Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
Dec 31-
    I figured that I had better not let the last day of the year go by without a quick note and a quick update on conditions up here as well as a picture or two.  Since last writing we have been dusted by two separate systems that brought a few inches of snow.  Not a lot, but enough to freshen things up.  The trail conditions have not changed from what I can see.  Although I have to admit that I have not even been out on them, so my observations have been more from the road than the trails themselves.  But I have been up here and on them long enough to get a good idea of what they are like almost everywhere based on what I see in the few places I look.  I would still have to say that 20-25% are in serious need of at least 6-8" of snow.  Sort of like the trail cam- mixed snow and dirt, or snirt.  The favored areas for these conditions would be near road crossings as well as in the cities and any open areas that are exposed to the sun and wind.  The other 75-80% of the miles of trails up here are in pretty good shape.  Not excellent, but they have been grooming like banshees up here and in years past when they almost seemed to be in the mogul farming business, this year they seem to treat them like the plague.  I cannot even imagine what the trails would be like if we had about 12 more inches of snow and temps in the low 20's.  Well, maybe I will not have to by next week!
    It was nice to check out some of the cams in northern MN and see 4-5" of fresh snow.  They should be just about good to go there.  It was just amazing to me to watch the snow get eaten away last weekend.  Here it takes a month of stair stepping to get a good enough base down to allow places that have been hurting for enough snow to ride in for the past several weeks to finally have enough and then in 36 hours or so it can all be taken away.  I thought by moving up here I would never have to worry about snow again, but I guess being a snow lover like we are, you never stop worrying about the snow!  My dream would be for a 6-10" storm to pass across the Northwoods this weekend and get things back in shape ahead of the cold for next week.  I really am not too worried about us here in the Keweenaw.  With the cold and unstable air that looks to be coming later this Saturday and possibly staying through much of next week my concerns may actually become if I have to shovel my roof!
    Plus I can almost guarantee that we will get hammered next week, as Nora got a job (was picked from 50+ other applicants!) and will be starting work on Monday.  That means I will not have her for a riding partner in the afternoons.  Brian is working full time, so that riding partner is also out.  I do have some other friends I can ride with in the afternoons so I think I'll be ok, but keep your eyes posted to the ride board in the Ask John- just in case!
    Nora, the hounds and I took our first ski the other day.  We went to the School Forest and had fun.  The snow was pretty hard and icy, so it was a quick ski!  That was fine with me as I basically have to start over as far as getting conditioned for skiing goes.  It had been almost 3 weeks since our last ski and unless I ride my snowmobile tomorrow, it will be over 3 weeks since I was last on it!  The way things were going three weeks ago, if someone would have told me that I would not be skiing or snowmobiling for the next 3 weeks, I would have thought they were nuts!
    I forgot to take the camera on the ski and today I actually had thoughts about going to the north entry to catch the wave action, but then the winds started to die down and they had not really been going long enough, so I figured the waves would not have been all that large.  So we decided to take a walk on a road that runs through the bush.  It is one that I actually use as a little short cut on the snowmobile from time to time, but I did not want to walk on it during hunting season as there are several camps on it and it is pretty prime hunting ground.  Anyway, it was a good place to walk today as it sheltered us from the winds that were still blowing (15-25 mph, down from this mornings 30-40, gusts to 50).  Nice and quiet and covered in a fresh blanket of snow.  The trip back was also very pretty, the solid lake effect overcast was starting to break up just a bit and allowing the sun to peak out from time to time.  That only highlighted the freshness of the snow against the greens and browns of the forest on either side of the road.  Today was the last day for second bow season. After sunset tonight, no more hunting of any kind. We can go whereever we want and not have to worry about messing up anyone's stand.
    So other than taking the walks and skis, doing my regular work and maintaining the site, not much else is going on.  We have snow coming for a weekend, so I am doubly excited for the weekend to come.  I am working slowly but surely on the weather station.  The wind gauge does have a problem and I need to talk to the manufacturer, but their tech support line is always busy and then they transfer me to a voice mail so I can leave a message, but then I am told that the voice mail is currently full and cannot accept any new messages.  So, either they have a very small tech support team, or a very large amount of customers having problems!  I suppose a lot of folks got weather stations for Christmas and might just be calling for any kind of help, so I'll keep trying and will get through sooner or later.  The software that I got with it is really neat.  I can display just about any weather parameter I want in all kinds of different ways- charts, gauges, meters, or just plain old text.  I also gave the program my lat and lon and it automatically computes the sunrise and sunset as well as the moon phase.  Plus the program has an auto reboot function, so I will load it on the trail cam computer one of these days and that will solve my reboot problem for that machine!
    Well, I guess that gets you all caught up.  Hopefully in not too long, I will be able to share some stories and shots of some nice deep snow.  But for now, I need to sign off so that I can take Nora to dinner to celebrate the New Year and her new job.  Have a Very Happy New Year Everyone!  Be safe.
Good night and good year from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
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Dec 28-
    What a beautiful late April day!  Too bad it's the end of December and what should be the beginning of the dead of winter for us.  It's a good thing I wrote a journal on Friday, because if I had put it off until Saturday, it would have been ugly, very ugly.  Poor Nora got to see first hand my weather blues yesterday.  I was not mean to her, but was not what you would call a delight to be around either!  The only bright spot was spoiling the hounds on their birthday with lots of treats.  It's really funny though how my mood can be influenced so much by the weather, especially snow.  I used to think it was strange, but then realized that others moods can also be greatly impacted by the weather.  For some it is like me, no snow and it's bad.  For others, it could be rain or even cold.  I suppose things like a persons favorite sports team losing can be the trigger.  But for me it's snow, or better put, the lack there of.  Snow is my life!  It is the main factor why I moved up here and about the only reason this site even exists.  Sure there are other great things about living up here and the site is about more than snow, but take snow out of the equation and I might be living in the Florida Keys and doing a web site about bonefishing and Hurricanes or something!
    As you might be able to tell from my writing, I am in a better mood today.  The weather has not really improved much. We rose into the mid 40's again (that's about 25 degrees above average!) and the sun was out for most of the day.  However, the dewpoint has been dropping- it's gone from 40 degrees at 1 pm to about 28 degrees at the current time- and snows are falling as close by as Duluth.  The forecast for this week looks to bring some fresh snow, not enough to be pushing with the bumper of the sled, but still enough to freshen things up and help put the trails back in pretty decent shape and there is the potential for a big storm next weekend, followed by some decent LES and then more system snow possible next week.
