  The clouds there did not have as hard of edges, but were climbing thousands of feet into the air and were likely dumping some serious snow.  As it turns out, Lac La Belle picked up about 15" of snow yesterday morning and early afternoon.
    So all around me were some serious lake effect snow clouds, either dumping on areas not too far from me or out over the lake.  I seemed to be in the eye of the hurricane.  Now I will explain that it was not a situation like a hurricane.  The skies were clear over me simply because there was just a pocket of cloudless skies that happened to be occurring in that spot.  Nothing more technical than that.  So again, I was a little green with envy, but I guess good things come to those who wait because soon enough, the clouds started to close in on me and by the early afternoon, I found myself in a healthy lake effect snow downpour.  That shot was taken on the road from Lake Linden to Calumet at about 2:30 yesterday.  I was on my way up to do a little cross country skiing in the bush at a friend of the sites and a new friend of mine.  He is someone that, like me, moved up here from the big cities down south- drawn to the area by all it had to offer climatologically and environmentally.  He lives on 40 acres and has some trails out in the bush that we took Burt, Baileys and his three dogs for a ski/snow shoe on.  It was really great to get out into the bush again, and to add to the pleasure, the snow on the ground at his place was at 12" for our afternoon in the woods.  With the overnight snows, his total was at 15 this morning.  After winding our way through the woods for a bit, we ended up on the old access road to the airport.  That is the airport off in the distance, at the end of the road.  So we wound out way back through the woods to his house and then the hounds and I said goodbye for the day and headed back home for some dinner.
    It sure is great to have winter here.  More looks to be on the way this weekend and into next week as well.  And come Sunday we can venture back into the woods for good.  I doubt that we will be hitting the trails used by snowmobilers as there will likely be some folks up using them, but we have plenty of places to go and I think I can see the school forest getting the first call. Heck, we need to break trail!  Can't let it get too deep out there without clearing a path.  I'm sure that I will be writing before then, or at least I think I will!  Before I go I need to make one announcement.  Many of you have contacted me about the White House Motel and were wondering if they were going to be open this winter and I can now say YES.  Chris and Marlo will not be there, but they have a very nice couple running it for them so those of you who were hoping to stay there can.  Plus we will have the web cam back up in a few weeks.  And now I have reached the end of my rope for this entry and this sleepy head needs to settle down for a long winters nap.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 24-
    I am a bit perplexed right now, wondering where all of our snow is.  Things looked really good for us to pick up snowfall totals in the double digits and so far we have not even been able to manage an inch!  It has been snowing all day, but just flurries.  I can actually see what is not happening to make heavier snows.  The clouds are not growing to a great enough height to bring heavier snowfall rates, but I really do not know why they are not growing to very tall heights.  All the conditions I look to for decent lake effect snow to occur are occurring.  The cold air is in place, although it could be a little cooler I suppose.  The winds are out of a favorable direction.  There is no inversion to cap the air from rising and the air near the surface is fairly moist, so the lake does not have to try and moisten up a very dry airmass to make the snow.  The only thing I can figure is that there is an area of rising air just to our south that is bringing some light snow to northern IL and southern WI and another area of lift just to our north bringing some light snow to southern Ontario and Manitoba.  Those two areas of rising air might be causing some sinking air in our area and that is not allowing the clouds to grow high enough to bring any heavier snows.  We have been under a lake effect snow warning since yesterday, so I am not the only one thinking the snows should be heavier than they are.  Always nice to have company when my forecast does not pan out, but I think we are all sort of scratching our heads on this one.  Lake effect sure is a fickle thing!
    I guess I can look on the bright side, these cold temps we have had without deep snow will help to freeze things up that much further.  Many times we never get the chance to really freeze things up before the snow comes and gets deep.  Usually the cold and snow arrive at the same time.  So that is the silver lining in all of this, but to tell you the honest truth I am not really considering it much of a silver lining.  I do think that we will be under the gun for lake effect snow until Tuesday morning, so I would imagine that we will pick up at least a few inches between now and then.  Then a little light snow on Wednesday and more towards the weekend, so it is not totally impossible that we could be riding opening day, but it has been a frustrating 12 hours and what looked like a sure thing for opening day just 12 hours ago is more uncertain right now.  I guess the other good news is that the cold temps are indicated to continue fairly steady into the first week of December, so any snow we do get will not likely melt.  Plus, it is a general rule of thumb that by the time we get to the first of December, our snow cover up here usually is only added to.  So I am trying to be positive and find the positive in the disappointing snow results so far.
    I really cannot believe that in just a week it will be the first of December.  The opening day for snowmobiling season and also the first day that the hounds and I can get back into the woods.  Took a chilly walk out on the Lake Linden Sands today.  We were fully exposed to the winds and with temps in the mid 20's, it sure felt like winter, even though it did not really look all that much like it.  The few flakes that were falling were mode like snow pellets and they stung a little bit when they hit my face.  None the less, it was great to be in the great outdoors and I could have done much worse!
    I really do not have much else to share with you all.  I have been continuing to tweak the camera a bit, working out some of the bugs in the software.  I am thinking about getting a separate phone line for the cam.  Right now it is sharing the same line as the house it is near and today we discovered that when it is trying to dial in, it cannot be disturbed or it will fail in the dial up process and then the program locks up.  So a dedicated line would be the best way to go and a dedicated line would also allow me to have the camera update more frequently.  I might even be able to get it to update every few minutes.  Although that will really depend on what kind of calling package I am able to get.  So I guess that about covers it for this one.  I was hoping to have some nice snow shots, but looks like I will have to wait for another day or so for that.  Hopefully soon I will have some riding and skiing shots.  Until then...
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 22-
    So the much anticipated surprise is out, finally!  I have to say that while I bet a lot of you were anxious to see what it was, no one was as anxious to get it done than me.  It has really consumed a ton of my free time in the past two weeks and I think I probably earned a degree in computer and electrical engineering getting it going.  I suppose most of this journal will be dedicated to the ins and outs of getting that feature going.  I am actually getting an early start on the journal because it is Friday, I am rather burned out and can see myself crashing on the couch in front of a nice fire relaxing this evening.  I have some pictures of the trail cam setup to share with you, even some action shots that were taken during the final stages of setup yesterday afternoon.
    I guess the idea to have a cam right on the trail was born about a year ago.  I am always trying to think of ways to improve the site and with all the grooming problems up here I thought it would be neat to be able to keep a constant eye on the trails.  So after a round of golf this summer, I was talking with one of my golfing partners about the idea and since I knew he lived just off the trail, I thought I would approach him about the idea of setting up a trail cam at his location.  He actually sets up a candy cane tree up by the trail every year with a little guest book that people can sign as well.  The tree is a real Christmas tree that he lights up and decorates with candy canes for persons to enjoy.  Every day he restocks the tree.  So I figured that this might be a great place to try and put a live trail cam.  Since it is close enough to a residence to have an eye kept on it and also in case we need to get out there and manually reboot it or something.  So after a few brandy and waters, he thought it sounded like a good idea so I then moved from the "idea" stage to the design stage.
    I have to admit that I did not get as early a start on this project as I should have and the complications that it presented to me more numerous than I had anticipated.  It was amazing how I would get past one hurdle, only to face another one, then another, then another.  While in the design stage, I had to decide what type of camera to use.  I had the old AL Cam sitting in a drawer and that was one option.  The drawbacks to that option was that it is not the best camera and does not provide the best image.  Another option was to use the same cam I am now using for the AL Cam.  The downside to that is that it would mean a financial outlay of about $150.  The third option was a camera that I have seen in some pop up ads on the net called the "x-10".  It is basically a surveillance camera that transmits the signal by 900 Mhz radio frequency.  It is setup to work with your tv, but there are hardware and software options I could get to have it update to the web too.  The nice thing about this option was that would be the only thing that would have to be out at the trail.  It would then just send the picture using the transmitter and all the other equipment could be safe inside the house.  The downside was that I had never used or known anyone that used this system, so I did not know the quality and reliability of it and it would have added about $160 to the cost of the setup.  The fourth option that I researched is a higher end, stand alone cam.  It takes very good quality images and also transmits the images so there is no need to have any more equipment out at the trail side.  The downside is that it costs about $700 for the cam.
