Saturday, March 31, 2012

Trail Busters!

For the last four days (and the next two) I am a trail buster.  My legs are my vehicle.  The Stihl BR 600 Magnum leaf-blower is my machine.  Once I pull that cord on the motor, I am a whirlwind. 

Trail Busters!

Since the mountain bike and hiking trails are clear of snow, Aaron, Duce and I have been out clearing them for the summer season.  Aaron, with his chainsaw, moves the fallen trees.  Duce, with his snout and paws, moves rocks.  I, with my Magnum, show those leaves a new place to go.  Not on the trails, leaves.  Not on the trails.

If I was raking the trails, which I have done in the past, I would be way more tired and cranky.  Plus, I wouldn’t be able to do nearly as good of a job moving all that organic matter.  This Magnum has taken clearing trails to the next level.  I wish I could make a professional video to show you examples of what this thing can do, and how much fun I’m having with it.  Instead, I’ll try with my words.

When I come across a thick mat of wet maple leaves, I aim the hose straight down the middle, and blow them as far away as possible at full blast.  Often, the whole mass peels up like a carpet.  I watch all the little worms (and sometimes big nightcrawlers) blow in my wind, and quickly shimmy down their holes.  Then I lighten up on the gas, and move the nozzle back and forth, clearing the main trail and the sides. 

At a low spot on a ridge, I stand up on the higher ground and full throttle all the pine needles and rocks down the decline, so I am not just blowing the same rocks down the trail.  When I say rocks, I mean this beast moves rocks up to three inches in diameter without a second thought.  The bigger ones I have to kick to the side.

When I come to a puddle or a runoff section, I blast out all the leaves I can, spraying myself with mud.  Heh heh heh.  Then I find the lowest spot, and make a groove for water to drain, so the puddle can move out of the way.   Problem solving at its finest.

Sometimes the trail is already pretty clear with the exception of some birch leaves or pine needles.  Then I really have to ease up because this thing seriously shoots out a laser of wind.  One shot too hard at the clear ground, and BOOM!  It just blows up!  Soil carnage!

Here’s my favorite part.  Squashed scat on a bridge is no problem for the Magnum.  It peels right off leaving no residue on the machine or my boot.  Bring it on, coyotes!

So far, I have not found anything this beast cannot handle.  I wear the motor on my back as a backpack, and angle the hose to where it is most needed.  I have never had so much fun clearing the trails.  In four days, we have cleared about 14 miles. 

Two more days, and we should be done.  But don’t hop on your bikes just yet!  Some of those low spots are still draining, and some of the rocks are slick.  The remedy for this?  Sunshine and warmer temps.  Come on, Mr. Sun!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Temperature Dip

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that while last week I was sunbathing on a rock, this week I need to layer long johns.  At least today is sunny.  The last four overcast days in a row really closed the damper on my energy level.  But I am back!

Just yesterday, I saw that a local friend posted pictures of Lake Manganese with water up to the picnic tables!  I've got to get up there!  But yesterday was also hella windy from the north, and I really didn't want to be in it.  Not even to look at the waves (which were not abnormally spectacular anyway).  

Manganese Road was clear and dry all the way up to the lake.  I pedaled my commuter bike and Duce ran beside me.  What a good pup.  But when I got to the lake, it was the same level as it was the last time I took my big Manganese adventure.  There were a couple different things, however.

All the ice was melted from the lake.  There he sat, glistening in the sun.  Ahh.  And, that little bridge that I took a picture of had seaweed on top if it.  I missed all the good stuff!  Shoot!  Yes, the shores of the lake's exit was all washed out, and the seaweed on top mocked me.  I was going to take a picture of it for proof, but I thought, who wants to see a picture of dried out seaweed on a little bridge?

So I went down to the falls to get some more majestic pictures for you.

The top of Manganese Falls

Just below

And a little video

On my way down the hill, I came across some beautiful maple buds.  If I remember correctly from last spring, these are maples.  I am not one to figure out how to get a clear close-up shot with a point and shoot camera, so just enjoy the best you can.

Maple buds

I guess we'll see where everything goes from here!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Signs of Spring

Besides the 70 degree weather and the raging runoff, there are a few other signs of spring that I have forgotten to tell you about.

