Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam

Feb 27-
    Wow, I can't believe it's been almost a week since the last time I wrote.  I guess time must fly when you are having fun!  Actually I think the main reason why I did not write at all last week was that after my ride on Monday, I did not ride until Friday.  Tue and Wed were spent catching up on things that needed to get done, then Thursday was just a day of rest and then I did hook up with Dave's KSE ride on Friday afternoon.  We did not get much fresh snow after the stuff early in the week last week, but a few inches every day or so- just enough to keep things fresh.  We did have a decent little storm this morning.  Most areas have picked up around 4-5" as of midday today, but some locals just to my south (and I mean just!) picked up about twice as much.  Nora and I went down to Houghton to do some shopping and I was surprised to see how much new snow they had picked up.  When we left Lake Linden we had picked up around 3-4" of new snow and the new snow totals in the Houghton area just 10 miles to our southwest were closer to 7-8".  I think most areas have picked up another 2-4" since, which would put totals in the Houghton area in the double digit range and totals further north in the 5-6" range.  It's still snowing lightly now, with what looks to be a burst of heavier snow to move into the region from the MN Arrowhead by this evening and then a pretty hefty dose of LES to occur from later tonight through Wed morning.  It sure looks like someone is going to get buried up here from later tonight through Wed morning.  Not entirely sure who, but I have a feeling someone in the western 1/2 of the UP (from Ironwood to Marquette) could pick up 2 feet+ of new snow.  Right now I would place my bets on the higher terrain areas west of Marquette and east of L'Anse and perhaps the tip of the Keweenaw.  I do think that many other areas should see at least a foot of new snow fall in the 48 hour period starting tonight.
    Friday's ride was fun.  Dave really knows the backwoods behind his house which is where he took us Friday afternoon.  We were out for more than 4 hours, but yet never traveled more than about 8 miles as the crow flies from Lake Linden and never crossed our own tracks once.  Plus we were on the groomed trail for about 2-3 miles to get from one logging road to the next.  We also got to play in some of Dave's own fields as well as those of his relatives.  Between he and his family, they own a few hundred acres and most of it is all farm fields which are lots of fun when there is fresh snow.  I think the first hour of the tour could have actually been called a "carving clinic" as once we got into the fields, the 7 guys we had out on the tour all took a shot at doing some carving.  Some actually did very well and some still need a little more practice, but I think everyone had fun.  I know I did and it was great to not have to deal with the head cold anymore!  Poor Nora got it from me [I have no idea how! :)] and had to leave from work early on Friday, but she too seems to be getting over it now.
    We did have a few "stucks" on the ride Friday.  Some tours we take the folks are just terrified to get stuck.  I'm not sure why, maybe they just think that they are never going to get out.  Or perhaps they just do not want to be a pain to the guide and cause a hold up or cause the guide to have to help dig out.  Then there are groups that maybe do not want to get stuck too often, but still manage to every mile or so anyway.  Those are the ones who's idea of deep powder riding is perhaps a little different that that of KSE's idea of deep powder riding!  And then we have the group like we had on Friday.  They were not afraid to get stuck, did not want to make it happen on purpose, but did have fun, got stuck and then were also good at pitching in and helping Dave and I get the sleds unstuck.
    Of course with all the fun riding and digging out we needed to take a few rest stops and the weather on Friday was perfect for that.  A bit of sun, some clouds, light winds and temps in the low 20's.  That rest stop just so happened to be right next to a little play spot.  There are not too many areas were jumping can be done up here.  All the logging roads are flat like a regular road.  There may be a berm that one could jump if they wanted to, but we usually do not do anything that dangerous on a KSE ride.  But this spot Dave knew about did have some fairly nice jumping spots as Dave demonstrates here.  If you every wondered why you never see me in a jumping photo, you can read about why in the Feb 2001 journal entry.  But the short answer is my jumping career ended in the hospital.  I'm actually not afraid to get hurt, to me it is just not worth risking the season.  If I could be OK in 24 hours after any accident, then I would endure any of the pain associated with the accident.  To me the worst part about my accident was sitting out most of Feb, all of March and all of the April riding done that year and it was some great riding to boot!  That to me was pure torture and I want to make sure I never have to do it again!
    At any rate, we had fun playing in the fields, doing some jumping, climbing some hills and of course getting stuck.  The KSE season is actually reaching the home stretch.  We usually stop booking tours at the middle of March.  We still have tons of snow down up here, but it gets hard to count on what most folks would expect when riding on one of our tours because the amount of fresh snow can start to become more limited.  We usually have a pretty big storm sometime during the last 2 weeks of March, but booking a few weeks in advance of that time is really risky business.  Besides the guides like to have that second half of March free to play and this year we are all heading out to Wyoming to play.  They have not had the best season out there, but we never were going out for the powder (we have plenty of that right here in our own backyards!), we were heading out for the terrain and scenery.