    So each option had it's own set of pluses and minuses.  I really did not want to have to put all the equipment out at the trail side, but the other options were either too expensive of had too many unknowns, so my option was to go with a setup where the computer and cam were setup trail side and I decided to just use the camera I already had on hand.  So with that decision made, the next decision was how to transmit the info from the computer to the net.  At first I was thinking about using a wireless network and transmit the data from the trailside computer to a computer inside the house.  Initially it looked like the wireless network equipment would be donated to the cause, but when that fell through and the price tag for the wireless network equipment and setup came to $400, I decided to look at other options.  Another option was to run a regular ethernet (wired) network between the two machines, but that seemed silly to do when all I had to do was run some phone wire between the computer at the trail and a phone jack inside the house.  So I decided upon the phone wire solution.
    As far as the computer to run the cam and update to the web.  I had an old pc laying around that I did not use.  Problem is it was an old 486 and not powerful enough to run the cam.  However, I did also have an old motherboard and processor laying around from a previous upgrade.  It was a 300 Mhz Pentium and did run the cam last year, so I knew it would work fine.  So I went about swapping out the bad or outdated components with the new ones, but since I am not a computer builder, I soon decided that this was a job for the professionals.  So I turned to my friends at Next Century Hardware and Software.  They set me up well and even donated a case and the labor and in a week or so I had the computer that would be used.  I am going to make a plug for them.  Not just because they made donations to the trail cam setup but because I have had some terrible experiences with other computer places up here and the guys at Next Century have ALWAYS treated me great and done great work.  So for those of you living in the Keweenaw and needing any kind of computer work.  Contact them, you will be taken care of professionally.
    With the equipment to be used pretty well figured out, the next hurdle to get over was how to secure the equipment from the elements and any vandals.  I have to admit that the main reason why I did opt for the more expensive options was the worry of the equipment being damaged or stolen.  The Keweenaw is not void of stupid persons or possibly some visitors that do not have much common courtesy, so I decided to limit my financial exposure this first year.  If all goes well this year, you can bet that a better setup will occur for next year, providing a better image.  The devices and techniques used to secure the camera actually turned out to be pretty easy.  While at the hardware store, I came across some non-metallic electrical piping and junction boxes.  One of the junction boxes would house the camera perfectly and even had a perfect window for the camera to shoot out of.  I then could use some of the non metallic tubing to raise the camera off the ground high enough to make it very difficult for the stupid ones to mess with and also protect the cable for the camera (I think Quincy's might have to fork up some money for sponsorship, or the sign might have to come down!).  It was decided that we would just build a wooden box to house the computer.  There would be a front panel that would drop down to allow access to the computer and of course the panel would be locked.
    So all of those decisions were arrived at by the middle of October, but then the guy who's house it is near was going to Germany for a fe weeks, so I had to wait for him to return to get going on it.  Then there is the problem that I have to work until about 2:30 and it gets dark up her about 2 1/2 hours after that, so the amount of time we could work out there was pretty limited.  Then there were the usual, but many, little things that go wrong or last minute changes in design to make things work just right.  But yesterday afternoon, we finally got all put together and here I am trying to get the camera to talk to the computer and the computer to talk to the internet.  Here's a closer shot of the inside of the box and the system inside.  Here is a shot of me from up on the deck where the Christmas tree will be and here is a shot taken from the trail looking at the cam and its setup.  I still need to head out today and tweak the image to get it to look better.  Right now the image is being shot at 320x240 and then is being displayed at 640x480 so it looks a little grainy.  Plus the text needs to be made a little more presentable.  I hope to have the temperature displayed on the image too.  The owner of the Camp Newton cam has that going on his cam and is building me the temperature sensor and I have the software loaded that will show the temp at the trail cam.  Plus we got a hold of a counting device that as been used in the past to count the number of sled going by on the trail and hope to have them set up and display that data on the trail cam page.  The sled counter might take a little more time, as I think some software will need to be written to take the data and post it to the web page.  But we will keep working on it.
    As far as stopping at the cam, that will be fine.  Just make sure that you pull off to the side and are careful when other sleds are passing through.  This is a spot were people traditionally have stopped to grab a candy cane, so it is a pretty safe area to be stopping.  At least as safe as can be while still on the trail.  If you did not notice, there is a map below the image that shows where the cam is located.
    So other than the trail cam pictures, I personally do not have any pictures to share with you, but I did receive some shots from a friend who move from the Keweenaw back down to northern WI.  Here are some shots of the local lakes freezing up around there.  This is Bridge Lake and here is one shot of Lake Nokomis and another shot of Lake Nokomis.  He said that this is the first year the lakes have frozen over this early in a long time, so that is a good thing.  I suppose they are probably not thick enough just yet, but with the cold air coming in later this weekend and next week, they will certainly put on more ice.  Looks like we could get some decent snow this weekend too!
    Well, I just got back from trying to "tweak" the camera to get a better image and I am afraid that we are sort of stuck with this for the moment.  I had forgotten how poor that camera is!  Maybe I can figure out a way to make it interactive so that people can push a button and have their picture taken and then printed out and charge a few bucks.  That would pay for a new camera pretty quickly I would imagine.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more that almost makes some sense!  Of course it has been a long week and my brain is a little fried right now.  At any rate, in addition to trying to tweak the camera, I also took the hounds for a quick stroll down the trail.  I figured no hunters would be hunting right on the snowmobile trail and the dogs are really good about hanging close to me, so we took off to the south to check out an area that often floods and was pretty bad at the beginning of last year.  They have taken care of some of the problems.  I saw one new culvert in underneath the trail, so that should help.  It was still pretty wet, but not so wet we could not walk through, so it should not cause major problems for the season.  The cam is located about 1/4 mile to the north of this feature on the trail.  I'm sure that most of you that have been down it recognize or at least remember that spot.  It is the foundation for an old railroad trestle that went to the stamp mill down by the lake near Mason.
    It was really great to be in the woods, it is amazing how much I miss them.  I guess the fact that I really cannot go into them really makes them that much more appealing.  At other times of the year I will go a few weeks without going into them and not even think of it.  So it guess it is just one of those things that we always want what we can't have.  At any rate, we did not push our luck and did not go too far down the trail.  However, we came across a waterfall all dusted with snow and I could not help but climb down into the ravine and snap a shot of it.  With that I will close for now.  Time to make that fire and become a vegetable.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 19-
     Well....I fell off the wagon.  Yep, up until today, I have been able to keep my excitement for the upcoming winter fairly restrained.  I made it through the unusual 2 week bout of early season snows in October and have managed the few inches we have picked up in November so far with all the professionalism of a true yooper.  "Da sno is commin', don't wurry 'bout it",  I kept telling myself.  No need to get anxious.  It comes every year and gets deep too.  My little psych job actually worked, right up until today and then I snapped.  Like flipping the switch for a light bulb, my brain has suddenly been uncontrollably lit up with the thoughts of snows coming and piling up.  Kind of a weird day weather wise for that to happen.  The snows we picked up last Wednesday and into Thursday and Friday have melted quite a bit, exposing patches of grass, and my roof has been going it's drip, drip, drip thing all day.  So what has been the triggering mechanism?  The forecast.  One of the hazards of being a snow loving meteorologists I guess.  I get to look out into the future and see the bitter arctic air pouring over the North Pole, across the snow covered Canadian Prairies and then over the "warm" waters of Lake Superior.  That air picks up heat and moisture from the lake, rising into puffy, white clouds that grow and coalesce into tall, gray masses of ice crystals that cannot suspend those masses of ice crystals any longer and dump them on the leeward shore.  Right on top of me!