    We sure did take it on the chin though.  It looks like I lost about 1/2 of my 10 inches of snow and the snow banks on the side of the road are an ugly shade of dark gray.  The trails also took it on the chin, but that brings me to one of the main reasons I am writing a journal tonight.  As great as the Trail Cam is, I am afraid that it also gives a bit of a false representation of the conditions of most of the trails up here.  As some of you might know by riding past the cam or picking up what I have said in the Ask Johns, the trail cam is about 75 feet to the north of a road crossing.  The road is not concrete or asphalt, it is stamp sand- the same thing that they put on the roads up here in the winter to provide traction.  So as the sleds cross the road, their tracks pick up that stamp sand and transport it into the trail, right in front of the cam.  So while the trail cam will be an excellent guide to keep track of the grooming in that one section of the entire trail system up here and will also show how much snow is down in that section of the Keweenaw, it really does show the low end of the trail conditions up here when the conditions are marginal.  I did drive up to the trail crossing above my house and took some shots to let you see how things were there.  Here is the shot looking south and here is the shot looking north.  As you can see, there is a big difference between that section of trail and the section near the trail cam.  So obviously the trail conditions vary up here. The pics I took today are about 5 miles north of the trail cam on the same exact trail.  I'd say that the trail cam is representative about 15-20% of the entire system up here.  Those areas being near the cities and towns and also some of the corners in the more heavily traveled sections.  The pics I took closer to my house probably represent about 80-85% of the trail system up here. Especially the trails in the woods and in the higher elevations.
    I have heard sleds going up and down the trails all weekend.  It has not been exceptionally busy, but folks are here riding.  It looks like we will get into some light snow by later this evening and by morning a new inch or so might be down.  Some continued light snow Mon-Tue could bring another 1-3", maybe as much as 4 and then a little low looks to bring us about 3-5" on New Years Eve.  So I would think that as the week progresses things will improve up here.  Temps will also be dropping to below freezing in about 2 hours and then look to remain below freezing for the rest of the week and into all of next week as well.
    We had to cancel our KSE tours for today tomorrow and it looks like the one on Tuesday will also have to be scrapped.  There is a break in the tour schedule with the next one a week from today on Sunday.  That one could actually be a fun one to go on if that big storm hits.  In a way I am glad that the KSE rides were canceled this week, as I would really like to get a few more miles under my belt on the RMK before I go and take it on one of those trips.  Not that I could not handle things, but confidence is a big part to any success in life!  Plus, it has allowed me to get the sled over to the shop and have it outfitted with the defibrillator paddles!
    I have been busy setting up my weather station.  As is the case with any piece of technical and sensitive equipment and anything new, there has been a learning curve.  My hopes were to put the temperature and hygrometer out on the snow station in the shade and the wind gauge on the roof.  The device is wireless or can be used with wires.  I wanted to use the wires as the sensors can then use the power from the base station and I do not have to worry about the batteries going dead when it gets really cold.  The wires are actually standard phone cord and the manual said that you can extend the wires with typical phone extension chords.  However, my system did not like the extensions and a closer examination of the manual revealed that you cannot add too much extension on or you could lose some of the signal. So I had to move the location of the temp/hygro sensor and also had to move the wind gauge as it seemed to be picking up some interference from the electrical service to the house.  The wind direction seems to be working OK, but the speed is definitely off.  Right now I see the tree branches moving pretty good and would estimate the winds to be 10-15, with gusts to 20-25 and the reading on the base station is 2-5 mph.  So I think a call will be placed to the manufacturer tomorrow to try and get things figured out.  I am close but not totally there.  I will also need to modify the temp/hygro mount so that it does not give a false warm when the afternoon sun is hitting it and the side of the house it is near.  I am also working on the software end of things to be able to display that data on the website.  I'm sure that will take at least a few days to figure out, but I will keep at it.  Of course any snows we get might also delay things a bit.  But I promise I will try and bring the weather station on line ASAP.
    So, I guess that gets you all caught up on things at this end of the world.  It's been kind of a bummer the past 36-48 hours with the melt, but winter looks to roll back into town soon and I still have this feeling that I will be digging out the RMK in not too long!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Dec 26-
    I hope everyone's Christmas was great and you are all getting ready to ring in 2004.  It sure seems like this past year has flown by.  It was just about a year ago that I was meeting Nora face to face for the first time!  Sure have been some great times ever since, I suppose that is why the past year has flown by so fast.
    We had a great Christmas, a bit of a blur, with traveling to southern WI and back all in the space of a short time. But it was great to see my parents and brothers and nephew.  I will get to see my sister and niece for the first time in about 4 years when the whole family gathers this October for the wedding.  We had great weather for both the trip down and back up which always helps.  Plus Nora and I shared the driving which was a big help and made the trip seem a whole lot shorter for me.  All my aches and pains really get worse when I sit in the truck for 6 1/2 hours.  I think in another 5-10 years, I will have to keep my travel to areas within 100 miles or so!  I suppose I should not even joke about that, but the way things are going, you never know!
    I made out very well in the gift department this year.  Nora got me lots of clothes that will see plenty of use.  Some nice clothes from my parents and from my brothers I got a wireless weather station!!  It will measure temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and precipitation and then transmit it to a base station.  I can then hook up the base station to a PC and do all kinds of archiving and plotting of the data.  All of that can then be put out on a website.  As luck would have it, I think I know this website that I might be able to post it on!  Actually, this is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and every time I started thinking seriously about purchasing one, some other event ended up taking that money away.  I plan to get the hardware up and running tomorrow, as the weather looks to be pretty hospitable for working outside and climbing around on the roof.  Then Sunday looks to be a good day to spend inside. So with a little luck I can get the software figured out and have some cool weather data displayed on the site.  I am not sure if I am just going to add the data to the AL Cam page or perhaps make a separate page with the data displayed.  Right now I am leaning towards the separate page as I think this thing will plot a ton of data if I want it too.  The precip gauge is not heated, so I might go ahead and get one of those, just to be able to keep tabs on how much liquid falls in the snow.
    Nora was very happy with the gifts she got from me and my family and with no returns between the two of us I think that speaks pretty good about our gift giving ability.
    Well, I really do not have much else to speak of.  The weather will be the main story in the next few days.  We had one warm day today, but it started out very cold (2 above) and took until about noon to reach freezing.  Temps did rise into the 34-38 degree range but have since dropped back to below freezing.  In addition to the short time above freezing the humidity has also been somewhat low, with dewpoints in the mid 20's.  That drier air really helps to keep the snow from melting.  I am not 100 percent sure of the reason but I believe that dry air is a poor conductor of heat, while humid air conducts heat much better.  On day's like today, even though the air temp rises to above freezing and the sun is shining brightly, the snow actually remains powdery.  Yet, we can have a day with clouds and temps of 32-33 and if the dewpoint is also about 32-33, the snow will turn wet and melt off.  I actually do not think we lost any snow today and looking at the trail cam and the other sections of trail we drove by today, they look to have stayed in good to excellent shape.  The real test will come tomorrow and tomorrow night when we warm above freezing again and get some rain.  The rain looks to be light and that will be a blessing.  WIth a little luck we could escape major damage as it looks like the cooler air will be building back in by as early Sunday morning.  The forecast for Sunday and beyond does not hold the obnoxious amounts of snow that were indicated previously, but some fresh snow looks to fall, so I think by next Monday or Tuesday conditions should be pretty close to where they are right now, which is pretty good.  The trails have not been busy up here yet (even today) and the trail maintenance has been very good, so this is about as good as I have seen the trails this time of the year in about 3 years.  We have 3 KSE tours slated in the Sun-Tue time frame and they are in jeopardy.  There is just about enough snow right now in the back country to allow for a safe tour. But I think with the rains and warmer temps enough snow loss could occur to have to cancel or postpone them. Well see.