    We only had one KSE tour booked yesterday, so most of the guides and I took a drive up to Matt's and did some goofing around in his "back yard", actually where that shot was taken was either his or his uncles back yard.  That was me doing some sidehilling through the trees.  The photo does not really do justice as to how steep it was, but at that moment if I had not been hanging off the right hand running boards the sled probably would have taken a roll.  If you look at where the trees intersect the snow, you can get a better idea of how steep it was there.  We did get back down into more level terrain and played on some logging roads up by Matt's and eventually made it up to Lac La Belle so that some of the guys could partake in the races they had going on, while others (with slow sleds like mine!) could enjoy a nice lunch!  There is still a ton of snow down up here and it gets deeper the further north you head.  For those of you wondering just how deep here is your answer.  There was about 4 1/2 - 5 feet of snow on top of that poor shed.  It's always neat to come across something like that while riding.  It really shows how much snow you are riding on top of.
    Of course everytime we get a significant number of our "crew" together for a ride, you can almost expect to see some mishaps and yesterday was no exception.  Matt took us to a spot where there was a multi tiered hill climb and it has been untouched the whole season.  It did not take long for there to be tracks on about every square inch of it and in the course of things, BJ managed to find a stump and that did some remodeling to his trailing arm.  Brian also developed a leak in his coolant system sometime during yesterday's ride, but they were both able to get the sleds back to home base and I am sure both will be back to 100% in a day or two.
    I sure plan to get some riding in this week.  With all the fresh snow looking to be on the way I can't pass up the opportunity!  Matt has a tour tomorrow, but then we are talking about heading out Tue or Wed or maybe I can twist his arm to do both if the snow is sweet enough.  The big powder days are limited as we head through March and I think we need to take full advantage of them when they come.  I will be sure to bring the cam along and share some of my exploits with you.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -

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Feb 21-
    Mmmmm....It's getting pretty nice out there!  Snows have returned to the Keweenaw and it may not be bottomless powder, but you do have to look pretty hard to find the bottom!  I have been a lucky guy getting lots of saddle time lately.  The only problem is that I have also been battling a cold since early last week.  Not a bad cold, but enough of one to wear me down.  I did take a full day of rest on Sunday and today's ride was a nice relaxing 1/2 day KSE trip and I feel pretty good right now and thing I am on the road to recovery.
    In my last writing I talked about how we had been skunked by the LES during the middle to end of last week.  Well, we did end up with around 4" Friday night and then another inch or so on Saturday, then Sunday we got hit with about 7-8" of snow and it snowed lightly all day today with another 1/2" or so of snow.  So with last weeks couple of inches and the foot plus we picked up since Friday evening things are starting to get really nice out there again.  The forecast looks pretty good too, so I better hurry up and get feeling better so I can get some serious play time in.  It was all I could do to not overdo it today coming across some fields filled with a foot to 15" of untouched powder.  I did get a bit of carving in, but took it easy.
    Saturday's riding was round two of the video shoot.  Last time Rick was up the snow was settling and the carving was not so hot, so he was hoping to come back up and get some more footage of us carving once we had some decent snow.  Too bad we could not have done the shooting today as it was almost perfect, another 4-6" of snow on top of the base created by the thaw at the end of January and it would have been just perfect.  The snow we got Friday night really saved my hide as I would have felt really bad about having Rick and the crew come up all the way from Chicago and not have the conditions I was forecasting!  They have a good time riding with us anyway, but it is about getting a job accomplished and not just goofing around in the back country.  The snow Saturday was deep enough to do some carving as Brian illustrates in this shot and Ted shows in this one.  I could not believe how tired I would get doing some carving.  We each took a few runs coming up the field.  The field was probably about 300 yards long and we could make about 5 nice sweeping carves up and by the time I reached the end of the field I was about ready to pass out!  That head cold really was zapping my energy.
    Some of the other footage Rick got was to attach the helmet cam on someone and then let us just do our thing going down a logging road or other clearing through the road.  It will be interesting to see how that all turned out.  We did not have time to review the raw footage from Saturday's shoot, but I have a feeling it will be pretty cool.  In one instance Dave was wearing the helmet cam and I was riding on one side with Teddy on the other.  All of the sudden Ted catches some big air and Dave was looking at him and riding along side the whole time.  Some of the areas we were going is like a snowcross track, only with smaller jumps.  So you just cruise down this trail and catch air about every 2-4 seconds and there was 6 of us doing it all right next to each other.  I wish there was a way to rig up my still camera to take shots remotely, I'm sure you all would be pretty entertained by what goes on when our crew gets together.
    There were some more "relaxed" moments on Saturday's ride, like when we came along a logging road that was yet to be touched in the past week or so.  That is until we got to it and put a few tracks on it.  That was just Matt's, Brian's and my tracks.  The other 10 sleds had not been through yet, they were wondering where Al had gone missing.  Turns out he was stuck in a swampy area after taking a wrong turn and noone had seen him do that.  Of course as nice as that untouched logging road looked, there can be hidden surprises waiting for you.  Some of these roads just dead end, others head off in the wrong direction and some have what we like to call "sippy holes".  That was Rick's RS Vector doing it's submarine imitation.  Any deeper and we would have had to break out the mask and snorkel to find it.  We tied a few ropes to the front suspension and it took about 5-6 guys pulling to get it out.  As Nora and I were looking at the pics for this journal entry she commented on how he was lucky to not have any of his equipment in a saddle bag!  He has two cameras and they are each worth several thousand dollars, maybe even 10 thousand.  When we were pulling it out I never even thought about that, but it was a very good thing they were not kept on the back of his sled.  He actually keeps them in a special backpack he wears.
