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
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
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
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 it. Carter
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..
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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..
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
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
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..
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
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..
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
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
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
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
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
Good night from the Keweenaw..
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..
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.
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
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..
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
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..