    There is still some good "old fashion" winter weather seen by the end of next week and beyond, so I am still not worried one bit.  In fact, next week at this time the problem might be that I am worried about what to do with all the snow we are going to pick up in the next week to ten days!  I guess I just wish that these rains and warm temps were not coming at this time.  This is a huge time for folks to come to the Northwoods to play and I hate to see folks have to stress out over their trips or have trips not be all that they could be if the weather were better.  Plus there are the businesses that count on this time of the year to generate a lot of their winter income.  The businesses up here have not had to struggle in the past few winters. But places like northern WI and MN are hanging on by a thread and I sure would love to see them prosper and have all the snowmobilers and the whole industry have a great year.  Oh well, the best I can do is to try and forecast it, no sense in getting all upset over something I have no control over.  But my advice for all the snow lovers reading this is to hang in there.  I still think that we will be in for a period of some serious winter once we get into January.  Maybe no records broken, maybe so- in either case, I think that we will be rewarded for our patience now with some good snow later.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Dec 21-
    I would like to start out this journal by thanking everyone that wrote in or posted via e mail their thoughts and concerns and well wishes.  It was almost overwhelming how many notes of one kind or another I received.  Sure makes recovering a whole lot easier!  So thanks to everyone that took the time to send a quick note and even to those of you that did not send a note, but were still thinking about me and praying for me.  The powers that be sure got the message in a hurry!
    So even though it has been 4 days since I last wrote, my somewhat quiet lifestyle the past few days has left me with not much to talk about.  It was nice to get back to work on Thursday.  They say an idle mind is the devils workshop and my idle mind on Wednesday had me feeling every little muscle spasm in my chest and arms, wondering if it was another one of those episodes.  The voice of reason was telling me: "John, they just scanned every blood vessel that you have feeding your heart and fixed the only one that had a problem.  You have a 10% chance of the stent narrowing again and it takes months for that to happen, so there is nothing to worry about."  Even so, it was very difficult to just sit around and do next to nothing.  I guess I am just not that good at sitting around and doing nothing.  Not that I lead this crazy and hectic life, at least from a stress standpoint, but I am not very good at sitting around and doing nothing for very long.  So, getting back into the saddle on Thursday was almost as good for my head as getting out of the hospital was.  Well, maybe not that good!
    I started taking some short walks with Nora and the hounds yesterday and by the 26th I will be able to do anything I want.  My restrictions right now have nothing to do with my heart, but everything to do with letting the site where they inserted the catheter heal.  I was instructed to take it easy for 2-3 days and then no strenuous activity for a week to ten days.  A week would be this Tuesday, but I will be heading down with my family to see my family on the 23rd and will be returning on the 25th, so I figured the 26th would be 10 days and I'll be good to go.  I asked the Dr if there would be any restrictions after the 10 day period and he said no, I could do anything I want.  So I think some skiing and sledding will be in order!
    I did get some pictures sent to me from a friend that lives in the Tomahawk WI area.  He went riding last week and took some shots of the trails down there.  I have to apologize for not getting them in sooner.  It looks like they were taken on the 15th, but I did not get them until Friday and did not do a journal yesterday.  So they are almost a week old, but I would imagine that the conditions have not changed too much in that time.  Today was the first day that they have gone above freezing since being taken.  Anyway, here is the first shot and here is the second shot.  I have no idea where they were taken exactly, so I cannot put any more of a description to them than that.
    The only other thing that I want to talk about tonight is something I was planning on talking about in a journal I planned to write last Sunday before the plans were changed.  As some of you may have noticed in the pictures of us riding the sleds from last week, I had on a new jacket.  I was fortunate enough to get the good folks at Klim to advertise on the site and in return they sent me one of their Valdez parkas.  I will admit that I seeked them out, knowing that their equipment is as good as it gets.  Plus their philosophy on staying comfortable while out in the elements is exactly the same as mine.  Many folks have sent e mails and posted questions in the Ask John about what's the best way to stay dry and warm while snowmobiling, so I thought I would do a little write up here.  There are several things you need to burn into your memory in order to stay warm and dry while out in the cold.  I think the most important thing is that COTTON KILLS.  I did not invent that phrase, it was invented by folks long before me.  Serious outdoor adventurers who's lives depended on staying dry and warm while out in the elements.
    Our bodies keep cool by perspiring, even in the cold, our bodies are perspiring, but at a reduced levels, so actual water droplets or sweat may not form like it does in the summer time.  A big trick to staying warm is to actually stay dry and to do that, you have to stay away from cotton.  Cotton is great at absorbing your perspiration, but very bad at releasing it.  So what you end up with is a cotton shirt and maybe even jeans that get increasingly wet the more exertion you do.  As your exertion levels drops, you stop perspiring as much, but your cotton cloths are still wet and are still stealing energy from your body to help evaporate that moisture.  That robbing of heat energy by your wet or even just damp cloths starts to lower your body temperature and it does not take long at all for your body temp to reach a point where mild hypothermia sets in.  At the beginning, hypothermia is nothing more than an uncomfortable feeling.  You are cold and your body is shaking all on it's own.  You cannot stop the shaking if you wanted to, but yet you are not getting any warmer.  The more advanced stages of hypothermia are very serious and will lead to death, so this is pretty serious stuff.
    I know many of you are reading this and thinking that it does not pertain to you, but if you ride a snowmobile or do any other outdoor activity in the winter, it does.  I became hypothermic about 8 years ago when riding up here.  It was the winter of 95/96 and there was tons of snow.  56" had fallen in the 6 days we were here and we were on our way back from the last ride of the trip.  We started out in Copper Harbor and had made our way down to Gay.  All the while, riding through deep and fresh snow.  The snow was coating every part of our bodies and my bibs had lost their waterproofing sometime during the trip, so my rear end and legs were getting more and more wet the longer we rode.  After Gay, we were heading down towards Houghton, traveling on the local snowmobile clubs trail, the Dreamland trail.  We got to a section where the trail crossed a field and we had no idea where the trail went.  It was snowing so hard that we could not see any trail markers and any tracks that were there previously were buried under at least a foot of fresh snow.  To stop meant to get stuck and that was another problem with me being so wet underneath, as the work of digging out the sleds had caused me to perspire and that perspiration to stay trapped in my clothing.  At any rate, we came to this field and we all stopped.  The lead sled went on to try and find a way out of the field and in the few minutes I sat waiting for that lead rider to come back, I started to get cold, really cold.  Soon my arms and legs were shivering uncontrollably and I started to get really scared.  Thankfully the lead rider had found the way out and in about 30 minutes we were pulling into Quincy's for dinner.  I spend most of the evening in their bathroom, drying out my clothes and once back at the hotel, in the hot tub, further thawing out my body.  I got lucky, no damage, but had we been in that field for much longer, who knows what would have happened.  I know my vision was not that good and I did have a problem thinking straight when I was getting hypothermic, it is just a nasty thing to have happen.  What was I wearing?  Cotton.  A t-shirt and sweatshirt on top and jeans on the bottom.  Then my bibs and a jacket over them.  Sound like your attire?