    As I mentioned earlier, yesterday we had a pretty good snow storm up here.  I think the lake helped us out because we got a whole lot more than we were suppose to.  I did not take a close look at things prior to the storm hitting, but I know the local forecast from the NWS was for around 2-3" and we ended up with 7.  Here is a shot taken yesterday early evening, with about 7" of fresh on my street.  Could have almost done some powder riding down it yesterday.  It's a rare occasion that they plow the side streets in town in the evening.  They will, but it has to be a really big storm.  They do plow in the morning, almost like clockwork.  The plow will come rolling down my street right around 6:15.  I did manage to clear my driveway yesterday evening, but had to get back out there and take care of the 2 foot plow banks that were deposited this morning.  I can say it sure feels good to be using the snowthrower again!  That's one thing I don't mind doing at all.  It means we are getting good snow and that means good snow play.
    One the KSE ride today, there were more than a few times I was glad to have been riding a long track.  The snow was not super deep, but bumper deep is enough to get most short tracks stuck.  I have learned that as long as I park on flat ground there really is no snow that it too deep to get the RMK stuck.  Now, if I were to park it going up hill, that is a different story!  But I have parked my sled, got off it and sank up to my chest in snow.  It is quite difficult to get back on the sled when your are eye level with the running boards, but once on the sled and giving it some throttle the track digs, hooks up and moves the sled before it can get stuck.  Really a nice feeling after getting stuck about a thousand times on the old Pol-Cat on flat ground!  The ride went well, no real serious stucks, lots of fresh snow to play in and the scenery was not too bad either.  That's why we call it a scenic ride.  I think that one deserved a full sized version.
    Well, I guess that just about does it for this one.  I would like to remind you all that you can hear me interviewed on Sled Head Radio.  Right now my interview is the current one, but will also be available on Nick's archives once he makes this weeks new show available.  Check it out, it's pretty cool and I really hope his concept takes off.  So now I am all out of things to say.  With the forecast looking good I am going to get a good nights sleep and kick my little head cold in the rear end, so I can go out and have tons of fun and share my experiences with you.  Stay tuned!
-JD -
Feb 18-
    Wow...something really stinks around here.  I wonder if something is rotting in the garbage, nope.  Maybe I have something stuck to the bottom of my boot, nope.  Oh, I know what it is-  It was my snowfall forecast for the Keweenaw in the past 2 days!  Yep, quite the stink bomb!  Oh well, what's a guy to do?  Lake effect forecasting is the hardest thing there is and it's not the first time, nor will it be the last time that a lake effect snow forecast will go down the wrong path.  I guess that I can take some comfort that I was not alone in my missed call.  Just about every forecast I read for the region was along the same lines as me and I even had less snow forecasted than others.  I really should have learned by now that when a LES event does not start well at all, then chances are it's not going to finish well either.  That has happened so many times I can't even count them all.  There was a burst Wed night that seemed like the forecast was on the right track and I think that was the head fake that got me to bite.  There were some areas that have picked up more than I have and are much closer to the 8-15" that should have fallen by now.  In fact reports of up to 9" new from the Twin Lakes area and up in northern Keweenaw County too.  I have picked up about 5" so far.  There is another burst coming tonight and tomorrow and it does look like we could even see some LES fall tomorrow night and early Sunday, so all hope has not been lost yet.
    It does seem like the snow we got Monday and then Wed and yesterday has been enough to get the conditions on the trails in better shape.  At least the snow it not sugar anymore.  I have not been on the trail a ton, but did do some riding Monday, Wednesday and again yesterday and all the trails I was on those days were OK.  It's going to be a busy weekend though, with other areas hurting for snow and it also being a holiday weekend for some this place will be hopping.  I just pray that it will be a safe one for everyone.
    I will be doing some riding this weekend as well.  Rick Dobson and crew are on their way up to shoot some more video.  The plan was to come up and get some good powder riding shots in and that might be a bit more of a challenge than it was suppose to if we don't get another 6" of fresh by tomorrow midday.  There is already about 5-8" of fresh out there and another 6" would be plenty.  If not, I am sure that the guys will be able to provide Rick with usable footage.  I'm just looking forward to getting out with the guys again.  Seems like the only time we get together as a group is when we are doing a video shoot!  KSE has really been busy this year and it seems like everyone in our pack is going their own way with a group of smiling tourists behind them every weekend.  Things will be slowing up in March so I'm sure we will be doing some more group rides then, plus we have the Wyoming trip at the end of March.  Three days of mountain riding!  Speaking of which, I was glad to see them get back into a snowier pattern earlier this week.  They look to get some more fresh snow this weekend then it looks to quiet down some for next week.  I am not worried about having powder for our trip.  We booked things so late in March that it was never an important thing.  We get quite a bit of powder riding in up here!  Of course you can never have too much powder riding!  My hope is that there is still plenty of stable snow for us to go wherever we want.  Only time will tell.
