Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam
Dan's Wilderness 

February 25-
    Well, we picked up a half inch of lake effect snow yesterday!  Had the big lake been open, I suspect that a good 6-8" would have come down, possibly more.  Add that to the 6-10" that would have come down Friday and the additional few inches of snow that would have come down between those two events and we would be busting the bottomless stuff!  Instead we awoke to record lows across much of the UP.  Amasa (approx. 10 miles to the NNE of Crystal Falls) dropped to -32, Marquette to -29 and the Houghton Co. airport was at -22.  I only dropped to -15, not sure how the airport could have gotten colder than me, but I guess it did.  At least the cold is keep our snow around, I have been at the same depth for about 5 days now and it is so settled that I doubt it will settle any further.  The only way it will likely go down from here is with melting and it does not look like any real melting will occur in the next week to ten days, at least any significant melting.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for some new snow as we head into the weekend and/or next week, no big snows, but perhaps a few inches at a time.  The big lake has only increased it's ice cover in the past few days.  Here is a shot of it as of about 3:30 pm this afternoon.  The white or milky white is all ice cover.  The darker shades is where there is a little more water prevalent.  The black across western Lake MI is all water and the white in the east is mostly lake effect clouds, except to the north of Traverse City, which is mostly ice.  I was actually amazed that we even got any lake snow yesterday.  There was even a small convergence band that moved across and produced a little burst of heavy snow.  Figures, we go through all of Dec, Jan and half of Feb without optimal atmospheric conditions for lake effect snow and then the lake freezes nearly completely and we get two nearly optimal atmospheric setups for lake snow in 4 days!  Talk about rubbing salt in a wound!
    So I guess I now know what it feels like to live in northern MN or northern WI and pray for system snow, not just cold.  It has been weird to forecast, I look out into the future and see these arctic air masses forecasted and my initial thought is: "That should bring a few inches of snow", but then I remember no more LES and I have to change my prognosis for snow.  I guess it has made the forecast very easy, system snow is a pretty easy thing to forecast for, at least when compared to LES.  So I guess I will not have to worry about the forecast challenge of LES until next October, sure would not mind having the challenge of a major system snow to have to deal with!  Enough belly aching, I guess.
    I really do not have a whole lot to share with you this evening.  No tales of adventurous trips with the hounds or friends.  The dogs and I have been going out into the woods to take our skis and also walking in the neighborhood when time does not permit a ski.  I have been taking some rides on the sled.  Saturday I had an all day KSE ride which was fun.  Managed to find a bit of untracked snow, but with no real fresh snow in about 2 weeks, most of the off trail stuff is all tracked up.  If the bush gets any worse, I may have to start riding the groomed trails to find the flattest trail!  Actually, most of the bush trails I ride are still flat, but no more untracked snow.  It's amazing how I can get so used to riding in untracked snow that when we do not get any fresh snow in a few weeks, it seems weird to be riding in tracked snow.  I did not take any pictures on Saturday's ride, in fact, I don't think I even brought a camera with me.  I have not been on the sled since that ride, so no further chances to take some riding shots.
    Before I started in on the journal, I hopped in the truck and drove up to the trail by me to take some shots and report on it's conditions.  Obviously this is just a snap shot of the whole trail system up here.  I have not seen things elsewhere since late last week, but here is the shot of trail number 3 looking north and here is the shot looking south.  Not too bad.  From the looks of the guest shots coming in, many others found some nice trail conditions in the past few weeks.  Of course, I am sure that all was not peachy up here for every second of the past few weeks, but it does appear that things are getting groomed with more ambition and attention to detail.  On Sunday I was in Dan's Polaris getting some parts and there was a person in there awaiting parts or something.  He struck up a conversation with an employee of Dan's, asking/complaining about the trails.  Seems he found some bad stuff.  Of course all the places he named when talking about the bumps were very busy places in our trail system and it was a weekend, so only so much can be done.  I really don't know what the answer is to solving the problem.  I suppose twice as many trails and at least twice as many groomers would be a great start, but the DNR does not seem to be chomping at the bit to accommodate that and the local tourism council does not have the resources to put such a plan in motion, so I guess we are stuck with the current setup for now.  It really seems strange to me that the powers that be cannot recognize that additional resources need to be given to the areas that get the most traffic.  I am not totally sure how it works as far as how the money for trails and grooming equipment/labor is distributed, but it does not seem like this area and areas like Munising and Paradise get more resources than anywhere else.  I do know the DNR will reimburse our area groomers for every mile they groom, but I guess what I am getting at is that they are not recognizing that the Keweenaw and some of the other places that get swamped with sledders need more equipment and possibly more trails to handle the volume.  Don't really know who could bring this to their attention, but kind of sounds like a job for the Michigan Snowmobiles Association.
    Well, I guess I have reached the end of my thoughts and comments for another evening.  I think I will sign off so that I can go and build a fire and get ready to talk with Nora.  So until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..

This business helps sponsor pasty.net
which helps to make johndee.com possible.
February 21-
    I realize that I may sound a whole lot like a spoiled brat and may not get much sympathy from folks living outside of the lake effect belts of the Midwest, but I miss the snow!  4" in 7 days?  I sure hope we do not keep up that pace for the rest of the winter!  I am grateful for the snow we have and if the colder than average pattern were to persist, then I could keep riding well into April, I guess I just get used to being able to find some bottomless powder every few days.  After all, that is one of the big reasons I made the move up here.  Sure the area has it's other special features, but bottomless powder from Christmas through mid March ranks pretty close to the top of the list, if not the top.  I did have some hopes with Thursday's satellite imagery indicating the north shore of Superior was wide open again.  Some strong west winds for a day or two and we could have taken care of a lot of the ice that was out there.  Those west winds would have caused upwelling to occur on the north and west shores of the lake and bring slightly warmer water to the surface.  The strong winds would have also caused wave action to break up much of the ice on the lake and cause it to dissipate some.  The west winds would have also helped to push a lot of the ice over to the eastern end of the lake, opening up the west end, which is where we get the lions share of LES from.  Of course all winter we have had tons of strong west winds and just when I want it, we get light east winds!  So I guess it is all relative, here I sit with 2 1/2 to 4 feet of snow just outside my window, something like 170" for the season so far, but I am bumming that our lake snow machine has been turned down to idle.  I do have hopes that the current pattern we are in will continue into March and April, that will insure the snow stays and also as the storm track moves north as we head into spring, the storms hitting the southern and central Midwest will likely start to hit us, so system snow could add to the pack this spring.  March was a whopper of a month for snow last year and I would not complain one bit if we get a repeat this year.
    Speaking of bottomless powder, that was a picture taken Wednesday afternoon on a KSE ride.  I was able to hook up with the afternoon portion of that ride and get my feet wet, so to speak.  It had been well over a week since my last ride and felt especially good to be on the sled again.  I have often pondered if I were forced to give up skiing or riding, which would I choose and I am not sure of my answer, but am leaning towards skiing.  However, it is great to strap on the skis and head off into the woods on a slow and quiet trip through the woods with the hounds.  I know that if giving up skiing meant that I could not go into the woods except on sled, I would give up the sled for sure.  My times in the woods with the hounds are way too special to give up and once Nora is here to stay that specialness will only grow 10 fold.  Er... should I say 20 fold?!  Anyway, that last shot was of Brian and a KSE rider after the rider had gotten his sled good and stuck.  He was standing in the trench his sled made when it got stuck and I do not believe he was on solid ground just yet.  We had a bit of a thaw yesterday, but it is still plenty deep.  I lost about 4" at my snow stick, but I think that the snow stick and snow station absorbed the suns rays and melted the snow faster than in the surrounding areas, because there is now a large depression in the vicinity of the snow stick and snow station and other locals up here only lost an inch or two yesterday.  It did get cold yesterday evening and all is well frozen up again.