    The same atmospheric block that caused the last two weeks of this past October to be so chilly and laden with early season snow looks to be setting up by the end of this week and also looks to continue into next week and the week beyond.  There are even some indications that by the end of next week or the following weekend, things may become down right arctic up here.  Sub zero morning lows and highs in the teens.  Not unheard of, but unusual for the end of November and beginning of December- even way up here.  Now that forecast is a long way off, and things can certainly change, but the more reliable, short term forecast also looks to deliver the white stuff.  It looks very likely that I may get to fire up the new snowthrower by the end of the week and into the weekend.  Some of the latest guidance even indicates that the weekend event could provide more than enough to take a spin through the woods on the sled.  After sunset of course.  And so it goes, that anticipatory excitement that envelopes a child on the night before Christmas has swept me up and overwhelmed me.  The computer models cannot update fast enough to quench my need for reassurance and the cold and snows cannot arrive fast enough.
    Am I getting you excited too?  I hope so, there is real reason to be excited.  For the first time in many years, the lakes are freezing up and the ground is ready for the snow.  If we can get some good early snow, it could be one of the best Decembers for playing in the snow in a while.  As mentioned in the previous entry, I am not ready to call the anticipated mild El Nino winter a no show, but I can say that if we get to the middle of December with no signs of the mild Pacific flow to occur, I think that this seasons winter forecast by all the "experts" will bust as miserably as last winters cold forecast did.  But for now, I'll just keep those fingers crossed and enjoy what we have and are going to get in the short term.
    So other than falling off the wagon, I have been busy running around trying to get everything set to unveil the surprise for the site.  I am now dangerously close to "rolling it out".  With a little luck, either tomorrow afternoon or Thursday afternoon it will be available for all of you to enjoy.  I like the guesses on the Ask John, some good ones!  I'm not sure who will be happiest, you all to finally see what it is, or me to finally have it done!  Yesterday took us down Houghton-way and I stopped off to take a picture of the snows piling up on Mt. Ripley.  The boys over there have been busy running their snow guns when it is cold enough.  Late last week and over the weekend, that meant almost 24 hours a day.  The temps really have to be in the mid 20's to get good snow to form.  I suppose they could do it with temps of 28-30, but I think they like to wait until the temps drop below 26.  Some of the piles at the bottom of the hill are 10 feet deep!  They hope to open the day after Thanksgiving and I would say that they will most likely be able to accomplish that goal.  With the cold temps and natural snow on the way, it would be pretty hard not to have an 18-24" base down.  Too bad we can't do that on the trails!  Be neat to flick a switch and throw some snow on some of the spots with old or low snow.  Of course for most of the year, it is not needed.  Mother nature provides plenty of snow.
    On the way back from our trip to Houghton, we stopped off at the Tamarack Sands.  They were cleaned up just like the Lake Linden sands, only a year later and have been done for 2 years now.  We have not been out there in about a year and the hounds seemed to enjoy going to an unfamiliar place.  We even saw a fox.  Well, I saw it and the hounds picked up on it's scent.  It is neat to watch them approach where it was bedded down, tails go up, heads pop up and their big old snouts point right into the wind, sniffing out where the critter ran off to.  I have to admit that as nice as the Lake Linden Sands are now, the Tamarack Sands have them beat for beauty.  A creek runs down through one end and empties into the Torch Lake, and on the other end, there are little inlets for the Torch Lake to mingle with the land and even a little island.  Looks like a perfect place for a picnic in the summer.  Then there is just the regular old shoreline looking over towards the Bootjack Road and the "Green Spot".  On all of the sands that have been cleaned up there are little gravel roads circling them.  Probably there for maintenance, but they do make it nice to walk.  Actually, the gravel path on the Lake Linden sands has been turned into a permanent walking path.  They are planting some trees out there and it sounds like they want to keep the area as a park.  It is already pretty nice, but will be even nicer in 5-10 years when some of the trees start to mature.
    Today the hounds and I went to the north shore to walk.  I chose that spot because the winds were blowing at 25-30 out of the west, so I figured there would be some pretty decent waves and the Big Lake did not disappoint.  However, it was just a bit too brisk out on the beach to spend the afternoon, so we ended up walking the road that runs parallel to the beach.  It is sheltered from the winds of the lake by about 200 feet of trees and the wind was hardly blowing on the road.  So we had a nice walk.  I got to stroll through the woods and watch the clouds scream by overhead.  I also got to watch the hounds run from the road into the woods, back to the road and then back to the woods, over and over.  They are now sound asleep, so it looks like it was a success.
    The final tidbit I have to share with you is a picture of my sled with the latest customization.  As mentioned, I had to get the seat recovered and rather than going with all black, I decided to "kick it up a notch" as Emeril would say.  I guess I just have to be different!  Sounds like she will be going into Al's shop at the end of this week or early next week so that he can do it magic.  He really knows his stuff when it comes to getting the most out of a sled.  His 440 Snowpro kicked the butts of all the other 440's and 500's at Marquette Mountain a few years back and as I understand it cam pretty close to kicking most of the 600's rear ends too.  Let's see what he can to to an old 580 with blowing it up!
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 17-
    I'm sure that by now all of you have noticed the new look to the site.  The designer that has helped me with the graphics and layout of the site for the past 2 years wanted to make some updates, so I gave him the go ahead.  I did not want to change the generally theme or layout of the site though.  I like the structure to the site and I think that most of you are pretty used to way it has been for the past 2 years, so we decided to just freshen up the graphics and also change the mechanics of the site just a bit to make it easier to make future changes.  I hope you all like it!  I must point out that while it was a pleasant surprise for me to have it done and all of you were also surprised, it is not "The Surprise" I have been teasing you with for the past few weeks.  That is still in the final stages of development.  I am very close to having it done, but have encountered a little obstacle that needs to be hurdled and then it will be available for you all to enjoy.  The unfortunate thing is that I am waiting for a piece of equipment in order for it to be finished and so the speed at which it will be done is sort of out of my hands.  It will be done though!
    It's been feeling a lot like late autumn or early winter up here.  Snow fell last Wednesday to cover the ground and that snow has been around even since.  We even picked up some fresh snow on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Not a lot, but enough to keep the snow cover in the 2-4" range across the region.  Our morning temps have also been rather chilly.  Yesterday morning the thermometer in my back yard read about 15 degrees and this morning it was in the single digits for the first time all year, with a reading of 8.  I have finally broken out the winter coats and boots.  Until now, I have been able to get by with just my autumn wear, but temps in the single digits and teens require the warmer stuff, so the changing of the guard, or shall I say the changing of the coats, has taken place.  Saturday morning I was browsing through the cams in the NCN and came across a pretty image from Sharon Smith's cam.  The sun had just risen and there was a fresh blanket of white down, with some lake effect clouds off in the distance.  Makes you want to build a fire, huddle up next to it and read the morning paper, doesn't it.
    The weather the past few days has been ideal for the start of rifle season for deer.  The cold temps and snow help to get the deer moving to their winter herding grounds and the snow also helps the hunters to see the deer as well as track them.  So no excuses this year hunters!  Driving around Friday, this was a pretty common sign hanging in the businesses of the Keweenaw and probably the UP for that matter.  Opening day is sort of an unofficial holiday, so an opening day on a Friday is perfect reason for a three day weekend.  I had to work, but did manage to make it to deer camp Friday night.  Actually ran into a pretty decent snowfall on the way down to the camp and encountered some ice at a corner and went off the road.  Thankfully no damage was done to the Blazer, but it was a close call.  Another 10 feet and it would have been into the trees for me and the Blazer also almost flipped onto it's side before coming to a rest half in the ditch.  It was too deep in the ditch to get out myself, so I waited for a vehicle to come along and asked for a ride to the camp about 2 1/2 miles down the road.  I figured the camp would be full of guys that could get me out and I was right.  There were about 8 guys that were glad to help me out.  After making me the but of some jokes for about 30 minutes.  I guess I deserved it, I was just very thankful no damage was done.  I actually went into the ditch at that corner going out to camp 2 years ago.  I must be a slow learner!