    Well, as mentioned I have been doing some riding the past few days.  Monday I took my first solo KSE ride of the season.  Just a half day and I was glad for the fresh snow.  Just 4", but it was enough to cover things up and make for a smoother ride.  Wednesday I hooked up with some guys I have become friends with through the website.  Jim F has helped me design the site and is also a moderator on the General Discussions page.  He and his dad were up for a multi day saddlebag trip.  Skylar (another moderator on the General Discussions) and his brother were up for a few days of riding, so we all hooked up at the gas station in Lake Linden and I took them through the back country up into Keweenaw County.  When we left the sun was out and it really was suppose to be snowing.  Then as we traveled north and made it into Keweenaw County we did hit a little bit of light snow and almost as quick as it started snowing, it stopped again and the sun came out for another brief period.  Then as we were getting ready to head out of the bush and back into civilization it really started to come down, so I stopped, hopped off my sled and snapped a shot of the group in a whiteout.  We picked up an inch or so of snow in 15 minutes and then it stopped again!  We parted ways with Jim and his dad as they were on their way to Copper Harbor to spend the night and Skylar, his brother and I headed back to Lake Linden and had dinner at the Zone.  While having dinner it started to show pretty heavily again and seemed to keep going longer than the burst we had experienced earlier.  It actually kept up for an hour or two and we picked up about 2-3", then it backed off to just some lighter snow showers.  We did get at least one more burst of heavy snow because at midnight Baileys had to go out and when I let her out it was another whiteout.
    I awoke to about 3-4" new on Thursday morning and then it tried to snow hard enough to accumulate all day yesterday but really could not get fully going.  Our two problems yesterday were that the wind was out of the N/NW and that puts Isle Royal in the airs path as it crosses Lake Superior.  The isle not only takes up some of the waters surface that would normally provide heat and moisture, but it also disrupts the low level wind flow enough to impact the LES.  They way I figure it, if Isle Royal were not there, the Keweenaw would probably see about 30 more inches of snow a season than we do already.  I'm all for keeping the island now that it's there, but sometimes wish it were about 100 miles to the east!
    Yesterday's riding was with Skylar and his brother again and this time I went south of the bridge to see what the back country riding down there is all about.  I have been down there in the backcountry in the summer and autumn, so I do know that there is some great terrain, but was excited to see it from a sled.  We all met up at the Wildlife Refuge Cabins, the owners Dave and Lori were kind enough to let me park my truck and trailer at their place (it was a little quicker for me to drive down in the truck than to ride by sled).  From there we headed south and were heading off into the bush.  Skylar sure has learned his way around down there and it was a ton of fun to be riding in a new area and just following the leader rather than leading the pack.  The conditions could not have been much better.  Between Monday's snow and the snow that had been falling down there since Wed afternoon there was about 10" of fresh snow in the woods and some spots had more as my bumper was pushing it at times.  There were plenty of opportunities for some great photos, but I have to confess that we were having too much fun to stop and take too many shots.  Here is a shot of Skylar (on the left) and his brother at a quick stop we made.  Here is a great example of what we got to ride on all afternoon yesterday.  Like I said, it does not get much better than that!
    Skylar found some hills for us to all get stuck on and I even managed to rip the back of my belly pan protector loose somehow.  I did not even notice it until we made a pit stop at Krupps.  Thankfully Richard Krupp has a pole barn full of tools and he let us pull my sled in and get the skid plate riveted back into place.  With my repair taking up some time and me fighting a cold we decided to just head back north and call it a day.  We stopped off at the Mosquito Inn and had a quick bite before heading up to South Range and my truck and trailer.  That was actually my first time in the Mosquito!  I've only been living here close to 6 years and never had been in there until now.  Of course most of the time I am going by the place I am heading somewhere in the truck and not really wanting to stop, so I guess it makes some sense.  We had a great ride and I may have to see about setting up Skylar with a branch office for KSE.  I know one thing and that is I hope to ride with him down there the next time he comes up!
    Well, I am out of photos and out of things to say.  I will be bringing my camera along on the video shoot tomorrow and Sunday if we do some shooting that day, so I am sure that I will have some pictures and stories to share.  Never a dull moment when we get the whole gang together! So, until next time-
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 13-
    Busy times!  It seems hard to believe that I last wrote on Tuesday and now here it is Sunday already.  I must have been having fun because time has just flown by.  I was actually hoping to get out a journal on Friday.  It was Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival this past week and Nora and I got over to see the snow statues Friday evening.  I did take lots of pictures and was hoping to share that all with you on Friday, but we ended up getting home too late and all I had energy to do was go to sleep!  One of the side effects of waking up at 4:30 in the morning every day.
    This years winter carnival theme was "A Frozen Commotion from the Depths of the Ocean".  Every year they come up with a different theme for the statues to be created for and every year the statues never fail to amaze me.  I keep thinking that one of these years I will go to view them and just sort of think that they were good, but nothing too special.  That has yet to happen!  Before I get onto my photos of the statues, I have to apologize for their quality.  It was around 5:30-6 pm when Nora and I went to view them and the sky had a heavy overcast, so there was not much light to illuminate the statues.  I did my best to retouch them in photoshop, but the details are not as good as if it were sunny out when I took them.  At any rate, this was the first statue that we came across.  I do not remember the title to it, but some pretty intricate forming going on there.  Here is another shot of that one from a different angle.  This next one had the theme of a classroom.  Perhaps a play on the word "school" (fish and college).  You could see a chalkboard with a math formula on it.  Here is one where a giant squid is having it's way with some divers trying to get their hands on a few treasure chests.  The images I take from a distance do not always show the level of detail that goes into these statues.  So I also like to zoom in on some of the details.  Like the skeleton and the treasures made of ice in the giant squid statue.  Here is a giant puffer fish.  Not sure what the title to this one was, but there was a person playing a grand piano, a globe and some folks waving in it!  No question about the theme behind this next one, meal time!  Not sure what an oxen drawn cart has to do with the depths of the ocean, but I'm sure it actually did fit in somehow!  Here is one that is so well done you might expect it to be made of something other than snow!  The 20,000 leagues under the sea theme was used in one of the statues.  If you look, that one is actually close to 2 stories high.