    The point I tried to make in the last paragraph is that it does not take long at all for you to go from being OK to being hypothermic.  For me it was minutes.  Think about yourself.  You are riding in the evening.  It may have been a warm or sunny day or both and you have been perspiring a bit.  Not a lot, you are not soaked to the bone, but your cotton shirt and jeans are a bit damp.  Ever happen?  We fast forward an hour or so.  You get a little separated from your group.  Maybe a breakdown, maybe a wrong turn.  Does not matter, you are alone and the sun is setting.  Once dark, the temps drop like a rock.  Now that little bit of dampness on your t-shirt or jeans or both is starting to become a whole lot more noticeable.  It's cold and is just not warming.  It's like it is attracting the cold.  You do not notice, but your internal body temp is starting to drop.  Your body starts it' defense mechanism, cutting off blood flow to your fingers and toes first.  They get really cold and then just go numb.  They don't hurt anymore, but they don't work very good either.  After some more time, the blood flow to your arms and legs will be shut down so that your body can try and keep the temp of your vital organs and brain as warm as possible.  At this point, you are barely even able to function.  Your thinking is impaired and your muscles are not responding like you want them to.  It may even be impossible to actually ride the sled or even walk.  You are helpless.  The really bad news is that it just got dark and you have 14 hours of darkness still to go.  Good night.
    I apologize for maybe getting a bit carried away, but I really wanted to paint a picture of how easy it is to get into trouble out there.  However, if you dress right, not only will you be comfortable, but you will be safer.  I do not have any scientific data to back me up, but I am willing to bet that 80-85% of most snowmobile riders wear something like this.  Long underwear made of cotton.  On top of that, jeans, a t-shirt, sweat shirt or flannel shirt.  All cotton.  Then if it is really cold, maybe another sweat shirt (cotton) or sweater.  Then as the final protection, your bibs and jacket.  Here is the dressing guidelines I use and what I strongly suggest.  I have yet to ever get cold with this setup (no matter how many sleds I have to dig out) and it really makes the sport that much more enjoyable.  I start with a synthetic undergarment.  I hate to call them long underwear, because they are not designed to provide thermal protection (keep you warm) they are designed to carry your bodies perspiration away from you.  They are always synthetic and are actually very thin.  Almost like a nylon stocking, or a head balaclava.  Over that I wear a fleece shirt or jacket and a pair of fleece pants.  If it is really cold and I know that I will not be exerting myself too much, then I will sneak on a pair of synthetic (usually polyester) long underwear.  Over the fleece, I wear my jacket and bibs.  Neither has any lining to them.  The only purpose of the outer layer of garment should be to keep the moisture off of you and the wind from penetrating.  For that, I only trust Gortex.  I have tried many another "waterproof" material only to find out that the only time they are waterproof is the minute you take them out of the box or off the shelf.  I have never had a problem with Gortex and am on my 4th season of hard riding with some of my Gortex clothes.  Gortex may cost a little more, but it's worth it and will be cheaper in the long run.  The bib or jacket will last you a whole lot longer, so you will not need to but a jacket or bib every year.
    Layering is also very important.  I usually go with two fleece jackets on top.  When I get too warm, I just remove one and am good to go.  If I get cold again, I can pull it out and put it on.  I've seen my fair share of guys (and gals) pull up for a KSE ride with leathers on and I just know they have cotton on underneath.  They look sharp, but you know who runs out of steam first?  Them. They perspire so much and then their bodies work so hard to keep warm after that, that they literally run out of energy by the end of the ride.  I suppose if you just sit on the sled and do not work too hard, leathers might be ok, but you can be sure that no KSE guides wear leathers!  Ever see any of the snow cross riders wearing leathers?  I have also heard the argument that "my leather keeps me dry".  That as they are boiling inside and unzip their jacket, letting a cloud of steam rise from their body and I can see the balls of sweat on their chest.  I know that person is not going to feel too good at the end of the day!
    I hope I have not offended you folks that wear leather.  If you have not had any problems, then hey, more power to you.  You seem to have a good setup with the way you ride and there is probably no need to change.  If you find yourself getting too hot or too cold while your ride then follow these rules.  1) No cotton at all! Use synthetics like fleece and polyester (fleece is actually polyester)  2) Layer, layer, layer.  Layering is actually warmer, using the same principles that the insulation in your house uses.  By layering you can also regulate how much insulation you have.  Cold? add a layer, Warm, remove a layer.  Layering also is less bulky than a single thick layer.  I know that might sound like a lie, but trust me.  Several loose layers are less bulky than a thick coat.  2) Have the outer most garment (bib and jacket) be a shell only.  That way you can remove a layer underneath and not have to unzip the jacket or even take it off to stay comfortable.  2) I swear by Gortex.  I know that other manufacturers claim that their materials are water proof, but I have had about 3 of those claims fail on me and got sick of it.  Gortex has yet to fail me and so I am sticking with it.  It does end up being cheaper in the long run.  Gortex also is very good at letting your body "breathe".  Meaning it lets the moisture your body creates escape, but keeps the outdoor moisture out.
    I have not had enough time to really give my new Klim jacket a workout, but examining the construction, I can tell that it will be just perfect.  For one, it is made by some hard core sledders for sledders.  It has Gortex XCR, which is even more flexible and breathable than standard Gortex.  It has a rugged outer shell with plenty of pockets and a fleece lined collar.  It also has venting for your arms and back, so you can get a little extra ventilation when you really need it.  It also has scotchbright material on it to help reflect light when it is dark.  My only advice to you if you are planning on getting a jacket or bib is to order large!  Not a large, but large.  First, you will be layering underneath, so you want as much room as possible.  Second, they may run a little small.  I am 6' 1" and about 200 lbs and I was told by the rep at Klim to get a 2XL.  At first I thought that would be too big, but he was pretty insistent on it and he was right.  The jacket fit perfect and has plenty of room for layering.
    So hope that you did not mind my little expose' on how to dress for success on a snowmobile.  I did not mean to preach, just let you in on where my experience has taken me.  I love to be comfortable when I ride and am very comfortable with my setup now.  I plug Klim because they advertise on my site, but keep in mind.  I contacted THEM- because in my eye, they were the best.  If I think something is the best, then I have no problem talking about it.