    So with rifle season going on, the hounds and I are now keeping out of the woods.  Of course that does not really mean that we suffer.  There are plenty of places to go and on Friday, the Lake Linden sands got the call.  It was very nice out there, with a few inches of snow on the ground, the water starting to make ice and even a few geese to entertain us.  I'm not totally sure what that was, but it almost looked like an albino Canadian Goose.  There were some others in the area, but it was the only one that did not have the traditional markings.  As said, the lakes are starting to make ice now.  At least the smaller lakes.  This is what I call the Little Torch Lake and it has had ice on it for almost a week now.  I went by Rice Lake yesterday and it had ice cover and all the ponds are freezing up as well.  The Torch Lake and Portage Lake are all wide open still and will be for a few more weeks at least.
    The weather provided a little bit of everything for our walk Friday afternoon.  At times it would snow at a pretty good clip and then a few minutes later, the sun would be peaking out and would help take the chill off for a few minutes before the next wave of snow showers would roll through.  Pretty typical lake effect snow showers and that last pic showed everything, with the sun shining over me, but off in the distance the next snow shower getting ready to move in.  I must say that at this point in time, I am not that concerned about this winter being a problem for us.  I am not convinced that places further south, places like southern MN, WI and MI as well as northern IL will see a good winter, but the pattern has been pretty good up here and in the next two weeks only looks to get better.  No major storms are seen, but it looks to be pretty cold for the next two weeks and there are several chances for some light snow.  Actually, with opening day for snowmobile season just two weeks away, if what is indicated to occur by the forecast models plays out, we could be very close to having enough snow to play in on opening day.  Now, keep in mind that we generally need about 12-18" down before they decide to start grooming.  We don't need that much to ride and if the cold temps continue, then they might start grooming with only about a foot down, as everything will have been frozen up well.  It is still way to early to know for sure, but if in about 4 weeks the pattern has not changed to the mild "El Nino" one expected by many and there is no sign of it to occur in the two week forecast, I might just be able to declare the expected mild El Nino winter a no show.  That would be a nice thing to be able to do, keep those fingers crossed!  Getting back to my walk on the sands, we turned the corner, putting the sun to our backs and the friendly village of Lake Linden in view and made for the home stretch back to the truck.
    On Saturday, the hounds and I took to the beach for our walk.  Another demonstration that having to stay out of the woods is not necessarily a sacrifice of scenery.  I suppose most of you were able to recognize that as the beach at Big Traverse, one of our summer play places, but also a nice place to play at in the winter.  I almost could have used the cross country skis out there.  Only about 2 more inches and there would have been enough snow to keep the skis from reaching the sand.  We actually did not go right to the sand, the hounds were picking up the scents of some critters that had been in the beach grass and wild blueberry patches prior to our arrival.  The afternoon walks are as much for them as they are for me, so many times I let them dictate where we go, as long as it is a place we will be able to get out of!  So we hung out above the beach for a while and they sniffed just about every square inch of ground before we finally made it to the beach itself.  I am just amazed that we can go out to a place as beautiful as we were at, and not only be able to be the only ones out there, but also not see any sign of anyone being there previously.  Not a track in the sand.  Needless to say, we had a great time at the beach yesterday afternoon and came back with big smiles on all of our faces.  Lucky, lucky, lucky me.
    Today I need to take care of the chores I did not get to yesterday.  I put the Christmas lights up about a week ago, but there were the usual few strands that would not light, so I had to get replacements and put them up.  That is what I did today as well as put the seat back on snowmobile and start it up.  The seat got ripped in a few spots last year, so I had it recovered.  The gas tank is part of the seat, so I had to drain that.  I want Al to do a little carb and clutch work to my sled this season, so I needed to get the seat back before he could work on it.  I did manage to get the seat on and get it started up.  Now all we need is about two more inches of snow and I can ride it down to his shop!  Actually, I will just throw it on a trailer and get it down to him.  He will be working through the rest of deer season, so hopefully he will be able to get to it before the start of the season in two weeks.  Seems very hard to believe that opening day is just two weeks away.  Seems like I always have some kind of countdown going on in my life.  Patience, patience, Huh N?
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 14-
    'Twas the night before Deer Camp and....Not sure if that classic Christmas poem has been modified for the big event up here on the 15th, but I would not doubt that Da Yoopers have done something with it.  Yep.  Pretty hard to find a pickup without an ATV or stack of supplies for the camp in the back bed right now.  In just a few hours the cities, towns and villages up here will be pretty void of male inhabitants and some female too.  Most of the females will not be at camp, but down south hunting for things in the malls of Green Bay and Appleton.  So that leaves me!  What's a non hunter and not a big shopper to do?  Well, I'm sure the hounds and will find something to keep us entertained.  Actually, I am going to go to deer camp either tomorrow night or Saturday night.  Not for the whole night, just long enough to loose some money in a few games of cards or get in some good laughs with the boys.  The male bonding thing.  I am really surprised that some high brow in some university has not yet done a thesis on the social importance of deer camp.  Someone mentioned in the Ask John about the motion picture "Escanaba in Da Moonlight".  It was shot in the UP, mostly the Escanaba region 2 years ago and is about hunting camp.  I have yet to see it, but maybe that is one thing I can do during camp.  Actually, most guys still need to work, so it is not like the place becomes a ghost town.  I know many who are just taking tomorrow off and then also taking the Friday after Thanksgiving off.
    So today was it.  The last day in the woods for the hounds and I for 15 days.  We did make pretty good use of the woods the past few days.  Not really going to anywhere exotic, but still making sure to be in places we really should not go to for the next 2 weeks and one day.  The weather has been quite agreeable for walking in the woods.  A far cry from last year when I was in shorts and a T-shirt.  Now I know a bunch of you must be thinking:"What the heck is he saying?  Warm weather would be great for walking in the woods".  Well, actually for me it was pretty nice last year to be walking around in shorts and a t at the middle of November, but it was hard on the hounds.  They start to put on their winter coats by about the middle of October and they can overheat pretty quickly  when it is warm.  So last year we actually went to the beach a lot, so they could cool off if they wanted.  This year I have been all bundled up and even dodging some snowflakes.
    On Tuesday the hounds and I went out to the school forest for our afternoon walk.  Some flakes were falling and it was just a very relaxing afternoon to be out there.  It is just amazing how quiet it can get in the woods up here.  That afternoon, as we were walking, the hounds stopped to smell something, so I stopped with them and it was so quiet, I could actually hear the snowflakes hit the ground.  Now THAT is quiet!  It is moments like that when I wonder what the rest of the world is doing.  What do they hear, car horns, emergency sirens, trains rumbling down the track, the low rumble of an expressway or perhaps the distant roar of a jet airplane.  Not much noise pollution up here, at least not in the woods.  As we finished up our walk on Tuesday, we passed a little pond near the cabin at the school forest.  It has been cold enough up here to keep the night ice around all day.
    Yesterday we went up on the tracks by my house.  Nothing too exciting up there, except someone was sighting in a BIG gun not too far from us and I was almost a little worried about catching a stray bullet.  Thankfully when they are sighting in a rifle, there are a few minutes between each shot and we were able to get away from the sound with only 2 or 3 shots fired.  Today I decided to go somewhere special, or at least not right in my neighborhood.  It was the last day we could be in the woods for a while and there was a few inches of fresh snow on the ground.  So after seeing that the coop observer up in Keweenaw County had more snow than anywhere in the UP (5"), I decided that would be our destination.  And since the school forest is drying out and freezing up, I thought I would take the same route the dogs and I took about a month ago when we had snow, but was so wet.  I figured it might not be totally dry, but would not be as wet as it was before.  On the way up, we drove past the Cliff Range and it looked very majestic in it's coating of white.
    We got to the trail and things were drier and in some spots, the bigger puddles were frozen.  So we were able to trounce along without many problems.  I even was beginning to wonder if I might have wanted to have my cross country skis.  I was even imagining myself cruising down the trail on my sled!  There was even enough down to do that if I wanted.  Heck, that was more snow down than I rode on in WI back in 1998 when I took a trip from Hurley to Bayfield.  We had to go southwest to go around the Native American land to the west of Hurley and by the time we were down to Mellen, things were pretty bare.  I think the day we came back was the last day for riding those trails until more snow fell.  Of course, while the 5-6 inches I was walking through today was enough to cover the ground, fallen leaves and a few sticks, it was not enough to cover everything and my trip on the sled or skis would have ended pretty quickly once I came to the still running creek.  Baileys was checking out some deer tracks in the snow there.  We actually saw lots of critter tracks in the snow on our walk today.  Deer, rabbit, field mouse and even some coyote.  Burt was especially interested in the coyote, or at least that's what I think it was.  A pretty big coyote, but I doubt it was a wolf.  Whatever it was, they were fresh.  There was a falling snow, but the tracks did not have much fresh snow on them.  I took a few looks back to see if we were being stalked or perhaps it might pass across the trail again.  No luck.
