Ok, so I just could not stand to be away. Actually since I am sure that a lot of folks are wondering what the conditions are like up here, Nora, the hounds and I took a little tour in the truck this morning to take some shots of the trails and surrounding areas up here to illustrate things. In a nutshell, the weather yesterday and overnight seems to have had little impact on things. Here is a shot of my street. Some of the snow was lost, but the street in general is still snow/ice covered. This next shot is looking down trail #3 up behind Lake Linden. It was a little bumpy, but still fully snow covered and I would estimate a base of 10-14". That being one of the places to illustrate some of the best conditions up here, I decided to drive up towards the property. There is a set of turns there that the trail is always in pretty rough shape, even when the entire system is good. It's only about a 100 yard stretch of trail through the turns, but it a great place to go to show the worst of it up here. What happens here is that the sled traffic actually wears down the snow. It's a little hard to tell in this shot, but the trail is actually a 10 foot wide, 2 foot deep trench running through the snow. Here is a picture of the trail crossing at HWY 41 in Mohawk. You might have even caught a few flakes starting to show up in that last shot. It started to snow on our little tour this morning. Here is the trail crossing HWY 41 near the Northgate Motel just north of Calumet. Snowing even heavier by then. Enough to start to coat the highway. One final picture for you. Someone in the general discussions board was wondering if the parking lots (specifically at Keweenaw Motor Sports) still had snow on them. Well, I cannot speak for all the parking lots, but the one at Keweenaw Motor Sports was still snow covered.
All the shots were taken between 9-10 am this morning and it is currently snowing pretty good, with about 1/2 inch new in the past 30-40 minutes. Hope this helps some folks understand the conditions up here. Now Happy New Year!!!
Good morning from the Keweenaw..
Well, I had hoped to get two journals out before the end of the year, but it looks like this will be it. Not a ton of exciting things have happened since I last wrote, that is one reason why I did not write. The other reason is that other aspects of the site have kept me pretty busy as have the general day to day events of my life.
Monday was Burt and Baileys birthday, so they got to have their traditional spaghetti dinner. Well, it was not quite the traditional version, the noodles were plain, with no sauce or anything. After Baileys scare with pancreatitis back in April, the dogs have been kept off the human food. However, pasta is fine for them. In fact pasta was part of Baileys recovery menu. They wasted no time chowing down on the noodles and I suppose we will have to figure out some other occasions to give them a bit of pasta other than their birthday.
On Tuesday I went for a ride. I hooked up with a friend Dave who is a resurrected KSE guide. He was part of the original 4, then took a few years off to help with a new daughter, but is back and will be in the next video as well. He lives out in the valley, smack dab in some of the best play spots there are up here. Lots of fields and even some great logging roads and two tracks. We started out in the fields near his house, carving some turns and getting me more practice in the wide open powder. We decided to hop over to another field and in the process, my left ski found a buried piece of a stump. Actually it almost looked like a burl on the stump, something that stuck out further than the rest of the stump. I was not going very fast at all but when I hit the stump I heard a little pop. I was really hoping that it was the plastic ski just sort of snapping back after going over whatever it hit. No luck, I looked over the left side of the sled and saw the trailing arm sticking out.
The good news was that the damage done was pretty minimal. All that happened was the plastic bushing that helps hold the rear of the trailing arm to the frame of the sled was shattered and the bolt that holds the rear portion of the trailing arm to the frame was bent. So the rear portion of the trailing arm was no longer attached to the sleds frame. The trailing arm (the expensive part of the front suspension) and the control arms also were just fine. So the repair would end up being fairly simple and straight forward and not very expensive. The bad news was the ride was over after just starting! I was able to limp the sled back to Dave's house and then he was kind enough to tow the sled on his trailer to my house. I shot down to Dan's Polaris to get the replacement parts, but then had to delay the repair job until yesterday after work. It turns out I got the wrong bushing, so I had to go back to Dan's yesterday, get the right bushing and then put things back together today. I wanted to get an extra bolt and bushing to keep on the sled in case this happens again (what do you suppose the odds of that are!). That way the ride will not be prematurely ended and it could happen in a spot that it is not too easy to ride out of. However, they only had an extra bolt. I'll stop in on one of my trips down that way to get the extra bushing some other time.
Today I tried out a new secondary clutch I got from Goodwin Performance. It's a Team Roller Secondary and from what I have heard can really make a big difference in the performance of the sled. A lot of folks concentrate only on making more horsepower on their sleds without any concern to how that horsepower is transfered to the track. That is where clutching comes in. In some cases more horsepower can actually make the performance a little worse because the engine may be out of it's peak power range for much of the time. Plus some of the enhancements made to engines to gain more HP can cause the rider to have to monitor the fuel flow very carefully or even threaten the health of the engine a bit and I did not really want to have to mess around with that too much.
So I opted to try and gain more performance with just maximizing the way the engines power is transfered to the track. Well, there was a difference all right, but all that seemed to happen was my track spun too much and did now allow it to hook up with the snow in the optimal manner. I was doing all of this testing with my friend Al who knows far more than me about sleds. We flipped the sled on it's side to discover that I needed to let the limiter straps out a bit more to get more of the track on the snow. About this time it started to rain/sleet out, so I rode home, put the sled in the garage and then ran up to Calumet to run a few errands.
I was able to let the limiter straps all the way out and hopefully it solves the track spinning issue. It has been raining since about 2:30 and actually rained very hard from about 3 to 4-4:30. It is just drizzling now. So far the impacts have not seemed to be too bad. I have not checked the trails, but I know I still have snow on my street and there was only about 1/4" of hard pack snow on it, so the snow is not melting that fast. It looks like we will change over to snow tomorrow morning and then pick up a few inches tomorrow during the day and a few more overnight tomorrow night. So other than not being able to ride from about 2:30 this afternoon until tomorrow morning, things should be OK.