    The final task at hand is to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas.  As mentioned earlier, Nora, the hounds and I will be heading south to southern WI Tuesday about noon.  We will be returning Christmas evening, so the next journal will not be until Friday or Saturday at the earliest.  Before I close, I will leave you with one last shot.  The Dee Family's Christmas Card.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Dec 17-
    Well, I sure am glad it was not the flu!!!  But in all honesty, I am a very lucky man.  I suppose I could take the opposite approach and say that I am 37 years old, do not smoke, have about 2-3 drinks a year, eat healthy and get lots of regular exercise- the exact opposite of the risk factors for heart disease and look what happens.  I know people that are in their upper 50's and low 60's, are smokers, 200 pounds overweight, eat poorly, drink a lot and get no exercise, but they are doing just fine.  Why me, why me why me?  But that way of thinking just does not sit with me very well.  For many years, I have had a little saying that simply says: "You have two choices in live...you can be happy or not".  I actually believe that happiness is a choice we all have at every moment of our lives.  No matter what is happening to us, we always have the choice to be happy or not.  Happiness does not have to be a product of our environment.  Environment sure can help, but it does not have to be the deciding factor.  I do have things to be grateful for with regards to my recent little health adventure and I am focusing on them.  The short of it was that I did not have a heart attack, but came about as close as one can.  I had 90% blockage of my right coronary artery.  They were able to open up the block and keep it open with a stent.  The doctors and nurses all told me how lucky I was to catch it like I did and when I asked the Dr. how close I was to having a heart attack, he said very, very close.  Within a month for sure.  I am not a cardiologist, but I do know that my block would have shut the blood off to a huge portion of my heart and to me that seems like the type of heart attack that most folks do not wake up from.  So, I dodged a bullet-  a huge bullet.
    That was the short of it and I guess I can be a little more detailed on things since I really do not have much else to talk about!  Last Friday we had the Christmas party for the radio station that I work with.  Came home from that and went to bed.  I woke up on Saturday feeling a little bit off, but thought it was just due to a shorter night.  I went down and rebooted the trail cam and came back and had breakfast.  After breakfast, I started to feel a little more tired and achy and thought I might be coming down with the flu.  We took a short walk with the hounds and as we were finishing up that, the aches got really bad and I still thought it was just the flu kicking into gear.  My upper chest and arms hurt the worst, but the rest of my body did not feel real good either.  We got home from the walk and I spent the rest of the afternoon napping on the couch and resigned myself to the fact that I had the flu.  I did drink lots of fluids and with the sleep felt a little better by later Saturday, but still was sore and tired.
    Waking up Sunday, I still felt tired and sore and was still thinking nothing but the flu.  Got through the work I have to do for customers on Sunday and then had lunch.  Soon after lunch, I had another "episode" where my body just really ached, with the emphasis on my chest and arms.  Nora seemed to already sense something was wrong and asked if we should go to the hospital.  I was really still thinking the flu, but was starting to wonder if it was something else.  I took some aspirin and the pain seemed to diminish some, but about 20 minutes later the pain increased again.  It is really hard to explain the type of pain, as I have never really felt it before, at least not in my chest.  My arms felt like I had fallen asleep in a strange position and they had fallen asleep, with the tingling and ache that you get when that happens.  Anyway, it was after that second Sunday episode that I told Nora that it might be a good idea to head to the hospital and just make sure it was not anything serious.
    So we got the hospital and here's a little tip.  If you go to the hospital and want to be seen right away by lots of nurses and doctors, just tell them you are having chest pains!  I barely could get my coat off and they were hooking me up to all sorts of equipment and then the blood tests, x-ray's and EKG came.  The EKG and x ray indicated no damage had been done to my heart, so that ruled out a heart attack.  The Dr. told me that there are about 40 things that could give me the type of symptoms that I had, but the flu was not likely the culprit as my temp was normal. He said that had I been a 56 year old man who was overweight and a smoker, he would have liked to keep me for observation, but since I was still fairly young and in good shape and a non smoker, he said I could go home if I wanted.  So being the type to never want to take a hospital bed away from someone else that might need to use it, I told him that I would not mind going home.  I was just about ready to bid the Doc farewell when the nurse arrived with some papers.  I did not even think the papers were about me, but I did not like the look on the Dr.'s face when he read whatever was on the pages.  He flipped back and forth between the pages, checking and re checking the numbers on them and then looked at me with a little more white on his face and said "Well, I am afraid that I have to put my foot in my mouth.  These are the results of your blood work, I did not expect to get them back until later this evening, but they show that your heart has been under stress.".  He then decided it was best for me to be kept overnight for observation.  Here's another little tip, if they say they are going to keep you overnight for observation, don't count on a lot of uninterrupted sleep!  Not that I am complaining, they kept me there for a reason and that reason was to observe me.  But it is still no fun to be awoken only to have blood drawn in the middle of the night.  I only had one minor "episode" while up at Keweenaw Memorial and a little bit of Nitro helped to ease that pain.  My heart did not do anything different when that was happening.  In the morning, the Dr. came to me and said that the blood tests still showed that my heart was under stress and he had talked to a cardiologist in Marquette and they had decided it was best for me to get over to Marquette General so that some more extensive testing could be done to try and figure out what was causing my pain and test results.
    So then it was off into the ambulance for the ride to Marquette.  Once at Marquette, I was taken to the coronary outpatient unit, met some nice nurses there and then waited and waited and waited.  The old "I'm having chest pains" did not hold much water there, as all the patients there were having chest pains!  Finally, a nurse came with about 7 pills for me to take and I figured if they were giving me those, I must be on deck for the test.  I was right and was soon being wheeled into the procedure room.  They had a much fancier name for it, but I cannot remember what it was, other than it sounded really expensive.  My test was an angiogram, which is when they make a small opening in your upper leg, insert a catheter into your femoral artery in your leg and then feed it up into the blood vessels of your heart.  A dye is then injected through the catheter and they can then see if there is any spots where the arteries are narrowed.  They drug you up pretty good and all you really feel is the anesthetic that they inject into the site where they will be inserting the catheter.  You do not feel the catheter going up through your artery but can watch on the video monitor the Dr. is looking at.  When they inject the dye, you feel a rush of warmth, I think that is because your body notices the dye and tries to attack it with histamine.  The warm rush subsides in about 10 seconds, but the dye continues to flow through your bloodstream and that is when the take a look at things.  This large sensor rotates around your chest, imaging your entire heart.
    As I mentioned, the medical professionals were able to see the main narrowing right away and my memory of the whole thing is not that clear, but I think that I could even see the narrowing spot before they pointed it out to me.  They gave me some prints of my heart before and after and I will share two of them with you.  They are really not that gross, as all you can see is the artery, noted by the dark ribbons in the image.  The top image was taken before the stint was put in and you can see how the dark ribbon narrows just above and to the left of the "B" in the word block.  The image at the bottom is the same area after and you can see the narrowing is all gone.  A job well done.  I have gotten some e mails from folks that work where stents are manufactured.  Mine was a Guidant Mulit-Link Ultra.  4.5mm x 18mm.  Since I am self employed and have health insurance that does not cover things as well as a more comprehensive policy, I opted for the galvanized rather than the stainless steel.  It did come with a lifetime guarantee, the owners lifetime!  Just kidding, a little joke my older brother and I thought up while talking this afternoon.  I do have insurance and it will cover a good chunk of the costs, at least enough to keep me from having to sell my sled!  And I did not choose what type, the Dr.'s used stainless steel.