    I did not bring the GPS this time.  I figured I would be able to remember the way up and the way back would be no problem, we could just follow the two human and eight dog prints in the snow.  We did manage to make it to the top of 1555 ft Praiseville Hill.  Pretty windy up there today.  All the trees were bare and the hill was pretty exposed.  Not enough to see everything with good clarity, but I was able to see the lake on both sides of the peninsula and things like the Cliff Range off on the horizon.  I did not take any pictures because they would not have been able to show what I was seeing too well.  Just a few too many trees to see clearly.  So after catching our breath on top of the hill, we headed back down.  That is one of the nice features to this particular hike.  The way out is all uphill and the way back is all downhill and not so steep that it is hard on my legs.  Bohemia is all uphill on the first leg and downhill on the second, but the downhill can be harder on my legs than the up hill.  I don't huff and puff, but the burn is worse.  Most of this trip is just a gentile slope down through the trees.
    We reached the point in the walk where the dogs and I had noticed a bunch of deer tracks in the snow.  A lot more than in any other place.  The dogs suddenly became very alert and Burt took off down the trail.  They do this when they pick up the scent of a deer or bunch of deer.  So hoping I could get a shot of the deer in the snow and in the woods, I got my camera out, readied it for action and took off through the woods in follow of Burt.  He stopped and looked up at some trees about 50 yards away and I thought that was a strange place for a deer to be, up in the trees.  All of the sudden, one of the larger fir trees started to shake.  At first like a stiff breeze had hit it, but then it took on a more vigorous shake.  A shake that could only be caused by something in it.  My mind raced through the list of possibilities to see if I should stand and take a picture of it, or get the heck out of there to save mine and the hounds hides.  The quick list of animals causing the tree to shake included: black bear, bobcat, raccoon and porcupine.  All animals that would be very hesitant to take on 2 large dogs and a human at the same time, so I decided to stand my ground and try and get a shot of what was causing all the commotion.  The shaking kept up at a good enough clip to knock all the snow off the fir trees branches and the shaking was also making a steady climb towards the top.  As the snow fell off the second from the top branches, I put the camera to my eye, zoomed in tight on the top of the tree, heart pounding in anticipation of getting a great wildlife photo and up popped a bow hunter!  He had a stand set up out there and was climbing up through the tree to get to the stand, shaking the snow off the branches on the way up so that it would not hit him as he made his way up.  So no unique photo and I think he was as surprised to see me standing there as I was to see him!  I gave a wave and the hounds and I left his kill zone and headed back to the truck.
    I felt a little bad about going out to his kill zone with the dogs and leaving out scent out there.  This afternoon was the last time for early bow season, so it was sort of a now or never thing for him.  There is a second bow season and of course the rifle season that starts tomorrow and a black powder season in December, but I could not help but feel a little bad for possibly screwing him out of something in the few hours of daylight that remained.  My feelings of guilt quickly faded when we got to the section of trail that he had taken his truck through and made quite a mess.  My pristine, snow covered trail was now covered in mud.  The ice was thick enough to support the hounds and I, but not a big old bush truck.  I think we were even.
    We got back to the truck.  I had parked it at the end of where the county plows and on roads such as that, the county will post a sign saying that the road from here on is not maintained in the winter.  Just in case some unsuspecting traveler ventures down it thinking that they will be able to get out with the pending snow storm.  This particular sign is a little unique though.  The wording is the same, but because this area gets so much snow, it is on an extra long pole.  Make sure you scroll all the way down in this shot of the pole to see just how tall it is!  Yep, I figured the top of that pole to be about 12-15 feet off the ground.  I'll have to remember to head out there in March to see how close to being buried it is.
    On the way back my eye caught a nice photo op of the east branch of the Eagle River flowing behind the Church of the Assumption in Phoenix.  So I stopped, turned around and walked out to the banks of it to capture an early winters snowscape.  Yes, it is winter up here.  Early winter, which means our snow might now last or at least might melt some before it stays for good, but there is no mistaking it, winter is here.  Oh, and for those of you wanting to use that as a screen saver, here is the full sized version.  On my way back to the truck, I snapped a shot of the church as well.  Beautiful in any season, but winter is my favorite.
    So that is it, the hounds and I will be sticking to the beaches or roads for the next 2 weeks + 1 day.  Not a problem.  Still plenty of places to go and then if all works out well, at the end of those 2 weeks and one day we will be skiing and snowmobiling in the woods.  I almost cannot believe we are that close to the season.  It has really snuck on on me this year.  My sled will be ready.  I have the seat that I got recovered back and will hook things back up and secure it down.  Then a little carb and clutch work and she will be all set.
    Before I sign off, I would just like to thank all of you for not only coming to this site and supporting it with your visits, but I have picked up some new advertisers this year and they told me that they were told by their customers to take a look at my site and see about placing an ad on it.  The latest was someone that was down at the snowmobile show in Minneapolis and was told by more than one person to look into my site.  He now has a banner ad and directory ad on the site and everybody wins.  You all get more options to choose from when looking for places to stay at, eat at and possibly rent a sled or get some repairs done.  Those businesses get some great exposure and I make a little money to help support the site.  A perfect relationship if you ask me.  So again, thank you to everyone who is reading this and especially to those of you spreading the word about the site.  It keeps getting more and more popular and I have more ideas for it.  Speaking of which, I have not forgotten the surprise addition to it, I have just hit a temporary snag and it looks like it could be up this weekend or next week.  But it is coming.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 11-
    I was hoping that my last journal was Friday, but seeing that it was Thursday, I am feeling even worse for not getting one out last night.  However, I was out late Saturday night, actually until Sunday morning.  I did not party it up too much, my stomach was not feeling too well earlier in the day, but I did stay out until 2:30 and my old body is just not used to staying up that late.  Normally I am waking up about two hours after that.  So yesterday I had a bad case of the "slows".  I did manage to get in most of the things I would normally do like the two walks with the hounds and my work that needs to be done on Sunday's, but it took a little more effort to get them done.  I can also be a little crabby when I am tired, so that is why I decided to forgo the journal last night.  No need for all of you to put up with me when I am crabby!
    Plus, things remain fairly quiet.  Both activity and weather wise.  Had a dusting of snow last night, but that has been about it.  Nothing like what happened 27 years ago yesterday.  That was the anniversary of the sinking of the Fitz.  I did not even make my annual pilgrimage to the big lake to pay respects to the 29 lives lost that night, so I must have been tired to miss that.  We have actually yet to have a big windstorm up here yet.  We have had some 20 and 30 MPH winds from time to time, but not the big blows, the house rockers, the Gales of November.  At this point, I do not see any such storm on the horizon.  I'm sure we will get one, but it is strange to not have had one yet.  We are also in a little snow drought in the past two weeks.  A few dustings have occurred, but nothing else.  It looks like we might be breaking that drought this week.  No major dumps, but enough to coat the ground in time for the big hunt to begin Friday.  Only 3 more walking in the woods days left!  I am actually amazed at my patience for the snow to arrive.  I am not worried in the least at our little absence in the past 2 weeks.  That is actually not that unusual, but in previous years I would have been a little anxious.  Now, I am not making any promises if we are still in a snow drought a month from now.  I really hope to be riding by then, but plenty of time to get some snow.  Speaking of snow, the local ski hill, Mt Ripley, is making snow at night.  They hope to be open by Thanksgiving weekend.  Maybe that is what I can do over that weekend, if I can't go sledding, I'll go downhill skiing.
