Past Journals
George's Eagle 
Harbor Web
Pasty Cam

March 29-
    Home Sweet Home!  I can always tell that I have found my true home by the fact that I can go to such a special place as the mountains of northwest Wyoming and still be home sick and be very happy to get back to the good old Keweenaw.  Of course a huge part of that home sickness was missing Nora and the hounds and I am very, very lucky to have found such a wonderful person to share my life with.  She may not catch the front page headlines of this website, but I hope you all understand how much behind the scenes things she does to help make it work.  Her sacrifices of time and her willingness to let me go and have all the fun I have without any questions are just some of the things that she does to allow the site to flourish.  The bottom line is without her things would be a lot different around here- and for the worse.  So thanks honey.  Thanks for helping me out and letting me have so much fun.
    Now about that fun.  The trip out was pretty uneventful.  Three separate flights, two separate airlines, lots of airport walking and 10 hours later and I was checking into the Togwotee Mountain Lodge.  It was amazing how at both the airports where I changed planes I arrived at one end of the airport and had to depart at the other.  Thankfully I had long layovers at both Minneapolis and Salt Lake City and had no problems making my flights.  I arrived in Jackson Hole after dark and did not get to view the scene from the airport.  The Teton range dominates the western horizon and as a matter of fact, I only caught a glimpse of them the whole time I was out there.  Clouds were fairly common over the range all weekend.  So upon arrival, I checked in, called Nora and tried to get some sleep.  However, the combination of being wired from the trip, being in unfamiliar surroundings and being excited for the riding to come kept me from getting too much sleep.  It did not matter, I felt more than ready for some riding when I woke up Friday morning.  After an awesome breakfast (I'll talk more about the amenities the lodge had later on) I walked over to the rental shop to get situated with my sled and guide.  Their season is also drawing to a close (even though they still had tons of snow) and when I walked in, I was the only one in the shop.  I gave them my name and they said they were expecting me and were very friendly while getting me all set.  I was able to meet my guide for the three days, Carter, filled out the paperwork for the rental and then went back to the room to get suited up for the ride.
    My guide Carter has been there the longest.  I believe he has been a guide for about 6-8 years and from the sounds of it, most guides work there about 3-4 years before moving on.  A snowmobile guide is obviously seasonal work and unless you can find a decent summer job, I would imagine it would be hard to make a go at making a decent income in that situation.  Carter does have a decent summer job and also moved out to the Togwotee area years ago after coming out to ride for many years.  So once the paperwork was filled out and I got suited up to ride, we wasted little time in heading off into the back country.  Before we headed out, Carter asked me what kind of a rider I was and all I said is that I too was a guide and anything else I told him would not make a hill of beans of difference until he saw what I was capable of.
    The lodge is situated right on one of the main trails up there, so we took it about a mile or so until we reached a spot where we broke off the trail and headed up into the higher terrain.  I must specify a few things first though.  The lodge is in the mountains and sits at about 8700 feet above mean sea level.  When I speak of the higher terrain out there, I am talking about anything above the lodge level and up to about 10,300 feet, which is about the highest we went.  I can also say that the good snow seems to start around the lodge level, or maybe just a bit below, and then just gets deeper and deeper the higher you go.  In fact it seems like any new snow that fell at the lodge was nearly doubled by the time we went up another 1000 feet or so.  For example Friday night we picked up about 4-5" new at the lodge, but had about 8-10" new by the time we were above about 9500 feet.
    I figured Carter would start me out on some easy stuff and then just ratchet it up until he found my limits, that is the way I would have done it if I was in his shoes.  My suspicions were right, we started out on some very easy and wide open hills just off the trail and then kept climbing, with each set of hills becoming steeper and more technical.  As fate would have it, we got to a pretty steep and deep hill and he actually got stuck before me.  I was able to ride past him, up to the top of the hill, make a U-turn and then come back down, stopping just above him to help get him unstuck.  Make no mistake about it, Carter knows how to ride and there were plenty of times that he rode to my rescue, but we did take turns at getting into various predicaments all weekend!
    It did not take long for me to achieve my first stuck of the day.  We came to a nice hill that had a 10-15 foot drift at the top of it.  My plan was to side hill the lower portion of the hill and then when I got to the drift, tear into it and take a more aggressive line up and over it.  All went well until it came time to tear into the drift.  The sled decided it had other ideas and instead of the track digging into the snow, it just washed out underneath me and this was the result.  Here is a shot looking from the other direction where you can see the hill that needed to be climbed before the drift.  So after being humbled a bit by the drift, we both took a different line up the hill, actually going off to the left and through an opening in the trees that led to one of probably 200 meadows in the area that affords some decent snowplay.  Here is a shot of Carter sitting in one of the meadows.
    After riding for about 30 minutes we took a little break and talked a little about the riding we to back here.  I told him we have some hills around here too, but that they are filled with trees that you have to pick your way through.  A little while later we were picking our way through the pine trees out there, Carter's way of making me feel like I was riding back at home.  The area that we were riding in was called "Game Creek"  I have checked all the topo maps I could get my hands on and did not see an actual creek called Game, but maybe it's just a title the locals give to the area.  We went from one meadow to another, sometimes climbing wide open and steep hills while other times climbing through the trees in terrain that was a little less steep.  We made our way quite nearly to the top of the ridgeline in the Game Creek area and that afforded us a view of the valley we came from with the Breccia Cliffs and Breccia Peak hiding in the clouds off in the distance.
    After playing in the Game Creek (aka. Carter's Creek) area for about 3 hours, we headed back to the lodge and grabbed some lunch.  The Game Creek area is close enough that you can head back to the lodge for lunch and not really burn too much daylight.  So after a great lunch, we were back out on the sleds and this time heading north towards the Breccia Cliffs.  The terrain up that was was quite a bit similar to that found in the Game Creek area, the main difference being you were riding the shadows of the Breccia Cliffs most of the time.  There were a bunch of high alpine meadows just below the cliffs and here is a shot showing part of the meadow we were in, with another off in the distance at the foot of the cliffs.  We played up there for a few hours and then headed back towards the lodge.  They like to have all the sleds (guided or unguided) back to the lodge by 4-4:30 just in case a rescue needs to be made, it does not have to happen at night.  Before fully breaking out of the higher terrain we came across a "Cowboy Camp" fsv.  It is a building that is used in the warm months by cowboys while they are tending to the cattle that feed in the meadows we were playing in.  Notice the camp comes complete with an outhouse which is the small building out in front of the main log cabin?
    We made it back to the lodge by about 4:30, I called Nora to let her know I had not fallen off the side of a mountain or been buried under an avalanche which she was very grateful for.  I then took a shower and headed down to the Grizzly Steakhouse, which is the restaurant in the lodge, for dinner.  I was on the package deal, which includes you room plus the breakfast buffet and ordering off the menu for dinner.  The breakfast buffet (the dining room was actually about 3 times bigger than the image showed, but some folks were eating and I did not want to disturb them and show the whole dining room) included; fresh fruit, yogurt, toast, bagels, scrambled eggs (with or without fillings), hash browns, bacon, ham, sausage, biscuits, gravy, pancakes, french toast, cereal and then of course coffee, milk and juice.  Plus it was all you can eat!  The dinner menu is a full menu including appetizers and entrees like steak, prime rib, BBQ ribs, grilled/fried chicken, fish and pasta.  I made sure to take full advantage of both the breakfasts and dinners and found that I really did not need much more than one of those cheese and crackers containers and a candy bar to tide me over between the huge breakfasts and dinners- even with burning up some huge calories while riding my fanny off.  There is also a happy hour that starts at 5 pm and you can drink tap beer and rail drinks to you hearts content for free, along with snacking on some free appetizers before dinner.
    Being that 7 pm in the Rockies is 9 pm in the Keweenaw and being that I normally am in bed by 9 pm I ended up retiring pretty soon after dinner all the nights I was out there.  Before actually going in after the ride, we filled the sleds with gas and oil for the next day and Carter asked me if I would mind if some locals joined us on our ride Saturday.  Carter assured me that they were all fully capable riders and knowing that more bodies meant more help in getting unstuck (it also meant more stucks in the group) I said that it was fine with me to have the others join us on Saturday.  They arrive in good time and we did not have to wait for them.  We got out soon after 9, with Carter in the lead, myself in 2nd or 3rd spot and then the rest of the crew behind.  Most of the back country riding is done to the south of the lodge.  Maybe southwest, or south or southeast, but the terrain not too far to the north is closed to snowmobiles and if you head west, you head into the valley that Jackson is in and run out of snow.  We headed more easterly when starting out Saturday and began to climb after a bit.  After some trees and a few small meadows, we reached a spot that I do not know if it has an official name, but I think I will just call it "The Playground".  If you are into hill climbing, side hilling or even jumping, this was the spot!  It had it all, all but trees that is.  It was even the sight of the one and only avalanche encountered during the entire trip.  It was touched off by one of the locals from Jackson.  He was side hilling through a ravine and the snow above him broke about 1.5-2 feet deep and the slide ran about 40-50 feet.  He was not caught in it as it broke as he was leaving the slide zone.  I did not even see it happen, but it did cause me to not be the first one into a spot in THAT area!  Looking at that last shot you can also get an idea for how steep much of the terrain was.  In most of the shots things look much less steep than they really were.  Just the way the camera captures things I guess.
    After putting quite a few tracks in the playground we moved on to play in some great terrain.  In fact around our lunch break time we came to an area that was my favorite.  It was like a ski area that had been closed.  There were some 1/2 to 3/4 mile runs up a hill that you put on about 1000 feet of elevation.  Each run through the trees was about 50-100 feet wide and some of them connected with each other just like a ski hills runs would.  The terrain was steep enough that I had to pin the throttle (full speed) right from the start and hold it there the whole way to the top, many times taking me about 2-3 minutes to make it to the top.  All the while the skis never touching the snow and just carving my way up.  After the first run up I asked Carter if I was responsible if the engine blew up and he said no.  I knew I was responsible for any damage done like a cracked windshield or hood, but did not want to hold the throttle wide open for 2-3 minutes if I was responsible for the engine too!  I think I could have stayed in that area for another 2 hours, but after a little back country snack break, we were off to see new things and ride more awesome terrain.  We played on the back side of a mountain called Tripod.  That is where one of the group of locals nailed a tree coming down a steep hill and trashed their bumper and hood mounts.  It was also a spot where one of the locals riding an RMK 900- 166" managed to bury his sled in a snowed in creek bed.  Not always being one to learn from others mishaps, I managed to accomplish the same thing on my RMK 700- 144"!  I had actually just gotten stuck and was still gasping for air after digging out and rather than catching my breath and having a clear head, I hopped on the sled and drove right into that sucker.  I can only imagine the rest of the riders watching me head towards it and think to themselves: why in the heck is he heading towards that river cut?!  I know I would have been thinking that if it were me watching it!
    After some handiwork by myself and a few of the locals we got my sled out of that predicament and did some more exploring.  While the rest of the group took it easy, Carter and I ran up a steep set of hills and were rewarded with the view of the day fsv.  It was from the top (actually just below the top) of a mountain called Two Ocean.  The view was actually up the valley towards the lodge.  The twin peaks on the right hand side is actually Angle Mountain and is the mountain that you see in the background of the Togwotee Mountain Lodge's webcam in my NCN.  After climbing to the top of Two Ocean, we were running out of both daylight and gas and headed it back to the lodge.  I have no idea how many miles we put on, but I do know that the sleds do not use nearly as much gas in that elevation as they do in our elevation.  They also do not make nearly as much power.  The 700 cc engine I was riding felt more like a 440 or 500 cc engine does back here.  I think if I were living out there I would have nothing shorter than a 156" track and nothing smaller than a supped up 700 cc engine.  Anything smaller and you really cannot go to some of the places that would be most fun if the snow were totally bottomless.  We had about 1-1.5 feet of powder, but we also had a bottom in most of the places were were riding.
    Come Sunday it was back to just Carter and I riding.  I also realized I was having so much fun riding that I really was not taking as many pictures as I should have and also wanted to get some video footage.  I had brought the video camera along Fri and Sat, but because my rental did not have a windshield or handle bar bag I had to stick it in the trunk and then stuff a spare fleece jacket in there to protect it from bouncing around.  All of that was just too much of a pain to take out and pack back up every time I wanted a shot, so I just left the video cam in the lodge on Sunday and brought the digital still that can also take a short movie.  It was amazing that all weekend, almost everywhere we went we were making fresh tracks.  The area had received snow in the 7-10 days leading up to my arrival, but I think because the area is so abundant with back country play areas and Carter is so knowledgeable with where to go I was treated to the best riding conditions that could be had while I was out there.  Anyway, my first picture on Sunday was just to show you that our two tracks were the only ones made in the areas we rode in almost all weekend.
    By Sunday afternoon both Carter and I were starting to feel all the miles and digouts we had done in the past 2 1/2 days and so the riding was not quite as aggressive, but that did not mean it was any less fun.  We found plenty of meadows to put tracks in as I demonstrate in this video and in part two.  Here is another shot of a meadow with just our tracks in it.  The light was too flat to actually pick up our tracks, but believe me, our two tracks were the only ones in this whole open space on the mountain.  Here is another video of me playing in the powder up there.  The riding on Sunday was not done in all flat terrain.  In fact we came to a nice little shoot where I was able to get up and make first tracks in.  I stopped about half way down to take a picture of itCarter was next up and actually ended up getting stuck right near the 2/3rds of the way to the top point.  I shot back down the hill and came up to help him out and ended up doing something stupid by thinking about stopping near him, then realizing I too would get stuck if I was still pointing up hill when I stopped by him.  When I tried to get going again, I ended up burying my sled about 20 feet from his!
    We than came to a hill that looked to be a lot of fun to climb, but I was warned by Carter that the top of this run might be prone to an avalanche, so we just took some turns side hilling it.  That shot was taken after only two side hills were made, but in the end I think we made about 3 runs each.  The sun was trying to peak it's head out just as we came to another alpine meadow so I tried to snap a shot of it while the sun was out.  There were a few more places to try our hand at side hilling, and then we made one more rush for the high ground where we had a little break and snack and I snapped a series of shots that I compiled into a panorama.  On the way back down we came to a spot where Brooks Mountain (one in the back) and Pinnacle Butte were in view.