    Speaking of 2 stories high, this one actually was 2 stories high or even a bit more.  That was actually just the back of the statue, here is the front.  The theme to that one was Atlantis.  Not only was that statue massive in size, there was also quite a bit of detail to it, like some horse drawn chariots in the frieze work of the building, some fountains flanking either side and even some bowls of fruit at the market.  Those were not glass bowls, they were made of ice.  Everything has to be made of snow/ice in these statues and the only coloring that can be done to the snow/ice is on the letters for the titles of the statues.  One last shot to give you a better idea of the size of that one.  Here is another very well done statue whose title escapes me!  Of course what would an ocean theme statue building event be without a tribute to the great Sponge Bob.  Here is another of S.B.
    That covers mine and Nora's viewing of the statues this year.  We did not get a chance to tour all of them, but MTU has done a great job of capturing them with a camera and making the images available at their website.
    The other event that has kept me busy the past few days was some friends from Illinois and Wisconsin came up to ride.  One is a very good friend of mine (Mike) that I went to high school with and did a lot of hanging around with.  Most of the time we had hockey sticks in our hands, be it at the rink or some street or park playing street hockey.  He brought his friend Gordy who I have met before during their last visit up here.  Here they are (Mike is on the right) Saturday morning at the start of our snowmobile adventure.  I did not have any bottomless powder for them to play in, but we did find some untracked logging roads to ride in and with the snow being so firm, we could also go anywhere we wanted to, and that included just riding through the woods on no path at all.  It's really neat to have the snow so firm that you actually do not even need a road to follow.  We did spend most of our time on a logging road or other path through the woods, but did manage to get off the beaten path as well.
    With the snow so firm, they could climb the hills through the trees pretty easily as well.  They may have thought it was not that easy, but I am hoping they can make it up again this year when there is lots of fresh powder down to see what climbing the hills is like with no bottom to the snow!  On Saturday we managed to make it as far north as Phoenix and then back to Lake Linden before dark.  They had to leave by about midday today, but we still took in some of the sights to be seen here in the Traprock Valley. This is what happens when you do not shovel your roof!
    Speaking of shoveling the roof, mine is currently free of all snow, but I would not be surprised that I find myself having to clear it off in a few weeks.  Looks like we could be getting into quite a snowy period for at least the next 10 days, maybe the rest of the month.  We sure do need some fresh snow.  We did not ride the trails too much this weekend, but actually came across the groomer in the 3-4 miles of trail we did ride and the snow is so sugary that it really did not make much of a difference.  With the snow so sugary the bumps cannot get too large either, but they do form almost immediately.  It looks like we could get anywhere from 4-6" of wet and heavy snow tonight and tomorrow, then get into the lake effect for the rest of the week and weekend.  If the conditions permit we may even have round two of video taping up here.  I know Rick was hoping to get back up here if we got hit hard and it sure looks like we will be hit hard.  If not, I am sure that the crew will be riding this weekend!  I will be riding this week as well and will be sure to take some shots of my adventures.
    I have one last item to cover before I sign off.  There is a person that has started an internet broadcasting service.  He produces a weekly "podcast" as it is called.  This morning I spent about 30 minutes doing an interview with him that will be available for free download this coming Wednesday evening.  You can go to sledheadradio.com to listen to my interview and also listen to the shows he has already done this season.  It's a really neat idea and I hope it takes off for him.
    I think that about covers it for this one.  If all plays out as it is suppose to in the weather, my next journal should have some shots of fresh snow up here.  Perhaps lots of it!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 8-
    Well, it started snowing soon after I finished my last journal and has been snowing pretty much straight through since.  There have been a few momentary lulls in the action, but all in all we seem to have settled back into winter around here.  Not a ton of snow has fallen since Sunday afternoon, about 3-4" at my house.  Some areas have picked up considerably more.  Northern Keweenaw County seems to be the big winners so far and I would not be surprised to hear that they are closing in on a foot of new snow since Sunday afternoon.  I know that spots up there picked up about 2" Sunday night and then picked up 7" last night and I did make a trip up there this afternoon and it looks like a few more inches have fallen since the 7" was reported this morning.  I can say it looked like full blown winter up there again, with the trees all flocked, snow falling and most of the roads covered, even Hwy 41.  Down here in northern Houghton County the main roads are still clear of snow, the road traffic and road crews have been seeing to that.  However, the secondary roads are all snow packed again and I am glad for that.  No more carbides on the pavement for me!