    While the weather has been quiet and I have not been having much in the way of activities, the woods are not that quiet.  Lots of bangs going off this weekend.  Not from hunting, but from hunters sighting in their rifles.  Things were fairly quiet today, but all weekend long the sounds of shots were ringing out.  My first year up here it was a little unnerving to be in the woods and hearing all those shots ring out.  But over the course of my tenure up here, I have grown accustomed to it and it does not even faze me in the least.  I am not yet ready to join the league of hunters testing their skill on Friday, but I suppose I will be out "at camp" this weekend and at a Deer Hunters Ball the following weekend.  So I am getting closer to being a true Yooper.  Maybe in a few more years.
    The hounds and I did take to the woods today and I plan to take them out there the next three days.  Today we walked the tracks.  A week ago I mentioned how there had been some activity on the trails and it looked like they might be trying to make some improvements to the trails and signs out there.  Today my suspicions were confirmed at the sight of some new signs.  The folks doing the signs are really doing a good job.  Posting directions, hazards and even food and gas.  There has even been some fixing of the areas that the trail uses.  In one spot where the trail is on a hill, the dirt had washed out and there were some fairly large ruts in the trail.  Well, they came in with a bunch of mine rock and filled in the ruts and flattened out the trail.  That will make that section a bunch easier to groom in the early season.  And there are three new signs on that hill too.  They are even putting little signs at the road crossings.  I am not sure if any of the snowmobile maps actually have Gas Plant Road marked on them and I surely do not think that any non locals will get any help from knowing that they are crossing Gas Plant Road, but it was a nice touch.  Actually, when I think about it, if there is an accident at that crossing or near it, knowing that the crossing is at Gas Plant Road would be very helpful in getting the emergency personnel there, so there is a good reason to have the road marked.
    I was sure that the new signs had gone in within the past 24 hours because the hounds and I went on that same trail yesterday and they were not there.  I was a little disappointed that I was not able to meet the workmen to thank them, but actually on my way back to the truck, I did come across the workmen and workwoman.  I made a point to tell them that they were doing great work.  We got into a conversation and they told me all about the changes going on for this year.  I can say that if what they say does in fact play out, then you all will notice a major difference in the conditions of the trails up here.  However, I may have only been up here for three years, but I have learned in that time to believe changes in the trail maintenance system up here will occur after seeing them with my own eyes.  Now some changes have already taken place, but they took place because the people that I was talking to this afternoon were able to make them happen themselves.  The other changes have to come about at the effort of others.  Others that have yet to show any desire to make the changes.  I was told that those issues had been dealt with this year, so we will see.  One thing I can say, it will be very interesting to see what plays out.
    Well, that is about all I have for this journal.  Just about all.  Saturday I took a friend up to see my new property and they thought that you all would like to see a picture of me and the hounds.  So here we are, in our woods.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 7-
    Well, even here in the laid back upper peninsula, things can get hectic.  At least for me!  I had plans to take a trip into the bush, to a place I had never been before, but one business task led to another and another and before I knew it, I was running out of time to try and get out there.  I suppose that I could have really rushed things and probably had enough time to head out, but it would have been sort of like trying to fit a square block into a round hole, all with a time limit.  Frantically trying to make sure I had the GPS, laptop, cables, extra batteries, cell phone and anything I needed to drop off at the post office and bank as well.  So I just decided to postpone the trip to where I planned to go and spend a relaxing afternoon with the hounds out at the school forest.  Where I was planning on going would have taken over an hour to get to, so that extra time gave us lots of time to explore the school forest.  Things are drying out a little more out there.  Still some puddles, but not the swamp setting it was for most of October.  We did not see or hear any wildlife out there.  Usually we will come across some deer or maybe a coyote, but today not a thing.  Maybe the deer are getting ready for the deer season that starts in just over a week.  Seeking out their hiding spots!
    We had quite a chilly night last night.  The coldest night of the season so far.  By 10 pm temps were already about 15 degrees.  That was actually the low for the night, as a southerly wind kicked in shortly after that and the temps warmed to about 19-20 degrees and stayed there for the rest of the night.  It did warm up nicely today, with temps actually reaching the low 50's.  Even with temps that warm and some sunshine, the night ice did not leave the little torch lake today.  A sign that winter is trying to get a firm grip on the region, even though it looses it's fight with it's warm season cousin for a day or two like it did today.  On my trip up to Calumet today, there was still some snow left on the side of the road from where it piled up by the plow trucks.
    For the first time since I have moved up here, this fall feels just like what I imagined a fall would be like up here.  The past several autumns have been above average, with last years autumn breaking all sorts of records for warmth.  It was almost like I had moved 400 miles north and the autumn weather I thought I left behind followed me north.  Now, the winter that I had left behind did stay behind, with the good old keweenaw snows showing up for at least periods of the past 3 winters.  My first winter it was late to arrive and very early to leave, the second winter it arrived in good time and left about on average and last years delayed arrival was offset with a late departure as well.  Not sure what this winter season will bring, but so far it sure seems like it might be what is considered "normal", with November to provide some snow, nothing too big, but a few inches from time to time.  Some warm periods as well, but overall, a general down turn in temperatures.  Then by about the last week of November, the snow starts to stick around and by December 1st, the depth just keeps on growing and reaches a few feet by the 2nd or 3rd week of December.  Like I say, we'll see, but so far I am not seeing any strong signs that the current El Nino will provide the warm anomaly to the north central Plains and Canadian Prairies like it was expected to.  Some of the other weather anomalies associated with El Nino are going on.  Wet weather in the southern US, California is just getting it's first strong winter storm.  The first of what might be many in the next week to two weeks.  Areas of northeast Argentina and southern Brazil are wet and dryness has been occurring in spots of Indonesia.  I must caution you that I am not yet convinced that the warm anomaly will not materialize, but I can say with confidence that the deeper and deeper we go into December without it developing, the more and more I will be convinced that it will not pan out.  I know that is not really sticking my neck out too far, but as I say in my seasonal forecast, there is really not much trusted science involved yet and I really do like to have proven scientific reasons behind any forecast I give out.  Contrary to the joke I have heard about a million times about how nice it must be to have job that I get paid to be wrong, I actually get paid to be right.  If I am wrong too many times, or am not any more correct than free weather sources like the weather channel or NWS, then I am out of a job.  Thankfully the weather channel does not provide too much competition.  I really do not understand who is in charge of their programming and content over there, but I seriously doubt that they are a meteorologist.  They continue to provide graphics on the Northeast US "drought".  A drought that ended well over a month ago.  Boston has a 4" precip deficit since Jan 1 of this year, but that is only 9% down for the year.  Not exactly a drought.  New York City is 94% of average precip.  Meanwhile, Chicago is 3.14" down since September 1, which is only 54% of average.  Not extreme, but a heck of a lot closer to a drought that is occurring in the NE US.  Anyway, I scratch my head at some of the stuff they do on that channel.
    About the only other news I have up here, other than ranting about the weather channel, is that on our walk yesterday, I noticed some pre-season trail work has been going on in my neck of the woods.  Yep, some wash outs were filled in with mine rock (the crushed rock left over from the copper mining), one of the areas actually was quite large.  There also appears to have been some brushing done and there are even some little wooden stakes with yellow surveyors tape on them that have placed to mark where signs will be going.  I do not know if this is going on across all of the system, but I can say that it is going on right by my house.  So I guess that is a positive thing.  Better than last year when I was walking around on the same exact trail in December and clearing trees myself.  There is hope!
    Well, I guess that will do it for now.  Sorry no pics this time around, I was hoping to have a load for you from my adventures today, but when they were put on hold, so were the shots.  Hang in there, more will be on the way.
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 5-
    I can say with confidence that this entry will be a little larger than the last one.  I did take one of my intended adventures today and have about 10 shots to share, plus some stories and stuff.  It's funny, yesterday I went back and read some of the past journals and when I got to the beginning of November for last year, the entry for November 4th was also very short!  I guess it is just the time of the year that brings about a lull in things to talk about.  Last year I was hiking in shorts.  Temps were in the 60's and we were even going to the beaches a lot, so the hounds could stay cool, but swimming.  Quite a difference this year.  Had some more snow today. Not enough to accumulate and it did end as a little bit of rain, but still, no 60's and weather much more like November.
