How you can help Nora and John with something very special.
Snow, snow, snow. Actually I could type that word 21 times in a row and that would represent the number of days straight we have had snow up here. Granted some were days where we only measured a trace, but for three weeks straight, we have had snow sometime in that day. Perhaps just as impressive is that in the past 36 days, only three have not had snow fall in them. How's it piling up? Well, I will try and answer that question shortly with some pics, but in hard numbers we have had 25" of snow in the past 4 days, 41.5" of snow in the past 7 days and 54.5" of snow in the past 12 days. I can tell when a snow cycle has been particularly severe, when locals start to ask me how much more with a sort of glazed over look in their eyes. It looks like it could be one of those winters up here. I doubt that we will break the record, but are well on our way to break the 300" mark for the season.
On Thursday, we awoke to a sheer winter wonderland. 13.5" of snow had fallen in the past 24 hours, on top of the over 14" that fell earlier in the week and the view outside the cabin windows was just amazing. The snow had fallen with very light winds, so it was able to stick to just about everything. Here is a front of house shot taken Thursday morning. Here is that view out the cabin windows into the woods (FSV). Here is a shot looking up the driveway, with the pines heavily flocked (FSV). In fact the trees were to heavily loaded with snow, on my afternoon trip in Old Blue, I was driving up Hwy 41 and could see the Cliff Range off in the distance and it almost looked like there were no trees on it. Usually, the dark green and dark brown of the trees on the range contrast against the white of the snow, but on Thursday afternoon, the hill was almost completely white. A very unique look indeed.
The snow has not just been piling up on the trees. The roof of the cabin and shop have been collecting snow. The cabins 45 degree slope does not allow the snow to get too deep. Although we did have a few clearings that rattled things inside the cabin. I sure would not want to be standing in the slide zone when that snow comes off. The shop's roof is much less steep and so the seasons worth of snow has accumulated on it and I think later this week I will see about heating things up underneath it and running a string line through the snow like I did 3 years ago and allowing it to self clear. I kept the martin house up this winter and it's roof is well coated with snow. We can even have snow accumulate on power and phone lines up here. I have seen situations where the snow is over a foot deep on the main power transmission lines up here and on Thursday morning I captured around 3" of snow sitting on the phone line type wires that run from my weather station to the cabin.
For those of you wondering what a weeks (8 days to be more accurate) worth of snow in the Keweenaw can look like. Here you go. That is a 55 gallon drum with 8 days worth of accumulation on it! Obviously 8 days of accumulation does not always look like this, but it does happen more than you would think and probably several times a year in most years. I have to chuckle to myself when someone that does not understand how much snow we can get up here in a short period of time sends me a e mail telling me that they are coming up in 3 weeks and are wondering if we have enough snow to play in. So, for those of you that have never been to this neck of the woods, but are planning to come and are worried about having enough snow. You should not start to worry until you are just a few days away. Burn the image of that 55 gallon drum with the 8 days of snow on it into your mind- just for reference.
It has also been a pretty busy week clearing snow from the driveway. I have a pretty good system down and it is nice to have both the ATV with the plow on it and the 10 hp Ariens both sitting in a heated shop. Both are warm and free of ice and snow when I go to use them and I can also maintain them much easier and better. Although I did have a little problem with the heat in the shop this week. On Tuesday I went into the shop in the afternoon and noticed it felt a little cooler than it should. So I went over to the thermostat and uh oh, it read 40 degrees. 8 lower than it should. So I went over to where the pump, zone valves and manifolds are and they were cold. The pump was running and was warm. So was the pipe feeling into the pump, but everything downstream of the pump was cold. So I called the heating/plumbing guys that did the install and told them that it looked like my pump had given out. They said that they would try to get out before the day was over that day, but if not, first thing in the morning on Wednesday. I did get some space heaters going in the shop to keep the floors from freezing and had to keep things going all night because they were not able to come out until Wednesday morning. Once out here, they determined that the lines had froze. The main lines that run from the boiler to the shop and cabin run through the still un-insulated and un heated woodworking shop. The pipes are insulated and I did insulate the feeder lines running from the main line to the heated shop, but I did not insulate them well enough.
So Wednesday I spent what free time I had building an insulated enclosure for the feeder lines and then got a space heater blowing into it to thaw out the lines. The thawed out by around 4 in the afternoon and it was good to feel the manifolds to and from the floor getting warm with the water from the boiler flowing through them. I thought all problems were solved with my insulated enclosure, but I'll be darned if when I went out into the shop this morning it was cool again and sure enough the feeder lines had froze again. This time it was an easier fix. I just popped the bottom off of my enclosure, had a space heater blow into it and got a few space heaters going in the shop to keep it from freezing up. By around mid afternoon, things were thawed out again and hot boiler water was once again going through the floor in the shop. The only thing I can figure is that while waiting for the lines to thaw on Wednesday, I filled in some gaps in the insulation of the wall between the wood shop and the heated shop. We used blow in insulation and it had settled so much that I probably had the equivalent of a 4 x 8 foot section that did not have insulation in it. So I used some fiberglass insulation to plug those gaps and thus the shop was quite a bit more insulated. In fact, I noticed right away we were using much less wood in the boiler. So since the shop did not call for heat as much, it allowed the water in those feeder lines to sit longer and thus freeze. My remedy is to call the heating guys out and have them put in a three way zone valve that will allow the water to always circulate through the feeder lines and when the shop is calling for heat, the valve will open to the floors and allow the hot water to flow through them. When the need for heat is not there, then the valve to the floors will close and the valve to the bypass will open and allow the water to still flow through the feeder lines, but go through the bypass rather than the floors. If I had the valve, I'd probably do the work myself!
On Friday I awoke to an e mail inbox full of notes from folks that could not access their profile to post on the discussion board. In a typical day I probably work with 4-6 persons that either lost or forgot their username and/or password, or have not activated their account yet, or have some other issue that is keeping them from posting. However, I knew something was amiss when I had much more than a few notes from folks with problems. On Thursday, I had noticed that there were over 7500 registered profiles on the board and Friday morning just over 5500. So overnight, around 2000 profiles were lost. A similar thing happened a year or two ago and my server admins were able to restore just about all of the profiles. I sent e mails and left phone messages with them on Friday telling them about my problems, but have not heard back from them. Nora just told me that they are out of town, so this may take a few more days to fix. I hope it can be fixed! I guess the worst case scenario is that all of those persons will have to re-register, which is not a hard or time consuming process, but it would be nice to just restore them all with the click or two of a mouse button. For those of you who have lost your profile, I am very sorry. It was the crowning moment to a really nasty and stressful week!
I had plans to ride on Friday and with all that was going on, I almost decided to call it off, but then realized that there really was nothing I could do and thought that perhaps getting out for ride would help to relieve my stress. I sure am glad I decided to get out and ride because after about 20 minutes on the sled, I had completely forgotten about all the problems that were causing my stress. I actually headed south again to hook up with Skylar and crew. They were staying at Krupps in Twin Lakes and we figured I would head down there right after work on Friday and ride with them and then on Saturday they would come up this way to ride with me north of the bridge. So I tossed the M in the back of Old Blue and headed down to Twin Lakes on Friday for some riding. As mentioned, after about 20 minutes of riding the sled, all my concerns and worries had been washed away. Skylar had some areas he was interested in exploring and exploring is my most favorite thing to do on a sled, so I had no objections!
The snow was deep and had a good base so we were able to go anywhere we wanted, including some rather tight areas! We found some nice untracked logging roads and even a nice boulder to jump off of, which Skylar demonstrates in this video here. The bitter cold from earlier in the week was gone too, so we were able to rest in relative comfort. By all measures, the afternoon ride with them was a complete success. No sleds or bodies were damaged and we were able to break trail in some deep snow. To top the afternoon of, we headed over to the Parkview for a nice dinner.
On Saturday, the plan was for the crew to ride up this way and meet me here and then we would take off and ride the backcountry for the better part of the day. I did have a Christmas party to go to in the evening, so I did have a return-home time, but it would work well with the time we had to be out of the bush and heading home anyway. I do not backcountry ride at night and we are always on the trails heading back by the time the last bits of light head below the western sky. We planned for them to be up this way by around 9:30-10 in the morning, but the crew did have a few issues they needed to address with two of the sleds before they could arrive here. So they arrived a bit later, but I was actually glad. We had clear skies and calm winds Friday night and early Saturday and that allowed temps to bottom out around 4 below. At 10 am, it was still 3 below zero, so I was in no hurry to get out. By the time we headed out, the sun was high enough that it had warmed temps to the double digits above zero and about an hour into riding, some in the group were already pealing off a layer of clothing to stay cool.
All the fresh snow and cold temps this week allowed the trails to be groomed to perfection. We did not ride the trails much on Saturday, but when we were on them, they were pool table flat and also very firm. Here is a shot of the trails near Phoenix Saturday morning. They really do not get any better than that. The plan was to work our way up to Lac La Belle through the back country. Have lunch and then ride with owner Troy and his son Zach. The snow in the backcountry was good up this way too. The snow earlier in the week was dry, but quite dense. The flakes were small, so as the snow piled up, it did not need to settle much. The stuff on Thursday and Friday was classic LES fluff. Not good when you are trying to build a base, but nothing better when you have a 2 foot base already down. So we spent a few hours putting tracks into all that fluff. A few journals back I mentioned that I had received a new toy and would be telling you all about it later. Well, I finally was able to get the new toy set up and was able to use it this weekend. It is a Point of View (POV) cam or what some might call a helmet or lipstick cam. I actually had it with us on Friday, but the aim was off a bit, so the video it took was not really useable. I was able to re-adjust the view and got some good footage on Saturday. I also picked up some great editing software (Sony Vegas). It will allow me to produce professional grade videos- once I learn it! I spent about 2-3 hours working with it this afternoon and there is so much with that program, it is not something you sit down and master in a few hours. I almost did not have any footage from the POV cam to share with you, but then I looked to see what else I might have that would allow me to edit the footage enough to just give you a taste of things. I was to fine Movie Maker from Microsoft on my machine and pulled about 30 seconds or so of video off the cam and have it here. It still might need a bit of adjustment in it's aim. Perhaps tilted up a bit more. Plus, I cannot wait to be able to sit down and spend more time with Vegas and be able to put out some videos with cool transitions and other special effects. I am going to set up a youtube account and let them deal with the bandwidth needed to supply the videos to the masses as well.
The cam is pretty cool. It is a VholdR and is completely self contained, so no wires or other recording devices are needed. It has mounts for solid surfaces like a helmet or sled. It also has mounts for goggle straps. Another nice thing is it comes with lasers that help you align where it is pointing. They work well, the problem I had was that I miscalculated where I wanted it to aim. I have been wanting to get one ever since we worked with one filming with Dobson Entertainment. However, they were in the $600-$1000+ range, which was a little too steep for me. Cams like these have really come down in price and I got mine from Paul at SledSolutions.
While riding on Saturday. I hit something with the right ski and my left leg was given an atomic charlie horse. I ended off the sled in the fluff and at first it hurt so much I thought I had broken my leg again. The intense pain eased pretty quickly and I was able to get back on the sled and ride. However, I could feel the leg getting stiffer and stiffer. We stopped in at the LLB lodge and had lunch as planned. I took some advil, but the leg just kept on getting worse. After lunch, we headed out with Troy and Zach, but my leg was in no condition to backcountry ride, so I turned around and headed home. The hour or so ride home allowed my leg to get even stiffer and more sore and once home I could not even walk on it. I thought I was going to have to forgo the Christmas party and perhaps even head to the hospital to have it looked at by the pros, but after some pain meds and a shower, I felt good enough to go to the party.
I feared that I would have a hard time sleeping and that it would be so sore today that I would not be able to walk on it. I ended up sleeping very well and awoke to a sore leg, but not one that was as sore as when I went to sleep. In fact my leg today was much better than yesterday. It still needs some rest, but I think I will be close enough back to normal to be able to use in snow play by Tuesday or Wednesday. It sure was a relief to have it actually feel better today and not worse!
So I think that pretty much gets you caught up in this weeks events. Looks like quite a bit more snow will fall in the next week to ten days. I'm not sure if it will be 42", but all will be welcomed by me! We are already at mid-January type snow depths up here and I am looking forward to more!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Greetings! It's funny, I have plenty to say tonight, but can't figure out a way to start. I guess I can start with the weekly weather recap. Snow, Cold. Actually yesterday and today have been downright balmy, with temps in the mid 20's. But that is a lot warmer than it has been all week. The up side is that we have not been as cold as places to our west or even our south and the cold has kept a pretty steady stream of snow blowing in off the lake. No big dumps, but a steady supply of a few inches every day. This is the 15th day in a row with snow falling and it looks like we will make it to at least 15 and possibly a lot more. Today has been a nice snowy day, with about 4-5" new so far and more on the way tonight into tomorrow at least. Most of our snow has been the light and fluffy variety of lake effect, so it has been compacting down quite a bit, but we are steadily building a nice base. I have been out on both sleds and skis this week and have noticed that while the snow is not super deep up here, what we have has compacted down to a pretty decent base. Plus, we were cold enough and dry enough that there really are no major problems with any wet areas.
I was so tired when I wrote the journal last week and I had so much to say that I really did not get as detailed as I wanted to with my impressions of the new sleds. I did not ride the XTX much last weekend, but did put quite a bit of time on the M8 and can say that I absolutely love that sled. I believe I said it in the previous journal, but the guys at Rt. 12 really did an excellent job setting that thing up. It just performed perfectly. The track did stretch a bit and I have since tightened up the slack on it a bit, but it was so nice to be on a sled that ran perfectly and had everything dialed in just right. Some of the features that I really love about that sled are: The running boards. The design of them is perfect. The holes in them are large enough to keep snow off them at all times. Just regular standing on them is enough to keep the snow off them and if you need to clear snow from areas where you have not been standing, you just rub your feet across them once or twice and that is it. Snow gone. They are also solid enough that they do not flex under my load and according to a few folks I know, they say I am quite the load! The other thing that is just awesome on that sled is the telescoping handle bars. I hope the person(s) that came up with that one were well rewarded because they work great. Since it is early season, I have been doing a lot more trail riding than I typically would be and it is so nice to be able to drop them down into a low position that is comfortable while I am seated. I can actually raise them and lower them while still on the fly which is nice too. The M has plenty of power. I know of all the 800's it has been dynoed with the least amount of HP, but either my 800 RMK really lost a step, or the M8 I got has some extra pep to it because it has quite a bit more power than the 800 RMK did. I know that at one point the 800 RMK was making around 150 hp with the mods I had done to it. I love the feel of the M too. It is much easier to carve than the RMK's were and that will be nice as I will not tire as quickly while playing hard. My only beef with the sled so far is the placement of the hand/thumb warmer switches. They are very easy to get to, in fact too easy- that's the problem. I think just about every time I stood up to ride I bumped into the switches and turned them off. Not that big of a deal, but it would have been nice to either have them recessed so that they cannot be hit by mistake as easily or have a different kind of switch. In any case, that is my only beef with the sled after about 250 miles so far. I can add that the Boss seat is a bit on the firm side for trail riding, but is awesome for boondocking. Nice and narrow so that it does not get in the way.
The XTX I probably only spent 20 or so miles on it last weekend, but did put over 100 miles on it yesterday. Most of them trail miles as that was the plan, but I can say that I love that sled too. It is a different ride than the M, that's for sure. In fact so different that when I first went to throw it around a bit, I nearly ended up wiping out! I decided to take it easy and get the feel for the sled again and then get a little more ambitious with my riding. As mentioned, a lot of my miles yesterday were on the trail and I can honestly say that the sled rides very nicely through everything the trails gave us. We are still early season, so the trails are a mix of some flat as a pool table and others with the Saturday afternoon chop. It was really nice to be able to ride right through the chop and not hardly feel it at all. The sled also has tons of power for it's engine class. It just pulls and pulls and pulls. I could lift the skis while doing 50-55 mph. It cracked 300 miles on the odometer, so it does not need to be babied any more. Not that I am going to beat on it, but nice to know that we do not have to watch the rpm's anymore. The areas we went boondocking in yesterday were not really much of a challenge for any sled, so it would not be fair for me to give a real opinion of how it handles off trail, but I can say there were absolutely no problems with it yesterday, on or off trail. I guess the one point I really need to make is if you get the chance to ride one of these sleds. Give it more than 10 minutes before you form an opinion. In fact, give it at least an hour. There will be plenty more rides on it this season and as I put it through the paces in all the different conditions I will be sure to report how it does.
I got to ride twice this weekend. Friday and Saturday. All of my miles were done north of Mohawk. Much of them on Friday in the bush and most of them on Saturday on the trails. Still a bit thin out there to be going anywhere you want in the back country, but plenty of snow for things like logging roads and other areas that you know are safe from objects that might be hiding under the snow. I had three companions with me on Friday, the Hennesy brothers from the Twin Cities area. I have ridden with two of them before and we had a good time exploring the back woods of the Keweenaw. We even had our first stuck of the season on Friday. Not trying to give the rider grief, in fact if it was not the first stuck of the season, I would have never even thought about taking a picture of it. We did some playing on untracked logging roads and even got to explore a place I had never been to before, but was wanting to. To me that is the best part of back country riding- the exploring. It's nice to fine a path through the woods that does not end, but I do not mind encountering the dead ends either. It is just the thrill of seeing something new that I love. It also does not hurt when this is the view of your path through the woods (FSV). We tried to stick to mostly the higher ground of Keweenaw County on Friday and the least amount of snow we rode in was the 14" on the ground at my house. At one point we were riding in snow that was at least 2 feet deep if not a bit more. It was more set up than the 2 feet+ of snow we rode in last week, but just as deep. Amazing how just a few hundred feet of elevation can make such a big difference in how much snow falls in a locale.
Yesterday the plan was to stick to the trails for most of the day. I met up with John S, who is part of the Ride-In committee, and a friend of his. His friend was either brand new to snowmobiling or very new. So that is why we stuck to the trails. We rode almost all of the trails north of Mohawk, with the exception of a few. We started out heading north of Mohawk on the main trail. Then jumped off it onto the Eagles Loop which took us down towards Eagle River and Eagle Harbor. Not much going on in Eagle River in the winter so we did not go down the spur trail that takes you there, rather we stayed on the main part of the Eagles Loop that took us to Eagle Harbor. We had only been riding for about 45 minutes at that point, so we did not have a reason to head into Eagle Harbor, so we kept on heading up the loop and rejoined the main trail near Delaware. We then took the Brockway Mountain trail up and over Brockway Mountain and into Calumet and had lunch at Ziks. After that we got back on the trails and headed towards the east side of the peninsula and Lac La Belle on the Clark Mine trail. The Clark Mine trail hooks up with one of my favorite trails up here, the Mandan and we then took that back down the east side of the peninsula towards Lac La Belle. Before heading into LLB, we did take a little side trip through the bush. The snow was deep enough that we were able to cruise down some logging roads and even made it to the big lake for a little photo op (FSV). Kind of a wintery looking shoreline for early December! We got some fuel for the sleds in LLB and then the plans were to take the LLB to Gay trail to Gay and then Gay to Lake Linden and then back up to Mohawk, but it was getting late, John's friend was getting a little worn out and I was ready to just head in for the day, so we just took the west LLB loop back up to the main trail and then down to Mohawk. All told we put on over 100 miles yesterday and overall I would rate the trails as OK. Not perfect, but not a disaster. There were a few sections where it was perfect. Most of the Brockway mountain trail up and over the hill was perfect. Just the typical wind blown area at the very top where there is about 100 feet of trail with no snow on it. The Mandan was also pretty much perfect for it's duration. I find that trail to be that way most of the time I am on it, perhaps that is why it is one of my favorites. It is also very wide and so you do not have to worry as much about oncoming sleds. We could use some more snow, so that which has fallen today and will fall in the coming days will be just what the doctor ordered. In fact, it is possible that there will be no school tomorrow, in which case Nora and I plan to head out and bust some powder!
Had one close call yesterday and that was enough. I also saw three sleds ride right through three stop signs in the Mohawk area. One of them being Hwy 41 and another blown stop sign causing a resident that lived on the street to have to hit his breaks hard. I know that this riders did not miss the stop signs, so question burning through my mind for about an hour after seeing that was: Were they just so stupid or arrogant or both that they did not think they had to stop at the stop signs. In any case, I sure hope these three clowns do not hurt anyone with their stupidity.
Today it was silent sports day. It was snowing when I got up to start my work at 6 am and has been snowing all day. It came down pretty lightly for most of the morning, but then this afternoon picked up in intensity and we picked up a few inches in an hour when it was snowing it's heaviest. Nora and I actually headed out to take a ski during the height of the heavier snow this afternoon and here is a shot of the front of the cabin during the snow. The wind was not too bad at that point, probably because most of the air was going straight up to produce the updrafts needed to produce that kind of snowfall rate! In any case, it was nice to be back on skis and gliding through the woods with the heavy snow falling. It was snowing so hard while we were skiing that after about 20 minutes in the great outdoors, Nora's hat already had about an inch of accumulation on it. We skied out past Burt's Pond and into the woods again and after about 30 minutes of skiing, turned around and headed back. It did start to lighten up on our way back, but has not stopped all day. Due to Burt's arthritis getting bad last winter, we did not ski at all last winter. So today's ski was a little bittersweet. Nice to be back out on skis and skiing the same path that we did with Burt trotting along with us, but also a bit sad to not have he and his sister with us. So this last pic I dedicate to the hounds. Your momma and I sure missed having you around to step on our skis today, but we'll never forget the fun times we had trekking through the woods with you two.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Welcome to December everyone and welcome to winter! Yep, it's winter. In both what the weather is providing and how meteorologists declare it. You astronomers can go ahead and wait until the solstice on the 21st. I guess the knuckle heads in the media will make a big deal about calling the solstice on the 21st of this month the "first day of winter" too. But it's winter up here for sure and we share that same look and feel with lots of the northern Midwest. Quite frankly, it is looking like it will continue too. That is good news for those of us that want a cold and snowy winter because typically the ones that start out cold and snowy tend to stay that way. That is not to say that it is a guarantee, nor does it mean that there will be no thaws until spring comes, but I do feel pretty good about the idea that this winter will be one that snow lovers in the Midwest will enjoy. For those of you heading out west, things have been kind of quiet lately, but by the weekend that could change. Potentially in a very big way for areas like CO, WY, southern ID and northern UT.
For us it has been a week of cold and snow. In the past 7 days our warmest temp has been 34 degrees, made early in the morning on Wednesday. For the most part, temps have been in the teens for highs and single digits for lows. Pretty cold for early December. In the snow department we have not done as good as some areas, but still pretty darn good for the first week of December. If I did my math right, the first 6 days of December has brought us 17.5" of snow and we are now at 13-14" on the ground. If that sounds like a lot, there are areas that saw well over 2 feet of snow this week and have at or over 2 feet on the ground up here. It's not just the good old UP that has some deep snow, but areas of northwest lower MI have some really deep snow too. Plus looks like more for NWL MI and for some folks in IA and southern WI early this week too.
I guess the only downside to the cold is that we sure are going through the wood. We will not run out, but we may run out of cut wood! The shop is using more heat than I thought. It really does not use that much more when it is around 30 or warmer, but when things are really cold, for some reason we go through a lot more wood than we did when we were just heating the cabin. So hopefully we can get out of the deep freeze and run in the mid 20's all winter and it can snow tons too!
So, I guess the questions is: "With all the snow we got, did I get out on the new sleds?". The answer to that is YOU BETCHA!!! I had my buddy Skylar drive up early Friday and we took off at about 1 in the afternoon. Here we are on the brand new, clean, shiny, scratch free sleds! I am proud to say that so far they have stayed that way! Please do not ask why I look like a giant in that last photo. I am about 6'2", but for some reason in that last shot I looked like I was 6'8"! Anyway, we got on the trails and headed north to meet up with a friend from northern IL and his friend at the Vansville in Phoenix. Friday was the first day of grooming and Mohawk is one of the places they keep the groomers, so the trail north had been groomed. Well, actually, since it was the first run of the season, they just "panned" the trail by using the rear pan of the drag to try and pack the snow down as much as possible. The trail was in pretty decent shape, a few bumps because of the fact that they were just panning the trail and not using the blades of the drag to shave the bumps off. The paths that the trail uses have some pretty big bumps on them when there is no snow, so it takes a bit of snow to fill in those bumps so that they can go on and groom the trail with the full portion of the drag. In any case, here is a shot of the trail to Lac La Belle where it meets the main trail a few miles north of Phoenix Friday afternoon. Our plan for the day was to ride as much of the trail system north of Mohawk as possible, so we took the Lac La Belle loop down to LLB, had some sodas at the Bear Belly Bar and then headed on our way up the Keweenaw. As mentioned in the previous journal, when the early season snows are lake effect in nature, you will encounter varied snow depths up here. You can be in one area that has x amount of snow on the ground and travel just a few miles and encounter 2x amount of snow up here. The snows we encountered this weekend were just like that. I had about a foot on the ground at out house Friday, but on the way to LLB, we encountered an area that had close to 2 feet of snow on the ground. Amazed at how much snow was down in this area, we stopped so I could take a picture of the sleds in the snow. That was the first bumper deep shot of the season, but certainly not the last and not even the last of this journal! For some reason the groomer stopped about 3 miles from LLB and turned around, so we got to ride the last 3 miles of trail in untracked snow that was around 14-18" deep. Sorry no pics, just too much fun to stop and take a picture!
After our little break in LLB, we headed back out and took the east LLB loop to the main trail, which is called the Mandan. That stretch of trail uses an old logging road that is very wide and very flat and has some nice gentle twists and turns in it. Probably one of my favorite trails to ride up here. On Friday, it also had about 15" of snow on it that had been freshly packed down to a ribbon of snow about 6" deep and flat as a pool table. In all my riding this weekend, we hit some miles of trail that were in fair shape, some that were in good shape and some that were in excellent shape. The 12 mile or so run up the Mandan was one of the excellent sections of trail. Not a track on the groomed trail and we had a blast running east up the peninsula on it. The snow stayed good and deep, even as we headed east towards the tip. Sometimes the early season snows can get a bit thin as you head towards the very tip of the peninsula, but not this early season. So we decided to keep going until we ran out of snow or ran out of land to ride on and the latter ended up being the case. Actually the last 1/2 mile or so of the High Rock trail to the very tip of the peninsula did get a little thin, we started to hear some rocks on the carbides from time to time, but I knew we were only about 1/2 mile from the point, so we kept on and made it to High Rock. I think I can safely declare that our group of four riders were the first sleds to High Rock this season!
We spent a few minutes at the point, taking it all in and then decided to get back on the sleds and head towards Copper Harbor for dinner. It was not that late, but I was getting hungry and standing out at the point there at High Rock, the winds were blowing around 25-30 mph and it was chilly, so I was also looking forward to getting inside and warmed up. We made good time getting to the harbor and had a nice dinner at the Mariner and then got suited up for the ride home. I had thought that we would take the long way home and take the Eagles Loop as a side trip back down the peninsula, but the gas gauges were showing that we would not have enough gas to do that, so we took the Brockway Mountain trail to the main trail and then back down to home base. Steve and his friend pealed off at the east end of the Eagles loop to head down to Eagle Harbor where they were staying. All told we put 96 miles on that afternoon and evening and other than the last 1/2 mile of the High Rock trail and also at the very top of Brockway Mountain where the wind blows so hard, there was plenty of snow. The bare spots on Brockway were the traditional ones that can be bare at any time of the season and are about 30-50 feet long. As mentioned, the trails were groomed, but had some studder bumps to them. With a bit more snow and another run of the groomer, they could be brought to very good shape. We did get about 3-5" of new snow Friday night and Saturday, so perhaps that was enough to allow them to start shaving the trails and flatten them out totally.
Saturday left us with a bit of a dilemma. Stay up this way and perhaps explore some back country along with some of the trails we did not ride on Friday, or ride south to where we knew the snow was significantly deeper and play down there or trailer south and play. Living up here I get really spoiled by not having to trailer at all. I may toss a sled in the back of Old Blue and get to a play spot, but for the most part, I just head out right from the garage and start riding. With that said, we decided to dig out the trailer (literally) and put the sleds on them, drive down to South Range and ride south from there. I guess the thought of playing all day down south and then having to ride back up north just did not sound as good as putting the sleds back on the trailer, getting into a heated truck and heading home after a long day of playing.
So on road we went, heading south in search of the deepest snow we could find. The drive down was a snowy one as a clipper had worked through overnight and lake snows were occurring in it's wake. Nothing that Old Blue could not handle and we made it to South Range in about 45 minutes. We planned to park at the Wildlife Refuge Cabins and when we pulled up we were pleasantly surprised to see both Dave and Lori were there. Dave was plowing the snow and Lori was in the office tending to things there. It did not take too much arm twisting to get them to take the first ride of the season on their new sleds and the plan was for us to meet them at Toivola Lunch. So Skylar and I got unloaded and geared up and headed south. Saturday saw everything from sunshine to intense snow squalls and as we were driving through Painesdale, we hit one of those intense squalls. Nothing like 10th of a mile visibility. My three favorite words...Lake Effect Snow! We worked our way south down the trail and stopped to play in a field down there. The snows down there were easily 2 feet deep if not more. The only issue was that there was no bottom to the snow, so it was still possible to hit an object that is buried under all the snow, what I like to call BPS. The clean version of that acronym would be rear-end pucker snow. So we played, but played rather timidly. Here is a shot of Skylar and the XTX in headlight deep snow. A little bit down the trail we came to a logging road that Skylar knew would be OK to ride down, so we headed down it for a few miles and then decided to turn around and head to Toivola so we could grab a bite to eat before Dave and Lori showed up. I must admit, it is pretty hard to turn around and head back when you are riding in conditions like this! But we knew there would be a whole afternoon of that with Dave and Lori, so we were disciplined and headed back.
It was a very enjoyable lunch, sitting there watching it snow so hard that at times you could barely make out the tiny little Toivola Post Office about 75 feet from the diner. Just as we were finishing up our dessert, Dave and Lori showed up, coated in snow from head to toe. We let them get thawed out for a moment and then headed back out into the snow to play. There are few people out there that know the backcountry south of the bridge as well as Dave and it is a lot of fun to hook up with him to ride. I pay little attention to where we are actually going and just enjoy the riding. It snowed pretty hard almost the entire time we rode yesterday afternoon and most of the photo ops were when we stopped to clear snow from the back of our throats. Should have brought the snorkel. We rode for about 3 1/2 hours in conditions that you never would have though the date was December 6th. At one of our stops, Skylar shot a little video of me playing in the snow. Here it is.
The M8 handles a little differently than my old RMK's and it took some time to get used to it, but by the end of the day, I felt pretty good on it. The final tipping point between carving and laying on the ground with your sled on it's side next to you is a bit more touchy than the old edge chassis and I had a few of the flops, but I think the snow being so deep and bottomless also aided in my capsizes during the day. All good fun though and I look forward to more opportunities to learn the finer points of the sleds. I also have to admit that while I was having so much fun on Saturday, I had two thoughts running through my head. First that there would be lots of folks jealous of the fun we had and secondly, THANKS RT12 ARCTIC CAT! That sled was set up perfectly and ran great. I know the only complaint about the M8 is it's HP number, but I can say that for the elevation we ride at here, I know it will have all the power I need. Up at 9-11 thousand feet, that could be a different story, but I ride 95% of my season here and will be plenty pleased with the power the sled has.
Today, the plan was to get back on the trails from our place and ride south to Hancock and back. I figured we could take the upper trail through Calumet south to Hancock and then the lower trail through Dollar Bay and Lake Linden back home. So Nora joined me for the ride and we headed out. We stopped off at the gas station in Allouez on the way down and filled up the sleds. Then took the main trail on down to Calumet. Conditions were pretty good. Actually better than I had anticipated. The groomer had been out, so we had a nice flat trail from just north of Calumet all the way down to Hancock. Plenty of snow for them to groom as well. Even the trail that runs along side the highway in Hancock was in good shape and it seemed like they may have even had a bit more snow in places like Calumet and Houghton that we have up here in southern Keweenaw County.
We passed the lift bridge and I drove up to it to take a picture of what you would have to cross over right now to get from the south end to the north end. I say right now because they will be hauling truck loads of snow down there to put over the bridge deck for the sleds to ride on. They build it up a foot or two thick and actually groom it all season long. It is perfectly legal to cross it as is right now and for years they did not put the mat of snow down on the bridge deck, so you are not going to hurt your sled by driving across it as is. Here is a close up of the bridge deck. The lake froze over this weekend, but is way to thin to even think about crossing right now.
After admiring the lift bridge, Nora and I headed north and back towards home. The groomer had not hit this section of trail yet, so there were a few bumps on it, but nothing too bad. Here is a shot of Nora on the trestle across the Hungarian Creek in Hubbell and here is a shot of the trail at that same spot, but looking north, with the little bumps we had to ride on. I tried my best to capture the bumps, but I guess they did not show up too well. Perhaps they were too small to really show up anyway, I would judge them to be 6-8" tall.
It was Nora's first time on the XTX and my neck was sore from the previous two days with a helmet on my head, so she rode in front and the bumps did not slow her down a bit. It was fun to watch her become comfortable on that sled. After about 10-15 minutes on it her speed increased and by the end of the ride I was having to keep on my toes to keep up with her! At one of our quick stopping points, she exclaimed to me that the sled was a rocket ship! Skylar said he too had the sled grow on him and really had a blast on it this weekend. I was glad to see them both enjoy it so much and have the sled grow on them, because the same thing happened to me and I did not want to think that I was goofy or something. I can remember getting on the sled and thinking it felt really different and even uncomfortable when compared to the edge chassis that I was used to, but after about 30 minutes of time on it, I did not want to get off of it and back on my own sled! In any case I am really glad that Nora took to the sled so well and I can tell that we are going to have a lot of fun riding together this season.
So there you have it. Conditions are very good for this early in the season. The snows I played in were deepest from around Painesdale or Toivola south to Twin Lakes. The groomers are out and things will only get better from here on out, with snows in the forecast for the next week to ten days and cold temps. I can even report that we did not hit any nasty wet or muddy spots. While returning from the backcountry on our ride Saturday, we rode trail 109 for a bit and I know that the section we rode can have some nasty wet/muddy spots on it at times, especially early in the season. The groomer had just gone through there and the snow was a little discolored in those traditional nasty spots, but with they were not messy at all and the grooming and sled traffic will keep the snow packed down and allow the cold temps to freeze things up solid. I encountered no we spots on the trails I rode north of the bridge. Not that we have too many to begin with, but there are a few spots that can have issues and they were solid already.
My last item for this entry is to remind everyone that it is not too early to register for the ride in. It is January 30 and 31. Here is a link to the information page for it. By registering now, it will also help us in producing the shirts for the event. All the embroidery is done by one single woman and it helps if we can send her shirt orders as they come in, rather than one big order right before the event. I guess that covers it for this one. 200 miles on the sled over the weekend and this old buck needs to get some rest!
Good night from the Keweenaw..