    Once again time and gas were running running out and we headed back to the lodge.  But I felt fully satisfied that I had gotten in a solid 3 days of mountain riding and hope that I am fortunate enough to get to do it again next year.  I cannot say enough about the hospitality of everyone at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge.  All the way from the managers to the wait staff, they really take pride in their work and go out of their way to make you feel like you are part of their family.  Even though I was there for just a short few days, many of them were calling me by my first name, something I usually do not experience at other large lodges.  Some advice to anyone that is planning on going out.  If you want to ride the back country get a guide for sure.  For one, he will know the best spots to take you.  Secondly, he will know where not to take you (avalanche risk, dead end gullies, etc...)  Also, leave the short tracks at home if you plan to ride the back country out there.  You will not be able to go too far without burying your short track real good once you stray too far off the groomed trails- I don't care how good a rider you are.  That is just not short track country.  You can bring a short track if you plan to ride the 675 miles of trails they have in the region and just like anywhere else, if you can read a map you do not need a guide.  Although Togwotee does offer guides to take you on the groomed trails as well.  I would also strongly recommend signing up for the package deal that includes your lodging and food.  You will come out ahead because of the meals included and take it from a fussy eater, the food is excellent!  Also keep this in mine, their worst winter is like an average Keweenaw winter.  So that means that there is plenty of fresh and deep powder almost any day from Christmas to mid-late March.  Plus, many locales in the Rockies have their snowiest month in March, so just like the Keweenaw, don't write off that month as far as heading out.  Some of the locals I was riding with on Saturday said that in an average to slightly better than average year they will ride until the end of June in the higher terrain!
    With all of those recommendations said, I will leave you with some final shots of the lodge, one of the 50+ cabins that are for rent and part of the rental fleet.  I sure hope I can make this a fairly annual trip.  The riding is just so much fun.  There really is terrain for all levels, from the person who has never even been on a sled all they way to the best mountain rider in the world.
    I have been back for less than 24 hours, so I have not been able to get out and see what the trail conditions are like around here in too many places.  I have seen some of them, and of course have seen the conditions at the trail cam.  I'd have to say that from what I saw that most of the miles of trails up here are either like what is seen on the trail cam or better.  Of course there are stretches where the snow is even thinner or even absent, but the trails in the woods and away from the cities still have about a foot of base left.  But it is going fast now, so I would not delay!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -

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March 23-
    Well, this will be another short one, but I did want to get one off before my adventure out west.  Needless to say I am getting very excited now.  I can certainly relate to all of you now when you are getting ready to go on your snowmobiling trip.  I do get spoiled being able to just open up my garage and ride in an area that many of you crave to ride in and have to plan and then wait for.  However, I do not take it for granted!  Getting back to my excitement, I think I have been wearing out the link to the Togwotee NCN cam in the past week or so.  Plus I have been checking out other cams in WY, eastern ID and southwest MT.  In addition to the cams I have also been checking out weather links to areas there, trying to get all the info on current conditions and expected new snow that I can.  They have picked up around 1 1/2 to 2 feet of new snow in the past 10 days and look to pick up some more in the next 2-3 days.  Plus I have heard about 2-3 feet of new snow up at the higher terrain, so I am not concerned about snow conditions.
    One thing is for sure I am glad that I do not have to try and forecast for those areas.  I really do not have things figured out as to what set of atmospheric setups need to be in place to give them lots of snow.  I suppose it's also mid to late March and that has some bearing on how things pan out in that neck of the woods, but I do know the mountains really do some wild things with the weather and I think I would like to live there for a few months before I was ever called upon to make an accurate forecast.
        Some unique sets of circumstances have developed and I am actually going alone.  At one point there were 8 of us going, then it dropped to 7, then to 5 and then just me.  I will be riding with a guide the whole time I am out there, so I am not worried about being the only one going out.  It would have been fun to have the KSE crew along with me, but I will still have fun without them.
    They were to be bringing my gear out with them and since I then became responsible for getting it out there, I decided to not trust the airlines and send it through Fed Ex.  Normally I would not be too worried about checking baggage through, but this is stuff that if it gets lost somewhere would really screw up my trip as I do not want to have to ride in street clothes.  I am sure that they could probably scrounge up some bibs, boots, a jacket and helmet for me, but it would not be the same as my own gear.  I actually have to change planes 3 times and switch airlines once and I figured the risks were too large with that many plane changes and a complete airline change to check things through.  I will have a carry on as well an on the way back will just check things through as I have spare gear here if it gets lost and does not arrive for a few days.
    It is just amazing what the internet has been able to do for us these days.  Not only can I watch the parking lot of where I am headed, but I can follow my gear as it make's it's way out to the lodge.  UPS and Fed Ex allows you to track your package and I can see that mine arrive in Jackson about 2 hours ago and is out for delivery.  I can also see that it went from Houghton to Calumet to Milwaukee to Indianapolis to Denver to Casper all in the past 36 hours.  I will be watching to make sure that it is delivered, but since it is out for delivery I am not too worried.  At least it is in Jackson and if worse comes to worse I can pick it up at the Jackson office for Fed Ex.
    Things have been pretty quiet up here both in the weather and activities.  The sled has been in the garage since Saturday night and will stay there until Tuesday of next week at least.  Temps have been rising above the freezing mark the past few days and with some sunshine we have been melting off the snow slowly.  About an inch a day.  I have not been out on the trails, but looking at the trail cam and knowing what conditions were like last week there is still plenty of snow on them.  Of course in the towns the snow will be gone on the roads and trails that run along the roads may be thin and you might even encounter a thin "spot" out in the country, but certainly nothing to want you to not come up if you were planning to.  This will be the last weekend of official grooming.  Sometime the DNR will extend the season another week if there is money left over and if conditions warrant, but I doubt that there will be money left over.  They have been grooming lots this season, not like a few years ago when money was left over.  Then again, you never know so if they do groom past the 31st, then I will be sure to let you all know.
    Well, I guess that will do it for this one.  The next one should be an interesting one with all my "out west" pictures and stories!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 20-
    Wow, what a busy past 3 days!  I almost can't believe that the weekend has come and gone so quickly.  I guess it's true what they say about time when you are having fun!  I bagged a bunch more saddle time on the sled this weekend and am actually closing in on 3000 miles for the season.  I am at about 2800 and I would imagine that with at least 3 more weeks of riding up here I will be able to squeeze in another 200.  That would actually be my biggest season in quite some time.  Some of you may be thinking that 3000 miles is not that big of a deal for someone that lives and rides in the Keweenaw and if I were a trail rider you would be right.  However, back country riding is much different.  I don't know what the exact comparison would be, but I'd say that 1 mile of back country riding is close to 3 or 4 trail miles.  I know I could put 250-300 miles on the trails in a long hard day of riding, but we are lucky to put 70-80 miles of back country riding on in a long hard day of riding.  Plus to me it's not the quantity of miles, but the quality.  I don't have a problem with the folks that like to rack up huge numbers, if that is what floats your boat, then more power to you.  But for me it is just about getting out and finding some fields to carve, some logging roads to float and carve on and some hills to climb.  So I guess my point was that I did not mean to be bragging about my miles, but just using the numbers to show what a great season I have had and how lucky I am to be living where I am and be able to ride like that.  Plus I am lucky to have a wife that is never upset when I want to take a ride.  Even on HER BIRTHDAY!!!
    The riding started on Thursday afternoon when a friend I have made through the site and his crew met up with me for an afternoon of play.  Those of you that follow the General Discussions would recognize his name, Skylar.  Anyway, the RMK still needed some breaking in and I asked if he would mind putting on some more miles before I finished up work for the day and we headed out to play and he was kind enough to do that for me.  My plan was to head up north towards Phoenix to play in the hills up there and I figured since we were leaving my house at about 2:20 in the afternoon we would be best off taking the trail up there.  That way we would have more time to play off trail.  Plus the added trail miles up to Phoenix would finish off the breaking in of the new pistons and rings.