    I can say that I am extremely happy that the election has now arrived.  The commercials really get to me.  They run over and over and over again.  I am not sure if the persons running them realize that there is quite a negative effect they have to see them over and over and over.  At times, I almost feel like voting for the other person, just because they have not bothered me as much.  I don't, but am tempted.  To make matters worse we have to watch commercials for candidates that are not even in our area.  Thanks to cable, we get commercials for Green Bay, Marquette, Traverse City and even Detroit some times.  Well, it's all over now and I took advantage of my right as an American and cast my votes.  Funny thing though.  Being from Chicago, I am used to going in and voting several times.  I tried that here and they do not allow it.  What's up with that!
    As mentioned the hounds and I did go on an adventure today.  It was not the best day for it, with rain and snow, but any day in the Keweenaw bush is a good day.  Our destination was Mt. Houghton.  The way that I usually go there is to go down to Lac La Belle and then shoot into the woods and over to the hill.  Today I decided to make use of the GPS and take some back roads from Mandan.  There are tons of roads out that way and I was able to map out a trail that would get us there.  I was not sure what shape the roads would be in, as I have never traveled them, but there was only one spot that went through a swampy area, so I figured that we should be ok.  As it turned out, the same path that I had mapped out was being used by loggers.  That ws sort of a good news/bad news situation.  The good news is that there would be no blow downs blocking the path and any creek crossings would be passable.  The bad news is that I might get way into the trip and reach a spot where the were working and would not be able to get through.  Or I might reach a spot where the trucks made the mud too deep to get through.  I decided to press on until we could no longer and as luck would have it we did not encounter any impassable sections and we got to where I wanted to.
    I did not want to drive all the way up to the hill.  It is actually not possible to take the truck all the way to the top.  The trail gets too narrow and it is also posted, asking that only hunters and fishermen go in.  We were not hunting or fishing, but I figured hiking is just as low impact.  Plus, I wanted to do some hiking to give the hounds and I our exercise, so I found a spot about a half mile away from the top and parked there.  I actually took that picture to show how muddy the Blazer got on the drive in, but the shot actually did not show the mud that well.  I was very happy with the way the truck handled the elements.  The mud never got too deep.  I think about 6-8 inches was about it and there was one time that the axle started to push the mud.  That is always the warning sign for me.  Start pushing mud or snow with the axle and you are not going to go much further.  Thankfully, a little more throttle and we made it through.
    So after parking the Blazer, we all piled out of it and readied ourselves for the hike.  I took my GPS because I wanted to do some exploring around the top of the hill and thought that we might even find a new way down and wanted to be able to get back to the Blazer without too much wandering around, wondering where it was!  At the start of our hike there was not much snow on the ground and there was a bit of a rain/snow mix falling.  Mt. Houghton is one of the highest peaks in the Keweenaw and the higher we went, the deeper the snow got.  As we neared the top, there was about 2-3" down and the precip that was falling was all snow.  I was glad that it changed to all snow because I had forgot to bring a hat.  I did have a head band and that kept my ears and forehead warm, but the top of my head could still get wet if it was raining.
    We did make it to the top and first when to the familiar spot for me, the south overlook.  This is a great place to go when the visibility is good.  To the east you can see the bear bluffs, the tip of the Keweenaw and even Manitou Island.  Today, with the snow falling, the view did not go much beyond the Bear Bluffs.  To the west, the view includes Bete Gris bay and beach, the Lac La Belle Shipping Canal and Sloughs, as well as Point Isabelle and even down the coast to Gay and Traverse Island or as the locals call it, Rabbit Island.  Today, Bete Gris beach and the "irons" guarding the entrance to the Lac La Belle Shipping Canal were about the only things view able through the snow.  The wind was out of the south and up that high was blowing at about 25-30 mph, so we did not stay too long on the south face.  Today, it was the north face that was the easier slope.  The view from the north slope usually affords a view of Lakes Addie and Breakfast, as well as the high spots of Brockway Mountain, Rocky Ridge and the East Bluff.  Today, all that you could see was Lake Addie.
    We did walk around a little more at the top, but it is not a very big mountain on top.  Probably 10 acres or less.  There are some pretty steep cliffs in spots, so they were out of the question as far as getting down or up.  But there are also a few spots where things are not as steep, one of them being the way we came up and another on the opposite side of the hill and that was the way we went down.  There is no trail that other way, but having the GPS in hand and a strong signal, I was not too concerned to be bush whacking.  Plus we could always follow our tracks in the snow back if we needed to, but with each step down, I was really hoping that we would not need to backtrack!  We got to a familiar logging road and took it back to the truck.  On the way down that logging road, the GPS made a little beep and I looked at the screen that was now blank.  It is pretty hard to hit the on/off button by accident, so my fear was that the batteries went dead and my fear was realized.  Dead, done, finished!  Not to worry, I do carry spares, but I wanted to see if my backwoods tracking ability was good enough to get us back to the blazer.  Sure enough, I took all the right turns and we got back to the truck.
    On the way back out, I was tempted to take the long way home and circle all the way around the tip and then into Copper Harbor and then home, but the dogs and I were wet and muddy from our adventure and it was getting somewhat late and I did not feel like having to deal with a mechanical problem deep in the Keweenaw bush as it was getting dark with a cold rain and snow falling, so we just headed back.  One of the things I was afraid of encountering on the way in we actually encountered on the way out.  A logging truck blocking the route.  As you probably noticed, there was a person working the boom and clam shell, so I figured we would just wait until he was finished with his work in that spot and then continue on.  He spotted us and did a little more work and then moved the truck for us.  I am not sure if he was done, or was just being polite and letting us through, but I was thankful that he moved for us and gave a wave as we passed by.  There were some more loggers that we passed on the way out and I could not help but think about how hard their work is.  Here it is, raining and snowing, ankle to knee deep mud everywhere and they are out in all of that, working all day, with huge and deadly equipment.  Reminded me of some other laborers up here that toiled in another dangerous occupation years ago, the miners.  The major difference there is that the miners worked all day in a dark, cold and dusty dungeon all day and at least the loggers get to be in the great outdoors and see things like this.  I suppose I could actually handle logging for a while.  It would just be days like this that would make it a little tough to get up for.  That and the days in the summer that the insects are eating you alive or the heat and humidity make you melt....  I think I'll stick to my day job and explore the wilderness on my own terms.  By the way, here is a full sized version of that last shot.
    So we did end up making it out of the bush, but I decided to take a slightly different way out and come out close to Mt. Bohemia.  There are so many roads out there to go down.  I am sure that some of them just end up stopping after a while, but it would be neat to follow some of them to see where they lead.  We got to Mt. Bohemia and I decided to take the road around Lac La Belle, down to Gay and then shoot over to Calumet to get the truck washed.  All the wet weather still has the creeks flowing, so I made it a point to pull off and take a shot of Haven Falls for you all to enjoy.  More like spring levels than fall, except for all the leaves on the ground.  In all the times I have been down that road, I have never been to Deer Lake, so I thought that I could kill too birds with one stone, visit Deer Lake and let the dogs go for a swim to get cleaned up.  They actually did not want to go all the way in, but did wade through the shore ice far enough to get the mud off their legs and bellies.  There was a little bit of light rain falling while we were at the lake, so we did not stay too long.  I was actually surprised when the hounds wanted to get in the truck after their wade.  Usually I have to do a little coaxing to get them back into the truck so we can go.  So we took one last look at the lake and headed on the road back down south towards base camp.
    The trip from Lac La Belle to Gay is always a treat.  Just about every time I travel it, the weather has some kind of a different effect on the lake and the lake is thus in some kind of a different mood.  Today I would have to describe the lake as being in an upset mood.  Not angry, it was not causing any destruction, but upset.  You would not want to be out on it and if you were you would want to be on your best behavior.  One slip up and you might make it go from upset to angry and that would be it for you.  I was glad to be traveling safe and sound on dry land, looking out on the lake and admiring it's state of agitation.  We made it to the sleepy hamlet of Gay and then on to Calumet via Mohawk, but then the plans changed a bit.