I apologize to all the folks that were not that interested in all my sled mechanic stuff, but to tell you the honest truth, that is what has kept me busy for most of the past 3 days! I sure was hoping to take some nice riding pics on Tuesday, but we literally were gone no more than 10 minutes when I has my mishap. So there went that idea. I do have plans to ride as early as tomorrow, but for sure this weekend. So I should have some shots and stories to share with you.
So I guess this is the time of the year to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the new one. I actually made a new years resolution about 20 years ago to never make another one and I have been able to stick with it, so I cannot comment on any new resolutions I have for this year. I guess I can reflect on the past year a bit. It sure was an eventful one. Some wonderful (my marriage to Nora) and some a little scary (Burt and Baileys health issues). I guess that's what life is really all about- ups and downs; joys and sorrows, thrills and scares. I don't think I would have it any other way. Seems to round out things. Of course when the bad stuff comes I always feel like I could do without it, but I always end up learning something from the experience and are better for that, so there is a plus to everything that happens in life. I do have a wish for this new year and that is that all reading this will have a healthy and happy 2005, no matter what life brings. I always say that no matter what happens in life, you have two choices: You can either be happy or not and I do try to choose the former as much as I can. Happy New Year everyone- from the Dee Family. and...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
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Home sweet home! As nice as it is to see my family, it is always nice to get back home to the UP. Especially this Christmas with all the snow we have. It is deep up here- mid winter deep. I think this is the most snow we have had up here at Christmas time since I have lived here. In Christmas of 2000 we were pretty close and some areas up in Keweenaw county may have had more than I have right now and maybe more than they have right now. Also in 2001 we got dumped on right at Christmas, but that came with bare ground at the start and was a lot of fluff. This snow has been steadily building for 2 weeks and it is deep. I think Lake Linden is living up to it's banana belt reputation with some of the least snow in the area. I know driving down on Thursday and then back again yesterday the snow between around Mass City and South Range is almost twice as deep as it is here in LL. I wish it had been light out on our return trip yesterday because the trees are just coated in snow. Some of the 50-70 foot conifers are solid white, not a bit of green showing from top to bottom. It takes a lot of snow to coat a big tree like that! I did see where the depth up at the Phoenix Farms is at 30", which is about 10" more than my depth, so they have been getting hit harder than LL has. Much of the other snow belts of the UP have been hit. The areas just to the west of Marquette were hit with nearly 16" of snow in the 24 hours ending 8 am this morning and looking at some of the web cams in the NCN that are scattered across the UP, looks like they did well in the past 4-5 days.
Now, even though Lake Linden may not have as much snow as other areas, we still have a very respectable 21-22" of snow on the ground and most of the locals would probably say that's enough for the rest of the winter! We did get about 14" while we were away and it has not settled too much yet, so I wanted to go and take advantage of it. So Nora and I fired up the sleds and headed over to a field near by to go and have some fun. I must admit that it was a very good idea to do that as the conditions for playing in powder were just about perfect. The field had about 2-2 1/2 feet of powder snow in it which was perfect for carving some turns, but also no so deep that if I had a mishap I could not get out without having to dig out. With the long track and deep paddle lugs on the RMK, all I had to do was give it some gas and hang on, the sled would pop right up out of any hole I could get it into!
It's conditions like we had this morning that I moved up here for. Sure there are lots of other reasons, but to be able to open up the garage door, ride right from my garage and in 5 minutes be able to do this, I just don't think it can get much better than that! Nice to have the nose of the sled all dusted, makes for a very happy Johnny! Of course with conditions like that I did not want to just sit around for too long and got back out there to carve up some more turns. I am actually still trying to make it a more natural process for me with the RMK. Just about the time I got this sled I had mastered the art of throwing around a short track sled , namely the Pol-Cat. But the extra track really makes it more difficult for me to find the right balance in tossing it around. I have made improvements from when I first started riding the sled. I look back at the video shot early last February and I had only been on the sled about 4 times prior to that shooting and was really having a hard time with things, especially in the field where I took my header. I'm almost embarrassed to watch that part. Not the header, but me struggling to get the sled to do what I wanted it to do leading up to the header. Today I was able to make some great strides in mastering my sled, but sill have a few bugs to work out!
I will add, that I was not the only one having a few problems today. Nora was having her first real extended experience in powder riding in a field. Last January we did take a ride with Brian, his wife and a friend and Nora did get some powder riding experience in then, but today it was all powder. She did very well though and really learns quickly. I can see that it will not be too long before she has things mastered when it comes to riding a sled in powder. One thing I did realize today is that I am a bit out of shape for riding like we do. Trail riding is one thing and if the trails are in good shape, then there really is not that much that gets tired on me. However, throwing a sled around and even digging out can turn into a real workout and I found that out today. I will have to get out there some more and get myself into better condition before I start trying to make a whole day out of it! Nora did take some video with her camera today and I will provide you with the link to it, but be forwarded, it is about 9 meg in size, so dial up users may want to skip it. Also note that her cam shoots mpg video as opposed to my cam which takes avi. Anyway, here it is. Nora also managed to take a shot of our handy work this morning. I'd say the two of us carved up that field pretty well.