    The whole process does not take that much time. I don't think they have that much time before the dye disperses and is not much use any more, but I was back into the room in the outpatient coronary unit.  They asked if I wanted some food and since it had been over 24 hours since I last had anything to eat, my answer was obvious.  Thinking I was getting a cup of chipped ice and a towel to suck on, I was almost agast when they brought me a turkey sandwich, bowl of grapes and a bowl of raw carrots, celery and cucumber.  I ate eveything but the celery and felt pretty good.  They then transfered me to my room and I joined a gentleman from Hubbell that had the same exact thing done right before me.  We spent the night trying to sleep with all the wires and tubes attached to us and then had some breakfast and sat anxiously for the Dr to come and discharge us.  The Dr came at about 2 and discharged him and I was able to leave about 2 hours later when Nora came to get me.
    We drove through quite a messy snowstorm on the way home, but did arrive.  Got a good night sleep in my own bed and have spent much of the day today going through my over 400 e mails/Ask John's  from all of you.  I cannot even begin to tell you how great it was to read through them all and know that a caring person was responsible for authoring each and every one of them.  Just to show how great all the folks that come to this site are, Monday was my busiest day ever- 948,000 (52,000 short of one million) hits on Monday alone!  The previous record was just over 900,000, set last Wednesday.
    So I have much to be grateful for.  I am healthy and was able to dodge a major bullet, more like a nuclear bomb.  I will be able to travel with Nora, Burt and Baileys to visit my family for Christmas and I have a huge number of folks that were all wishing the best for me and thinking about me.  As far as my recovery goes, my heart is fine.  No damage was done and the only thing I need to do is let the site where they inserted the catheter heal up.  I have to take it easy for another day or so, then can do light activity like some short walks and stuff.  Then by the end of next week I am free to do anything I want, including cross country skiing and snowmobiling!  I have to say though that my biggest blessing is having Nora in my life.  She was by my side and did take great care of me and my duties with the site and other business.  She did not even bat an eye when I said that it would be less stressful for me to have her to stay home and take care of Burt and Baileys rather than come with me to Marquette and have someone else take care of the hounds.  That's true, unconditional love, putting my concerns ahead of hers.  I am really, really, really lucky.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Dec 15-
I was able to talk with John a few times this afternoon.  He was waiting for his turn to have some tests completed and had a few people in front of him.  He was doing well, although hungry because he hadn't been able to eat since supper at the hospital on Sunday evening.  I called right at the time he was getting put in recovery so I don't have a lot of information.  But, he did have a blockage and they did put in a stent. I don't know how much of a blockage at this point.  I won't be able to talk to him for another hour or so but the nurse said he was doing really well and will be able to come home tomorrow.  So I think I can breath a little easier now!  Thank God he went to the hospital on Sunday and that he had doctors at Keweenaw that knew enough to send him to a specialist.  I don't even want to think about what could have happened!  Well, I will sign off for now and I probably won't have any updates until tomorrow.  Thank you all for you support!
Dec 15-
I thought this may be easier than to continue to leave updates on the "Ask John".  First, let me thank you all for the nice words and thoughts.  I passed along the messages to John when I saw him this morning.  There's not much more new news but we've gotten so many emails from people that I wanted to keep you all informed.  O.K. here's what we do know.  His heart shows no sign of damage but is under some sort of "stress".  So at about 10 am he was taken to Marquette Hospital where he will be seen by a cardiologist and they will run some tests.  From what the Dr. said this morning it could be any number of things that could cause the chest pains.  Anything from a blockage, or virus,  to a strain/spasm.  At this point it's still a mystery.  In case you all are wondering why I am here instead of on my way to Marquette it's because John didn't want me to go.  He felt that he would be less "stressed" knowing that I was safe and sound at home and not driving back and forth to Marquette.  I was not real happy about this but felt that it was not the time to have him worrying.  So I obeyed.  Geez, not even at the altar yet and he's got me "obeying".  So that is where we stand right now.  I'm sure there probably won't be any new news until this evening.  But, thanks again for everything and keep on praying!!

Dec 11-
    Whew...My head is still spinning!  I can certainly tell that the site has increased in activity over the past few days!  Yesterday at the end of the day I went to my sent folder on my e mail and it said that I had sent 55 e mails for the day.  Some of those are business related, but that is still a ton.  That does not include the ask John's either!  Today was equally as busy, if not more.  Plus, I have been busy playing in the snow both yesterday and today. So you can see that I am not complaining about being so busy, just wanted to let you know what frame of mind I am in, just in case this entry does not make much sense.
    As am sure you are all aware of we have been blessed with some great snow the past 2 days.  It has actually been snowing for about 50 hours straight right now and we might just go past 80 hours straight.  The storm did not hit us head on, but did give us a pretty good jab.  We ended up with about 6 or so inches of system snow, then another 10 of lake effect overnight and another 5 of lake effect so far today.  It is still snowing heavily at times, so I would imagine we could see another 5" over night, maybe even more.  Then a few more tomorrow, just to add icing to the cake.  Nora and I took our first ride together (but on separated sleds of course) last night and took another today.  I have pictures from both rides and that will be the main focus of tonight's journal, as I still have more work to do before I go to bed.
    We actually took a ski first thing yesterday afternoon.  We headed out to the school forest and broke trail.  The snow was not knee deep, but we still had to make our own tracks.  It was not snowing heavily but a steady light snow and temps in the upper 20's were about perfect for a ski.  The woods were very quiet except for the occasional roar of the wind through the trees.  There were some signs of movement of animals in the woods, not a lot of deer sign, so maybe the snows earlier in the season were enough to clear out that area, or maybe the snow was not deep enough yesterday afternoon to get them moving.  I only took one shot while skiing yesterday.  It seemed like both Nora and I were anxious to take our ride, so we pretty much flew through the school forest on our skis.  The nice thing about skiing in a hurry is that you stay warm and by the end of the trip both Nora and I were pretty warm. I had unzipped my jacket and Nora had taken off her gloves.  The other nice thing about skiing is that no matter how much of a hurry you are in, you can still enjoy the scenery and nothing better to look at than the Northwoods in a fresh blanket of snow.
    So after the ski I ran and filled up some gas cans and then the sleds and it was blue smoke time.  This was to be Nora's first ride with me, but not her first time on a sled.  It was also my first real ride on the RMK.  I had taken a quick spin on it a few weeks ago but that could not really be considered the first real ride.  I offered up the idea of riding somewhere to have dinner and she agreed.  So the next thing was to decide were to go.  The Loading Zone was just a bit too close and places like the Mariner North, Seasons Restaurant in Lac La Belle, Eagle Harbor Inn or even Fitzgeralds in Eagle River were a bit too far.  I thought about a few places in Calumet, but then remembered the the Paradise just to the south of Calumet.  That would be a perfect ride, we could take the lower trail up to Calumet, then back down the upper trail to the Paradise and then back home via some shortcuts.  We had the trails pretty much to ourselves, but were not the first down them, at least in most sections.  However, there were a few spots where we were making the much coveted "first tracks".  The snow was actually deep enough in a few of those spots to experiment with tossing the sled around and I found it to actually be easier to toss it around.  I'm sure the narrower ski stance helps with that, but the sleds overall profile is also likely to make it easier to throw it around.  For those persons that are not big snowmobilers, what I mean by throw it around is to tip the sled on it's side in order to turn it in the deeper snow.  The snow was not deep enough that I HAD to throw it around, but was deep enough that I could at least try.  The real test will hopefully come soon when we have about a foot of base down and a foot or two of fresh powder.