    Mother nature is not yet done with her color show.  Sure all the hardwoods are done with their colors and those trees are actually bare of any vegetation now, but the Tamaracks are putting on their color show.  Yep, one last treat of color before all is gray and then all is white.  Did you know that those trees actually shed their needles?  Yep, just like a hardwood, they drop their needles and start over with a new set for the new growing season.  I had no idea that there was a softwood that was not "evergreen".  Anyway, on my way back to the truck, I noticed that most of the mud had come off of it with the rain and puddles we went through, so I nixed the trip to the car wash and took the Copper City cut off to the Valley Road and then home.  I do plan to head back out into the bush Thursday, so I figure it will get pretty muddy then and will clean it after that trip.
    So we are all safe and sound.  The hounds got to see the view from on top of Mt. Houghton, I was able to take full advantage of the GPS to take me to places I have yet to be and all is well.  I am looking forward to the next trip and will make sure to bring you all along.  Till, then...
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 3-
    I'm getting an early start today.  I did a lot of work outside and still have some energy, but I have a feeling that soon after dinner, I will not feel like doing much more than holding down the couch and absorbing some radiation from the TV.  Today was a very successful day for me.  I got my leaves raked, the grass cut and the snow station built and setup.  Oh, I also got the the trash out to the curb.  Tomorrow is the fall cleanup day.  We have to put all of our garbage in special bags that we buy from the village.  The price of the bag helps to pay for the trash service.  Well, one in the spring and once in the fall, you can put just about anything out and they will pick it up.  It is amazing to see what gets put out by some.  They will take just about anything.  Couches, stoves, you name it.  Most times I don't have too much, although this time I do have quite a load for the poor garbage men.  Mostly boxes that I have been collecting for the past 2 years, but there is also an old computer printer and odds and ends.  With the completion of the yard work and the snow station, all I have left to do is put up the Christmas lights and I will be done with ALL my fall chores.  Looks like the weather will provide plenty of opportunities to get the lights up in the next week or so, so I will not worry too much about getting them done.
    Yep, it looks like the pattern is going to change a bit and allow some mild air to build into most of the Midwest.  Maybe not warm, but at least out of the 30's.  Today was actually a pretty nice day.  We warmed into the low 40's and had some sunshine and clouds mixed.  I can say that as much as I want winter to come, day's like today are very nice.  A perfect day to get outside work done and also to walk in the woods.  Only 12 more days left for us to go into the woods.  I am also glad that we did not get that much snow last Friday.  It would just all be melting right now and making everything all wet.  Can you believe I am saying such things!?  Don't worry, I am not getting sick of snow and am actually getting more and more anxious for the real snow season to come.  I guess that since we had such a snowy October and I was hoping for things to dry out, I am happy by the turn of events.  I don't know how many of you heard the news, but Keweenaw County did break the all time record for snowfall for the month of October.  The brave souls of the road commission measured 19.5" of snow for the month, passing the old record of 12.8", by a comfortable margin.  Not much snow seen for the next few days.  There could be a dusting to an inch by later Wednesday and into Thursday with a brief shot of arctic air, but that looks to be it for the next week or so.  Figures, I will be starting my snowfall forecasts this week and I will not have much to talk about.  Oh well, I guess I cannot expect too much this time of the year.
    I am afraid that I am actually out of things to say.  This is really a quiet time of the year for me.  I am not a hunter, so I am not busy getting the camp and weapons ready.  The color show is over and the real snows have yet to start.  It does look like the woods are dry enough to allow me to do some exploring and I plan to take advantage of that this week and next.  I do have some places picked out, so hopefully I will have more material in future journals.  So, it seem strange to be ending this on the third paragraph, but I am really at a loss for anything else to say, except...
Good night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-
November 1-
    12.  That is the number of trick or treaters I had yesterday evening.  That is less than I had last year and about what I had the first year.  I understood the low turnout the first year.  I was new in town and did not make my presence too well known, so I suppose some people might have even thought the home was still vacant.  Last year the numbers climbed to fairly respectable numbers, or at least for a village of about 800 people.  I think I had about 25-30.  I was prepared for similar numbers and even more yesterday, but the weather turned rather nasty and I think it kept most of the kids away.  It started to snow pretty good at about 5, just as the trick or treat hours started and we had almost an inch of snow by about 7, so it did come down pretty good.  Plus, the wind was really blowing and it was in the 20's, so I'm not sure how long I would have lasted, unless I was going as an arctic explorer or something.  So I have the traditional 4-5 bags of candy left over and have already started in on taking care of them.  It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.  I would rather have lots left over, than run out midway through the period.  Plus, as mentioned, I do get all stuff I like.
    The snow were not enough to break out the new Ariens.  It sat in the garage, it's front intake looking like a mouth and the front auger looking like smiling teeth.  I was a little disappointed, but did not let it get me down too much.  We will get to team up to move some snow soon enough and with great regularity, that is for sure.  So am I optimistic that we are going to have a good winter?  Well, I am always optimistic that it will be a good winter, but even if it is a poor winter, that means about 150" of snow. A record year for most other areas in the Midwest, outside the lake snow belts.  So that is why I am confident that we will get plenty of chances to move snow.
    Some other places up here did better than us.  Areas around Bruce Crossing reported about 4-5" of snow as did some places to the east of Marquette.  It was just one of those systems that did not get us as well as it could have.  That too is ok, because it is likely that it will melt anyway.  Too early to have snow stick around for good.  That becomes a better possibility in about 2-3 weeks.  I would just as soon have things dry out some more.  They already have, especially when compared to about a week ago.  There are still some puddles and many of the small creeks that are usually dry this time of the year are running, but a lot of the puddles have dried up and some have even frozen.  Yep frozen.  It has been cold enough to get some of the puddles and even some of the ponds to freeze up.  They too may not stay frozen, but will also not warm much and would freeze pretty quickly with the colder temps by the end of November or beginning of December.
    I got the other half of my bush protectors finished yesterday and am now officially ready for winter.  I suppose I could do with some mild temps to get the Christmas lights up, but too tell you the honest truth, I would not be heart broken if the weather would not allow me to get to them.  I will do them if I get the chance, but they are not as crucial as getting the bush protectors up and the snow thrower.  Every year I think that this will be the final setup for my bush protectors, that I have finally arrived at a setup that will be able to withstand the piles of snow that will collect on them and so far I have been wrong!  Of course I do just let the snow pile up and do not do much to relieve the weight as the season goes on.  I think this year I will remove some of the snow. At least not let the snow get 3 feet deep on them.
    The hounds and I have been taking to the woods in the afternoon for our walks.  We still have not ventured too far from home.  I have had to stay close to home to conserve time so that I can get all my chores done, but with most of them done and the woods starting to dry out a little, we may be able to get in some exploring before the woods are given to the hunters on the 15th.  Yesterday we just went up to the first tracks and made the traditional loop up and around and back home.  It is a nice walk through the woods and takes about an hour.  What is nice is that we are able to walk right from the house and finish at the house.  No need to pile into the Blazer.  It is really great to be right on the edge of the wilderness.  I even have deer come into my front yard.  There was a set of tracks in the snow this morning.
    Today the hounds and I walked the trails that head up the hill from the village on their way to Calumet and Laurium.  There is also a loop there that we can take, so we do not have to see the same scenery twice.  Such a rough life huh?  Anyway, the scene on this walk was quite a bit different about 2 1/2 weeks ago than it was today.  The dogs did not seem to mind and with some flakes falling, neither did I.  It is really starting to look and feel like autumn up here.  In a month it should actually look and feel like winter.  Actually, it was cold enough today that it almost felt like winter today.  The trip we took today also brings us by the quarry and I was a little surprised to see some ice forming it it.  That water was a little deeper than the puddles, so I thought I might not be ready to freeze just yet.  I guessed wrong.
    Well, I guess that will cover it for tonight.  I have had a pretty busy day and my eyelids are getting heavier and heavier and the mistakes in typing are getting more and more, so I may as well call it a day.  Talk to you all soon.
Good Night from the Keweenaw.
- JD-