    The trails up to Phoenix were as perfect as you can get.  Sure it was a Thursday afternoon and things had been pretty quiet up here for most of the week, but they were perfect none the less.  Pool table flat you could call them.  So with the trails so flat, it did not take us long to reach Phoenix.  Most of the miles from Lake Linden to Phoenix are on very straight trails and make it safe to go at a decent clip.  I still made sure to slow way down at the turns though and it was a good thing as twice some knuckle head ended up on my side of the trail and in one case the persons sled had fishtailed and was actually sideways on my side of the trail.  All I could think of when I saw that was "Yea, you're a great driver buddy, way to handle that sled you moron!"  I wonder if those kinds of drivers really know what poor riders they really are?  Anyway, there were also lots of great sledders that we passed.  They all slowed down to a safe speed and alerted us to the number of sleds behind them, so it was just a few rookie racers that made for some unpleasant moments on the way up and back.
    I did manage to burn up most of the premixed gas in the tank and we all topped off at the Vansville before heading into the bush.  I knew Skylar wanted me to take them to the hill that got him the last time we were out there, but there were some hills that I had seen a month or so ago and they were on the way to the other hill so I decided to head there first.  It's funny when you are looking for hills to play on.  Some can look like monsters from a distance and when you get there they end up being a lot smaller than they appeared from a distance.  Then others can look like nothing much until you go to climb them and the next thing you know you are just about vertical and doing all you can to try and make it to the top.  These hills actually were a little bit of both.  From a distance they looked like a good 80-100 feet tall, which is not huge, but with trees to weave through and the steepness, a pretty fair challenge.  When we got there they proved to be more like 50-70 feet tall.  But were steep enough and big enough to get Skylar stuck on his first attempt up.  If memory serves me that is the last time he got stuck (not including the roll over off the stump!) for the day and took it to the hill that got him last time.  I managed to get stuck at least twice and on one occasion it was one of those deals where the hill did not look like much, but proved to be a much more formidable foe.  I attacked the hill at about 1/4 throttle and then gave it about 1/2 throttle as it got steeper and next thing I knew I was just about vertical and by the time I reacted with "Full Power Scotty" it was too late.  Momentum was against me and I stuck her about 1/2 up a 30-40 foot hill.  I think Skylar got a shot of me in that stuck, so don't be surprised to see it pop up somewhere.  The others in the group took their turns at climbing the hills and most everyone else were able to both get stuck and make it to the tops of the hills.  I'm really glad that we checked out those hills.  I found a great new play spot.
    Knowing that I had another 2 days of pretty hard riding ahead of me and Skylar's group having the same, we did not stay out there too late.  We made it back to the groomed trail and headed south.  This is a shot of trail #3 at the pull off for the Vansville taken at about 5:30 in the evening on Thursday.  Not too bad and that is what we had all the way home to Lake Linden and also what Skylar said they had in all their travels north from Twin Lakes to Lake Linden.  Sure makes the traveling on the trails nice!
    On Friday, the riff-raff showed up.  Just kidding, the gang from CrashedToys.com came up for their annual (maybe to become mulit-annual) foray in the Keweenaw.  The 7 of them brought a whole armada of sleds along.  9 in all, including a turbo charged Polaris 700 RMK 159 x 2 that was capable of 300+ HP.  They arrived right about the time I was finishing up with my work for the day and week and we headed out into the back country to have some fun.  The snow is starting to set up around here, so it's getting harder and harder to find the really good stuff, but we still managed to find some fresh fields and then some bowls and then I took to them to one of the scenic vistas along the Cliff Range.  We managed to get home at a reasonable time and went out to dinner with Nora.  They then headed back to the hotel while Nora and I cut into her Birthday cake and settled down for the rest of her Birthday evening.
    On Saturday the plan was to load up the sleds and head north up to Lac La Belle Lodge, meet up with the owner Troy and tour the back country of the northern tip of the Keweenaw.  I know relatively few of the back country trails up there and Troy knows them all, so I figured coaxing him into being the guide was the way to go.  Troy was kind enough to oblige and added a mutual friend of ours, Scott, to help with the guiding.  Scott ended up being the leader for the day and a screw up actually ended up leaving Troy behind in the bush stuck after about 1/2 of the trip was over.  He did end up getting out and back to the lodge, but not after some hard work.  Plus he was not back by the time we got back, so Scott and I went on a rescue ride and missed Troy on his way back to the lodge.  So all worked out, but for a moment I was quite worried as darkness was coming in about 30 minutes and Troy had been separated from our group for at least 90 minutes.
    The ride up north of Lac La Belle was a ton of fun and I was able to bag a hill that had got the best of me for the past 2 years.  The hill is actually a named mountain up here (which I will keep nameless for selfish reasons!).  There is a tail on the west side that you can ride a sled, atv or hike to the top on and we took the whole group up that one.  There is also a spot on the north face that you can actually weave your way to the very top on a sled.  It is certainly not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights.  You put on about 500 feet of elevation in a quarter mile run through the trees.  Not only is the ride to the top about as exhilarating at it can get for me on a sled up here, but the view from the top is quite rewarding.  The only bummer part of the trip is that the "clearing" to the top just ends right at the top and after taking that picture I had to muscle my sled around all by myself to make the trip down.  I did manage to take one more shot showing my path to the top.  I must admit that the trip down the hill was actually more scary than the trip up.  Going up at least you can stop in a heartbeat if you want.  Going down you don't have the luxury of stopping in a few spots.  Not a fun feeling if you are headed towards a tree!  I did make it down safe and sound, only to fine that some of the Crashed Toys gang had made a go at the hill as well and the results were 2 stucks and one roll over.  How's that knee feeling Joe?!
    We did get everyone off the mountain and back to more level terrain.  Our next stop was the lake shore up the coast from Lac La Belle.  Always a favorite spot of mine and it did not disappoint the Crashed Toys gang either.  How could it, with the view of the Bear Bluffs (fsv) to your west and a frozen shoreline (fsv) to your east.  Troy and I even spotted a bald eagle soaring in the updrafts above the Bear Bluffs and Scott and some of the Crashed Toys guys spotted some fisher tracks in the snow along the lake.  That sure is some remote and wild country!
    After our little break at the shoreline we headed inland again and over to play on some inland lakes.  That is actually where we became separated from Troy.  We went in on a different road that Troy had planned to (he was in the rear).  When the front of the group met what looked like a dead end he got ready to take the lead and show the way in.  Well, I was able to break a trail to the lake, with Scott and the rest of them following, so Troy then went to circle around and come in our way when he buried his sled.  He then waited for us to come back out the way we came in, but we went out the way he initially planned for us to go in.  When I noticed Troy was not in the group anymore and asked of his where abouts I was told he had headed back to the lodge to get ready for a night out with his wife.  So that is how that mishap happened, I am just very glad that it all worked out fine.
    As mentioned, I was able to break the last 200 feet of trail to the lake and the view from the lake was nearly as spectacular as that from the top of the mountain I had climbed about 40 minutes ago, only a near opposite in perspective.  That was the mountain and somewhere in that view of it was the way I went to the top.  My trip to the top started somewhere where the snow on it becomes visible through the hardwoods.  I must admit that once to the lake shore, I was as attracted to the view of the mountain as I was to the untouched powder on the lake.  It became obvious to me that at least one more round of great carving was going to be made by me up here in the Keweenaw.  The snow on the lake was 2-3 feet deep and was pretty much powder all the way to the ice.  So after the rest of the group made it to the lake the carving started.  Knowing that it may be one of the last good opportunities to do some carving in really good conditions up here I decided to take full advantage of things.  Since most of my photos in these journal entries are taken by me, they are always of others.  So before I went out to play I handed the camera to Joe (the big cheese at Crashed Toys) to take some shots of me. He took the previous shot and here is another shameless attempt by me at showing off and here is one last one.  Thanks Joe, I think that last one showed my best side!