    We made it to the Paradise safe and sound, had a great dinner and then back out into the cold and snow for the ride home.  There is something about coming in out of the cold, to a warm building, having a nice filling dinner and then getting all dressed up to go back out into the cold and snow- to ride a snowmobile through the wind and snow in the dark of night that really must make non snowmobilers think we are nuts!  But really, about a mile down the trail, you are back into the zone of riding and not thinking about or really feeling the cold.  But I do think that is what sets snowmobilers apart from the rest of the general population and I bet it is something that right now all snowmobilers reading this can identify with and even fill that little chill that you feel when you first start out.
    Today we took another ski, but this time a little closer to home.  Our plan was to ski, then take a ride, but be home for dinner and then I could write my journal.  So we went down an old ski trail that we used to go down before I discovered the school forest.  It is on the way to the school forest, but is only about 5 minutes from home.  It is also a pretty short trail, but is up hill almost the whole first half and then obviously down hill the way back.  After the 10+" of snow overnight and the couple today, the woods were even more of a winter wonderland (fsv).
    After the ski, we were back on the sled and heading south down the Dreamland trail.  I thought we might be the first ones down that trail, but someone had beat us to it.  None the less, it was still very beautiful  (fsv) out there and sure beat an afternoon in the office in some steel and glass tower!  A little further down the trail we encountered a tree that had fallen and blocked the trail.  When you come across something like this, you have three options: First is the flatlander option- turn the sleds around and drive in the way you came out.  Second is one of two yooper options- drive around the obstacle by picking your way through the woods.  That is what the rider before us had done.  The third option (also a yooper one) is to open up you hood, break out the bow saw and cut the obstacle out of the way.  That is what we did, or shall I say I DID!? That's ok though, Nora can get the next one!  While I cut, she snapped a few shots and came up with this snow flocked red pine stand image.  I did manage to cut though the log, I pushed it off to the side, then returned the saw to it's little nook and we were on our way.  We did not make it all the way to the Dreamland, I was running a bit low on gas and did not want to overdo the first few rides.  Nora is saying she is a little sore and there is no need to get so sore that we cannot ride.  We have a long season ahead of us.
    As most of you probably noticed, the groomer went down the trail in front of the cam.  I do not know if all the trails are being groomed right now, but we sure do have enough snow for them to work.  With the weekend coming, I would imagine they will try and get them in as good a shape as they can.  We have some cold nights coming so packing them down now would be ideal and would lead to some flat and firm trails.  It's funny, but with the snows over the past 2 days, I forgot what day it was.  One more day and then it's the weekend!  Looks like we have more chances for snow next week and I would imagine that we'll be in pretty decent shape for the holiday's.  It was great to see snow fly elsewhere in the upper Midwest and I would imagine other spots in the UP and maybe even northern WI should have enough snow to groom.
    Well, I have reached the end of my things to write about and share with you for now.  My eyelids are getting heavy and I still have some work to do, so will sign off for now.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Dec 7-
    The anticipation builds.  A few years ago at about this same general time I was eyeballing a change in the pattern that would lead to some very good chances for snow in all of the Midwest.  I think I even said that the pattern almost could not look any better for snow than it did.  It turned out that the forecast verified and lots of snow fell in almost all of the Midwest and led to one of the snowiest Christmas' in a long time.  Well, the forecast right now may not look quiet as perfect for tons of snow in all of the Midwest, but it is looking pretty good.  I also remember saying how in the winter I become more anxious for snow than I do for the weekend.  The same still goes. I have been looking forward to getting past this weekend so we could get onto some snow!  I am not sure exactly how much we will get in the next week or two, it could be a ton, or it could be just barely enough to open up the trails. But snow and cold do look to be coming to the Keweenaw and other spots in the Midwest.  That sure was one heck of a storm they got out east.  Too bad it will warm up and rain on them this week.  I'm still torn as to whether Shakespeare's phrase about love can be applied to snow.  It is better to have had snow and lost it right away than to never had it at all?  Hmm, you decide!
    At any rate I am a little excited for the forecast in the next week to ten days.  Some places in the Midwest look like they could get a good little dumping by the middle of this week and all of the region will turn cold and see some light snows for the end of the week and weekend.  If the cold can come down in the right manner we could see a lot of lake effect and there is even a chance that the storm for the middle of this week could hit us. Although right now it looks to pass just to our southeast.
    Nora, the hounds and I have been taking to the woods for our walks.  No skiing, although we probably could still go, just walking.  The 4" we got last Sunday is still hanging in there.  It is down to about 3" now due to some evaporation and settling, but our temps have been generally under freezing for most of the last week.  When it does rise above freezing we seem to be cloudy, so the snow loss has been minimal all week.  The December sun is also so low on the horizon that it has impact on melting the snow.  Now, give us a day with temps in the low 40's and loads of sun and you can almost watch the snow melt.  Not this past week though.  That has helped to keep my spirits up.
    Today we walked the tracks that the snowmobile trail uses.  We have actually walked that trail the past few days, but I had forgotten the camera the first two times. So we returned and returned again so that I could take a shot of the trail.  Of course I have the trail cam that can give a pretty good view of the trail, but it went down when we lost power Thursday night and I kept forgetting to get over there and bring it back up.  Anyway, today I remembered the camera and took a shot of it for you all.  That is probably about as good as the trails are up here, while the trail cam might be more towards as bad as it gets.  I suppose there may be some spots that are worse than what it is like at the trail cam, but the trail cam is near a trail crossing, so it gets the road grime on it.  Plus, it is also at a spot where lots of atv's ride on it, so it has been beat up pretty bad.  Technically, it is illegal to ride an atv on that section of trail during snowmobile season (Dec 1-March 31), but I don't think many locals know that.  I actually called the DNR to get the straight scoop and was told that any snowmobile trail that runs on state land is closed to everything but snowmobiles from Dec 1-March 31.  Trails that use private land do not have the same regulations.  Early in the season like this when there really is not enough for snowmobiles to be on them seems ok to me.  The ATV's really do not tear up the trails for the most part.  I suppose you might get the occasional yahoo that spins out or something, but most of the folks I come across are riding quite slow and doing nothing but packing down the snow and creating a firm base.  I have not seen too many atv's out on the trails once the snow gets deeper.  They are really not good in the deep snow anyway.  So that's the scoop on the tracks you may be seeing on the trail at the trail cam.
