Back to Winter!

As the title says, we jumped back into winter with both boots on in the past week. No school closures for us, but a few districts in the UP did end up closing for the day or at least delaying things by two hours. Since last Sunday we have picked up 26 1/2″ of the white gold. It sure has spruced things up around here and we are back to looking like we should for this time of the year…At least for now. I say that because it looks like another thaw is coming for the end of this week and weekend. Probably not so bad at first, as the air looks to be dry through the weekend, but then by early next week temps look to remain mild and the air looks to get soupy enough to do what it did last time we were warm, with humidity in the air. Oh, well, I am not going to worry too much about it. Perhaps I will fire up the woodworking shop next week when it starts to look nasty and depressing again.

The snows this week came in about as perfect a manner as I could ever request. It’s always great to get hammered day after day, but it also causes so much work that it can cut back on the play time. This past week, it was more a case of getting 2-4″ every 24 hours, with a period Tue-Wed when we got 11″. There is quite a bit of time difference that is needed to move 2-4 and the double digit accumulations, no matter what equipment you are using. So it was nice to head out and spend around 10 minutes doing the neighbors driveway, another 30-40 to do the ice rink and then finish with a 15-20 minute clearing job to do ours.

Last week I promised to have lots of pictures to share with you and I almost had to eat my words. On Wednesday, the charging port on my phone stopped working. So that not only meant that I could not charge the phone, but I could also not back it up. There was still around 50% battery when this happened, so I have been nursing it along. I still have about 20% battery left and it is scheduled to be repaired this Tuesday. But, I was without my main source of capturing pictures. Ever since the smartphones started taking such good pictures, there has not been a need to have a digital point and shoot any more. We do have the digital SLR and I did use it at time. I also was fortunate enough to go riding Friday with friends and they were kind enough to send me some shots from that expedition. So all told, I have over 20 pics to share with you.

The first is of a little garden shed at my neighbors house. This is the neighbor that I clear the snow for and I enjoy looking over and watching the snow on the roof get deeper and deeper. It is a good tool to use to see the true depth, as it does not get cleared off and also is fairly well protected from the winds, so it does not drift or scour. Looks to be around 3.5 feet up there. That pic was taken Thursday morning.

So as mentioned, I got out to ride on Friday. I loaded the sled into the back of the truck and headed down to meet up with friends south of the bridge. When I left our house, it was snowing quite heavily, then by the time I got to the airport (between Hancock and Calumet), it was still snowing big flaked, but at a reduced clip. By the time I got to Houghton and Hancock, the flakes were smaller and it was not coming down too hard. Just past South Range, it changed to sleet, as I could no longer see anything falling, but could hear something “tinking” off the windshield. Just after getting past Painesdale, it changed to freezing rain. Of all the weather elements that would be deemed the worst to ride in, I would put freezing rain right at the top. Rain is no fun either, but freezing rain will ice up your visor or goggles and make it a real pain to ride in.

So I pulled into the driveway of my friends place and got out of the truck and unloaded the sled in the freezing rain. There was no talk of calling things off, and quite honestly I believe I wanted to ride more than I did not, but would not have made a big deal if the others wanted to suspend things. We went in and got our gear on and when we went back out, all the sleds were coated in a layer of ice, but it was no longer raining! So we took off and not long after being in the woods, the sun came out! Temps were in the upper 20’s and there was a ton of fresh snow and with the sunshine, we went from about as bad of weather conditions I could ask for to about as good in the course of about 10 minutes!

The freezing rain that had fallen did put a very thin layer of ice onto the fresh snow, but it was so thin that it did not impact the ability or euphoria of carving up the untracked fresh! It is nice for me to head south, as I do not have to worry about being the tour guide. I just get to play follow the leader and have fun. In this case, the leader had momentarily stepped off his sled to take a picture of it and the fresh ahead.

With my photo taking abilities severely limited, it allowed the opportunity for me to just worry about having fun and ride and so some of the pictures this go around are of me, because I was in front of the camera and not behind it! This is not exactly an action shot, but still a rare shot of me on my snowmobile. Here is one of me and friend Skylar in a “paused” action shot. We had paused on the side of a hill, while side-hilling, when along came Kris.

It was a really fun time with great friends and great conditions. It’s funny, it has been almost a year since I have ridden with some of these guys, but about 5 minutes into riding, it felt like I had been riding with them all season long. We just picked up where we left off and had a blast. I believe that is one of the signs of true friends, when all egos are put aside and you just have fun. I am fortunate to have a handful of such friends- both local and from out of town. To me, riding is not about how deep the snow is, or how many miles we are putting on, it is about the smiles.

Of course there always seems to be someone that finds themselves in a bit of misfortune and the good natured ribbing kicks in, such as here when a sled had a small, but fixable issue and then we carried on. As with all good things, our fun time of riding came to an end as the sun set lower on the horizon, but the fun was not over. After getting back and putting the sleds away for the day and in the back of the truck in the case of mine, we headed to fill our bellies with some great food and great company. Good times!

On Saturday, Nora, Gracie and I piled into Nora’s vehicle and headed south, only this time to check out the snow statues that had been created for MI Tech’s annual Winter Carnival. The first stop of the day was actually across the bridge from the Tech Campus and in Hancock, but was it ever worth the side trip to it! When we got close to the fraternity that does the work there, the traffic suddenly got pretty busy and there was a lot of persons coming and going from the display. As we neared it, it became clear why. The guys that put this one together did an amazing job. It was a wild west scene, complete with a saloon, church, jail and bank on one side and the back, as well as an old fashioned steam train engine and cars on the left side. They were the winners of the statue competition in the mens and overall categories. A very impressive job, considering two of the 4-5 weeks they have to build these things was too warm to work in and actually did some damage.

Next we drove across the bridge and parked on campus and headed out on foot to check out the rest of them. One of the first stops was to the statues that were in front of the ROTC building and built by ROTC members. My favorite in this group was the P-51 Mustang, but a really cool jeep was also constructed. Another of the better statues on campus was of a burger, fries, drink and shake.

As we neared the east end of campus, we also knew we were nearing the end of our tour. We usually start near the west end, go to the east end of campus and then turn around and take a different path back, so we can see the ones closer to the highway. I was a bit surprised to see a large one done right on campus. Most of the time, those are done on the front lawn of a fraternity or sorority, but in this case, the Sigma Phi Epsilon crew had constructed a replica of the Quincy Mine on one of the courtyards on campus.

There is a separate category for judging and that being statues not started until 4 pm on Wednesday and completed 16 hours later by 8 am on Thursday. These are obviously smaller in scale, but in some cases can still be highly detailed. I am not sure why, but it seemed like this years “all nighters” were not as good as in past years. There was one that Gracie really loved of Yoda, but the others did not even seem very photo worthy.

On our way back, we did come across another ice sculpture in the form of a vehicle. Only this one was able to be climbed upon and in, to which we got Gracie to do so we could take a picture. A little further down was a small tunnel that had been dug into the snow with a little hole to pop out of at the end. Gracie climbed into the tunnel and then did her very own groundhog impersonation, only to pop back in and tunnel out. No shadow. The next play area for her was a giant pile of snow that others had climbed up and slid down, creating makeshift slides made of snow.

Back home, there were no snow statues to be found, but Gracie was all pumped up to make a two story castle of snow some day. Knowing her determination, I believe there is a good chance it will happen some day! For now, we just have a halfway buried swing-set. I failed to take a picture of the wood reserve, but we are getting dangerously close to being out of cut logs. I figure I have around 3-4 more days before we run out of the stuff that was cut to length. I then have a stack sitting inside the woodshed that just need to be cut to length. After that I have to hope and pray that enough snow melts that we can get to the stuff under this mound of snow if we need it! Only time will tell!

Good night from the Keweenaw.