    The KSE tour was loads of fun, and I am not just saying that!  We actually took quite a few shots on the trip and I have lots of proof, I am not just trying to plug KSE!  Well, enough of the jibber-jabber, does this look like fun to you?  That was Brian flying his Ski Doo Summit Highmark.  Here is one of the KSE riders and here is Darth Vader aka John Dee.  I don't know how I ended up with an all black outfit and all black sled, but there will be some color added to the ensemble very soon.  I just received some custom graphics for my sled and helmet and hope to get them on either Sunday or Monday.  Here comes Darth Vader over the snow drifts.  I really was going at the drifts pretty aggressively and actually catching some air, but for some reason, Brian was not able to capture it.  Be patient, there is a photo that shows things a little better.  Not that there is anything wrong with taking it easy.  When we take a KSE tour out, we would much rather have the riders dazzle us with their smarts and restraint rather than how well they can wrap their sled around a hard maple, thankfully nothing of that sort has ever happened.  Here is a KSE rider showing off his smarts and restraint.
    It's getting harder and harder to find fresh snow out there.  With more than a week since our last meaningful snow, lots of tracks are in the woods.  Some from us and many from others.  With Brian spending most of his winters out in the woods on KSE tours, he is finding more and more places to go.  Sometimes his adventures down the path yet traveled work out and sometimes they don't.  Here we are stopped while Brian determines which type of yet traveled path this is, it turned out to be one that worked.  We had a little buried creek bed to get over/around and then it was home free to our intended destination.  Believe it or not, there are also a few fields that were untracked on Wednesday.  Untracked until we got there that is.  That was Brian again and here is a KSE rider in what appears to be a fairly reclined position.  I had no idea Lazy-Boy made snow mobiles!  Hey honey, where's the remote?!  Here is Darth again, catching a little bit of air, and a little bit more.  Wednesday's ride was also the shake down for my steering column replacement job, so I decided to test it in the very way that I kept bending it in the first place.  One last shot of a KSE rider taking one last pass across the drift.
    I actually led my first KSE tour of the season yesterday afternoon.  It got a bit warm, the powder became more like snowment.  I actually got good and stuck just trying to get going from a stopped position on level ground.  The snow was so wet and heavy that the track just spun and dug and could not move the sled against the snow.  We still had a good time, although I really wished that the conditions we had on Wednesday would have repeated themselves yesterday.  Powder is a lot more fun that snowment.  While out on the Gay sands I was blessed with a very pretty image of the suns rays peaking out through some alto cumulus clouds and hoped the camera would at least capture some of the beauty of the moment.  Glad it did, it is moments that I am so very grateful to be able to live in such a special place.  There are those moments that the beauty just reaches out and grabs you and it is unavoidable to miss, yet if you try a little harder, the beauty is always here, in every square inch of the land, water and sky.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
February 18-
    Well, it looks like I will get to see what it is like to live in northern MN or northern WI for the rest of this winter.  The big news up here (at least for us weather geeks) is that the Big Lake is almost frozen.  Actually, there is a large pocket of open water in the eastern lake, but much of the western lake is covered with ice, probably 80% or more covered in ice.  Enough to basically shut off most or all of the LES that it might produce and also no more insulation from the bitter cold that might drop down.  I was sent a great photo of the ice cover across the lake by a visitor to the site.  It is some type of satellite image that has been color enhanced to show land, water and snow/ice.  I am not sure if it is a visible satellite image or some other kind, possibly a radar or super sensitive IR, but at any rate, the open water on the lake can be clearly made out by the dark blue, or almost purple color.  The thick ice and snow is white and the thinner ice is the shading in the image that is a combination of the dark blue and the white.  What is also very interesting about that shot is the large chunks of ice that have broken off the southern shores of the lake and are drifting north out into the lake, almost like puzzle pieces that could be put back together along the shore line of the UP.  That shot was taken yesterday at about noon.  On Friday and Saturday, the ice sheet was solid from the tip of the Keweenaw to Munising, so there was quite a bit of breaking up north of Marquette.  Late last week there was still a lot of open water between the Keweenaw and Minnesota's North Shore, not the case anymore!  There is still the chance that the ice could break up in time to provide some LES before the cold air masses that provide the LES stop coming.  In reality we only have about 2-3 weeks left of the true LES season.  We can still get it into April, but by the time the middle of March rolls around, most of our snows are from system snow, or the moisture brought by the low pressure itself.  This weekend we were able to feel the effects of the ice on our morning lows.  Both Saturday and Sunday we dropped to -22 here in the valley and on Monday it was a balmy -15.  Tonight and early tomorrow we will miss out on the first LES that would have occurred had the lake still been open.  Actually, it probably would have been a pretty good event too, maybe the best LES event of the season, a 4-8" snow, with westerly winds, lots of mid level moisture and a very unstable atmosphere.  Figures!  I guess I should be very grateful for the snow we have to play in and it does look like some more will fall in the next week to ten days at least.  Plus, and this is a big plus, it does not look like any major thaws are headed our way.  We may flirt with the 32 degree mark Thursday, but otherwise, temps look to be plenty cool.  Maybe we can have a March like we had last year and will not miss the LES at all, a couple of 12-15 inches and that would do us just fine.  Can you tell I am trying to do my best to be optimistic?!
    As an additional bummer, Nora has returned to the lower peninsula.  I guess it is a sure sign that we really enjoy each others company when we can spend 6 days together, not get on each others nerves one bit and absolutely hate to say good bye.  The hounds have really taken to her too and missed seeing her when I got back from taking her to the airport.  We had some very nice skis and a great walk in sunshine, light winds and temps in the 20's yesterday.  It will be great to have her along for all of our adventures starting this summer.  In fact, I have scheduled Baileys for hip replacement surgery at the end of April.  She is really having problems.  Getting up from laying down is hard and she is really sore after out walks and skis and even tries to put as little pressure on the hip when she is walking.  I have been told the surgery is really great and the only hard part is keep the dog quiet for the time required to let it heal properly, as the dog feels no pain after surgery and can and wants to run right away.  It will be great to have two healthy dogs and to be able to take as long a walk as we want and not have to worry about Baileys being too sore.
    As mentioned in the previous journal, Nora and I also took in Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival this past weekend.  We toured all of the campus and saw most of the statues.  I think there was at least one that we missed, as it was too far away from campus, but the ones we saw were just amazing and I did manage to take a few shots, 26 in all I believe.  When I was downloading them and formatting them for the journal, I had gone and resized them to the small size, then I thought that some of you might like to be able to see the full sized version, so to make it easy for me, I just downloaded them all again and saved them with a "b" in the file name.  So since there is a full sized version of each picture, I will not put a link to them, but you can see them by right clicking on the link for the picture and choosing "open in a new browser", then going up to the browsers location window and typing a "b" at the end of the file name.  So for example, the first snow statue picture is of the ROTC's tank and soldiers.  To see the full sized picture, you can just right click on the link to the picture, choose "open in a new browser".  Then once that browser is open with the picture in it, you can go up to the address box and type a "b" so that the image would be "feb18-1b.jpg".  Hit enter and you will get the full sized version.  I apologize for this method, but it saved a lot of work for me, as I did not have to try and guess which ones most folks would like to see a full sized version of and also saved me from having to create links for 26 individual shots.
    The theme to this years snow statue contest was "Fairy Tales in Northern Gales".  The name of the ROTC's statue was "Hi Ho Hi Snow, it's off to war we go".  I cannot remember the title for all of the statues, so you will have to forgive me.  Perhaps there is still some information at MI Tech's website.  Anyway, here is the next statue we came across.  It was of Rapunzel in the tower.  Don't know what the title to this one was, but was a really neat house.  Here was The Three Little Pigs, but instead of the house made of brick, it was an igloo.  I really liked the wolf waiting outside the door.  This next one was a little confusing to me, it was of one of the stories of Christ's time here on earth.  Where the builders saying that the story of Christ's time here on earth a fairy tale?  Oh well, at any rate, it was a neat statue, very well done and sculpted.  The tale of Jack and the beanstalk figured into two statues this year.  Here is the first one, you can get an idea of just how big some of the statues are by seeing the people standing next to it.  That was one true giant!  Here is Goldie Locks and the Three Bears.  I really liked the trees in that one.  Here is one of the largest statues in the competition, the theme was a child's nightmares.  That is one you might want to look at full sized.  There is a child on a bed and to the right is a boogie man type creature and off to the left is another serpent type creature, you know, the type that lurked underneath your bed as a kid?  We crossed the street to get a close up view of the statue and the detail in the serpent was incredible, so I shot a close up of it.  The Tech students are really getting good at making the details, did you see the ice teeth on the serpent?  Here is another close up of that statue, this time of the facade of a castle, complete with gargoyles on the corners and a soldier using a cross bow to try and slay the serpent below.
    Crossing back over the street again, we came across the best one as far as I am concerned.  Not only was it huge, but the details were magnificent.  Now, I know I have gotten in trouble stating my opinion recently, buy I have to say that Nora and also the judges felt the same way I did and gave it first place in it's class.  That was a shot taken from a far so that I could capture all of the statue in one shot.  It was of Pinneochio (sorry for butchering the spelling!).  Visible in front is the giant whale, off to the right is a roller coaster, in the back is a small village (about 3 stories high!) and there was also a carousel and Gheppeto's workshop.  Please bear with me on the spelling, I was a deprived child and was not exposed to the classic fairy tales much!  This statue had so much going for it, I took a ton of close ups, starting with the roller coaster.  How do you figure they made the rails?  Here is a close up of the whale scene.  See the ice paddle?  Here is one of the gazebo or merry go round (not too familiar with Pinnechio), plus the facade of the village.  That bell tower was 3 stories high.  The tree in that shot was growing there when they built the statue, you cannot use anything but ice or snow in the sculpture.  Here is the workshop.  Here is a shot looking across the courtyard, notice the stones made for the courtyards floor?  Here is another of the front of the "Red Lobster Inn" and the frozen water fountain.  The fountain was built for the carnival.  The top of the Red Lobster Inn was really something, with a bell tower three stories high, complete with an ice bell as well as a round ice window.
    William Tell was also featured in the sculptures this year and here is the second Jack and the Beanstalk statue and a close up.  I'm not sure what this one was of, but the lions were really well made.  Perhaps it is a future fairy tale...Next years Super Bowl winners?  Sorry, I could not resist!  Part of the lion statue was a forest, here's most of that statue.  We then left the formal boundaries of the campus and walked up HWY 41 towards downtown Houghton to take in a few more statues built in the front yards of some of the fraternities and sororities.  Here's a cool pirate ship or something like that!  And here is another ship.
    The cities of Houghton and Hancock also get into the winter festival spirit and build the nations only snow houses.  Here is Houghton's snow house, Hancock's was finished later this weekend.  The building is made completely of compacted snow, so supports of other materials are used.  They do make a door jam out of wood so that they can secure the structure when closed, but that is for the door, not support.  Here is a shot of the inside, it was actually pretty warm inside, at least warmer than it was outside!  Thankfully it was sunny out, because the temps were struggling to get into the double digits.  Not only is Nora beautiful, but she is tough too, must have a lot of yooper blood still in her.
    So we had a pretty full Saturday, taking in all the statues, then having lunch and then a ski.  We had plans to take in the fireworks Saturday night, but my "check engine soon" light came on in my Blazer on the way down, so I took no chances and turned around.  Turns out that is it likely nothing major.  I talked to Al about it and he says a stuck sensor or something.  The vehicle runs fine, but I will have Al look at it very soon.  I guess the fireworks were really neat and Mt. Ripley was lit up with a ton of torch bearing skiers.  Missed photo op, next year!  Hope you have all enjoyed this tour of the tech winter carnival.  Be sure to visit their site too, lots more pictures and info there.  I fixed my sled Sunday and will be riding it tomorrow, Thursday and Saturday for sure.  I know that Brian is also chomping at the bit for he and I to ride and that is my favorite type of trip, so there should soon be some decent shots of that nature too.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
February 15-
    Yep, I'm still alive a kicking, been a little busy is all.  Nora arrived on Wednesday, so I have been a little pre occupied and to tell you the truth, I think I should get some kind of bonus points for writing this one right now.  We have had quite the busy day so far, with a morning walk, then some snow shoveling, then taking in all the snow statues at the winter carnival, then lunch and then a ski.  Right now she is curled up on the couch next to a nice big fire I just built and as I sit here and type, I can hear the crackle of the fire.  I should really be in there with her, but felt I better get this one out now, or I will not get one out till who knows when!  I do have lots of pictures to share, actually so many that I think I will leave the ones of the snow statues for another entry.  I must have taken at least a dozen of the snow statues and have about 14 to share of other natures.  So that will give me a reason to get to another journal sometime soon.
    We had a crisp morning this morning, maybe the coldest temp since I have moved up here.  My thermometer read 23 below and that was actually after the sun had been up for about an hour or so, so it may have been even colder.  It was a valley cold though, as the airport up on top of the hill was registering only -6 this morning.  I did notice the other day that Marquette set a record for the date, with a -22 and I have seen temps on the north side of Lake Superior in the -25 to -35 degree range pretty regularly.  In fact, Geraldton was reporting a -42 this morning.  Now that is COLD!  What is amazing is that I can still head out into the bush and find creeks that are still running.  They may be buried under a few feet of snow, but they are still running and they are very small, maybe only a foot or two wide and a few inches deep.  It is actually the fact that they are under all the snow that they are still running.  Speaking of snow, today we have only had a few flurries, not enough to count as any kind of accumulation yet.  If that trend continues, then this will be only the 2nd day in the past 38 with at least a trace of snow.  The mostly sunny skies have allowed me to take a peak at what the ice situation on the big lake is like.  That is an important thing to keep an eye on when it comes to forecasting lake effect snow and our temperatures.  Too much ice and no LES.  It is getting pretty icy out there, that is for sure!  There is one shield of ice that extends from the Apostle Islands almost due east to the shoreline near Ontonagon and then extends up the shoreline to the Keweenaw, extending out off the shoreline about 3-4 miles.  There is also ice surrounding Isle Royal, it is pretty hard to tell how much ice cover is between Isle Royal and the Keweenaw, but there does seem to be a considerable cover out there.  There is also a solid ice shield extending from the tip of the Keweenaw to just east of Munising and then an extensive ice shield that covers the northeast 1/3rd of the lake.  Needless to say, Lake Superiors LES making potential has been reduced significantly with this latest round of bitter cold.  If we could actually get some warmer temps and some winds, then the water deeper down in the lake could mix upward and help to reduce the ice cover.  I have seen the ice cover on the big lake disappear almost as fast as it pops up, but something tells me that ice is not going anywhere this year.  I guess I will have to stop wishing for cold and start wishing for system snow!
    On Tuesday we had our biggest group of KSE riders yet, with 28 in all.  We broke it up into several groups so that the areas that they rode would not be trampled down too much and the last person in line still had some powder to play in.  I gave Brian the camera so he could take some shots.  Here is the first shot, looks like they were taking a little rest.  Here is another shot at the same rest stop.  As I have stated in the past, it is pretty hard to get action shots while out on a ride unless the shot is setup.  So most of the shots are of guys standing around their sleds at a rest break, such as this one.  Brian did manage to snap a shot of the trail they were heading down before they headed down it.  I guess this is a real good example of they type of trail the typical KSE tour uses.  Of course, some are more narrow and some are actually big fields, but that is the typical logging road we go down.  At times there are some scenic overlooks.  That was the group at an overlook to the north of Calumet, overlooking Sedar Bay and the big lake.  Depending on how hard it is snowing, the view can be very scenic or just a lot of snow in the air.  A typical KSE tour might also include some hill climbing.  Nothing too dramatic, unless that is what you desire.
    I was not able to ride with that tour, my sled was still in dry dock, awaiting the new steering column.  The group was very generous and wanted to take the guides and I out for dinner after the ride, so I met up with them at the Loading Zone II and was quickly informed of some of the more important details of the ride, like how they gained the dubious distinction of being the group to use the most duct tape.  Seems that they came to a stop and some were able to stop quicker than others and some rear ending took place.  Here is sled number two with the duct tape job.  It seemed like everyone had a good time, I looked around at the group of 28 and saw lots of smiles and several different groups of guys re-telling the highlights of the trip with arms moving around and voices punctuated with choreographed laughs.  I have to admit, that is the main reason why I go through the hassle of running the scheduling for KSE.  To be able to see the big smiles and know exactly what they are feeling, that same feeling I had on my first back country ride in the Keweenaw.  I have been accused of getting rich off of KSE and not that there would be anything wrong with that, but I cannot say that is true.  I am actually taking my first tour next Thursday, a half day and then will be taking half of a larger group out next Saturday.  The steering column came in and I will put it into the sled tomorrow and be ready to ride.  Nora is here until midday Tuesday, so I will not be taking any rides until she has left.  Actually I do plan to test the sled Monday and think I will get her to give it a try too.  She had snowmobiled before and enjoyed it, so maybe I will have a real good reason to get myself a new sled next year, so she can use the Pol-Cat!
    The Sno-Go came down my street earlier this week.  I don't know what it is, but I am just fascinated by that thing!  I think I could sit and watch it of it's thing for hours.  Unfortunately it does not take the operator long to do my little end of the street.  About a minute or two and he is done and gone, off to take care of another pile of snow on another street.  Feeling a little jealous, I decided to fire up the ariens and do a little snow moving of my own!   Actually, that was this morning.  Nora and I cleared the drifts and snow off the eves of the roof and I also cleared some of the snow from the bush protectors.  It was about 2 feet deep on them.  I know there were at least a few of you that wanted to see me in action with the new snow thrower, don't know why exactly, but with Nora up here, I finally was able to accommodate your wishes.  The snow was the perfect consistency to get the ariens to maximize how far it could toss it.  The specs on the sheet for the machine say that it can throw it about 50 feet and that seemed to be the case this morning.  It is really a lot of fun to be behind that piece of machinery when it is doing it's thing.  I was plowing through snow about 2 feet deep, it was not hesitating a bit and was tossing it about 45 feet, glad I did not get the wimpy 8 horsepower model and went for the 10 hp one!  Here is my look of satisfaction upon a job completed.
    Nora, the hounds and I have been doing some skiing the past few days.  We have been going out to the school forest and now have a pretty good trail broken through the woods.  We actually have been skiing where the trails were either packed down by the dozer or by the snowmobile, but the 12-18" of snow since that activity pretty much buried them and there was about 8-10" of snow to have to break through.  Poor Baileys is really starting to struggle with her hips.  She has two bad ones, but her left is really worse than her right.  I think I may just go ahead and have a new left hip put in her this spring.  They say the recovery from the surgery is very quick, in fact the worst part about it is trying to keep the dog quiet while it heals up.  I guess they feel almost no pain immediately following the surgery and want to run because it feels so good.  It would be great to see her be able to get around with no pain once again.  Burt gets around just fine and the two of them would have a blast being able to run and play chase like they did years ago.  Maybe that can be my excuse to be able to escape the area during our messy time in the spring.  Head south for a week and get the Beez a new hip.  Anyway, back to the school forest, it is really pretty out there and am so glad to finally be able to share it with Nora.  She thought it was equally beautiful and actually was trailing way behind us, taking her time skiing so that she could take it all in.  She is a great skier, being able to keep right up with the hounds and I and not having any problems on hills or sharp turns.  I managed to coax her to go off trail a bit and stand next to a stump, to show how much snow is out there.  Lots, eh?
    I have a partial day off on Monday, so I am sure we will be getting in some more skiing.  She did get a blister today, but it is a small one and I think a moles skin patch will be able to allow her to ski without any pain.  If not, perhaps a walk.  For now, the crackle of the fireplace is still calling and has become too much to ignore further, so I will sign off until next time.  Nice to know I already have lots of shots to share with you and I am sure I will get some more between now and the next journal.  Also looking forward to getting that sled put back together tomorrow!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
February 10-
    I'm bummin'.  Sled is broke!  Actually, it is not as bad as it sounds.  About a week ago while I was riding, I went to turn in the powder by tossing the sled over onto it's side and when I finished the turn and it came back up right side, the handle bars were still leaning a bit to the left, but the skis were pointed straight.  I was able to give the handle bars a little jerk to the right and they straightened out.  It happened again the other day, so I knew something was up.  Upon closer inspection, it turns out the steering column, a steel pipe about 3 feet long and about 1/2" in diameter was bending towards the top where it bolts to the handle bars.  Steering is always a nice thing to have while flying through the woods on a snowmobile, so I figured I better get it fixed.  My chief mechanic Al was busy with jobs he had already scheduled, so I took upon it myself to try and fix the problem.  The old one came out with a little bit of coaxing, I think it would have almost been easier to take the engine out, as the steering column goes underneath the engine and then connects with the rest of the steering linkage, but I was able to get it out.  There are a few sources for used parts up here and it looked like I had a replacement yesterday evening, but that turned out to have a different bottom mounting plate than mine used.  So I went back up and got one with the correct mounting plate this afternoon.  That one turned out to be for a right handed linkage setup and mine was left handed.  You'd think that Polaris would not have that many different steering setups to try and keep costs down, but I guess not.  I'm sure there is a good reason for why they do the things they do, I was just bummed that I could not come up with a used one because now I was forced to get a new one and will have to wait for it to come in.  So I am without sled until it comes in.  I pray that there is not some kind of 3 week back order on them or something!  I suppose I could put it back in and use it and just be gentile and not crank on them to throw the sled over.  There is not that much force exerted on them to just steer the sled normally, so I am not concerned about them breaking under normal riding conditions.  I just do not want to put everything back in for a few days just take them all out again to put the new on in.  I'll keep you all posted.  Actually, this happened at a pretty good time, as Nora is coming to visit on Wednesday for a week and I would not be doing any riding while she is here.
    On Saturday I was a guest speaker/skier at the Copper Country Ski Tigers, the local ski team for kids in the area.  Saturday was a snowy, cold and windy day, but they decided to keep the meet a go.  They have thresholds of an air temp of zero or below or a wind chill of -10 or below and the meet is canceled.  The thresholds were tested, but I think conditions did not go below.  The temps were about 5 and the wind-chill was right at about -10.  Anyway, we skied and I was very impressed by the group of skies I was skiing with.  There was this little girl who could not have been any taller than my waist and she was just chugging right along, at times it was all I could do to keep up with her!  I don't consider myself a great skier, but probably better than average.  I guess my strengths are actually my balance and to be able to get up and over the obstacles that I find while skiing the bush.  All those obstacles are removed in the groomed trails, so my advantage over other skiers is also gone.  After about 30 minutes in the cold, I was getting a little chilled but did not complain a bit and neither did any of the other skiers.  They all worded hard on their drills and when given the chance do do more drills or ski on a regular ski out and around back to the chalet, they chose to stick to the drills for a while longer.  Eventually the drills ended with a little relay race and then we all skied back to the chalet for some juice and warmth.  While out on the ski trail we had a little weather question/answer session, but it seemed like the kids wanted to do more skiing than talking, so we did not force the issue and just skied mostly.
    On Sunday I headed out to the school forest with the hounds to ski.  I thought that there might not be the best conditions for skiing because of all the activity, so I actually just wore my snow boots for walking.  It turned out there was plenty of snow to ski on, but the trails were also nice and packed down, so it was not hard at all to walk along the trails, so we had a nice and peaceful walk out there.  It felt really great to be back out there, those woods are just really special and I guess all the good times I have had with the dogs in the past 2 years out there make it an extra special place for me.  The hounds also seemed to be very happy to be out there.  There are some trails that are just wide enough to get an ATV or snowmobile down and they had been packed down by the snowmobile groomer and also some ski and snowshoe traffic from the open house.  Those are my favorite trails to walk on because they seem more intimate.  Although I have to say that the trails that were cleared for the open house were also pretty nice to walk along.  The foot+ of snow really did a nice job of covering things up.  If you can sense me choosing my words carefully as I talk about my experience out there, you are right.  Actually, I do not want to make it seem like I am talking too much to the one side or other and do not want to open any wounds that are in the process of healing.  What I can say is that it felt really good to be out there again and much different from the last time I was out there.  I am looking forward to possibly taking a ski out there tomorrow and really looking forward to taking Nora out there for a ski or two or three or more while she is visiting.  I also want to take her to the ski trails at Eagle Harbor.  I have only been out there in the summer and not in the winter, so it will be a new experience for me too.
    Those two pictures were all the pictures I have to share.  The cameras batteries died on me while I was on my ski yesterday and with no riding over the weekend, I do not have any pictures of that nature.  Brian were going to go and play in the snow today and I was going to shoot some more pictures and video, but with my sled sitting in the garage with parts scattered all about it I guess that will have to wait for another day.  If this winter keeps up as it has so far, we will have plenty of those days left in the season.  In fact, if this winter turns out as most do up here, we are only about halfway through our season.  We should be able to ride into the first or second week of April, that is still two months away.  Just another thing I love about this area, we get to ride about a month longer than most other areas in the Midwest.  Sure, by the end of March, some of you might be chomping at the bit to break the boat out or play some golf, but our boating and golfing season is only about 15-20 days later than yours.  Last year I took my last ride on a Tuesday and golfed on the following Saturday and could have golfed on the Friday if I had wanted.  We'll see how this spring works out.  One thing I bet will not be repeated is that my last ride of the season will be taken in temps in the upper 80's while wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
    I'm not a big fan of the heat, but am not a big fan of the bitter cold either.  Thankfully we have not been as cold as other areas.  This morning I was at about 10 below zero, while stations to the north of Lake Superior were in the -30's.  Today I think we warmed all the way up to zero, almost light jacket weather!  Actually this cold really hits this area and it's folks pretty hard.  Since the Keweenaw does not usually get this cold, a lot of folks are like me and do not like it at all.  Another bummer part about the bitter cold is that it is getting too cold to produce the really good lake effect snows.  With the air this cold, it is also very dry.  That dry air makes it harder for the big lake to supply enough of the moisture needed to get the LES machine really going.  We have had pretty persistent LES going through the cold spell and at times it does come down pretty good, but if you were wondering if the colder the better stands for LES, the answer is no.  Air temps of about 10-20 at the surface and cold air aloft works just fine!  So while I may be ready for this bitter cold to leave us alone, I am by no means ready for the snow to stop!  I could go for regular snows all the way through the first week or two of April, then it can all melt in 2 weeks or so and get ready for the summer fun!
    Well, I guess that about does it for this one.  Sort of a quiet time for me, but I'm sure that I will have lots more to share soon.  Nora and I will be having lots of fun skiing, hiking and even checking out MI Tech's winter carnival.  The snow statue building is starting to reach a break neck speed and if you want to watch it occur live, you can through MI Tech's array of live web cams.  So until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
February 7-
    Most of the time when I start these journals, I can jump right into them and get rolling, but for some reason I have been sitting here with writers block for some time.  Of course in stead of just getting on with it and starting it any old way, I managed to goof around on the internet and waste some minutes.  Well, the minutes almost turned to an hour, then I got hungry, so I made dinner and now it is about 2 hours after the time I sat down to start this entry!  So much for my early finish tonight!  Oh well, it is a Friday, so I guess I can stay up late in need be, but I was out a little bit later last night too and that made the morning arrive very early.  My mornings come early enough at 4:45 am, so I really do not like it when they come even earlier.  I guess I cannot really complain too much, seeing as though I was out socializing with some guys Brian took on a KSE ride yesterday.  I have managed to break away for the afternoon portions of both Wednesday's and Thursday's KSE rides.  The conditions both days were very nice and the portions of the rides I was on, we were pretty much breaking trail the whole time.  I am hoping to be able to get out for a part of one of the two rides we have going on tomorrow.  I am scheduled to be a guest skier/speaker at the local cross country ski clubs meet tomorrow afternoon.  It is called the copper country ski tigers and they have different age classes that run from about as young as one can be and still be able to strap a pair of skis to ones feet, all the way to high school age, I believe.  The person who asked me if I could join them graciously has put me with a young enough group that I will be able to keep up.  I was worried that I might be with the 5-7 year olds and get left behind in the snow dust!  Now, you are probably wondering how can he wish to ride with KSE if he is going skiing?  Well, if it is too cold, then the ski meet will be canceled.  At this point, I seriously doubt that the weather will cooperate.  If the temp is zero or below or the wind chill is -10 or below, then it is canceled.  We will be very close to the wind chill numbers by tomorrow afternoon. So I am in limbo, if it gets canceled, then I will ride tomorrow and ski with the gang another day.  If not, then I will ski tomorrow and ride another day.  Such a complicated life I live!
    On Wednesday ride with KSE I did bring the good camera and managed to get it to work for part of the time at least.  It really does not like the cold and short of developing some sort of high-tech and possibly expensive way of keeping it warm and safe from bouncing around, I will just need to nurse it along.  I often bring old reliable along too, that thing does not take as good a quality picture, but sure can handle the elements.  After all, it did spend all night in the bush last winter when I fell out of my pocket while I moved a branch off the trail on a ski.  A fresh set of batteries and it was back in business.  Anyway, we did set up a few shots using the Fuji (good cam) Wednesday.  I wish that I could just whip out the cam and snap a quick shot, while barely having to even stop, but instead, I need to stop, shut off the sled, take my helmet off, got the cam out, turn it on, hope is starts up, then get ready to shoot the shot and let the subjects of the shot know they can proceed.  So while this shot of two KSE riders busting powder along the pole line might look like a quick, impromptu picture, it was all totally staged.  All except for the fact that no stunt riders were used, the stars of the shot did their own stunts.  The one nice thing about the Fuji compared to old reliable is that is stores the picture much quicker, so I was able to get a shot of the riders just after they had passed by me.
    We did not spend much time on the pole line at all.  The snow where we were at was actually pretty good, but that pole line is getting discovered by more and more folks and you have to get there pretty quickly after a fresh snowfall to be able to find powder.  That is not really an issue for us, as we know tons of other spots to play and can usually find some fresh snow no matter what the other spots are like.  Brian really has gotten to know the bush even more than he did when we started KSE, which I actually thought was not possible, but I love to tag along on his rides, as then I get to learn some of the new spots.  Of course the trick is to try and remember just how the heck to get to those spots, but I am doing much better with my "dead reckoning" out in the bush.  When I first started going on rides out there, I would be turned around in a matter of minutes, now it takes a little longer than that, but I still get turned around!  Al also knows a lot more places to play and it is interesting to see that both Al and Brian seem to be sort of staking out different areas to learn and take their groups too.  I'm sure that they swap tips on new spots, but I think it works out great that they don't seem to cross each others paths all that much.  Plus the weather has been helping out with fresh snow daily.  Not a ton, but it does not take much now to cover things up.  There is so much base out there that a 3-4" snow with some wind will cover all the tracks up.
    Yesterday we went to a spot Brian and I went to back in early January, when it was just starting to get deep.  A few logs were still uncovered by Brian and I had to goose the sled to lift the skis to get over some of them, but on Wednesday there was absolutely no sign of anything but snow on the trail.  About 3-4 feet of base, with a foot of fresh on top, some 2-3 foot drifts and a few modest hills to climb were about all we could ever ask for.  We stopped long enough for me to get a shot of Brian coming up the path we had just busted through.  There was still some drifts left and I was really surprised that he did not but them up!  You can tell that even though he is not busting the drift just off to his left in this shot, he was busy busting some powder moments before, with both his nose and his sleds nose "powdered".  I have a special treat for you with a high speed connection, or those of you with lots of patience and a dial up connection.  I actually shot the first snowmobile movie with the cam.  It is of Brian coming up a small hill in preparation for the last shot.  I was pretty impressed with the quality of the movie, so you can bet there will be lots more.  I tested out viewing the movie on my version of windows media player and all I got was a black screen with the sound.  Using Quicktime for windows, I was able to see the video too, so that is just a little tip if your media player does not work.  Some of you may even have to right click on the link to the avi file and choose to save it locally to your own hard drive and then open the file using what ever software you use to view avi files.  It is a shame that each second of video uses about 1.3 meg of memory, or I would just shoot a ton of videos all the time.  None the less, you can bet that there will be some more videos shot, maybe even of yours truly.
    In the weather department, we are on our 29th day in the past 30 with at least a trace of snow to fall.  Today was just a trace, so far anyway.  The snow is bearing down on us as I type and it looks like we could be in for a very cold and snowy 5-6 days.  Actually, by later Monday and into Tuesday of next week it could be so cold that it will almost be too cold for lake effect snow to occur.  Actually, I am not sure if it is ever too cold to shut it down completely, but as the air gets colder and colder, it also usually gets drier and drier and that makes it harder and harder for the lake to supply enough moisture to cause decent snowflake development.  It will snow, but they will be these really small flakes that take forever to pile up.  Speaking of cold, it was cold in the UP and northern WI this morning.  We actually did not get that cold, thanks to some clouds, lake effect snow and winds off the lake itself.  We managed to remain above the zero degree mark, but spots in northern WI dropped into the -25 to -30 degree range and Champion MI to the west of Marquette hit -31.  With the cold coming down for early next week, I would not be surprised to see a station get to -40.  When Champion was -31 we were +6, almost 40 degrees warmer!  Thanks Superior!  The cold is also starting to freeze up Lake Superior.  This afternoon, the clouds finally broke up enough across the southern 1/2 of Superior that I could see the ice cover and much of the water from the eastern side of the Keweenaw to north of Marquette was ice or had significant ice cover and all of Whitefish Bay was frozen.  That could trim back the LES potential for places like Big Bay, Marquette and even Munising a bit, but not significantly and it would have no impact on our LES potential.  The ice along the north shore of the Keweenaw extends out only a few hundred yards at the moment.  After the coming cold spell, that ice shelf might extend quite a bit further, but many times it breaks up with some warmer temps and a southerly wind.
    About the only other info I have to share with you all is the trail system conditions.  I was on them for very small stints in the past 2 days and I was a little disappointed in their shape.  It was not too busy up here this week, we had some fresh snow every day and it was also cold, about all the conditions one could ask for to support any grooming that is going on.  The grooming must have been somewhat relaxed this week, as I encountered no "good" trails and some bad, with most of them "marginal" to "poor".  Don't know why they were not in better shape, but that is what I found.  I have heard some sleds roar by on the trail up above Lake Linden this evening, so I think the masses have arrived for the weekend.  I would think that with all of the UP in decent shape and even areas of northern WI and lower MI in decent shape, that would relieve some of the pressure off of us, we'll see.
    So I guess that about covers it for another evening.  I hope to get some more shots and video for you all this weekend.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
February 4-
    I do not have a whole lot to write about this evening, but I might be too busy tomorrow night and Thursday night to get out a journal, so I figured I would at least spit out a few words tonight so that it does not become days in between journals.  So I sure opened up a can of worms about the activities in the school forest huh?  I was in communication with the school board president quite a bit yesterday, she is a friend of mine and she clued me in on some other reasons why the bulldozing was going on and I have to admit that I made a big mistake by not consulting with the superintendent about what was going on out there before I went on my little rant Sunday night.  I asked the board president to relay a message to the super to send me a note explaining further why the dozing was being done, so that he could defend himself and also set the record straight.  I have yet to get any correspondence from him, but I can tell you that the board president explained that part of the reason why it was being done was so that areas of the school forest would be accessible for handicapped individuals.  That is all the reason I need to completely change my mind about the usefulness of it being done.  So I owe Mr. Roberts- the Superintendent, an apology in which I will do privately by e mail or phone or snail mail, but I also wanted to publicly apologize to him here since I had no problems lashing out publicly here at the actions he authorized.  I really do hope that he will correspond with me so that I can share with you all his plans and intentions for the land.  I have been made aware that he loves the land as much as anyone and considers is as much a treasure as anyone.  I also believe he is more level headed than me, as I was told he wanted to respond to me Monday morning, but refrained until he was not so upset.  I doubt I would have been so restrained!  So I learned a valuable lesson, and that is to make sure I have all the facts straight before I go on the attack.  I have to admit that I let my emotions get the better of me and got a little help from some others that were emotional too.  That is no excuse and I am not fishing for excuses.  I made an error and will live with the consequences what ever they may be (hopefully not too bad!).  I was brought up to strongly respect the truth and that is what you will ALWAYS get from me, sooner or later anyway, after I get my facts straight!  Well, like I say, lesson learned.  I just wish it did not have to come at the expense of another, like it did.  That is what makes it the worst for me and has been bothering me.
    So on to other exciting news from the land of big snows.  Yep, we got hit pretty hard over the past 24 hours.  Not as hard as other places in the UP, but the biggest snow so far.  From yesterday at about 9 am until today at about 6 PM we have picked up about 10-12", maybe a bit more.  It has actually been hard to measure today, with the winds blowing at about 35 mph, but my driveway seems to collect the snow pretty evenly when the winds blow hard and I cleared 9" from it this morning and there are about 2-3" on it right now.  The banks made by the plow were rather large this morning, about three feet high, but the snowthrower had no problems getting through.  I am just amazed at that piece of machinery.  I have to be careful to aim the snow low, so that I do not throw it onto my neighbors driveway!  For awhile this winter I thought that my financial expenditure for it would turn out to be a waste, but I can say that I think it has already paid for itself this season and it should continue to do so for the next 10-15 at least.  I knew when I bought it this fall that it would last a long time and pay for itself in the long run, but nothing like instant gratification!
    Today was the first snow day for the schools up here this season.  To be honest, the schools up here typically do not cancel classes all that often.  I think last year they had 3 snow days, actually one was due to icy roads.  Today was likely due more to the fact that along with the snow we had very strong winds and that was making travel very difficult, especially in the rural areas.  Rural areas make up about 80% of the bus runs.  Plus the majority of the snow came in a short period of time from about 1 am to 7 am, right at the time when the person making the call if schools will be open or not is making their decision.  From what I have been told, the superintendents of each school district rotate duties on making the call, that way some poor soul is not stuck waking up at 3 am every day to see of school should be canceled or at least on a delayed start.  The way the weather is up here, you would almost have to wake up every day, just to make sure.  Even if the forecast does not call for much snow, those weather forecasters have been known to be wrong!  Of course the road crews have been out all day and you would have a hard time telling we have just picked up almost 12" of snow.  Hwy. 41 just south of Calumet actually had bare pavement this afternoon!  The Lake Linden snow movers have also been doing an excellent job.  The banks are getting pretty big, about 5 feet high now.  A few more snows and I bet the sno-go is seen on my street.  I must be weird or something, but I am still fascinated by that thing and the skill of the operator to be able to put the snow right where he wants to.  Good thing because it can make a pile about 4 feet high and about 10 feet in diameter in a matter of seconds.  Not the guy you want to make angry!
    I have yet to go for a ride this week.  I am hoping to get out both tomorrow and Thursday.  I was tempted to hop on the sled and at least play in some fields through the fresh powder, but got caught up in other activities and looks like I will have to wait until tomorrow and/or Thursday.  I did drive the truck to the trail cam to clear it off.  It looked like someone had been there before me, as there was no snow by the lens and there were some foot prints in the snow in front too.  If I were a smart person, I would have looked at the image before making the trek over there!  The trail by the cam was in OK shape.  It looked like it had not been groomed yet today, but I cannot tell for sure. I have not been saying much about the trails and the grooming because basically we are at the stage where we have more than enough snow and it just boils down to traffic and grooming.  As far as grooming goes, they seem to be putting forth a better effort than was made in past seasons.  I can speak first hand for the groomer than runs the trails from Hancock to just south of Mohawk and say that it seems to be gone over at least once a day.  The trail from Lake Linden to Gay seems to get it about twice a week and the trail from Gay to Mohawk once or twice a week.  The main trouble spots continue to be on the main trail in and around Mohawk and also the section of trail from Houghton to South Range.  Those two spots are the bottle necks in the system and that is the main reason they are always so bad.  I doubt that constant grooming of those areas would help that much, but I do believe that the section up by Mohawk could get run over more than it currently is.  Just my 2 cents.  I have also gotten more than a handful of notes from folks that the trail from Ontonagon to White Pine is also really bad.  2-3 foot moguls and some wonder if it has ever been groomed.  I have no clue what is going on down there, but thought I would at least pass along the information.
    I don't even have a single picture to share with you, which seems almost criminal with the snow we have just received, but to tell you the honest truth, I have not had much opportunity to get some good quality snow shots.  The hounds and I went for a ski yesterday in the bush.  I am going to stay away from the school forest until the open house is over.  I do not want to get in the way of any further work they want to get done out there.  Plus, I am a little afraid that I might have angered the dozer operator too and I am not sure if I can ski faster than that thing!  But seriously, I will be returning to ski there for sure soon.  It is still my favorite spot and the bush has too much snow in it now to try and break trail.  I actually did ok yesterday, but the poor dogs were really having a hard time with it.  Each step they sunk up to their bellies and would have gone farther if the snow would have allowed.  So unless I find a spot that I can break open with my sled and be sure that no others will be out there, then I will just stick to the school forest.  Today we went for a walk along the road at the Calumet Waterworks.  Very pretty with all the new snow, but they did not have as much as other areas further away from the lake.  One would think that the heaviest lake snow would fall right near the shoreline, but in reality it falls a little inland and especially in the higher elevations, especially on a day like today when the winds were so strong.  More snow is on the way, in fact it could get interesting around here again this weekend and early next week.  I am at my deepest depth of the season so far, but am pretty confident that it will get deeper before shallower.  With that I will close for now.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
A clarification to the February 2 Journal-
    I need to make a clarification to the journal of February 2.  I misspoke when I said that the bulldozing was done using tax payers money.  I received the following information this morning in a note from the school board president "The bulldozing was paid for with money that was given to the school from Walmart.".  My apologies to you the reader and to the school superintendent for getting that part of the story in error.
February 2-
    Sorry for the long absence, but I was feeling a burn out coming on with all my activities so I decided to take a mini vacation from the journal in hopes that my batteries would be recharged and I would feel some excitement to write a journal.  I believe my few days off worked, because as the day went on today, I could feel myself looking more and more forward to sitting down and writing a journal.  I even got a full day off from the hustle and bustle of the site yesterday.  We had a KSE ride planned and I actually scheduled myself as one of the guides and wouldn't you know it, the ride was a no-show.  I think it was as much my fault as anything.  I penciled in the name of the riders and then just assumed that they were coming.  I think I took the reservation at least a month ago and just forgot the details, like they were not positive they were going to be riding.  There was no deposit, so that is another sign that they were probably not too serious about riding.  Most of the time, if there is no deposit, we consider the ride a non happening.  Every once in a while a reservation will be made too short notice in order to get a deposit in, and in that case we will plan on the group showing up.  At any rate, Brian and I waited for about a hour at the gas station (some groups have thought we are on central time and showed up at 10 am central time not eastern time) and they did not show.  So I went home and checked the messages and none from the group, so I called Brian on his cell and let him know it looked to be a no show.  Since I had planned to ride from 10 am until about 5 or 6 pm, I suddenly had all that time to do something else and I basically decided to not do much at all.  I did take the hounds for a ski at the school forest (more on that later), but for the most part, I just relaxed, talked to Nora on the phone and did nothing.  I have been running at full speed ever since about the first of December, so it felt real good to not do anything!
    Please do not think I am complaining about the site and all of it's duties keeping me so busy.  At times it can be a little overwhelming, but for the most part, things are manageable.  Plus, I do get to go out and play from time to time.  One of those play times happened on Wednesday.  I hooked up with Bill and Mike and we had a ton of fun finding some fresh snow to go and mess up.  One of the best things about being a local and getting time to explore things up here is the fact that I get to learn about a lot of the off the beaten paths.  There are a few spots that I can go to and usually find untracked snow, no matter what other places are like.  By Wednesday, it had been several days since the region had any serious snow.  One of those days being a weekend day with the others weekdays, plenty of time to have folks get out and hit the more popular places.  It was pretty apparent that folks had found the more common areas to ride "off trail", lots of tracks and not a whole lot of fresh snow.  However, we kept pressing on and went deeper and deeper and deeper into the woods and soon we lost sign of all tracks and were breaking trail in 3 feet of virgin snow.  I suppose it is possible that someone had been down there so far this winter.  I talked to Al after my ride out there and he claimed to have been in there a few times this season, but there are also lots of places to go one you are in the area we were in, so it is possible that no one had been back on the same path we were on yet this season.  Even if they had, there was no sign of them back there.  I have to admit that it took all the discipline in me to stop and take that last shot.  Carving through that powder on the logging roads is about my favorite thing to do and the last thing I really wanted to do was to stop.  But I did, and the only problem is that I stopped on a gentile slope and when it came time to resume the ride, I got stuck!  Not the worst of stucks, but actually kind or an embarrassing one!  Getting stuck on steep hill in 3 feet of powder is almost a badge of courage, but getting stuck on an almost a flat logging trail is a badge I'd just as soon not wear.  Oh well, life goes on, we got the sled out of the hole it created and soon we were on our way again.  After about an hour of playing in that area we decided to start heading back.  A few more stucks and then we eventually got back to the more heavily traveled bush roads and then eventually back to the valley and home.
    I have not been on the sled since.  Well, except to ride to the gas station in Lake Linden and back.  I was tempted to take a quick ride on the trails yesterday, but as mentioned, I came down with a case of the lazy's and just took it easy most of the day.  I did take the hounds for a ski out at the school forest yesterday afternoon.  It was a very nice afternoon for a ski.  Temps about 30 degrees, little wind and a filtered sunshine through some clouds.  As we drove up the road that leads to the cabin and parking lot, I noticed a bulldozer on the side of the road and also noticed that it had made the path through the snow to the cabin wider, actually wider than the road itself.  I thought that sort of strange, as the cabin is used in the winter by some school kids and the occasional visitor such as myself, but is certainly not a busy spot, so making the path through the snow wider seemed to be a waste of time.  We headed down the ski path and about halfway through I noticed that other areas had been bulldozed.  Areas that were once intimate little paths through the woods were now bulldozed wide enough to drive a semi truck through.  I was very disappointed and equally confused as to why that bulldozing was going on.  I seriously doubted that they were planning on doing any logging out there.  I was told the whole purpose of the school forest is to preserve the land as it is, so that it can serve as an outdoor classroom for the students of the Keweenaw to enjoy and study.  But something was definitely up out there.  The bulldozer had knocked down at least 10-20 trees and torn up the ground in spots and made a general mess of things out there.  I almost felt a bit of a panic set in that someone had lost their sanity and decided to go nuts with a bulldozer out there!  I was almost tempted use my cell phone to call someone to let them know what was going on out there.  I really did not know who to call, I figured this was not an emergency, so 911 was certainly not an option.  I did not know the number of the school district and it would not have mattered if I did, as it was a Saturday.  So I decided to just continue on and see if I could find out what was going on.  I did manage to get the scoop on what was going on and I have to admit, there is a reason, but to me a very stupid one and also very wasteful one.  It turns out that the school forest is hosting some kind of an open house/celebration next weekend and the bulldozing was being done so that they could pull a wagon with people around in it through the woods!  The superintendent had authorized the bulldozing and in fact it was his idea, so I had been told.  For those of you who know me, or have been following my journals for the past few years, you know I am one that is not afraid to speak my mind.  I have grown wiser with age and realize that sometimes it is just best to hold my tongue, but in this case I feel I need to state how utterly stupid it was that the woods were bulldozed so that a wagon could be pulled through them!  I seriously doubt that the superintendent will read this, but I sure hope that the persons living in the school district do and pass along what a stupid thing he authorized.  Not only did the dozer make a mess of some pretty woods, but at a time when school districts in the state are facing massive budget cuts, I'm, fairly certain that the money spent to do this could have been used more wisely.  There are roads out there that are already wide enough for the wagon to make it through and they could have been plowed enough to allow the wagon to make it through.  Or better yet, why not just run the snowmobile through the trails enough to pack them down so that people can WALK through the woods.  Would it kill these kids and their parents to actually WALK or ski a mile or so and enjoy the woods!?  Plus, I really don't see how much enjoyment will be had by the folks in the wagon as they pass through a forest that has just been bulldozed.
    I just pray that no further bulldozing goes on out there.  I am not a tree hugger, I understand that as a human I am a consumer.  So harvesting the trees and other living things on this planet is for our common good and survival.  However, I also believe that it is important to set a least a little land aside so that it can be left to it's own destiny.  Not only for aesthetics but also to monitor and study and learn from.  I really thought that was the purpose of the school forest and was very disappointed by what went on out there.  At first I figured I should not complain about what happened and should just be grateful that I am allowed to into the school forest, but then it was brought to my attention that the land belongs to the school district and as a tax payer, I have as much say about what it should be used for as anyone else in the district.  So I am going to compose a letter to the superintendent and send it off tomorrow to let him know how I feel.  I figure as a tax payer, in a way, he works for me, so he is inclined to listen to me.  If you are a tax payer in our district and are not happy about what you have just read, then feel free to contact him as well.  I am not going to give out his e mail address, but here is the website for the LL-H school district and you can find some contact info there.  I will now step off my soapbox!
    In the weather department, we have had 25 days in a row of at least a trace of snow, but are about 5 hours away from that string ending.  Thursday and Friday were close calls, with just a trace of snow falling and up until about yesterday at 4 pm, it looked like we would get skunked for that day, but the flakes started to fly and it actually came down pretty good for about 2-3 hours and we ended up with just over 2" new at my house.  It was a pretty snow, with the flakes sticking to everything and also enough snow to cover all the old and dirty snow up.  Temps have been rising into the upper 20's and even some low 30's and that has caused the roads to become wet and messy.  My truck is a mess too and my garage is full of melting/melted snow.  Temps look to drop this week and into next and it looks like new snow is on the way.  The "slippery" storm that has been a real bugger to forecast for now looks to hit us.  Not a direct hit, but the way things look right now, we will be on the northern fringes of the system snow and could see about 3-8" with that, then some lake effect snow in it's wake and all told, we could top the 12" mark with new snow by Wednesday.  That will be just what the Dr. ordered as our snow was starting to get old.  I suppose I am sounding a little spoiled, with two feet on the ground in my yard and over 3 feet down in other areas nearby and wanting more just because my snow is "old".  But...I did move here because this place gets fresh snow almost daily in the wintertime and to go almost a week with just a few inches of new snow is somewhat unusual.  I cannot report first hand on conditions, as I have not been on the trails in over 2 weeks, but I have spoken with several groups of riders and they seemed to agree that the trails were not a disaster, but were busy and the traffic was taking it's tolls in the form of moguls.  So it is the same old song and dance, the snow is pretty good, but we are busy.  If you are coming up, my best advice is to just try and get in the frame of mind that things will not be perfect, but it beats sitting in the office!  I do plan to ride a few times this week and I may even get on a trail for a bit.  Until then...
Good night from the Keweenaw..