    Things are pretty well frozen up here.  The Torch and Portage Lakes have ice on them in spots and in other spots are still open.  We got down to zero Wednesday morning and that was cold enough to put a thin layer of ice on just about all of both of them. But, the warmer waters below helped to melt that off.  It won't be long before they freeze for the season though.  With the forecasted temps this week I bet they are ice covered by Thursday or Friday.  On our walk we traveled over the cut made by the Hammell Creek.  It actually makes a pretty big cut in the landscape after dropping over the Houghton Douglas Falls.  The creek has been in a flux of ice and water all week and looked very pretty. So Nora, the hounds and I risked life and limb by climbing down the steep banks to get a shot of it (fsv).  That creek actually stays at least part way open all season, so to see that much ice on it right now is pretty good.
    Well, I really do not have much else to write about.  Not only am I done with all my Christmas shopping, but I also have all of them wrapped and under the tree already.  The Christmas cards are out (thanks to Nora) and I really do not have anything else to do, but sit back and wait for the snow!  It looks like my wait will not be too much longer and hopefully I will be able to share some nice snow shots!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Dec 3-
    Happy December everyone!  This has to be my favorite month- the start of winter, the start of the winter sports season, the holidays, closing out the old year and getting ready to start a new year.  All kinds of neat things.  As I'm sure you all know we do not have enough snow to ride on, but we do have enough to ski on and Nora, the hounds and I have taken skis the past 2 days.  On Monday we just headed out to the School Forest for a walk and discovered that we should have brought the skis.  4-6" down out there and the conditions would have been just fine with all the puddles froze up as well.  So yesterday we brought the skis with and took the first ski of the season.  I enjoy walking, but cross country skiing has to be the best way to get around a snow covered forest, as long as the hills are not too bad!  The effort required to move along is about the same as walking, but you move much quicker.  However, unlike on a snowmobile, you move slow enough to be able to fully take in your surroundings, including the stillness of the woods in winter.  You all know how much I love to snowmobile through the woods so I do not have to make any plugs for how fun that is, but I must say that skiing is also very enjoyable.  It was also very nice to be back into the woods.  We did manage to find some great places to walk during the firearm deer season, but it is still so nice to have the freedom to go where ever we want.  Starting Friday, I will be sure to wear some blaze orange and will have the hounds wearing it too if we go into the woods.  Black powder or muzzle loading season starts and runs through the 14th.  It is also second bow season for deer, but I have never been worried about bow hunters.  It takes a bit more to get off a shot with a bow and those folks definitely know what they are aiming at.  Plus, you really do not have to worry about an arrow missing and then carrying on for another 500 feet and hitting us.  But for now I will be able to wear my buckskin coat and antler hat!
    Boy were we cold this morning.  Both my thermometers read zero.  The nights are getting colder now and that is having a great impact on any wet areas.  They are not too wet anymore!  I suppose you could still find a swamp that has not froze up yet and creeks can run into the dead of winter up here, but the puddles and other wet areas are freezing quickly now.  Here is something interesting. When I sat down to write this, my temp was 32, it has only been about 25 minutes, but the sun has gone behind the hills to the west and my temp is at 21.  Looks like another cool night.  Anyway, we also had some fog form early this morning.  Even with temps near zero the fog remained in a liquid form (don't ask why, it's complicated), but then froze instantly on contact with objects like trees.  That caused a pretty thick hoar frost to form on things like the trees and bushes.  I did not take any pictures, but if you want to see what things were like, you can go back to my past journals and look at the Dec 2, 2000 entry.  The hoar frost this morning was not as thick, but the factors that formed it were the same.
    Seeing that hoar frost this morning jogged my memory back to that date 3 years ago.  I actually remembered a lot of the details to that day- taking the hounds for that morning walk, then taking a ride with Chris and another person through the woods on our sleds.  We did not have much more snow down then than we have now, but it did not take long for the snow to start piling up.  I'm hoping that is a good omen for this year too.  While the forecast does not hold much promise for snows through the weekend, things could change early next week and I do like what I am seeing.  So far we have actually been having a fairly close to average winter and if that continues to play out, then I am willing to bet that we'll have enough snow to groom by the 15th or so.
    Speaking of grooming...There have been lots of things going on with regards to the trail system up here and it's maintenance.  I guess I can start with the news that the Gay to Lac La Belle trail will be open again this year.  They had to do some re-routes from the original setup and the trail will have to use the side of the highway for a bit at the Gay end, but that trail will be open again.  Secondly, I can report that the groomers will be stationed in 4 different locals: one in South Range, one in Hubbell, one in Copper City and one in Copper Harbor.  I think that is an excellent idea and will allow each groomer to be able to get to it's territory quicker.  The only problem I see is if or when a groomer breaks down, then some creative actions will need to be taken to cover for the broken groomer while it is being fixed.  Along those lines though is the fact that all but one of the Tuckers will be replaced with New Hollands.  From what I understand the New Hollands are much more reliable than the Tuckers.  By sometime in January, the only Tucker left will be in South Range as that had the best maintenance record.  Also and this is huge, there will be 4 groomer operators for each groomer machine.  That means that they will be going out day AND NIGHT and with 4 drivers per machine, if a driver is sick or has another reason why they cannot drive, there will be enough other persons assigned to that groomer that it will not sit idle.  There is also a new trail up here this year.  Well, the whole trail is not new, but much of it's route is new.  The old Gay to Mohawk trail will now be running from Gay to Phoenix.  The part that is new is so new it did not even make it onto the Tourism Councils maps printed for this season, but is well marked.  Basically it runs down the same railroad grade from Gay towards Mohawk that it used to, but then takes a right and heads north, past Thayers Lake and then through the bush to the Snow-mometer.  From there it goes through the bush and encounters the main trail near the Cliff View and Vansville in Phoenix.  I also think this is a great idea, as it will allow a different way for folks to get to Phoenix and then from there folks also have a choice how they want to go north.  That one trail from Copper City to Phoenix was really a brute to keep in decent shape because that is where all the traffic had to go if they were going north (unless you were with KSE!!!).  If that is not enough going on up here, they have been busy down here at my end fixing all the wet spots that can give us problems in the early season or even the spring.  Tons of work was done by Mason and while I do not have any pictures of that work, I do have a shot of some of the work that has been done on a stretch that used to be very wet here in Lake Linden by the Maple Leaf.
    So the bottom line is that a lot of the old guard is out and new folks are running the show.  The folks are very hands on and have an extreme interest in seeing to it that the Keweenaw's trail system is back at being number one on the DNR's ranking for the state.  Years ago they were and I was told with a very serious look that that is where they are headed in the future.  The DNR is even taking a much larger role in things.  In the past it seemed to me that they were pretty hands off on how things were done.  Not any more.  I was also told about some possible future trails.  I will not disclose them at this point because I would not want to mess up any negotiating that needs to be done, but I am very, very pleased by what I am seeing.  There were tons of issues that I thought needed to be changed in order to fix things and it sure seems as though they read my mind!  I was even asked if we could have 6 more inches of snow so that they could start grooming!  The old guard would have been saying a foot more before they even thought of going out!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -