My apologies for the no-writing yesterday, but for a Sunday, things were very busy for me! My services were in strong need, not just for the snow lovers out there, but for all of my other customers too! Add in some grocery shopping, some present wrapping, a walk in the woods and a 30 minute nap and my day was spoken for!
I think most of you reading this know what the elephant in the room is. I shake a little when I think of all the good people who’s fate is in the hands of the coming days weather. I can only estimate how many snowmobilers plans rest on the idea that enough snow will begin falling early Thursday to provide for fantastic snow play conditions by Friday and the weekend. Perhaps even more important is the business owners who are hoping the snow falls so that these folks will come up, visit and provide the financial influx that they so need after a rather slow start to the snow season in the Northwoods.
This very storm personifies the very reason why I do what I do on this site. I can remember the years of living in northern IL and wondering what conditions up north were going to be like for my trip. Back then, there were no web cams, no highly detailed snowcover maps and if I wanted a reliable snowfall forecast, I had to do it myself! Things have changed on all fronts since then. The world is filled with cams peering out into different vistas. The National Weather Service has an entire branch filled with folks who’s duties are to monitor the hydrology situation across the continental US and Alaska. In the winter, that means keeping a close eye on how much snow is on the ground!
The forecast provided are a whole lot more reliable than they were 25 years ago too. Still not perfect and they most likely will never be. But we have come a long way from the days of struggling to figure out even the simplest of weather factors to come in the next 3 or more days. There is still time for the forecasts for this system to be a bust, or for the main snow area to be moved from where it is currently indicated. The models are not in perfect agreement with the details, but they are in quite good agreement with things and all systems are currently “go” for a major winter storm to impact the majority of the Northwoods the second half of this week.
It’s been an exciting and challenging past few days for me. The ideas of a storm to impact the northern Midwest have been in my forecasts for 7 days now. There have been some adjustments to each days forecast, but since Wednesday of last week, it has been the Northwoods that has been in the cross-hairs. So there is extra hope that the forecast pans out for this storm. Not just because I do not enjoy being wrong, but because so many hopes are riding on it, the thought of those hopes turning to disappointment is not pleasant at all. Only time will tell.
Last week was a pretty busy one. Christmas programs to attend, shopping to do and of course some walks in the woods. Earlier in the week, the Ranger III, the ship that takes folks from Houghton to Isle Royal needed to make its way to its winter berthing spot near the national park office in Houghton. The problem was, the Portage Lake Shipping Canal had iced over and it needed some help. So the ice breaking cutter Katmai Bay showed up on the scene to clear a path. I was working and could not be down there to watch it happen, but I did watch both ships meet at the north entry to the Portage via the display on marinetraffic.com. Then as they drew close to the lift bridge, I was able to watch the ships pass under the bridge via the host of webcams that Michigan Tech have on their website. The cams are very high quality and Tech has the resources to have their images be live streamed. So while I could not be there in person, I did get to watch everything happen live and did not have to sit in the traffic jams that are caused every time the bridge is lifted!
The ships passed under the bridge, then came about. The Katmai Bay then spent around 20 minutes breaking up the ice where the Ranger III moors and then headed back under the bridge and out to the north entry to perform its next task. For those waiting in their vehicles to cross the bridge, it may have seemed like an hour and they may have even thought that the bridge stayed up the whole time, but they did lower it after both ships passed underneath and then raised it again as the Katmai Bay returned to the big lake.
This was the final week before Gracie’s school went on winter break. All of the elementary classes spend several weeks leading up to the break in music class practicing for a holiday program. Each grade level performs their own set of songs and some of the larger grades get split into two. They start with the kindergartners and finish with the 5th graders. They are very efficient in the change over and the entire program takes just over an hour. Grace is in the 4th grade, which means that Nora and I have been attending them for the past 5 years and next year will sadly be the final show. I love the shows so much that even when Grace is not involved, I may still go. It is so neat to watch the kids perform. They all wear special clothes for the occasion and all look so proud to be on stage. Equally as heart warming for me is to see the room filled wall to wall with parents, grand parents, probably some great grand parents and siblings. This really is a community where the children are cherished and most folks know each other and are close-knit. Most likely very similar to how things were 100 years ago when Red Jacket (Calumet) was in its heyday with over 30,000 folks living in it.
The other program I got to attend was the ice skating one. It is not the “Big Show” that the ice skating program puts on at the end of the season in March. Rather it is a less formal one in which the skaters get to pick and choreograph their own performances, as well as pick the others they skate with or chose to do a solo performance. The girls must practice all of their shows on their off time and not during the lesson periods. Grace was not able to perform last year, because we were out of town, but we promised her she could be in this years program. She initially paired up with another girl that was older and at a more advanced level and then there was another girl that wanted to be part of the show, so they included her in their program.
There were 16 separate segments to the show, each lasting a few minutes. Grace and her two partners were around 2/3rd of the way into the program and then they took the ice.
Since it was our first go-around, I was really not sure what to expect. Grace had her usual nervous excitement and all of the other girls were equally fired up before the show. I have to admit, I was completely surprised at how well each program was thought out and executed. It was nearly as entertaining as the big show at the end of the season. Grace had a blast and said when it came to the part where she ducked down and went underneath the other two skaters arms, it was one of the best moments of her life!
Even the beginner skaters got to put on a show. These are the kids in which many had never even been on skates before the lessons started back in October, so here they are just 2 1/2 months later putting on a show for everyone. When the final performance is done, they all take the ice as a group and stand before the audience for pictures and applause.
As mentioned, we did take to the woods just about every day this past week. If there is one upside to the mild weather, it has been that we can head out into the woods without worrying about becoming Popsicles! We even got some fresh snow towards the end of the week. Not a lot, but enough to make all of the ground cover a pristine white again and dust the the evergreens.
The pups enjoyed all of the walks in the woods and no one more than our little Bleau. Or should I say young Bleau?! He is not so little anymore! In fact he is a full size larger than Millie, even with the help of his fuzzy fur and stands even with Huck, but Huck still has him in weight class! I think between his added size and maturity in the past 4 weeks, Huck and Millie have really taken him in and made him one with the pack. He seems to sense this, yet also respects his elders and does not push his luck too far with them. It is so great to see the three of them having fun together. I think it is good therapy for ALL of us to be one happy and respectful pack.
Bleau really did learn a lot while he was at training. He is a magnificently intelligent dog. Probably the smartest I have ever known. He still is young and has his moments, but the trainer did a spectacular job of getting to know him, then figuring out how to communicate with him. She then passed this knowledge onto us and it is like Bleau is a different dog! In reality, he is the same dog, it is us that have been taught how to understand him and communicate with him. Something that will work with any dog and I also believe any human. I believe the vast majority of the problems we have with each other is a lack of communication. We each are different, yet want to paint others in our image. Or we believe that others think the same way as we do, feel the same way as we do or should!
Yet it is our diversity that makes us strong. I think that is one reason why I enjoy the Christmas holiday so much. It seems that even though it is for just one day, or perhaps just for a moment of that day, nearly everyone can seem to respect one another. Be kind to one another. We are able to free ourselves from our own fears for a moment and be kind.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Good night from the Keweenaw..