Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Copper Harbor Lighthouse

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mush! Mush! -OR- Hike! Hike!

Warning!  Lots of photos today.  I neglected to tell you about one of the major winter events here in the Keweenaw.  The 3rd annual Copper Dog 150 was a 3-day, pro-class sled dog race.  The 150 mile race is held in 3 stages.   The sled dog teams raced from Calumet to Eagle Harbor on March 2.  Stage 2 took the teams from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor the following day.  The race ended on March 4 when the teams raced from Copper Harbor back to Calumet via Brockway Mountain.  I believe 23 of the 29 registered teams actually finished the race.  You can't imagine the excitement and the number of people the race brought to this tiny community.  Mushers and their teams came from all over the Midwest, West and Canada.  Hundreds of volunteers and many local businesses are involved in the events of the weekend.  It was pretty impressive.

The race was scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. on 5th Street on the same block as our Church.  Steve took a walk down several area streets earlier that afternoon to snap some photos of the dogs, trucks and last-minute preparations for the race.  He spotted this beautiful dog just down the street from our house. 
Some of the trucks or trailers proudly displayed the names of the dogs.
Trucks and dogs were everywhere.
Some dogs were relaxing.
Some dogs were eating.
Extra snow was piled onto 5th Street to create the track the dogs used while in town.  However, the majority of the race was actually run on the local snowmobile trails.
5th Street was blocked to normal vehicular traffic for the entire weekend.
A new log structure was constructed at the race start.
Shortly before the race began, a team of snowmobiles led the way down the 5th Street track.  The local Calumet web cam caught some of the action.
By 7:00 p.m., the street was crammed with people.  The race began as scheduled, and it took about 90 minutes to get all the teams off and running.  Mushers yell either "Mush! Mush!" or "Hike! Hike!" to get the dogs moving, but "Hike" is actually much more common in English.
The race trail crosses area roads in dozens of locations.  Volunteers are needed at each crossing to get the dogs to the other side of the road safely and to make sure the dogs don't accidentally make a turn onto the road instead of crossing it.  By the way, even though the Keweenaw snowmobile trails are used for the majority of the race, the trails are not closed to snowmobile traffic for the weekend.  The dogs are so well trained that they simply ignore the machines should they meet them on the trails.  Wow! 

After all the teams were off, Calumet was treated to a nice fireworks display shot off from the local park.  We could see them from our kitchen window.  If we had known we were going to have such a nice view, we would have put a couple lawn chairs outside by our back door and watched them with a cup of hot cocoa!  Next year!
As I said, the race was a 3-stage, 3-day event.  The mushers returned to Calumet with their teams on Sunday afternoon.  The last day took them up and over Brockway Mountain, and they ran through some heavy snow, so they returned a bit later than predicted.  No problem.  Steve was able to snap some great photos as they came into town.  You can tell this guy is having fun!
Some dogs ran with shoes (booties).
Some ran barefoot.
Here's a stereotypical musher.
Nice hat.
Here's #23, the winner from Minnesota with his lead dogs, Fox and Mabel.  Fox has snow on his face showing he was obviously trying to grab some snow while on the run - apparently not the preferred method of hydration.
All in all, it was a great weekend for the community.
We're even talking about volunteering at one of the road crossings or to be a host family after we move to the new house.  Wouldn't that be fun?  If you would like to read more about the Copper Dog 150 (or view some video), visit the official website at

All is well in the Keweenaw.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What a Difference!

What a difference some extraordinarily warm temperatures can make!  Here are 3 photos taken through the window of our office.  The amount of snow we have lost in such a short period of time is truly remarkable. 
March 4, 2012
March 13, 2012
March 21, 2012
You would think our yard would be a muddy mess, but it's not.  Obviously, the water table is much lower here than it is in Saginaw.  Even a normal Spring in Saginaw made walking across our yard like walking on a sponge.

By the way, another big project left on the agenda is to replace our fence with higher stockade fencing.  I think you can see why.  All is well in the Keweenaw.

P.S.  Happy 95th Birthday, Grandma!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Save Big Money at Menards

One of the projects remaining in this house is to remodel the basement bathroom.  The plan is to demolish the existing 1/2 bath and build a 3/4 bath.  Despite the fact that gas is now in the $4/gal. range, we knew we could save about 30% by purchasing most of the materials at Menards in Marquette.  The savings on the shower alone would easily make up for the cost of gas.  So, we made a list and scheduled our road trip for Thursday.  It was a beautiful day for a drive. 
The scenery was pleasant and traffic was light as we traveled down the highway cutting through some rocky hills on the way to Marquette.
We hit a traffic jam as we had to stop at a railroad crossing at one point.
Most of the railroad cars were filled with logs.
We were making great time, so it wasn't long before we made it to Ishpeming and the landmark mentioned in the picture below.
The biggest surprise of the day was the amount of snow remaining on the ground as we got closer and closer to Marquette.  We actually saw bare ground in many areas.  That is not common at this time of year.  Finally, our destination was in sight.
We must confess that we drove right by Menards and headed to the other end of Marquette first.  While we were in town, we weren't about to miss the opportunity to visit another favorite place:  The Huron Mountain Bakery.  We picked up some muffins and bagels to take back to Calumet with us.  Yum.  OK, now that our breakfast cravings were satisfied, we headed back to Menards.
We spent 3 hours in the store making sure to get everything on our list and a few more things that we spotted as we made our way down the aisles.  Steve and I both tend to plan and research things carefully, so we're pretty good at making fast decisions when we're in a store.  Thus, Steve had plenty of time to inspect each and every 2x4 for quality and straightness.  We knew ahead of time that Menards was having a kitchen and bath sale, so most of the items we needed were on sale.  That's always a good feeling.  Ask me how often I like to pay full price for anything!

Since our list was long and contained a lot of large items, there was no way we could put everything in a shopping cart.  Menards will print up an invoice for large items.  You take the invoice to the check out, drive around the back of the store, and they'll load the items for you.  Our favorite sentence of the day was, "Send it to Door 11."  I sat in the truck as it was being loaded with those large items and couldn't help but notice the scenery.  Even when you're sitting in back of Menards, you get a decent view!
As we headed home to Calumet, we enjoyed the colors of a lovely sunset.
Our discussion in the truck once again turned to the subject of how much we love it up here.  We feel so very blessed to live in this area.    
All is well in the Keweenaw.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Steve's Big Adventure

Steve was so excited about his big day last Friday.  He planned to ride his snowmobile from here in Calumet up to our property outside of Eagle Harbor.  He said his purpose in going there was to start my snowmobile which is still sitting in the barn.  Of course, I know he was just really in the mood for a nice ride on a beautiful day.  The weatherman was forecasting a big increase in temperatures starting the following day which was to continue for at least 10 days.  That meant the trails were going to take a real beating.  He was itching for another good ride before that happened.  So, Steve took off on the Polaris with his cell phone and camera.  The trails were as smooth as the top of a slate pool table. 
 The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the scenery was outstanding as he pulled into Phoenix.
He cruised by an old log cabin and made his way down the trail near our property.
There's a clearing cut along the power line running parallel to our road.  This clearing intersects our driveway between the road and our gate.  We've noticed that people like to go "boondocking" in that clearing.  That's when they leave the groomed snowmobile trails and play around in the deep powder carving new trails in the untouched snow.  Since we're not living on our property yet, we haven't plowed the snow in our driveway all winter.  Thus, the snow in the driveway is very deep and there's a huge bank of snow across the end of our driveway caused by the snowplow.  This bank has gotten significantly higher with all the snow we've had in the last few weeks.  Steve figured he could hop off the trail just down the road from our property, and drive down the area along the power line to get to our gate.  This would enable him to bypass that huge snow bank at the entrance to our driveway. 

So, Steve followed his plan.  He hopped off the trail and started down the power line.  Wow, what great fun it was to make new tracks in fresh snow!  This is the life!  Suddenly, he noticed a green gate in the distance.  He was having so much fun that he had sailed right by our driveway and past the gate to our property.  Oops!  No need to worry, he could simply turn around.  Right?  Yep, he successfully turned the machine around and began to backtrack.  All was going well until he left his tracks and landed in some really, really deep snow.  Steve was now stuck, stuck, stuck.  His mind quickly devised a plan.  He wasn't too far from our property, and he knew he had a shovel in the barn.  He started to trudge through the snow to the barn.  That was no simple process, especially with his bum foot.  The snow was deep and not crusty enough to bear his weight.  Every footstep was sinking way down into the snow.  He wished he had some snowshoes, but he knew our snowshoes were back in Calumet.  As he struggled down the driveway, he saw something cross in front of him.  It was an otter!  He grabbed the camera as it scampered back into the woods.  Can you see the otter in the photo below? 

(Update: After studying this photo more carefully 3 years later, we realized this wasn't an otter. This was actually Steve's first sighting of a fisher! We both saw him in our backyard shortly after we moved out to the property. Here's a link to that post:

That was very cool.  Anyway, he continued on to the barn.
He had a small sleigh in the barn and loaded it with some digging implements, a set of come alongs and an extra sweatshirt, and he noticed something that would make his trek back to the snowmobile much easier.  When we made a visit to the Keweenaw last summer, we purchased a pair of antique snowshoes to be used as wall decor in our new house.  Eureka!  They were in the barn!  Steve strapped them on - hoping the old leather bindings wouldn't break.  He grabbed the rope of the sleigh and made his way back to the dig site.  OK, those old snowshoes were a bit more difficult to maneuver than the new style, but they did the job.  So, he dug. . . and dug. . . and dug. . . and dug some more.  Every time he started the snowmobile and tried to get it moving, it would sink further into the snow.
After 1-1/2 hours, Steve used his cell phone and called his wife to inform her of his predicament.  Well, there wasn't much she could do to help him, but she did suggest he make a phone call to his buddy at the saw mill.  Steve considered this wise advice, so he ate a little humble pie and called his Yooper friend to request some help.  The friend couldn't come at that time, but he dispatched a couple of teenage helpers to rescue the silly Troll!  (Remember, a Troll is from under da bridge!)
After another 1-1/2 hours, the teens showed up.  Steve was basically finished digging by then and had used the set of come alongs to get the machine turned around.  The kids left their truck on the road and waded slowly through the deep snow to get to Steve.  He started the machine and both teens grabbed a ski.  They pulled as Steve gave it some gas and managed to get it moving.  Steve jumped on the machine and yelled, "Don't leave me.  I'll meet you in the road."  He didn't want them to leave until he knew he was completely out.  He made it out!  The kids met him at the road with his coat, helmet, gloves, all the tools and the sleigh.  One of the healthy youngsters volunteered to wade back through the snow to shut off the lights and lock the door of the barn.  By the time he returned to the road, he was completely exhausted and fell back into the snow.  That shows the difficulty of that trek through the snow - even for a teenage lad!  Steve thanked them, gave them some cash for their time and efforts, and gave them permission to tell all their buddies how they rescued the troll from the snow.  Steve headed for home and realized he had just learned a valuable lesson:  Never, ever go off the trail into the deep powder again - especially when riding alone.

Current Snow Total = 193.5".  All is well in the Keweenaw.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


We had just a trace of snow overnight, so our current snow total remains at 190".  It's currently 38° and sunny, and there's no snow in the forecast until tomorrow night.  This is just the kind of day the SNOGO is likely to be out and about.  As the winter progresses, the streets get narrower and narrower.  Therefore, it's necessary to cut the snow banks back periodically with the SNOGO, which is basically a gigantic snow blower.
A dump truck slowly leads the way down the road followed by the SNOGO.  The SNOGO carves into the snow bank at the side of the street and blows the snow into the dump truck.

When the dump truck is full of snow, it pulls away and an empty truck takes its place, and so on. The banks remaining at the side of the street now have flat faces and horizontal lines. It's a cool process to watch. We took these photos about a month ago. The snow banks have gotten much higher since then!There's one more shot below we thought you would enjoy today. Here's the view out the window of our office at the back of our house. This photo was taken on Sunday.
You can see that much of our fence and our clothesline poles seem to be vanishing! All is well in the Keweenaw.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Baddest Truck in the Keweenaw

Current Snow Total = 190"
Our street was getting narrow - turning into a one-lane road again.  The SNOGO trimmed the banks back again today.  Steve couldn't resist taking a photo of our truck parked on the street afterward.  I'll explain the SNOGO process with additional photos tomorrow.  All is well in the Keweenaw.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Impressive Shot

I thought I would share this photo with you.  I looked out the kitchen window this morning, and the house in back of us caught my attention.  I grabbed the camera and zoomed in for the impressive shot shown below.  The house is for sale and unoccupied, so they haven't done any snow removal at the back of the house this winter.  Notice the height of the snow bank/drift.  Then, notice the snow hanging off the roof of the attached garage.  If our current weather forecast is accurate, that gap may be filled by the end of this weekend!  Are we crazy?  Maybe, but we would much rather deal with snow than tornadoes!
Here's the view of their garage from less than 3 weeks ago.
What happened to that 3rd window?
Here's an updated shot from the road in front of our house.
As you can see, Steve picked up the towel and finished our snow removal!
The car belongs to my mother.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Digging Out

Digging out again in the Keweenaw today.
Current snow total = 181" or 15'1"!
Hope to have some more photos for you later today.  Meanwhile, here's Cocoa.  She had just smashed through the drift on the side of the garage to reach the gate when she heard Steve in the driveway!  She's standing on her back legs.  Notice the height of the drift next to her.  Steve keeps this path clear for her between storms, so this drift was created in the last 24 hours!

(NOTE:  Click on any photo within a post to enlarge the photo.)

Dinner is over.  Now, back to our story.  This storm wasn't our greatest in terms of inches, but it was a heavier snow than usual, and the strong winds made the drifting pretty extreme.  Steve used the snow blower on part of the driveway last night before church, so that helped him out a bit today.  Still, he had a big job ahead of him.  He trudged through a drift to get into the garage and saw this view out the back window of the garage.

Steve let Cocoa out of the backyard, and she sat at the driveway entrance guarding him while he worked.  The occasional pedestrian and Bruce, the mailman, greeted her warmly.  Bruce allows her to jump right up on him and gives her a big bear hug.  She got 2 treats from him today.  It took a while, but Steve got the path along the side of the garage and to the back door of the house cleared again.  This is Cocoa's winter dog run. 

Steve then tackled the driveway.  Shovel, snow blower, shovel, snow blower, shovel, snow blower. . . .  4 hours later, he threw in the towel, and said the rest of the snow could wait to be removed until tomorrow!  No, he wasn't discouraged, just in pain.  No regrets.  We still love it up here.  All is well in the Keweenaw!