So we are at mid winter snow depths up here. That is nice. However, it also means that I may have to shovel off the roof soon. I may even take care of it before Thursday. It looks like we may get a little rain or perhaps a rain/snow mix on Thursday. I already have about 2 feet of snow on the roof and would not want it to collect any rain and make it that much heavier. I am hoping that it decides to snow instead, but may just play it save and clear that roof anyway. The rain would not hurt the trail conditions up here too much. There is around 2-4 feet of snow down on the level and the trails have at least 10-12" of packed base down. Sure it's no fun to ride in the rain, but I would not cancel a trip up here because of it. If it does rain, it will probably do so Thursday and be back to snow by Thursday night or Friday. That means around 12 hours of riding time could be missed due to the weather. I know I would not cancel a 3-5 day trip because of 12 hours of down time. Especially with the conditions the way they are right now. I hope I did not sound too much like the Chamber of Commerce just then, but I just hate to see someone miss days of having fun in great conditions for the fear that 12 hours or so may be down time.
I think that about covers it for this one. Looks like there may only be a journal or two left for 2004. Where did the year go!?
Good night from the Keweenaw..
So here it is, the night before the night before the night before Christmas! I can't believe that we are here already. It seems like just yesterday that it was December first. Time flies when you are having fun I guess! Nora and I have been packing up for the trip south to my parents place. We are not staying long, so we do not have to pack that much, but with it being Christmas we do have all the presents to bring. Today I took the truck over to Al's to have the oil changed and things given the once over. It is really nice to have a friend as a mechanic and a good mechanic at that! So we are just about all set for what will hopefully be an uneventful commute down to the land of no snow. Looks like it will be a cold Christmas where we are headed, but not a white one. No problem, we are actually returning here Christmas evening so part of our Christmas will be white!
The snows do keep falling up here. Not at an extremely heavy clip, but at a fairly steady clip. We picked up about 6" last night and about 1-2" today. It has been snowing for most of the day, but the flakes are so small they just do not pile up very quickly. At this point that is fine with me. I cannot play in it for a few days, so it does not need to pile up too much right now.
I am getting the itch to do some real riding though. I have not yet been out in the back country, although I did take a ride on the trails yesterday. The crew that filmed the video that we were in came up to do some filming for Yamaha this past weekend and stayed a few extra days to do some riding. I went out with them yesterday afternoon for a quick trip across some of the trails. I did bring the camera and was all prepared to take lots of shots of the different conditions, but to tell you the honest truth, they were not that different! For the most part I would put the trail conditions up here in the good to excellent range. I will say that there were a few spots where there were a few stutter bumps, but nothing too big or nothing too widespread. There were also more sleds out than I expected to see. We passed several groups of at least 6 sleds on our 3 hour tour. There were also several groups of 2-3 sleds.
I had to work yesterday, which meant that we could not hit the trail until about 2:30. We also planned to go out to dinner after the ride, so to avoid making it a long night I had hoped to get us back to Lake Linden by about 5-5:30. That meant that we could not go too far and I did not want to do any off trail stuff. So I decided to run us up to Eagle Harbor and back. It turns out that they had never been there, so the trip ended up being a good call. We took the main trail all the way up to the the north end of the Eagles Loop. I have not been on that section of trail in a long time. It is actually one of my favorites. It is a road when there is no snow on the ground, so it is plenty wide. For some reason the traffic on it seems to be pretty low. I think most folks just get in "I have to get to Copper Harbor" mode and forget about all the side loops. In any case it is usually in pretty good shape and a fun trail to ride with big sweeping turns and lots of room between the trees.
We made it to Eagle Harbor in pretty good time and I took them out to see the lighthouse. There is a little observation deck out there where you can look out over the lake and I was actually surprised to see the lake still wide open. We have had quite a bit of cold air in the past two weeks and I thought that there might at least be a little shore ice, but the only ice to be seen was on the rocks sticking out of the water along the shore. Looking east up the shoreline towards Copper Harbor, there was certainly evidence that the shoreline has been through some storms recently. Of course one cannot take a trip to Eagle Harbor without snapping a shot of the lighthouse (fsv).
We made even better time on the way home. I know a few short cuts and we were actually able to make it from Eagle Harbor to Lake Linden in about an hour. There are lots of long strait sections of trail and with them being flat and also with us just being down them I knew we could travel at a pretty decent clip, so we had it up around 60 on the straight shots. The sled seemed to be running very well, in fact I was almost a little worried it was running too good. Seems to happen just before they blow up! No blow up an a safe and successful trip all in all, but now I am ready to bust some powda! Next week!
Well, this will be the last time I talk to you all before Christmas, so here's wishing you all a very happy holiday! I have to apologize though, between Nora and I being sick and then trying to play catch up we never did get out to take our outdoor Christmas picture. I am sure we still will, but it will have to be a post-Christmas picture. So I think for the first time since 2000, I cannot give you a holiday shot of the Dee clan. Sorry! However, I wish you joy, happiness and love. And to the growing number of members of service people over in the Gulf reading this- a very special thank you for your duty and sacrifice. I can tell you that all you are doing is not going unrecognized by this grateful american.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
My apologies for being away for so long, but with me being sick much of last week, I really did not do much, so thus did not have much to comment on beyond the last entry. When I last wrote I was in the midst of recovering from a nasty stomach virus. Well, it seemed to take most of the rest of the week to fully recover from that. My stomach got feeling better by about Tue or Wed, but I was still quite weak and for most of the rest of the week I would get dizzy when I stood up. Nora even ended up getting a cold last week and I may have been battling the early stages of that to boot. So I did a lot of staying inside and taking it easy last week- plus drinking gallons of sports drinks and even taking some of those cold preventative zinc tablets. I do believe I am back to 100%, in fact I felt that way yesterday.
About the biggest news I have is that we had another storm yesterday and last night. Nothing like the one last weekend, but I did pick up about 7" all told. The air was so cold and so dry that it was hard for the big lake to really heat and moisten the atmosphere. The result was that we did have snow all day yesterday and into the night, including some periods of heavy snow. However, the flakes were so small that the snows did not pile up very quickly. The trade off is that the snow we did get ended up being pretty dense and not the typical lake effect fluff. So we have a very solid base of about 15-20" down up here, with some spots closing in on 30".
We do have another storm coming by tomorrow and that one looks like it could be a fairly potent one, bringing around 4-6" of system snow tomorrow and tomorrow night and then double that in LES (lake effect snow) Tue and Tue night and the LES looks to continue into Wed. Looks like some genuine powder riding may have to be had this week!
I did take a snowmobile ride yesterday, but it was not on the RMK or the Pol-Cat. Yamaha was up at the new dealership up here in Hancock and had a bunch of their new sleds available for a demo ride. My friend and fellow KSE guide Brian and I decided to head down and take a spin on them to see what they were all about. I have to say I was pretty impressed by their performance. I knew when the 4 strokes first started coming out it would either be not too long before they rose to the performance of the 2 strokes or just faded away. I believe that the sled I rode yesterday was the Yamaha Vector. For one it was a little weird to be back on a short track, but the sled seemed to respond pretty good to my input and I would have to say that if I were in the market for a trail sled, I would be seriously looking into those 4 strokes. However, very little of my saddle time is spend going down the trail and I don't think those sleds are quite ready for boondocking in the deep stuff. But who knows what a few years will bring.
The conditions for the demo ride were not what I would call ideal either. The way the worked things was to get a group of folks signed up and then take them all out at once. That was fine, but they were running the demos all along the same stretch of trail and by the time we went that section of trail was starting to get some pretty large bumps on it. It was good for testing out the suspension on the sleds, but not that good for letting it all hang out. To add to that was the fact the it was getting pretty cold and the snow dust from the sleds was starting to become an issue as well. Another reason to take it easy on the ride.
I have not been on my sled since last Sunday's ride, but I did take a drive up to the trail crossing this morning and snapped a shot of the condition for you. I have to say that to me is good to excellent shape. Just as I was coming to the crossing, 3 sleds were crossing the road and by the time I got to the trail itself, the sleds were already quite a way's down the trail, so the conditions were certainly not slowing them up! The traffic up here this weekend has been pretty light and with the cold temps the trails are holding a groom very well. This afternoon Nora, the hounds and I took a trip north and we passed about 3 more trail crossings on the way and the condition of the trails at all of those crossings were similar. So if you are coming up to ride this week you will be golden! Of course the holiday weekend will most likely be a mad house, but it also looks like the storm tomorrow and Tue could give some other areas of the Northwoods some snow and that could open up more options for folks this holiday season.
We decided to walk rather than ski this afternoon. It's pretty cold out (4 above) and that can make for some rather challenging conditions for skiing. However, the poor hounds have really been neglected since both Nora and I were battling our illnesses this past week, so I wanted to do more than just take them for a walk around the neighborhood which is all they got all last week. With that thought in mind we piled into the truck and headed north. There are a few county roads up here that do get plowed all winter long, but see almost no vehicle traffic and they are perfect to take the dogs for a walk. We do not have to have them on a leash because the roads see so little traffic (did not see a single vehicle on our walk this afternoon) and yet we have a nice plowed surface to walk on. It was cold, but Nora and I both bundled up and of course the hounds are well prepared for the winter weather, so we were able to stay pretty comfortable. When we started out it was not snowing, but about 1/2 way through the walk it started to snow and that seemed to warm it up a bit a well. Not sure why it seems warmer when it is snowing vs. not snowing, but it does!
So there is no question that winter is here. Only 8 days ago it seemed like we were still waiting for winter, but 31" of snow later we are in winter. 31", that is just 7" short of Chicago's entire seasonal average! That's what I love about this place, we know snow!
Well, I have been sitting here for about 15 minutes and cannot come up with anything interesting to say, so I figured that means it's time to sign off. Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Ho man, I'm back! I sure did not mean to be away this long, but I became a victim of either food poisoning or some kind of stomach virus. I will not get into the details, but suffice to say that I have never been that ill with stomach and intestinal issues in my entire life! It was a very effective way to lose about 10 pounds, but I do not suggest it. I am thankful that I have been able to get over the worst of it so fast. I came down with problems on the way home from Nora and my snowmobile trip Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening/night was the worst. Yesterday I was still pretty out of it, but today I feel much better. Still not 100%, really washed out and tired, but good enough to get most of my activities accomplished. I say most because if I were 100%, I would most likely be on my sled right now enjoying all the fresh snow. Hopefully that will be able to be done by about Thursday.
I do have a handful of pictures to share with you and when I went to download and resize them I had forgotten what some were all about! Seems like it was forever ago that I last wrote, so much has happened. Plus the time that I was sickest is all a blur and most of what happened before it seems weeks ago and even things that happened yesterday do not seem all that clear to me. Strange how an illness like that can do that to you.
Anyway, on Friday I was chatting with some friends and one of them told me that there was a monster seen up by our property. By monster I mean a large buck. So on Saturday, Nora, the hounds and I decided to head up there to see if we could spot any signs of him. We did not expect to see him (bucks that are that large are usually very smart too and will be long gone before we ever get close) and did not. However, we did spot some tracks in the snow and even a few scrapes on the ground. Then we decided to go deep into the heavily wooded area of the property. This is an area that you can only get around in when the leaves have fallen. Things are very thick back there and also lots of fallen trees to have to try and get over. We followed one of the trails in the snow that was more heavily used and came across a pretty decent rub. For those of you that are wondering just what that is, I will try and explain, but I will admit I am not a hunter and still learning the ways of the woods myself. In any case, a buck will mark his territory several ways, one might be by leaving his urine sent in different areas. Another is by scraping the ground with his front hoof and leaving a scent and the third is to rub his antlers across the trunk of a small tree to leave his scent. As rubs, go, the one in that picture was pretty healthy. However, a little further exploring would put that rub to shame.
We reached a point where there were to fairly well marked trails to follow, so Nora went down one and I went down the other, with the hounds pretty much running between the two of us. We each found several more rubs of varying size, but then Nora yelled that she had found a huge one on a cedar. About a minute later I found a dandy on a spruce. The one on the cedar was rubbed clean from the ground up to about 4-5 feet off the ground, while the spruce was only about 2 feet in length, but the buck had managed to rub about 1/4 to 1/2" of wood from all sides of the tree. I think that tree will most likely die because of the damage done to it. I can't imagine the time it must have taken for the buck to do that! I hope he survives the winter, because next autumn I plan to set up a stand and be able to take some shots at him. Not with a gun, but a camera. The way I figure it, I get some nice shots of a monster buck with a camera, it's as good an honorable as bringing him down with a gun. Nora on the other hand is talking about shooting him with the real thing. I know that she can handle a gun just fine, she out shot Al and I a year ago, but I'm wondering if she is just too sweet inside to actually pull the trigger. Plus neither of us like venison and have no need for the mount.
It would be neat to find it's rack this winter. I don't know when they lose them, but I would figure pretty soon. Of course the snow is getting too deep to be able to walk around up there. It was about 4-6" deep on Saturday and you can add about 2 feet onto that since! And that leads me to my next topic.
What a storm! Boy, they don't make clipper systems like that too often! In fact, I do believe that is one of the strongest clipper systems to impact the region in a long time. It did just about everything right to maximize the snowfall for our neck of the woods too. Came in and then slowed down as it got close to us, producing about 8-10" of system snow, then the lake effect took over Sunday night and Monday and produced another 12-13". The system snow was very wet and heavy stuff and will make for a great base, while the lake effect was sort of the icing on the cake.
On Sunday morning when the AL Cam started taking pictures, I noticed that because of it's angle, it misrepresents how much snow is on the platform. The low angle causes the snow depth on the platform to look lower than it is. Case in point, Sunday morning I took two pictures, one at the angle the AL Cam uses and one which was taken level with the platform. As you can see, the low angle perspective makes it looks like there was 4" on the platform while the level angle indicated 6". The pictures were taken about 60 seconds apart. It was snowing pretty hard at that point, but not hard enough to put 2" down! So the morale to all of this is that if what I say on the AL Cam page does not always match up with what the snow station is saying, you will understand. I will also add that sometimes I use other places to measure when the winds are strong out of the west as the platform becomes too exposed.
I was still feeling good on Sunday and actually had no idea what was to come, so Nora and I took advantage of the new snow by first taking the hounds for a ski at the School Forest. We were making our own tracks and the snow was pretty sticky, but we all had a good time and got some exercise. The hounds really seemed excited for the new snow too.
If that were not enough activity, Nora and I then changed cloths and fired up the sleds. Our plan was to ride up to Phoenix and back with the main goal to be putting on the first miles as well as break in a new belt for the RMK. When we left, the snow intensity had really picked up a bunch and I guess it is safe to say that the snowfall rate was categorized as heavy. That certainly did not deter me and when I checked to see how Nora felt about the situation all I got was a hearty thumbs up. I did take it pretty easy though. We were making the first tracks most of the way and even though the groomers had already been out around the first of the month, I was not convinced that all was well underneath the foot of fresh snow. Plus with the snow so wet and sticky, I had to clean it off of my goggles every 60 seconds or so and with it snowing so hard you could not see very far. Every time I looked back I saw Nora's headlight close behind me, in fact when we stopped in Phoenix to get out of the snow for a little bit she asked me why I kept looking back! I told her it's just something most snowmobilers do to make sure everything is OK with the rider behind them.
We did make it to Phoenix in about an hour. That is a little more than twice the amount of time that it might take with typical conditions, but as you can tell by the front of my sled, it was was anything but typical on that ride! I was very glad that I was riding in the gear that I was. I swear by gortex and it certainly did not let me down that day. I actually wear a gortex jacket, bibs, gloves and boot and while they were absolutely soaked on the outside, I was perfectly dry on the inside. It may cost a bit more, but on a day like that, it more than pays for itself as far as I am concerned. We went in to the Vansville Bar to get out of the elements and then after chatting with the owners for a while we were back in the snow for the trip home. It was on the trip home that I started to feel a little sick. Not real bad, but it sure seemed like something was wrong. There are not too many times when I am riding on a sled that I wish I was someplace else, but at that moment that is exactly what I was feeling.
We made it home, but I knew something was up by then as I could barely walk. As soon as I got inside and started undressing, I got the worst chills and before too long was making frequent visits to the bathroom. Sunday night was not a fun night at all. Little to no sleep, but yet I cannot remember any details to the night. I cannot even remember if I got to see how hard it was snowing or not. But as mentioned, I am on the road to recovery and hope to be back to 100% by tomorrow or Thursday.
I did not ride today, but I did manage to take the truck up to where the trail crosses Normand Road and snapped a shot of the trail. I was really hoping that they had groomed! I do not like to say things that are not complimentary of the area, but on the same hand I also will never hide the truth from you all. In any case, the trail had been groomed, in fact it looks like it had been groomed recently. I also passed the trail going to Gay and that had not been groomed yet, so I can say that not all the trails have been groomed yet. I can also say that there was a water main break in Painesdale that impacted the trail. They got the main fixed yesterday, but have some work to do to repair the damage done to the trail. I believe they plan to have the trail back open by the weekend. I can also say that while the trail to Phoenix had not been groomed Sunday when we were riding it (I really wasn't expecting it to be), I could tell that they had done some work to avoid potential problems with wet areas. Especially just north of Mohawk which was part of the Mud Bowl a few years ago. They dug culverts on either side of the trail for over a mile and it also looks like they may have built up the trail bed. Nora and I encountered no wet areas on our trip from Lake Linden to Phoenix.
We we have finally dove into winter head first up here. The forecast looks good too, really good as a matter of fact. I don't know if we will see another 2 foot storm hit, but would not be surprised that we get 2 feet of snow between now and Christmas. Add to that plenty of cold air and I think we will likely have one of the best holiday period conditions we have had in a long time. Heck we even have enough snow to start playing in the backcountry. Brian called me yesterday and even though he did not come right out and ask (since I told him early in the conversation I was sick) I am willing to bet he was ready to ride. I'm sure I will be back in the saddle again very soon. I will leave you with one last shot, it is of a snowy Normand Road.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Since I have so many deep snow shots I figured I would put out a journal and share them all with you. NOT! Wha! I have given up on this being a record snow year. Now don't get me wrong, I am not all down in the dumps over things. Actually a bit of my anxiety is gone. See, in almost every really big snow year the snows start hard and heavy in late November or early December, or basically by now. So I think it is safe to say that we will not be breaking any records for seasonal snowfall this season. That does not mean that our season will not be any good. I still have lots of faith that we will get our snow and it will get deep. I can say that because it does every year, even in our lower snow seasons. An extremely poor year would be over 140", which is a total that places not too far to our south could only dream of having. Thus I am actually a little relieved. I do not have the pressure of hoping this will be the new record season anymore! Although I do hope I get to experience the 400 incher in my lifetime and in my years that I can still play in it! One thing I will add is that it has only been about 5 days since we went from decent early December conditions to "waitin' for winter", but it seems like weeks! They say time fly's when you are having fun, I guess it also true when the opposite is happening!
I do have some shots to share with you and they do have some snow in them, but not deep powder, not yet anyway! On Monday I mentioned how the hounds and I took a nice walk along the north shore in the snow. On Tuesday I decided to head to the other shoreline of the Keweenaw. We sure are blessed to have two different shorelines to go to, especially in the summer to keep cool by picking the shore with the lake breeze going. Anyway, the winds on Monday were blowing pretty good out of the east, so it had the lake all stirred up on that shore line. By Tuesday, the winds had calmed down so the lake had also calmed down, but there were still some big swells rolling up onto the shore. I suppose the waves in that shot did not look that big, but they were breaking at about 4-6 feet. With all the summer tourists gone for another 7 months and even the locals not thinking about the beaches we had the place to ourselves- just the way we like it! As we walked down the beach I could not help but think that the next time we are out there we will probably be skiing it. That is really a neat experience- to ski down a beach with the waves lapping just a few feet away. On the way home from the beach Tuesday we passed a still frozen Rice Lake, or shall I say frozen with a layer of water on it.
Yesterday we took to the school forest, but I did not chance putting my ski boots on. I figured that most of the trails would probably have enough snow to ski on and I was right. However, it was above freezing out, so the snow would be wet and sticky and there is also a spot where the trail I wanted to use goes through that is covered by balsam fir and those trees really block out snow from falling. So I was afraid that the snow would be so thin there that I would have to take my skis off and walk through. Not a big deal, but just another excuse to decide to walk rather than ski. Well, when I got to the stand of balsam, there was still some snow on the ground, even enough to ski on. I will add that the same dense cover of branches that block snow also block the suns rays. Many times when I walk or ski through here I have to take off my sunglasses to see better. So the lack of solar radiation must have helped to preserve the thin snow cover in there. We had a good time walking rather than skiing. The hounds got to do some exploring in the woods, I got to get in some exercise, breathe in the good clean UP air and enjoy the woods.
Today I had to run some errands in Houghton, so I decided to take the hounds along and walk the MTU trails. They have ski trails that we walked this summer and fall and some of the trails are open to pets in the wintertime too. I believe that those are the only groomed trails in the Keweenaw that allow dogs. All the other are just to uppity! Just kidding. I can understand full well why they would not want dogs on the ski trails. Anyway, I figured we would have the place to ourselves and we did. Still enough snow to ski on up there, but the temps were in the mid 30's and the conditions were actually a bit icy. Tons of trails up there and they look like they are well maintained, so if anyone is looking for a place to ski, they are up the hill from the hockey stadium, or you can get there by taking Sharon Avenue by the Pizza Hut. On our way home today we passed Mt Ripley and they were skiing there. They were able to run the snow guns full blast last week and on Sunday as well and were able to cover a few runs. They hope to have the whole hill covered by next weekend (the 18th-19th) and I would say that they might be able to open the hill even sooner than that given the forecast.
I hope you all got the chance to catch the snowstorm out at Togwotee yesterday. I actually booked my airfare into Jackson WY and am all set for my trip this March. 5 other KSE guides and I are headed out at the end of March to play in the mountains. Now before those of you that have been there before e mail me and tell me that late March is too late, don't worry, we are not going out because of the powder. We get quite our fill of powder up here all winter long. In fact there are places that we can go to in the spring that we can't all winter because the snow has finally set up, so I am sure that is the case out there too. Plus, March is actually the snowiest month for most locals in the Rockies, so we may even get lucky and catch a big storm. In any case we know what to expect as far as conditions go and are looking very forward to it. Until then I plan to hone my skills here in the Keweenaw. Hopefully that process will be able to happen in not too long.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Wow, a darn-near back to backer! When was the last time I did that? Probably when things were a ton slower around here. The site seems to be going full speed ahead now and my day is pretty full from about 4:30 am until my head hits the pillow. I do not mind it that way, in fact I could never just lay around and do nothing all day. Anyway, I am in better spirits today than I was on Saturday! It has been snowing all day. Not very heavily, but it has not stopped all day and we have about 2" new so far. I just checked some of the latest models and it looks like we should stay pretty much as snow through this event. A bit of freezing drizzle or drizzle may mix in at times in the next 12 hours, but nothing like Saturday's rain and thaw.
It still amazes me how much snow we lost due to a 12 hour thaw and a little bit of rain on Saturday. Shows how fragile snow can be even up here! Later Saturday it did cool off and then yesterday was cold, with temps hovering in the low 20's all day. There was still enough snow left that Nora, the hounds and I went to the School Forest for a ski yesterday. The conditions were pretty icy, but neither Nora or I took a spill. Even the areas that were very wet had managed to freeze up by Sunday afternoon. Not that we have too many problems with wet areas on the trails up here, but it was nice to see areas like that at the School Forest frozen up. That tells me that a lot of the wet spots on the snowmobile trails up here were in similar shape.
After finishing up the ski we came home and I finished up the clutch work on the Pol-Cat, put some fresh plugs in it and started it up. I really was anxious to see how it ran with the work on the clutch, so I went inside, grabbed the helmet and gloves and took it for a quick spin. I think I have it pretty well dialed in. It's hard to tell if it is to the level that Al had it 2 years ago. One, because that was 2 years ago and two because last years riding was done on the RMK and that had quite a bit more kick to it than the Pol-Cat ever had. However, I was able to lift the skis on it while doing about 30-35 mph and that is probably all that one could ask for from an 11 year old sled with 12,000 miles on the original engine! I am going to have to remember to tell Nora to hang on when she squeezes the throttle.
It started snowing about an hour before daybreak today. Very small flakes, but at a pretty steady rate and by daybreak things were coated in a thin layer of white. Temps were in the low 20's, so the snow coated everything- cars, roads, trees and of course the old snow. By our mid morning walk time we had about 1/2" down and it was starting to pick up in intensity a bit. By the afternoon walk time a solid 1" was down. I was having a hard time deciding where to go for the afternoon adventure today. For some reason I did not feel like skiing and to walk in the woods would have been a bit of a chore with the 4-8" we still have down. So I decided to head down to the north shore to walk the road there. I knew it would be plowed, so the only snow on it would have been today's. The road is quiet enough that we can walk it and I can have the hounds unhooked, so that is where we went.
Upon arrival, the hounds took off down the trail leading to the lake, noses to the ground and interested in something. I can always tell when there really is a strong scent for them to pick up on because they both will go to the exact same spot and be so intent on smelling what ever they are smelling that a UFO could land 10 feet away and they would not notice it. Such was the case today. Not that a UFO landed near us, but they were very interested in something, so I followed just to be part of the pack. We were so close to the lake at that point that I decided to head down to see what I could see. The lake was like glass and it's not often this time of the year that you can go down there and enjoy yourself. With a southeast wind, the north shore was all quiet. The day's snow had coated everything down there too and it was about as peaceful as you are ever gong to find (fsv) on this planet. Only the sounds of some tiny waves lapping the shore and the sound of the snowflakes hitting the trees. How many places is it quiet enough that you can actually hear snow fall?
We headed back up to the road to take our walk. It's normally a very pretty road and with the flakes falling today it was exceptionally pretty (fsv), and tranquil. I love snow, so the more the better. I like it deep and coating everything. I have yet to experience a situation where I wanted it to stop. Even in the biggest storms I have lived through I am always a little sad to see it finally end. 22" is just getting things started as far as I am concerned. So I was a little surprised to be so satisfied and happy with the 1-2" we had while on the walk today. I suppose the fact that it was still snowing made it better, but the petite flocking (fsv) that was going on up here had a profound effect on my state of mind.
As nice as it was walking down the road, my mind kept jumping to the shoreline, so the hounds and I found a way to get through the woods and to the beach and we decided to walk that back the mile or so to where we had parked. It was a little more difficult footing on the beach, with some ice coating the sand and rocks, but it was well worth the extra effort. It was just the hounds and I walking along the peaceful shoreline of Lake Superior with a gentle snow falling (fsv). We got to a point where the waves from a recent storm had really taken a toll on the shore line. There is a giant old white pine tree that has been sitting on the beach out there for as long as I have walked that stretch (5+ years). The trunk on this thing is about 2-3 feet in diameter and the roots extend about 8 feet off the ground. It normally is about half buried in sand and small rocks, but today was sitting high and dry. The waves were able to excavate the sand and smaller rocks out from underneath it, but were not able to budge this giant monolith. It did bear the scars of it's battle with the latest round of strong winds out of the NW, with icicles clinging to the underside of its trunk. To get a further idea on how powerful the waves were, this shot shows all the smaller driftwood piled about 20-25 feet higher on the beach.
We managed to make it back to where we had parked the truck and I snapped one last shot of the shoreline (fsv), looking back on where we had just came from. So it turns out that I was lucky that I had a bit of indecision on where to go. Had we gone out to ski we would have missed that wonderful experience along the beach today. There was nothing overly dramatic that made the experience so special, but then again, sometimes it can be the subtlety that makes an experience memorable and special. This place can sure provide lots of both.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
UGH! I feel like I have been kicked right in the stomach, or perhaps even a few inches south of that! When I went to bed last night it was winter and awoke to spring! I usually refrain from writing journals when I am in a bad frame of mind, but I do have some pictures to share from when winter was up here and it has been 4 days, so I figured I would write and try and stay as positive as possible!
It's funny, Nora and I went to dinner yesterday and while we were sitting there, I commented to her that with the snow we had down on the ground up here (9-15"), it would have been like the middle of winter in northern IL or southern WI. In fact, most snowlovers down there would love to have a snowcover like that. Coming from that neck of the woods I know it does not happen very often and if it does it usually does not last too long. The trials down there would have been filled with sleds and all sorts of other winter time activities would have been going on. Up here, most folks were just deciding to switch to their winter coats and putting plows on their trucks. Not too many locals were hitting the trails, most were still waiting for another foot or so to fall.
Nora and I were actually planning on taking a short trip on the sleds today. I wanted to break in a new belt before I possibly did some testing this coming week. Well, it was another Saturday morning of waking up at about 5 am and hearing rain hit the windows! That did not bother me as much as last week because I knew it was a possibility that we could get some rain or rain/snow mix with the leading edge of the clipper system. What I did not count on was for temps to shoot to the upper 30's and even 40 degrees at my house and for us to lose as much snow as we did! Sure much of our snowpack was pretty light and fluffy, but I never expected to lose about 5-6" of it in 12 hours! Heck, we were just starting to build a nice mat on the side streets! As I sit here typing its very hard to believe that it was just yesterday that it looked so much more different around here. Heck, yesterday morning my temp outside was four below zero!
Oh well, what are you gonna do? I was really looking forward to taking that first ride though. I rebuilt the clutch for the Pol-Cat and wanted to see Nora's reaction to how it goes with that setup. Plus I was really hoping to take some shots of the trails up here to show you how they were. They were grooming up until today to boot. In fact, the reason why I did not write a journal last night was that I thought I would wait until I had our riding pictures to share with you. I do have some shots to share with you and I think I will actually start with the most recent, since it fits in with my topic right now. Nora, the hounds and I went up to the snowmobile trail to walk this afternoon. There is still snow on it, but I figured no one would be nuts enough to be driving on it with a sled, so we would be safe. So here is a shot of the trail taken this afternoon after the big meltdown. As you can see the groomer has been down it and it really is not in too bad of shape. With temps just dropping below freezing as I type and maybe some fresh snow this week we could make a recovery in time for next weekend.
With that shot out of the way I can time warp back to the good old days- when the flakes were flying! Wednesday was the first day when we could go back out into the woods and I actually needed to do some work up at the Vansville and Cliff View Bars in Phoenix. So the hounds and I piled in the truck and headed north. Some of the work I had to do actually required me to go out to the trail, so we parked at the Vansville and then used their access trail to walk to the snowmobile trail. This was the first time in over two weeks that we had really been in the woods and the hounds were about as excited as I was to be walking out in the snowy backwoods of the Keweenaw.
It wasn't real cold, but certainly cold enough for snow and even lake effect snow at that. The woods were quiet, except for the sound of the wind through the trees and with a light snow falling as we walked through the woods, it sure felt like we were in the Northwoods. There are times when it just feels extra special to be living up here and that was certainly one of those moments. We walked the snowmobile trail for a little bit and I snapped this shot looking southwest down the trail, with the Cliff Range lofting in the distance(fsv). Looking at the snow on the trail in that shot, all I can think of is "Why were you not riding that day John?!".
On Thursday we picked up some more snow and this time had the afternoon free to do what ever we wanted, so the long lost School Forest got the call. It is black powder or muzzle loading season up here and I do know of at least one hunter hunting out there, but I also know where he is set up and we are staying out of there. At the start of every ski season, I forget just how perfect the School Forest is for cross country skiing and every time we take that first trip, I am reminded of just how great it is. There was probably a good 8-10" down during our ski (fsv) Thursday and with the winds being fairly calm during much of the snow, the trees, stumps and even the berry bush canes were flocked in snow (fsv). Friday Nora took some comp time from work and joined us on our afternoon ski at the School Forest. No pictures were taken, but Nora could have snapped a rare one- me laying in the snow after a wipe out. Yep, first time in at least 2 years since I took a spill. Don't even know how it happened to tell you the truth. It was like I was walking and slipped on ice, with my feet going out from underneath me. Nothing hurt but my pride and once Nora learned I was OK, she got a good laugh from it all. Always happy to entertain, but usually it is while riding a snowmobile!
So we had a little thaw, but now temps are back below freezing. There is some snow in the forecast, almost always is this time of the year. That is one of the many great things about living up here and being a snow lover. From about Thanksgiving through March, there is usually some kind of snow in the forecast. Sometimes it's not a lot (as the case looks to be right now) and sometimes there is a ton. In any case, it sure is great to know that more is on it's way. I may be a little down at the moment, but it will not last too long and who knows, even though it is not indicated at this point, it is certainly possible that in a week from now I may not have only taken my first ride, but I could have also had to have performed my first digout! Things sure can change in a hurry up here and the vast majority of the time it is for the better!
Good night from the Keweenaw..