The peepers are out!  The first peeper I heard was Saturday evening out at Horseshoe Harbor.  I laughed because, just a couple hours before, I mentioned that the sound of a peeper would be the next step for us to know it was spring.  I have heard them in various places all the way to Eagle Harbor.

The eagles are everywhere!  I have heard/seen multiple eagles every day when I go to the woods or on the shore.  They are flying around with their families, talking to each other, looking for food and probably looking for a partner.  Love is in the air!

I saw two mallards today at the water treatment plant.  Mallards!  That was fun.

Robins!  It seems early for this specimen too, but it sure is nice to hear their lovely voices!

Lake Fanny Hooe is open.  Not even two weeks ago the ice on it was two feet thick.  Now it has vanished!  That should give you a good idea of how warm it was.

Little buds are forming on the trees and bushes.  Even the rosebush in my back yard has little buds.  Oh, I get nervous for them because we could get another blizzard yet!

I saw full out crocuses in my friend's yard.  I know they are one of the first to pop up, but they were already in full bloom!

Even the cross country ski trail around Fort Wilkins is mostly clear.  I was surprised to see how quickly that happened too.

I realize that many of these things (and probably even more) are happening or have happened by you as well.  That is wonderful.  I'm glad.  But now you know where we're at up in da Harbor!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Keweenaw "Summer" Vacation

I feel like I just got back from a vacation in the Keweenaw!  My friend Hannah and I have gone on a slew of adventures.  

Friday we hiked up the south side of Brockway Mountain.  We took the Woopidy Woo Trail up and hiked right on the ground! 

Flying Squirrel and Woopidy Woo

Then down the north side.  We tried to take The Flow Trail, but the snow was so thick, that we just "skied" down on our snowshoes on some parts.  We weren't lost... we just couldn't find the actual trail.

Snow on The Flow

Saturday was the real adventure.  We planned to fourwheel out to a cabin close to High Rock Bay at the point.  However, we picked the day with the most wicked runoff, and were unable to make it up a steep section through the river and ice.  Oh, well.  We just went to Horseshoe Harbor, went for a couple hikes and laid in the sunshine!

Beauties and the beast before our departure

Looking east on the ridge at Horseshoe Harbor

Looking east from a hole inside that ridge

The sunset

We camped that night under a beautiful, starry sky.  Soon we were awaken by lightening and thunder.  Since we planned to sleep in a cabin, we did not have a tent.  But we were sleeping on a Tyvek tarp, so we just put that over us when the sky started to sprinkle on us.  We watched the lightening through the Tyvek sheet, and soon fell asleep again.

The whole night I was looking for the moon, but I saw it behind us probably two hours before the sun rose.  A slim waning crescent.  The sly, sideways smile.

I am not one to sleep through a sunrise on the beach, however, so I climbed one of those rocks, stretched, waited and watched.  I have really never found a feeling that compares to that: watching the sky change colors high upon a rock, bringing in a brand new day.  Oh, man.  I love it.

The next day brought more sunshine and hot, hot weather.  It was so warm that I jumped in her Majesty, Lake Superior.  Oooo eeee!  Not as cold as I thought it would be, but invigorating, nonetheless.

Sunday night we went to Eagle Harbor and had dinner.  It was fun to hang out with the fine folks there as well.  But Monday was still so warm and sunny that we hiked up Mount Baldy.  Close to the beginning we had to cross a river.  Not only was it way colder than the big lake, it was rushing wild!  We had to try to keep our balance on the slick rocks, not get bowled over by the current and withstand the frigid temps.  But we did it -- once up and once down!

There was lots of snow and wetness on that trail, but lots of it was dry as well.  I liked how the terrain changed from sand to conglomerate to rocks and roots.  The wind was refreshing at the top, and the view was great too!  I apologize, however, I did not bring a camera.  I'll just have to go up there again!  With three miles of ascent, it's quite the journey.  But rewarding as well.

Well, back to the grind, but adventures still await!

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Manganese Journey

It's my spring break right now.  Yippee!  I don't bartend more than one day a week, and I get the whole month of April off.  That leaves me more time to go on adventures and write about them for you (though I have been slacking on the latter)!  While I have been out on adventures the last few days, I've been thinking, man, if I never had to work, I could just travel all over the Keweenaw Peninsula and make videos and take pictures and write about it.  Maybe some day I will get paid to do that!

Thursday's adventure took me first along the John Lincoln Green Trail beside Lake Fanny Hooe.  I wanted to cross the lake, but she looked pretty mushy.  Plus I asked advice from the locals and was told not to try it.  Darn advice!

My goal of this trip was to check out all the Manganeses: the falls, the road, the lake and the creek.   No snowshoes were worn on this trip, since most of the grass was showing when I went out behind my house.

My first stop was the bridge over the falls on the JLG Trail.  Not bad for the ides of March!

The bottom of Manganese Falls from the bridge

I climbed up the cliffs alongside the falls.  Oh, it was beautiful and fresh!  I got two videos for you in different spots, but their quality was so bad, that I'd rather not embarrass myself by broadcasting them. The cave walls were dripping, and the top of the falls was spraying mist.  I wish you could have been there with me!

Manganese Fall from the top lookout.

Before I got up to the Manganese Road/Snowmobile Trail 134, I found another little "falls" area that I had never seen before!  It was a little miniature -- so green, lush, mossy and wet.  I reveled in it for a few minutes.

The minifalls.

From there I walked up Manganese Road, which doubles as the snowmobile trail in the winter.  This is what it looked like that day.

Trail 134... still rideable that day!

Then up to Lake Manganese.  I was surprised to see how much ice was still on it.  Possibly could have traversed it, but the shore was really mushy.

Lake Manganese on March 15th

And here is how much water was pouring under the bridge.  Not as much as I would have thought, but I can't really have expectations for Mother Nature.  I've seen it rushing over the bridge before.

Mr. Butters on the Lake Manganese Bridge

Then we went down Manganese Creek.  There is a bike trail that meanders close by, called Mango, but I tried to stay right along the edge of the creek whenever possible.  Here is a good example of what it looked like most of the way.

Manganese Creek on March 15th

Walking on the trail, the snow was knee deep for the most part.  Walking along the shores, however, was a different story.  I would have to cross fallen trees to make it out of really we areas.  At some points in this part of the journey, I really could have used my snowshoes.

Thigh high snow along Manganese Creek

Then, the most unusual thing I saw along the way were some woodpecker holes.  Now, I've seen holes before, but not rectangular ones!  This guy was making woodpecker art!

Rectangular holes pecked out in the cedar

When I got back to the road, I was so glad.  No more walking in thigh deep snow!  And today, I can't even imagine there is any snow on that road.  It surely feels like summer in da Keweenaw.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bigfoot Has Been Here!

It was some stroke of fate that I couldn't find the tire pump for my bike today.  I really wanted to go on a road ride down M-26 in the sunshine on this fine, sunny day.  But the tires were too low, and I couldn't find that darn thing anywhere.

Okay, then, Mr. Butters.  Let's go to the lighthouse.  We haven't been there for a while, and the winds are from the south, so it should be nice there too.

On our way down the "hill" towards the lighthouse gate, I heard someone alarm the forest of our intruding: the eagle.  Ooh, the eagle!  I chirped back.  When we approached its area, I was surprised to actually spot its nest -- it's been a while.  But there was no eagle in sight.

We wandered on down the usual lane to Lake Superior.  Oh, she was so sparkly blue today.  I took a moment of gratitude to be in her presence again.  As we meandered on our way, I saw tracks I have never seen before.  Not at the lighthouse, not anywhere in Copper Harbor.  I think they were from bigfoot!

I still don't know if I believe it or not, but here is a video of what I saw.

The only other tracks I could find after that could have been the same prints or from snowshoers on a different day.  I couldn't be sure.  Either he took the lakeshore somewhwere or swam.  Maybe he hopped on an ice float to Isle Royale!  Luckily we got back home safe and sound, without seeing a tall, long-haired beast.

I looked it up.  Bigfoot does like juniper berries... I wonder if he found my fort!  I will be on the lookout around town, and I'll let you know if there are any other sightings.

On my way back to the gate (as if I could concentrate on anything else) I heard the eagle again.  Then I looked up.  There it was!  It's on the top left corner of this shot, behind all the branches.  Definitely in the adult stages.  It was the only one I could see.

A mature eagle in its nest.

Well, maybe I can go on that bike ride later this week.  Who knows what will be out that way?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Baring Arms

What a beautiful, sunny Sunday!

Since I have been unable to get out for a good sweat lately, I decided to go for a run.  Yeah, my favorite thing to do.  Cough, cough.  But the sky was blue, and the temperature was already at 43 degrees in the morning!  I donned a short sleeve jersey and a neon windbreaker, and took Mr. Butters up Highway 41.

The town was so quiet.  Not a car passed me until the very end of my journey.  The air was still and the lake was blue.  I kept blowing kisses at her Majesty out there because she was just so darn gorgeous, sparkling in the sunshine!

The warm weather must make the grubs move, because I heard two pileated woodpeckers and one downy drilling away.  At one point, the two pileateds were talking to each other.  

"How are the bugs on those trees?"  
"Pretty good, how about your neck of the woods?"  
"I've had better.  I'm coming your way!"  

Then he flew off.  I love how they fly.  They just stop fluttering their wings when they descend.  They always remind me of a diver.

Fanny Hooe Creek is getting rambunctious too.  She is starting to flow a little more to the big lake.  It was neat to hear her splashing.  I can imagine there will be some nice runoff to watch during this next week in all the creeks!

So all that was quite wonderful, but I didn't even tell you the best part yet.  About a quarter of the way through my run, I was getting hot.  As I ran, I took off my neon yellow jacket and tied it around my waste.  I bared my arms to the sunshine and early morning shadows.  I felt so free!  I held my arms out in the air and squealed!  Woo hoo!  It feels like spring time!  At least for this week...

The snow is melting quickly.  I can't believe how fast my driveway went from a skating rink to gravel.  But that happens.  Sometimes we can lose a foot of snow as quickly as we can get one!  The snow is dense and heavy now, and depending on the temp, a person can either walk on top of it or sink to their knees.  Oh, spring, you always keep us on our toes!

Just a note that I managed to publish a trailer for Little Slices of da Harbor.  I am just a yooper chick with no major technical skills, so keep that in mind.  But if you want to see my creation, you can watch it at the bottom of this page.

Enjoy the beautiful day!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Last Event, Spring Skiing and Big Waves

So there is one more event on Copper Harbor for the winter.  Maybe you can make it up!  The ice is plenty thick!

Info for the Ice Fishing Tournament

Yesterday was primo spring skiing at Mt. Bohemia.  With so much snow still on the hill, we just smeared it around like cream cheese.  I stepped in the fat skis instead of my snowboard, and actually did pretty well.  By the end of the day we found a big crew of friends that were out enjoying the sunshine and the soft turns.

I actually don't realize it until I see one, but the snowmobilers have dwindled.  The weekend might bring some because we still have a lot of snow, but otherwise, it's been quite peaceful in da Harbor!

That last video I posted about the waves from Hunter's Point was okay, but this one, taken from the lighthouse in 2007, is even more impressive.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Big Waves and Frozen Tracks

It was a busy weekend, my friend.  So many cars were in town that it reminded me of the Forth of July -- only in the winter time.  I know my parking lot was full.  So was my house!  All the rooms were booked in town, so people opened their houses to bunk volunteers and spectators for the Copper Dog 150 dogsled race.

We even had live music at two establishments!  Raven Congress played at the Mariner and Frank and da Beanz played at Zik's.  Finally a night where I wasn't the only one dancing!

Yesterday's winds were blowing from the north.  Up to 30 mph gusts.  Not the craziest I've ever seen, but the day before was so calm, the big lake was like glass!

Hannah and I went to the shore at Hunter's Point to check out the waves.  It was so cold out there, that I could only stand for so long in the elements.  Otherwise we hid behind a huge rock while we watched.  Here is a video of the lake.

I must say that the best part about this video is what happened right after I pushed stop.  On the 39th second of the scene, you can see quite the wave coming in to shore.  Right after I stopped recording, it crashed so hard that I jumped back and screamed.  It almost soaked me!  Those rogue waves... you just never know how they're going to hit.

Beach pebbles spewed on to the shore of Hunter's Point

Today was quite beautiful with partly sunny skies.  Mr. Butters and I took a walk along the cross country ski trail in Clyde's field.  I was pumped that I didn't need snowshoes on the trail.  But one foot off the track, and I sunk to my knees!  Annie Lennox would say I was "walking on, walking on frozen tracks."  There sure is a lot of snow here still.

Also, the moon was glowing amongst the clouds in the sky today.  I felt so peaceful in the field with the moon in the sky, and the sun peeking through.  Ah, another lovely day in da Harbor.