The beginning of the end.

Hard to believe another week has flown by, but I guess we all were kept pretty busy around here and that is what can happen. It’s been another week of beautiful, early-spring weather around here. Not much at all in the way of new snow, in fact, I do not believe a flake of snow fell all week, and only a bit of melting. More settling than anything. Lots of sunshine and temps in the 30’s. We did hit 40 a day or two as well. I am not sure if I said it last week or not, but I honestly could take a full month of weather like this. No having to move around fresh snow, but still plenty around to play in and with the sunshine and milder temps, it is very nice to be outside. I found myself just going outside and hanging out with the pups and basking in the sunshine just about every day this week. Need to replenish that vitamin D!

I think I need to clarify the lack of melting. That has been the case with snow that is not in full sun and especially the snow that is not in full sun and in contact with something that will absorb the suns energy and melt the snow. The banks of snow along side the roads are quite a bit smaller than they were a week or two ago. Here in our yard, many of the roof areas have cleared and the snow that had been covering things like our front deck and the planters in front of the deck has melted significantly. It is kind of fun to watch the transformation take place. Things that have been buried under snow for months are becoming revealed. We even have a few patches of our parking area that are now bare.

In the woods, it is a different story. Little melting has occurred. In fact, we were out in the woods yesterday afternoon (more on that in a bit) and the snow was still powdery on the surface. Between the whiteness of the pristine snow in the woods and the blocking of some of the suns energy from the bare trees, it has not begun to get “wet” just yet. It probably will not be too long before that snow does start to get melted at the surface and then will re-freeze at night, forming a pretty firm crust that if given the chance to get thick enough, will allow one to walk right across the top of it. A pretty unique experience to be able to walk across snow that is 3-4 feet deep, but not sink in at all. In back country snowmobiling vernacular, that is called “hero” snow, as one can go just about anywhere they want without getting stuck in the deep snow and thus look like a hero.

As mentioned, the snow has been sliding off the roofs this week. Earlier in the week, both Nora and I were inside and heard a good slide occur. By the sound of it (even from indoors) and knowing what roofs still had to slide, I figured it was the one side of the shop roof. Ever since I built the lean-to and made the pitch of its roof less than the shops roof, it has caused that side of the shop to hold the snow longer. A quick peak out the window proved me right.

The next day, the pups and I made use of the snow slide to do a little avalanche training. I dug a pit, grabbed a neighborhood kid and stuck them in the pit and then covered it back up with a couple of feet of snow and let the dogs find them. They did a great job, sniffing around for a few minutes, then picking up on the scent and digging the child out in under 10 minutes! So before anyone calls the police on me, nothing like that occurred, although I did sneak a few dog treats under the snow and then let the pups out. We all walked over to the snow slide and I waited to see how long it took them to sniff out the treats. I did not have a stopwatch going, but it was under 3 minutes. So cool to think of the power of smelling they have! Plus, it made me realize that if I am ever in avalanche territory again and know that a dog will be part of the rescue, I will just keep a few treats in my pocket!

So it is the beginning of the end of winter around here. Pretty much the same up here every year at this time. I suppose in some spots, that came a week or two ago and in others, that will not be taking place for another week or two, but by the end of the month, the beginning to the end of winter will have taken place in all of the northern hemisphere, it will just be a matter of how long it takes to reach the end! In some years, our end came very quickly and in others did not fully happen for another 2 months. I remember having 2 feet of snow on the ground in early May just 4 years ago.

The beginning of the end is not just confined to the weather up here this time of the year. The sports seasons like hockey and basketball have entered into their playoff season. It has been a successful playoff season so far for some and not so for others. The Calumet HS hockey team won their first playoff game and then lost their next. It was to their rival just to the south, the Hancock Bulldogs. An interesting match up for just the second game of the playoffs, as Hancock was ranked #1 in the state and Calumet #2. It was said that no matter who one that game, they would have a very good chance of bringing home some hardware from the state finals. We’ll see in a few weeks, but go Bulldogs! UP Pride!

Michigan Tech upset the Beavers of Bemidji State in a two game sweep this weekend. On to the semi-finals with what I believe is a yet to be determined opponent- depending on the outcome of the game between Northern MI and Alabama-Huntsville tonight.

Some of the local basketball teams have fared well and others not. Both on the boys and girls side, there are local teams headed to the regional’s and then if successful to the state semi-finals. Grace decided to give basketball a try this year and was on the Calumet 3rd grade girls team. They have a pretty good team, with some really good players on it and this weekend, they had an invitational tournament in Hancock. They did quite well, going undefeated to go on and win the championship. They did a neat thing at the end of the game, with the players from one team putting medals on players of the other team and giving them a congratulatory hand shake. I don’t know if it was just coincidence or planned, but Gracie was matched up with a player from the other team that she had made friends with just prior to the championship game. Then it was on to hoist the trophy over their heads in celebration.

The smiles are priceless, but I was most impressed when after all the celebrating was over, Grace went looking for her new friend to console her and try and cheer her up. She has since said that she feels really sad for her new friend about a dozen times since leaving the gymnasium. Very cool to see, both Nora and I were very taken by that show of compassion and I think she will do very well in life down the road.

Gracie has also been in figure skating this winter and next weekend will be the big ice skating show that they have been practicing for in the last month or two. Once the show is over, so will be the season, with the exception of a “fun-skate” for all on the Tuesday following the show. It has been fun to watch her practice and get better in just her first year of skating, although I think she, Nora and I will be happy to have our Tuesday and Friday afternoons back! Both Nora and I have been going to just about all of the practices and just this past Friday, as I entered the rink, I looked up to see this sign. I am not sure if it new, or I had just missed it all these times going up the steps to the rink, but it struck me as just another way that this area is truly special. Right here in our sleepy little town of Calumet, sits the oldest indoor skating rink in all of North America. Down in Houghton sits the Dee stadium, which is the birthplace of professional hockey. That’s Cool.

Between figure skating practices and basketball games, we were still able to sneak in a little outdoor activity this weekend. It was the weekend for the CopperDog sled dog race and while we all were too tired to take in the start of the race Friday night, we did make a run up to Copper Harbor to catch the teams finish up leg 2 of the race Saturday afternoon. Grace got to visit with some of the athletes in the race and we all enjoyed a sunny day outside.

We got back home with enough sunlight and personal energy to take a quick snow shoe in our woods with the pups. We have not done too many of those this season, but have been kept busy with other things and also the fact that we have had quite a bit of cold weather this winter. So it was very nice to be back out into the woods and the pups were just about beside themselves. Both when I asked if they wanted to go “into the woods” and when we got out there. I can see some more visits on snow shoes before the snow is gone this season. Our destination was just a short venture out to see Old Granddad. He has survived another winter in grand fashion and appeared to be ready for spring and to fill out his limbs with leaves.

It is fun to watch Gracie get around on her snow shoes. She has always been good at it, but has now passed her old dad as far as speed and agility goes. I watched here break off the trail we had made to Old Granddad and blaze her own through the woods, actually going quite a bit off the old course and still managed to get back to the house well ahead of me. I had promised her that after the snow shoe, she could go and play on the pile of snow that had slid off the shop roof. So not only had she made it back before me, but had taken off her snow shoes by the house and walked over to the shop and was standing there waiting for me to get back so she could play in the snow. She shimmied up the snow and then onto the roof and before I knew it, she was hanging out at the ridge line of the shop roof. She first accomplished that feat 4 to 5 years ago and it has become a regular event every winter when enough snow piles up on the ground beneath the eaves that she can get up onto the roof.

Of course, she is getting old enough that getting to the top of the shop roof is not enough anymore, so off we went to the house, so she could work her way to the top of that! Please know that with the exception of the back side of the house’s roof, which I did not let her go near, she only had a 1-2 foot fall into soft snow if she somehow came off the roof and in some cases, it was an even transition from the roof to the snow on the ground. So no need to call the child protective services on me!

It was such a nice day to be on the roof and Grace was having so much fun that she stayed up there for quite a while. So long that she managed to build a snowman on the top of the roof! I know I can lay claim to doing some pretty crazy things in/on the snow, but I cannot claim to have built a snowman on a roof before. In face, today as we looked at it, I said to Gracie that it very well may be the only snowman on a roof in the world right now! She got a kick out of that!

So it looks like winter is going to try and make a little comeback up here this week. We do not look to get a ton of snow, but enough to probably have to move around. Some areas to the west and south of us look to get quite a bit more. So between the snow we still have and the bit of fresh that looks to fall here, plus the more plentiful snow that looks to fall to the west and south of us, it looks like there will still be some snow-play to be had this week and next weekend, so get it while you can!

Good Night from the Keweenaw..