    Some of the other crew took their turns at carving.  Here is Doug getting ready on his his little rocket ship.  That was a 440 pro x chassis with an 800 in it.  Here is Doug carving a nice line.  Here is Stefan having a go at it.  Joe took those last 3 shots as well and also decided to get a shot of the captivated audience.  I'd say they look very thrilled, especially "Whip" on the far right and think it's safe to say they got their money's worth.  Of course they did not pay anything for the show, but that matters little when you are talking about this level of entertainment!
    After playing on the lake we rode some logging roads up to the northwest, crossed Hwy 41, played around to the north of Delaware for a while and then headed back to the south and to the lodge, using a combination of the groomed trails and logging roads.  So other than Joe tweaking his knee, losing Troy about midway through the ride and an oil line coming off Doug's rocket ship causing it to seize-  the day was a complete success.  I really do need to get up north more often the terrain is so different from what I have around here.  Not much flat ground up there and other than the lakes, no wide open places to carve, but it sure is pretty country and needs to be explored more.  Perhaps when we move and live closer to that neck of the woods.
    I must also add that my sled is running just great.  It ran a little fat with the 50:1 mix in the tank, but once I stopped with that setup and just ran the premium stuff straight it ran great.  In fact I don't know if it has ever ran this great since I have had it.  I really cannot remember how it ran when I first got it and before the piston eating incident.  It may have been running that well, but ever since my first rebuild I just seem to be lacking the power I thought it should have.  That is not the case now.  It is dialed in just great and runs as good as I could ever ask it to.  I have a feeling that my issues with the stator after the first rebuild were the culprit and am almost positive that is why it was running so poorly for the past two months or so.  I think that the stator had loosened up and the timing became retarded and that would lead to the low end bog as well as the fact that it would really run like crap when it got warm and would also fowl plugs so often.  I am not taking it out west.  I don't think the airlines would allow me to check it through.  But I will be looking forward to some spring riding on it when I get back from my trip.  I plan to get a few words out before I head out west and will have a ton to talk about when I get back.  So until next time, when ever that may be...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 16-
    This, I promise, will be a short journal!  I really do not have a whole lot to write about, but I am afraid that if I do not get something out tonight, then it may be until Sunday until I get the next chance as things are about to get pretty busy for me.  I have actually been kept pretty busy the past 2-3 days.  Doing what you might ask?  Well, I have been busy turning this into that.  I got good news when I began to tear the engine apart.  The crank was OK, it was my friend the stator assembly that caused the problem.  So I really cannot blame anyone but myself, as it was my fault that the assembly had problems in last years first rebuild.  The other good news is that the tear down and rebuild process was still quite fresh in my mind.  It only took about an hour to pull the engine and break it down to the point where I was left with the crank case and crankshaft.  Upon pulling the flywheel the crank suddenly was spinning freely again.  I did end up splitting the case just to check the bearings on the crankshaft and all was ok, so I just went about putting it back together.  I came up with a much better solution for the hole that the one bolt for the stator plate was suppose to screw into but could not because of being stripped out last year.  So I do believe my issues with the stator should be behind me!
    I did get the sled back together and took it for a short test run down to Dollar Bay and back and then north to "Malfunction Junction".  She seemed to run fine and plan to do some more breaking in tomorrow on the way to do some more serious riding.  I did end up putting in two new pistons and rings, as well as new gaskets all the way around.  The new pistons/rings are the reason for the break in.  I was able to put on about 30 miles this evening and hope to put on another 40-50 before really starting to ride it hard.  I did put a 50:1 premix in the tank for the break in period as well.
    Mother nature is having a hard time making up her mind up here lately.  One minute it seems like we are in the middle of winter and the next it feels like spring.  This afternoon was the most spring like weather we have had in about a week.  Lots of sun and temps in the mid 30's.  It's amazing how much of a difference the sun makes.  Once some clouds arrived by 4 pm the temps dropped about 8 degrees in the matter of 15 minutes.  The sun also takes it's toll on the snowcover on the darker objects like the roads and roofs.  During our morning walk the roads were completely snow covered.  In most areas by just an inch or so, but by the afternoon walk about 4 hours later all the roads were melted off and there was water running down the streets.  There is still enough snow along the sides to ride the banks, so I did not have to wear any of my precious carbides down.  I am hoping for some decent snow Fri. night and Sat for the weekend riding I plan to do.  Not that I plan on riding the roads, but some fresh snow is always a good thing when you are riding a snowmobile!
    I can comment on the trail I road tonight.  It was trail 3 running from Dollar Bay north to the junction with 17 that runs from Calumet to Copper Harbor.  It was flat and fast.  If I had not been breaking in my sled I could have gone any speed I wanted to.  Traffic is way down now and even when we have a day like today with above freezing temps and some sunshine, the overnight temps have been dropping into the teens.  So that makes for some very hard and very flat trails.  Of course I cannot speak for all of the trails, but unless a groomer is broke, I don't see why all of them would be just like I experienced today.
    I am also happy to see it snowing out in northwest WY.  They have picked up about 6-10" of new snow at the lodge levels since Sunday and look to pick up about that much in the next 24-36 hours with more snow by the weekend and into next week.  Looks like I am really going to luck out with the weather for my trip.  It will probably not be as good as it gets out there, even for this time of the year, but I have a feeling it's going to be quite good.  Hard to believe that in just a week and a day I will be getting ready to touch down at the Jackson Airport.
    Well, I promised this would be short, and I never break my promises!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 13-
   I have been sitting here for about 5 minutes trying to come up with a clever way to start things this evening and I'm having a hard time doing so.  So I may as well get right into it.  I joined a prestigious club over the weekend.  I actually find myself to be much like the man (I believe Groucho Marx) that said he would never join a club that would allow him to be a member.  In this case, it would have been better off if I had not joined it, but I really had no choice.  Which club am I referring to?  Well, it's the "my sled blew up club".  I was actually the last man standing among the KSE crew this year.  Every other KSE guides sled has blown up this season.  Started with Brian back in December, then Al's sled went, then BJ's, Ted's, Matt's and now mine.  I actually have left Dave out.  While he is a KSE guide, he is also riding a brand new sled this year, so I don't think that should count!
    I guess I can be thankful that my sled lasted this long.  It has been a great season so far and we all do punish our sleds pretty bad.  In fact, we all think if a manufacturer ever wants to test the durability of their sleds, they should just send them to us.  If they last a season, they will last the average rider about 10!  I can also be thankful that my sled blew up on the final stages of our ride yesterday.  We went to some places I had never been to.  Places that guys like Al, Brian and Dave had not been to in about 10 years.  So I am thankful that I got to experience them first hand and did not have to hear about all the fun that was had!
    We picked up about 10" of fresh powder on Friday, so the conditions could not have been much better.  Well, I guess 15-18" of fresh powder would have been better, but then the guys with the short tracks might have had some problems.  We actually started out the day riding down to the site of my sleds ghost ride last year.  There are some fields to play in and also some gullies to catch some air out of.  I am not a jumper anymore, so I did not waste the good landing spots with anything I would do and instead positioned myself in a good spot to take some pictures of the others as they launched off the hills.  It has been a while since I tried to capture the guys in mid air and my first attempt was a little off, resulting in Matt almost out of the shot.  Although I think you get the idea of what was going on and I think it was also kind of neat to see the trail of powder he left behind.  I was able to get the timing down a little better and here is Dave catching some air and here is Al.  Watching them make those jumps, I get very tempted to have a go at it myself, but then remember the 8 weeks I spent hearing about all the fun they had riding while I sat on the couch and took care of my broken leg.  I'm sure I could make 1000 jumps and nothing would ever happen, but it's just not worth the chance.
    After playing there for a while we took off for our main destination of the day.  The guys gave it a name and I am not sure if it is just a made up name or if the name actually would identify the spot, but it's a good spot and I would rather not give out any clues.  Other than to say that it is a pipe line that cuts through the woods.  It starts out on nice level ground and then a few hills start to appear.  Soon the hills are getting large enough that they become fun to play on.  We were lucky enough to be making the first tracks on it for a while and actually in not too long of a while we were most likely making the first tracks of the whole season.  Then after maybe going about 4-5 miles down this thing we hit the main challenge for the day.  A rather large gully that was steep and deep.  That last shot really did not do justice to how steep and large this gully was, so I took another shot hoping to further illustrate things.  It's funny, about 3 or 4 years ago if I would have seen that thing and the plan was to ride up it I would have probably messed my pants.  But over the course of the past 3 or 4 years my confidence on the sled has grown to the point that the only thing I will not do is water skip through water that is over my head (unless it's warm water) and catch really big air.  Hills do not phase me, not even this one.  By the time I put the camera away and got down to the bottom, 4 guys had already taken a shot at making it up the other side and lost.  Dave, Brian, Al and BJ all lost their battle with the hill.  However, each guy did make it a little further and further and Dave did make it to the top.  A few others took their turn and with a path blazed through the 4-5 feet of snow on the ground they all made it and I think I was number 4 or 5 to make it up.
    Most of the group (we had a very large group with us yesterday) made it up, including the short tracks.  Some of which were not too successful at other times during the day, but with the amount of sleds we had going up that hill, it soon became pretty packed down.  After the big hill, there were a few more smaller ones.  Here is a video of me getting to be the first up one and here is a video of BJ climbing the same one.  Here is a picture of Al climbing that same hill.  After about another 1/4 to 1/2 mile, the clearing stopped.  Some of the crew did try and find some logging roads or even skidder trails to try and go further, but there were also a few sleds that did not even try to make it up the big hill, so we all just decided to turn around and head back to the ones that did not attempt the big gully.  We made it up and back on the pipe line without incident.  Matt did blow a belt coming through one of the fields, but that was about it.
    After the pipeline we headed for more familiar ground and decided to check out some logging roads southeast of Lake Linden.  These spots typically do not see as much snow as the rest of the Keweenaw, so unless we are having a banner snow year we usually have to wait until later in the season until the snow has piled up enough to hit them.  The none nice thing about eventually getting on them is that there is usually not tracks, and that was the case yesterday.  Well, that one track was Al's who was leading and had already run through.  I was actually second in line for much of the ride and then dropped back to third and eventually 4th to let some others have their turn at the fresher snow.  It was great riding, with about 1 1/2 feet of soft Keweenaw Powder on top of about a 2-3 foot base.  However, it was when we were running through those logging roads that my sled started acting up.  It was not just mine, BJ's sled was running poorly as well, even worse than mine.  His sled had no top end, while mine was backfiring.  I figured I must have had gotten some bad gas or perhaps sucked in some powder and that's what caused  the backfiring.
    We got to the stopping point near a lake and I told Al about the backfiring and he had me ride by him so he could listen to it.  I did that, then road back up to the group and shut off my sled.  Al figured the same thing as me, water or snow getting into the carbs and causing a backfiring.  After the little break everyone went to take off and when I pulled my starter chord, it would not budge.  A few more tugs and I knew my sled was not starting.  We tried letting it cool a bit, but it remained seized.  So, thankfully we were not too far from Lake Linden at that point and I called Nora to see if she could pick me up in the truck, then we headed back to Lake Linden to pick up a trailer and get some help from two guys that were suppose to be part of a larger KSE tour that ended up as a no show and so they just rode with us for the day.  Anyway, we got the sled home safe and sound and this morning I pulled the motor and brought it into the basement.  I was hoping all I did was "drop a skirt", which means a piece of the piston skirt breaks off and seizes the motor.  No luck, I pulled the head and then the jugs and the pistons were fine, well lubed I might add!  I did not have any sacrificial bolts for the puller for the flywheel and the hardware stores are closed on Sundays up here, so I will just have to wait until tomorrow to pulley the flywheel off and split the case to see what is wrong with the crankshaft.  It is definitely the crank, it's just a matter of do I get lucky and have it be one of the end bearings, or do I have to have a more serious rebuild.
    So it looks like I will be dusting off the Pol-Cat for a while.  Not sure how long it will take to get the RMK back up and running, but I would imagine at least a week, maybe more.  We are closing in on the end of the season.  With the snow we have right now we actually will probably be riding for at least 4 more weeks, so I for sure want to get the RMK up and running.  I spent the afternoon cleaning up the different parts of the motor and the inside of the engine compartment of the sled, so when it comes time to put it all back together everything will be all nice and clean.
    It looks like a little bit of fresh snow in the next few days, but my attention is really more focused on out west.  The forecasted pattern change that was to increase the chances for snow in the northern Rockies as well as cool things off is taking shape.  Some light snow fell in NW Wyoming yesterday and more looks to fall in the coming days, with the potential for some bigger snows as we head into the weekend and next week.  What ever the case, I am starting to get excited for my mini vacation, just wish Nora and the hounds were coming too!  I guess that about does it for this one.  Next time I should have some adventures to talk about on the old trusty Pol-Cat!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 10-
    Well, it's been another slow week.  Snows were disappointing this week here in the Keweenaw- at least for the snow lovers.  The clipper on Sunday night early Monday ended up being a bust with about 2 inches falling.  Then the LES behind the clipper was a bust as well, with around an inch or so falling.  I guess I really should not complain, with 3 feet of snow in my back yard and 4 feet in the higher terrain we still have plenty.  It's just hard to not think about the "what ifs" when you get skunked.  Plus as a true snow addict, I can never get enough.  At least while winter is still going on.  I do like the summer, don't forget!  The good news so far is that Burt and Baileys have not started to shed yet, so I think that means winter is not over yet.  Last year they started shedding early, late Feb if I can remember correctly.  At first I was worried that they might be sick, but the vet said that I did not have to worry and being a person that does not care for winter too much he was welcoming the sight.  So we'll see how long the hounds hang on to their thick winter coat.
    I did not go for a ride on the sled since last Saturday.  I am pretty sure that it would have been different had we picked up some decent fresh snow.  I know Matt and I were talking about riding and Al was even hinting at joining in, but none of us got the gumption to rouse up the others this week, so the sled has been sitting on the blocks since Saturday evening.  There is some riding planned for this weekend and next week looks to be filled with riding from Wed-Sat at least.  Then I need to be getting ready to head out west.
    Speaking of out west, I find myself watching their weather forecast closer than ours lately!  The northern Rockies have had a really rough winter.  In fact I am not sure if they have ever seen a winter like this in the past 20 years or so.  Now I do need to put things into perspective.  Their poor winter would be a dream for most areas and would even be OK by Keweenaw standards.  So there is snow and I will have a good time regardless, but it would be nice for them to get some fresh stuff before we arrive.  The forecast does look to bring them some snow by the weekend and then off and on through the period we are out there March 24th-28th.  I actually had plans to try and get myself into better shape so that I would not be so winded by the elevation, but looks like that idea went out the window.  The only lifting I have been doing is Oreo's to my mouth!  At least they have been double stuff!  It's weird, this will be the longest that Nora and I have been away from each other since she moved up 2 years ago and the longest I have been away from the hounds since I broke my leg.  I hope I don't get too homesick!  I do feel better knowing that Nora will have some company with her brother and his family visiting while I am away.  Strange to think in two weeks I will be on my way there.  Probably on my way to Jackson from Salt Lake City at this time in two weeks.
    Even though I am still wanting to get more riding in, I can say that this season has really been a good one for me so far.  Lots of fun times.  Usually when I get to March I go into a bit of a panic mode, feeling like I have not gotten my fix of riding in and time is running out.  This March I still want to ride, but do not have that feeling of panic.  Barring any big warm up at the end of March or early April we could certainly be riding  up here through the middle of April.  The longer we ride, the better for me!  I would just as soon ride on a Tuesday and golf or boat the following Fri or Sat.  Did that a few years ago, so it is not as strange as it sounds.  I think having the boat to play with for the upcoming warm season is making the approach of spring easier to take.  I am really looking forward to boating and even some fishing.  Plus I have some woodworking projects lined up for the spring.  So I will have plenty to do once the snow finally leaves.
    Well, I guess the one problem with having an uneventful week is that I do not have much to write about!  I did happen to pass by the Laurium Glacier on my travels this week.  It appears to be of typical size, but I bet it is not done growing yet.  I think I will wait until I get home from Wyoming to take the picture that starts the contest for this season.  So be thinking of your date and in about 3 weeks I will start up the contest.  This year will be a little different.  The winner will get a nice prize from the JohnDee Store, but folks can guess the same date and those that posted after the initial poster for that date will get a "runner up" type prize from the store.  Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 6-
    Wow, I can't believe the weekend has come and gone already!  I guess I must have been having fun because time sure did fly by.  I had friends come up from down south again and we rode all day Saturday.  Last time they were up our snow was deep, but also very firm.  We were past the thaw and had cold temps setup the snow so firm that we could go anywhere we wanted.  I was hoping that the next time they came up we would have classic "Keweenaw Powder".  You know- ankle deep snow...if you go in head first!  The fresh snow was not quite that deep, but was still fresh and deep enough to have lots of fun.  I knew that the group was wanting to try their hand at doing some carving and so after doing a little bit of sightseeing we headed to the fields to try our hand at some carving.
    The fields still had about 8-10" of fresh powder on top of another 8-10" of fairly packed powder which sat on top of the 3 foot base of super packed snow or snowment.  So everyone wasted little time at taking their turn at some carving.  Here is Gordy and here he is again after carving a bit too sharp.  Here is my good friend from High School Deuce.  Now, I have to admit that those picture are not too flattering of the guys, but it's not their fault, it was the cameraman's.  They actually took to carving very well and were doing a great job.  I just failed to get any decent shots.  It was so bright out there that it was hard for me to tell if I got a decent picture when I went to review them.  Deuce was fully capable of getting a shot of me trying my hand at come carving.  Sorry guys, I guess you will just have to come up again and do some more carving so I can get some decent shots of you all!
    After all that hard work we decided it would be a good idea to take a break and work on our tans.  At times yesterday morning it sure was a good day for it!  Temps in the mid 30's and that March sun making it feel more like about 50 out.  I sure was glad I was wearing the gear I was.  I did work up quite a sweat when we were doing the carving, but with the synthetics underneath my jacket which is just a shell it did not take long for the moisture to be wicked away.  I did have all the vents on my jacket wide open and the front zipper zipped down a bit as well, but I have to say that at no time was I ever uncomfortable.  Having the sweat wicked away from me and evaporated was a huge plus because in an hour or so the clouds rolled in, the winds picked up and the temps dropped and since I was all nice and dry inside, all I had to do was zipper back up all the vents on the jacket and I was nice and toasty again.
    While downloading the pics from the cam, I noticed Deuce took a picture of the dash on his sled.  Not only is he a good friend, but also a JohnDee.com fan and supporter of the Copper Country Humane Society through his purchase of some ThinkSnow! merchandise.  Thanks Deuce and thanks to everyone else who have helped out our local animal shelter with your purchase of the ThinkSnow! merchandise.  Don't forget they also sell summer type clothes, with t-shirts and ball caps!
    Getting back to the ride.  After making all the turns we wanted to in the fields we headed into the woods for some authentic back country riding.  However, I ended up leading the pack astray and what I thought was a nice little bush road that would lead to a seasonal road turned into a dead end.  So we circled back around and the deeper untracked snow got the best of Gordy.  It is times like that when I am very glad I ride a long track with deep lugs!  In fact I am seriously considering getting a 151" track on the next sled I get.  Funny to think that we all rode 121" tracks (except Brian and his giant 136") just a few years ago.
    It was my goal to get us to Gay for lunch and I was successful at that.  Bumped into some other friends from down south and also met some nice visitors to the site.  Had a great lunch, the guys tried to dry out their clothes a bit and then we headed back out for the afternoon's portion of our adventure.  We ended up in the same play spot that Matt, Dave and I climbed the hills on Wednesday.  The snow was a lot more settled and there were also some tracks put down all the way to the top, so I asked the guys if they wanted to have a shot at climbing the bigger hills of Keweenaw County.  They showed no fear and went right at it.  There were a few stucks and a few rollovers, but we did manage to get all but one sled to the very top.  Not only did those guys take to carving well, they also have taken to hill climbing Keweenaw style very well!
    It was getting pretty late and all of us were pretty well worn out, so the decision to head back to home base and grab a bite to eat was unanimous.  The fastest way home was to just get to the main trail that runs through Phoenix and head south.  I was a little worried that being 6 pm on a fairly busy Saturday the trail would be filled with 2 foot moguls.  As luck would have it all there were was some 6-8" stutter bumps.  Enough to let you know they are there, but not enough to make you wish you were somewhere else!  We got to malfunction junction where the trail splits off to either the upper trail through Calumet or the lower one through Lake Linden and Dollar Bay.  Don't know what the upper trail was like, but the lower one ended up being just about perfect with no bumps and no traffic either.  What I thought might be a 2 hour ride to get back home ended being just under an hour.
    We all got into street clothes, headed out for dinner and enjoyed the company of each other while reminiscing about the days adventure.  All in all a perfect day.  No body parts damaged, no sleds damaged and lots of good times and memories to hang onto.  Exactly what the sport is all about if you ask me.
    All of our powder snow is gone.  Temps yesterday and early today helped to make the snow fairly wet and compacted and now temps are back down into the mid 20's.  So we have created a new firm base to put our new snow on.  It looks like the week ahead will provide a fairly good dosing of new snow.  I have not looked at things too closely, but see that we are under a Lake Effect Snow Warning from later tonight through Tue morning and I also know that we should have either LES or system snow falling pretty much all week and possibly into the weekend, so maybe there is still some powder riding left before spring riding takes over for good.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -
March 3-
    Happy March everyone and Happy Spring!  I know, I know, most folks thing spring starts March 20th, but meteorologists say March 1 and I am sticking with my pack!  Of course, spring up here does not start until sometime in mid to late April, so take your choice.  The weather has not been very spring like lately and it does not look to be for some time to come.  We missed out on much of the LES earlier this week.  Northeast winds just do not favor most of the Keweenaw.  Even though we have a whole lot of lake to our northeast what happens is two things.  1) The Keweenaw itself sort of splits the wind and causes the lake snow bands to sort of split with them, thus the bands set up both to our north and our south.  2) The snows that do make it across the Keweenaw itself tend to die off by the time they reach areas south of Mohawk.  The reason for that is if you travel southwest from the tip of the Keweenaw, you travel over a lot of land by the time you reach Mohawk and areas further to the southwest are so far "inland" that the snows diminish.  The one exception is the tip of the Keweenaw.  Areas north of a line from about Eagle River to Lac La Belle can get hammered and hammered pretty good and that is what happened.  Some of the higher terrain in far northern Keweenaw County picked up close to 2 feet of fresh snow Mon-Tue when I here in Lake Linden picked up about 6" total.  I'm not complaining, 6" is better than nothing, but I do get a little jealous hearing about places getting a lot more than I did!
    The one thing that is interesting this time of the year is that even though temps can be well below freezing, if the sun is out the snow on the roads will melt and that is one thing that I really do not like!  I have to ride a few blocks through my neighborhood to get to the unplowed areas and I really hate the sound of carbides on the pavement!  Not too bad just yet, but enough bare spots to make me wince a little as I head down the road.  I suppose some of you looked at that last picture and said to yourself "man is he spoiled, that road looked fine to me!".  I may be spoiled, but I really do get used to riding on snow all season.  This is my 6th season of riding and I have yet to change out a carbide or a slide and actually I just checked all of them and they are still quite a ways from having to be changed.
    So while the snow on the roads is getting thinner, the banks are growing.  In fact there are banks that if they get any bigger, folks will not know that they need to stop at that intersection.  Nor will they know what the speed limit is.  Of course that is just the banks in the banana belt of Lake Linden.  Head up to the higher terrain around here and you are bound to find some down right monstrous snow banks.  I figured that a picture would truly speak 1000 words, so in my travels today I headed up to the higher terrain.  Most of the time when I talk about the higher terrain, I am talking about high spots in Keweenaw County.  But I am willing to bet that most folks (including a lot of locals) do not know that places like Painesdale and Trimountain are about as high as the tops of Mt Bohemia and Mt. Houghton.  That 900 feet of elevation difference between me and them can make a big difference in snowfall.  Just the other day, Painesdale was reporting 53" of snow on the ground to my 45" and they have received about 30" more for the season than I.  So I thought it would be neat to head up there and see what their plow banks looked like.  Quite impressive, and that was just the average size of the banks up there.  I did find one that was head and shoulders above the rest and parked my truck next to it to give proper proportion.  Looks like that one was formed by a snowthrower, but unless they have some kind of super charged snowthrower I think that is about as high as they are going to be able to throw the snow!  I took one last shot and it was where someone had just carved a parking spot out of the snow for their truck.  Gives a good example of the snow "on the level" up there.  Maybe a bit more than on the level, but close!
    Yesterday Matt, Dave and I went for a ride and it ended up being one of those really great rides.  Not that too many of them are ever bad, but sometimes the conditions are not too great or the sleds are running bad or we do too much goofing around and not enough riding.  But yesterday the weather was perfect, the snows were fresh and deep and we rode.  In fact, when we were done riding I was as sore and tired as I have been all year and that is after about 4 hours of riding not the 8-10 that I have done at other times this season.  Our plan was to head north to the higher terrain of Keweenaw County and play in the hills and then head home.  We did not want to waste too much time getting north to the deeper snow, so we actually took the groomed trail for part of the way and as luck would have it, the trail had been groomed a couple of hours before and no one had even been down it yet!  I could tell that it had been groomed a few hours earlier as the snow on the trail was very hard and had been allowed to "set up".  The grooming process soften the snows a bit and if allowed to re-freeze before any traffic hits it, it will be flat and very solid and that is what that trail was like.  Made the 6-8 miles we had to travel on it a dream.  Just one more pleasant surprise to yesterday's ride.
    We made it to the play spot in about 40 minutes and did not waste too much time getting stuck, er...I mean having fun!  I realize that many of you would call that a forest and not a "play spot", but that is the hill climbing we have up here.  No real big hills that do not have trees on them, so we just climb the hills while picking our way through the trees.  As you might have been able to judge from the shot of Matt stuck, there was about 18-20" of fresh powder down up there, so we were not afforded the luxury of just slowly driving up the hills, you pretty much had to hold it wide open.  Both Matt and Dave got stuck pretty quickly, so I had a go at it and actually did pretty good.  At one point I thought I would succumb to the depth of the snow and the steepness of this hill, but then found a nice clearing and was able to do some climbing up the hill.  I don't know how many of you noticed what was missing in that last shot, but if you look closely, you will see that there is a trench in the snow from where the track when through, but you will not see any ski tracks on either side of the mark made by the track.  Now I did not lose my skis, they were still attached to the sled.  It was just that the front of the sled was in the air the whole way up the hill, the skis never really touched the snow.  That is what makes climbing hills like that in snow like that so much fun, you are literally carving your way to the top!
    Now the reason why I was able to take a picture of my trail through the trees was because I had come to a stop.  I was coming to a spot where I had to make a sharp turn to the left to make it the rest of the way up the hill and took the turn a little too soon and ended up coming too close to a tree and had to stop to avoid hitting it.  One of the nice things about making a climb like that in snow like that is the sled will stop rather quickly and you can avoid damage to the sled and tree fairly easily.  (for those of you that think we might be harming the forest riding like this don't worry, the sleds would get hurt before any tree and we avoid hurting the sleds!)  I got the sled unstuck and gave it another try and wouldn't you know I got stuck in the same exact spot!  I could not believe it, started the carve too soon again!  So back down I went for try number 3.  The third time ended up being the charm and I made it.  The other guys had managed to make it to the top in their second try and before me, so I was not first one up, but at least I did not let the "mountain" win.  We all took a few more turns at climbing to the top and pretty much took a different way up every time.  No fun in riding an already packed trail!  By the end of the play time there, most of the ways up had been exploited.
    On the way home we decided to get over to the pole line and ride it south.  There were just a few tracks on it where we got on and the at the first challenging creek crossing those tracks doubled back and the rest of the way down we were first tracks.  The section of pole line we were riding was rather flat, but has lots of 2-3 foot hills that turn into mini jumps.  So it is almost like a mini snow cross, only you just go straight for about 10 miles hitting all sorts of different jumps rather than around in circles hitting the same jump.  The whole way down the line one guy rode the far left, the other the far right and one close to down the middle.  Every once in a while we would switch spots, but did stay out of each others way.  It was a blast, but is also what wore me out.  Ten miles of that will wear anyone out, although I think I was much worse for wear than Dave and Matt.  I told them it's because I have a few more years and miles on me than they do, I don't know if they really felt all that sorry for me though!
    So we had a really fun ride yesterday.  I am not too sore today and will be more than ready to ride this weekend.  I have some friends coming up from down south and we plan to ride all day Sat and at least part of the day Sun.  The weather looks good with a bit of fresh snow and comfortable temps.  Last time they were up the snow was hard pack and this time they will have at least some powder to try their hand at carving and hill climbing in the deeper snow.  Plus I may even get to win a race if we should decide to have one.  However, I will be sure to stack the odds in my favor by picking the field with the deepest snow!
    Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD -