Dress Code

Good day and Happy New Year! I am sorry that I was not able to write last week, but things were busy and by the time they settled down, it was nearly time for my head to hit the pillow.

So it continues to be a challenging winter for us snowlovers in the UP, as well as elsewhere across much of the areas of the US that get snow. About the only places running with an excess right now are the Cascades of the Pacific NW. We did get some nice fresh snow in advance of the New Year. It was great to see the flakes flying and the snow piling up. Almost seemed weird in a way too. I realize that many of you reading this have been suffering from the same snow drought as I have, but consider this: The Keweenaw sees more snow, on average, for the month of December than most areas south of a line from around Des Moines to Chicago to Detroit see in an entire season! So when we go weeks on end with just one snow event, it is very strange.

I do not have the exact count, but I believe in the past 2 weeks, we have seen the sun shine more than snow fall. THAT is extremely rare for this neck of the woods. I, along with many others up here have been taking that as a blessing though. The one thing that I think all of us living in the Keweenaw would like more of in the winter is sunshine. Even the snow lovers! If it isn’t going to be snowing, it may as well be sunny! The other upside to this strange winter so far is the fact that we have been without any real cold air outbreaks. We have had some cold days and a few cold nights, but for the most part, our temperatures have been well above average for the last 45-60 days. That is good for the heating bills and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that either. Lastly, except for Chequamegon Bay at Ashland, Black and Nipigon Bays on the north shore of Lake Superior and a thin strip at Duluth, the entirety of Lake Superior is free from ice. Even Whitefish Bay is ice free and it usually is frozen over by now. Heck, we have had years when the big lake is 50% frozen by now. So when we do get the kind of cold that will produce LES, it will not be held back by any ice on the big lake. 

Most of our snows prior to New Years came on the 30th. It snowed all day, sometimes at a pretty good clip. All told, we ended up with around 9-10″ for the day and around 13-14″ for the entire snow event. Some areas picked up more, but surprisingly, some areas that should get more than us when talking lake effect, got less. Here is a shot of the back yard of the shop. Trees nicely flocked, big old flakes filling the air and a nice fresh blanket of snow on the ground. The kind of things that warm a snow lovers heart and fill them with joy! The satellite dish you see is my new Starlink dish. It’s a project from Elon Musk and when completed, will allow anyone in the world to have high speed internet. I signed up for the beta testing and all I can say is WOW! It is around 8 to 9 times faster than my old satellite service and has unlimited data as well. Both of which I was sorely longing for ever since we move from Mohawk. My speeds are actually faster than I had with cable internet! Since the system is still in beta testing, it goes down for a while at times, but I do have my old system still going as a back up. Anyway, sell your stock in Hughes Net and Excede! Those guys will be toast soon!

 So, getting back on track, it was fun to watch our local bird population hit the feeders in the “storm”. They actually are all regular feeders regardless of the weather once the natural food sources become scarce during the cold season, but it is just extra satisfying to see the little guys fly up to the feeders, grab something to eat and then head off to the trees to chow down. I’m not sure I will be able to pull it off this season, but with the new internet service we have, I plan to put a live cam on the feeders for folks to watch. Nora and Grace do a great job of keeping them full and there are two main feeding times- morning around an hour or so after sunrise and in the evening, an hour or two before sunset. During those times, we can have as many as a dozen or more birds at the feeder. A lot of Chickadees, Nuthatches and Junkos. However, we have had some other types that are not as plentiful like Pine Grosbeaks and Downey and Nuttall Woodpeckers. There have been a few others that I cannot remember (old age!). I have learned more about birds in the past year than I probably knew in my life prior. I find it cool to know as much as I can about the birds, bees, trees and other natural things where I live. Lots to learn, that’s for sure!

One of the things that kept me too busy to write was a little excursion to the big lake with Nora, Grace and one of Nora’s brothers and his family. They all did it on snowshoe or skies, but I decided to do my work smartly rather than hard! So I fired up the sled for the first time this season and took it! Funny how I have not really snowmobiled in around 20 months, but it was still so familiar to be tooling through the woods to the lake shore. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I parked as close as I could get to the lake without ending up in it and snapped a shot.

I was thinking about selling it this autumn, so started to pull of the Keweenaw Kamo wrap to make it more appealing to a buyer, but then got busy with website stuff and then the used sled market got very tight and expensive and I did not want to fall into the trappings of selling my sled and not being able to find a replacement. I plan to be getting away from the long tracks on the mountain sleds and into more of a crossover sled, as my days of riding the super deep up super steep are over and a crossover will still get me through the super deep along logging roads and other fairly flat bush trails.

Much of the last week was spend in a “Groundhog Day” the movie mode, with daytime highs and overnight lows barely deviating at all. Highs were around 30-34 and lows were around 26-28. Despite some days with above freezing highs, we did not lose too much snow, more settling than anything. Most of the roads have become clear, which is also strange for this time of the year.

As I was driving through downtown Calumet the other afternoon, looking at the bare roads, lack of enormous piles of snow and deeply covered rooftops, I could not help but think that the village looked almost naked. As if it was being forced to stand out in the cold with just it’s skivvies on! No heavy overcoat of snow to cover it up. It looked weird, very weird. Kind of sad too.

The warm temps and sunshine has caused much of the snow to slide off of our metal roofs. I snapped this shot of a slice getting ready to slide off the shop roof

So except for a sneak-peak comment on the forecast, I think that about covers it for this one. The much advertised change in the pattern across North America and much of the Northern Hemisphere is still in the cards for around Thursday and beyond. The usual differences in the models exist, but in general, the things I have been saying in my forecast text as well as the SnoScoop videos still hold true. Meaning best chances for lots of snow will be in the LES belts of the UP, with lesser amounts, but still decent totals in the LES belts of western lower MI. The rest of the northern 1/2 of the Midwest looks to have their chances for snow as well, but no big storms are seen. Plenty of seasonably cold to even below average temps are seen as well. So it is looking good that winter may finally be arriving in earnest in the Midwest!

Just keep ThinkingSnow!

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
-JD

Back in the Game

First things first. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Ours was. We were missing some family members, but were fortunate enough to have my Mom join us. My brother who lives in Allouez was also here, as were Nora and Grace. My sister who lives in Oklahoma could not make it and her son and daughter could not make it either. With a little luck and some better planning, we might be able to get the whole gang together in the Keweenaw for next Christmas. I has always been a wish of mine to have my whole family up here for Christmas.

Not only did we have a white Christmas on the ground, but we also had it in the air. Most of the day, these big fluffy LES flakes dropped from the skies. It did not pile up to much, but around 2″ for the day and added to the 6 or so inches we had on the ground at the time.

So, it only took the first 3 weeks of December, but the Keweenaw has finally been pulled out of it’s snow quarantine. As mentioned, we have not gone nuts with snow just yet, but it has finally begun to look like winter around here. The forecast looks good for more in the next 7-10 days. A couple of inches later today through tomorrow and then the potential for double digit snows Wed and Thur.

That double digit snow for Wed/Thur (if it happens) would really help our snow situation a lot. Trails are open and being groomed minimally. There is just not enough snow on the trails to aggressively groom, but enough in most areas to play in. I have not been to town since Christmas Eve, so I do not know what the situation is as far as folks up here riding, but glances as the webcams seems to indicate things are still pretty quiet.

Back to the Wed-Thu storm, it would not only bless the Keweenaw with double digit snows, but a good chunk of MN, WI, the UP and northern lower MI. Just about the perfect track to hit the traditional Northwoods snow-play areas. While I do believe that the storm is a good probability (80%), I am not quite ready to lock into details just yet. The models are in good agreement on the details though, so as long as that continues, I should be able to give some confidence to those details by tomorrow.

The good news and not so good news after is that there is no slug of really cold air seen behind it. That would be good because it would put temps in the comfortable range for playing in the snow, but also be cold enough to prevent any melting. It’s only bad news for the LES belts, as they would not get much of a second punch of snow behind the system snows. I guess the way this season is going so far, beggars cannot be choosers! 

So for those of you wanting to come up to the Northwoods to play in the snow, I guess I would follow the site closely. If the storm does hit as currently indicated, the answer would be yes! However, most reading this know that changes can happen.

The only two pictures I have for you are of Gracie sledding. My mom and her went up to spend yesterday, last night and today with my brother and there is a suitable place for sledding not far from my brothers house. So Gracie was her usual all smiles as she prepared to race down the hill. While I was not there, I was told that it was short but steep and there was one run with a jump in it. 

I guess that covers it for this one folks. Take care, be well and have a Happy New Year! I think the new year will be welcomed in a bit more that the past few have!

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
JD

Another First

I have been fortunate to live here in the Keweenaw for 20 1/2 years. When I first moved up, everything was new and I did not even keep track of the “firsts”. Well, at least most of them. I do remember my first off trail ride with what became a great bunch of friends that allowed me to join in on their band of friendships and partake in some of the most fun rides I ever had in my life.

There were other important firsts, like the first day Nora and I saw each other, the day she moved in with me and our first day being husband and wife. There was the first time Grace saw the Keweenaw and first day’s Huck, Millie, Bleau, Dune and Kashi came to live with us.

There were also some firsts in the weather department. The first time I have ever experienced 6″/hour snowfall rates. The first time I have seen 24″ fall in less than 24 hours and of course the first time I have ever been part of a storm that brought 4 feet plus of snow.

This past Thursday was another first for me and a lot of folks living here. It was the first time I saw the Torch Lake and much of the Portage water way between Houghton and Hancock freeze over solid with no snow on them. Most of the freezes up here happen when it is snowing, so the ice is covered by snow immediately. 

I had to run to Houghton/Hancock on Thursday and as I got close to Lake Linden, I was able to see the frozen over surface of the Torch Lake. The entire lake was frozen over and the ice nearly as smooth as glass. It was such an interesting sight to see, I pulled off to the side of the road south of Tamarack City to snap a shot of the ice.

When I arrive in Houghton and Hancock, I could see the waterway had frozen there in similar fashion. Perhaps even more smoothly than on the torch lake. On my way back from shopping, I passed the waterway again, only this time there were some boys skating with sticks and pucks on it! So I drove down to the road that runs parallel with the waterway and watched in fear and amazement. I was quite fearful of one or more of them falling through the ice, as it had formed just a few days earlier. The days and nights had been pretty cold and with no snow on it, the ice was likely able to grow at a pretty good rate, but still for only about 48 hours!

I did have to leave after not too long and was grateful I did not see anyone fall through. Unfortunately, someone did fall through yesterday (Sunday), but was rescued by the Hancock Fire Department. I do not know the condition of the person, but suspect that they are OK.

One of the questions among some of the locals around here has been could someone shoot a puck across the waterway from one shore to the other, given the ice was smooth and snow free. This seasons freeze up would have been the perfect opportunity to find out. I do not know if anyone tried, but will try and do a little snooping around to find out. Personally, I believe it can be done by just about anyone with a half way decent shot. As I was watching the boys skate on it Thursday, there were a couple of them separated by what amounted to 1/4 or 1/3rd of the distance from one side of the waterway to the other and their passes were making it without hardly even slowing down.

Speaking of snow, we are still lacking in what we would consider a regular amount on the ground. I had about an inch on the ground when I woke up this morning and the higher elevations had around 3-4″. It is snowing right now and we have picked up around 2″. There looks to be more later this week, perhaps considerably more. So I think we have a very good chance for a white Christmas, but I am not able to guarantee one just yet!

There is more snow seen for later in the weekend and the first half of next week, so it looks like we are finally breaking out of our snow drought. Other areas of the northern Midwest look to get snow in the next week to ten days, so all of the favorite spots in the Northwoods will be creeping their way to having enough snow to play in. Some even sprinting to that goal the second half of this week!

That’s all I have for this one, have a very Merry Christmas everyone and talk to you soon!

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
JD

On Hold

If I had to guess, one of the least favorite things for most folks to deal with while on the phone is to be on hold. For one, you never how long it will be before you are taken off. Secondly, if you are holding like that, it is likely for an important reason, otherwise you would just hand up and try again. Lastly, while you are on hold, you cannot really do all that much. Sure with the phones of this age you can put the call on speaker and do some paper work, or other office type work, but you cannot leave the phone and go off and visit with friends, or head to the store or for a walk. You are pretty much chained to the phone and any documents involving the call.

I’d say having to wait for the snow to arrive in earnest this season is like being on hold. We do not know exactly when it will come, but know that it eventually will. That is a guarantee up here. The snow may not be as important as a call you are on hold for, but the desire to have both taken care of is likely equal in proportion. Also, without the snow, there are many things you want to do, but can’t. Sure you can go for walks, or do some other outside activities, but you have been able to do them since spring and are anxious to mix it up and add snowplay to your list of available activities. Also, the lack of snow is impacting businesses owned by my friends and that is disheartening to me. I realize that the weeks leading up to Christmas are typically not too busy, but any income to those businesses would be a nice shot in the arm, especially since the past 4-6 weeks have been very quiet.

Ever since moving up here, snow has been an important factor in getting me into the Christmas mood. Just last night Nora and I were cuddling on the couch, looking out the window and remarked on how it just did not seem like in two weeks, Christmas would be over! We still have bare ground! How can the two even exist at the same time!

With all that said, I am by no means depressed that the snow has not come yet. I feel as blessed as ever to live where I do. I know that a lot of snow will be falling between now and spring. More than anywhere else outside of the lake effect belts have seen in a season EVER. Those that are not as fortunate as I am to have the ease of clearing the snow have not had to struggle with that task either. The driving around has also been quiet easy, with the roads clear of any snow or ice. So there are some silver linings.

This past Friday, we experienced another silver lining. Friends of ours invited us to a bonfire Friday evening and as we sat and stood around the fire in the 30 degree air, looking out over the south end of the Keweenaw waterway and having joyful conversations with good friends, all I could think of was that this is something that is not likely to happen under those conditions at that time of the year very often or perhaps even ever again.

Other than the lack of snow, there really is not much to talk about. It was a quiet week as far as activities go. Nora and I have been moving towards the conclusion of our Christmas shopping. This Friday I will be driving down with my brother to pick up the last two items from the house of my brother who passed in July. Then we will head to my mom’s house to spend the night and then we will be bringing her up to the Keweenaw with us to be with us for Christmas. This will be the first time in over 60 years that she will not be in her own home for Christmas, but only one of her 3 children were able to make it down there and with the covid still going on, the Christmas gathering with my aunts and uncles and their children and grandchildren is not happening, so she would have been all alone for Christmas. Not gonna happen.

So we are all looking forward to having her up here for Christmas and wish the rest of my immediate family could have come as well, but they are not able to get away to the great white north.

The week’s weather was also very quiet. Of course it did not snow, but it also did not rain and each day was very similar to each other. The stand out was Wednesday, when we had sunshine all day and warmed into the low 40’s. I got a little bit of outside work done, but most of the work I need to get done is inside. It does look like we should get enough snow tonight and tomorrow to whiten the ground down here and add to the snow that is on the ground in the high country north and south of Houghton/Hancock. Not likely enough to play in, but it will be nice to be white down here and fresh white elsewhere!

So I guess that about covers it for this one. Hopefully the next time I write we will have picked up some snow and perhaps be looking at a nice big snow cycle to kick in! 

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
JD

Anticipation

It seems like weeks since the Keweenaw picked up any new snow, but the reality is it has been less than a week. Just as misleading is the fact that the ground has been mostly bare down here for 2-3 weeks, but that is not the same for the higher terrain both north and south of the Houghton/Hancock megalopolis. Those areas have anywhere from 2-5″ on the ground and have had that much for at least 2 weeks.

None the less, the growing talk of the town up here has been where is winter/ or where is the snow? Snow is about as regular from December 1st through early April up here as the sun rising. It does not matter if one loves snow or is not too fond of it, when it has not come in significant portions through the first week of December, it is a pretty big deal. Those that love it are anxious for it to arrive and those that are not a fan of the snow are wondering how badly we will pay for this later on.

I don’t have the answer to how badly we will pay for it, but there will most certainly be some reciprocity going forward. How can I be confident? Well, lets say that we will not get much snow for at least the first half of this week. That puts us at December 10, one third of the month without much snow for the season to date. Our area averages around 250″ per season. The least is 130″. So it is safe to say that we should anticipate somewhere between 130-250″ of snow by the time it all ends. That’s a fair amount of snow to cram into around 3 1/2 months. 

So I am not concerned at all. Anxious, YOU BET, but not worried. I also personally like to have more snow fall from the second half of December through the first half of March than to have most of it fall in November or December. I do think it is safe to say we are not going to have a record season for snowfall, but average to even above average are still easily in reach.

As far as activities up here go, it is pretty quiet. Typically this is the time of the year where, if we have enough snow, there would be snowmobilers and some skiers traveling here to play in it, but the real influx starts right after Christmas and continues through mid-February. Without covid there would be Christmas events going on, like lighting of trees, or sleigh/wagon rides with Santa, school events or even parties to attend. Those have obviously been canceled for this year.

So it is quiet. That might be a factor as to why the talk of the lack of snow is getting so popular. Folks are not spending minutes or even hours moving snow around. That and the covid restrictions gives them more time to pay attention to other things in this pre-Christmas period. 

We also had a pretty quiet week at the Dee household. Grace went back to school on Monday after their 2 1/2 week online schooling. Even when the kids were not in school, Nora had to go in, but Bleau stayed home. So this week Huck and I got back to the quiet “bachelor” mode. The week went well and the region is not getting any worse with it’s covid cases, so they will be in school again this week and perhaps the entire period until Christmas break. 

With no snow on the ground, there have not been too many interesting things to take pictures of. I was in the woods for a brief period today and snapped this shot of a mostly bare Dreamland snowmobile trail. Directly behind the Dreamland Bar, the trail crosses a small bridge where there is a small pond on one side and a slowly flowing creek on the other. I noticed some cool ice formations on the stream side, so I snapped a shot of them.

I guessing that many of you jumped here this evening hoping I would give a sneak preview of the forecast. Well, I cannot let you good folks down. I am not going to get into the exact details, but there is hope for some areas of the Northwoods to get some meaningful snows by later this week. A low looks to form in the southern Plains Thursday and then head into the Midwest for Friday. Rains will fall in many areas, but it looks like at least the northern 1/3rd to 1/2 of MN, far northern WI and the western 1/2 of the UP could see snows fall. All of this is still too far to have a load of confidence, but I do like what I see in the next 10 days across the US, as far as getting us into a more wintry patter.

So let you head hit the pillow tonight with visions of cruising down a snowy and cold trail through the Northwoods.

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
JD