    The main purpose of this journal is to show you all the conditions of some of the trails up here.  This afternoon I took a drive down to Hancock and then doubled back through Lake Linden up to Phoenix before returning home.  I did this all in the truck as I figured I could cover more ground in it than in the sled.  So all my shots were taken at the road crossings.  It is quiet enough up here that I was actually able to walk down the trail 50 or so feet and snap some of the shots, but the bottom line is that I was not able to get deep into the woods to take the shots, nor was I able to cover all the trails up here, but I think I have a pretty good representation of things.
    As mentioned, I shot south to Hancock for my tour this afternoon.  I actually drove the truck down to where the trail crosses the Portage Lake Lift bridge.  One of my concerns was that the snow mat they put down there for the snowmobiles to use was done away with in the warm temps we had last week and over the weekend.  It's still there.  It looks a little thinner than it was, but still plenty deep enough to get a sled across and I saw some groomer tracks coming off of it as well, so they are grooming under there too.  So for those not wanting to shoot the lake across, the trail going across the bridge is still quite passable.
    I then headed back north on M 26 heading to Lake Linden.  The trail follows the highway for about 3-4 miles and sometimes that stretch of trail can be pretty thin due to heavy sled volume, being exposed to the full sun and also somewhat exposed to road treatments.  There was also plenty of snow on the trail in that section.  I will say that the snow there was pretty sugary and not the best to hold a grooming, but the depth of the snow on the trail was still over a foot deep.  By sugary I mean the snow is more like a snow cone, or tiny ice pellets rather than crystals that can be packed to stick to each other.  In that shot you can see M 26 off on the left hand side.
    My next stop up the trail was at the good old Normand Road Crossing.  I say it that way because that is the spot that is closest to our house and thus is a spot that I go to many times to check the conditions of the trails.  The trail there had less sugar snow and more crystalline snow, but still enough sugar snow that a grooming would not hold as long as it might normally.  The trail in that area did not have too many bumps on it, but was not as flat as a pool table either.
    Heading further north I came to a spot where the trail crosses a road a little north of Copper City and the Drift Inn.  There are a few more twists and turns at this part of the trail system.  Plus it is the main corridor to get to and from the mix of trails in Houghton County and those in Keweenaw County.  You can also head out to Gay and take the Gay to Lac La Belle trail to get from Houghton to Keweenaw County, but for most folks that looks to be too long of a route, especially when heading up to Copper Harbor.  So lots of folks take the trail that goes through Copper City and Mohawk up to Phoenix.  As a result of the traffic and turns, that section of trail ends up being one of the bumpiest sections up here.  With all that I saw on my adventures today, that title held true.  The bumps were not that big, about 6-8", but still bumps.  A bit further up the trail is a spot that I also like to go to in order to find any bare spots.  There is a section of trail that forms an "S" curve right where the old Gay-Mohawk trail used to come in that ends up getting worn down faster than any other section of trail that I know about.  So I go there to see how any bare spots might be developing.  Well, the "S" curve was not bare, but lots of sugar snow and a few bumps.
    After that I got onto 41, drove through Mohawk and then up to Phoenix.  The one thing I noticed when I was going through Mohawk was that they received more snow than we did down here.  Looked to be around 4-5" fresh, maybe more.  It was also snowing heavier on my trip than I had experienced all afternoon.  So heavy that Hwy 41 was covered with snow.  The trees had a heavier flocking as well.  I eventually reached the location where the trail crosses Hwy 41 south of the Cliff View and Vansville (fsv) and finally found a section of trail where there was not too much sugar snow.  This was a section that did walk down about 50 feet, just to see how packed the snow was a little away from the road crossing.  The snow was a little loose, but mainly because of sled traffic.  With a grooming it would pack down pretty nicely.  You can also see how flocked the trees were at that point as well as how heavily it was snowing when I was there.  Some sleds came down the trail as I was turning around and they looked to be coming at a pretty decent speed and the headlights were not dancing around too much, so the trail was in at least OK shape.
    I hope that helps you all out on the conditions up here.  Not the worst, but not the best.  We could still use about another 4-5" of snow to make all perfect by the weekend.  I doubt that we will get it, but it does look like a little bit more will fall in the next 36 hours, maybe even half that 4-5" amount.  I have been checking the models during the day and some still say not much of a warm up this weekend, while others that I trust more are calling for temps to rise above freezing this weekend.  They all are still calling for a slug of arctic air to visit next week, which could give us a pretty good hammering of LES.  So I never like to tell someone "If it's worth coming up" because what might be worth it for you may not be worth it for me, or vise versa.  Hopefully the pictures will allow you all to make up your own minds.  I guess that covers it for this one.
-JD -
Feb 6-
    Man, it seems like weeks ago since I last wrote and months since our last snow.  Neither is true, only 72 hours ago I was writing my last journal and 7 days ago we had out last flakes of snow fall.  In my last journal I talked at great length about how my mood had not been impacted by the lack of new snow and more importantly the thaw that was underway.  I think I will stay off that subject now.  Not that my mood has changed dramatically.  I am not what you would call a happy camper, but seeing as though we went from awesome late January conditions to more like early April conditions in less than a week, plus the forecast does not look to bring us a ton of new snow- I am in fairly good spirits.  The reason why I am going to avoid the subject (for the most part) is that the powers that be seem to take it as a challenge to bring my mood down.  Last April I wrote about how good I was handling the thaw and how good my spirits were and then my world was turned upside down by almost losing Baileys to her bout with pancreatitis.  I talked last Thursday about how my mood was amazingly good and then the forecast changes and takes out the monster storm for this week and replaces it with just some light snows from time to time.  If memory serves me correctly I have also commented on my good fortune or mood only to be presented with something that makes it very challenging to find the bright side of life for a while.  So I'm hanging in there, but would sure love a foot of new snow!
    I really am amazed at how warm it got across the Northwoods these past few days.  45 was the max temp at Houghton County Airport, but I hit 48 on Friday.  If that was not impressive enough northern WI rose into the low 50's and even the "Icebox of the Nation" International Falls hit 49 degrees!  Forgive me Embarrass, I know you are actually colder than the falls most times, but that title of icebox of the nation has been hard for the falls to lose!
    Seeing as how we have been in the 40's for the past 4 days and had lots of sunshine for 3 of them, the snowpack up here has managed to hang on pretty good.  I have lost about 7-8" in my backyard since it all started about 6 days ago and I would say that most areas up here did the same.  I went for a ride Friday afternoon and it was actually pretty fun.  It felt very much like a spring ride in April.  Temps in the mid to upper 40's, lots of sun and soft snow.  All I wore was a pair of fleece pants and then my bibs, a fleece sweatshirt and my Klim jacket, my open face helmet and a pair of sunglasses.  I did wear gloves, but really could have done without them.  As mentioned, the snow was soft, but ride able.  Having it soft allows for it to hit the heat exchangers and keep the machine cool.  I am a bit worried about when things freeze back up tonight, if we do not get much new snow, the trips may be punctuated by many stops to let the sled cool down.  On my way back Friday I took the groomed trail from around Mohawk back down to Lake Linden and actually came across the groomer heading south towards Lake Linden.  The groomer was not using the blades of the drag, just the back portion to help flatten and then pack down the snow.  It was doing a pretty decent job, but the snow was so soft that the grooming was not going to hold that long.  I understand that they did go out Friday night and talked to some folks that rode Saturday and they said the trails Sat morning were actually very good (at least the ones they rode on).
    I also have heard from some folks that encountered some bare spots, so all is not a bed of roses on the trails up here, but I think it is important that they were at least out trying to make any improvements to the conditions they can.  I think that any reasonable person will be just happy to see the groomers out trying their best rather than complain about how things are.  And if you are one of those folks that feel the need to complain about conditions when the temps are in the 40's and the sun is shinning- Well... you have obviously mistaken the rest of us for persons that care about your opinion!!!
    It will be interesting to see what kind of conditions things get in once we cool off.  The cold air is on it's way as I type.  The temp has dropped about 7 degrees in the past 2 1/2 hours and places off to our west are actually in the teens and 20's.  It even looks to me that snow is falling on the Mercer NCN cam.  I can't see the flakes, but the trees off in the distance have a lighter shade to them, which could only be caused by fog or snow.  We actually have some light rain falling, but after all we have been through, the little bit of rain in the next hour or two is not going to mean anything to conditions.  I just hope we can pick up some snow tonight and tomorrow and freshen things up a little.  The snow by the roads is that nasty brown that we get in the spring and the roads in my neighborhood are a mix of asphalt and patches of ice/slush/snow.  That actually has to be one of the worst things for me personally.  I am not used to hearing my carbides rub along the pavement.  I can usually get at least 3-4 seasons out of a set and have yet to have to change a set of hyfax for my rear suspension since moving up here.
    It really is strange how much it feels like April right now.  In fact it is very hard for me to even picture winter returning.  I know it will, it is only early February and we have at least 4-6 weeks of true winter weather left and could have as much as 8 left in the system.  However, we have been having early April weather for 4 days now and it just seems to have brainwashed me!  I suppose when we get some new snow and the temps are back in the teens and 20's then the brainwashing will wear off, but for now it seems like Spring.
    Nora, the hounds and I did take a trip to the north shore yesterday for our afternoon walk.  About a week ago I was very interested to see how much ice might be on the big lake and was pleased when I saw that little to none existed.  There is a bit of ice packed in right along the shoreline and the big lake with its big waves have been busy forming ice castles, but the rest of the lake is wide open for business as soon as Canada decides she is ready to share some of her cold with us.  On the way home we passed by the Laurium Glacier.  It did not look as large as I had thought it would.  Granted it's still early in the season and it will likely grow in size, but up until a week ago we really did have a large amount of snow on the ground and there has also been quite a bit of wind to help form the gigantic drift.  I'll try and keep you all posted on it's growth until it's time to start guessing in a month or so.
    My last order of business is a plug for the store.  You know, I have been told that the number of orders for Feb has been very slow so far and I wonder if there might be a connection to that fact and the weather we have been having since Feb 1st.  I'm not going to try and scare you all into purchasing your ThinkSnow/JohnDee.com merchandise, but up here we are all wearing our stuff in hopes that it will change this weather around.  If you haven't ordered your merchandise yet, there is no better time than the present.  You wouldn't want to be personally responsible for a poor rest of the winter would you?  All you need to do is click on the link in the menu to the left or follow this link.  Keep in mind that all of my profits from the store go to the Copper Country Humane Society to help them build their new and much needed shelter.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
Feb 3-
    I am getting a very early start on this because at 5:30 this evening, the crew is coming over to view the raw footage shot this weekend and Monday.  I have a feeling it will take a few hours to watching everything (we usually replay the best parts over a few times), so I would surely be out of steam to write after watching the footage.  Then tomorrow I plan to do some riding in the afternoon and may not get back until later in the day, so here I am, Thursday afternoon!
    We have been in a thaw for a couple of days now.  I think we actually stayed below freezing until Tuesday, but yesterday touched 40 and today are at 40 right now.  I am actually quite surprised at my attitude through all of this.  I have not been down in the dumps one bit.  I believe there are many factors to this.  For one we still have tons of snow down.  The roads are clearing up, even the side roads, but the trails and back country still have lots of snow.  So it's not like my ability to play in the snow is being impacted all that much.  Plus, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Cooler air will be arriving by Sunday morning and there is the potential for quite a storm early next week.  Even if that storm does not turn out to be a whopper, I think we will get enough snow from later Sunday through next week to more than freshen things up.  So that is likely keeping my spirits boosted.
    I have not been on my sled since Monday, it has been in the garage thawing out.  However, looks like I will be riding tomorrow afternoon and again Saturday and if we do get some decent snow next week, I am sure I will be going out then too.  I am very happy with my amount of riding so far this season.  Seems like I have gotten quite a bit of saddle time since the snows really started to pile up in early December.  I bet that has something to do with my spirits not being too down with the current thaw.  Don't get me wrong, I am not ready to call it a season and I sure hope that we have another 2 1/2 months of riding left, but I am more than satisfied with the amount of riding that I have been able to get in so far this season.  I really need to thank my wonderful wife for that. She gives me Carte Blanche when it comes to me riding my sled.  Says I can go out anytime I want.  I am careful not to abuse her generosity and if we have something planned, then I do not break my promises either, but I do know that she is being more gracious than most wives might be in the same situation and it does not go unnoticed.  THANKS HONEY!!!!!
    I have actually been taking advantage of the thaw a little bit, getting some chores done that the warmer temps have made easier to do.  I compiled a little list of them and I guess you could call it my "When given lemons, make lemonade" list.  For one I was able to get up on the roof and clear the ice dams that were forming on the eves of the roof.  They were not too bad, but Feb and March can be months that allow that sort of thing to get out of hand and now I am starting from square one when it comes to my eves.  The warm temps really loosened up the ice and all I had to do was persuade the ice to come off the shingles a bit and did not have to hack away at it while avoiding damaging the shingles like has to be done other times.  I also washed the truck.  Not by hand, but still I was able to take it to the car wash and get all the road grime off of it.  Of course I am not using it that much right now in an attempt to keep it clean, but at least it is clean!  I also serviced my sled.  I hit all the grease points on the suspension.  The warmer temps allowed me to clear the snow and ice from the rear suspension and made getting to the grease zirts a whole lot easier.  Plus I did not have to work in the bitter cold either.  On Sunday and Monday's ride I did not have to wear my balaclava to keep my head and neck warm while riding.  That's not a huge deal, but it does make it easier to stop, take my helmet off and then put it back on to get ready to ride.  We actually do a lot of that while filming the video.  The last one on my list is that I got a good look at the big lake today via the satellite imagery and there is almost no ice on the whole thing.  Chequamegon Bay north of Ashland is ice covered as are most of Thunder Bay, Black Bay and Nipigon Bay north of Isle Royal, but they always freeze over in every winter.  The other area of ice is Whitefish Bay, which also freezes over every year.  The rest of the lake is wide open and will do it's magic the next time some cold air decides to travel over it.  It was just 2 years ago at this time that I was watching the lake slowly close in with ice and watching the LES machine go bye-bye for the season.  That was a major bummer!
    So in some respects I am thankful for the thaw.  Not happy about it, but there has been a silver lining to it.  The only picture I have to share with you is of the trail up by my house taken about 3 pm today.  The trails are actually in pretty decent shape in most areas.  They are still grooming and traffic has not been to bad this week.  I cannot predict what will happen to them this weekend other than to say that they should stay snow packed.  However, with the temps being mild Fri. and Sat, the grooming will not hold too long, so I would imagine there will be some nice bumps.  So if you were wondering if you should come up this way, my answer is there will be plenty of snow, but probably plenty of bumps too.
    The snow has actually been hanging on pretty good through all of this.  In fact, I was very surprised when I took the hounds for the morning short walk today that the snow was crusty.  Temps had been above freezing all night, even in the mid to upper 30's, but yet the snow had found a way to re-freeze.  It was not calm out either, the winds were blowing strongly out of the west at 15-20 mph, so I have no idea how that snow could have re-froze, but it did!  In all honesty, if (or I should more properly say when) we get more snow, the snow down on the ground is so dense right now, it will make for an awesome base.  Bring some heavy snow in and it will be like a dream come true up here.  2 1/2 - 3 1/2 foot base of hard packed snow with a few feet of powder on top!  Have not had that since the season where I broke my leg and then had to sit it all out!
    Well, I guess that about does it for this one.  I need to wrap things up and get ready for the gang to come over.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -